Sunday, October 4, 2015

"The Quiet Side Street" by David Baker

From David Baker's new book, Scavenger Loop (2015), "The Quiet Side Street" the ghostliness and permeability of selves beneath some hovering gaze, which is alternately ominous or consoling--marking this poem as part of our digital, panoptic age. Two very different kinds of homing in. In the first section, what is a "quiet side street" is also marked, in the speaker's awareness, by what happens "over there" beneath the surveillance of drones--which is not just "over there," but increasingly over here. In the second section, the poet explores the uncanny infolding of time and space, as the poem slips between the present--in which his father is aged and half-shade--and the past, in which the father is robust and carrying the speaker in his arms. Here, too, the sense of death is not far off. A remarkable poem for its dialogue between the personal and political, showing the permeability and frailty of our mortal, earthly flesh. (n.b. in the second section, the columns should be lined up perfectly, as they are in the original, but the formatting is not lining up properly. My apologies.)

The Quiet Side Street             by David Baker


                                                            where we live is lined

with dogwoods and maples
with old man’s beard

lined with many blue 
bins to recycle

                        things we cast away
                                                            from us and gladly

                        that’s how quiet
                                                            you can hear crickets
                        a hundred feet above
                                                            in a glister of

                        leaves leathery there
                                                            with dew or brushed moon

                        bees mumbling at a
                                                            hummingbird tube or

                        in spiked flowers of 
                                                            ivy crawling crazed

                        up the body of
each dying maple
                        when had you thought to
tell me      meanwhile

                        deer so still in the
                                                            folded woodruff
                        one hawk overhead
                                                            no one hears a thing

                        sometimes no one says
                                                            one thing until it’s 

                        too late here or there
                                                            we think we are fine

                        we are not as somewhere
                                                            in a room beneath

the clover meadow
a hand a joy-stick

guides the news      a drone
                                    unmanned far away

or quietly above us 
even now as we

call it homing in—


He walks back from the  window in half-shadow

a half-shade himself        who first called them shades
who people the place       bereft of long life

he comes back he feels    with the fingers of one

hand the soft hem bed’s   high edge to settle

back my father now         his bed his home or
we are walking now         he is walking carrying

me under starlight            under willows swept

with high wind crickets    two whippoorwills far

like two bells one bell      across the night hills

these long hills I am         so tired he thinks

                        I am sleeping who            peoples the night river
riffle of water here            over the newest stones

in the river all night          to the other side

okay he says at                 last or I say okay go

to sleep old man and        when you waken on
the other side I’ll              be there we’re there now

see our shadows where    they have been waiting 
as long as we’ve been here—

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Peace on Earth" by U2 as response to Omagh Bombing of 1998

Okay, I'm aware the U2 is a decidedly uncool band; they were uncool before they signed their souls over to Apple, thus causing a generation of iUsers to associate them with musical spam. Still, it's hard to think of many bands who have been as successful in bringing protest into mass culture, in ways that do justice both to pop music and to the cause against violence and injustice.

"Peace on Earth" was Bono's response to the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland in 1998, by a member of the so-called Real IRA, just a few months after the Good Friday Peace Accords had been signed. It was a particularly brutal bombing, killing 29 and injuring 200 others. Names of the dead are shared--both Protestant and Catholic names--as well as little details of particularity about the victims. "She never got to say goodbye / To see the color in his eye / Now he's in the dirt" comes from the funeral of James Barker. The Irish Times quoted his mother as stating, "I never realised how green his eyes were."

Later, the song became associated with the 9/11 attacks, thanks to U2's performance during the telethon fundraiser "America: A Tribute to Heroes."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bush Debuts Paintings of Dogs, Friends, Ghost of Iraqi Child...

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him Everywhere

Posted by The Onion on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"The Making of a Prophet" by Corey Van Landingham

THE MAKING OF A PROPHET by Corey Van Landingham, from Antidote

            for Adrienne Rich

Keep it small   they said   Keep it small
or the city will form a mouth   Be careful
not to say mouth   or world   Don’t say
body   Drink your coffee   Fuck it
There are gum wrappers on the sidewalk
that reflect all those predator drones
You can almost see them see you   You
flip your hair   You preen   You touch
yourself but you can never see them   They
can always see you   There is a room
full of men making anything possible   It is
the loneliest thing   making up worlds  
Watching others live their little lives   Keep
it small   the men are telling you   Wave to
the sky   No   to a bird you are no longer
allowed to name   and may no longer exist  
You’ve been selected for a very particular
task   All you have to do is talk and talk
and talk and not say anything at all   This
should be easy   They say that   too

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ascension                   by Elmaz Abinader, from This House, My Bones (2014)

                                    For Mahmud Darwish

What do exiles do but continue to walk
in countries where they were not born?

