Sunday, March 18, 2018

Poetry Pantry #395

Taken Inside the Milwaukee Art Center

Time passes so quickly.  I cannot believe it is Sunday again and time for another Poetry Pantry.  My weeks become busier as spring begins.  Time for hibernation is over, it seems.  The world is coming back to life, and it is a good feeling.  The photo above is one that I took inside the Milwaukee Art Center a couple weeks ago.  It is a beautiful building!

It has been another busy week at Poets United.  Monday Sherry featured poems by Rajani, Kerry, and Magaly.   Wednesday Sumana's Midweek Motif was SCREAM.  Next week's Midweek Motif will be Colour/Color.  Feel free to write a poem ahead if you like.

Friday Sherry shared the poem "sacred" for I Wish I'd Written This.  Scroll back if you haven't read it.  Just as Rosemary has been sharing the works of Australian poets, Sherry will be periodically sharing a work of a Canadian poet.  This poem was written by a young member of the Driftpile Cree Nation and what a powerful poem it is!  This poet has a great future.

Monday, be sure to return. Poets United has lost a fine poet, and Sherry features him and his work.  He hadn't posted for a while, but is indeed missed.  His wife is still around in the 'sphere' and will probably read this article as well.  So let's all visit PU tomorrow and give this poet some 'love.' I think many of you will remember him, especially those who have been around for a while.  So sad when we lose someone...and so quickly too.

With no further delay, let's share poetry. Link your one poem below.  Say hello in the comments.  And visit the poems of others who link.

Friday, March 16, 2018

I Wish I'd Written This


a native man looks me in the eyes as he refuses to hold my hand during a round dance. i pretend that his pupils are like bullets and i wonder what kind of pain he's been through to not want me in this world anymore. and i wince a little because the earth hasn't held all of me for quite some time now and i am lonely in a way that doesn't hurt anymore.
you see, a round dance is a ceremony for both grief and love and each body joined by the flesh is encircled by the spirits of ancestors who’ve already left this world. i ask myself how many of them never knew what desire tasted like because they loved their kookums more than they loved themselves.
i dance with my arm hanging by my side like an appendage my body doesn’t want anymore. the gap between him and i keeps getting bigger so i fill it with the memories of native boys who couldn’t be warriors because their bodies were too fragile to carry all of that anger. the ones who loved in that reckless kind of way. you know, when you give up your body for him.
and i think about the time an elder told me to be a man and to decolonize in the same breath. there are days when i want to wear nail polish more than i want to protest. but then i remember that i wasn’t meant to live life here and i paint my nails because 1) it looks cute and 2) it is a protest. and even though i know i am too queer to be sacred anymore, i dance that broken circle dance because i am still waiting for hands who want to hold mine too.
Billy-Ray Belcourt, February, 2016

I could not have written this, as I am not First Nations, nor a young man. But we thought you might enjoy meeting one of Canada’s rising young poets, Billy-Ray Belcourt, a member of the Driftpile Cree Nation.

He began writing poetry at nineteen, and was immediately recognized as a big talent. Now in his early twenties, he has already garnered significant attention on the Canadian literary scene.   He graduated from Oxford in 2017, Canada’s first Indigenous Rhodes scholar. His studies focused on the effects of colonialism on indigenous people's health, medical anthropology and women’s studies.

He is now a PhD student at the University of Alberta in the Department of English and Film studies.

His book of poems called “This Wound is a World” was published in 2017 by Frontenac House.

CBC Books has called Billy-Ray “one of 6 Indigenous writers to watch,” and rated his book “the best Canadian poetry of 2017”.

Of his book, Billy-Ray has said, “I think that this book is a call to arms of sorts. It is a manifesto, a prayer and an instruction manual for something like a queer Indigenous future.

“For me to have been able to break into the writing scene at nineteen, as someone who is Indigenous and openly queer, I had to inject my poems with some critical, academic ethos. But I think, in the end, it made my poetry better.” 

Let’s look at another of this young man’s powerful poems.



the cree word for a body like mine is weesageechak
the old ones know of this kind of shape-shifting:
sometimes i sweat and sweat until my bones puddle on the carpet in my living room and i am like the water that comes before new life
i was born during a falling leaves moon. which is to say: i have always been good at sacrifice
it is believed that women are most powerful during their moontime and because of this do not take part in ceremonies in order to let the body cleanse itself
there are weesageechak days when gender is a magic trick i forgot how to perform and my groin floods and floods trying to cleanse itself like the women and i too become toxic to men who have built cages out of broken boys

maybe if i surrendered myself to Grandmother Moon she would know what to do with these pickaxe wounds: there is so much i need to tell her about how my rivers and lakes are crowded and narrowing. how i managed to piece together a sweat lodge out of mud and fish and bacteria
she gives me the cree name weesageechak and translates it to ‘sadness is a carcass his tears leave behind’

and the crows and flies who don’t care about gender will one day make away with my jet-black finger nails and scraggly armpit hairs and lay tobacco at my grave and tell their crow and fly kin that i was once a broad-shouldered trickster who long ago fell from the moon wearing make-up and skinny jeans
Billy-Ray Belcourt, July, 2016
Belcourt writes, “Heartbreak is sonic: it is the sound one makes when one becomes those who refuse to be put to rest. Everywhere we see that there is an aesthetic component to the brutalities of a world where the pace of everyday life vibrates with Native misery.”

When I hear about a young voice this powerful, I have to believe there will be less Native misery in the years ahead, thanks to young people like him shining their light into all the dark corners of Canadian colonialism. (Which is still alive and well, I am sorry to say.)

Billy-Ray’s website can be found here. He is also on facebook here.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Scream

“Everybody has a story…..and a scream.” — Rachel Roberts


“When you’re drowning, you don’t say ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help,’ you just scream. — John Lennon

     Midweek Motif ~ Scream

In his diary in an entry headed "Nice 22 January 1892", Edvard Munch wrote:

“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

He later described his inspiration for the image:

One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.”

Have you ever come to that point when you wanted to scream at you or at the world or have you ever come across anyone, anything, screaming?

So let us see, write, read and hear some screaming today J

by Matsuo Basho

The heron’s cry
Stabs the darkness

To A Daughter Leaving Home
by Linda Pastan

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

 Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
                (Next week Susan’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Colour / Color)