Tag Archives: poem


In paintings she is the quintessential Madonna:
demure, deferential, her face painted with round features and soft colors,
a delicate oil on canvas,
a woman canonized with an angelic golden halo,
a shining icon of faith and purity.
In some depictions she wears an expression of pained piety on her face,
her eyes lifted pleadingly to the sky
as if searching for a freedom only providence can bring.
In other depictions her eyes look toward the ground in mourning.
She often holds one hand to her reverent heart, in obedience to God,
the other hand clutching a crucifix or a palm frond.
Sometimes she holds a platter.

Her name is Agatha.
In the year 250 C.E., she refused to marry a powerful man
who lusted after her, choosing faith over fortune,
and for her impudence she was arrested and sentenced before a judge—
the very man who desired her.
But she refused to recant; she stood firm in her beliefs.
She sought heaven above
and chose hell on earth.
Vengeful and spurned, the judge imprisoned her
and tortured her for months,
subjecting her to unfathomable horrors, hoping she would break under his will—
finally, in a gross affront to her chastity and her femininity,
cutting off her breasts with pincers.

Agatha’s suffering sanctified her. It immortalized her.
In time, iconography of her became legendary;
paintings over the centuries depict her
holding her own severed breasts on a plate, nipples undeniably the focal point—
the saintly Agatha holding her body aloft, offering her breasts as if to say,
“Look at me, God damn you! see what you’ve done!”
A martyr wearing her heart on her sleeve—or, rather, her tits on a platter—
she waves her own flag of self-determination,
having chosen to die for her beliefs rather than compromise them.
Her breasts were her humility, her strength, her legacy.
They were a symbol.

In photographs she is the quintessential Hollywood star:
sultry, stunning, her face painted up with smoky eyes and red lips,
a woman cast in roles that only women can play: the witch, the mental case, the whore.
She is sex personified, every expression judged as seduction:
the exotic cheekbones contouring her face,
the curve of the sensual lips that embody her sex appeal,
the hypnotic eyes that pierce the lens of the camera that follows her.
A temptress by definition, for her looks alone,
she is a magnet for the male gaze.

Her name is Angelina.
In 2013, she revealed she had undergone a double mastectomy
to reduce her risk of breast cancer and to save her life.
Preventative, practical, medical.
And for this personal choice she was scorned
by a dubiously qualified public—
by the very people who idolized her,
men who desired her, women who envied her.
But she refused to submit to the criticism; she stood by her decision,
one that embodied autonomy and freed her from fear.
Removed and reconstructed, her breasts told the story
of a woman’s life in the public eye,
these breasts that launched a thousand judgments.

Angelina’s resolve justified itself.
What was a personal decision erupted into the sphere of public opinion
as strangers took offense at another woman’s body,
lamenting as though it was their loss,
all the while changing their social media profiles to pink backgrounds
and adorning pink ribbons on their clothes—
drowning themselves in that sacred color of womanhood,
among other ubiquitous feel-good but meaningless gestures.
After all, the life of a woman be damned next to her breasts! —
and Angelina’s were some of the best.
But it was never their body to own.
Her breasts were her power, her choice, her liberty.
They were a symbol.

In real life she is the quintessential contradiction.
At a glance, she carries herself effortlessly,
the epitome of confidence and self-acceptance—
although, she should smile more; that would make her prettier.
But she’s beautiful just the way she is, au naturel,
until she removes the foundation and concealer and eyeshadow and mascara,
and suddenly then it’s all a trick and she’s too high-maintenance—
and besides, she’s an ugly bitch who no one wants to fuck anyway.
Her long hair cascades majestically down her back;
she conditions it until it shines in the sunlight.
But when she raises her arms
there grows more hair: thick, coarse, repulsive;
an abrupt announcement of her somehow surprising mammalian status.
But good on her for making such a bold statement!
She’s allowed to express herself, of course—
but only within a societal comfort zone.
Her entire existence is a paradox, a gendered catch-22:
She is beautiful but homely; confident but humble; assertive but accommodating.
She is what you want her to be, and what she will never attain.

