Mondays at the Office

A quick one before I go in to dinner, inspired by Miz Quickly’s photo gallery offering:

It’s kind of a wry one that I think we can all relate to, in one way or another. There’s this physical reaction to Mondays that I would love to deconstruct further, but I think the absurdist dream that came out of this photo is the best I can muster for the moment. (And Frank O’Hara is still resonating in me a little bit. I can imagine him going out on his lunch break like this guy.)

Mondays at the Office

You feel like unclipping the phone’s receiver
and taking the helical cord into your mouth, swallowing,
swallowing, ripping the guts out of technology
to take them into your own. Like Cronus’s children:
death will come to you in the shape of a hiccuping bell,
another e-mail, or the goddamn fax machine jamming
again. You are not the only one: Marianne sets fire
to the ficus plant by the door, and James
shreds the photos on his desk one by one, while Yvette
staples, staples, staples, staples. This madness
lives in a cubical comb which you seal off with wax,
individual, but all in this together. What is work,
you think; it’s impossible to hear the answer over this
ringing now passing from your esophagus,
through stomach acid, into an intestinal confusion.
There is paid time off; there are holidays. But really,
what you all need is to be paid to go once per day
outside onto a flat green place, stripping off shirt, tie,
patent leather shoes, spread out and laid upon
underneath a timeless sun. What is mercy, you think,
but the freedom to show off ribcage and collarbone
turned up to that mythological blindness
free from income tax, memoranda, the purgatorial 401K.
Once per day each of you will queue up to go.
James will return glorious in his own sweat, embrace you
half tears, breathe in your ear that it’s your turn.
You will stagger past security, run type-numb fingers
through fountain water, smell the fresh-mowed grass
as you expose yourself in relief. Cough wires, shit wires,
empty yourself of copper. Strike the pose bees must
when the queen says, enough honey, when Cronus says,
split me open, let the passionate gods break free.

Lunch Sonnet

I’ve been on kind of a Frank O’Hara kick lately, as I am wont to do. I feel like when spring comes, it’s much easier to keep an eye out for the strange and somewhat uneasy side of New York; the truism is that the crazies come out when it gets warm. (Even though everyone gets a little bit crazy when it’s warm.) And since I’ve been reading Lunch Poems again, and since Poets & Writers asked for sonnets yesterday, and since I did indeed eat lunch today, here is an O’Hara send-up. No, it’s not a strict sonnet, but it rhymes very nicely and Petrarchanishly, I think. You could call it semi-persona, maybe. Anyway, it was fun to write.

Lunch Sonnet

I came for peace and quiet: lunch standing up, at small round
silver tables grit with crumbs, garlic, red pepper flakes,
two slices and a Coke two seventy-five. The thick-chin boy takes
two paper plates and lifts my lunch like I am about to be crowned
street-food royalty, I am starved with thanks.
Patient standing the art student and Titus who marked his place
with bundled trash, the paranoid Honduran girl and that half-face
dogfighter with scarred dewlaps. Dissension in the goddamn ranks
when a guy cuts in front, wheelchair tires squealing
he hoists his plastic leg like a truncheon. Some fucking respect
for a Eye-rack vet he bleats and I think, just let it happen, best
avoid trouble. Peace. and. quiet. In here we’re used to feeling
lullabied by salsa radio and grill smoke, when the mood is wrecked,
when he snarls up to my table, I keep my change. I leave the rest.

That Word

I admit I’m being straight-up cheeky with this piece, after a very long and dismal day that I’m trying to erase from my memory. Tried over and over to do the NaPoWriMo prompt, but the trouble with being a language nerd and translation industry professional is that I can’t just not-quite-translate a poem from an unfamiliar tongue. First, there’s few that are truly unfamiliar to me, at least among ones that you’re liable to find poetry in easily. At the very least, I can usually identify the language itself, the pronunciation, and hazard a few guesses about words. Then, I get very hung up on trying to capture the sounds perfectly into English words, rather than just mucking about with what the text looks like. So instead I did Miz Q‘s prompt to re-line a chunk of prose.

And she may recognize where I got it from. ^_^

That Word

By rights,
each line should have
a reason for being a separate line, a reason
for beginning where it does,
and a reason for ending with just
that word. Even if
that word is there,
as in formal poems, for the rhyme
or to complete a syllable count.
And if that word is there
in free verse because you want it to shout,
the word is still only
part of the line,
and the line is only
part of the poem.

What Do Wonks Want?

Once in a while, you need to have some fun, especially when you post something of bleakness like I did earlier. Right? So, Poets + Writers has a fun prompt for the day, asking for an Oulipo-style N+7 adaptation of a famous poem. (This is where you take a poem and a dictionary, replacing all nouns with the noun seven nouns ahead of it. I do it to the adjectives and proper names too.) I flexed the rules a little bit to make it turn out better (the EastEnders line was my favorite, and too much fun to pass up), but I think it’s still gleefully surreal, and I hope carries a bit of the charm from the original. The original, of course, is Kim Addonizio’s wonderful “What Do Women Want?” Enjoy!

