Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Update-Bloggers Unite Poetry and Poverty

I don't know why I thought today was a Bloggers Unite Day. I am embarrassed to say it isn't, but I decided to leave the post up anyways.

Poverty is the theme of Bloggers Unite Day this year. I've chosen to post poems that deal with poverty( in it's various forms) or poems that suggest ways to go beyond poverty.

Olga Angelina Garcia

A Poor People’s Poem

This poem
has got
a bad attitude
un genio from hell

and you
you’re afraid
of my poem

afraid of this
deep dark red poem
that bleeds
woman words

you’re afraid
cuz even though
this poem
about survival
it isn’t about
endangered whales
or dying forests

this is a poor woman’s poem
a Mexicana
Este de Los Angeles

this poem’s
got roaches crawling
all over it
and tiny pink mice
nibbling at the edges
and corners of
simple-everyday words

Listen this poem rides the bus
works 12 hours a day
7 days a week
with no medical benefits
and no paid vacations

this poem
has crossed rivers
and mountains
jumped over
and crawled under
barb-wired fences

this poem
has slaved
in hot-sun pesticide fields
your lettuce
the vegetables
and fruits
that make your meals
nice and balanced

And this poem
has worked all kinds of shifts
in inner-city factories
the clothes you wear
the jeans
the shirts
the jackets
that keep you
in style

this is a poor woman’s poem
a brown people’s poem
so you see
right now
we don’t want to talk about
the ozone layer

the people in this poem
we wanna talk about where we live
about affordable housing
about how the hot water doesn’t work
and the windows don’t close
about the Never-no-heat-in-the-winter

we wanna talk about drugs
about the alcohol cocaine crack heroin
impregnating our communities
making modern colonized brown black slaves of us

we wanna talk about food stamps
about jobs and fair wages
about 12 hour shifts
and working conditions

we wanna talk about the police
about choke-hold
and billy clubs
about busted heads
and handcuffed minds
about sharp-teeth dogs
and shackled freedom
about racist cops
who hate

we wanna talk about dying
about the river of blood
flowing where we live
about the heads of 2 year old babies
scattered on concrete floors
about the mountain of bodies here
outlined in white chalk

So you see
right now
we don’t wanna hear you preach
about recycling
cuz poor people like us
we’ve always recycled
we invented the damn word
and out of necessity
recycled our papers, cans, bottles
recycled our socially constructed poverty
recycled even our dreams

So you see
we do wanna talk
but talk about lies
about Am er i KKK a
about treaties broken
and lands and people stolen

we wanna talk about
U.S. colonization
Third World penetration

And you
you’re afraid
of my poem

afraid of the East side poem
holding hands
with El Salvador
holding hands
South Africa
South Central L.A.

I know
you’re afraid
of this
brown black
poor people’s poem

©1998 Olga Angelina García

Sonia on Hope Street

This is where I live,
at 1352 Hope Street
with mamá, tía Mari, tío Leo,
and my brother Milagro
we live here, the five of us
packed together in a box
where there's no hot water
windows don't work
plumbing don't work
heater don't work
nothing here works.
But this is where I live
in this lopsided brown building
that sags like an old face.
Tía Mari says it's gonna fold
into itself one day and come
down on us, a giant toothless
wrinkled mouth swallowing us
whole. Says she'll be glad
when it happens too
cuz she's waiting for the Big One,
the 8 point earthquake
that'll crack sidewalks open
and crumble freeways,
turn skyscrapers into chalk dust,
she's waiting for the earth to move
beneath her feet. But my mamá,
she's living on bent knees,
cleaning rich people's houses,
wiping clean white tile floors
and toilet bowls. Walking on bent knees,
making pilgrimage, holding sacred
holy apparitions on street corners,
underground metros, churches,
trees, tortillas. Mamá is waiting
for Jesus to come back
from the dead, for La Virgen
de Guadalupe to send her a sign,
for her cemetery of candles
and saints to rise up like riot
flames among the living.
She's waiting for salvation on Hope
Street. Tío Leo laughs, says
God in the USA is TV and money,
is a rich White slum lord living
in Beverely Hills, is the Border Patrol
asking for papeles, is the police officer
who shot Turo from down the street
and got away with it. Says
the bullet whole in Turo's back es la huella
de Dios. Somos cucarachas, he shouts
y el zapato o la mano que cae del cielo
a darte el madrazo es tu Dios.
Scares us when Tío Leo starts saying stuff
like that, Mamá shakes her head and asks:
¿Qué, no crees en nada? He says he believes
in numbers. In 2 roaches + 2 roaches = 4 roaches.
In 3 days sin chamba + 6 days sin chamba = 9 días de desesperación.
In 8 hours worked + 4 hours work = overtime.
In numbers typed in at the right hand side
of his paycheck = never enough.
He's waiting to win the lottery,
for God to fuck up and accidentally
call his numbers:

13 52 4 28 7.

