Bill Yarrow, ed.
Bury My Clothes by Roger Bonair-Agard
Haymarket Books, 2013
56 poems, 160 pages
1. Chicago is a city of sorrows:
Let the 100 brown boys dead
raise up and tell you different.
Chicago will say it is the city
of the get down, city of grimy,
city of house music and hard work.
All that’s true. All that means
is that Chicago won’t tell you
how to fall in love. Chicago won’t
give you back the chance to tell
that woman No.
(from “city of sorrows”)
2. Just today, telling a boy in county
how to write a love poem,
I’m stammering over ideas
of detail, trying to get him
not to say happy
or sparkling eyes but to talk
about what is his love’s, only
hers, and no one else’s
like how the first time
I picked up something
from somewhere, a book, maybe
a phone, and on the train platform
you smack it straight down
out of my hand and we stare
at each other dead-faced
for a millisecond and then bust
out laughing—like that, I tell
him and he’s cracking up; he’s
dying in this jail, where he doesn’t
know how soon he’ll be out
even though he’s just eighteen
but right now he’s full belly
doubled over and I describe it
to him again and who knows
what this beautiful tethered young
man has done to forfeit his life
in this place…
(from “how to write a love poem”)
3. The Caribs did not kill off the Arawaks
like we were taught in primary school.
The Caribs and the Arawaks managed to live
side by side for centuries before Columbus
showed up. This is today’s math;
today’s lesson on how to build a village
like a fortress; how your descendants
survive despite every attempt to kill you.
(from “Today’s Math”)
4. The tassa is heavy with water.
Its doon-doon is deep as the Indian
Ocean. The tabla is a ruckus of
celebration. Such a paganism; such
beauty that ignores the convention
of space on a dance floor.
(from “Ode to basement bangra”)
5. All he wants to know is why all his roads
have turned to rivers. Why all his spirits
have begun speaking in different unrecognizable
tongues. It’s not that he’s complaining
but there was a time when everywhere
the ghosts spoke in pianos. They spoke
waist music. They spoke a pore-stippling
staccato. And now this. All this river road
and him without a way to know if to cross
or be carried downstream.
Justice Freedom Herbs by Margaret Rozga
WordTech Editions, 2015
60 poems, 91 pages
1. Maybe so much depends on
what tune you’re looking for,
what you’ve done with silence,
what notes you’ve already begun
to sing, what rhythm your heart beats.
(from “Butterfly Song”)
bile churning up
into your throat?
That’s the bitter moment before
itself has a wild, fresh air taste
something like the soft grey-green of sage
(from “Seasoning for Courage”)
3. Let all the named and nameless women who
ever cooked in this kitchen return with their blessings.
Let all the dear women who wanted to—or had to—
start over start over here with me.
Let us continue in each other’s names.
(from “Housewarming Prayer”)
4. The beach
lulls dark, white edge of waves alone
show. The mess of war, more war, seems tidied
at least for this night. If tomorrow we find
conflict, may we have the courage to do the work
we will feel called to do, the work
likely to wind
up in our laps when we find
less peace than we discover on this beach
(from “Peace Sestina”)
5. Aretha sings R e s pe ct. You age. You live
alone. Waukesha, Wisconsin. No one plays the piano.
No one even dusts it. You read Flannery O’Connor’s
“Revelation.” You need bifocals, and you no longer ease
through stretches of night driving. You’re just another
face in the crowd of those whose dreams shadow the
lucky on stage. You tell yourself to dream strong.
(from “Searching for First Person: An Autobiography in Four Paragraphs and a Coda”)
Longshot & Ghazal by Dennis Mahagin
Mojave River Press, 2014
50 poems, 118 pages
1. O plover, cormorant, slick pinnacle of a soul’s
flight— or flit, the eye mates for life: strong soul
(from “Doc Williams’ Pigeon Breast w/ Soul Ghazal”)
2. I was near broke, and entertaining Suspicion.
He’d called me, from a convenience store, a block
away from my home, where he’d crashed, only the
night before. “Look, I’m lost, bro,” Suspicion said,
“these here streets are so different in day glo.
You better come pick me up…”
(from “Longshot’s Allegorical Rag”)
3. In this world of fake books, Eskimos, sheer
unkind and minefield, strobe light, they come at you
with calliopes in lieu of insight, sonic tribulations
of Job, tone deaf, beaten
down, and when you finally get the hang,
might wish to sing along … But it’s too late
to catch a second song, gone,
(from “Manfred Mann”)
4. I ran into Jack Bruce, outside the Elephant Castle
on Washington Street in Portland, 3 blocks from
the river, ‘92 or thereabouts. Jack stooped low
in a mackinaw. “Dun, dun … and done,” he said
dragging a kitchen match across a patch of very
rare, dry concrete, color of the reeling
sky, his genius eyes.
(from “Kill what’s Inside of You”)
5. Lukewarm Diet Sprite on the night stand
a bowl game on TV, vital sign monitors kept
an insane rhythm, measure for measure
with respirators as a windshield wiper sloughs
crystal beads of snow. I was forty two
years old, New Year’s Eve in Vegas;
been told that around nine, some lost twin
of mine rolled his sleeve in Reynolds Wrap,
speed ball and chrome; he bought it
on Elizabeth Street, the sirens
got him home.
(from “ICU 2”)
Comment on Blue Fifth Reviews, June 2016.