Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Or," by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Or Oreo, or
worse. Or ordinary.
Or your choice  
of category


or any color  
other than Colored
or Colored Only.
Or “Of Color”

or theory or discourse
or oral territory.
Oregon or Georgia
or Florida Zora


or born poor  
or Corporate. Or Moor.
Or a Noir Orpheus
or Senghor


or a horrendous  
and tore-up journey.
Or performance. Or allegory’s armor
of ignorant comfort


or reform or a sore chorus.
Or Electoral Corruption
or important ports
of Yoruba or worry


or fear of . . .
of terror or border.
Or all organized

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Just as the body is shaped for movement, the mind is shaped for poetry.

Poetry is pleasure.

Sometimes people say to me, “why should I read a poem?” There are plenty of answers, from the profound – a poem is such an ancient means of communication that it feels like an evolutionary necessity – to the practical; a poem is like a shot of espresso – the fastest way to get a hit of mental and spiritual energy.

We could talk about poetry as a rope in a storm. Poetry as one continuous mantra of mental health. Poetry as the world’s biggest, longest-running workshop on how to love. Poetry as a conversation across time. Poetry as the acid-scrub of cliche.

We could say that the poem is a lie detector. That the poem is a way of thinking without losing the feeling. That a poem is a way of feeling without being too overwhelmed by feeling to think straight. That the poem is “the best words in the best order” (Coleridge). That the poem “keeps the heart awake to truth and beauty” (Coleridge again – who can resist those Romantics?). That the poem is an intervention: “The capacity to make change in existing conditions” (Muriel Rukeyser). That poetry, said Seamus Heaney, is “strong enough to help”.


And pleasure.

Just as the body is shaped for movement, the mind is shaped for poetry.

- Jeanette Winterson

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Unbounded connection through the paradox of practice

One day I was riding around a track that my horse and I know very well. We've done it a thousand times. Suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. I could feel his heart beating a hundred miles an hour and he wasn't going to move. His whole body went rigid. I thought "I can't see a darn thing." I looked and looked and looked and I thought "This is ridiculous." I urged him on. He took a few more steps and went rigid again.

Then I could see what he had noticed: A tree had fallen. There was no way he could really have seen it. He had to have felt that that tree had fallen. The trees around it were clearly at risk of falling as well, and I'm sure he could feel that also. I thought: "How distanced we are from the universe that we don't feel those things too – that a tree's fallen." Maybe if I stick around this guru long enough, I will develop that unbounded connection with everything, so that I'll know too when a tree is about to fall or has just fallen.

I think this is a paradox of yoga practice: Why don't we seem to integrate practice by becoming chaotic and disorganized and wild and chronically spontaneous? After all, this practice breaks through into our animal nature, doesn't it? The paradox seems to be that through this very ordered, inner tempering we get strong enough, steely enough that we can let go.

There is a metaphor for that in my work with horses. I study horsemanship every day. I go to clinics. It's taken all of that preparation to be able to get on my horse and say, "Go, gallop," and not to hold on. One doesn't start with, "Oh, I'll just get on this horse and go at a flat-out gallop without a saddle or bridle." It might take ten years of training to get to that place. That seems to be the paradox of practice. It takes a simplified, ordered, reliable, ingrained patterning of trust and skillfulness in order to let go, and to ride that level of spiritedness and power within ones' life.

- Donna Farhi

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Brotherhood of the Traveling Armor" by Maura Barry-Garland

The Iliad as told by Ann Brashares

“Agamemnon expects me to sacrifice my life for the cause,” Achilles pouted, “when he won’t even sacrifice his sex life.” His best friend Patroclus nodded sympathetically from where he sat, legs splayed apart, on the floor of Achilles’s tent.

“I can’t believe this is going to be our first battle apart,” Patroclus sighed. He stared at the floor in hopes that his long, sandy-brown bangs would obscure the budding tears in his mahogany-colored eyes.

“A few days on your own won’t kill you,” Achilles said, flicking his own dark hair out of his eyes, “but could you stop using that word?”

“What word?” Patroclus replied. “Going? Believe?”

Battle,” Achilles sighed. “I really wish I could help, but I need to show Agamemnon that he can’t get away with being a lame-o.”

“Well, there’s a way you can help the cause without giving in to Agamemnon,” Patroclus insisted. “If you let me wear your armor into battle, Hector will be so scared that he’ll turn his army around and go right back through the gates!”

“I guess it won’t hurt if I let you try it on,” Achilles said, working his powerful jaw as he contemplated his options. “After all, it’s probably too heavy for you.”

He gathered his armor from where it lay heaped across the top of his dresser. The breastplate was heavy bronze and the giant shield was decorated with patches, like the heart he’d sewn on after meeting Briseis and the gold star Thetis had given him the time he went a full week without throwing a temper tantrum. A few scribbles in Sharpie also marked the gleaming expanse of metal, including “Momma’s Boy” and “P+A=BFF.” 

“If the armor hugs your butt, it’s just going to look baggy on mine,” Patroclus complained as he slipped the cuirass on. It slid over his head softly and came to rest at his sides, fitting like a glove. 

“It’s like it was made for you!” Achilles exclaimed. The breastplate hugged his friend’s slim, toned torso and brought out the metallic glint in his dark eyes.

Patroclus admired himself in the mirror and smiled even wider. At first, the shield had looked too busy for his taste and the breastplate too old, but on him they both came alive.

“Don’t be silly,” he grinned as he removed the armor, “It was made for you, Achy. You should try it on, too!”

“Sure,” Achilles said, and he pulled the cuirass on. Miraculously, the armor fit him just as perfectly as it had fit his taller, thinner friend. The gleaming bronze offset his glowing tan and cast highlights on the contours of his muscles.

“We can take turns wearing it into battle!” Achilles said as he stripped the armor off and handed it to Patroclus.

“It’ll be like you’re right there with me, even when you’re not!” Patroclus squealed, and the two embraced.

“We’re always going to be besties, Pattie,” Achilles said as he wrapped his arms around his friend. 

“Always,” Patroclus said, voice slightly muffled because his face was buried in the mighty pecs of Achilles.