Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NEW POETS

Current Events on the Poetry Front:
1.

I got a message from Marvin Bell the other day. He's going to be editing the fourth volume of "New Poets / Short Books" published by Lost Horse Press, and he wants me to be one of the three featured poets in the collection. Nifty! Even though I was in the middle of frantically tying up loose ends before moving to Colorado (and had just finished grading finals) when I got his message, I squeezed in a few hours with my new manuscript.

You can read about the New Poets series here, on the Lost Horse Press website. (There's a menu button that says "New Poets Series". Pretty simple.) Basically, Marvin picks three poets each year to feature in an anthology of sorts. We each submit 20ish pages of poetry, about a chapbook's worth. They're edited for the next month or so. Then the press prints 500 copies (a small run, but it's a small project, in theory) with the three books inside.
My small book is titled Me and Coyote, and, of course, I highly recommend it for your reading pleasure. I'll definitely be posting a link here later on, in April most likely, when copies become available and you are pushed and shoved to buy one. Or you could just get a copy off amazon.
2.

I finally got a sophisticated About the Author photo taken by Sara Randolph, an awesome photographer in the Columbus area. Look at some of her work here! She was a pleasure to work with. I met her downtown and we made a mad dash to get some shots taken by the older brick buildings downtown between torrents of crazy rain. Anyway, I'll be picking up the finished product tomorrow evening, and I hope I'll get a minute to post the photo. Mostly so I can sit here looking at my own blog thinking, dang, I'm pretty!

3.

Still currently entered in the Cider Press Review book award contest. Anyone else heard about their past scandal? And the rebuttal? I'm still not sure what to think. I guess I'll have to wait and see what the results are.

4.

My writing group met for the last time today! I'm sad to be leaving, knowing that I won't be able to sit down with Crystal and Charish every other Thursday over our portabella paninis at Fountain City. Boo. (By the by, Charish has her own poetry blog here.) I hosted our last meeting and we feasted on my homemade baguettes, some brie, and gingerbread cookies. Yum.

I got a quick picture of Crystal (left) and Charish (right) before we wrapped things up. Nice, no?



I started thinking about the other writing buddies I've left in different parts of the country... then I thought maybe I'd share some photos of those writers with you.

Wish I'd gotten a picture of Karen and the crew in Atlanta. I did have a wonderful writing partner in Atlanta named Christa Shelton, who now does some wonderful work with Help4Youth, a non-profit organization that she founded with Joshua Olatunde. They perform for school assemblies and encourage kids to understand the sciences through art--a great concept. Here's a photo of the two of them from a camping trip we all took to the Gulf coast:
Here's a photo of the writing group before Atlanta, when I still lived near Anchorage, Alaska:

That's Connie Ambler (left), me (center), and DeeDee Zobian (right). A nice couple of ladies! But before I was in Anchorage, there was my group in Vancouver:



(Why this picture is so incredibly small, I have no idea.) That's Katherine Van Shoonhoven (left), who has a gift with watercolor...check out her work here... and Gregory Manin in the middle. Miss our sessions too! Of course, I can't leave out those critics with whom I met every six months for the past two years (another wee photo):

That's Deb Tenney (left), Linda Weiford (center), and Adrianna Buonarroti (right). These women have been able to critique my work at all hours, in all moods, while cooped up in dormatories and windstruck hotels on the Oregon coast. They're brilliant writers. Deb's work you can find on her blog. Linda's been writing non-fiction and working as a journalist for years; she's gutsy and smart and, well, loud, but in a really eloquent way. Adrianna's got an intricate magical realism novel going right now and has been working under the mentorship of Molly Gloss for some time. Adrianna's probably one of the most patient people I know, in practically every respect.

Well, I guess I should end this post. I'm all nostalgic now. To Crystal, Charish, Christa, Karen, DeeDee, Connie, Katherine, Gregory: Thanks for the help! Hope you're all still writing...

...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

WHAT I NEED

I was gathering my purse and coat after the last reading of the year for Arden's Student Reading Series (Selena Anderson and Kristin Taylor were wonderful) when a nice-looking fellow approached me with a question. He wanted to know if he could find my goat poem anywhere, that he and his wife had both enjoyed it at my reading in October. Two things occurred to me: 1) I rarely get requests from people who don't look crazy. 2) I haven't even sent the goat poem out to publishers, and I have no good reason for that. This poem is a lightweight and has been read several times at readings in Oregon.

Of course, it helps to be in the same place for longer than 6 months at a time; a permanent address makes submitting work a hell of a lot easier. I haven't submitted to more than 10 journals or so in the past year. However, I think I might be in Colorado for at least one solid year (starting next month) and should probably consider pushing my work "out there" more often. Any suggestions on a nice home for my poem "What I Need"?



WHAT I NEED

what I need is a goat
a mountain goat, a billy goat
a pretty little pygmy goat
with knobby Puck-like horns
salt-and-pepper coat
tight as a drum
a big balloon belly
I need a goat
to keep in our yard
to follow me everywhere
to take to work
I need a goat
who’s appetite incarnate
who would swallow
the moon
if he could but reach it
a goat to eat
tin cans pizza boxes
orange peels and
dirty napkins
eat gifts we don’t want
broken bookcases
worn out shoes
the chess set we never use
recipes gone bad
beer bottles band-aids
pictures that make me
look fat
I need a goat
to choke down books
with bad endings
stupid poems
utility bills
magazines with celebrities’
butts on the cover
I need a goat
to help me teach high school
devour late essays
uncomfortable chairs
broken pens bad erasers
sticks of chalk
pounds and pounds
of coffee grounds
makeup bags compacts
confiscated ipods and porn
I need a goat
with an appetite for words
who will gobble up
every fuck! I say
when I should’ve said darn
every wrong definition
every mispronounced name
every last crumb
of ridiculous chit-chat
I need a goat
a pretty little pygmy goat
to live in the yard
so every time you said
something you wish
you hadn’t we could
pour it into his dish
stroke his prickly ears
while he slurped it up
and ate the bowl
washed it down with a pair
of mismatched socks
we could name him
Poppy or Sunflower
or Butchie or Bert
and we would feel better
the house would
stay cleaner
life would be easier
if I had a goat



...

Friday, November 20, 2009

MANUSCRIPT AHOY!

Woo hoo! I am finally shipping off my first book-length manuscript, and it's going to (hopefully) land in the laps of those wonderful editors at the Cider Press Review.

This year, CPR's Book Award is being judged by David St. John, a poet whose work, to me, inspires patience and ferocity, simultaneously. (Yeah, I said it.) Anyway, this is the first time I'll be submitting this kind of manuscript (unless you count my borderline-comical attempt at a chapbook back in 2003) (which I don't count) (because it was terrible) (no, you can't read it). I like to think that David's instruction thus far through Pacific University is what's making me confident enough to submit. For some reason, the idea of having him at the helm of a contest isn't as nerve-wracking as any other poet. I just can't picture him shredding manuscripts and cackling over the flames that consume my About the Author page. He's so damn nice.

I don't have a whole lot to report, other than the growth of my short collection of poems mocking poetry. I've got a working title (thanks, Sarah) but I'm still adding to its content.

I'm considering reducing it from 50 poems to 30... or so. I'm at 21 right now, and although it's still coming easily, I don't want to get to, you know, 43, and just start eeking them out for no reason other than bulk. I spent my office hours today writing poems that make fun of the I'm-A-Woman-Let-Me-Prove-It-Then-You-Can-Fear-Me poems, the I'm-A-Man-Let-Me-Prove-It-Then-You-Can-Respect-Me poems, the Poets-Are-Fascinated-By-Birds poems, and the Look-How-I-Can-Write-About-The-Seasons poems. So far so good.

