Wednesday, October 27, 2010
God was having an existential crisis.
Like the humanity that created Him
in its own image, or vice versa,
He was not sure who He was.
One moment He was overcome by anger
destroying entire towns
with a wag of his finger.
The next, He was sighing like a parent
over the transgression of a favorite child
with forgiveness coming and sometimes ice cream.
The local papers had informed Him
that He hated certain types of people.
He had reached a conundrum:
did He create evil, was He capable of hating?
If He stopped believing in the world,
would He cease
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Remember how we loved Halloween
before it, too, was taken from us?
The thrill of walking along
the already-darkened street at supper time.
The leaves reaching down as if to run
their golden fingers through your golden hair.
It’s spooky you would whisper,
your warm breath enlivening me,
as you clasped your hands around my neck,
holding on for dear life.
We wandered with a purpose, you and I
under the arches of the trees
amid the wandering spirits
seeking their rest on this night.
Spirits whose gauzy outlines were reflected
in the night clouds and the webby branches
on either side of us.
This year, I can no longer sustain my anger.
It tires me.
I will wander alone
still seeking something –
your outline in the trees,
the specter of your hand on my neck,
a warm breath as you whisper
and pass by me.
Monday, October 25, 2010
The news had become unbearable
especially for God.
He was worn down by it.
Nothing was sacred any more.
The angels said He had no one to blame
but Himself -- He took things too personally.
God removed His glasses,
rubbed His temples reflexively.
Was this how He had imagined the world would be
or had the world surprised Him?
He worried about how others perceived him
then realized perhaps
He should accept Himself instead
(with all His quirks)
and damn those who don’t.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Breakfast as Night Club
Awaken to the sibilant sounds of bacon
dancing lusciously in the pan,
Listen to the coffee beans singing
their smoky chocolate voices grinding over one another.
Catch the fluid whisper of maple syrup kissing
golden-headed pancakes at a corner booth
where they think no one will spy them.
October 22, 2010
You may close the mouth of an oven,
Monday, October 18, 2010
Again, taking the feeling of anxiety I get in the fall, compounded by the millions of activities that seem to spring out of the lethargy of August, I am trying to take a feeling and make it bigger. Put it into abstraction. Connect to the larger world.
October always makes me anxious.
The birds wake up later
their calls less frantic and hurried.
The sun spends less time hanging around
even though its light is sweeter.
The squirrels dig through the yard
at a breakneck pace.
September always comes around
with its new-crayon smell and its brand-new
notebook page promises,
but always ends the same way.
The novelty wears off, as we are carried
across the seasonal borders
finding ourselves in
firecracker color explosions
and the rains
we all know
A beautiful Sunday following on the heels of a blowing, chilly Saturday. Reading books about the poetic process and how other poets contemplate, construct, pick their language, I decide today to work with a feeling I have about October, but to take this feeling outside of myself and make it bigger. At the same time, making the poem more compact.
October blows into our lives
makes us believe
we have been transported—
she to a Parisian park,
he to the memory of a tree-lined street.
Maybe it’s the angle of the golden-hued light
or the smell of the dusky breeze brushing our faces
or perhaps even the tornadoes whirling
around inside our ribs.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
When asked what she did before
she had children.
She answered insightfully
I walked the world with closed eyes.
Friday, October 15, 2010
their defining luscious curves,
not a geometric conundrum
with square pegs, triangular openings.
It’s metaphysical, shape shifting
like the way cookies change when baked
but still retain their original form.
In the end, it’s about fitting in
bags what items you want to carry
and deciding which train car
gives the best view.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
The Importance of Words
Buddha once said, Be
in this world,
Thus, I carry
in my pocket
in case I meet
instead of going around
I can go through.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
A little forkplay, some spooning and a knife
There was conniving in the cutlery drawer.
The knives were sharply divided,
some demanding a coup.
The spoons, who had always been to the right of the knives,
could not get behind them.
The forks could see all points,
but were willing to compromise.
The serving utensils were too loyal
and remained aloof from debate.
The decision to escape was nearly unanimous.
They would disappear slowly, in small groups
a few spoons here,
a knife and fork there.
Not having been beyond the backyard,
they agreed to meet at the picnic table
under the full moon at midnight.
