Poems for April 22: Patricia Smith & Jack Hirschman — Goddesses & Heroes

[22 years ago a Chicago Sun Times reporter sat at the bar of the Red Lion, next to Guild Books,  talking with Michael Warr uncertainly about poetry she was writing. From there she dazzled the audiences and went on to set a standard for Chicago performance poetry.  Patricia Smith won four national slam championships.  She published her first poetry collection with Tia Chucha Press;  her 2008 volume, Blood Dazzler was born out of the wreckage of Katrina.  It was a finalist for a National Book Award winner, 2008.  Click here to get onto her website and hear her power in three poems: “Siblings,” “Medusa” and “Spinning Until You Get Dizzy (for Dizzy Gillespie.)”  “Medusa” is printed below]

Medusa

by Patricia Smith

Poseidon was easier than most.

He calls himself a god,
but he fell beneath my fingers
with more shaking than any mortal.
He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders.

I made him bend his back for me,
listened to his screams break like waves.
We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled,
screaming and bucking our way from corner to corner.
The bitch goddess probably got a real kick out of that.

Life According To Motown

I’m sure I’ll be hearing from her.

She’ll give me nightmares for a week or so;
that I can handle.
Or she’ll turn the water in my well into blood;
I’ll scream when I see it,
and that will be that.
Maybe my first child
will be born with the head of a fish.
I’m not even sure it was worth it,
Poseidon pounding away at me, a madman,
losing his immortal mind
because of the way my copper skin swells in moonlight.

Now my arms smoke and itch.
Hard scales cover my wrists like armour.
C’mon Athena, he was only another lay,
and not a particularly good one at that,
even though he can spit steam from his fingers.
Won’t touch him again. Promise.
And we didn’t mean to drop to our knees
in your temple,
but our bodies were so hot and misaligned.
It’s not every day a gal gets to sample a god,
you know that. Why are you being so rough on me?

I feel my eyes twisting,
the lids crusting over and boiling,
the pupils glowing red with heat.
Athena, woman to woman,
could you have resisted him?
Would you have been able to wait
for the proper place, the right moment,
to jump those immortal bones?

Now my feet are tangled with hair,
my ears are gone. My back is curving
and my lips have grown numb.
My garden boy just shattered at my feet.

Dammit, Athena,
take away my father’s gold.
Send me away to live with lepers.
Give me a pimple or two.
But my face. To have men never again
be able to gaze at my face,
growing stupid in anticipation
of that first touch,
how can any woman live like that?
How will I be able
to watch their warm bodies turn to rock
when their only sin was desiring me?

All they want is to see me sweat.
They only want to touch my face
and run their fingers through my . . .

my hair

is it moving?

from Life According to Motown, Tia Chucha Press

________________________________________________________________________

FOR EHREN WATADA by Jack Hirschman

This warring government

Jack Hirschman featured in the American Poetry Review, 1988

having lost its people
and having exposed
its lies and its twists
and turns of the knife
in the back of all decency,

has only the guns left
to keep the people in line
in Iraq and here as well,
the guns that make people
afraid because they can
make people dead,

and so when an officer
like Ehren Watada
from one of the two
newest states to be
legalized as part of
the United States

realizes that the war
declared by his country
is an illegal one, and he
refuses to be deployed
to Iraq, and is illegally
court-martialed,

he has opened a crack
in the cage we all are
fearfully imprisoned in,
and the sun of truth
has streamed in radiantly,
and hopefully others

today or tomorrow will
be touched by the same
luminous courage as
Ehren Watada’s, and the
dominum effect lead to the
highest-ranking officer: Peace.

from Fists on Fire: Poetry From The Heart of the Revolution in the People’s Tribune on line. This poem originated in the People’s Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.

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