Thinking about the Mississippi these days

Trying to write some about it. Some. Then I found this, by Lucille Clifton in The Terrible Stories. Umm umm ummm.

the mississippi river empties into the gulf

and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth’s body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
whispering mistakenly:
only here. only now.

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learning from the best – E. E. Cummings

from the brand-new collection erotic poems, edited by George Firmage, and containing an assortment of Cummings’ erotic drawings. I want to learn to write original, singing, sizzling sex poems, so am reading some of the best.

ii.

when i have thought of you somewhat too
much and am become perfectly and
simply Lustful….sense a gradual stir
of beginning muscle,and what it will do
to me before shutting….understand
i love you….feel your suddenly body reach
for me with a speed of white speech

(the simple instant of perfect hunger
Yes)
how beautifully swims
the fooling world in my huge blood,
cracking brains A swiftlyenormous light
—and furiously puzzling through,prismatic,whims,
the chattering self perceives with hysterical fright

a comic tadpole wriggling in delicious mud

September nowhere near poem a day

If

if one woman told the truth about her life, the world

if I told the truth, the world would

but I is world’s restraint

or rather the illusion of I
or rather the necessity of the illusion of I

if we told about our life
I would split open

if one woman told the truth

the world, open

Ina, re-envisioned

What if the Ina poems could be a crown of sonnets? What if they could?

Ina’s Vow

Admittedly she was drunk at the time but not
as drunk as he was, drunk and deep into
his favorite litany—It just ain’t natural. It just ain’t right.
No woman could handle going down. No female could

but a drunken vow is still a vow and she’d
rebelled against her uncle’s Rules for Girls
since she first could clasp an axe. She made a list
of 1000 questions and hunted answers as she
hunted quail, flushing out the game and snagging
everything in reach. She asked every woman she met
and every man who’d talk to her to tell her anything
about the mines. She took meticulous notes. No one
bothered to question her scribbling for Ina had always
been a queer child, too headstrong for a girl.

Knowledge gained, Ina sets forth

She was headstrong, and a girl, so finding what she’d need
was easy but gathering them— well, she wasn’t afraid of work. Overalls
she had over Mom’s ornery complaining. They’d be ruined and if she failed
there’d be no money for more. But cards near always fell Ina’s way, with liquor
to help her luck along. Uncle Eddie wouldn’t take to losing to
a girl, he’d keep upping the ante, so patience and whiskey would again
get Ina what she wanted. No sober miner would ever be one-upped into putting
his flint much less his carbide on the table but Eddie was not near the first
to part with his pride this way. Offering his hat double-or-nothing for the light
was not a big risk for a desperate, cocksure man and Ina
was used to dealing with cocksure desperate men. When a puff of a boy
came looking to mine, a cousin of folks next county over, willing to work for half
a grown man’s wage—well, every man there had folks
spread from Kentucky to Missouri. Come 5 a.m. Monday, she was on her way down.

Down

She was on her way down when she realized
she’d never been down before. In Macoupin County
land went across and sky went up and only
varmits and miners went down. There was a world known
only to men under the world she knew.
She was on her way down and she couldn’t
find words for the dark: pitch-dark, pitch-black,
dim, blurred, sunless, dense, leaden,
grim, grimy, muted, muffled, forlorn,
sinister, perverse, damnable, hellish,
comfortless, lonely, heartbroken, destroyed.
This is how my father and brother grew up
and this how I’ll grow up too. Men
face this every day, my God, how do they…

First Night

It was late when she came up. One day prior
she would’ve said dark, but never again would Ina
confuse the soft charcoal night with dark. Heading
down the road she realized she could not go home.
The coal dust that, settled, had concealed her secret
would betray her the second she set foot in her house.
So she grunted good night, thrust her hand to the right,
and ducked through the barbed wire toward the barn
that had abetted her constant threats to run away.
When she’d return tomorrow as grimy as she’d left
no one would give a rat’s ass. Miners knew everything
there was to know about making do and there
was nothing new about a scrawny boy beginning
his first man’s job without a second set of clothes.

Ina Poem #3 First Night

Ok, I’m clearly not managing a poem a day, and what I’m writing about is Ina. So I’ll just keep these coming as fast as I can, hoping the whole story will find itself told before my 2nd packet deadline.

First Night

It was late when she came up.
Last night she would have said dark
but Ina would never again
confuse night with dark.

Heading down the hill she realized
that going home would give her away.
The coal dust that protected her secret in the mine
would betray the second she set foot in her house.
So she grunted and stuck her hand to the right,
parting from the men on the path.

The woods had been her shelter many times before,
the roots of a tree upended as good a wind shelter
as the shack her family’d had since her father’s death.

