(Curtis Bauer, Nickole Brown, Tarfia Faizullah, Ross Gay, Layli Long Soldier, Jamaal May) Since 2004, From the Fishouse has provided the public greater access to the poems and voices of emerging US poets by using online audio archives, simulcast readings, and other media to bring poetry into the home and classroom. After a major overhaul, the new and improved website has expanded to include emerging international poets while continuing to showcase the finest poets writing in the US. Five award-winning poets, both emerging and emerged, will read their work and work of other poets on the site.

Published Date: June 8, 2016


Speaker 1 (00:00:03):

Welcome to the A W P podcast series. This event was recorded at the 2016 A W P conference in Los Angeles. The recording features Curtis Power, Nicole Brown, tar FAA que gay lely Long Soldier, and Jamal May. You'll now hear Curtis Bower provide introductions.

Speaker 2 (00:00:33):

Welcome everyone. Thanks for coming to this reading and this celebration of 12 year anniversary of Fish House. I'm assuming you're all aware of what the Fish House is about and what it does, the audio archive of emerging American poets. But within these 12 years, we've changed, and over the last five years it's been a revision of what the webpage does, the mission of Fish House, but when it started, that mission that we have from the Fish House was to create a place where you can go and read a poem and listen to the author, read the poem, and the library of poets has grown tremendously over the years and we've added in the last five years international poets to that. So we're going to talk a little bit about that later, but today we're going to just have a reading by two of the original poets who are on the site and three emerging poets, right, new poets and all of you new poets, emerging poets.

Speaker 2 (00:01:40):

I encourage you to contact us to get up on the site as well. So please do that. I'm not going to go into introductions of bios. You can go to the website and read the bios of each of these poets, right? So I'm going to start by simply giving you a sample of some poems from the translation section since we don't have any international poets here. But then we're going to go in the order of Nicole Jamal Lely Ross, and with Tar, okay? And afterwards, if there's some time, we can have some questions. Alright, so I'm going to read a poem by poet TI Mario, and you can go to the website to read the translation. Alright, and this is a translation of a Polish poet because I don't know how to read polish. So I'm reading the English translation of this. The poet's name is Gregor Robiski and it's translated by Otto Twin. He resembled me. I held him up to my lips, then threw him into the salty water. He sank to the bottom. I heard a giggle, an invitation to play together. And when you hear him read it in polish, you're going to sink to the bottom of that water. It's amazing. I'm going to read one of my own poems and then I'm going to turn it over. This is for all of those lovers of spring fuck Spring.

Speaker 2 (00:03:33):

No, I mean I wish I could pull its pants off, fall with it on our backs and glowingly, howlingly fuck together and let the day age around us let apricot blossoms fall like cotton chuff in heavy sunlight and blanket our naked plowing. Let us be root, rough and compact. The dirt quake it really, I've never said anything like this before. I'll tell it massaging something like summer heat into its back. But I want to fuck and be drunk with you in that fucking like bees fondling the lavender by the garden hose or dip and suck from the lilac and jasmine. Every last staining sweetness.

Speaker 3 (00:04:30):


Speaker 2 (00:04:32):

As typical of some things with fish house. I forgot to turn on our recorder. So Nicole Brown is

Speaker 3 (00:04:38):

Going to be the

Speaker 4 (00:04:43):


Speaker 4 (00:04:45):

So for all of you who encourage your students in the classroom not to write about their grandmothers, I have written a book about my grandmother, it's called Fannie Says, and her name was Fannie Francis. Lee Cox. She was from Bowling Green, Kentucky. And by all rights she raised me. My mama had me real young when she was about 16 years old. And when I say that Fannie raised me, I mean that she raised me. She taught me things like watch your reputation real close. And she taught me never to open a door. If a man was around, I was supposed to just stand there. She would watch me out the window if I was like a guy had picked me up and he'd be like, don't you touch that door, right? He's going to come back around and open. She taught me not to exercise. She told me if I exercise too much that my uterus would fall out on the hot side. So she meant it, but she also taught me how to fight. She taught me how to be mean, how to be mean, and fight for it. So Curtis, I'm so glad that you went ahead and dropped an F-bomb this morning. I will do the same. This poem is called Fuck

Speaker 4 (00:06:06):

