Another Miz Quickly prompt! (The rain has picked up considerably, and I am finished with dinner and all, so there is really nothing more to do tonight except writing poems and some freelance translation; I’ll be up a while anyway.) Yesterday’s was to pick a day in history and key off that for a poem. There were a couple options, spread over April 18, 19, and 20 (since it’s already April 20 everywhere east of here), but I settled on the Sun Dog Phenomenon of 1535 (thanks Wikipedia) over Stockholm. It was the inspiration for the famous, apparently “Swedish pride” kind of painting whose title this poem has borrowed. See below:

Pretty beautiful, no? Look at all them little sundogs and parhelia! And since the 1500s were a good time for seeing meaning in astronomical events, I thought I’d do a cute little paean to the painting and the nation of Sweden, as it’s a pretty cool nation. Well, most of the time. I’m sure some others might disagree.


After the birth of a city
comes the idea of the city

gloried like a construct saint:
miracle of the raised beam,

miracle of the placed stone.
And good as any flag comes

this vision of a ringing sun,
as if it were a great bell tone

and the city the echo
upon echo, all the sun’s noise

rippling around a hopeful bay.
The idea drinks, takes root:

miracle of a nation
spoken into one place.

Dali’s Angelus

A little bit aggravated, the last couple of days. Part of it is too much running around, not enough sleep/caffeine (I’d prefer both, but even just one will do), part of it is too much work and real life crap, not enough trying to be myself. Why is it that we have to suppress who we are while we try to scrape together enough money, time, and security to enable us to be who we are? I hate that I have to be sitting here at work dealing with bureaucracy and playing the strait-laced worker bee when I’d rather be writing my heart out with a mug of coffee and good vibes at my side. (And I know, this is probably the complaint that people who have been in the workforce for a long time roll their eyes at, but I can’t help feeling it. Particularly today.)

I’m hoping that April won’t be cruel this year, and the deep inhalation of spring that has made itself felt the last week or so finally shouts into the world. Writing! Passion! More writing! That’s what I crave. For now, here is a brief ditty for Margo‘s ekphrastic prompt on Tuesday, keying off Dali’s Angelus painting (which actually has a much longer title) and incorporating a line or two from one of the actual Angelus prayers.

Man, yesterday was Frank O’Hara’s birthday, too, and I missed it.

Dali’s Angelus

Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord
the mangled and uncommon things,

those remnants in the middle distance
ringing amber at the end of the day

whose jigsawed edges we try and try
to line up with the holes in our hearts

rushing blood, O Lord, so we can saw
our feet home with a diminished fifth

echoing hollow through our cores,
pour in, pour in, that we may

furl the night into a thin pillow,
a tattered blanket, as we fill with

maybe someone else’s missing piece
but O Lord, at least something’s there.


I am sitting at the café with two friends, and the most insufferable people imaginable at the table behind me. (They all came in at once, a group of eight, and the last forty-five minutes, they’ve been going on and on about apartments and real estate and rent and the like. Ugh.) Trying to get creativity running in that scenario is like trying to slice bread with a rock. I just made that simile up, but it’s a good summary, I feel.

I’m biting the bullet and starting Monday poetry workshops tomorrow! Nervous, excited, curious, etc. I have to decide what I want to bring to workshop, and would welcome any suggestions; but I have a pretty good idea already of what I want. On the one hand, I’m feeling pretty negative because of these assholes sitting behind me, and because of getting two more rejections from journals in my email. On the other hand, my workshop leader from the Winter Getaway just emailed to let me know that she’s loving my chapbook, and last night I went to a party with some friends where we talked about a collaborative project we’re getting together. One must take the good with the bad with the awesome with the awful, I suppose…

Donna suggests writing a poem made up of couplets alternating sound and silence, which is where this came from. This rock-sliced-bread poem was an attempt to glom together some images from Friday evening, when I was people-watching from a cafe window during a snowy evening. It’s about one-tenth of what I’d like to say about the beauty of that evening, but I’m blaming these people behind me, again, for stymying my output. (Now they’re talking about all their European vacations they’ve taken in the last couple years, and one guy just said, “Well, I’d go there, but I’m already taking so many other vacations this year.” I’m about two seconds from hurling my chair.)

watching the storm from a cafe

Sharp hiss of steam, espresso machine, grind and rattle,
and a lungful of words that mean cloud on the cold window.

Taxi cabs on Sixth Avenue pillory their horns with snow
and the light knows relativity, and comes to a halt.

A thousand passerby in scarves, thick coats, all bones, shouts,
and their footfalls grow invisible, paint small grey ghosts.

Beaded silk shatters and tumbles the color of night,
and a waltz, and a long tongue, and never lapping the ground.

The pitch-perfect people colliding on the slick sidewalks,
and their voices plucked at the ends, like baby’s breath, in water

slowly turning to ice.