Thanks to every one for reading! Oh, hey, and thanks to Charish for tell me how to put photos and links up on this thing. I'm making slow advances toward becoming almost-tech-savvy. Slow, I say!

...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

STUPID TITAN

Poem for a rainy, foggy November afternoon in the south.

STUPID TITAN


They say Prometheus
brought a bucketful
of water to our planet
after his first delivery
but no one wanted it.
We were all lighting up
our trees and bushes
and straw huts
dancing around like dogs
shouting hey Prometheus
look what we did
and the great titan himself
rolled his eyes
rolled a cigarette
and waited for the flood.


...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NEW PROJECTS

Hi guys!

This post won't include a poem; it's more of an update. A poetry update, though.

I have two new projects going on right now. The first is a book contest entry through Cider Press Review, which David St. John will be judging. David's a lovely individual and worked as an insightful instructor during my time at Pacific University. In fact, I've never felt 100% comfortable with sending out a book-length manuscript until I heard that David would be the final judge. Not that that guarantees any awards, let alone glowing feedback, but something about the way I've seen David work made me think it would be okay to fail in front of him. This being said, I'm compiling about 60 pages of poetry, making it my first official book. First prize in this contest is publication of said book by Cider Press, a wonderful organization that puts together quality, artistic compilations. I wouldn't say I plan on winning. (Cider Press has a very talented reader base that has, in general, been writing for a much longer time than I have. They have wisdom and experience on their side.) Actually, one of the best things that will come of this is having a manuscript by the end of this month, one that I can start sending out to other publishers when I get more "okay" with its finality. It'll be nice to put my first selection of poems together, mostly so I can continue on, swimming straight toward my next book-length piece.

Right now, my book is split up into three numbered sections: the first group of poems exposing my thoughts on the multi-faceted lives of women. It's got a feminine vibe, with most of my humorous pieces hanging out there. (This section is headed with an eerie quote from Charlotte Perkins Gilman, however.)

The second section's got all my "war poems" tied together. Here, I expose my observations on Tom's experience with deployment as well as the wars of the past. This section includes several published pieces, including the one from CALYX's current issue, "Late Autumn in Vancouver & Baghdad: The Preservation of Women".

The third and final section showcases my more surreal/narrative poems, including the title piece, "Breakfast With An Idiot", which, by the way, has nothing to do with Tom. : ) This section falls under a wonderful quote from one of surrealist Andre Breton's poems: "All at once too much freedom had been given to me..." I love that line. Not only does it suggest the sometimes-frightening power of our own imaginations, it also makes us second-guess our love of freedom.

Moving on.

My second project (and my current favorite) is a collection of 50 poems, all of which are hellbent on mocking poetry and poets themselves. Sarah helped me come up with the title (while sitting at her desk in Everett, Washington), which ended up as such: "50 Poems: A Compendium of Rather Short Poems, All Of Which Mock Poetry And Poets Alike, Vaguely, At Times, But Usually Pretty Clearly." I like it!

These poems, I think, stem from my study of accessibility in contemporary poetry. Why do poets write the way they do? Why do people unfamiliar with poetry seem to fear it? Why is it so hard to understand? Why are artists, by banking on enigmatic wordplay, effectively killing off their own art? Why do "normal people" distrust poets? Why are readings only attended by other writers? (I know this is not only caused by interests alone. There's something about poets--or poetry--that pushes others away.)

Anyway, I've been interested in contemporary poetry's accessibility (or lack thereof) for the past 5 years or so. In fact, I wrote my graduate thesis about it, hoping to uncover a way for new writers to avoid the pitfalls of inaccessibility.

These new poems, my compendium (a word that Sarah insisted upon, considering its multi-syllabic, infrequently used makeup), tackle the great poems of our past, the most wonderful, powerful, moving, sorrowful, passionate pieces of humankind, and effectively (I hope) crushes them, pounds them down, and shrinks their purpose and message into short, easy-to-swallow, hilarious little condescensions. Perhaps I can include a preview. The following is the first poem I wrote for this collection; it's a piece that I think sums up a lot of what a poet really wants to say when she sits down to write. It is titled, "That Sunset, The Moon, Your Car, Her Hair".

THAT SUNSET, THE MOON, YOUR CAR, HER HAIR

.
.I can’t
. help it
.
.everything
.
.reminds
. me
.
.of
. me
.

I just want to point out, right now, that I realize I am assuming the role of the self-centered poet here, and that I am embodying the very creature I aim to mock. I'm okay with that. Poets are annoying. Myself included.

Basically, I'm out to laugh at myself and others. Hopefully this book is a good way to do it. As it stands, I'm currently 9 poems deep into this 50-poem project. It's still in the infant stages. But it's coming together nicely, methinks. Actually, in one hour, I'm scheduled to show it to my writing group downtown. We'll see what they think. As far as publication for this book, I'm not certain just yet how I'll go about it. The guy I share an office with at CSU, Johnny Summerfield, is the head of New Plains Press, and he's mentioned that I should show him my work. (Eegads, he's also the director of the writers' retreat that goes to Sicily for one month every summer for some quiet time. I might have to ask him more about that.) Anyway, I'm not sure what to do as far as publication interests. Should I look for a specialized-humorous-poetry press? Or go with the ones I know and read? There ain't a helluva lotta funny presses left living these days.

Well, this has been refreshing. Thanks for reading! Hope everyone has a wonderfully productive end of 2009. And Happy Thursday!


...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

BEAUTIFUL BEAST

Tom says I'm terrible at keeping this thing updated. But here's a new poem! Actually, it was written last month. But Peter Sears gave it a thumbs up, so I'm posting it anyway. By the way, Peter's poem "The Beast" will be in his new book, and I can't wait to check it out. (The best poem? The one about driving His Weakness around in the backseat of his car.) So, here's to you, Peter.


BEAUTIFUL BEAST


In the single-room cabin he built on the river
he scatters his fishing poles like dirty socks
and survives on noodles, bananas, and trout.

He once told a priest he’d wanted to get married
but never got around to it, which was a lie
because he had been around to it when he was in his twenties

but he didn’t see what other men saw in their wives,
recipes, pearls, white whicker trash cans in the john.
He wanted a woman who cleaned his rifle and disappeared.

He doesn’t think he’s grown too old to attract a woman
nor does he believe his cabin has made him a hermit.
He’s hip enough to hold a grudge against Jane Fonda

and young enough to keep a condom in his wallet.
His father used to call him Buck, and his mother once said
he moved from room to room so quietly as a child

he reminded her of a beautiful beast being hunted.
He sometimes pretends he is a magical young buck
and wades into the river without his fishing line, just to stand there,

majestically, like he’s balancing a heavy crown on his head.
He can’t imagine a wife understanding this. The fish
have come so close he’s felt their fins slapping his boots.


...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

CHAMORRO LOVE RECIPE

Ah, Frank, the Chamorro, and best next-door-neighbor we've had in a long time. God help me if you read this.


CHAMORRO LOVE RECIPE


Frank swears there’s Chamorro blood rioting in his veins;
it keep his hair dark and causes some nasty heart palpitations.

His backyard is full of washing machines.
He owns a small plumbing business and he switches the parts

out of each machine so often on slow days
that he no longer knows which belt belongs to which drum.

When it takes more than two hours to gut one washer
and reconstruct another, I send for the police.

They’ve come over twice in the past month
to pry Frank’s tools from his bloodied hands

while he hollers and pants on the floor of his shed,
screaming about how no self-respecting ex-Guamanian warrior

will be bested by some piece-of-shit tin can
designed to scrub the lace off ladies’ underwear.

