Poem of the Day - Archive - March 2021


These Days, You
by J. De Salvo


Are learning the patience you
Thought you had when you
Flitted from task to
Job when you started to
Never stop and
Broke your brain by
Ignoring the signs of
Wear and tore a big
Rent in the fabric of
Tame and that beast is
Out and that beast is
All that meditation only
To discover you can't just
Sit when forced to
Pick through the teeth of
Your thinking it's an
Advanced case that
Forgot to brush
Say "Hiiieee!" to the self that
You no longer were
Anymore those harsh lights now
Make you feel young


King for a Day
by Robert Eugene Rubino


Checkers pieces get reset yet again.
It’s only a friendly game after all, right?
Right. As if we ever played any game
not wanting to annihilate the other.
He calmly assumes air of dignity

while hunched in a wheelchair
his chin looking like it’s attached
to plaid shirt’s buttoned top button
his oversized diaper bulging
over coffee-stained red sweatpants

his wrinkle-rutted face
splotched with dried blood
result of nursing-home aide’s shave
his breath a labor of longing
watery eyes searching for land

his World War II combat brothers all gone
one just last week, now he’s the last
his Josie, wife of 62 years, dead three months
family expects him to follow any day now
family will be wrong — by five years.

He makes yet another unruly triple jump
using whatever damn pieces
moving in whatever damn direction
he damn well pleases, this time adding
a flourishing finishing flick of his wrist

and guttural gargle of a command:
King me!
Well, I know a con job when I see it
or at least I think I do.
Hell, I really have no idea.

I sit & stare, shrug & sigh
no more resetting of pieces.
Time & toil crown my father
and his tender tenor rasps & gasps:
Give up, wise guy? 


We Are All Part of One Another
Tribute to Yuri Kochiyamaby
by Nancy Hom 4-30-17


To be part of one another is to know
That when you breathe I heave with you
And when you sigh I cry beside you.
We are breath and water, each of us
Passing from one vessel to another
In the mandala of life.

Knowing this, we would delve into
The deepest part of ourselves
To see the brilliance inside others.
We would be more careful with words
And protest deeds that hurt and harm.
We would guard the earth
As if it were our hallowed home.

Knowing we are not separate
We fight for freedom and justice
With fierce rage cupped in compassion.
For we cannot be free if one of us is not.
We cannot reap riches if one of us has none.
We cannot fully love if one of us is hated.

Fight for prisoners wrongly jailed.
Protect the rights of women raped.
Free all immigrants detained by ICE.
Stand with Muslims against the ban.
Rebuild black churches burned by hate.

Fight for sacred land and clean water.
Preserve mountains, forests, and streams.
Protest greedy politicians’ plunder.
Cry for bears shot in their sleep.
Control the climate before it’s too late.

Beyond her life, Yuri’s words live on
In every continent, every country, every town.
“We are all part of one another."
Rise up and fight as one.


Alameda, California (working title)
by Joya Cory, March, 2021


Last week my son said
Mom, how about taking a walk?
I was helping out with the boys,
intervening in their frequent wrestling matches,
in the interest of safety.

For the first time in a year
we were allowed to be indoors together.
I showed them how to do stage fighting,
where you beat each other up,
without touching.
Though all I wanted to do was
touch, touch, touch.
Their smooth, soft skin, so lovely.

Being so starved
since their Grandpa left
this earth
and all human bodies
were out of reach
for such a long time.

When my son invited me
on a walk,
just he and I,
on a busy work day,
I felt my eyes
well up
(I cry easily).

Such a simple invitation.
Nothing fancy.
Yet I felt as though
I was going to Bali or Tahiti
or some other idea of paradise.
Right there in Alameda, California.

We walked, strolled really,
down the tree lined streets,
admiring the neighbors’ gardens.
The Magnolia Tree blooming
with luscious, pink blossoms.

And we talked about our lives,
our health,
our future,
our shared grief.

Talk as comforting
as a warm bath.
But better.
Much better.


My Second Life (from a poem by Dunya Mikhail)


We form a triangle
in the crowded library --
the poet is the third point
between the old woman
by the window and me.

Her purple turban loosely
coiled over errant wisps
of grey hair, cherry red
lipstick escaped onto
cheeks, the old woman tilts
taut forward, the poet
reads & I sit poised
in the tension between.

