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.

poem-a-thon 10: an advertisement

Well, dang, I’ve been featured on NaPoWriMo today! Thanks for the shout-out, y’all… it warms the cockles of my wee heart. And moreover, I’m equally warmed by the fact that I managed to crank out four poems this afternoon (three of them elsewhere), which means I’ve just got one post to occupy time after workshop tonight. To anyone stopping by here for the first time: I hope you will stay and hang out a while, and enjoy yourselves!

The prompt today is to do an advertisement, which became the simple title here because I couldn’t think of anything else. Tessa and I often have entire conversations to the structure of the Burma Shave doggerel, so it put me in a bit of a cheeky mood, but I went with more of a whimsical Kay Ryan take on safe sex. Make of it what you will, it was my last-ditch end-of-the-afternoon piece, and I am headed out for a few hours. (Oulipost poem for the day to follow later…)

And while I’m preaching, if you want to support charity through poetry, please donate donate donate and I’ll write you a poem!

An Advertisement

At this time, it’s wise
to mention some facts
and figures regarding
abstention: namely,
its failures vis-a-vis
human biology.
What happens, will
happen. A sensible
boy or girl first
unwraps and unfurls
that filmy rubber cap,
rather than open doors
behind which the matter
is scorched with rashes
and sores. Despite
what people may say,
you could spend
ready cash in worse
ways. At the doc’s,
form a line: look for
the pharmaceutical box
with the suitable size
for $3.99.

poem-a-thon 8: homecoming

Third poem of the day (though only the first post), and it’s only 4:00 PM! I feel pretty swanky about that, considering I have plans and plots to do two more by the end. But it’s eight days in and I’ve already written… 25 I think? I wonder if I can get to 100 poems by the end of the month? Although I think I’ll probably be repeating a lot of themes and language by the end if I do that, and I wonder if it will be that much harder to synthesize the drafts into something with serious legs after the fact…

This is for the NaPoWriMo prompt to do a poem that’s a re-write of a famous one. I chose “the sonnet-ballad” by Gwendolyn Brooks, as it’s one of my favorites of hers (and the form fusion is a wonderful technique). And given my Poem-a-thon hoojazz, the notion of a trans youth being sent to a religious “correctional facility” stood out in my mind; not sure if the voice here is a lover or a sibling, but I got a little heavy-handed either way. Yeesh, I have to start writing lighter…

(sonnet-ballad after Gwendolyn Brooks)

My prince, my prince, what has become of you?
They scraped your polished nails and washed your face
to make you right, they said. I don’t know who
this boy is, slouching homeward in your place.
On Sundays, mother wears her best disgrace
while father burns your rouge, your skirts, your weaves.
My prince, whose leatherette was trimmed with lace,
you’ve come undone beneath the hands of thieves,
these holy thieves. And mother prays, believes
the priests will save you; father mends the walls,
ices his knuckles. I’m the one who grieves:
who are you, silent when the night bird calls?
Some sacred knife has sliced your self in two.
My prince, my prince, what has become of you?

renovation twenty-seven: lullaby

Between the whirlwind of activity yesterday, the whirlwind this morning at work before the holiday, and then the trek southward to my parents’, it has been a chore to get anything done for myself at all. But, before I traipse off to dinner, I didn’t want to leave you guys in a lurch, in case someone needs a prompt! There are still a few hours left in the day…

1. “…you showed me your dark workroom…” (Jean Valentine, “Friend,”)
2. “When I see the cradle rocking…” (Donald Hall, “Advent”)
3. “I’ve been living with static in my ears.” (me, “Headphones”)
4. luggage
5. Create a kind of strange mythology to explain something.
BONUS. Break your poem into sentences. Break each sentence across an equal number of lines.
ALTERNATE (5). Talk about when you stopped believing in something.

…and clearly the miserable weather has impacted what I’m thinking about. This one is completely slapdash, I literally wrote it ten minutes ago:


If we consider music
the flowering of noise,
every noise
could be its seed.
There is a spirit
assembling the sound
of rain and sleet
before we hear it.
We’ve tried to lose it
with machinery–
but the need
becomes too great.
Each storm finds us
keeping time with
its primal drum,
its encircling beat.

A better effort tomorrow, I promise you!

renovation nineteen: wasp

Guess what. Another Kay Ryan style poem. I have to shake this out of me (well okay, I don’t have to, I just think I want to add more variety), but maybe the best way to do that is to just write as many as I can… anyway, they’re good for crazy days at work when I have limited time for prompts. Like this one!:

1. “It isn’t easy to catch a living / thing and hold it…” (Diane Seuss, “Toad”)
2. “That all you want is Fame?” (J. Patrick Lewis, “At the Crossroad, Highways 61 and 49)
3. “The one I love will be the one who says…” (me, “Berkshire Blazon”)
4. something unknown that glows in the dark
5. Invent a plausible fact about an object that comes in pairs or sets.
BONUS. Use at least one word with at least five syllables.
ALTERNATE (2). “Everyone said she was a clever woman.” (Margaret Atwood, “Marrying the Hangman”)

I could say that there’s something deeper to this story than there is, but maybe you’ll figure out something I haven’t. I’ll borrow the dictum we have in workshop: if I could have said anything else about the “backstory” here, I would have put it in the poem.


