Never a Boring Moment

This is for Miz Quickly‘s Wordle prompt. I recommend you head over and check it out, not only because they’re fun words to wrangle, but also because she gives some excellent advice for approaching such prompts. I won’t tell you what the words are in this one, to hold with the second of her principles (to make them seem natural), but I hope that they work, along with the sort-of-climbing rhyme scheme going on. And now one prompt done, on to the next one… it’s gonna be a good Wednesday night!

Never a Boring Moment

Each guest arrives in style
for the slab. Open them wide,
knot their veins, objects at rest
stay at rest. A heart may have
one good valve, the rivet pains
turned deadly. A heart, compressed,
yields blood money. The canals,
shocked silent, are not quite ready.
A rubber glove, a palm of honey,
a modest heart is sheet-white, quiet
for its massage, done with love
done with love, and a furious art.
Pick up. The beat. Red collage
all tissue-throb, the aftermath of
time, stood still. What a feat,
to detour death, they’ll say, awed.
What hospitable skill.
They too feel short of breath.
A nurse draws the transfer writ.
The tick-mark guest’s report
follows him out; the slack-jawed
watchers say, it was so quick,
we almost felt no doubt,
we quite forgot to pray.

Epithalamion with Figs

I’m not much of an epithalamion (or epithalamium, if you prefer the Latin) writer, but it was the first thing that occurred to me for this prompt, and dammit, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. (I found out about this fig/wasp thing only a few days ago, probably when I was reading up for the very-similar cicada poem.) Symbiotic relationships that have evolved over millions of years always fascinate me and seem to put our “relationships” in humanity (I use the term loosely as a result) in a poor light. So I figured, Green Partier that I am, it’s Earth Day, I want to write an Earth Day poem for Miz Quickly and NaPoWriMo, I don’t have much time to do it, why not something touching on that conceit? Here, then, are figs, wasps, and wedding vows.

This is a throwaway poem, but I really like the idea behind it. Probably in a month or so, once I’m out of the work-frenzy and production-frenzy, I’ll settle down and write something less clunky to explore the topic.

Epithalamion with Figs

There are certain species of wasp who,
over the course of eighty million years,
have evolved to lay their eggs within figs.
The surrogate wombs close them in dark
with floret cradles, slowly ripening.
Wind comes, rain comes. The sun,
warm in some eons, cool in some others,
stirs them awake. The males mate
and burrow with equal ferocity
like desperate prisoners do, dying content
once they breathe the outside air.
Then the females, weighed down by wings,
scooping fig pollen as they go,
follow their brother-husbands’ tunnels
and take flight. Some will cross worlds
to find a virgin tree, folding back the fruit’s
puckered lip to crawl in, release the young.
How many generations have there been
since they came to this understanding,
the fig and the wasp? To bind together
so many lives– what can two people do
that the nurseries bobbing under
green leaves don’t already make clear?
But of course even the smallest things,
like love, must be cherished.
Split open a fig and see the sleepers
row after row: to know their parable,
to run one thumb over it and be humbled,
is the only vow worth making.


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.

Theory of the Earth and the Moon

All right, I caved and got a Facebook. I mean, I’ve had one for years, but it’s my personal one; this is the official writerly one. You’ll have to go find it yourself — I don’t plan on posting the link here for all to see — but your hint is that it’s the first and last name and apparently there are thirty other people with my name before me. You’ll know me by the blacklit photo. I probably won’t add everyone willy-nilly, but if I recognize the name, I’ll say yes.

This is just a random one for Miz Quickly‘s prompt… I was listening to Four Tet, and quite randomly, got a vivid image of these two girls dancing around in Tennessee or somewhere. And then that turned into a quasi-mythological connection, and another lengthy narrative thing. What can I say; it’s late, and my brain craves restenance. (Which is rest + sustenance, combined.) Enjoy, or not, and I’ll see you on the flip.

Theory of the Earth and the Moon

Some days, they are barefoot sisters,
skinned knees and clay feet, picking up worms
and cutting them in half to see what happens.
Their yard is wide and empty.
Neighboring planets with broods of their own
hide behind fences threaded through with camelthorn
and rosary pea. These girls don’t talk to them.
They just carry on over that rusting hoe
and the radio waves, stirring up the crickets
with their slip and their shake.
Other days, they are goddesses with
private mythologies: vengeful lovers,
misbegotten children, the whole lot. But right now,
their only tragedy is the little one, born so frail
leaving her to always steal her light.
She is the ghost partner, grown up insubstantial
around her sister, playing helicopter. Still, she’s
hanging on. And the other, breathing,
tuning strings and pumping water, she presses one
big hand with dirty nails to that little eclipse palm,
laughing and starting up an off-kilter waltz.
Some days, they don’t want any nonsense,
just an easy kind of revolution.
Soon enough the sun will reach out
over the waving patches of jade and cloud
to call them in for dinner. Then it’s clear
they are family. They all go in together
leaving the ramshackle yard bare as they found it.

In the Beginning, There Were Only Probabilities

I guess the HIV- and AIDS-inspired poetry I heard today generated the idea for this one. Miz Quickly‘s prompt was to write about luck, good or bad, and I decided to walk the balance beam between the two. (Or, maybe one foot firmly planted in each, aha!) Rest assured: this is not a true-to-life situation, though I’m sure it could very easily happen to people. And if it ever happened to me, I definitely do not think I would be this vicious. I can equate that waiting for test results with quantum physics in the abstract; in the real world (and given this poem, what is the “real world”, anyway?), I’d be shaking right with him on those chairs.

