by JOAN ANNSFIRE
Once, we were a fact of life, like the ocean or the dawn,
nothing greater than any tribe or family member,
nothing less than a link in the human chain
long before women became chattel,
when culture was ritual
and history simply a story
replete with love and longing.
Just as we believed the sun moved across the sky,
the wind blew back the leaves
and the clouds brought rain
we touched each other ardently
or with dispassion, in twos, threes, fours,
numbers lit by the glow
of random imperfection;
we tended to one another’s needs
because all we had was each other
and that was more than enough.
No gay or straight existed; no lines to be crossed;
we were all trespassers in uncharted territory
without rules our boundaries
we moved along life’s continuum.
Our men wore ribbons and feathers,
our women bore the marks of warriors,
and our gods took the shapes of animals,
sea-creatures and insects,
and this earth was
just a land we shared.
Then, by apocalypse or gradual erosion,
it all changed; women became possessions,
and we became invisible,
unspeakable, voiceless, condemned
by a misconstrued and devalued past
to a hopeless and unforgiving future.
Old men produced
edicts and proclamations,
locked up wives in rooms with cooking implements,
designated many outlaws and transgressors
and wrote us out
of “their” history forever.
Beaten, bullied, abused,
we got lost, forgot who we once were;
we took our own lives,
became an instrument
in our own genocide.
Rampant ill-will and hatred reigned;
countries legislated rape, stoning, execution,
ostracism was everywhere
with laws that kept us from our jobs,
our lovers, our children
and our dreams.
Today, on the street,
some still refuse to meet our eyes,
cover the faces of their children,
and strike out in anger, not at estranged relatives
but at evil, unfathomable aliens,
beings beyond flesh and bone,
clinging to the mistaken belief
that we have always been nothing more
Yet the flame of memory still burns,
as deep and bright as a beating heart;
transporting us back to a time,
before the great unraveling,
when the paths of all our lives
were braided together,
interwoven into one
smooth and steadfast strand.
Turn your gaze inward.
Joan Annsfire is a longtime political activist and writer. She writes poetry, memoir, short stories and non-fiction. Her home is in Berkeley California. She blogs at lavenderjoan.blogspot.com.
THE PROMISE OF HOLINESS
by JOSÉ M. TIRADO
The promise of holiness
settles the messy,
sets the order
moan lifts the
raising it’s arms
singing the praises of
the damp ground we stand
and are buried at
The promise of holiness lifts
gray to green
is the light
within the working men
on the rusty harbor-fjord,
seen from here
their lives smolder-
dark scent earthy,
ground thick, holy too, though
The promise of holiness
eludes the poet today
hands soft, expressive,
(in his own way)
saddles the paper
scribbles the text
looks out the window to
and out front, closer, below
the fish men work,
speaking nothing of
the promise of holiness.
Rev. José M. Tirado is a poet, priest, psychologist, and political writer living in Iceland. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Dissident Voice, The Endless Search, Op-Ed News, and others. He can be reached at email@example.com.
by LINH DINH
As the FBI gutterpunk division entraps
Five guys with crude haircuts, anarchists
Supposedly, because anarchists are always
Guilty of everything, going back to Haymarket,
And beyond, we need a concrete poetry
For the true criminals to bite on. Eat this.
Or how about a poem that will explode
In the face of the corrupt, even if it kills
The poet as he’s writing it. Swallow this.
As ship lists and drones fly, we
Don’t need poetry as earworm,
But as tasseled cushion for ass
Of Goldman Sachs CEO, to blow
Up his rottenness, we demand
Poetry waterboarded onto the lying,
Smug and top-shelf mug of the Prez,
At a White House soiree, and beamed
On well-starved PBS, as foreclosed
Citizens cheer while chewing
Funded by the maker of Prozac and Cialis,
American poetry puts you to sleep with a boner.
I mean, shit, you can’t make shit like this up,
So it’s high time for a John Brown poetry to surge
From the flooded basement of our cranium, as
Real John Browns sally forth to retake the real,
Rout nonsense and reclaim our definition.
To think is to act, now, so,
Like any foreign nation, you
Can also be preempted from
Your future crimes. If you don’t
Believe me, just ask the FBI
Agent you’re lying next to,
Under or above. He or she
Can kill you in the dark, in silence,
And that’s no Middle Eastern joke.
Well, then, I’m a thought criminal,
A terrorist, since I fantasize always
About neutralizing the bad guys.
Soon as I close my eyes, I see
Skyscrapers being imploded
And freefalling into their huge
Criminal footprints and scattering
Fraudulent investments and mortgages.
I fancy myself stepping over corpses
Of tax-dodging and looting CEOs,
War profiteers and propagandists,
The ones who keep feeding us lanky dogs
Dryhumping homing soldiers, but don’t show
Those who are killed, maimed or tortured
By these same guys and gals next door.
Dumped from the imperial meat grinder,
They’ll become your police or panhandle
From neocons and libtards, even occupiers,
And though a terrorist, I’ll give them a buck.
“Man, you’ve been had!” If anything, I wish
I was a better fighter, so I could join other fighters
To combat real terrorists, with their real weapons.
Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)
To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work). Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where. For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights. Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx or odt files to “.doc”). Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).
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