poem-a-thon 18: the warm-ups

Losing my edge today, I feel like; considering I’m 58 poems in, I suppose it was bound to happen, but I’ll try to get another wind. (I’m long past second.) Home for Easter now, so maybe I’ll have a little bit more time to cogitate a bit and relax and write. This one is a light piece for the NaPoWriMo prompt of writing a ruba’i (or ruba’iyat); honestly, the form prompts are a relief, since plugging into a predetermined structure is great when you don’t have much thought capacity left for the week. So, there it is.

The Warm-Ups

Before the college boyfriends, there was porn.
We practiced late at night and were reborn
in darkened basements, lit by blue-white screens.
Our eyes grew haggard, hands and fingers worn.

We’d download education: young Marines,
rough threesomes, tender couples, kings on queens.
When kissing girls by day, we’d shut our eyes,
replace them in our heads with other scenes.

Good Catholic boys seek out and fantasize,
but don’t discuss what gives their loins a rise.
How many shared this secret? In the hall,
we’d pass, regard, keep up that straight disguise.

Discovery came that first collegiate fall
in dorm room beds, or up against the wall.
Our practice served us well, we hope: what scorn
could we, who knew nothing, exchange at all?

poem-a-thon 17: closet makeovers

Confirmed: definitely have strep.

Which means that my posts are going to be commensurately shorter and less bantery than usual this week, because although I’m still poeming my little heart out (fighting the good fight YEAH) for NaPoWriMo (and this prompt, which I didn’t really follow much, to describe things using multiple senses), I need my restings and my recoverings.

Um, this touches briefly on my self-image and body-image issues while coming to terms with my sexuality as a teen. Barely at all, but it’s the undercurrent I suppose. Shrug?

Closet Makeovers

Sophomore girls had it easy. I say that while admitting
the shell game society plays with them and their bodies:
another poem about their troubles should be written

by someone who can tell it better. But it seemed to me
then, they all wanted to clone each other: dyed blonde,
rail-thin, burnished under their uniforms. It was harder to be

a Catholic school boy in love with boys, to be fond
of muscles when one had none, raging through gym class
loins-first, the odd, sensitive duck (before queer swan).

The only mentors I had were on TV. I learned how to pass.
I didn’t discuss my desire for chest hair, velvet against
my cheek– or no– to be shaved down to silk, smooth as

those late-night dial-up fantasies. I kept quiet when I sensed
weight-room musk skunking off the jocks in homeroom.
I wanted to be that– no, perhaps the pliable twink one bends

backwards– or the queen weaving on a homemade loom,
all turquoise and flash. So many options to keep hidden:
how was a boy to choose? So many shapes to assume
when I didn’t know what they’d mean, too raw and flat to fit in.

poem-a-thon 16: vignette, with two boys

Guys, Yousei Hime and Margo Roby still rock more than the rest of you, I’m sorry to tell you. But it’s because they donated to a good cause and you haven’t, so if you don’t want to hear me keep singing their praises, you’d better get on over there and chip in as well. (I promise you can put in any amount, and you’ll get a shout-out.) There’s two weeks left, and once again, I’ll totally write you a poem and/or send you a fancy version of one, as an incentive to help. Please please please visit the page and help us reach our goal!

Meanwhile, I’m giving you yet another poem. NaPoWriMo’s prompt today was to do a ten-line poem where each line is a lie; très interessant, n’est-ce pas? Ended up with a simple little one, where I tried to obfuscate the lies and half-truths within other lies and half-truths. I’m not even sure how close this is to the real story anymore.

Vignette with Two Boys

Afterward, that one lit a joint and said, you have nothing
to worry about. He produced the paper that said
he was negative, pretended he hadn’t gone hunting
for boys in years anyway. Fresh beads gleamed red
on the tip of his cock from the speed and furor
with which he’d pounced. It had seemed like minutes,
not hours. Afterward, some unknown boy in the mirror
stared back at the other, surprised to be caught in it:
quiet, eyes pinched. See you soon, this one replied through
the pot-smoke, regretting what he’d done, what he couldn’t do.

poem-a-thon 11: the three fates

So with the signal boost from NaPoWriMo yesterday, I think I had more hits than the rest of the week combined; it’s since fallen off back to normal levels. Oh well. I hope that people are reading and enjoying, overall. It’s tough to keep some kind of blogosphere presence without a gimmick or other method of hooking people. Sometimes I’m tempted to give it up altogether, but I do enjoy it, and I do it for the handful of people that make their appreciation known. <3

Today’s NaPo prompt is a form I wasn’t familiar with, the anacreontic, which is a somewhat whimsical form in seven-syllable rhymed couplets, short and lyric with an emphasis on wine and love, specifically. (It’s Ancient Greek, appropriated by the English Augustans et al.) I’ve had this one scene from some years ago (along with several others, naturally) floating around my head lately, and though this little ditty doesn’t do it justice, I got thinking about triple goddess myths, fates, petitions, oracles, and psychedelic drugs as a result. Seemed to fit, more or less! And it gave me some Thom Gunn echoes that I enjoy.

