Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

To the High School Thug Who Broke into His English Teacher's Car

Enlarge poem

What you know about Nina Simone
could do laps on a pencil tip,
so I’m struggling to understand
why you would steal that CD.

That you skipped the vodka in the glove compartment
but took my reading glasses is equally perplexing.

It’s not my fault you can’t handle grammar,
but it may be my fault it never took.
Allow me the honor of tutelage now:
Name the verb in the following sentence:

Nina Simone sings.

Not knowing what kind of grades you get in math,
let me point out that you have a 50/50 shot here.

What will you make of the ugly woman
who sings so sweetly from the bottom of her stories
that she becomes ¨beautiful?
That you long for her entreating loneliness in the night
and wonder why girls today can’t do it like that anymore?

How will you explain the mourning tripping out
of your poster-covered bedroom and into the hallway,
making your momma wonder who got into her momma’s records?

Nina Simone knows who you are and why you took that,
why the record called to you when fear struck your senses.

Nina Simone sings and I know you don’t understand yet
the ramifications of what you’ve done,
how getting kicked out of your English class doesn’t make it okay,

I know you couldn’t possibly have conceived
that there are people in this world
who can show you their love in three notes.

You had no idea that some people need songs like that,
songs that reach through time and pull your heart down like
fire alarms and run through the hallways of your soul,
banging on the doors,
trying to get the demons to walk out civilly,
in a straight line just outside your mouth,
falling into a vodka double-shot you can’t lift on your own.

I want to imagine you just like that:
sitting in your bedroom,
staring out a window cracked from your previous shenanigans,
headphones to your skull,
scanning liner notes in my reading glasses,
Nina Simone singing long and hard into the night,
after a moment of trifling anger,
to see a beautiful thing and imagine it could save your life,
sometimes,
like it does mine,
every time the moon hangs there like its harvest time,
pregnant with mankind’s wishes,
heavy with the sorrow of thieves.

Scott Woods

Featured Poem:

Comfort Woman's Gold

Enlarge poem

1.
When she was twelve, soldiers came for her,
dragged her into the back of a grey truck.

She counted the number of blossom trees
between her home and the barracks: 87.

Every thing that gave her
peace in that place, she named a god:

“You,” she said to the miso soup, “are the god of bellies.”
“You,” she said to her sisters’ back, “are the god of warmth.”
“You,” she said to the cricket, “are the god of funny music.”

Comfort Woman believed her gods slept
when the soldiers took her every night.

She would not believe that they had abandoned her.
She would not believe that a bayonet was better than a man.

She learned to love the smell of bleach in hospital pillows,
found salvation in a spoiled rice grain.

“You,” she said to her scars, “are the god of memory.”
“You,” she said to the lice, “are the gods of sharing.”
“You,” she said to her shame, “are the god of humanity.”

The tatami never became a good bed, Comfort Woman was
a princess who could feel the pea and the springs.

The day the soldiers cried she knew the war was over.
Only the end of war could keep them from her sisters,

prostrating themselves in suicide positions in the dirt,
brimming with honor and despair.

She had seen that kind of face before.
For Comfort Woman the war would never be over.

“You,” she said to their tears, “are the god of retribution.”
“You,” she said to the river, “are the god of baptisms.”
“You,” she said to the distant train whistle, “are the god of freedom.”

2.
I saw her where I work,
trying to find the barcode on a video,

helped her without request,
traded gestures until we found our tongue.

She left the room, then returned, saying,
“Coffee break. You are so kind,”

Four pieces of candy sat, warmed my palm.
Comfort Woman does not believe in unpaid kindnesses.

Comfort Woman prayed to fifty-two different gods back then,
and still lights incense to most of them.

Some of them did not follow her to this place.
Some of them changed faces and bay at the sun.

I unwrapped a lemon drop immediately,
set it on my tongue in front of her.

She needed to know that her treasures would not end up
at back tables in staff rooms or slipped into trash cans.

She needed to know that I believe in the same gods she does.
She needed to know that cricket song sounds the same to me,
and that her treasures will never just be candy.

“You,” I say to paper, “are the god of fortune.”
“You,” I say to the pen, “are the god of chance.”
“You,” I say to Comfort Woman, “are the goddess of love.”

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (2)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (1)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

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Biography

Scott Woods has published work in a variety of publications, and has been featured multiple times in national press, including multiple appearances on National Public Radio.

He was the President of Poetry Slam Inc. and MCs the Writers’ Block Poetry Night, an open mic series in Columbus, Ohio. In April of 2006 he became the first poet to ever complete a 24-hour solo poetry reading, a feat he has bested every year since by performing without repeating a single poem. His first full-length collection of work is We Over here Now.

Scott Woods

Biography

Scott Woods has published work in a variety of publications, and has been featured multiple times in national press, including multiple appearances on National Public Radio.

He was the President of Poetry Slam Inc. and MCs the Writers’ Block Poetry Night, an open mic series in Columbus, Ohio. In April of 2006 he became the first poet to ever complete a 24-hour solo poetry reading, a feat he has bested every year since by performing without repeating a single poem. His first full-length collection of work is We Over here Now.

To the High School Thug Who Broke into His English Teacher's Car

Enlarge poem

What you know about Nina Simone
could do laps on a pencil tip,
so I’m struggling to understand
why you would steal that CD.

That you skipped the vodka in the glove compartment
but took my reading glasses is equally perplexing.

It’s not my fault you can’t handle grammar,
but it may be my fault it never took.
Allow me the honor of tutelage now:
Name the verb in the following sentence:

Nina Simone sings.

Not knowing what kind of grades you get in math,
let me point out that you have a 50/50 shot here.

