Tag Archives: existentialism

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.

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After Overdosing on Sean Singer

Reading Discography by Sean Singer in class this month. I was going through his book and also his stuff on From the Fishouse (AN AMAZING LINK TO SOME SWEET HONEY, GO ENJOY THAT SHIT), and I realized that this dude was blowing my head off. HE IS INSANELY GOOD. I couldn’t even hang on to some of the language he was pulling off in his work, but a week later his lines are still rattling around in my head, particularly from my favorite, “Echolocation”:
“Into a dustbowl of annihilation the rotating head/seizes its empire of blood; a storm collapses each/mouse bone as the threnody of rain crushes the air.”
But he also has a Robert Johnson poem that puts mine to SHAAAME because of the line “Doping doping all through the grape night.” LIKE. AAAAHHH.
His knowledge of jazz and blues, travel and history and his exercises in self-persona construction are amazing. So I stayed up til about 2 reading everything I could find on him and trying to soak up his tone and voice for a second. I wanted to try on his style for myself in a piece, so here’s what I came up with. Anything I do pales in comparison to his prowess though–I guess this is just a little shoutout to him for taking my skull on a walk last week. CHECK. HIM. OUT.

After Overdosing on Sean Singer

I close against this cobalt
wall of insomnia,
unforgiving in its grind.
Meanwhile
an ocean rolls off a distant ridge—
slow dope-draw of traffic
to the hypoderm
at my temple, the thinnest veil
bearing the heart’s starved
hypoxia, its
drag and ratamacue.
Meanwhile
Singer slips another
line down the gyri: jazz and
its hawkish homology
making another loop—
he wishes I were an onion
so I can feel his thumb
peel my layers.

Meanwhile
the water trembles
over, too much at the glass-rim,
darkens in ominous polygons
on my carpet—some cartography
of the dreams ahead: jaws
and cheeks and shuttering lids
rising like the hedron
in the eight-ball—what
waits in the smalt-wash
of these indigo visions
and sleepless strokes?
Meanwhile
I’ll theorize about the sounds
the animals make in my walls,
scratching wider passages
through the plaster,
their empires of arteries
pushing work in the dark.
Their bodies will fold
into some appropriate
hugeness, like how
the cavern of my mouth
cradles the bite-bruised
petal of my tongue.

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the last one for today.

no prompt, just me on a lonely winter walk.
i have a lot of poems like that.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I crunch the wind-shocked snowpack, cast out
into Saturn, the last eponym of the season’s storming.
This is me cooling off in the rip of a come-back winter
jet stream, furious with the battle I make against this
relentless and offensive weather—boots angry
on the stairwell at spring so far away, so unhappy,
unwilling to work against unhappiness anymore.
I am no one’s favorite tonight, even my blood seethes
against me, withdrawing from fingers seeking stumbling
words. It’s just me and this Marlboro—God damn,
there aren’t enough poems about girls
with cigarettes in the snow, breath and smoke
indistinct below the wind-hull, hands cold. I want
to go home and lay low—maybe I’ll dig
into this drift here—emerge on the other side
to a parking lot apocalypse, sparrows falling
like ice-heavy limbs to the street, chased down
by a prowling hawk. Then wanders a misplaced
carol: Do you hear what I hear? No, if only
the scrape of shovels against cement echoing
in the reverb of a blizzard-tide. If snow falls
silent against the steel and glass, persistent,
then the trunk coming down in forgotten woods
must make the most desperate and lonesome sound.

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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.

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monthstuff.

my friend wrote a poem about the month of september, which seemed like an awesome idea to me since i’ve noticed that certain months do tend to have certain feelings for me: october is a sad/happy month that i wish would never end, but november is always pretty crappy. i dunno. here are some month poems, anyways.

October

I am going on a holiday to escape
the car crash in my mind, the kind

that splatters hot glass to the curb,
that billows the airbags into a crushing

punch to face, that draws dry husks
into gutters from the impact. Streets cough

on the swill of urban trash, squall lines
scribble their angry bruise-shapes across the state.

There were deader days I half-remember,
where I lay starving, unraveling like the black

circuitry of the treeline scratching
the Sanguine Moon, under which calendula

flowered and faded into cinnamon-hued graves.
Splintering metal sounds screech down

my spine—another accident scoring
the concrete—how are you feeling?

I ache for the morning glow of dying
leaf groves, pink in their overripe

collapse. In those visions, it comes back
to me, the rusty, hematic scent of cut earth

as the scythe swivels down upon shocked
stalks, slicing deep into the turbid

underworld of souls pulled for harvest—
wet roots, frosted sod, charred logs.

November

This is the month for death.
the hemispheres cringing

away from the sun,
the frost-choked land

with a voice like broken bones.
It is winter it says, we must sleep.

The field of my body fallows,
falls stale in the grip of winter wrath.

You always ask for words
on my fever dreams:

heat like the stigmata of sunset
on my temple, crushing clench

of my jaw wound tight
against my neck. I never fail

to falter, limbs snuffed of circulation,
tumbling into needled slumber.

I can’t fight the gale-washed
monster in my brain,

the black animal of mania
I feed until shadows throw

sharp shapes between my ribs,
until primal hunger wipes me out.

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theodicy

the next post is the product of the prompt: ‘describe a scheme gone wrong.’ i thought it worked nicely with this thing i’ve been kicking around in my head about good and evil and religion. if god exists, why do bad things happen in the world? this is the elementary question of the religious doctrinal debate known as theodicy. so. here’s my contemplation of god’s existence in the face of evil.

When I Lost Faith in God

Baby, we almost died on that street in Montmarte.
We felt so free, so drunk in our wrenching
open of the world, lapping up the marrow
of life: Bordeaux on the lawn of the Basilica of Sacre Couer,
lime and rum in the streets of Le Marais, staggering
through the cobbled streets of Bohemia—
The sour suction of guilt drains down my scalp
in a migraine, turning my stomach, boiling
up my throat. I suffocate on the reverb of memory
echoing through my lungs, on every shard
of the trauma that touched us that night: you, ripped,
using your body in ways you never dreamed
to save it; me, adrift, my limbs too heavy to fight—
from the backseat of the Parisian cruiser the sun
stroked the mullioned face of Notre Dame
with a pink and peaceful ray and I snarled
at the fantasy. Forty hours of insomnia, stale coffee
and imported cigarettes with Che’s face on the carton,
Oh God, Jesus, Fuck—theodicy unraveling in the cruelest
fashion as the train rocks us back across the English Channel.
Calls come in from the hospital, the embassy, parents
too far away: static on the airwaves save for the halting
breath that inquires into the anguish, wavering, falling
flat. I am a poet strangled to inarticulation, Frenchless,
Englishless, stripped of every fiber of intelligence
that flew me over these seas. Clinging to you, I feel
the miles spiral under us in the city of broken love
as its bore its brutality to us: hypnagogic gyrations cut
with sallow streetlamps and concrete, harsh alien syllables,
sterile waiting rooms and pooled blood in smoke-scratched
eyelids praying to close, to break the bad dream.

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i kind of wrote the same poem twice.

For my submission to my friends’ zine, I was trying to write a poem that tried to capture the essence of feeling secure/free, the spirit of the first issue/mission of the zine. I tried to incorporate the quote from which the zine’s theme derives into the epigraph and stuff, and I did a little meditating.
Then I had to write a poem for class about my imagination of a perfect day driven entirely by images of this perfect day–IT’S ALL ABOUT RUNNING OUTSIDE, DUH. The rest of the day doesn’t matter as long as there’s a good ramble in their somewhere.
Both of these poems overlapped in imagery, tone and content. I was first kind of mad that I wrote the same poem twice, but then it was kind of cool to look back on their parallels and their deviations. The goals of both pieces want to be the same, but their differences in expression make them unique from each other.
So, readers, which one uses the pieces of a perfect day and feeling good better? Which one resonates more, feels more ‘put together?’

The best days open with the longest runs:

A calf to which the sweat clings, cut
with the curved continent of heavy
muscle and the sharp jut of the femur,
humming, ready. Sleeping mind
and streaming eyes. Early morning

is the slate-gray prelude to sunshine,
the shell-shocked wake of late-night apocrypha:
streets bleached, scored with silver rivulets
of rain and sprigs of sumac shivering
in their wash of dew. Where does the rhythm

of this road flow? From concrete islands
to mulchy trails to gravel paths and back,
canopied by a kaleidoscope
of limbs, lampposts and leaves. Lungs tear
under the erratic flood-pump

of blood. Breath stabs, a hematic bite
behind the teeth. Steam streams
from the rusted beards of storm grates,
pools of divination, tunnels
to dreamscapes beneath dark driveways.

Retreat
“Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” -David Foster Wallace

Dear God, forgive me for the horrors
I love. Forgive me for this run, the ripping
Apart of my insides. I undulate with this
country of concrete back roads choked
with sumac and paw-paw, the shards
of branch-broken dawn-stream in the median,
red, coral, gold. Oh God,
I apologize for my sick satisfaction with the death
of the small spider writhing in the neon glow
of morning: she is burning, burning. I am an insect
with her, trapped in amber, my pen-scratch wings
bent badly in the sepia strangle of sudden, crystalline
suffocation. I am still, a husk of a former life,
suspended in hard sap and the sorrow of dirt.
I must return to viridian chapels of drained dam-beds
and mud-bulged ravines. Deliver me from evil,
from the aching in my chest—I’ve got this hollow space
here, a hole I can’t fill where the demon eats me
alive. I can go no deeper, too burned by the hematic blooms
of grief. I petition for my soul so hungry
my mouth sours and all these prayers dry out.
In my retreat, I find the forgiveness of endless sleep,
dreams like mirrors of rain-wash on the path
like an open hand, inviting me to look inside.

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