Monday, June 30, 2008

just a bit about the weekend

we were walking around comfest yesterday and someone commented that it smelled like the zoo - it was a combination of mud and straw, mixed with sweat and dirty people and dogs and greasy food. that's all this is, a description of that.

We move barefoot
over straw-strewn mud -
not quite naked animals
cavorting under the hot sun
for the amusement of others.

Sweat sheens our skins,
mud and grass and straw
decorate our feet and legs,
we dance or pose or sleep
as you watch from the other side.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

just a couple lines

Let me be hollow and ringing,
a bell or a bird bone,
echoing the world, reflecting the wind.

The Desire

I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I want to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.
I want to be entered and picked clean.

from "Clear Night" by Charles Wright

I must have read this for the first time at least ten, if not eleven, years ago, but it just sticks with me!

I read it then as a desire for greatness, at least in part: to be touched by god, or by power, to be so close to it that it bruises; to be recognized, admired, unique; to be tested, challenged, and expanded; to be overwhelmed by something larger than the self, something so big or so strong or so real that all the junk inside is culled away.

There's the acknowledgement of pain, that it's part of the process, the desire for it if it leads to greatness, the willingness to be transformed no matter the cost. I always come back to the word "overwhelmed" when I think of these lines, that desire for a transformative experience.

/End of random thoughts. Comments?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Faces of the Dead

S sent me this link earlier this week: It's a photo collage with portraits of all the soldiers who've been killed in Iraq, where each little photo is a block of a larger one and they reconfigure themselves as you click on individual squares. Kind of hard to explain, but go look at it if you want. I wrote this little paragraph that day because I couldn't come up with a poem immediately, but wanted to put some thoughts down right away.

Faces of the Dead

They are not really black and white anymore, just shades upon shades of grey, all equal in the past. Their names blur, their ranks, their states of origins, the dates of their deaths, each one just a part of the whole. They are overwhelmingly young. I see fear in the serious eyes in their photographs, but maybe I'm projecting. I want their stories. I want to know why they did it. My friend is coming home from the Air Force today, on leave before deploying; I want to ask her why, beg some explanation, find some sense beyond some 4,000 deaths, some 4,000 grey faces, shading away into nothing.

After Light

After Light

Maybe I dreamed them all
those tiny lamps in the night.

Tonight we are empty
the sky and I -

nothing flutters against my cheek,
the only lights flicker from my neighbors' televisions
and the courtyard lamp's faulty wiring.

I sit down on the concrete stoop
still slightly warm from the now-past sun,
wrap my arms around my knees,
shiver in the eleven o'clock breeze
and wait

for the lightning bugs,
for anything,

to come back.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Strong Sun Moon

first lightning bugs of the season tonight.... a whole courtyard full of them... lovely little critters, aren't they?

Strong Sun Moon*

It’s been the hardest June
less alone than I’m used to
and more than I’d like.

I stare up at the sky
clouds like smoke on a chambray cloth
dry and pale near the horizon
the fabric wet and stretched translucent
above my head.

Out of the corner of my eye
a tiny flash of light a dark flutter
in the twilight disappearing as I turn toward it.

Suddenly I realize they are everywhere
these dark-winged nightlights
as random as love as brilliant as lust
slow-moving and easy enough
to surround with one hand
wings beat lightly against my fingers
remain dark in the cavern of my palm.

I rotate my wrist let my hand uncurl
and six tiny legs tickle as the lightning bug
walks slowly over my palm
then with a gentle flip of wings
lifts off
lets go
and lights up like the full moon.

* The first (and usually only) full moon in June.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Life Without Tears

Once upon a time there lived a princess. She was not a beautiful princess, but she was very caring and sweet. This princess always seemed to be crying; whenever anyone in her family was sick or hurt or sad, she would cry. When any of her friends were hurting, or any of her pets, or even if she saw a stranger in pain, or heard stories about far-off wars or tragedies, the princess would cry. Big salty tears would fall from her blue eyes which would look even more blue than usual as the tears reflected the light.

As the princess approached marrying age, she started to wonder what kind of prince would want a wife who always cried. What kind of man would want to marry a girl with swollen eyes and a reddened nose, a girl who never wore makeup because it always smeared off with her tears? So the princess went to see a magician who was reputed to be able to solve all sorts of problems.

“What is it that you want?” the magician asked the princess as she stood shyly in his chamber. Her eyes were still damp from the tears she’d shed when she saw a dead sparrow on the way to see him.

The princess took a deep breath. “I want a life without tears.”

The magician looked at her kindly. “Are you sure that’s what you want? Almost all lives have some tears in them.”

“I have cried enough these past sixteen years,” the princess replied. “I want a life without tears!”

“Very well,” said the magician, who was duty-bound to use his magic to fulfill the requests of those who solicited his help. “You shall have a life without tears. Once you leave this room, you will never cry again.”

“Oh, thank you,” the princess exclaimed. She hurriedly paid the magician his fee and left the room.

As the heavy wooden door swung shut behind her, the princess realized she could no longer see or hear anything. She reached out blindly for the door handle, but could feel nothing. In a panic, the princess tried to call out for help, but she had no voice. She tried to turn and go back to the magician, but she had no legs. She was bodiless, nothing but spirit, with no eyes to see suffering, no ears to hear others’ cries, no way to connect or communicate with the world, and, true to the magician’s word, no eyes with which to cry.

She was never seen in the castle again, not by her parents or her friends or anyone else who loved or was loved by her. Sometimes at night, they thought they heard a rustling or saw a shadow in her room, but no one in the castle really believed in ghosts, so they went on searching for the lost princess as long as they lived, but they never, ever found her.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Metaphor or horror story, take your pick....

She offers her beauty to you -
spare and white, a bloodless
body curled on a silver platter.

You could cut her open -
the knife glitters so beautifully
in the candlelight - and she
would not complain as you open
a long straight line from her slender neck
to the heated spot where her legs meet.

You could reach between her breasts
and pull her heart still beating
from its protective cage of muscle and bone.
She would allow it, watch it pulse
in your hand, stain your arm as you raise
it high and marvel at the light reflecting
ruby and garnet and pearl.

You want it.
You know you do.

Spinning Wheel

A beginning of something, or maybe an end. I wrote the last four lines last night along with a couple of other stanzas of fairy tale allusion, but didn't love anything but the beginning, so today as I sit here at work and talk about whiskey with my colleagues (seriously), I took the lines I remembered and just expanded that one scene. And when I wrote it last night, it was "You are the spindle/around which I wind" but I like it better without the I.

Btw, thanks for the comments recently! Keep them coming :)

You are the spindle
around which she winds
her silken threads,
the gridlike loom
stretching her taut,
the hands that pull
her strands, your fingers
under her and over her,
creating the helpless beauty
you see in your mind.

You are the spindle
around which she winds,
the polished point
upon which she falls.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Storm Poem

great thunderstorm last night....

A great dark cloud has covered this city,
moving in slowly from the southwest
a heaviness preceding the storm. The first
rumbling discontents arrived around 5:00,
a slow leeching of the sunlight
a rising breeze
a transparent gauze
instead of air.

Inside, on the third floor of my heart,
I wait for it. I listen carefully,
counting the seconds between
each beautiful flash and its following crash.
They get closer together each time
until I no longer can tell the difference
between beauty and pain.

The windows are all open to the south,
the wind blows in gusts, panting
with the effort. It begins to rain,
and I sit on my couch
and let it soak me.

When the storm finally passes by,
I will sift through what's left and make sense of it all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Am Not the One She Wanted

I Am Not the One She Wanted

I am not pretty and silent,
I can not sit and wait with crossed
ankles and folded hands
for God to redeem the world.

I do not pray at night
for a man to marry, a provider,
children to raise up in the ways
they should go, the ways she raised me.

Sometimes, mother, they do depart.

I am thin and poor and alone.
I worked all day, then ran four miles.
I am self-sufficient, and I don’t believe
in that white-haired, white-light

Patriarch with his condemnations
and abominations.

I am not the one you wanted either;
I will not dictate my will like the goddess
you would make me. For every gift
you think I have, I lack the skill

or the courage to use it.

I have grown too large for one role,
remain too small for the other.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Playing Dead (tentative title)

so, this is the poem i was talking about not being able to write.... tried a different approach, and got closer to what i wanted. will come back to it and try again....

She was nothing
but a body, pretending
to be dead. She was
in the grass and bleeding,
and then in his arms
her hair dragging the ground.
She was lifted up, cold metal
beneath her back, her legs
swung up over that same metal
railing, held still for a moment
and then dropped, or pushed,
or released.

She was nothing
but gravity, a body falling
and trying not to move.
She hit the water half wishing
it was ground. Muddy water
slapped her body, closed
over her head, added its insult
to her injuries, cold reaching
almost instantly through her
fingers, up her arms, reaching
for the hole that hadn’t reached
her heart.

She was nothing
but instinct, freezing
for a time. Her feet
kicked enough to keep her body
afloat, she breathed just enough
of the icy March air, and after enough
time had passed, her eyes opened.
She could not see the bridge.
or be seen from it. She swam
for the nearest shore.

She was nothing
but the cold, numb arms
pulling her pain through dirty
water, heavy legs kicking off
heavier shoes, finally finding
the muddy riverbed, wading
through shallows rimmed
with ice to fall on her knees
in the wreckage of last year’s
weeds, seeing the miracle
right before her eyes, the very first
green shoots of another spring,
the pieces that had survived.

Or not

Apparently, I have a bad memory. I did post an earlier draft of that poem here. Oh well. Now you have a new draft to look at.

And I can not seem to write the thing I was thinking about before. I guess I just don't know to approach it without retelling the whole story.... Hmmm....

I had a poem idea last night as I was walking, but when I got home, I lacked the motivation to actually write more than a couple lines. Perhaps I'll finish it soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On the Fourth Day It Rained (revision)

an edit of a poem from a few months ago, which I don't *think* I've posted here before....

On the Fourth Day It Rained

I woke too early that Sunday in San Diego
Still not accustomed to West Coast time –
My body believing it was past ten
When my California friends thought they were sleeping in
Exhausted from entertaining me and showing
Off their sunny homeland.

I made coffee in the high white kitchen,
Tore off an oval of last night’s bread and spooned
It with jam because I could not find a knife,
Wandered out to the balcony and sat
In my pajamas, watching a diffuse light
Reveal the view of palm trees and pastel buildings
Clinging like lichen to the hills
That settle gradually down to the sandy shore.
I watched the rain move in slowly,
Great banks of clouds drifting like ruffled skirts
From the ocean a few miles away.

I sipped my coffee, too hot, too strong,
And welcomed the chill that came with the misty rain.
Back home, in Ohio, this time of year
Is miserable. I have not grown used

To the sunny days, the temperance,
Wearing thin sweaters, pretty things
Too flimsy for February, the failure of weather to reflect
Reality – that this city is like my own, like
Any other – both beautiful and flawed, peopled
With angels and artists, devils and debutantes,
The poor and the powerful, a place just as human
And as precious as anywhere else.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What haunts you?

For most of us, there are personal memories and fears that haunt us, but sometimes there are also external stories that somehow get in through the crevices of our psyches and take up permanent residence. Writers and artists are so often voracious observers of their surroundings, cataloging news and events and stories and environments, sensitive more than others to nuances of pain and ironies of existence. As children we are often described as too sensitive, internalizing everything, unable to separate reality from imagination. As we grow older, we learn those boundaries, or we learn to pretend. We use our art to explain the world, or to be make something beautiful or meaningful. We can not get away from our own personal pasts, or from those other pasts, those horrors and heartbreaks and near-death experiences that may not have happened to us personally, but somehow seem almost as important as if they had.

There are a few of those in my head, stories I heard that I have internalized until they are my stories as well, even though I didn't live through them. They make their way into my poems quite often, or some of them do. A poem I've always meant to write started to take shape last night; right now it's a solid page of prose, but the beginnings of a poem are there. It's not a happy poem, but I'll post it when I get some sort of draft together.