Week Four: Social/Political April 25th: Write a poem about war.
Today’s prompt is to write a poem about war. When thinking of “war,” don’t only think of wars against countries. What are other types of wars we go through? What are some wars you go through?
Here’s a poem from Warsan Shire:
from War Poem
There is a war going on in my country. In all the years I have lived in this body, there has been no peace. My mother still has hope in her heart, she keeps a suitcase packed just in case. This whole life we have been waiting for our flight to be called. In the recurring dream I board a plane to Mogadishu. Every passenger on the plane is my mother, my mother in the seat beside me reading a crime novel, my mother in an ill-fitting uniform serving drinks, my mother as the pilot, winking, tipping his cap. When the plane starts to fall out the sky I wake up.
Look, one war giving birth to another one war crawling out from between the legs of another, out of the rubble of one war crawls out another look, a snake swallowing its own head.
What do I do? I think I brought the war with me unknowingly, perhaps on my skin, plumes of it in my hair, under my nails. It sits with me, watches my favourite TV shows, sighs in the pauses of telephone calls, sleeps between me and my partner in bed, stands behind me in the shower – lathers my back, presses the pill into my night time tongue, at the bathroom sink uses its blue hand to touch my cheek.
Even the dentist jumped back from the wormhole of my mouth, I suspect it was probably the war he saw. What do I do? I want to make love but my hair smells of war and running and running.
I couldn’t go all day without sharing something with you guys on this religious day. (I don’t care what you say, poetry is a religion and today is something we will celebrate. *shrugs*) Here are some beautiful pieces by some beautiful poets. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! You get it, right? They’re are beautiful!
Thallium by Saeed Jones
If I held out the candle, paraffin burning for him, then swallowed all the light, if
in the dark, I was a cobra’s tongue, how could it have been his fault?
Robber baron, unzipped vagabond, he mistook me for the comfort of a small creek, water crawling along the backs of rocks, emerald house beside it,
me at the door in nothing but welcome.
Over wine, I warned him soft—you can’t sleep here; you won’t wake up.
In the snuffed room, my touch serrated bit of tooth
Even a peacock feather comes to a point.
He thought I was kissing him.
*Originally published in Blackbird*
The Oppression of Venus by Mars by Metta Sáma
Nights are the only times I think of love. And even then, it’s so very heterosexual, I pretend
to be happy. I sex a man who I can call husband, who names me after rare shards of glass
held tight in catastrophic dirt. I pretend I know how to fuck him. How to hold his limp dick in my hand with some emotion
close to eye-candy delight. A hungry look saving the erection for the greediest mouth.
A boyfriend in my day life once promised that would make him the happiest man in the world.
And once I pretended I cared enough to believe him, but his dick would never stay limp long enough.
So at night, when I think of love I have to find a way to save the erection for the mouth. Because my dream
husband likes it like that, too. Something about love growing and pulsing. Something
about children and naming them after famous jazz singers, muslims, and animals in flock. One was Coletrane Akil Murder, but I soon forgot
about breastfeeding it. I had fields of flowers to cultivate, breads to bake, laundry to plump & fold. I was heterosexual
and gardens were abundant. My husband was never alone and the diapers were always wet. The sex
was less than remarkable. I had lovers. I was heterosexual. I couldn’t stop fucking neighborhood women in tall oak trees,
maids and baby sitters. We built a canopy and laid out a huge tub. I got stuck. I was pregnant again. And my husband wasn’t
the same anymore. This one was a white man who always tied me by the throat. I said I liked it.
I meant it. Being choked. By a white man. Who was my husband. Our children’s names were hegemonic. Dominion and Galactic, Hegel and Patience.
Then I woke from one dream and remembered I was heterosexual. Daily, I chanted:
I am a heterosexual. I have sex with my husband. A white man who only screws The Blacks.
Until my dream moved us to Cuba. Then he wasn’t my husband anymore, but some other man who liked his dick limp
during football games. This heterosexuality was ceaseless. Unsleeping. Unsilent. Under wraps, no? Alive & throbbing.
