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Part 4 Contributors

 

Tony Barnstone
Willis Barnstone
Ellen Bass
Christopher Buckley
Neeli Cherkovski
Boris Dralyuk
Alicia Elkort
Mary Fitzpatrick
Michael C. Ford
Kate Gale
Frank X. Gaspar
Dana Gioia
Shotsie Gorman
S.A. Griffin
Donna Hilbert
Brenda Hillman
Glenna Luschei
Phoebe MacAdams
devorah major
Clive Matson
K. Silem Mohammad
Rusty Morrison
Harry Northup
Holly Prado Northup - In Memoriam
Cathie Sandstrom
Shelley Scott - In Memoriam
Daniel Shapiro
Mike Sonksen
Pam Ward
Sholeh Wolpe
Gary Young
Mariano Zaro


Part 1 Contributors

Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky

Part 2 Contributors

Elena Karina Byrne
liz gonzález
Grant Hier
Lois P. Jones
Ron Koertge
Glenna Luschei
Rooja Mohassessy
Susan Rogers
Patty Seyburn
Maw Shein Win
Kim Shuck
Lynne Thompson
Carine Topal
Cecilia Woloch

Part 3 Contributors

Michelle Bitting
Laurel Ann Bogen
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Lucille Lang Day
Corrinne Clegg Hales
Marsha De La O
Charles Jensen
Eloise Klein Healy
Glenna Luschei
Clint Margrave
Henry Morro
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Phil Taggart
David L. Ulin
Jonathan Yungkans
Lorene Zarou-Zouzounis


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Click to enlarge picture Pam Ward
Pam Ward
Californian Poets Part 4: Four Poems
by
Pam Ward


 

 



Say Her Name

We used to call her Miss Ann.
Some call her Becky.
A bossy little cuss
who tossed shoes at our head
the kind of hatchet-face bitch
who sold us down river
or happily handed massa the whip.
Today we say KAREN
with a capital K. K. K.
These fraudulent little cunts
pop up once a week
demanding to speak to the manager
flapping antebellum tongues
with their fake tears
fake traumatized Avon lies
igniting hate crimes as wideeeeeeeeeeee
as all 50 states
until no man with a suntan was safe.
Karens call the cops at the drop of a hat
black kids selling lemonade
or jogging down the street
or bird-watching alone in the park.
On a lark, ‘cause she crazy
or got Cro-Magnon genes
here she go tattling
wagging that finger
weaponizing her pussy….again
pushing her white privilege stank
all up in our face
getting us lynched, tarred or feathered
or burnt at the stake
all while feigning some fake-ass distress.
Don’t believe me?
Here some Karenish shit for yo ass.
Carolyn Bryant had Emmett Till killed
Susan Smith said a “Black man did it.”
The Scottsboro Boys were almost lynched
by some lying ass trick
and did I mention the Central Park kids?
Some Karens have gone on to obliterate towns.
Somebody say Tulsa.
Somebody say Rosewood, please.
See her muddy little feet?
Hear those crocodile tears?
There goes Karen playing the same role again
going for another Academy Award.
And wait, stop complaining
stop saying you hate the name.
If Karen’s the real victim
then go ahead, flip the script.
How many black chicks call the cops
and send white women to prison?
Go ahead, Cinderella, I’m waiting.
The Karen moniker marks
a legacy of predatory terror.
So if the shoe fits then wear it.



Hollywood Hills

Every time I went over Kim’s her dad came
outside while we laid next to the pool.
It was a small, useless tank
with horrible swamp-green water
where bugs hatched their eggs in the scum.
Her dad would always come out there
checking the pump
fiddling with the gauges
sticking his wrist in the deep end.
Kim leaned over and told me
they were all in therapy now
ever since he fucked one of her friends.
I watched him duck in the garage
and emerge later, shot glass red
a Jim Beam smirk on his lips.
He wades in and wet covers his thighs, hips and gut
ballooning vulgarly over his shorts.
His grin made me think of a zipper half-down.
A man whistling at kids while hosing his grass.
My hairdresser begging me to “suck it,” right there in his chair.
And I know that it’s out there
happening in Hollywood or Watts or Marina del Rey.
Everyday there’s a hand with a fistful of candy.
A wet hungry tongue resting over chapped lips.
A fist waiting to scrawl your name on the stall.
An arm luring you down underwater.



