Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "'Cuz He's Black" by Javon Johnson



So I’m driving down the street with my 4 year old nephew.
He, knocking back a juice box, me, a Snapple.

Today, y’all, we are doing manly shit.

I love watching the way his mind works;

He asks a million questions.

“Uncle, why is the sky blue?”

“Uncle, how do cars go?”

“Uncle, why don’t dogs talk?”

“Uncle, uncle, uncle.”

He asks, “Uncle, uncle, uncle.”

He asks, “Uncle, uncle, uncle.”

As if his voice box is a warped record and I try my best to answer every question, I do.

I say, “It’s because the way the sun lights up the outer space.”

“It’s because engines make the wheels go.”

“It’s because their minds aren’t quite like ours.”

I say, “Yes. No. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I don’t know. Who knows? Maybe.”

We laugh.


He smiles, looks out the window, spots a cop car, drops his seat, and says, “Oh man, uncle. 5-0, we gotta hide.”

I’ll be honest, I’m not happy with the way we raise our black boys.

Don’t like the fact that he learned to hide from the cops well before he knew how to read.

Angrier that his survival depends more on his ability to deal with authorities than it does his own literacy.

“Get up!” I yell at him.

“In this car, in this family, we are not afraid of the law!”

I wonder if he can hear the uncertainty in my voice.

Is today the day he learns that uncle is willing to lie to him?

That I’m more human than I am hero?

We both know the truth is far more complex than ‘do not hide’.

Both know too many black boys who disappeared, names lost.

Know too many Trayvon Martin’s, Oscar Grant’s, and Abner Louima’s.

Know too many Sean Bell’s and Amadou Diallo’s.

Know too well that we are the hard-boiled son’s of Emmett Till,

Still, we both know it’s not about whether or not the shooter is racist.

It’s about how poor black boys are treated as problems well before we’re treated as people.

Black boys, in this country, cannot afford to play cops and robbers if we’re always considered the latter;

Don’t have the luxuries of playing war if we’re already in one.

Where I’m from, seeing cop cars drive down the street feels a lot like low-flying planes in New York City.

Where I’m from, routine traffic stops are more like minefields, any wrong move could very well mean your life.

And how do I look my nephew in his appled face and tell him to be strong when we both know black boys who are murdered every day simply for standing up for themselves?


I take him by the hand.

I say, “Be strong.”

I tell him. I say, “Be smart.”

“Be kind and polite.”

“Know your laws.”

“Be aware of how quickly your hand moves to pocket for wallet or ID.”

“Be more aware of how quickly an officer's hand moves to holster for gun.”

“Be black. Be a boy. Have fun.”

Cause this world will force you to become a man far more quickly than you’ll ever have to need to.

He lets go of my hand.

“But uncle,” he asks.

“Uncle, what happens if the cop is really mean?”

And it scares me to know that he, like so many other black boys, is getting ready for a war I can’t prepare him for.



by Javon Johnson




For more information on poet, Javon Johnson, see:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/javon-Johnson

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Your Voice in the Chemo Room" by Max Ritvo



There is a white stone cliff over a dropping slope
sliced along with bare trees.


In the center of the cliff is a round dry fountain

of polished stone. By seizing my whole body up


as I clench my hand I am able to open

the fountain into a drain, revealing below it


the sky, the trees, a brown and uncertain ground.

This is how my heart works, you see?


This is how love works? Have some sympathy

for the great spasms with which I must open


myself to love and close again, and open.

And if I leapt into the fountain, there is just no


telling: I might sever myself clean, or crack

the gold bloom of my head, and I don’t know


onto what uncertain ground I might fold like a sack.



by Max Ritvo



For more information about poet, Max Ritvo, see:



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Listen Mr Oxford don" by John Agard



Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn’t graduate
I immigrate

But listen Mr Oxford don
I’m a man on de run
and a man on de run
is a dangerous one

I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen’s English
is the story of my life

I dont need no axe
to split up yu syntax
I dont need no hammer
to mash up yu grammar

I warning you Mr Oxford don
I’m a wanted man
and a wanted man
is a dangerous one

Dem accuse me of assault
on de Oxford dictionary
imagine a concise peaceful man like me
dem want me serve time

for inciting rhyme to riot
but I rekking it quiet
down here in Clapham Common

I’m not a violent man Mr Oxford don
I only armed wit mih human breath
but human breath
is a dangerous weapon

So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary

I making de Queen’s English accessory to my offence

by John Agard

Photo Credit: Copyright: Jay Blessed 

For more information about poet, John Agard, see:



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "This Is The Place" by Tony Walsh, a poem to honour the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing


This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.

Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands
And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh, take the mick summat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yeah we’ve a wealth
But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.

And make us a record, a new number one
And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on
And make us feel proud that you’re winning the league
And make us sing louder and make us believe that this is the place that has helped shape the world
And this is the place where a Manchester girl named Emmeline Pankhurst from the streets of Moss Side led a suffragette city with sisterhood pride

And this is the place with appliance of science, we’re on it, atomic, we struck with defiance, and in the face of a challenge, we always stand tall, Mancunians, in union, delivered it all
Such as housing and libraries and health, education and unions and co-ops and first railway stations
So we’re sorry, bear with us, we invented commuters. But we hope you forgive us, we invented computers.

And this is the place Henry Royce strolled with Rolls, and we’ve rocked and we’ve rolled with our own northern soul
And so this is the place to do business then dance, where go-getters and goal-setters know they’ve a chance
And this is the place where we first played as kids. And me mum, lived and died here, she loved it, she did.
And this is the place where our folks came to work, where they struggled in puddles, they hurt in the dirt and they built us a city, they built us these towns and they coughed on the cobbles to the deafening sound to the steaming machines and the screaming of slaves, they were scheming for greatness, they dreamed to their graves.

And they left us a spirit. They left us a vibe. That Mancunian way to survive and to thrive and to work and to build, to connect, and create and Greater Manchester’s greatness is keeping it great.
And so this is the place now with kids of our own. Some are born here, some drawn here, but they all call it home.
And they’ve covered the cobbles, but they’ll never defeat, all the dreamers and schemers who still teem through these streets.
Because this is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions, and dark times.
But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, Northern wit, and Greater Manchester’s lyrics.

And these hard times again, in these streets of our city, but we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity.
Because this is a place where we stand strong together, with a smile on our face, greater Manchester forever.
And we’ve got this place where a team with a dream can get funding and something to help with a scheme.
Because this is a place that understands your grand plans. We don’t do “no can do” we just stress “yes we can”
Forever Manchester’s a charity for people round here, you can fundraise, donate, you can be a volunteer. You can live local, give local, we can honestly say, we do charity different, that Mancunian way.
And we fund local kids, and we fund local teams. We support local dreamers to work for their dreams. We support local groups and the great work they do. So can you help us. help local people like you?

Because this is the place in our hearts, in our homes, because this is the place that’s a part of our bones.
Because Greater Manchester gives us such strength from the fact that this is the place, we should give something back.
Always remember, never forget, forever Manchester.


by Tony Walsh

Here is a video of the poet reading this poem at a vigil for the victims of this recent tragedy in Manchester:


For more information about poet, Tony Walsh, see:



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Like A Stone" by Chris Cornell


On a cobweb afternoon
In a room full of emptiness
By a freeway I confess
I was lost in the pages
Of a book full of death
Reading how we'll die alone
And if we're good, we'll lay to rest
Anywhere we want to go
In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone
I'll wait for you there
Alone
On my deathbed I will pray
To the gods and the angels
Like a pagan to anyone
Who will take me to heaven
To a place I recall
I was there so long ago
The sky was bruised
The wine was bled
And there you led me on
In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone
I'll wait for you there
Alone
Alone
And on I read
Until the day was gone
And I sat in regret
Of all the things I've done
For all that I've blessed
And all that I've wronged
In dreams until my death
I will wander on
In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone
I'll wait for you there
Alone
Alone

by Chris Cornell

Today's post is to commemorate Chris Cornell, a musician, who died at age 52. Cornell made no secret of his battles with anxiety and depression and, sadly, it appears from news reports so far that Cornell took his own life.

RIP Chris Cornell. May you find in death the peace that often eluded you in life. You were a great musical artist and you will be sadly missed. My love and best wishes go out to your wife and your children for whom this is a most terrible and unnecessary tragedy.


For more information about musician, Chris Cornell, see:


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Trouble With Love Poems About Men" by Bethy Gylys



They're not of curves and shadows made.
They don't wear skirts to swoop and tease

the eye, nor toss their hair, nor sway.

So arduous to package men to please:

a slant of hip, or buttocks tucked in faded

jeans--they lack aesthetic flair.  A spray


of curls might fan their brows, or bellies bloom

above their belts. To paint men in the best

of light requires certain skill. The groom

looks better if he's built. He'll fill

his tux with sculpted flesh. His chest

will taper to the cummerbund. Still,


what work to capture men's appeal!

A rise between the legs will also shade

and shape their usual lines. Alas, revealed,

the bulge is but a stick. We live dismayed.

It's difficult to bring men warm regard.

We try. Their love is always hard.



by Beth Gylys



For more information about the poet, Beth Gylys, see:


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Poem for International Dylan Thomas Day: "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953)



Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
by Dylan Thomas
From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp. 
Sunday May 14 is International Dylan Thomas Day and, although the above poem may have been almost anthologised to death, it is still one of my favourites of his poems so I hope you can enjoy it one more time.
For more information about the poet, Dylan Thomas, see: