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Posts Tagged ‘Alicia Ostriker’

Poems for February 2011

Posted by mcdoc on February 1, 2011

Alicia Suskin Ostriker
(1937 – )


I come from visiting my once-blonde
friend in hospital with non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma the chemo is working

we chat about other women’s husbands
suffering from Parkinson’s
we laugh cry hug we feel a little lucky

down the hall an attendant rolls a gurney
yellowish old man skull glares
from under a blanket

now how in hell do I get out
can’t find elevator or stairs
despite red neon EXIT signs everywhere

Mary Oliver
(1935 – )



Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something –
for the ear bone


is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long –
and thought: the soul
might be like this –
so hard, so necessary –


yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don’t we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it


lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts –
certainties –
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.

Posted in medical humanities, Monthly Poetry Installment | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Poems for April 2010

Posted by mcdoc on April 27, 2010

Prosper “Makendal” Sylvain, Jr.

I Don’t Look Haitian?

You approached me with a smile on your lips
and slapped me five, gave me jive
and a pound of your ignorance
by telling me that I don’t look Haitian.

You shook my hands to welcome me,
and then shook my soul with your audacity,
stating that I don’t sound Haitian.

You asked me if I was sure I was from Haiti
when you are not sure where you are from
and you carry this mentality
to the doorsteps of your white houses
and your media coverage
showing me impoverished
barefoot and hungry
seeking food and water in the slums,
you show the negative of my voodoo drums
in a light of despair.

I don’t look or sound Haitian?


Is it because I do not have the seawater of Biscayne Bay
dripping from my tattered clothes,
or is it because I am not as dark as you perceived me to be,
did I mess up your entire theory of relativity,
to hell with Einstein, you need to press rewind
so you can see that all relatives of Haitians are not hungry, dark and
comely, like the tents of your media’s Kadar.

I don’t look Haitian you say?

Is it because you did not catch me with a bucket on my head
working in some factory with an accent on my tongue until I’m 40,50,60
dead tired, no I think your notion of me should have expired a loooooong
time ago.

I apologize if there is more to me than voodoo dolls,
and I apologize if there is more to my country than slums, poverty and
hunger, and I apologize if my poetry makes you wonder
if I am really Haitian, product of years of miscegenation.

I apologize if your idea and concept of me
is not what I have proven to be,
100% dark skinned, accent on my tongue,
with an apprehension to stand straight or look you in the eye, no fear
of being hung.

I’m sorry if you thought you’d find me in some sugar cane field,
I know how many of your own people must feel,
catching me with a pen and a college degree in my hand instead of a
machete, turning your lies and stereotypes into silly confetti, you see,
I AM Haitian, doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant, nurse, and engineer,
my goodness, I think we have instilled an absolute fear deep within your
socio-political pseudo-humanitarian heart, because we have evolved from
your views of primitive art because we were the ones to draw the freedom
chart, is this why you want to keep us apart?

Because we don’t look like what you expected us to be?
Or are you still upset because we declared we were free after riding the
freedom train to it’s 1,804th last stop, upset still because we made the
world’s mouth drop?

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Haitians have declared themselves free.

Napoleon and Leclerc embarrassed internationally!
Haiti becomes the original Statue of Liberty!
Denmark Vesey inspired by Ayiti!
Gabriel Prosser inspired by Ayiti even he used August as the month for
his rebellious activity!

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

We held truths to be self evident before the first shackle, built an
above ground railroad way before Harriet went Underground spoke to
American pharaohs like Moses to let our people go, stood side by side
with Arawaks and Tainos yes, we invoked our Petros AND Shangos, spoke
with the same tongue as Patrick did, give ME liberty or give me death
and before your 13 colonies we built our capital of freedom on 15 hills
of wealth and called it Port of Princes.

I don’t look Haitian (sarcastically)
and you don’t look American,
you don’t look like the indigenous Indian
but you do look like an international comedian
because you’ve got jokes and jokers in your white house
and punch lines filled with coke lines in your congress
political white lies that are blasphemous
stand up comedy in your judiciary that needs to understand that they
need to stand and step down
running your house like a circus with father and son clowns.

My country is a country of rainbows,
mixtures of Arabs, Africans, French and Italianos
side by side with Polish and Jewish
and we all have a fetish
to always be known as Haitian
and not your amalgamation and misrepresentation.

I don’t look Haitian (sarcastically)
with my multi-lingual self, English, Yiddish, Kreyol, French and Spanish
filled with powerful history I look so Haitian that you fear me.

Vespuccian sons and daughters,


Look past my face into my heart and you WILL see,
My only nationality IS defined in three letters.

I E T!


Alicia Suskin Ostriker (1937 – )

The Surgeon

I was still a kid
interning at State
he reminisces late in the meal—
It was a young red-headed woman
looked like my sister
when the lines went flat
I fell apart
like a car with a broken axle
Went to the head surgeon
a fatherly man
Boy, he said, you got to fill a graveyard
before you know this business
and you just did row one, plot one.

Posted in Haiti, medical humanities, Monthly Poetry Installment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Poems for February 2010

Posted by mcdoc on February 1, 2010

Alicia Suskin Ostriker (1937 – )

In Sickness and Health

My friend whose husband
will soon succumb to cancer
loves to lie next to him at night

to smell him and feel the warm
stomach and flanks through his pajamas
the two of them are glad

he can still walk the streets of New York
still get tickets to the Philharmonic on impulse
they never fight any more

Margaret Atwood (1939- )


Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

Posted in medical humanities, Monthly Poetry Installment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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