Category Archives: Poetry

An elephant’s ass….

by Robin Byrd

the elephant – and his fat ass – is sitting on my arm, squashing my chest

his feet protruding through the walls

destructive

and he smells

like centuries of hippopotamus-shit caked in his skin

imagine elephant ass/hippopotamus shit

from where I’m lying, I can only see thick gray folds of wrinkly, wrinkly skin with gobs of hippo-shit smeared across the folds

crumbling off that ass onto me

damn elephant

get off me!

NOW!

he slowly raises that ass up off me

the pressure lingering

the tightness

got me searching for aspirin, tylenol, something

found two pills in what looked like a 2006 package

gonna have to take a chance

if I can just burp

the bubble is lodged dead center of my clavicle

feels like that ass never left my chest

In the morning I burped

It came rolling out like a

Sheila E riff

pure glory!

Dig…

by Robin Byrd

Dig through the wall in their sight, and carry your belongings out through it.”  Ezekiel 12:5

this

is the unearthing unburying re-birthing of the offspring of praise

emerging from the fields covered in a red clay-like bag of waters

clenching smooth milk and honey stones – one in each hand

this

is the promise

sustenance

renewal

Life

clothed like john the baptist in knee-length hair

honed toward home, they go

from the dust

rising in strength, dry bones and all

seeking balm for hands raw from digging

unearthing

unburying

re-birthing

rank from the shifting of dung rocks out of the way

while the earth is shaking around them, its heavens opening to the hope of rain

look up,

the clouds are aching to let loose of water to wash away this dust of ages

mountains are quaking to the shifting ground,

needing more than salve, needing gilead’s balm

THERE IS A BALM IN GILEAD TO MAKE THE WOUNDED WHOLE

God speed to the offspring of praise, these children of promise, as it were,

may praise meet gilead in the valley of baca and make it a well

give Hebron, give grace and mercy, give renewal and sustenance and life

Oh, let praise inherit life…

the speed of sound…

by Robin Byrd

the dead are speaking

literally…

I ran into my mother’s voice; it came out of nowhere – attached to a file on my computer

hit me like a bolt of lightning

I gasped, I cried out, “Mommy!”

I was a ball of emotions

I played it over and over again, oh, how I’ve missed the sound of her voice

She’s been in my dreams for the last month

“what is he reading?” she asks, upset that death forbids her tend to it

the collage of her is everywhere

even my breasts are mommy’s breasts now, courting gravity like a first kiss, surprised yet not so impressed

my hands are starting to cook like hers, I bought a new pot so I can make her stew

been craving it for years, I am my mother’s daughter, her face is in my face

and I think she’s ready to tell her story

She’s coming to me like my characters do but she’s more forceful – like coming back to the middle of a semi-heated conversation we were just having to say one more thing

so familiar

“WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, ALL OUR SINS AND GRIEF TO BEAR, WHAT A PRIVILEGE TO CARRY, EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER…”

Her favorite song rises out of the silence in my head

yeah, she’s ready…

and then, last night, I was reading old blogs of mine because I couldn’t sleep nor could I remember me before–

and there, in the comments was Erica (Bennett) telling me she hopes I feel better – the words were audible, clear

“Erica?”

“I hope you feel better…”

“I miss you, Erica…”

and in the background, I could hear another friend saying, ”God loves me.”

He was walking briskly towards me so full of joy…

the dead are speaking…

it’s making me shake myself like Samson and get to swinging

’cause I got things to do…

They are reminding me to redeem the time because the space between now and eternity is as far away and as close as the speed of sound…

Riding the Air…

by Robin Byrd

Is it like riding the air?   movement…   

I seem to have forgotten – stuck here like I am in the hardly bearable heat of these walls and the “go nowhere” doors from sun up to moon down.  I tell myself that I am not going to faint or lose heart, that I am going to subdue this beast one hour at a time, one day at a time, by the Grace of God…

but I really want flight, I yearn for air… I want wings and I want wind to ride. I been looking for signs of movement, looking for a great big wind to come skip-to-my-lou all through this mess, dislodge some rivers for baptisms, root up healing herbs and toss some around for everybody to have.

