Thursday, July 29, 2010

THE LAST POETRY MEETING

A poem for you on this warm July evening. I need to lay off the Duhamel because my stuff is just a beautiful shade of pale beside hers. Still. I write. And I mock writers and their habits while I'm at it. Take that, self!


THE LAST POETRY MEETING


Who is your inspiration

for carelessness,

for absolute carelessness?


The woman beside me says

it’s a toss-up between

John Milton

and Miley Cyrus.


The woman beside her says

she’s got this forty-year-old

nephew in Los Angeles.


I should have checked myself

before I said carelessness, to me,

is Ganesh, the Hindu god.

I don’t know why, in fact,

I know little about him

other than his elephant nose

and his fondness for sitting upon mice,

which reminds me

out loud

of my sister, who is

an endoscopic nurse

and has pulled the strangest things

from the strangest people’s

rectal cavities

though she’s never mentioned

mice, yet


and the woman beside me says

isn’t that sort of bigoted?

To think another person’s god

is the embodiment of carelessness?


I say yes, it probably is,

and she smiles

in a very unbigoted way


while the woman with

the nephew in Los Angeles says

she had a bigoted uncle once

but he died and no one

in her family felt obligated

to attend the funeral.



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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

THE PAINTED URN

All right, so we've moved out of the realm of psychic octopi.

I read a lot of Kay Ryan tonight, along with some Vera Pavlova, and I started wondering who my favorite female poets are. Recently, while posting sample poems for my students in English 221, I realized most of my role models are male: Tate, Neruda, Merwin, Gilbert, Bell. I didn't panic, though, and I remembered the voices of Hilda Doolittle, Denise Duhamel, Dorianne Laux. It's not like I don't read female poets. I just feel it's, well, sort of more rare to discover the female imagination that has been let loose, at least in comparison to the number of male poets who unabashedly gallivant through perfectly crazy worlds.

That got me thinking past the women on my bookshelves and more about the women in my poems. They're typically a strange, hybrid personification of guilty innocence. Why are women like this, I wondered, in all of literature? In poetry, it seems impossible for women to stray from this adaptation, even in the lais of Marie de France, which I love. I remember, as an undergraduate, one professor told me it will never be possible to see an apple in a poem and not think of Eve. I was determined to be the first to write it, a poem with an apple that didn't link the reader to its Genesis origins; I failed, of course, but I haven't yet decided how I feel about that failure. Honestly, how I feel about women in poems (and women as writers) will take decades for me to understand. I despise pride, but there is something so essential about the female voice and its role in literature, its role in imaginative writing. Men and women are not equal in terms of who they are (in terms of rights, yes, they should be). What they have to say is equally significant though, and I'm trying to reconcile that. Why are they equal? Why are they unequal?

I guess I'll keep ruminating, and the women in my poems will keep asking me when I'll cut them loose.


(poem temporarily pulled for submission purposes 7/28/2010)

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Monday, July 12, 2010

PAUL THE PSYCHIC OCTOPUS

I think one or two of my sisters may have played soccer at some point during our childhood, not because I remember watching any games, but because I seem to remember the wallet sized photos around the house... maybe it was Michelle... anyway, someone in my family once posed with a soccer ball. That's my point.

To say I'm not a soccer fan is, well, not an understatement, but it's accurate. I grew up with baseball. The first time I ever heard my knees pop was during third grade, at baseball practice, while learning how to slide across bases in a bumpy grass field near Pioneer Park. (I still can't slide. I kind of just... fall. On the base.) I played on a boys team with my best friend in Ferndale, sported a bowl cut and cussed like a pirate so other kids wouldn't pick on us. I wasn't super talented at the sport in particular; I mainly kept the outfield laughing.

Soccer was something one step closer to skiing, something I didn't understand. Besides, soccer players don't get to hit anything. I've always been partial to sports that involve not just running, but also a club of some sort, a bat, a racquet, and the smacking of other objects, the harder the better. My oldest sister tried to teach me how to play tennis when I was in middle school. Once I realized I couldn't hit the ball as hard as I wanted, that you had to aim, of all things, I decided to lose touch with that sport too (at least, until I discovered racquetball about fifteen years later. That's a game I can get into).

Eventually, I became engrossed with the physical demands of dance, and I slipped slowly from sports to the arts. I went to college and got really into theatre, decided I didn't much like actors, and got really into writing.

Fast forward almost ten years, to today, when I live in Colorado Springs, and my best teaching buddy, Audrey, is obsessed with soccer. Having lived in Britain for about seven years, "footie" is all this girl talks about. The World Cup blows her mind every four years. She knows the name of everyone who's stepped onto the pro field. Because I like Audrey, and I value our friendship, I promise her that I will watch at least one soccer match with her down at McCabes, a local Irish pub.

First match was about a week ago, between... um... I don't remember. Uruguay and someone else. I brought my poetry textbook and planned lectures. B- for effort.

I swear up and down that I will watch the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain. I promise not to bring my textbooks. Of course, as usual, I show up a little late and squeeze into the seat that's been saved for me RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FLAT SCREEN next to Audrey and about a hundred other fans. I spend a lot of time wondering which players will take on shampoo endorsements after the Cup ends; some of them have just beautiful hair, long and curly and bronze. Audrey snaps me out of it, tells me that Paul, the psychic octopus in Oberhausen, Germany, has predicted that Spain will win. Wait... what? A psychic octopus?

This is something I can get into.

Unfortunately, Audrey is yelling at the television every 60 seconds and can't answer all my questions right away. Who is this Paul? Where did he come from? (Apparently he was hatched in Britain but now lives in a German aquarium.) Why do people believe his predictions? (Turns out he's been spot on with all of them.) Audrey mentions he's had death threats from other countries. That the Italians are claiming he really belongs to them, and his name is Paolo.

I manage to watch the rest of the final match, though I'm outside on the phone with Tom when Spain scores the winning goal. I can see everybody's reactions through the sticky windows: the Dutch fans with their orange face paint and wigs, slumping on their bar stools; the rogue Spanish supporters punching air and hugging each other. And Audrey, in the front, leaning back in her chair and sighing happily.

Conditions are perfect for a poem.

(poem temporarily pulled for submission purposes 7/28/2010)

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