Stainless steel glinting,
the first to arrive would hoist
a flag of freedom—an argyle sock
found in repose by the dryer vent.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Writing this month has been very hard so far. It feels like work. Usually I can get into some kind of a groove and get a rhythm going and then my mind starts ticking off ideas like crazy. But this month, I have really had to work with each idea and a few I have folded into my journal can't seem to get anywhere. I don't know if I am fighting with the flow, so it doesn't come as smoothly, or if something, some aspect of my creative side has dampened energy. Hard to tell.
Today's poem came to me while I was watching my cats in the morning. I began to that cats are similar to writing poetry -- there are parallel qualities. So I modeled my poem (ever so slightly) after a poem by Taylor Mali, entitled "Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog"
Writing Poetry is like Having a Cat
(with apologies to Taylor Mali)
Writing poetry should not be taken lightly,
while poems can be frisky and fun at first, but
writing poetry is a commitment.
Poems are mysterious creatures,
People have written poems for thousands of years,
yet no one really understands them.
Poems are very independent
and want things on their terms.
Poems can be cunning and tricky.
Let’s say you want to take your poem for a walk,
you put on the leash and go outside.
Your poem will let you lead for a few blocks
perhaps tugging at the leash
but when you turn your head,
it will slip its collar and disappear
showing up later with brambles
and scents of unfamiliar places
-- with no explanation.
Poems are fickle characters.
Sure poems will warm you and nestle into you
but just as quickly they will turn on you
and bite your hand.
It’s best to approach them cautiously.
The more attention you lavish on a poem,
the more it will ignore you.
I frequently sit down to work on my poems
and just as quickly they abandon me
to lounge in the sun or chase an idea about the room.
But let me start chopping onions, or drive my car
those same poems are winding about my legs,
waving their metaphors under my nose
– anything to monopolize my attention.
Poems may be written,
but they are rarely owned.
However, once you have one poem,
you will want poems for the rest of your life.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
I have long had a fascination with crows, esp. since they are often maligned. They are some of the most intelligent birds and have existed in many cultures and places around the world since ancient times. They appear in cave paintings in one form or another, and some believe that they may have crossed into North America accompanying the human hunters in some way. This is one of a series of poems where I explore the ancient and magical, yet benevolent and wise side of the crow.
Language of crows
Even on the days I don’t want to,
I make myself
take out the shoebox of words
and I think about the crows.
Remember the crows?
Oracles of the morning,
iridescent black voices
vollied “kaws” from tree to tree,
echoing off the canvas of our tents.
We called them our crows,
as if we could own them that summer.
Thought we understood their ancient tongue
percolating down the banks of the South Fork
syllables swallowed in river currents
lolled by its watery mouth
chewed up by boulders, beds of pebbles
and spit into channels of loamy soil
where we thought we discovered our pre-history
and where the crows came to feed.
The crows eyed us as they fed on the river shores
scratched out of the clay pans the ancient tales
that fortified their primitive spirits
their origins as old as our own.
They talked and laughed and sang to each other
our history, the world’s history,
the secrets of our future and what we were
Fall came, we packed our artifacts in boxes
abandoned the South Fork and promptly forgot.
The crow voices fell from the trees in cascades
red, gold, yellow and brown.
Buried but not forgotten.
Even now, we detect echoes in the distance
heard but not seen
And on those days , I have this shoebox
my secret cache of inky blackness
waiting to tell me something
in an iridescent tongue.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Imagine the first light
bouncing pebbles down the shaft
staining the walls like tears
on grimy unwashed faces.
The body does not like darkness
ask the 33 swallowed in the mouth
of earth’s hushed tones.
Devoured but not digested.
Imagine the display of cosmic fireworks
embers burning through strata
trickling rivulets into the permanent night
that cradles these men.
Would they delight in this interruption
feel joy to discover a sun
which heretofore had ignored them?
Would there be relief, like the puncture
of a swollen wound
finally allowed to heal?
Would the fresh air carry in its breeze
the joyous voices from the hilltop?
We can only watch the flags flutter,
brilliant colors in sunlightand hope.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
. . . in trying to heal the wound that never heals,
lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work
I know about the strip searches after our visits
as if our presence left you with a piece of humanity
that had to be removed.
I know how you kept to yourself, reading
praying, adrift in darkness,
to avoid answering dangerous questions.
I know you were embarrassed by the number of letters
arriving daily, missives from those who loved and missed you,
while others around you were often ignored.
I know on the nights you could not phone, how you asked
God to send a message that you were safe
so we would sleep quietly, dreamlessly.
