Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #30

I first met the pages of Pablo Neruda's verse as a high school student.  Though they were romantic whims then, many of them have become sentimental to me.  Few have become symbolic of eras and relationships in my life.  I chose this poem because it so well captures the woman I was before I became the woman I am now.  It represents a time in my life when I was called to mature emotionally, to accept that destiny is only half-choice, so perhaps a majority of our lives falls to chance.

I was once in love with someone who gifted me a book of Neruda's verse.  I still have it.  I think this poem represents that special relationship that drifted away.  I have no more feeling for the person, but the words of this poem always conjure that sincere feeling of a goodbye.  And that's okay.  The older you get, the more you learn of the word 'goodbye.'  How sometimes it's your calling, sometimes the call of someone else.

I believe everything happens for a reason.  Some things fall apart so others can come together.  Still, those other things fall apart to make way for more new.  And so is the progression of life.  It's okay to remember, it's not okay to cling to things left only to memory.  I think that modern term is 'moving on.'  And that's what this poem helped me to do a few years ago.

If You Forget Me
by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

This poem concludes my Month of Favorite Poetry in celebration of National Poetry Writing Month.

This is the first time I've ever done this.  It's been a challenge to pick I have so many.  Poetry is a mainstay in my life.  It's like an old friend I can return to again and again.  I have so much admiration for those who write and share their words.

I've enjoyed my month of reading, writing, and devouring words and poetry.  It's been a challenge, but it's been a gift.  :)

NaPoWriMo Day #30

Wow, the last day!  Shew.  I must confess, I'm really tired (and a little burned out, to be honest).  But I completed my third year of NaPoWriMo!  Yay for me!  I'm looking forward to resuming my regular postings, like my Wednesday word list prompt and my favorite internet reads.  I also have totally neglected my digital art this month, which is a major stress-reliever in my life so I'm anxious to get back to creating and learning with PSP and PS.

Anyway, the prompt over at the official page really didn't jive with me today.  I just didn't have the energy to deal with trying to decipher (much less create anything meaningful) with a foreign language for which I'm not familiar.

Instead, I wrote with a prompt from The Daily Poet (a year-long book of prompts written by Kelli Russell Agodon & Martha Silano).   I chose the prompt for May 16th, which was to write a letter to someone that you liked and wish you'd had the time to really get to know, but didn't for whatever reason.

Mine is about a friend I made during the very first semester of college.  We ended up sitting together in the  very back of the room (the back two seats, actually) of Speech 101.  I chose the seat because it was beside the window, I suppose I wanted something to gaze into and allow my mind to wander when I got bored.  Anyway, she came bouncing in and sat right next to me.  We got to know each other, shared assignments and ideas and really just enjoyed gossiping during class.

One day near the middle of the semester, she approached me and said she was dropping out of college.  She'd become busy with her fiance and her job as a store clerk in a clothing store.  She said she just really wanted to focus on living and working.  Which, back then I felt she was really just painting herself into a corner...she was eighteen and she was choosing a life working as a store clerk and allowing her college years to pass her by in the name of love?  As we stood there talking that day, I felt sorry for her as she scribbled her name and number into my appointment calendar.  I didn't know it'd be the last time I ever saw her, but it was.

I got busy with the semester and totally forgot about her number (maybe I was just being a bad friend, or maybe, like her, I was busy focusing on myself).  I remember tossing my used-up appointment book at the end of the semester in a trash can at the student center.  It wasn't until a few days later I remembered that it contained her number (and my only link left to a friend I'd made briefly).  At that point, there wasn't much I could do but believe that if our paths were ever meant to cross again, then they would.  So far, they haven't.  But that is my inspiration for this poem:

Dear Friend Whose Number I Lost

It's true, there's a lot of things
we both missed and it's my fault.
We should have had long, enchanting
conversations until the deep late hours
of a witch-dark night, but we didn't.
Maybe you would have rode shotgun
in my car as we cruised mall parking lots
sharing the lame stories of our studious days
and quoting famous philosophers.
We could have shared clothes and
switched unhappy dinner dates;
dressed in our Sunday Best and
drank beer while ditching the good book.
Now our kids will walk past each other
in grade school hallways and
busy shopping centers, mere strangers,
unaware the brief, omnipresent moments
of youth we shared together in the
back seats of Speech 101, passing notes
and pretending to kiss noses with
the snotty intellects who wore pocket
dictionaries in their front shirts like
makeshift paper mache necklaces.
But you wore the hours of study
like itchy scabs that would not heal,
worn down by your store-clerk job
and the aphrodisiac of a first boyfriend,
you swiftly canceled your classes,
clutched the withdrawal letter to
your chest like a freedom speech
in a dim-light hallway by the upstairs
lavatory  as you dropped your number
into my appointment book that I
carelessly tossed two days before
remembering the first letter of your last name.
Now we'll never know what roads
diverged and how each of our lives
brunt the bend of it's weave into this tragic world.
We're as dead to each other as last years
Sunflowers and now no one will ever
sit quietly in the garden we would have planted
the first summer after your wedding, my skin
tanned of new sun, brown hair bleached blonde,
my fingertips tingling of new love.

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #29

I love this poem for many reasons.  For the way it reminds me of my late grandmothers (both of them).  For the way it makes me think of my own mother and her eccentricities.  It's sweet and innocent and full of wisdom.  Perhaps the most resounding is to not wait until you are an old woman to get free and be totally ridiculous.  You are alive right now, so go ahead and give yourself that liberty to enjoy life.

by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickle for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
when suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #28

I first discovered the poetry of Gary Soto in one of those Best American Poetry anthologies.  I remember the first time I read his book The Selected Poems, how each one was a story, a moment perfectly captured in time.  Or was it a perfect moment that poetry captured for all time?  

He's masterful in the way he allows you to live inside his life for a moment.  I travel across decades and towns and meet people without ever leaving my seat.  I think that's how good poetry is supposed to read.  And I adore his work.  It's really hard to pick a favorite, but here is one that I love.  This poem reminds me that just simply being, existing in this moment is enough.  I need no more at this exact moment in time but to be, to observe, and to appreciate what is.

The Space
by Gary Soto

West of town,
near Hermosa's well,
I sleep sometimes--
in a hammock of course--
among avocado trees,
cane, spider-grass,
the hatchet-faced chula,
the banana's umbrella
of leaves.
It is here
in the spiny brush
where cocks gable,
where the javelina
lies on its side
like an overturned high-heel.
I say it is enough
to be where the smells
of creatures
braid like rope
and to know if
the grasses rustle
it is only
a lizard passing.
It is enough, brother,
listening to a bird coo
a leash of parables,
keeping an eye on the moon,
the space between cork trees
where the sun first appears.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #27

I love Jewel's poetry.  I don't know why she didn't publish more books of her verse, but I'm thankful for the one she did give us.

This poem is the perfect captivation of a teenager whose identity is in bloom.  Back when I was growing up, I had no idea that my identity would change many times over as I aged.  I think that makes me appreciate these words all the more.

I Look at Young Girls Now
by Jewel

I look at young girls now
in their tight crushed velour
skin tight sky blue
hip huggers
with the baby doll
tank tops
and I think
I've been there.
God, have I been there.

Sixteen years old and
wrestling with an overwhelming
newfound sexuality.
Parading it in all its
raw and awkward charm.

I had a pair of vintage
burgundy velvet short-
shorts that laced up
the sides
from the 1920's
and I wore them
with a tight leotard
and a plastic faux pearl

showing off all my lanky
leggy blossoming
youth on the verge
of womanhood for all  the
free world to see
with no idea how to keep
a secret, especially my own.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #26

I have had Carl Sandburg's collected works for some years now.  From time to time I'll flip it open at random and read a poem or two.  I've always thought of his poetry as a sort of flash poetry.  Little glimpses, reflections, observations.  They are short enough to enjoy anytime, but deep enough to leave you thinking once the last line ends. 

This is one of my favorites, I think because it reminds me of my childhood.  Going fishing with my dad, watching the waves roll along the surface, the fish swimming just below...and the tranquil sort of quiet that a lake contains (or even a creek or the ocean-side).

I also really love the personification of the harbor.  Makes me really wonder all the memories of other's that it's old eyes have saved along the years.

by Carl Sandburg

Desolate and lone
All night long on the lake
Where fog trails and mist creeps,
The whistle of a boat
Calls and cries unendingly,
Like some lost child
In tears and trouble
Hunting the harbor's breast
and the harbor's eyes.

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #25

This poem, for me, is an exploration of the dirt in life.  Those spaces in between that we like to pretend aren't there.  Moments that aren't ours, so we turn our eyes in other directions.  It's also about the random scars of the human heart.

Proud Energy
by Brenda Hillman

After the wildfires our cities are brighter
at sunset.  Doctors with carphones
and the young leave work early to watch
the dragon streaks of orange.  In the hills,
new energy as the rattlesnakes plan
stamina among the dry coyote bushes;
coastal winds with warm
and all-mothering powers blow
ashes of brush fires up from L.A.
over the homeless avenues, a backless
song of the conquered and the conqueror,
since California is its own muse...

In town, people we've stepped over all day
rise to get diner in the churches.
Mostly pasta on doubled paper plates.
They put boiled eggs in their pockets
for later, as Saturn's shadow might
swallow it's small moons.  When is the moment
the prophets arrive?  Curled carrots
look lively and pierced.  The addicts eat fast,
but others put extra bread slowly in bags,
bread with proud energy passed from the sun
to the wheat will help the people back
to the avenue, to unlearn the directions,

they stagger toward standing--
(can you remember standing as a baby
before you learned your boundaries too well?)
Sunset on the leather faces, asking for money;
should we give it to them (you survivor--)
and whom do we work for?  the family?
for the guy with tassels on his loafers
or for the coiled internal snake
that's happy only after we've fed it
the small mammal of the unexpected?
Beside us, the goodbye-love generation
awaits the prophetic moment--

And if there's no prophetic moment?
No lightning instructions from the root
of the laurel, no fire congress
at the center of the world, if we can't even say
Not this time clearly into them, maybe
if we just notice one thing:  look
at the buttons for instance:  how many are there?
Look at the corner of the eyes: moisture
triangles, sleep scum...We wanted the perfect
heart but the energy didn't spin
one of those.  The imperfect heart
of love is not looking away--

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #24

I recently found a book by James Kavanaugh.  I enjoyed his poetry quite a bit, but I couldn't find him listed on any of the major poetry sites (which was a little disappointing, considering he is quite talented).  From the little information I could gather, he was a rebel priest who turned from the church in search of his own sense of autonomy and individuality.  He felt that technology would surmise a huge breakdown of human interaction and connectivity on an interpersonal level (for which I agree to an extent).  He passed away in 2009 but left behind dozens of books.