Fuck is what she said. But what mattered was the tone, not a drive by spon and never the fricative connotation as verb, but from her mouth. Vowed often proceeded by well with the U low as if dipping up homemade ice cream waiting to be served last. So she'd scoop the fruit from the bottom where all the good stuff had settled down. Imagine not a word, cold cocked or screwed to the wall, but something almost resigned. A sigh an oh well the F word made so fat and slow, it was Bassett hound chunky with an extra syllable, just enough weight to make a jab to the ribs. More of a shoulder shrug. Think of what's done to shit in the south. This is shit. But flipped with a whip made a little more tart. Well fuck Betty Sue, I never did see that coming. Can you believe or my favorite, not as explicative, but noun fucker she said, but what she meant was darling, sugar pie, sweet beets, a curse word made in two a term of endearment as in comer you little fucker and give your grandma a kiss.

Speaker 4 (00:07:53):

If the child was young enough for diapers, he'd still be a shit ass, but big enough to lift his arms and touch his hands together over his toddling toe head. He was so big, all grown a cute little fucker. Watch him go, I love y'all. Fuck is what she said. But what she needed was a drum, a percussion to beat story into song, A chisel to tap honey from the meanest rock. Not just fuck if I know or fuck me running or fuck me sideways or beets the fuck out of me, but said tender. Knowing there was only one thing in this whole world you needed to hear. Most you fucker, you don't. You know there wasn't a day when you weren't loved. If you still don't understand, try this. A woman up from poor soil, bad dirt, pure clay, a woman as succulent, something used to precious little water, hard sun, rock, crop, maybe threading roots to suck nutrients from the nothing of gravel, the nothing of stone, A thriving thing, sturdy, thorned, green out of mirror, spite and because you least expect it, laughing, cussing up a storm. My grandmother who didn't ask for power but took it in bright, full, fuck it all bloom.

Speaker 4 (00:09:56):

So another thing that my grandmother always taught me was to never, ever, ever tell your age. Even if it was say a doctor that was asking,

Speaker 4 (00:10:08):

Which is why we never ever, ever knew her age. And we tried to do the math on it, and I think she got married when she was about 14 or 15 years old. I don't know. And the reason I think that is that her first date with my grandfather with which she had seven children with was to go see Snow White in the movie theaters. If you can imagine. And this poem is about that time. This is about the time of her coming to age, going to see that movie with him and being just a kid, right? It's called Your Monthly. Your Monthly is what her mama called it. But what I want is a word for the year she bled freely, a wad of old wash rags each end pinned to a belt around her waist. A word for 12 happy deaths. Each unfertilized cell that washed out saying, not yet. Fanny, you still just a child yourself?

Speaker 4 (00:11:25):

Because this world knows a girl of fourteens too old to be playing cowboys and Indians, but also knows how young she was when stiff red feather and her hair, she scrambled inside hollering, mama, come quick. I'm about to bleed to death. A word for the year she learned to walk in red shoes pulled from some rich lady's trash. The sound of those heels down the hall to guns cocking with quick clicks is sound to hide from her daddy in the morning eating his breakfast of milk in corn, pone with a spoon, a word for the time before a man swaggered in bought her a dime store Coke, bought her her very first bra, then took her to the picture show to see a cartoon with drawers impossibly happy to be working the mines. A year later she was expecting though what exactly I was expecting. She told me I couldn't have said a word. Please somebody give me for that season with her uterus, small and tight as an inedible green pear, her body keening and cramped in its stall a word for all things not yet stretched to bits. A word for all things not yet broken. A word for all things left unbroken. A word for breakable yet unbroken things, A word for unbroken, expectant things. Tell me what is that word?

Speaker 4 (00:13:44):

And I'll end with one last poem that is said in the last section of my book that I wrote after I wrote Fanny's story because one of the things that I didn't want to do but ended up feeling compelled to do was to talk about myself and coming out of being raised by such a complicated and contrary woman. And I didn't come out until I was 30 and Fannie had been gone for a while. She died in 2004 and this is an epistolary poem. It's addressed to my grandmother and trying to find the courage to talk to her. And it starts with an epigraph by Marian Moore from a poem called What Are Years. And those lines are, satisfaction is a lowly thing. How pure a thing is joy. This is mortality. This is eternity. An invitation for my grandmother.