He destroys a perfectly good washing machine
every time this happens.

Last Friday I brought him a turtle shell I found by the riverbed.
I thought he could use it as a water bowl for his cats

but Frank said he used to wear his father’s tortoise-shell belt buckle
until he lost it in a flood ten years ago.

He cleared his throat and put his hands on his hips,
said he’d like to think of me as a daughter from then on

if I didn’t mind. He wanted to cook me some island food,
tapioca or maybe some hibiscus buds baked into a pie.

He glanced at my broad shoulders, my narrow feet,
and told me a Chamorro’s feast sticks to one’s bones,

keeps the eyes a pretty shade of green and leaves the warriors
swooning in a woman’s yard like a flock of toads.


...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

VANITY

So, I'm giving meter a go. But I'm notoriously incorrect in the way I stress the unstressed, and soften the stresses, if that makes sense. At least it works as a story.

I once had a poem ("The Hussy") accepted for publication in the Cider Press Review, and I contacted the editor to discuss a revision. She wrote back and said, "No, don't change it! We really like how it's written in trimeter, and that's so rarely done!"

My response said a lot about my level of experience. "Really? Trimeter? [frantically digging out the poetic dictionary to see an example of said meter description. tri...tri...tricycle?...means three...] Oh! Yes, well, that WAS my original intention. Wouldn't want to change THAT. Never mind."


VANITY
written in trimeter (except line 5)

I am watching my cat lose her patience
with a shiny black beetle outside.
She is letting him crawl up the post
on which our mailbox is fixed
then batting him down easily—twice,
chewing him lightly each time
to check his wings. From here,
my shaded kitchen window,
I can see his shell cracking
and imagine my cat searching
the reflection of her eyes.
She is vain but it seems practical,
not ugly as it is on a woman.
I have wished I was her before.
The beetle refuses to die,
rising and falling on
the post like a flag. I want
to snap the window open
and shout her name—Suvi!
but I hesitate, and notice
the moon is still awake
at three in the afternoon.
She, too, is vain,
lingering in the daylight.
I find my brows in the glass,
narrow them like wings.


...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

THE LAST SUNRISE

Currently, the majority of my friends are scattered across the country, giving birth to healthy children, furthering their education and careers, or contributing to humanity's greater good. And I? Am sitting at home hypothesizing the circumstances of Satan's death in the mid-twentieth century. And later, I might vacuum the house. But that's about as productive as I get.

Something seems off.


THE LAST SUNRISE


In 1949 the devil appeared in all his glory
with polished horns, scarlet skin, and an arrowhead tail
in the living room of Doris Henningduke.
It was a weepy November afternoon
in Bison, South Dakota, and the snow drifts
surrounding the Henningduke porch
crackled beneath a shell of freezing rain.
Doris sat in front of her busted television
watching the icicles thicken over the front window;
she let her mind grow quiet and the silence swell.
She had no husband to disturb her.
When the devil materialized behind the sofa
clasping his hands over her eyes
Doris wasn’t even aware of her muscles straining
until after she had flipped him head over hooves
onto the cheap coffee table,
where she promptly broke his elbows
and nailed the spike of one of her black pumps
through the center of his forehead.
The devil sputtered a bit, garbled
something about the last mind game
before he lost consciousness and died.
Doris realized the consequences of her actions
and did what any other woman would do,
she hissed a quick prayer of penitence to a God
that was, at that moment, straightening
in His throne, distracted, as if
he’d heard a pair of swallows in the attic.
She dragged the devil out the back door
and, melting a trail of steam across the yard,
propped him up beneath the naked pine
where she began patting snow against his body
until he chilled and the snow stuck to his skin.
If one didn’t look too closely, Doris thought,
he could pass for the snowman of a blind child.
The physical exertion calmed her, so much so
that she was strangely not hungry for supper.
She slumped against what used to be the devil.
The neighborhood didn’t seem to notice.
It was only four o’clock and the sun
hadn’t quite gone down. Only when she could
no longer recall a sunrise did Doris finally weep.


...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ANNE BOLEYN DOESN'T WANT OUR SYMPATHY

Yesterday, as I sat at my desk grading essay prompts, I wondered if I could get my students to write poetry prompts as well. Too bad it might not fit into the basic composition classroom. Maybe sometime after midterms.

I wanted to write about a woman who'd been robbed. Anne Boleyn. She had her head taken away, for God's sake. Okay. What about this woman? What would she say if she came back? She wouldn't want our sympathy.

Sarah and I were chatting online as I simultaneously graded and composed this prompt. I told her the phrase "Anne Boleyn doesn't want our sympathy" popped into my head for some reason. (Is this from a movie? Why this phrase? Anyone?) Sarah told me it had potential. I was still picturing students writing prompts. I saw more poetry prompts in elementary schools in Alaska than I ever see at universities. A child would be able to write this poem easily.

Don't know if it achieved its potential for greatness, but here's what resulted from the prompt. A young student, Eleanor; her mum; and a hint of dead royalty.

ANNE BOLEYN DOESN’T WANT OUR SYMPATHY


Henry VIII’s life was a love story, Eleanor writes,
even though my mum thinks otherwise.
I wish he didn’t kill his wives. Of course,
he had so many of them, I think he ran out of places
to keep them, which is surprising because
kings live in castles with ample storage.
My mum works at the university and says
she knows more about Henry than Henry did,
but she doesn't sounnd happy about it.
When I ask her what Anne Boleyn looked like
she feels better, in a sleepy way,
like she knew Anne and liked her more than Henry.
She says Anne was the most beautiful queen
since Cleopatra, she had brown hair just like ours
and hundreds of dresses, all in a different shade of red.
My mum tells me one or two things like this
(one day she said Anne had a magic pearl necklace
that she used to hypnotize men with full bellies,
another time she said Anne loved purple peonies)
but then she gets mad again and shakes her head
like she’s waking up from a strange dream.
She says Henry put a lot of strong women in the ground.
When I tell her we should bring peonies
to Anne’s grave my mum says
Anne Boleyn doesn’t want our sympathy.
She says Anne would much rather have her head back
so she could run away with a pack of hunters
like she wanted to so long ago, before the court,
before her first piece of jewelry, before she learned
to count how old she was on one hand.

...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

OLD, BRILLIANT POET

OLD, BRILLIANT POET


Becky is an old, brilliant poet and she says I shouldn’t worry.
My concern is valid, she says, every writer foresees
their last great idea. She sits on her porch swing
with a white quilt spread over her lap. It’s October
but the chill is friendly enough, she says,
still more like autumn than winter. I hate the fall, I tell her,
it makes me feel fat, the way I dream about baking
and bread recipes instead of inspiration and book lists.
Becky is resting this afternoon because she has been asked
to translate a Chekhov piece for Norton
and she is a genius when it comes to pacing herself.
She asks if it will make me feel better, to know
she once spent eight hours writing in a Parisian café
and when she brought her notebook home afterward
all she had written was walnut, Caliban, and lightning.
It makes me feel better. Becky reaches forward like Crazy Horse
and points down the road, a thick gold road made of packed sand
that seems to shoot for miles straight from her stained glass door,
and I follow her finger. The postman is coming, she says.
I had assumed, for that crumb of time between
the lifting of her hand and those words leaving her lips,
she had seen something new in the hedge, a new species of bird
perhaps, but Becky’s face is solemn, almost sad.
On the horizon, a bead of dust is erupting, soft brown globe
carrying a white truck from the city.


...

Monday, August 17, 2009

SHOWERED IN STARS

Hi everyone!

Here's a new poem from the other day...went through a bit of a dry spell during the past two weeks and didn't get much out of it. Thought I needed to post something though!

