Tag Archives: death

elegy for a lost DVD

Next prompt for class was to write a poem about a movie. I choose The Darjeeling Limited by Wes Anderson, a movie that I can always just turn on and drift away in. One week in the fall when I was going through some rough stuff, I watched it once every day. ILOVEIT. But I lost my DVD copy, though. It’s kinda upsetting. Luckily I can almost replay the whole thing in my mind’s eye…

Seeking Moksha
After The Darjeeling Limited

Wake up, brother. Where would I have seen you
last? Was it the funeral, after the taxi spewed
Dad’s change across 57th and Mom released,
an absent saint? Since then you’ve technically
died and I’ll follow, unbodied by these opiates,
half-smoked cigs and scotch. Brother,

I should’ve known you’d try to break open, throw
yourself from your cycle and rise in a crown
of gauze. All the nights spent at Hotel Chevalier
in a stolen bathrobe, transmuting your sadness
to prose—you live alone there, a casual thing—
you retch the hot musk-swell of Voltaire No. 6,

Parisian wine, curled clove-stars from Rajasthan—
probably one of the most spiritual places
in the world!” You sweat burnt sienna: turmeric,
the bindi thumbed to your brow now bleeding
as you limp after the street-swilled shoeshine
stealing your loafers. We are long-faced gamboling

this love-gutted dramedy, prowling the frost-glass
carriage doors of a locomotive lost on a one-way
track—we can’t know where to go. We haul
heavy luggage, haunt rails like angry Hindu djinns
bhangra-ing to 70s British blues-pop—what can we do
but cling to the vacuous continent of grief? Brother,

in your peacock-feather tantric tadasana, you know
the thoracic lurch that punched his gut when the fender
fractured his femur, hip and heart. You fear healing
won’t come, the bandages won’t give way to holy
pink scars and memories of hurt. There was
a plan for this pilgrimage, but fuck the itinerary

fuck the itinerary, fucking fuck the itinerary. We’ll
just drift with everything Ganges running-running,
drunk in the sallow veil of this land so sugar-bitter
like under-ripe lime over ice, or the cherry scowl
of a lover, lips red like Dad’s Jaguar never-resurrected—
not even after we jumped it, shoved it up the block.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

lists

MORE BLUES POETRY. this is an earlier, unedited version.

How the Blues Die

Bessie Smith flew from her car like an angel
and broke open at the ribs and wrists, died
neglected on the white hospital stretcher.

Blind Lemon Jefferson froze to death on the streets
of Chicago, lost in the snow—a thing
he feared in the blank of his eternal whiteout.

Memphis Minnie stroked out, so they shoved
her into a nursing home til her expiration date,
aphasic save for the livid spittle laced to her lip.

Charley Patton became a sizzling collapse
of the heart’s infarction—an entropy of passion
as plaque bloomed like a lily in his ventricles.

Peg Leg Howell burned, corroded by the syrupy
sweet of diabetes that claimed his legs first—
bad sugar crystallizing slow along his thighs, crippling.

Pine Top Smith caught a stray bullet to the chest when
his boogie-woogie spun out of control—he lurched forward
over the bloodied ivories skewed by reckless shots.

Leadbelly escaped every prison except the one
as big as his body: the iron maiden of Lou Gherig’s
shackled his limbs from within and snuffed him out.

Robert Johnson played too far out of hand in Greenwood—
gutted by the barman’s jealous slip of arsenic over his
fifth whiskey, a milky swill of revenge in amber depths.

Big Bill Broonzy felt the cancer coagulate in his throat,
cutting off his vocal flow as he punched riffs into his guitar
and onto the pale, sunwashed porch after morning chemo.

Leroy Carr drowned in the depressive cloy of canned heat—
the crush of drinking to death, while Willie Johnson
suffocated on the icy ash of his burned-out home. Pneumonia

lying heavy in his chest, he hummed “Dark was the Night,
Cold was the Ground” to forgotten streets, careful to still
the chalk-grind of his bones as he sighed off mid-moan.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited

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

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

i wrote this after watching river monsters.

Jeremy Wade is a god. And a master story-teller. So he told this story of electric eels killing some cowboys when they feel in a river, I was enticed to look them up. Here’s what they inspired.