I chose this poem because I, too, long for those childhood days.  Things just seemed more special and precious...perhaps because time passed more slowly and we were forced to really experience things rather than deal with the fast-paced age of internet and cell phones and fax machines.  Even food tasted better back then, maybe that's because we didn't eat out every single day and when we did it was a special, rare treat.

I miss real face-to-face time with friends.  And simplicity.

It Is Hard to Find
by James Kavanaugh

It is hard to find a friend anymore,
I mean, the childhood kind
That once  I stumbled on
And stored with my prized possessions
Like skipping stones and jackknives,
Indian-head pennies and a chunk of lead
I found in Mr. Pritchard's yard.

It is hard to find a good hamburger anymore,
I mean, the childhood kind
That Dan the Indian made,
And the chocolate malts we lusted for
On the way from football practice,
And the french fries and cherry Cokes
We devoured at Holly's Grill.

"What can you do for me?"
And "What can I do for you?"
And somehow you know it's all wrong
Even when you're part of it.
But on nights like this, I lie down
And remember burgers and those chocolate malts
And the friends of childhood I stumbled on.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #23

I usually enjoy poems that employ a sense of being that I can relate to.  Oftentimes, they are about enlightenment, or they magnify the experience of simply existing in this lifetime.  And when they do portray suffering, it's a suffering I can relate to.

However, poetry (like any good literature) must sometimes take you across barriers and open your eyes to the world beyond your personal world.  That is what endears this piece to me.  It's education in the way and shows you a true kind of suffering, the kind of suffering for which the only kind of relief would be to stand in the rain and try to ignore the pain you're running away from.  This is also the kind of poem that opens your mind to the good that you have, the dire position of it's character pulls you into a place of gratitude through sheer empathy.  At least that's what it did for me.

A 16-Year-Old Girl Who's Standing

A 16-year-old girl
who's standing
on the corner of Grand and Miracle Streets
at 11 in the evening
in a tired little dress

A 16-year-old girl
who's standing like an i
under an arcade
She's not waiting for a bus
she's not waiting for anyone
it's just that at her house
her hungry mother
is about to die

she'd rather be standing there
at 11 in the evening
in the cold under the Grand Street

from Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch, 2006

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #22

As I choose whatever favorite poem I'll share each day, I really do it at random.  You see, when I read book of poetry I have  habit of doggy-earing my favorite poems so I can revisit them  with ease.  I have literally hundreds of books of poetry, about poems, of essays and writing and literature textbooks from college.

Today I share one from the literary journal The Raintown Review, Volume 8 (2009).

I think what draws me to this poem is the truth-speak of what it means to be a writer.  To publish that tiny book of poetry and await the postman to bring you the prized possession that you've worked on for so long.  Really when you hold something as small as a book in your hand, with maybe a few notable places of publication, sometimes it's easy to feel discouraged.

I've been there a couple of times....until I remind myself of why it is I write:  because I love to.  Because I have a gift to share.  Because it brings me pleasure and enlightens me and fills the empty spaces inside.  Oh, I cant even list here the many-numbered things writing does for me.  So, publications or not; rather I ever win and award or long as the process of writing brings me joy, I'll continue to do so.

Slight of Hand
by Janey Kenny

the postman brings it
the little journal
shrink wrapped with poetry
sparse and tasteful
mots justes to burn
in a manner of speaking
each word paid for
with hard net-working

thin little poems
elegant plastic
and pale in meaning

in the back pages
the words that matter

who the poets are
but never abortions
crimes or betrayals

poems forgotten
but names remembered
follow this taxi
to be dismembered

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #21

You never know what's going to happen in a dream...

I enjoy the random parallels of this poem.  The feeling that anything can happen...dangerous or not.  Yet, the relief that nothing really will, because maybe it's all just a dream.

Our Clandestiny
by James Galvin

As it fell out in the end the only thing
wrong with dreaming was it was too much
like being awake.  Secure the perimeter.

Out there in the early dark the watchers
are watching us.  The coughers are coughing,
politely waiting for the waiters.  I dreamed

I loaded my driveway into the trunk of your car,
and we escaped.  The smokers were smoking
and occasionally coughing and, as always,

watching the waiters.  The perimeter
cannot be secured.  The death toll never
falls.  All the beggars are taking riding lessons.

The background is going by them way too fast.
Dante's narcolepsy made God's hair
stand on end, but at the end of three days,

the Master Dream was all there was anyway.
There were flying colors, then up rose
the jerkwater moon, the shepherd moon, which led

us two away into this silver pasture.

from As Is, 2009

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #20

Very seldom does my muse offer me her gifts when not prompted.  Usually I must light candles, sit with ink pen poised and notebook awaiting greedily.  I must think, read, reflect...sometimes even desperately beg or pray....but once she appears, she is glorious.  I imagine she looks somewhat like a diva in some grand dress, she walks center-stage quietly.  A mousy thing that does not speak...oh, but when she sings, her voice is phenomenal!

