Tag Archives: identity

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished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 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

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

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

Another poem about being under the weather.

I feel like this trend is developing in my writing of having mini existential crises in bed when I feel ill/depressed and the weather is bad. There’s the couplet poem about a storm, the nightmare from when I was sick (which I didn’t post because it was kinda lame), and the writer’s block I experienced during a particularly dreary day. And now this.
I was told that I’ve been pretty ‘safe’ in my writing this entire semester, and I would say that’s true: I know what works with my style and language and I go for it. I know what mistakes I make and how my readers will react. Mostly I did this because of time constraints…a poetry assignment needed to be done so I just did it. But I want to try to branch out. I want to try to create something where there is some uncertainty in its reception. I just don’t know how to go about doing that. Maybe if I try getting more personal and less reliant on my ‘research-oriented’ form of writing, the results would be riskier, more interesting.
But this is what I have for now.

5 AM Thunder

This is the space you’re allowed to occupy
in my head. White-violet ribbons rip my eyelids

apart: the isolated roar of bus route runnings,
the soft marbles of rain clattering in the gutter.

I will wait, I will try to listen to the way
my landlocked heart contemplates like the rush

of waves in a shell—my own blood pooling
in tidal-rocked rhythms. A musty electric scent

rises from my sheets as I shift, every sore
muscle clenching fistlike against my skin,

while bones cut and pinch, snuffing out
circulation, sending limbs back to sleep.

Your animal turns over in the saddlebacked
mountains of my brain, murmuring with cloud

convulsions and gale-washed sighs. I could
give so much more to you, but I am stuck,

frozen fast in the knotted fingers of this storm,
a fire under glass burning the edges black.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished

Coupla Couplets

Working with forms is great, but something within me continues to resist the rules of formulaic poetry writing. I was supposed to experiment with rhyme in this couplet exercise, buuut…I hate rhyme.
Anyways, here’s a little ditty. Kinda a failure. Kinda sparse for me…no research went into the creation of this poem. Weird.

A Storm

To know
the thundercloud

as its own
mammal, or

the way navy September
breezes

snatch away the smoke
of a cigarette

is to know
the dark curves

of your own
cumulonimbus body—

the blowing copses
of your lungs,

the dark
geography

of your body
below.

2 Comments

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