Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10*2 Workshops!
A Poem for Mama
rattle those copper pots and tin pans, Mama,
early in the morning
when everyone else is still clinging
to that last second of sleep,
you orchestrate a fine symphony
of flavors, ohhh Mama, bake up
some of those fat cathead buttermilk
biscuits again Mama, with fresh wood-churned butter and redeye
gravy, the smell drawing us out of our dreams,
you know the way to our hearts is always
first to the nose Mama,
we can hardly wait till you
sing! Breakfast is on!!!
this is my contribution to Quincy Troupe &Praise. I am always one day late because of the different time in Berlin. But I like to start the morning with 10*10*10*.
Thank you so much
Go after the ball like mad
With your whole you
With your three year old feet
Running, kicking, wanting to trick,
urging to pick
The round from your coach
Who is holding you back
Putting his hands over your heart
That it does not spring out of your breast
But while he is holding you
Your legs are going on
In the air
And when he lets you
You are after the ball
Redfaced, with sweatdrenched curls
You take a shot straight into the goal
And brought down
by your own smash
you lay in the green green grass
In Praise of Joltin Joe
Go Joe! Turn with the distain of a
proud lion buzzed by a bee.
Move with the leisurely lope of an
antelope to the spot where the stung
ball will lose breath and start its arcing
descent before the monuments in
dead center field.
Extend your arm like an uncoiling
cobra preparing to strike its prey..
Open your glove like the maw of
a hungry eaglet waiting for its feed
and nestle the twirling orb into the
receptive recess of its peerless pocket.
The Wonder Dog
Gopee girl, you’re a dog, I know,
But when you look at me sometimes,
I see your Master’s eyes looking out
You’re a portal, a host, an animated house,
A window in a submarine
Providing peeks into a familiar world.
Sometimes, Gopee, you’re much more
Than you seem.
—Nayana Tara Hein
I thought the poem you wrote on the spot was especially good today. I wanted to put more images or metaphor in my poem, but I couldn’t figure out how.
Margaret Catherine Robinson
August 4, 1892 – June 21, 1944
Grama, you were compassionate and cheerful,
called a good fairy in your community,
only twenty-nine, my son’s age, already with two children,
when you helped nurse your neighbors,
sick with diphtheria, back to health, always gave
food and clothing to those less fortunate.
Your obituary a testament, ever ready to assist
in times of sorrow or distress.
First child born in the new country,
to parents disembarked from Ireland and Scotland.
You grew up in a tiny Minnesota town,
hoping for more than your mother had,
became a teacher, taught in a one room schoolhouse,
thirty miles from home.
There you met my grandfather,
married him at twenty-four,
honeymooned at the head of the Mississippi, traveling there by wagon.
My father, Neil, the middle child of five.
You and my grampa ran a country store,
sold it during the depression when people couldn’t pay,
then bought and worked a farm.
Stories told there was always a stew cooking on the stove,
and your family read together on winter evenings;
I am sure my love of reading comes from you.
That I missed being friends with you by sixteen years, two months and a day,
my great sadness, you died so young,
at fifty-one, from some kind of cancer.
We could have been close,
my life sounder with you in it.
Like an angel, you were kind, laughed a lot,
had a quick wit, and good humor,
a guiding figure in the family, many came for your advice.
I felt your gentle influence in my father –
how he loved his family and cared about folks.
Now that I’m older than when you died,
your absence is felt more sharply.
I understand how life operates – we come, we live and love, we leave;
you and I, grandmother and granddaughter, had many things to share,
not our destiny this time around.
Dear Dave Johnson and Poet’s House Team,
I write you all from the northernmost capital city of the world: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Thank you all so much for the programming you have continued to put on during these turbulent times. I donated a little bit of what I could. I have greatly enjoyed the 10*10*10 series, especially since you take our submissions seriously.
Please enjoy my little response to today’s video. Take care now!
P.S. Cool shirt today, Dave!
Ode’o to Gord’o
Your presence brings what your absence
lacked. None of the rest matters after the
fact. You stepped into the boots of dad.