What will you make of the ugly woman
who sings so sweetly from the bottom of her stories
that she becomes ¨beautiful?
That you long for her entreating loneliness in the night
and wonder why girls today can’t do it like that anymore?

How will you explain the mourning tripping out
of your poster-covered bedroom and into the hallway,
making your momma wonder who got into her momma’s records?

Nina Simone knows who you are and why you took that,
why the record called to you when fear struck your senses.

Nina Simone sings and I know you don’t understand yet
the ramifications of what you’ve done,
how getting kicked out of your English class doesn’t make it okay,

I know you couldn’t possibly have conceived
that there are people in this world
who can show you their love in three notes.

You had no idea that some people need songs like that,
songs that reach through time and pull your heart down like
fire alarms and run through the hallways of your soul,
banging on the doors,
trying to get the demons to walk out civilly,
in a straight line just outside your mouth,
falling into a vodka double-shot you can’t lift on your own.

I want to imagine you just like that:
sitting in your bedroom,
staring out a window cracked from your previous shenanigans,
headphones to your skull,
scanning liner notes in my reading glasses,
Nina Simone singing long and hard into the night,
after a moment of trifling anger,
to see a beautiful thing and imagine it could save your life,
sometimes,
like it does mine,
every time the moon hangs there like its harvest time,
pregnant with mankind’s wishes,
heavy with the sorrow of thieves.

Featured Poem:

Comfort Woman's Gold

Enlarge poem

1.
When she was twelve, soldiers came for her,
dragged her into the back of a grey truck.

She counted the number of blossom trees
between her home and the barracks: 87.

Every thing that gave her
peace in that place, she named a god:

“You,” she said to the miso soup, “are the god of bellies.”
“You,” she said to her sisters’ back, “are the god of warmth.”
“You,” she said to the cricket, “are the god of funny music.”

Comfort Woman believed her gods slept
when the soldiers took her every night.

She would not believe that they had abandoned her.
She would not believe that a bayonet was better than a man.

She learned to love the smell of bleach in hospital pillows,
found salvation in a spoiled rice grain.

“You,” she said to her scars, “are the god of memory.”
“You,” she said to the lice, “are the gods of sharing.”
“You,” she said to her shame, “are the god of humanity.”

The tatami never became a good bed, Comfort Woman was
a princess who could feel the pea and the springs.

The day the soldiers cried she knew the war was over.
Only the end of war could keep them from her sisters,

prostrating themselves in suicide positions in the dirt,
brimming with honor and despair.

She had seen that kind of face before.
For Comfort Woman the war would never be over.

“You,” she said to their tears, “are the god of retribution.”
“You,” she said to the river, “are the god of baptisms.”
“You,” she said to the distant train whistle, “are the god of freedom.”

2.
I saw her where I work,
trying to find the barcode on a video,

helped her without request,
traded gestures until we found our tongue.

She left the room, then returned, saying,
“Coffee break. You are so kind,”

Four pieces of candy sat, warmed my palm.
Comfort Woman does not believe in unpaid kindnesses.

Comfort Woman prayed to fifty-two different gods back then,
and still lights incense to most of them.

Some of them did not follow her to this place.
Some of them changed faces and bay at the sun.

I unwrapped a lemon drop immediately,
set it on my tongue in front of her.

She needed to know that her treasures would not end up
at back tables in staff rooms or slipped into trash cans.

She needed to know that I believe in the same gods she does.
She needed to know that cricket song sounds the same to me,
and that her treasures will never just be candy.

“You,” I say to paper, “are the god of fortune.”
“You,” I say to the pen, “are the god of chance.”
“You,” I say to Comfort Woman, “are the goddess of love.”

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (2)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (1)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

To the High School Thug Who Broke into His English Teacher's Car

Enlarge poem

What you know about Nina Simone
could do laps on a pencil tip,
so I’m struggling to understand
why you would steal that CD.

That you skipped the vodka in the glove compartment
but took my reading glasses is equally perplexing.

It’s not my fault you can’t handle grammar,
but it may be my fault it never took.
Allow me the honor of tutelage now:
Name the verb in the following sentence:

Nina Simone sings.

Not knowing what kind of grades you get in math,
let me point out that you have a 50/50 shot here.

What will you make of the ugly woman
who sings so sweetly from the bottom of her stories
that she becomes ¨beautiful?
That you long for her entreating loneliness in the night
and wonder why girls today can’t do it like that anymore?

How will you explain the mourning tripping out
of your poster-covered bedroom and into the hallway,
making your momma wonder who got into her momma’s records?

Nina Simone knows who you are and why you took that,
why the record called to you when fear struck your senses.

Nina Simone sings and I know you don’t understand yet
the ramifications of what you’ve done,
how getting kicked out of your English class doesn’t make it okay,

I know you couldn’t possibly have conceived
that there are people in this world
who can show you their love in three notes.

You had no idea that some people need songs like that,
songs that reach through time and pull your heart down like
fire alarms and run through the hallways of your soul,
banging on the doors,
trying to get the demons to walk out civilly,
in a straight line just outside your mouth,
falling into a vodka double-shot you can’t lift on your own.

I want to imagine you just like that:
sitting in your bedroom,
staring out a window cracked from your previous shenanigans,
headphones to your skull,
scanning liner notes in my reading glasses,
Nina Simone singing long and hard into the night,
after a moment of trifling anger,
to see a beautiful thing and imagine it could save your life,
sometimes,
like it does mine,
every time the moon hangs there like its harvest time,
pregnant with mankind’s wishes,
heavy with the sorrow of thieves.

Comments

Your email address will not be published.