Hey, could you guys let me know who (if you can narrow it down...or come up with one at all) your favorite poet is? I'm putting together a small project for my English 1101 class. I'd be much obliged.

Thanks!


SHOWERED IN STARS


Erin says sometimes she wonders what it might be like
to be showered in stars. She says her yoga instructor told her
to imagine stars falling on her skin the other night.
I’d like to think it feels a little like being rained on
except prettier, but I remember the stars are like planets—
huge, hot, cold, old enough to be characters in stories.
Wanting to feel one land on your skin would be like
asking to wear a tornado or spread the moon on a cracker.
Erin’s dedicated to her practice though, her yoga.
I’m not surprised to see her sitting on the hood of my Subaru
hugging her knees, staring up the sky
like it’ll just be a minute before she understands.
I’m staring at her forehead thinking, rain! it’s like rain!
because at first I think she might be one of those types
who receives telepathic thoughts, but after a while
I realize she’s not, she’s just waiting for a sign.
We can’t even see stars from here. We live in the city.


...

Monday, July 27, 2009

BETTING CHERYL

Perhaps it might be better if I stopped reading these selections of C.S. Lewis writing from the point of view of a devil. They're entirely too good. Good like cake! (I only wish these margins were wider.)


BETTING CHERYL
“Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael.” C.S. Lewis

He said he’d see my fatted calf and raise me one vase filled with coconut oil.
I knew which vase he referred to. He hadn’t used it since the first magician died.
You giggled the words: I swear, I’m a virgin! and I told you to shut it, Cheryl,
this no longer concerned you, though everyone at the table knew very well it did.
He wasn’t bluffing. His wife, at least I think she’s his wife, smiled at him
and he cut thoughtfully into his salmon filet. If he’d been bluffing
he would’ve ordered steak like that time he told me no one ever dies.
This wife of his had her larynx removed when she was just a girl. I heard it was voluntary.
She smiles a lot and it freaks me out. Oh, honey, you said, I love coconut oil!
I wanted to throw you in the river with your wrists tied to your ankles,
but you’d never have your larynx removed on purpose which means your vanity is intact.
It only prolongs your loss to bet higher, he said, swallowing.
He ate the parsley too. What’s sick is how he grinned at you the whole time,
like he was trying to imagine what was in your purse, like he already knew.
But I do know, he said, laughing. He laughs like a mule and gambles like one too.
I didn’t even see a waitress but I yelled for more water. This was getting old.
I raised him again, this time betting all the blue in your eyes. You gaped at his wife
and said, isn’t that sweet! but I ignored you, offered to blow it gently from your head
right then and there, like dust off a fishbowl.


...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

QUEEN

Here, have another poem that's still kinda rough around the edges, particularly in the title department. And would you please comment?


QUEEN


I was reading comfortably until the queen in my book
asked me plainly if I could hear her well enough.
She had just lost a child. It was Rome before Caesar
and she lived in a thick stone palace built up
behind the scabby hillsides rising out of the Mediterranean.
Death snuck in like an ivy tendril and took her baby boy
the way a flower takes water—that’s how she described it.

I didn’t answer her question, but I paused briefly
before going on reading. She went back to tending her fire,
a task meant for servants but she took great pleasure in it,
jabbing the black logs with an ugly bronze sword
whose tip scraped raw white lines in the soot.
She stopped once more and asked how I came to understand her,
did I speak Latin? Her voice was heating up

and I couldn’t tell if she would weep or fling a cinder at me.
I clenched the piece of yarn I used to mark my place.
My little grey cat looked down from the study window, anxious.
But the queen seemed to lose her concentration again
and started a lovely meditation on laurel groves.
I shut the book gently and put my feet down in the shallow river
swirling through my house—a choice I’d made over traditional carpet.

It’s only knee deep from the study to my bedroom.
My cat jumps easily from sill to sill to nightstand,
and we curl up in bed like pearls on the oyster’s tongue.
The cat falls asleep quickly, it’s as good as waking for her,
but I watch flying fish jump over my dresser for hours.
The doves outside my window are relentless with their cooing,
always asking to be let in, always wanting to drink.


...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT MILK

First of all, I'd like to make a wee clarification. I recently discovered that my husband was discussing with the wonderful Peter Sears, bless their little hearts, all of my faults as a poet. Apparently they agree that I am too careless when it comes to letting others see my work; I don't let things simmer long enough.

Well, while it was heartening to hear that Tom discussed these things at all, I automatically became defensive. (This story has no moral. I'm still defensive.) No, I don't keep work to myself often. I obey basic copyright limitations when I'm published, but other than that, I'm usually more than happy to hand poems out and wait for a quickie critique. Not that I need to know. Not that I need assurance. But I do truly enjoy hearing other people react to my work. (Don't we all? Most writers--yes, only most--write to be read.) It keeps me thinking. And it makes my engine run. My poems aren't really few and far between, so I guess I'm not as protective as Tom and Peter think I ought to be.

That being said, I wanted to clarify that this blog is a posting of rough drafts on purpose. I put poems up, typically, within 24 hours of writing them. Sometimes they change drastically with time. (Once it's written, people, it's simmering, all right? We all exist in time, so technically everything I do is simmering.) Sometimes only mechanics change. And, sometimes, I abandon them in my computer files once I see that they aren't the effective ideas I thought they were.

This poem was composed last night. And we'll see in a week or so whether I like it!


WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT MILK


Say I meet the woman who runs the chocolate shop
out on the edge of the York countryside.
Say I ask her to tell me the recipe for a certain truffle
and she knows exactly how its liquor center is made
because the man who brought the rum from the belly of the barge
whose name is Patrick used to be her lover.
Say mentioning rum reminds her how she used to fall asleep
in Patrick’s arms down in the cellar while he told her stories
about Jamaican sunsets and suddenly she’s blushing
because her words are red as raspberries and she waves her left hand
like she’s swatting a familiar, beautiful bug away
and tells me certain truffles, like rum delivery men, just come to be.
Say she tells me this old brick building
used to be a hat shop and I can call her Hattie if I want.
Say my right hand is resting on a chilled glass case then
and I rub with my thumb the old bronze latch there,
straighten my spine, and introduce myself as Eliza Doolittle
because I know it doesn’t matter who I am here
and hats make me think it might have been fun to see the horse races
with a big bowl of birds and tulle and ribbon
pinned to the top of my head like Audrey Hepburn.
Say the chocolate shop woman isn’t thinking of hats at all
but of the building, the bricks, the waxy banister that swirls down
the staircase behind the giant silver mixer, down to the cellar
she used to sleep in so often, where the great refrigerator stands
over a cool concrete floor smooth as a bone.
Say it gets her thinking about those terrible French women
who make a big deal about chocolate among other things like sailors and rum
when all a true truffle maker needs to know is well-tempered milk.
Say she starts chanting m-i-l-k, milk, milk, milk, under her breath
right there behind the counter like she’s found an old rhythm
and she’s about to jump rope around it.
Say she nearly forgets I am there but because I ask
what’s so special about milk, she comes down
from her chocolate Jamaican heaven full of raspberries and Patrick
like a woman in a bottle being poured out in a white river,
and say she gets so sad waking up that fast she imagines
I am crying too and tells me, well, Miss Doolittle,
the angrier the cow the spicier the milk and the quicker
the chocolate is lost to an early curdle, and women like us
with our watering eyes couldn’t handle another loss like that.


