Wednesday, July 23, 2014

They are hostile nations

Breathe (M.A. Reilly, 2013)

They are hostile nationsBy Margaret Atwood


In view of the fading animals
the proliferation of sewers and fears   
the sea clogging, the air
nearing extinction

we should be kind, we should
take warning, we should forgive each other

Instead we are opposite, we   
touch as though attacking,

the gifts we bring
even in good faith maybe   
warp in our hands to
implements, to manoeuvres


Put down the target of me
you guard inside your binoculars,   
in turn I will surrender

this aerial photograph   
(your vulnerable
sections marked in red)   
I have found so useful

See, we are alone in
the dormant field, the snow
that cannot be eaten or captured


Here there are no armies   
here there is no money

It is cold and getting colder,

We need each others’
breathing, warmth, surviving   
is the only war
we can afford, stay

walking with me, there is almost   
time / if we can only   
make it as far as

the (possibly) last summer
Margaret Atwood, “They are hostile nations” from Selected Poems 1965-1975. Copyright © 1974, 1976 by Margaret Atwood. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1976)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


An Irish Cow (M.A. Reilly. 2006)
by Billy Collins
There were a few dozen who occupied the field
across the road from where we lived,
stepping all day from tuft to tuft,
their big heads down in the soft grass,
though I would sometimes pass a window
and look out to see the field suddenly empty
as if they had taken wing, flown off to another country.
Then later, I would open the blue front door,
and again the field would be full of their munching
or they would be lying down
on the black-and-white maps of their sides,
facing in all directions, waiting for rain.
How mysterious, how patient and dumbfounded
they appear in the long quiet of the afternoon.
But every once in a while, one of them
would let out a sound so phenomenal
that I would put down the paper
or the knife I was cutting an apple with
and walk across the road to the stone wall
to see which one of them was being torched
or pierced through the side with a long spear.
Yes, it sounded like pain until I could see
the noisy one, anchored there on all fours,
her neck outstretched, her bellowing head
laboring upward as she gave voice
to the rising, full-bodied cry
that began in the darkness of her belly
and echoed up through her bowed ribs into her gaping mouth.
Then I knew that she was only announcing
the large, unadulterated cowness of herself,
pouring out the ancient apologia of her kind
to all the green fields and the gray clouds,
to the limestone hills and the inlet of the blue bay,
while she regarded my head and shoulders
above the wall with one wild, shocking eye.


Raven Moon (M.A. Reilly, 2010)


Susan Gevirtz
        What you make on Orion
              I leave to you

       What you take from Orion
               I take to you

                                                    Far far away where the swans fly to when we
 are having winter, lived a King who had eleven sons and one daughter
                             Hans Christian Andersen


                      in the greening time

there was once

           there was a 

      because we didn’t

                           Turn on the light

There was trespass

            We didn’t

Unadorned             Side is his wife

         Bellatrix are the shoulder stars

                    Drape the mantle of the remarkable nebula
Take first


is effect


              once  mishap misshape

But let us not talk in the language of evidence

sleep deprivation           vigilance         the screen and the Styrofoam king

             of airspace  

                                         renames the sky

documentary to which all words refer

          escapes us          near or newer air

From Aerodrome Orion by Susan Gevirtz. Copyright © 2008 by Susan Gevirtz. Used by permission of Kelsey Street Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Bluebird (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

Charles Bukowski

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s still singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do

I love this animation.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Poetry Break - From Ulysses: The Altered Page

In the author's note to Mornings Like This: Found Poems, Annie Dillard (1995) writes:

“Usually happy poets who write found poetry go pawing through popular culture like sculptors on trash heaps. They hold and wave aloft usable artifacts and fragments: jingles and ad copy, menus and broadcasts — all objet trouvés, the literary equivalents of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans and Duchamp’s bicycle. By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds, or at any rate increases, the element of delight. This is an urban, youthful, ironic, cruising kind of poetry. It serves up whole texts, or interrupted fragments of texts.” (Mornings Like This)
In Dillard's book, the poets use the bits and pieces of language they found inside new poems. This is a slightly different twist on found poems.  Many years ago, I participated along with 49 other teachers in a series of poetry engagements that after was fashioned into the Stephen Dunn and William Stafford's book, Getting the Knack.  They invited us, mostly English teachers (if I am remembering correctly) to try our hand at the different types of poems. The found poem was among the list. Since then I have use found poems as ways into and out of literature (Things They Carried), as altered art,  and as artful close reading.  Below is another g of it, finding a poem on a age of text in this case a page from James Joyce's Ulysses.

