Selection of favorites: original and other's poetry and prose
- a work in progress -


Other's Poems/Prose
In Acteal
Colors -    Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Gacela of the Dark Death -    Federico Garcia Lorca
In Guernica -   Norman Rosten
South Street
London -    William Blake
To the young medicine woman
No Man is an Island -    John Donne



        To the young medicine woman

You smiled at me for a moment as I left
I nearly guessed it was courtesy
But your bright eyes revealed the rest
and I understood
I pray you know I understood
why we left it like that and always will
For I saw your tears, scars and fears
anger and simple desire to be held tenderly
by a father who’d listen genuinely
who’d care enough to let you be his daughter
and nothing more
And I was sad that I could 
never tell you I understood 
what I saw in your sparkling eyes

But I still wanted to show you Elsie
sitting on her porch in polyester slacks
smoking Winston 100s with bright black eyes
wrinkled hands and graying hair
and reminiscing about Tyonek
her Athapascan fishing village by the sea 
the babies she’d brought into the world 
and set free
the men who’d scarred her body 
and heart but not her mind
How she’d sing Russian hymns, Athapascan
warrior songs and even Amazing Grace
tell the best place
to find Labrador Tea on the tundra in spring
and all the other spirit medicine that glowed
around her cancer-racked frame;
Elsie, like so many old medicine
women I knew who’d had porches
oozing with cigarette smoke, dirty jokes
(as only old medicine women can tell them
with dark sparkling eyes, hearty cackles
softly shaking long dry breasts
beneath thread-worn faded calico dresses)

And I wanted to take you to visit Kay
when she was still strong
the day she ripped open her heart
for me to see an unending rape
suffered every night on a pink 
and black lit strip joint stage 
and then opened her home 
to let her newly found brother stay 
and try to comprehend 
her guileless hospitality 
How she would have welcomed you, 
her sparkling-eyed sister and laughed 
at all you two endured identically 
only a decade and a continent dividing you

I wanted so to reminisce
not about other lifetimes
when we might have shared lust
or rich and tender lovemaking
but about all might have been
loves and arguments
the places we might have lived
and patience spent
learning how to live with a lover
the jokes we might have played
on each other
children we might have set free
our own growing old
hours silently spent holding tired hands
a pent-up flood of memories
that might have been
- all reflected in your sparkling eyes
as I turned to leave
But I won’t - 
except perhaps this way 
This way of words woven as medicine 
you call poetry 
Is it poetry because Yevtushenko
might never call his Colours medicine 
even seeing your dawning heart 
expand and then run away 
from its sunset warmth? 
Then it is what it is - 
but forgive me that your touch on 
all those that come here to smoke 
share their medicine and pain and jokes 
is like all the clan mothers I’ve known 
whose gentle power 
taught me how to recognize 
sparkling eyes like yours. 

Which is why I cannot show you what I see,
how you too will grow old and wise 
with little ones gathering around 
for medicine, for words, 
or just for the love you 
ache sometimes to give the world. 
I cannot give you the answers
you were meant to find yourself 
because this is your work 
and someday having lived it 
will know how to heal 
hearts and spirits raped by 
grownups greed, lust and even 
need to be held themselves.
You will someday see
young women
and men

with their hidden scars, 
as they walk from their cars 
up to your porch yearning 
for the medicine only you can give.
I can only say I saw 
these things in your sparkling eyes when you 
And I heard their soft words 
shared memory and simple request: 
’Please, no.
This lifetime will be my time
and not ours. 
Please understand. 
Though there may be another man
who might never be like you
might have been to me
that other lifetime long ago,
this lifetime is my time
to do the work I came here to do. 

And this is why 
I understood 
I could only share these 
few medicine words; 
that I am both sad and 
happy to see you again at last 
(and it is good work 
this medicine of words you do). 
I pray you find that happiness
the Labrador Tea 
and other good medicines at last 
In fields and woods of your past 
as you reminisce on your own dusty porch someday. 