I think my muse daily for the gift of her words, poetry, stories.  For the quirky way she allows me to always see old things with new eyes.

And I adore this poem to (of, about) one's muse.

The Muse
by David Yuen

You keep glowing
and I grow tired.
But your wings are always shining.
Shining as faint as a platinum sky
that binds these rings beneath
my crusty eyes.

In a dark room bathed in winter
I turn to ask you
when I am finished.
I plead with you to tell me
when I can leave.
But you, with your robes of pale heaven,
but you, with your lonely eyes
touching mine,
tell me to stay just a little longer
till the night grew bitter.

Lifting my wrinkled hands into yours
you held them close to you
embracing them tenderly
as though they were
your own.

from Poetry East, Fall 2009 Number 66, "Seasons"

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #19

I love this poem.  It's a sweet and sentimental expression of what it feels to carry a child.  I've written several poems about my own experience, but this one really touched my heart.

It's a precious thing to give birth.  And for that reason, I hold this poem close to my heart.

After You Were Born, My Body Missed You
by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Having you inside me,
daughter, was like
swallowing a porpoise
who happened to turn cartwheels,
a tiny drummer who beat time
on the taut skin
of my belly.
It was startling, unexpected,
feeling movement
where none had been before.

Having you inside me,
taught me life cannot
be scheduled.
No putting your birth
in my daily planner.
Your due date, I soon learned,
the only day
you were unlikely to appear.
Letting go
of all that daily order
was first like floating,
then like falling
from a great height,
trusting fate, or God,
old parachute maker,
to bring me down on grass.

Taught me too
how strongly biology
prefers the future.
Don't worry about the baby,
my doctor said, she takes
the iron she needs,
the calcium.  Take your pills,
it's you who are anemic,
whose bones could thin.
She laughed.  Just one
of those little sacrifices
every mother makes.

And why not?  What better use
of bones than sacrament?
I imagined my body
as a steaming bowl of carrots.
Eat, I'd say.
I made these just for you.

Then you were born,
the doctor handing you
around the curtain.
I stared.  You stared.
Both of us surprised to see
a stranger's face
on this person
we knew in other ways
so well.  Like meeting
a lost uncle
at a family reunion.
Hello, I've heard so much
about you.  And here you are.

from The Gift of Experience, The Atlantic Review 10th Anniversary Anthology, Spring/Summer 2005

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #18

Because I love the stars.

And because I found her biography fascinating.  At the age of 19 she ran off to another country with her married lover....where she changed her name and began to write under the name of her new-found identity.  Crazy, huh?

by Evelyn Scott

Like naked maidens
Dancing with no thought of lovers,
Blinking stars with dewy silver breasts
Pass through the darkness.
White and eager,
They glide on
Toward the gray meshed web of dawn
And the mystery of morning.
About me,
The white cloud walls
Stand as sternly as sepulchers,
And from all sides
Peer and linger the startled faces,
Pale in the harshness of the sunlight.

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #17

Unless you haven't noticed yet by my posts and references, I adore Ani DiFranco.  Not only is she an amazing lyricist, a prominent indie-folk musician, she's also a remarkable spoken-word poet.

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I had never much listened to her music until around 2006.  Really, where had I been?

I have always said that her songs were just really good poetry put to some really good music.  I think I've been right, considering she released a book of poetry (some containing song lyrics!) in 2007.

I love her words for the daring topics she's not afraid to discuss with a full-view mirror turned back toward the reader:  feminism, government, democracy, relationships, the bare bones of the human heart.

This is one of my favorites.  I sort of feel as if I live inside these words.  I think I'm going to make it my anthem.  

by Ani DiFranco

when I was 4 years old
they tried to test my iq
they showed me this picture
of three oranges and a pear
they asked me
which one is different and does not belong?
they taught me different
is wrong

but when i was 13 years old
i woke up one morning
thighs covered in blood
like a war
like a warning
that i live in a breakable takeable body
an ever-increasingly valuable body
that a woman had come in the night to replace me
deface me

see my body is borrowed
i got it on loan
for the time in between my mom and some maggots
i don't need anyone to hold me
i can hold my own
i got highways for stretch marks
see where i've grown?

and i sing sometimes
like my life is at stake
cuz you're only as loud
as the noises you make
i'm learning to laugh
as hard as i can listen
cuz silence is violence
in women and poor people
if more people were screaming then i could relax
but a good brain ain't diddly if you don't have the facts

we live in a breakable takeable world
an ever available world
and we can make music
like we can make do
genius is in a backbeat
backseat to nothing if you're dancing
especially something stupid
like iq
for every lie i unlearn
i learn something new
and i sing sometimes
for the war that i fight
cuz every tool is a weapon
if you hold it right

from Verses, 2007

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #16

Another of my favorite contemporary poets is Lucille Clifton.  During my college courses, she was almost always referred to as an African American woman poet or a prominent black poet.  And while this may be true of the demographic of whatever race she identified with, I never liked to think of people in terms of race, or religion, or nationality (or any other subgroup)....particularly of poets and writers, artists and musicians.   I believe the gift of these creative endeavors breeches us all, the complete human race, in a certain prolific commonality.  We are creators, writers, we share the gift of our scribe, our memory, our experience.  Sharing such a personal thing as a poem is like reading a private journal page aloud to a group of least it is for me.  It demands bravery, no matter what group we identify with or where our origins began.

