El Olvido


It is a dangerous thing
to forget the climate of your birthplace,
to choke out the voices of dead relatives
when in dreams they call you
by your secret name.
It is dangerous
to spurn the clothes you were born to wear
for the sake of fashion; dangerous
to use weapons and sharp instruments
you are not familiar with; dangerous
to disdain the plaster saints
before which your mother kneels
praying with embarrassing fervor
that you survive in the place you have chosen to live:
a bare, cold room with no pictures on the walls,
a forgetting place where she fears you will die
of loneliness and exposure.
Jesús, María, y José, she says,
el olvido is a dangerous thing.

*El olvido means forgetfulness in Spanish.

The Sacred

The Sacred
Stephen Dunn

After the teacher asked if anyone had a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank

in their chairs, the most serious of them all said it was his car,

being in it alone, his tape deck playing

things he'd chosen, and others knew the truth had been spoken

and began speaking about their rooms,

their hiding places, but the car kept coming up, the car in motion,

music filling it, and sometimes one other person

who understood the bright altar of the dashboard and how far away

a car could take him from the need

to speak, or to answer, the key in having a key

and putting it in, and going.

cruelty. don’t talk to me about cruelty

A poem by Lucille Clifton

cruelty. don’t talk to me about cruelty
or what i am capable of.

when i wanted the roaches dead i wanted them dead
and i killed them. i took a broom to their country

and smashed and sliced without warning
without stopping and i smiled all the time i was doing it.

it was a holocaust of roaches, bodies,
parts of bodies, red all over the ground. 

i didn’t ask their names. they had no names worth knowing.

now i watch myself whenever i enter a room.
i never know what i might do.

Abandoned Farmhouse - Ted Kooser

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm—a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.

And the Ghosts - Graham Foust

The Rose that Grew From Concrete

by Tupac Shakur

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

I Have News for You - Tony Hoagland

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians. I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy lemon-yellow moon? There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as unattainable as that moon; thus, they do not later have to waste more time defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in and let it touch them all over their faces and their bodies.