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Poetry in English

Poem by Amiri Baraka

In town x3

Something in the way of things
Something that will quit and won’t start
Something you know but can’t stand
Can’t know get along with
Like death
Riding on top of the car peering through the windshield for his cue
Something entirely fictitious and true
That creeps across your path hallowing your evil ways
Like they were yourself passing yourself not smiling
The dead guy you saw me talking to is your boss
I tried to put a spell on him but his spirit is illiterate

I know things you know and nothing you don’t know
’cept I saw something in the way of things
Something grinning at me and I wanted to know, was it funny?
Was it so funny it followed me down the street
Greeting everybody like the good humor man
But an they got the taste of good humor but no ice cream
It was like dat
Me talking across people into the houses
And not seeing the beings crowding around me with ice picks
You could see them
But they looked like important Negroes on the way to your funeral
Looked like important jiggaboos on the way to your auction
And let them chant the number and use an ivory pointer to count your teeth
Remember Steppen Fetchit
Remember Steppen Fetchit how we laughed
An all your Sunday school images giving flesh and giggling
With the ice pick high off his head
Made ya laugh anyway

I can see something in the way of our selves
I can see something in the way of our selves
That’s why I say the things I do, you know it
But its something else to you
Like that job
This morning when you got there and it was quiet
And the machines were yearning soft behind you
Yearning for that nigga to come and give up his life
Standin’ there bein’ dissed and broke and troubled

My mistake is I kept sayin’ “that was proof that God didn’t exist”
And you told me, “nah, it was proof that the devil do”
But still, its like I see something I hear things
I saw words in the white boy’s lying rag
said he was gonna die poor and frustrated
That them dreams walk which you cross town
S’gonna die from over work
There’s garbage on the street that’s tellin’ you you ain’t shit
And you almost believe it
Broke and mistaken all the time
You know some of the words but they ain’t the right ones
Your cable back on but ain’t nothin’ you can see
But I see something in the way of things
Something to make us stumble
Something get us drunk from noise and addicted to sadness
I see something and feel something stalking us
Like and ugly thing floating at our back calling us names
You see it and hear it too
But you say it got a right to exist just like you and if God made it
But then we got to argue
And the light gon’ come down around us
Even though we remember where the (light or mic?) is
Remember the Negro squinting at us through the cage
You seen what I see too?
The smile that ain’t a smile but teeth flying against our necks
You see something too but can’t call its name

Ain’t it too bad y’all said
Ain’t it too bad, such a nice boy always kind to his motha
Always say good morning to everybody on his way to work
But that last time before he got locked up and hurt, real bad
I seen him walkin’ toward his house and he wasn’t smiling
And he didn’t even say hello
But I knew he’d seen something
Something in the way of things that it worked on him like it do in will
And he kept marching faster and faster away from us
And never even muttered a word
Then the next day he was gone
You wanna know what
You wanna know what I’m talkin’ about
Sayin’ “I seen something in the way of things”
And how the boys face looked that day just before they took him away
The is? in that face and remember now, remember all them other faces
And all the many places you’ve seen him or the sister with his child
Wandering up the street
Remember what you seen in your own mirror and didn’t for a second recognize
The face, your own face
Straining to get out from behind the glass
Open your mouth like you was gon’ say somethin’
Close your eyes and remember what you saw and what it made you feel like
Now, don’t you see something else
Something cold and ugly
Not invisible but blended with the shadow criss-crossing the old man
Squatting by the drug store at the corner
With is head resting uneasily on his folded arms
And the boy that smiled and the girl he went with

And in my eyes too
A waving craziness splitting them into the jet stream of a black bird
With his ass on fire
Or the solemn NOTness of where we go to know we gonna be happyI seen something

I SEEN something
And you seen it too
You seen it too
You just can’t call it’s name name name name name name name.

—Amiri Baraka

(This poem read at the Geraldine R Dodge Poetry Festival in October 2012, in Newark, NJ. Amiri Baraka opened the festival and a special event that commemorated the 45th anniversary of the Newark Uprising of 1967, in which his voice played a prominent role, with a powerful reading)

Poems by Nicole Titus


The Earth is never
As beautiful
As it is at dawn
A soft and fleeting air
A veil of blue
Delicate soft
A mist of dew
Encapsulates us
In a faintness
I walk
Upon this paleness
This hopefulness new
Until the Sun
Gazes on it
Grabs it
Overtakes it
And mankind
Invades it
Ploughs it
Tramples it
Under foot


Trees: Eco-Doom

The lone last tree on planet Earth
Laid fallen dead upon the ground
As men stood stunned
Staring at themselves all around
Warm tears trickling
Down their frozen faces cold
Mourning wailing over its doom and theirs.
Desperate perplexed they looked
Hopeless voiceless they stood
Unable to revive
This silent dweller strong
Innocent partner gone
Ravaged banished
From its now barren home.
And so they stood
Surveying their own doom
Their hands clasped round
Each other’s throats
Till the last of them croaked
And the forlorn green grass
That was once trampled on
Covered their un-mourned bodies gone
Their fast forgotten form.
And all was pristine clean again
The air water the land
And God did not recreate man
But named the green grass son
And these did praise him loud
The lone almighty Lord
And peace finally reigned
Upon a Paradise restored.


—Nicole Titus

Poems by Gary Hicks

elements of style

(apologies to messrs strunk and white)

first it was grammar all
those terms all those schematic
blackboard charts telling what
kinds of words went where when
speaking or reading this was
supplemented by penmanship
using india ink and dip into inkwell
pens assuring that my mother
would scream as she tossed
yet another shirt to scrub out
stains alongside my father’s
automotive industry leukemia
laden work clothes.

later it was composition also
jammed down my throat hated
it with every bone in my body
excepting some moments of
fun writing flyers and
press releases for the movement
and discovered i could really
do this stuff if i wanted to.

then writing in prison letters
to the outside rapping with
fellow inmates which meant
writing and talking way too
much it served me well later
in and out of college except
that on campus i rediscovered
my hatred of writing things not
of my own was i the only one
who realized that fifteen pages
or more typed double-spaced
footnotes properly placed
was so so tortuous where only
five pages, triple-spaced
could say it all? but we were
training to be real or wannabe
rulers and i suppose that
it’s par for the course to have
so evil a skill to be mastered
the better to mesmerize and
baffle people out of at least two
sides of your mouth

when i discovered that i could
write poetry and proceeded
to do so i finally cut through
all this bullshit and strangely
years later my writing improved
it was as though i had become
an outlaw fugitive from convention
and upon return was
convention’s master by virtue
of knowing what laws to obey
having skillfully broken all of them.

(berkeley ca, april 27, 2012)

on finding an abandoned copy of dreams from my father

(for bill fletcher’ jr)

beethoven’s paean to bonaparte
became an elegy
disguised as majestic symphony
when the general anointed
himself emperor

i am a poet, know not a
word of music but this piece
is eroica, reloaded

all of the sacred words
of the great hope
have become naught
the world which held
its breath, bated
has reclaimed the
sense to exhale

and this poem is elegy
not for him who forgot
the difference between
puddles on chicago’s
streets and the swamp
running off chesapeake
aside the potomac.

this is an elegy for
the dreams all our parents
and all who came before
and who one more time
have been betrayed
by a system
about whom
our great hope
had zip to say having
found himself the
latest if privileged
passenger on the
good ship jesus

this is an elegy
for our african
sisters and brothers
and of all who
went before them
mau mau lost the
battle and now
africom* and al qaida
cousins! must be
reckoned with

this is eroica, reloaded
elegy awaiting symphonic
music in four-four time
triumphal people’s te deum

*africom… the african command of the united states armed forces

(berkeley ca, 4/29/2012)

—Gary Hicks

Poems by Marc D. Goldfinger

The Outs

I have always been infected, I confess
my heart is with the outs. The left-outs,
the cast-outs, the out of its, out of their
minds, possessed by that which has
them talk to Gods or Demons.

Our spiritual heads rotate on our necks,
look into our eyes if you can, see
outside society, outside civilization,
the jungle roars from our outside eyes.

I confess. I am one of them, yet
even outside them too. The ride-outs,
the white-outs, the black-outs. I have
been told, by one authority
or another that I will always
be an outsider, an outrider,
an outlaw, I dance on
the webbing of civilization.

I confess. I love the dope-fiends,
the tramps, the petty thieves,
the panhandlers, the whores,
the poets from the fringe, the hustlers,
the winos in the alley draining the spider
from a bottle of Maddog 20-20, the dark
bars and coffee houses where the smoke hangs
heavy, where junkies draw up
water from the drain of a dirty
sink to quiet the voices,
where the spirits mutter
divine phrases to themselves. Everyone
understands, no one is talking.

