From The Quarry & Split This Rock

Poem of the Week

    Teri Ellen Cross Davis     

 
Drought

        — based on a New York Times photograph of a grieving mother during Sudan’s 2005 drought

 

When you were inside me I could feel you thrive
your rounded kicks, my body your taut drum.
Now I beat these breasts, betrayed by a landscape
that wilts, a place where even tears won’t come.
Your rounded kicks in my body’s taut drum
why push, gush blood, why make you,
to wilt in a place where even tears don’t come?
No milk on your lips, your wavering cry
why push, gush blood, why make you?
How do my feet keep going, weighted by
your wavering cry still no milk for your lips,
and you grow lighter day after day?
How do my feet keep going, the weight of
when you were inside me, thrives, when I felt you.
Now you have grown lighter-and day after day
I beat these breasts, blamed, betrayed by this landscape.

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Used with permission. Photo by Mignonette Dooley.

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Teri Ellen Cross Davis is a Cave Canem fellow and has attended the Soul Mountain Writer’s Retreat, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work can be read in: Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry JamGathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC; and the following journals: Beltway Poetry QuarterlyGargoyleNatural BridgeTorchPoet Lore and The North American Review. Her first collectionHaint is newly released this month by Gival Press. She lives in Silver Spring, MD.
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Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks!
To read more poems of provocation and witness, please visit The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database at SplitThisRock.org.
Video

Weather Eye

It’s not that we’re fat (tho many are), or a little less sharp of movement than East Coasters, or more uptight than West Coasters (tho many are), or more racist than either (tho many are) — it’s that we’re obsessed with weather. We go to Istanbul and talk about the weather.

In CUNY’s  Lost & Found collection of poets writing on poetry or to each other, Baraka and Dorn exchange notes mostly on getting poems published and Baraka’s young journal off the ground. I can tell Dorn is the Midwesterner in this dialogue. No matter where he is, the letters include long sections on the weather, remarks on the snow, dryness, the oppression or lifting of conditions, season. Dorn, it turns out, is from Illinois. He watches his atmosphere minutely, with some love but mostly a kind of background trepidation.

Midwesterners think inside a farming culture. MW hipsters will deny this, but their false consciousness is another post. Our cities, surrounded by 100s of miles of crop & herd. Eastern cities are surrounded by other cities, US NightLightsand Western ones by wildland of myth and monster (to hear them tell it — it’s just wolves and indigenous people they’re freaking out about).

Weather is not conversational filler, it’s vital gossip about a bad cop. If you live in a town whose name starts with a J (Jarrell, Joplin) you are in trouble from go. The Ring of Fire Derecho of 2012 was born in Iowa at 9:30 in the morning, and was pounding Virginia, DC, and Maryland ELEVEN HOURS later. It moved 2 days worth country in half a day.

Michael Stipe is a MW’er & complained about our serious small talk in “Pop Song 89“, but he was really on about a flat kind of interchangeable human insufficiently engaged in their world while Reagan & Co. burned the 20th Century down to wee green shoots. He had a point.

In LatinX and African American cultures, polite conversation gets quickly to asking after family, everyone’s grandparents, cousins. In the MW, we call long-distance to ask after the weather there, guessing whether a storm will break N or S or just smash thru everything with all of Canada behind it. I live in the East now, so when Mamma calls we compare weather in every conversation while we both have apps & know perfectly well what’s up with the atmosphere.

Little House on the Prairie? The whole plot of those novels turn on a hail storm leveling the Engel’s wheat crop. So, I’m in grad school in the early 1990s, this is before the flood of ’93, with my dad who’s helping me move into my first apartment. We get the mattress in (this is all true) and sit on the trailer with a couple of beers, it’s late June, we are made of sweat at this point and chatting about the homegoods I need to score at the Goodwill, when the sky goes gunmetal and green and the sirens wind up

that cats-fucking-in-the-alley wail, and I realize this apt has. no. basement. 20 min later, it’s over, sunny, shiney streets and glittering oaks rise & shake their crowns in the after-breeze. “Sky turned over,” Papa says,”not seen that in a few years.” Radio that night reported a tornado on the edge of town — yes, that edge of town, always. This was a sunny day.

We’re like sailors this way. Not for nought it’s called a sea of wheat. That swath of Mississippi Watershed is the size of an ocean & builds up heat and damp like the Tropics do. It teaches us how the old gods still dance at their children’s weddings.

 

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Nov 1st. Deadline. Poetry Contest.

SplitThisRock.Submittable.com

Prizes: $500 & Registration for the 2016 festival; $250, and $100. Entry fee of $20 raises funds used to bring on the 4 day social justice and poetry festival, in DC April 14-17.