But if, when you pass into your 
medicine woman old age, 
and you pause from a story, a smoke 
or one of your dirty old woman jokes 
and need fill some small space 
with more than an autumn wind, 
remember me: the man that, 
one evening 
on a Philadelphia coffeehouse stage, 
shared you anonymously 
when I told of the moment when I 
turned to leave 
and you smiled with your sparkling eyes. 

May 1, 1998
Anthony J. Rice





She was sterile
Blackfoot half-breed
long way from home
lost the pleasure of touch
and ability to conceive
in a rape at the hands of a
white stepfather years before.

When the stranger saw her in the strip joint

all he could allow his own 
half-breed Mohawk eyes to see 
were her eyes, stone grey 
rooted deeper than the past 
she carried like a stone 
in her womb. 

But she could still laugh and smile 
at the small measure of life 
she had learned in the appreciative eyes 
even if lies 
of love-starved men 
herded each January night 
into that smoky bar 
by their illusions of power; 
in their small revelations of desire at her form 
she rekindled a fire 
or memory of passion 
despite her burden or 
perhaps because of it 
He saw the stone 
her foundation and the roots of humanity 
from which it had grown 
saw her motherhood 
past her lies learned in grief 
past the illusion of defeat 
she kept as sole raiment for her third 
and final song 

For years of hours 
they spoke only by eyes 
until the words that came 
were an inevitability:
'Let us be together' 
not 'I want to spend the night with you' 
not 'it's right, whether tonight 
or the next' 
a beginning of 'I want to hold you 
and know your tears 
a repast of years spent denying 
your humanity, our humanity - 
we're INDIAN, we don't need words'

They dodged for centuries of minutes 
to and fro - 
the dance of fear passed down from 
great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers 
when the cavalry rode into a village 

Until the lies of years grew 
weak and thread-worn 
and at last collapsed by a dim 
bedside table in a cheap 
white-man's motel 
a confession of sterility 
'You don't need a condom, 
the doctors told me I'll 
never be able to have children' 
through sad dark eyes with 
a reassurance, 'and it's okay, 
don't worry about making me come; 
I've never been able to since...." 

What medicine wrings water from stone
whether a man's own tears 
of water and salt 
or turns stone into sand into clay? 
What miracle moves tectonic space
to shake dusty porcelain plates 
from cupboards always 
empty of food, compels 
gravity to revisit its simple equation 
and recalculate the force of human spirit 
in its contemplations? 
Here, a woman descended from mothers 
honored in their miracle of 
life-giving womb, 
Blackfoot, half-breed, 
cast-out stripper and barren 
holds the bear close 
to her belly and breast 
presses his weight down into her own 
and shakes his pain from her eyes 
to realize she's only carried lies. 
Stone crumbles to dust
mingling with tears to become clay 
and no simple matter of lust 
but life carries them both 
to the climax of what could be 
the possibilities 
the miracle of lives lived in honor of life 
not just love. 

For passion is not just barbed wire
become dust, not only reservation sins
washed away, nor broken treaties melting 
in warm liquids of life mingling 
like tears of mourning and joy - 
Passion is medicine for two lost 
warriors meeting on appropriated land 
Indian flesh held in Indian hands 
with a love lent from seven generations 
of spirits mourning on the other side of death. 

They wept, then softly slept like children 
waiting for drunk Indian parents to 
stumble home and pass out on the floor 
arms wrapped around each other 
like buffalo hides until 
rush hour traffic outside the motel 
brought white man's time 
to their window 
whispering 'Black medicine, Indian Joe, 
Mohawk Maxwell House' 
in firm answer to the question, 
'Was it worth it?' 
- 'Ya-hey, beautiful one, Ya-hey' 
in a voice shaking with 500 year old tears 
Indians have no word for 'good-bye' 
only, 'this time is finished, 
it is understood'. 

So when he returned in the spring 
it mattered not she'd found love 
in a white man covered with tattoos 
nor that she carried that white man's 
child in her womb now living and 
All he needed was to look 
in her grey eyes and see her smile 
to see the grey was now deep 
water flowing from ancestral clay 
no longer marble cold and hard 
commemorating a forgotten massacre; 
to see her living smile and know 
she was happy and to say to her, 
'both sides of this child will be beautiful' 
to which she could only reply 
'Ya-hey, brother, Ya-hey - 
it's good to see you again, too.' 

