Tag Archives: family

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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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.

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villainous villanelles

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.

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more music

an ode to americana rock as explored through a fictional premise based on a story from my childhood. can you catch all the allusions in here? did someone you thin deserve a shoutout not make the cut? heh.


I’m holding up the cold pack
attached to your head, over the split
in your brow where your skin came
unstitched. You swung your hair
too hard in the tub, howling
Proud Mary to a scalp massage.
Oh baby, don’t cry,
you tell me as Fogerty hands off
to the Asbury Park Boss. I can’t
help but feel responsible for the ebb
of blues in you, the way Appalachia
rises in the ridge of your little spine—
you wrap yourself in bluegrass
and Texas grease, kneading
sockets of cowboy harmony in sleep.
You dream in the Tennessee croak
of The Man in Black, thread
the heirloom patchwork of spicy
Cajun rags and Civil War sounds.
Where did all the dust come from,
creaking inside your young bones?
How do those flames of prairie fires
and cracked-granite plains
fit inside you—cowboy red,
corn-silk yellow, farm-dusk blue?
Curling to a clef with you
beneath sunset-stripe sheets,
I feel the rhythm roll slow in
your chest, sweet and thick,
golden run of tupelo honey.

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i make goals and then i don’t do them.

Here’s a list of stuff I came across today that I want to write about this weekend:
-the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad
-the significance of the hijab and the theology of veils in Islam
-‘theodicy,’ the defense of god’ greatness in spite of the existence of evil
-the burning of judas (look it up)
-the mental breakdown of Brian Wilson
-the evolution of hip hop in 1970’s south harlem

And then here’s a poem I wrote in about 20 minutes that doesn’t really relate to any of that, except that it’s inspired by a random article I saw in Sun Magazine about kids neglected by their parents are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD; disorder spawns from unstable home life. So, yeah. This is like, the instability of standard childhood memories?…Maybe I’ll have more luck with my other ideas.

And then tomorrow I really have to go back through my stuff and pick some pieces for a poetry reading I’m participating in on Friday. SHOOOOOOT.

Without further ado:

What Ails You

You are a child, and
you feel like the viral footage
of an erupting volcano on loop.
Your parents need you to be quiet,
sit still and stop twisting your hands
into sticky pink knots in your lap.
You are locked up at home
with cigarette-scarred floors and
worn down couches and
shoe-scuffed pianos and
echoes of speeding traffic shredding
your head.
There is a silent black dog
staring in the lamp-lit yard
across the street, and
the shattered white ripples
in the swimming pool chant
their drowning song in your ear, and
the green buzz of the television
turns your belly until
your bitten-back tears
gush out, mingling with the static.
You wonder about the color
of your insides: red
like shut eyelids, angry and ill,
or blue like nightmares and
shut closets, forgotten and
full of dark, unimaginable things.

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sexy sestinas.

If I thought pantoums were hard, sestinas were even worse. But I kinda like what came out of this form. I had a general idea of a childhood memory in mind, but I let the form dictate the narrative more than I let the narrative drive the creation of the piece. I just kinda chose 6 words that felt key to capturing the premise of my idea and let the sestina do the rest of the work. For some reason I feel like the main idea of my stanzas just got repeated and rephrased a lot; the narrative doesn’t feel like it moves forward here. Maybe it’s just my tendency to think that six stanzas is a little too long for such a repetitive form, but ahh well….
I’ll probably try another one to see what I come up with, but this was my first shot:

Stargazing Sestina

The navy drapes of night are serrated with pines.
The dark seas of the lawn fall away in the steps of our father.
We throw bottle caps from the cliff edge, where the flames
of lake-waves lick with silvered tongues, fluttering open
and shut, black and white, crumbling the moon-path empty
of city lights and motorboat buzzes—only the tentative step of stars.