Don’t take it too seriously, though, nor the other poems I’ve written about these semi-mythical figures in this semi-mythical moment. Forget you saw anything. Move along.

Two Anacreontics: the three fates

Their bedroom’s Compostella,
tonight. Pilgrim, come tell the
sisters your hot, secret dreams.
Nothing’s ever as it seems.
Their cocks are out, hard but thin:
they sip cups of mescaline.

Like soap bubbles, meanings fuse
with those dreams: the sisters’ booze
pulls them loose. Given wisdom,
with what coin will you kiss them?
No fear! I’m here, disrober–
chaperone stoned, but sober.

oulipost 4: disco chanteuse

Something frustrating about doing found poetry from a newspaper is that I get ink all over my keyboard. So for today’s Oulipost prompt, I cheated a bit and used an online source, also because the prompt would have been so tedious to do by hand. Today the challenge was to build a poem using words from an article corresponding to the Fibonacci sequence, where each number is the sum of the two preceding it. (For those who didn’t geek out over number theory in youth as I did, that means 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc.) I managed to get up to the 4181st term in the sequence (as my article was about 4200 words long). Which resulted in a nice little crop of interesting and/or function words:

As, ABBA’s, “The”, old, fades, slowly, a, 6:30, Lady, Broadway, aura, several, from, glory, body, getting, side, says

The article itself is about the closure of the megaclubs in New York, which were my first clubs (at least, at the tail end of the era). I do still like to go out clubbing, and it makes me sad to see them go the way of all zoning. The warped little arrangement I got out of the prompt doesn’t really address that directly, but perhaps it hovers around the corners.

Disco Chanteuse, Retired, Considers the Dusk

The Lady says,
getting old, getting old.
A body fades slowly.
The Lady from Broadway.
ABBA’s aura from
several sides. 6:30 fades
as the Lady
getting old
says, glory, glory.
From Broadway-side,
the aura fades.
The Lady’s glory, as
a body says.

resonance six

A bit late on this one… I’ve been incredibly lazy this weekend for no definable reason. But what’s weird is that my laziness has been punctuated by bursts of getting shit done. I woke up early to accomplish all kinds of tasks by noon, and then proceeded to loaf and laze and lounge my way through the rest of the day, more or less. Maybe my blood sugar is too low or something? Anyway, tomorrow I start the other workshop, which is pretty cool. Not sure what I’ll bring yet, though; I had hoped to get something new in order, but at this point in the evening it’s unlikely. Maybe I’ll cave and try to write something decent to a prompt, since that’s usually good for a jolt to the brain.

I’m also going to try and update this blog more than once a week; keep an eye or two (or three?) peeled for a few reviews and Interesting Announcements that I will make when I have the wherewithal. But I’m pretty out of wherewithal for the evening; all that will have to wait.

It’s all I can muster to get together something for resonance six this evening. There is currently a mix of classic, little-known, fantastic, and awful 80s music ringing out from the kitchen, most of which my roommate is singing along to. It has me thinking about the idea of “retro” as cultural cachet, and wondering whether any generation realizes, in the thick of it, that eventually their music/style/celebrities will be appropriated by their children. I look around at the state of such things nowadays and feel nonplussed that that could ever happen with what I grew up with, but give it another ten years, and I’m sure they’ll be having 90s parties (even — yikes — 00s parties), finding new value in what I’ve taken for granted, ultimately paying no heed to (even though it’s buried forever in my cultural consciousness).

Therefore, tonight we’re going to look back, and then look forward to look back: a poetry in the future perfect, if you will. Start by making a list of places, people, songs, words, anything that have changed in your estimation from one point of time in your past to the present. Maybe you had a notion of France before you traveled there that has become, in the now, very different; maybe the person you thought your aunt was has been undone by crime, or Alzheimer’s, or an unexpected revelation. Each item in your list (let’s say, ten things) should have at least two qualities to show that progression from A to B. Try to vary it a little bit, too: get specific and abstract, get personal and political.

Next, take ten things in your life that you’ve only encountered, or at least formed a solid developed opinion on, in the past year. It could be someone you’ve just met recently, it could be a place you’ve never heard of before, it could be the Wikipedia featured article. Gather ten things that are new to the sphere of your consciousness, and list one descriptor for each of them that sums up how you feel.

