i pledge allegiance to step forth
when asked to step down, to hold no flag
to hold this generation tight
make them accountable for apathy
(apathy=death) you see their faces everyday.
to remember the children
lost in the name of false allegiance
i pledge allegiance to anger
letting it blossom into something more than fruit
to eat beautiful.
because i know what it smells like to be spring.
one of the lucky ones, i pledge allegiance
to the human body, still attached
from birth to death. pledging for each one
i said i loved until death do us part
sweet sorrow, i lie parallel to you.
you, my country, have no right to speak
on behalf of the world.
I was inspired after reading Safia Elhillo’s masterful poem, Self-Portrait with No Flag. It comes to mind every morning lately when I need to stand for the pledge with my students from around the world. The hypocrisy is striking in relation to our current domestic and foreign policy objectives. So my loyalty is to the small ones, to the next generation. May we teach them to know their own self-worth, no matter their origin.
looking back, I believe you liked to look at yourself on the canvas.
how much time you must have spent against the mirror admiring
the deep curves of your upper body, the shining reflections,
how light hit the contours and shadows
fell along the human places we call man.
you called your own body suitable for the brush,
to what still hangs above my head, no longer a white canvas,
the supple eggplant, deep purple, almost magenta
temples coming through reflected light.
it moves above me like a hallucination, a haunting intention,
innocent vegetable as man from shoulder to wrist.
painted next to me, wrapped around my body
the moment I realized a man cannot be everything
especially one who only knows how to paint himself.
I came to myself
the boiling pot whistling
across the hall.
and I never made tea again
I watched the emptiness
of the sky
and this room the air could pass a thousand
birds through its spaces
for the many days the
living had left.
There must be empty
spaces inside the body
for a single drink that doesn’t scream—
in spite of the world.
I’m feeling inspired by the poetic guidance in The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. Presently reading the chapter “Writing and Knowing”… hence the name of this poem.
Writing and Knowing
I know the kitchen, the confines of its smell
sometimes escaping the borders
of acceptable behavior. the waft, the clouds
the cycle sourced from my hands.
this delicate surgery has transformed into
an excellent prognosis, bubbling
but cohesive, wet without being soup
love without being complicated.
sit with your shoulders up. elbows
off the table, on the table—it doesn’t matter.
service is inconsequential, shape is a secondary thought.
we are empty stomachs and full hearts released
our destiny is no longer in my hands, maybe it never was.
kindness in the book I hold
before me, resting in the calm of my lap
it is in these solitary moments
that I remember intimacy lost
turning pages and the soft touch of words.
forget me not beyond this window
speed rolls by in cars, the wind,
the rush of a child’s legs
escaping the confines of home.
here in rest, the quiet title
yelling in the mind more,
more, tell me more about why
you love this world and
our uncertain place in it.
do not fall into nothingness when there is too much to consider
the eyes heavy, weighed upon by the pain of thought
who said that this life requires my presence or my promises,
I said in time
when energy and age become aligned
in our gaze, that life would be complete,
our purpose would be clear
because direction would call from its destination—this path is for you
walk away from the voices of an incessant mind.
We sound like the crack in the floor
We inherit gestures if nothing else
Can be stolen.
There are fingerprints left on so many words I didn’t want
But exit my mouth anyway
There is evidence of your blood in my fingertips,
in my every breath.
And evidence more sadly in this little one’s uncertainty
her confusion as to whether this means life
Or a means to an end.
I try to erase hopelessness for the unit
Believe that we can become something
other than whom we know.
That in teaching
I created myself into someone else
and created children
into new leaders of the world and their own decisions.
You are my blood, woman
my roots, my confusion
on weary days when the world seems like too, too much
to be real your book will be yours
and my book will be mine
no matter what we’ve said or done
no matter what’s been written
the horizon will still smile and say goodnight to us both.