Her name is Rachel.
Her name is Megan. Her name is Therese, B, Tera, and Jess.
She is all of us.
In 2020, she envelops into her body the stories of the women before and after her—
a time capsule from centuries and decades past, a crystal ball into the future—
becoming their experiences as she endures her own.
Today she is the child
who is told for the first time to cover up,
blissfully ignorant of how only her nipples, and not those of her brothers,
are illegal.
The eighth grader
who plays a game with her friends at cross-country practice:
how many catcalls will they rack up today
for wearing running shorts and a t-shirt?
The college student
who spends one hapless spring break on a Mexican beach with her friends
and becomes the unwitting victim of a thousand tired Girls Gone Wild jokes.
The mother
who openly breastfeeds her hungry infant in a crowded place
and stares down all the other ogling eyes
that view her as the feast.
The sex worker
who picks up dollar bills from “family values” politicians
who shame her publicly for baring her breasts
but creep back to the strip club every weekend to shower her with more.
The octogenarian
who has given up trying to defy gravity and lets it all hang out,
stretch marks and all,
challenging anyone who dares to repress the story of her body.

We contain multitudes.
Like Agatha and Angelina, like any woman who has ever
been judged, ridiculed, assaulted, or murdered because of her body,
we are confined within a projection of our physical selves,
unable to sever what others see from who we are.
From birth to death, as women, we are on display.
We were stolen for inspiration as ancient muses, carved into sculptures and figureheads,
painted into an apotheosis that ignored our social realities, photographed behind cosmetics and air-brushed skin,
always on a pedestal of unattainable status and beauty,
always the goddess in someone else’s fantasy.
We were mythical, symbolic, legendary.
But now we control the narrative.
Cherished as the virgin, now we reject the prevailing belief that our worth is determined by what our bodies have experienced.
Condemned as the whore, now we reclaim our pasts and our presents as autonomous women.
We inhabit our bodies, but we are more than them.
We are powerful and free.
We are.

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Sonnet #4: Prologue

Two roommates, each with dearth of dignity,
Present themselves thus in our pithy scene,
‘Twixt whom new mirth grows from old pleasantry,
And ribald pun makes civil talk unclean.
From forth their biting tongues which farce befits,
A rush of off-color jokes takes the stage,
Rife with bawdy riposte and brazen wit—
Ignoble fools lifted from Shakespeare’s page.
The ceaseless chatter of their droll intent—
Enshrined elsewhere in better comedy—
Which, but their speakers’ hush, nought could prevent,
Falls now the victim to poor parody.
When poetic form lays sonnets to rest,
Fortune spares thine ears prattle manifest.

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Solar Maximum

When her fire burns, she dances.
From a darkness below into another above she rises, and begins swaying to an internal rhythm discernible only to herself and the ineffable cosmos. She is one with the light of her sun—the fire spreads from her
heart to her fingertips as she reaches far out into infinite space.
She dances.
She arches her back, her head held high facing the darkness, and leans to one side, then to the other. She spins to the left, the hem of her dress sparking below her as she glides—then leaps gracefully back to the right, the fire following her with her every step. The inherent rhythm of the universe guides her, as it has guided stars for eternity.
Her spin tightens, quickens. The fire pulses at her fingertips as she
reaches higher into the darkness—beneath her, embers ignite into
red-hot, passionate glow. She unfurls her arms, gestures gracefully back and forth as the vigor of her sun dance increases in a solar wind.
Her movement ignites her.
She is light.
She is fire.

Her dance began billions of years ago.
She was not then what she is now. She was an incarnation yet to be
seen, yet to be felt.
She dwelled then in the darkness below the flames, silent, waiting, an impending disturbance to the simmering sea around her.
She carried a force stronger than herself and did not know it. But,
hopeful, she waited for a spark.
Now is her time. Her movement generates a vortex of violent magnetism, and the electrical ferocity within her body increases as she dances.
One spark is all she needs to light up the darkness, to send waves of
electricity through the galaxy. One spark is all she needs to dance.
She is radiation.
She is energy.

Another dancer emerges from the inferno.
But her dance doesn’t stop. She moves in circles, eyeing the new force from a distance before they approach each other. Back and forth they sway, a mesmerizing near-tango in this sea of fire.
They almost touch. Static swells between them—they are captivated by nothing else but this serendipitous meeting. Sparks fly as she ruffles her dress. The other dancer circles around her, equally flirtatious in her movement.
She extends her hand. Body meets celestial body.
The reaction is immediate—a magnificent detonation from their touch rocks through their bodies, through the universe. The power forged from their nuclear fingertips races away into the cosmos in a resplendent wave, creating a hoop of heat and light above their heads.
They unite, they ignite. They stand firm.
Two dancers become one. Each pulse from their glowing bodies radiates more intensely within their cores until the pressure becomes more than they can bear—they can burn no more—they break free.
They are fusion.
They are explosions.

