Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10 Video Workshops!
Episode 2: Caribbean Poetry and Place
We mix mudpies
In the dark sand
In grandma’s front yard
Under the sycamore tree
And you tell me You are baking blueberry
And I tell you mine is shoefly pie!
Where we don’t worry.
Where we are forever.
In Rome, roaming the past, building a future.
In Curaçao, sun-shining, sea-seeing a glittering path ahead.
At Home, together, gathering, nesting, vesting for later years.
Where time slides by in paper and wood, cotton and candy.
Not test by test.
Not half alive and halfway dead.
Where we were.
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Walk along the moonscape of the outer world,
not seeing the crabs crawling after us. There are
funnel flowers, purple and deep,
We pick up bubble shells, and see
our laughing faces reflected. The ground is marble sand,
and if we pack it all together, we can
make a Nike of Samothrace standing in halls of pink marble
and ponder what this austere, sinuate damsel speaks to us?
and where her victory lies
We try to imagine the shores where the waves pound
and the scent the algae carry. We are swept away
by surging ridges of salt water, and our weeping overflows the basin.
There are birds, blue and lavender: the orange beaks
peck their way through our dreams and
we float up past the stars and into the black ice.
And never look back.
plot to make it back to the Bronx
the rusty abandoned bike
delights us both
jubilation – free at last
yet upon closer inspection
no training wheels.
After Makesha Evans’ poem, “Where We”
where we stand on a tightrope
clock face flags possibility of flounder
where human sea swells and choked
skimmers sink dreams of one
day becoming catamarans
Where we went paddle boarding and I kept falling over
Where we tasted the salty water when we fell over
Where we see aa blue footed booby, the bright blue feet standing out next to the dark rocks
Where we sleep on aa boat and sometimes get seasick
Where we see frigate birds, their chests popping out like big red heat balloons
We were on top of the world once
Hey do you remember?
We stared at the stark sky
Under the moonlight tree
Where we lay-
covered in stardust.
We wished and dreamed
For the Fable to come true.
On top of the highest tower
Where we bud up a crystal
And lit up into a new dawn
Hey do you remember,
those were the times?
Where we feel like strangers,
exploring the new world as little kids,
knowing people with their own version of the same dream,
modelling ourselves into our dreamed “me”,
appreciating what used to be taken for granted,
and evolving to an unknown version of ourselves.
Until we choose a new destination to emigrate.
Nos sentimos como extraños,
explorando el nuevo mundo como niños pequeños,
conociendo personas con su propia versión del mismo sueño,
modelándonos en nuestro “yo” soñado,
apreciando lo que se solía dar por sentado,
y evolucionando a una versión desconocida de nosotros mismos.
Hasta que elijamos un nuevo destino para emigrar.
Dove ci sentiamo come estranei,
esplorando il nuovo mondo come bambini,
conoscendo persone con la loro propria versione dello stesso sogno,
modellandoci nel nostro “io” sognato,
apprezzando ciò che davamo per scontato,
ed evolvendo così in una versione sconosciuta di noi stessi.
Fino a quando non sceglieremo una nuova destinazione per emigrare.
Hello Poet House!
I found on youtube this series of videos, and how glad I am to have discovered this content!
Just to give you some context about the poems I am attaching, I am from Colombia, and I’m currently living in Milan Italy.
Thank you for the inspiration. Please keep on creating this kind of material!
We address our demons on our bed
When no one’s around .
I watch you
You watch me
We will not communicate in an exchange of words
But through air waves
And internet signals
Wireless and free.
You know me.
I know you.
It feels good to be seen.
June at Dusk
Where we caught fireflies in the yard
in pickle jars, gave them names,
watched, enthralled with their fairy blinks.
Lethargic games of tag blurred into hiding,
seeking, chasing, falling. We sometimes told
each other stories under the lilac tree
heavy perfume sweetening our lies.
In our quest to capture bright bits of summer
we learned to adore wandering insects
and start fearing other things.
Where we feel the crabs
burbling beneath the sand
where the sanderlings run up and down the shoreline like some crazed killers
where the gulls indulge in repasts
left long enough to be fair game
where I lose and gain my soul in one
languid spell, an afternoon, summer,
on Jones Beach,
the. air the same as my
Cloaked in the air
I am mist at sea
but having forgotten
I need reminding.
The sea beckons
with its constant thrum
A small riot of whoosh.