They brought discomfort, blistered
achilles at first. With daily patience you
talked them down from the treehouse
where they aired out.
You wear them still.
—Heather Eileen Mark
At the tender age of fifteen
Entered Bonnie’s home
A mellifluous voice drifts
Through the air
“Wild is The Wind”
“The Twelfth of Never”
Transported by Lyrics and Melody
The Promise of Romance
As in a Broadway Show
His soothing baritone still arouses
For Tony Parker
Nothing But Authentic
the game of winning
raw and fluid
the game where just nothing
you steal and kill
the game towards obtaining
of the coronation of the circle
the game of suffering
but who gives you the crown
the game where the ultimate occupation
will win for eternity
—Olivier from Cannes France ??
Envoyé de mon iPhone
A Poem for McKoy
Bring that trophy on home, McKoy.
C’mon, do what you do best!
Step up front, tilt your head, squint your eyes,
breath in, deep, now let it out
and drop it like it’s hot.
They sigh, “now there goes the boom-boom-man”
when your six feet eight inch frame mounts stage
where you stand flatfooted before audience,
no mic, just using what the good Lord gave you,
and release those rhythmic words from deep within.
Pews filled with old-time brothers, and sisters
foot stomping, hand clapping, body rocking,
arms outstretched in hail,
as shout outs, “Sing Brother McKoy.”
“You betta sing that song boy,” fuel your diaphragm.
Your voice rumbling like the roaring thunder,
you dab moist beads of sweat on forehead,
tiny tissue grains freckle your face,
you’re belting it out now, from down in the valley
where you hear nothing but echo of the boom, boom, boom.
But your fans hear you dropping it like it’s hot
Dropping it like it’s red devil hot potato cayenne pepper.
Dropping it like it’s hot wasabi jalapeno.
“Them other boys can’t get no hotter than that!” fans say.
Tear trickles down Mother Hattie’s cheeks,
“Lawd, I ain’t heard no good old down-home
crooning like that since I last heard my daddy sing.”
Yeah, drop it brother McKoy, drop it like it’s hot.
And bring that trophy on home Mckoy,
Bring that trophy on home—to stand where it belongs.
In the Kitchen
You are grating garlic and ginger
having cut the red pepper in
equally measured strips.
The precision, you say, is
so each strip is to cook the same.
Likewise, you cut the chicken breast
into thick ribbons which you marinate
in garlic, soy, ginger and rice wine.
You will cook the chicken first
until nearly done
stirring in the peppers
adding one quarter cup of water
a tablespoon of hoisin
covering the mix while
the rice steamer hums and hisses.
We, each, will spoon the rice into small bowls;
the chicken and peppers, a garnish.
There is a scent of spice;
the nurture of warmth.
In all our years together, I have marveled
at how much you know and the discipline
of each thing you do.
Remembering the first card you sent me
a few words, concise as a recipe
and wondering if you didn’t know
there was to be a comma after love
and your first name.
—Lillian Rossi Maida
You, Pierre, claim
You, Pierre, claim “he who sings is not always happy”
“honestly, I have trouble with painting”
“in our memory we find what we ourselves have felt”
Start at north, glide eastward, roman gold, peach flesh,
Then glide through heavy cream, bath tile, egg shell,
Not quite baby, more robin-egg blue…
Capped by tile roofs, from thin to boxy,
Elided, edgeless, not the tile red we all know,
Then tinted mauve, then brick, then with magenta,
Then with umber, arrive where we know…
Perforated or spattered rows, arrays, distributions,
Rimmed or edgeless,
not ordered but not without order
like notes on a staff
crowned by pairs of shapes, like postage stamps,
from left to right, two, two, one
laborious disruption — though a careful glance sees it all
the glides and percussions,
the chords of color
and the meaningless music humming to itself.
When a cold rain falls
the vine withholds
its hopeful passage.
When a cold rain falls
its bright face.
No one escapes
when cold fingers’ sting—
the wise deflect the shards.