June, 1998
Anthony J. Rice




You would ask
what kind of man
I would be to you
and would I love you the
way you've always
wanted a man to love?
Would I be the one
that would stay
that would last
that wouldn't leave you
but instead fulfill you?
You would ask this if you could
if you could fast forward through
obligatory small talk
your nervous smiles
while wondering,
'Am I coming on too strong
or too shy or unsure
or immature
or too strong or too weak
or pretentiously deep
or perhaps just not
Fast forward past learning that
not all Indians are drunks
not all urban Indians have sold their traditions
and mixed bloods aren't just plain lost,
fast forward until my eyes hit stop
on your remote control
and what would I say to you?
Would you only hear
what you want to hear?
That if I embrace your heart's face
I could only offer all my passion
when we made love,
no fear of freely revealing
infant confusion needing to be
mothered by your breast
nor turn away from your
own need to be held?
Or would you also
allow yourself
to hear my sincere plea
how to discern need from want?
why do we need?
why me?
Would you only choose to
hear my assent to grow
old with you, to know
there will be someone to care
or care for when no one else comes
or cares to visit?
Or will you also strain to see
the countless hours or days
through the years
I'll set apart from you
wallowing in fear or regret
at harsh words said
my pride that would deny your caress
or smile before the pain of apart
unbearable compels me to
look at you and admit
I'm wrong
in the child's exquisite moment of
please hold me?
Would you see me holding
our child in my arms
tears of wonder freely flowing
at the miracle you wrought
over months of wrenching
nausea, sleeplessness, and my struggle
to comprehend the incomprehensible
red of afterbirth -
but not choose to see
my clear eye loosing bowstring
on still buck
omit my knife cutting deer flesh
quick and deep
pouring cool water
in cupped bloody hand
over still, warm, lifeless muzzle,
my tears bottled with all
those collecting unfallen
unseen in hunter's heart and throat
never accounted
until my own moment of harvest?
No matter, beautiful woman,
for strangers we remain
as if ordained by fate 
(that fiction imagination weaves
to constrain impulsive hearts,
as it should be when
we have only one heart
one life to give in a
world of possibilities) 

It affords nothing but pain
to contemplate
the loves and lives
we won't share
with others in this life
no answer to why
we're given to see
what sweetness cannot be
leaving only longing
for more lives to live
than our portion of one
let it go. 

Leave perhaps to faith
in another life
we will meet and love with the
passion we must deny in this. 
On that day will I take
your hand
and say
it was worth the wait to love you.

July 1998
Anthony J. Rice


In Acteal          back

Her mother didn't speak Spanish
Very few in Acteal spoke Spanish
For these refugees were Tzotzil Indians
speaking a language handed
down for centuries
in that mountainous land of the Maya
So her mother didn't understand
the orders barked by soldiers
outside the Catholic church
where she and the villagers had hidden
No that it would've mattered
Her mother's heavy burden
soon to be spattered
on cool ochre-colored earth
would have slowed her escape from
that presumed sacred place

And so the little one
never knew nor comprehended
cost-effective manufacturing
preventive restructuring
trade incentives, downsizing,
maximizing profits
by minimizing salaries,
political realities,
multinational corporations
optimal business relations,
overseas production or
deficit reduction
For in the moment
the young paramilitary men
(all good Catholics, we are told)
ripped open her mother's womb
and skewered he warm wriggling form
to be tossed about
from bayonet to bayonet,
all her life's possibilities
werre distilled down to a
lifetime of hapless regret
shared by all who survived and witnessed
her death in Acteal that December morn

But pity not she nor any other Tzotzil
of the forty five massacred
in progressive, dollar-friendly Mexico
(former jewel in Cortez'greedy eye,
now simply a bankrupt monument

to the incomparably efficient
Catholic empire, and would that
President Zedillo,
John Paul's Board of Directors
and the Wall Street Oligarchy
could watch those bayonets
being cleaned every morning
outside their rectories as they rise)

No, pity not those forty five
now crossed to the spirit world
for their agony was brief,
the terror of screams,
automatic gun fire,
explosive tipped bullets and bayonets
ripping flesh
was finished in Acteal by sunset
Pity not even the Tzotzil survivors
who now can see the monster
for all it truly is
and having endured and survived
a slower, more insidious
though no less hideous holocaust
for five hundred years
will learn to survive even this.