-Ellen Pober Rittberg
Your workshop gets the creative juices flowing–
Orchard Beach 1952
where we (Higgy, Bart and me)
wade through the polluted waters
of Long Island Sound
looking for scallop shells, discarded condoms
and random ephemera offered up by the incoming tide—
dangling all from stalks of seaweed
as if we were musketeers brandishing promise
along the tips of our rapiers.
The beers making us foolhardy
we sneak up to the slowly moving train
which blocks us from the park
and reach up, stepping onto the coupling
and carefully, carefully
hop off the other side
we call ourselves hobos
and giggle off into the night.
Thank you! This is really fun to do!
Hold hands with strangers
we’ve known for ten years,
down creaky stairs to church
You hand me instant coffee
in styrofoam and remind me
‘one day at a time’.
sit alone and together
the A train rumbles past
(after Makesha Evans)
We turn a downed
tree on a lot being
cleared in our newly
into our own version
of a Broadway stage.
We dance and sing
even though we don’t know
all the words. This is
where we practice
pretending the world
— Deborah Purdy
Where we in silence
Of silence inside inner Pie pieces of apartment buildings like Matta
But sealed, in silence and wood, and
Aluminum hurting brightness
A hive of silent movement
city systems invisible
On tiny red dots.
Lie to the heavens
and lie on the pews.
Red, yellow, blue, green refracts
And cleanses our souls.
Amen, amen, amen.
Free to sin again
We squeeze ourselves, sardines
in a packed can bus, we hold on
to whatever we can find and sway
with the motion of the bus as it tries
to miss every pothole. The landscape
is a contrast of automobile junkyards,
suppliers of stone, sand and concrete,
Liberty park and churches. We find
somewhere to live amidst all of it
as we look for a little bit of space,
ringing the bell to pin a location,
to squeeze ourselves back out
and breathe in home
and out a sigh of relief.
We wear vinyl gloves that are too big
but they’re the only ones we could find
we ask people not to touch our dog
and hope we don’t come off rude
it’s like we’re tiptoeing under these
large clouds low hanging and dense
we’re looking for breath in the open,
Descend into white surfaces unknown
Tiny pellets sometimes gentle or sharp and staccato
Bumping, gliding, jarring
Down we go or across to pause in the majesty
Of these peaks and dips
We are here together at the grace of this mountain
Passable like this only because of snow
Only because we trust each other
As lovers and friends and fellow mountaineers
Us at our best
Snow furious and us determined
Forward and downward and then again
played at the beach all summer
the water, the sand
reveling in the sunlight, warmth and excitement
of tsunami like waves
the ocean was my salvation
I enjoyed nothing more
till one cruel day
I almost could not catch my breath under water
I tumbled around gasping for air
only to miraculously
breathe the fine salt air once again
Where we find the path to the treehouse.
Hopping the fence, between ours
and the neighbor’s yard.
We climb slats up into the hollow house.
Look out at the spaces between fences
property that belongs to no one
stolen in the summer hours
before our parents call from the stoop.
We chalk the sidewalk,
build our hopscotch world
right where the gentle hill levels out
Where we own the dusk,
the road devoid of parents
Where we are angels in the fading
light, hopping, jumping square
to square, one foot, two
flying if we so feel.
Where we throw the universe back
and forth as if it were a potsie
Where we land just where we
feel like landing.
—Linda Hillman Chayes
Grandma’s hand-stitched silk quilt
where we curl up and cuddle
in midnight hours
in moments cold as winter’s rain
in moments painful as tragic death of loved one.
Grandma’s hand-stitched silk quilt
where we curl up and cuddle
beneath square patches
of stitched together fabrics
snagged, stained, stretched
Grandma’s hand-stitched silk quilt
where we curl up and cuddle
and feel that cozy warmth
peace and love.
ride the concrete
corners of the cul-de-sac,
3-speed wheels parting
the air like daggers,
conquer iron pilings
on the bay. We have to
keep moving, lest
darkness catch us clownin, we
peddle past sun,
past lunch, away from dinner
what dreams will tease us
in the beds we share
with our brothers, muscles
blankets too short for our feet.
Where We (2020)
We trespass into the woods
Where the sign says we shouldn’t
As we walk we quietly listen
To the birds that nest in the trees
As we hear the steps of the deer
Quietly rustling the leaves
Up ahead we hear a babbling brook
Taking a step along the rocks we take a look
We lay our curious heads,
ceaselessly questioning into the dark.
Childhood homes, weekends at grandma’s house,
father’s prayers, first loves.
Where we recall dreams, and
even, proclaim them.
