Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MEDICINE BOTTLE

imagine the medicine bottle wakes up
and its amber glass
shows no sign of life
because it is dark inside
the cabinet above the sink,
imagine it somehow reads
its own label backwards
and derives some
meaning from it, realizing
it is responsible
for all the household’s
throats or stomachs or veins,
imagine a new burden
sitting so deathly still
within the green or golden tonic
no rippling wave or
nervous hiccup can disturb it,
run to your cabinets
all of you and try
to open the door in time
to see the image of some bitter root
floating in the bubble of a dream.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A BRIGHT GREEN VINE

A BRIGHT GREEN VINE

she has found the extra button
on the inside of one sleeve
of her blouse. she traces its edge
with her finger and I picture
her brain making the same
delightful ding of a typewriter
being reset at the end of one line:
she says she doesn’t mind selling
her soul in a world where
spares are so easy to come by.
we are sitting in the parking lot
of the bakery on main street
and we are hungry, so hungry
all we have planned for the
rest of the day is talking about food.
I am wondering if paper is more
nutritious than I know
and whether or not I could eat
a book slowly until payday.
I tell her the library has a dictionary
that might keep us alive for weeks.
she says she’d rather steal
and if she steals she says I better
steal too. I don’t know why.
are you kidding? she asks.
any judge might understand why
a rational person might be driven
to steal food, but not if they’re caught
with a person eating a book.
well, I say, changing the subject,
this would all be easier if adam
and eve hadn’t fucked up the garden
of eden. we could be feasting on
tangerines and roast chicken right now
stark naked and happy as clams.
it’s the way God intended it, I say.
she says she knows and asks
if I have any idea how much larger
the church was that one year
when the germans claimed
the body of Christ actually came
in the form of a gingersnap
and I can hear the dry soil inside
her stomach turning as
a bright green vine begins to grow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

KEEPING BETTY PAGE

KEEPING BETTY PAGE

you said the only thing you brought
to Iraq that wasn’t standard issue
was a Betty Page poster you kept
folded up into a hundred tiny squares
so that when you unfolded it
it looked like some sort of pinup quilt
you said Betty went where you went
because the army no longer considered
a girl from the fifties ‘pornographic’
and besides, who could turn her down?
there was something about the way
she wore spiked high heels even when
she was climbing trees or ironing sheets
and the jungle green bible in your rucksack
had a loosely bound spine which left
ample space for her buxom body
between the leaves of Luke and John.
but what about your men, I wanted to know,
did they bring anything from home?
you said you made a point of
never giving two shits what another man
had stashed in his hundred pound bag
but I suppose they had pictures too, you went on,
although I knew a guy who brought
a piece of gum his girlfriend had chewed.
it’s strange, you said, what we hang on to
because I still have Betty folded up today
in an antique cigar box at home but
I haven’t unfolded her in years for fear
she’ll collapse in a heap of dust.
I just like knowing she’s there, you said,
creased edges and all
and yes I do know she had a hard life
with a pervert father and a mom who was
permanently out to lunch
but I’d feel more pity for her, you said,
if she didn’t look so damn sinful with
a red rose between her teeth.

Monday, December 1, 2008

SEASON OF WAITING

perhaps it is because we are in the season of waiting
those months when empty streets pull the wind down from
a silver-white sky, churches drape themselves in violet cloth
and candles are left burning on windowsills at night.
perhaps this is why I see no point in opening my curtains
day after day, putting my pen to paper beneath an open window.
what is there to see now that is not greater than itself,
greater than its own reflection in my eye?
I’ve hung the sign of the times on my front door.
winter is winter, the key to all birth woven into a wreath of cedar.
outside, the squirrels have stopped screaming at each other
and hold their tails over their frost-bitten heads as it snows.
it is the same for me. I’d rather close my eyes right now,
sleep through the old ceremony of time renewing itself.
above the city, plump rats are scaling the same telephone wires
and running, always running, to see what they know is here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A HARSH SEASON

A HARSH SEASON

it is autumn
who comes
in his crisp
grey jacket
it is autumn
who knocks
delivering
a hundred
handwritten
notes
it is autumn
who says
we should not
be surprised
by his coming
it is autumn
who leads us
one by one
down to
the river that is
freezing slowly
gushing vein
of our small town
it is autumn
who tells us
on the riverbed
it is time
he is sorry
and the knife
of October
slides into
our sides
it is autumn
who holds
our bodies
as they stiffen
it is autumn
who lays us down
pulls happy sighs
from our mouths
like bright
yellow scarves
it is autumn
who we watch
sideways
from our position
in the sand
as he knots
our breath
into bundles
sets them to sail
downstream
on individual
dead leaves
it is autumn
who has no eyes
to look down
on us struggling
but has tongue
teeth and lips
to say
he is sorry
he’ll be back in
one year
to work with us
again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

THE IMPORTANCE OF BLOWING BUBBLES

I’m in the basement blowing bubbles
from an old pink bubble jar and hoop.