The poet reads:
After this life,
we need a second life
to apply what we learned
in the first.

It is liberation
in a sentence
that makes me gasp
that makes the old woman
laugh as she turns and calls out
to me — And what will be said
about you after this first life?
That she lived carefully?
That she got it right?

The poet now tells me—
No, that cannot happen.  

my considered decisions
my cost-benefit analyses
my endless hesitations
my circular justifications
will never, not ever
get it right in this first life

So then all that will be said
is that she lived, she lived

The old woman's eyes implore
Is that how you will leave?

Or, will it be said that she
nodded and wept with cherry red
lipstick smears, purple turban
askew, that she laughed into
fullness and flaw, that she

carried her wisdom
from this first life over-
flowing with love & bad
decisions forward—  

into the next where
maybe finally almost
she will get it right.


When I First Moved to Nob Hill


I was going for a walk over by Grace Cathedral
when a guy on a bicycle came through the back way
lookin kinda shady at me drawing with crayons

but instead of running away
I was proactive
asked him if he wanted to smoke a doobie
we went over to the park in a more public area
and I pulled out a lift ticket joint
and we got smashed.

I found out he liked rap
for some reason I’d mentioned Shook Ones II by Mob Deep
his name was New York but they were from Queens
he pulled out a sample and I started my recorder
we made a rap tune.

At some point earlier in the convo
he had stopped and his eyes
had gone weird and fuzzy
“I am a bad man,” he said
I poked him, asked if he’d done jail time.

“Looks like you’ve been programmed,” I said,
his eyes went back to normal when I pointed it out.
“You got told you were bad,” I said, “but there’s options
there’s people who can help you reintegrate into society.
Don’t give up.”

He shook his head and looked at me.

“You’re right,” he said.

After I put the cannabis away
he told me it had looked like I had money
because I was wearing these emerald pants
and a leather jacket with gold sequin bling all over the hood.
I’d been listening to the soundtrack from The Matrix all morning
asking the universe for an adventure.

Moral of the story:
smoke weed with the homeless
maybe you won’t get mugged.





Contrive a time before tweeting
                              threats threads no privacy, now shelve
                                                            sanctuary, as to be algorithmically uncoddled

the bot cannot understand sugarcoat
                             is not consent for public praise
                                                           or dismissal, misidentify the hypodermic

prison sip of narcotic font, snark
                             the closet armor posted, her debt to Eve
                                                           would close commentary, as adoring clandestine

brides restricted to Marxists liking
                            alienation as the product Voltaire
                                                           divided from externalities, hopscotches Fandango

a ragged fairy released from fusillade, vapid
                            the trench recoil, contrite her infirmary durable
                                                           because madness is the power shrugging apology

dispelled as nothing new the judicial gospel
                           confirms a feared sanctimony, the Ephectics
                                                          warned the cruceiform is a delimited apoplexy.



In memory of Lawrence Ferlinghetti who liked this poem very much
by Margot Pepper


And what if we interrupted
              the phosphorescent faces
              that calmly assess our fate?

What if we stripped the presses of
              their sponsored projections,
              voicing instead our own objections
              to the national debt and immigrant debate?

We are not the trespassers
             who transformed our cobble-stone streets,
             adorned by the twice repossessed
             temples to our future,
             into war zones:
             bombed out and abandoned
             like the dreams
             hunger consumes.

We are not the trespassers
             who engraved malnutrition
             into the ancient faces
             of our children;
             carved servitude
             into the knotted backs
             of our campesinos
             who must relinquish our food
             to the world's table.

We are not the trespassers
             who annexed half our nations
             hoarding our wealth in hands
             as clean and white
             as the teeth of bankers,
             las guardias blancas,
             la Casa Blanca,
             el banco mundial blanco,

             though the skin at times may look brown.

And we will not pay one increment more
             than the blood and tears
             shed like ticker-tape
             in the miscarried revolutions
             creditors aborted.

For how are we to repay a debt that is owed us?

Please Sir, tell us,
              how do we trespass on land that was first peopled by us?

All that land you pried from the still-warm fingers of our dead
              like artifacts to be sold to private collectors.

All those wares you snatched like meat
             from the ribs of our hungry.

All that land on which we die
             like ants in a poison rain when we till it;
             like worms for turning garbage to gold.

All that sweat    all that blood     all those children.

How are  we to repay a debt owed us?

