poem-a-thon 27: ubi caritas

I don’t often let bits of old religion glimmer into my poems with honesty, but I’m in a mood this morning, and there it is. NaPoWriMo offered photos for an ekphrastic prompt; I didn’t really take them up completely on it, but here’s the photo that I had a resonance with:

snow

Tying it into the Poem-a-thon theme once again, lightly. Guilt-and-humility poetry is a lot harder to write than it looks, guys, at least with integrity. I’m not thrilled with this one’s form, but at least it’s true.

Ubi Caritas

Patrick tells me that he and his wife have opened
their home to the homeless: the first floor becomes
an emergency B+B in the winter. They’ve stocked
towels, coffee, soap, cereal, change. Nobody stays
more than one night, but they have a list of other
Samaritans’ numbers to complete the circuit of hope.

This reminds me of my friend Mose, who took in
an Alaskan boy, Kevin, hitchhiking across the country
after his parents kicked him out. Mose found him
cruising our usual dive: a week later, his hair untangled
and his skin unearthed with body wash archaeology,
Kevin’s face regained life. Mose didn’t touch him once.

When I track through the frozen city, I keep one hand
tucked in my pocket, dollars ready, but no one about.
I’ve seen the cagey looks that go with the ready hand:
grates and shelters are safer than following strangers.
I see a huddled shape and give, but want to give more.
I want to be trusted, to know what giving is for.

oulipost 26: ask a psychic

And lastly, before I cave in on myself in a singularity of poetic burnout, another lighthearted-fantastical one for Oulipost‘s beautiful outlaw (belle absente) prompt. I took the name Orson Welles for this one: the first line is written without the letter “o”, the second without the letter “r”, etc. Managed to even get some rhyme in there! All words are sourced from an article in the Voice about his film version of Othello, and turned into a goofy new age vaguery piece about dreams. Go figure.

Five poems today. Fin. *mic drop*

Ask a Psychic (see Page 13)

The scrap-fabric mysteries are seductive:
easy to decode and easy to believe.
A ribbon of dream fanning out like vertigo
is assembled in the hair, wispy-refusing-stiff,
as the dark fits together, bright but slow.

A mosaic might be made (and then undone)
by imagination. Who could look away?
Or, the setting may rather be pieced together,
each jagged vision in emptiness, one by one:
iron grillwork, black flags. A body of a play
you need can be learned, or embittered.

poem-a-thon 26: evasive maneuvers

To counterbalance the heavy one from before, here’s a somewhat lighthearted one (although it was a very awkward time to live through) about certain, um, indiscretions of my youth. NaPoWriMo asked for curtal sonnets, which I haven’t written in a dog’s age. I tried to stay pretty iambic, and keep Manley Hopkins’ preferred rhyme scheme, while trademarking it with a bit of irreverence and cheekiness that I feel he lacks. Have at it.

Evasive Maneuvers

I visited the basement late at night,
sleepwalking down the stairs to the computer
    for fifteen minutes of blue video.
I’d memorized the name of all the sites
my fumbling preferred: the digital looter
    of dial-up hardbodies with sound turned low.
My girlfriend always asked why I was so tired.
There was only so long I could elude her
    before the Reveal– how I did, I don’t know.
As a lover, I was champion; as a liar,
    just so-so.

poem-a-thon 25: survivor’s guilt

Trigger warning on this one, which I almost never do. NaPoWriMo wanted a poem with anaphora, and for whatever reason, my brain kept turning “repetition” into “litany” which turned into “hate crime victims”. This isn’t what I want to say about the subject: it’s just the raw first stirring of some emotional complex about it, spilled out onto the page. The whole reason I’ve been doing the charity Poem-a-thon is to help unpack some thoughts about the plight of queer youth, because of all this right here. It hasn’t really done much good, though; to quote a song by VAST, “They’ve been killing children and nobody seems to care.”

