Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NaPoWriMo 30

Things Your Poems Do After You Die


Not all poems sink into the ground after your death. Some go on as ghosts, moving from place to place to find lost music. Some get married. Some donate themselves to science, ground themselves down into multivitamins that taste like eggs. Those poems not anatomically correct go as unclaimed as luggage, or worse—taken on tour for the entire world to see. Some turn themselves into the renewable energy of prose, warming homes, becoming sources of heat so intense they ignite a city. I have seen a few taken as political prisoners, swearing not to leave until every poem of conscious is returned to this world safely. Sadly, some get sold, chop-shop style, with poets like grave robbers scouring dead lines for words and rhymes. There are never enough poems to meet demand, so they are put on a donor waiting list, the recipients ever so grateful, fearing death, fearing a life beyond what we risk dreaming.


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This poem is a found poem that I completely absconded from CNN.com's article, "Things Your Body Can Do After You Die." I saw the title and said to myself, "Now this is a gift!" Notice the first line is the last line from NaPo 29.

NaPoWriMo 29

(One more to go!)



Poem for All My Failed Poems


This is a poem for all my failed poems,
of those there are many. This is for
for the metaphors I herded like cats,
and rhymes I shot in a barrel. This is for
the villanelles bright as a vellum
when held to the light, but crumbled
under my flat finger, each word,
elemental yet separate. Each sad line
lacking heft, girth, and restraint.
Let’s be honest, this is for the sonnets
I suffocated and the sestinas beaten
into submission. I’m not above
waterboarding a poem to make it confess,
just ask the ghazals that bleat into the night.
A kind word must be found
for the best poem I never wrote, the one I lost
on the subway after Galway Kinnell told me
to carry a notepad wherever I go.
I think of you warmly, often. And for
the other works that never worked, that
bounced like checks and never cleared,
this poem is a gravestone reminder
that not all poems sink into the ground after death.
Some go on as ghosts, moving from place to place
to find the music they have been missing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NaPoWriMo 28

Poem for My Mother


After they scooped you out
and took your eggs, I sat
next to your hospital bed
not knowing what to say.
At 16, what did I care
of caring, drifting amid your
aches and needs? How do I
hold your branch of a hand?
Even with the body’s bowing
you kept us going, made every meal,
washed every stitch of clothing
as you healed in silence.

Years later, as I walk
the morning halls of my house,
watch my babies sleep
while my eggs continue
to fall and break,
I think about your unrecorded,
unrequited moments
of bending, not breaking,
watching the day being again
with little more than this poem,
and the long steady syllables
that flow down and out of my hand
like blood.

Confession Tuesday

Has it been a week already? Time flies when you’re NaPoWriMo-ing. Are you confessing this week? Leave me or Carolee a note so we can be all in your business!


A tale of two poetry events. This past weekend I went to not one but two poetry shindigs. One was the Newburyport Literary Festival. And last night I was at Gulu-Gulu Café at an open mike. Let me start first in Newburyport.

The festival certainly had a few well-known poetry figures such as Dana Gioia, Rhina Espaillat, X.J. Kennedy, and Lewis Turco. And the town supports the weekend event. But the lineup of authors was not diverse—maybe that’s reflective of the town. It wasn’t just that it was not a diverse lineup as far as ethnicity and race, but it lacked diversity of age and poetry styles. Personally, I was disappointed in the poetry events, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. So while the festival is not for me, I do support community-based efforts even if they don’t appeal to me. These events keep poetry relevant. (Sorry, no pictures.)

As for the Gulu-Gulu event … well, that was whacked! The evening started out great—a well-managed poetry event with poets reading their work sand getting off stage quickly. But there was this nut job—who obviously was in with the person running the open mike. He monopolized the stage! At first, he was fun and his work was different. Sound poetry I’d call it. But as the night wore on, he got drunker and found his way back on stage at every opportunity. The event started at 5, and at 8:45 I was still waiting to read. We left because we had a sitter with the kids.

Now, Gulu-Gulu is a great little space for readings. I loved that Tim and I were able to hear featured poets J.D. Scrimgeour and Kevin Carey read their poems—excellent! And I sat at a table full of eclectic local poets. But really, it was a box-of-chocolates night. Or should I say carton of eggs. Did I mention that one of the readers spread a sheet of plastic on the floor and stepped on eggs in a pair of red pumps while reading her poem?

Top that, poets! (Sorry, no pictures. Wish I had a video camera.)

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Where is Verse Daily? If anyone has the dirt please let me know. I really liked the poetry they presented. [Update--Verse Daily is up and running again. Woo hoo!]

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What the f*ck is up with gas prices?

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NaPoWriMo is coming to a close. FYI, I’m posting a meme on May 1 as a way of capturing the high points of April’s poetry. Come back and check it out.

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Lastly, I had a dream about George Clooney. Why is this significant, you ask? This is Confession Tuesday, after all! Frankly, I cannot remember the last dream I had. Someone is always up at night in my house, so it’s hard to drop into a deep sleep. NaPoWriMo hasn’t helped.