Please, Sir, tell us,
              How does one trespass
              when a land belongs only to
              the rivers, roots and sun?

© Margot Pepper    


Looking Back
by Marylee McNeal


Someday, if someone asks What do you remember
from that pandemic year?
 I might describe
a  single moment, early on, when it was starting
to dawn on me that everything would change.
About the middle of March. 2020.  Numb and lost,
I wandered like a sleepwalker to the back of our flat
where sliding glass doors look over the backyards
between my street and the next one over.
Staring at the rickety stairs that hug the backsides
of these old  houses, I noticed a woman standing
at a window across the space of grass and fences.
I didn’t know her, but guessed her gaze was dazed,
like mine, in search of anything familiar.
I lifted my arm and waved, a  pensive,
wind-shield-wiper kind of wave.
She mirrored back the same slow motion.
We’d never met, still haven’t, but in that moment
of  awe and fear and uncertainty we were one.
She was me. I was her.  We were both every
human alive on the earth. We might all survive. 
We might all die.  And we knew nothing.



by Eveline Kanes


Viral clouds
shadow the world
we stay inside
heads bent
over laptops
I-pads and
our fingers ache
our eyes tire
our bodies long
for the outdoors
and company.


Needle in a Haystack
by J Hahn Doleman


Bashō said if you want to learn about the pine, then go to the pine. But, what if your subject of study is the porcupine?

still searching
for a reason to love
cactus flower


Our Covid Fourth of July
by Hal Savage


Freedom from British rule
 can now give us fuel
to face a fearsome foe
we cannot see; and so
we wear our masks snug
to ward off this  bug,
a miniature globe
like a spiked microbe
from hell; yet to view
it ‘neath a lens, you’ll see
its dangerous beauty;
now it is our solemn duty
to starve it by wearing a mask—

such a simple task!

The moon was full that night.
stars exploding out of  sight;
bombs thundering  o’er the Bay;
now which of us would ever say
that a lowly virus could still
our might or crush our will?



Science Lesson: PERSEVERANCE
by Christine Kammler

[open accessible text version]





Science Lesson: PERSEVERANCE
by Christine Kammler

[accessible text version]


                    before   Before     




                                          swirling ~~~ colliding 

                                                                         a demolition polka  


smashing  ><  exploding 

 they throw their heads back

 laugh & slap their thighs

                                                                                                            KABOOM!   CRASH!  

    together     split       apart

  over  over & over

galaxies     flung       to      infinite           directions

                       stars catch  fire

                                           in dark deep


                              galaxies slam dance 

                                                                                              a 300 billion year New Year’s Party 

              with  all that celestial cavorting & gases mixing

          something is going to pop


B I G     



introducing IRON    did you know?

                                                                                                                           before Before 

the fission fusion frottage

there was no iron anywhere everywhere 


& here  we  are  


  across  the galaxy on the back of a snail

                                     through our day & night now moment

                                             with IRON in our blood 



travelling 60,000 miles a day  

in our body 

in our  heart of hearts 

every beat of our beat 


to 300,000,000,000 years before

                                                                                                        And so it is.



by Kristin Belshaw
for Kuan Yin, Goddess of Compassion - she who hears the cries of the world


Nothing keeps the wailing out
wind rides through walls,
through stucco, through scalenes, a shiver
another surge sweeps the city

Palm fronds attack the house
wind swoops a nest
from the pineapple of the palm
thin twisted twigs untucked
a fledgling holds on

Wind whoops and breaks
air particles swirl and slam
a red-tailed hawk cries out,
its whistle-call trailing on the wind

Even the silence is moving,
summer fog whips wildly down the hill
honey-dusk eucalyptus
blows from the canyon

The mama dove swoops down
sits on top of fluff, feathers,
sits on soft growing bones
her teenager, in the broken nest




I’d just moved to this room with no windows,
I couldn’t take another minute
of the front room windows
that looked down on the sadness of the  Tenderloin.

I had brought oranges to
the young dealers across the street
- in lieu of the money i owed them –
one boy in particular
                             angry and hostile
refused my offer at first;
the other boys peeled their oranges
breaking off sections and eating them
- they were always so thin
              always grateful
for oranges, apples, snack bars i brought them
to keep them happy until i had money for more dope and debts.
The angry one’s eyes were darting back and forth
watching the other boys - he looked hungry –
i offered an orange once again.

