March 2017 Poetry Feature

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
you say:

white people.

White people
like to remind you
that you are Indian, not black.
Black people
never say that to you.

They make
a home for you

their archives.

It is like an elegy.

Poverty must be
a color

but color
is like sky.

My daddy is a daddy from Africa.
An Indian boy from Tanga.

He is a papa

who stitches
eyes together––

a doctor, the only

of his siblings,

seventeen in all,
to really get out

and climb towards

the lands
that enslaved him.

Only white people

can imagine a past
that was better

than now.

Only white people


You grew up rich,they say.
Your daddy is a doctor.

They want me

to possess
their whiteness, too.

They want to

like the tentacles of

a squid.

What they are really
saying is:

How dare you
have what was rightfully mine.

I want to say:

my daddy holds storms
from a world youve never seen.

He is a doctor
because being a doctor

was a way to unbury
his dead.

I want to say:
It is not me you hate.

It is that you were
not given what whiteness

promised you–

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?

Natural Selection

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.


March 2017 Poetry Feature

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