Wednesday, November 11, 2020

I am an American


A group of poems offered by the poets to be a part of the "I Am An American" show at Cove St. Arts, Portland, Maine. 

What is the face of America

granite, limestone, rock face

upthrust delta rich

soil and deep forest

swift rivers flowing

deep ice and first peoples

where are the borders

mountain, river, glacier's edge

everything moving

wind water night sky stars

great flocks flying

great schools swimming

great herds moving

crossing, crossing

touching the edge of ice

seeds on the breeze

put your roots down and

you are welcome here

Gary Lawless


Ten Haiku


The Earth-wide waste dump

is half full

half empty


The chain saw

to the giant trunk of the tree

nothing lasts


If there is smoke

there is a gun

or a barbecue


I am alone in the basement

panting on the treadmill

how vast this country


Driving on I-95

I think how the Mississippi River

flows only in one direction


Spring 2019

all the cherry trees blossomed

even those around the White House


From the top of the Washington Monument

I see the capital city from all directions

my hand touches the air


Silk Road Silk Road

everybody is talking about the Silk Road

caterpillar go in your cocoon


It may take a deluge

for my house to float

toward your house


There is light

at the end of the tunnel

of hope

Sharif Elmusa


I Am An Arab American

Because I tend the fig tree as earnestly as the dogwood and the pine

Because nutmeg and anise, cumin and cardamom inhabit my shelves and senses

Because I make both baklava and blueberry pie for my family

Because melodies of the oud and guitar dwell in my ears

Because poems by Mahmoud Darwish and Lucille Clifton are my daily bread

Because I am awed by the blueness of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea

Because I see Gaza when a protester raises a fist in Ferguson

Because I've touched the splendor of a brown child in my womb

Because I write in languages that flow in opposite directions

Because Arabic and English are both my touchstones

Because my name is unfamiliar to some and a comforting word to others

Because I grow jasmine to conjure the fragrance of my first home

Because to me, the olive tree is an ancestor, a food source, a healer

Because my Palestinian parents were refugees and I am an immigrant

Because my children see more than one world, inherit stories that astonish

Because I want to protect the purple mountains and shining seas everywhere

Because I know that everything we decide now affects the next seven generations

Zeina Azzam


I am an American. 

Today, not someday.

Inserting my authentic African self in every city, every state, and every history book that

has been written.

I am an American.

Not because I was born here.

But because my heart, my soul, my sorrows, and my future promises are buried deep

down into the soil and concrete of this nation.

Yes, I am an American.

Not because I speak English.

But because my tongue knows how to roar in many languages,

knows how to comprehend, read, and rewrite the stories that haven't been written.

I am an American.

Not because I drink my morning coffee with a little cream but because I drink it dark,

just like how I was taught in the motherland.

With every sip I take tasting the bitterness of my experiences.

I am an American.

Not because I take the subway to my place of work, but because I have walked miles on

stones to find my final destination that I call home.

I am an American.

Not because I wear a T-shirt and pants but because I wear my Abaya and hijab proudly

with no fear.

Not sitting at the dining room table or eating from one plate, it's the floor in the center

of our living room that has become our threshold.

Our Thanksgiving meal does not include turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, but expect

Fufu and plantains to be at the center of our meal.

I am an American not because my father fought in the Civil War that eventually ended


but because he, I, and many others still have cut open wounds with no medication or a

plan for a renewal healing.

My eyes cry for my America while my feet dance to my African beats.

Holding on to home on the tip of my tongue.

Sewing this diverse piece of fabric of my many identities,

leaving each needle to write its own story.

I am an American.

Ekhlas Ahmed



Whole Food dolma, I explain, is simply

grapeleaves rolled with rice, a paradox

oilysmooth, lemontart, crisp stone

mountains wrapped in viridescent fields

breeze leavened, the hot summer days.

I cannot make them see

my great-grandmother's hands,

roadside gathering, mason jars filling

browngreen leaves like pondlilies

underwater strata, layers of lost growth.

How once, even my grandmother canned

acorn squash, rich earth of her own garden

tomato vine, hidden arbor. How once,

there were blueberries wild on Federal Hill

my father picked them as a child, his favorite

memory, how morning tasted on the backporch

brightknit like a rainbow afghan and I

leave all these things on my tongue

unspoken, taste the dolma somewoman,

somewhere, has made.

Katherine Hagopian Berry



For Adrienne Rich

You tell us that we have

the drive/to connect. The dream of a common language.