I want to relax, I want to float like a leaf and land picturesquely on the grass showing off the beautiful colors of my whole self.  I don’t want to apologize for nothing not for floating, landing or seeking air.  If I push myself, I bet I can land far enough away from here so I can breathe new/fresh pockets of wind…bet I can land somewhere east of here, near appalachia, up where lavender lilies bloom, where rose of sharon sings… 

I can’t breathe here no more in this heavy porous atmosphere, it’s dropped down way too low, to the little grassy piece of earth I live on and I just can’t breathe.  I thought I was imagining it but it’s real – the air is thick; thick and sticky like a glob of peanut butter caught in the throat daring you to drink water, threatening to thicken regardless…

I need air and space and

God cracking the skies…

Oh, God, blow on us, shower us with rain and the latter rain, deliver us, heal this land…

Heal the land, Father… we humble ourselves and pray

we pray

we Pray

we PRAY

We dream of riding the night winds again, of sleeping well and waking rested

send Your wind, help us fly

lift us up high enough to catch hold

let us mount up with wings as eagles — send the wind, Lord, send the Wind…

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 King James Version (KJV)

About a Chicana Falsa

by Zury Margarita Ruiz

I was introduced to her work in high school…

I’m not sure how it came about, but the folks at my high school decided that they wanted to have a cultural celebration of sorts. All 45 seniors and 20, or so, underclassmen at our little magnet high school were expected to participate in some capacity. While I was part of a Mexican folkloric dance group at that time, I had no intention of dancing in front of my entire school. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, there was very little fun I took from that endeavor. Additionally, I was still traumatized by the demands of peddling the “joy and skills you too can acquire” of accordion playing to my middle school classmates that I just wasn’t going to put myself out there like that anymore. Still, I was expected to participate.

Unsure of what to do, and with a day to go, my Spanish teacher (who was coordinating this whole ordeal) suggested that I read an excerpt of short story written by a Latin@ author. I hate to admit it but at the time I can’t say that I knew the work of very many Latin@ authors—call it a lack of awareness/exposure, ignorance, what have you, I was drawing blanks.  So my Spanish teacher handed me a few books from his desk and encouraged me to check them out, and from those few, I was immediately drawn to Michele Serros’ Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard.

Copy of Chicana Falsa

Chicana Falsa was a compact offering of non-fiction and poetry detailing Serros’ complex, comical grappling of her own identity. It was genuine, often times heartbreaking, and funny as hell. It was one of the first pieces of literature that I deeply connected to and made me feel seen. 

Michele Serros reading her work at Lollapalooza.

For our school celebration, I ended up selecting the story “Attention Shoppers”. It was a satirical piece that shows Serros being made aware of the notion that, even within supermarket aisles, discrimination was alive and well. This was proven to her by way of packaging styles for Malibu Style Vegetables vs. Latino Style Vegetables and the connotations each evokes.

“…. look at this, the Latino Style Vegetables are all spilling out of this wicker basket, all overflowing, messy like. Insinuating that we are overflowing, overcrowding what they think is their land. And what’s with this wicker basket?”  

Back in January I had the pleasure of visiting an exhibit at University Hall (Cal State University Chanel Islands) in honor of her life’s work.

I cried when I saw the exhibit.

Most everything that she’d been inspired by and written about was there— the desk her mother gifted her, journals, framed t-shirts, concert tickets, her skateboard…  it was overwhelming. Michele Serros’ work has meant so much to me for a very long time. I often think of her, her writing and the impact her artistic voice has had on me. She’s the writer whose work I most often go back and re-read. I love the familiarity. It feels like home.

I meant to post these photos a while back but it didn’t feel right then. I was writing about loss and it’s not what I wanted to do, especially in a week that already felt so sorrowful. I decided then that I would give it some time and wait until my next go-round on the blog to post them because surely the world would be in a different place from where it was at the time.