The flashlight sweeps the black expanse, seeking stars,
tracing the lines and constellated shapes stroking the pines.
Every point is like an unstrung pearl caught in an empty
milk cloud, wheeling away in latitudes our father
traces in the ink-freckles of star charts and graphs, open
planes of paper his fingers traced, every figure a flame.

Cassiopeia untwists on ivory wires of flame
as our fingers pace the polar spaces between her stars.
Cygnus and Aquila circle the rim of the Milky Way with open
arms while Lyra and Pisces sulk on the horizon we chase to the pines.
Our hearts race the twilit passages, only called back by our father’s
voice. There is never enough time to run. We empty

ourselves of childhood screeches and screams. We empty
ourselves of the frustration of never reaching those pinpricks of flame.
Could we ever know the planispheres, the worlds our father
built with words and lightbeams? We think the stars
are small dinner plates spinning over the black-toothed pines,
and we tinkle and turn mess kit forks reaching for them, mouths open.

In the wolf-track patterned folds of flannel, the hunger opens
our insides wide as the night, stellar veins painted against our empty
ribs. Beyond dreams, we build sledges and swords from whippy limbs of pine
to beat back Ursa Major and Minor, their teeth like rings of flame—
and then the celestial vision breaks. We know they’re only stars,
maybe planets and frozen rock rotating, according to our father.

Moonbeams and shooting stars are just cosmic radiation to our father.
He traverses the galaxy only in photon blinks. But we see novae opening
spectral wings against the cerulean tablecloth spread with stars,
motes of stellar dust swirling on the lake mirror, filling empty
black water-gloss with galaxy myths and meteor flames.
The magic slips from his eyes like ghosts ducking into the pines.

Because his steps light the yard, we don’t mourn our father’s emptiness.
We open his astronomer’s books, hunger ever aflame
for the spin of his dead stars, our secret worlds lingering over the pines.

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Elegy: For Amy

So i haven’t been keeping up on my class prompts and blog posts. Buuut it’s not like anyone noticed, right? Right.
Anways, we’ve been talking a lot about death and writing about it. I’ve been kicking around a memorialization of Amy Winehouse since the summer that I never got around to putting on paper, but this exercise kinda forced it out.
For some reason, I’m not happy with it. Anymore my writing feels forced and half-done, especially due to the more personal nature of some of my recent writing and the lack of all the background research work I usually do to crank out a piece. I wish I could have personalized this a little more to Amy’s life, but this is what I got.

Also, submitted some to Canvas and The Red Cedar Review this week. Fingers crossed on alla dat…

Also stay tuned for another poem about loss focused on a (living) artist: Justin Vernon and what it took for him to create one of the most beautiful albums IN THE WORLDD.

OK, enjoy:

Her Last July
“If I died tomorrow, I’d be a happy girl.”-Amy Winehouse

You learned the hollow truth of convincing them
of your impending end: the way their hands
traveled their ellipses around your face—Do not
cry. Be strong. It will be OK. Trips home and back,

nights spent writing about doo-wop stars and suns like scattered
leaves scuttling across the blank-blue vacant
parking-lot fields of the universe, occasional
comet-cars whispering by. What you would give—

your contralto throat tinged with nicotine and blood.
Rhythm and blues, soul and jazz. Motown. The sizzle
of hip-hop bouncing in your lungs, pumping
emphysema melodies. You tried to let your hand

smooth out against the page as vinyl red hearts
melted off of canary walls in your ketamine
dreams. No one can put this fire out. No one
can put this down but me. What was you life

in a broken state of living? The wheels turning over,
spiny star patterns and galaxies circling an imagined
point. They would come at night to check the irregular
creature in your chest that knocked down

stethoscope halls. You could not go back there,
to that hum of death, to the lies of beauty and
buzzing fear that kept you up at night with those
silent solar forms watching, watching, watching.

How fragile they were to you, and you to us.
How their embers burned and snuffed out
and another day shrugged into rising, reminding
you of your place in the turnstiles of twilight.

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