The Winter Getaway begins Friday! I am going to bite the bullet and install Twitter on my phone, simply because I imagine there will be several occasions when I want to post updates, but want to avoid my computer or won’t have access to it. I will then promptly delete it from my phone on Monday. I lucked out with the new holiday calendar at work; we have off MLK Day, so I don’t need to use my hard-earned PTO for this. If you’re going, I’ll see you there, and if not, stay tuned, for I will do my best to keep updating. (For the Refinery, I may post it on Friday instead of Saturday, just to be sure; I suppose I could do a timed post as well.)

We Write Poems wants something about revising the past/memory through writing. I’m going to be a little bit mysterious, and say that this poem is not what you think it’s about, probably. But if it helps you to think of it as “advice on a breakup”, then who am I to argue you out of it?


Leave your photographs out in a Southern sun
until he blanches into islands of edgeless light.

Draw a needle over the records of his voice,
turning its timbre to a thread of crackle and hiss.

Wash his clothes a hundred times, so when they ask,
what colors did he wear, you can say you don’t know.

Cut up his letters into strips for the birds,
who will weave their walls in the too-far-off spring.

Give away his stories and his stacks of change
to the untold homeless at your sneakered feet.

And then soak that memorized body in tallow
with a wick blooming from his hair to be burnt down.

When you’re done, there will be an aleph of smoke,
paper in the gutter, and someone else’s name.

Exhale strongly, and turn three times for a charm,
in search of some other air to breathe.


…and here is the second for Donna’s prompt. I’m sure somebody has written an Eden story from the point of view of the tree before, but I tried to be a bit lush without saying outright the theme of the fable. And my own thoughts are this: the loss of Eden is not necessarily the loss of immortality and bliss, but the loss of knowing the value of the good and the bad. Eden, paradise, whatever you want to call it: there is a constant pull towards the brighter, the better, the juicier, etc., without an appreciation of the things that counterbalance them. (It’s kind of a Taoist approach, I’ll grant you.) Remember the Snapple cap: “If every day was a good day, there’d be no good days.”

(The “creaks” near the end was a typo for “breaks”, but I actually like it much better: the heart strains under a great weight, threatening – but not quite – to break.)

Side note: I’m still taking names for the new prompt series starting this weekend. I think I saw that a couple people have already commented on Sunday’s post with offers to have me pick apart their poems, so at least there will be one customer. Anyone else want to put their work in?


Now only the immortal orioles and painted bramblings
tug loose my tapestry, and the fruit falls to the ground,

naked and quick to rot. Bee-eaters put on their green
cloaks and sing my name. But no one is here to stand

two-handed in the pools and trail the flowering rushes.
And no one will climb me for the sake of garlands,

or to rip loose the canopied sky. Snakes coil humbly
around my roots, gnawing slowly at the earth. They

do not bite. In the summer, kingfishers ride the shamal
bearing rain where no rain will fall, a hundred minnows

the instruments of their symphony. But no one is here
remarking on the sorrow of death for the sake of beauty,

or the sleep of storms, balanced against the desert
with all its blessed agony. What is the greatest sin?

Not a thousand pearls of dawn or a devouring night,
but the infinity between and how it is given gravity

towards one or the other. And it creaks the heart with
its everything-at-once; and slowly my fruit goes to waste.

Here in the City, it is Raining

How’s that for a self-referential title? We Write Poems wanted a stream-of-consciousness poem; I looked out the window and lo, behold. This weekend I read a book of Mary Oliver from start to finish, and there’s a lot that I admire in her work, which I try to emulate. But while her work (at least, what I’ve read) often seems rooted in the pastoral, and transmutes that experience into the heavenly, I find my own rooted in the ever-changing boundary between the urban and vaguely natural, which gets transmuted into some emotional pagan rite. Otherwise, I think we see eye-to-eye on a lot of the wonder in raindrops, pigeon feathers, grass seed, etc. Oh well: sorry Mary, I did the best I could here.

Here in the City, it is Raining

and my compass needle wanders to you, wondering whether
it is also raining in fits and starts wherever you are

after all, it seems like such a waste, for the roof of this
nomad’s tent we’re under to disgorge so much water

only for the sun to pick it all up again tomorrow: but
I suppose this is a lesson in giving, and giving

have you remembered to open the windows? and arranged
a Ten of Cups along the sill to catch your fortune?

I have asked the mule hide sky to shake its long sides
over your gutters that have forgotten this chatter

and now in the city of orphans and smoke-winged doves
it’s coming down, on its silent toes, its panting breath

and if the light breaks in, I will put it into one clinked bead
that I will roll in the meander of the fleeing storm

which will find you and wake you along your cold cheek
gentle as an ellipsis, insistent as only a gift can be