The light fades. The sun song ends.
The darkness returns to surround them.
The two dancers remain joined in a lingering ray of light. Their
interlocked fingers, moments ago the source of a dazzling blaze, feel
cold, empty, bereft of the intensity that sparked such a blast.
Her dance is over, but the heat she created is not lost—it has a new
destiny. It races across the universe now, each particle hurtling toward planets and moons and galaxies. It will never die, but continue
to manifest itself in new forms.
And the fire will always remain.
She disconnects from the other dancer, slows her rhythm, then stops altogether. She bows to her partner, for the first and last time, and sinks slowly back into herself—into the glowing embers whence she came, where she created herself from sheer force of will.
No more will she dance, but the dance is not over. Someone will rise again from the embers.
For we all smolder with the same potential.
She dances.
She passes the torch.

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Facing an unyielding modernity,
Overcoming history that has been,
It’s time for us women to recognize
The power of female fraternity—
In a culture that ranks us below men—
And decide that we must now fraternize.

Let’s stand against female subjugation;
Let’s rise up and take to the streets; we’ll show
The world our dreams to revolutionize—
For there is strength in collaboration
And fire in the hearts of women, so
We must come together and fraternize.

We’ll wear on our sleeves femininity,
Apply our makeup like war paint and hope
That we will no longer be patronized
Under the toxic masculinity
That ridicules, sneers, abuses and gropes,
And forces us brusquely to fraternize.

We’ll suffer through being called ‘girly,’ lend
Validation in a slut-shaming world
Where male frailty can only criticize.
But it’s said ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’
And there’s no making headway as a girl,
So what else can we do but fraternize?

Women possess ambition ignited—
Upward mobility is appealing.
So we’ll tiptoe into a compromise
With men ’til we women seem united,
Pander to them to break the glass ceiling—
And forget ourselves as we fraternize.

We’ll help some women but spurn the others
When they threaten our climb up the ladder;
Our pursuit of success will jeopardize
Our sisters for the sake of our brothers,
Turning vows into mere idle chatter
That hinges on the need to fraternize.

So goodbye to all the bridges we’ve burned;
Goodbye to the women we’ve forgotten;
We will leave them behind and demonize
Each other, shamelessly, at ev’ry turn
To stack up against men in this rotten
And pitiful attempt to fraternize.

The only way up the hierarchy
Is to accept the fate of illusion,
This farce of “girl power” that’s bastardized
Under the pressure of patriarchy—
Which leads to one pitiful conclusion:
All women have left is to fraternize.

Come, then, you spirits, and unsex us here!
Transmogrify us into what we’re not;
Change us into a people socialized
And conditioned to occupy top tier.
Women for women, or all is for naught—
We silence ourselves when we fraternize.

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The Argument

Little coffee shop, upstairs nook
With good pastries, good company, good books,
Rich conversation, literary dictation.
One friend’s dissertation
Just published—her own treatise—
Her girlfriend’s a genius:
Smartest couple I’ve ever known
And literature is our creed,
So we sit here and read.

The other guy is alone:
This man’s just approached us out of nowhere
Oblivious to our recalcitrant glares
And he swoops in now, leading
With an unfunny comment on the book I’m reading.

Reluctant introductions: I’m struck by his daring—
If that’s what you can call unabashed staring—
But as he sits
I admit
I’m suddenly wary
‘Cause I notice the front of the shirt that he’s wearing:
Some TV show merch he’s proudly bearing.
He points to the book I’m carrying,
And when he says, “I love that show!”
I confess some enmity starts to grow—
And internally I start swearing
When he says, “Haven’t read the book, though.”

Conversation is initially slow and half-hearted
But it’s not long before he gets started:
“I think books are boring. Just my opinion…”
He opines as he surveys his dominion,
Following some unsexy,
Erudite comment made by me.

Not a good start, I think,
You’re already too close to the brink,
And across the table, my friend stares at me,
Silently begs me, Easy….
A telepathic warning that I am ignoring.
Still, I resist the urge to ask if directors reading
Movie scripts before forming
Summer blockbuster masterpieces that he so greatly adores,
Is just as much of a terrible bore.

The food is delicious, and he, while settling into his seat,
Boorishly sits and eats
As my two friends, slightly bitterly
Hold court on some anachronistic aspect of literary history,
When this guy suddenly insists,
“But those are all old-fashioned stories!
Books are just too out-of-date
To compete with modern cinema in this day and age.”

