“It was not gay, that life.” You can’t “make me small,”
you “can’t put me down” or take away my job
I am immune,
although it is not gay. Why did we come at all,
consonant to whose bidding? Perhaps God is a slob,
playful, vast, rough-hewn.
Perhaps God resembles one of the last etchings of Goya & not Valesquez, never Rembrandt no. Something disturbed, ill-pleased, & with a touch of paranoia who calls for this thud of love from his creatures-O. Perhaps God ought to be curbed.
Not only on this planet, I admit; somewhere. Our only resource is bleak denial or anti-potent rage, both have been tried by our wisest. Who was it back there who died unshriven, daring to see what more could happen to a painter with such courage.
Source: Berryman, John, and Michael Hofmann. The Dream Songs , 2014, p. 257.
I only intend to send word to my future Self perpetuation is a war against Time Travel is essentially the aim of any religion Is blindness the color one sees under water Breath can be overshadowed in darkness The benefits of blackness can seem radical Black people in America are rarely compulsive Is forbidden the only word God doesn’t know You have to heal yourself to truly be heroic You have to think once a day of killing your self Awareness requires a touch of blindness & self Importance is the only word God knows To be free is to live because only the dead are slaves
Pat your foot
the corner. Nat Turner, dying wood
of the church. Our lot
is vacant. Bring the twisted myth
of speech. The boards brown and falling
away. The metal bannisters cheap
and rattly. Clean new Sundays. We thought
it possible to enter
the way of the strongest.
But it is rite that the world's ills
erupt as our own. Right that we take
our own specific look into the shapely
blood of the heart.
Looking thru trees
the wicker statues blowing softly against
Looking thru dusk
ness. A clearing of stars
and half-soft mud.
The possibilities of music. First
that it does exist. And that we do,
in that scripture of rhythms. The earth,
I mean soil, as melody. The fit you need,
the throes. To pick it up and cut
away what does not singularly express.
The delay of language.
A strength to be handled by giants.
The possibilities of statement. I am saying, now,
what my father could not remember
to say. What my grandfather
Pay me off, savages.
Build me an equitable human assertion.
One that looks like a jungle, or one that looks like the cities
of the West. But I provide the stock. The beasts
The City's Rise!
(And what is history, then? An old deaf lady)
burned to death
in South Carolina.
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
You have your skinny pants that you never wear
but that are the barometer. You have your fat pants
that you wear more than you need to. You have your
period pants that are dark and thick and forgiving
You have your period panties.
I have a new resolution not to wear my period
panties at non-period times. I have gotten into the
habit of wearing only my period panties and pretty
much never wearing my other panties, my nice
panties. My resolution is to wear nice panties every
day, even the days I don’t think l’m going to have sex,
even on the days when l’m going to ride my bike.
Once, in the locker room at the YWCA after tot
swim class, I saw another mom who was wearing
beautiful, chic mocha panties and a matching bra
even though she had just come from swim class and
had a kid. The panties and bra looked French, and so
did the mom. I swore right there and then to wear
my nice panties every day, even though my nicest
panties aren’t as nice as those panties were.
But then I got pregnant again and never felt like
wearing nice panties.
So that was three years ago. Exactly three years and
I am finally hoping to make good on my promise of
Thus far I have kept my nice panties promise for
about a week and a half. It’s been difficult. Almost
every day I reach for my period panties but I haven’t
relented. It does feel good to wear nice panties,
though it pains my heart to get on a bike or go to
sleep without sex when I am wearing them.
Even when the nice panties are not two-hundred-
dollar hand-washable silk tap pants, nice panties
are a conundrum.
If you enjoyed this poem, please support the poet and purchase Arielle Greenberg’s fascinating, honest, nuanced and insightful book “Locally Made Panties”.