Voices of Resistance: Poetry Reading

– Thank you for everyone
coming out tonight. I’m really excited about this event. We’ve dubbed it “Voices of Resistance”. This, and for posterity, we
are recording this event, so I’m gonna go through, this is the greater suite of
events that this is a part of, and just, because we are recording it, what we’ve already done is, started last Wednesday on the 15th we did a documentary screening
of the 2009 film Captured which is about Clayton Patterson and his documenting of
the Lower East Side. He was one hand to
introduce and do a Q and A. We did something with
the Interference Archive, here in the library, on Wednesday. They came over and talked
about propaganda parties, and how independent artists and designers can collaborate with
community organizations to create and distribute
their own political materials. I think because they are in archive, I think they probably
hold on to that ephemera, I don’t know to what
level they catalog it, so I won’t speak of that. We had a crypto-party about
digital security on Saturday, we had an Art and Feminism
Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, which was really cool. Last night, in partnership with the MFA, Department for Social
Documentary Filmmaking, we had screening over
there on the West Side, which was great. There was a great one by
Missouri undergraduates, apparently they had a professional editor, but great movie about, what was it, last year or the year before there was a young gentleman
on a hunger strike because of some incidents in Missouri, but there was also some
other recent protests in New York and DC were documented, and Standing Rock, and it was quite good. And now we’re at tonight. And tonight we have a
great poetry readings. We have Bakar Wilson,
we have Sheila Madonado, we have Lydia Cortes, and we
have Patricia Spears-Jones. So welcome. (audience applause) So first up, and this
microphone is not projecting, it’s recording, so
that’s just so you know. So first up we have Bakar
Wilson, my good friend. Bakar Wilson is a fellow of Cavocanun, and alumni of the Squaw
Valley Community of Writers. He has performed his work
at the Bowery Poetry Club, the Poetry Project, the
Student Museum of Harlem, and the Asian-American Writer’s
Workshop, among others. His poetry has appeared
in the Vanderbilt Reviews, Stretching Panties, to Brooklyn Rail, and Flicker and Spark, a
Contemporary Queer Anthology. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Bakar received his BA in
English from Vanderbilt, and his MA in Creative
Writing at City College. He is an adjunct professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan
Community College, CUNY. Please make Bakar feel super welcome. (applause) – Thank you. I can’t help but look at
the Ai Wei Wei, right here. Which like is resist, like this
looks, this is resist to me, like in the way he deals with his art, that’s what we need to be doing. Thank you, David for inviting me, and thank you to the School
of Visual Arts for having me. And thank you to my fellow readers, who I’m fans of all of you. Especially that one, Shelia. And Patricia, I work with Patricia. Lydia. Okay, so I’m just gonna read poems. I’ll start out with this one, it’s called, just get my phone out
so I can see the time. So this is entitled Manhattan. With a modicum of grace, a smidge of integrity and intelligence, we move through this
place like bumper cars. Banging into walls, each other, clack clash of voices,
screams, and throated violence. The niceness is cutting. Cordial, but with an edge. Or telling someone’s Mama, people are people, even
when they are being inhuman. The city can bring out the
beast and the best of us. Knocking down skyscrapers,
eating homeless people for lunch. Toast, a monologue. And I just have to say, before I continue, about
like politicizing issues. Like I feel like everything
is political right now. And including the body,
including relationships, including our food, like
everything’s political. So this is Toast the monologue. I’m not much of a breakfast person. I love my coffee, I love the
bitterness of the morning. You love toast, though. I watch you every morning,
take out two slices of that seven grain bread you
love and put it in the toaster I don’t know how to use. I bury my head back
into the New York Times and continue reading about the
horrible state of the world. How can I think about toast
when the world is going to shit? You seem less bothered
by it as you sit down and spread I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter on your hot bread. It melts instantly,
because it’s not butter. (laughing) I sip on my coffee, getting my mind ready for the bitterness of the day. I’m not coveting your toast,
I’m just looking at it. Watching you enjoy it makes me happy. I am not bitter, it’s
the coffee that’s bitter. I’m simply awestruck by how happy a piece of warm bread can make someone. I half expect you to have an orgasm right on the kitchen table. You don’t though, you finish and get up to get ready for your day. Which probably won’t be as bitter as mine. Does eating toast make one
feel better about his day? I’ll never know, I hate the stuff. All I can do is hold onto
my assumptions tightly, slowly squeezing the air out of them, until they are as limp as I am. You continue to bounce around the house humming some ridiculous
song you heard on the radio. Part of me wants to tell you to shut up. But I sit and take it
and sip on my coffee, and read about our world, our city. I can’t get the image of
your toast out of my mind. It’s distracting me now. I can’t concentrate on what I’m reading. I slam the paper on the table, you’re dressed at this point,
and look at me startled. I’m ridiculous in pajamas,
pissed off at toast. I Go Around Collecting Men. On Manhattan streets, lit like Christmas, the avenue gives night on a plate. This time, an adult bookstore, a glance, a hand, whose breath is this? Who’s the one in anger? Outside, there is a fuck
across the street in the truck. He rolls down his window, gives a grin, an avenue is crossed. Door to Door. In a suit, I went door to door. The steaming, hot sun staring
at me like God’s golden eye. Knocking on doors, I gave
witness to all of his fine works. Quoted Bible verses, made Jesus my lover. Sometimes, my mother was with me. Other times she was at home, pleasing the father in other ways. Out in the streets, I
was spreading his word, making him proud of me. I sat on plush couches in nice houses. A little black boy in
white people’s homes, telling them about Jehovah, about the paradise Earth
his followers would inherit. My father, a void hangs over me now, without a word to anchor his soul. Clothes Whore. Cashmere. I want to dress my tongue in it. Let the soft, fuzzy fur coat my mouth. Maybe my distraction is tight
jeans and little T-shirts that show off the physique. Sometimes I like zip-up sweaters. Other times I enjoy the
convenience of a pullover. I pull him under. Let’s not even get into shoes, we’ll be here all day and night. Which I’m not wholly
against, but I feel like we can talk about other
things, such as fabrics. Silk for instance, should be hand washed, loved, and worn sparingly. I should wear this man sparingly, instead of exhausting him all at once. I like button down shirts. I appreciate clothes, but I
prefer them on something else. Like mannequins, or the floor. Some place different
