Thursday, October 30, 2008

something a bit different

started writing this yesterday...sort of in a different vein than I usually write, but whatev. here it is. unfinished, obviously. i've been focusing on revising for my writing sample so haven't done a huge amount of new writing recently. plus trying not to get sick. and getting ready for Halloween.

but anyway, here it is, whatever it is....

The messiah has come
back from his sojourn in the desert.
He left Tucson a year ago,
returned to his humble roots
here in the city where anything
can happen and almost everything
has. It has been so long

since anything like this
has happened to me. I sat
across a small stone table
from him, and asked why
he'd cut his hair. He wanted
to grow up, he said, the long hair
made him look so young.

I felt my faith return when he reached
across the table and took my hand,
a miracle to feel this at thirty....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

something to make me feel better today

i have a sore throat and my car is kind of dead, so i needed something to cheer me up (other than the prospect of halloween friday, which is wonderful and exciting, but makes me really really really not want to get sick). so when i checked my email this morning, and read this lovely response from one of my grad school recommenders, it made me smile a lot. i'd sent her some poems and a draft of my statement last week, then yesterday sent a quick email to let her know i'd dropped the recommendation forms in the mail, and here is most of her response. the first line scared me, but then it got better:

I'm not going to lie to you. I hadn't looked at the statement and poems yet until today when I got your email and thought I'd have a look over so I'm ready to write when I get the info..
I just wanted to tell you how much I loved the poems. In particular, the river poem and the September 11 poems--I think they are done so well. Very moving. I mean it.
Anyway my little brain has begun drafting so there won't be any problems with getting them back to you in time. I'll confirm their arrival here and also let you know when I post them back so you needn't worry.
But really, Emily. I'm well and truly impressed by what I've read.

it just made me very happy! and it's interesting to me that all 3 of my recommenders picked out "the river that doesn't exist" as one of their favorite poems in my sample. makes me think i really should lean toward more of the prose poems. also, her response to the september 11th poem validates my decision to include something so new (the middle is heavily revised from the version posted here).

so, yeah, all good :)

Friday, October 24, 2008


And something very new. A prose poem. Obviously. I may have posted the beginning of this here earlier, because the initial image popped into my head back in August, one day while I was out running.


The weeds along the riverside path where you run in late August smell of pollen, of dust and exhaustion, a tired heavy sweetness like the lace on your grandmother’s wedding gown that crumbled in your hands when you cleaned out the attic after she died last year. Your heart was raw and stinging from a breakup then; when you cried at the funeral you were crying for them both, for your grandmother who’d spent 85 years giving herself to her family and for your ex-girlfriend who’d spent a year trying to give you what you claimed to want.

When you heard the story your aunt told, that your grandmother said the happiest times of her life were between moving to the city and getting married, and then the years after her husband died, the only times she’d been free, when you heard that story, you cried for yourself too, and you thought maybe that’s where you got it, that desire to be free above all else, the way you always run away from love.

"There Are No Bad Fridays"

Another oldie... Originally workshopped that same semester, but it started the semester before, fall of 1999, when Shannon died. She wasn't my cousin, or even an extremely close friend. She was just this girl I'd known since 2nd grade through church and private school. Her brother was one of my "boyfriends" in second grade; he and Brian used to fight over me on the playground. Brian died in a car accident when we were seniors in high school. I didn't go to his funeral. It's more complicated than that, but when Shannon died four years later, it through my world for a loop. I scribbled a few lines of this the weekend of the funeral, didn't complete it till months later, then added/changed a lot during that workshop the next semester. When I dusted it off again recently, I made some more drastic changes.

“There Are No Bad Fridays”

the man on the radio says, but I disagree
today as I drive through sheets of rain
toward my cousin’s funeral. She was nineteen,
her boyfriend was behind the wheel. He lies
in a hospital bed, stable, in pain. I was almost
afraid this morning to get in the car.

The radio plays on, a constant drone
of scripted words and recycled songs
blurring into a noise as nearly white
as the sky. I should be remembering her,
at holidays and parties, as a child
and a teenager, and a woman just starting
to grown into her beauty, but the radio
recalls last night’s conversations,
and the later kisses, and thoughts
flow through my mind as quickly,
as pointlessly, as the sound. I shake
my head to clear it and focus
instead on the rain.

