Tag Archives: Jonathan Tucker

Electric Sunshine

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Smiling at your uneasiness
Inviting you to laugh at yourself
She won’t do it alone, so you go with her
Beautiful five foot something, dark curly hair, 
She can make prison walls show their dimples

Stretching ocean waves flat across the face, a rocky shore
She’ll silence its mighty roar

With eyelids like butterfly wings
 Two flutters and tidal waves wash away nations worlds away
Her stare lowers sea levels around the earth
Boiling beaches without uttering a single word
Phony suckers evaporate in her presence, and
Sunflowers bend backwards following her as she walks by my building
Five foot something, beautiful brown hair
Daughter of hippies
Descendant of hustling immigrants
Mother of creation, she
                A future
Outside the lines, confident strokes
She’s not worried about finding a man
As much as a reason
To keep the struggle in her back pocket
We all know what the guys are looking at
No need to spell it out on her bottom
The movement is in her genes,
Attractive activism swings from generation to generation
Marching through her blood like city streets
Up to the steps of her capital buildings
Where everyone can see
Where she gets it from,
Mother taught her how to raise children, not her own
For hours each day, she
A flexible temple, her body
Stretches almost as much as her mind
Both needing to shake it off, sometimes
The daily grind, can be difficult
But she is coffee
Already made, organic, smooth and strong
Do not fear her stubborn stains she only spills on those who don’t know how to hold themselves

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Call her sunshine, her spirit touches you through intermediaries like the moon when she’s not around,
Many have tried, but no man can walk on her
Ground-ed like a lightening rod
She is not easily shocked
    Electric sunshine butterfly woman
Sister transforms awkward to awesome when she enters the room
She turns strangers to family with her loving cocoon 

Weaving a little more of what this world needs into the corners of every social fabric
Wearing love as an old tee shirt

Worry as a prom dress
Life in a necklace
Joy in her earrings
And justice as brass knuckles
She is not an easy woman, not your girly girl
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes
Running, she
Chases dreams back to where they came from and forces them to grow up
Developing old realities from young fantasies
She stays in the darkroom
Raising children, not her own
Out of the city chemicals 
With increasing contrast
Between their present situation and their past
    Always looking better

    She, is light

All colors together, as one
Running faster than anything or anyone
Across the room
To give you a hug.

braided and baked

braided and baked like challah
my identity is constantly turning and being read
like torah
different interpretations of the same living thing
and idea an artifact we can study
it is my breath on the bar’chu
calling me up to be
my tongue on tekiah waking up those who sleep
i speak
my purpose
i am
my words my deeds my dreams and my bloodline
swimming in ashkenazi rivers looking for a solid home
drowning in survivor’s guilt and
windsurfing in a poem
i am
only the food i eat literally but
there is much more inside me spiritually
i am
between ancient and fresh
right and left
spirit and flesh
hashem and nefesh
between hip and hop
there is a hyphen
a chai fitting between jewish and white
between erev and night
between misappropriation and my natural right
i lay flat
putting my body on the line like my ancestors did
when it’s time to stand for justice
time to sit-in and protest for fairness
time to speak up and lay down our arms for peace
my identity guides and reminds me that
i cannot cease until all are free
for we were once slaves
now comfy and prosperous in our post-post-modern age
our obligation remains
burning like the eternal flames in our temples
but many in our diasporic tribe bring us terrible shame
it’s simple
know mercy
do justice
be not pharaoh
be not goliath
do not create ghettos
tear down walls
love your neighbors
because we are a people
braided and baking together
constantly turning being read and reinterpreting ourselves
and struggling to not forget where we’re from
struggling ever so hard to tikun olam
our ability to heal the world does not come from violence
it is not born in security threat analysis or
border wall military check points
check again
check your holy books your history and your heart
check yourself
my friend my sister my brother
my identity
our identity
is deeper than skin
so check the weather you will see a change blowing in the wind
on the backs of a diverse new generation
bringing together the right and the left
the spirit and the flesh
hashem and nefesh
ancient and fresh
to build the bridges we need
to save our identity

miffed, rubbish, brilliant, and other british sayings

these are words that i will bring home with me to the states. miffed, in particular, is one that i really like. it pretty much means pissed, but it sounds cooler. oh, and proper is something they say a lot here too. as is brilliant. a good joke i just heard, when being offered tea. dude said, you want herbal tea or proper tea? i was undecided. he said, if you like marx, you have to have herbal tea. i didn’t understand. he said, because according to marx, proper tea is theft. lol. (get it. proper tea = property) i had lots of proper and peppermint tea this week at limmud. as well as lots of other drinks as well. which led to some fun dance parties and imrpov sessions with the band.

jbt at limmud uk jam

i had the pleasure of rocking out with a jam band almost every night at the limmud conference at the univ. of warwick this past week. that is what i’m doing in the picture above, if you can’t tell. chanukah and the conference are over now, so i am chillin in london for new years and some travel fun before coming home. luckily my poet friends from england have directed me to some slams. i will start off 2012 competing in a poetry slam in a different country. that is, after i dance my butt off on nye (which is tough because i have very little butt to begin with) with some cool kids i met at limmud. this trip has been brilliant, and the weather unseasonably warm. i wrote a few new poems which i will post here later. 2012 will be a year of more writing for me, and i’m making that resolution now. it won’t be hard to keep because i did not write much at all in 2011.

cheers, mates!

