Tag Archives: love

ekphrasis again

here’s an ode to henri rousseau, the jungle painter who never left paris.


The Dream, Henri Rousseau 1910

Rousseau Relives the Jungle
You follow the soothsayer shadow with her lute
and cobra boa through the season of tiger lilies—
she is an anti-Eve hip-swaying down the black paths
of Paradise, fanned by murky hands of leaf-gloom.
These are the visions that haunt you:
apes among the tangerines, a reticulated sky
of palms and coral sun, the leer of alligator grass
and the blush of the lotus like each kiss-kernel of love
you left in her neck—Oh Henri, awake from your stupor,
your periwinkle daze. Come back to us from the gardens,
the Edens labyrinthine beneath your lids—your trance
is a planar place falling flat on the canvas, but we feel
the stir of teal and linseed on your palette, the rush
of flight you took over the hurricane’s eye. You are
a golden beast prowling indigo thickets, ambushing
the antelope and biting deep into the heavy humid
of flesh and blood, leaving scars nestled in the clavicle.
Your surprise blooms in the gesso wash unfurling
thick as a dream from your brush and lingers
like the drift of jasmine on an electric breeze.

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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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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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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.

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villainous villanelles

HOO HOO POETRY JOKES.
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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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.

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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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