Language Perched on the 

 Edge of a Cliff in America 

 and Nothing is Left to Save 

After John Ashberry’s The One Thing That Can Save America –Carla Schick 

The train grates with a rush of wind Cracks in cement popping up weeds Skyscrapers built over 

African burial grounds; 

The true statue of liberty scurried away in the basement — a Black woman 

with her chains broken 

against slavery.

Is anything poetic ? 

The lantern of liberty 

escapes into the night 

A flickering. Can we see ? 

the Washington Mall Lincoln 

on his throne Restorations 

of Roman pillars Empire Interpretations of the phrase stare decisis 

already decided. A constitution 

Blood inducing precedent —  

white men with property 

gag women a paradigm of property rights rape 

over bodies people stolen 

from Africa 

Of whip and club 

and torture  

what came before will stand 

 How to write resistance 

 into a poem ? 

downed confederate statues falter heads crashing against Lee Silent Sam How does Jefferson Davis hide ? 

bodies snatched 

 from their godly position

Bree Newsom waving her hands as she pulls down a confederate flag 

A Black woman shoved hands shackled on our TV news 

and still her fist raised in victory 


a shadow looking over our shoulders 

 How can our footsteps beat out the rhythms  of poems ? 


arm to arm, blocked streets 

We chant keep the earth sacred Chant keep away from harm 

bullets grenades 

a car catapults into a crowd 

one more dead body only one more 

among countless 

bodies. Chant say their names 

Photos of their faces plaster walls 

Oscar Grant joins James Chaney 

Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin walk alongside Emmett Till. Sandra Bland never a suicide; hunted for her voice protesting her own  murder 

I cannot slant 

a poem between breath 

and sound 

Women’s bodies 


the children’s 

smashed terrorized 

faces of those detained 

and unrecognized 

the judge slams down

his hammer 

Is anything poetic ? 

How do we walk down any street bodies unbalanced 

hands held out 

like tight rope walkers ? 

Where do our words begin ? 

 Can we bend poetry  out of disaster ?

Rubber Ducky · Angela Buen Alberto


Brandi Spering 

I rode a small wave to shore. 

Lied out in the wet sand until it dried and I dried too. Created a nest around my body and sunk in. Became comfortable. Closed my eyes and breathed deeply in the salt. Choked on the air a bit before I swallowed, shriveled. Wondered why my hands 

were not upright. 

Dug my heels away from traction and into a stay. Waited 

to see if the sand was quick. 

Anticipated a rise 

in other levels, at bay. 

Became an island. 

Became smaller with distance

Elegy for My Great-Uncle  Kiyoshi Miya October 15, 1917 – April 29, 2007 Hikari Leilani Miya

he saw spirits
his departed sisters brothers
in his bedroom closet so he slept
in his armchair
next to the patio where his chocolate lab Mochi
with her big hernia guarded the farm shop, those rusty machines, copper wires people stole for cash
loaded shotgun
by his side
he went out
at any hour
if he heard
any disturbance
and shot
didn’t matter who
was there, even if

the place that was supposed to help where he climbed over the fence’

brought him back in time
for dinner

the last time
I saw him
it was sunset
I was scared
to touch
his soft wrinkled hands like prunes, he couldn’t
remember dinner the president
his dog

mom said
he waited
until we came
so he could say
how’re you doing

and I cried underneath the black grandness of the piano

before they were all taken
to camp
the war
tell me
why you pledged allegiance to
nuclear bomb
dropping nation why you served what did you
miss the most

the most frightening
was with
your own
your last
twenty-four hours
seem through
the eyes of
a dragonfly †

†There is a Buddhist story I was told at his funeral,

no one was there he drove his blue pickup into the ditch
he called me Mary didn’t know
what to call
his dog, even though I told him every time I saw him sitting
in the shop with Mochi panting by his side radio on loud
he wasn’t sure
he heard
but he’d always
say hello
how’re you doing
I think this is
broken, can you help
so my grandmother took him
to the Remington

tried to find Mochi his truck
his gun
until someone found him,

what I wished
I would have asked him but couldn’t
because I only learned about 9066
while giving
his eulogy
saying things
my dad said
I should say

I wish I hadn’t
been scared of
wrinkled hands
or gravelly
jokes instead I
would have asked where did Baachan bury your armor
the swords
the family crest
did she burn
them all
with her tears

among those
bittersweet camp memories
at ten years old
I didn’t understand passing, the priest chanting in Japanese saying we cannot touch, speak
hear the dead
but I understood
memory, how

where people bow to passing dragonflies, as they carry the spirits of the dead visiting loved ones for the last time