That  No one sleeps in this room without/the dream of a common language

But how do you dream

of a common language

when you are surrounded 

by faces that do not know you?

There are those who

have been in this room for a lifetime.

Who dream stories in languages

that aren't written down

in this place.

I once heard a story about a man with dementia who walked into an industrial bread mixer.

No grand metaphor here, just a man

dazed/ and/ confused.

Lost his way.

Walked through a door and a door and a door and off a ledge.

Found himself trapped - in a concave well - mixed in with remnants

yeast/ and/ flour.

Can you imagine?

The smoothness of the walls.

The futility of motion.

The fear giving way to surrender.

And so, as the story goes, he tired and lay still

at the bottom of the basin

in the fetal position.

This is how they found him - covered in white

fetal/ and/ flour.

How could he explain his journey?

What led him to leave his home

to walk, through a door and a door and a door?

What language to describe what compelled him?

How does he respond to the why? To the how?

     How can we name a common language that makes him intelligible to these faces that

     surround him?

     How do I wrap my tongue around that, Adrienne?

You tell us that     Language cannot do everything.

You tell us that     No one lives in this room/ without confronting the whiteness of the wall

/ behind the poems.

For a moment

think of whiteness

and think of


For a moment

think of other journeys.

think of other migrations.

of collective movement.

of diaspora.

Know that migration is beautiful.

Migration is human.

Migration is animal.

Hold in your mind a tapestry.

Know that behind the poetry of promise

is something ominous

barbs/ and/ teeth

that will shred the tapestry

reconfigure it into a new likeness

translate it beyond recognition

that will scoff at dreams

will deny common language

will bark out

how/ and/ why





I cannot conjure a common language that will save us.

I don't know what to tell you, Adrienne.

Samaa Abdurraqib



american flags from red wounds

blue bruises   shredded pulp

of human flesh

people torn from ancestral lands

for brown skin   blankets

of blood   bouquets

of ripped muscle

stomped light

crushed back...broken bones

blown up

balloon hands

heads drowned   chained to cold

concrete   starved & suffocated   forced

to take drugs   american citizens safe

comfortable   from the agony

& murder

of brown people

Lisa Panepinto




Low Intensity Warfare (1985)

Up here

we're working up

this winter's wood

Down there

below the Rio

below the Durangoes

in the fruit section

of our global IGA

deep in the sweet underbelly 

of America

Down there

we're stacking up

the bodies

Up here

fall is in the air

the mornings are crisp and clear

the leaves die beautifully

in earth browns

translucent yellows

blood reds

Down there

young peasants

are slipping into puddles

of mangled skin

Down there

Willie Peter*

is hard at work

Down there

the morning air

smells of burning flesh

Up here


is as usual

* "Willie Peter" is army slang for white phosphorous


Prometheus Again  (1976)

When the infantry ran into trouble, they'd call on the artillery to "bring fire down on such-and-such coordinates"

He once brought fire down

on some village children

in that latest crazy forgotten war

of ours

Now he's come home

to spend his days asleep

beneath newspapers of inconsequence

to spend his nights chained

against our trash cans

drunk on




Retching our guts up

into the relentless dawn


Unexploded Ordnance: A Ballad (2007)

for Chuck Searcy and the thousands of Vietnamese who have labored off and on since 1975, working to undo what we have done

So I was maybe all of twenty-one

when they whipped me

into some kind of soul-less shape

Yet another one of America's

weeping mother's sons

sent forth into this world

to raze, pillage, and rape

And now it's coming on

to another Christmas Eve

and the songs of joy and peace

fill up our little town

How I ask myself

could I possibly believe

I could do what I did

and not reap what I had sown

In that land far away

from what I call home

a grandfather leads

his granddaughter by the hand

into a field where we did

what had to be done

They trip into a searing heat

brighter than a thousand suns.

Doug Rawlings

7/15th Artillery

Vietnam 1969-1970


I embrace colder than a witch's tit.

New Year's Eve 2017

The predator-elect stated, after comments were made that his 14 cabinet appointees are collectively worth as much as the "bottom" one third of the US population,

"What's wrong with Rich, isn't that what we want?"

I am here to say I embrace

colder than a witch's tit

hoar frost, bitch, dyke,

the entire list of Samantha Bee's vagina monologue.

