oulipost 20: thelma and louise

OK, last one for the day and then I’m calling it a night. The Oulipost prompt was about permutation of different kinds, such as Lescurean or Roussellian: the bottom line is, take a text and switch around the nouns, first with second, third with fourth, etc. Different patterns will yield different results. I kind of mishmashed my source text (a photography exhibit review) in various ways, and just kind of arranged the nouns in the same locality in a way that would be mildly interesting. You be the judge of whether that element of it succeeded…

And while I’m posting, an announcement: Tessa and I are extending the submission deadline for Issue 2 of CSHS Quarterly, “Alchemies“, until Friday! So, you have another five days to get some stuff in for the theme, and we are in an accepting mood… please head over, see what we’ve got, consider the theme, and send us some work. It will be grand, we hope!

Thelma and Louise Sequel Announced, Decried

Just how tough is the leather
in that babe bouffant, auburn jacket
and mercury cheekbones? She looks
to have been around a bit, as has
the 1969 cougar model she’s just parked
at the hardtop snack drive-in,
its textured shack dulled black by
too many leopard prints. And there she is
again, wearing winters, but in this
second Midwestern story, a martini
trails softly off her hair and she is sipping
a backyard pool. In her shoulders,
a girlfriend and a scenario– who is taking
a cigarette in cheek-collapsing drag?
Both look tense, heavy thirtysomething eyes
not fully camouflaging that they’ve
rounded the makeup of corners. Perhaps
in our cougar-obsessed future,
they’re pondering their youth as water,
the martini-spotted and chipped glass beauty
symbolic of mortality’s culture.

poem-a-thon 20: year of plenty

A friend of mine coined the term Weedster for today. Groan. I’ll just leave that there.

After my blaze of writing yesterday, all the food and family and travel today just tripped my circuit breaker, I think, and I’m unreasonably mad about it (even though the aforementioned events were all lovely, I suppose). It’s ten o’clock and I still have one more poem to go, and I’m not going to get done any of the stuff I actually need to get done for tomorrow. There’s a lot of things I’m frustrated about tonight, and I can’t allot myself enough time to be frustrated about them all…in the long run, I guess it’s a good thing, but in the here-and-now, not so much.

NaPoWriMo wanted a poem in the voice of a family member, but you know what, I already did one of those before. So I’m doing a bullshit nature flowering cherry poem in a Kay Ryan style because there’s nothing else I can think of, and wasted a title on it. (We did talk about the flowering cherry in the yard today, and the bees. There’s the family connection.) Enjoy!

Year of Plenty

Bees cloak
the sour cherry tree,
fuzzed collectors
flower-choked on
their own nectarology. We
who carry along
wingless see their story
buzzed from every
burst pinkish hollow–
how to pull beauty
loose, to counteract
what misery may follow.
We too circle
begging a year of plenty–
but the cropped trees
which are most fertile
are first to drop pale money,
selfless as bees
of which we have many.

oulipost 19: aging yuppies

I must say, I am surprisingly proud of myself with this one.

The Oulipost prompt was to make a (holy shit) sestina out of the found text from the paper; I took four articles about marijuana from the Village Voice, which is their feature for the week. Process note: I dropped the entire text into Word, picked out my teleutons (I’m using this instead of “endwords” because I’m feeling pretentious today), and then just wrote the damn thing, checking through the Word document along the way to see if the words I wanted were in there. If they weren’t, I checked for synonyms, or went in a new direction of none could be found, and the whole thing took surprisingly little time (about an hour). (I might have changed a verb tense here or there.) And it makes sense, kind of! And there’s a narrative, kind of!

…sestinas are beastly things, but as far as sestinas go, one could do worse, I guess. One could certainly do better. I’ll take it. ^_^

Aging Yuppies Mellow Out, Learn Russian

We spent the day reading Dostoevsky
in the crystal light of a Brooklyn spring:
all white wax and purple variation.
We bought up our pretension from the state
with old film cases and ready money
from college research. Now we can last years

relaxing on the sofa, foie gras years
topped with wine. The pleasure of Dostoevsky
is: he never gets boring, like blue money
flowing among roses from a wellspring.
We crave the Russian sentence in this state:
long and green and full of variation,

food for the brain. We want variation
because we spent so many empty years
smashed dull by the system. We couldn’t state
what love was, opened up Dostoevsky
and, halfhearted, picked out what would spring
from the page. Caught in the forge of money

were hosts of whispers. Born to covet money,
within the walls of dorm rooms, variation
seemed bizarre as a camera running on springs.
How did we bust out? It took twenty years
of care and– day by day– Dostoevsky,
to get us out of that malignant state.

We walked around the country, state to state,
doing research on how to really live. Money
fell away; we only needed Dostoevsky,
who sustained us with strange variation,
and each other. Literature of yesteryear
led us, at last, to this dopamine spring

where we’re comfortable, full of relief, spring
physical with appetite. Normal states
are for normal people. We say, “This year,
motherfucker, we’re not after money,
church, any of that shit.” Just variation,
something new. (Except Dostoevsky–

he’s staying). The first spring of the first year
of money-freedom, Dostoevsky will be
the symbol; variation, the blissed-out state.

poem-a-thon 19: liberation

Feeling a lot more refreshed today: I can actually swallow without pain again! Take that, strep.

So we’re moving into the last decan of April, and I do feel a little bit more in tune with my poem-brain this morning; two down, one to go for the day (and maybe a bonus one for my pocket if I’m lucky). NaPoWriMo gave a list of seashells with peculiar names as the prompt, and I’m actually pretty happy I more or less worked in four of them (incised moon, Lazarus’ jewel box, sparse dove, unequal bittersweet), kept to my Poem-a-thon theme of queer youth struggle, and got a little Ryanesque voice in there around some unpacked Catholic school hangups. Not so bad for a morning’s work, I’d say, even if it got a little obtuse in the execution.

