Thursday, September 24, 2009


The Jewish call it
I weep for it
the tears of it within me
the tears of it outside me
my spirit self thousands
of miles away
nested at the weeping wall

In Gaza
one proud spa owner
oils the leather seats where
the wealthy still come
to forget
find oasis
feel the touch of another human
kneading sorrow from
the muscles
the Jewish call it

Who destroyed the sacred
grave site of Joseph?
Who bombed homes while
Palestinian girls slept
peacefully within?
Where can we go
to find the last knot of
the rope
to hold fast
the end of this rope
Maybe in these tears
we travel
back back back
all the way to kedusha

By Melissa Greene
Photo above found at:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kathy, 1966

When my mother was nine she baked the cornbread
every day after school. Her face then
the same as today, blue eyes soft with knowing
mouth quiet and still, resigning to
signed contracts.
Her mother is dying.
She has a bad haircut, maybe did it herself,
the bangs stiff as straw on her forehead,
shoes scuffed, scrawny knees that hold
life weight like a body builder. She can cook
green beans, creamed corn, and pinto beans with
the best of them. Little Kathy can fry
potatoes, feed grown men
a father and brother bent to the plow.
She will feed grown men for many years
bent above their own devices of
turning the ground for sorrow. Kathy
found quiet at Mamaw’s, even though
there was no plumbing. She liked to rest
against the splintery fence watching Mamaw milk
the cow, carry the large sloshing pail into the kitchen
set it on the table and get out two
tin cups, Kathy, you want some milk?
There’s the rows of pink hollyhock where
little girls can run without being seen.
Tall stalks of corn
tobacco for miles.
There’s the honeysuckle,
the smokehouse, the outhouse.
Always at Mamaw’s
there’s the cool creek water where
she took off her white church socks,
tip-toed in the shade of the elms
quietly over smooth river rocks.
Here for hours
she is nine years old.

By Melissa Greene
photo above found at:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Poem for Aretha

Cause nobody deals with Aretha—a mother with four children—
having to hit the road
they always say "after she comes
home" but nobody ever says what it's like
to get on a plane for a three week tour
the elation of the first couple of audiences the good
feeling of exchange the running on the high
you get from singing good
and loud and long telling the world
what's on your mind.

Then comes the eighth show on the sixth day the beginning
to smell like the plane or bus the if-you-forget-your-toothbrush
the strangers
pulling at you cause they love you but you having no love
to give back
the singing the same songs night after night day after day
and if you read the gossip columns the rumors that your husband
is only after your fame
the wondering if your children will be glad to see you and maybe
the not caring if they are scheming to get
out of just one show and go just one place where some doe-doe-dupaduke
won't say "just sing one song, please!".

Nobody mentions how it feels to become a freak
because you have talent and how
no one gives a damn how you feel
but only cares that Aretha Franklin is here like maybe that'll stop
chickens from frying
eggs from being laid
crackers from hating

and if you say you're lonely or tired how they always
just say "oh come off it" or "did you see
how they loved you did you see, huh, did you?"
which most likely has nothing to do with you anyway
and I'm not saying Aretha shouldn't have talent and I'm certainly
not saying she should quit
singing but as much as I love her I'd vote "yes" to her
doing four concerts a year and staying home or doing whatever
she wants and making records cause it's a shame
the way we're killing her.
We eat up artists like there's going to be a famine at the end
of those three minutes when there are in fact an abundance
of talents just waiting let's put some
of the giants away for a while and deal with them like they have
a life to lead.

Aretha doesn't have to relive Billi Holiday's life doesn't have
to relive Dinah Washington's death but who will
stop the pattern?

She's more important than her music—if they must be separated—
and they should be separated when she has to pass out before
anyone recognizes she needs
a rest and I say I need
Aretha's music
she is undoubtedly the one who put everyone on
She revived Johnny Ace and remembered Lil Green. Aretha
"I say a little prayer" and Dionne doesn't
want to hear it anymore
Aretha sings "money won't change you"
but James can't sing "respect" the advent
of Aretha pulled Ray Charles from marlboro country
and back into
the blues made Nancy Wilson
try one more time forced
Dionne to make a choice (she opted for the movies)
and Diana Ross had to get an afro wig pushed every
Black singer into his Blackness and negro entertainers
into negroness you couldn't jive
when she said "you make me feel" the Blazers
had to reply "gotta let a man be/a man"
Aretha said "when my soul was in the lost and found/you came
along to claim it" and Joplin said "maybe"
there has been no musician whom her very presence hasn't
affected when Humphrey wanted her to campaign for him she said
"woeman's only hueman"
and he pressured James Brown
they removed Otis cause the combination was too strong the Impressions had to say "lord have mercy/we're moving on up"
the Black songs started coming from the singers on stage and the dancers
in the streets
Aretha was the riot was the leader if she had said "come
let's do it" it would have been done
temptations say why don't we think about it
why don't we think about it
why don't we think about it

—Nikki Giovanni
from Women Working: An Anthology of Stories and Poems (The Feminist Press, Old Westbury, New York)

My apologies to Ms. Giovanni for inadvertent changes made to her original punctuation, spelling, and spacing. Poem above copies from a Spanish translation. :-)
Aretha Franklin sketch above found at:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Sides of Fantasy

Ok, so you realize that you have been living a fantasy, believing a fantasy. The man, woman, child, parent, boss, friend, whoever, you loved is not the person you fantasized them to be. They are human and fallable like the rest of us, and you are heartbroken that this person will not save you and fill you utterly. This person cannot make you whole and will hurt you, because that is what humans do. Sometimes we hurt each other. This is the painful part of fantasy-- it isn't real!

Here is the wonderful side-- just as no one can fill you, no one can destroy you. We have no power over when and if people will leave our lives, but that is ok, because when they go, they do not take a part of us with them. Perhaps as children we had to believe that we wielded some magical power or seduction that kept people in our lives, because abandonment to a child can mean possible death. The good news is that no one can "abandon" an adult. You can simply come and go from my life, but I am no longer abandoned, because I care for myself. If you leave, I will not die. It is painful to realize that the person I invested so much in is incapable of fulfilling me, yet it is freeing to know that when you don't fulfill me, I survive anyway. I don't need you to fill me! My survival is not dependent upon whether or not you love me! This is the wonderful part of fantasy-- it isn't real.

Photo above found at:

i carry your heart

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

by e.e. cummings