I embrace squaw mountain, Nasty woman, man hater

I embrace every pejorative name for women,

from mother in law to Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher,

I embrace them in every language for the 3.5 billion women on the planet

I am here to say

We are not backing down,

you can call us whatever, we aren't biting that bait

if you think calling us names will make us think we aren't woman enough,

good enough, smart enough, tough enough sweet enough sexy enough

man enough to play the game and join the club, you're wrong.

Hillary did that, and if she can't break the misogyny wall

if she can't win with 3,000,000 more votes

none of us can.

I am here to say

we are going back to our radical roots,

the ones we never left

we don't want to join the club,

the pistol, the rifle, the drone, the bomb.

We don't want the weapons glorified in the shape of your penis

wreaking havoc and destruction over and over again ad nauseum

We don't want to be rich-queen,

we want none of us to be poor,

and clean water.

I am here to say I am done with

the glorification of the father

the adoration of the son, whatever you call them

I am so over the male narrative, the hero and the golden fleece,

I am so done with boys will be boys.

I am here to say

I totally embrace the mother

and celebrate the daughters

the people who make life happen every sunrise every sunset,

all that unpaid labor

who give birth, get food on the table, laundry done,

who nurse, teach languages, manners,

the women who do all the work at churches, nursing homes hospitals schools

while a few men at the top push papers and a few men off to the side at the

bottom push brooms and fix the washing machines

I embrace the mother goddess,

who has no name in patriarchy

I embrace the 101 names of the mother

the billions of nameless daughters.

And for any men squirming in the audience

I am over White supremacy too,

I reap the benefits of institutionalized racism,

absolutely have access to more resources easier,

cause I'm white.

Being, oh gee, uncomfortable cause we get called out on privilege,

Buck up, become men against patriarchy, white people against racism

I am here to say I am totally over

not acknowledging, recognizing,

this country's wealth was built on

the labor and legacy of black people

being enslaved by white people,

there is no poetry in that

or that our glorious first black president

wasn't obstructed at every point because he was black.

and even he...can and did last week address the nation, saying

"we didn't take the territory of our enemies after the wars, we helped



leaving out that we took a continent

and nearly annihilated its first people

ain't no poetry in that.

I am here to embrace Nasty woman, Code Pink, One Billion Rising,

Veterans for Peace, Black Lives Matter, Seed Savers, Greenpeace -

I am here to embrace disarmament, Standing Rock.

I am here being

embraced by the Mother,

The Earth, our planet,

that force of nature who gives us the whole kit and kaboodle

every sunrise, every sunset

I don't want a gold throne, to be Queen,

I want no one to be poor and

clean water, clean water...clean air

for the great and glorious diversity

of all living beings

who make my world

So so Rich.

Karin Spitfire




Greek hu- (in compound hubris) violence, outrage, insolence


Latin brutus- (suffix) heavy, unwieldy, dull, stupid, brutish

"pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall"

(Book of Proverbs, 16:18)

pride that blinds/ a committer of hubris acts in foolish ways that belie common sense

often associated w/lack of humility; also ignorance

as for pleasure in hubris, its cause is this:

naive men think by ill-treating others

they make superiority their own.

in ancient Greece, hubris was outrage, actions that violated

the natural order,

sometimes for gratification of the abuser

a crime at least from the time of Solon

it indicates overestimation of one's own accomplishments,

lost contact w/normal reality

When the rich or young men think they are better than others they are


hubris lusts for victory not reconciliation

General George Armstrong Custer's decisions in the Battle of the Little Big Horn illustrate

hubris as history:

"Where did all those damned Indians come from?"

asked Custer


as the incumbent president cruises along in his motorcade surrounded by throngs of

adoring supporters, he rasps to the Cabinet Secretary seated beside him,

"Incredible isn't it? After this I could never return to ordering windows.

It would be so boring."

Eero Ruuttila


Sir Thomas's Baptismal Rite on the 5th of July (he was born on the 4th):

Soliloquy from a homeless encampment on the Kennebec River

" Oh and how the dark forces celebrated with

bombs offending the sweet night air, and frightening

the fauna, whose tender steps hurried

to dens to hide from the sulfurous wind. The lights

of war as if boasting that death can assume

yonder rainbow's gentle arc, and the epicurean

crowds in a bacchanalian feast of short haggis, small

bread and mead looked with glee upon this

colored display of fallen innocent ones.

Are we to gaze upon this hour

of our discontent idly whilst the

hounds of hell's dominion smiled

upon by Mars himself decimate

the innocent blush of young lovers

on this plane?

