TGIF indeed, ladies and germs.

I’ve got this incipient cycle of poems that are for a certain persona. Not sure where it’s going to go, but I’ll probably be focused on them for the next couple of weeks, and drafting not-so-often here. (Although I said I was cutting down anyway.) And I put in for vacation from the 6th to the 15th of June (plus the weekend after, so really the 17th), which I hope will be a much-needed jolt of relaxation and time for writing. Not sure if I’m going to travel anywhere yet, but the Berkshires are looking mighty tempting if I can swing it, as is Montréal. But hell, even just reclining at home would be nice. And my sister-in-law is due in mid-June, so I’ll probably want to stay around these parts to go home for any impending becoming-an-uncle…

Speaking of having time to write, that was one of the key components in my poem for Sam Peralta’s prompt at dVerse, to write a glosa. I’ve seen this form before, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried it before: it involves taking a four-line snippet of a well-known poem, doing four ten-line stanzas off it that successively end with each of the four lines, and rhyming lines six and nine in each with the last. (Plus, tipping your hat to the poet’s style helps.) Since it’s often a tribute form, I chose a dead poet I’ve been admiring more and more lately, Jane Kenyon, and used her poem “Dutch Interiors” as the basis for mine. This character of the merchant’s wife, so cryptic yet elegant, interests me. I started thinking about what Kenyon’s personal heaven might be like, and wondered if there was an echo to be found in this poem that is ultimately a slightly cheeky take on the presence of the divine.

But, you know, just read it as you will. I wrote it as such.


And the merchant’s wife, still
in her yellow dressing gown
at noon, dips her quill into India ink
with an air of cautious pleasure.
~ Jane Kenyon, “Dutch Interiors”

This is what comes, after:
always the sun just beyond reach,
a fat bumblebee in the blossom
gathering pollen to make time
(which will seep and slowly flow)
but too drunk. He never will.
Instead all things are frozen:
the room, the table, the water glass
forever beginning to spill,
and the merchant’s wife– still.

Far below her, the counting-houses
churn their presses, the fisherman’s
fishing, and the king is up a tree.
When you’ve no more life left,
how dazzling to see it spread out
for writing! She gazes down:
what else to do but memorize
the flicker of light on silver scales
and the color of the king’s crown
in her yellow dressing gown?

And she forgets the feel of silk
and the tumbling coin’s sonata.
Only the words, now. The words
join together in her like knots of wind
meeting overhead. Up here,
it is all the glory of watch and think,
waiting for the sun to start up again.
And she feels its wings click close
as her hymn reaches its brink
at noon, dips her quill into India ink.

The merchant’s wife, who is poised
without need, who smiles when
there’s nobody to smile at, knows
when things are too good to be true,
and when they’re just good enough.
This place: she’s taken its measure.
In other houses, other bargains:
but here she is content to be a hand
spilling its simple treasure
with an air of cautious pleasure.

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.

Fire Ecology, remixed

Too much chocolate, I think, has left me with an unhappy stomach this evening. At least, that’s what I’m blaming it on, because the very idea of being sick simply won’t do in my life right now. For dinner, I have eaten an avocado sprinkled with salt, and I think that will be all I need. Meanwhile, catching up some poetry business… tomorrow is the Rainbow Book Fair, which will eat up a lot of time, but since I already feel slumped from work today, I will redouble my efforts to get some things written in the scraps of time available. On Sunday I’ll do a count of poems, because it will be nigh the halfway point, and I’d like to check. The goal this month was 2 poems + 1 prompt per day + an extra prompt/poem whenever I could toss one in. (Not all of them have been online.) I should be up to 24 and a few. What the hell am I thinking?

Miz Quickly was asking for remixes of stuff we’ve already written this month. I took “Fire Ecology” from last week and tried a cut-up remix, as well as an erasure. I miss the actual Erasures site; I hope they come back soon. Meanwhile, this is what I’ve got; I’ll count it as some progress for the day, I suppose!

Fire Ecology, remixed

endless upward tongue give tongue and
risen his god indifferent, want fortunate sun,
wide-as-the-world throw the kerosene,
cage cage seas said;

I paper crackling finger, thinking kerosene,
stand on your white moth seas as India
your kerosene of want crossing me
the prayers, and

oil god sawtoothed inside give sierras
and ink, dissolve the well, thinking your love that is
the prayers, and to sacrifice breaking well,
to climb with your fact;

all kerosene, atmosphere to fortunate sun,
wide-as-the-world comet wet grazing inside prayers,
and India be atmosphere to stand on
endless, itself risen as I, thinking

Fire Ecology (rmxd)

give me
love that blinds,

the flame grazing wet white
free of atmosphere

throw it into
black ink,

dissolve your tongue and
endless wick

prayers, your tongue
your cage, quiet god

out of his indifferent burn

Sacred Spring

…and another one, back to back. (It’s been a nice little evening at the café, and I am about to trundle home.) This is for another Miz Quickly prompt, an ekphrastic one from today. The title comes from the Gauguin painting provided. See below:

I’ve had Kay Ryan’s “Crown” just going nonstop in my head for days now, and this poem was a direct attempt to get it out by copying it relentlessly, more or less. (There was a dash of Robert Frost as well, but I think it’s mostly been effaced.) Anyway, it has very little to do with the painting. But it inspired Tessa’s poem, too, so I guess that is how art grows beyond itself. Hurrah!

Sacred Spring

At times, evening clouds
tumble like ripe fruit.
What daring enterprise–
to shake heaven by its root.
The sky, then, must be
the organ-pool that bred it.
What fool plucks a tear–
before some god sheds it?

Ashes, Ashes

Hanging out with Tessa on GChat before heading out to a karaoke birthday, I finally managed to squeeze this poem out like toothpaste from a tube. (So thanks to her for being my reflective surface off which to bounce ideas!) Adele Kenny had a prompt based on a Dorianne Laux poem, and since I adore Dorianne Laux, I really wanted to give it a try today; meanwhile, Miz Quickly was exhorting people yesterday to have fun with sound and internal rhyme, which made me get all Kay Ryan. (I read and re-read “Crown” and “Sharks’ Teeth” about twenty times while writing this one.) I think sound play is a direction I’ll take on a few poems this month, but specifically I wanted to do it in this one. Not that this does any justice to either wonder that is Laux or Ryan, but this is what happens when I go rampaging through my subconscious looking for the profound and sublime.

Aside from the… er, nine? I’ve posted so far this month, I have two more in reserve, and hoped to write another today to catch up with my goal of two poems per day. (Plus one prompt per day.) (Because I am an overachiever like that.) Definitely need an infusion of steam or strong drink, though. Six days down, twenty-four to go.

Ashes, Ashes

They say we’re made of
particles forged in stars,
whose suicides we lie in
the shade of. It’s like
building castles in sand:
it takes a certain art,
shaping a burst bulb
into two hands, or a heart,
that can be believed.
But the sky with all that
cat’s cradle has only room
for night’s perfection.
How could we rain down
from the Great Bear’s ladle?
Unless we are meant
to be the tomb: the lights
wearing their own ashes
bent, crooked, as crowns.

Requiem for the Infected

This was a toughie to write. I think I’ll let the poem do its own thing, but it was for the NaPoWriMo prompt of writing a “valediction”, which got me thinking about some obvious paths to walk along for the theme. I had four inspirations bouncing around as well for this: Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come”, and Peter Campion’s “Dandelions”. I’ve just found Peter Campion, and I’m thoroughly charmed by his work, so I shall have to investigate his stuff further. In workshop, the advice we’ve been given is to find poets who we admire greatly, and trace their writing genealogy, so to speak: find who inspired them, read those poets, find who inspired them in turn, etc. A “family tree” of poetic voice.

Requiem for the Infected

O murdered youths: may they leave the light on
when you come home,
                                 all you snow-white boys,
up the back of a rainbow-scaled serpent
                        at dawn:
the key’s beneath the mat.
                                 Hide your childish toys!
The sky has been opened, and an angel comes
cruel with the sun in his mouth,
                        cold, pale, hot,
all stinking brimstone and singing,
                                        how much have you got?
                        And he shakes a wet fist,
shows a drop on one thumb.
                                        O murdered youths!
who burned with an Aztec fire,
                     who dove into lakes and pierced
                                   each other through:
how did you fall apart, waste away so young?
The salt that I shed makes a flat
                        white wire
                                        down my cheek to
my mouth, lures out a bloodstained tongue
which is incanting, forgive me!
                                        I was too afraid for you.