We flinched
when it settled
on Risha’s thumb.
Her pinch was
delicate, fingers
thick from needles
cupped to
envelop it. Wings
pricked the light
as she cast it
out the window–
and then
we could breathe.
Stuck fast with
things, pulled
loose by a pluck
whose ease
was so gentle.

renovation seventeen: melancholia

I was going to try to get through the rest of the month without doing a Kay Ryan style poem; FAIL. Not because I’m not still totally into her work, but because I figured I should start imitating other poets more often. (The pendulum is swinging back towards the Mark Doty side of the spectrum.) But I just was in a mood for a brief Ryanesque ditty, what with the beautiful weather (I’m wearing a T-shirt! and no coat!) and the Sunday meander and all. Of course, tonight I’m headed back up to New York for another week of mayhem, but what can you do.

Here’s the assortment of treats for your Sunday prompt:

1. “I shall burn my house with the rising dawn.” (Robert Penn Warren, “Vision”)
2. “An artist is different from other people because…” (Brian Swann, “Peel”)
3. “Outside, the gulls begin to swivel and wheel.” (me, “Climate Change”)
4. a piece of canvas, not for painting
5. Answer a riddle in a unique and novel way.
BONUS. Make two sets of letters that don’t overlap. Your lines should all begin with letters from one set, and end with letters from the other.
ALTERNATE (5). Ask a question that you can’t answer.

And as often happens with the brief poems, some of the elements got flattened a little bit in mine. (1) turned into self-destruction and dawn, (2) turned into the ink on the finger, (3) and (4) turned into the bay and ships. And I fudged the bonus a bit at the beginning. But overall, I was thinking about artists committing suicide, and how bummed it makes me. Not that this is going to save anyone; this is just an idle thought or two. I just hope the theme doesn’t feel too forced.


Not everyone
refuses it. A couple
welcome the bitter
truce of muzzle
tucked beneath the tongue.
An ink-stained finger
is paralyzed
on the trigger. But they
stop at the brink
when they see
a fresh crop of sun,
or ships plying the bay.
The world being married
to the world,
how can we not go on?
Think of everything
left to say, everything
we’ve carried.

renovation twelve: ars poetica: honeysuckle

First Snow was this morning. I don’t know if I should celebrate it proper, though, since none of it stuck to the city and it was over pretty quickly. But considering how often I’ve been griping about things lately, and feeling as though I could really use some kind of break, it was at least a momentary bit of happiness (cold, wet happiness) on a grey morning. And then I beasted through this prompt, which, upon completion, will mark 40% of the way through the month. Still trucking along!

1. “A builder and a doubter.” (Tom Sleigh, “The Parallel Cathedral”)
2. “I moved my chair into sun.” (Jane Hirshfield, “I sat in the sun”)
3. “When I get to the bottom, I’ll swallow myself whole.” (me, “Indulgences”)
4. chopsticks
5. Describe what you actively do (not what you feel or think) when something you’ve been waiting for turns out to be not as amazing as you expected.
BONUS. Keep the first and second person out of the poem, at least outwardly. Or go further, and keep all humans off the surface entirely.
ALTERNATE (5). Describe what you actively do for luck, superstition, or just compulsion, in order to have something turn out the way you expect.

I keep thinking about this honeysuckle plant I was dealing with over the weekend. When it’s not in bloom or leafy, it’s basically just this mass of red-brown wire twined around everything else in the garden, living and unliving alike. I was trying to cut back specific non-honeysuckle plants, so I ended up unwrapping its curls from around other twigs and trying to bolster it with the fencepost. Probably it will be trimmed later; maybe then I’ll write a poem about what editing’s like. Still, I thought of the symmetry between the miniscule variations of growth that make it take its shape, and the similar careful choices of a poem.

Also, I thought a bit about Sharon Olds. One poet I know describes her poems as being careful in their awkwardness, which lends them a unique feel and effect. Just a little experiment in that direction, here.