When a cold rain falls
bee sleeps, mantis abstains,
dry leaf breathes.
Hello and thank you for continuing 10-10-10.
Here’s a praise poem inspired by today’s session.
In Praise of Charlie Parker
Man-bird, who are you, from what sky did you drop
To our plane, pouring stars of sound from unheard galaxies
Exploding meteor showers between our ears,
Splashing new soundcolors onto our field of vision,
Rattling our sonar, sending microtones shivering up through our very bones
And altered frequencies keening from crown to toes,
Bouncing every whichway, taking us down endless corridors of surprise.
You soared, preened, and dived,
Exploring deeper, giving more
Never alighting, never leaving an address,
Pierced but unfelled by enemies inside and out —
You are, forever, groovin’ high.
Today is a happy day.
Jacqui was upside down
in this belly, Mommy belly,
when he was a baby.
I kicked her belly and then
I came out, so I was not
in the belly for a very long time.
I turn four today and I got
a yellow number four balloon,
and a bicycle from Daddy.
And I am getting a remote
control spider, its coming
in the mail.
And I feel happy
and I jump.
—Jacqui Andre Fabri-Baksh (Age 4)
You didn’t want to go to bed
last night, because I told you
that when you woke up
you would be four. You cried
and sobbed: I don’t want to be four!
I told you that birthdays
are happy days, not sad ones.
That not everyone gets to
have them. Will I ever get to be
three again? No, you will not.
Thats not how time works.
Then, next, I have to be five?
If all my dreams come true,
yes. But not for many days.
How many? you asked.
Three hundred and sixty-five,
and I praise each
of those days, of each
of those years, even when
the hours are long, and strange
and an uncertain grey.
I Love the days, since you
were born, how giant it is
the way I Love the days.
—Erica Miriam Fabri
To a stranger I see every morning on my way to work
You get your running legs awake each day,
always right on time at six o’clock.
Every day the gray sweatpants go on
with running shoes, t-shirt and clean white socks.
I pass you on the path at half past six.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday too.
By Friday we are ready for a rest,
but there is still a weekend left to run.
You can’t be running more than a few miles,
and most of us can walk faster than you,
but I see you never miss a day
even when I’m sleeping in at home.
When my hair has turned as gray as yours
your marathon will always be my goal.
Thank you for the wonderful video as always! I think this is almost the opposite of the poem you shared, but I wanted to try to praise the steadiness and persistence of a man I see out running every morning when I bike to work.
In praise of all of you who can never be her
You aren’t her, at least. It’s what I say whenever I think I’m getting too cynical about women. If I think there’s some grand, hidden conspiracy against men, I say to myself in my paranoia, “At least none of them are her!” And I’m glad it’s the truth, that it will always be the truth.
Maybe you’d like to destroy whatever’s left of me. Or maybe you’d like to manipulate me into doing whatever it is you have in mind. I’m no good to any of you as a tool if I’m dead, right?
None of this is what I think of as I slide into sleep’s loving arms every night, as I elide from the living to the dead. Then it’s all about oneness, togetherness. In those moments I feel connected to all of you like I’ve never felt in the wide-awake world. It’s the in-between spaces where the magic truly happens.
When fully in one space or the other, I’m either useless to myself or useless to all of you. And that used to get to me, the idea of being useless. The ones in that house used to say it to me all the time, “You’re useless!” And it never occurred to me till someone observed years later, “Little kids aren’t supposed to be useful—they’re just supposed to be kids.”
Sure, I’m still getting over all that shit by finally allowing myself to endure it all over again through my adult eyes, adult perspective—maybe the wise man I am for others can find a way to forgive myself for not being perfect enough to come out of all that unscathed.
But, yes, this self-hatred has extended to my choosing her. I used to say I wasted twelve years on that woman, but whose fault was it, really? It’s still mine, it’ll always be mine. I accept that now.
Which isn’t to say I’ve come out of that whole business unscathed either—I haven’t. None of you are her, and this is something I celebrate. It’s something I’m grateful for. Except those times when the voice within, so cavernously deep within that it is like a ghost of the past, a ghost of whoever I should be by now according to the laws of impossibility.
