Today I’m thinking of Dmitri Shostakovich on the train
after Lady Macbeth in Mensk and Stalin’s sniggering,
his round glasses mirrors
for the darkness moving outside the windows.
I’m thinking about how he rode that train for the rest of his life,
friends in camps and friends shot and friends without work
getting on at every stop and he can’t get off that train.
Still there was music, often so faint,
he had to eliminate the sound of Stalin
the way a bloodhound eliminates the scents of everyone
but the pursued.
How much was lost in the din?
I’ve never really understood the nature of art until now.
The Whiteness of the Whale
I am a white woman sitting in the gallery,my two white girls fighting for space on my lap
as black boys mostly avoid lookingat the pictures on the wallsand at the three of ushuddled on our plastic chair.
I am a long chapter on nothing they want to knowwho only occasionally wants to erase herself.
I am required reading.
They are there to see the photosof incarcerated youth on the walls.They are there, some looking,some not looking, for maybe fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes of containing the arms and legsand bristling curiosity of the girls,
fifteen minutes of trying to let the boys bebut not ignore them,trying to think of some thing to say or doto make them feel at ease,while the boys grow into men,find work, fall in love, lose work,go to school, start a family, get sick,get worried, get pulled over, get shot.Get shot. Get shot.Get shot. Getshot. Getshot.
I have the keys to the building.I’m just waiting for them to leaveso I can lock up.
Rita Mae Reese is a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Stegner fellowship in fiction, a “Discovery”/The Nation award, and a Pamaunok Poetry Prize, among other awards. Her second book, The Book of Hulga, was selected by Denise Duhamel for the Felix Pollak Prize in 2016. She designs lesbian poet trading cards and is the Co-director of Literary Arts at Arts + Literature Laboratory in Madison, WI.
BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month
The theme of teaching and learning poetry, and our emphasis on student poets, speaks directly to the action of poetry in our country and global community. Never has the education of our students been so threatened, and never has truth been more challenged than in the current political climate. The truth emerges through education and the resistance and questions of our youngest generation, and it is their lead we absolutely must follow if they are to live in a society that fosters their achievements, liberation, and justice. Truth emerges through poetry as well — poetry bears witness to what truths seem impossible to speak any other way. Its constraints limit the temptation to misconstrue, obscure, and bury.