LANGSTON HUGHES – FREEDOM TRAIN

Freedom Train

 

I read in the papers about the Freedom Train

I heard on the radio about the Freedom Train

I seen folks talking about the Freedom Train

Lord, I’ve been a-waitin for the Freedom Train!

Washington, Richmond, Durham, Chatanooga, Atlanta

Way cross Georgia.

Lord, Lord, Lord

way down in Dixie the only trains I see’s

Got a Jim-Crow coaches set aside for me.

I hope their ain’t no Jim Crow on the Freedom Train,

No back door entrance to the Freedom Train,

No sign FOR COLORED on the Freedom Train,

No WHITE FOLKS ONLY on the Freedom Train.

I’m gonna check up.

I’m gonna to check up on this

Freedom Train.

Who is the engineer on the Freedom Train?

Can a coal-black man drive the Freedom Train?

Or am I still a porter on the Freedom Train?

Is there ballot boxes on the Freedom Train?

Do colored folks vote on the Freedom Train?

When it stops in Mississippi, will it be made plain

Everybody’s got a right to board the Freedom Train?

I’m gonna check up.

I’m gonna to check up on this

Freedom Train.

The Birmingham station’s marked COLORED and WHITE.

The white folks go left

The colored go right.

They even got a segregated lane.

Is that the way to get aboard the Freedom Train?

I’m gonna check up.

I’m gonna to check up on this

Freedom Train.

If my children ask me, Daddy, please explain

Why a Jim Crow stations for the Freedom Train?

What shall I tell my children?

You tell me, cause freedom ain’t freedom when a man ain’t free.

My brother named Jimmy died at Anzio

He died for real, and it wasn’t no show.

Is this here freedom on the Freedom Train really freedom or a show again?

Now let the Freedom Train come zooming down the track

Gleaming in the sunlight for white and black

Not stoppin’ at no stations marked COLORED nor WHITE,

Just stoppin’ in the fields in the broad daylight,

Stoppin’ in the country in the wide-open air

Where there never was a Jim Crow sign nowhere,

And No Lilly-White Committees, politicians of note,

Nor poll tax layer through which colored can’t vote

And there won’t be no kinda color lines

The Freedom Train will be yours

And mine.

Then maybe from their graves in Anzio

Black men and white will say, We want it so!

Black men and white will say, Ain’t it fine?

At home they got a Freedom train,

A Freedom train,

That’s yours and mine!

 

 

(1947)

LANGSTON HUGHES

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JOHN GREY – POLITICS OF MODERN MARRIAGE

POLITICS OF MODERN MARRIAGE

A smug Donald Trump

stares up at you

from the front page of the newspaper,

You take a pen

and scribble on his face.

Then you hate yourself

because you can’t stop obsessing.

Your world’s growing

less about those near to you.

It’s playing out on the world stage.

And you’re getting older.

The culture’s gone mad

and you’ve not the years

to wait it out.

Your husband’s cold these days.

He doesn’t sleep with porn stars

but he drinks a lot.

Your revulsion doesn’t go well

with his apathy.

He says he likes Trump,

thinks he’s funny.

You went through that

whole Nixon debacle.

The mob was blinded then

but slowly, painstakingly,

the mob finally saw.

But this mob is different.

They’re set against

the possibility of enlightenment.

You fear that you could die

leaving behind a world

much worse than you found it,

with plenty of friends and family,

but no real allies.

Your husband watches football,

does his best to exist alone.

You keep up with what’s going on,

all that’s going on without you.

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R A RIEKKI – 5 POEMS

The

My girlfriend told me her least favorite word is ‘the.’
I asked why. She didn’t know. Said words like ‘pool’

and ‘mouth’ and ‘night’ would kick the’s ass.
But it’s ‘the pool,’ ‘the mouth,’ ‘the night, I said.

Not necessarily, she said, it could be ‘our pool’
or ‘her mouth’ or ‘six nights.’ She went to work.

I sat there thinking about ‘the.’ I looked at ‘the lamp’
and ‘the couch’ and ‘the crack in the ceiling.’

So many the’s in the room. But all of them over-
shadowed by nouns. I looked at a shadow

in the corner. I thought of all of the evil of the world.