Now for the weird part. Begin your poem with a time phrase that sets it in the future: you can be as vague as “Before I die, I will…” or as specific as “Next Thursday, at three o’clock…” Project yourself forward to that date. You don’t have to make it a first-person poem, but allow your view of these places and people to color them when they appear in the poem (because yes, they’re going to appear). Next, you’re going to look for connections between your two lists: maybe some of the items on your first list have trajectories like mystical—disappointment (your idea of Italy?), aloof—traumatized (your childhood neighbor’s daughter?), a chore—a way to relate to my parents (Church on Sundays?), etc. Then look for items on your second list that echo either “mystical” or “disappointment”, and pair them with Italy. Look for items on your second list that are either chores or points of parental connection. Consider these new things in your life as they relate to what is already present, either as it is now, or as you used to see it.

Try to form metaphors and similes and make-likes that draw these lines for the reader in fun or interesting ways. (“My first taste of the air at Genoa / could not have been less like the emerald salt / I imagined. Santa does not exist; / all dogs do not go to heaven; / the spray off the cliffs was too familiar / mud, and sedge, and sunburned thorn.”) You can populate your poem with as many as you want, but ultimately, you are projecting into the future, and the overarching theme of the poem is how will you come to terms with change, or transformation, either in general, or for one/some/all of the things specifically? How will the things that have recently entered your life change in the future, and how will you deal with that, given your past experiences and how you associate them with the now?

Let that inform the structure and content of your poem, and possibly even the voice of it. It’s an exercise that can be uncomfortable — I think as material beings, we are programmed to avoid thinking about mortality and time in this way — but writing our way through it helps. If you feel the spirit move you to do so, please come back to share; I’m curious to see what comes out of this one in particular!

resonance three

This just in: apparently my prompts can be confusing! Sorry guys. In regards to the last one, what I meant by “scatterplot” wasn’t anything from a statistics course, I just meant a bunch of dots drawn on a page. I thought having some kind of visual connect-the-dots component might be nifty, but I suppose I should have given an example. :P This week’s will be easier!

I’m a bit dismayed at not being at the Winter Getaway this year. I had family things to attend to this weekend, and although I had considered driving down for an evening’s jaunt, being sick + the threat of snow + everything going on dissuaded me sufficiently. So now I am just wrapped in many blankets and curled in my bed, typing a prompt. I hope that will do to keep the poetic juices flowing for today at least. I need to fashion an ice pick out of words to start chipping away at the layers that have accreted to my brain, to help speed along the thaw.

So, I’m going to keep resonance three a lot simpler. I’ve been noticing a lot of moments today with interplays of color; rolling with that as a theme, along with a few other nimble techniques of crafting the word. First, pick two colors (blue and white? red and purple? black and chartreuse?) and assign a texture, tint, or some other quality to each one. You might say “metallic blue” or “soft rose” or “dull jade”. Get an idea of what material you might be considering, whether it’s pure light, or a piece of fabric, or something else entirely. Allow one color/texture combination to fall upon the other, and place it within a setting: a kitchen, a park bench, a DMV office. Show the setting with objects or people or sounds rather than just telling us where in one place or another.

You can consider how these colors might catch your attention in that location, or they might be incidental details that distract you from a larger story. You can create this scenario, or just keep an eye peeled during your day for the first moment when the colors come to life in some interesting way. But however it is, jot it down and keep that experience in your pocket and leave it for a bit; because then, you’re going to wait until something reminds you of it. Maybe you’re suddenly struck by a “liquid bronze” (sunlight) against a “cold granite” (countertop) spilled next to a carafe of orange juice (in your kitchen), and two days later you’re reminded of it by a fire in a trash can covered with dirty snow. Or maybe someone talking about countertops will remind you of it; or maybe just drinking orange juice. Allow the senses to re-awaken this memory, real or unreal, and allow yourself to consider the connections between these two moments.

Now, begin to write. Consider the tone of each moment and how they differ, as well as how they’re similar. Try to stay within the realm of description; don’t allow your thoughts to carry you too far away from concrete details. Who is present, what are you doing, what are you wearing, what smells surround you? Play around with narrative structure: do you want to write about the second occurrence reminding you of the first, or the first foreshadowing the second? Overall, the sense we should get is that these moments of connection never happen in isolation: they add a layer of emotion that transforms and is transformed by what they link together. If you were lonely and quiet in the kitchen, then full of adrenaline in the alleyway with the trash can fire, how do those experiences affect each other through the lens of their shared tissue, those colors? It might be a tenuous connection, but try to use words to bolster it, making it strong enough for your reader to walk on.