Speaker 4 (00:15:00):

When mama called to say you were gone, I was in New York and climbed the impossible top of a brownstone to talk myself down. Don't get sentimental. Dying is what grandmothers do, was what I told myself. But what I should have done was invite you there with me. You'd never been further north than Cincinnati and the view, the spatter and fleck of all those lights you'd have to see to believe. So now that you're on the other side and got your knees working again, a proposition come lace up your kids. Walk with me a while. I won't say the world's better. It's not. Since you left, I've seen a pelican stretch her wings to dry the dripping petrol, making her into a bent crucifix of oil and the penguins have dropped their proud eggs into melted ice in this spring. Yet another wind bulldozed my neighbors all their homes raised to slab foundation.

Speaker 4 (00:16:26):

There are trees now splintered bone, but we can take a train out of here. Come sit next to me because out the window a girl on a horse jumps a junkyard fence. She wears a shirt, the color of poppies, of bright soda cans and I bet you'll agree blurred. It is a brown pony with red wings and three years ago, can I take you there? My sister sitting up during a contraction, how she reached inside herself to touch the crown of her son not yet born. I want to show you the look on her face in that cord. Cut a rich earth of blood, a thick black joy and please tick off your shoes. Now stand with me. Last October when I took a wife barefoot in the grass, we made our vows and after when she held my jaw with both hands, I could feel the bones of my skull rising up to make a face

Speaker 3 (00:17:48):

Finally seen.

Speaker 5 (00:18:05):

Hey, what's up?

Speaker 5 (00:18:08):

I am super. I mean I can't tell y'all how dope it is to be honest, reading with brilliant writers and also because when I first started working with Vivy Francis as her mentee in 2006, she sent me right to the fish house and it was like a textbook to me. So to be here is kind of surreal too. I feel nervous. I mean I'm always kind of nervous, but there's certain kinds, right? I'm just going to read poems. Probably not say much else. As the saying goes, A bird in the hand smells like a human. A closed mouth gathers a storm of questions. A coward dies. A hero dies, a civilian dies. Thousands of deaths a fool and his money are soon pardoned. A children should be seen as a herd of elephant feet. If you can't beat them, beat them. Cold steel, warm slug. No guts, no voice, no bones, no news is good. Nothing ventured nothing stained burgundy, a gurney of a thousand screams begins with a single death. A thorn is a thorn is a thorn. Absence makes the heart grow maggots. Not all that glitters fits into a jar. All's well that ends April showers the graveyard with apple blossom petals. Any storm in a drought ask not would my country will do to you ashes and ashes and dust and dust and dust and ashes and dust.

Speaker 5 (00:19:58):

I have this way of being. I have this and this isn't a mouth full of the names of odd flowers I've grown in secret. I know none of these by name, but I have this garden now and pastel some things bloom near the others and others. I have this trial, these overalls, this ridiculous hat. Now this isn't a lung full of air, not a fist full of weeds that rise yellow than white than when swept. This is a little more than a way to kneel and feel gloves with sweat so that the trial in my hand will have something to push against, rather something to push against that it knows will bend and give and return as sprout and pedal and spel and bloom. Respiration,

Speaker 5 (00:21:03):

A lot of it lives in the trachea, but not so much that you won't need more muscle. The diaphragm, a fist clenching but never landing a blow. Inhale. So many of us are breathless like me, kneeling to collect the shards of a houseplant. My elbow has nudged into oblivion. What if I sigh and the black earth beneath me scatters like insects. In the wake of that first breath, am I a God then am I insane? Because I worry about ant colonies and the disassembling of earth regularly. I walk more softly now into gardens or up the steps of old houses with impatience, stuffing window boxes when it's you standing there with a letter or voice or face full of solemn news. Will you hold your breath before you knock? I got just two more because one of 'em is long. Other one's pretty short. Carl was telling me it's always good to let people know that I'm about to read on heads up. I'm reading everything from my most recent book, big book of exit strategies that came out while we were here. Oh, thanks.