~

I Worked Eighty Hours This Week

I worked ninety hours once. On an ambulance.
I had a co-worker who fell asleep once,
driving the ambulance. You only do that once.
But he didn’t get fired though. By the way,
he told me he worked one hundred hours
that week. That’s what you do when you make
minimum wage. A lot of people don’t realize
you make minimum wage on ambulances.
Those ambulance companies rake in billions.
Five thousand dollars to take you from one city
to another city just two cities away. Five grand.
I remember one night when we were waiting
for a call. We were parked near some
telephone wires and a crow came and landed
on the wires and got electrocuted. We were
right there, staring, right at it, like we were just
waiting for it to happen. Strangest thing ever.
My partner called dispatch and reported it.
I remember him saying, just in case any kids
go near it. He hung up. I said, Kids can’t fly.
Then our radio went off. We had another call.
It was for a guy who sat on a pen. When we
got there, the pen was sticking out of him
like a little tail. He asked if he should yank
it out and we yelled no, that it was acting
like a cork. A cork? Yeah, a cork, I said.

~

On the Phone, My Mom Told Me I Should Write a Poem about Working with Coronavirus Patients

I said it’d be a boring poem.
She said, no, that’s not true at all.
I said that all I see is fog, that my mask
fogs up my glasses so I can’t see anything
all day long. I’m in the back of the ambulance
and we just drive them to where they need to go
and I can’t see nothing.
She said that I was exaggerating,
so I took a photo of myself
with my glasses fogged over
like the clouds at the top of mountains in places so high up you can see both heaven and hell at the same time.

~

My Dad was a Good Dad

He told me one time
about coming home
as a kid and finding his mother
passed out
on the kitchen floor.
He thought she was drunk
again
so he pulled her down the hall
to her bedroom and
tucked her in
and it wasn’t till the next day
that he realized
she was dead.
My Dad was a good Dad.
When I worked in the prison system
as part of the nursing station
one prisoner threw his piss
in my face.
He had saved it in a cup.
I remember
after I washed my face
in the prison bathroom
for like a half hour,
not joking,
I looked up,
my hair all wet,
just sopping,
looking like I’d been crying
at the bottom of the ocean
and I smiled,
because I was alive.
My Dad was a good Dad.
That’s all I have to say.

~

I’m Old and I Don’t Make Much Money so I Am Forgotten But I Write to Tell You I Exist Too and the Casino Near My Old House Where I Grew Up Caught Fire

so I went and looked at the ashes
and it made me think of when I was at the guard gate
in the hills
in California
where I’d just stand there
for hours
and hours
and hours
every night and
during the fires there
the ash was falling horizontal
like the world was tilted on its side.

 

 

FIND RON HERE

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ANDREW HUBBARD – Priorities

Priorities

Reincarnation.
One of those things
I’d like to believe in but can’t
Because of the logical improbability
And the pile of unanswerable questions
About who and when and how and why.

But just suppose
(It’s ok to have a little fun)
That after 200 years of conscious sleep
Some benign authority
Brought you back, age 20
In perfect health, memories intact.

What would you do first?
Eat! Steak—shrimp—
Something with creamy garlic sauce—
Strawberries—chocolate ice cream.

And then make love
Again and again and again, with every sense
On overdrive, and doze off
Smelling her sweat and hearing her whispers.

You’d almost forgotten
How sensuous sleep can be.

Wake up. Repeat,
But with a change of menu:
Coffee, hot eggs with cheese melted over,
Cold white wine, bacon,
Peaches and whipped cream.

Continue this for forty years
Then turn your attention
To intellectual growth and refinement.
Sit with works of Plato, Milton,
Kant, Chaucer, and St. Augustine.
Twenty minutes should do it.
Then get back to the important stuff.

JULY 2020

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Leslé Honoré – America come get your children

America come get your children

America come get your children

the ones you are so proud of

the ones wearing Stars and Stripes

buying guns like candy

the ones dripping with

white privilege

that you created with

red blood from brown skin

America come get your children

come get your kids

the ones flying flags of defeat

of history long dead

of a life they wish they had

of superiority they believe they have

the lies you whispered in their ears

as you rocked them to sleep

“Look away look away look away Dixie land”

