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Freddie Gray’s Spine

Freddie Gray’s Spine

had 33 vertebrae
aligned in perfect order
and millions of nerves
calling and receiving
messages of life
evolutionary sculpture
perfecting walking
leaping jumping

the whole history
of empire came down
on Freddie Gray’s spine
on his bony spine deep
in a body that took off
running a perfect spine
that six men ripped apart
with their hands saying
I am the power
don’t run from me
don’t stand up

then hundreds of spines
poured into the streets
unstoppable standing
upright unbreakable
refusing to be

Joan Kresich is public school educator now working to bring restorative justice and sustainable practices to her community. Joan’s poetry and prose have appeared in Adanna Literary Journal, Chrysalis Reader, HeART Online, Albatross, and CounterPunch, among others. She is the author of “Picturing Restorative Justice.” She lives in Livingston, Montana and Berkeley, California, in one place listening to the cries of wild geese, and in the other, the tumble of urban dialects.

When the Poets Went on Strike


Because there had never been many
(Eking out livings in cold-water flats,
Or homeless and broken on urban grates,
Or gathering breadcrumbs, like birds, in parks)
The general public hardly observed
A gradual lessening of the sun’s corona,
A confusion of diphthongs—as though tongues
Wagged lazily; and, everywhere:
A coarsening… a blurring. …

The moon-June crowd went on going on
To haphazard applause;
And the apolitical, precious types
Continued pretending power and words
Were water and oil, as they rubbed
Sappiness into the wounds on the runway.

But the children felt a yearning hollowness
They had no words for bridging.
And the old ones hungered to be filled again,
Recalling lines that had cauterized, lines
That had cleansed; lines that had healed.
Lines that had kissed them awake
And asleep. Lines that returned as prayer.


“What do they want?’ someone wondered. “Surely
There’s enough to deter us, without their
Gobbledygook, roundabout, circumference-
Hugging saying things; intimating this
And that; implying, signifying, hint-
Ing with all their rigamarole-whirligig
About metaphors and similes, images
And scrimmages—rhymes, I mean!—subtly
Adorning fully-intentioned thoughts; as though
Anybody had the time these days to ferret
Meanings from allusions, let alone
Consider fabrications’ implications!”


But, they persisted; having lost the three-
Thousand-year-old battle to acquaint
Humanity with what it just might mean
To be free in one’s thought, to honor Earth,
To feel the utter serendipity
Of heartbeats and tornadoes, babies
Whispering in dreams and dandelions
In a breeze. They held out… until
An envelope of dullness catacombed
The globe; and scam-artist banksters
And gamester-politicos, and the sham-
Man and sham-woman in their cubicles,
Marching into corridors, stood up an
Esculent moment, looked around, listening,
Wondering: What was it? … Who? … And how,
And why, it mattered.

Gary Corseri has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has published novels and collections of poetry, has taught in US public schools and prisons and in US and Japanese universities. His work has appeared at CounterPunch, Village Voice, The New York Times, Redbook Magazine and hundreds of publications and websites worldwide. Contact: gary_corseri@comcast.net.

Even If Just Ice

I still believe in justice,
although it turns to be just ice
because glacial entities
sooner or later will melt away
in the mud of thorn fields
& every drop of water
will circumcise despair
& despotism.

Ali Znaidi (b.1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Experimental Ruminations (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Moon’s Cloth Embroidered with Poems (Origami Poems Project, 2012), Bye, Donna Summer! (Fowlpox Press, 2014), and Taste of the Edge (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014). More at http://aliznaidi.blogspot.com/.

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

Poets Basement is now on Facebook. Find us as http://www.facebook.com/poets.basement.

To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com 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. Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions). Submissions not following the guidelines may or may not receive a response.

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and links to past installments, visit http://crowvoice.com/poets-basement. Thanks!