Speaker 5 (00:22:32):

So if you're looking for some routes, man, here go a few unsigned letter to a human in the 21st century. Dear citizen of the binary mirror, dear wide-eyed and deaf fingered, dear, dear, in an X-force clearing, please forgive me if I'm speaking too soon. Are you here yet or is it that your presence only looks like a rival because you can't help but be the loudest ghost if that wasn't you, I saw moving toward the edge of a cliff like a moth to a moth that flutters in flames. No worries. I'll leave this for another time. I write you because you asked me to though you may not remember the call, though we may have not even spoken, but I heard it in your verse after you bit your tongue and bragged about the blood. Dear aspirant, to the throne of most unassailable victim, I write you because when I opened my mouth to say love, someone said swore again.

Speaker 5 (00:23:42):

But Rumi said love. So I'm out in New England again and in Detroit again and in America still with my ear pressed to this red book. And sure enough, this harsh sound of a scabbed emptying so that a belly could fill with blade was drowned out for a moment as love when running down the mountain side out into the everything, becoming the madman again, I closed my eyes and opened what I didn't know was locked inside. And even now I fumble for its name. Could it have been the opening itself? I write to confess, I've known for years that the closed off parts of me need the closed off parts of you. You are more full of you than is known. And I confess I never bothered to notice, but now I notice everything how my sink holds a sea overflows becomes waterfall, becomes a puddle at my feet.

Speaker 5 (00:24:42):

There is an article ancient from just seven years ago on waterboarding another provides a litany of the best ways to be okay with everything your heart stutters about the bleach white coral, the pistol fool avenues the lucrative penitentiaries and women's shelters that bulge with bruise. And they say the starved are guilty of being hungry and the headscarf girl is guilty of living near the detonation. And now I notice my hands how little they hold. They are teacups bailing out this vessel not worthy of any sea and silence is a rag stuffed into the mouth of a gurgling drain. But I digress. Dear Digital city, scrolling around our world's web, I opened another window full of the seething news, but this time I could only laugh at what destruction had cloaked itself in. If the gauze like veil had a name, it would be something along the lines of inevitability.

Speaker 5 (00:25:54):

But you are training in an alchemy that can make those first three syllables fall away. Destruction doesn't know the strike in the middle of it is past tense. Let the shark spin in its cage. We only need to live long enough to teach those who will tomorrow drown it in the air. My friend, I write because I love you enough to ask for what is terrible. I love you enough to ask you to run farther than your feet can possibly carry your heart enough to confess that you will fail but fail closer to the finish line than if you lie down when the start gun fires. And in this way you will never fail to be arch stepping stone, bridge of bone and intellect of guts and song. Look how lively the children step. Let's nod our heads to their footfalls become backbeat with me and they will sing the harmonics we forgot to learn. Tell me you wouldn't die for that. Tell me you would live for this love. And for my last trick,

Speaker 5 (00:27:20):

I'll slice the onions so thin they disintegrate against the cast iron black. No one likes this trick as much as the hoop of fire I used to jump through, but at least I don't get the shakes anymore. The burning gasoline smelled like the empty living room of our home going up. It was ridiculous of me to think anyone would see this as a metaphor for entering and exiting the center of a life that's always going up in flames. Existence is what I mean. I enter the loop, I exit the loop. Not touching the sides is my only accomplishment, but still the gateway burns and the doorway shrinks. So I had to quit that ruse, the sizzling skillet round and full of what I've cried over to cut. It's not metaphor for anything. It is only delicious as all leaving things are.

Speaker 6 (00:28:29):

Hello. Good morning. Okay ska. My name is Le Long Soldier and I'm very happy to be here and in my own language I said I came here with a good heart. Thank you to Fish House for inviting you.

Speaker 6 (00:28:55):

I really didn't know what I wanted to read this morning, but I finally decided I thought I might read from a series of poems that I wrote. They're called my Raz Poems. I wrote a series of poems in response to the national apology to Native Americans that was signed by President Obama in December of 2009. I started writing these poems a long time ago. Several years ago the apology was tacked onto what was called the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill. I had a lot of trouble, not only with the document and the language it by the way, you can find it online at the Library of Congress, but I had also trouble with the way it was delivered. Part of that is President Obama, who I actually kind of like, but I didn't like this. So he signed the apology on a weekend at his desk when he signed the apology, he did not invite any tribal leaders or representatives to witness it or to receive it. It was very quiet and it was tacked onto this bill. It was never read out loud publicly. So as a consequence, most people don't know it existed and that includes even our own communities, native people. This was really troubling to me. So I'm going to read some of the work I did to respond to that.