America come get your children

the ones terrorizing this country

the ones terrorizing the world

the ones never called a terrorist

come get

your rapist

your misogynistic

your appropriating

hating

bigoted

offspring

you know …

the apples that didn’t fall far from the tree

America come get your children

the ones running the country

the ones too cowardly to speak up

the ones that shoot into protests

churches

light torches

run cars into peace

come get your diseased infants

entitled children in men’s bodies

jealous girls screaming in women’s voices

come get this disgusting basket of deplorables

that you nurtured on

manifest destiny

the pale pink faces

in utter disbelief

that even though you put your knee

on every brown and black neck you saw

we have fought back and risen

casting shadows on your children

and they rage when they learn

that being a white mediocre man

is no longer enough

America come get your children

before they burn this stolen land down

and you with it

 

~

find Leslé Honoré here

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CAROL CASEY – 2 POEMS

Navigating the Ocean

I crave you like oxygen sometimes,
as if I couldn’t breathe without you and
this terrifies me, makes me want to
push you away, prove something,
find the key that unlocks this tether, set
you free, to go away but come back, choose
as if there was a choice,
as if I could become amphibious, grow
some gills, maybe a tail to navigate
the oceans of the loss of setting you free and not
drown; or possibly build a raft, to float above,
but not so far that I’ll miss your hand reaching
up out of the water to come aboard, in case
I can save you, as humans rarely do;
or maybe there will be a sunset and a night
when the ocean grows moon and stars
while a gentle current transports me to
somewhere my love for you is not so full
of need, will be refined of dross, capable
of anything.

The phone is ringing.
Maybe it’s you.

 

~

Spoiler Alert

There’s no escaping the constant whirs,
hums, chugs and buzzes of summer,
like birdsong, in variety and nuance,
but less conversation, more dictation,
as if to an old fashioned stenographer-
get this down, condense the languorous
signals of summer to shorthand,

We shorten grass, shrink hedges,
embarrass pieces of wood with hammers,
(to drown out the woodpeckers)
interrupt the lifespan of recalcitrant
weeds, till them under, nip and tuck.
Each hum, buzz, whir, chug
a jigsaw piece of putting nature

in her place, a pissing upon,
a tiny fist raised in defiance of ice-
storms, blizzards, microbes, death.
We oil and tighten, plug in and refuel
until the entropy of it catches up
in the end while the birds have
their say during the intermission.

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LARRY ROGERS – 2 POEMS

His Alibi

Standing in front of her, his alibi failing him, he considered faking
a heart attack like a baseball manager whose team is down 10 runs
one inning away from the game being official and rain on its way.
But no actor could be that good; certainly not him. It was now that
he made the mistake of saying he didn’t know anything for certain
anymore, that he was guessing at everything now, including his
core beliefs; in fact, what others called their core beliefs, he called
his core guesses. Oh, the daggers her eyes tossed at him!!! It was as if
a torrential downpour had begun and the game had gone on anyway.

~

There are children’s treehouses

in upscale neighborhoods in Edmond,
Oklahoma, with better bones, as
the realtors say, than the potting
shed trailer my family called home
in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas.
Treehouses that Mama, had she not
been afraid of heights, might have
called dream homes. And beneath
these treehouses are lawns green and soft
as big league infields. A boy could
romp barefooted across these lawns
and not even feel his feet touch the ground.

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JOHN TUSTIN – CUT OFF

CUT OFF

I used to rush home from work,

Especially if I knew my wife wasn’t going to be home yet

And if some asshole tried to cut me off

I’d gun it and curse him out,

Sometimes as we drove side by side.

I wasn’t going to take that shit,

I got cut off enough when I was home with my wife.

I would drive home and the best days were the days

When I had some time to myself before I had to pick her up.

Oh, the feeling of false freedom in those precious minutes!

Later, another good time was reading to my children before bed.

After they would finally fall asleep I would lie in bed with my son

And elongate the moments before I would have to get up

And get into bed with Her.

If I fell asleep in his bed or pretended to she would come and get me.

Finally I had had enough and I told her I wanted a divorce.

Her reaction was to unleash Hell all at once

Instead of little by little like she had been doing for fifteen years or so.

I lost everything and just about everyone I had

But now if I get cut off in traffic

I just stare in wonder at the taillights

Of whoever feels they need to get somewhere before I do

Thinking about a time that feels like decades ago

But was much less than that

When I decided a life of boiling pasta alone in an echoing kitchen

Was better than a living death in a house filled with anger

And that final day that

It was as if I was Yertle the Turtle

And I sneezed down there

At the bottom of the stack

And that bitch came tumbling down.