I confess. I love the flame-outs,
the burn-outs, the shut-outs, the put-outs.
The forced-outs, the unclaimed. We know
each other, give one
another the nod as we go
about our business collecting
the hebephrenic voices of the Gods.

Okay, I confess. I am haunted by the ghosts
of the past, the specter of the future,
by women who look at their husbands
with fear in their eyes, by men who walk
docile behind angry wives,
by the counter-worker who cowers
when the manager walks by,
by police who swagger, by guns
in human hands.

I confess. I am haunted by people
who think it is okay to develop
diseases to be used as weapons of war,
by people who spend millions of dollars
of taxpayer money to find out what
a president has done with his penis,
by non-smokers who think auto-exhaust
is okay, by companies who drill oil
wells deep in the ocean and lack
the technology to stop a well
that blows one mile under
the water, then banter while
ecosystems die, by talk shows
that promote mob mentality,
by children who kill each other.

I confess, I have always been
infected, I am only haunted
by what is real.

What I Wanted To Say Was

Six billion people counting down
while dead zones grow in the oceans
while people wrap Christmas presents
while people plant car bombs
while children learn to be good citizens
while some parents choose which child dies
while Bob Dylan writes ads for Victoria’s Secrets
while Madonna adopts a child from Africa
while HIV spreads like an ink stain on a paper towel
while children play video games shooting grey-heads
while bees, hummingbirds, and bat populations decline
while bees, hummingbirds, and bats pollinate plants
while the oceans are fished out by factory ships
while Halloween disappears
while some countries train children to kill
while some countries train children to kill
while some countries train children to kill
while my hair turns grey as I heal
while my refrigerator is humming
while someone is hunting for a scrap of food
while I lay warm in my bed
while my friends die in the shelters
while the president of the United States makes decisions
while the death count in Iraq is still growing
while I remember the same thing happened in Viet Nam
while I sit at my computer to write poetry
while my wife is hard at work
while 56% of state prisoners show symptoms of mental illness
while we spend so much money to kill
while we spend so little to heal
while I wonder why China’s Yellow River turned red
while I notice that so many factories are on river banks
while I go to the bank to get money to buy comic books
while 24% of jail inmates are psychotic
while my motorcycle sits in a shed surrounded by dead leaves
I think about all the plans I had when I was young
they were good plans and I had high hopes
well I am registered to vote and I do that
I read quite a bit and write a little more
I love my wife and say my prayers
sometimes I just sit and think
sometimes I try to sit and not think
why do we always have money to kill people
why is there never enough money to feed everyone
as I read this poem there are machines running all over the world
once upon a time there was a man who became a poet
words are powerful things
a bullet or a bomb can only explode one time
it’s true that many will die
but words can be used over and over
maybe one day we will stop killing each other
because of something someone said
I would like to be the person who says the magic words
but if it’s you who have the magic words
that will stop all the greed, killing, and cruelty
I hope you say them soon
words are powerful things
say them already, say them say them say them
I’ve got my ear to the ground
and the way the ground is humming
it feels like we’re running out of time.

—Marc D. Goldfinger

Poems by Tontongi

The Children of Bin Laden Didn’t Know

The children didn’t know
the tall man was wanted
they didn’t know their mother
was harboring terrorists on the run
they didn’t know you can kill a man
without a warrant nor even a word
they didn’t know you can kill
while they’re still at sleep.

The children didn’t know
prior on a nine-eleven on a single morning
three thousands people were murdered
like birds caged on a hellish summer day
they didn’t know you can kill
per order of a Declaration
per order of a religious book
per order of the president even when
the country’s laws say No.

The children didn’t know the death
of five people can be celebrated
along the boulevard in daylight.
The children didn’t know
tall pappy was wanted for murders
they didn’t know they were
targets of Drones and special SEALs
they didn’t know there was a price
on their families’ head and fate.

They didn’t know you can be civilized
and kill other humans without a warrant
they didn’t know you can make
your own international code of law
they didn’t know that power can explain
everything and respect not even a token rule
they didn’t know that the most powerful’s reason
is always the best to follow if you’re sane
they didn’t know humans sometimes are insane
they didn’t’ know you can be this and not that.

The children didn’t know tall pappy was facing
a 350-million strong unique superpower
they didn’t know he was both a villain and hero.

They didn’t know if you can get a Drone
and three dozens of SEALs and a huge megaphone
and the homogeneous tone of Media and Nation
and the holly, bully pulpit of a charming president
you can make killing look like a nice thing
even justice on Earth and joy to the people.
You can even invent a new perfect nation.
The children didn’t know any of that.

