poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC:
Tina Darragh, Gray Jacobik, Tony Medina, and Ken Rumble

Plan B Press teamed up with Beltway Poetry Quarterly to publish this landmark anthology in January 2010 that the Washington Post says has "distilled the region's lifeblood into verse over the past 50 years." There are 101 authors included in the collection, and I selected four here to represent the range of this amazing book, by Tina Darragh, Gray Jacobik, Tony Medina, and Ken Rumble.


Tina Darragh


The step by step process of looking
to rainbows
as a PLACE
for “pi in the Skye”
started awhile ago
when reading Eye & Brain
the author tells the story
of Sir Issac Newton
pretending to see
orange and indigo
in the first color spectrum he made
so he could list seven colors—
a lucky number—
and this made me feel very fond of science
given that I myself stretch things a lot
to make them fit


so I started to wonder
about my other associations with “rainbow”—
for example, the Rainbow Tribe—
Josephine Baker being one of my idols
for adopting a baby of every color
but in reading her autobiography
I discovered some facts I hadn’t known—
that she’d stretched things beyond her limits
originally deciding with her husband on four babies
she’d compulsively bring home more
eventually adding up to 12
the number of the tribes of Israel
and this numerical coincidence
calmed her down a bit
but by then all the money she made
was never enough
& she and her husband separated
& eventually she lost her place
& had to move her tribe to a tiny Paris apt.
from which she attempted a come-back
& I still greatly admire her

but this new information didn’t fit
my image of her as the perfect
international mother


At this point I was reminded of Jean Toomer
having read his book Cane
I’d assigned him a role
as my “literary” patron saint
to go along with St. Martin de Porres
for whom I was named
both mulattoes
who felt they had all the colors
of the world’s races in their blood

& Cane
written by Toomer going
from the country (GA)
to the city (DC)
as I had come from the country (PA)
to the city (DC)
reading his book in this city—
DC—where many scenes take place
people of mixed heritage
feeling at home
as if all their colors combine
to make the omnipresent white
of the government buildings—
the construction atop
the inner life surfacing here

But Toomer left the line
between Georgia and DC
& never wrote a book like Cane again
instead he turned to promulgating religion
through over-long works
in which he tries to tie
everything together
the only link with his past
being the repeated sound
of Margery/Marjorie
the name of both his wives
a form of “Margaret”
meaning “pearl”

& this brought me back
to one of my original questions
about sounds and geography
& I wondered about
sounds and the rainbow
&, looking it up in the Rainbow Book
I found that, yes, a physicist
Hermann von Helmholtz
had once “amused himself”
by comparing the colors of the rainbow
directly with the notes of the diatonic scale
visible light occupying
approximately one octave
in the long keyboard
of the electromagnetic spectrum
but, of course, the editor uses the word “approximately”
&, like the discussions of a lot of other relationships
to rainbows in the book, I think
he’s stretching things a bit because
people have always used rainbows
for whatever they wanted them to be
the Hebrews saw rainbows as a symbol of God’s favor
while the Greeks saw them has harbingers of war & turbulence
& the Zulus thought they were serpents who’d suck up
children and cattle

which turned me to the rainbow itself
one of many “atmospheric optical phenomena”
like the halo of 22°, the sundog, the corona, etc.,
all the result of water or ice falling through the sky
with random orientations
illuminated from behind
by strong white light
& what I hadn’t understood before
is that a rainbow exists
more as a direction than a location
& that I must be standing at a certain angle —
the anti-solar point —
in order to see it
& that conditions exist for seeing some sort of rainbow
24 hours a day
for example—last week
we got back a roll of film
with pictures of P. & D. building blocks
& in one shot
there is a small arc of light
to the right of their building
& I’m not sure exactly
what to call it
or how it happened
but I do feel extremely lucky
to have been looking there
from the right angle
to that place
at that time


Gray Jacobik


Afternoons of bed, of touch, of easy talk,
...........slatted venetian light,

a bowl of floating roses on a desk.
...........Copper evening radiance

on the buildings we walked past, late meals
...........in outdoor cafés, the shared

carnival of city streets, all I swore I would
...........remember, all

I engraved in my brain with the stylus
...........of intention, is now,

for the most part, irretrievable.
...........What did he say the moment

before I understood his betrayal?
...........The loss is nothing to me now—

only his name sounds familiar. A heated
...........argument, and later I broke

into his apartment and took back a painting
...........he said I’d given him.

