NaPoMo – Words in My City: Ashes



Ring around the rosies
Pockets full of posies
Ashes ashes
We all

Ring around the pockets
Full of the
Ashes ashes
All fall ashes
All fall down around
The rosies all around
The posies all around the
Ashes ashes
Falling down

Ashes ashes
All        falls        down

NaPoMo 2013 – Words in My City / Reconciling

After feeling less than inspired to start NaPoMo’s Poem a Day Challenge, I saw a great post about creating poems by taking pictures of words in the world around us. (See: National Poetry Month Phone Poets Project)

Not quite up for that, I was struck by the idea of pulling words I see in my city and using them as writing prompts for poems. So here’s my first offering, from a sign at a church near my office.



The bowling ball has reconciled with the lane
and the pins but is not reconciled to
the sweating unwashed fingers

The pins will never reconcile with
the ball nor the bowler nor the
pinsetter. The lane knows it would be nothing
without the gutters and the gutters and the lane
are not reconciled to the invention of
the bumpers.

The balls and the pins and the lanes are reconciled
to or with the bowlers, depending.

The bowlers are in general reconciled to
the whim of the lanes and pins
but have not been reconciled with
each other since The Incident
when Mr. Last Year’s Champion grabbed
the ass of Mrs. Trying To Be This Year’s Champion, causing
her ball to be reconciled to the gutter.

After six months of silence between the men’s
and women’s league, silence that travels from
Waverly Bowl to home and back again, there is
some talk of making
peace but none yet
of a formal reconciliation.

But even this in its way will come. Like any
relationship that yearns to last longer
than anger, these combatants
will learn to make
peace with
reconciling with and without reconciling
to and next season the men’s
and women’s leagues will bowl on
different nights and in five years this
will be tradition and not evidence of how
life needs neither forgiveness nor
reconciliation and yet
goes on and goes on forgetting how good
either would feel.

NaPoMo 2013 – my opening salvo – On poetry and transformation

I have a deadline to meet later this week, 500-700 words on “why poetry is transformative.” Here’s my start:

On Poetry and Transformation

Words don’t flow from meaning—meaning flows from words. Shift a syllable here or there, free a phoneme, dare to let the music choose its own lyrics, and what you know and what you feel veer out of the orderly lines and dart across the border beyond which There Be Dragons.

And honest poetry is the language of dragons translated into human tongues, or how human tongues speak Dragon.

Or maybe poetry is the place where I get to be a dragon.

Or poetry is what my Dragon-self and I create together, turning words into fire and flight.

As a poet, I try to turn experiences and emotions that exist outside of language into songs my people can sing. Like how I started this small essay a few inches above this line, determined to be smart and profound and deep, to craft carefully each syllable, until lines led to across led to border led to beyond which led (through a childhood soaked in fantasies of escape) to Dragons and now here I am, no longer a poet but a vast leather-winged beast with a voice that shatters stone walls and breath that burns walled cities to ash.

There is in every poet such as beast as mine—my Dragon-self, nostrils flaring, smells friend worth dying for or foe worth the fight. Most I think sport wings and armor or claws large as tree roots or eight sets of legs to dance an army off a cliff.

And for all of us poetry is our compromise between destroying the world and loving it. Or is the power of destruction transformed into love. Or love translated into the power to destroy.

A poem that is only what it seems to be is not poetry. Nothing is poetry until you catch a scent that makes you shiver, until what your brain reads and what your body knows diverge, until you catch out of the corner of your eye a shadow that strikes the nerve that knows you might yet be prey.

If at the end of a poem you are who you were when you started the poem you have not dared to dwell in poetry, nor dared to let poetry dwell in you.

NaPoMo – April 15 “Poppies”


From atop the cliff the sun
at a certain angle sets them
afire, pulsing light
hearts beating

theirs, and yours, and then
the light moves on, you blink
and they are shadowed

so don’t stop looking

hold your breath, feel the thumpa-thump
of that good muscle—and the instant becomes
as eternal as you risk making it

as you risk holding the sun in place
holding the cliff
holding time
so the petals go on with their blazing and neither the poppies
nor you, watching
nor me, writing you watching
nor the flashing in your brain for each word read
are consumed by the flames.

NaPoMo Haiku Chase – day 5

Three more Haiku Chases have begun! To see the first 9, and find out how to join in, see Day 3 and Day 4.

The brief version of how to join the chase: choose the last line of any haiku and use it as the first line of your own haiku. Post your new one in the comments section, and I’ll add it in on the next day’s post. Easy!