No reserve pity for all those who
refuse to know
the hidden cost of living lives
comforted by lies disguised
in such phrases as
"high performing investment",
"record-breaking dividends",
and "clean profits";
who, in their futile consumer quest
for materialistic happiness
will discover too late
the blood of the Tzotzil rape
can never be washed from their sacrocanct
temples of capital lust
thrusting blind and phallic to the sky
from the tortured concrete of Wall Street
Surely, their agony,
an eternity in their own moment of death
bereft of raven's caws
will come when they face the spirits
of all they profited by with laws

they bought to silence
their consciences roar
Pity them, instead,
for they deserve it
and yet, certainly no more

For look closely now at Acteal's forty-five
and not just the memory of their lives
whose spirits are now returned to our tribe
and tell me not they bear no dignity
or show less honor than the rest of humanity
For even if their memory survives
only in their names being read here
it will be greater honor
than those denying
the lie of record quarterly earnings
coerced from another's fear of dying
Their's will be the honor of
all tribes who strived
and continue to survive
on a planet parched 
by centuries of cruelty

How blind of the rich not to see
that all acts of greed
demand justice eventually
and more than a mirrored
injury of prejudice
from those struggling with more
than simply "what to acquire next?";
more justice than mere memory
not of their greatness but rather their greed

No, I fear only nature herself
by right can, and will, administer
an equally tragic righting of this wrong
by sacrificing innocents
for crimes against Acteal's innocents
Truly, how tragic
that these blind will not see
until the deed is past
and at last they're compelled to recognize
their latest inheritance.

June, 1998
Anthony J. Rice



South Street

I wandered out onto your old flat world
with little left of my wonder
trailing a digital pall
the tattered remains
of my failed campaign
and the fall of logic
and strained my thought to find
what was lost in Copernicus mind
and all in vain.

Until at last my muse in a fit of pity
tossed a pebble in Euclid’s pond
sending a ripple to find me
so that I was
discovered instead by wonder:
born by a child for a benevolence
not even forgotten but utterly unimagined
by the wise
and disguised
in unassuming slabs of concrete.

And then my muse
struck her heretic novice
in stern reprimand
as I passed this child
holding fast to her mother’s hand
and oblivious in blind bliss
to this:
our late great world’s reaction
my prime time television revulsion
to her distorted black face
and twisted white teeth
as she shuffled blind
down our consumer street.

For then she growled!
and all her African ancestors
shivered in delight
remembering ancient predators
laments in the night
and together their tremolo
echoing the distance
from Olduvai Gorge
to the neon reflected
in her unseeing eyes
spanned the ancient ocean
of forgotten rituals
welling up in her guttural
to summon still more ancient magic:
for across the street
a Harley sputtered tragically
to life in the next instant
(instant poetic proof?)
Nature’s cantorial response
lay me shattered in the arms
of my now fluid muse
spilling down the now
mythically ancient South Street

And washed her way into
cracks in the concrete
forcing phantasms to well up
and twist in terror at the spectre
of my eyes seeing
what was never seen:
was the newly-minted penny,
abandoned by some hurried consumer,
an alm offered in ignorance
to the memory of ancient gods?
began protesting its innocence
like some consumptive Dickens waif
as I stepped across
the crack where it lay
then burned its face
into my brain for eternity
screaming terror at the onslaught
soon to consume me as well:
the toll of time on its naked copper skin

But now those denizens
of ancient rock
tectonic towers
basalt burnt and jutting
eroded by ancient warm rain
and sedimented in lost riverbeds
caressing our cold limbs
memory of the long climb
from a Devonian sea
(recently gored
by construction glory mongers
to become the poured and processed
cement beneath my feet)
suddenly and magically transformed
with great silent CRACK!
into unshackled deities.

