I received an email on April 1 from poet Steven Reigns, who's been working on National Poetry Month banners in West Hollywood. He said that at 4 am that day street banners were hung along Santa Monica Boulevard of poets, including one for yours truly. What a grand honor. Twenty-two poets appear with a line from one of their poems. Here's Marilyn Chin with "Float my mind toward the other side of hate." And Toi Derricotte with "Joy is an act of resistance." And Raphael Campo's, "Your voice, how cavernous it was, and full of wings." And Sharon Olds' "Between love and language I choose love and language." And W.S. Merwin's "On the last day of the world, I would want to plant a tree." And Quincy Troupe with "The language spoken in sleep becomes an echo here, a translation when written on white paper."
Other poets include Rita Dove, Eloise Klein Healy, Mike Sonksen, Terry Woolverton, Marie Howe, David Trinidad, and more.
My own contribution was the line "The medicine is already inside us," from the poem "Making Medicine, published in 2008 in a hand-made art book, signed and numbered in a limited edition, by C&C Press out of Pajaro, CA. Here's the full poem:
A bee makes love to a flower.
There’s more dark matter
in the universe than light.
What may kill you may also cure you.
Look around—there’s medicine everywhere.
Change is the medicine of the stagnant
and what seems changeless.
Ask the questions:
If society cooperates, can we nurture the full
and healthy development of everyone?
If the world loses its soul,
shouldn’t we imagine another world
from the depths of all our souls?
Is there a truth that also stings?
The journey emerges from the folds of an ocean wave
lapping at the shores of the entangled blood.
It’s the music rejoicing release at the throat,
a moon-faced voice suggesting
the night’s winged descent toward a wound.
Truths that heal are expressed in poems
that breathe and hold
the air in the eye sockets
of a deadened smile;
truths with muddy roads, vacant stares,
and broken glass windows;
truths with a girl’s tinny laugh
in the embrace of her mother’s fears
in the sleep of her pregnant winters;
truth that is stubborn peace, hobbling wet along
a forest of bare and calamitous trees,
immersed in the salt of a thousand dry kisses.
Like how music squeezes out the lunacy
in our hearts, how the happiest moments
are usually the least complicated,
and how love is felt in the creases
of our fingers,
but no hand can carry.
So heal with these bullets
whose tunes twist a word, a phrase,
a syllable to poetic slaughter;
heal with a hunger that is also
the ceaseless chatter for what’s just.
We can’t swat away the madness in these words,
to sear black the books and dictionaries
of these sorrows and secrets;
we can’t harmonize with the scorned instruments
whose language falls into a mouth
bursting red with the melodies of dissent
like whispers in a bottle.
Roots and songs fall in the chasms
between the disconnections,
making medicine out of our disaffections
our pathologies and poverties.
History is a series of explosions;
in-between we dream.
The truth is—the medicine
is already inside us.
Meander then around the hollowed possessions,
through these featherless borders,
in a cauldron of holy oil and the devil’s piss,
ask the questions.
Thank you Steven Reigns and the City of West Hollywood--what a powerful way to celebrate poets and their impact on our lives.