Upstairs the phone is ringing.
It is very important that I stay here
in the basement blowing bubbles.

A wise man once told me the universe is fueled
by the slight death of things.
I wasn’t surprised. This man had seen war.
I didn’t have the courage to offer an alternative explanation.
This man keeps an American flag in every room of his house.

There is one tiny window in my basement
covered in cobwebs and dust.
It lets in just enough light to show
each bubble while it lasts
wobbling from the hoop
a swirling sphere of pink and blue and clear
bobbing toward the old brick foundation where it bursts.

The man who told me how the universe is fueled was wise
but I never said I liked him.
Nevertheless, I wish he was here right now
listening to the silent room, my breath,
the plink of tiny drops of soap falling on the concrete floor.
I think it would give him peace.

The phone has stopped ringing
and begun again three times now.
Whoever is calling must really want to talk.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's a Sunday morning in Pennsylvania. How could I not write this?

MYSTIFICATION

while praying
after mass
the Virgin Mary
in her baby blue
cloak and
pearl colored veil
leans down
reaches
over a bank
of lit candles
to touch me gently
on one shoulder
her lips like
a cut strawberry
she straightens
to brush a lock
of hair off her
china doll face
and whispers
excuse me
ma’am
I hate to
disturb you but
don’t you think
oh don’t you think
Jane Austen
could be
my twin?
Well, Tom and I are in Pennsylvania for a long weekend, and I've had a chance to write in the backseat of our camper van as we cruised up I-81. I'm currently reading The Really Short Poems of A.R. Ammons, which is definitely influencing my work.


WHERE I SEE MYSELF IN FIVE YEARS

I wonder if someone asked me exactly
five years ago
where do you see yourself in five years

because I know I didn’t have the pleasure of saying
well

I see myself in a field in South Carolina
unemployed, frustrated and twirling my hair
as I sit in tall grass

three donkeys grazing around me
one the color of a nickel, one a red almond, one like milk

I’m sure five years ago I said something to the tune of
business and success
and I wasn’t thinking clearly about the possibilities.

----------------------------------------------------------

NATIONAL

the enormous metal beater
moves through the flooded
cranberry field
turning it into a proper bog
sea of red hearts
bobbing

----------------------------------------------------------

Friday, November 7, 2008

I am having some MAJOR writer's block lately, guys. I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to come up with anything good. I sat in the waiting room of Boyd Tire Company (waiting on my van and its new shiny, round tires) reading Great Expectations and wondering why I couldn't write anything lately. Of course, Lish might be right: Dickens sucks out your creative soul. I'm still experimenting.

Anyway, this is today's piece. I was thinking of my sister as I wrote it. I hope you enjoy it.

PATIENT IN ROOM 135

He swings his arm out
to punch me in the jaw
as I stand over him feeling his pulse.
The drugs he can no longer have
are still speaking in the folds of his brain
still wiggling inside his muscles.
He smells of old pumpkin
and I combed a spider from his beard last night.
I am quicker than he is now, clean
but he says the smell of cotton
drives him insane. And someone keeps whispering
to him don’t let the devil’s daughter touch you.
He misses. I tell him my father is a laborer
in Washington state. Not a perfect man
but definitely not the devil.
He asks where my mother is
and falls asleep before I can finish telling him
she is living beside a beautiful lake now
watching wrens build their summer nests.
If I could only pray when a candle was nearby
my heart would wither like a cut rose.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Don't I wish this was how my day went?

INTERRUPTION

Sitting on the bank
of the Nooksack River

next to a blackberry
bush, next to some beetles

doing their beetle business

I’m in the middle
of a good clear thought

when floating by
goes an old wooden ladder

all on its own.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TIN STAR

There’s a tin star hanging
from a nail in my bedroom door.
It’s beautiful, with tiny leaves
pressed into its design.
One of my sisters brought it
home with her from Amsterdam.
At night I imagine her buying it,
slipping into some boutique
with her coat buttoned up
asking in broken Dutch for a souvenir,
something for her sister
something that might do
as a Christmas decoration all year long,
and the woman behind the counter saying
she knew just the thing
and knotting my little star on its red satin thread.
As it is, I know my little star’s real home.
Dangling over the frosty window of a bar,
nestled between an artificial pine bough
and the neon Amstel sign.
It is advent both here and there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Per Christa's request, I'm posting the poem I wrote in the park yesterday as I waited for our writing meeting to start. It was such a nice day outside...I was sitting underneath a tree (don't know what kind...maple, maybe?) that was just starting to turn red from yellow. I was determined not to write about it, it was so beautiful! I wanted to see if I could focus on anything else!

