Archive for April, 2013

April 28, 2013

Beat Girl

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

Beat Girl, you lived in the flat above me

I knew you from how much you said you hated your mom, and your unfair life


Beat Girl, you woke me up one morning

You were yelling again at your mom

At first I thought you a disrespectful, adolescent brat

Your friends must have hated their mothers too

Your screams at the top of your lungs were plain intolerable


I heard stomping and noises and then your defensive screams

You were hitting your mother – your mother was hitting you back


A mother, unable to lose her Korean accent, lost you with each translated hit

Though she feared failing her generation

like every generation angry at the next

She still had control over you because you weren’t ready

You could do nothing but cry, and yell, and wait a little longer


An hour later your mother must have watched you run out the door to school

Her fists still clenched with expectation like her mother and all mothers before her


Beat Girl, I waited for you to come home that day

The next morning I expected to hear you fight again for your future

While I waited, I decided to call you Beat Girl

I wasn’t sure if you were finally beat or if you were a girl anymore, but it was how I remembered you

It must have been how your mom remembered you every time she looked at her hands


I never heard you fight again with your mother

Did you find your future Beat Girl?



April 27, 2013

Maxim #17

If nothing else, writing now is practice for the good stuff later.   –  Literophanes

April 21, 2013

Beyond Twilight

Photo: Urban Sunset, Christine Matthews

Photo: Urban Sunset, Christine Matthews

there’s a moment late in the day when I stop to look at the Western horizon

the eyes of daylight droop letting shadows inform my conscience

in the filtered light my mind contemplates assumptions of reality

opening itself to the turning

reflecting on time passed on home on growing up

dying shadows reach beyond daytime borders

beyond sustained secrets of the trees and houses and telephone wires and garbage cans

I feel my father reach for my hand as I hear the ice cream truck coming

I see the fireflies dance around the souls of my dead grandparents

I hear bangs of a can kicked down the street and feet of scurrying boys who will never return

at that moment birds settle while bats hover over the neighborhood

these feared mousy creatures are my confidants who know the nature of fleeting time

in still air only they can hear me whisper back an adolescent poem about a boy I love

they grasp my temporary words in their talons

and urge me into night

sunlight disappears behind oaks and hills and neighborhoods to the West

the bats follow feeding on other boys’ words

as my voice matures with the sky

I return to the present and see nightfall on the Western horizon

beyond which my whispers have long passed with the bats and shadows

April 14, 2013

Double Dutch

Double Dutch, Brian Plonka

Photo: Double Dutch, Brian Plonka


Double Dutch don’t mean much

Jumping rope cla-clack clu-clutch

The sistahs smacking gum and such

To pass the summer heat’s wry touch.


The metronomic rhythm rides

The inner city’s fateful tides

As the Double Dutch ropes fly

See which sistah bids her byes


Jump in jump out the timing goes

Like so many of her urban woes

The brothas say they work they hoes

They aint be frontin I suppose


Two ropes determine who can stay

That’s how the Double gets his way

The Dutch alliteration play

Means sistahs let chance have its say


The game of risk is what’s at stake

In sex and love that lovers make

The girl’s virginity he take

It flares on concrete watch it bake


She falls into the playah’s trap

The ropes collide and sting and wrap

She aint about to take this crap

When he stops her with a slap


The next girl pauses before jump

Will she avoid the natal bump

That threatens from the double hump

Will Double Dutch ropes make her gump


And from my flat I watch it all

One rope of pride, one rope of fall

The ritual of summer’s call

Still preys upon young sistahs y’all


See DD is a brother’s game

The sistahs chide that it’s to blame

Both sexes playin all the same

Like timebombs bout to trip


April 7, 2013

Swimming With Carp

Dead Carp, Creative Commons, 2013

Dead Carp, Creative Commons, 2013

The old river called Kipikawi flowed through the part of the city where I grew up.

Mud-based and weaved by banks of intricate roots, the riverbed carried in its memory the currents of the Winnebago.


In time these indigenous currents were followed by changing currents of Germans, and Danish, and Polish and Italians.

A colonialized current was nonetheless a continuing part of a flowing narrative

of lives

of those who swam along the banks

of those whose unsettled corpses were carried away by it.


In my childhood, the arrowheads were all gone, already picked away.

The sediment along the bottom of the river was so oily

that you’d never know there was an oil shortage in the 1970’s.

The swirling film of inconsequence clung to the surface of turbulent currents.


In summer, carp and salmon and catfish too tainted to eat gasped for air in the shallows.

The trout eventually disappeared.


The exposed roots of trees and undergrowth along the banks spilled into the water

injecting it with the pollution of a war in Vietnam,

amphetamine hopes

and mosquito repellant.


Crabs tugged at broken glass from the floor littered with discarded liquor bottles.

They were blankets of protection from fish riots.


Bobbing styrofoam Big Mac containers were cruise ships for scavenging horseflies chomping at the tasteless casing and leftover lettuce rotting in special sauce.


Each day this river that fed into the great lake changed currents with the lake tides forcing the toxins we thought were washed from the inner city to return like a backed up septic tank, atop the layers of the toxic sediment already there,

threatening us to put up or get out

as we suffocated like the carp.


In fall a weary current would pass us collecting dead branches,

and flattened kickballs

and dismembered cheap Barbie rip-offs

and picnic tables singing Tell Me Something Good.


In winter, the current stopped when the river froze over.

We could breathe again skating with the carp that swam underneath our ice skates.

For a time, roots were frozen in ice.

There was a still life in the dead of winter.


In spring, the current returned overflowing banks and drowning roots.

Under a nearby bridge, the river carried away the secret remains of childbirth.

Proud Mary hoped her baby knew how to swim with the carp.


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