...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

BABY WITH MEXICO

Lish was talking about how Mexico is a hard dame to break up with, how she's so difficult, with her roosters and dogs and loud cars, then she sweeps you off your feet with horseback rides and beauty and good food. So I asked Lish what she thought her baby would look like if Mexico got her pregnant. It got me thinking. I read somewhere, the other day, that the French surrealists used a sense of imagination that was "dizzying" and were therefore allowed to write nearly anything they wanted, that it provided them with a sense of literary freedom that hasn't been seen since. Clearly, they're great role models, but also serve as springboards into the nutty. Obsoive.


LETTERS FROM A FRIEND IN MEXICO


Mexico is the kind of lover who breaks your arm
before crushing you on the bedspread, she writes.
She simplifies: Mexico is a talented woman
in a boring brown dress and strips of old leather
criss-crossed around her ankles. Mexico is a ruler
who knows how to torment, who spits pepper
into the throats of roosters and carries like a ring bearer
their wild barking through window latches and keyholes,
who rolls the tire that propels the car that shuttles the boy
that holds the pistol that shoots a silver lasso around a pack of dogs.
She writes to say that Mexico has gotten the entire group
of women she travels with pregnant. That Mexico wants
to be a good husband but the children have come out
part donkey foal, part dove, part tomato vine, part waterfall.
They don’t live long, she writes.
They eat grass, sing, stretch, and dissolve. Her last letter
says she’s been told the only way to get home with her sanity
is to hop from rooftop to rooftop on the back of a trusted farm horse.
A merchant tells her so. He says he hears women escaping at night,
clattering across shingles, above the roosters and cars and dogs.
He says he’s caught them looking down on Mexico
as she calls up to them, promising things—
rivers, limes, rest—but the women in the sky can see
Mexico telling lies about her pockets full of sand.


...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I SLEPT WITH THOREAU

Disclaimer: I didn't actually sleep with a dead guy. However, I just finished reading Amy Belding Brown's book, a speculation on the life of Lydia Jackson Emerson, and, for the first time, I had to remember that RW Emerson, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and Louisa Alcott were all living human beings. I wanted to write about it. And what happens? Apparently, I get frisky with the outdoorsy one.

I've been writing more frequently lately, and I think it's because a) I'm no longer working at the clinic, b) I'm preparing for my last residency, c) my thesis is already bound and ready to be presented, and d) all I really do in my spare time is read and lift weights. Plenty of time to think.

Anyway, this poem is probably (ironically) the most suited to be posted on my blog. The others are under construction and/or not very impressive. Thanks for reading.


I SLEPT WITH THOREAU


It’s true,
I followed a trail of fish scales
to his cabin, followed them
as if they had been pennies
or bread crumbs. He stood alone
on a patch of grass lifting
two small trees (one in each fist)
over his head like dumbbells—
Baby maples, he said.
He had cleaned his teeth with straw.
He had scrubbed his skin with sand.
He said he had something to show me,
wanted to read a short passage
of poetry as I undressed.
I waited patiently by the fire,
crossing and uncrossing my legs.
He stumbled on his own words
and eventually read a page from
the story of Ulysses. He said he wished
he could write the colors gold and red.
The book trembled in his hand,
stubble blossomed on his face
and he asked if I would like some raspberries.
He was an exasperating, nervous young man
and my voice went flat as water
when I said Hank, I don’t make trips like this
every day, now shake those little birds
from your hair and get into bed.



...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

ONE MAN DREAMS OF MARRIAGE

Hey, quick question, before I post this poem. (Note: question is not related to this poem, but to another.) In your esteemed literary opinion (I believe every literate person has one), how do you feel about publishing work that is clearly inspired by someone you know (someone who may read the work) but is not necessarily the subject of said work? I'm still on the edge, and I'd like your thoughts. On one hand, it may not be a good idea to publish something referencing another person when you can't be there to say, "don't worry, you were just the inspiration; it's not really ABOUT you." Then again, what does it matter? Your creative work is your own, in the beginning and end. And I'm not talking about the clearly offensive stuff either, just subtle qualities you may pick up from your friends and throw in on one of your characters. I know this is often something non-fiction writers struggle with as they lay out their memoirs. But poetry, for me, has become a fantastical sort of truth/fiction hybrid. I seem to have all the strings in my hands. I'm curious to know what you consider "allowed". You can message me on facebook to let me know what you think, too.

This all being said, I'd like to post another poem. (Unfortunately, its format doesn't mesh with this blog download, so it's just living in triplets for now.) I wrote it on the floor in the transportation section of Barnes & Noble while waiting for Tom's flight to land. I'd just taught a lesson that spent some time discussing the relevance of memory to poetry writing, why it is sometimes vital, and why, sometimes, it can be damaging. Richard Hugo believes it's typically better to know less about a place before you recreate it in your writing. But don't a ton of authors suggest you "write what you know"?

Apparently, today, I'm all about hearing both sides. Thanks for your input.

ONE MAN DREAMS OF MARRIAGE


As a young man I dreamt
of biting into stacks of leaves
piled high like sandwiches.

It was just a dream.
My sister actually did it.
She spat out a caterpillar,

halved, oozing,
before I fainted.
My mother thought

I’d been shot when
she found me, my sister
crying by my side

with guts on her chin.
When I was old enough to marry
there were all sorts

of sandwiches at the wedding.
Cucumbers on wheat crackers,
parsley in sour cream on toast,

giant tomatoes cut into slabs
over mozzarella fans.
I ate until I stumbled,

in the yard with the swans
and paper lanterns.
My bride, the most

reliable woman in town—
they said her tongue could
do everything except

sound out the s in sorry—
she picked a mint leaf
from her drink and shook it,

two drops of tonic on her cheek,
she kneeled and told me
to open up.


...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

TAKING JUSTICE HOME

...why did I write this while sitting out in the woods? You'd think I would have written one of those aw-gee-nature poems. But no. Here's Esther. I look forward to your feedback!


TAKING JUSTICE HOME


Some day soon I will go back
to that park in Vancouver where
Esther lives comfortably inside
the curve of an old concrete sewer pipe.
She introduced herself as Esther, once,
but I dreamt the night before
I would meet the concept of justice
in vagrant form, so I take everything
Esther does literally and want to know
why she insists upon carrying
a chopping knife tied to the inside
of her shabby cotton jacket.
Justice needs no weapon, in my opinion,
but Esther says she must be prepared
to do battle with Christ when the day
comes because she has lived
a nasty, blackened sort of life
and she refuses, as every lady should,
to go to hell willingly. She is also afraid
of rapists and jazz musicians
who might wander off the beaten path
one night after a performance thick with pills.
Esther used to be married
and her teeth are worn down
from keeping the ring in her mouth
all these years, years she’s spent suffering
from nightmares and hallucinations
of an adorable brick house opening
its front door to swallow her with
the pop of a doorbell. Esther is justice
and she believes strongly in sleeping
beneath a hanging bouquet of skunk cabbage
to ward off drunk artists. Some day soon
I will go back to fetch Esther, before
the sewer pipes are crushed and remodeled.
I’ll take her home like a box
of closed-eye kittens and feed her
nothing but honey and raw fish,
slip it under the bedroom door
with a stack of notebook paper
and my father’s lucky ballpoint pen.


...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

AT THE TEMPLE OF POETRY

Hi all!

Kitty Jospe and I had a good conversation the other day, chatting about our (sometimes forgotten) humble origins as poets. We bring our teensy nothings to poetry's altar and hope for some sort of success...praise, maybe? Truth? (Or is it beauty?) I wonder how strong a role pride plays in all this, in living as a writer. (As I write this, Garrison Keillor is quoting May Sarton: "One must think like a hero in order to behave like a merely decent human being." How fitting.)

I wrote this poem shortly after hanging up the phone. Truth be told, it doesn't read as philosophically as one might think. (read: you can enjoy it even if you're exhausted.)

