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. 

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.

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. 

New Psalm 9

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The black hands of the Lord
	pressed to the ground
The black ear  
	upon the earth
The black lips
The black belly 
The black body
	un­com­posed

The Lord
	cov­ered in crows
	pig-truf­fled
The Lord
	honey for flies
	a lo­custs’ feast	
The Lord
	a black har­bor
	a tomb opened
	in smoke

And 
can­is­ters of 
bone and 
blood — mu­ni­tions
on the evening news

There
on the ground
be­hind the cam­eras

The al­mond-palmed hands
still filled with clay 

Neuroma

Monday, 11 August 2014

Where
there were words, once.
each right syl­la­ble grown
into a song heap, now just
a lighter square on con­crete
where, flood-soaked, the jew­eled ink 
ran that day

   an am­pu­tated decade

the mind as­sumes
all is still there
where you left it
no va­cancy, no
ab­sence, just
mus­cle mem­ory from
an im­placa­ble cor­tex

   do not per­mit
   bro­ken parts to for­get
   whole­ness.

Looking for fa­mil­iar sym­bols
in in­vis­i­ble ink. Writing
again with the off hand.

Yes, even now
my heart still 
skips like adren­a­line stones 
each time I’m thrown across 
her wake
each unan­swered chip of wa­ter
ask­ing
where 
it all went.