I'm not feeling any creative inspiration today, probably because I haven't done much reading, but it's making me feel a little blue. Guess I'll go read?

IN THE PARK

I wish I wasn’t alone,
wish I couldn’t
see my shadow,
wish I could say wild dogs
were chasing me away.
I wish I could say
there was a book
in my hands
but I’m alone in the park
sitting on soggy grass
watching a hornet
crawl over its nest.
I wish I were a hornet
relatives packed around me
like clothes in a suitcase
but I am solitary
heavy in the mud
and just as ugly as
I can imagine.
I wish I were a squirrel
or a scarf
always running around myself
I wish I were a dirt path
or a harmonica
something people could use
This poem means
I am not winter
I am not frost or rain
I will always have a face and hands
and these two responsible arms
I will always be dying or dead
I will always be born
I will never be something as useful
as turbulence or teeth
or anything else that shines.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hello all!

I had a great day today, kicking off the morning with a trip to the Thumbs-Up Diner with Tom and Jason to indulge in some tasty breakfast foods...I took the train from there up to Inman Park to meet Christa for our writing group meeting. Fortunately, I was about a half hour early and it was a beautiful day outside, so I sat in the park writing until Christa arrived to pick me up. We went to a coffee shop and did a few writing exercises, critiqued some of each other's work, and afterward walked around Little Five Points in the sun. Tom met us up there so I didn't need to take the train home, and we went to REI to get me a new winter coat. Hurray! Now I'm sitting here drinking tea, preparing to read the Sunday comics after a nice sit-down with my Louise Gluck book of poems. Does it get better than that?

The poem I'm posting today isn't one that I wrote while I was with Christa, actually; it's something I just wrote a couple minutes ago. But I hope you enjoy it. I look forward to all the comments and hope more people will begin to see my poetry this way. This piece in particular is just a small exercise and hasn't been revised. With that in mind...

Happy Sunday Evening!

JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT

she brought the freshly picked
jack-in-the-pulpit inside
carrying it like a smaller child
in her white arms
and her sister sitting
at the kitchen table told her
in a grave, grave tone
it was illegal to pick
a jack-in-the-pulpit
those strange maroon funnels
that grew behind the barn

she had always imagined
they came to life
crimson-caped women at night
she didn’t know why she picked one
she thought she might press it in the Bible
or sleep with it under her pillow
but the look on her sister’s face
was serious as their mother’s china

so she ran outside
tore the pretty flower to bits on the porch
as sirens chirped to life
somewhere beyond the alfalfa field

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Just a poem today folks. Go figure, this one started out being titled, "I Can't Write."

Enjoy!

THE LAST GOOD PRETZEL

I remember the last time I had a good pretzel,
it was at a hockey game. I’d brought Great Expectations
in my purse and I was reading the part about
Pip in the cemetery staring down through the fog
at the grave of his parents
when he’s suddenly snatched up by an escaped convict
and somebody scored the first goal and the horn blaring
scared me so bad I had hiccups the rest of the game.
The guy next to me kept shouting
send ‘im to the sin bin! send ‘im, send ‘im!
and it sounded like a church song the way he sang out send ‘im!
like he was waiting for God to come down out of the domed ceiling
dressed in striped white and black
saying, My Good Son, Ye Must Go To The Sin Bin
and what was really sad was that I didn’t know at first
what the “sin bin” was, and I had to ask, and the shouting guy
had already been looking at me funny for reading
and you can imagine how he looked at me then,
but I learned “sin bin” is, of course, another name for the penalty box.
I bought myself and that man a five dollar pretzel and
a five dollar bottle of water
and for all it’s worth ten dollars worth
of hockey food isn’t enough to cure hiccups at all
but the shouting guy liked me a lot more after that
and a good pretzel is a good pretzel and this pretzel was like eating
salt from heaven over a yellow tablecloth it was that good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This morning it's a whopping 38 degrees in Atlanta, making for a chilly commute. Good thing I'm not commuting. I'm off work today and tomorrow, spending my time relaxing whenever I'm not cleaning the house or playing Slave to the Gym. I'm also trying to write. Go figure. :)

I love it when it gets cold here. It tricks my memory, makes me think I'm home in Washington. How is Washington these days? How is my favorite little state? (Oregon, you're a close second.) Let's see. There's a house for rent on Pioneer...and Pierce College is on an ongoing search for English faculty. *sigh* The possibilities.