He took it
- watching how the other boys had peeled theirs
 dug his fingernails into the rind
timidly began to peel;
breaking it in half with obvious curiosity
concealing his inexperience with his tough exterior

his beautiful eyes gave him away. He put a section in his mouth
chomped down on it
- the explosion of orange juice clearly jolted him.

i was watching a teenage boy in The United States of America
who had never eaten an orange before,

he knew how to sling dope with the best of them.


by Albert Flynn DeSilver © 2016


28 years
you send back
the sweater

that epic Icelandic
slot-necked, of rough
blond wool
with the dark
blue patterned
bands, fuzzy x’s,
zigzags, blurry

or was it Norwegian?
I thought you
were Norwegian
with your straight
blond hair, crisp
green eyes the color of a
fjord, your
compact swimmer’s
shoulders, sweet and shy

we met
in the art dept.
you drawing, me
taking photographs,
of you—

there you are
up Boulder
canyon, standing
by the waterfall
half-smiling into
the rocks
and cliffs, me
hanging on for
dear life,

we had fights
about the sweater,
waterfalls, whether
or not
to stop—it
became a thing, a
joke between
us, another
thread to lose,

that road trip
we took
to California, click.
I see you
Standing in
Front of a fat
Eucalyptus in a turn-
out, us on highway 1, a
black and white
I dragged through the sepia
toner, your toned
form pure against
the diseased blotchy
bark of the eucalyptus

That time we visited
your parent’s island
in the seaway, craggy
and dense with blueberry
scrub, we rowed
around in circles in that
tiny paint-chipped boat, that
night at dinner when you
told them. . .click. The canoe trip

to Algonquin Park, lake
to lake we
paddled and portaged, I
had no idea how we’d
get such a giant
boat through the woods, you
rolled it over and flipped it
on your head as if
it were made of
feathers, and together
we flew or hiked, rather
and paddled,
brought no water, dipped
our plastic cups
straight into the lake,
whoa cool, acid rain I joked
not that kind of acid
you said, you never
like the Dead, the way I

I was so lost in those
years, was I even
understanding, between beers
and bong hits, various
trips, disconnects, did
I even listen, was I loving
or kind? Did I
hold you by those small
shoulders look into those gorgeous
fjords, tell you I
loved you, it
will be alright?

I’m afraid I was too
afraid, the guilt itches
me still, woolen coils
of regret unraveling into
words—can I say it now,
would it mean anything,
I’m sorry, I
love you, 28 years
later, the sweater, but
no being, all
I can think is
he or she
would have been almost
thirty by now.


Ever Gold
by Theo Konrad Auer


An improvised treehouse
between the overpass and train tracks, gets cut down.
An art critic cuts the clippings from
the now defunct magazine she once wrote for and makes a collage.
It was the last day to see Brassai at SFMOMA
and I didn't make it.
You wrote the elegy for The Ghost Ship.
The boundary was too close for me.
This isn't an obituary and this isn't a song.
The new natives are erasing the trail
the children made,
the lyrics need music and I could use a geographer,
because the forecaster became too reliable.
We got used to settling for easy,
pretending it helped, believing we knew,
I was one of them and so were you,
perhaps I am now,
Flagged by trolls, The Truth got used to it.
The foundation: faulty. The Levee: late.
Abandonment is a echo we got too familiar with.
The gallery was named after the gold tooth store that used to be there
and the liquor store replaced by an expensive butcher shop whose
name could have been generated by algorithm
Speech as cheat code embedded in theory gamed.
They said reinforcements will arrive
“That will be the day!”
I'm still waiting...


By Marsha Campbell


The city square dreams in the shadow of a steeple.
Inch by inch the red tops of the trees stir in flight
against the sun.
Underwater forms a vein of green stones.
I have found a way to wash the sand out of my body.
My cells chase it like going after a roach.
The sand hurls itself in purple columns.
I am alone.
My organs lick themselves.
The sky is a stopwatch.
I am cold
I dream the dead are mourning me.
Against the dark the dogs bark.
Against the light the dust clouds roll.
When God the Highest turns into an evil by the roadside
I pass His way.
The press of metal on my thoughts holds back my tongue.
Demons scurrying toward madness