AT THE TEMPLE OF POETRY


something in my pocket feels round
maybe a pearl or a silver bullet either way
I’m pretty sure it’s valuable and I’m taking it
to the temple of poetry where I can sacrifice freely
I expect a long queue but the place seems deserted
it’s a clay house it’s a marble slab it’s tucked away
in a snowy wood someone’s playing the piano
someone’s slapping horsehair on the snare drum’s face
someone’s hiding in the curtains someone’s running water
across the fat backs of fish something catches my eye
it’s a dodo toddering round the altar he’s got a piece
of paper pinned to his tail it says Hello My Name Is Normal
he starts lighting a flock of white candles he beckons
me forward I’ve got something in my pocket
he says so do all my brothers but bring it forward if you must
it’s round think it might be a pearl he says an Italian was here
just the other day and he brought a globe
the Frenchwoman brought a little orange pumpkin
they’re always perfect spheres he said
I reach in my pocket and pull out a pebble grayish and smooth
I’m frowning but Normal the dodo just turns back
to his candles says leave it in that stream over there
and yes there is a little creek running around the temple
it’s full and squibbling with other poets’ pebbles
there’s barnacles latched onto Normal’s knobby legs
he says I better stop gawking before there’s boom boom thunder
says I better get back to work if I ever want to return


...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

EXIT NARCISSISM

Another new poem for this month's writing assignment. Probably the first time I've written more than four poems in one month! ...I started ruminating on narcissism, when it peaks and when it collapses. I was also looking out my living room window, watching the goings-on.


EXIT NARCISSISM


it is just one minute after my fingernails
glow with the royalty of stars
and my hair grows thick with
the floating moons of Venus
when it arrives—a small fist

knocking the front door

it is just seconds after I picture my heart
a silk ribbon running through Calcutta
and my mind is melted down to ink
to stain the thumb of Shakespeare
when I put down my pen

and answer the door

let the hot air burst from my house
like a bleeding lion

it is the young girl I have seen sleeping
at the base of a stop sign
she’s holding a plastic
grocery bag open to me
inside are three limes, six bottles of beer

and a package of butter

she glances over her shoulder
like there might be a spider on her back
she begs me to buy everything
for just one dollar


...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

WOLF ON YOUR BACK

Well, now that Tara's on a blogging hiatus, I'm not sure if I'm going to get any feedback at all. (Where are you, Amy?) But I guess I'll keep posting poems for my own satisfaction. Talking to one's self has never hurt anyone. I suppose.
Writing has been a bit overwhelming lately. It isn't the usual dilemma I've been dealing with--I'm pretty sure I'm meant to teach/write and not go into veterinary science--but I'm having a hard time concentrating and getting all my proverbial ducks in a row. Graduation is looming. So is the presentation of my thesis. I need to arrange my travel plans. I'm eyeball-deep in manuscripts I need to read. The world seems to be crawling with an abundance of writers; at the same time, I'm feeling isolated and small. Where the hell did I leave my confidence? I used to keep a little baggie of it tucked away somewhere...
Here's a poem I wrote last night. The evening started out innocently enough; Tom and I were sitting on the back porch reading, listening to the Braves game, waiting for the sun to sink. Enjoy it, yes?


FOR OUR TENTH ANNIVERSARY I TIED A WOLF TO YOUR BACK


for our tenth anniversary I tied a wolf to your back
while it was sleeping. I tightened the bonds and mentioned
this wolf may have once been silver or bluish gray
before it made its life in the muck of the world.
we were in love. you were very patient
and when I finished the wolf was secured
his front paws perched on your shoulders.
you asked what I meant by it. why, I said,
this is to guarantee the coming of st. francis
whenever you might need him. he spoke to wolves, love,
he will speak to you. very thoughtful, you said,
pulling a small box from your coat pocket.
I opened it like it might be my last drink of water
but out came a single black ant, plump and vicious,
quick to bite, and as I sucked my finger you flicked the ant
back into its box and took my face between your hands.
love, you said, may you always know where to find food.
I knew then we would die together. the wolf began
to wake and was slobbering on your ear, faraway the voices
of frantic villagers rattled into the air. we turned
to face the forest and wait for our saint to arrive.

...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

THE WAY MILDRED DIES

I promise to write more soon. I recently printed my thesis and I think half my brain died with it. :) For now, here's a new poem.


THE WAY MILDRED DIES


she picks daisies one at a time
holds them up to her ear and
shakes them Listening for bells
like the head of a church opening its mouth
inside her forehead And what if
she’s gone deaf waiting to hear it?
she knows the world has slipped
away when she wakes in the same
field with a stone tablet hovering
over her chest. It doesn’t mean
she stops straining toward sound
but she has to resort to magic
she wrote me a letter from her
deathbed “I have friends below
the grass here.” It is the strangest thing
I’ve ever seen Ears sprouting up
on pale pink stems around her grave
their curves cupped in all directions


...

Friday, April 3, 2009

COW GETS MARRIED

Warning. Am currently composing my thesis and need much pink smoke blown up my rear end. If you have any spare compliments lying around, please consider donating to my cause. Your proceeds will benefit those hours when I feel like a complete amateur who makes all the wrong decisions. Thank you for your time.


COW GETS MARRIED


something about the heifer in his backyard
made me want to marry
his only daughter. perhaps the cow’s
plump neck, yellow with dust,
reminded me of the rush of excess?
the way she nibbled (so reservedly)
whenever I passed by,
perhaps it made me wish I had
a piece of something coy?
I pinched the barbs on the fence around her
and it only made me feel worn down
so one night I addressed the farmer.
certainly I assumed a more
satisfying dowry than a half-empty
pack of cloves and bag of biscuits
but she was the only daughter
so I took her without reservation
into my home where I watched the weight
of her neck day after day, hid snakes
in her pillowcase to see how round
her brown eyes could get.
she said she’d never disappoint me and
became more cow-like every day,
begging me to buy her a delicate brass chain,
but all the same she developed
the peevish habit of comparing
all she saw with the taste of flax blossoms.
my love was not as blue as she’d liked it to be,
my stride was not at all star-shaped or irish,
nor did it contain enough fiber for her liking,
my bed gave her nothing to thresh during the day.
she started to moan at night
so rhythmically I could not sleep,
instead I sat on a wooden stool and counted
the songs she wished she could sing—
exhausting work that made me remember
my days as a business man,
formidable creature who wore black
clothes even in summer,
the man who swooned when he walked past
the abandoned dairy down the road
and thought he was tired
of elevators and silver pens.
one night I decided to wait for
this man to come walking by my house.
when he did, we shared a biscuit.
I told him the woman roaming
in the backyard was my only daughter,
true as the flood and yellow as dust.
the drool ran clear down his neck
and he bought her right then for
everything I could fit in a bucket.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

MY FIRST GREAT CONFESSION

Amy asks a good question. Where do writers come up with this kind of crap? Well, that's an excellent question. I believe my brain is responsible for producing most of it, although I do have an unruly left lung. :) Seriously, I'm wondering tonight where authors get their weirdest ideas. Do you just let it come to you in time? Or do you search for it until you're exhausted?
Both methods can work. But tonight I'm just letting my brain wander, so I guess this odd little scene about confession is coming to me more like water through a leaky roof. It's just there. And I happen to have a bucket to catch it.

p.s. Ignore the elipses. This blog format doesn't allow indentation.


MY FIRST GREAT CONFESSION

do you see the devil now?
.....yes father he’s set up on the altar
what is he doing?
.....he’s reading something father I’d say it’s a hymnal but no he’s holding it up for me it’s a picture book
where did he get a picture book?