That’s the voice that tells me I’m just as vulnerable now as I was with her. And it’s because I still value love, because I still seek to be loved, still want a woman to lie with who will want me like I’ve never been wanted before.
For my heart, for what is, not what could be. For my listening, always listening. For my outrage when listening is done, for my love that cuts down any who would hurt or harm or twist or threaten.
I have never been wanted like this before. In the end, it was all about her making me the scapegoat of all her problems and woes just like they did in that house. It’s the very antithesis of love.
I know none of you are her, but I am afraid some part of you is, that in time you will see lands in me you want to conquer, that you will see a slave where once you saw an equal. And that once again, all over again, I will be the scapegoat until I am the unwanted being cast out.
It’s how I’ve come to accept—or to begin the process of accepting—my isolation as being a conclusion of all this attempting to love and to be loved. And maybe it is unnatural and sad, but to avoid meeting her ever again in the form of any of you, it is necessary.
Mom, I remember you singing
Your voice when you sang me to sleep
wove a blanket, a sweet rose that filled
my room and held my hand.
I remember one time you sang at my school.
I was standing backstage
when you stood on the stage
and opened your mouth
-the sound was like lilacs.
The girl behind me,
the one with the stuck up nose
said you weren’t any good.
What did she know any way?
Probably ate Aunt Jemima because
she thought real maple syrup wasn’t sweet.
To me, your voice was like a spring breeze
a bird song, the shade of a summer tree,
cool water to swim in.
Maybe you were not Arthea
Holiday or Joplin.
But when birds open their mouths
there are no fancy dresses,
no concert halls.
They sing to the dawn,
they sing for each other,
they just sing, and sing and sing.
Keep singing, Mom. Keep singing.
Sister, your smile is moonlight, comforting as my favorite blanket.
Sister, you are a gentle rolling hill, still as a tortoise, teeming as a summer pond.
Sister, you are my auburn hearth, reassurance pulsing.
Sister, hug me and I have a place among the stars.
“Thank you, thank you for the ongoing inspiration”
A Sonnet for The Dude
We meet you at the market sniffing milk,
robe and slippers fitting for the hour,
blissful in your ignorance that soon
you’ll encounter the mean agency of power.
Through ruined carpet, kidnapping, and mayhem,
you hold on to your reason, zen, and grace.
From fending off the nihilists and thugs
to windswept hill with ashes in your face.
When tawdriness, gross error, greed, and malice
bring rising indignation at life’s noise,
Your Dudeness, Duder, Dudester, Duderino,
you try to take a stand in equipoise.
Immortal Dude, you take it all in stride
with quiet grit, good humor, you abide.
Ode to Peanut Butter
Oh my… peanut butter !
Dense and delicious,
Creamy or crunchy but always so smooth,
The thick jarred snack packs a perfect protein punch.
Call it Jif, Skippy, Smuckers, Peter Pan….even Justin (?),
It answers to all.
Spread it on a cracker, top off your toast,
Mash it between a celery stick or eat it straight from the jar.
Transform it to a cookie, put it in your pie,
pile jelly upon it, or …..if you dare,
the sinful fluff.
Peanut butter morphs and becomes its lover’s delight.
Feed it to the dog, ANY school aged kid,
Share it with your buddies, hoard it in the drawer….
But NEVER dismiss the power of the peanut and its
universal, ageless charm!
(more of an encouragement poem…!)
whine and head for sad
even when you try they make us cry
you are sitting on a pile of misery girl
even the heart has its own heart
you know this
why don’t you just let it out
break the dyke
in an instant waters will rise
from the forlorn lapping in your head
to all the tiny stunned cells seepage
mounting quickly to flood stage
unstoppable you fear this sorrow
rushing out loose at last
flowing toward the land of relief
don’t worry about star-carpeted woods
the river in its bed sea walls and dunes
you can do this
all of your defences
will be gone