Speaker 6 (00:30:42):

Whereas when offered an apology, I watch each movement, the shoulders high or folding tilt of the head, both eyes down or straight through me. I listen for cracks in knuckles. The word choice, what is it I want to feel? And mind you, I feel from the senses I read each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem. Expectation is a terse arm fold, A failing noun thing. I scold myself in the mirror for holding. I learned from a young poet who sends me work spotted with salt crystals. She metaphors as her tears, her phrases I say and understand me. And I wonder pages are cavernous places white at entrance, black in absorption. Echo. If I'm transformed by language, I am often crouched in footnote or blazing in title. Where in the body do I begin?

Speaker 6 (00:32:34):

Whereas a friend senses what she calls cultural emptiness in a poet's work and after a reading she feels bad for feeling bad For the poet she admits I want to respond. The same could be said for my work. Some sticky current of Indian emptiness. I feel it not just in my poems, but when I'm on drives in conversations or as I lie down to sleep. But since this dialogue is about writing, I want to be correct with my language ness. In a note following the entry for Indian, the Oxford dictionary warns do not use Indian or red Indian to talk about American native peoples as these terms are now outdated. Use American Indian instead. So I explain perhaps the same could be said for my work, some burden of American Indian emptiness in my poems. How American Indian emptiness surfaces not just in writing but often on drives in conversations or when I lie down to sleep or the term American Indian parts are a conversation like a hollow bloated boat that is not ours that neither my friend nor I want to board. Knowing it will never take us anywhere but to rot. And if the language of race is ever truly attached to emptiness, whatever it is I feel now has me in the hull head, knees, feet curled, I dare say to fetal position, but better stated as the form I resort to inside the jaws of a reference

Speaker 6 (00:34:49):

Where I at four years old I read the first chapter of the Bible aloud. I was not Christian, whereas my hair unbraided ran the length of my spine. I sometimes sat on it, whereas at the table my legs dangled. I could not balance peas on my fork, whereas I used my fingers carefully. I pushed the bright green onto silver tines, whereas you eat like a pig. The lady said setting my plate on the floor, whereas she instructed me to finish on my hands and knees, she took another bite. Whereas I watched folds of pale curtains, inhale and exhale a summer dance, whereas the of the afternoon in the breath of the afternoon room, each tick of the clock. Whereas I rose and placed my eyes and tongue on a shelf above the table first. Whereas near drowning, seawater filled my throat, the corners of my lips. Whereas I kneeled to my plate, I kneeled to the greatest questions. Whereas that moment I knew who I was the moment before I swallowed.

Speaker 6 (00:37:11):

Whereas a woman I know says she watched a news program, a reporter detailed the fire, a house in which five children burned. Perhaps their father too, she doesn't recall exactly, but remembers the camera on the mother's face, the mother's blubbering, her hiccuping and whale. She leans to me, she says she never knew then in those times that year, this country, the northern state she grew up in, she was so young. You see she'd never seen it before. Nobody talked about them. She means Indian, she tells me and so on and so on. But that moment in front of the tv she says was like opening a box left at her door to see a thing inside. Whereas to say she learned through that mother's face. Can you believe it? And I let her finish wanting someone to say it, but she hated saying it or so she said admitting how. She never knew until then they could feel.

Speaker 6 (00:38:32):

I'm going to close with one last poem. And so my response is divided into three sections. The first section is the whereas section. I have a second section resolution and a third section of disclaimers that mirrors the apology. But I am going to finish with the first resolution of mine. And I simply just worked with text from the apologies, first resolution. But I made it my own I guess. Okay, I commend this land and this land honor, this land native. This land peoples this land for this land. The this land thousands, this land of this land years, this land that this land they this land have this land stewarded, this land and this land protected this land, this land, this land, this land, this land, this land, this, this.

Speaker 3 (00:40:37):


Speaker 7 (00:40:48):

Hi friends. Good to see you all good to be here. Yeah. Fish house I love. It's like a textbook. It was like a textbook to a lot of us coming up and like a little cannon that keeps growing, which is nice. I'm read. I think it might be one poem I'm thinking a lot about what a lovely thing it is to be looked upon with love. It doesn't always happen. It doesn't always happen. I was thinking your poems, your granny looking at you with love little fucker. It's so beautiful. Yeah. And what a gift. And when a poem can look at something with love, like what a gift that can be. But this is a poem for someone who looked at me with love for a little bit and looked at us with love in ways that feel like a blessing. It's called Spoon. It's for Don Belton.

