makes trouble look like a feather bed

I’m a Fool to Love You
Cornelius Eady, 1954

Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father,
A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices
A young black woman faces.
Is falling in with some man
A deal with the devil
In blue terms, the tongue we use
When we don’t want nuance
To get in the way,
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
This man made my father look good,
That’s how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island
In the middle of a stormy sea,
He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize
You exist in a stacked deck,
You look in a mirror at your young face,
The face my sister carries,
And you know it’s the only leverage
You’ve got.
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
You shrug your shoulders
And agree, a girl without money
Is nothing, dust
To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this,
My father seems, briefly,
To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man’s kisses
A healing.

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Dregs
César Vallejo, 1892 – 1938

   This afternoon it is raining, as never before; and I
have no desire to live, my heart.

   This afternoon is sweet. Why should it not be?
Dressed in grace and pain; dressed like a woman.

   This afternoon in Lima it is raining. And I recall
the cruel caverns of my ingratitude;
my block of ice over her poppy,
stronger than her “Don’t be this way!”

   My violent black flowers; and the barbaric
and terrible stoning; and the glacial distance.
And the silence of her dignity
with burning holy oils will put all end to it.

   So this afternoon, as never before, I am
with this owl, with this heart.

   Other women go by; and seeing me so sad,
they take on a bit of you
in the abrupt wrinkle of my deep remorse.

   This afternoon it is raining, raining hard. And I
have no desire to live, my heart!

that final line

They Were Not Kidding in the Fourteenth Century
Maureen N. McLane

They were not kidding
when they said they were blinded
by a vision of love.

It was not just a manner
of speaking or feeling
though it’s hard to say

how the dead
really felt harder
even than knowing the living.

You are so opaque
to me your brief moments
of apparent transparency

seem fraudulent windows
in a Brutalist structure
everyone admires.

The effort your life
requires exhausts me.
I am not kidding.

Just like that, I’m both things in the world rocking

Brokeheart: Just like that
Patrick Rosal

When the bass drops on Bill Withers’
Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m.
and I confess I’m looking
over my shoulder once or twice
just to make sure no one in Brooklyn
is peeking into my third-floor window
to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed
for three weeks before I slide
from sink to stove in one long groove
left foot first then back to the window side
with my chin up and both fists clenched
like two small sacks of stolen nickels
and I can almost hear the silver
hit the floor by the dozens
when I let loose and sway a little back
and just like that I’m a lizard grown
two new good legs on a breeze
-bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man
with a three-day wish and two days to live.
And just like that everyone knows
my heart’s broke and no one is home.
Just like that, I’m water.
Just like that, I’m the boat.
Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world
rocking. Sometimes sadness is just
what comes between the dancing. And bam!,
my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s
children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true
I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days
and no one ever said I could sing but
tell me my body ain’t good enough
for this. I’ll count the aches another time,
one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back,
this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones,
I’m missing the six biggest screws
to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind-
rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are
falling off. When the first bridge ends,
just like that, I’m a flung open door.

slant of light on brass box

Are You Going to Stay?
Thomas Meyer

What was it I was going to say?
Slipped away probably because
it needn’t be said. At that edge

almost not knowing but second
guessing the gain, loss, or effect
of an otherwise hesitant remark.

Slant of light on a brass box. The way
a passing thought knots the heart.
There’s nothing, nothing to say.

deeper than the never of adolescence

Our Never
Benjamin S. Grossberg

Is the never of childhood, deeper
than the never of adolescence,
which has a whining, stammering
quality, which is a stamped foot
followed by huffing steps, and wholly
unlike the never of adulthood,
has none of the bright spider
cracks of reason multiplying
along its roof, threading its dark
dome with fine lines of light.
Didn’t you think, with such a
cavernous never in mind,
you might have consulted me?
Even a 3 AM phone call would’ve
been justified. On the line
in the dark, you could have shared
a little childhood mythology,
told me about some night when
you didn’t sleep, couldn’t hear
your parents, and morning seemed
further away than “far away,”
seemed consigned to a distinct
and inimitable never. You could’ve
evoked for me the particular textures
of that never, explained that
you were mulling them again now,
assaying them for a contemporary
application. Sure, I’d have been
startled. What would you expect—
hearing how your childhood bed
sank into a hollow in the earth,
or how nighttime had, snickering,
closed you in its trench coat, and
how the residue of the experience,
the resin it left, you were brewing
into something for us. I’d have
wanted to see you right away
and would have been myself
forced to wait till next morning.
So, I, too, would’ve spent
an evening in an underground
hollow, or bundled up inside
night’s coat, wading through
one never on the off chance
that I could forestall another.

we are unstable but we are inseparable (autotelic)

Daisy Cutter
Camille T. Dungy, 1972

Pause here at the flower stand—mums
and gladiolas, purple carnations

dark as my heart. We are engaged
in a war, and I want to drag home

any distraction I can carry. Tonight
children will wake to bouquets of fire

that will take their breath away. Still,
I think of my life. The way you hold me,

sometimes, you could choke me.
There is no way to protect myself,

except by some brilliant defense. I want
the black iris with their sabered blooms.

I want the flame throwers: the peonies,
the sunflowers. I will cut down the beautiful ones

and let their nectared sweetness bleed
into the careless air. This is not the world

I’d hoped it could be. It is horrible,
the way we carry on. Last night, you catalogued

our arsenal. You taught me devastation
is a goal we announce in a celebration

of shrapnel. Our bombs shower
in anticipation of their marks. You said this

is to assure damage will be widely distributed.
What gruesome genius invents our brutal hearts?

When you touch me I am a stalk of green panic
and desire. Wait here while I decide which

of these sprigs of blossoming heartbreak I can afford
to bring into my home. Tonight dreams will erupt

in chaotic buds of flame. This is the world we have
arranged. It is horrible, this way we carry on.