52 Poems: Week 46 Lawson Fusau Inada

Little moments with family over the past few days, and this poem by a former Oregon Poet Laureate.  Happy Thanksgiving.

By Lawson Fusau Inada
(for Grandmothers Miju Inada and Yoshiko Saito)

Except for the fact that Grandmother taught me
chopsticks and Japanese before forks and English,
my relationship with Her wasn't all that much.

As a matter of fact, Grandmother, with Her old-
fashioned ways, was actually somewhat of an extra-
vagant source of confusion and distraction.

For example, just to waste time on a rainy day
in a boring barrack room in our ordinary
concentration camp in Arkansas, She'd say:

"The Great God Thunder is very powerful.
Listen to Him. When He storms, be careful.
Or He will send Lightning to take your navel!"

Or, on just another quiet night in Colorado,
on the way to the shower house, She may pause
in the warm desert sand to simply say:

"Ah, the Full Moon! Look closely, Grandson.
It's the same Moon, and the same Story.
'Two Rabbits with Mallets Pounding Rice.'"

Time passes. Grandmother passes. I've learned
the facts since. Still, in some storms I feel
a twitch, and in the still of certain nights,

with the right chopsticks, I can eat with
the Rabbits who have scattered all the Rice.


52 Poems: Week 45 Mary Szybist

So the National Book Foundation awarded their National Book Award prizes this week and Mary Szybist won for her poetry collection Incarnadine. She lives in Portland now and I quite liked this poem. Plus, she taught me a new word:

noun: incarnadine
  1. 1.
    a bright crimson or pinkish-red color.
adjective: incarnadine
  1. 1.
    of a crimson or pinkish-red color.
verb: incarnadine; 3rd person present: incarnadines; past tense: incarnadined; past participle: incarnadined; gerund or present participle: incarnadining
  1. 1.
    color (something) a bright crimson or pinkish-red.

    Happy Ideas
    By Mary Szybist

    I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel
    to a kitchen stool and watch it turn.                  
    I had the happy idea to suspend some blue globes in the air

    and watch them pop.

    I had the happy idea to put my little copper horse on the shelf so we could stare at each other
    all evening.

    I had the happy idea to create a void in myself.

    Then to call it natural.

    Then to call it supernatural.

    I had the happy idea to wrap a blue scarf around my head and spin.

    I had the happy idea that somewhere a child was being born who was nothing like Helen or
    Jesus except in the sense of changing everything.

    I had the happy idea that someday I would find both pleasure and punishment, that I would
    know them and feel them,

    and that, until I did, it would be almost as good to pretend.

    I had the happy idea to call myself happy.

    I had the happy idea that the dog digging a hole in the yard in the twilight had his nose deep in

    I had the happy idea that what I do not understand is more real than what I do,

    and then the happier idea to buckle myself

    into two blue velvet shoes.

    I had the happy idea to polish the reflecting glass and say

    hello to my own blue soul. Hello, blue soul. Hello.

    It was my happiest idea.


52 Poems: Week 44 Jo Whitehorse Cochran

Because this week little boys and girls will be dressing up like little pilgrims and Indians.

Because even though Chief Wahoo and the Tomahawk Chop are done for the season, the Redskins are still playing and students who question their mascot are censured.

Because I would have hoped more would have changed by now.

Halfbreed Girl in the City School  
by Jo Whitehorse Cochran

are you Mexican
are you Italian
are you Chinese
are you Japanese
spic wetback greaseball slant-eye
you are dark enough to question
you are light enough to ask
you have near black hair brown eyes
and speak slow-english
we are blonde blue eyed
and wear store bought sweaters skirts or pants
you wear homemade clothes out of style
we circle round you and your sister
you hug your sister close she's small and even darker
we kick we tug at braids and coats
we pull "I'm Indian!" out of you

the social worker wants
you to describe your family
she asks
does your father beat you
does your mother
does your father drink
does your mother
do you hate your parents
do you cry
tell me tell me do you
like the reservation better
are you ashamed in the classroom
when you wet your pants
why don't you speak up
why don't you get excused
why don't you go at recess
tell me tell me speak!

you stare out the window
turn an alphabet block in your hand
speak english speak english
the social worker caws
outside Canadian geese pass through your immediate sky
six in an arc going south
if you were a Changer like Star Boy
you could fly with those long-necks
but you must stay and look out this window

Grandma's words pound in your head
they want to strip us of our words
they want to take our tongues
so we forget how to talk to each other
you swallow the rock
that was your tongue
you swallow the song
that was your voice
you swallow you swallow
in the silence


52 Poems: Week 43 Emily Dickinson on Hope

It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) so my attention has turned to my current work in progress. But I love using allusions in my drafts, so here is a poem from Ricepaper Superheroes a couple of years ago.
Hope Is a Thing With Feathers
By Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.