And we are, now, in a very different place.

But it feels right to remember the people, places and voices that bring us joy.

In fact, there’s no better time than now.

Let it Come…

by Robin Byrd

In the green and blue mist

I make my way back to earth borne tragedies, dimly lit pathways, and houses full of clutter

I would run but my knees ache and I am tired of the switchbacks

I would rest but pine needles are sparse in this part of the forest

The Wind says something’s coming

The cold is like ice on my bones, joints crackling louder than whatever that is that’s following me

I would be afraid but I have an urgent need to draw blood

The years have changed me and I can no longer hide the warrior side of me

Let it come

I will be as Simeon and Levi against Shechem

I will roar like Judah

My yell will topple the trees for I am, indeed, Judah’s daughter

A double portion I was given and I shall draw blood

Let it come, quickly in this thick solitude that blankets the night

Let it wake the birds and startle the muffled river for I am full of righteous indignation

I need to fight, I’m not running anymore

Shall the uncircumcised overtake me?  Shall they make sport of me?

Nay; it will go another way this day

If I make the clearing before the attack

I will wade into the river and draw it in after me where my hands shall drag it beneath to the water’s bed and I will break it like a stick

If I must fight in this forest

I will stand here, in the middle, like Shammah, son of Agee the Hararite when the Philistines came and he stood in the middle of the lentil field and fought victoriously, he took his stand and defended the field and struck them down

I too shall defend and strike down —

This thing that follows me, hunts me like prey, taunts my life ,

Will do so no more for I shall be a terror to it this day…

Let it come

Judah’s girl is woke and pissed the Hell off….

I Need a Shovel…

by Robin Byrd

Which way?
It’s almost midnight
And I just lost my shovel
There is zero visibility in this fog
And it’s rolling
rolling in like gangbusters with diarrhea


Shit everywhere


liquefying in this heat, sticking
like honey on skin
soaking my clothes and hair
Taking up all the air
Congested, I can’t breath anyway except through my mouth
Open to flying particles of fecal matter landing on my tongue and tonsils
I won’t be eating nothing till I can scrub the Hell out of my mouth

It’s above ground if you didn’t know; it ain’t underground no more
It ain’t an imaginary place

I need the shovel. Give me a shovel please

He said he was sorry
He should have begged me to forgive him but it wouldn’t have mattered
I still wanted him gone
Poof…splat..splam….
Gone – like dead gone


If I got to carry this body till the limbs fall off, he got to be dead
And I ain’t doing no backtracking to pick up litter either
Limbs be damned
Rapists need to lose something too


They need to get first class tickets to the fiery pit
That big unknown called Hell
And they need to go covered in hot shit mixed with gasoline


Give them all window seats

and a book of matches

The Chickens Came…

by Robin Byrd

I have not remembered….
I have held my peace and kept time by the PTSD manager on my phone
Been holding it all inside the holes in my teeth
Losing them one by two by three

If silence is the enemy then you are the monster under the bed
Grabbing at my hands, waking me up
So I can never sleep through the night


I refused to remember…
I have pushed that dunghill many a day
to the fourth corner of the earth
And left it there with the full and ugly memory of you and your touch
Nearly comatose for decades by the weight of it all, by weight of you
Hardly breathing
Hardly living, hardly able to think
Above the maddening secret
That Flashbacks never leave you
They mutate like sketchy thoughts after a head injury
Leave you sinking in mire
The sill clinging to your knees and thighs


I have sat in the troubled waters
Broken from the top down
Soaking my big toes and the place between my thighs scarred like burnt skin
And lost dreams
The smell unearthingly foul yet familiar
Bone tired and nodding like an addict mid-fix
Hoping to Forget-it-all
Slowly embracing the lull and hum of stagnation


Then Byron died and the flood came
and the chickens
Well they came home, flatfooted and tough from age
They came home like they belonged to me
3 months later, they are roosting

On Pilgrimages

by Chelsea Sutton

When I was in France in September for an impromptu trip,  I had about two days to spend in Paris. I’d never been there before, I didn’t speak the language, I had a lot of work I knew I’d be flying home to. I was happy and grateful but stressed.

