Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hey Columbus! by Thomas Hubbard

You step out of your sport utility vehicle and
begin fueling on pump number three while I
finish up on pump number four.

You eye my braid, my old car, my flute bag
in the rear window, and that expression comes
onto your pale, clean-shaven face.

You seem upset that I don't shuffle, step aside,
show embarrassment about my dark skin, and
why must I have feathers in plain view?

You are columbus, with your arrogance and
your privilege and your superior equipment,
you are that same murdering foreigner.

You wish I would go away, would not be
present right there with road dirt on my car,
would be somewhere else, doing menial work.

Hey columbus, nobody needs you here.  We
lived here for tens of thousands of years before
you came with your virulent diseases.

Hey, columbus, your arrogance wears thin, and
a cheap, pitiful little thief shows through — your
time has been already too long.

You are that same columbus who accepted
my Arawak cousins' hospitality, there on Hispaniola,
then gathered folks up to sell as slaves in europe.

You are that same columbus who noticed
gold ornaments, who demanded tribute, who
cut off hands or feet for not bringing enough.

You are that same columbus whose own
spanish priest, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas,
wrote about your unimaginable cruelty.

You might say that was long ago, that I am
only showing my ignorance and paranoia,
that you have nothing to do with it.

You might be lying, too.  Your arrogance
gives you away, shows you out.  You are that
same columbus who thought himself better.

Hey, columbus, haven't you stole enough, 
aren't you rich enough yet to get into that
exclusive little heaven you talk about?

Hey, columbus, if my honest half-breed presence
causes you discomfort — if you had rather your 
wife and kids didn't see me, why not leave?

You are that same columbus, yes it's you
stepping from your sport utility vehicle onto
the flat pavement of a filling station.

You are that same columbus and you can't hide,
even in the privacy of afternoon drinks at your
exclusive clubs — arrogant stink surrounds you.

You are that same old columbus who
dreams of empire, who pretends to own
this land, who is willing to kill for profit.

You are that same old columbus who brought us
cheap thrills, oil spills, insurance bills, close-order drills, 
targeted kills and land fills with radioactive waste.

You are that same old columbus, and you
wish I would go away?  After all these years,
after your people have done these things?

Hey columbus, why don't YOU go away?
Hey columbus, your scorn displeases me.
Hey columbus, your elections are phony.
Hey columbus, your time's about up, enit?
Hey columbus, haven't you made enough of a mess?
Hey columbus, gather up your trash and carry it away.
Hey columbus, go back where you came from.
Hey columbus, john wayne has plastic teeth.
Hey columbus, last call.
Hey columbus, keep moving, no stopping here, move right along.
Hey columbus, whooee up there, hoosh! soooie pig.

I heard Thomas Hubbard read this on Columbus Day — perfectly topical and addressing the myriad questions that had been running through my head on that day — an American holiday — chiefly, why is this a holiday?

Without pretense, Thomas Hubbard nails it here. The language ain't fancy, and neither are the sentiments, which contrast well with everything that Columbus represents:  the elitist, gas-guzzling, resource-consuming, earth-desecrating powers-that-be run amok. In essence, our ruling class. The phrase that comes to mind is American Exceptionalism, for whose offensiveness we may well thank/blame Columbus himself.

One this is certain:
we need more poems like this.
We need more poets shouting this from street corners and rooftops.
More, I say! More!


A mixed-blood, of (probably) Cherokee, Miami, Irish and English ancestry, the American poet Thomas Hubbard grew up among factory workers in the 1950's.  A teacher of writing and other subjects, he has worked also as a carpenter, blues musician and freelance writer. He won the Seattle's Grand Slam in 1995, and since has written three chapbooks, Nail and Other Hardworking Poems, Junkyard Dogz, and Injunz.  He has also published an anthology including 32 spoken word performers, titled Children Remember Their Fathers.  His poetry, fiction and reviews have been published in numerous journals.  Hubbard has served as vice president of the board of directors for the Washington Poets Association, and currently serves on the editorial staff of two magazines: Raven Chronicles and Cartier Street Review


This week's editor is the Seattle poet and artist T. Clear, who blogs here, and dislikes referring to herself in the third person.

When you've read Hey Columbus! Please check out the Tuesday Poets collective in the sidebar. We live all over the place from the US, the UK and Europe to New Zealand and Australia, and every Tuesday we post poems by ourselves or poets we admire.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If You Are Lucky, by Michelle McGrane

If you are lucky
you will carry one night with you
for the rest of your life,
a night like no other.
You won't see it coming.

Forget the day, the year.
It will arrive uninvoked,
an astrological anomaly.