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ROBERT ALLEN BECKVALL – 3 COVID JAZZ POEMS

Jazz Inspired Writing Project

In the Time of Covid-19

May

Another lovely day because I didn’t take a header off the 12th story balcony. It would surprise the shit out of the folks washing their car down there. Blood, suds, brain matter and spinal fluid. About to die, I say very quietly that I need a drink like Dennis Hopper in True Grit. And luckily they had a hose handy, and they could wipe my brow with the shammy.

<jazz inspirations>

<Pravin Thompson-A Thoughtful Collapse>

<Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass-Going Places>

This is like my DNA, played so many times in my house when I was growing up. We had whip cream too.

<Yazz Ahmed-Under Quiet Skies>

This life was lived to the fullest, including hearing your horn, young lady. Sublime.

<Yussef Dayes-For My Ladies>

Who profits from the revolution?

Chaos?

Death and destruction?

Who gets a kick, laugh, of their jollies from a million dead?

Hitler, yes.

Who is Hitler now?

Who grinds, for pleasure, under their boot heel?

<Arturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra>

Mother’s Day Thank You/Mahalo/Gracias Letters to Mi Madre Y Mi Esposa (clarity of vision in the time of virus)

~

My Mom-Sandra Sue-The Red Headed Kid from Miami, Arizona

A swan ran right up to me and bit my stomach

Laugh-In, while we practically lived in Burbank. We were born in Burbank. We laughed in Burbank.

I fell out of a tree in Hollywood or thereabouts.

The Batmobile was on display.

The Rose Parade floats, floated past the laundry mat.

<Tito Puente>

We saw the Beatles “Yellow Submarine”

They baked a chocolate choo-choo train cake.

Tacos in yellow paper from Taco Bell, tacos from Jack-when there was still a jack-in-the-box on display

You teamed up with the lady from the Phoenix Library and changed my life forever with Dr. Seuss

Thank you for reading to us from the fairy tale book.

It was a pleasure staying up late with you and watching Johnny Carson.

We watched Walter Cronkite and Neil Armstrong “Take that giant leap for mankind”

Thomas Mall was wonderful with those fish and birds on display.

It was great going with Gram B. to the cafeteria.

We hung with Louis, Rudy, Auntie, Ray, Mickie, the cousins, and of course Gram J., where the slag lit up the sky like lava.

Thanks for tennis, ping-pong, the yellow radio, running/exercising/salads/yogurt, movies late at night, Disney records, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, popsicles, seeing the dog go crazy and tear up the trash and get on the kitchen table, and taking Bill home because he got too scared for the tent.

Thanks for taking my side when I had to smash that kid with a stick in the woods after he pissed on me.

Thanks for the interesting mixed bag of an honors student who was also the student that got in the most trouble.

Thanks for taking me to football and baseball and YMCA.

Thanks for camping trips and trips across the country.

Thanks for cabins, chalets, trips to Disney, trips to Juarez, seeing Elvis’ Graceland, and for helping me take the bottles in from construction in Memphis.

Thanks for letting me spend hours in the record section.

Thanks for letting me play Kiss, Elton John, and Queen too loud.

Thanks for swimming in the swimming pools.

Thanks for the meals, meals, meals, and the cool lunchboxes.

Thanks for halloweens, and Casper masks, and dressing like a bum.

El Paso Tennis Club, Ahwatukee Racquet Club, Kiwanis Tennis Center, Tempe Racquet & Swim, & Corona del Sol.

Thanks for being there when I scored some touchdowns in El Paso & Globe.

Thanks for being there when we baptized the little Chinese kid.

Thanks for the Christmas & flowers & John Wayne.

Thanks for the green enchiladas off Mill at the City of Tempe.

Thanks for the love & thanks for being there for 56+ years.

 

~

For My Beautiful Chinese Girls on Mother’s Day 2020

I am sorry about today and everyday, that was a heaven & hell. As you can see I was an honors kid, who fought, lit fires, smashed windows, stole things, smoked, drank, raised hell at school, and was generally a little shit. There is something wrong under the hood of the car of me. The engine is astray, and it runs very well at times, and at others it sputters and chokes, and makes loud explosions and belches smoke.

This early morning it is running cool and fast, with your favorite music, and on the way to your favorite destination. So let us listen and ride:

Poor mom got so sick when she was with you. Throwing up with regularity, even as she ate so many vegetables so that you could be smart and strong.

When you were born, they had to sew mom back up. It was harrowing. Of course I made it back from the hospital cafe for the great event.

