isn’t it pretty to think so?

the prof told us to write a poem about a relative meeting someone famous.
uncertain of any true stories regarding such a situation in my family, i made up a story where my 20-year-old father met bruce springsteen on the coast of north jersey while dating my mom.
my dad and mom did live in north jersey near asbury park, did have a first date on the beach, and my dad did own a chevy nova. but my mom was the one who got in a bad accident in her 20s. and it was a a brown volkswagon. and. my dad never met bruce springsteen.
but i cobbled some true details together, embellished others, and completely made up the rest to create a (hopefully!!) believable narrative. isn’t it pretty to imagine? i think poetry is liberating in its ability to allow the writer a space to act out a fantastic premise/cerebral exercise/meditation on some flight of ideas and watch the details unfold.
if i hadn’t prefaced this whole bit, would you have liked it any more or less? do you even like it NOW?


Love Song

Summer, 1970: my father, changing lanes to exit the turnpike
for Totowa, wheeled into the red fear of streaming taillights,
swerving past almost-death: two Chevy Novas on the same
ramp at the wrong time—man, a good way to die.

Before this flailing over the steering wheel, he’d clapped
the sweaty back of Springsteen, young and unknown,
on his way out of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
In that grasp, the jetties rose from North Jersey

coasts and swamplands, salt-rusted coasters crusting
the pier. The scent of pine barrens and gas fields bit,
and the magnesium blast of diner signs blinded,
glossing bombed-out cars and tar-choked lots

left behind after the cinemas caved in—all that darkness
the boys lived in beyond the chain links and bleachers,
boiled in the electric buzz of the Boss’s guitar. The sound
tugged on the chest of every girl in Ocean County

who shivered at her back door: fragmented confusion
of the singer on self-destruct before the indifference
of a crowd. Bruce had the legs and lungs to drive
those songs, so my father took a tape back home

to my mother, newly nineteen and just within his reach—
two hearts exploring each other in the white howl
of coastal tides, sharing a towel at Seaside Heights where
he might float a kiss into the nape of her neck—but first

the race-pump rush-throb of a missed collision pulsed
with horn bands and BABY WE WERE BORN TO RUN.

1 Comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

another blues-inspired piece (to be read aloud)

i’ve been thinking a lot about the page v stage debate of writing poetry. poetry is great for reading, but the performative aspect of poetry has become more important to me as my friends and i continue to do group readings together at a cafe in town. so anymore, i write with the thought in mind that i’ll have to read it aloud to a crowd that isn’t familiar with its construction on the page. so my voice on the page is more concerned with sound, rhythm, significance of content/message, etc.
aaannnyways, here’s something i pretty much spoke as i wrote it.
it’s also about blues again (I HAVE A LOT OF LISTENING HOMEWORK FOR THIS HISTORY OF THE BLUES CLASS). and me feeling aggressive and placeless in the (in)security of travel and late-night wandering in an unfamiliar place.

Chicago for the Weekend
“I just feel dissatisfied baby, / I don’t know what to do.
Have you ever had that same feeling, babe, / to come over you?”

—Leeroy Carr, “Blue Night Blues”

When I was little, I wanted to be a firefighter.
I got bigger but still too small to fringe the flames
of a burning building, so I stuck with the embers
seething in my stomach and ripped wild across cornrows
and factory fields to this new dreamscape, circling
the streets of this blasted city like bomb-shocked shadow.
Cigarettes drown in the rain-wash of sewers clogged
with street trash and stench, skunked booze
and vegetables cooked to death—
no nourishment lurks here, no satisfaction. I love
the labyrinth of this urbania, the dark fall
of skyscrape on walkways where hooded figures
hulk hungry, weaving their looms of history
into brick-blood and aged iron-cast eaves.
The corner blues-prophet exhales exhausted
lines into the smog, his internal purge adding
to the empty choke of air-waste and endless
smolder, and I’ll moan mantras under his divine
apocrypha, the agonizing rot of dying so
alone and undone in the after-hours—all bound
by frayed gut-string. Oh, hold me slow, hold me hard,
hypnotizing rock of underground bench-beat
rattling subterranean railways. I am not
from here, I know no soft place to rest.
Cold winds whip their cadence of crying
into verses of ice, alchemizing energies
of loop traffic and neon-bright tunnel rush—
yes. I need the heat of forgotten jazz scratching
the vinyl and spilling to the backstairs, the quiet
crumble of the fire-escape parting from the high-
rise. You are my surrogate tonight, my lover
arcing back in some orgasm of blown-out
voice and anxious time. Your sirens scream
so red in their flash down alleyways, searching
for the torturous scorch of my slow jam
imploring the ruby truck to stop by, to deliver
relief from the brutal knuckling of this angry kiss.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

i think of the birds i sight as omen work

whenever i see crows, i think trouble.
whenever i see larks, jays, robins, i think joy.
sparrows signify suspension.
so when scott and i drove through the migration site of the sandhill cranes before we won our respective races, i knew we were going to be successful. here’s the series of fragments i developed for class as a result, with edits.

