Tina Cane
Rage and Ibuprofen, and other poems

Rage and Ibuprofen

I know little     about matters     of practical application      


it was being a waitress     that taught me     how to get along      


that people want their food     and want it now     like everyone      

my mind has regions      


                                            one for meat           one for bread      


one for caravans      and tender age         one for rage  


and ibuprofen      


                                   plus a whole zone for listening      


past the migraines     to the dog whistles in the air     faint toll  


of cowards ringing across time     history has to start somewhere      


so, why not here?     I ask  


                                                   my class to write      


a letter to Mr. Baldwin     because time catches up      


with kingdoms and crushes     also because I miss him      


one girl writes: 



                             Dear James, 


                             The most courageous thing  

                             a person can be is a black woman. 



Damn, son         says the boy       at the desk behind her  

then we all sit in silence         until the bell rings 

At the Jetty


Water breaking over the jetty     is water saying     


fight if you must      is the moon conversing with the sea      


advice for life     or advice in the case of an active shooter      


sanctuary     were I a gun     sanctuary     even at sea      


I’d love an emergency     as much as any tyrant  


loves a crisis                 

                             better now to accept  


that my phone is an asshole     that my life has grown  


monstrous with ease     when the butcher told me  


not to overthink the meat     on Christmas Eve      


I didn’t think too hard     about the cut or the mess      

of presents beneath the tree     about presence or transcendence      


I did reflect on Paradise though     that town reduced to earth      


which crews spent days     sifting for remains    for pain  


in its most granular form 

                                                  how every passion holds  


clues to our vitality     network names like Christ It’s Loud  


or Anxiety & Trauma     spawn a thousand laugh emojis     including                       mine     


as if     remind us we’re alive     and we’ll take it      


                        every day is not the same     but related or referred      


like pain or giant babies     we plod the earth     hacking our way  


towards freedom     things that must be answered for      

                                                                                                      Orlando says  


in Navajo a computer is called     metal that thinks     which gets to the root  

of it for me     how placebo     means I please you     how at my laptop sometimes                      

tears seep down into the motherboard    to the mother lode   to the whole mother            

holding up half the sky      

                                            speak the names of those who were lost     please      


not the names of those who took them     America is my home     please 


but not my metaphor     not my body     as an expression of dirt      


the woods are full of police             walking is reason enough      


the margins of terror grow slim  

                                                                and I survive  


on an amazement of women     secret transactions     the rage  


of all the maidens at once    


                                                   lodestar     bulwark     subtlety of fools       


Opera is the music     in a movie of silence     my son declares      


as I buckle him     if you put that in a bottle     I swear I say      


I will buy it    

                       I will rest my case     



Future Sonnet



I have no idea what it takes     the past is what I remember      


propulsion impersonates passion     the future belongs to the fast      


I try to take it slow     so each word can travel to my ear      


so I can hear     what it is     to be heard      



I concede     hearing is not listening      


listening is not grasp     that the last thing  


I want     may be the first thing I get      


sometimes it takes      



a trampoline with a net     brown suede boots      


and barrettes     on a girl’s birthday list      


to conjure up the future     to fulfill  


a wish to propel  



it’s all going forward     I know 


our stories can only carry us so far