“Heartland” – Jericho Brown

This is the book of three

Diseases. Close it, and you’re caught

Running from my life, nearer its end now

That you’ve come so far for a man

Sick in his blood, left lung, and mind.

I think of him mornings

I wake panting like a runner after

His best time.He sweats. He stops

Facing what burned. The house

That graced his open lot was

A red brick. Children played there–

Two boys, their father actually

Came home. Mama cooked

As if she had a right to

The fire in her hands, to the bread I ate

Before I saw doctors who help me

Fool you into believing

I do anything other than the human thing.

We breathe until we don’t.

Every last word is contagious.


Reading of the poem: https://vimeo.com/117059557

Wednesday Presentation Poem

Hello everyone. This is the poem I will be presenting on tomorrow. It’s quite a long poem and I’ll be picking out some key parts so feel free to skim over the text to get a general understanding of what is going on.


The Bird on My Railing



the still wet iron of

my fire

escape’s top

railing a truth is making this instant on our clock

open with a taut

unchirping un-

breaking note-a perfectly

released vowel traveling

the high branches across the way, between us and the

others, in their

apartments, and fog

lifting for sun before evaporation

begins. Someone

is born





like a streetlight

at night

in the quiet



continues to be the secret of the tilled

ground we make

breath by breath. What

seed dear

lord are we we

think as we toss more of our living out

into the turning and turning,

our personal

dead cast always deeper into

the general dead

no matter how hard you try

to keep your

own your

known own-and gnarled remembering mossing over-

the tenderness a characteristic trait

elicits, the very thing you

hated, rising in you to

make you almost

unable to


-where are you?-the fields beyond the housing tract

still accepting rain

as these asphalted ones we’ve


cannot-so yes, look close, this right word on my railing

who knows no hate

no love

you can count on it,

no wrenching strangling guilt, no wish so terrible

one had said

otherwise just once in


between one life and another what is it that

can really


nothing says this

awakeness-and look, you

who might not believe this because

you are not seeing it with your own


this light

is moving

across that flower on

my sill

at this exact

speed-right now-right here-now it is gone-yet go back up

five lines it is

still there i can’t

go back, it’s


but you-

what is it you are

seeing – see it again- a yellow

daisy, the sun

strafing the petals once

across, and the yellow, which could be a god why not,

pulling itself up

out of

shadow- so


and the patch of sunlight

moves-and each word said in

time after this is

the subtraction we call

life-lived– this gold its center – and beyond it, still on

the rail, this

bird, a

secret gift to

me by the


of which few in a life are

given-and how

when it opens its

yellow beak in the glint-sun to

let out song

into the cold, it

lets out the note on a plume of


lets out the

visible heat of its


carrying a note-a note in

a mist-a note-

breath, breath-


cold spring-the white

plume the size of a

bird rises up with its own


feathering-out in

the directions,

filled out by the next and the next-on

note, until the whole

shape of the

song is wisped-

up and


the singing

shuts, the form

complete, the breath-bird

free to

rise away into the young day and

not be-

Fireworks by Mary Ruefle


Trances of the Blast by Mary Ruefle


The world was designed and built

to overwhelm and astonish.

Which makes it hard to like.

Like, an American is someone

(5)     who thinks Jan Vermeer is from Vermont,

and a woman. I am a woman from Vermont.

Little less surprising than the copiousness

of transpiration, which is so inconsequential

I cannot live without it. Later I will look

(10)     for a nail paring on the floor,

as if a maid were coming tomorrow

(one always has to pick up first).

Right now I am writing

on the back of a bank statement.

(15)     My happiness is marred only

by my failure to attain it.

Otherwise it would astonish and overwhelm.

Quick, children, put on your robes,

we must all go downstairs to see something.

(20)     On this same night was Balthazar

murdered by his servants:

what the Russian soldier, quoting

Heine, scratched on the wall in the room

where the whole royal family was shot,

(25)     shot to fleshy pieces with many aims,

at least twenty of which left

explosive stars in the wallpaper.

Their greed and power astonished all.

Their death overwhelms us.


Left by Nikky Finney

Here is the poem I will be presenting on tomorrow. It is called “Left”. Enjoy!


Eenee Menee Mainee Mo!
—Rudyard Kipling, “A Counting-Out Song,”
in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, 1923

           The woman with cheerleading legs
has been left for dead. She hot paces a roof,
four days, three nights, her leaping fingers,
helium arms rise & fall, pulling at the week-
old baby in the bassinet, pointing to the eighty-
two-year-old grandmother, fanning & raspy
in the New Orleans Saints folding chair.

                      Eenee Menee Mainee Mo!

           Three times a day the helicopter flies
by in a low crawl. The grandmother insists on
not being helpless, so she waves a white hand-
kerchief that she puts on and takes off her head
toward the cameraman and the pilot who
remembers well the art of his mirrored-eyed
posture in his low-flying helicopter: Bong Son,
Dong Ha, Pleiku, Chu Lai. He makes a slow
Vietcong dip & dive, a move known in Rescue
as the Observation Pass.

           The roof is surrounded by broken-levee
water. The people are dark but not broken. Starv-
ing, abandoned, dehydrated, brown & cumulous,
but not broken. The four-hundred-year-old
anniversary of observation begins, again—

                      Eenee Menee Mainee Mo!
                      Catch a—

The woman with pom-pom legs waves
her uneven homemade sign:

                      Pleas Help   &hbsp;  Pleas

and even if the e has been left off the Pleas e

do you know simply 
by looking at her
that it has been left off
because she can’t spell
(and therefore is not worth saving)
or was it because the water was rising so fast
there wasn’t time?

                      Eenee Menee Mainee Mo!
                      Catch a— a—

           The low-flying helicopter does not know
the answer. It catches all this on patriotic tape,
but does not land, and does not drop dictionary,
or ladder.

           Regulations require an e be at the end
of any Pleas e before any national response
can be taken.

           Therefore, it takes four days before
the national council of observers will consider
dropping one bottle of water, or one case
of dehydrated baby formula, on the roof
where the e has rolled off into the flood,

                      (but obviously not splashed
loud enough)

where four days later not the mother,
not the baby girl,
but the determined hanky waver,
whom they were both named for,
(and after) has now been covered up
with a green plastic window awning,
pushed over to the side
right where the missing e was last seen.

                      My mother said to pick
                      The very best one!

What else would you call it,
Mr. Every-Child-Left-Behind.

Anyone you know
ever left off or put on
an e by mistake?

Potato   Po tato e

           In the future observation helicopters
will leave the well-observed South and fly
in Kanye-West-Was-Finally-Right formation.
They will arrive over burning San Diego.

           The fires there will be put out so well.
The people there will wait in a civilized manner.
And they will receive foie gras and free massage
for all their trouble, while there houses don’t
flood, but instead burn calmly to the ground.

The grandmothers were right
about everything.

           People who outlived bullwhips & Bull
Connor, historically afraid of water and routinely
fed to crocodiles, left in the sun on the sticky tar-
heat of roofs to roast like pigs, surrounded by
forty feet of churning water, in the summer
of 2005, while the richest country in the world
played the old observation game, studied
the situation: wondered by committee what to do;
counted, in private, by long historical division;
speculated whether or not some people are surely
born ready, accustomed to flood, famine, fear.

                      My mother said to pick
                      The very best one
                      And you are not   it!

           After all, it was only po’ New Orleans,
old bastard city of funny spellers. Nonswimmers
with squeeze-box accordion accents. Who would
be left alive to care?

Homeland – The New Testament by Jericho Brown


I knew I had jet lag because no one would make love to me.

All the men thought me a vampire. All the women were


Women. In America that year, black people kept dreaming

That the president got shot. Then the president got shot


Breaking into the White House. He claimed to have lost

His keys. What’s the proper name for a man caught stealing


Into his own home? I asked a few passengers. They replied,

Jigger. After that, I took the red-eye. I took to a sigh deep


As the end of a day in the dark fields below us. Some slept,

But nobody named Security ever believes me. Confiscated –


My Atripla. My Celexa. My Cortisone. My Klonopin. My

Flexeril. My Zyrtec. My Nasarel. My Percocet. My Ambien.


Nobody in this nation feels safe, and I’m still the reason why.

Every day, something gets thrown away on account of long


History or hair or fingernails or, yes, of course, my fangs.

Forbidden Music- Gluck

After the orchestra had been playing for some time, and had passed the andante, the scherzo, the poco adagio, and the first flautist had put his head on the stand because he would not be needed until tomorrow, there acme a passage that was called the forbidden music because it could not, the composer specified, be played. And still it must exist and be passed over, an interval at the discretion of the conductor. But tonight, the conductor decides, it must be played — he has a hunger to make his name. The flautist wakes with a start. Something has happened to his ears, something he has never felt before. His sleep is over. Where am I now, he thinks. And then he repeated it, like an old man lying on the floor instead of in his bed. Where am I now?

Articles of Faith — Dean Young for Presentation

Disclaimer: the spacing on this is wrong, but if you read it you’ll at least understand the gist of the poem and you’ll get the photo copies tomorrow.

Articles of Faith


I used to like Nicole Kidman

now I like Kirsten Dunst.

Jennifer Aniston is a schmuck

but Brad’s sure a rotter

even if I was the only one who liked him in Troy

he had the Achillean pout right.

I much prefer the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s environmental warning

to the Invisible Man’s exploration of neurosis

although in the update with Kevin Bacon

I like the nudity.

When it says at the bottom in small print

language, gore and nudity

I like that

but the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

made me cry on an airplane,

got to be from the lack of cabin pressure.

Grown men should not wear shorts in airports

unless they are baggage handlers.

Bearded men should never play the flute.

Most heavy metal music is anger over repressed homoerotic urges

is the sort of idea that got me beat up in high school.

There is nothing sadder than a leaf

falling from a tree then catching an updraft higher than the tree

then getting stuck in a gutter.

Symbolism is highly suspicious because it can’t be helped.

There is always something you can never touch, neer have

but there it is, right in front of you.

The opposite is also true.

Even though the bells are ringing

your glissando is private.

Truth labors to kee up with the tabloids.

Every word is a euphemism.

Every accident is organized by a secret system

and you’re telling me life isn’t personal?

The starfish disgorges its stomach to devour its prey.

A network of deceptions festoons the cortege.

An X-Acto knife cuts a kingfisher from an oil company ad.

In the beginning the divine creator wrote 999 words and created

999 demigods to translate each word into 999 words and 999

angels to translate each translated word into 999 words and

999 exalted priests to translate each translated word of the

translated words into 999 and we are an error in the

transcription of one of those words.

Vows exchanged in an aerodrome.

Ovals without consequence.

Masterpiece wrapping paper.

The hurricane makes of homes exploded brains.

Central Intelligence Agency.

The early explorers were extremely agitated men, antisocial, violent,

prone to drink.

Demons walk the earth.

Says so on a T-shirt.

We are born defenseless.

It’s a miracle.


1 2