Sunday, April 30, 2017

Poem 30: again and again

It's the last one! And it's late.

The Napowrimo prompt is to "write a poem about something that happens again and again."


Telling My Life Stories

Each time,
the stories fade a bit,
their characters,
sorted into heroes and villains,
falling into
the same bad habits.

My listeners, numb,
nod in the wrong places,
eyes searching
the hallways and classrooms
for a way out.

But I keep talking,
and waving my hands
as if directing
oncoming traffic.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Poem 29: freewrite +

Here's the napowrimo challenge for the day:  "take one of your favorite poems and find a very specific, concrete noun in it. For example, if your favorite poem is this verse of Emily Dickinson’s, you might choose the word “stones” or “spectre.” After you’ve chosen your word, put the original poem away and spend five minutes free-writing associations – other nouns, adjectives, etc. Then use your original word and the results of your free-writing as the building blocks for a new poem."


These kinds of assignments are always tough. What's my favorite poem?  I have many. I think I'll take this one, though, from W H Auden, which was my favorite when I was 22 (for a while): "Musee des Beaux Artes."  I'm going to concentrate on "white legs."


White Legs

When everyone worshipped
the tan

I had skin white as paper,
thin as

the altitude of our city,
and the boys I wanted

to like me

I looked like a ghost,

glow in the dark.
Wearing that skin,

I knew
I was somehow

or extra visible

walking down
Mexico City streets,

lying in a bathing suit
on our balcony

under the eyes
of construction workers

pouring concrete
on the half finished house

on the street above me.
I gleamed

like a star,

with baby oil.
The sun

dug into me,
seared me

a deep, radiating

At school,

with shame,
Roy's death

(the nova

like a seed
in my teenage brain,

I bore
the hot weight

as I would
any other curse.

"Hey," Scott said,
and my heart

"you look really

ugly like that."
And his words

into my cooked skin

like another
white fire.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Poem 28: Skeltonic verse

The prompts are becoming more ... prompty.

Harrumph, she says, thinking she might boot the prompt to the curb this time.

But she doesn't, because she's just the Type A person who follows all rules, no matter how dodgy.


Here's the prompt, in all of its unglory:
... write a poem using Skeltonic verse. Don’t worry, there are no skeletons involved. Rather, Skeltonic verse gets its name from John Skelton, a fifteenth-century English poet who pioneered the use of short stanzas with irregular meter, but two strong stresses per line (otherwise know as “dipodic” or “two-footed” verse). The lines rhyme, but there’s not a rhyme scheme per se. The poet simply rhymes against one word until he or she gets bored and moves on to another. 
Here is a good explainer of the form, from which I have borrowed this excellent example:
Dipodic What? 
Dipodic Verse
will be Terse.
Stress used just twice
to keep it nice,
short or long
a lilting song
or sounding gong
that won’t go wrong
if you adhere
to the rule here,
Now is that clear
My dear?

What's clear to me is that the form results in the kind of poetry that makes me a bit gaggy.


Dipodic Lament

Like bad weather
interrupting pleasure

or bloody feathers
on the window ledge,

a cat below the hedge,
these two beats

are not the sweet
flow of fleet

sounds, the neat
poetic meat

of an eloquent poet's
melodic show. It's

a crash bang
stomp twang

crunchy baggage,
trashy language

like a wind-blown
yolk-yellow comb

speaking flat words,
or desiccated turds

up in Spring herds,
stinking shards

exposed now in the yard
after a long, hard

melting of old
contaminated snow.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Poem 27: taste

Today's prompt asks us to write a poem that deals with the sense of taste.


     "Sorrow found me when I was young/ Sorrow waited, sorrow won."
                                                          -- The National

It tastes like aspirin,
powdery and metallic,
burning the back
of your throat,

or a bottle of cheap red wine
that's sat for years,
gathering Jeepney dust,
on a hot shelf in a shabby market
7959 miles from home.

It tastes like the bent metal
of a spoon,
jammed at the back
of a crusty drawer
in the kitchen of the brick house
where you grew up.

It tastes like 4 AM
after a maze chase nightmare,
like cat hair on your pillow,
cat hair stuck
to your wet lips,
or like a dog body
you glimpse from the side of an eye,
buzzing with flies
beside the two-lane road
in spring,
or snow melt pooling
under the dead cedar
in your yard,
a drake and a mallard
paddling in its mud.

Actually, it tastes
like chlorine
from the neighborhood pool
where you sat alone
reading sexed up novels,
imagining you weren't so white
you'd turned invisible,

or like unproductive labor pains
and chronic lower back spasms.

Maybe it tastes like a cardboard kiss
from someone you know
too well,
or urban dirt
and big city concrete,

maybe even pigeon shit,
trash wind,
bus exhaust,
and salty gutters
filled with McDonalds wrappers,
cigarette butts, a child's
tiny shoe.

No. It tastes like
April rain --

bone cold,
tinged with lead and
copper and blood,
it sinks
into your skin,
and it explodes,
cracking you
into a thousand million
stinking pieces.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Poem 26: archaeology

From  "Have you ever heard someone wonder what future archaeologists, whether human or from alien civilization, will make of us? Today, I’d like to challenge you to answer that question in poetic form, exploring a particular object or place from the point of view of some far-off, future scientist. The object or site of study could be anything from a “World’s Best Grandpa” coffee mug to a Pizza Hut, from a Pokemon poster to a cellphone."


Dark Mirror of Desire

Many living spaces
crafted themselves 
around this 
black rectangle,
or "television," 
a viewing "screen" 
often hung -- 
as an artwork?
 -- over a defunct 
(or staged)

One commentator
in the 20th century
called it 
"the electronic hearth."  
We can observe,
from ancient ruins,
how inhabitants
ringed the object
with crude furniture
(cf. "LaZboy," 
"sofa" or "couch,"
and "bean bag chair"),
as if to mimic 
ancient arenas 
devoted to 
human sacrifice
(cf. "hangings" 
in "The Middle East,"
and "football"
in the midsection
of Old Northamerica.) 

The early relational unit, 
(cf. "the nuclear family,"
sat around it during 
long evenings
when brainwaves,
drawn low from 
menial "workplace" calculations
(cf. repetitive mental aerobics)
usually by switching to 
"energy-save" mode.

Anthropologists tell us
they are close
to replicating 
3rd millennium technology
which will allow them
to "watch" 
(cf. unfiltered eyesight) 
an archive of "DVD" records
(cf. "digital video disc")
of visual and auditory information
discovered recently
in settlements dating back
to 2010, 
after excavating hundreds of feet
into the Old Northamerican desert
over what was once known 
as "Wisconsin."

Though these records are
extremely degraded,
professors at The University
of Extra Holy Healing
in New Old Northmeximerica
expect to report 
within the year 
on the contents of 
these venerable documents,
which Dr. Hooligan, Director
for the Centre of Holistic
Mind Expansion at UEHH,
has tentatively identified
as a form of 21st century propaganda 
entitled "The Apprentice."

If recovered, UEHH professors say,
these records may shed light
on the events leading to
The Great Collapse
of the beginning
of the last millennium,
and may offer insight
into the resulting 
Centuries of Darkness, 
which until now have been
inaccessible to
modern understanding.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Poem 25: small spaces

Napowrimo Prompt: "write a poem that explores a small, defined space – it could be your childhood bedroom, or the box where you keep old photos. It could be the inside of a coin purse or the recesses of an umbrella stand. Any space will do – so long as it is small, definite, and meaningful to you."



Purses spill from the hooks,
mingle with tumbled shoes, boots,
bags of knitting needles and empty
cellphone boxes,

pants hang on tiered racks
shoved against the back wall
and shirts fall from hangars to
tangle with random skirts 

(flotsam from another room),
yoga jackets, blazers with
rolled sleeves, a ring bristling
with belts, more shoes

in a sagging canvas rack
shoved toes in, spilling shadows
against the four plastic drawers
filled with bunched shorts,

scarves, crocheted hats,
technological gizmos strayed
from misplaced or broken devices,
a rickety punkwood 

set of shelves
holding two more rows 
of expensive tumbled shoes,
the whole mess holding its

breath under the weight
of abandoned boxes and 
yellow magazines,

mixed with remnants,
my life with previous lives,
unknown wearers
and future inhabitants,

the entire jostling history
pushing like epiphany
(or a strange graveyard
where the living lie down

along the dead)
against my naked body
with the weight of
all the days its taken

to get here, to stand
alone and unclothed
in front of its
open door.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Poem 24: ekphrasis and monks in the margins

Today's prompt: "Today, I challenge you to write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art. But I’d also like to challenge you to base your poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. Here you’ll find some characteristic images of rabbits hunting wolves, people sitting on nests of eggs, dogs studiously reading books, and birds wearing snail shells. What can I say? It must have gotten quite boring copying out manuscripts all day, so the monks made their own fun. Hopefully, the detritus of their daydreams will inspire you as well!"


Yeah. I couldn't resist this image.

Riding the Dragon

In my cell
illuminated by candle,
I calligraphy Latin
[the Lord's lore],

sweating inside
burlap sleeves,
dreaming of dragons
who rise up

from itchy thickets,
green and sleek
and bearded,
flying forward

across vellum
[translucent animal skin],
and I am the dragon
inside the text.

On my back rides
the grim mother
of us all,
breasts sagging

and flat
[suckled for

by faceless

She is not Eve --
No, she is
first mother,

who wanted to be
on top
and so suffered ...
was dismembered
by our father,
flung out
of His book

into the ocean,
and transformed
into dumb,
dry land.

But here, in my
waking dream,
she flies
on my back

jaw set,
hands and womb

into my strong back,
her voice
tethered to her
in a floating nut

that we will plant
on a shore
in another world
where His words

come from
a different mouth --
dragon breath,
mother's bitter milk --

and can never be