poem-a-thon 30: at the wake

Last day of April. Ye gods, I did not think I would get here in one piece.

I’ll write a happier poem after this one I guess, but the NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a “farewell” poem, and all I could think of was Nicholas. But then it spun into thinking about his ex, who I won’t name, from whom he acquired what killed him. There are few experience more surreal and rankling than sitting at a memorial for someone with the person who was, in some indirect way, responsible for their death, and knowing that it was almost you who could have been the victim.

That’s about all I can muster to say about that. I think this will take a lot longer to fully melt and unpack.

At the Wake

The last time I saw your murderer,
it was the crowning of September.
All reddening oak and piano damper.
We met in a courtyard paved with brick,
and your murderer– he didn’t look sick.
Mouth unmoving. Beard grown thick.
I couldn’t bring myself to do it,
to spit in his eye, though we all knew it:
how he didn’t even try to push through it.
You took the bullet I dodged, in the head.
You shared his quiet murderer’s bed
and were the one who died, instead.
I want to announce this to everyone–
but we don’t discuss the bullet, the gun.
We talk of doing, not of what’s done.
He’ll pass too, one day– I want to say amen
but I unearth only grey. I’m only certain
of this: I won’t see you, or him, again.

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.

poem-a-thon 21: the date

This is kind of an over-the-top last-minute sort of post, since I got home much later than expected and had much less time to polish and work over this one as I would’ve liked. (On the counterside, workshop was lovely and I do not regret the late hour whatsoever.) NaPoWriMo wanted a New York School style poem, following a “recipe” by Thom Donovan, which I did my best to overdo completely; I think I managed to cram all his elements in. It’s such a mishmash that I think Frank O’Hara would shake his head in disgust at it, and I would cry No, Frank! and beg him for another chance because he is one of my poetry spirit animals. But since I doubt that’ll happen, and it’s late, I’ll just toss it up on here and leave that as it is.

Hey, why don’t you donate to a worthy cause? And poetry?

The Date

          Christopher, you remember I rode the 9:52 train
into New York for a day with you; it was early November
and Bedford Street shimmered beneath me, and you were
eating an apple fritter in front of Starbucks when I arrived.
And you asked, do you want to come to the market, and
of course, yes, I had nowhere else to go:
                              so we roamed Strawberry Fields
buying sausage and heavy globed kiwifruit
and Vivaldi insisting on the speaker, and I paid
for everything. Then we climbed up three flights of stairs
to your apartment, well, your corner of a minimal room
with the single mattress was laid out
                              and we cooked sausage
and ate it, and tasted its grease on each other as we kissed,
soon we were fucking hard and fast on the floor
warmed by November light. Afterward we listened:
steam pipes trilled, a stray dog whined, Mrs. Lukacs
next door was on the phone shouting in muffled Hungarian
through the wall. Kurafi! kurafi! she kept shouting
so we flipped on the TV
                              still fucking once in a while
like when Jodie Foster in Panic Room changed over to
Tom Hanks in Big separated by commercials for crash
lawyers, bathroom cleaners, all the things we did not need.
Light moved and thinned with each thrust of our hips
until it had nearly vanished completely. You were craving
another cigarette, so we went back down again, and
walked out into the dusk
                              which meant I had missed all my classes
for a boy I’d known a week, whose life consisted of the Roxy
til 4 a.m., Avalon after that, who did lines of cocaine with
Kate Moss between shoots (or so you said, although
you couldn’t find the issue of PAPER you two were in),
who purred in his sleep, whose cock unfurled like
night-blooming jasmine
                              who bit my lip hard when we kissed again
at that moment, and I thought, what am I doing here?
where’d I get this fever? And Christopher, it was marvelous
when you offered the until death part as though you were
marriageable and I your bride, but darling, the next morning
I had a French exam, and rehearsal, and there was
only so much room in me
                              for those other men of yours
and mine. What would you have had me do? I bought
my ticket back by the glare of a PATH train light.
I turned off my phone. I was Sisyphus paused at
the top of his hill. Christopher you are climbing still.

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!