Poem for the Day: November 27th, 2021

Patronage by Solmaz Sharif

They say
willingness is what one needs
to succeed.

They say one needs to succeed.

*

Our poets do not imagine
a screaming

audience.

Our poets are used to padding,

vinyl, on the foldable chairs,
bookshelves on casters
moved aside
to make space for them

A world polite
for their words

A well-­behaved.
A world’s behavior

malformed and they step
in as one steps in
to a nursery and

quiet

calms the tantrum
attempts not to wake
the sleeping, the milk-­drunk

and burped babe.

Our poets coo.

And beg their feet be placed in a large room.

*

Prize ring. Bull ring. Lion
through the ring of flames.

Poets convinced they are ringmaster
when it is with big brooms and bins, in fact,
they enter to clear the elephant scat.

*

There was an inlet
I pulled over once to watch the sunset, which
was still another hour or so away, the light
just low enough there to begin to change.
I should’ve stayed. I should’ve stayed.

*

A life of idle, with money

doing the work. A life beholden,
but bestowed. To make reformists of us all,

even the fascists.
Especially

of the fascists.

*

But he’s a patron.
But he makes a star of us,
he makes us of rank.

But he’s a churchgoer

and they place their hands on him and pray and bountiful
grow their wives’ bellies, a bully
for each family. Exponential doom.

Singing to each other in the private gazebo of their youth.

*

Now sing.

*

I said what I meant
but I said it

in velvet. I said it in feathers.
And so one poet reminded me


Remember what you are to them.

Poodle, I said.

And remember what they are to you.

*

Meat.

© 2021 Solmaz Sharif. “Patronage” originally appeared in The Yale Review on May 19th, 2021. Solmaz Sharif is the author of two collections of poetry: Look: Poems, which was published by Graywolf Press in July 2016 and was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award; and Customs: Poems, which is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in March 2022 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: September 28th, 2021

When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz

No More Cake Here by Natalie Diaz

When my brother died
I worried there wasn’t enough time
to deliver the one hundred invitations
I’d scribbled while on the phone with the mortuary:
Because of the short notice no need to rsvp.
Unfortunately the firemen couldn’t come.
(I had hoped they’d give free rides on the truck.)
They did agree to drive by the house once
with the lights on— It was a party after all.

I put Mom and Dad in charge of balloons,
let them blow as many years of my brother’s name,
jails, twenty-dollar bills, midnight phone calls,
fistfights, and er visits as they could let go of.
The scarlet balloons zigzagged along the ceiling
like they’d been filled with helium. Mom blew up
so many that she fell asleep. She slept for ten years—
she missed the whole party.

My brothers and sisters were giddy, shredding
his stained T-shirts and raggedy pants, throwing them up
into the air like confetti.

When the clowns came in a few balloons slipped out
the front door. They seemed to know where
they were going and shrank to a fistful of red grins
at the end of our cul-de-sac. The clowns played toy bugles
until the air was scented with rotten raspberries.
They pulled scarves from Mom’s ear—she slept through it.
I baked my brother’s favorite cake (chocolate, white frosting).
When I counted there were ninety-nine of us in the kitchen.
We all stuck our fingers in the mixing bowl.

A few stray dogs came to the window.
I heard their stomachs and mouths growling
over the mariachi band playing in the bathroom.
(There was no room in the hallway because of the magician.)
The mariachis complained about the bathtub acoustics.
I told the dogs, No more cake here, and shut the window.
The fire truck came by with the sirens on. The dogs ran away.
I sliced the cake into ninety-nine pieces.

I wrapped all the electronic equipment in the house,
taped pink bows and glittery ribbons to them—
remote controls, the Polaroid, stereo, Shop-Vac,
even the motor to Dad’s work truck—everything
my brother had taken apart and put back together
doing his crystal meth tricks—he’d always been
a magician of sorts.

Two mutants came to the door.
One looked almost human. They wanted
to know if my brother had willed them the pots
and pans and spoons stacked in his basement bedroom.
They said they missed my brother’s cooking and did we
have any cake. No more cake here, I told them.
Well, what’s in the piñata? they asked. I told them
God was and they ran into the desert, barefoot.
I gave Dad his slice and put Mom’s in the freezer.
I brought up the pots and pans and spoons
(really, my brother was a horrible cook), banged them
together like a New Year’s Day celebration.

My brother finally showed up asking why
he hadn’t been invited and who baked the cake.
He told me I shouldn’t smile, that this whole party was shit
because I’d imagined it all. The worst part he said was
he was still alive. The worst part he said was
he wasn’t even dead. I think he’s right, but maybe
the worst part is that I’m still imagining the party, maybe
the worst part is that I can still taste the cake.

© 2012 Natalie Diaz. “No More Cake Here” appears in Diaz’s collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, which was published in 2012 by Copper Canyon Press.

Note: While I have endeavored to ensure this poem was formatted on this page as the author originally intended, there may be slight differences between what is displayed here and what appears in a physical format.

Natalie Diaz is a Latina and Mojave poet and is enrolled as a member of the Gila Indian Community. She currently lives in Arizona and is an Associate Professor at Arizona State University. She is the author of two poetry collections, When My Brother Was an Aztec and Postcolonial Love Poem, which was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.