Where we whisper challenges and make
pleas for pleasure, stealing kisses
in-between. Where we
traverse distance, reconcile
Some days, we rise early,
pull the sheets tight,
arrange pillows. Others,
we stay deep in-
to the afternoon, with books
and coffee and tea.
At some point, abandoning
the messy white pile of fluff,
a soft invitation,
We meet the mist
face first, fists full
of food and
outerwear. We treadmill
the earth where we share tales
And it’s we
who tight rope the water’s edge
where we see the bridge
and the mist clocks out
for the rain. Where we meet it
gladly under brief shelter where we coat
wet seats with outerwear we no longer desire
where we desire longer
where we linger
where we sit
where we swing.
Where we swing
and the rain meets us…
crossed over into the oasis
manicured lawns, with flower gardens in the front
plots of vegetables in the back in front of
two car garage
passed the civil service exam that gained
access to federal, state and municipal jobs
no longer had to hold rent parties or live in boarding houses
purchased a quarter acre of the forty we were promised
time city services became scarce
green grass turned brown, then only the patches
dry dirt remained
our unemployment rose
drown our sorrow in brown liquor
above the despair on rock cocaine
crashed with needles in our arms and
on our backs
properties became distressed
were abandoned, boarded up
for electric and stripped for pipes
began to leave destitute, broken and defeated
white couples bought our homes for pennies on the dollar
securing loans from the sames neighborhood banks
refused to open checking or savings accounts for us,
to give us mortgages
us to us check cashing services that charged us
more than the local loan shark or bookie
and becky replaced the roof, painted the shutters
the front and back yards and invited their friends
join them as they reclaimed the land
less than a half a century
ran to the suburbs
our collapse and prepared the way
their children to grow up
once we were…
—d. alan ward
Walk round and round within the bamboo fence outside our kitchen door,
Getting our fill of soft air
When the health ministry says don’t leave your home
(lest you be struck by a crowned virus, that steams your forehead,
chokes off your breath and delivers you post-haste to one of a
thousand zippered isolation tents in surgical green, which resemble
Skirting the exercise bike, the dusty glass-topped table and wire-mesh
chairs, the rack filled with clothing, that may always be almost dry
We tread on wooden boardwalk
And soft synthetic grass
Bordered with natural weeds
The biggest, ugliest and most prickly of which are topped with flowers
Eentsy yellow-petaled circles,
Tiny purple stars
View discarded broken fences
And terraced back porches adorned with the neighbors’ serious attempts
Watch the highest birds, who, according to regulations, fly at a
distance of at least two meters each from each
And on the branch of a tree just beginning to give leaf, site a lone
hook-beaked grey-and-black bird, a touch of turquoise on its wing
My friend wishes she had a yard of her own
where we smack the little ball
over the concrete slab
where four tables sit
in recessed ground
sometimes we can stop the wind
we own the ping pong table
the glass shards between stones
can’t cut us
we keep our skin
you say we are getting bigger and bigger
we feel the heavy sun
it lifts us up
first met in August last year,
Was a place befitting our love for food from the southern part of our land.
Your love for food, you said was hot and cold, of too much and too little,
Your battle with food, was a battle unheard of by me,
To conquer it was your goal.
Tirelessly you have fought since before I have known you,
To reach a place where your love for food won’t be hot and cold.
And I want you to know, a thing which sometimes you forget,
That you have got what it takes to conquer it all.
So when you do, we will once again go to the place where we first met in August last year,
With love for both hot and cold food, and not love which is hot and cold,
To celebrate you, your victory and the food which we both so dearly love.
After Makesha Evans
We drove through the night—
who needs sleep in their twenties?—
destinations sometimes unknown
and unnecessary: being together
the destination we’d already
Where We Once
Where we once owned the sidewalks, cherry blossoms, basketball courts, curbside cafes,
Where we cursed when his briefcase hit our knee, cowered from sirens and truck horns,
Sneakers stuck with gum;
Rushed to work, squeezed spoon-like into subways, wafting of popcorn and urine;
Now we stare, 20, 60, 100 feet down,
Stifled street, gated stores,
No smile under the mask.
Where we once, now we wait.
We slipped into the dark
The moon lighting our way
The bicycle wheels turning below us
As cold tears roll down our faces.
Where we can hear each other’s breaths
And the occasional footsteps of last year’s
Reveler shuffling home.
Where we arrive by the desolate beach
And settle onto the sand,
Sipping barley tea while
The sky gradually blinks open.
—Wing Yan Sang
We sneak and go to the beach.
Where we were warned not to visit.