Tom and I might be moving soon. (And by "soon" I mean 8 more months in Atlanta.) This is the first time I'm saying it to anyone but family (and where can you publicize if not the internet??) and I'm a bit nervous. (Amy and Tara are right. It does suck to watch your mouth. And one must do that online.) Anyway. Tom's going to the Captain's Career Course in Columbus, GA, in July of next year. We'll live there for about 6 months (or so), until he somehow works his magic to get stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. Let's hope he doesn't get sucked into a speedy deployment, okay?

We're both homesick here and are getting tired of being away from family. I'm sick of being depressed, though I know I pack that wherever I go. But I think a drastic improvement could be made if we were able to move back to the west coast. We want to start a family and can't do it while we feel so scattered, like there's no solid ground under our feet. Plus I'm sick of most local passersby looking at me like they want to hurt me. (What did I do??)

I wrote a poem this morning. I hope you guys like it. Don't work too hard to "get it," just let your imagination open and think whatever thoughts it lets come. You know? Here it is. Until next time?

IT IS LONELY
(in response to Joanne Kyger’s poem)

How could I not agree? I like to
agree, especially with women.

I see the black butterflies you saw.
I hear the crickets and frogs

reminding me: I don’t live here.
It makes me want a drink.

Do you sense the magpie waiting
at the end of the drive? A truly ugly bird.

A couple pretty blue feathers
and the reputation of a buzzard.

You know what makes things
easier? Never let your winter clothes

get dusty. Move every six months.
Follow the cold as it swings

around our marble globe,
a perfect wave of white.

Above all, never put anything in storage.
Never tuck letters away.

Live your life in piles around the
house you never owned.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I've decided to start blogging, mostly because Amy and Tara are so much more sophisticated and tech-savvy than I am that I'm starting to feel behind the times. I also enjoy run-on sentences.
Thank you for reading if you're anyone else, family or friends! Please leave comments! I usually post poems on my myspace page, but lately I've begun to wonder if this isn't a better network for getting your feedback. (Yes, I said yours. I want to know what you think!)
I'm hoping my blog will be mostly poems. But then again, I need a place to vent as well. To talk about what I heard on NPR (to make me look smart), what I think about shopping and sizes (to make me fit in with the Jennsylvania crowd), and what kind of day I had at work (to make me appear normal). Can I give you a little bit of my background? Yes? Great!
Let's start off by saying that my poems are almost always fictitious, and, regarding my first post, my parents are neither stones nor fallen leaves. I'm human. My name is Abby, and I studied English at Seattle University from 2001-2005. I enjoy teaching violin and writing lessons (yes, separately.) Poetry's my forte, I suppose, but, as a writer, I'm supposed to doubt your judgment just as often as I doubt my own.
My best friends are scattered across the country right now. (Or, perhaps it's me that's scattered.) I spend free minutes cruising craigslist, looking for apartments and homes for rent in areas I wish I lived in, mostly not in the south, mostly closer to Portland. My family is enormous and, like everyone says, I love them. (They're my family.) Now I'll just spout off facts!
I'm a vegetarian that likes to go vegan when she can. I'm married to a man who makes no sense, he's in the military, he reads American history books on purpose, and I can't wait to see him dance (oh yes. He dances.) at our daughter's homecoming ceremony (I know he'll be a chaperone). I listen to opera, much to Amy's chagrin, though I don't understand a lot of it. I also listen to Christmas music every year from September 1st until...well, maybe February. I used to be a substitute teacher when I lived in Alaska. I loved it. I worked most often in high school and middle school English classrooms as well as the intensive needs schools. I speak broken German and I've played the violin for fifteen years (anyone need lessons?). I hope I keep up with this blog. I work today at a veterinary clinic in East Atlanta as a technician (though I have yet to get my degree as veterinary tech) and spend my evenings studying for my MFA in Writing. I'm a low-residency student at Pacific University and I'll graduate in June 2009. I'm excited. (Really.)
And I'm about to eat some chocolate. (Anyone want to join me?)
I've just started this blog today and wanted to post a poem to kick things off!

NOTE FROM MY CONSCIENCE

This is why you have so little to say. Your mother
was a simple stone. Your father a fallen
birch leaf. You were born on the bed of a river
under a pumpkin sun and a hot pink
sky. God owns a cabin close by. You were tucked in
every night with the sand fleas and frogs.
Your forehead is a trap door. Your eyes are teabags
soaking in mugs of steam. When you asked
for your first pair of shoes you were given a handful
of fish bones instead. This is why you have
so little to say. If only your mother were a camel.
If only your father were a hummingbird.
If only God had been a bedtime story and the sheets
you slept in had been clean as cotton. If only
your ankles had been your weakness, if only your
soul had been a sword at your side. Your
mother was a simple stone. Your father a fallen
birch leaf. Who could’ve said whether you’d
be short or tall? You have so little to say!


Thanks for reading! -Abby