where they may be admired. What about houndstooth? Or sear sucker suits? But does it always have
to be about patterns? The Games You Played. He is a man asleep on a couch. You are merely a boy, whose curiosity and disdain
has left you scorched. Soft feet skate on the hardwood
floor in the living room. You wonder if he is really asleep, as you slip your hand
beneath boxer shorts. His dick is already hard. The cat, a witness, turns his head from the TV blaring an
infomercial selling something. You know the cat doesn’t
know what’s going on, but you can’t help but wonder. He stares, nonplussed, as if
he knows the repercussions. What happens next will run you like an engine runs a car into a ditch, or off a cliff. Spectrum Orange. This tangerine dream starts me awake. Eyes are a witness to a citrus reality. The nose recognizes juicy
ways and burnt caramel. Outside this window, a harvest
moon makes flamed promises, lighting an already
artificially lit night. Electric sages predict the future. They rely on their inner glow. A clementine wish escapes moist lips, hangs in the air, and evaporates. A carrot stick dangled in front of a mule. What about this nectar? A jeweled peach glistens. A prequel to the cream. I will just rely on the
sharpness of this cheddar. It is always on time. Three Wishes. Hi, I see you there, yeah. (giggling) Three Wishes. Rub the genie of the lamp the right way, and he will grant you three wishes. A fertile body garden,
full of plump, ripe limbs, longing to be touched. Plucked. A son of a vision, he
will be my pride and joy. My liquid message spilled from heaven. A rain dance, including
thunder and lightning that leaves me water logged. Three Wishes II. Rub the genie of the lamp the wrong way, and he will take three
things away from you. Your name, your father, your promise. Same Sex Coupling. He works me like a jigsaw puzzle, scattered with blotches of gray dawn. And I don’t want to be
a hooker on the run, people are constantly after you. They put your name in their
mouths and spit it out, fractured, fiery. I want to move around, an elegant tension, with a man who knows how to pluck and plunder with the best of them. A caged beast released to play. A caveat presented at the right time. How are we doing, are we okay here? Okay good. – [Woman] Can you repeat the last line? – The last line? Yes, a caged beast released to play. A caveat presented at the right time. Thank you for asking. S and M. Secular modernism. Scholastic manipulation. Sloppy meltdown. Satin malignancy. Savior misfit. Stale memento. Saintly masochistic. Supine mister. Sensual malediction. Salty marrow. Subtle menstralsy. Sperm mess. Sassy monster. Shady marriage. Shaft magnet. Sadist memorabilia. Sweetly manhandled. Sex malfunction. Suddenly metaphysical. Shish kabob meat. – [Man] I’m sorry, what? – Shish kabob meat. (laughing) Meat, M-E-A-T, meat. Like shish kabob! (laughing) Okay, I’m just gonna read. – [Woman] All the bad times. (laughing) – That’s fabulous, I love that. I just realized that like
15 minutes of reading, barely read for 15 minutes. Okay so. I’ll read this one. Also part of the Spectrum series, and so the Spectrum series, so basically what I did is I went into paint stores and took
the like little chips with the paint names for different colors and like used the names of the colors to generate the poem. So this is Spectrum Blue. And so a lot of the, most of the poem is, are words or names of the various colors. So this is Spectrum Blue. Relax and cozy. Fountain mist, pacific pearl. A sessa key that ship shapes water. Jet streams toll bells. Spring flowers feather soft
into the sunlight, gasping. Bright and lively. Windswept, timeless, and celestial. The sailing sky is all jazz and symmetry. Lavender twilight is rising. Pearl violet premonition. Natural and comforting. It is almost slate. Take a winter walk. Excel white fog. For story a glass, an island view, smoke gray are all present,
until a midnight haze. City Streets, a monologue. Sorry I have to like have
a drink of water first. Okay, City Streets, a monologue. Nobody’s saying it’s your fault, Arthur. (laughing) I overheard a woman say
on my way to the subway. I looked to see a family of
four standing on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 34th Street. They’re clearly tourists
and they are clearly lost. I considered helping
them out, showing them that New Yorkers can be
nice, kind, helpful people. I decide against that of course, because really I can’t be bothered, especially by tourists
because who has the time? (laughing) I continue down into the subway
and head back to Brooklyn. You hardly see tourists there, thank god. Not even in Prospect Park. They’re all in Central Park
getting their rocks off taking pictures of Strawberry Fields or the fucking reservoir. I used to go to the Rambles
when I lived Uptown in Harlem. Best cruising in the city. (laughing) Far removed from the more
popular parts of the park. Men are fruit dangling from trees, ripe for the picking. Nothing beats outdoor sex. There’s something very primal about it, it’s just you, a stranger,
no names exchanged. That would ruin the experience. And nature. (laughing) It’s how God fucking intended. The Rambles is notorious for the gay sex. I don’t think I ever
saw any tourists there. On the train back to the BK, these two women are
gossiping about a friend. Well you should’ve seen her
all over Beth’s friend Cam at this party, she was shameless! Ugh, she’s such a slut! (laughing) I wonder if my friends
talks about me like that. I’m pretty open about my slutiness, so it’s common knowledge. Not something that any of them would salaciously discuss on the L train and considering the things
they’ve said to me to my face, I figure what they’re
saying behind my back is really nothing to worry
my pretty little head about. But maybe I should have
helped those tourists. (laughing) Grindr Vibing, so for those of
you who don’t know, Grindr– – [Woman] We know what Grindr is. – Okay good. – [Woman] Tell us what Grindr is, tell us. – So Grindr is this… (laughing) It’s totally like, educate you on this. So Grindr’s this little, what’s it called? – [Audience Members] App. – It’s an app where you can meet guys to date or hook up with,
it’s specifically for gays. It is specifically for gays, yeah. It is a gay app. So you can go on and
like chat with people. Then like hook up, or date, whatever. – [Woman] Is is a gay guy app? – It’s strictly for gays,
there are no women allowed. No women allowed, so sorry. Well you know, I mean I
can totally talk about like the issues about like women– (men speaking over each other) Well I feel like women
should an equally you know, women app where they can also
hook up with women or men. – [Woman] But they do, it’s called Tinder. – Tinder is crap, I know, I know. – [Woman] They do, it’s call Her. – It’s called Her? Oh I had no idea! – [Man] That’s what that
sculpture was all about. – Oh awesome, I will let all
of my friends know about Her! – [Woman] Okay, just read the damn poem. (laughing) – I’m just gonna read now. Okay so. – [Woman] We started
going to the steam canon. – I know, I shouldn’t go there. (laughing) So some of these lines from this poem are taken from actual Grindr profiles. Grindr Vibing. This is like window shopping for dicks. Very horny cock sucker here. Here for kicks. I’m on a hunt. Brooklyn, ya dig? Most of you terrify me. I hope you step on a lego in the dark. I’m not cis, don’t be rude. You can live your life or
mine, but you can’t live both. Free your mind and your ass will follow. Anybody can take off his clothes, but can a bitch hold
a decent conversation? Ask him to tell you more about himself. I want to be so ugly I’m beautiful. Let me do the splits on your face. Am I the only hopeless romantic left? Ask away. Do you want to get high off of my love? Just like you, I get horny too. Boulders of black diamonds,
carved with bows, saws, metal teeth, and blasts
of human breath await. Inhale the terms of this service. Your name is alive now. Alright so I will close. I will close with this poem, which is very political. I Should’ve Been a Gay Porn Star, and this is for Donald Trump. (laughing) I should’ve taken to the
valley and started a new life as a virtual fucker. I look okay naked, I’ve
definitely seen worse in porn, both gay and straight. For example, Ron Jeremy, I mean really? You would watch me in
all of the categories. Daddy videos, muscle
hunks, big black cocks, twinks, Latin poppies, and so on. I’ll last way longer than they do without the Viagra or the fluppers because I’m just that good. I’d lie to my family about
how I’m making my fortune, tell them I work in real estate, even though I’ve never
been that good with money. I’d have porn star boyfriends with hot bodies and big dicks. We’d fuck until we were bored
with each other and move on. The drugs and alcohol would
flow whenever I wanted, because who gives a fuck? I’m a fucking porn star. Maybe my friends will be
superficial and vapid, only hanging out with
me because of my fortune and hedonistic fame, but it’s LA. It’s okay because I just
want people surrounding me, basking in my pornographic glow. I’d probably do what ever porn star wants and cross over to legit films
and become Hollywood famous. Or maybe my life would
turn into Boogie Nights, but the gay version. Instead of Roller Girl,
there’s Roller Guy. We fall in love and fuck
off into the sunset. Thank you. (applause) Thank you! – Please one more time for Bakar. (applause) Okay, up next we have Lydia Cortes. (applause) Lydia is a Williamsburg born Puerto Rican, and the author of two
collections of poetry. Lust for Lust and Whose Place. Her work appears in the
Anthology of Puerto Rican Poetry from Aboriginal to Contemporary Times, Breaking Ground, Anthology
of Puerto Rican Woman Writers in New York 1980-2012. Monologues from the Road, a play. Through the Kitchen
Window, Teaching with Fire, In Praise of Our Teachers. And she was awarded a fellowship at the Valparaiso
Artist’s Retreat in Spain, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and at the McDowell Colony. So– – [Man] What was the last one? (laughing) – McDowell Colony. Sorry there was this, I was taken back to the repetition of the last line. (laughing) Please make Lydia feel super welcome. (applause) – Okay. I’m trying to put together
a memoir in poems. And I keep veering off course. But I think I have about two
of them I’ll share with you, and the others, I don’t
know what they are, hi! So this is called Release Time, which I think will be
the name of the memoir. I wanted us to die all together,
if and when we had to die. The best way to do it was together. Papi and Mami and my little sister, Sonia, and my little brother Freddy, and me. That way no one would have to cry for no one would have to miss the others. It wouldn’t matter if we died with sin, original or any other
kind, mortal or venial, we’d all go together, I prayed. We’d just decide one day
to lie down together, cross ways, on Mami and
Papi’s big bed, holding hands. Mami with Papi and Papi with
me and me with my sister and her with our baby brother,
and close all our eyes tight and go in peace, bye bye. We’d end up all in the same
place, happy in Heaven, or suffering for some time in Purgatory, or forever in Hell. But all still together. We’d be without having
to cry ever in this life, for one or the other. That’s how we get around
the stories full of fear learned in released time, every Wednesday afternoon. And this poem actually Patricia was a curator for a
series of poems online, and she published this one. Another September. Mommy believed in the good and the bad,
clear cut, black and white back in 1957 when in
black and white we watched cowboy TV shows. A bit into the story, she’d
interrupt the narrative with her who’s and who’s. Quien es malo? Quien es bueno? She’d interrupt many, many times though the good ones she’d guess by the color of his hat and outfit. The one in white, no? El blanco, no? The bad one, black head to toe. El negro, no? In those days it was easy to
tell the good from the bad, but she wanted to be doubly sure. To keep her good and bad in their place. Mami was a afraid for esse
Martin Luther King Jr. We saw on TV and the kids in Arkansas. King was a negrito bueno, still if he didn’t watch it, that negrito bueno was
gonna get himself killed. Was gonna get those poor nine ninos, most dressed in pure white,
killed in Little Rock. Killed didn’t matter if they too were good like los buenos in the TV shows. That he looked like el buen negrito, but he was a minister, hombre de Dios. Wasn’t good enough, Mami lamented. Couldn’t he just keep good and quiet? Looking the all in white
cowboys los buenos? Deep down she always
knew who were the good. To pray was okay, but
non violence, Mami feared was asking for it. Ay grengrito. I Saw Them Perform. This poem is for AL Nielson after I took a Lorzeno Thomas workshop with
him at the Poetry Product. Product, yes, Poetry
Product it is sometimes! (laughing) And sometimes it’s a project! And sometimes it’s a place where you read. And sometimes it’s a place
where they ask you to read. But most times it’s not. I Saw Them Perform, for AL Nielson, after a Lorenzo Thomas workshop. I saw these people perform,
I heard the Beach Boys. White boys, Tommy Sands and Pat Boone though don’t think they
ever came to Brooklyn. Did Pat Boone ever come to Brooklyn? To the Fox Theater? To the Allen Fried shows? The Fried shows, he was
perhaps too white, too scared for downtown Brooklyn,
downtown Brooklyn negros, too low down for that pat white, that sugar woulda melted to liquid in a Brooklyn, Bronx, or
Lower East Side minute. Woulda been sucked up, sucked
dry, fucked up, and fried. But I did see Chuck Berry’s. I saw the Chuck Berry’s, the Platters, the Fats Domino’s, the Chubby Checkers’, the Dave Baby Cortes guys, and so many others. I heard the white boys on
TV but after seeing the guys at the Fox Fried shows, I liked, I dreamed the dark better,
the darker the better, the darker always more
intriguing, more dark. The white books I read Gone with the Wind and the romance ones, sex
innuendoed, colored covers, dime store, soft covered,
selling soft sex books talked always a swarthy. Swarthy combos of sexy and swirly. Swarthy and something snaky. Somewhat undulating, something
a bit sinister, dark, was always more intriguing,
grabbing my imagination, vagination, where I
had to keep it caged up cus it wasn’t good,
maybe evil, to even think of liking black boys, black men that way. What would Mami say? Never say black, say negro. Say negro, never say negro. Never mind Papi, thinking
sins sinful enough, I need confession, lots of confessing to some beefy, red-faced, Irish, happy, St Patty’s Day priest. Something to make his week, my weakness. The pretty PR girl
