Free Poetry for Shakespeare

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Cleveland Public Library asked me to come do Poetry 4 Free in the Eastman Reading Garden on a cou­ple of dates this sum­mer as part of their cel­e­bra­tion of the Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio ex­hibit.

I had fun — it’s been a cou­ple of years since I was down­town writ­ing po­etry on the fly for folks, but I pretty much took right back to it. I wrote 11 Shakespeare-in­spired po­ems in 2 hours. Folks could ei­ther give me a fa­vorite pas­sage, or pick from a few that I had se­lected.

Por ejem­plo:

Some folks had no idea who Shakespeare was, and oth­ers re­lated hor­ri­fied anec­dotes from col­lege. A few peo­ple just grabbed a quote and took off with­out let­ting me write a poem for them. Everybody seemed like they were hav­ing a good time.

When the Cavs Won It All

Sunday, 19 June 2016

What will I re­mem­ber about to­day,
in this city
that takes every punch,
un­flinch­ing, on our chins;
that rises up from every blow,
stand­ing tall, cut-mouthed
against the world?

I’ll re­mem­ber
that this day is like
every other day
this city work­ing dou­bles
while you slept on it
this city skip­ping va­ca­tion
to get the job done
this city, la­conic, in­tractable
where we bow to no king
no, not even our own
this city of re­demp­tion
where we al­ways wel­come our sons home

Today, to­day
is for 
                YOU 
to re­mem­ber:

this city can al­ways say it left it all on the floor
this city where every stand is a last stand
this city where we pull for each other, ex­change 
blood-stained grins
and sing loud­est for the un­sung.

You had for­got­ten
what we’ve al­ways known
Cleveland is the city
filled with cham­pi­ons
and to­mor­row, 
we get back to work. 

Legerdemain

Friday, 25 September 2015

            spi­der­web flag /​/​ on fog flag­pole
  porce­lain vase of beasts /​/​ in rare inks
     huge cube of con­crete /​/​ speck­led egg in­side.
             back­wards map /​/​ for a maze of mir­rors
                onion skin /​/​ atop onion skin
              time be /​/​ tween star /​/​ light
             pond of rocks /​/​ pond of rocks
           a pond of rocks /​/​ upon whose
         foun­da­tion a shat /​/​ ter rain falls
        and while you were /​/​ read­ing this
      cater­corner, edge of /​/​ eye, pe­riph­eral
                  we sneak /​/​ on rat feet
               on rat feet /​/​ scut­tle scaf­folds
               to build or /​/​ crash or crash
               we the loud /​/​ est shout
           mil­len­nia built /​/​ ma­gi­cian hands
                  reck­less /​/​ cal­cu­la­tion
        pa­pier-mâché masks /​/​ wa­ter­color thun­der­storm
           mon­ster fear­ing /​/​ above the bed
         myth minted daily /​/​ god cow­er­ing
               about women /​/​ god? or just
                           /​/​ men

When the Cavs Won/​Lost It All

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

About a week ago I was con­tacted by Bill at Fox8 who had re­mem­bered my pre­vi­ous Fox8 ap­pear­ance about my Poetry 4 Free project. His idea was to make a piece about how Clevelanders were re­act­ing to the Cavs be­ing in the fi­nals & he wanted me to come up with some­thing that would help tie it all to­gether. I think he did a great job con­sid­er­ing he had to plan the piece to work for vic­tory or de­feat. Clevelanders tend to be good at that kind of plan­ning. Here’s the piece:

I also an­tic­i­pated the pos­si­bil­ity of need­ing two out­comes. My full poem is be­low. I only gave a cou­ple of hours to it, so it isn’t as re­vised as I would like, but I knew it was go­ing to be a small part of a larger whole, so I tried to struc­ture it for both co­her­ence and re­or­ga­ni­za­tion. I only had to change the first line of the last stanza to change the tone of the poem. Efficiency!

What will I re­mem­ber about to­day,
in this city
that takes every punch,
un­flinch­ing, on our chins;
that rises up from every blow,
stand­ing tall, cut-mouthed
against the world?

I’ll re­mem­ber
that this day is like
every other day
this city work­ing dou­bles
while you slept on it
this city skip­ping va­ca­tion
to get the job done
this city, la­conic, in­tractable
where we bow to no king
no, not even our own
this city of re­demp­tion
where we al­ways wel­come our sons home

Today, to­day
is for 
                YOU 
to re­mem­ber:

this city can al­ways say it left it all on the floor
this city where every stand is a last stand
this city where we pull for each other, ex­change 
blood-stained grins
and sing loud­est for the un­sung.

You have for­got­ten (or) One day you’ll learn
what we’ve al­ways known
Cleveland is the city
filled with cham­pi­ons
and to­mor­row, 
we get back to work. 

Lauds

Sunday, 26 April 2015

This morn­ing, my dog and I caught God
try­ing to sneak through the city like
a man skip­ping Mass in search of a drink.

He still filled the sky and his steps were
like the echoes of an empty hall­way.
My dog just wagged her tail but I

shouted at him:
I SEE YOU, OLD AFRAID MAN!
He didn’t turn, just cre­ated a dirty rab­bit

which he threw over-shoul­der at my dog. 
I don’t know if my dog or the rab­bit was
more sur­prised. The rab­bit dis­si­pated 

us­ing nat­u­ral rab­bit-magic, and when I looked, so had God. The city whis­pered
an an­tiphon: Kýrie, eléison.

Thrown Bricks

Monday, 23 March 2015

                                for Zena

you say
     life is a build­ing col­lapse
     a stone rain
     a brick fusil­lade

you are foren­sic of
struck shoul­ders,
bowed backs,
chipped teeth ad­mixed 
in stony splin­ters
and you say
     
     life, you are a
     a de­spised dis­so­lu­tion
     a slow chem­i­cal burn 

     life,
     you are a grave
     an ash fault
     a burial mound of
     hun­gry mouths. life,
     you are the
     most sub­tle drug

and, as
you deign,
you say 

     there is 
     no thing
     not un­clean
     no thing
     un­failed
     
you say that
     no one has ever
     seen the sky

so you say
and shrug

even though the storm
will never clear
you raise your eyes
heave bricks at heaven
laugh amid
the smoke of ruin
bloody-knuck­led and
    
    pro­claim
    all the dead 
    to be sun­light

Public Square

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Walk to Public Square,
while you live, and sing
the vic­tims

roughly shoved be­tween
lath and beam — the dead women — sealed in walls, scratch­ing
un­der the floor of Imperial
Avenue. The Seymour at­tic decade,
three women in chains 
a half mile from my home
the raped child’s rape child
on the same play­ground as my son

sit down on Public Square
while you live, and sing
the vic­tims

your fin­gers in the holes
left by one hun­dred and thirty-seven
po­lice bul­lets 
your body po­liced upon the
as­phalt so hard it stops
your twelve years of life
split open by a po­lice sidearm.

stand up on Public Square
while you live, and sing
the vic­tims

of men
of po­lice
men
of in­sti­tu­tions of
men, whose words
are worse than si­lence.

stand up on Public Square
and tear it down.