(May 10th, 2011)

The Siege and the Killings in Homs, Houla, Hama (Syria)

(this poem is dedicated to the unrelenting resistance of the Syrian people against State oppression despite murderous carnage)

A Macabre indecency
a systematic barrage of fire
symmetric even in horror
cast a specter of death
all over the city, maiming and killing
from the sure distance of power
power of the artillery
power of the State
power of State immunity.

Removing the world’s agenda venom
against everything Syrian-like,
this Boston Globe’s article speaks volumes:
“During a terrifying two minutes…
At least 22 bodies, including that of 6-year old
Mohammad Yahia Al-Wees were recovered…
And amid the rubble on the stairway of the
ground floor, 10 yards from the door and possibly
, lay the bodies of two foreign journalists,
Marie Colvin, and Remi Achilk…”

A macabre indecency,
but an irony of fate and history
that the Romans’ wretched,
the terrorist of time past,
special guest villain in Others-haters’ show
and in the warmongers’ holy book
that includes offspring of Saladin and of Genghis Khan,
offspring of Toussaint and the shoeless fighters
is now killing his own in cold bloody indifference…

Conscience doesn’t discriminate
even when petrified by terror and madness,
even when horrified by fear of the unknown,
fear of the uncertainties of finitude;
fear of the cafard, the blues,
the blue blues of Macabral;
fear of saying the impolitely
correct thing that disturbs the gentry
instead of seeking clarity.
Still conscience doesn’t let fear
silence her for ever.

What’s wrong with calling for freedom
says this father whose two sons were slaughtered
early in the morning without much warning:
Freedom for the people! Freedom of conscience!
he says even though for his sons it was too late.

Conscience must not discriminate
regardless the manner the killing was performed
be it done by drones on your family villages away
or on your neighbor next door in large urban centers
like in Homs and Houla in the heart of Syria
where kids were massacred like toads
just the same the indignation should be.
Killing must not be an option
especially for the most powerful State;
it should be in jure or de facto
the never acceptable mischief…

On a certain Wednesday of hell
More than 40 women and children were among
78 killed in Mazraat al-Qubeir, near Hama,
killed by remote barrage of the artillery;
those killings from the sure distance of power
power of the blunt interests of the State’s minions
power of immunity of the Syrian army
—must now cease and desist.
The people of Homs and Houla and Hama must live free!

(June 2012)

What Resilience Ain’t

It shouldn’t be resignation
nor Idontgiveitdamness
of the a soul and the mind;
it shouldn’t be devotion
to the shallowest of ideas
of those connected to mundanity
and to the crass impulse of the flesh
inhibiting the sound judgment
even of the wisest of the sages.

It shouldn’t be the ditching
to survival’s black hole
of your most sacred values
only to delay for one day
the inevitability of what should be.

It shouldn’t be masochism
of self-hated victims of oppression
giving up the struggle for freedom
to secure a less unpredictable fate.

It should not be delegation
to the most idiotic among us
or to Wall Street’s greediest ethos
of our right to a dignified life.

It shouldn’t be accommodation
to nature’s maddening onslaught hidden
under the guise of faith, law and order
while the culprit is closer to home.

It shouldn’t be accepting intolerance
and inequality and an unjust order
and what you’re told since childhood
as being reality and cosmic destiny.

It shouldn’t be that
but rather this
rather the other side of the Universe
the unknown multitude lost in banality
and in the indifference of absence.

Rather the engagement in the Absurd
than the myopia of the perception;
rather the feeling of the pain
and the glory of the last hurrah
than the pathetic robot’s state;
rather the phoenix’s metamorphosis
than the unending torpor-like routine
rather the resistance to finitude
than the boredom of the same-old-thing.

It shouldn’t be habituation
to the conditioning of the senses
nor the appeasement of the libido
by the Behavior Control Department.

Resilience should not be atonement
nor penitence for imaginary sins;
it’s the re-hurrah of the last hurrah
it’s the zombie tasting salt
despite the master’s objection *
it’s the wretched conquering the Temple
it’s the beauty of the poetic word
the elegance of the liberated zest
the magic of the love song
the everlasting conquest of the beast
by the simple majesty of art and folly.

