“SZYMBORSKA” by Jack Grapes

I came home
Wednesday night from class
and Lori was ensconsed
like a caterpillar in a cocoon
on the bed, watching a movie on tv
about crazy people who fall in love
and break china.
“Szymborska died,” I said.

She reached for the remote and shut the tv off.
The room expanded into that quiet bubble we experience
when we shut off the tv.

She looked at me and said nothing.

What was there to say?

A friend dies, a poet dies, poetry lives on:
There’s nothing you can say.

It’s like turning off the tv,
and their passing
fills the space of our lives
with all that silence.
A balloon of being and nothingness,
a reduction of existence into a series
of appearances, overcoming those dualisms
that have embarrassed philosophy
and replacing them with the monism
of the phenomenon.

I put the clipboard I still had in my hand on the dresser
and began to undress. Then I got in the bed and lay beside her.
We still hadn’t spoken.

Szymborska was gone.

We just lay there for a bit, in the silence,
not sure who would break it,
not sure whose turn it was
to turn the moment
back into words.
You need a poet at a time like this,
and the poet was gone.

There was a small crack in the ceiling.
And a tiny cobweb in the corner.
Later, Lori’d probably get on a chair and with a tissue
wipe it away. That was her job, getting
those little tiny spider webs
gone before they engulfed the house,
our lives, the planet. Don’t
worry, dear reader, she’s on the job.
You will be safe.

“What’s my job?” asks Lori when she’s nagging me.
And I repeat the mantra: “To take care of me.”

But for now, with Szymborksa’s passing
still blooming into silence,
the cobweb would have to wait,
the crack would just have to bide its time.

Such a long silence.

Then I thought, fuck it.
I reached for the remote, and clicked the tv back on.

There went a teacup.
There went another.
It was good to get back
to a semblance of the world,
all that love and passion,
all those broken teacups.

Jack Grapes

(Author/Poet/Method Writing Teacher)

Photo by L. K. Thayer

© 2012

“Transformation” by Cecille Valino

I wake up short of breath and I haven’t even run this morning.  In fact, I’m disappointed because I haven’t logged miles at all since Sunday.
I’m disappointed with a lot of things.  And if people knew things about me, they’d be disappointed with me.  I know they wouldn’t’ like the real me.
I think I’ve done a lot, but I haven’t.  There are a lot of things I say I’ll do but I won’t.  I really just want to connect with people.  I don’t want to do so many things.
I want people to like me or at least like the image I put out there, but the real me just wants extra credit.  I want people to say “She’s so good.  She has talent.”  When I don’t.
The real me is not talented.  I have to work hard to do the same things other find easy.  “It’s so easy,” my Dad would say.  But it wasn’t, not for me.
I worked hard and I was ashamed that I had to.  So, I hid the hard work.  I struggled harder to hide the effort.  Because I wasn’t as good.
I wasn’t as smart.
I was dumb.
I am a dumb girl.
If I were really smart, I’d be able to do it all.  And “You’re smart,” he’d say, “so do everything.”

Cecille Valino

Foto by L. K. Thayer

© 2011

“Suicide Is Just Not an Option …When the BS is Too Much” by Levy Lee Simon

Levy Lee Simon at Elderberries in Hollywood

I sit here in the quiet of my solitude,
silent in full awareness of my breath,
thoughts clear, mind on reflect,
understanding fully well who I am
a Black man, individual unto myself,
a unique creation of God by God,
fully charged.

Yet, I’m puzzled again and again
by those that try to identify me in terms of generality,
this black man, me.
Of deep brown skin tone, but I was born alone.
I am not a clone.

So why is it I hear constantly in my ear,
cries that a Black man should be feared.
the Black man this or that.
That nigger, this or that,
Always giving us crap…
busted by laws with all it’s flaws,
denied access to cabs, used in labs,
given looks that could kill,
racially profiled, unfair trails,
poor test scores, followed in stores,
low evaluations and low grades,
treated unfair, called spades
prisons and jails with no bails.
It’s hard because can’t get no job,
Can’t even  buy a house, without a spouse
Kicked to the pavement even with a down payment.

Make somebody say,
what’s the use… it’s like abuse.
Alcohol, drugs, becoming a thug.
Hatred and fear harbored inside the mind,
the only solution, a hit of something, or a bottle of wine.
Everybody can’t be an athlete or a Hip-Hop King,
Bread for entertainment to dance and sing.

Subjected to this…
You ain’t shit….  May as well quit.
You no good…. I wish you would.
I can do bad by myself, you ain’t got no wealth
Wasn’t going to amount to nothing, gimme something,
loser, abuser, liar, womanizer. Why try? Just lie.
Shiiiiiit. No hope, why not use dope.
Nobody’s there to dry my eyes,
to ease the pain inside,
the shame that can’t be denied.

To even the score, walk through the door,
Walk strong, like I belong.
Head up eyes straight ahead, not dead
Suicide is not an option.

Even when
our mothers didn’t get it,
when our sisters didn’t get it,
when our women don’t get it,
when nobody gets it but us.
Because we are up against,
News and movies that try to define who we are,
but far from the truth by far.
Killing me like I don’t need your help,
But, I’ll be damned if I kill myself.

Through a life time of situations,
and aggravations, suicide is not an option.
Let’s talk about revolutions, let’s talk about solutions.
Because suicide in not an option, when the BS is just too much.

Levy Lee Simon

Photo by L. K. Thayer

© 2010