Archive for the Poetry Category

Out of the Night that Covers Me…

Posted in Not Political, Poetry with tags , on February 11, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Obviously, this little blog (which hit 100 posts as of Howard Zinn’s passing) has suffered in recent months.  It started strong but lost a member some time ago, and then things got even spottier.  I tried to recover and that didn’t last long.  And it has only gotten worse from there.  My problems are all mine, so I won’t get into details here.  Let me simply say that I am still here and I am working through the things I need to and will try my damnedest to keep writing here.  And I will try to keep the extreme darkness out of the posts.  If you are one of the few who keep coming back, please don’t stop now.  And if you are new here, well, just know that there is much more to come.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)


Porous Borders

Posted in Domestic, Latin America, Poetry with tags , , , on August 12, 2009 by Mort the Sport

(A slightly different version of this poem was published in The Chaffey Review.)

Light sinks into the skin

of the ocean.

Under crumpled canvas in the back of a pickup

headed north over the 15 freeway’s washboard,

a kid, laboring for breath, rides the bumps in the road,

stomach acid slithering up his throat. A mystery

of heat and darkness. Cool jets of exhaust and morning air

lick at the tarp, causing the boy to cough.

Tonight is too far away.

Light through the water moves faster

than his thoughts, his tendency to equate space

with freedom, his devotion to Los Santos,

his memory of kidnappings, the burnt offerings

Tia Juanita made after her daughter died.

He hears the unfamiliar whine of American radio

streaming out of the windows of passing cars.

His mother is breathing into his ear.

The faint smell of the mint she found

in between the seat cushions in Ernesto’s pickup

before they met with the coyote. The smell

of wet switchgrass, gravely waving to the drivers,

the shoulder gently sloping like a pregnant belly,

swollen. The taste of honeywater in his mouth.

The dark circles under her eyes haunt his memory.

She’s passionate, even in sleep, in the face

of disconsolate attempts to move north.

But now they’re almost there.

But where is that?

Tia Inez will still be pulling a double shift when they get

to a cul-de-sac in La Puente. The bridge.

The front door of the apartment will be screened

by a heavy lacework of rusting iron, bursting with red,

like capillaries on a drunkard’s nose.

He will stare at the stucco facade.

A billboard will read: “You deserve a break today.”

The bright letters will mean nothing to him.

He will mouth the word for home.

The boy closes his eyes:

The waves sang in the distance,

the foam white like ghosts. His urine etched steaming worms

into the uneven ground. He stumbled over the litter

in the street – dominoes, teacups, broken glass.

On the beach, he gave his yellow rock to one of the beachcombers

so the man wouldn’t find the anemone hidden in the turbid water

of his bucket. Ernesto zigzagged through the streets,

his truck cutting turns like a scalpel. It idled

in front of their home. Words spilled out of their mouths

when the coyote stuck out his hand. He had no time

for questions and the money paid for travel, not answers.

Ernesto said his brother, Tonino, had a hook

instead of a hand, a piece of the price

of his northbound trip.

The boy’s mother kisses him

and then the cross hanging from her neck. The thumb

of sun has prodded her awake. Her swelling belly

ripples in the heat, a mirage, a miracle. A sheet

of sunlight cleft by hungry shadows.

As he and his mother arrive at the border,

he feels the same way he did on the ledge

overlooking the sea. There is nowhere else to go.

The rocks reach out of the water like spears,

but he pushes off anyway. He jumps headlong,

the sea foam spilling like clouds.

Somewhere beyond memory,

the sun-stained water gurgles,

salt glazing his lips.

Morning in the Sunni Triangle

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on July 20, 2009 by Mort the Sport

The sun rose over Ramadi: a pink eye,

an industrial fire. Just off the highway

to Baghdad, we waited behind a hatchback

for my Chechen friend. My contact,

an Iraqi, helped me pack the car

with all the necessary items, but nothing

behind the seat caught my eye; my friend,

nowhere in sight. The man stiffly

mused over a piece of paper, a checklist,

making sure I had everything I needed

and that I was, in fact, following Iraqi law.

The car, a beat-up old ‘70s-era compact,

was a dingy white, the color of all foreign cars

that one sees in old spy movies. He kept

eyeing the piece of paper to make sure

I would be okay. He had, I felt, nothing

but my best interest in mind. Before we

were about to leave, my friend appeared,

darker and shorter than I had remembered.

We exchanged jovial pleasantries;

we laughed nervously, kicked at the sand.

Before we left, my Iraqi host wanted to make

sure I had a gun. He said I not only needed protection

but also that it was the law. According to Iraqi law,

one had to have a gun to travel. He threw

a clear plastic bag at me, which I caught.

In it, I found a toy gun. I couldn’t even

get my finger in between the trigger

and the trigger guard. The Iraqi

assured me that I would need nothing

else besides the gun to travel.