For Juneteenth

I heard Danez Smith read before the Pandemic. His energy from the slam tradition is ebullient, and his poems are powerful. Here is one for this holiday. As usual, I especially like the ending.


after Morgan Parker, after Wu-Tang

                      in the morning I think about money

           green horned lord of my waking

                      forest in which I stumbled toward no salvation

                                 prison made of emerald & pennies

           in my wallet I keep anxiety & a condom

I used to sell my body but now my blood spoiled

           All my favorite songs tell me to get money

                                              I’d rob a bank but I’m a poet

                                 I’m so broke I’m a genius

           If I was white, I’d take pictures of other pictures & sell them

I come from sharecroppers who come from slaves who do not come from kings

                                              sometimes I pay the weed man before I pay the light bill

                      sometimes is a synonym for often

I just want a grant or a fellowship or a rich white husband & I’ll be straight

           I feel most colored when I’m looking at my bank account

I feel most colored when I scream ball so hard motherfuckas wanna find me

                                 I spent one summer stealing from ragstock

If I went to jail I’d live rent-free but there is no way to avoid making white people richer

                                              A prison is a plantation made of stone & steel

           Being locked up for selling drugs = Being locked up for trying to eat

                                              a bald fade cost 20 bones now a days

                      what’s a blacker tax than blackness?

                                              what cost more than being American and poor?

                                         here is where I say reparations.

here is where I say got 20 bucks I can borrow?

           student loans are like slavery but not but with vacation days but not but police

I don’t know what it says about me when white institutions give me money

                      how much is the power ball this week?

I’mma print my own money and be my own god and live forever in a green frame

                      my grandmamma is great at saving money

           before my grandfather passed he showed me where he hid his money & his gun

                      my aunt can’t hold on to a dollar, a job, her brain

                                 I love how easy it is to be bad with money

                      don’t ask me about my taxes

                                 the b in debt is a silent black boy trapped

Danez Smith

The Exemplary Sentence: Elizabeth Von Arnim

If you are looking for a bon bon of a book, The Enchanted April is delectable. Not overwhelmingly sweet, amusing, light, but well-enough written that it’s not a guilty pleasure. I especially enjoyed this paragraph, the musings of a woman who has long been ignored by her husband:

“Why, if Frederick did come, she would only bore him. Hadn’t she seen in a flash quite soon after getting to San Salvatore that that was what kept him away from her? And why should she suppose now, after such a long estrangement, she would be able not to bore him, be able to do anything but to stand before him like a tongue-tied idiot, with all the fingers of her spirit turned into thumbs? Besides, what a hopeless position, to have as it were to beseech: Please wait a little–please don’t be impatient–I think perhaps I shan’t be a bore presently.”

Oh that position, the fingers of one’s spirit turned into thumbs! Haven’t we all felt it, just when we wanted most to be brilliant and dextrous? I’ll have to take a look at her other novels.




Hands on

I first encountered Yehuda Amichai in Chana Bloch’s translation.  Having slaughtered and cleaned many chickens, I love the image in this  excerpt, from another translator:

God’s Hand in the World

God’s hand in the world
like my mother’s
in the guts of the slaughtered hen
on Friday.
What does God see beyond the window
as he puts his hand into the world?
What does my mother see?

Yehuda Amichai (tr. from Hebrew by Harold Schimmel)