Notice I said it might be a little bit easier to follow this prompt, not harder to execute. :) Take the time to really understand and be with it, then by all means come back and share it. If you really want to make it hard on yourself, write a poem in two stanzas of equal length, balancing these two visions. Happy writing!

renovation twenty-six: morning in el raval

I need to beast through this day and tomorrow. It has been a whirlwind of apartment-confirming and application-submitting, on top of the usual work hubbub. I have just had a brief spell of time in which I was able to drum up this prompt, and I hope I have a smidge of time to polish something (anything!) for workshop. But between work and workshop, I have to scoot out to Brooklyn and back for an hour… hectic is the life material. Still, we are on the final cycle of Renovations, so knock yourselves out with this one:

1. “That led to the house of art.” (Ana Božičević, “Joyride”)
2. “He came home as quiet as the evening.” (James Wright, “Youth”)
3. “This whole trip has been a heaviness.” (me, “Before Departing”)
4. a menu from your favorite lunch spot
5. Capture a single moment; try to avoid anything more.
BONUS. Include at least five lines which contain only monosyllabic words.
ALTERNATE (3). Use a line from one of your own poems that states a truth or opinion you wish to disprove.

Even though Curio is long since defunct, I still enjoy the aesthetic of capturing moments, a little bit more broadly than a haiku does or haiku-inspired poetry. The fact that James Wright was one of the random poems this morning was not lost on me.

(morning in el raval)

Drinking coffee alone,
I can hear green-throated parakeets
chirping overhead.
It is January,
but warm wind blows in from the sea
like a practical joke.
Suddenly
light crests the Gothic roofs
and spills over the cup’s rim,
turns to jewels
the saucer, the handle, the froth.
Parakeets comment
and the wind raves.
I start to say
something, but there is no one here
to whom I can say it.

renovation twenty-four: christopher, three years later

It is so bloody cold out there today, that I couldn’t feel my face when I got in a little while ago. I need to find a new apartment ASAP, but if the one I’m supposed to go see tonight doesn’t get back to me to say it’s okay to visit… well, I’m okay with not going back out there at all tonight. And since I was getting everything together to head back to New York, I did not get to do this prompt until later than intended, so I apologize:

1. “Every afternoon the people one knows can be found at the cafe.” (Ernest Hemingway, “Montparnasse”)
2. “All day I’m giving a name / for what isn’t there.” (Liz Beasely, “Snakeskin”)
3. “Donna Summer starts up on the speakers.” (me, “The Gospel According to Helena”)
4. an empty birdhouse
5. Think of a person, and the last time you saw him or her.
BONUS. No bonus! Go nuts with the structure.
ALTERNATE (2). “Commuters arrive in Hartford at dusk like moles…” (Robert Bly, “The Executive’s Death”)

I couldn’t think of anything for the bonus. By all means, if you want to do form stuff, you should; but I just was too tired to dredge up any clever things about it. Go where the words take you. Lazy Sundays all around.

(christopher, three years later)

Several seconds passed before I recognized
those eyes like cigarette burns, perfectly round
and dark, and full of a desperate history.
I was working, and he asked for a cappuccino
the way he might have on a November morning
three years ago, the two of us clasped
on a mattress in someone’s West Village hallway–
the way you might ask someone to save you.
Maybe he recognized me, maybe not.
We met in a club. We only ever knew each other
by touch, and anyway, three years can change a lot.
It can draw lines through veins under perfect skin,
grease the hair, narrow and crack the lips
and tremble the fingers. If I awakened anything
in him, it was a feather of blue candle flame
you could call regret, bending towards the corners
emptied of a person, a shuttered gallery
dragging itself out the coffeeshop door.

renovation twenty: at barnegat light

I feel as though I’m entering a dénouement phase of November; particularly because we are now two-thirds through it. But also, there are some Positive Life Changes happening, which I am hoping continue in a few particular arenas. I’m hesitant to say much yet, since I’ve been so scared of being optimistic lately, but there is the possibility that I will be much less stressed soon. I hope so, at least. I need my clear away all the crap from the doors so the muse can get in the house.

Here’s today’s thing:

1. “…we made each other / nervous, standing too close…” (Louise Mathias, “The Problem of Hands”)
2. “Such was the season when the flower bloomed.” (Jean Toomer, “November Cotton Flower”)
3. “Cape Lookout could be gone in a hundred years.” (me, “A Bend in the Sound”)
4. broken glass
5. Include an event from your past, but place it somewhere it did not happen.
BONUS. Write your poem in couplets of some kind.
ALTERNATE (4). a bag of apples

And then here’s what I did with today’s thing:

(at barnegat light)

Lying near you, I become one of those ancient Greek wanderers
cutting the water off the edge of the map, not because I’m lost

but because I want to know forbidden salt on my tongue. The crew
must lash me to the mast. The ocean throbs. Maybe you are

the whirlpool swallowing men whole, or a pop siren that sees them
dashed to pieces. Or, you could be one of the last canto’s blessings:

the morning star we watch just offshore, or a long-lost beach
like this one, whose murk a wanderer falls to his knees to embrace.