Poem to John Wieners
by Jack Micheline


delicate as fragile flowers
a slow wind blows up from the sea
this world hurts in more ways than killing
you have been there
a place where true poets journey
and few return
some day when the burning night is over
someday when the smoke will clear
we will walk as children together
in some deserted valley
and eat fruit by the apple trees


October 24, 1963
From Cockymoon, permission of the publisher



Brown skin white mask
By Dyan Ruiz


I cover my brown skin
with a white mask.
A mask from my neighbor who burnishes
old Victorians as they molt
their weary skin.
The last time I wore it
the scorched earth was ablaze
the sky was purple.
When I walk down a leafy and crisp street
I see white faces with
no masks.
Sweat wicks off their turquoise and fuschia microfibers.
They say a person's essence remains
even if they are untouched.
No virus can penetrate through
their privilege
to clog their pink lungs.
But my medical ancestry says
heart disease, cancer and asthma.
My pre-existence
before the germ of this virus
has put a target on my back
like Ahmaud Arbery jogging
past white men and
the weeping willows of Georgia.
On the bent and bloodied backs of
his ancestors
was this country built.
Every home is
a fortress
with brown bodies the moat.
they want us to die
for their capital.
The clown with the orange face hides in his white house.
He forces all the other whites to cover up
But not him.
My Titos who picked delicate blood red grapes with
their wrinkled brown hands.
My Titas who cared for the white grandmothers
who no one else cared for.
My Cousin who mopped
the blood and urine from hospital floors.
My Auntie who set up his wife's face
on the screen
one last time.
My Ate who wears a fresh white mask and
purple scrubs
off her 12 hour shift.
Instead she goes to the capital
silent strength
while white faces shout
they will live free and not care who dies.




the language barrier here
is shrapnel in the eardrum

You don’t understand
You don’t want to
why learn
a new language
this late in life
why change
when you could stay the same

the one dialect
we share
is Stubborn
brick wall
meets barbed wire cage

back to back
heels dug in
sliding to

You shriek Your language
but when I reply in kind
You say
Lower Your Voice

You relay missives
then claim
it never arrived
in fact
it never sent
in fact
there was no message at all

I sent you
a Rosetta’s Stone
How to Speak My Language
So You Can Understand
All My Scary Othernesses

You burned the book
to keep Yourself warm.


Frank's Nightmare


When you dream and you dream
of being in your bed in your room
your body knows this part is true
you are in bed dreaming you are in bed

this part is accurate
desk by the window
an empty glass

so when the window opens
and an evil elf in a space suit

a body is likely to leap awake
making a vocal you cannot approximate
knocking stuff over

your roommate is now also
jumped awake
clutching a blanket to his middle
other hand the heaviest thing he could grab
runs in to see
nobody is getting killed

an evil elf walked in your room
your own safe room
walked in calm as you please
as if an evil elf had business here

heart galloping in your jugular
you must now tell your roommate
from your place on the floor with debris
go to sleep put the clock down
it was nothing
just a stupid dream


We Buried My Colorado Heart
By Keith Mark Gaboury


on April 20th, 1999
when garden soil
heaped onto my organ
in a black tomb.

At 11:29 a.m., I sought to flee
into a library row’s
compression of words
from Dylan’s pump-action shotgun.

Columbine is a byword
for massacre — fifteen
lung sacs couldn’t carry
their breaths to bed.

After you found me
breathing back home,
your hug nearly squeezed out
all the air.

I walked with a cavity
through our kitchen chamber.
Once I flayed away flesh,
why did I survive?

shot me as if I was still
behind the bookshelf
but this time Dylan’s shotgun
gets pressed into my temple.  

On an April anniversary,
beneath Columbine
flowers of white petals
underpinned by unfurled lavender,

we drop before my heart needing a host.
As you hold it to my ear like a seashell,
I hear Kacey and Cassie and Isaiah
screaming anew.

You jam those screams
back into my body, back
to the outflow of circulation
visible like red on snow.


by Robert Thomas


What one person can offer another
(what I can offer you) is so silly:
I make a mean burrito, but nothing
like what’s in two dozen taquerias
in the Mission. What did Bob Dylan call
Jerry Garcia? A muddy river
that screams into the spheres: that burrito.
I can’t get close, not to mention the grace
of the jaguar or the slow explosion
of hydrangeas, and that ramshackle tramp
in the bar’s backwaters who jury-rigs
his bones into a man, asks you to dance,
spins you in turns so flawless and snazzy—
fishtail, sugarpush, whip—Lord, what am I?