jbt at limmud

in the UK, Limmud, and being Jewish during Christmas

peace and blessings my friends. today i am writing from Warwick University in the UK. i am here for a week-long conference called Limmud. i don’t have pictures to post (yet) because my phone is not active over here, but there will be many beautiful things to see and share over my trip, i’m sure. today is only the second day and already there has been much to report. Limmud is a conference and a nonprofit devoted to inclusive Jewish learning. as an American Jewish poet, i was invited to participate, perform, and facilitate a few workshops this year. the conference has been going on for 30 years, so many of the participants come year after year and to different Limmud conferences all over the world. they are held in NYC and other places in the States too, but since it was founded in the UK, this is by far the largest. for those who know about NFTY and other Jewish youth programs, so far my experience is very much like Jewish summer camp, except for all ages and families and teachers and performers and scholars and drinkers. yes, there is a bar and i will be volunteering to work it tonight.

being in a foreign country (albeit not too foreign) all by myself and thrust into a heavily Jewish atmosphere where many people already know each other could be a bit overwhelming. i am enjoying it so far, and remaining pretty social. the fire alarm in the dorm went off at about 7:56 this morning. i thought i did it somehow, even though i was asleep. freaking out and searching for pants (very glad i did), i made my way outside with the others where we joked about this being a way Limmud helps us get to know our housemates and ensures that we go to Shul (sabbath services) today. i only froze my butt halfway off while waiting to get back inside. i did get to see a beautiful sunrise and birds that i wouldn’t have seen otherwise, so all is not lost.

last night, after shabbat dinner i attended a small workshop on Yehuda Amichai‘s poetry. he is the most famous modern Israeli poet and the session was led by a young American woman studying to become a Rabbi in England. we read poems and discussed them. it was not terrible. i’ve not read much (or any) Jewish or Israeli poetry so this was good education for me. come to think of it, i’ve read much more Palestinian poetry than i have anything Israeli. this conference is going to give me many more opportunities to continue my Jewish learning, and for an nonreligious Jew like me that is very important. last night at dinner one man got up to speak and reminded us that learning, any learning, is a continual process. you don’t simply learn something and are done with it. if you don’t constantly interact with and learn ideas again and again you will lose them. just like language, all learning is continual and requires active engagement. that was a powerful reminder for me, and i think that is why i am here. to teach and to learn is a mitzvah (good deed), one and the same mitzvah according to Jewish text. so students and teachers, when they are learning and teaching, are both engaging in the same mitzvah. this too, is something i will bring home with me.

after the conference i am going to stay in London for the New Years celebration. i still don’t have a place to sleep, so that will be a fun little mission. hopefully some friends of friends will come through before i break down and book a hostel or hotel room.

one of the things i love most about being at an all Jewish conference over Chanukah and Christmas is that i do not get all the Christmas shoved down my throat like i would back home. it is Christmas eve here and i’ve not heard a single thing about it. tomorrow will be Christmas and nobody will care, because it is also still Chanukah and that’s what we’re celebrating here together. at home i do not surround myself with Jews or Jewish things, so this is particularly different for the holiday season. i mean, i actually love Christmas music and the spirit of good cheer and peace on earth and all that mess, so i do get into it when i’m home, but it is quite nice to be reminded that another world is possible, and specifically a world created and shaped by my people is real and alive somewhere, even if i don’t choose to live in it everyday.

Shabbat Shalom! Happy Chanukah!


love poem no. 415

you say our footprints
disappear in the sand
i say they get swallowed
by the ocean and
our memories are out there
in the deep
if you want to find them
i have some goggles and
love to swim but
sometimes it’s too cold

Jon Tucker Must Live!

I was born in the backseat of a child’s playground
minding my own business, man-child of a conversation
slated to be the next problem
the next argument
the next five knots in your throat
like the most beautiful clog in your tearduct drain pipes
overflowing on some American highway off ramp
off put
exit stage left me
off broadway off center
old man child off his rocker
still swaying on point in his off moments
saying this was a mistake
I must have reminded him of somebody else
I couldn’t have been me
because he mis-took me everywhere
took me for, granted no, wishes I
were not
they say Jon Tucker Must Die but I’ve got
at least a few minutes left here with you
so listen up business man child of yesterday
your fuel is a fossil
on display behind velvet ropes in museums to be studied
while we turn the sun around
to face tomorrows artists
and clean your muddied waters, Mississippi
your bloodied daughters, New York
shining through soot
sparkling on concrete
no longer underneath your foot
we’re rising to meet your clouds, Colorado
to greet your crowds, California
to free your cows, Wisconsin
yes we’re in a new age of abolitionists
uprooting oppression and all its viciousness
for living things must live, Jon Tucker included
no matter the worst thing you did
we know that you’re more than that
and we’ll prove it, Texas
try to improve it, Florida
stay fluid, Maryland
deep beneath basement club music brought to more Baltimore bricks baking
businessmen-children burning with often more than desire, Georgia
more than mobs with murderous fire, Carolina
more than jealousy, Michigan
more than greed, Nevada
we’re not in Kansas anymore, but really we’ve never been there, Alaska
we all burn differently here
and I’m far from home wherever I am, Washington
DC warming and warring the world
and all of it is inside of me
melting my idealism like glaciers
continuing the civil rights movement like an iceberg
90 percent undergroundwater welling up in my chest
stuck up, stuck out like I’m the best
most exceptional, professional cheater
armed checkpoints at my joints
occupying your theater
homeless vets kicked out to my toes and my fingers
shivering and starving with all these over-eaters
inside of me
not caring
Jon Tucker is America, child prodigy and daring
and although he’s not perfect
Jon Tucker Must Live.