Speaker 7 (00:41:46):

And Don Belton was a writer, essayist, just beautiful, awesome, weird, incredible guy Spoon who sits like this on the kitchen floor at two in the morning turning over and over, the small silent body in his hands with his eyes closed. Fingering the ornate tendrils of ivy cast delicately into the spoon that it came home with me eight months ago from a potluck next door during which the birthday boy sowed lush on smoke and drink and cake made like a baby and slept on the floor with his thumb in his mouth until he stumbled through my garden to my house the next morning where I was frying up stove top sweet potato biscuits and making himself at home as was his way. After sampling one of my bricks told me I could add some baking powder to his and could I put on some coffee and turn up the Nina Simone and rub maybe his feet, which I did the baking powder stirring it in.

Speaker 7 (00:42:48):

And I like to think unlikely though it is. Those were the finest biscuits Don ever ate for. There was organic coconut oil and syrup bought from a hollering man at the market who wears a rainbow cap and dances to disguise his sorrow. And it might be a ridiculous wish, but the sweet potatoes came from a colony just beyond my back door smothering with their vines, the grass, and doing their part to make my yard look ragged and wild to untrained eyes. The kale and shards so rampant. Some stalks unbeknownst drooped into the straw mulch and the cherry tomatoes shown like ornaments on a drunken Christmas tree. And the blackberry vines nodded through their rusty half-ass trellis. This in Indiana where I am really not from where for years Negroes weren't even allowed entry. And where the rest stop graffiti might confirm the endurance of such sentiments.

Speaker 7 (00:43:44):

And when I worried about this to Don on a cool September evening, worried it might look Don in his kindness, abundant and floral knowing my anxiety before I stated it, having been around having gone antiquing in Martinsville a few weeks back and been addressed most unkindly by a passing truck or two trucks likely adorned with the stars and bars. Knowing the typhoon's race makes our minds do twirling with one hand at dreadlock and patting my back with the other. Asked, smiling sadly and knowingly neish before saying it looks beautiful. And returning to some rumination on the garden boy of his dreams, whose shorts were very short and stomach taut and oily enough to see his reflection in.

Speaker 7 (00:44:39):

Don told me this as we walked arm in arm through our small neighborhood, which he asked me if he could do is this. Okay, he asked, knowing mostly how dense and sharp the dumb fear of mostly straight boys can be. Oh Don, walking arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder his hand almost patting my forearm, resting there down the small alley next to the graveyard fall beginning to shutter into the leaves. And Don once dreamt he was in that graveyard next to his house on fourth, where in real life we sang Diana Ross is missing you while decorating his kitchen where I once asked to borrow a signed Jamaica Kincaid novel at which Don made one sound by sucking his teeth that indicated I was both impossibly stupid and a little bit cute.

Speaker 7 (00:45:27):

And in the dream, in the graveyard where sensory old oak trees look like giants trudging into a stiff wind and some gravestones are old enough to be illegible and leaned back as though consulting the sun Don was floating into the air. Pleasant at first, but it became terrifying. He told me beginning to cry just a little as the world beneath him grew smaller and smaller, his house becoming a toy, the trees, huge limbs like the arms now of small people calling him down, but he couldn't stop going higher, he said crying just a little. And I've inserted myself two or three times into the dream, imagining a rope cinched to his waist by which Don might be tethered to this world, snatching at it as it whips uncoiling through the grass at my feet and gripping it with all my strength until it almost hauls me up and takes the skin of my palms with it twisting slowly into the sky at which I become like the trees here on earth, shouting, come back, come back, running some blocks looking into the sky first down forth.