Judge: The inimitatible Rigoberto González.

Split Rock Park, Lake Harmony, PA. Photo by MF Simone Roberts.

Split Rock Park, Lake Harmony, PA. Photo by MF Simone Roberts.

Spirit: Submissions should be in the spirit of Split This Rock: socially engaged poems, poems that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world; poems of provocation and witness. This theme can be interpreted broadly and may include but is not limited to work addressing politics, economics, government, war, leadership; issues of identity (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, body image, immigration, heritage, etc.); community, civic engagement, education, activism; and poems about history, Americana, cultural icons.

Visit Split This Rock’s website [www.splitthisrock.org] to read past winning poems for examples of themes.

Rigoberto González is author of four books of poetry, most recently Unpeopled Eden, which won the Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. His ten books of prose include bilingual children’s books, young adult novels, and Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa, which received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He edited Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing and Alurista’s new Xicano Duende: A Select Anthology. The recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and many other accolades, he is professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey. In 2015, he received The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle.

FOR QUESTIONS OR MORE INFO: info@splitthisrock.org | splitthisrock.submittable.com/submit

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Geffrey Davis

 

What I Mean When I Say Truck Driver

During the last 50 miles back from haul & some
months past my 15th birthday, my father fishes
a stuffed polar bear from a Salvation Army
gift-bin, labeled Boys: 6-10. I can almost see him
approach the decision: cold, a little hungry, not enough

money in his pocket for coffee. He worries
he might fall asleep behind the wheel as his giant,
clumsy love for that small word–son–guides
his gaze to the crudely-sewn fabric of the miniature bear
down at the bottom of the barrel. Seasons have flared

& gone out with little change in his fear of stopping
for too long in any city, where he knows the addict
in him waits, patient as a desert bloom. Meanwhile, me:
his eldest child, the uneasy guardian of the house.
In his absence, I’ve not yet lost my virginity,

but I’ve had fist-fights with grown men & seen
my mother dragging her religious beliefs to the bitter
border of divorce. For years my father’s had trouble
saying no to crack-cocaine & women flowered in cheap
summer dresses. Watch his face as he arrives at last

& stretches the toy out, my mother fixed
on the porch behind me, the word son suddenly heavy
in my father’s mouth, his gray coat gathered
around his shoulders: he’s never looked so small.
We could crush him–we hug him instead.


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Used with permission. “What I Mean When I Say Truck Driver” from Revising the Storm, copyright 2014 by Geffrey Davis, BOA Editions, Ltd. Photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis 2013.

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Geffrey Davis is the author of Revising the Storm (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2014), winner of a the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. Other honors include the Anne Halley Poetry Prize, the Dogwood Prize in Poetry, the Wabash Prize for Poetry, the Leonard Steinberg Memorial/Academy of American Poets Prize, nominations for the Pushcart and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and a fellowship from the Cave Canem Foundation. Davis grew up in Tacoma, WA and currently teaches in The Arkansas Programs for Creative Writing & Translation at the University of Arkansas.

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Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks!
To read more poems of provocation and witness, please visit The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database at SplitThisRock.org.

Call for Proposals: 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival

CALL FOR SESSION PROPOSALS:
Workshops, Themed Readings, and Panel or Roundtable Discussions

DEADLINE: June 30, 2015

COMPLETE GUIDELINES AT BLOG THIS ROCK.

Submit online:
www.splitthisrock.submittable.com

CONTACT US AT INFO@SPLITTHISROCK.ORG IF THE FORM IS NOT ACCESSIBLE TO YOU.

Split This Rock invites proposals for workshops, panel and roundtable discussions, and themed group readings for the fifth Split This Rock Poetry Festival, scheduled for April 14-17, 2016, in Washington, DC.

More and more, we understand the ways that issue areas converge: earth justice requires economic and racial justice; LGBT rights and gender equality intertwine; freedom is indivisible. We’re particularly interested this year in seeing proposals that address these intersections, examining the ways that poetry can help us understand the connections and build the alliances necessary to imagine and construct another world.

The festival prides itself on being a place for community building. Interactive proposals that open unique opportunities for participants to connect with one another are of particular interest. When proposing panel discussions and readings, we request that time be set aside for dialogue or a period of questions and answers.

Split This Rock is not an academic conference, but a gathering of individuals from many backgrounds. Please, no academic papers and avoid jargon of all kinds. Thank you!

Video

DC Youth Slam Team: Shakazuun!

Young Poets Confront Racism, Homophobia, and Teen Pregnancy on D.C. Slam Team

Read the article. Believe in the young people.