morning: brushing sleep
off my teeth.
the room is silent
in that glassy sense of silence;
all small sounds
bouncing on blue tile,
like life as it is
in the margins of motion.
I wash my face
with cold water
and tap the razor
on side of the sink
while I wait for the pipes
to turn functional. out the window
I see night stand up
and begin wandering
frost given style
by the rising signs
of daylight. birds don’t sing –
it’s winter here. cats
don’t wander on the garden
lawn. in the bedroom
my girlfriend is asleep again
after waking a little
when I got out of bed. I go to the kitchen
and make coffee,
catch my ankles
on last night’s wine. shoes,
coats and take-away chip bags
crumple and creep along the carpet,
scratching their way into sunlight
like brambles, patching rarely
DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)
On Doing Good in America
“If you are born poor it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor it’s your mistake.”- Bill Gates
We admire the philanthropist for “giving back”
and ignore what they first had to take away.
It is a sin to need help and a blessing to offer it;
there is profit in not asking too many questions:
“How does one with no boots
pull himself up by his bootstraps?”
“Why teach someone to fish
then deny them access to the lake?”
We are only 4.25% of global population, and yet
we own 28% of Covid-19 fatalities. But don’t worry,
our billionaires, dying to restart their factories,
donate to food banks so the underpaid don’t starve.
But we do not weep for the hungry—this is America!
We are each one sixty-hour workweek away
from striking it rich. We refuse to quarantine our dreams;
If 200,000 perish, that’s the price of freedom.
Someday we’ll erect an immaculate monument
to those who died for the good of the economy.
His Momma died 18 months ago. For Mother’s Day,
he bought one of those shiny Mylar helium balloons
and some Carnations. It wasn’t easy to do, between shifts
at work and wearing a mask to the store—it’s dangerous
for a Black man to protect himself against a virus—
but he wanted to honor the woman who,
in spite of the odds, had kept him alive.
He tied the balloon to a vase on the kitchen table
where they used to listen to music and cook dinner.
When the store clerk was filling it, he
stifled a laugh-turned-cry, remembering that birthday
when she got him 20 balloons and one-by-one
they inhaled the noble gas,
nearly dying of laughter at their squeaky voices.
Leaving for the final time, he caught his reflection
in the Mylar. Hours later, dying beneath a cop’s knee,
he called out for Momma.
The last thing he saw was the joy in her eyes.
Back home the flowers have wilted and the balloon,
twisting slowly in the now-stale air,
sinks lower and lower to the ground.
in memory of George Floyd
The Beauty of Bipolar Depression
Too musically disinclined to rap or sing the blues,
too bound up in striving to retire
to the vase of my bed like an ersatz flower
(not even 300mg of Seroquel
can reduce me to mere ornamentation),
I instead write this poem,
which few will read.
You may wonder if it matters
that you read this, but
I’m not one to lavish much on myself:
For whom else would I obsess
over this comma, that
To survive this world’s lush, radiant, burlesque
It’s best that you understand
why I will never self-immolate, never
give what’s broken in me or the world
the satisfaction of my surrender.
Peel back my eyes
and touch the still-healing wound
oozing cerebral fluid from the Big Bang.
It’s in this blind space of raw pain
I often dwell. Here everything is reduced
to elements, genes, math, poetry. Here
my life to date plays on an endless loop like
propaganda. And here originate the florid
manifestations of myself: the video gamer
and the coder, the lucid dreamer
and the psychoanalyst.
If you could join me here,
you would understand how I’ve endured.
You would find immortality in anguish.
“Power is not what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.” – Saul Alinsky
Elections have consequences.
So say the victors to justify
their ends and means.
Perhaps the American Dream
is to live without consequence:
no mistakes, only cheapness
we are free to later discard.
Why deliberate honestly?
Abundance is our temptation,
prosperity the lie we tell to
expiate our original sin.
Elections have consequences.
Had Lincoln lost, how many
would we still count as slaves?
Who voted for mass incarceration,
child detention, soaring inequality?
In America anything is possible.
A Black president. Rags-to-riches.
Our poets, scientists, entrepreneurs
have proven their greatness—
the full flower of individualism—
Yet something blights the soil.
We are good people but not a
Good People. We welcome the Iraqi
refugee, ignore the crime that made him one.
Who voted for the War on Terror?
Who paid for the lies that launched it?
How much is too much to spend on
defense? On political ads?
Alinsky argued that what matters
is a particular means for a particular
end. Democracy not in the abstract
but in the flesh, the messy world
of action and reaction. I’m ready to commit
murder at the ballot box. I hope it’s not
too late to stop the carnage. America
forgives itself so easily, as though
we weren’t forgiving but forgetting.
If we knew the difference between
poll numbers and corpses, budgets
and starvation, we might have avoided
this moment. A pandemic. A fraud.
I cast my vote uncertain it will count.
That is, be counted. That is, matter.
When my blood is on the ballot,
there is only one outcome I can accept.
Elections have consequences.
Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.