But now those denizens
of ancient rock
tectonic towers
basalt burnt and jutting
eroded by ancient warm rain
and sedimented in lost riverbeds
caressing our cold limbs
memory of the long climb
from a Devonian sea
(recently gored
by construction glory mongers
to become the poured and processed
cement beneath my feet)
suddenly and magically transformed
with great silent CRACK!
into unshackled deities.
At first flitting
senselessly about the street
sweeping past passersby
sleeping on their feet
then in gethering storm

grew into a mighty host
rising up in front of me
great ghosts of anicent stone
rising upward, stretching, yawning
casting their rough-hewn shadows
across one city block, then another
and then another
and all the while chanting deep
the epic recitation
of a more mythic
than geologic creation

Long dead before
the twisted blind girl
first ventured on the savanna
they bellowed now in delight
at their momentary respite
from the staccato plodding
of a passive consumer public;
freed of empty-trod tributes
from Nike and Adidas
they laughed
at the brief memory of belches
farts and groans, cat-calls
whispers, haggling and cries
promises of love, riches and fame
empty speculation
full spectrum of lies
insults, flattery, fury of fashions
seasonally flown in
cash on delivery
fast fooderies, minstrels in misery
flailing on plastic flutes
or guitars in front of bars
cacaphony of cars coughing
(or purring for the few
who can afford new ones)
a grand cash carnival -
all this they witnessed
in a brief flash -
their entombment
in ordered squares of concrete
on South Street

I turned and humbly begged them
share their more ancient
and prescient prospect
of our Euclidean flat -
but were they puzzled
at my paltry vision of their mother,
saying, “She’s not like that.
The fire from which we sprang
four billion years ago
was always stoked by magic.
Her pregnant sphere burst
across space and time
with a fury still resonating
in the tiny bits of precipice
and crag beneath your feet
tragically brought low not in
glacial slag heaps
but in these neat little
squared statements of concrete”
(undecipherable by all
save a few pathetic souls
the wizened poets
one finds imprisoned on South Street)

“Long before
her mother’s alligator purse
crawled from a Devonian sea
we worshiped a deity:
that primordial light
that split the night
spawned a billion galaxies
and rent the fabric
of all that would become
with a signature so singular
even this black and blind
misfit can see!

It’s singing in the spaces
the atoms create
to build each grain of dust
dancing subtly to form
the clay beneath your feet
and so, though seeming
locked in slabs of concrete
we are not sentenced to eternity
as witnesses on South Street.
As we were brought low
by glacial and tectonic breath
so shall we rise up again
in another hundred million years
to another precipitous height
by our mother’s elegiac sigh of longing
for that first magical light
still flickering even now
inside and around you.”

At last my eyes lifted
from those ancient gods
become cement
and went the length
of our little thoroughfare
where candy wrappers
cigarette butts
and other assorted waste
were fading in the haste
of time to restore these gods
to their ancient glory
Not so permanent
went the Sunday shoppers
spending little bits of their lives
venting fahionable frustration
or stifling greed’s elation

at basement bargains amidst
the wholesale rape
of our morally bankrupt nation
(financing arms for generals
marching, no tiptoeing
across the stench, no wait
that’s my cousin piled across
the sidewalk steam vent).

I now saw time cooling
the ancient slow-burning
conflagration kindled by
race ignorance of the other’s
hidden innocence:
the bleeding foreheads,
broken hearts and swollen bellies
in barrios, slums
reservations, refugee camps,
convenience store parking lots
or wherever the hate calls
the automatic Uzi shots
from broken promises, broken treaties
dreams dashed in capital halls
Roaring! with the power lust - 
but time cooling,
time cooling,

I saw time washing away
the power lust scrawled on
alleyways, subway cars
restrooms in bars
the power lust carved on
pantied thighs and bent foreheads
in corporate suites
fondling breasts in back offices
and then denying
in rehearsed testimonials on television, denying the arched back and hard nipple
poised in (of all things)
Rolling Stone magazine
feeding fantasies of endless
fraternity fun, fun, fun - 
but time washing it away,
time washing it away.