You will remember
how every cell in your body
knew him, this stranger,

how you held your breath,
the way you searched his face.
This is how such evenings begin.

And you will be real in your skin,
bone and sinew; the way you always thought
you could be. Effortlessly.
This is how you will fit together.

His parted lips between your thighs,
your half-lit nipples darkening,
the hot-breathed arrival of desire,
the frenzied coupling
as you opened soundlessly
and the world flooded into you.

In the morning, maybe,
soon after sunrise
you will walk barefoot above a waterfall in the forest,
light-headed with the smell of sex,
laughing in your déshabillée.

You will carry
the music of this memory with you;
and from time to time,
in the small, withered hours,
your body will sing its remembering.

First published in The Suitable Girl (Pindrop Press).
Posted with the author's permission.
Editor: Rethabile Masilo

Michelle McGrane
Michelle McGrane

Michelle McGrane lives in Johannesburg and blogs at Peony Moon. Her collection, The Suitable Girl is published by Pindrop Press in the UK and Modjaji Books in South Africa. She is a member of SA PEN.

I don't know when I met Michelle, but I met her physically in London in June, 2012. Even before we talked poetry or she sat down to read, we had hit it off. Recently Michelle has been working on an important group whose aim is to expose, if not to curb, rape and sexual abuse. Some of her poems talk about love and about making love, and I thought it was fitting for such a spirit to be fighting against that very act done wrongly, and many times with disastrous consequences.

The account name on facebook is Against Rape, while the Twitter handle is @PoetsandArtists. Please support this endeavour.

Michelle's poetry is hard to pin down, and I think that's a good thing. No poem is similar to another in her book The Suitable Girl, or in her work posted many times on the Internet. I thank her for the words she writes and for granting me permission to share her poem on this forum.

Once you've read Michelle's poem please take time to enter some of the poems in the sidebar - chosen or written by our Tuesday Poets.

This week's editor: 
My name's Rethabile Masilo. I am a poet from Lesotho and live in Paris, France. It's good to be part of this poetry family. I've got a book out there (Things That Are Silent) and am working on a second one. My poetry blog is here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thoughts of the Father by Philip Salom

Thoughts of the Father Ku / Work on What Has Been Spoiled
… Setting right what has been spoiled by the father. Danger. No blame rests upon 
 the departed father. He receives in his thoughts the deceased father. 

It hurts when you know thoughts of the father are in the son
 like a repertoire of non-events.

Thinking how the father spoiled the son, the sons
of broken marriages, my own.

Not 'spoilt', something lost, indefinably, gone missing
when he was spoil between them.

Demanding too much of him, bringing home a second mother
in place of the first? 

Work I have done wrong? He moves in a film of slow
postures, the strange mime

which adolescents make when practising annulment.
And keeping for themselves

enough to make of the self some stern amazement.
Sons are everywhere spoiling

their fathers’ art and craft! No blame. Hormones hit
like a room of conscientious

kick-boxers. The brute beauty of vocabulary reduced
to monogrunts and every ing 

now sounded un like feints, and blocks, and side-steps
language taken on the forearms.

Years later, I watch him from the airport as he leaves,
know I love him, know he knows it,

but finds it wrong in public, forcing off my arm. To
whom would I pray?

It is my father who has rowed across my body’s
nine-tenths water, to my son,

in spoiling for the simple life, of his before him, the bones
of my father lie satisfied and said

as thoughts in the son, a setting right after the break
like breath free now of the words

like a hull brought in over water, the river, the rowing,
his breath a repertoire of oar strokes

between the banks of birth and death. Echoes on the surface.
When thoughts of the son are in the father.

Posted with permission, also on Stillcraic.
Editor: Jennifer Compton

We had a Melbourne launch for Notes for the Translators, a collection of 142 Australian and NZ poets of which Philip Salom was one.  And I was very taken indeed by Philip Salom's reading of this poem. By some strange oversight, some infinitely mischievous work of the printer's devil, his notes to possible translators had been left out of the book. So the intended notes appeared on my blog post last week and appear again here.

Philip is an Australian poet and novelist who began publishing in 1980. In 2003 Philip Salom was recognised with the Christopher Brennan Award - a prize given for lifetime achievement in poetry, recognising a poet who produces work "of sustained quality and distinction". There is more on Philip on his website. And to invest in a copy of the fascinating book – Notes for the Translators – please email KitKelen@gmail.com

Notes by Philip Salom

In the mid 90s I wrote a sequence of poems prompted by the Commentaries of the I Ching. In this case (Thoughts of the Father), I wrote in response to Ku, the 18th hexagram. Above the poem, as epigraph, I have quoted those selections from the commentary that struck me most closely — in this case having an uncanny relevance to the estrangement from my son in the years following my divorce from his mother.