And when they leave are their ghosts alone,
Wandering routes river to home to horizon?

Breath   visible   from the cold of death
I call you to smoke and   vapor


We search for the lost through shards of cement
a crusty coffee cup impossible to read.

The cities are homes as much as they are tombs
you draw the map, a longitude of loss

The names of the storytellers will be catalogued
next to saints, teachers, revolutionaries, and bread makers


How many times can your heart break?
How many ways is writing a surgery?

Mahmud, is it too much to hold
I stand in the square and call for you

You pierce the voices of this city—

the sky over Ramallah is refrain.

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Relentless" by Zeina Hashem Beck (Stop writing about war...")

"Relentless" by Zeina Hashem Beck 

“Stop writing about war,” he said. “Stop
writing about borders and blood. Stop writing
about revolutions and revolvers, about cities,
rooftops with antennas and snipers.
Stop writing about bread
and barefoot children with their dark
skin, their hair blond from too much sun.
Stop telling the story of how your friend
bought hats for them and gave them out
from her car window, saying put this on
put this on. Stop telling the story of the gates
your grandfather painted on his wall
to remember, and the gates he painted
on his heart to forget. For God’s sake stop
writing about religion, I’m tired
of minarets and crosses, even the prayers
are tired and want to sleep. Just write
some shade for me to sit in.”

So I drew him a tree without roots
and a street with enormous wings and said, “Here
is a tree that cannot be uprooted
and a street that will take flight
before it explodes.” And I drew myself
some mud, two strong legs, a clothesline
upon which to hang my drenched words,
to see what this sunlight would make of them,
and black birds on a fence

like the pattern of a kufiya.

This poem originally appeared in Rusted Radishes

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sand Opera


Sand Opera--my attempt to make sense of the post-9/11 years--came out a couple months ago, thanks to Alice James Books

I'm grateful for the good review from Earl Pike in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who wrote: "The contrast, a brief moment of tenderness amidst the brutal depositions about war's collateral, is striking. The cumulative effect of Metres' collection, its testimonies and gaps, its forms and disassemblies, is operatic and often incendiary, generally discomforting, and nearly always powerful. It is worth reading, and re-reading, to unearth the buried words."

Thanks as well to Fady Joudah, with whom I had an extended conversation over at Los Angeles Review of Books about Sand Opera. Along the way we discuss quite a bit—including love and politics, Elaine Scarry and the theology of torture, the Oliver Stone Syndrome and American Sniper, empire, the Iraqs I carry, 9/11, Standard Operating Procedures, black sites, docupoetics, trance states, recursion, poems about children, the vital vulnerability of the human body, the openness of ears, the sound of listening, the War Story and its exclusions, the Umbra poets and the Black Arts Movement, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, RAWI (the Radius of Arab American Writers), and the state of Arab American literature.

This is the beginning: 
FADY JOUDAH: Sand Opera is ultimately a book about love, its loss and recapture, and the struggle in between. Many will completely misread it as another political book of poems, in that reductive, ready-made sense of "political" which is reserved for certain themes but mostly for certain ethnicities. So part of that misreading is due to the book’s subject matter or its Abu Ghraib arias, and also because it is written by an Arab American.
PHILIP METRES: I love the fact that you read Sand Opera as a book about love. The longer I worked on the book, the more I felt compelled to move past the dark forces that instigated its beginnings, forces that threatened to overwhelm it and me. Love, as much as I can understand it, thrives in an atmosphere of care for the self and other — the self of the other and the other of the self — through openness, listening, and dialogue. Because the book was born in the post-9/11 era, it necessarily confronts the dark side of oppression, silencing, and torture. Torture, as Elaine Scarry has explored so powerfully in The Body in Pain, is the diametrical opposite of love, the radical decreation of the other for political ends. The recent release of the so-called “Torture Report,” and the torrent of responses (both expressions of condemnation and defensive justifications) has felt like a traumatic repetition for me. Didn’t we deal with this during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the “Enhanced Interrogation” debate? Even now, the political conversation seems to skip over the fact that torture contravenes international law and is a profoundly immoral act, and moves so quickly to debate its merits — whether any good “intelligence” may have been gleaned from it. Why is that the writers who have gained the widest platforms were veterans of the war, some of whom participated directly in interrogation — for example, Eric Fair’s courageous mea culpa December 2014 Letter to the Editor in The New York Times — while Arab voices, like Iraqi writer Sinan Antoon’s, are so hard to find and so marginalized?
My hope is that Sand Opera can help be the start to a new conversation about the state of poetry, American life, and the role of Arab American literature in our ongoing cultural and political debate about U.S. foreign and domestic policy regarding the Arab world. We welcome further conversation. More to come....