Noon slumbers.
                 I know the voice.
The blue fuse burns          loose.

Spurned lover.
Lover, for her love he prowled.

Loveless, landless, wifeless.

Noon Slumbers (M.A. Reilly, 2014 - p. 43 from Ulysses)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon

Looking Towards the East (M.A Reilly, 2010)

Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon

                             - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit
the inferiority of his culture...
—Frantz Fanon

                                    And there are days when storms hover
Over my house, their brooding just this side of rage, 
An open hand about to slap a face. You won’t believe me 

When I tell you it is not personal. It isn’t. It only feels 
That way because the face is yours. So what if it is the only 
Face you’ve got? Listen, a storm will grab the first thing 
In its path, a Persian cat, a sixth grade boy on his way home 
From school, an old woman watering her roses, a black 
Man running down a street (late to a dinner with his wife), 
A white guy buying cigarettes at the corner store. A storm 
Will grab a young woman trying to escape her boyfriend, 
A garbage can, a Mexican busboy with no papers, you
We are all collateral damage for someone’s beautiful 
Ideology, all of us inanimate in the face of the onslaught. 
My father had the biggest hands I’ve ever seen. He never 
Wore a wedding ring. Somehow, it would have looked lost, 
Misplaced on his thick worker’s hands that were, to me, 
As large as Africa. There have been a good many storms 
In Africa over the centuries. One was called colonialism 
(Though I confess to loving Tarzan as a boy). 

                                                    In my thirties, 
I read a book by Frantz Fanon. I fell in love 
With the storms in his book even though they broke 
My heart and made me want to scream. What good 
Is screaming? Even a bad actress in a horror flick 
Can do that. In my twenties, I had fallen in love 
With the storms in the essays of James Baldwin. 
They were like perfect poems. His friends called 
Him Jimmy. People didn’t think he was beautiful. 
Oh God, but he was. He could make a hand that was 
Slapping you into something that was loving, loving you. 
He could make rage sound elegant. Have you ever 
Read “Stranger in the Village?” How would you like 
To feel like a fucking storm every time someone looked 
At you

                                                                    One time I was 
At a party. Some guy asked me: What are you, anyway? 
I downed my beer. Mexican I said. Really he said, Do 
You play soccer? No I said but I drink Tequila. He smiled 
At me, That’s cool. I smiled back So what are you? 
What do you think I am he said. An asshole I said. People 
Hate you when you’re right. Especially if you’re Mexican. 
And every time I leave town, I pray that people will stop 
Repeating You’re from El Paso with that same tone 
Of voice they use when they see a rat running across 
Their living rooms, interrupting their second glass 
Of scotch. My father’s dead (though sometimes I wake 
And swear he has never been more alive—especially when 
I see him staring back at me as I shave in the morning). 
Even though I understand something about hating a man 
I have never really understood the logic of slavery. 
What do I know? I don’t particularly like the idea of cheap 
Labor. I don’t like guns. And I don’t even believe 
White men are superior. Do you? I wanted to be 
St. Francis. I took this ambition very seriously. Instead 
I wound up becoming a middle-aged man who dreams 
Storms where all the animals wind up dead. It scares 
Me to think I have this dream inside me. Still, 
I love dogs—even mean ones. I could forgive 
A dog that bit me. But if a man bit me, that would be 
Another story. I have made my peace with cats. 
I am especially in love with hummingbirds (though 
They’re as mean as roosters in a cock fight). Have 
You ever seen the storms in the eyes of men who 
Were betting on a cock fight? 