Bluebells and tulips
should never be both in bloom
But still—such beauty

But still—such beauty
A forest of pink petals
Cherry trees in bloom(DD)

Cherry trees in bloom
Petals fall, tears one year
after tsunami

after tsunami
heart heavy aching with grief
the sun insults me (KW)

the sun insults me—
how it shone the day after
though too far to warm

the sun insults me
exaggerating my years
candlelight was kind (MB)

Bluebells and tulips
should never be both in bloom
But still—such beauty

But still—such beauty
A forest of pink petals
Cherry trees in bloom (DD)

Cherry trees in bloom
Spring’s colors teasing my eyes
Wonder what might loom (LK)

Wonder what might loom
might veer, might barrel my way
in April—Tax Day

Bluebells and tulips
should never be both in bloom
But still—such beauty

But still—such beauty
A forest of pink petals
Cherry trees in bloom (DD)

Cherry trees in bloom
Petals fall, tears one year
after tsunami

after tsunami
heart heavy aching with grief
the sun insults me (KW)

the sun insults me—
how it shone the day after
though too far to warm

the sun insults me
exaggerating my years
candlelight was kind (MB)

candlelight was kind
as was starlight, blurring rough
rubble into moss

NaPoMo – April 8, “Grace”

a re-imagining of a poem from last April.

for Alexine

Not divine, not rare, perhaps unexpected,
not unearned—our brightest courage

shone back at us. She learned to trust
by trusting this horse, hurtling together

over fences or walls or any obstacles.
When Rosie died, when she found

her own knees could not lift her
up from the rough floor, she found

hands, reaching for her. Friends
of Rosie, people who paused at the pasture

nearly every day, people
she’d never suspected now stopping

their cars, saying: I’m sorry, she was
so beautiful, my child loved her.

Grief thrusts a rigid basket
of bricks into our arms. Grace

stretches a stranger’s hand to pluck
some of them, to make bearable

the crippling bulk. Old wives tell
the truest tales—a shared load

is lighter, so light it shines,
a spring sun on an old mare,

now blind, who trusted this woman
once, to fly, and always, to find her way back.

NaPoMo April 7 – notes toward a poem

and by “notes toward” I mean the ideas that may underlie a poem someday. I used to write just like this—have a deep-something-to-say, write it in short lines with rich language and be done. But that’s like scribbling some lyrics and claiming to have a song!

But poem-a-day is a difficult pace and often means “poem first draft a day.” Today’s poem first draft is historically based: on this date in 1927, the first city-to-city television broadcast occurred. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover was in DC and his audience was in New York. After some moments of Profound Blather about the greatness of this tool, the real entertainment came on—a comedian in blackface. I think that the music of this poem wants to be a sonnet. Its got bits of rhythm going, and the internal turns and twists of a sonnet. We’ll see.

the transmission of sight, for the first time in the world’s history
(Herbert Hoover, opening statement of the first city-to-city television broadcast)

Proudly announced on the first television broadcast, D.C. to NYC
Directly after: a comedian in blackface
And so it goes
And so it’s gone ever since, blackface, womanface, childface,
redneck face, youcantrustmeface, with the transmission of sight
masks glued on, a new way to profit from prejudice so now
my country’s vicious idiocy can be spread
as capitalist-gospel truth
How I’d like to pretend language rises above that fray but
what language rises higher than billboards or blimps?
We make a new way to communicate, we make a new way to lie,
telling you a story and selling you a story just sweet
phonemic first cousins, truth a matter of road to hell,
good intentions, how arrogant we poets can be, complacently believing
we are somehow different from tv

NaPoMo April 6 – “Love Psalm”

Love Psalm

in the form of quassams, flung over
our prison walls, slingshots of sugar and
fertilizer, rockets whistling our tune,
carrying the words of our song:

          We will come back, we will come back
          We have not forgotten you, Mother, Land
          to whom we know we belong

And when they touch you, having burrowed through
the cement that pretends to be your tombstone, they deliver
our sweet kisses, our lips to yours sealing
our oath:

          We have not forgotten you, Mother, Land
          that rises to meet our lips
          that will never agree
          to be exiled from us

You open yourself to us
You will swallow these houses on the day we post notice
of the date of our return

NaPoMo April 5th “you don’t believe in god, but”

(Warning to casual blog readers – this is really explicit about violence against girls. Don’t read on if, right now, you just can’t go there)

you don’t believe in god, but

run down the hall
     dart in the room
          close the door
          block it with your whole body
run down the hall
     dart in the room
          close the door
          block it with your whole body

not like it could’ve mattered he always opens the door
slowly so you can keep hoping you might be able to stop this so he
can drink in every subtle taste of your hope

not like he won’t let you go saying your litany of no no no no no an aperitif
so delicious he orders another: Quiet! If they hear you I’ll have to hurt them
which is so brilliant, really, such rhetorical concision, so few words
yet able to make you complicit and make you hope anyone who could hear
might care, then

Oh, go ahead. Yell all ya want. Everyone knows I’m here.

Has anyone stupid ever become a truly successful sadist?

Then he reaches around the door, grabs your arm, just like scene 4
of every slasher movie (need you ask where they get
their formula?) and you (the babysitter who was dreaming of kissing,
the head cheerleader, the loose girl, the bookish girl with glasses, the jock,
the any-other-stereotype of a girl who has it coming) feel your green
and growing bones compress, your shoulder wrench and you go
(     )
(     )
(          )

you don’t believe in god but somehow
you grew up and you’ve never done this to a child, never fucked,
never mind-fucked, never lied, never twisted or broken, never fed
from hope or pain, never dislocated an arm
or a soul and how
outside of some supernatural
compassion can you account for how you get to live each day knowing
you’ll never have to account?