"Advising the Prince" by Chuang Tzu

I came across this curious parable in The Way of Chuang Tzu, translated/interpreted by Thomas Merton. It seems to apply to everything from personal to political decision-making. Would that our leaders carried themselves with as much integrity.

"Advising The Prince" by Chuang Tzu (translation by Thomas Merton)
The recluse Hsu Su Kwei had come to see Prince Wu. 
The Prince was glad. "I have desired," he said, "to see you for a long time. Tell me if I am doing right. I want to love my people, and by the exercise of justice to put an end to war. Is this enough?"
"By no means," said the recluse. "Your 'love' for your people puts them in mortal danger. Your exercise of justice is the root of war after war! Your grand intentions will end in disaster!"
"If you set out to 'accomplish something great' you only deceive yourself. Your love and justice are fraudulent. They are more pretexts for self-assertion, for aggression. One action will bring another, and in the chain of events your hidden intentions will be made plain."
"You claim to practice justice. Should you seem to succeed, success itself will bring more conflict. Why all these guards at the palace gate, around the temple altar? Everywhere? "You are at war with yourself! You do not believe in justice, only in power and success. If you overcome an enemy and annex his country you will be even less at peace with yourself than you are now. Nor will your passions let you sit still. You will fight again and again for the sake of a more perfect exercise of 'justice'!
"Abandon your plan to be a 'loving and equitable ruler.' Try to respond to the demands of inner truth. Stop vexing yourself and your people with these obsessions! Your people will breathe easily at last. They will live and war will end by itself.

Monday, February 23, 2015

High-Risk Activism and Popular Struggle Against the Israeli Occupation in the West Bank

High-Risk Activism and Popular Struggle Against the Israeli Occupation in the West Bank

Professor Joel Beinin, Stanford University
Monday, March 2nd , 4:30 pm, CWRU, Tinkham Veale University Center, Ballroom A

Scholars have longed distinguished between normal political protest and what can be termed "high-risk activism," best exemplified in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964. The International Solidarity Movement consciously invoked the precedent of Mississippi Freedom Summer by designating its 2002 campaign of Palestine solidarity action "Freedom Summer." Protesting the occupation in any form has always been a high-risk activity for Palestinians, who have regularly experienced tear gas, beatings, torture, incarceration, and live fire from Israeli security forces, as well as indefinite administrative detention and other judicial procedures based on secret evidence.

Professor Beinin will discuss a new phenomenon: the participation of Israelis and internationals in qualitatively new ways involving high risk - not only social reprobation, but arrests and trials, tear gas asphyxiation and other forms of severe physical discomfort, serious bodily injury, and in a few cases of internationals, death.

Joel Beinin is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University and a past president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America. His research focuses on workers, peasants, and minorities in the modern Middle East and on Israel, Palestine, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Sponsored by Department of Political Science, Department of History, NOCMES, and Kent State University.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Craig Santos Perez, from "understory" (Split this Rock poem of the week)

Poem of the Week:
Craig Santos Perez

from understory

(to my wife, nālani
and our 7-month old daughter, kai)

kai cries
from teething--

how do
new parents

comfort a
child in

pain, bullied
in school,

shot by
a drunk

APEC agent?

nālani gently

massages kai's
gums with

her fingers-
how do

we wipe
away tear--

gas and
blood? provide

shelter from
snipers? disarm

occupying armies?

nālani sings
to kai

a song
about the

Hawaiian alphabet--
what dreams

will echo
inside detention

centers and
cross teething

borders to
soothe the

thousands of
children atop

la bestia?

nālani rubs
kai's back

warm with
coconut oil--

how do
we hold

violence at
arm's length

when raising
[our] hands

up is
no longer

a universal
sign of

surrender? #black

kai finally
falls asleep

in nālani's
cradling arms,

skin to
skin against

the news--
when do

we tell
our daughter

there's no
safe place

for us
to breathe #...


From  Hawai'i Review special online issue, Write for Ferguson. With special thanks to editors Anjoli Roy and No'u Revilla. 

Used with permission.

Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam). He is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Creative Writing Program in the English Department at the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa. 
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