                                               Last night, there was hail, thunder, 
A tornado touching down in the desert—though I was 
Away and was not a first hand witness. I was in another 
Place, listening to the waves of the ocean crash against 
The shore. Sometimes I think the sea is angry. Who 
Can blame it? There are a million things to be angry 
About. Have you noticed that some people don’t give 
A damn and just keep on shopping? Doesn’t that make you 
Angry? A storm is like God. You don’t have to see it 
To believe—sometimes you just have to place 
Your faith in it. When my father walked into a room 
It felt like that. Like the crashing waves. You know, 
Like a storm. This is the truth of the matter: I am 
The son of a storm. Look, every one has to be the son 
Of something. The thing to do when you are caught 
In the middle of a storm is to abandon your car, 
Keep quiet. Pray. Wait. Tell that to the men  
Who were sleeping on the Arizona when 
The Japanese dropped their bombs. War is the worst 
Kind of storm. The truth is I have never met a breathing 
Human being who did not have at least one scar 
On his body. Bombs and bullets do more than leave 
A permanent mark on the skin. I have never liked 
The expression They were out for blood

                                                   There are days 
When there are so many storms hovering around 
My house that I cannot even see the blue in the sky. 
My father loved the sky. He was trying to memorize 
The clouds before he died. I confess to being 
Jealous of the sky. 

                                                  On Sunday mornings 
I picture Frantz Fanon as an old man. He is looking up 
At the pure African sky. He is trying to imagine how it appeared 
Before the white men came. I don’t want to dream all the dead 
Animals we have made extinct. I want to dream a sky 
Full of hummingbirds. I would like to die in such a storm.

from The Book of What Remains. (2010). pp. 6-9.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Baseball Picture Books

from Barbed Wire Fences
A few picture books about men and women who played baseball.

Adler, David A. (2007). Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back. Illustrated by Terry Widener. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.
Adler, David A. (2003). Mama Played Baseball. Illustrated by Chris O’Leary. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.

Burleigh, Robert. (2007). Stealing Home: Jackie Robinson: Against the Odds. Illustrated by Mike Wimmer. New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.
Cline-Ransome, Lesa. (2003). Satchel Paige. Illustrated by James E. Ransome. New York: Aladdin.

Corey, Shana. (2003). Players in Pigtails. Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon. New York: Scholastic.
Curtis, Gavin. (1998). The Bat Boy & His Violin. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Fishman, Cathy Goldberg. (2012). When Jackie and Hank Met. Illustrated by Mark Elliot. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish.
Golebrock, Peter. (2005). Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way. Illustrated by Paul Lee. Orlando, FL: Voyager Books.
Golebrock, Peter. (1992).Teammates. Illustrated by Paul Bacon. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers.

Green, Michelle Y.  (2004). A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson Paperback. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. New York: Puffin.
Hopkinson, Deborah. (2006).  Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings. Illustrated by Terry Widener. New York: Aladdin.

Hubbard, Crystal. (2005). Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream. Illustrated by Randy DuBurck. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Johnson, Angela. (2007). Just Like Josh Gibson. Illustrated by Beth Peck. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Mochizki, Ken. (1995). Baseball Saved Us. Illustrated by Dom Lee. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Moss, Marissa. (2013). Barbed Wire Baseball. Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
Moss, Marissa. (2004). Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen. Illustrated by C.F. Payne. New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Nelson, Kadir, (2008). We are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League Baseball. New York: Jump  at the Sun.
Perdomo, Willie. (2010). Clemente! Illustrated by Bryan Collier. New York: Henry Holt.
Rappaport, Doreen & Lyndall Callan. (2000). Dirt on the Skirts: The Story of the Young Women who Won the World Championship. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. New York: Dial.
Raven, Margot Theis. (2005).Let Them Play. Illustrated by Chris Ellison. Grand Rapids, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.
Robinson, Sharon. (2009). Testing the Ice: A True Story about Jackie Robinson. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. New York: Schoalstic.

Smith Jr., by Charles R. (2012). Stars in the Shadows: The Negro League All-Star Game of 1934. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Tavares, Matt. (Feb 14, 2012). Henry Aaron's Dream. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Vernick, Audrey. (2010). She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story. Illustrated by Don Tate. New York: Balzer + Bray.
Winter, Jonah. (2013). You Never Heard of Willie Mays? Illustrated by Terry Widener. New York: Schwartz & Wade.
Winter, Jonah. (2008). Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Illustrated by Raúl Colón. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Winter, Jonah. (2004). Beisbol: Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends. Illustrated by Bruce Markusen Rodriguez. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Wise, Bill. (2012). Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William HoyIllustrated by Adam Gustavson. New York: Lee & Low Books.

Wise, Bill. (2005). Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer. Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. New York: Lee & Low Books.