Tag Archives: loneliness

pop culture seance

i have 2 poems here that are calling upon the ghosts of two major pop culture figures: james dean and bob dylan. i kind of think they represented a certain archetype of their time and age with which i am infatuated, so the tone and content of these 2 pieces is very similar.

For James

You glower ghostly from the projector shroud.
My planchette hands backlit black reach to you
in a cinema divination drawing me down Grapevine Road
at 70 mph, hurtling towards the specter spot at Cholame—
to hell with tickets and portends, angels and charms,
to hell with the red warnings blazing on that fateful day:
the sheen of the Porsche’s engine-hot hood, the collar
of your rebel coat, the label of your last Coke—you
ripped across that ribbon of concrete as the bloody
sunset stabbed your eyelids at skull-crushing speeds
and the Ford Sedan glared through the windshield—
better give me something, give me something fast—
I see you swiveling the steering wheel as you flick
the last cherry spark of your cigarette and battle
the demons twisted into the transmission, your eyes
fixed on the rangeline of dusk and day—a softness
like the final fade-out on the milk-wash screen.

Leaving Hibbing

You found the guitar arthritic in the attic, by
the mahogany Detrolla with an upside-down atlas
glowing on the face as Hank Williams quavered
airwaves and Odetta howled on the up-down strums:
50,000 watts voodooing through the atmosphere.

A country record in the cradle made you different,
deviated topography snagged on the compass rose.

There’s no room to rebel in this weather: a pastoral
purgatory of milk and lilies, snow-stiff flags
on the white-wash porches—what happens to these
nine square blocks when the iron mines shut down,
the fields dessicate and the red canvas awnings clap down
slow in the final autumn? Change your name
to anything, walk anyplace—Supertramp Napoleon,

get in our heads, pin us down. Seek the crossroads to séance
the folkster canon. With a dirt-thumbed copy of Bound for Glory,
you called upon the gospel according to Guthrie before
he boarded the crazy train. Stolen vinyl, shorn hair and hunger
as hard and hollow as your instrument—will you fill us,
make notes tone holy and speak something slanted radical?

Cinderella or Romeo, you can go everywhere
when you’re someone else, and you’re always
bygone and becoming, halloping to the horizon bevel
on the throstle and rise of rock-n-roll, the poetry
of the lemon crate in the gutter, the hum of a green
grain shoot stirred by Minnesota dew.


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Filed under New Writing, Summer work, Uncategorized, Unedited, Unpublished

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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Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized, 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.

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here’s an ars poetica poem. i think.

I feel like I always do really badly at these, but this is the first assignment of the semester for my poetry workshop. So, here we are. It’s probably not that good because it’s a cop-out frankenstein poem as it stands, where I mash a bunch of line-snippets into one thing and hope they hold together. Eh?

Poetry battles the futility of existential loneliness.

I’ve given up on learning the lessons of roses and stars,
of newscasts on snow whipped streets and gunshot beats
and parents’ nightly stewing in some vague anxious ache.
Those wounds linger, red shards of a stained-glass
solar system swirling behind my lids. Maybe I expect
philosophy from the blues of a baby Beethoven
and an ink-dry pen, from a still life of crosses and ginger root—
what you’re doing is that something bad happened
and you’re going back, thinking you can make it right again.
I’ve been writing about the same empty body beside me
for too long, repeating the wrong mantra to alchemize
leaden lines, moving through my days like a raindrop
on a telephone wire. The sighs of my mother
skirting sleep keep me awake, thoughts dig cold
hollows into the sheets. In dreams I can see the lines
bulleted onto the page like footsteps on the driftsides.
Only so much poetry can come from the weather,
from the black-violet chasm of love—Alone, I can
feel the strophic thrash of my lungs, hear
the answer of my blood to a question I never asked.

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Filed under for class, New Writing, Poetry, Uncategorized, 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.

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.

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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.


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.


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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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.

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Filed under New Writing, Poetry, Unedited, Unpublished