Having not known a kiss from their

beloved, so saddened the crushed

rose upon the hand of darkness where

even Odin is bruised and dug

in the rib as to not allow an unkindness

of ravens to fly the night sky.

Is it the condiment that resembles blood that

makes them thirst for hardship against not their own.

Bloodlust inspired by what they eat, making it possible

for genocidal tendencies towards Native Americans and

putting Africans to slavery, and closing borders to

immigrants, and spending as Midas bringing some

fool's gold to the dark tendencies of their consciousness.

Or perhaps the pickled condiment is the fiend spread

upon their short haggis; does it intimate a

sweet relish for suffering, giving feasts whilst our defeated

army lay in this forest with tattered tents and clothes ill fit.

Methinks it is the mead, however. The sweet elixir of

Falstaff that creates from blank canvas masterpieces

of life's mundane moments, that shows no talent beyond

what a fond moment can be in unrivaled beauty when

articulated with unencumbered mind.

Oh what a day this is, good sir!

What day breaks across the hills, sweet Silas?"

"It is July 5th, sir."

"Come, dear friend, we have only moments before the day

steals our good nature and we become again a huddled mass

of tormented memories unfit for angels, children of

humanity's brutality and apathy."

Thomas leads the community of the homeless and baptizes

in the river. Next week a caseworker will show up and try

to convince Thomas to take medication and to come away

from the forest to live in relative comfort.

His answer is always the same:

"Who shall guard the ramparts of palatine dreams of

righteousness, before innocence is stolen yet again

and the very night air lay heavy with sulfuric wind..."

Jason Grundstrom-Whitney

Friday, October 16, 2020

Marble, Breathing


the green marble of Tinos

the creamy white of Paros the

Venus de Milo, Virgil's "loveliest marble"

soft white Naxos, rich with crystals -

Pentelic marble, rising to the sun above Athens -

black Varenna marble

Murano's grey marble from Marmara

the red African marble at

San Angelo Raffaele with

the Archangel and his dog -

Gesuiti marble becomes

Fortuny fabric

(altare, marmorino, navata)

and Carrara, Michelangelo's marble -

heat and pressure turn limestone

into marble

limestone is organisms made stone

marble was once alive and

maybe, just maybe,

we can hear it, 


Friday, September 25, 2020

In Cuba

Jim, Paul, and Gary, after a night of music in Trinidad, Cuba.

 I am waiting for a boat
just offshore, stalled
in the fog -
a boat of revolution,
a boat of hope and joy.
I am waiting for the men, for the women,
long hair and beards, smoking
big cigars, who will
ride down from the mountains
on donkeys and mules.
I am waiting for  whole
towns to rise up,
calling for justice, for liberty -
I am waiting for the courage
to step into my own life,
move toward the sound of
people, singing, join them in
our walk to freedom.

Gary Lawless
Trinidad, Cuba

Sunday, May 10, 2020


Rainbow Obsidian, Lassen Region, California


I am dreaming of
Armenian obsidian -
Satan's Nails, on the
road to Mount Arteni.
Of Yerevan, and that view,
Ararat, across borders -
stone cut thin almost
transparent, like water -

We come singing from the river
we come singing from the sky

I am dreaming of
Modoc obsidian
Mount Lassen - they say
obsidian spirits speak just once
they say
obsidian came walking,
out of the river, singing -

We come singing from the river
we come singing from the sky

Gary Lawless

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Fortuny: marble to cloth

(short velvet cape, printed in silver and gold - Mariano Fortuny)

Woven into the fabric
of islands
beads for stars
dark water dark sky

deep in
Fortuny blue
night lagoon

In Venice, the Gesuiti Church of Santa Maria Assunta has a wall of detailed marble work designed to resemble draped fabric. The Fortuny designers have created a new line of fabric patterns based on the Church's marbles, called "Sectile 1729". (the Church was completed in 1729). The three patterns are called Altare, Marmorino, and Navata. Here are links to the designs:

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

stone vibration

Faraglioni these
sea stacks, off Capri three
rocks rising, out of the

On the island of Capri, the Bay of Naples. We were walking a coastline path, to see the Faraglioni, the sea stacks rising from the sea. For Homer, they were boulders thrown by Polyphemus. For Virgil, they were the meeting place of the Sirens, from which their songs would enchant the sailors of passing ships. Looking at this lovely rock, I have a thought, a feeling, an intuition, that if I could somehow reach the same vibrational level as the Faraglioni, I could experience the world as they do - outside of human time, outside of human history - a longer, slower story, connected to everything.