(ars poetica: honeysuckle)

Writing a poem is delicate as plant-work, like
honeysuckle curled around a fence. Every piece
seems like a new pluck of words and
carefully pierced phrases, the sugar stars
white in June, the root tenacious, the harsh
tea-color vine clung to the chain-link in November.
This is how poetries are. One of them
concerned with chasing the sun armors itself
with leaves. It does not let on to the one
whose nectar is slim and ready underneath. Nor
the parasitic bit-by-bit that spirals up and down
other twigs clambering for attention, quiet and
subtle and close to the ground. By now, this
naked material catches frost easy and curls
inward for warmth. It burrows at last again
into the dirt, heavy with itself, seeing another
way it might have started and might have gone.

renovation nine: nymphs

Just a quickie. This morning there was much yardwork, which grew this poem out of the ground. And then I wanted to write something Kay Ryan-ish today as well. I need to get food, and then get home, for more family stuff… running rings round these parts. But I didn’t want to wait too late to get this prompt up:

1. “Haunt me with deities I never saw.” (George Santayana, “There may be chaos still around the world”)
2. “Your measureless compassion will be sweet.” (Sophie Jewett, “Defeated”)
3. “I see the muscles move beneath the naked skin…” (me, “Henosis”)
4. gardening paraphernalia (pruning shears, trowels, etc.)
5. Discuss some things one can do for recovery, without settling on one or the other as the right way.
BONUS. Write a poem in the style of a poet you admire.
ALTERNATE (2). “…today, the dusky seaside sparrow / became extinct.” (Alison Hawthorne Deming, “Science”)

And I didn’t get all of these into what I wrote I think; I had more, but trimmed it out to be more sparing. But, better something that nothing.


Cutting back the garden’s
unmade bed, shapes
accuse from the eye’s
periphery. Shutting a gate
hardens into the idea of
some muse dead to history
whose look could crack
old slate. No matter
that handiwork clears
a mind and its scatter.
Spirits to banish, who blunt
the shears, are required.
Roots must have teachers
of the kind of rough edges
well-known to survivors.

renovation three: autumn kitchen

I wasn’t kidding when I said there would be a minimum of effort and preparation put into these prompts, because there is just so much crap going on. It’s already 3:00 PM, and even with the extra hour from Daylight Savings, I feel like I haven’t gotten done a damn thing today. Slept late, had two meals that both lasted forever (with a third already on the horizon), played games with my brother, had a visit with the niece… tomorrow I have to go back to regular life. I can’t afford to be in this lazy mindset, dammit.

I suppose that sort of informed the character who shows up in the little Kay Ryan-esque shniplet I wrote for today. I look at it and just go “ugh”, no matter how many little twists and revisions I think about making. Here, I’ll look again– ugh. No matter. I’ll plaster it up on this post, and give you the prompt I put together which inspired it, and let you figure out what to do for your own work… hopefully you are having a more productive day than me.

1. “One smile on the brown hills and naked trees…” (William Cullen Bryant, “November”)
2. “…crumbling the inner barriers of the brain.” (Yvor Winters, “The Fable”)
3. “He is all sweep and method when he comes.” (me, “Haymaking”)
4. window shades
5. Combine one piece of art with another in a way that seems completely incongruous.
BONUS. No line in the poem should be longer than eight syllables.
ALTERNATE (1). “No sun–no moon!” (Thomas Hood, “No!”)

And then, this, which doesn’t get everything in, and the ones it gets, doesn’t get well:

(autumn kitchen)

Need is the half-thawed engine
that drives his talent
for invention. An odd bleed
aligns the challenged mind
and the hand that acts
without thinking. The ground
cracks with cold while we
bake bread and cannot find
a knife. What man slices loaves
with a wing of red stained glass?
But he’s good for such things.
He survives: the kind who,
dying of thirst, would pass through
the flood without drinking.

Please go write something better, I beg of you! I’m going to try and do the same.

Winter Rhubarb

I have a kitty on my lap, I just wrote two poems (and revised a third), and I’m full of Malaysian food; there are worse birthdays, I suppose. I feel as though I’d be remiss if I didn’t post today. Another year, another sense of not-quite-accomplishment; overall, it was a pretty banal and unfulfilling time. But I’m trying to get myself out of the funk, as I’ve been trying to do all summer: certainly a new job and a place to live next month would help, but until those pieces fall into place, I’ll have to try and work the ones that have already so fallen, in order to brighten life up a bit.

One such thing is that workshop starts up again tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to. I feel as though I haven’t written nearly enough this summer (and certainly nothing I’m particularly proud of) to bring stuff, but I’ll just have to deal, at least for the first week. I’m more and more hopeful that I can re-discover good patterns of creation and productivity; if I didn’t have hope, I don’t know what I’d do.

Anyway, this is for a dVerse prompt to imitate a Jane Hirshfield theme: eroticism through fruit. The suggestion includes writing about the first sexual encounter, so I tried to weave a little bit of that into this one. But mostly, it was just a cheeky little piece with some shameless imagery. I’ll leave you to read it to your amusement and arousal.

Winter Rhubarb

A single gleaming stalk of it, its poisonous leaves
stripped and left on the floor of the forcing shed,
slender and redly naked in the dim candlelight
where it has pushed through years of cold soil
and cracked the rime, the crisp feel of it
clutched in the curious hand, spring’s first fruit
so desperate to grow they say you can hear it
creak in the darkness, ready to be pulled up,
to bless the tongue with its bittersweetness
like some sugar acid taper begging for flame,
like the exhumed finger of a too-long-buried sun.