Speaker 7 (00:46:36):

But as the wind sends him this way and that I too veer through backyards, hopping a fence or two, not wanting to take my eyes from him, not wanting to lose him. And as he sails in and out of the low clouds, looking down with his sad eyes just as he did when he said at breakfast that day, I'm a survivor, I survived this 53 year old gay black man to which we did a little dance, listing the myriad bullets he dodged, swirling the biscuits in their oily syrup, Don occasionally poking his fork into the air for emphasis, laughing and sipping coffee and shaking our heads like we couldn't believe it. And having survived, Don wanted a child to love and we made plans that I might make the baby with my sweetie and he could be the real dad. Reading and cooking and worrying while I played in the garden. And my sweetheart made the dough, which maybe would've worked though Don once cleaned a dish. And when I told him to put his goddamn plate in the sink, he arrived in his seat and called me bitch before plopping it In returning to his destiny's child tune about survival

Speaker 7 (00:47:46):

While he scooped and slurped the remaining batter with this spoon in my hands into which I stare. Seeing none of this, I swore when I got into this poem, I would convert this sorrow into some kind of honey with the little musics I can sometimes make with these scribbled artifacts of our desolation. I can't even make a metaphor of my reflection upside down and barely visible in the spoon. I wish one single thing made sense to which I say, oh, get over yourself. That's not the point. After Don was murdered, I dreamt of him hugging him and saying, you have to go now. Fixing his scarf and pulling his wool, overcoat, snug, weeping, and tugging down his furry Russian cap to protect his ears, kissing his eyes and cheeks again and again. You have to go cinching his coat tight by the lapels for which don peered at me again with those sad eyes or through me or into me the way my dead do. Sometimes looking straight into their homes, which hopefully have flowers and a vase on a big wooden table and a comfortable chair or two and huge windows through which light pours to wash, clean and make a touch. Less awful. What forever otherwise will hurt. Thank you.

Speaker 8 (00:49:26):

It's really nice to be here with y'all today. What a gift on this Saturday. Yeah, palms. Okay, I told the water for flint. I told the water, you're right. The poor are broken sidewalks. We try to avoid told it. The map of you folds into corners small enough to swallow. I told the water you only exist because of thirst, but beside your sour membrane, we lie face down in dirt. The first time my father threw me into you, I was hieroglyph. A wet braid caught in your throat. I knew then how war was possible, the urge to defy gravity to disarm another. I knew then we would kill to be your mirror, you black eyed barnacle, you graveyard of windows. I told the water last night I walked out onto your eyes wearing only my skin because you did not tell me not to.

Speaker 8 (00:50:42):

So one of the things that always occurs to me that I feel like I forget during the rest of the years how a w p kind of illustrates this broad and really interesting mechanism of writing and the writing world and how there are so many things that so many people who make up this world that we've chosen to be a part of. Editors and administrators and writers and publishers and M f A programs and institutions and nonprofits. And I think we all do it so that there can be a space created for the kind of work that kind of holds us and keeps us in a place. So this is sort of my ode to poetry. It's called the Poem you've been waiting for. I saw then the white-eyed man leaning in to see if I was ready yet to go where he has been waiting to take me.

Speaker 8 (00:51:32):

I saw then the gnawing sounds my faith has been making and I saw too that the shape it sings in is the color of cast Iron Mountains. I drove so long to find, I forgot I had been looking for them. For the you I once knew and the you that was born waiting for me to find you. I have been twisting and turning across these lifetimes where forgetting me is what you do so you don't have to look at yourself. I saw that I would drown in a creek carved out of a field. Our incarnations forged the first path through to those mountains. I invited you to stroll with me there again for the first time to pause and sprawl in the grass while I read to you the poem you hadn't known. You'd been waiting to hear. I read until you finally slept and all your jagged syntaxes softened and to rest, you're always driving so far from me towards the me I worry towards without you is eternity. So I lay there awake, keeping watch while you snored. I waited as I always seemed to for you to wake up and come find me.

Speaker 8 (00:52:53):

It's almost lunchtime. So I'm going to read a poem about some food. This portrait is mango. She says, your English is great. How long have you been in our country? And I say, suck on a mango bitch.

Speaker 8 (00:53:13):

Mangoes are what model. Minorities like me are supposed to know everything about right because doesn't a mango just win spelling bees and kiss White boys? Isn't a mango a placeholder in a poem folded with Ss. But this mango, the one I'm going to shove down her throat, is a mango pulled from jungles jagged with insects. This mango remembers the river's darker thirst. This mango was cut down by a side that beheads soldiers mango that taunts and suns itself into a fist only a few months, a year fattens while blood stains green ponds. Why use a mango to beat her to death? You might ask why, in fact not a coconut, because this exotic fruit won't be cracked open to reveal your whiteness to you. This mango is an alien or a bulletproof brown shell. I know I'm worth waiting for. I want to be needed for ripeness. Mango, my own sunset skin. Heart waiting to be held and peeled. Mango Amu taught me to cut open with my teeth. Phi. She would say, this is the only way to eat a mango. 100 bells.