But there was one thing that I felt drawn to, the thing that I couldn’t leave Paris without doing: visiting the grave of Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

It felt like a pilgrimage. I’m not a religious person. I probably couldn’t truly articulate what I believe. Energies, maybe. Ghosts. I don’t know. I’m not even a hard-core Oscar Wilde fan. But I needed to go there.

I didn’t bring the right shoes for the amount of walking I’d been doing all week. My feet and legs ached. I got turned around a dozen times just finding the entrance of the cemetery. Once inside, I wandered for a long time, searching for the exact location of the grave. Père Lachaise is well organized but its long winding paths can play tricks on you.  I could feel every cobble stone under my shoes. It was cold and I was hungry and I felt like I’d never find him.

Obviously people make this trek all the time. I am not unique. Roses and gifts littered his grave. Lipstick marks covered the protective glass installed around the huge grave stone to combat graffiti from adoring fans. Tourists from England and Sweden and Germany paraded by in the half hour or so I spent there, sitting on the curb across the path from the grave. I felt almost embarrassed that I didn’t have a flower to offer. He probably hated that.

Instead, I sat there and asked him questions.

How did you do it? How did you have the confidence? 

I thought about the tragic way his life was cut short. And felt silly for asking him anything, since anything I had experienced is nothing compared to his life. But still, I admitted to him, that while I don’t deserve it, I’d sure like this advice.

Can I do this? This writer thing? 

I feel silly saying I did this. But it was a pilgrimage to connect to something deeper, some sort of literary history, to figure out if I’m crazy for doing what I’m doing, for wanting what I think I want.

I think it is important to find stillness and ask these questions. To a god, to a literary giant, to someone you’ve lost, to yourself. You’ll get an answer if you ask the question. It may not come in the form of words and a life plan, but in the form of a warmness, a feeling in the pit of your stomach, a sudden lightness in your breathe, in your step.

I made my way out of the cemetery, but it wasn’t easy. I was pretty convinced the ghosts wanted to try to keep me there, confusing me, sending me down more painful cobblestone paths to drain me. But then I found the opening.

I spent the rest of the night wandering more streets, eating cheese, reading, and drinking hot chocolate. And felt like myself. And at peace with that feeling.

We’re getting close to the new year. I’m watching friends and family achieve things, get married, have babies, buy houses. Lovely choices and happiness in so many forms. Seeing others’ choice can sometimes make you question your own. So make your own pilgrimage. Maybe not to Oscar Wilde’s grave (if you do, bring shoes that can deal with those cobblestones) but to a place with the energy that will help you focus and ask that question that’s burning in your mind.

And then listen for the answer.

Shaking Off This Sadness…

I have been wanting to talk to Mommy, forgetting she is gone.  Such an odd thing to have a thought, “I need to talk to mother about that” then remember as soon as the thought hits space, that I can’t because she is gone.  That whole week between the date of death, her birthday, and the date of burial, I longed for her, could not get out of bed the day before and day of her birthday.  I have a blanket of hers that I have begun to wrap up in, lay my head on, carry in the back of my car – just to be near something of hers.

Trying not to lose myself, I took a seminar in poetry – not sure if it worked.

Mommy.

This shaking off of depression is hard.  One year later and I still can’t believe you are gone.  Thanks for coming to see me on your birthday.  I know I can’t stay here.  Seems counter-intuitive – I know you are in a better place.  I just did not know how much I loved you and that the hole would be so large.

I did not know you were like air and heartbeat

And blood and bone to me

That the touch of your skin was home to me

(the child who was not breastfed because you had an infection – that used to bother me but mothers must always do the best for their children or at least try.  it did not make you love me any less – the old wives tale that breastfed children are closer to their mothers – just not true…)

I am needing to crawl up beside you and kiss the north, south, east and west of your face

I am needing you

And all the remembrances

Needing to shake off this sadness