Tuesday Nov 21

RichardBrad Brad Richard’s poetry collection, Motion Studies, won the 2010 Washington Prize from The Word Works and is a finalist for the Publishing Triangle’s 2012 Thom Gunn Award in Poetry. His other works include Habitations (Portals Press, 2000) and Butcher’s Sugar (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2012, forthcoming), and two chapbooks, The Men in the Dark (Lowlands Press, 2004) and Curtain Optional (Press Street, 2011).  His poems and reviews have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Barrow Street, Bayou, Guernica, Hunger Mountain Review, The Iowa Review, The Laurel Review, Literary Imagination, The Massachusetts Review, Mississippi Review, New Orleans Review, Passages North, Prairie Schooner, and other journals. Recipient of fellowships from the Surdna Foundation and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, and 2002 Poetry Winner in the Poets & Writers, Inc. Writers Exchange competition, he is chair of the creative writing program at Lusher Charter High School in New Orleans. He is also co-director of the New Orleans New Writers Literary Festival, a festival for high school writers, and the Scholastic Writing Awards of Southeast Louisiana, a regional affiliate of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.
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The Little Girl Who Lives in the Palace Square
 


The sentries fix their sights on her back
just for practice
as she wanders the square,
rolling a dark ball between her palms.
 
From the tower they track her shawl,
and the radio plays anthems,
and the girl sifts rubble
for cool stones to suck.
 
And the girl remembers sirens, the bomber’s drone,
a nights-long spasm,
an oilfield burning,
she remembers her mother’s hands.
 
She remembers her mother’s hands
bright against the sky, against walls
collapsing, her mother’s fists
exploding, burning against brickwork.
 
Stop now: time to gather
more specks of dung, bits of paper,
clumps of sand
from the firing squad wall.

She rolls them with her spit into the ball,
staining her hands
with all the kingdom she owns,
but mouth’s so dry stone sticks to her tongue.
 
The sentries fix their sights on her back.
Cool as sky, her mother’s hands
cinch her shawl and tuck her in the shadow
of the palace flags.
 
 
 
Firewood Gathering


 
When they fire their tracers over the old school you can see what’s left     maybe you’ll get lucky
and make it to the thicket by the swamp     if the soldiers haven’t already stripped it for
themselves     then you’ll just have to pull small timber from the rubble
nothing too big to carry don’t drag anything     that’s how they tracked your father
 
That gas they set off in the market     can you taste it in this tea     and it still burns my eyes     I
wish I didn’t have to send you out tonight      but you’re brave aren’t you a brave girl     and
don’t you want a hot meal tomorrow     make a basket with your skirt like this     you’ll be
surprised how much it can hold
 
Of course you’ll have to go back to the market tomorrow     pay the boy for these potatoes and
tell him I’m sorry     we don’t want him to think we’re thieves     I think I went to school with his
mother     or her sister     anyway he has her face didn’t you think he had pretty eyes     maybe
you’ll go to school with him one day
 
Don’t be afraid if I’m not home when you get back     my eyes hurt so bad is there water in the
bucket    if your aunt could walk me to the river     I know she’s dead     anyway I can make it on
my own     anyway you know how to break up the wood and sort it     it’s fun if you use the little
song I taught you
 
baby’s fingers mother’s fingers father’s fingers king’s
this boy’s arm and that girl’s leg rifle barrel rib

You probably won’t come home with anything     you’ll have to find something else to sing   
come down to the river     help me wash my eyes