At The Common we’re welcoming spring with new poetry by our contributors. (Be sure to listen to the audio link to Megan Fernandes’ “White People Always Want to Tell Me…,” read by the author.)
White People Always Want to Tell Me They Grew Up Poor
White people don’t like when
like to remind you
that you are Indian, not black.
never say that to you.
a home for you
It is like an elegy.
Poverty must be
is like sky.
My daddy is a daddy from Africa.
An Indian boy from Tanga.
He is a papa
a doctor, the only
of his siblings,
seventeen in all,
to really get out
and climb towards
that enslaved him.
Only white people
can imagine a past
that was better
Only white people
You grew up rich,they say.
Your daddy is a doctor.
They want me
their whiteness, too.
They want to
like the tentacles of
What they are really
How dare you
have what was rightfully mine.
I want to say:
my daddy holds storms
from a world you’ve never seen.
He is a doctor
because being a doctor
was a way to unbury
I want to say:
It is not me you hate.
It is that you were
not given what whiteness
what your TV said
all white people could have.
My daddy didn’t have a TV.
My daddy is from Africa.
My daddy is not a thing like your daddy.
Our house was not a thing like your house.
Our household was not held by anything
you could name. If you swam in it,
you wouldn’t even know
it was water.
Megan Fernandes’ work has been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, The Adroit Journal, Guernica, and others.
A Minor History of Bodega
More a mindset the bodega was where you could get Lemonheads
and Mary Janes a set of radial tires a pack of Rough Riders
and bottles of pineapple douche or for two quarters a half-pint
of chocolate milk to wash down your Roland’s Fried Pork Rinds
just in time for Michael Aguirre to follow up on his promise
to punch you in the face which you had dared him to do which he
later did against the brick wall near Faye’s place so when your mother
her eyes still set on her sizzling wok said What did you expect?
you just had to snag a stack of quarters from her bag so you could
stomp back to the corner for a box of Red Hots and sit on the steps
of the Laundromat sucking the color from each bit of sweet
before shooting it from between your teeth onto the sidewalk
until the pavement around your feet was a dingy constellation charting
your indifference towards any transaction that didn’t first pass
beneath a pane of bulletproof glass
A Minor History of the East Village
Maybe you knew a kid who booked through Tompkins Square
on his Schwinn and came out the other side without the bike
and in his socks never mind he wasn’t buying drugs this the price
of his stupidity or maybe you went to Gem Spa three days in a row
for egg creams to flip through Interview magazine still a stack of color
Xeroxes assembled by Andy Warhol or to The St. Mark’s Theatre to see
Oh God! starring George Burns Enough! you’d said crouched
on the seat knees beneath your chin rats scuttling the aisle for popcorn
dregs but it never was not when that guy died trying to sleep
in a hammock on his fire escape off Avenue A not when the cops
found a woman’s head in a pot on her boyfriend’s stove on Avenue B
not when you and your friends mistakenly buzzed in the guys who would
beat Faye’s elderly neighbor close to death junkies hunting jewelry
or just high they were men you could describe to the cops to anyone
for a long time after and when the paramedics had you stand by
the stretcher as they unjammed the brake it wasn’t enough to want
to take the woman’s trembling hand and it wouldn’t have been
enough to take it
Tina Cane is the new Poet Laureate of Rhode Island. Her latest books include Dear Elena: Letters of Elena Ferrante (Skillman Avenue Press) and Once More With Feeling (Veliz Books).
At This Point
If rain falls fine if not
well it’s rush-hour Friday
dinner plans and disco nap
stuck in traffic or replaced
at the nearest watering hole
another round of blind dates
with tapas on toothpicks
for tension-releaser perform
ten sun salutations check
in at the nearest metered motel
watch rain with wind try
and make quick stabs in return
for miniscule reminders
from pointed tips of umbrellas.
R. Zamora Linmark is the author of four poetry collections, Prime Time Apparitions,The Evolution of a Sigh, Drive-By Vigils, and the forthcoming Pop Verite.
to my mother in the Memory Care Unit at Saint Mary’s
So serious, gentle-seeming, thoughtless smile
And pearled brow, the held breath of her gaze,
Glazed ringlets framing newly
Roseate cheeks, pale hands
Like doves flown to rest on her lap
Through the half-opened window —
How is it, one thinks, this child is dead?
That a post behind her splayed feet rises
Beneath her scissored frock with metal clamps scissored
At the waist and neck, while stiff wires snake
Up her sleeves to hold bloodless arms in place?
The pupils of her wide eyes painted
On closed eyelids? How possible,
The mind asks, the impossible minutes passed
In that impossible room – the photography studio
Of one R. Dechavannes – sweet and parlous
With eau de toilette, its bald and everywhere scrim
Of unnamable dirt,
This Paris morning in July, 1887?
How could love –love! —demand even this?
To which the heart answers,
Exuscitatio –with its own nagging question: Didn’t you write
That epigraph, Daniel?
In the frozen food section,
Each section lights up as I pass.
Blueberry mini-muffins, stout pierogis, little
Pouches of mauve fondant –
Like hearing one birdcall at a time.
All the vanished species
Of the earth rising up out of the ice
Again to sing into the clear untouchable air.
Darkness ahead, darkness behind.
Velda the Seer
We all have a little fortune teller in us,
She would say, years later, recalling
The day Mick, my sister’s wounded punk/gear-head
Boyfriend in the seventies, vamooshed
For good again, hauling ass Killing Joke blaring
Down Eleanor in his Camaro straight-pipe;
Touching my own cheek as she says this, as if she can see
The red palm-slap there, courtesy
Of Raymond, sweet sweater-y sexagenarian Raymond.
The red-palm slap and the bruise
That bloomed beneath the bruise
And the one beneath that one.
Daniel Lawless is the founder and editor of Plume: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry.