the women wet
the waterfront
with womb water
delivering twin coral children
whose ceilings
are fluid
and permutable.

he is one. i am the other.
brother and sister
who knew our selves
before brackishness
and the rift
caused by the damming
of the river.

she and i, twin occupiers
of our mother’s womb.
the hierarchy of birth order
like gemini genes.

one stayed. the other went
-an absence that split the family
like a headache.

like choppy water
frothy and forthright
she spouts

the placidity of man
made emotion.

structurally unsound
deficient of reason
wet like a woman
she is fit
only for swallowing.

having grown to the depth
of a well
i could contain her
but don’t

having imbibed
and libated enough
to be at peace
i watch

she, whirling watery dervish
leaving in her wake
smashed houses
cars and broken glass
planes of an existence
thought permanent.

Parsley ~ Rita Dove

July 9, 2012

1. The Cane Fields
There is a parrot imitating spring
in the palace, its feathers parsley green.
Out of the swamp, the cane appears

to haunt us, and we cut it down. El General
searches for a word; he is all the world
there is. Like a parrot imitating spring,

we lie down screaming as rain punches through
and we come up green. We cannot speak an R-
out of the swamp, the cane appears

and then the mountains we call in whispers Katalina.
The children gnaw their teeth to arrowheads.
There is a parrot imitating spring.

El General has found his word: perejil.
Who says it, lives. He laughs, teeth shining
out of the swamp. The cane appears

in our dreams, lashed by wind and streaming.
And we lie down. For every drop of blood
there is a parrot imitating spring.
Out of the swamp the cane appears.

2. The Palace
The word the general’s chosen is parsley.
It is fall, when thoughts turn
to love and death: the general thinks
of his mother, how she died in the fall
and he planted her walking cane at the grave
and it flowered, each spring stolidly forming
four-star blossoms. The general

pulls on his boots, he stomps to
her room in the palace, the one without
curtains, the one with a parrot
in a brass ring. As he paces, he wonders
who can I kill today. And for a moment
the little knots of screams
is still. The parrot, who has traveled

all the way from Australia in an ivory
cage, is, coy as a widow, practicing
spring. Ever since the morning
his mother collapsed in the kitchen
while baking skull-shaped candies
for the Day of the Dead, the general
has hated sweets, He orders pastries
brought up for the bird; they arrive

dusted with sugar on a bed of lace.
The knot in his throat starts to twitch;
he sees his boots the first day in battle
splashed with mud and urine
as a solder falls at his feet amazed-
how stupid he looked!-at the sound
of artillery. I never thought it would sing
the soldier said, and died. Now

the general sees the fields of sugar
cane, lashed by rain and steaming.
He sees his mother’s smile, the teeth
gnawed to arrowheads. He hears
the Haitians sing without R’s
as they swing the great machetes:
Katalina, they sing, Katalina,

mi madle, mi amol en muelte God knows
his mother was no stupid woman; she
could roll an R like a queen. Even
a parrot can roll an R! In the bare room
the bright feathers arch in a parody
of greenery, as the last pale crumbs
disappear under the blackened tongue. Someone

calls out his name in a voice
so like his mother’s, a startled tear
splashes the tip of his right boot.
My mother, my love in death.
The general remembers the tiny green springs
men of his village wore in their capes
to honor the birth of a son. He will
order many, this time, to be killed

for a single, beautiful word.

things of water #4

July 9, 2012

i stare at the water.
i walk around it.

i stare at the water inside.
i am bleeding.

my water mixes with the water.
i am drowning.

i ripple like sunshine
in the water.

i am heated
hot enough to be food for fish

except they like it cold.
i go down deeper.

i used to take myself to the river.
now i am here permanently.

things of water 2

July 6, 2012

the women wet
the waterfront
with womb water,
delivering coral children
whose ceilings
are fluid
and permutable.

Things of Water

July 1, 2012

like choppy water,
frothy and forthright,
she spouts

the placidity of my man
made emotions

structurally unsound
deficient of reason
wet like woman
she is fit
only for swallowing

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in blood
and a voice that said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color.” And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” Black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

Excerpted from The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

Related Links

Audre Lorde‘s page

Modern American Poetry

Audre Lorde’s Amazon page

in the shower naked
he bends to suck
milk life
urge engulfs
we tumble into stream
barely able to separate
closed in by the enamel fist

before the mirror
he comes up as i look at myself
cups them and squeezes
they jump up hard
nipples in dance-ritual
he’s to my back
later i have a mirror
full of hand prints

laying down his arm makes a
pillow for the right one
fingers grasp flesh
he lens forward
takes the left one into
his mouth
bites gently
wakes the eagle
i take flight

Excerpted from African Sleeping Sickness

Related Links:
Wanda Coleman – Wikipedia
Wanda Coleman – Poetry Foundation

Deprived of their original language, the captured and indentured tribes create their own, accreting and secreting fragments of an old, an epic vocabulary, from Asia and from Africa, but to an ancestral, an ecstatic rhythm in the blood that cannot be subdued by slavery or indenture, while nouns are renamed and the given names of places accepted like Felicity village or Choisseul. The original language dissolves from the exhaustion of distance like fog trying to cross an ocean, but this process of renaming, of finding new metaphors, is the same process of renaming, of finding new metaphors, is the same process that the poet faces every morning of his working day, making his own tools like Crusoe, assembling nouns from necessity, from Felicity, even renaming himself. The stripped man is driven back to that self-astonishing, elemental force, his mind. That is the basis of the Antillean experience, this shipwreck of fragments, these echoes, these shards of a huge tribal vocabulary, these partially remembered customs, and they are not decayed but strong. They survived the Middle Passage and the Fatel Rozack, the ship that carried the first indentured Indians from the port of Madras to the cane fields of Felicity, that carried the chained Cromwellian convict and the Sephardic Jew, the Chinese grocer and the Lebanese merchant selling cloth samples on his bicycle.

And here they are, all in a single Caribbean city, Port of Spain, the sum of history, Trollope’s ‘non-people’. A downtown babel of shop signs and streets, mongrelized, polyglot, a ferment without a history, like heaven. Because that is what such a city is, in t he New World, a writer’s heaven.



A noun sentence, no verb
to it or in it: to the sea the scent of the bed
after making love … a salty perfume
or a sour one. A noun sentence: my wounded joy
like the sunset at your strange windows.
My flower green like the phoenix. My heart exceeding
my need, hesitant between two doors:
entry a joke, and exit
a labyrinth. Where is my shadow—my guide amid
the crowdedness on the road to judgment day? And I
as an ancient stone of two dark colors in the city wall,
chestnut and black, a protruding insensitivity
toward my visitors and the interpretation of shadows. Wishing
for the present tense a foothold for walking behind me
or ahead of me, barefoot. Where
is my second road to the staircase of expanse? Where
is futility? Where is the road to the road?
And where are we, the marching on the footpath of the present
tense, where are we? Our talk a predicate
and a subject before the sea, and the elusive foam
of speech the dots on the letters,
wishing for the present tense a foothold
on the pavement …



Related Links:

Mahmoud Darwish’s website

Darwish on

Strange but true is the story
of the sea-turtle and the shark-
the instinctive drive of the weak to survive
in the oceanic dark.
by hunger
from abyss to shoal,
sometimes the shark swallows
the sea-turtle whole.

The sly reptilian marine
into the shell
of his undersea craft,
his leathery head and the rapacious claws
that can rip
a rhinoceros’ hide
or strip
a crocodile to fare-thee-well;
inside the shark,
the sea-turtle begins the churning seesaws
of his descent into pelagic hell;
with ravenous jaws
that can cut sheet steel scrap,
the sea-turtle gnaws
…and gnaws…and gnaws
his way in a way that appalls-
his way to freedom,
beyond the vomiting dark
beyond the stomach walls
of the shark.


excerpted from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry