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I Am Writing This by Elaine Shelly

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“I Am Writing This” by Elaine Shelly

because I stand among too many
dead bodies – black women dead of AIDS, black women
dead
of breast cancer, black women dead of being black women.
I am writing because I see too many of us wounded;
huddled into corners waiting for the next slap, the next
morsel
of love, the next affirmation that we are only the living dead.

I am writing because it is still too easy to call us
crazy bitches – a danger to ourselves and others, mostly
others.
I am writing this because we have learned to laugh at
ourselves too easily.
We laugh while cameras, for the sake of entertainment,
show us being dumped
into trash bins and highlight our butts and breasts
instead of our faces.
I am writing this because this is the third day and with it
has come the resurrection
of the skinny black model who slinks around in a leopard
skin.

I am writing this because I will not be conveniently
dismissed
as a cripple who must suffer because of my sins.
I am writing this because I do not hate my body.
I am writing this because I love myself and other black
women too damn much.

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Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas

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“Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom”

Then all the children of Cocoa Bottom went to see Mr. Samuel’s electric lights.
They camped on the grass bank outside his house,
their lamps filled with oil,external image electricity
waiting for the sunset,
watching the sky turn yellow, orange.
Grannie Patterson across the road
peeped through the crack in her porch door.
The cable was drawn like a pencil line across thee sun.
The fireflies waited in the shadows,
their lanterns off.
The kling-klings swooped in from the hills
congregating in the orange trees.
A breeze coming home from the sea held its breath;
bamboo lining in the dirt road stopped its swaying,
and evening came as soft as chiffon curtains:
Closing. Closing.

Light!
Mr. Samuel smiling on the verandah –
a silhouette against the yellow shimmer behind him –
and there arising such a gasp,
such a fluttering of wings,
tweet-a-whit,
such a swaying, swaying.
Light! Marvelous light!
And then the breeze rose up from above the trees,
swelling and swelling into a wind
such that then long grass bent forward
stretching across the bank like so many bowed heads.
And a voice in the wind whispered:
Is there one among us to record this moment?
But there was none –

no one (except for a few warm rocks
hidden among the mongoose ferns) even heard a sound.
Already the children of Cocoa Bottom
had lit their lamps for the bark journey home,
and it was too late –
the moment had passed.

Marcia Douglas

Diagnosis by Sharon Olds

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“Diagnosis”

By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face—
he held me, and conversed with me,
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has
is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.

“Diagnosis” by Sharon Olds, from One Secret Thing. © Random House, Inc., 2009.

Poem for Today

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“Kidnap Poem” By Nikki Giovanni
Ever been kidnapped
by a poet
if i were a poet
i’d kidnap you
put you in my phrases and meter
You to jones beach
or maybe coney island
or maybe just to my house
lyric you in lilacs
dash you in the rain
blend into the beach
to complement my see
Play the lyre for you
ode you with my love song
anything to win you
wrap you in the red Black green
show you off to mama
yeah if i were a poet i’d kid
nap you

Poem for Today

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The Pitcher

His art is eccentricity, his aim
How not to hit the mark he seems to aim at,

His passion how to avoid the obvious,
His technique how to vary the avoidance.

The others throw to be comprehended. He
Throws to be a moment misunderstood.

Yet not too much. Not errant, arrant, wild,
But every seeming aberration willed.

Not to, yet still, still to communicate
Making the batter understand too late.

—-Robert Francis

Poem for Today

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separationwsmervinstitchpicture“Separation”
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

W. S. MERWIN

Poem for Today

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“Abandoned Farmhouse”
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm—a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.

TED KOOSER

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