*Originally published in Drunken Boat*
Home by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you fire under feet hot blood in your belly it’s not something you ever thought of doing until the blade burnt threats into your neck and even then you carried the anthem under your breath only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets sobbing as each mouthful of paper made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land no one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled means something more than journey. no one crawls under fences no one wants to be beaten pitied
no one chooses refugee camps or strip searches where your body is left aching or prison, because prison is safer than a city of fire and one prison guard in the night is better than a truckload of men who look like your father no one could take it no one could stomach it no one skin would be tough enough
the go home blacks refugees dirty immigrants asylum seekers sucking our country dry niggers with their hands out they smell strange savage messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs or the insults are easier to swallow than rubble than bone than your child body in pieces. i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore unless home told you to quicken your legs leave your clothes behind crawl through the desert wade through the oceans drown save be hunger beg forget pride your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying- leave, run away from me now i dont know what i’ve become but i know that anywhere is safer than here
*Originally published in Seekers Hub*
Self Portait as Sonoran Desert by Christoper Soto (aka Loma)
She walks across my chest— dragging her shadow & fraying [All the edges]. My nipples bloom // into cacti— Fruit & flower. She eats // then I do. —A needle pricks her.
I have only seen this woman // cry once— Squeezed // like a raincloud. She cried because // two white men. [Two white men] Built a detention center— From bone & clay.
[The first bone— my clavicle]. The second— her spine. She howls [As the fence // surrounds her]. She coughs & Combs // the floor // my chest [Shiv-shivering]. Inside the detention center— [She is named] “immigrant” “illegal.” She loses 15 pounds & Mental health & her feet are— Cracked tiles // dirty dishes.
This border— is not a stitch [where nations meet]. This border is a wound // where nations part.
*Originally published in Vinyl Poetry*
Happy Birthday by David Ishaya Osu
(For Ayodele Olofintuade)
I have stitched
you a wedding posy
with my pen
smooth her over
she will be
for your bed
smokes who skulk
behind green mornings (they want to nest in your quilt)
she will turn
for your rump
against winds aching, creeping
up the stairs
to steal your gold waistlaces
the play will
transpose to a poem
trapping those spectres
in your trawl
*Originally published in The Bombay Review*
Phlebotomy by Rage Hezekiah
The fruit of my inner elbow acquiesces the pin-prick, surrenders in the latexed palm
of a stranger. Moat gates lift, reveal familiar piping—veins resembling my mother’s, that climbed the branches
of her wrinkled hand. I used to sit beside her on the couch, and press my fingertips into tributaries
beneath her skin’s vellum. I’d observe the resilience plumping the tubes, giving way to delicate pressure.
Today, claret color fills the vials, I give, knowing it was never mine.
*Originally published in Really System*
Testimony by Paul Tran
I didn’t ask for it. Something moved in the tall grass.
Neither my imagination nor the wind, light rippling in the heat.
He had a human face. But he wasn’t human. He was
a hunger. Not for me — for what he could do to me: shepherd boy
alone in a field of thorns, flock grazing tufts of rhododendrons,
the world with its back turned. He kissed me, moved his wolf tongue
in and out of my mouth, a hole he filled with himself.
Disrobed, he tied my underwear around my knees, licked the bottom of my feet.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand what was happening.
When I said his name, when I shouted what he was at the top of my lungs —
a desire for something he couldn’t keep —
he dragged me by my hair across the devil’s wilderness. My back whittled
and threadbare. I wished my scalp and skull had split, spilled the contents
of my brain like rind in a garden of unearthly delights so I could be dead —
stay dead — and not chase the impulse to testify pulsing in my blood.
Cause and effect. He planted me on a grove overlooking my village.
He pushed his sex inside me. The sky hid behind gathering clouds,
too disgusted to look. Perhaps it’s a gift only to feel my body
taken from me. Perhaps observation’s a lie. No one believed me