Since I’m at home while the Easter preparations are going on, obviously there’s a lot of religious topics on my mind, and also there’s not much to do (as I don’t want to get bacteria in the food or anything). I’ll try to be more active and firebrandy today and tomorrow. To wit, why don’t you go donate a bit? If you enjoy my writing, help save some lives…


How we scoured the testaments
looking for hidden theology:
hours considering Jonathan’s
sentiments for David, or how,
unbidden, the Beloved Apostle came
from Galilee to bow beneath the cross.
Or Lazarus, uncovered,
unbound: imagine how he thought
he’d lost the incised moon forever
to the merciless ground.
Who but a lover would open up
his jewel box of miracles and release
the most precious? We hoped
by reading between the lines
that these sparse doves of peace
could let us sleep easy.
No youth’s heart of hearts beats
abomination. We only wanted
truth instead of this– haunted
with complication, unequal, bittersweet.

oulipost 18: demon tailors

All right, I don’t know where the hell I went with this one. Somewhere ludicrous. The Oulipost prompt for today was to do a homoconsonantism, where all the vowels in a text are replaced by ones you choose, but the consonants left in the same order. Here’s what I plucked from the Voice for this:

Wherever you go, the food is a smoker’s dream: hand-held corn shells, stuffed to the brim with tasty combinations like roast pork shoulder with spicy mango salsa, grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, and green chimichurri, or grilled white cheese with beans, jalapeño, red peppers, and ripe fried plantains, which add a malty, sweet tinge.

…which describes my favorite Venezuelan place in the city. And I managed to squeeze it and break its feet and cut off bits of it and wrangle it into some kind of bizarre Dantean vision about the River Acheron and demons making, I don’t know, demon clothes in it? Conscripting some random damned soul passing by? Did the best I could, and this was the result.

I fudged the rules a bit too (such as deleting “y” when it was used as a vowel, but keeping it when it was consonant, throwing in a “w” as part of a diphthong, changing a soft “g” to “j” at the end, etc.), but I’m pretty blitzed on this exercise. It’s almost midnight, and I’ll take what I can get.

Demon Tailors Explain Their Internship Program to Poet

Why– a river you Gothified as some kir,
as drama-hue, and held icy runes–
Hell’s staff dye (at the brim) wet hates,
to comb into new silk. Or stop
a rakish lad– “row this piece, manage
loose grey, I’ll do check-in.” A choir zouave–
cad and grinch!– may cheer, roar, growl,
“Lad, what I choose, we, the banes,
jewel up in red.” Pay appears– no drop of
rude polenta, no!– see, who ached,
do melt– sweet to enjoy.

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?

oulipost 17: food cart veterans

Good thing, given my state, that the Oulipost prompt today was a relatively simple one: to haiku-ize three sentences from an article. I plucked a write-up of some of the Easter fare options in NYC, found my sentences, trimmed them to the (ugh) 5-7-5 format what’s standard for such things in English, and ended up with an amusing little pun in the title reflecting the two kinds of fare on offer at this phantom market:

Food Cart Veterans Explore Deconstruction

Vendors at market:
sour cherry, millefeuille with cream;
an alphabet brunch.

But then, because I never miss the opportunity to flex my Japanese a bit, I bastardized it into this, where some of the words have changed and some of the compounds (especially the last) would probably raise an eyebrow for the native speakers. But I think “ume” can be a seasonal word (though not sure which one: summer?), the images are pretty stand-alone, and I like the contrast between the second and third lines. So I’d consider it at least an honest attempt, and I believe I conserved the syllable structure in Japanese. Anyway, here you go:


ichi-dai ni
ume to dorayaki

(at the fair-tables
sour plums and custard pastries
an alphabet meal)

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.

oulipost 16: expat artiste

Once again, illness has walloped me pretty hard; definitely have to drop by the doctor’s tomorrow to get things checked out. (My rule is, if I have insurance, and things aren’t improving after three days, it’s time for the physician.) But before I hit the sack and try to rest up a little bit more, here’s the Oulipost bit for the day: the challenge being, to take an article (I used a character sketch of a weed delivery guy), replace all the nouns with the nouns from a second article (a write-up of a photography exhibit), all the verbs with the verbs from a third (a review of a Korean restaurant), and all the adjectives with those from a fourth (an interview with a rising indie pop star). The result is this chimera which is beautifully surreal and… kind of works?

I don’t have the energy to decide. Please do it for me while I pass out.

Expat Artiste Interweaves Style, Space-Time

Prince has assembled a fashion culture
on and off for almost four winters. He’s in his
leopard print now, but he was still in
Cambodia when he entered the future
through a camera. He appears three times
a minute, and cuts up, on average,
15 photographs an evening. If he cuts up
more than 20, he orders an early martini.
Usually he’ll appreciate it or offer it —
he used to be a fast-talking sexpot,
but he doesn’t taste much any more;
near-constant desire holds him closer.
The characters help him ferment
his drag dreams and overflow his heartwarming
drama (he’s in two miniseries and does
underwear on his minutes off). When he runs,
he confounds any one of the universal
daylight consumers who plunge around Serbia,
drenched in ego, well-constructed on
a sensual hardtop, with a curtain
and a golden Renaissance medley grounded
over one shoulder. And like
any dynamic presence, he can appear
at your bungalow in 20 fantasies or less.

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.