Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving" by R. Dwayne Betts


in the backseat of my car are my own sons,
still not yet Tamir’s age, already having heard

me warn them against playing with toy pistols,

though my rhetoric is always about what I don’t

like, not what I fear, because sometimes

I think of  Tamir Rice & shed tears, the weeping

all another insignificance, all another way to avoid

saying what should be said: the Second Amendment

is a ruthless one, the pomp & constitutional circumstance

that says my arms should be heavy with the weight

of a pistol when forced to confront death like

this: a child, a hidden toy gun, an officer that fires

before his heart beats twice. My two young sons play

in the backseat while the video of  Tamir dying

plays in my head, & for everything I do know, the thing

I don’t say is that this should not be the brick and mortar

of poetry, the moment when a black father drives

his black sons to school & the thing in the air is the death

of a black boy that the father cannot mention,

because to mention the death is to invite discussion

of  taboo: if you touch my sons the crimson

that touches the concrete must belong, at some point,

to you, the police officer who justifies the echo

of the fired pistol; taboo: the thing that says that justice

is a killer’s body mangled and disrupted by bullets

because his mind would not accept the narrative

of  your child’s dignity, of  his right to life, of  his humanity,

and the crystalline brilliance you saw when your boys first breathed;

the narrative must invite more than the children bleeding

on crisp fall days; & this is why I hate it all, the people around me,

the black people who march, the white people who cheer,

the other brown people, Latinos & Asians & all the colors of   humanity

that we erase in this American dance around death, as we

are not permitted to articulate the reasons we might yearn

to see a man die; there is so much that has to disappear

for my mind not to abandon sanity: Tamir for instance, everything

about him, even as his face, really and truly reminds me

of my own, in the last photo I took before heading off

to a cell, disappears, and all I have stomach for is blood,

and there is a part of me that wishes that it would go away,

the memories, & that I could abandon all talk of making it right

& justice. But my mind is no sieve & sanity is no elixir & I am bound

to be haunted by the strength that lets Tamir’s father,

mother, kinfolk resist the temptation to turn everything

they see into a grave & make home the series of cells

that so many of my brothers already call their tomb.

by R. Dwayne Betts


For more information about poet, R. Dwayne Betts, see:



Sunday, November 11, 2018

Poem for Armistice Day: "The Band played Waltzing Matilda" by Eric Bogle





Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback, well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said son, It's time you stopped rambling, there's work to be done.
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun, and they marched me away to the war.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda, as the ship pulled away from the quay
And amidst all the cheers, the flag-waving and tears, we sailed off for Gallipoli
And how well I remember that terrible day, how our blood stained the sand and the water
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay, we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was waiting, he'd primed himself well. He shower'd us with bullets,
And he rained us with shell. And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda, when we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, then we started all over again.
And those that were left, well we tried to survive, in that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive, though around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head, and when I woke up in my hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead. Never knew there was worse things than dyin'.

For I'll go no more waltzing Matilda, all around the green bush far and free
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs-no more waltzing Matilda for me.
So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane, those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda, as they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared, then they turned all their faces away.
And so now every April, I sit on me porch, and I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march, reviving old dreams of past glories
The old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore, the tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, what are they marching for? And I ask myself the same question.

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda, and the old men still answer the call, But as year follows year, more old men disappear. Someday no one will march there at all. Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me? And their ghosts may be heard as they march by that billabong, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

By Eric Bogle

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "Digging" by Seamus Heaney


Between my finger and my thumb  
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.


Under my window, a clean rasping sound  

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:  

My father, digging. I look down


Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds  

Bends low, comes up twenty years away  

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills  

Where he was digging.


The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft  

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.


By God, the old man could handle a spade.  

Just like his old man.


My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf. Digging.


The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.


Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.

by Seamus Heaney

For more information about poet, Seamus Heaney, see:



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "The Burning Of The Houses" by Chrissy Williams





Tottenham is on fire and I work in an arts centre
where the sky is blue and I can hear birdsong
from a sound installation of birds
cooing outside my office window.

This is London. Hackney is on fire now

and Jamie is looking up from his desk.

He stops working. He tweets that he can see

people smashing up a bus. He says there is a car

being soaked in petrol. He asks if there is someone

in that car. He tells us that car has been set alight.

This is London. Croydon is on fire now

and Anna is Facebooking furiously from Manchester

calling everyone bastards for doing this.

I am watching the BBC and reading Twitter

licking between #LondonRiot and my friends.

Sometimes you can be proud of your friends.

I remember when Bianca came to stay

and we got tickets to watch
The Night
James Brown Saved Boston
in the QEH.
People are getting hurt. Television isn’t going

to save us. But it’s okay now, some of my friends

are linking to videos of kittens which must mean

everyone is fine. This is London. It is on fire.

I go to bed while it is burning. I wake up

and parts of it are still burning.

by Chrissy Williams

Photograph credit: Katie West

For more information about poet, Chrissy Williams, see:


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday Poem: "Tristia" by Osip Mandelstam


I have studied the science of saying goodbye
in bareheaded laments at night.
Oxen chew, and the waiting stretches out,
it is the last hour of my keeping watch in the city,

and I respect the ritual of the cock-loud night,

when, lifting their load of sorrow for the journey,

eyes red from weeping have peered into the distance,

and the crying of women mingled with the Muses’ singing…

Who can know when he hears the word goodbye

what kind of separation lies before us…?

by Osip Mandelstam


For more information about the poet, Osip Mandelstam, see: