Monday, January 21, 2013

A Diversity of Tellers

Gwendolyn Brooks, 1917-2000

—Gwendolyn Brooks

One wants a teller in a time like this

One's not a man, one's not a woman grown
To bear enormous business all alone.

One cannot walk this winding street with pride
Straight-shouldered, tranquil-eyed,
Knowing one knows for sure the way back home.
One wonders if one has a home.

One is not certain if or why or how.
One wants a Teller now:

Put on your rubbers and you won't catch a cold
Here's hell, there's heaven. Go to Sunday School
Be patient, time brings all good things—(and cool
Stong balm to calm the burning at the brain?)
Love's true, and triumphs; and God's actual.

Gwendolyn Brooks was a highly regarded, much-honored poet, with the distinction of being the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize. As she says, times like this call for a teller; she was that, Martin Luther King, Jr. was that, and Black History Month reminds us that there were many other African-American writers and poets who were profound "tellers". For more of them, see


—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

"Lift every voice
that sings"

—from the Negro National Anthem

My uncle
played trumpet
for the Navy
during the war
and on the bus
in D.C.
he got up for
a woman
carrying Christmas
the driver saw
my uncle in uniform
as any G.I.,
and told him,
"Get off the bus
do not to let
the black woman
have the seat"
and my uncle
took out his trumpet
and played
God bless America
balancing himself
on the moving bus
until he was removed
in the back,
years later
his nephew
marched with Dr. King
down in D.C.
taking his sax
darkened by tears
and the laughter
of a nourished soul
for justice.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

(Inspired by D.R. Wagner's poem last Saturday,
plus a tip of the hat to B.Z. Niditch)

The train was never late. But the sun was
delayed till spring. Above the Rhein, the Schloss
stood gray on its leafless hill. The train cost
money, hitchhiking was free. We thumbed down
Switzerland to Lago di Garda. But
in spite of all the exploding colors, the fragrance
of roasted garlic, in spite of roses on a blue
table—or was that the lake
in reflection? In the meditation of water I heard—
and surely it wasn't my imagination—
a cry of drowning far from shore. Aiuto! or
maybe Eureka! You heard nothing.
By dawn at the hostel, a daybreak monody
broke into heartbreak aria as we packed
our duffles to thumb a ride,
dragging our life histories to Avignon bound
for Granada, hitchhiking the sun to Spain.

Little "Thursday" as his mother hovers (see shadow)
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Caschwa, Sacramento

(Instead of following the usual convention of capitalizing 
the first word of each line, CS followed the unconvention 
of capitalizing prepositions.)

Upon first waking
raging mobs Of
vitreous floaters
invade the consciousness

each one scurrying To
fill a blank mind With
its alien propaganda
oh shut Up already!

I close my eyes
to radiating and
reflectling light
but the eyelids suffer

yet another wave
Of alien invaders
pushing conflicting
foggy agendas

or make that agendae
If you studied Latin In
the 9th grade and had
perfectionist parents

whose own families
spent more money
On cigars and more
time On counting

their more money
than On any higher,
nobler, pursuits
oh shut Up already!



a crumpled rusty trash can
takes on all the glamour of
a museum of garbage arts
let me show you its treasures

dumpster dive with me
we'll chase the flies away and
sink more deeply, ever more deeply
into the catacombs of life

if only people could recognize the
wonderful textures and aromas of the
vast catalog of mold spores around us
they could craft such a darling poem

of what they see when turning this way
and smell when turning that way
vivid flashes of heavenly angels
triggered by potent air in our noses

all the flowers and trees
in the world are no match for
the captivating beauty radiated
by the decay of flesh and bones



You are what you eat
whether pickled pig's feet
or a bite out of crime

licking stamps is kinky sex
Sweetie won't answer when you call Rex
I am usually right every time

warning signs are much in need
'cept many people cannot read
the silent words of a mime

a million dollar sailing boat
that looked real sharp but couldn't float
is now worth only a dime


Today's LittleNip:

is a series
of incoherent,
fractured sentences
which is why
i keep my mouth shut

—charles mariano, sacramento