Poem of the Week, by Galway Kinnell

IMG_6637Yesterday I was walking along the beach thinking, once again, about the idea of not being afraid to die. I hear people say this a lot: “I’m not afraid of death.” Whenever I hear this, I feel a combination of shame and bewilderment, because I am completely afraid of death, and if all these other people aren’t afraid of it, then what am I missing and where am I falling short? The surfers were out on the waves and I stopped to admire them the way I always do. Sleek black bodies springing up on their boards, riding the foam into shore. Watching them, it came to me that I was confusing a fear of death with a fear of not being alive. They are two separate things, and I don’t want to not be alive. What I want is more life. More love. More laughter. More surfers. More more more. And then this poem by Galway Kinnell, who died a few years ago and whose poetry I have loved all my life, came singing its way into my head. 

 

Prayer, by Galway Kinnell

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

 

 

For more information on Galway Kinnell, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by June Jordan

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I used to assume that the basic principles of U.S. democracy –however unequally and poorly applied– were firmly in place and would remain so, and would see us through this current nightmare. But I don’t believe that anymore. When I read this poem the other day I literally jumped up and cheered, even though I was the only one in the house. The one thing I’d change about it (not that I’d change anything about June Jordan’s poetry, ever) would be to swap out “minorities” in the title for “citizens.” We are not beholden to our elected employees. They are beholden to us. This is our government. Poem of the Week, by the magnificent June Jordan.

 

Calling on All Silent Minorities, by June Jordan

HEY

C’MON
COME OUT

WHEREVER YOU ARE

WE NEED TO HAVE THIS MEETING
AT THIS TREE

AIN’ EVEN BEEN
PLANTED
YET

For more information on June Jordan, please click here.​

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Poem of the Week, by Lucille Clifton

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It’s a city of sound, said the Painter, sound and color and light. We were in Havana for a week, soaking it up through the soles of our feet. Miles and miles a day we walked the streets of Habana Vieja, Habana Centro, Vedado. It was gorgeous in an unearthly way, and so were the people.
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The Cuban men were beautiful, the Cuban women were beautiful, and the Cuban children were beautiful. Everywhere was the sound of music and talking, the frites woman calling her haunting song, laughter and shouting and the high clear tones of solo trumpeters practicing in the far corners of public parks. 
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There was sadness and frustration too. Our friend, a star baseball pitcher in his youth, recruited by the Yankees —the Yanquis!– for their minor leagues: refused permission by his government to leave the country.
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Our other friend who longed to study English abroad, and who could have, had she either the funds or any way to earn enough funds to buy a plane ticket out. Another who had managed, over many years, to save enough money to buy one of the 70-year-old classic American cars so beloved by the tourists, few of whom understand that the charming car represents life support for an entire extended family.
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Another friend who had taught English for twelve years and was now a tour guide who, when I asked her which she preferred, hesitated and then said, “Honestly? Teaching. Teaching is my first love. But you cannot support a family on $25 CUCs a month, and the government knows it but pretends it doesn’t.”
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We were there for a week, a week filled with poems and songs and stories. The poem below, by one of our greatest American poets, a woman who knew well the power of both womanhood and adversity, keeps coming to mind whenever I think of Habana.
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homage to my hips, by Lucille Clifton
 
these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top
 
 
For more information about Lucille Clifton, please click here.