A few years later, again in Italy, in Ravenna, I am looking at a very old painting of the Virgin, remembered now as painted directly onto the wall, simple colors, faded, but she calls to me - again the feeling that if I could reach the vibrational level of the painting, the world could change.

These two moments stay with me, live inside me. Recently , while reading "Sacred Instructions", a new book by Penobscot author/activist/attorney Sherri Mitchell, I came to this passage: "Our challenge is to remember all of who we are. We begin this process by expanding our awareness to include the entire creation...(to) alter my awareness by shifting my vibrational level to match the vibrational level of the world around me. This awareness created a kinship between me, the ant, the grass, the field, the birds, and the trees. I was able to experience a glimpse of the fullness of our inter-relatedness. These simple moments in time changed the way that I saw the world, completely. A full layer of illusion faded away and a new view of reality appeared before my eyes. This did not happen because I am special or unique. Everyone possesses the same ability to shed their illusion and see the world as a unified whole, simply by expanding their awareness and shifting their vibration. Once we have mastered these vibrational shifts, we begin to shift the reality that we live in to one that is more harmonious and balanced with our divine source."

Sometimes the stones speak to us. Sometimes they are the best teachers.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

marble, granite, and anarchy

Carrara, Italy

"In Carrara", the Italian anarchist Galileo Palla said, "even the stones are anarchist." "A Carrara anche le pietre sono anarchiche."
Carrara - the white mountain - Michelangelo's mountain - Carrara has produced more marble than any other place on earth.
By the late 1800s Carrara had become a "cradle of anarchy", especially among the quarry workers. The first organized anarchist group in Italy was founded there - with the New York Times remarking, in January of 1894, that Carrara was "the original hotbed of anarchism in Italy".

Barre, Vermont

In Barre, the local granite was dreaming - "Let's bring over some Italian anarchists and stir things up" - and they came.

Italian stoneworkers came to America to work the quarries in Barre and a number of other towns. In Barre, by 1899, 90 % of the quarry workers were union members. By 1914, one quarter of Barre's population was Italian. One of these Italians was Luigi Galleani - at the time called " the most dangerous man in America" or the most important anarchist in early 20th century America. Galleani had previously been deported from both France and Switzerland, and had escaped from internal exile on the Italian island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily.
Coming to the United States, Galleani was arrested for inciting a riot (one fellow anarchist said "You heard Galleani speak, and you were ready to shoot the first policeman you saw." Galleani fled to Canada, but was expelled back into the United States, arriving in Barre.
Galleani was befriended in Barre by anarchist and artist Carlo Abate. The two of them created what would become the leading Italian language anarchist periodical in America -Cronaca Sovversiva (Chronicle of Subversion). The first issue was published in Barre on June 6, 1903.The periodical continued for 15 years (its first office in Barre mysteriously burned to the ground) at its highest point claiming over 5000 subscribers. It was closed down by the US government under the Sedition Act of 1918. Galleani was deported back to Italy, eventually dying there.
Galleani and others brought a number of speakers to Barre, including Mother Jones, Eugene V. Debs, and Big Bill Haywood. Emma Goldman came to town, speaking to a crowd of over 900, and was later arrested and run out of town.
Galleani also published a widely circulated pamphlet called "La Salute e in voi" - roughly "The health is within you". This pamphlet was actually a manual for the manufacture of explosives and weapons.
Carlo Abate established a drawing school in Barre to enable young men to earn a living without working in the dust of the quarries ( because of silicosis, explosives, and rough conditions, the average lifespan of a quarry worker at the time was 42 years -)
One worker, Innocent Belli, has one word on his tombstone - "Anarchist" - He was arrested in 1900 after a "nearly successful" assassination attempt on Barre's chief of police. Another worker, a leading anarchist stone sculptor Elia Corti, was shot and killed when a fight broke out between anarchists and socialists at Barre's Socialist Hall. Corti's brother carved Elia's tombstone from a single piece of granite.
Due to the skills of the Italian stonecarvers, Barre's Hope Cemetery has become a sculpture garden, with the workers carving stones for their families and themselves.
We rest in the rock. Stone tells our stories, carries us into the future. What would the stories of these places be, without the stone...