barely out of quinceanra. Confessing sins of darkness, desire, of the black and the
brown, something taboo. Boohoo! Something to cry for, to
maybe warrant crying out for, to even be beat up for. Something richer, tastier,
more satisfying, never to be. Let on, about to be let out,
or be left in the sand alone and marked with a big,
black mark on the forehead. On the chest, maybe. Maybe even on her bare chest,
maybe even on her bare ass. Letters seen as she walked away or came, saying, reading, bleeding out, bleeding, she did it, she did it, o si senor! Louiso, not Louisa, but she lit in did it, and she did it, I told
you she could, she would. I saw, I saw it in her
eyes, from there it slipped, it slid right out of her,
that let on look slipped out. Her eyes, the sweet, thick,
honey tears, she did. (speaking Spanish) The diminutive just a bit,
a tiny bit better to say. Only a bite, only is what she
wanted, would that satisfy? Doubted, once she tasted
the dark, she’d want more. She did, she did, she did it. (speaking Spanish) What to do? (speaking Spanish) She’d do better with one of her own kind. ♫ She should stick with her own kind ♫ Of kid ♫ Uno Casiblanco ♫ A tan boy like that ♫ A boy ♫ Casibueno ♫ Compelo casibueno Almost there, but she wanted. She always wanting,
wanted the more exciting, the one who could dazzle. With a little fear, enough to titillate. Como es Sammy Davis? Esse Sammy Davis Jr, amazing, the tricks he could do, where he could go. And did he make her laugh? He did dazzle her, she was all frazzled after
one of his performances. Her showboy, could he perform? Made her foam, at which mouth? Perform in her imagination, vagination. The time they spent together in the secret of course that’s the only way it could be, his being so black, so
slight, so brilliant, with all that brilliant teen pomade. So overwhelming in his smallness, he whelmed, he whelmed her away. Almost stopped it really, if
not took it away completemente. Esse negrito Papi would say, when they, he and his nenas watched that El Saliban Cho on some Sunday. He, Papi, had no idea, gracious a Dios, what was going through and
round and round and round his little girl’s mind. His nena’s body trembling
for joy, for release. Only inches from his. Negritude, that’s real negritude. That I don’t give a shirt
off my back, give a shit, don’t fuck with me tude, to the tune of I did it, and I’ll do it, do it again. Do it my way, okay? (applause) And this is, I guess
this is a political one. Zig zag. Up and down black brutal slices, up and down he slices
till his mark is there on the page, looking like a chart, a bad Wall Street week ending
on the down, down, down and out, executing his executive. Loves playing, thinking
he’s the executive, zig and zag, up and down, mark slashes a furiously black as crude oil marks, besmirching the virginal white velum surface a miracle, the
texture of the paper doesn’t give, tear apart, given the rage of the red freckled hand. Red manhandling, fear. Red handed, stout
fingers, ending in claws, grip the pen as it rips
up, then slashes down, violating paper, vile hand,
violence in each stroke. Meditated, this creep needs medicating, killing whatever
he feels in his way. The paper suffers the pain, suffers the blow of his
pen, the thick strokes, black as his heart, his brain dumb, numb, as he feels nothing. Feels little, nothing means
much to him, mean as he is. Has he a heart? Nevermind a soul, should he have one? Yes, he should but there is doubt about how someone so
cruel, as crude, as vulgar could have one, a soul, would find it hard to live in his innards, being in that Big Mac
rotting carcass of a host for very little other than small thoughts, ignorance, heavy meanness
for its own sake. No amount of riches could
redeem, make him seem any better than what you see, what
you hear, what you fear. This creature before us is always before us, puts
himself always first. To grab the p-p-prize. Spoils first, to execute the order, wants to be Presidential. The executive he thinks
he is, power he scowls, thinking power he scrapes away all good. Uses executive power to put down those he claims lesser than he. The ones who never win. The losers. The poor of shelter, food,
the ones deprived of peace. Even the gates, a bit of peace
of mind to those in flight, seeking refuge, he sees as refuse. He seizes the day, the
big man, the little leader who can’t see, has no vision. He can’t talk, makes no sense, won’t read, can’t thread five words
to cohere a sentence. This little bit of a man, if
you insist that’s what he is, this creature, rare as
raw meat left out to rot on the counter, he stinks,
sinks too low, hell. But boy give him a pen that
can make broad strokes, up and down, hard, in and
out, to feel like a man, decisive in action, derisive, indeed. Give him that pen, the bigger extension of his smaller appendage. Give him that pen he wields straight up and as violently down, nasty strokes that execute nonsense, nothing good. Executing like a murderous marchete, this guy though ain’t no macho macho man, but man can he make those ugly strokes. Big callous, thick as his gray matter, whatever may dwell there is not much more than meanness that festers there, between his red ears, under the pastiche of orange tatch, above his red neck. Oh but with that pen, he is accomplished as a kid enraged at his Mama. That mother’s son, that mother of an SOB who got too little titty that now we see getting
even executing orders, furious, mad, little, red-faced kiddie paying back his Mama
and us all for the way too little, whiny, willy, this whiny, willy got
white, got which may explain why he cries out so often, as if maligned, no wonder. It’s true. He got way too little. Got hind titty, pushed there by the other
brothers and sister, back relegated to hind quarters, back of the bus to the littlest of titty, that boy child you can’t
in any truth call a man. He never grew to grownup, stayed a child, vengeful,
spiteful little thing. Poor little thing, though
surrounded by guilt, gold, cold marble palaces, vulgarity mirroring his
emptiness, his greed and lack of love, even humanity. If I believed in prayer
and some merciful being above us all, I’d offer a prayer at least chant to high
Heaven for his salvation. (chanting in Spanish) (chanting) To save his soul. But I can only offer up this raging rant. This is my raving incantation for this man whose petty lips permanently
pursed into a pout of an infant still sucking at Mama’s tit, even whilest torn away from
it, still sucking rare air. (applause) – Thank you so much, Lydia. (applause) Parched people. Okay, I think we will motor along here. Next up we have Patricia Spears Jones. Spears Jones’ poetry
collections include Pain Killer, Femme Du Monde, and
The Weather that Kills. Her work has been features
in numerous anthologies, including Angels of
Ascent, a Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. Starting Today, 100 Poems
for Obama’s First 100 Days. Black Nature, Four Centuries
of African American Nature Poetry, and Best American Poetry. She’s a contributing
editor at Bonne Magazine. Spears Jones has also served
as a Program Coordinator at the aforementioned Poetry
Project at St Mark’s Church. And lead the New Works Program for the Massachusetts Council
of Arts and Humanities. Her honors include an
appointment as Senior Fellow for the Black Arts Institute, grants from the National
Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Worked for the Foundation
for Contemporary Art in the New York Community Trust. With residents at YATO, Breadlow, the Malay Colony, the Squaw
Valley Community of Writers, and the Virginia Center
for the Creative Arts. A resident of New York
for more than 30 years, Jones has taught at La
Guardia Community College and Queens College, CCNY,
Parsons, The New School, and the College of New Rochelle. She lives in Brooklyn, and please make Patricia
feel very welcome. (applause) – Thank you for the introduction. That’s an ancient bio, but anyway. I realize that this thing
doesn’t really project so let me know if you can hear me or not. It’s very strange to be on this street because I was thinking about this. I lived in New York
for more than 30 years, it’s more like 40. And Planned Parenthood used
to be across the street, just down the street from here, and I was thinking about that today. So I’m going to start with obviously the women’s right to choose right now is under assault
now across the country. So the idea of being able to
get an abortion if you need one is really under attack. And one of the ways in
which this is being done is of course in state legislatures
throughout the country and Texas of course leads the way! So one of the things they do is they now, if you actually can even get an abortion, you’re supposed to then pay for the funeral of the fetus, which is absurd. The Room Behind the Room. Lethal police force was used to ensure the funeral of the fetus left behind. In a room behind the other room where the doctors met and
talked about football. Or that is the story
told by the good elders of the forever praising his name church. Even if his name is not actually called. They wanted to hang her or burn her, the woman in the room behind the room, where the doctors talk about football. But burning women remains taboo. Hanging women seems redundant. And so shooting her was more acceptable. The lethal police did what
lethal police is told to do. And once done, another
funeral, another grave. Another wave of disgust rises in Texas, in the Texas streets, like
heat in July, it shimmers. And shivers the door through windows. Of offices, where the
doctors talk about football, and sorrow, and the indecent
moaning of state lawmakers, their cries recall the voice
of vultures after feasting. This is a poem, I rarely read this, but it seems appropriate. The epigram is White Buildings
and Crematorium Style Where the Dream of the Poor Turns to Ash. It’s from Thomas Transtromer’s
The Indoors is Endless. What dream? The poor only have one dream in this poem. Does winter make the dream
of heat the only one? The cold fire is dead in
the crate’s ash, he says. Or is it the dream of
walking quickly, confidently, in Spring’s lightly heated air. Is it heat of any sort, this dream, or what else is missing? Food, love, stability? Every can in the gutter shivers, gas leaks in old pipes. Wind weary squirrels and birds, the poor dream one dream of Spring. The budding leaf of its heat while the rich need not dream, but they must dream
they have an advantage. Sleep sound enough to
allow minds to wander across galaxies, delve into elixirs, dive off the jagged rocks
of sequestered beaches. To where sea life gambles
in an array of colors, disinterested with the
humans’ flapping feet. This is a weird poem, I
wrote this three years ago. And it was based on, I
think a lot of you remember, in the 1980s a series of child murders took place in Atlanta. And during that time people started wearing green ribbons in solidarity, or to show that they cared in some way. And somehow I had this idea about ghosts carrying those green ribbons, and this is the poem that came out. And I put it away for a long
time, and I sent it off, you know how you write
something and you send it off because people say please
send me three or four poems, and you go okay I’ll send
this one, nobody’ll do this. And then published and
oh, I guess it’s good. (laughing) Green ribbons flooded and reside on lapels of women and some men. Green ribbons for the
dark skinned, skinny, chubby, light complected boys and girls. Green ribbons for their
safe return intact, smiling, scowling,
howling, cursing, happy. Oh those dreams of happy endings! Everyone dreams of happy endings. But Atlanta is where
endings are ambiguous, tomorrow another day, endings
find the bloodied leg, the missing digits, the raped vagina, the cut off ear, the eyes
left open for the birds, or gently shut to mark tears. See no more, see no more. Desperate are the mothers
searching the wind for the sound of sneakers. Desperate are the mothers who have not received that phone call. Desperate are the mothers
who gave their children money to pickup milk at the corner store. The cameras frame a
tired woman’s tired face. A tired man’s tired face. The abundantly furnished living
room cluttered but clean, the microphones are probes
into the innermost sadness, of parents bereft. The mayor intones, emergency! Police beat bushes, beat
up the older children, beat the time spent not
worrying about dark skinned, skinny, chubby, light complected children. Beat themselves, why can’t
we catch this monster? The Cudsu, an immortal,
wraps the light poles and fences and drowns the air
with thick, green madness. All summer long, the children
walk into the green darkness and returned as ghosts. Ghosts scorch the green
fields where they met the blasted heat of hatred, promise ended, tomorrow is someone else’s day. Waving a kind of greeting
to the newly lost. These ribbons impale a terrible keening each time they are pinned
to dresses, blouses, suit coats, jean jackets,
green, green ribbons. For the skinny, chubby, dark
skinned, light complected boys and girls caught in the deep verdure of the city primeval. Thus, the ghosts stop, the corner store and basketball courts, the holiness church where the minister sweats
a flood of salvation. They walk the halls outside
the boys and girls lavatory they watch over the babies
and shake their heads when a mother smokes
a pipe with no tobacco and a father is a victim is a drive by. They scorched the green
fields with their ashy limbs running fast, they scour the distant wires loving the chatter of black birds. They sing sometimes, but only
their parents can hear them. When they do, they
think red clay and gray. (applause) I like that there are
all these poems about, sort of like desire and
other kinds of things and Lydia, boy that AL Nielson workshop must have been a hot one! Anyway, this is a fun poem, and Pam Uschuk, who this is dedicated to, is a terrific poet from the West. And she edits a magazine called Cutthroat, which did a great anthology called Truth to Power, Poems Against the
Rhetoric of Hate and Fear, which I’m in and a lot of other people. And there’s about a gazillion
of these anthologies out now, but they’re all pretty interesting. Anyway, I just, I wrote this for her. Lipstick Considered. Ah to have a blossomed
colored by lipstick. Nature saluted and mutated by chemistry. Elizabeth Taylor lipstick
bloomed, poet says. But which Elizabeth Taylor lipstick? The lush reds, hinted
in those brightly lit, black and white movies,
say A Place in the Sun? Or the soft, blush, fake, innocent pink from Butterfield Eight? Mark in the mirror, not for sale! (breaks reading) I love that! Anyway.
(laughing) It’s one of the great
moments in cinema history, in terms of women, not for sale! (laughing) (continues reading) Oh, what Technicolor could have done with those smears. And these blooms in the Arizona dessert. Angling towards or away
from the sun’s rays. Scars vast regions of
America’s South and West. We can only speculate how those blossoms blessed their beauty or curse it. How they bless this blush
of red, this smear of pink, the lips once generous
with flesh now less so. But, the pot of color is discovered. That almost imitates
those dessert blossoms, their natural rouge, and
the poet’s movie star shimmers in the night sky
near her planet Venus, seen so easily, too far to touch. (laughing) Celia Cruz, we had an interesting, you gotta say we had an
interesting winter, okay? Celia Cruz Snow Angels. The great Gatsby jazzed the sorrows of summers where the wealthy
misspend their wealth making the President-Elect an apt arbiter of a future dulled by greed. Thus the hero dead by his rival’s gun tells this harsh truth,
love does no conquer. Lakes are for icing over. The virgins come as
random as this afternoon’s mumble of news and sorrows and ice lakes. Ah Celia Cruz Cuban Spanish
frightens, what is she saying? Is it Spanish? Outside, children in puffy
jackets and Christmas scarves are lying on their backs in the new snow that takes their bodies’ offering. There’s laughter, and moms,
and dads, and cousins, and friends remember their
time in snow’s embrace. Angels, those bodies become angels. Brought down to Earth and printed in snow. What proof have we of
those mythical creatures? Do angels laugh? Do they wear puffy jackets
and patterned scarves? Do they once returned
upright begin to evolve snow into projectiles and smash their kin? Are they cursing this whiteness? Do they hear Celia Cruz’s
potent voice singing in Spanish, or maybe it is not Spanish
but another tongue? Denser, deeper, from a haven on this Earth that she hears on blue
days when the snows falls and children stuff themselves
into winter’s heaviest fabrics and they fall quickly or slowly
into a crystalline heaven. Their winged arms and leaping feet caught in the beat between sound and sorrow. Couple more. So I had to do this darn
reading on January 20th, which I did not want to do, but anyway, they made me do it. And so I had to write an
actual like, you know. Poem. You know, I still contend that
this is a time for prose! (laughing) Okay. January 20th, Weather Report. It may well be the weather’s
bright in the middle West, where corn fields and
factories in big cities bloom and bust. It may well be the weather’s
warm in the tip of the South, where the tropic winds that brought slave owners from the Bahamas
to the Carolinas blow. It may well be that the West Coast beaches are crammed with surfers and tourists and the seekers of different divinations, their prayer beads and amulets dangling. But here in the East, the skies are gray! The day gloomy. Not even a foreshadowing. This is where the storms of our dialogues meet the storms in the air. What comes forth from
the tongue of the 45th will be documented, archived,
and swiftly forgotten in the relentless sad weather to come. Or maybe only the East will feel it, because it is where the
American experiment started. And for some, it could be where it ends. That’s gloomy. (laughing) But I am from the South,
the temperate part, where ice storms are likely as sunsets as far as the eye can see. Those long horizons give
me the power to see farther and beyond this day, the next few years. And even in the gloom today, there is light in the laughter. Love in the muddling through. Generosity in the space with
those whose hearts are full and minds expansive,
create their own weather and map their desires for a nation better than the one that presents itself, all red, white, and blue of it, marching backwards in sequence
the closed down circus comes to town. Now since other people
had all these sort of sweet and lovely poems
about desire and stuff, (laughing) I’m gonna end with two. One is, well one is, you didn’t read the, what was the poem she
was supposed to read? (audience members speaking) Oh, okay. I thought I heard. Oh you’re going to read River Phoenix! Okay, so I’m gonna read The Prince. Well you know Prince left us. But remember the thing about Prince is that he was from the Twin Cities. He was from Minneapolis, folks. He was a Midwesterner. So, Prince on the Prairie Home Companion. (drowned out by laughing) Don’t be messing with Prince
and the Prairie Home Companion. (laughing) Okay. After the song about buttermilk biscuits, or a horse named Buttermilk, the eye shadowed one emerges
in a cloud of streamers, purple and gold. He sits before the baby grand, a warm smile cross his heart shaped face. And then he sings an old hymn, I’ll Fly Away or Is It
the Beautiful River? Garrison Keillor joins in
for some tremulous harmony. And the audience sits hushed and bothered, their faith exalted. An ecstatic chorus ends, then
Keillor tries for some banter but once the piano keys
are no longer struck, up stands this tiny regal man, he gives a slight bow to
his host, to the audience, and then departs. An odd commercial follows for faux shampoo or power tools, who can remember? The streamers crisscross the stage until janitors broom them away. And golden glitter
streaks on the piano keys, while Keillor’s tears are not seen. He knows another man of the
plains has left his mark. Those chords, his voice,
mascara in the green room. And I’ll end with this, because it was so much fun to write. And to you know, a couple
years ago I went to see, I went to La Cacita at Lincoln Center, and these Brazilians came
out and performed, ya! And one of them, they
were doing capwera hey! And one of the dancers had
a black feather tattoo. The man with the black feather tattoo pares the space between fantasy and the memory of a man’s carved torso designed for stroking and celebration. Today the sun’s brightness
is like that lover’s kiss. Wonderful in the present,
and greater in the memory. A memory that brings me back to that black feather’s flutter. Stars dazzle in some
other part of this world, where the sun has set
and the moon illuminates, swans diving in to the luminous waters. Thank you. (applause) – Excellent, excellent,
thank you so much Patricia. (applause) So we’re down to one. (laughing) Right, and resist resistance,
so that’s you know. (woman speaking from the audience) You know it’s doing
the job no matter what. So next and last is Sheila Maldonado. She’s a good buddy of mine, and she’s a New York based
artist who was born in Brooklyn. She’s the author of one-bedroom solo, published by Fly By Night Press, a gathering of the tribes in 2011. Her awards and residency include
the Cantomundo Fellowship, the Pushgart Prize Best of
the Small Press’s nominations, the Northern Manhattan Arts
Alliance Creative Grant, the Cultural Envoy to
Honduras, US State Department, the Teachers and Writers Collaborative Rockefeller Brothers Fund Residency. She received a BA in English
and American literature from Brown University and a MA in English
Creative Writing Poetry from the City College of New York. Please welcome Sheila Maldanado. (applause) Thank you guys, I’m really happy
to be among family, really. Cus it’s all family here. So I really, everyone’s from every part of this little pulpit is black. So yeah, alright. Yeah no actually I’m gonna start
with a poem I wrote for you for Black Arts Institute,
like a while back. Yeah, Patricia was a teacher, Lydia I met, did I meet you in the class, or no I met you before probably. (Lydia speaking from audience) Oh yes, that’s right! Oh yes, like even six years before that. We were in Literature and Letters. (laughing) – [Lydia] Where did we go wrong? – I don’t know. (laughing) Yeah that was a while back. So 15, 16, 17 years. 17, 18 years? Holy mother of god! Whoa, whoa! And yeah, Bakar, just everyone’s family. Everyone’s family, Joe’s
family, it’s great. Okay. So I’ll start a little political, and then I’ll deteriorate
into things, God knows. Pregnant While Brown. For the laws of Arizona, this is you know, cus this crap has been
going on forever so, this is just a combination of crap. Pregnant While Brown. I was pregnant with a book, a brown book. Every month pregnant, every month brown. Birthing documents, long
forms, short stories, hidden histories, tall
tales, tongue twisters, pregnant every month, a bloody flight from two nogales’s,
pregnant with a bloody book on the brown side of history in the arid, Spanish native lands. Ink expelled, blood erased, pregnant every month, with unwanted words, wrapped in a certificate, abandoned, womb text aborter infiltrated. Pages smuggled, crumpled, bleeding brown, history a fugitive in the womb. This is (speaks Spanish) Plus She Lost. Disney Central Americans in Times Square, and it’s for those guys
who dress up like Elmo. – [Bakar] Just those ones
or the characters as well? – No there’s the other ones, too. You know all of em. Many, et cetera. Yeah all of them, my cousins, my cousins! (laughing) There’s an Elmo on the beast. Fuzzy, red, blurry, atop the train, traversing middle Earth, he’s coming North for a smile, a buck. What was taken, what was promised. You fear he will fondle your child in the crossroads of the clock. El molester, US abused,
peripherally addled by animation and supremacies. He’s with Minnie, hew bow
fluttering in the train woosh, disguise aloft, pink cuticle
shoes bound to black feet. She removes her head, where is it cocked on an indigenous crown? Hot day on the square, she fumbles through her drawstring knapsack
for a water bottle. Detaches the native skull,
sits it on many, many within. This is Submit Resist, cus
really I’m not really good at resisting, sometimes
I’m just like giving in, I’m terrible, you know? Submit Resist. Submit to the line of students as questions resist their tall tales. Submit to the stage of the classroom, resist the despair of unpreparedness, the blank stares, blank papers. Submit to the penal scholastic, resist the hourly rage. Submit time sheet, essay, humility, resist the conspiratorial bank. Remit, subsist. Submit to the clutch of the breast, resist the song of the uterus. Submit to the will of the crotch, to the ass jet, to the bike seat, resist memory, failure, humidity. Submit to the one breeze, resist gerunds. Submit to the pary pathetic, resist the howl of the building gone. Submit to the raindrops
on the air conditioner, resist the caffeine tremor. Submit to the sweat lodge, resist the butter cookie. Submit to the butter cookie, (laughing) resist the baby squeal
behind the neighbor door. Submit to architecture and its facades, resist gatekeepers. Submit to disorientation,
to starting over, and again. Let’s see. I wrote this for Monica Hands, who passed away not too
long ago, great poet. Great editor, organizer, just many things. This was for a website called Word Peace. And it was for Eric Gardner, because she liked the stuff
I was posting on Facebook about protesting that way. So yeah. Gardner Verdict Night, December 3, 2014. One, meeting the march
at 50th and Broadway. Dropped, actually and it’s pictured too. Dropped grading papers as soon as I heard. I had more to teach by walking. Marching was mourning, I felt I knew him. Like someone I grew up with, surrounded by white ethnics in the sticks. His video ghost told me
there was no question I had to be there. Two, sit in at Columbus Circle. We sat down in a crosswalk, Christmas lights of the
corporate mall winking. This couldn’t be done under Bloomberg. He corralled, locked, barricaded, made people believe they had
to ask permission to protest, to breathe. Never felt more of this city than when I took my place on that road. Three, between the buses down Ninth. Against traffic down
wide Manhattan Avenue, eyes in back of head, many
marchers the age of my students, I fell back to watch them move. With solo among groups of
various sizes could observe we join, break, let one
know where the other was if they were lost, coming apart. Flag on Westside Highway. There had been honking in
solidarity on the previous block but here we waded a river of cars the size of what was gone wrong. A police wall met us. Shields and helmets, outfits of control. Before it our own river of bodies waved, pulsed, chanting his last words. Alright I’ll do one last
sort of politically one. If I can find it. And this was for, including this one. If I can find it, oh there it is. This was for Joanna Ferman. It Was the Year of Erupting Tenements. It was was the year of
the erupting tenements, of getting used to nothing. Of feeling lucky that it
wasn’t us the city ate. Uptown and Down, the indigenous were caught in the rubble. The phantom residents of the
instant glass towers above were revealed and no one blinked. Their decentralized funds erased us, made us Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Dubai, gleaming and vacant. Our rents moved to the vagicmal
system of the ancient Maya. We were hired to play
versions of ourselves, like Hawaiians and
graphittied grass skirts dancing for cronuts. My one true hero was the
mummy Buda monk of Ulan Batar. Stiff but alive, dusty
in his rainbow body. I evoked him every time
a new Brooklyn asshole decided I wasn’t from there. I shut down, cross legged,
radiated anti authenticity, my skin cells flaking as the asshole tried to move me to a
museum lobby for sale. I let the roaming coyotes do the work of terrorizing the interlopers
and the ghost rich. The MTA pitched in with their expertise in disorientation and abandonment. I decided on a meeting spot
for after the temples fell in the Uptown forests of
Inwood and Van Courtland. Telepathically, I texted the
GPS coordinates to my friends, included a map of the
secret bike trails there. I’ll do some other random things. I’ll do. Epic Laundry. A former non-profit staffer
turned real estate agent tells me laundry is too political. He sends it out now, he can afford to. I am still in the laundry struggle. The managing of the cloth, the managing of the time it
takes to manage the cloth. The hard labor of the destitute. Heavy lifting and carting
into a top floor elevator out the door to the street. Home washer dryers, the
stuff of TV fantasy. At the laundromat, I am
confused for the worker ladies in my uniform of invisibility, braless in an old dark
T-shirt and highwater sweats. Hair pulled back, strays flying loose, my robust skin of servitude. The washer woman by a river,
scraping rags on a board, changing your dollar for quarters. I don’t have any on me, I don’t know what’s
wrong with the machine, don’t ask me what I charge by the pound. (laughing) I have my own epic laundry like that, weeks of neglect, panty
shortages and crises, all the holy T-shirts
that must be preserved. I am here for my zen penance,
my workout in the back, sweating deep in the dryer heat. Headphones on, dancing
as I manipulate my rags. One owner admiring my
zeal showed me her tricks. Pulled me and my fitted bed sheet out onto the tiled floor, drawing me into her secret fold. I have since betrayed her with
a facility closer to my home, my burden too great to
wheel three extra blocks, forsaking communion for convenience. I wash and fold with true toilers. Non-owners, fabric slaves. Loveless, and rightfully so. We share no confidences, only
questions like complaints. My devotion to repetition,
precision, increases. Roy G Biv organization,
all underground, unnoticed. My order private, don’t
ask me to do yours. Okay I’m gonna do the River Phoenix one. Where is it? Super random, No Tongue Dark Blood. River Phoenix’s last movie. Yeah I loved him, so. River Phoenix’s last role was as a one eighth Native American who did not have a name, he was Boy. His hair was black, but
his eyes still blue. He was very skinny. He died with about 11
days left on the film. The director remembered
him as very gentle, he wanted to talk about the movie’s story in the Q and A after the
screening, but the story was River. There were a bunch of Native
Americans in the movie. The only non-Native American playing a Native American was River. It was set in New Mexico. It started with the Anasante, those ruins that are a city in a canyon. That might be Colorado, it starts there. You know there’s gonna be trouble. The leading lady drinks a Bud
and then strips a shoulder for a picture in front of the ruins. Vulgarity before the ancient. The lady is the cause of all the trouble. There was a very well cast dog or dogs that had a significant
part or parts in it. The director narrates
major gaps in the film, it is incomplete. The movie pauses on a scene, sometimes goes black, and we
hear the director’s voice. It is cheesy, yet eerie. Time stopping, holes like
the dessert landscape where it is set. Like River leaving. The director smuggled
some parts of the film from one country to another, he didn’t touch it for 10 solid years. 1999-2009. River died in 1993. I was studying abroad in Brazil. Brazil cried with me. Milton Nacimento, one of
their biggest singers, was as big a fan as I was. He wrote a song to him years before. Such a spoiler now, it must be spoiled, we know it is spoiled
because it is spoiled. River’s character dies in the movie. We see a death scene. We see him act out his death
weeks before he actually dies. It is all of a sudden
in the fragmented movie, as all of a sudden as
it was for all of us. There are times River gives
Keanu in his delivery, and then later Joaquin. The dark Phoenix lived. The dark one plays dark very well. Sad country singer, mean
pop star, jealous Caesar. The light Phoenix died
when he played dark. Is it phoenixes? Phoenicies? Is that where Phoenician comes from? There is no plural of phoenix. One dies and another rises from the ashes, there can only be one at a time. Ooh! (laughing) I’ll do two more maybe. Infinite walk for Biz
Marque’s Alone Again, and Jodie Foster in Contact. I will whip out the stupid loneliness, it will slip into the spinning rings, the blinding light,
the wormhole of my hip, my neck, my back. I am okay to go into another dimension, a vision of vast idiocy and solitude. Release it through my otherly abled limbs. This solo woe will drop
into the mobious strip of my infinite walk, my idiot savant bop, and be transformed. A slowed forgetting. Memory broken and pieced
back together by beat, body cracked dumb. I will hum myself into a
universe of unaloneness and quadruple suns. Wined into never before seen galaxies while staying in one spot. Chat up an alien who looks like my father, and points me to the single
dancers on the floor, in their own heads, their own bodies. Each a cosmos, alone until collision. I’m gonna do maybe one little one. I haven’t tried this
one, so I’m gonna try it. That’s as close to love poems as I get, I really whatever’s for love. So this is Whatever’s with Love. Worthless. That’s what you get, for thinking vap riser
was an engagement ring. He wasn’t on his knees, he
was opening his car trunk. That wasn’t a ribbon undone,
that was a black plastic bag. That sapphire wasn’t a
rock, it was a shaft. Those weren’t vows, that was vapor. That wasn’t vapor, that was smoke. A bill of smoke, a ring of goods. A haze, a daze, a mirror. What he wanted you to see,
what you get for believing. That wasn’t a promise, that was a cough. (applause) – Well excellent. Thank you Sheila, thank you Lydia, thank you Patricia, thank you Bakar, that was great, that was wonderful. Thank you all for coming.

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