This project introduces poetry to wider audiences by presenting poetry in collaboration with design on UWG buses and in other areas. The project aims to share the talents of students in the UWG English, Mass Communications, and Art Programs while making daily commutes more interesting and inspiring. It also allows for creative students to engage in unique collaborative experiences together and influence the perspectives of the UWG community of students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Poetry by UWG English students, illustration by Art student Nancy Vu.

Words that Move Us (PDF, 1MB)

They taught us the ups and downs

Of bullets—aim for the nuts, guts, brains.

While brass shells gleamed, they taught us

How to box our chests in Kevlar,

How to bend air sideways

As we rappelled down the splintered tower.

We learned how to down the black

Cardboard men popping up in the molehills,

How to duct tape our rifle barrels

Rub our socks with baby powder.

We were babies with runny noses, stinking

Of goose feathers and sweat. We had to be

Taught how to speak, climb, squeeze, shit,

How to eat raw coffee grounds to stay

Awake. They taught us how to breathe

In gas chambers with the air burning around us

To taste the salty snot and tears and flap our arms

Like birds. We learned to dodge shrapnel

From our grenades, carry plastic men

On gurneys over wooden barricades.

We marched through make-believe villages

In Northern Iraq. Dabbed gunpowder

From our hands with baby wipes,

And learned to lose ourselves

In watermarked maps and soggy fields.

We were pillars that fell and climbed back to their feet.

 

Pull canvas of leaves. Then draw

mangoes hanging over heads.

For fruit, yellow, but sweet juices,

dye patches of chalk dust in hair.

 

Vertical strokes, as steel pans

blast R. City out the band room.

Dash of red for the hermit crab

peeping over lopsided shelf.

 

A loop, then zig-zags watching

pâtéman stirs soursop in wobble

of his truck. With brush dripping wet,

Crayola of every rainbow

 

soak in saltwater, blue kind,

filtering caps in seaweed.

I dry off with my Cancryn skirt,

Then paving road to Crown Mountain.

 

Hills with yellow cedar left,

Fade shadows from palms. Widen

dots of pink, reflect fancy hats

dropping little seashells in crest.

 

But at cruises honk, I lay

murals to face 82 suns,

burning a long trail of green paint.

So, the dirt can leave a mark.

I grab the saltfish by the tail,

lay it sideways so eyes remember waters.

Throw a pinch of thyme for dry skin.

I caress behind fins to the petite belly,

Ground pepper and habanero for his bad breath.

 

Pray for ingrown shells on his back.

I dress saltfish in my quadrille skirt and sail

to dock, but sandy shores were packed

like pâté at noon. Johnny Cake bakes

right thumb. Red onions brew Ox tail with shears.

 

On max heat, Callaloo’s fevers rise.

I try to sizzle to health. But caught with weeds

toss them back in the fryer, gold patch

skinned for letting chicklets take a bite.

I drag the saltfish up Nadar hill, pleading 

 

for ducana and fungi to cling

as his sides. But rotten lies from appetizers,

place him under the scalper. Blessed

with Corona oil, Caribbean islands gather

in lines, awaiting another plate on Easter morning.

 
 

And all of the images that left you blocked

From me. You can have all the shows that turned you

Into the reality of what is and what could’ve been.

Take the plug while you’re at it.

It gave you the power to control

What you said you had switched off. And I hope you decide

To take the monitor and the speakers

Because they drowned you out from me each night

I tried to tell you something wrong. And none of this

Compels you. I was a friend, never your wife. But go

Ahead, please take the paint off the walls. I wouldn’t care

If you took the drapes and the coffee table, so take

The television, and the box that it came in. Keep it.

Every commercial that played and every football game

Recorded and re-watched. Before I go

I beg you to take this house—

The bricks might as well have remained sand, and the front door

Opened to your true self, you transformed. I guess I should blame

The construction workers for not enough cement to keep

Me concrete. One last thing—good luck

Finding the remote.

 

My mother’s hands carve halos of steam

from stuck-grease skillets, crest sea-foam

from off-brand dish soap and a hard turn of her wrist.

Each bead catches a piece of sun and fills

 

Violently with colors--which is my favorite?

All of them. Even the gristle-brown runoff

with flecks of iron and pig-ash.

Even the gold reflecting on her now-

 

broken hands. These nerves already died—

she said, from too-hot water,

from Pentecostal fire, hands

still throwing her against plastered walls

San Ramón Nonato Church

The sun sets, background bottom-left,

in every vision of Jacob

wrestling with the angel.

Perhaps a framing technique

to lure the eye towards the unbiblical

sensuality of Jacob’s naked waist,

obliques engorged with heat,

transversus abdominis pressed flush

against the angel’s white sheet,

bulging quadriceps hurtling towards one

another through sandpaper skin.

Leloir painted wrinkles into the gray sky

behind the angel’s head, an oil curtain.

Maybe the sun, then, is only a stage light.

Maybe it doesn’t set, just sits, until

the furious curtain falls and the light burns out,

thorny clouds choking day into night.

Outside, kids in blue uniforms leave school

And parade San Ramón Square Park.

A boy straddles the fountain, pining

For the girl on a bench reading her Bible

Beside a man with his hand up a woman’s skirt,

Fingers jostling for warmth.

 

        Okinawa, Japan, May 1945: American troops find

         Moritoshi Oshiro, a 12-year-old boy, tortured

         by Japanese imperialists and hiding from the war in a cave.

 

A boy with the face of bread, who wipes

honey from the lip of a Japanese soldier

that beats the word Kokuzoku, traitor, into

the trenches dug on his belly. His eyes—

gunshots without exit wounds, and his skin

hisses yellow, a habu snake or the way

napalm sheds before torching a nation into Fall.

No, don’t fall, he whispers, as he catches a Shikuwasa,

a sour citrus, a beheaded Japan, and cradles

the dead Pacific in his jaw. The water boy that extinguishes

flames with his feet—scarred by a shadow from the afterglow

of a burning bonsai. A night-skinned boy who wears

his smile on his palms and reaches for the sun on a flag

that will never love him. A boy whose father wraps the sleeve

of moonlight over his son’s body and prays that his son is too weak to die.

A boy whose father stitches his mother’s softness to his cheeks and calls

him daughter because a lie is not a lie when God covers his ears with gunfire.

He cannot see a Sakura bloom but can feel its death,

a haiku stolen from the tombstones in his mouth.

He cannot see bloodshed but tastes its lead,

a pineapple rotting in his throat.

A boy that cannot see peace as he peels back the sky,

a blue scab, stretched over the earth’s wound.

Who will call him human

to his light-eroded body?

Who will call him son

to his motherless stare that

crawls to meet the camera’s flash?

 

I wish photographs could speak,

softly,

as if reciting old lullabies to a fitful infant,

or focused,

without interruptions like silent prayers.

On one of my hands I can count

all of the photos I have of my father,

printed and displayed in rooms

where people say,

“you look just like him.”

I try to forget the deep shadows

of my father’s deep-set eyes,

yet they peek out,

in my mother eyes

as she nags about my nonchalant look,

or in mirrors

as clusters of sleepless nights deepen the color,

so how could I forget that my eyes reflect his.

Yet, I can’t tell you if he smiled so big

that his high cheekbones obscured his face

or if he laughed for so long

that the creases near his eyes

were happily embedded in his skin.

The only photo where I saw

the slightest curve of his lips,

he held onto me at only a few months old

in a velvet rocking chair.

If I could melt away into the film as ink

and recapture the moment when

I was held by a stranger

whose last name I bear,

whose cheeks I carry,

whose walk I uphold,

maybe I could remember how my father’s embrace felt.