While I don’t remember much, we were in Vegas, baby!—a la Ocean’s Eleven. A few coworkers showed up, surely a sign of stress. But a few friends popped in, too. Fortunately, George and I found some alone time. He looked great in a tux. And let me tell you—he thought I was the sexiest one in the room!

Monday, April 28, 2008

NaPoWriMo 27

Warmly, Fondly

There are days when you’ll check the mailbox
two or three times before mail arrives,
white squares of useless information
promising to make life better or cheaper,
telling how much TV you’ve watched,
how many minutes you have left,
that the house is yours for one more month.
Surely any good news will be postponed.
But sometimes comes the smallest swatch
from a far-off desk written in real ink
with a stamp placed warmly, fondly
in the right-hand corner. Hello, it says.
Wish there was more to be said, that this letter
could bring some acceptance in the house
you’ve lived in for years, in the life you’ve had
for much longer. Because later, when it’s dark
and the kids are asleep, you’ll find yourself
opening the front door to an empty box,
hoping to find whatever it is
you think is missing.

NaPoWriMo 26

Laundry

Each stain has a story—
the oatmeal from today’s breakfast,
the grass stain darkened into the knee
of the jean, blood from a bright red pen
lining a pocket. It all turns to gossip
in the wash.
Our past mistakes are drowned,
our clothes saved, stripped clean,
with no evidence of carelessness
or neglect to be found.
We are given another chance
yet always the clothes look exhausted
after the tumble and dry
as if something of our past lives
has been beaten out of them,
as if the sweat and stains
are sworn to secrecy.
As if the ground-in dirt
was proof of lives
being lived.



(I don't know how to tab over in Blogger--the second stanza starts with a tab.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

NaPoWriMo 25

After the Bath


Is it enough to run my hand
against her long scar
just above her bra line?

The scar a threshold,
a jagged reminder
we really don’t know

anything about ourselves.
Inside, our bodies
are in constant disrepair

each cell patching holes
and spackling walls,
doing its best at home repair.

Cannot imagine
not drying her skin
on this quiet evening

as night unfurls
like a towel to reveal
the marks we keep for life.

The Final Push

Seems that NaPoWriMo has left me M.I.A for visiting blogs this month. It’s taken all of my energy to write a poem a day, and still I’m a day behind. But after this week, I can go back to being a bump on a log. Well, I can go back to working out, sleeping at night, and talking to people—three things I’ve essentially given up in April.

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This will be my catch-up day. A two-poem today—woo hoo!

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Today, Tim is taking the kids to a horse pull (I don’t know exactly what that is), while I head north to the Newburyport Literary Festival. This festival incorporates all genres, not just poetry, yet there’s not that many events I want to attend. There’s an afternoon reading—I haven't read many of the featured poets so I’m trying to keep an open mind about the event. I’ll bring my camera and blog about it later. Hmmm … I’ll also have Tim take a camera to the horse pull. Who knows, his event may be more fun than mine.

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Tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to a reading and open mike at a place called Gulu-Gulu Café, hearing poets J.D. Scrimgeour and Kevin Carey. I think—no, I know—I’m more excited about their reading that the Newburyport Arts Festival.

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Gosh, that’s very closed minded of me. But I have issues with the festival. More on that later.

Enjoy the day, everyone!

Friday, April 25, 2008

NaPoWriMo 24

Does This Poem Make Me Look Fat?


The poem is wearing me. It falls
off my shoulder, rides up my back,
makes my words look silly and uneven.

I should never wear a poem
because it’s trendy or looks great
on some other poet.

If it doesn’t fit correctly
and you can see line breaks,
it’s simply too tight.

Too much alliteration makes my neck
look large, draws too much attention
to my heavy tongue.

Sometimes my poems are low-rise,
and while it’s fashionable to show my couplets,
I don’t--it's a style that won’t last.

Before leaving the house,
I make sure I can sit, walk,
and dance in my poem.

There’s nothing wrong with poems
that makes me look sexy
but there’s a difference between

being sexy and being subtle.
A poem should be easy on the eyes,
look as custom-made as a glass slipper.

It should push up, push in,
fit like skin, fit like bones, fit better than
the best poem I’ve ever worn.

Terrance Hayes on PBS's Online Newshour

Terrance Hayes is the author of three books of poetry and is a professor of Creative Writing at Carnegie Mellon University. He discusses life as a poet in Pittsburgh, "where no one is a stranger," and shares some of his work.

There is audio and text available, as well as a video clip of Terrance reading his work.

Yea Terrance!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

NaPoWriMo 23

The Killer of Ants

Because spring shakes everything
from a cold, dead sleep, ants have
found their way into our bathroom
They can go anywhere,
take their cities on their backs
yet they come here to the rooms
in which we spend our lives.
Here, they find an unhappy ending.

I show my son how I pinch them
between my fingers and toss
their tiny bug bodies in the sink.
Together we watch them swirl away,
my swift anger fulfilled. Now he hunts alone,
surprised at how adept he is to catch and kill.
I have taught him this and he does it well,
like someone who has always known
how to hold a thing in his hands
and destroy it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Inside Out



From Titlepage.tv, Elizabeth Strout, Edward Hirsch, Meg Wolitzer, Mark Sarvas.

Three novelists and a poet talk about the rich, expertly written inner lives of their latest characters -- men and women grappling with hard decisions, stalled careers, uncontainable grief, and redemptive love.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NaPoWriMo 22

Intoxication


In the mouth.

On the lips.

Down the throat.

Out the pores, the potholes of the skin.

On the breath, sticky sweet and stale.

On the hands.

At the tips, the roadmaps of the palms
taking him nowhere fast.

The spoiled perfume of beer.

The nicotine brown-stained fingers.

The bar smell of fried food and Jim Bean
attached to every fiber of your clothes.

In his sallow eyes.

In his slurred speech.

In his stumble-step.

In his sleep.

In slumber.

In his snores so loud
they quake the house.

In his rest.

In his peace.

In his chaos.

In his control.

Monday, April 21, 2008

NaPoWriMo 21

(For those not familiar, Singing Beach is an actual Massachusetts beach where the sand supposedly "sings.")


Singing Beach

The beach has its own frequency—
the sand squeaks when walked upon.

We amble along this whistling
for hours, for years, without speaking.

We walk even further to where our silence
pushes the sand then takes it back,

our weight too heavy to sustain us.
We sink, sucked in by wetness

listening to the acoustics of shells,
those tiny ears being crushed underfoot.

Let’s think about the air under us
and never give it a name.

Let’s call it love and never hear
the same note twice.

Confession Tuesday

Happy Patriots’ Day! Carolee and I invite you to tell all, and be sure to let us know that you’re telling all for Confession Tuesday.



Patriots’ Day is predominately a Massachusetts holiday. Now, I really should be up on why we celebrate this day, but I’m not (I know, I can Google it). It coincides with the running of the Boston Marathon, which shuts down most of the greater Boston area. Makes sense to have folks stay home. Suffice it to say that having Monday off made the weekend feel less jam-packed.

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We put the kids in day care so Tim and I could share couple time, and found a little “me” time in the process. Monday was a win-win for everyone!

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I watched The View today. There, I said it. DEAL!

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Red Sox are on a roll. Celts are kicking *ss and taking names. And the Bruins have a chance to steal game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s a good time to be a sports fan in Boston.

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I don’t even like hockey but I’m happy for the team.

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NaPoWriMo baby! Twenty up, twenty down. Despite the fact that I have no energy because I write in the wee hours, I’ve been pleased with my NaPo results. More on that at the end of the month.

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Today I received the second of the two blurbs I needed for the back cover of my book—yippee! Other than that, there’s been no movement with Underlife, to be published by CavanKerry Press in October 2009. More than a year away. *sigh*

Sunday, April 20, 2008

NaPoWriMo 20

Childhood

No doubt, one of his drawings shows
an empty brown boat and triangles
above blue pointed waves—Sharks!
he says. He is my little ship at sea,
trying to stay afloat when the current
in him tells him to capsize.

I imagine he and his sister are underneath
with a pocketful of air, just enough
to get them through anything.
They seem fine yet below the surface
they dog paddle for dear life. Don’t worry.
Don’t panic,
I say. It’s only water.

And sharks. Don’t forget the sharks.

Cows!









Saturday, April 19, 2008

NaPoWriMo 19

Relief Pitcher

You’re exorcizing a demon on the mound,
making the fastball whirl and dip
before a sold-out crowd. No relief
for the reliever, called in like a surgeon
to stop the bleeding. You set ‘em up
for the closer—the team’s golden boy,
the flamethrower strutting out of the bullpen
while his theme song, “Enter Sandman”
announces his arrival. You have jock straps
older than him, yet crowds have to
check their scorecards when you appear.
Four teams in five years makes you a journeyman
as you search for your fastball once clocked at 98 mph.
Sometimes it climbs to 89 but you can still
keep the team from getting a shellacking
any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
The last of your sunflower shells spiral in the wind
like your high heater sculpting the plate
on a cold April night and there you are,
fingering the seams, hands covered in resin.
Tonight you’re lights out. All you need
is your catcher’s signals to throw down the middle.
Watch the batter come up empty one more time.

Sunday Scribblings: Compose

If you've read this blog in April, you know that I'm knee-deep in writing a poem a day. But for this Sunday Scribblings, I decided to take a break and enjoy the warm weather.

This is how I composed my Saturday. What follows are the events of the day.

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It started out like this.






And then I shifted gears for some "me" time. I went to Harvard Square in Cambridge to visit ...

The Grolier Poetry Book Shop is the oldest poetry-only book store in North America, I think. Had a wonderful conversation with the new owner--they are now under new management, which should inject some much needed life into the store. I wish them great success as an independent bookstore and a Cambridge mainstay.

And here's what I bought ...



Aimee Nezhukumatathil's At the Drive-in Volcano. From there I walked around Harvard Sq.

(That's not me.)




Listened to some music.


And ended up here, before I headed home. This is Boston from the Cambridge side. Isn't she lovely?

For more compositions, visit Sunday Scribblings. And feel free to comment on my NaPoWriMo poems.

Friday, April 18, 2008

NaPoWriMo 18

(Finally! I'm back on track!)



Baking a Cake


My aunt makes a well in the flour
with the measuring cup. She takes

the first of three eggs, cracks it
into the cup, then adds to the mix.

This is how you make a cake, one egg
at a time cracked carefully, separately,

as not to taint the whole or its parts.
In my 39 years, I have never cracked a bad egg,

never found blood in the yolk. But my aunt,
who seems to have been given a basket of them

goes on, without explanation or pause,
adds oil, cocoa power, mixes the ingredients

into a brown paste and shoves everything
into the hot mouth of the oven.

We let things rise the way women do
to make something near perfect,

as the egg becomes part of the whole
as the cake’s edges pull away from the pan.

NaPoWriMo 17

Ode to Anger

How I envy those who never get angry.
They sail through life like
calm little boats on a stormy sea,
or a turtle turned on its back
always able to right itself.

When the moment heats up
they never get heated. These poor slobs
take it on the shoulder, take it on the chin,
turn the other cheek, never adding insult
to injury. Who can rise above it all?

Me, I swallow hate like a balloon
Until it swells and distends inside of me,
makes me slam doors or yell octaves higher
than a human voice should scale. How good it feels
to let it all hang out. Sometimes I like

being petty. Feels better to break balls
than to be broken, better than being
the one who cries until the sobs stop
and the heaves start, until there’s nothing left
in the cave of my body but angry air.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

NaPoWriMo 16

(Thanks, Kelli, for the idea.)



You Are Not Your Salary

But you are the pens, the paper,
the report due yesterday
with its charts and figures,
You’re the tilting desk
that no one, not even you,
bothers to fix. Take a swig
of burnt coffee and get to it.
You fix things, you buy things,
you’re a connector, a decider,
you find mistakes in reports buried
like gems in the coal mines of words.
You are also the banter, the fodder,
the guffaw in the corner office,
the high five and the back slap.
You’re the secret knowledge
that you’re the only one here
who has a clue. How quickly
the hours move as you buy time.
Some days, you’re a wealth of information
in a economy of scale. On others,
you’re the artificial sun of florescent lights
shining overhead. That being said,
you are not your salary, you never will be.
You are the window overlooking
the golf course and the happy golfers
hitting balls into oblivion.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poet-Speak?

Do you read your poetry in a certain way? Do you find yourself reading in a sort of sing-song rhythm, or does it bop along in a jazzy spoken word style?

Weekend America offers this rather humorous, somewhat mocking story on the cadence of various poets, from Yeats to Giovanni, and everyone in between.

I can't tell if we poets are being mocked or given a careful examination of our inflected styles. I think it's a good story because it does both. And, is poet-speak a form of art?

Here's the audio: The Sing-Song Rhythm of Poet Speak






And a link to the text.

NaPoWriMo 15

(I have a series of true story poems, which involve animals confronting the human world. That being said, I doubt I'm keeping this one.)


True Story #4

Tenderness blooms from the pages local newspaper,
in it, a cougar is trapped between houses. It senses fear
from the neighborhood kids who stop their game of
street ball to tell their parents. Tenderness will pounce
on you if cornered, if scared and looking for food.
It cannot think about what might happen if caught,
or worse, but knows on some level this can only end badly.
To be corned in a back alley, to be put down by police officers
not trained to handle anything larger than a pit bull, to not whimper
or fight, lay its capsized body down in its last, ferocious moments
can only be done by something who knows what it means to be tender.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NaPoWriMo 14

(Forgive the line breaks. Also, if you have anything to add that will make this poem funnier, please let me know.)


Funny Poem

This is a funny poem. It is also polite—
it’s pleased to make your acquaintance.
It stands alone in that it likes to be petted,
held, taken out for a walk, scratched behind
the ears, and enjoys the occasional hearty chortle.
This poem is not afraid to mention random
funny things like bananas, ponies,
feet, flan, unicorns, or Britney Spears.
This poem was funny when funny wasn't cool.
It revels in its difference, it likes that
it’s not your standard free verse,
formal, confessional, or sad bastard poem.
This poem has always wanted to use the word
boomerang. If you say to it, “A man walks
down the street with a duck under its arm,”
it will feign amusement because it’s heard
that one before, and come back to you with,
“What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?
A stick.” This poem is proud of itself
for working in that joke. If this poem
made you smile at all, it will say, “mission
accomplished,” and mean it in a good way.

Monday, April 14, 2008

NaPoWriMo 13

How the Body Forgives

Inside the body apologies
for the things it can’t explain.
Nothing is lost here, not even words.
The body remembers what is said for seven years,
spends eight taking things back.
In spring there’s a summer in my heart,
while the body sends its message of
repair and forgive, repair and forgive,
until each cell becomes an act of contrition.
It’s hard to know what hurts most,
the original words or the ones
that have followed every day since.

Confession Tuesday

Overall, life is good. The kids are fine, Tim’s fine. But I think I’m a little bored, or maybe I’m experiencing ennui. Or is this just a garden variety rut? I find myself waiting for something new to happen. Sounds silly and trite, especially since I’m not afraid to make things happen. Yet I feel as if I’m spinning my wheels until the next big thing comes along. Does this every happen to you?

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We’re at the midpoint of NaPoWriMo. Woo hoo! I am down a poem, unfortunately. Not an envious spot to be in. While I tend to complain a lot about the month, I really enjoy it. April is such a fine month to start new poems while life is in bloom around us. Whether you read or write poetry, how lucky we are to enjoy the written word like this from the inside out.

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Writing daily poems is less stressful this year than I thought it would be. The stress comes from trying to keep up with everything else in my life. I dream of a day when I can support my family off of my poetic endeavors. Oh, to dream a little dream.

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I’m watching American Masters on PBS. Tonight, they're profiling Walt Whitman, so my inspiration is derived from his through his eyes. Tim is watching it with me. He’s such a good husband. (Had to switch over as the Red Sox take the lead against the Cleveland Indians in the top of the ninth.)

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Found out yesterday that we’re getting a tax refund! We turned over our info two weeks ago to our accountant, and just got the word today about our status. We are the king and queen of cutting it close--we’re just thankful that we’re not paying.

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It’s colder in Atlanta than it is in Boston. Go figure!

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Share your confessions and Carolee and I will stop in and say hello.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

NaPoWriMo 12

Tether

From the crib, she bleats my name
like a wounded sheep, Mama, Mama,
in her soft whimpers. She says,
pa-pa broken, meaning pacifier.
She is too old for this kind of tether,
the constant sucking. In every photo,
it looks as if her smile has been plugged,
even the dentist sees her teeth are growing
around it, so I snipped the tip, no suction,
little comfort. Eventually she will not
want it or need it or need me. She is becoming
a soul in this world, always craving something.
And I, the person that she trusts more than anyone
is the source of her distress. Tonight I silently
mourn this loss as I lean over her crib,
look into her watery brown eyes and tell her,
Yes, pa-pa’s broken.

Photos from NEWS Reading

Since much of my attention has been focused on NaPoWriMo, it's taken me a bit to post last Sunday's photos from the New & Emerging Writers Series. Special thanks to Colleen Michaels, who stepped in as co-host for Erin.

For our April poetry extravaganza, we had a terrific turnout, punctuated by the four open-mike participants who read their best poems. It was a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month, and a tribute to the robust literary community in the Boston area.

Thanks again to the readers, attendees, The Book Rack, and the Regent Theatre.


The beautiful and talented Colleen Michaels


The beautiful and talented John Burt


The beautiful and talented Jean Monahan


me





Saturday, April 12, 2008

NaPoWriMo 11

(I'm playing catch up today. Decided to sleep instead of writing past midnight.)


Potatoes

~ for John O'Neil

I see you the in the Nor’easters that pass
close enough to destroy but never do,
in the low branches hanging over the house,
and in the potatoes waiting to be washed
on the kitchen counter.
Thank you for resilience.
Russet, yellow, Yukon, new—
never has something this simple
tasted so good. It has been years
since your passing, everything has changed.
Tonight, we are grilling steaks with potatoes
on the side, with nothing but salt
from the earth, the pepper ground down to dust.
It’s a meal that makes us feel satisfied,
as if we’ve just swallowed what pains us most.
God, please no more rain.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Insomnia Central

Ella woke up around 3 a.m., and Tim and I can’t go back to sleep. He took her downstairs so I can write—he’s a good daddy and husband. I think I’ll keep him!

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Thursday was beautiful in New England, around 70 degrees. Had the kids out in the morning and the afternoon. It was nice wearing short sleeves for a change, a sign of things to come. Of course, rain is in the forecast for Friday.

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The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry kicks into high gear at Fenway tonight. Seems really early in the season for these two teams to be playing each other. Oh well. It’s time for a beatdown!

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NaPoWriMo, now day 11. It’s good to be back in the zone, but all of this writing leaves little time for much else, like housework. OK, who am I kidding? I’m happy to put that off a little while longer.

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I’ve been blown away by the quality of poems people are producing this month. Very cool.

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Hell, I should just go to work early, like 6 a.m. Maybe I’ll get some rest there.

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(I’m kidding.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NaPoWriMo 10

(Woo hoo! Double digits!)


In Silence

In the white noise of a dark night,
in a silence I cautiously enter,
my journal reflects the moon’s empty page.
This is a place in which I inhabit. Inside
a whole city faces foreclosure,
the buildings I have abandoned,
whole neighborhoods so sparse, jobless,
vandals have taken all the best words and fixtures.
The chrome faucets, the copper pipes—
gone. The crepe myrtles have been
cut to the quick, their fuchsia buds
now dried and curled along the curb.
The ground is coffin cold. Who do I talk to
about this failed infrastructure?
What laws can I break tonight?
Who is the world comes to a place
that smells like burnt leaves and traffic?
This is a place I visit but do not live.
This is a place in need of repair, of rain,
of an owner who can wield
a pen like a shovel
and dig.

Article at Read Write Poem

The good people at Read Write Poem have posted an article by yours truly on National Poetry Month. Stop in, say hello, and tell us how you're celebrating poetry in April.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

NaPoWriMo 9

In the Company of Women

When a woman you barely know
takes a tissue out of her purse
to wipe your child’s drippy nose,
you must refer to her as aunt,
even if she’s not.

Not related by blood
or proximity, she can be
more family than friend,
more friend than
your only sister.

She’s the one
who sends gifts in the mail,
oversized boxes wrapped
in brown butcher’s paper.
When unwrapped,
each present smells
of the sweet powder
you remember from childhood.

She teaches you
how to crack an egg
into two perfect halves,
how to make icing from scratch,
and fold T-shirts to look
as if they were never worn.

Older, wiser,
she’s never been married
always coming and going,
refuses to stay too long
in any one place.

And in the long crossword puzzle
of marriage, when you can’t help
but find new combinations of hurt,
she sits will you at the kitchen table
while you cry with the onions.

When the kids come in from outside play
asking, “What are you two drinking?”
She says “We’re sipping lemonade,”
when what you really have
is something much stronger.

Looking for New Music

I was so proud of myself for downloading R.E.M.'s new album Accelerate, thinking, "Wow! A band I recognize." But the truth is I haven't been keeping up with today's music.

Here's the list I received from a few friends. Some bands/artists I do know but some are a complete mystery.

Hot Chip: "made in the dark" and "ready for the floor" (seeing the band this weekend! woo-hoo!)
Rilo Kiley: "silver lining," "breakin' up," "give a little love"
Missy Elliot: "Ching a ling"
Cat Power's "Jukebox" album
Loudon Wainwright: "Daughter" and "Grey in LA"
Andrew Bird: "Plasticities"
Radiohead: "Nude," "Jigsaw falling into place," "Weird fishes/arpeggi"
Vampire Weekend: "Oxford Comma"
M.I.A: "Paper Planes," "Mango Pickle Down River"

And two bands called Ok Tokyo and Seawolf.

Any suggestion for songs to download from iTunes? I like all genres except for Country music.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NaPoWriMo 8

My Body After Kids

Sags everywhere.
Looks like a chicken
in a butcher’s storefront.
Wet tea bags for breasts,
oatmeal for thighs, as if
my old self was recalled
and I was given this.
See how my body
redistributes itself
cell by cell by cell
into a new circumference,
almost global? My hands
once bright as fans
used to envelop the dusk
and twirl in dance. Now they
belong to a shape shifter—
someone called out of one world
and thrown into another.

Monday, April 07, 2008

NaPoWriMo 7

Monday

After the accident, strangers hurry past
as we pull into the median to check for dents.
Our car armor, polished yet worn,
is now streaked with damage. We dig
in our purses, find proof of existence,
although we're not really sure what that means.
Already the day feels old in its caustic
morning thrum. Every five minutes
an accident occurs—bumper to bumper
in the stop-start lingo of the highway.
We are made vulnerable by the April exhaust,
just one more thing that makes this life heavy.
Makes me think our days are marked with bulleyes
on the backs of cars, how a crack in the road
veers us toward the crack in everything. What else
can we do but shake hands and strap ourselves
back in? My car rattles like bones in the trunk.

Confession Tuesday

Today my car was hit from behind on the highway. It happened in stop-and-go traffic—I stopped, but the person following was distracted and wham! I’m OK and my car looks like it has very little damage. But it really threw my day off kilter. I have to say, it was the most civil exchange of information I've ever been involved with.

****

If there’s one good thing about the accident, I have the topic for tonight’s poem.

****

I’m pooped. That’s not a confession, that’s a fact. For the past month, I’ve been exhausted. It’s more than running a household and working full time. Can’t put my finger on it, but I’m guessing that staying up past midnight writing poems isn’t helping.

****

Speaking of poems, I’m keeping up with posting for NaPoWriMo! Again, I’ve been up to the wee hours writing, but I’m still in it. I wrote a tough poem on Saturday about the kids. While the subject matter was difficult, I really feel good about the experience of writing that poem.

****

I’m playing catch up with visiting blogs post and reading poems. Hope to visit all that have posted recently in the next few days.

****

None of these confessions are juicy. Sorry. More juice next week.

Be sure to let me or Carolee know you’ve confessed.

Pulitzer Prizes

The Pulitzers have just been awarded, and congratulations to all the winners. In particular, congratulations to:

POETRY
For a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Two Prizes of $10,000 each:

Awarded to "Time and Materials" by Robert Hass (Ecco/HarperCollins).
and
Awarded to "Failure" by Philip Schultz (Harcourt).

Also nominated as a finalist in this category was: "Messenger: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2006" by Ellen Bryant Voigt (W.W. Norton).

****

FICTION

For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Díaz (Riverhead Books).

Also nominated as finalists in this category were: "Tree of Smoke" by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and "Shakespeare's Kitchen" by Lore Segal (The New Press).





Sunday, April 06, 2008

NaPoWriMo 6

Contrasts

The camera loves us,
it bravely looks us in the eyes,
does its best to defend us from light
and dark, though it seeks
what is not there.
If I turn my head,
bring my face my husband’s
there is always contrast.
See my husband’s slight smile?
He is light bouncing off of light
that I absorb. The camera
has a dumb eye, makes me glow
in the noonday sun.

Sunday Scribblings: The Photograph



With the cost of everything going up, I think it's fair to say that a picture's worth a million words. If that's true, then I hope this photo says that I have two fantastic (dare I say, priceless?)children. Sometimes--OK, most of the time--they drive me crazy, but Alex and Ella are just the most interesting, funny, wondrous kids a parent could hope to have.

By far, they are the best things I have done in my life. With any luck, they will be best friends. Maybe they will look back on this photos and laugh.

I can't wait to see the people they become--just not right away.

Visit Sunday Scribbling for more million-dollar photos.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

NaPoWriMo 5

What My Kids Will Write About Me in Their Future Tell-All Book


They will say that “no” was my favorite word,
more than stop, or eat, or love.

That some mornings, I’d rather stay in bed,
laptop on lap, instead of making breakfast,
that I’d rather write than speak.

They will say they have seen me naked.
Front side, back side—none of which
were my good side.

They will say I breastfed too long.

In the tell-all book my kids will write
they’ll tell how I let them wrinkle like raisins
in the bathtub so I could watch Red Sox at bats.

They’ll talk about how I threw out their artwork,
the watercolors and turkey hands,
when I thought they weren’t looking
and when I knew they were.

They’ll say that my voice was a slow torture,
that my singing caused them permanent hearing loss.

In the tell-all book my kids will write
as surely as I am writing this, they will say
I cut them off mid-sentence just because I could.

If there is a claim of neglect
there would be no evidence
to the contrary.

They’ll tell you how I got down on my knees,
growling my low, guttural disapproval,
how I grabbed their ears, pinched the backs of their arms,
yet they never quite knew who was sadder for it.

They’ll quote me in saying “I cry in the shower—
it’s the only safe place I can go.”

They will say she was “our sweet disaster.”

They will say I loved them so much it hurt.

Friday, April 04, 2008

NaPoWriMo 4

The Wilting

Sometimes at night
I rise from bed
to look at my dark skin.
I make sure I can still see
my mother’s red clay
and my father’s kudzu
growing around
these roadside eyes,
a vista that fades
with each passing season.
The two noses I carry
come together as a hill
on a ruddy landscape.
In the soil of my flesh
once grew dogwood
and crepe myrtle—
the harvest of where I came.
How lucky I am
to witness this wilting,
night after night,
as field returns to field.

Boston: Poetry Extravaganza This Sunday

New & Emerging Writers Series (NEWS)

POETRY EXTRAVAGANZA: Featured Readers and Open Mike
Sunday, April 6 at 4 p.m.

Where: The Regent Theatre screening room
7 Medford Street, Arlington

Shindig immediately following:
The Book Rack
13 Medford Street , Arlington

Readers:

  • John Burt, author of three books of poetry, including Victory
  • Jean Monahan, author of three books of poetry, including Mauled Illusionist
  • Colleen Michaels, poet, essayist, and adjunct instructor, Montserrat College of Art
  • January Gill O'Neil, author of the forthcoming Underlife


*After the featured readers, we invite you to read your best poem at our first open mike.*

Contact news_readings@yahoo.com for more information

Temperature Check

It's a rainy day outside of Boston—one that makes you feel as if you've moved to Seattle.

For those of you participating in NaPoWriMo, how are you doing?

Personally, I'm still feeling pretty good that I can still easily find subjects to write about, and find poems on other blogs that move me. Yet, I was hoping to avoid writing poems between 11 p.m. and midnight, but that hasn't happened. So I'm wiped out. And having a sick little girl doesn't help (see NaPoWriMo 3).

For those of you supporting us in our NaPo-madness, thanks! What do you think of all this virtual poetic craziness?


Thursday, April 03, 2008

NaPoWriMo 3

Sick Child

Someday we will look back
and this will not matter—
the retching, the low groans coming
from a place you never knew existed.
I kiss your clammy hands, pull wet ringlets
from your face, do those things
you don’t have the vocabulary to ask for
as you go to battle against whatever
has invaded your body.
I hold you and you wilt.
But in the morning, the sweat above
your Cupid ’s bow lip will evaporate.
In the morning, our time begins again,
mother and daughter, me in the service of you,
you beholden to no one, my seedling,
your plump, tender, exhausted face
looking at my midnight of a face
For now, rest your head on my shoulder—
my sprout, my narcissus,
my center of everything.

Why I Love YouTube


Poets Ross Gay and Patrick Rosal like you've never seen them before.

State of the Art -- Recap

Wow, what an incredible lineup of poets! Look at this list:

Elizabeth Alexander
Toi Derrecotte
Cornelius Eady
Nikki Giovanni
Major Jackson
Yusef Komunyakaa
Dawn Lundy Martin
Carl Phillips
Quincy Troupe
Sonia Sanchez
Afaa Michael Weaver

Sorry, no pictures. My camera takes lousy pictures in low light. And they had a professional photographer at BU, so I wasn’t about to stand up with my little Kodak.

There had to be at least 250 people at the event! And I like to think that my get-the-out-word efforts helped a little. Here are some highlights from the panel and reading.

(The panel spoke for about 40 minutes, with a Q&A for 20 minutes. I won’t rehash the questions, but instead offer the best lines of the evening.)

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The events this week take place as the college remembers Martin Luther King Jr., who did his graduate work in divinity at BU, and as the country remembers his “Mountaintop” speech.

****

Elizabeth Alexander invoked the words of Langston Hughes with the following quote to answer the question, “What are the criteria for being an African American poet?”

“We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.”

“Standing on the mountain seemed appropriate given the King remembrances.” Elizabeth also is a graduate of BU, and was an MLK Jr. Scholarship recipient.


****

Cornelius Eady: “The poet should have a consciousness about the world we live in. It’s what we allow others to know about ourselves to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable."

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Quincy Troupe: “I’ve never seen myself as an other. It’s important to believe in the “
‘this’ and the ‘that,’ not just one or the other.”

****

Yuesf Komunyakaa: “I define poetry as confrontation and celebration.”

Yusef says that there has always been this definition of what it means to be African American, but not by African Americans. Robert Hayden may have been the first to re-examine of the definition. I interpret that as Hayden being an African American who writes poetry, but wrote in a style that was more universal.

****

Major Jackson: “History will mark this place in time, and gage how successful this culture is based on the art and literature of our time. But groups like Cave Canem are not new. There have always been collectives and writing groups along the way.”

****

Yusef: “There isn’t any topic that is taboo, but it has to have a system of aesthetics—love, beauty, truth. Poetry is a distilled meditation.”

****

And my favorites quote of the night. Again, from Yusef:

The poet has to find his way to truth. He/she has to ask, “What am I willing to risk dreaming?” He goes on to say that, “A certain kind of blossoming or freedom must take shape. Where does this attempt at consciousness take place?”

****

As for the reading, hearing Cornelius read his poem “Gratitude” was perfect. And if you’ve never heard Sonya Sanchez LIVE, you must seek her out because she’s electric. Elizabeth read her Muhammad Ali poem (it’s a poem in 12 sections or “rounds”). And after the shooting at Va. Tech, it did my heart good to hear Nikki Giovanni read. But it really wasn’t about one poet over another. There was a genuine sense of unity and purpose to this special night.

Lastly, the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, which is where last night's event took place, has the papers and writings of MLK Jr., but also Afaa M. Weaver, Sonya Sanchez, and Nikki Giovanni, among others. The writers’ exhibit was on display in the back of the room, so it was thrilling to see the works of these living treasures, AND then hear them read aloud!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NaPoWriMo 2

Rain Catchers

The sexy rain calls us back from sleep,
as if we have been away too long,
as if what we carry in these bodies
will spill out of this world and into the next.
Nights like this we awaken
to the first small stirring,
a spasm so slight it couldn’t be
anything but breathing.
We are animal in the dark coming
toward each other. There is no name
for us. Nights like this are about survival:
we use ourselves as shelter,
break our soft bones to build a fire,
turn our lips into rain catchers
and wait for the storm to pass.

Cave Canem in Boston!!!




Can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this event!

I will be there, camera in hand, snapping photos and taking notes to post on the blog after the reading. Here are the event details:

THE HOWARD GOTLIEB ARCHIVAL RESEARCH CENTERandTHE POETRY SOCIETY OF AMERICA present

STATE OF THE ART:AFRICAN-AMERICAN POETRY TODAY
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2
PANEL 4:00 P.M. - READING 6:30 P.M.


Two events showcasing the range of distinctive voices in contemporary African-American poetry, with Elizabeth Alexander, Toi Derrecotte, Cornelius Eady, Nikki Giovanni, Major Jackson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dawn Lundy Martin, Carl Phillips, Quincy Troupe, Sonia Sanchez and Afaa Michael Weaver.

The panel will be moderated by Dante Micheaux. The reading will be introduced by Boston’s inaugural Poet Laureate, Sam Cornish.

Admission is free.
Metcalf Ballroom
George Sherman Student Union
775 Commonwealth Avenue

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

NaPoWriMo 1

Ugh. One down, 29 to go!


Thaw

How excited everything is to live
after so many long, cold months.

Even the crocuses begin the surface ascent,
the stems finding their pitch against a stiff April wind

while the birds sing their deliberate song for no one,
not even the world with all of its exaggerated beauty.

They are as much the notes not sung
as the ones that are. Let them praise only themselves,

and if the crocuses take credit, so be it.
Let them grip the wet dirt in their silent blooming.

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