When she’d return tomorrow as grimy as she’d left
no one would give a rat’s ass. Miners knew everything
there was to know about making do and they’d all been
a scrawny boy without a second set of clothes.

Poem a day #2 Knowledge gained, Ina sets forth

(note of complaint here—these are written with the first line of each stanza all the way to the left and each following line indented. No one has yet made HTML code for indenting text. Why?? Why???)

Knowledge gained, Ina sets forth

Assembling the list of things she’d need was easy—gathering them
would mean some compromising. Overalls she’d had for years
over Mom’s ornery complaining. They be ruined for sure
and if she failed there’d be no money for more.

But the cards near always fell Ina’s way, with liquor to help luck along
in hard times. Her uncle Eddie wouldn’t take losing to a girl,
it was no more natural than her going down to the mines

so he’d keep upping the ante, and she knew patience and whiskey
would get her anything she wanted. Always had.

No sober miner would ever be one-upped into putting his flint, much less
his carbide onto the table, but Eddie was not near the first
to part with his pride this way. Offering his hat double-or-nothing
for the light was not a big risk for a desperate man.

When a puff of a boy came looking for work, a cousin of folks next county over,
well, this was business as usual, as was offering him half
a grown man’s wages. 5 am on a Monday and she was on
her way down.

Practical Writing Advice: Write HOW you know about what you DON’T know

Write what you know, write what you know, write what you know.

Egads, the worst writing advice ever. This is exactly why I could never make through a PhD program—by the time I’d finished all the research I’d answered my question and the process of all that writing after I had the answer was unbearable.

Writing is part of thinking, not just a way to record thoughts. We think in language, and the process of connecting new words also makes new connections between ideas. So for gods’ sake please don’t write what you know. Write towards something you want to know. Write what you wish you knew. Write what no one has ever known. And if we do that by writing HOW we know, in our own voices from our own experiences and thoughts, we’ll create something new and interesting. Really. Really truly. With sugar or diabetic-friendly sugar substitute on top.

Or, in the words of the Reginald Gibbons in his essay “Poetry and Self-Making:”

Take the hoary advice “Write about what you know.” It only trivializes a deep truth about all artistic expression, which is this: although any subject totally foreign to the writer isn’t part of his or her daily struggle to be and therefore isn’t likely to be a rich ground on which to play out the struggle to write, nonetheless no voyage into the known is worth making if there is not some unknown toward which we are sailing.

September Poem-a-day #1

So I’m in my 4th semester at Drew, and I just turned in the very first, very rough draft of my manuscript. But I need more poems, more and more, so I’m trying Poem a Day again. When I made myself write something every day of April the results were awesome, and out of those I got at least six or seven really great pieces.

So here goes again. With work, school, and the High Holidays I’m not vowing they’ll be a poem each day, but I’m going to try.

Ina’s Vow

Admittedly, she was drunk at the time
but not as drunk as he was, drunk and deep into his
most familiar litany

No. Just no. It just ain’t natural. It just ain’t right. No woman
can handle going down. She just couldn’t.

but a drunken vow is still a vow and anyway
she’d been rebelling against her uncle’s Rules for Girls
since she first could clasp an axe.

So she made a list of 1000 questions and began to hunt answers
as she hunted quail, flushing out the game and bagging
everything in reach.

She asked every woman she met and every man who would talk to her to
to tell her everything about the mines. She took meticulous notes.

No one bothered to ask about the scribbling for Ina
had always been a queer child, too headstrong for a girl.

Timely Lyrics Wednesday

It’s one of THOSE days at work, and I found myself humming this Roches’ classic:

The Death of Suzzy Roche

I work in the laundromat
The one that Suzzy Roche
Does hers at
I hate her guts
She thinks I want her autograph

She’s got stinky crusty socks
She’s got underwear that shocks
O what a pig, she’s such a pig
I’d like to stick a turd in her mailbox

Some people really have a lot of nerve
Everywhere they go they think they
Should get served
Everybody in the laundromat is equal
Suzzy Roche

She hands me a ten dollar bill
Asks so sweetly if I will
Give her some change
I’d like to bang her head
Against a windowsill

She says the machine is broke
The way she loaded that thing is a joke
Broken machine, another broken machine
Now I’d really like to cut her throat

Some people. . .

She decides that she’s got to get out of there
Other people waiting but she don’t care
Cycle is through, her cycle is through
I took out her clothes and threw them everywhere

Boy was she mad when she got back
I said listen honey don’t give me no flack
Pick up your clothes, pick up your clothes
And when she did I stuck a knife right through her back

Some people. . .