I felt distress and guilt over my son’s changed behaviour and personality, and I could not explain how unlike himself he had become. My son had been loving and extroverted as a child and now he was withdrawn, monosyllabic and sometimes angry; but the divorce coincided with his adolescence, and therefore it was difficult to know whether it was the separation or adolescence itself that had changed his personality. He was uneasy living with me and then with my new partner and eventually moved back with his mother (even though it was she who had initiated the divorce).

Still, I felt it was my ‘fault’, that the trauma had ‘spoiled’ him in some way – spoiled as in damage to his psychological state. Then I began to realise that he was far more like my father; they had more in common than I had with either. My father was modest, reserved, even withdrawn, and though he was rarely angry, he was markedly uneasy with his or other peoples’ emotions.


The above
themes run through the poem as the main continuity of behaviour, feeling, estrangement and sense of ‘spoiling’. This puns on spoils as in spoils of war, ironic in this case, as the spoils may themselves be broken, damaged. Another pun on spoil as in spoiling for a fight, expressing wildly, etc.

The nullity, annulment, non-events in feelings, communications, bonds, the sense of things gone, lost, missing, or kept back rather than shown or expressed. The Yin? And if so, then spoiling for a fight is the Yang. Ironic couple.

Adolescence, anger, change (this is the I Ching, after all!), uncertainty. The martial element: fighting feelings, restrained or controlled violence, kicking out at, fighting back, Kung Fu which the boy was learning, also related to Chinese culture. Repertoire as in learned acts, and behaviours, but also actions, fighting or resisting or defending. Blocks. And later in the poem, the un sounds come as the cruder phonetic/aural/vocalised version of ing verb endings, so fighting would become fightun and how these sounds are like grunts or fighting noises, or blocks (of both emotional and kung fu kind).

The ‘River’, rowing across, Charon, the boatman, the Styx or the waters leading to an afterlife, or the waters between birth and death, parallels here in the metaphor of the body (which is mainly water literally, and the wide water of parentage) and the genes of the deceased father (my father) crossing my body to be expressed (which is ironic, too, as a less expressive form) in the body of a son (not my body but my son’s ie the grandson). And the circular sense of the form in the poem which seems to ends as it began except with the reversal of knowledge (gained?) in the phrase — thoughts of the son are in the father.

This distancing device of the poem and the I Ching makes the poem poised above the personal and the impersonal, which is what I wanted from the poem and is in keeping with my ongoing critique of the too-easy lyric poem. Two line stanzas could signify: the father and son form, the shorelines of before and after, life and death. The mime of action without words, behaviour without response.

Line Notes

It hurts when you know: here the poem (firstly) addresses the poet, but then also addresses the reader, to consider the observation that follows. 

thoughts of the father are in the son like a repertoire of non-events. The son thinks of the father, but in this is a paradox, the acquired acts, behaviours, skills of repertoire – are non-events, ie: seem empty, null, denied perhaps.

Thinking how the father spoiled the son... Refers to father and son of the I Ching epigraph and the formal, distanced sense of definite article and then the change through broken marriages as situation to finally the personal: my own. 

Spoil, spoiled as in my notes, plus missing referring to lost and departed, and the bond spoiled...but the son is not spoilt (as in indulged, over-rewarded, etc)

Demanding too much of him, bringing home a second mother in place of the first? After a broken marriage, the father brings home another partner, a 'second mother' who could be perceived as 'replacing' the first. 

Work I have done wrong? He moves in a film of slow postures, the strange mime which adolescents make when practising annulment. Here enters the father as lyric subject, and the son denies him by movements, like the above repertoire, but this time movement of adolescent-style (universal!)
indifference to a parent through body language.

And keeping for themselves/enough to make of the self some stern amazement./ Sons are everywhere spoiling/  their fathers’ art and craft! No blame. This keeping back allows the naive and surprised engagement with world and self, but gives nothing much back to others. Natural (many sons do this to fathers (ironic repeat of spoiling) and not blame-worthy (and this no-blame directs to son and to father).

Hormones hit/like a room of conscientious/  kick-boxers. The brute beauty of vocabulary reduced/ to monogrunts and every ing/ now sounded un like feints, and blocks, and side-steps /language taken on the forearms. Here the movements take the specific form of resistance and violence, of martial arts, (also note the echo of art and craft, but against...) which is a metaphor of what the son is deliberately doing and also learning (perhaps). And a fairly likely echo or association here of martial arts with Chinese culture. Turning ing endings of English words into un - the grunt, the out-breath of hitting, sounding uncouth, as he extends his resistance even to language.