First appeared in Catamaran Literary Reader.
Dragging the Lake (Book) | San Francisco Public Library | BiblioCommons



---the bouquet
by Noel Fagerhaugh


a mouthful of
flowers makes
laughing more
difficult, fluttering
razor-lashed eyes
snipping at dead
looks, hoping her
lipstick compliments
the blooms, a rubber
banded exhale heaves
between the stalks
blossoms blowing in
puffs of pollen dusting
her swollen cheeks, now
a bulging, botanical bounty
hands busy arranging earth
and sky and heavens, a
glass vase leaves nothing
to wonder at, twisting and
magnifying insecurities of
smoke-stained skin, alcohol
remorse and narcotic flavored
dream-lives of he and she
and they, catching all her
flaws in the light of barely
contained molten envy and
lily-white sighs


Sutura freudiana
by Anna Rodas


Con una incisión precisa
me abriste
del útero al tórax—
sacaste mis órganos
y se los vendiste
to the highest bidders
dejando la chatarra
en el parqueo
like an auto trade-in

they managed
to sew me up

con el hilo de mi ser
y sutura freudiana

Ahora me consuelo
con vino tinto
y pan dulce
en las mañanas


Sutura freudiana

With a precise incision
you opened me
del útero al tórax—
sacaste mis órganos
and sold them
to the highest bidders
leaving the chatarra
in the parking lot
like an auto trade-in

they managed
to sew me up
con el hilo de mi ser
and Freudian suture

Now I console myself
with red wine
y pan dulce
in the morning


By Elana Aoyama


Never thought I’d be on a world tour
of my diseased body
each little compartment burns

Never thought I’d get to know
the intercostal spaces of my ribs
feel the air flow up and down its ladders
pain bugs dig their way into my sides
look at me and say
we will claw into your brain as well.

How does one even trust the physicians again?
How does one sort
through the ever-conflicting opinions
Neurontin is good for you
no, it will kill you
how do I trust
when my tour of active duty never ends?

How do I even write this fucking poem
when I’m in jagged pain
why do I feel like the only one fighting?
All the others
fallen by the wayside
are they weakened by my illness too?


There is a Lion in Our City
by Gaby Herrera Stern


                                                                                                                                        Nov 6, 2017 -Salesforce CEO
                                                                                                                                        Marc Benioff reported that
                                                                                                                                        a mountain lion appeared
                                                                                                                                        outside of his San Francisco 
                                                                                                                                        house on Saturday

Roaming the redwoods / just to play rough and tumble with wood nymphs /

gets you busted every time / mamá will say lo dijé / as the leaves and limbs

poke holes in your story / and why is it that a wild beast can’t just be a wild beast / without

shedding its threat / to make you more comfortable / and what she really wants is to be free

in the woodlands / precariously hang from the sharp edges above the pacific ocean / like

swinging from a chandelier / tempting the hungry tides below / she is queen at dusk / no

tourists no selfies / with suburban sprawl / and the other side          its calling / with its sleek

towers and real fancy neighborhoods / and if she stood at your doorstep / would you let her

in? / on the north side of town the asphalt is slick / like fast talking men / with badges /

and I just wanna be like everyone else she growls / past the playground and kids with

nannies / Oh, here she goes pretending she’s one of us / they say / wandering around like

she owns the place / in the blackberry bush the brambles jabber / she’s not from these parts /

Call the cops / and credentials and a badge mean nothing / to a wild beast when faced with

freedom / no loitering near the 50-foot wall / a fast talking man is heard over the loud

speaker / you here for business or for pleasure? / onlookers gawk / in fear and adulation /


                                                                                we don’t want any trouble, ok?