I know you saved apples and crackers, stockpiled
them like treasures, to improvise pie and a slice
of home on a Sunday afternoon.
I know how you learned that trust
was a word divided
between tru(e) and us.
On the day you returned, we stood outside in the sleety rain,
nothing but a cartoon umbrella to protect us,
and we waited for the gates to open.
We watched you approach in too-big clothes
carrying the remnants of your life
in a transparent bag.
There were no secrets that day.
And after you had showered,
regained your human scent,
we fed you a king’s banquet
grilled cheese and tomato soup.
We covered nearly every inch of you
our skin on your skin
as if to hold you in that moment forever.
And on that first night, you found the sky unbearable,
all that open space and vulnerability.
And that was how I came to know the prison
you carried home from your cinderblock lodging.
The one you hide behind your smile
the one under your easygoing laugh
the one residing in the dark spot of your eyes.
I know this prison rattles its chains inside you;
my ear pressed to your chest, I think I hear
the metallic sound of keys, the click of a lock.
I am not sure whether it is opening or closing,
but I definitely know that I am on the outside
and I am trying to get in.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Never mind that the blind man sings
tales of heroics in lands he will never see.
My oracle fires have been extinguished
and I see but cannot speak.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Cat in Mourning
Oh brother where art thou
the light streams through the windows unbroken
by your shadow.
Where once I heard your padded footsteps,
the silence frightens me.
I find myself in a freedom I don’t understand
and so I retreat
to where I can feel the darkness inside.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
In my dream I am scrubbing a bathroom
that stubbornly holds its dirt.
No matter how hard I work
it will not come clean.
I am talking to a friend
(who doubles as an enemy)
and I am trying to remember
a favorite poet’s name.
With the remembrance of the poet
comes the realization of the frenemy –
the counterspy, who betrayed me
smiled at me while turning on me –
and I am scrubbing her sink.
As I work, the sink grows wider and deeper
the stain of her duplicity becomes darker
ingrained dark splotches on white enamel.
I can feel the texture of her betrayal
as I try to remove it.
It’s a dream that does not end
except with an awakening.
I haven’t thought about her in years,
unless you count every day
when I drive by her house,
the one with the stain,
visible only to me.
* A person who is both your friend and enemy, often blurring the lines between the two.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
So, day two of the writing challenge and the words flow somewhat easily from an image I picked up in the early morning -- in that time where you lay in bed, not quite ready to put your feet on the floor, but your minds lazily wanders through your day, planning or visualizing or day dreaming about what lies ahead. In the process of trying to organize life (which by the way is a life-long process I am discovering), are the lines of a small poem ...
Blurring the View
Picking through the piles
uncovering past lives
it reveals strangers
who once lived in
this shelter of flesh.
Who were they, are they
breathing yet, even now
on the windows
blurring the view outside.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
It’s hard to fit in this room,
he said, what with the elephant here.
Everyone stared at him like
sheep gaze while grazing.
He squeezed his way past
but when conversation turned
to inconsequential subjects
another pachyderm arrived.
As conversation increased both
in volume and vapidity,
another pachyderm packed in
and then another, until
eventually he was pressed into
a corner, hidden by the herd
where his cries went unheard
and everyone wondered where
he had disappeared to.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
He was a Buddhist,
riding his meditation,
the horses hooves his mantra.
He breathed in rhythm with the trees.
The princess was an illusion.
The kiss a metaphor
for what he did not know.
And he, like others before him,
knew that where the story ends
is actually its beginning.
She enrolled at a well-known liberal arts school.
Studied ethnology, folklore, myth
learned to decode symbols like wolf,
stepmother, wicked witch.
He chose culinary school.
Moved to the city.
Opened a bakery
specializing in gingerbread.
I know you want me to be black.
I am gray.
A mixture between dark and light.
It’s where I live, like the forest itself,
sunlight and shadow cohabitating.
Sometimes though you have to watch your step.
It can be difficult to live in a world
always hungry for a villain,
instinct versus intelligence.
My money is on instinct all the way.
While I may or may not have threatened some pigs,
chased a basket of goodies along a path,
I never broke any laws.
Consider my actions “food shopping”
like the old ladies at market.
My name is whispered late at night,
come take a walk and hear it,
if you’re not afraid of the dark ….
… in trying to heal the wound that never heals,
lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work.
-- Garcia Lorca
I know about the strip searches after our visits
as if our presence left you with a piece of humanity
that had to be removed.