Years later, I watch him from the airport as he leaves, know I love him, know he knows it, but finds it wrong in public, forcing off my arm. To whom would I pray? The major time-shift, the retrospection and assumption of an easing of the above tensions, denials, etc, but not the denial of love shown, still fended off but not fought off... It is now reserve about emotions, and even language. And note the rhetorical question following as an echo of Confucius: When you give offense to heaven, to whom can you pray?

It is my father who has rowed across my body’s nine-tenths water, to my son, in spoiling for the simple life, of his before him The sudden realisation that the reserve, simple rather than complex life, etc, of my son is very like that of my father, as if the DNA of my father has moved/rowed across my body (which is a body of water: biologically, symbolically, mythically - and metaphysically?) to my son.

of my father lie satisfied and said as thoughts in my son, a setting right after the break, like breath free now of the words, and this knowledge satisfies my father (who is deceased though the poem doesn't say this) and the grandson, a homecoming of tendencies, which make sense, perhaps set right the break (not of bones but bonds) and is breath now, more elemental than complicated words...

like a hull brought in over water, the river, the rowing, his breath a repertoire of oar strokes between the banks of birth and death And this is where the feeling, the knowledge, the breath is going, across the elemental water, and again a repertoire of behaviour, of being, in the gap or river of life between birth and death.

Echoes on the surface. When thoughts of the son are in the father. The echoes are all these insights and overlaps, and recurrences, and of course the repeats in the actual poem of lines and words, such as repertoire, spoil, art and craft, rowing, water... and here too is the final, major, reconciling reversal of the first line - thoughts of the father are in the son which now becomes thoughts of the son are in the father. Where, of course, they have been all the time!

When you've read and enjoyed Thoughts of the Father, enter into the world of the sidebar on this site to find more Tuesday poets ...

Jennifer Compton is Tuesday Poem editor this week. Born in Wellington and living in Melbourne, Jennifer publishes poems and play scripts and has just been announced the winner of Australia's distinguished Newcastle Poetry Prize. She has also won NZ's prestigious Kathleen Grattan Award with her manuscript 'This City', which was published by Otago University Press, and other numerous prizes and residencies including the Randell Cottage residency in Wellington. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

If we could speak like Wolves by Kim Moore

if I could wait for weeks for the slightest change
in you, then each day hurt you in a dozen
different ways, bite heart-shaped chunks
of flesh from your thighs to test if you flinch
or if you could be trusted to endure,
if I could rub my scent along your shins to make
you mine, if a mistake could be followed
by instant retribution and end with you
rolling over to expose the stubble and grace
of your throat, if it could be forgotten

the moment the wind changed, if my eyes
could sharpen to yellow, if we journeyed
each night for miles, taking it in turns
to lead, if we could know by smell
what we are born to, if before we met

we sent our lonely howls across the estuary
where in the fading light wader birds stiffen
and take to the air, then we could agree
a role for each of us, more complicated
than alpha, more simple than marriage.

Copyright Kim Moore 2012
'If We Could Speak Like Wolves', published by Smith/Doorstop Books
Available as a Paper book or in E-format
Reproduced with Permission 
Editor Kathleen Jones

It's National Poetry Day this week in the UK, so I've chosen a young British poet with a very bright future. It’s difficult to describe the way that Kim Moore writes - it’s lyrical, honest, sometimes surreal, often funny, but always managing to find the line through to something more profound. Some critics have said that Kim Moore is ‘modernizing the lyric tradition’.

This is the title poem of a prize-winning pamphlet, winner of the Poetry Business prize, judged by Carol Anne Duffy, which was published last year and has already been re-printed. 'If We Could Speak Like Wolves' was also one of The Independent newspaper's 'books of the year' in 2012.  Kim Moore has won an impressive list of awards - including the Poetry Society's Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and is widely regarded as 'One to Watch'!

I like Kim's poetry for its musicality.  She's a musician and music teacher and I think this has a real influence on the way she uses language.  This poem, for instance, has a momentum that starts with the title and carries it urgently through to the very last line. It's a journey as well as an analysis of the complexity of relationships.  It also has an important message - that we should be more instinctive, less intellectual, more aware of our 'animal' natures and less afraid of them.  If only .....

This week's editor Kathleen Jones is an English poet and biographer living part of the time in Italy.  She blogs over at  'A Writer's Life'  Her most recent collection of poetry is 'Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21', which won the 2011 Straid Award. 

Please take the time to click on the sidebar and take a look at what the Tuesday Poets are posting on their own blogs.  It's a treasure-trove of wonderful poetry!