“Pour Vous, La Grande Bleue!”
by Erika Atkinson


you lap close in
you rush far out to sea
you hiss as you weave between jetties
you roar against salt ships
you surf consistently
you churn gray with mist
you bubble up against polished sand rocks
you whisper into the cracks of concrete piers
you swell against the horizon
                               my secrets
                                             into your immense well
you magnetize me
                hypnotize me
                               greet me
you welcome me
you cover me
                while I sleep a minute beside you
                               on a time-worn stone bed
you stand guard
               proud and silent
you swim away
                to the horizon
                                 then return
                                               luscious see-through blue
your horizon is speckled
                with little gray imperfections
                                suddenly emerging as perfect white sails
you are there
                               for ever
you remain the mysterious Will-Be

how are you so calm returning
               while so busy?
                                            this early morning
yellow reflections
                             from lime-green mountain edges
                             and dark olive brown ridges
 behind me
               spotted stone walls of arabic origin
before me
                little blue boats
                             with brush-stroked orange ledges
                             and painted red bench seats
                washed white sides
                             with ancient names etched in black ink
a lighthouse bobbing ahead
                whistling with rust
                             singing a symphony of sounds
                                         adorned by color
                             painting a picture
                                          with the noise of the sea

dusk is coming
daylight is leaving
                drawing definitive horizontal lines
                             on vertical promises
                                            while i dream
                                                           with a capital D
 i am seeking the sign that says
                “this way to heaven”
                 and it points to You

Written at Collioure by the Mediterranean Sea
September 2002



unprotected innocence
for reeci botts and recy taylor
by reelaviolette botts-ward


at thirteen years old, i was re(e)c(i)y-
recy taylor and i shared the same name
                                            the same story
in 1944
recy stood before an all white jury
in henry county
to testify against her abuser
in 2004
reeci stood before an all white jury
in henry county
to testify against her abuser

in the sixty years between her case and mine
time stood still for black girls like us
unconsented sexual terror
sanctioned by the state
both her abuser and mine walked free

. . .

trial one, 2003-

it was my first time wearing my hair
new found fluffy fall out curls
flaunting themselves around my ear lobe
lockin’ into each other
lovin’ on my scalp, effortlessly
my big sister had ‘em slicked to the side
wiggled her three fingers through my kitchen
with jam gel, extra hold
had my baby hairs swooped and swervin’
just the way i liked ‘em

the jury didn’t like ‘em
the contagious kinks
crinkled on top of my untamable mane
because baby hairs made brown baby girls
look like they grew up too
fast, fresh, freaky, fornicatin’
fuckin’ for food and clothes
the way i wore natural hair on my forehead
made me look like not thirteen years old
like not deserving protection

the jury was hung
and i damn near hung
my girlhood with a noose
to the magnolia tree that day
outside the courtroom, i could hear them say
               she doesn’t look her age
               she doesn’t look her age

trial two, 2004-

it was my first time wearing my hair
bouncin’ its own two step to the step of my stroll
with a brainwashed, head tossed
mind of its own
kinky curls pressed straight
into america’s framework of femininity

my big sister ain’t know how to press or curl
mama said she wasn’t allowed
to lay jam gel swirls to my edges no more
mama told sista tee from church
to fix her baby’s hair for the next court date
so i could look professional for the white folk
mama took me shopping at macy’s
for a two piece suit and penny loafer shoes
so i could look respectable for the white folk


in 2003, the jury was hung
and my innocence was hung
with a noose to the oak tree that day
mama hung head low
longing for leveraging tools
to protect her baby from this man
                this system

but there was no slippin’ my size six thighs
into a proper performance of innocence
the jury would never like me
the way my ass
filled out a houndstooth pencil skirt
the way my breasts
cupped a white button down shirt

my abuser was found innocent
because the jury could not see innocence
between the three fingered waves
my big sister styled across my forehead
because my body shaped a suit like a
because girls like me cannot be raped
only tamed, only shamed, only blamed

1944 - 2004

rest in peace to the innocence of girls
who have ever been  re(e)c(i)y in their lifetime
who were too black and too bold
for a henry county courtroom
whose innocence was stolen by a man
whose innocence was protected by the law
rest in peace
to girls with black girlhoods like ours
who never found protection in innocence

This poem was originally published in mourning my inner[blackgirl]child, Nomadic Press 2021.
Visit blackwomxnhealing.com for more of reelaviolette’s work.



Some Ground Rules for the Pandemic
by Ralph Dranow


Love makes hate laugh,
Says, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
Love kisses fear on the lips,
Says, “I’ll take care of you.”
Don’t take yourself so seriously.
We all bleed the same vermillion.
I’ll take care of you
Because you are me.
We all bleed the same vermillion.
Love gives away her lunch,
Because you are me
And I am you.
Love gives away her lunch,
Enjoys watching you sate your hunger,
And I am you
And you are the moon and the stars.