I think of Lucille Clifton as an amazing scribe.  Her work is timeless, strong, brash and brave.  She has been interested in all of America's historic victims, including both Blacks and Native Americans, and has been consistently eloquent about the special character of women's lives (Anthology of Modern American Poetry, 2000).

I have heard it said before that we are all a product of our past.  This poem both represents, yet challenges that idea.  

I Am Accused of Tending to the Past
by Lucille Clifton

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands, i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother's itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning language everyday.
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #15

A woman who wishes for cake and some quiet.  She definitely understands what it feels to be a mother.

I don't remember the last time I've sat in the house alone.  No exaggeration.  Really.  Maybe that's what I should ask for on my next birthday.

Alone in the House
by Michelle Bitting

On the eve of my forty-first birthday
I know what it is I want:
a cake from Ralph's-- Vanilla layers
and frosting-- the extra sugary kind
that leaves a residue on the back of your teeth.
Iced roses with We love you, Mom
in red cursive across its spackled face.
I want my husband to spread his arms
and lock me in their fleshy heat,
an avalanche of kisses from my boy and little girl.
Then I want them to leave
so I can sit for a while
with the lamps turned down, the furnace cranked--
alone in the house,
listening to the silence scrape its long,
dry sticks across my thoughts
until one by one they begin to flare
like candles, like revelers gone berserk--
a party mob waiting
just beyond the door
with torches and an inch to see
four solid walls burst into flames.

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #14

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is another of the modern contemporary poets that you really never hear about, although you probably should.  He made his debut around the same time as Bukowski, but never caught the same flame of fame as other poets of his time (although his work is every bit as worthy).  

I had many english and lit classes during college (especially undergrad) and never did hear of this poet until a fellow artist friend of mine mailed me a copy of his book...for which is now dog-eared and rests among favorites like Anne Sexton's 'Transformations' and 'The Collected Works of Sylvia Plath.'

Anyway, he does remarkably well in capturing and memorializing the little moments in life.  He seems to find meaning in events that others may overlook so easily.  Like this poem.  My childhood is filled with memories of toy stores and candy isles, but I've never once immortalized the importance of such moments in my poetry.  

From A Coney Island of the Mind
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where I first
fell in love
with unreality
Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that September afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved among
the licorice sticks
and tootsie rolls
and Oh Boy Gum.

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
and they cried
Too soon!  Too soon!

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #13

Sometimes I read a poem and it just reminds me of something I would say, or maybe something I wish I had said.  Or something I would like to say that clearly has already been said.  This is one of those poems.  This poem also reminds me, just a little bit, of my crush on Bukowski.  How can a girl who covets the words of poets not fall in love with such a brilliant scribe?

Not Knowing What He's Missing
by Beth Ann Fennelly

The old poet writes importantly about the hungers.
About Brahms, being greedy for intensity, hot
sunlight on small weeds, fierce honey from hives
abandoned far up the mountain.  And the women,
their flavors and flaws.  The places he's had them,
Paris, Japan, dire Copenhagen, stony islands in Greece.
And now he is eighty, and wishes to be in love again.
Sometimes his wishes sound like bragging.

She reads his poems gratefully in her small
Mississippi town.  Its an undramatic life, yet
these past months she seems to have found the intensity
he yearns for.  This also sounds like bragging,
though she doesn't mean it to.  If she could, she'd let him
bear her secret.  She'd let all the great men bear it,
for a few hours.  Then, when she took it back,
they'd remember how it feels to be inhabited.

Last night the secret kicked her awake.  She grew
hungry.  She didn't want to roll-heave out of bed,
but the secret demanded.  She walked to the kitchen, stood
eating handfuls of cereal from the box while the birds
sang in the dark.  Finally, the secret was content.  She tried
the bed again, facing the rising sun.  The secret kicked
so hard the mattress shook, but the husband didn't wake.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #12

This poem is commonplace.  A tired, middle-of-the-night reflection.  It's a whole lot of my 3 a.m.'s rewritten.  And for that reason, it's one of my favorites.

by Tove Ditlevsen

I wake despondent
at three o'clock in the morning
in my narrow
dull hair
covered with withered
and blood-red, peeling
nailpolish on my toes
from summer's sandaltime.
Ashtaste in my mouth
tired loins
malicious throbbing
in a tooth.

furniture from the past
will have nothing to do with
the random hands
of new inhabitants.

Old sentences
in the curtains
words the fugitive
when he made his hasty
fragments without
meaning or connection.

Out of step with
the season
entangled as a
ball of yarn the cat
has played with
I stroke its
delicate shoulderblades
that are trembling lightly
in sleep.