The Theory of Multiple Universes
...........says everything is always

continuing in a world inaccessible to us,
...........yet real. Each moment

of pleasure and of anguish, torrid sex
...........and horrific suffering,

time and all possible variants, forever
...........replayed. Does this thought

console or terrify me? An autumn afternoon.
...........He hasn’t yet said he loves me

but I hope he will, and I’ve brought a painting—
...........he hangs it on the wall

opposite his bed. It’s myself I want to give him.
...........Slats of light through his blinds.

Blossoms of roses float in a bowl. On the tape deck
...........Gould’s deliberate intense piano.

He reaches for a pack of Camels, brushes
...........my breast with his arm, stops

and kisses it, nibbles at my nipple. We smile.
...........He’ll finish his cigarette.

We’ll make love again, then go out and find
...........that Italian place on M Street,

dine in the back courtyard in the warm
...........October air. I make this up

because it has vanished, because it must have
...........been something like this.

Perhaps there were no blinds; that detail is too
...........cinematic. Maybe it wasn’t October,

but April. Would he have broken off
...........the stems of roses and floated

the blossoms? Only a vague quick-flickering
...........montage of sensations.

This is Washington years ago, I am
...........in my twenties. He thought I’d given him

the still life: a pewter cup, three eggs, a lemon,
...........caught in a sharp northern light.


Tony Medina

for The Young Lions at Café Nema

Regardless of which nightstick
Hits you upside your head
It still cracks in 4-4 time

The streets still flow red
The gutter chokes on cherry blossoms
Rain splinters into kisses

Horses gallop out of horns
Punching holes through
Smokey neon air

Death is a woman
You mistook for a bass
Stringing her along

Somewhere a bomb is dropping
Somewhere a baby is screaming
Somewhere your mama is dreaming

You’ll come home
You’ll come home


Ken Rumble

from Key Bridge

Lake Artemisia
blue bubbles, map’s bladders—
mouth of Anacostia River,
way up & out
.............(out out (damned spot
In Maryland:
in the loop, the ring
Off most D.C.
.............(meaning federal
maps, that lake drains down
.............(Artemisia—genus of plants distinguished by a
.............(peculiarly bitter or aromatic taste, including the
.............(common wormwood, mugwort & southernwood
.............(Artemis—Diana, huntress goddess of the moon

............. .............(what do these things concern
............. ............. .............(with a depression in the land
............. ............. ............. .............(water pools into,
............. ............. ............. ............. .............a location (ripples
follows a ragged wave of green down
the map past Brentwood, Colman Manor, Sheverly & on
into the District, widening under Benning,
Sousa, Douglass & 11th Street Bridge, carves D.C.
to a pair of barbs where it mingles
with the Potomac loses its name mixes
off the map into the room silt & minnows slosh
across the hardwood floors dirty pants swirl
in the slight current the bed goes dark & wet
cools knees laps ribs swells
books like bellies sweeps the page ink into faint
black clouds wets beard eyes ears breath
buoyant enough to float
a few feet off the floor



Tina Darragh began writing poetry in Washington, DC in the late 1960s as a student at Trinity University, where she studied with the poet Michael Lally. Darragh's books include on the corner to off the corner (Sun & Moon, 1981), Striking Resemblance (Burning Deck, 1989), and dream rim instructions (Drogue Press, 1999). Her most recent work is a collaboration with the poets Jane Sprague and Diane Ward published as the belladonna Elders Series #8 (belladonna, 2009). Darragh earns her keep as a reference librarian at Georgetown University and lives in Greenbelt, MD with her husband, the poet P. Inman.

Gray Jacobik lived in DC in the 1970s and 80s, and now lives in Deep River, CT. He collections include Brave Disguises (AWP Poetry Prize, Pittsburgh University Press, 2002), The Surface of Lost Scattering (XJ Kennedy Prize, Texas Review Press, 1999), and The Double Task (Juniper Prize, University of Massachusetts Press, 1998). A memoir-in-verse, Little Boy Blue, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.

Tony Medina is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University. His most recent books include I and I, Bob Marley, My Old Man Was Always On the Lam, and Pictures of Broke.

Ken Rumble is the author of Key Bridge (Carolina Wren Press, 2007), and a member of the 715 Washington artist collective. Raised in the DC area, he now lives in Durham, NC.


Published in Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 2010.


To read more about this anthology:
Tenth Anniversary

To read more by Gray Jacobik:
Gray Jacobik on The Capital Hill Poetry Group: Literary Organizations Issue