Speaker 8 (00:54:44):

My sister died. He raped me. They beat me. I fell to the floor. I didn't. I knew children, their smallness, her corpse, my fingernails, the softness of my belly, how it could double over. It was puckered like children, ugly when we cry. My sister died and it was revived. Her brain burst into blood. Father was driving. He fell asleep. They beat me. I didn't flinch. I did. It was the only dance I knew. It was the ak. My ankles sang with 100 bells. The stranger raped me on the fitted sheet. I didn't scream. I did not know better. I knew better. I did not live. My father said, I'll go to jail tonight because I will kill you. I said, but she died. It was the kaka. Only men were allowed to dance it. I threw a chair at my mother. I ran from her.

Speaker 8 (00:55:37):

The kitchen, the fly. Swat was a whip. The fly. Swat was a fly swat. I was thrown into a fire and bed. I wanted to be a man. It was summer in Texas and dry. I burned. It was a snake dance, he said. Now I've seen a Muslim girl naked. I held him to my chest. I held her because I didn't know it would be the last time. I threw no punches. I threw a glass box into a wall. Somebody is always singing. Songs are not allowed. Mother said dance and the bells will sing with you. I slithered glass beneath my feet. I locked the door. I did not die. I did not die. I shaved my head until the horns I knew were there were visible until the doorknob went silent.

Speaker 8 (00:56:30):

Thank you. Thanks so much for being here with us today. And I want to thank the fish house so much for creating and continuing to develop such a deep and beautiful and broad map. Thank you very much. I'm going to close with this last poem. It is basically sort of like my Beyonce fangirl poem. My fan Girlness continues to just overwhelm me with its power. So this is called flawless, and thank you again so much a kind of perfection. Each singular flicker of fireflies left untrapped by jars. How they don't crowd each other, shine among trees, left uns, sawed each leaf. A stemmed mouth drinking from the creek that divides and mends the earth to and from its itself or shrub shadow spider all thrive on blades of grass so thin that the wind flattens, their swaying dances into horizon. But the tomato vine inscribes itself into each grown from seeds, barely the size of irises, of the eyes of humans who plant them.

Speaker 8 (00:57:35):

Humans who climb up ladders and fall from them who pause to shake out gravel from their shoes, who eat from fine China or trays or bags of cool ranch Doritos or barefoot at twilight tomato in hand. Red seeds swarming my chin. I knew you then, Lord, standing alone but not lonely below your sky. Stabbed by the vast perpetual yearning of disciples and stars that are born and burn out close enough to sing to, but not touch. I watched the fireflies do what they do, what I have been fighting to do, no matter what color I am, what shape, no matter if my people break bread or each other to glimmer flawlessly in the dark, to spin higher when it all tornadoes downward the wind. This wind. Let me be wind. Let me keep asking what's up. Let me keep asking. What's up, what's up? Oh Lord, what on this earth is up? Thank you.

Speaker 2 (00:58:49):

Thank wonderful, a wonderful reading by all of you. And I just want to mention a few things. All of our readers have books except for Laylee Long Soldier, whose book is forthcoming from Gray Wolf Press in 2017.

Speaker 2 (00:59:08):

And that's one of those elements from the Fish House where it's for emerging poets, as I said at the beginning. And that emerging means a book that's on its way right. So it's wonderful news. I also want to thank Matt O'Donnell, who started this with Camille Dungy and also Jeffrey Thompson and the rest of the board of the Fish House. But in particular, Matt, Jeff and Camille because they were also the ones responsible for creating the Fish House anthology. I don't know if any of you have used that or not. I think it's in its second printing now at Persia books. Use it. Use it more, of course. And I want to thank all of you who explore the site whenever you have a chance, who teach from it and who enjoy it. And this today, I think is a good sign that we enjoy poetry and that's a place we can go to enjoy it continuously. So thank you all.

Speaker 9 (01:00:05):

Thank you for tuning into the AW for other podcasts. Visit website, www dop writer.org.


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