This is a bad Friday, I think,
annoyed with the voice which said
everything is fine, and I glare
at the spray flung onto the windshield
by the truck in front of me. I realize
I am tense, that I keep tightening
until I am squeezing the wheel
with both hands, hunched over,
an old woman at twenty-six, straining
to see. I make an effort to relax,
uncoiling, pressing shoulders back
against the seat, and I try to look
beyond the tail lights in front of me.
Rain falls in waves, rolling down
the glass, splashing off. We are,
all of us, back in the womb on this highway,
securely wrapped in glimmering cars
while water holds us separate
from the outside world.

All I can see is the color of rain,
the pale grey fabric of clouds unbroken
by sky, and I know the weather won’t change
today. I feel the truth of the falling sky
as I navigate the slick pavement
that glows in my headlights. The truth
is that the radio tells lies, the leaves
change color and die, the rain
always falls downward, and all
we can hope for is to grow old someday.

Photographing Ghosts

This is an old one, from my last year at BG. I went with with a friend to take pictures in an old house. Some of the images are real, some are made up. As old as this one is, it still feels somehow complete to me. It's been revised of course, several times.

Photographing Ghosts

I’ve heard the house is haunted
but there is no evidence
of ghosts, only empty rooms
and dirty shards of windows.
There is very little left
that has not decayed or been
stolen, but I finish one roll
of film and start another before
the winter sun starts to fade.

I focus on Mason jars lining a shelf
in what must have been the pantry,
a stained sink filled with dust
and crumbled bits of ceiling,
flowered wallpaper clinging
in faint strips to the stairwell,
curling at the ends as it tries
to pull free of the wall.

I hesitate before ascending,
not knowing what I’ll find
or if the steps are sound. Upstairs
a door with its flaking coat
of blue paint does no want to open
as though someone holds it shut.
I push a little harder, afraid it will
break, but it gives up and opens. A gust
of bitter wind shakes the second floor.

The door creaks behind me as I enter,
rust flaking from corroded hinges
and falling with a sigh. Inside the room
is a baby’s high chair, legs broken
off, a fractured piece of drywall
in the seat where the child
should have been. Sun comes through
the vacant window in harsh bright
angles. The room glows with pain.

I look away, find time in a closet
in stacks of newspapers, bundled
and tied with baling twine. The date
on top is 1951, just before an unknown
disaster, then emptiness, a myth
about some ghost.

And then vagrants sleeping on wood floors,
oblivious, teenagers breaking in
almost hoping to meet the supernatural
but seeing nothing, leaving broken
bottles glittering in the morning.
Their brown and green shards
are still embedded in the cracks
between floorboards and catch
light like tiny mirrors.

And after these invaders, the house died,
the colored tiles falling from the roof,
rain eroding carved stonework
around windows. And now, every
so often, people stop their cars,
pull into the cinders beside the road,
and take photographs of the house,
picturesque in its decay. The ambitious
venture inside, searching as I am for spirits
or for nuances of shadow, forms and
textures in the wood, the brick, the plaster.

But no matter how many rooms I examine,
the story escapes me, leaving hints
in washed out color, cold January rays
which can’t illuminate the past. I can’t tell
what color the flowers on the wallpaper used to be,
how the vegetables in the pantry tasted,
why no children took over the farm
after their deaths. The house alone
knows what happened between
the headlines in the closet and the broken
highchair in the attic, and its ghosts
won’t whisper into curious ears.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Untitled for now

Your cat left scratches on my hand last night,
tiny red lines beneath the skin, dried blood
across my knuckles. It barely hurt, and I know
they will heal. I wonder if you'll still be here

or if the sting and thrill of a new love will fade
along with the marks on my skin, like every other love
fades away, scarring over, disappearing
into the geography of lines on my hands,

the creases that grow with age, the healed wounds,
the lovers that have been here before.



drive everywhere,
drink Starbucks coffee, fail to
see beauty in dirt.

a cheap way out, to do a haiku for the prompt Stacey gave last night. I'll probably come up with a longer one too.

Just wanted to post a poem here cuz it's been awhile.

GRE is over now, half-marathon is over now (it was great!!!), and so I can focus more on poems now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

GRE Update

Took the GRE yesterday.... I left work at 3:00, stopped at home and walked my dog, drank a Diet Dr. Pepper, then went to take the test. I'd wanted to be early, but because of poor directions and a really f'd up parking system, I didn't sign in to the testing room until 4:01pm. It was fine though; the testing center staff kids were all very nice and organized and relaxing. I was nervous and anxious to just get it over with. I sat down in my little cubicle, skimmed through the tutorial just to stop my hands from shaking, and then started the exam. The first essay was the long one (45 minutes, make an argument based off of one of two statements). I kept the study guide's suggestion in mind to keep things simple. I jotted down my basic idea on scratch paper, then typed it out. It seemed to work well. I finished with six paragraphs and about 5 minutes left, even after rereading it a couple of times. So I went on to the next one. It was 30 minutes, analyze an argument given. I liked the topic; it was easy to critique. Again, I jotted down an outline on my pretty pink scrap paper with the annoyingly hard scratchy pencil, then started typing. I finished with five paragraphs, after proofing, with a minute and a half left. Thought of taking the optional 10 minute break, but decided to just forge ahead. Verbal section was next. It was hard. It seemed harder than most of the verbal practice sections I'd done (which was only 3 or 4), but I read things carefully, took my time, paid attention to things like purpose and parts of speech and shades of meaning. Stared at the ceiling to visualize words on the page of the study guide. Finished with a lot of time left. Next up was the Quantitative section. It started okay, then got torturous. I'd say the first quarter of the questions were about the same types of things I'd dealt with in the practice tests, then I started seeing things I didn't even know how to interpret. I guessed. The questions got harder. I scribbled madly on my scrap paper, I drew diagrams, I plugged in numbers, I gave up and guessed an answer at random. Then the questions got easier, and I knew I'd totally messed things up. I got frustrated. I eventually muddled through. Finished the section with a bit of time left, but don't remember how much. I clicked to continue, and got another Verbal section. It was easier by far than the first Verbal section. I finished it quickly, making an effort not to rush, to think through everything. I selected four schools to receive my scores, filled out all the little questions at the end, and finally, after several confirmation screens, got to see my scores:

560 Quantitative (70 points lower than in 1999, but my goal was anything above 550)
700 Verbal (20 points HIGHER than in 1999, and my goal was between 650 and 700)

I grinned. I would've laughed out loud if it hadn't been so silent in the room. Clicked through to the end, signed out, grinned at the staff members, retrieved my bag and scarf from the locker, and left. I am satisfied with those scores, and I'm hoping for a good score on the Analytical Writing too. I would've liked to be a little closer to 600 on the Quantitative section, but the average score for all entering grad students in the humanities is 561 so I'm right there at the average (and perhaps slightly above average for MFA students? that's a guess). And I am thrilled with Verbal score. Really thrilled. Dave hates me, but that's okay ;)

I was comparing my goals on the GRE to my goals for the half-marathon. I'd set a minimum goal of 1200 (550Q, 650V) and a top goal, which I didn't really expect, of 1300 (600Q, 700V) for the GRE. In the half-marathon, my minimum goal is to finish in 2.5 hours and my top goal, which I'm not sure I can do, is to finish in 2 hours. So my GRE score of 1260 is equivalent to a time of 2 hours 12 minutes. I'll laugh if that's my time, but I'd be super duper happy with it too!

Friday, October 10, 2008

This is a sex poem (and a Halloween poem too)

because Halloween and sex go together so very, very well IMO. And it's that time of year, and I have some great Halloween sex stories, and well, yeah, that's about it. Anyway, girls, my Larry's assignment is now completed :) I couldn't come up with a better title though, sorry. Suggestions are welcome.

One Night Stand

The darkness never frightened me,
the falling into another, the ghostly
glow of moonlight illumining a shoulder
rising above me, a hand reaching
for something, a lock of dark hair
snaking over the pale smudge of your face
in the night. I was not afraid then,
not of pain, not of pleasure, your teeth
against my skin, your heat
against my tongue, the beat
of our bodies and our hearts
to a breaking point, a crashing,
the limits of pressure and sensation,
the end of anticipation. It was later,
in the light of morning, as we dressed
and kissed goodbye, that I felt fear.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Request....

to my readers who may or may not be out there.

I have put together 15 pages of poems that I'm thinking of submitting as my writing sample for grad school applications. I would love to get your feedback, either generally or on specific pieces, what you think are the strongest, what are the weakest, what should not be submitted, what should go first, etc. If you'd be willing to help me out with that, leave a comment and your email address if I don't already have it, and I'll send them over.

Thanks muy mucho!

Oh, and I scheduled my GRE! It's next Thursday, October 16th, at 4:00pm. I've got another week to study, but I just want to get it over and done with. I would LOVE to score as well as I did in 1999, though I honestly expect my math score to be substantially lower, but I don't think MFA programs care too awfully much about math scores. So, wish me luck on the GRE, and please let me know if you'd be willing to give feedback on poems.

Thanks, my lovelies!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Water and Copper

This is not a sex poem, although that was our "assignment".... Fred Andrle read a poem last night about wells, and our table at Larry's was sort of brainstorming what the word "well" makes us think of, and I started writing a poem about that during the reading but didn't really finish it or love it. Today, I was going to write a sex poem, and I was thinking of kissing someone in the rain years and years ago, a moment I'd forgotten till reading an old journal reminded me of it, and I'd been writing yesterday in my LJ about being afraid of getting what I want, and I just sort of put all that together and came up with this.

Water and Copper

I dreamt of wells last night
of cool stone at my back
rain falling on bare shoulders
as we kissed under the moon.

I dreamt pennies falling
from my child's sweaty palm
splashing far below, the darkness
and the mystery of wishes.

I dreamt of getting what I want,
my hands on your skin,
lips to your cheek, your lips,
your throat. I woke

afraid that I was trapped
in the well, that I would fall in
after my pennies and tumble out
of sight, that I'd really kissed you.

This is the dark side of wishes:
I have the power
to make them all come true.

Friday, October 3, 2008

View from the Kitchen Window after Four Years of War

this is a poem that started a very long time ago, in my first college cw class, i think. it's gone through several revisions since.

View from the Kitchen Window after Four Years of War

I turn off the television, tired
of watching the same news every day.
I need a drink of water, go to the sink,
brush the faded curtain aside and stare out
through the screen ---

Cubed green hills as brilliant in the sun
as any pigment in a box of crayons,
cornstalks waving slowly
in a too warm wind, the grid overlapping
all, like attack plans on graph paper,
perfection simplified, a patriotic dream,
a child’s game in rural America.
Cows dot the fields like fallen toy soldiers,
the leaves ruffled by the breeze
could be flags. It is a history book
battlefield, dramatic, glorious.

I bring my face closer to the screen
to look through the square cages of wire,
knowing that the world isn’t neatly broken
into perfect cubes, that war is not noble,
and that dust coats the rusted screens
of seldom washed farm house windows.

Why He Still Matters When I've Been a Lesbian for Five Years

remember, kids, this is fiction! or, at least, not literal truth.......

Why He Still Matters When I've Been a Lesbian for Five Years

I never loved him,
it's not that. It's just
that the meaning
and the beauty
of the universe
came clearly to me
for the first time
with his body
in mine, our eyes
in the mirror, the world
in his mouth. I was
too young to know
it's always like that -
devoured, restored,
the rise and the fall,
the cycle of life.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Quick progress update on the grad school applications:

I think I have one Statement done! It's a 1 page "Statement of Goals" for the NEOMFA. I picked that one to complete first, because of the 1 page limit, and because a statement of goals seemed easier than a generalized personal statement. I did it last night, edited from my big long rambly generic statement that covers everything. I'll re-read it, and then maybe pass it on to my recommenders to get their feedback.

I have forms filled out to request 9 sets of transcripts and send them to the appropriate schools. SDSU for some reason specifies on their website not to send transcripts until you've filled out the online application, which I'm waiting to do till I have some more money for fees. And there are two schools I'm still not sure I'll apply to or not (Indiana for complicated reasons and UCSD because I'm not even sure if they're going ahead with the program). Just need to drop that in the mail.

Other than that - poem ideas in my head, no money in my pockets, not enough time in my days, and too much mess in my apartment.

Such is life, and we carry on :) And, hey, speaking of, why don't you go listen to Kelly's new songs?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A bit of a poem

which is very "current", shall we say? It's just sort of off the cuff this afternoon, and maybe a little too true...... Or maybe not.

Untitled for now

There are blessings that look
so much like curses – storms
that knock out the power
and transport you back
to candles and cookfires
and nothing to do at night
but talk, running late
the day there’s an accident,
the funeral that reunites
a family, and, maybe, this.

A message, filtered
through layers of twenty-first
century reality, appearing
on a screen, from a man
you never could say no to,
now, when you’ve said no
to men for four years.

In grad school news - I printed off ten transcript request forms today. Yes, I think I'm pruning my list a bit, but I can always print more if I decide to hit all 12 schools on my list after all.