Electric

On Orinoco river bottoms
or stagnant Amazon waters—
in the dark, in the black
mud, saliva-slick,
they doze, cutlass bodies,
stillwater drones
with pock-punched muzzles
and humming hulls
like bright citrus—
a buzz of low-volt
slumber,
a thick black ribbon
of muscle, a ripple
in the murk—
their bodies rope
over a threshing flank
churning in the slip-stream,
battery-bullet cells
punching, punching,
punching each charge
into an embrace,
and the shock
does not kill, only
stuns, suffocates
the victims as they drown,
as they fold into the electric
clamp of knife-fish bodies
that caress, searching
the numb body twitching
in its neural collapse.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

ekphrasis–my faaaave.

here are a couple of ekphrastic pieces for class. one is an ekphrastic piece based on henry ossawa tanner’s the banjo lesson, which is BEAUTIFUL.
the second is based on the life and work of david foster wallace. his 2006 commencement speech has been mentioned elsewhere as the inspiration for some of my recent work…i thought delving into his life a little would be interesting as well. i was not disappointed, but i hope my poem does him a little justice.

The Banjo
Inspired by the painting The Banjo Lesson by Henry Ossawa Tanner

In this body there is so much pain,
can you hear it? Carried over from far-off
sea-coasts, its name dreaming of a lost lingual
land, the banjo leans into your lap, remembering
its polyrhythmic history. Your fingers find
the long paths of gut and copper, learning
to clawhammer and dropthumb, to strum
the arpeggio notes of knock-down rag ditties,
to pluck tones of the cooleset blues.
What are words to you, what is this song
you stumble to pump through your young lungs?
Against me, you are so small—a warm, beating
body as alive as the too-big organ in your arms.
Steadying the neck like a tiller, my hands
are scuffed leather and weathered wood,
resolute granite nobly crumbling back
into the land that bore me. I will guide you
over heaving seas and rolling drones,
deliver you to the truest tunes. My baby,
open your ears to the yowl yawning
through the stretched-hide drum face,
an echo resonating beyond our circling
of elbows, wrists and thighs—
to that trembling note singing deeper
than the dull twang of age and land,
bowed faces and broken hearts.

Hibernation
For David Foster Wallace

A boy from Ithaca, you knew the white walls
of snow ridges and ranges, heavy quilts
of frozen water weighing you down
as you scissored angels into the drift sides.
You were the best of them, hurling hunks
of ice from rusted car bumpers in the farthest
arcs to the point of exhaustion—burning
deltoids, numb fingers, collapsed lungs.

You followed your father to his alma mater
and aced modal logic, philosophy, mathematics—
they worshipped you. Summa cum laude,
postmodern novelist, they diagnosed you
‘a brilliant ironist,’ ‘the voice of a generation,’
earnest, intelligent, clinically depressed.

Your brain enslaves you while drugs fight
to free you: Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Tofranil,
in combination with unilateral ECT
(during a two-week voluntary in-patient course),
Parnate both with and without lithium salts,
Nardil both with and without Xanax. What

goes on inside is too fast and huge
and all interconnected for words to do more
than sketch the outlines. You want to stop
moving through your rounds: booking tours
and deadlines, bills and banking—your default
setting of solitude in a sea of humans.

From your window in Claremont, severed
from the manic pull of verbal calisthenics
and the avant-garde—of topping your keystone
with another crown—you have a vision
of a blue hole in a northeastern snowbank
where your body can rest; sleep off the hardest part,
dream, awaken later to tackle reality.

In the sling of your homemade noose, you slipped off
every fear of failure like icepacks pressing
into your skull, hard, cold, too heavy to bear.
It was easier to drift into deeper sleep than
stay awake in the winter of a writer in demand.
In your chest, the language was so barren, so tired.
You saw so little left. You had to conserve.

1 Comment

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

monstrous mashup

The next assignment for our craft of poetry class was to take two of our favorite poems and create mashup of them–so like, a amalgamation of our SUPER FAVORITE poem, I guess? It makes sense that looking at my two favorite poems: Galway Kinnell’s “Little Sleep’s Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight” and Mary Oliver’s “Dogfish” I could see that in terms of content and language, they easily lended themselves to mutual mashing together. Read the two separate first, then see what you think of what I did to heighten their awesomeness.

Dogfish in the Moonlight
A mash-up of Galway Kinnell’s “Little Sleep’s Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight” and Mary Oliver’s “Dogfish.”

It was evening, and no longer summer,
Scratched too late with the knowledge, the wages
of dying is love.

I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open like a hinge,
like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls down over the rocks: an explosion,
a discovery; I wanted to hurry; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was
alive
for a little while.

You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

I have heard you tell
the sun, don’t go down, I have stood by

as you told the flower, don’t grow old,

don’t die.

I think
 you think 
I will never die,
I think I exude
to you the permanence
of smoke or stars, even as my broken
arms heal themselves around you.
Nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world: the hopeless future
that is bulging toward us.

Lovers whisper to the presence
beside them in the dark, O corpse-to-be…
You commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking
one day all this will only be memory.
I wanted to be able to love.
And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?

learn,
as you stand

at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss

the mouth
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails,

which tells you, here,

here is the world.
This mouth. This laughter.
you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing.
Don’t waste time looking for an easier world.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished