Before (poem)

Still on a writing break (for the most part) but the opening lines to this short poem kept running through my mind, so I sat down for a moment to see what would come of it.

snake

clearly not an asp (image credit)

Before

You want to breathe new
life into your past, rewrite
the flash fiction of your youth
into something longer and deeper.
It doesn’t work that way, I tell you
and you smile like Cleopatra
before Marc Antony, before
she thought the only way out
was to hold an asp to her breast.

Comparing Hands (poem)

I’ve been on a writing break since around Christmas and am just now easing back into daily writing, editing, and testing the creative waters. Instead of writing, I’ve been focusing on composing, studying music theory, and learning how to tune a piano. I’m hoping to turn the latter into a career; I’m done with traditional classroom teaching, both on the public and college level. 19 years was enough. I’m still teaching English to Chinese students online, but that doesn’t feel like teaching at all…it’s more like encouraging.

Anyway, here’s my first poem of 2019. 

Comparing Hands

You tell me fix my hands, like they’re broken,
as if they’re useless stems I just happened
to be born with, not finely-tuned instruments
for giving love, back-rubs, applying pressure,
or anointing, whichever the situation calls for.

You pretend your hands are perfect when, in truth,
they’ve written reams and reams of lies,
and still you brag that they helped set the stars,
soothed the earth’s waters until they calmed,
the record of your work preserved for heaven’s sake,

to make the angels scratch their luminous heads
and wonder how a creature such as yourself merited
favor, taking secrets bets on who you slept with,
which principality or power you blew to in order
to win cosmic favor, to be the fairest in all the land,

and all that shit that fills fairy tales…but this is life
on life’s terms, the hard and the harder, the blood
and the eye that sees the blood, the scream and the ear
that hears the scream, and all the while you doze
in a patch of sun, the world burning down around you.

6:03 PM in Hell (poem)

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the last few months, but I still write when I can. I wrote this piece during office hours before teaching a freshman composition class. I’m glad I can write just about anywhere.

6:03 PM in Hell

She rolls over in the darkness
and asks, “What time is it in Hell?”
I fumble with my watch, still set
to Hell time, and say, “6:03 PM.”

She’s quiet for a while, then says,
“I guess they don’t do daylight
savings, do they?” I sigh, pull
the covers up, and answer, “No.”

It’s so like her to ask about my
experiences there, in the middle
of the night, just as I’m starting a dream
that has nothing to do with the damned,

screams, or eternal anguish…and now,
it’s all that fills my mind as I flip the pillow
to the cool side, grateful for having escaped
but bearing scars I’d rather not discuss.

 

Yum (poem)

 

 I was looking through some old files and discovered this poem from 1997. It holds up pretty well. I wish I remember about whom the poem was written…but perhaps it’s best I don’t.

Yum

At dinner last week,
she wanted to be the wine,
something perfected
rather than destroyed by age,
and the week before that,
she craved shelf-life,
sitting untouched and unwanted
in an abandoned fall-out shelter.

Obsession being enough
to encourage appetite,
I ate of her, tasted
the awkwardness of her habits,
turned them into golden juice
dribbling down my chin,
transformed her affair
with apathy into fireworks,
her penchant for irresolution
into a perfect cantata.

This week, she is desirous
of all things fresh,
blooming fat and tender-red
in the center of the table.
Even now, she wants more,
which is perfect for me,
emotionally deaf by choice,
a thinking man’s Van Gough
who took the gift too far.

My Father Confuses Murder with Worship (poem)

I don’t suppose I’ll ever be done with this subject….

My Father Confuses Murder with Worship

Do what you hate, and you’ll
never lose a wink of sleep
, my father,
ensconced in red leather and fog,
says and tips me a sagacious wink.

Are you sure that’s the saying?
I ask from a distance of 1,567 kilometers,
the exact length of his heart from mine.

My father borrows someone’s cranky
boss and offers him as a burnt offering,
and the smell reminds me of childhood,
which says nothing good about my home.

As sure as I am about anything, he says
and wipes blood on his checkered apron
while I carve off a piece of charred flesh.

We the Birds (poem)

Flannery O’Connor says, “I write to discover what I know.” I love this sentiment, but I also write to discover what I don’t know. The following poem came from a freewriting session…and I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with it. I like it, and it speaks to me, but I can’t exactly articulate the feelings it stirs.

Writing for me is something mysterious. I feel truth when I write, and then I stand back and say, “What am I trying to tell myself?” I usually have an idea or two, and sometimes I just shrug and say, “Erm…okay. I guess I needed to get that out.”

We the Birds

We eat from the ground
and shake with purpose,
remembering the night
we were set free and how
the rest of the flock stayed
in the girl’s night-dark hair,
which was a nest, a memory,
all things to all people
and all things to all birds.

You overthink everything,
your mother the crow blinks
in Morse code, and a small
man with hollow knees sits
at the desk and takes down
the words, his eyes dots,
his mouth a dash, his ears
two seashells–if you listen

to them, you don’t hear the sea
but the endless drone of space,
that cold nothingness, that eternal
home of ours that calls us now,
even though we’re only birds,
even though we know nothing.

Tale of the Sad Girl and the Sad Boy

As some of you know, I have clinical depression. I treat it with medication and go to therapy, but there’s no magic pill, just as there are no magic words that will ever completely banish my depression. I manage it, and some days are better than others. Today’s not a great day.

Writing helps. This poem showed up and reminded me that I need people in my life, though my instinct is to withdraw and isolate.

Tale of the Sad Girl and the Sad Boy

I’m so sad, she said.
Me too, he replied. Let’s be sad together.
No, that’s a bad idea.
Why is that a bad idea?
Two sad people make exponentially more
sadness…it isn’t just taking your sadness
and mine and combining them–it multiplies and multiples
until you stop counting the tears and start measuring
sadness in lifetimes, entire generations lost
to the darkness with no hope of it ever lifting.

Oh, he said.

Yeah, she said.

And so they parted, with regrets,
but knowing they’d probably made the right decision.