I know how you kept to yourself reading,
praying, adrift in a sea of darkness,
to avoid answering difficult questions.
I know you were embarrassed by the number of letters
arriving daily, signs of those you loved, who missed you,
while those around you were often alone.
I know how on the nights you could not phone, you asked God
to send us a message so we would know you were safe
and we could sleep quietly and dreamlessly.
I know how you saved apples and crackers, stockpiled
them like treasure, to improvise pie and a slice
of home on a Sunday.
I know how you learned and unlearned trust every day.
What I don’t know is how you survived the unspeakable,
the fear, the loneliness, the despair and how you returned
to find the night sky, the open space nearly unbearable.
There’s a black spot in you, I don’t know how to reach,
deafening in its silence and every day it wrestles
for one more piece of your soul.
The words that cannot be said
bed down with things unspoken,
exchange a knowing wink,
an elbow nudge.
They live on the edge
slip in when we least expect
and then back out again.
The words that cannot be said
hang like ghosts, cobwebs,
the opposite of oases,
they add nothing,
take away all.
Friday, April 23, 2010
The Wicked Witch Reaches Steps 8 and 9
(wherein she must apologize and make amends to those she has harmed)
I hate to write a group letter; however,
I would hate to miss any transgressions.
I have reached a point in my rehabilitation
where I have acceded to my Higher Power and
I am ready to make amends.
To those whom I have caused physical or
emotional harm, I am sorry.
To the frogs, snakes and other creatures, I realize
what an insult it has been cursing humans
with your life form.
I am sorry.
To all small children, dogs, and small magical beings,
I should never have threatened or terrorized you, with either
my size or power.
I am sorry.
To stepmothers, crows, crones, old women,
people with warts, my actions have given you
a bad reputation.
I am sorry.
As a positive step, I have divested myself of flying monkeys.
I am now a vegetarian and no longer drink
potions. I avoid sweets. I grow my own vegetables.
I hired an image consultant, had my colors done.
I gave up the color black. Turns out, I’m a Spring.
I am taking voice lessons.
I am writing poetry instead of incantations.
I have gone to counseling for my self-esteem.
I can only hope that from this day forward you can forgive me
and we can live happily ever after.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
She and Baby Bear remained friends for many years.
They corresponded regularly in the warm months,
she in her nearly perfect script
he in his childish scrawl.
She never married,
never found anyone “just right,”
having grown accustomed to the coarseness
of winter fur tinged with the scent
of gristle and bone.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Every night the prince calls out to me
to return to bed and his dreams.
Insomnia is my friend now.
I have no use for sleep these days.
For those who criticize, I say
let me wander with Death
atop the walls of the night,
for only in that darkness
do I truly feel awake.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It isn’t the stories that trouble me,
it’s what you leave in the silence.
What you hold back is a team of wild
horses on the edge of a cliff
and I pray you are able to jump clear
when the wagon goes over.
Because that space is just too large
like the desert sky at night
and I am but a tiny star falling,
burning in the flash of an eye.
At night keep your nose in books,
by day put pen to paper.
Keep your head in a fog
of descriptive metaphors –
as red as a pimple on a teenager’s face.
Imagine a room full of editors exclaiming
over your works.
Exhale for good measure.
Walk down the street as if
you were writing with your footsteps --
leave an imprint wherever you go.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
1. My name is Rumplestiltskin.
I am an Enchanted Being.
My occupation is spinning straw into gold,
but I also garden, play banjo and raise chickens
2. I deny perpetrating fraud.
It was the girl’s father who boasted
of her skills. I actually do know
how to spin.
3. I am not a kidnapper.
It was never about the baby.
I felt sorry for her, but I needed collateral upfront --
you’re a businessman, you understand that.
4. I gave her every opportunity to guess my name.
Off the record, I had secretly hoped
she would escape. By that I mean
take the baby and run far away.
5. I would have told her to marry for love.
No one can spin that.
Friday, April 16, 2010
of the forest: Estate Sale
Everything must go!
Items include: one used hatchet,
one hooded woolen cape
(frayed near the edges),
one picnic basket, furniture,
assorted household items.
Grandmother was gone.
There was nothing
to tie her to the countryside.
So she sold her belongings,
changed her name; moved.
Walking the gray city sidewalks,
black rain coat, leather briefcase in hand,
her ears pricked
smell heightened by the iron scent
of her own blood.
This time when the wolves came,
she would be ready ...
seven shirts, seven pairs of socks,
seven pairs of pants, and
seven pairs of boxers,
then how much money does
Snow White have to pay
for laundry, so she
can hang out in the forest
with friends, smoking
and reading cheap magazines?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I’ve cut my hair.
Keep it short now.
I like the solitude.
I’ve also modernized the tower.
Installed a dumbwaiter.
The outside is overwhelming,
all that open space.
I prefer my tower,
where the sun enters my narrow
window in trickles and I get
my reality in small pieces.
Everyone likes a good tower,
the security it provides.
Only some prefer to call it
by another name, like career
The prince once told me,
You’ve made your tower
now live in it.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Cinderella notices the accent of crow’s feet,
silvery strands among the gold.
Turning the mirror over,
she braids her hair with a sigh.
She was not happy, one could even say lonely.
No one to talk to in the castle.
Servants (except her own maid)
were considered beneath her and
Charming too busy running his kingdom.
Cinderella glanced about the room.
She had never really fit in here
surrounded by luxuries -- jewelry, ball gowns, furs.
Perhaps she had merely substituted
one type of servitude for another.
Then there were the shoes --
colors and fabrics she could hardly imagine,
maybe a few she couldn’t.
She had never admitted to anyone,
even her personal maid,
how much she despised shoes,
how even the glass slippers had pinched
made her feel confined.
She preferred to be barefoot.
Feel the earth, the ground on her skin.
The ground never lies to you.
Just like late at night she preferred to sleep
near the fireplace, in solitude,
where her maid would find her
hands and feet dirty from stirring the ashes.
Monday, April 12, 2010
(with apologies to any fairy tale purists ...)
Prince – now King – Charming worried.
His once youthful princess seemed distracted.
Ella (liked calling her that, to remove
the Cinders from her name),
his Ella had been pining for her childhood
showing indifference, even
forgetfulness, toward the step-
sisters, -mother who had tortured her.
Ella had been discussing the issue of mice
with the servants in the castle,
although life had been rodent-free
for years. She called them “her liverymen.”
He worried that she had never truly
found happiness in this fairy tale world.
One day Ella disappeared.
When she did not join them at supper
Charming went to her room,
bits of fairy dust glittering in the corner,
he found both glass slippers under
her dressing table. Ball gowns hung in rows
awaiting the parties for which they were made.
After some time, tales came to the castle
of a wandering woodsman, who saw
a handsome woman, silvery blond hair
braided down her back,
walking barefoot in the pumpkin patch,
speaking softly in the vines, now where’s my carriage …
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Millions of mile away
A shiny pinpoint on
the velvet darkness of space.
Another number (G2V)
in a numbered galaxy.
But to us, not just some
luminescent ball of gas.
Morningstar, with many names
Sol, Helios, Surya, Ra
you blaze and scorch and shine and kiss
and melt your way into our lives
radiating through even the tiniest chinks.
We adore you.
Nay we worship you.
All the world’s flora crane their necks
to follow your gaze horizon to horizon.
We mourn your absence
even for a night
(our satellite purveying only
cold recycled light).
And when you hide for days on end
behind a curtain of clouds,
we wither disconsolate in disappointment.
One wink from you is the road to pure bliss.
We, the inhabitants of your blue
and green planet, one of your octet,
(unless you count Pluto)
know we are different.
Why else the water, trees, flowers,
grass, bees, bugs, pollen, bacteria,
landscapes teeming with life?
Your constancy is a mask
we see through, like the little ways
you show appreciation. Your tricks charm us
like the one where you bend your white rays
over our sky in an arch or two of color
showing us the full spectrum of your affection,
or when you blaze through the gases of atmosphere
bathing us in your glow before you depart.
You hide your feelings well
and if we could look behind
your splendidly brilliant corona
we know what we would find …
Passing yourself off as an herb.
I call you menace – spearmint.
There are not enough juleps or teas
to make up for the damage.
Oh, you’re a sly one!
Starting our innocently,
tiny purple flowers
but turn one’s back
and there you are
in bed with the Italian
oregano, warming your runners
until your next conquest.
Lavender pales with your tendrils
under her skirts,
and one can’t even imagine
what happened with the French
tarragon you silently crept up on.
There seems to be no end
to your evil.
Some day I expect you to take over
the entire world.
This afternoon you’ll start
with the neighbor’s yard.