Migration Land

Useless panorama
punched down deadpack
of February defrost brown

but not brown more gray
cut with divining lines
season cycle luster-fade

harvest chaff and husk
below quieting conversation
retreating cloudshores

reflected in the hot shine
coffee melting
paperboard walls

night-cool
swampland on endless loop
against the glass undulating

sunrise breath steams
detritus tule-rush
whisked hoary ribbons

before the dashboard
a continent opens worried wing
banded white feather bustle

brushing sedged ditches
born there now fleeing
on the exhale crests

arrowed call roofed by red cap
crane-skull nestled easy
the sling of a muscled neck

silvered and hollow resonating
asking and answering minor notes
chasm blush between clean

horizon and the overcast
red tones woven over asphalt-waver
warming rubber treads.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry

mermaid trimeter poetry thing uh

another prompt for class deriving from pages 1-12 of the poetry dictionary.
the whole damn thing was on accentual meter. so i decided i was going to do a trimeter piece, which i’ve attempted before, nbd.
however, i was also kicking around the idea of a fugue.
a fugue is not a poetic form. In music, a fugue (FEWG) is a technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition. the voices work to interweave, repeat, turn upside down in pitch and all kinds of stuff.
so, poetically speaking, this fails, since music is about polyphonics. but repetition, stanzaic modulation and sonic play can imitate it a little. the most bombass fugue poem can be read here, where the author spices up the fugue even more with the play of german and english. another good one is this, and the author’s audio explanation for how it was made (william carlos williams + markov text generator) IS SO EFFING COOL. listen!!
anyways.
FINALLY, with the challenge of a trimeter fugue piece, i was kicking around the idea of the little mermaid. like, she’s a siren. she’s supposed to sing men out to sea and kill them, but instead (at least in the original story), she gives up her voice and endures horrible suffering for her man and then dies. talk about subversion of female power. no wonder disney took that shit over (but of course, you don’t have a franchise if you have a dead princess).
then i really wanted some balance with six sestets following my fugue progression (you know, divisible by three).
OK SO THAT’S EVERYTHING GOING ON IN THIS BITCH. took about 6 hours of work? i dunno. again, not completely satisfied due to form constraints. GIMME SOME FEEDBACK.

Siren Fugue

Breach the ambient scatter
of sun in wave-washed
depths, where everything stirs
and stirs. Breach the ambient
scatter of wavering song
like stirring sun in your throat—

Cross the white halo
between sea and surface
wide as a cathedral
windowpane, cross
the white halo, wide,
while pain draws its holy

notes in the back of your throat—
love so strong you go
breathless in the mute void
of sound, chords crashing like
notes in the back of your throat,
love so strong you swallow

shallow heat: the crush
of tide-torn beaches
empty of music, only
the love-crush lasting as long
as a tide-turn tugged
by a piercing Pisces moon.

Your heart curls on quick
rhythms of deep dusk-water,
the whistle of weightless air—
shallow heat curling
your heart small as a conch,
empty of music, only

a gasp of your siren song
swimming back to the topaz,
shading down into dark
quays and blue reefs
gasping your siren song
back, seducing you home.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

villainous villanelles

HOO HOO POETRY JOKES.
this week’s prompt: write any form derived from your scanning of a poetry dictionary.
i like the word villanelle. it’s so pretty. so i decided to write one.
they’re hard. like, mad props to dylan thomas. but i also really enjoy the challenge of pulling off something in a form. or at least attempting it. meh. i don’t like it because it seemed a little stilted and stuff (but doesn’t all rhyming and repetitive stuff seem like that anymore? maybe that’s just me), but we’ll see how it fares in workshop.

A Villanelle

My father called out in the cardinal’s notes,
two chirping whistles: you me, you me.
The cardinal quiets, keeps his voice safe in oak.

Cardinals blot red against white winter snow,
voices wound tight in the shell of their beaks.
My father called out in the cardinal’s notes.

Drifts leaned too heavy for the wind to blow,
too strong and silent for my father to heave.
Watching, the cardinal kept his voice safe in oak.

Collapsed in a snowbank of icy overgrowth,
he read the raucous beat of freezing wings
fleeing his curious call in cardinal notes.

Stigmata slicing the silence of a frost-shocked grove
those scarbright bodiess, crested hearts that pulse and seize—
the cardinal keeps his voice safe in oak.

The treeline bleeds my father’s trilled echoes,
he trudged indoors to teach the cherry lovetone to me —
my father called out in the cardinal’s notes,
but the cardinal kept his voice safe in oak.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

blues is my muse

i don’t know what it is, but i love old country blues. I.LOVE.IT. one of my first pieces in college was an ode to robert johnson and one of my last pieces last semester was an ekphrasis of a blues banjoist.
and now i’m in a history of the blues class so i want to write a poem about every effing lecture. and i’ve also amassed over 500 blues songs from 1924 to the present.
weirdly enough, none of my poems have been [intentionally] in the blues poem form. just poems about blues. guess i should try that next, but it has been so well done by so much better poets that i don’t want to make something suck. TOO MUCH PRESSURE.
anyway.
so this first poem was a contemplated piece, but the second was a piece i edited a little after a 15 minute prompt in class, borrowing the line “let the devil use your head” from Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Blue Light Lounge Sutra For The Performance Poets At Harold Park Hotel.” BEAUTIFUL.

Beale Street Blues

Today I could buy some Greyhound tickets to Memphis
for eleven dollars, but then I’d only get as far as present-day
Beale Street and I’d rather go all the way back
to 1928 when the Sheiks played the Monarch Club
and I could groan along with them about the trauma
of travel and the betrayal of love, a bruise on the throat creeping
along the scale to the deepest blue. Why was every Deep South griot
blind? Why did they all choose the hardest ways to die?
Snorting, stamping, roaming wild with their twelve-strings
and bottleneck slides, they piece together broken folk
and hum gospel til the people move, fingers fumbling frets
for a scrap of cash large enough for the next swig.
I’ll climb aboard that bus, the exhaust like Eucharist
on my lips as I’m christened by the ghosts of rail hobos
and piney top performers, whose rhythmic strumming still
keeps time with the desperate rattle of steel wheels
on blackgum tracks. You won’t know me in the reverb
of hot-drink vision and slack-key tones, but
in the bellow of a bar measure, fluid like the emptying
of the Yazoo to the Mississippi, but strong like cotton
stalks on a hill, nursing a blood-scrawled Delta sunset.

Muse

Let the devil use your head
for a while. Fall down

on windblown crossroads,
your sense swallowed in the slide

of a broken bowie knife scraping
the steel-string fretboard spine,

Notes folding into a space between
scales, spiritual shakes and prison wails.

let the devil use your head
to knock questions against

rotted boxcar walls, blues cries
fertilizing the fields. You don’t recognize

the bones dug up from this silt, the black
grin of a ghost with a story wedged

in his molar made for the groove
of shellac records: a voice of empty

moaning, no place to go—
let the devil use your head,

shave a shank from your tongue
to swipe and swing free of the lumber yards,

and crop rows, no bars to block you,
a rolling strum with time and no tempo

like the rain re-sculpting the furrows—
a banshee loose on the delta-lands.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

I AM SO PROUD OF THIS.

I was stuck in a poem rut, writing shitty things about nightmares and vague inner turmoil, which is fine, I think everyone kinda deals with that from time to time, but after a while that internal world was exhausted of any creative function. I felt like the poem I turned in for first workshop this semester was a cheap cobbling together of the stuff I was least ashamed of from that time; thus, it left much to be desired.
So, the next prompt–write an ode of sorts to a fictional public figure–got me so excited because it forced me to exit the weepy amorphous hole I was in and dig around for something fun and imaginative.
I EFFING LOVE SUPERHEROES, so I was drawn to the Batman mythology. Like, he’s complex as shit. He is a character that constantly negotiates the ambiguities of justice and vengeance, of moral enlightenment and blindness, of fear and courage, internal turmoil and straightforward conflict, etc. all through physical prowess, indomitable will and powerful deduction. DC stands for Detective Comics, after this wildly successful superhero, and there’s no doubt as to why. We can all be Batman, given enough of a motivation, ingenuity and passion (and money, sure). We can all battle the bad guys both externally and within. We can all understand the importance of heroism beyond a single man, and also admire the humanity of sacrificing everything for a deeper cause.
Anyways, here. I tried really hard. I’ve been researching for about a half a week, and the piece was constructed kinda surgically as lines flashed to me and I sanded them down and smoothed them together. Maybe the ending fizzles a little? JUST TELL ME HOW TO MAKE IT BETTER SO I CAN DO BATMAN SOME JUSTICE (get it?).

DARK

It starts in the tricolor acetate lithography
of a panel-blocked Gotham noir. You seek
to reverse the collapse of that night in that alley:
the closeness of the walls, the scream, two shots
then a bloom-splash of blood, pearls bursting
like meteors on the pavement— you seek to stop
the bullets that started it all. In shadows, you are
a spiked cowl and scalloped wings, spurred gauntlets
and a utility belt toothed with throwing knives sliced
into that kitschy animal shape. A crusade swept
under your cape, a cloak of night, a shadow cast, you keep
your heart under onyx rubber and hooked-star emblems.
The black cut of a graphite mask beveled to your cheek—
you despised your fear so you slipped inside its pitch
depths, hoping to turn out the terrors within.
Art deco, bizarre science, lunatics, mobsters and ninjas—
on your rooftop runs under umber skies, the city
looks dirty from the eaves of daguerreotyped skyscrapers.
Nocturne of anarchy, with a slick snap you draw your mantle
around you with one impassioned fist, the crushing
clench of revenge— memory is so treacherous, so flighty—
guilt drops into ink-pools of anger, and you feel so blind.
You fear your power, your fury, your drive to do
great or terrible things. Your growl to the night
leaves huge echoes in the sable caves of your mind.
Justice, a white beacon hisses to you in the sky. You burn,
an effigy of order. You seek to be a symbol, a monster,
a hooded reaper to all this simple filth, drawn in straight lines
across the page, but you know the achromatic tones
of compassion, the real ambiguous humanity of being good.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished