Forgive me for having helped you understand
You’re not made of words alone.” ~ Roque Dalton
Rebellious poetry is cosmic blood spilling from the pen as though a razor had slit open the wrist of the universe. Rebel poets have dared the fates since time immemorial, thus becoming the very fate they once dared.
The following ten poems, written with metaphorical blood, speak to the rebel in us all. They honor what Nietzsche once powerfully said: “Of all writings I love only that which is written with blood. Write with blood: and you will discover that blood is spirit.”
1) Sonnet XIX ~ by William Shakespeare
Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
2) Crow Blacker Than Ever ~ by Ted Hughes
When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven,
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing heaven and earth together-
So man cried, but with God’s voice.
And God bled, but with man’s blood.
Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank-A horror beyond redemption.
The agony did not diminish.
Man could not be man nor God God.
Crying: “This is my Creation,” Flying the black flag of himself.
3) Fury ~ by Tina Chang
My son rubs his skin and names it brown,
his expression gleeful as I rub a damp cloth
over his face this morning. Last night,
there were reports that panthers were charging
through the streets. I watched from my seat
in front of the television, a safe vista.
I see the savannah. Sometimes, though,
my son wakes to a kind of nightmare.
He envisions words on the wall and cannot
shake them. He tries to scratch them away
or runs out of the room but the words
follow him. None of it makes any sense
but it’s the ghost of his fear that I fear.
What is a safe distance from the thoughts
that pursue us and what if the threat persists
despite our howling? Buildings collapse,
a woman falls down the stairs and lands
on her back with only one eye open, half
awake to her living damage. I think
my son senses what is happening
on the street, his heart fiercely tethered
to mine. I know the world will find him
and tell him the history of his skin.
Harm will come searching for him
and pour into him its scorching mercury,
its nails, its bitter breath against his boyhood
skin still smelling of milk and wonder.
Somewhere, the panthers are running
starting fires fueled by a distinct hunger.
Somewhere there is a larger fire, a pyre
stoked by the fury of all that we have come
to understand, all that we could have done
but did not. Its flames lick the underside
of the earth. It propagates needing
only a frenzy of air to fan it to inferno.
I’ll call that the Forest. The deep woods
are ahead and if the panthers could just reach it.
If I told you that all of this happens at night,
you wouldn’t believe me. If I told you
all of this happens in the future, always
the Future you would continue following
the scent you could only describe as smoke.
I’ll call that Justice.
But aren’t we talking about mercy and its dark
twin? Isn’t that what is pummeling history
in the side as I write this? Isn’t it the thorn
and the taser? Isn’t it the chokehold
and the gold arm of vengeance? I say it
from my mouth and when it spills forth
it lands on the ground in a pool of light
reflecting back at me the one true blasphemy:
Love and love and love and love and
love and love and love and love and love
and love and love and love and love and
love and love and love and love and love
and love and love and love and love and
love is crowding the street and needs only air
and it lives, over there, in the distance burning.
4) Daddy ~by Sylvia Plath
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
5) Shoveling Snow With Buddha ~ by Billy Collins
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.
Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.
Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?
But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.
This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.
He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.
All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.
After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?
Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.
Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.
6) Phenomenal Woman ~ by Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
7) Where the Sidewalk Ends ~ by Shel Silverstein
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
8) Who am I? ~ by Carl Sandburg
My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I
reach my hands and play with pebbles of destiny.
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs
reading “Keep Off.”
My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive
in the universe.
9) Courage ~ by Anne Sexton
It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comver your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you’ll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you’ll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you’ll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.
10) The Disobedience of the Mad Poet ~ by Gary Z McGee
I’m through with regret.
If disobedience is my destiny, so be it.
If it’s my mission to break mental paradigms,
let them break. My heart is a red herring.
I reap the future while they sow the past.
My spine is a flagpole usurping all summits.
When I laugh at funerals, I honor the dead.
When I cringe at weddings, I honor the living.
“Obey” they told me, and I disobeyed.
And while they ignored nature, I turned to her and obeyed.
“Bow” they told me, and I flipped the throne a bird.
And while they bleated, I bowed to the sun & moon.
When they said, “It is hot,” I told them it was cold,
and shivered like a new-born baby in my bear robe.
When they said, “It is cold,” I told them it was hot,
and stripped naked in a blizzard just long enough to untie their knots.
When Death came, I drug him kicking and screaming through the abyss.
Turned the tables into a glorious rebirth, and trumped the scythe.
I’ve entered exits, and exited entrances.
Transformed the ineffable into the effable.
My head-feather is a beacon of contrariness.
My fore-finger is a spear whittling would into could.
When they said, “God is good,” I told them, “God is dead!”
And when they told me “God doesn’t exist,” I told them,
“The heart with which I feel God,
is the same heart with which God feels me.”
And when they asked, baffled, “Why do you go against the laws of men?”
I said to them, “Your swords will never be as sharp as my pen.”