BREONNA: Poems after Sappho

Long backstory here, but amidst the Black Lives Matter protests I found myself fascinated (aghast) at the Breonna Taylor saga and for reasons that remain mysterious to me set about matching her story to a translation of the ancient Greek poet Sappho’s poetry. There are 100 poems and poetic fragments in the translation I followed (a 1958 book with translations by Mary Barnard). Unfortunately, the University of California Press, which owns the rights to this translation, does not approve of any adaptation or reuse of the poems, so my hope of publishing the book seems doomed. Instead, I’m going to throw them up one mashup at a time on Twitter, scattering them to the interweb winds, so to speak. If you’re a Twitter follower (heaven help you), hope you’ll check them out at my Twitter account: @tony_gentry.

As a taste of what I’ve been about, and in hopes of not stirring the wrath of the U of C lawyers, here are a couple of the 100 poems I’ll be putting up on Twitter:

82.

We drink your health
Mr. AG!

Now the grand jury we asked for
Is over.
And your ruling is the ruling
They told you to make.

It’s a lie made up
Of some lawyer words
Slick as snot
On a door knob.

See my sign?  See her face,
That Love had lit
With its own beauty?

Her face on the wall
In Paris, London, Nairobi
And this all you got
For us?

83.

To my editor, in DC:

Some say the National Guard
troops, or the armored cars,
Or even the Proud Boys
In their Hawaiian shirts
And bike helmets are the
Finest sights at the rallies.

But I say that whoever
Marches for love, is.

This is easily proved: 

Do not the marchers,
Volunteers, risking their health,
Some their lives,
For justice not move you
More than all that
Mercenary artillery?

Just posted Poem Number 1 on Twitter, only 99 to go!

January by the Numbers

Last April – seems so long ago now – I posted this rant: https://tonygentry.com/2020/04/24/april-by-the-numbers-a-rant/. Revisiting the numbers game today, when the shock of that horrifying month has long been overcome by the count of those that followed.

On Day 1 New Year’s Day the total:
83.9 million Corona cases/350,000 dead.
Imagine Miami, everyone dead.
Or St. Louis, all dead.
That day, as most days, the US No. 1,
166,113 testing positive, 3,462 dead, and again on this day
as on 307 other days of his term
nearly 1 year of his 4
the President plays 18-holes.

Other numbers:
The golfing President begs 1 state
for 11,780 make-believe votes
2 Democrats win there
on the same day 1000s
sack the Capitol, hunting heads
Q’s and 3-percenters and so-called Proud Boys
5 die.

In 2021‘s 1st month
140,000 more Americans lose their jobs.
Food lines, testing lines, and now lines for
2 vaccines with 95% effectiveness.
But also 3, no 4, new Covid-19 strains.
You need 2 shots spaced 3 weeks apart
if you can find 1.

Then wait 2 weeks, or 3,
but maybe then you can still
be a spreader.
And will they kill the new strains?
Here’s a 1-shot vaccine, too.
What does 65% effective even mean?

73 last minute pardons of cronies and crooks.
The golfing President impeached a 2nd time.
10 months along, somehow still not enough N95’s.
ICUs at 110% capacity.

You’re better off with 2 masks
they tell us now.

On the 31st, a Sunday,
24.4 million Americans have been vaccinated
(just 305 million to go!)
as we continue our run at No. 1:
133,746 new cases, 2641 dead
in 1 day of the worst month yet.

The new old President, just 10 days in,
goes to church and prays,
no doubt, for 3 things:
Unity, mercy, and resolve.

Amen.

Baby Food – a poem

With both boys home again zooming school, we talk about this corona year and its hardships, and I bore them at dinner recalling my own youth and the lessons there.

We hunted nickels in the cushions
when school lunch was 30 cents
bought kerosene in cans to heat
the house for a day
ran the car without oil ‘til it seized.

You weren’t born yet.
I was younger than you.

We put up a sign when the gas arrived
and cars lined up down the street.
Daddy let them buy food on credit.
What else, he thought, could he do?

When the store failed he walked
the fields drunk as a tattered lord.

So that’s why now here in the suburbs
amidst our cosseted stuff
I come home in a mask with cereal.
Ice cream.  Apple sauce.

You see that’s what he taught me —
find comfort where you can.
In hard times, ain’t it true,
you always run out of spoons.

The Web – a poem

It’s all in how you look at it,
isn’t that what they say?
Not what you say,
it’s how you say it,
and even then, who can say?

On a particular day:
Maybe bugs got in the flour
or your kid pooped his pants
the remote control broke

and that guy came to the door.
Or the phone rang and rang.
She bent to kiss your neck.
The dog wouldn’t eat.
You stood up then sat down.

How could you have traced
or navigated all of that
when what we’re taught
is my own free will?

Failing to note
that strand of web
a tactile whisper at your cheek
alerts that eight-eyed wonder
up the line that never misperceives

to its one pure motive
cares not a whit for how
but is all about when.

Tinnitus – a poem

At first it seemed
real, the sound
snow makes in
falling or some
deep night tune,
awakened at the hoot
of an owl.

But it’s with me now
like a bad tooth,
payment due
for all those
concerts set to stun.

I know what it means
to communicate
this insistent single note:

Remember test patterns
on tv’s back in the day?

Says I’m here
I will whine
even when nothing’s on.

All day every day
that alarm.

Antidote: a poem

Confucius say
make a ritual
in order to attend
in order to focus
on what is needed
to calm enough to get
outside the blather
between your ears.

Make a meal and share it.
Taste and season as you go.

Pick up trash along your walk.

Turn off the phone and sit
and wait for what turns up:

maybe a hummingbird?

Next time you point and say
“You’re not the boss of me,”
scowl at that annoying mask
(while I pout back behind mine),

what if we consider
that even now that little
bee of a bird is gaining weight
simply from sipping flowers

to somehow brave the Gulf of Mexico
again so his race can go on?