**In Haitian mythology a zombie will regain consciousness if he/she tastes salt.

(April 2012)


Poem by Denizé Lauture

The Blow That Opens Our Center

In the afternoon
Near dusk
Near night
A damn afternoon
A Tuesday afternoon
First Tuesday
After the beginning of Mardi Gras
A fatal Tuesday
A Tuesday from hell

It appears the earth’s empty belly
Needs to eat people
Needs to drink blood
It appears the earth
Is swallowing her own guts
Her twisting guts
Her dry hollow throat
Needs to eat people
Needs to drink blood

Her old bones like a serpent out of Hell
Bend along her long back
Her tail and her head
Touch the ground
She shakes
Shakes her body
Like a mean mule full of fleas
Like a demon with a million
Enraged arms and legs

Agwé god of the sea cries “No”
The earth does not listen
Serpent Deity Ayida Wedo cries “No”
The earth does not listen
Simbi of the Water cries “No”
The earth does not listen
Papa Legba and Papa Danbala cry “No”
The earth does not listen
She does not pay attention
She ignores them

She rumbles
Like the cannon sound of the Jakmel sea
Rumbles like
Heaven’s thunder

Everything upright human and beast
Even things close to the ground
Are knocked to the right
Knocked to the left
Fall to the left
Fall to the right
Spread like flour to the ground
From Port au Prince to Jérémie

Concrete streets and back yards
Split into ten thousand pieces
So human blood
Can pour into the earth’s throat
Countless white clouds
Like white zombifying powder
The white powder of death
Cover Ayiti

Children and the elderly
Become white zombies
White ghosts yelling Anmweee!
People fall people fall people fall
Blood pours blood pours blood pours
Our Mardi Gras and Rara seasons
Fall into a hole
Below the foot of the Sabliye tree
We no longer hear the snoring bambou
Or the sound of the drum
There is only the sad sound
Of the death conch shell

Those whose eyes are still open
See the A B C’s of death everywhere
See the books of death everywhere
Libraries of death everywhere
In a white veil of death
In a sea of white dust
Haitian blood marks pyramids
Becomes crosses
Along roads with two branches
Across straight lines broken

Rich Haitians just like the poor
Turn into paper leaves below house walls
Like sugar cane or corn in a grinder
Our feet like our legs
Our legs like our arms
Our arms like our heads
Crush under the heavy weight

In the center of every street
At every intersection
Haitian corpses lay across sidewalks
The lucky ones who are still alive
Move like huge lizards
Slide over corpse after corpse
Corpses arranged like the letter “A”
Arranged like the letter “Y”
Arranged like the letter “I”
Arranged like the letter “T”
Arranged like the letter “I”
Ayiti spelled in corpses

Under their feet – red
The red blood of their brothers and sisters
With clenched bellies
They crawl two hands at their heads
Two hands behind their heads
Two hands holding their jaws
When they stumble – It is their friend’s body
Their grandfather’s body
Their grandmother’s body
Their brothers’ bodies
Their sisters’ bodies
Their father’s body
Their mother’s body
Their children’s bodies
Their arms open like on a cross
O poor children of my motherland
Both arms open like a cross
Jesus Christ descends from his cross
Makes room for us

Crosses Crosses Crosses
Crosses here
Crosses on the other side of the border
Crosses on the other side of the sea
We have to bear so many crosses
We carry crosses until we turn into crosses
We sweat blood under crosses
We vomit blood under crosses
We piss blood under crosses
We defecate under crosses
Crosses the day before yesterday
Crosses yesterday
Crosses today
Let us say “NO!” to tomorrow’s crosses

We are placing our crosses
On top of God’s shoulders
On top of Papa Legba’s shoulders
On top of Danbala’s shoulders
Larenn Ezili’s shoulders
On Agwe
On Ayida Wedo
On all the heads and shoulders without bodies
All spirits without bodies

We will gather our dead
Wash them in perfumed leaves
Bury them in fertile ground
We will plant the Mapou tree of love
On their graves
Love for life
Life for love
Our children will grow
With love and life in their hearts
With life and love in their heads
They will love all people
Hawks will no longer prey on our motherless chickens

We take the blow
To the middle of our skull
But damn it when our head splits open
It is life and love that enter us
Hope will always sparkle in our hearts
It may seem we are on the road to Hell
But we will discover the right way
Because we are the grandchildren of Guineans
Africans who know how to eat fire
Africans who know how to dance on volcano lava
Africans who know how to steal the sun’s fire
We will arrive
Yes, we will arrive

—Denizé Lauture (translated by Monica Hand)

The Berkshires, Massachusetts.

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