We will get the beating of a lives
How were we caught?
My elder sister will placed
the tip of her tongue on our skin
You are dead meat
Once you have a salty taste.
And the beatings never stopped us from going
Our friend that lives close
Always convinced us to go
Then wash away the salty water in his house.
We will then play in the sand to look dirty.
We were young and reckless
But we had brains.
—Abu Tahiru Sillah
We hear each other’s voices
in the apartment we share
on the upper west side.
And you tell me
you are going out
to buy groceries.
And I tell you,
I won’t let you go.
—Kori Cooper (@Cooper_Esquire)
we dance into the night
the speckles of the
through the trees,
inviting us to
dance to the songs
the birds are singing
—Jade Fassbinder (@jadefassbinder on twitter & instagram)
used to be comfortable
in our own skin
summer, fall, winter, and spring
wrapped in the changing colors
feeling free with our breaths
walking into life-like dreams
not ashamed of our footprints
but emboldened by our way
of chasing the nights
as our light for uncertain times
a torch so high that burned our sights.
—María Paz (@mapachasoy)
we rode the swing until it was tired
its seat begging for air
that little garden swing
hung from the guava tree
next to the flowers.
the roses and croton tree
must have heard our boisterous screams
as our feet flung through the air
waving at the clouds.
there we waited for the days to come
to fly with the Jamaican wind.
and Away on the Block
girls scrambled knees up
knotty elbows of
plant our own
spring to fall
twin houses guarding the trafficky block
where our eyes so often
past Philly’s drab dome
Cali’s sun, an airy fruit we wished to pluck
be a fort that her teen
swore to build beneath the tree
we dragged LittleMark’s wagon
the construction site bragged
of fresh blonde two by fours
wood where our only woods once stood
we used to burrow in a macaroni fort
dug and carpeted it
what our mothers would do if they knew
demolition we’d flee
the helmet man peeing out an unglazed window
us scrambling down the block
teetering over wheels
we caught him first
so escaped, tucking ourselves
boasts could pierce the block’s cloud cap
we all fancied
We we we all the way
We were not Dick and Jane
Nor Jack and Jill but—
Promise you won’t tell—
Bonnie and Clyde
Holding up the hour
On your side of the bed
Where I go now to shanghai
Where we tiptoe
through moldering leaves,
lured by the hollow sound
of water drops on stone
we pass the rim,
drawn by the echo of our footfall,
our swallowed voices–
“whoo- whoo’s” thrown back–
on dragon-cold breath.
We dare each other to go deeper, darker into the maw,
holding hands to find
the hole of sun at the other end—
light rushing in
the opening out.
—Kate Cheney Chappell
Where we were immortal
in forever summer,
younger than responsibility,
We ran past American elms
hid behind forsythia bushes
played baseball and rode our bikes,
never mind bloody knees and
tear streaked cheeks.
We lay on our backs in the grass
and watched the sky.
That was all.
That was enough.
to the park
with my yellow scooter.
I take a shortcut.
I go down a mountain
very super fast, super!
I was brave, I was not scared.
I see police
and I say hello
and I go home to eat.
That’s the end of it.
—Jacqui Andre Fabri-Baksh (age 3.5+)
For Dave Johnson
Where we lived
A tenement barely less
old than the Civil War.
A railroad flat that
over looked clotheslines,
stretched from windows to
leaning poles, sagging across
backyards and arcing above
sulking dogs and one- eyed cats.
spy rattlers tucked between
rocks, curdled Pahoehoe lava tubes
everywhere beneath us.
The ranger gifts John a helmet and light
Here is where we separate—
he into profound silence and a consistent
cool. Me, to guard the gear, make blunt sketches
of sagebrush and curved hills, waiting
Waiting-where will he emerge?
Unexpected, a youthful, buoyant
black smudged face erupts long past
the entry-point, telling of close walled
belly shims and ancient sea wall secrets
shared only with those unafraid
of the dark.
We meet in the park
with our dogs racing
around and around
here and back.
While they wrestle and gnaw
on each other’s necks,
our lives unfold,
through casually disclosed snippets.
The daily chore is woven
into our lives,
becomes our community.