.....he says he stole it from the cry room father
and how does he like it?

.....he says he’s had cabbage soup that’s gone down better father he says he once read a book about how to set a stone on fire sir and he liked it very much
when did he read that?
.....when he was small father
can he set a stone on fire now?
.....father not unless you pay him
what does he want?

.....he says he needs a virgin’s thigh bone father
why on earth does he need that?

.....he says he needs something to pick his teeth father
do you know what a virgin is boy?
.....the queen of england father
who told you that?
.....my mother did father she’s waiting outside and wants to know if you can bless me sir

do you think I ought to bless you?
.....I think you ought father
why is that?
.....because father the devil shakes his head no

Saturday, March 21, 2009

HISTORY OF MAN

This is a revision of a poem I started about a year ago, and has yet to actually work. But I'm reading some of Russell Edson's poetry right now so I thought I'd give it a go in a new format.


HISTORY OF MAN

a green speck in the sea sprouts two pink fins and unfurls a tail. the other specks make way, wishing they could wish to react. the changeling swims toward shore. the tail splits in two and a lump forms between the fins, the head, eyes like fried eggs and a crooked oyster mouth.

it steps from the water and proclaims itself a he. he raises his arms for emphasis but loses his balance; he falls hard. he is quick to pick himself up, smack the sand from his skin, glance side to side and sweat his first sweat.

a monkey wearing a dark suit has been waiting for him, holding a broom in one hand and a book in the other. the book is open at the middle.

and so it begins, the monkey says, holding up the book to show a picture of a man face down in the sand. the new man understands and starts cussing. he says he had a feeling he was bound to fuck up history.

the monkey snaps the book shut and slips it into his jacket pocket. yes, he says, we’ve known this for some time.

what should I do? the man asks.

the monkey says, support your local zoo.

but what is a zoo? the man’s large eyes are full of tears.

it is where we keep all the broken clocks, the monkey replies, but he has lost his patience and walks away from the man. he uses the broom to brush away his footprints.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CASE OF THE HALF-POET

Happy Green Beer Day to you all! (Oh, yes, and isn't there a saint associated with today's festivities as well?) I woke up this morning with a couple lame-duck ideas waddling around in my head, and just as I was about to resign myself to Revision Duty, I got an idea. You tell me if it worked. Here's the product. (Now, onto those pesky revisions...)



CASE OF THE HALF-POET


unfortunately in my line of work
I come across a great many poets,
most of them narcissists
or photographers in their spare time
who might not stand out much
on their own but have a peculiar way
of glorifying the slums of depression
and the jailhouses of suicide
simply by tracing their footsteps
and letting the ink dry where it will.
they’re a dull lot but to befriend a poet
is to keep one’s best interests at heart.
they are the homing beacons of good wine
and treasure seekers until death;
they may be selfish but they are
beyond easy to follow.
you understand now why the case
of the half-poet was particularly attractive
to me from the beginning.
she walked into lucifer’s pub
like she’d been born there,
dotted with faux-pearl buttons
curls of smoke tangled in her hair
and before her first glass of bordeaux
was even half empty she placed
one bejeweled hand over her heart
and said that she quite enjoys
happiness stacked year upon year
and if she were forced to overhear
one more time the loneliness of childhood
she would give up her pens altogether.
I almost dropped my scotch
and demanded she produce some free verse
at once, which she did.
something about turquoise and the deutschmark.
from that point on I gave it to her straight.
lady, I said as lucifer brought me our check,
I am at your service.
tell me where to find this happiness
and you will never know ambiguity again.

Monday, March 9, 2009

BACK FROM FINLAND WITH A NEW POEM

Hey, have I ever thanked you all for reading my poems? Some of you I get to hear from in person and you give me your comments; I really appreciate knowing how a poem makes you react. Many thanks to those who post their comments here.

It's been a while since I've put any poems up, so I hope y'all are still curious. Tom and I just got back yesterday from our trip to Finland, and I decided this morning (after frantically cleaning, restocking, and organizing my house) that I would take some time to revise a poem I wrote while I was gone. Actually, it's the ONLY poem I wrote while I was gone. Ach, schade! I'll get back into a groove soon enough, I hope. Once the jetlag wears off. :)

There's actually a poem I wrote just before I left that I haven't posted...I'm still giving thought to how I feel about posting poems before submitting them to magazines for publication consideration. I mean, I know I'm not some super-hot, in-demand, pulitzer-hauling, cigarette-and-beret, knock-em-out-like-a-machine poet or anything, but it's a good point...how much can we share if we want to send out totally clean submissions? Hm. So far, I'm leaning more toward posting the majority of my work here anyway because it's all so rough and unrevised. By the time it gets sent anywhere it's had some reconstructive work that renders it...different? in some way? Anyway, this poem, it's called Death of a Stray Cat and I think it might be worth at least five cents because Mr. Marvin Bell (super-hot, in-demand poet) says I should "send it out and get a big, fat check for it." Anyone of you who would like to read it, please contact me and I'll send it along. As if you don't have busy lives to live already! Which brings me back to my original point...thank you all for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it.

Here's that poem I wrote. Hope you're all well!


THE MOTH

we’re ice fishing on the pyhajarvi
where there’s just enough room for a campfire
on the little island in the center of the lake.
heikki and I are talking about americans
and he’s complaining that they all say hello the same way.
my finnish isn’t spot on
but I disagree with him wholeheartedly.
only women have one way of saying hello.
heikki says he’s too cold to argue
but I can feel my toes again now the fire’s going.
he starts opening and closing his hands
until we both notice a silver moth
burrowing up out of the snow between us.
it’s a struggle that puts the size of snowflakes
in perspective
but the moth makes it out of the tunnel he’s dug
and shakes his wings a bit,
leaves a circle of grey dust on the ice
before lifting off and bobbing around our heads.
ah shit, heikki says, he thinks it’s spring!
it’s our fire warming the ground, I add.
sure enough the moth drops
and starts bouncing around the flames
just inches away from the heart of it.
the heat pushes him away at first.
fire’s a kind killer, I think out loud.
heikki just frowns and watches the moth.
it’s near two minutes before the flames
stop pushing and lick him up wings first.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

MOTHER BIRDS

I can't figure out if this poem is cheesy, sentimental, or (worst case scenario) both. Any opinions? I don't know where it came from. I sat down to write and knew it was going to have a robin's egg in it. That's about all.

MOTHER BIRDS

we used to lie on the alfalfa bales at night
just on the tipping edge of summer:
we were so young
property was still a loose concept
and all we wanted to do was name things.
my sense of direction was better than yours.
your memory was so thorough your neck ached.
my mother used to make your father
a casserole every friday night
even though she didn’t like him much.
she said you could call her auntie.
this was before you told me
I would grow up to be a murderer
if I kept up tightrope-walking
along strings of ants on the sidewalk.
it was before I saw you balance a robin’s egg
on the delicate bridge of your nose.
it was before I explained to you
how mother birds will abandon their babies
if they are tainted by the scent
of a strange animal.

Monday, February 2, 2009

MINE IS NOT THE BODY OF A GREEK GODDESS

Honestly, how many millions of blog entries begin with "it's late and I should be sleeping"? How dull! ...yet I am no exception.
It is late. And I should be sleeping. And my hair should not be so greasy, and I should be a bit prettier (just enough to stun others), and I should be finding a little peace in this wonderful symphony playing on the radio.
Instead I'm sitting up with my oh-so-shiny 'do, thinking about my belly. Which is why (I think) this poem bubbled to the surface tonight. Either that, or my reading Rachel Zucker's collection of poems in The Bad Wife Handbook has subconsciously inspired me.
Here's to my body! Here's to the columns holding up buildings over all the pretty ladies! :)


MINE IS NOT THE BODY OF A GREEK GODDESS

truly I am shaped more
like a corinthian column:
massive, yes, stable,
as if I might hold
a great stone above my head with ease.
I am a sturdy trunk of a woman,
a creature that bears both tragedy and children.
body of comfort.
never transformed but
evolved
from maiden,
with hair spraying upward
in leafy flips and perpetually wilting edges—something
that would become
a tree but has been made stiff as marble—
you are a sweet husband
padding from one room of the art museum to the other,
offering me your arm
grasping for memories of boyhood mythology lessons.
it is a talent of mine to tune you out
while I contemplate.
I am, yes, most definitely,
born of an oil painting and the myth
sprung from the pillowy brains
of an artist long dead.
I am there in that scene of Circe’s palace,
yes, watching the swine
but I am holding up the front step
robeless and without those blue eyes of hers;
I am here as well at Hera’s temple
waiting for a sacrifice I suppose
but I am balancing the altar, bloodstained
yet lacking a sense of wrath.
you are so endearingly daft
husband of mine
with your comments on perspective
hardly enough to disguise your lingering
over the breasts displayed in every Titian window.
you: my love, my roof, my clear sky,
you say you wish women were painted today
as they were then
so full and...full
the room rattling around my fiercest whisper
for the love of God honey focus on the architecture

Friday, January 30, 2009

READING LIFE

Guess who rocks my world tonight? Natalie Goldberg. She's so into the freedom of writing it makes me nuts. She wants a person to write anything, everything, as long as they are actively creating. She also wants people to read anything, everything, so they can go on perpetuating the arts. So I took her advice and thought about what it means to read--also, what it means NOT to read, what we stand to lose. Then I let my brain wander outside for a bit. It came back with a memory! I twisted it, pulled it in half, dissolved it in a glass of wine, and here it is. (By the way, Natalie's book Old Friend From Far Away is pretty good.) (And no, I wasn't drunk when I wrote this. Just feeling free!)


READING LIFE

it was december
we were strolling through paris
our tummies filled
with toast and nutella
our pockets jingling
with coins
it was a good full feeling
it was a jingly jingle
cars zoomed down the streets
we turned down the alley
you said you’d never been lucky
you said you’d never been perfect
I lit another cigarette
and stepped in someone else’s spit
somewhere up high
two hands shut a window
you said it might have been the blind man
you said god was closing up shop
there were voices going
the other direction
one said go ahead and get married
one said the silver key, the green door
you walked patient as a donkey
you said it was a starry night
I shoved my hands inside my pockets
and said a little nothing
not one book
in sight

Monday, January 26, 2009

HEARING VOICES

This poem was actually a lot cooler while I was working on it. I was reading it aloud with breaks and pauses and putting emphasis on different words and clips of letters, hence the ugly aesthetics. The enjambment never shows up on this blog format for some reason, so I don't think anyone will be able to play with it like I did. For what it's worth, it was fun.


HEARING VOICES

don’t answer the
phone
it’s
your mother

calling to say

she was in
the grocery
store

this morning when she

thought

she heard
your voice coming

from the produce
section

and you were giving advice
on

how to tell
when a lemon

is fresh

which might prompt
you

to interject
mom

that couldn’t
have been me

I’m on the
other
side
of the country

which will force
her
to admit

she knows
you never could
tell
fresh fruit

from

the rotten
no matter what

season it was

Sunday, January 25, 2009

TWO TRAILS

TWO TRAILS

there are two
color-coded
trails at sweetwater
creek state park
one with fewer
hills than the other
each one
wide enough for
two horses
to walk side
by side and both
go down
to the riverbed
the forest ranger
who lives alone
in a cabin
at the foot of the trail
where the white path
meets the pink
he carries a handgun
in his back pocket
and never wears
a uniform
he told me last week
the city might
finally get
its act together
soon and put in
lampposts
he says he’s sick
of families
knocking for directions
after losing track
of the ribbons around
the tree trunks
I know he must
have liked plants
at some point
in his life
because he’s got
an army of tomatoes
growing outside
his front door
slick and fat
against my better
judgment
I think I’m going
to ask him for some
maybe bring him
a jar of my homemade
spaghetti sauce
next week
I am stepping
down the trail
like a tightrope
walker along
the curving lines
a bicycle has
made in the mud
we’ve needed
the rain I suppose
I can see
the forest ranger
squatting on a rock
above the river
shirt untucked
that odd-shaped pocket
he’s shaking a bucket
of weeds into the white
foamy current

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DINNER AT COURT

DINNER AT COURT

there is something not so
chocolate
about the food tonight

lettuce fronds steamed beans
mashed potatoes roast

you are business man
talking man
man of the black moustache

and you are not so

handsome as my husband—
who sits at home alone

tapping with one finger
his chapped lips— you are

turning red with arrogance

applauding with hands slick as a sea lion’s

forehead glittering like a jewel
king of the wee heart

my glass is empty

pour me the rest of the wine!
only then
do you address me directly:

a true lady asks first
if anyone else at the table

would like some

bottle clenched in your fist like a scepter
I am about to swallow

my torch

Saturday, January 3, 2009

ME AND COYOTE

ME AND COYOTE

Coyote and I are going down to the Burrito Shack
to sit on the curb for a while. I like to sit on the curb
in front of my house but Coyote has been restless
the past couple days and says he needs a change of
scenery. He’s thumbing through the letters and bills
he took from the mailbox in front of that little blue house
on the corner. He’ll give it back, he says, he just wants
to see what’s going on in the neighborhood these days.
I’d tell him it’s illegal but Coyote’s got a temper
and I can tell he’s agitated. The first bill is from
the electric company. Coyote bellows, one hundred
and one dollars? God damn! Turn off the lights!
He says where he comes from they use mosquito candles
to see at night, or at least spend more time sleeping.
I’m trying to picture where Coyote came from
since I’m too afraid to ask and I assume it’s somewhere
out in the bush. He once told me he ate a rabbit.
The next envelope is a letter from someone named Elizabeth.
Coyote reads the first paragraph, tears the paper
down the middle and stuffs it back into the envelope.
What’d you do that for? I ask without thinking.
Nobody named Elizabeth has anything good to say, he says.
The Burrito Shack is just one block away
and we’re walking under the empty peach trees on 10th.
We’re going so slow I can count the number of peach pits
on every square of sidewalk. I stop at twenty
and start over because I don’t like to count higher than that.
Coyote opens the last envelope. It’s an invitation to stay
at the Hilton for one night fifty percent off.
This he hands over to me and smiles so I can see all his teeth
for about a half a half a second. I’ll let this be
our little secret, he says. Go on, put it in your pocket.
I put it under my hat and start to wonder if I want to be
friends with a guy who walks beside me every day
and doesn’t even notice I’m afraid of pockets.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

WHEN I WILL EAT

here I am. it is today.
I’ve spent the night in a van
parked in a forest in Virginia.
I’ve stolen what might have been
someone else’s firewood.
I’m slowly chewing
the peel of an orange
for breakfast.
I am virtually defenseless out here.
not only that, I am needy.
the trees make me wish
I could fly or climb or at least
jump extremely high.
I want a pocketknife.
I want to hear a river in the distance.
it’s hard not to wonder
when I will eat next,
having lost my way back to the city
so long ago. each day,
I start having regrets around noon.
today I wish I had asked my mother
how she kept her fingernails so white.
I remember watching her
trim the tulips on Easter morning
and thinking, someday,
someday I will know I am grown.
I will only have to
look at my hands.