What Do Wonks Want?

I want a redesigned drift.
I want it floral and cheerless,
I want it too timid, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it slimming and backwater,
this drift, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the strife past Tibet and the harlequin storyboard
with all those kibbitzers glittering in the wings,
past Mr. and Mrs. Xerxes selling de luxe
doomwatchers in their cairn, past the Gujarati brownstones
slinging pigments from the truncation and onto the domicile,
hoisting the slipped sob over their showcase.
I want to walk like I’m the only
wonk on EastEnders and I can have my picnic.
I want that redesigned drift bad.
I want it to confirm
your woven federalism about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garrotte
from its hansom like I’m choosing a boiler
to carry me into this worthiness, through
the bisque-crimson and the lox-crimson too,
and I’ll wear it like bonsai, like skulduggery,
it’ll be the gold-rimmed
drift they bury me in.

Some Blood

Turns out I may not end up at AWP after all; there is a large snowstorm moving in tomorrow night, and the forecast for Thursday (when I have to go up the Interstate in a rickety bus) is not yet set. I’ll see how it looks tomorrow, but I don’t fancy the idea of riding through a blizzard. It would certainly be a wonderful treat to get there, though. We’ll see.

With snow on the mind, here’s a quick piece for We Write Poems, who wanted natural images without “the”, in the hopes of (presumably) making the elements more personified. Thundersnow has always confounded me, a little bit. I don’t go for that sort of thing. A little bit of Kay Ryan channeled into this one, maybe. A very little bit.

Some Blood

Snow and thunder
should not mix.
At least with summer storms
you know some blood’s beneath
tall clouds gnashing
their rainswept teeth.
But this contraption of dusk,
catching streetlights with its
rapid whirl, striking
every heart dumb
with distant, muffled dynamite–
well, it just won’t do. To come
so coldly beautiful, to
slow time to a crawl
and the world to one’s liking,
you know, it won’t do at all.

A Selection from “Leapfrogs of Gratitude”

The first Real Snow fell this morning, and though it’s mostly changed to rain and vanished, I’m still glad I got to see it. My thought was to rent a car for a few days so that I can get to various friend parties and things, so I suppose I ought to do that this afternoon…

This was for a dVerse prompt with a bunch of “postmodern” exercises. I went in a slightly different direction and decided to bastardize the poems of others using a technique I discovered called “N+7“, an Oulipo (French Surrealist) exercise. Basically, you find all the poem’s nouns in a dictionary, and skip ahead seven entries, then replace them; you can add adjectives, verbs, etc. too. I ended up doing most of these three categories since it was a short snippet, though I fudged a few of them for effect; for the most part, I stuck to headwords that were not compounds, and skipped proper nouns. Bonus points for naming the original poem (it’s a pretty well-known one).

Just a fun little exercise for a Saturday. Will be back later with a Reverie.

A Selection from “Leapfrogs of Gratitude”

When I heard the lecherous Astyanax;
When the propellers, the filatures, were ranged in comas before me;
When I was shown the charwomen and the dialogists, to adhere, dizen, and meditate them;
When I, skating, heard Astyanax, where he legalized with much application in the ledger-root,
How soon, unalterable, I became toffee-nosed and siderophile;
Till roaming and glittering out, I warbl’d off by myself,
In the nameless molten nightingale-airfield, and from tinamou to tinamou,
Look’d up in perfunctory silicosis at the starflowers.

Sunday at the Café

This is for my own prompt at We Write Poems, about writing about an object in an unexpected way. I’m back at the same coffeeshop where I found the honey I wrote about the first time (because, really, I’m here at least three days a week), and all of the objects in here were demanding my attention. So I went for broke and just wrote about the whole place instead. I’m sipping my iced Nutella latté and feeling pretty good about it being the weekend. That’s how it goes!

(I know it’s not Sunday, but just bear with the imagery please.)

Sunday at the Café

Every church needs its trappings, from the tabernacle
chewing the beans into powder to the altar
stacked with chalices of hot, dark life.
Incantations are recited from the board: small decaf,
extra foam, hazelnut syrup. A handful of bills
for the collection box: a prayer for sleeplessness,
answered. And the priests in flannel, ripped jeans,
dark-rimmed glasses, move among their flock
full of benediction. No kiss of peace,
no homily, in this congregation: nothing unifying
except the sacred music of steam and blade.
And the wicker masks on the wall that gaze down
with tribal knowledge. And the incense that is
breathed in by everyone, woven with
the electricity of short-term desire.