Continue reading

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it’s bizarre to me that i am alive when all this nazi shit is happening.

not the fact that it’s happening now,

but that it’s happening when i’m alive.

see the difference?

i never expected to see literal nazis,

not when we have the entire 1930s and 1940s as a precedent.

racism has always been around—

i’m not so naive to think otherwise;

i may be white but i’m not blind

—or colorblind—

but it still blows my mind

that this is happening in my lifetime.

again, not that it’s happening now—

‘it’s 2017’ is a poor argument for why racism shouldn’t exist—

but that i happen to be alive when nazis have a voice in the white house

and racism is a major party platform.

i need history to explain this one to me.

i need hindsight of the present.

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A task from the King!

Play’s the thing
Catch the conscience
Of the King

And his bride!

Spend your time
For a while
For hope’s supply

Forth to England

The wind at help
Prepare thyself
Prepare thyself

To censure homicide.


The conclusion—

The conclusion
And the retribution

Don’t try to justify—

Idly by

We were destined


For fratricide.

Rewind, rewind….

Continue reading

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In Medias Res: Episode Three

Nice to see you—how’ve you been?
Haven’t seen you since I was fourteen
Jedi, Clone Wars veteran
Saw you there and I thought
Anakin, I remember you
From back when I fled Naboo
Times have changed; you have too

Started training with Jedi
When they brought you from Tattooine
Eager, nervous, and in time
Beguiled by Palpatine
Watched your power transcend
Your off-the-charts midichlorians
But in love you’re my equal
I can make the bad guys good for a prequel

So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
Contemplate when it’s over
Was the high ground worth the pain?
You defied the Jedi Council
Who warned us you’re insane
Our love is an uphill battle
But it’s not in vain

But we’re young and we’re reckless
We’ll take this way too far
It’ll leave you breathless
Or with a nasty scar
Got a mess of premonitions
That keep you up at night
Your fate will not kill volition
Don’t give up the fight

Continue reading

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When I hear the groan of an old gate open and shut
across one rutted path to another
I like to imagine some boy has jumped over it
and it creaked a few times against the wind
as old gates do. You must have seen them,
the boys running across the farm
in the morning. They tear around
the dusty trails and turn sandy-colored
as the dirt streaks and cracks their skin.
The sun’s warmth rises over the east
elongating the shadows on the dewy grass.
You’d think they’d been waiting for the dawn.
They brace their bodies as their legs leap;
and they seem not to break, though the boys
crash hard; but they right themselves quick.
You may see this gleeful child in your memory
years afterward, hastening toward the gate
like a wild mustang that throws its mane
behind it in the wind as it gallops toward you.

But I was going to say, when the wistfulness broke in
with dreamy longing for the past,
I still yearned to see some boy leap over
the gate as he went in to fetch the cows—
some red-headed boy on his parent’s farm
where the earth smelled fundamentally like home,
summer and winter, morning and night.
One by one he subdued each gate
by hurdling over them again and again
crashing and falling and standing again.
And not one gate left to tame; not one was left
for him to conquer. He learned all there was
to learn about not launching out too soon
and stretching his legs at just the right angle
to clear the ground. He always kept his poise
to the top of the gate, springing carefully
with a gazelle’s rhythmic bound
approaching the gate and over the gate.
Then he leapt upward, pushing with mighty thighs,
clearing the gate and landing on two feet.

And so was the boy a child once, and then he grew,
and now he dreams of going back to be
that same weariless gate-jumper of yore,
when life was a meandering path on a farm
and the only obstacle was a rusty old gate
with a broken chain, and no one judged
the dirt on his elbows or scrapes on his knees.
You’d always jump over the gates,
or as I got older I’d flip over them or hop over them,
and run another lap and begin again.
May no boy be compelled to grow up
and be denied and deprived of what I wish.
The quiet dusty farm is the right place.

I don’t want to give up jumping over gates.
I’d like to go back to walking around the farm
and jumping metal fences with a shameless zeal,
day after summer day, till our legs could bear no more
and we fell, winded, face up on the earth.
It was good, catching the wind and our breaths.
There are worse things than leaping over gates.

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Ode to a Group Project

All your purposefully meted flattery
All your self-righteous philanthropy
All of your charm
Your pledge for harmony
All those vows
All that aplomb

All your blustering pomposity
All your self-aware hypocrisy
All of those tries
Your aims to devise
All your self-aggrandized sophistry

All your ego and your pride
Ambitions unsatisfied
All your pretensions
Your condescensions
All your charity codified

All your superhero hopes
Your knight in shining armor tropes
All your tilts at bookish glory
All your certainty
Your swagger
And your strut

Will never help with anything
If you don’t show up

[Thank you again to Tim Minchin for this poem’s inspiration and structure.]

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