You slept on my chest that night as mom recovered.

OK world, let us announce that Xiao Yi J. Wang-Beckvall is here. The Chinese Viking. AKA, Eir Wang-Beckvall. The Valkyrie Healing Goddess. Did we have some fun?

Running down the birds by the ocean, on my back for Waikiki adventures while mom played tennis, hanging with cousin Matty T at the Turtle Bay.

Rainbow School and checking you in every morning with the armed guards at the federal building. You were VERY safe.

Little outfit for Sacred Hearts, in the dance class and your first piano lessons with the Sister.

Good fun in Arizona at the club, at the Reid Park Zoo (giving a Marine a Barbie for the Toys for Tots), the Desert Museum.

Mom was so nervous at the baseball game, that ran long as the D-backs took so long to beat the Cardinals. The babysitters were up while you cried.

How about some terrorism? Some 9-11? Some Luis Gonzales hitting the winning shot in the bottom of the 9th?

Damn, it’s hot in Tucson & Phoenix. It was light and nice at Mt. Lemmon, in Sedona, in Flagstaff, and eventually in Prescott. In Heber and the Mogollon Rim, it was pine smells and breezes.

Waikiki School was wonderful, and you were a hit to boot. Accompany the singers on piano, play your part in Carmen, and you were what? No, we were what? The student of the year for 5th & 6th grade, while we were named family of the year too? With a certificate from our legislator, still on the fridge as I write? (your damn straight)

You were a thoughtful kid, a quiet kid, a solid kid, a loving kid, a smart kid, with a tough mom, a mom that could go from medicine to education to real estate. A couple of real winning attitude women, and the world needs you now more than ever, as fools of men want to blow up the world because “they can’t have it”, WWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

It is and was a team effort, mostly with mom and you, but I was there always with a quiet tear in my eye as you sang in broadway numbers, and were named “bestest” young woman of Hawaii. I enjoyed helping you drop off things for the homeless kids, making cards and singing with the old folks at Christmas, and you gave tennis lessons to the little kids here and there.

Mom, like moms around the island, USA, and world are, the backbone of the family, the thoughtful ones, the tried and true ones. The ones that pick up the shit, when the shit hits the fan. Probably thrown by the dads, or sons, or brothers, or other foolhardy souls that inhabit this same realm.

It seems queens and princesses will have to teach and nurse and doctor, and lead their countries out of this black time we call life 2020.

Those beautiful ones that eat vegetables, sing to their stomachs, and stay up at 3 a.m. throwing up because it has to be done by the strongest ones. She is them. Thank you girls. Chinese girls. Strong Chinese girls. Let’s swim.

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ANDREW HUBBARD – 2 POEMS

Sharing the Bathroom

I over-analyze everything

I know it’s true

(And you’ve told me enough times.)

But why on earth

Would I find it sexy

To watch you shave your armpits?

Knowing me you won’t be surprised

To find I made a list:

  • Because everything you do is sexy
  • Because you touch yourself

With such unconscious concentration

  • Because you say you do it

To look pretty for me

  • Because I love the smell of your hair
  • Because it’s something nobody else

Sees you do

  • Because it’s commonplace

And mysterious and intimate

All at the same time.

  • And because the lines of your raised arm,

Your neck, and your wrist

Make me think of a Rodin sculpture.

~

Turn Down the Lights

Hey, it was more than kind of you

To come home with me

And you so much younger

And thinner and all.

And I’ll do my best

Not to disappoint you.

Honest to God, if I disappoint you

I don’t think I’ll ever

Go to a bar again.

But hey I’m going to be honest,

Only because there’s no alternative:

I look better dressed,

So I’m going to turn down the lights.

Those horrible white curvey smiles

On the skin behind my thighs,

They’re from the hip replacements.

The thick-soled shoes

Just bring me back

To the height I used to be.

I joke that my ears pop

When I take them off,

But it’s not that bad.  Yet.

I’m not tearing my eyeballs,

I’m just taking off my contacts.

Hopefully you can’t see me

The same as I can’t see you.

Now excuse me, I’m going to the bathroom

To take some pills.

The flatulence ones work pretty well

And the little blue one

Had damn well better work.

What’s that look you’re giving me?

It better not be

The “I-made-a-mistake” look.

I have many fine qualities.

You said so yourself

Not two hours ago.

Now hang on,

I’ll be right back.

SEPTEMBER 2018

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