No more birds to stalk
no mice to scare.
No way out of memory's
Slowly life is running out
like drops along a drainpipe.

from The Penguin Book of Women Poets, 1978

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #11

I love how simple her life, the world she lives inside.  With everyone scattering to and fro to make impressions these days, the white static of an over-colored society, with wars in far away lands and too much bad news to even digest in one reading...this poem is a tall glass of red wine.  It's a precious, quiet evening spent alone with no where to go and nothing to be done.  It's a place I want to live inside.

by Anna Akhmatova

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my useless sadness.

When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I write down happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.

I come back.  The fluffly cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly,
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.

Only the cry of a stock landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #10

This poem perfectly, yet so simply, embodies what it feels to be a single woman whose looking.  Looking for love, excitement, the one.  

The excitement of wine (or cigarettes), playing the waiting game.  Listening for that car to pull up outside.  Thinking of his name.  Wondering if he'll like you.  Wondering if you'll feel the same.

So totally reminds me of myself at so many different crossroads of my life as a single woman.

I recommend the work of Sandra Cisneros to women everywhere, it is softly feminine.  She captures little pieces of what it means to be a female, especially in this modern-day society.

Waiting for a Lover
by Sandra Cisneros

And what if you don't arrive?
And what if you do?
I'm so afraid
I cross my fingers,
make a wish,

You're new.
You can't hurt me yet.
I light the candles.
Say my prayers.
Scent myself with mangoes.

I like the possibility of anything,
the little fear I feel
when you enter a room.
I haven't a clue of the who of you.

And what if you do like me?
And what if you do?
I can't think.
Dress myself in slinky black,

my 14-karat hoops and my velvet spikes.
Smoke two cigars.
I'm doing loopity loops. roar by.  All night.
I'm waiting for the one that stops.
All my life.  Listen...
Hear that?

from Loose Woman:  Poems (Vintage Contemporaries), 1994

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #9

I discovered this poem right before my grandmother died.  I read it many times afterward, a sort of ode to her life.  I thought briefly about having it read (from me) at her funeral, yet at the last minute I decided against it.  No, I'd keep this poem between us...her spirit, the page, and me.  A private kind of thing.

I actually have not read it in a year or so, but every time it sort of sucks the breath out of me.  It contains such an in-depth association to love, how real love stands the test of time, it endears endlessly.  What it means to love someone in the deepest ways of our human being.  At whatever depths love can reach, whatever immeasurable void love can contain...the words inside this short poem question it all.  It touches all aspects, from carnal need to aging body to the flailing of bones.  It asks of someone, intimately, frankly....yet so beautifully spoken....will you always love me?

This poem makes me cry.  It touches me that deeply.

by Nilene O.A. Foxworth

Will you love me when I'm old
when my eyelids sink behind my skull
when my blood is running cold
and my conversation dull
when my gawky gums send a trembling voice
and my hands shake from a lack of choice
when i am as arid as the desert
and my firm breasts sags
like an old empty laundry bag.

Will you love me when I'm old
when my flesh goes back to Mother Earth
and my naked bones are disarrayed
and my soul calmly floats beside the bay
forgotten by the carnal beings of yesterday
through the meridian of the seas
through the depths of the unknown
from a bird to a bee
will you love me when I'm gone?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #8

There's so much about this poem that I enjoy.  It just sort of pulls you into that world, the lack of sleep, the desperation for rest.  The weariness of tried-out sleep meds and the constant brain-patter your mind rehashes over and over when you cannot sleep.

What's best is the ending.  Yes, a brainwashed civilization, glass-eyed as they repeat mundane job responsibilities over and over and over until they retire or die or can repeat no longer.

Sort of reminds me of this quote by Billy Joel:  "If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time."

Maybe that's why some of us can't sleep, unconsciously we're remembering this is our life, something substantial must change...and we just haven't yet figured out what or how and that desperate sort of anxious awaiting is what keeps us awake.

The Insomniac 
by Sylvia Plath

The night is only a sort of carbon paper,
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole . . .
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.
Under the eyes of the stars and the moon's rictus
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.

Over and over the old, granular movie
Exposes embarrassments—the mizzling days
Of childhood and adolescence, sticky with dreams,
Parental faces on tall stalks, alternately stern and tearful,
A garden of buggy rose that made him cry.
His forehead is bumpy as a sack of rocks.
Memories jostle each other for face-room like obsolete film stars.

He is immune to pills: red, purple, blue . . .
How they lit the tedium of the protracted evening!
Those sugary planets whose influence won for him
A life baptized in no-life for a while,
And the sweet, drugged waking of a forgetful baby.
Now the pills are worn-out and silly, like classical gods.
Their poppy-sleepy colors do him no good.

His head is a little interior of grey mirrors.
Each gesture flees immediately down an alley
Of diminishing perspectives, and its significance
Drains like water out the hole at the far end.
He lives without privacy in a lidless room,
The bald slots of his eyes stiffened wide-open
On the incessant heat-lightning flicker of situations.

Nightlong, in the granite yard, invisible cats
Have been howling like women, or damaged instruments.
Already he can feel daylight, his white disease,
Creeping up with her hatful of trivial repetitions.
The city is a map of cheerful twitters now,
And everywhere people, eyes mica-silver and blank,
Are riding to work in rows, as if recently brainwashed.

From The Collected Poems, 1981

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #7

Sometimes I have my own love-hate relationship with poetry, I'll admit it.  There's days when I long to write and no words come.  I sit, pen poised and not one iota of inspiration lights the page.  

Then, just as in this poem, sometimes when I'm showering.  Or when I'm languishing in my fleece blankets on some late morning, the words will arrive.  Without warning and with bells on...they fly into my head, demanding to be written.

I Said to Poetry
by Alice Walker

I said to Poetry:  "I'm finished
with you."
Having to almost die
before some weird light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
"No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
I'm out for good times-
at the very least,
some painless convention."

Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn't sad or anything,
only restless.

Poetry said: "You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with?  You remember
that, if ever so slightly?"
I said:  "I didn't hear that.
Besides, it's five o'clock in the a.m.
I'm not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you."

Poetry said:  "But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked much better
than the grand one-- and how surprised you were
that moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with.

Think of that!"

"I'll join church?"  I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
"I'll learn how to pray again!"

"Let me ask you," said Poetry.
"When you pray, what do you think
you'll see?"

Poetry had me.

"There's no paper
in this room,"  I said.
"And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise."

"Bullshit," said Poetry.
"Bullshit," said I.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #6

I love the night sky...I love the moonlight and the star shine.  I love the colorful bizarre world displayed inside each of Van Gogh's paintings.  And I love Anne Sexton.  So, this poem is a 'win' either way we go.

It is refreshing, though, to see a contemporary poet derive inspiration from a classic artist.  I oftentimes look upon works of art for my own inspiration.  Perhaps us writers are more alike in more ways than we think.

I like everything of Anne's, so this post is really partial.  But....this poem is still amazing.  

The Starry Night
by Anne Sexton

That does not keep me from having a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars. 
- Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry night! This is how
I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry. 

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #5

I always say that the award for the most under-rated poet of all time would have to go to Rod McKuen.  His poetic works were born of the 60's and 70's.  He wrote record-breaking hits and rivaled musicians like Bob Dylan.  Yet, he seemingly fell into oblivion after retiring from the limelight in the 80's.

I own many of his books.  I was lucky to find hardcover editions in a thrift-shop some years ago.  Second-hand and dog-eared, still I adore them.

I find a calm tranquility inside these words.  The feeling of nothing needing to be done.  No where to go, and no desire to do anything but sit inside the calm emptiness of one's own company.  I love my alone time, sparse as it is.  I have always enjoyed my own company.  Usually when I'm most alone is when my muse finds me.  I invite her to a cup of coffee, and we speak to each other across paper.

by Rod McKuen

I will do nothing.
Not read or write
or think.
I will not let
television's bromide
pacify me,
nor make long distance calls
or cruise the local
or let Jeri Southern
conjure up old loves for me.

I will sit in this room
not try to sleep,
disregard the animals
unless they come to me
and if the doorbell rings-
it will go on ringing.

I am doing penance
not feeling sorry for myself
misjudged or misrepresented.
I feel nothing.
So I will do nothing.

Perhaps there is
a slight ache somewhere
but it is so far
back inside of me
that it remains undiagnosed
and will go unattended.

I am not sure
I could say with certainty
what I am doing
penance for.
The reason
if it once was real
is grey.

Tonight I will do nothing
and that includes
not expecting
the unexpected.

But if it should come...

From Celebrations of the Heart, 1975

You can learn more about Rod McKuen and read some of his unpublished poetry at his website.

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #4

by Dorianne Laux

At the highschool football game, the boys
stroke their new muscles, the girls sweeten their lips
with gloss that smells of bubblegum, candy cane,
or cinnamon.  In pleated cheerleader skirts
they walk home with each other, practicing yells,
their long bare legs forming in the dark.
Under the arched field lights a girl
in a velvet prom dress stands near the chainlink,
a cone of roses held between her breasts.
Her lank father, in a corduroy suit, leans
against the fence.  While they talk, she slips a foot
in ad out of a new white pump, fingers the weave
of her French braid, the glittering earrings.
The could be a couple on a first date, she,
a little shy, he, trying to impress her
with his casual stance.  This is the moment
when she learns what she will love:  a warm night,
the feel of nylon between her thighs, the fine hairs
on her arms lifting when a breeze
sifts in through the bleachers, cars
igniting their engines, a man bending over her,
smelling the flowers pressed against her neck.

From What We Carry, 1994

Good poetry is a sort of time machine.  When you can read  a poem and travel back to some pivotal moment in time...smell the air, feel the skin you used to live in...then you'll know you've read something meaningful.

Poetry written from memory and observation, from personal experience, serves a snapshot of sorts.  At least that's what this poem reads for me.  In relaying an observation, the author allows me to relive my own similar experiences.  

I love writing about my helps me to understand myself.  I also love reading something that provokes me to remember the essence of precious moments past.  This poem allows me to recapture a piece of my younger self, and for that I am grateful.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #3

The Year
by Janet Bowdan

When you did not come for dinner, I ate leftovers for days.  When you missed dessert, I finished all the strawberries.  When you did not notice me, I walked four miles uphill past you and into Florence and five miles the other way.  When you did not like my dress, I wore it with gray silk shoes instead of gold ones.  When you did not see my car had sunk into a snow drift at the turn of your driveway, I took the shovel off your porch and dug myself out.  When you stopped writing, I wrote.  When you sent back my poems, I made them into earrings and wore them to work.  When you refused to appear at the reunion, I went to the dentist who showed me X-rays of my teeth.  When you did not tell me you would be in town, I met you on Main Street on the way to the library.  While you had dinner with me, I walked past the window and looked in.  You were not there.

From Denver Quarterly, Winter 1998

When I find a favorite poem, especially in a book I own, I oftentimes will revisit it.

The first time I read this poem (seven years ago), I felt that she might have been in love with someone who was unaware.  Today, as I read this poem again (especially the end), I realize that she was very much in love with someone.  There's a portrayal of an almost over-extension of herself.  Yet, the receiving party actually is aware, they just blatantly do not care.  This is a short prose-story of unrequited love of the worst variety.  An almost thoughtless stringing one along sort of deal.  The writer notices this, finally, as she observes herself (outside of herself) having dinner with this other person.  The other person is there physically, but they really are not there at all.  I think, perhaps, the story ends there with this realization because there is no other option but to move on from that unhealthy relationship (or lack there-of one).

I have been there with her before.  I see my twenty-six-year-old-self meandering my way through a cesspool of over-rated relationships that sorely under-delivered and left with me a cynical kind of wisdom.  Maybe that's what endeared me to this poem so much:  I found a piece of my old self inside it.  

Love and interpersonal relationships are a many-complex, oftentimes sad and deeply dimensional thing.  Because they can be back-tracked, excavated, reanalyzed and rewritten...they make for perfect writing material.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #2

'What Are Big Girls Made Of ' is the first full-length book I ever read by Marge Piercy.  And the whole way through, I couldn't help but notice (and admire) how bravely and fully she inhabited what it meant to be female (from a biological make up to psychological reflection to societal roles).  I was endeared to her way of breaching past with present and even coming to terms with what was and what would never be again.

I also found a lot of myself inside her collection of poetry.  It's a read that I highly recommend for all women.

Anyway, I chose this poem because of the atmosphere.  A sort of love poem, a sort of half daydream about what a woman feels true love should be.  Or perhaps an asking on paper for something she might not have the nerve to say face to face.  I think that's what a lot of any poem is:  the bravery of unspoken things finally said.

On Guard

I want you for my bodyguard,
to curl around each other like two socks
matched and balled in a drawer.

I want you to warm my backside,
two S's snaked curve to curve
in the down burrow of the bed.

I want you to tuck in my illness,
coddle me with tea and chicken
soup whose steam sweetens the house.

I want you to watch my back
as the knives wink in the thin light
and the whips crack out from shelter.

Guard my body against dust and disuse,
warm me from the inside out,
lie over me, under me, beside me

in the bed as the night's creek
rushes over our shining bones
and we wake to the morning fresh

and wet, a birch leaf just uncurling.
Guard my body from disdain as age
widens me like a river delta.

Let us guard each other until death,
white teeth, brain and galloping heart,
each other's rose red warrior.

From What Are Big Girls Made Of?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #1

I have decided to honor National Poetry Writing Month by sharing a month's worth of my favorite poetry.

Each of the poems I share will be a piece of writing that resonates with me deeply.  A piece of poetry that conveys what I feel/believe/have experienced.  Or something I agree with.  Or something that has moved me.  Sometimes I'll provide commentary if time (and inspiration) permits.  Other times I'll just share the poem.  These poems are not my own, I own no rights to them.  I just love them, adore the poets, and wish to share their work.

In addition to this, I will also be writing a poem per day for the duration of April.  You can find those posts as well.  In previous years, I have removed all but day #1 and day #30 of the 30 poems I personally write during NaPoWriMo.  I urge you to read them while they are available.  At the end of April I will remove most of them.

My poem today is by an amazing lady whose work I have adored for years.  Kim Addonizio is as brave as she is talented.  And her poem perfectly captures a feeling that resonates to me all the way into the chemical breakdown of my female genes.  Sometimes what a person wants can really be that simple (yet complicated, once you sink below surface).

What Do Women Want?

I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I’m the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it’ll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.

Published in Another Chicago Magazine, also in the book Tell Me.

NaPoWriMo 2016 Day #1

Every April, I look forward to partaking in the National Poetry Writing Month over at the official NaPoWriMo page.  If you are looking for a place to enjoy/celebrate poetry writing during the month of April, I urge you to check out the site.  Not only is there a collective spirit of networking poets who link up their pages, but this year the site is exploring poetry-in-translation (poets from around the world whose poetry has been translated to English).

Our prompt for today went something like this:
Today, I challenge you to write a lune. This is a sort of English-language haiku. While the haiku is a three-line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count, the lune is a three-line poem with a 5-3-5 syllable count. There’s also a variant based on word-count, instead of syllable count, where the poem still has three lines, but the first line has five words, the second line has three words, and the third line has five words again. Either kind will do, and you can write a one-lune poem, or write a poem consisting of multiple stanzas of lunes.

I chose to do the five word/ three word/ five word variant of lune:

Early April

Spring breeze unwinds porch chimes as
Blackbirds scurry beyond
Fresh-bloomed fields of wildflower.