The title is a quote by physicist Martin Rees, and I love this quote. It has the right amount of religion and science that the awe of quantum physics ought to inspire (as Niels Bohr suggested).

In the Beginning, There Were Only Probabilities

In quantum mechanics, the idea of Schrödinger’s cat
is that the cat is simultaneously alive and dead,
poisoned or irradiated in its box. And two universes
(torus-shaped, immeasurable) bleed together inside

until you open it. We are also always in two states
waiting for an outside observer to tell us
what we don’t trust ourselves to know. It’s like this:
sitting at the clinic on hard teal leatherette cushions

while the clock clicks its tongue and I am
flipping the National Geographic page by page.
You are biting your nails. In one potential universe–
and here, I can unfold a glossy chart full of graphics

to explain this– a chemical machine plays marbles
with your blood, knocks loose a few antibodies,
and the nurse’s plastic wand will come up POZ.
In the other, the inverted world you hold up

to examine in light, there’s no such things as
consequences. You don’t want to tell me which of you
forgot the condom, who was so T’d out of his mind
that even the thought of transmission was sexiled,

miserable on the stoop as mislaid ideas often are.
And that’s fine; I accept many things. For example,
in a closed system, entropy increases. Probabilities
always, eventually, add up to 1. You can tell me

he didn’t look sick, that normally you’re so careful.
Schrödinger’s cat is doomed whenever that first atom
splits, and leatherette creaks when you start
shaking, even though the room feels warm. This is

the longest twenty minutes of your life, but also
another life: one bullet-dodge, one crucifixion.
Look, the hard part is perceiving both at once.
Even our best scientists have no good explanation.

Recursion Nine: whitewater

“Order doesn’t come by itself.”
~ Benoit Mandelbrot, Polish-French mathematician

Everything’s been feeling quite upside-down for me this month in general, from work to relationship to self-expression to body to everything else. Spring is a scattered kind of time when I think all our neurotransmitters get a little wonky, and we short-circuit without meaning to; it’s an instinctual thing. But when you’re trying to build comforting structures in your life, it becomes rather difficult in the chatter, which gets you worked up, which creates this awful feedback loop of grumbly chaos. Still, all things are grist for the mill when it comes to writing poetry, you know? Finding time for poetry is, if you’ve the drive to write it, like discovering another limb sticking out of your chest; first you have to accept it, then you have to learn to use it, then (in the same way as your other limbs) you allow muscle memory to do its work. The poems will write themselves, even if they’re a single word long, even if you’re not aware of it. You look down one day when birds are crapping on your head and cars are splashing you with mud, and there’s some perfect name for what you’re feeling. That’s poetry, too.

And of course, the nature of chaos itself can be a theme or motif to explore a bit. Think of those parts of a river that are made up of rapids and rocky rills, where the water becomes shallow — you can see right through to the bottom — but what’s exposed is both exhilarating and threatening. (If you haven’t noticed yet, we’re moving a bit further away from basic gleaning-inspiration into emotional-projection this week.) Maybe I’m wrong, and not everyone is feeling as messy as I am this week; things might be perfectly sedate and stable for you. That means this prompt might in fact be a bit tougher for you. (We’ll do mill ponds another day.) Today’s challenge is to get into a messy, unhinged headspace, not so much that it’s bad for your mental health, but the kind of disorganization that breeds honest thoughts: all the little derivative ideas, worries, and fixations riding a tide of foam.

This is going to be a free-write heavy kind of day, because that tends to be the style that brings out the most random and transcendental moments. Start, as we have started repeatedly this month, with some thought, image, or notion that’s occurred to you, which you haven’t yet used in a poem for April: the flotsam coming downstream, ready to be caught in the rock-rumpled current. If you haven’t been following along, or need a fresh rivulet of water to infuse the flow, feel free to look around the room, surf the Net, or do whatever for ten minutes to just get a bunch of random words and things in the hopper. Yesterday, the free-write was a chain of associations; today, I want you to get even freer. Go by sound symbolism as much as association: if you start with apple, you might get trap, frappé, happiness alongside pie, Eden, and my second grade teacher. You can use seed words like this, but allow whatever is hovering in the back of your consciousness to peek through as well: if you’re depressed, that apple might become rotten or wormy. If you’re in love, it might take on beautiful specifics (green breaking into red; Golden Delicious) or mythology (for the fairest). Try this on an unlined sheet of paper and write these words all over the page in a happy chaos.

Once you’ve well-covered that page, make leaps from place to place, following the lines that seem most beautiful or natural to you, without paying attention to the words. Then, once you have a few lines, look at the random chains of association that you’ve created, and think about how to weave them into a poem. Try to have at least two together: each line will itself be a challenge of balance, and then netting them together will be a further challenge. (Have you ever tried to stand upright on the stones in a rushing stream? Yikes.) But allow the poem to be messy, yet true: you can revise, tweak, crop, expand later. For now, we are primarily concerned with smashing things together in the poetic supercollider, and discovering what particles result. (I know, I’m switching metaphors faster than even I can follow.) Come back and let us know what you discover in the bubbling maelstrom, and what truth can be found in disorder.

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.