Le Revue Negre

           for Josephine Baker

Before Baldwin lifted a suitcase
before Chester Himes escaped
Josephine packed her bags
& skipped off to France
severing ties with America
an umbilical cord
strangling her neck
she boarded a ship
bailed the US
like bailing the back hand of
a bad, brutal marriage.


This Nubian princess.
This queen of the bait & switch
had everyone going bananas
examining how yellow fruit curves
dancing nude, except for
her produce-section skirt
fifteen gyrating
penis-shaped smiling grins
happily tapping that ass.
While everyone studied
her circumference
which defied gravity & physics
dreaming of banana nut bread
banana pudding, banana splits
Josephine hid Nazi secrets
on sheet music or brassieres
or the ticklish part of her panties.


This Doll-face
This Venus
This St. Louis tease
became the biggest star in Europe.
Twerking her galactic hips
living so large
so vast
so spread-eagle wide
Saturn dropped her shirt
and slow dragged with Mars
causing Pluto to yell, “I got next!”
Josephine lived so big
clothes couldn’t hold her back.
Boogilooing in her birthday suit
refusing to kowtow or bow
except for her 7th
her 10th or 12th curtain call
hoola-hooping till the sun beamed up
than dropping it like its hot
touring London, Paris, Rome or Berlin
showing the whole world how black girls got down.
Not with dust mops
not in aprons
not the back of the bus
but infamously untethered
living high on the hog
buying a Chateau, so East
of the West’s ugly mess
the fire bombs
the German Shepherds
the strange fruit strung on trees
courtesy of Uncle Sam’s
“Welcoming Committee.”


As the zoo keepers of America
gawked or angrily shook their fists
Lady Liberty did a two-step
and shimmied by the sea
hoisting her worn-out gown
lifting her teal she screamed,
“I see you, over there, Josephine!
Go on, girl! Get it, get it!”
And way across the pond
nibbling bon bons
ordering prawns
sipping endless flutes
of Veuve or Moet champagne
The Electric Slide Goddess
blew a kiss to her rusty friend.
Mon Chéri, you need to come back with me.”


All the gorillas back in Africa
eating Chiquitas
beating their chest
doing their best Josephine
between branches and leaves
dancing a Cha Cha
trotting a Rumba
tossing peels in the street
gripping “J” shaped fruit
in their palms like a spear
honoring all escapees
praying for those still caged.
Remembering the black girl
the one with gumption
the nude émigrés
who had the mendacity
to leave her country
Lil’ Miss Parlez-vous Francais.
A black woman who ran from home
shearing her clothes, shoes & hair
severing herself completely
sailing far, far away
a gold star
lighting the way.



Ask Lucille

           for BB King

Ask Lucille
about stomach muscles
pressed against wood
and how good a man feels
howling in pain.
Feeling him gyrate
feeling him hold
your wide guitar hips
feasting on belt buckle
armpits and sloppy wet skin
hotter than ten kitchens
cookin’ nothing but collards.
Singing about starvin’
or sippin’ your last shot of gin
or sleeping in the cold
hotel room of his car.
Lucille saw
Lucille felt
the ache of BB’s bones.
She watched poems
squeeze like wet dreams
from folds of a fatback neck
relished his low mannish moan.
The thrill is gooooone,”
the thrill has gone away.

Ask Lucille about the road
and those clubs who stole their pay
the jive talk, the Chitlin circuit
the weeks without decent work
the nights she became weapon
a stick in a barroom brawl
her neck squeezed so tight
she stayed out of tune for days.
Paying the cost to be the Boss.
Lucille saw
Lucille felt everything first hand
the wild nights
the hicks with guns
an orchestra of other women
Mahogany, Maple, Ash
the real ones who bore him sons.
Hold On I’m Coming!
The heartache that penned ballads
in raspy refrains
songs only grown people know.
Where music becomes your medicine
your confidant, your friend.
Where the show must go on
whether you wanted to or not
playing daily
playing duets
playing through good times and bad
a slow-dance lasting decades
a love story in 12-bar chords
a romance between a man
and a woman’s wood grain soul.
Ask Lucille about BB
and she’ll flash a loyal smile
but you’ll never get her to talk.