Me, I'm waiting for something
as soft as my brother's name
to come raining down on me.

I'm waiting for for a miracle
cuz we're 5-to-a-room here
cuz there's a muerta on the 1st floor
and a deaf woman who eats mice on the 3rd.

I wait for miracles cuz here
roaches have wings and fall
from ceings into bowls of soup
and cereal. Here, we can't get
rid of them, even with daily sprays,
those roach motels, that Chinese chalk,
and the manager won't fumigate
says we got roaches cuz we're dirty.
All 126 tenants have roaches
cuz all 126 of us are dirty
and lazy and poor and well
everybody knows that roaches come
with poverty and poverty with roaches.
And the other day
when I told the manager
we needed mouse traps
he told me, aquí no hay ratones
and he said we should
leave him alone because after all
he wasn't God and he couldn't solve
all of our problems and anyways
we were all crazy,
seeing things
all 126 of us who live here,
seeing things

I pray for miracles
cuz I live smack in the middle
of this city's aneurysm,
where drunk disenfranchised men pee
against cracked walls and shoot heroine
up swollen veins, where the unwanted
leave their dreams lying around like syringes
on sidewalks.
I pray for miracles
cuz I'm only 17
and I live among all these roaches
these mice
these men.

From the CD's Raza Spoken Here 1 and When Skin Peels ©1998 Olga Angelina García Echeverría.

Falling Angels- Recent poetry book release by Olga Angelina García Echeverría.


This World Which Is Made of Our Love for Emptiness

Praise to the emptiness that blanks out existence. Existence:
This place made from our love for that emptiness!
Yet somehow comes emptiness,
this existence goes.
Praise to that happening, over and over! For years I pulled my own existence out of emptiness.
Then one swoop, one swing of the arm,
that work is over.
Free of who I was, free of presence, free of dangerous fear, hope,
free of mountainous wanting.
The here-and-now mountain is a tiny piece of a piece of straw
blown off into emptiness.
These words I'm saying so much begin to lose meaning:
Existence, emptiness, mountain, straw:
Words and what they try to say swept
out the window, down the slant of the roof.

"His century was also a century of war and famine, where the Mongol hordes had wrecked havoc in
Asia . Not much different from our own, where the majority of human
race lives below the poverty line and is constantly at war."

Read more about Rumi

Yusef Komunyakaa

Believing in Iron

The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn't stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
We'd return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load, 
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn't believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.

"Yusef Komunyakaa was born in 1947 in Bogalusa, Louisiana, where he was raised during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. He served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star.
He began writing poetry in 1973, and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado Springs in 1975."

Emily Dickinso

Your Riches Taught Me Poverty

Your Riches—taught me—Poverty.
Myself—a Millionaire
In little Wealths, as Girls could boast
Till broad as Buenos Ayre—

You drifted your Dominions—
A Different Peru—
And I esteemed All Poverty
For Life's Estate with you—

Of Mines, I little know—myself—
But just the names, of Gems—
The Colors of the Commonest—
And scarce of Diadems—

So much, that did I meet the Queen—
Her Glory I should know—
But this, must be a different Wealth—
To miss it—beggars so—

I'm sure 'tis India—all Day—
To those who look on You—
Without a stint—without a blame,
Might I—but be the Jew—

I'm sure it is Golconda—
Beyond my power to deem—
To have a smile for Mine—each Day,
How better, than a Gem!

At least, it solaces to know
That there exists—a Gold—
Altho' I prove it, just in time
Its distance—to behold—

Its far—far Treasure to surmise—
And estimate the Pearl—
That slipped my simple fingers through—
While just a Girl at School.

About Emily Dickinson

1 comment:

jblack designs said...

Great poetry!

Do you know the early works of Nikki Giovanni, like Black Feeling, Black Talk? If not, you'd like it.