We Fox-walk across the spongy musty forest duff
Reach the threshold of earth-walled haven
So windowed that inside is outside
embers erupt in the hearth
We gather round to read short stories aloud, shuffle cards, roll the dice
Stove-top alive with polychromic earthen spices mixed with home-schooled crisp produce
Circling the hand-hewn cherry table we share ideas and happenings
The ominous cloud of world events invisible
From inside my woodland dwelling
We are here
You are there
We cross paths
That don’t go anywhere
Where are you
Let’s find a place to go
A place somewhere only we know
Where We…Want to Go
A—Are the beaches
W—With the water and waves
A—All around are happy people
I—Inside and out
I—Islands just so beautiful and peaceful
Where we play in the salty water
With the whole family
Where we look out as far as the eye can see
While digging holes and making castles
Where we have to wash the sand off our feet
Before going inside
Where the cousins sit and play together
And the best memories are made
Where we lug our lunch is a choice.
I dress in my familiar cabbage patch costume,
drag my sandwich and blanket up into a chimney,
and zip down the chute further into the forest
where we all see the light, mommy and daddy arguing,
me on the ground, far from the kitchen table.
We are made into dollar signs
easy to count and slice
our bones molded into percentage
and our hopes manipulated
into unbelief; this place
is home, still. Reeking
of death, people rest
alone along hospital corridors
and in rooms where silence comes
because loved ones are never
allowed. These times are new
and somehow have always been the same.
Where we walked into that musty dancehall
heads full of music and love dreams until
the men with Guinness breath danced too close
then it was time for the Ladies’ toilet
where the air reeked of hair spray and
where the mirrors all said, “No.”
Where we discussed your bruises
from restoring the farmhouse furniture you sell
on Facebook to help
pay rent in Las Vegas where you moved
in your car with two hundred thousand
miles, which still wasn’t far enough from
Staten Island where you left
him and your wedding
photos from the Wynn hotel where we
are now, in a lounge whose carpet is too bright
for two in the morning, classic
rock playing on electric violins too loud
for what you were,
we were really,
trying to say.
—Austin S. Lin
Overcame the whipping wind
my hair just started to grow out
my fingers started to interlace, again
my feet, arches high, sprung toward your height
my lips and tongue, again, making words
babble and labia smacking love slaps
Oh my pelvic floor, my prostrate REJOICES.
our conversation an orchestra of body parts and breath
wound free of our pedestrian place
and I no longer stuttered the squiggly lines
I spit blood and fire wrapped
Where we could be alone
in my head
Without the rustling of gossip
Attacking the papillon
Trying to croach from its larve.
On the boat on the sea with the wind
Blowing away the swarm of knifes
feed the fire with seasoned wood
in a sitting room they once called parlor
instead of renovation
it skipped a generation
the antique spinet kept its tune
but spirits tended
a house that loved
to serve its children
in crystal bowls
We gathered in the rusty old playground,
all of us thirteen
our bicycles leaning in a line against the chain-link fence,
our voices loud
sometimes in laughter,
sometimes in song.
We knew we needed to gather.
We did not know how fast those days would disappear.
we cross the southern boarder
where we awaken in Oaxaca City
edge down Hildalgo Street
every corner new
every movement of unsureness
melted by the Mexican sun
our shadows follow us
to the zoloco
alive with sounds
Spanish mixed with local dialects
open her seating
where we use our words
point and nod
then wait in anticipation
for the meals
we hope we chose
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
the annals of history
one story at a time
where the great painters, sculptors and illustrators
bore witness to the joy, treachery, love, despair and bravery of decades of mankind.
You find hope and light in their strokes, composition and design,
I find gratitude in their colors, shades and lines,
Together we relish in their talent and reflections cloistered in the majestic halls of the museum.
Only wishing we could stay longer.
don’t mix spit;
only rarely now in anger
do I hiss
(cat claws, complaints useless):
our little house.
Sun shines outside, bliss.
But outside you persist.
O, stay away from us
Up and Away on the Block
we girls scrambled knees up
the knotty elbows of
Franny’s mimosa tree
claiming, each, a
to plant our own
summers spring to fall
the crabapple wars
among linked yards
our twin houses guarding the trafficky block
from where our eyes so often
climbed past Philly’s drab dome
to Cali’s sun, an airy fruit we wished to pluck
there’d be a fort that her teen
brother swore to build beneath the tree
once we dragged LittleMark’s wagon
up the block
where the construction site bragged
stacks of fresh blonde two by fours
stealable wood where our only woods once stood
where we used to burrow in a macaroni fort
underground and wonder
who dug and carpeted it
and what our mothers would do if they knew
that demolition we’d flee
as the helmet man peeing out an unglazed window
caught us scrambling down the block
wood teetering over wheels
but we caught him first
and so escaped, tucking ourselves
up and away
our boasts could pierce the block’s cloud cap
while we all fancied
Franny’s high perch