Survivor’s Guilt
(for Matthew, Teena, Tyler, Carl, Steen, Scotty…)

On the full-length mirror I have painted
the figure of a boy tied to a fence with salt roads
tracing through the bloodscape from eye to chin
and the figure of a boy opened up in the chest
whose jeans concealed a girl’s manufacture
and the figure of a boy with glasses plummeting
two hundred feet into the Hudson chill with autumn
and the figure of a boy with numbers carved
large and dark across his forehead by his father
and the figure of a boy with an extension cord
wrapped tight around his eleven-year-old neck
and the figure of a boy with his head hanging loose
over shoulders still smoking and peeling
and the figures of other boys to remind me
what good fortune is and what the world is and
how thin a step separates one from the other.

oulipost 25: goddess of wisdom

Playing catch-up on yesterday’s poems again, after a rough evening. This is for yesterday’s Oulipost prompt of taking two sentences from a text (in this case, an article about horse carriages from the Village Voice), inserting a sentence in between to enrich the narrative (in that case, an article about artist Judy Chicago), and repeating the process until a fleshy narrative is created. I honestly had no idea where this was going until I got to sticking the last sentence in, and I decided to just let it go the whimsical direction it wanted. Shrug?

Goddess of Wisdom Provides New Batch of Pegasi

No human has ever died as
a result of a carriage accident. We’re just
regular people who want to go to work.
It’s not that she has any complaints about
her own career. So what does she have to be upset about?
But we really don’t know. She’s coming off
a day’s work and sounds a little weary.
She’s a petite woman, but
her personality towers. Butterflies have come
in and out of my work for years,
but it’s always been a symbol of liberation, she says.
Where I am now is a miracle.
Our horses are helpful, fit, happy, bright-eyed,
and a good weight. Red, pink, purple, fuchsia,
white, silver, and gold. This is
the best birthday present in the world.
Even in pain, horses will run races.

poem-a-thon 24: masonry

Kind of a simple and sad one today for NaPoWriMo’s prompt. I’m circling back to my theme of youth and LGBT issues a bit; and hey you should donate please! Help keep the stuff in the purview of this poem from happening, okay?

I channeled some Kay Ryan again, as I am wont to do when time is short and ideas are slim. NaPo wanted a “masonry” poem, so I went in a couple different directions with a more abstract implication at the end. It’s not great stuff, but it will suffice.

Six more days, I’m running out of juice.

Masonry

Unbuilding
can be dangerous. Brick
and mortar
betray us and crumble
into grey and red disorder,
often with the play
of glass. And even after
there is still danger:
a boy happens to pass,
pockets rubble
meant for the head of some
other boy who
likes to dress
up. Rough words wrapped
round a brick sail heavy
and thick. And buildings
can be as much trouble as
unbuilding
when we use the word
evil. Imagine
how much damage waits
to be loosed in the vaults
of cathedrals.

oulipost 24: neighborhood boys

Getting my Oulipost on this lovely afternoon. Today’s prompt was to do a homosyntaxism, taking found text and converting words to other words with the same part of speech: nouns become other nouns, verbs become other verbs, etc. I decided to adapt the prompt a bit and call it a slow burn, where the poem applies these changes to the same sentence one iteration at a time, as you’ll see below. I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but I like “slow burn” because it applies to the content of the piece. The original sentence is the first one, and it’s from the Voice, and it’s a throwaway line whose provenance I can’t recall.

Neighborhood Boys Exchange Difference of Opinion

The conversation turned to us talking about the people and things that made our local spots great.
The conversation turned to us talking about the people and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument turned to us talking about the people and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument turned to us talking about the speedballs and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and things that made our local spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and switchblades that made our local spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and switchblades that made our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us talking about the speedballs and switchblades that left our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us showing off the speedballs and switchblades that left our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us showing off the speedballs and switchblades which left our usual spots deadly.
The argument led to us showing off the speedballs and switchblades, which left our usual day deadly.