I even saw time wash away
the power lust that
tears open teenage hustlers
starved for love
but I’ll settle for some food
if you can’t love me
with real love
and not your
MTV bust grinding
I-love-the-stylish-clothes-you-wear kind
not your beer bash babe
suck and swallow fantasy
you toss away
like cum-soaked toilet paper -
washed away, washed away
time washing it all away,
time washing it all away
leaving, if only for awhile,
the electric embrace
of lovers’ contented smiles
oblivious to the rapid fade into old age
followed by the quick sharp death stab
then the long journey, the slow fade
back down into the clay
from which we all came.

Time whipping past me now
I saw fading fast
the shades of tire rubber
on the now-heaving asphalt
until visions of vegetation return
staccato at first, then
a rampant invasion
cracking the street asunder
sending it running
piecemeal to the sea
as sedimented rust
and at last thrust hard
to the sky as of old.
And when my eyes rested
on the furthest reaches of South Street
I saw profiled in the reddening
and nearly spent sun
disguised as a stumbling
and soiled old man
finding his way to a familiar
steam vent on the street
he now seemed intimate as I
with the numerous vagaries of concrete
and approaching as if in answer
to my tired inquiry,
“Why, Copernicus, why?”
our eyes did at last meet
and give answer:

One only need look in a mirror to see
the magical hoop of our tiny world
is a sea of stellar dust
and we are born, die and reborn again
in its eternal lullaby.
So who are you to say that
stumbling, soiled old men,
black and blind misfits
or even I cannot hear
the voices of star-dust deities
the benevolent gods one finds hidden
in the sidewalks of South Street.

Anthony J. Rice
Philadelphia, PA, August, 1992




I wander thro' each charter'd street.
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear

 How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

1794  -  William Blake from Songs of Experience



When your face first appeared
over my crumpled life,
at first the I understood only
the poverty of what I have.
But then its particular light
on woods, on rivers, on the sea
became my beginning in the uncolored world
in which I had not yet had my beginning.
I am so frightened, I am so frightened,
of the unexpected sunrise, of discoveries,
tears, and the excitement finishing,
I do not fight it.
My love is this fear
I nourish it,
who can nourish nothing,
love's slipshod watchman.
fear hems me in
I know these moments are short,
and the colors in my eyes will vanish
when your face sets

Yevegeny Yevtushenko - b. 1933



No Man is an Island, Entire of Itself

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 

-- John Donne, 1624. Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, No. 17



Gacela of the Dark Death

I want to sleep the dream of the apples, 
to withdraw from the tumult of cemetries, 
I want to sleep the dream of that child 
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas. 

I don't want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood, 
that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water. 
I don't want to learn of the tortures of the grass, 
nor of the moon with a serpent's mouth 
that labors before dawn. 

I want to sleep awhile, 
awhile, a minute, a century; 
but all must know that i have not died; 
that there is a stable of gold in my lips; 
that i am the small friend of the West wing; 
that i am the intense shadow of my tears.

Cover me at dawn with a veil. 
because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me. 
and wet with hard water my shoes 
so that the pincers of the scorpion slide. 

For i want to sleep the dream of the apples, 
to learn a lament that will cleanse me of the earth; 
for I want to live with that dark child 
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

by Federico Garcia Lorca

Translated by Stephen Spencer & J L Gili




In Guernica the dead children 
Were laid out in order upon the sidewalk, 
In their white starched dresses, 
In their pitiful white dresses.

On their foreheads and breasts 
Are the little holes where death came in 
As thunder, while they were playing 
Their important summer games. 

Do not weep for them, madre. 
They are gone forever, the little ones, 
Straight to heaven to the saints, 
and God will fill the bullet-holes with candy.

[Monday April 26, 1937 4:30 PM ]

by Norman Rosten