Tag Archives: persona poem

one from spring break

Over break I had a dream about foxes and I have a friend who decided their spirit animal from a dream they had about goats, so I’m thinking maybe my spirit animal is a fox? What was my fox-dream trying to tell me?

Then I ended up on a weird part of the internet taking spirit animal quizzes and learning about spirituality, tarot and mysticism. I also found a cute little comic about animals going through existential crises.

I thought about how these things are tied up in how people structure their own self-perceptions and identities, how the use of such symbology creates a certain declaration about who they are and why from an external source, when such an exercise is a very private and sacred internal contemplation that can’t ever be fully captured from the outside.

Anyways, I used my friend as a VERY CRUMBLY FOUNDATION and then EMBELLISHED AND EMBELLISHED THE SHIT OUT OF HER. So, to my friend, if you read this, please please please don’t hate this. You were merely a tool in my own literary exercise, a way to distance my self from this self that I wanted to figuratively examine. Hopefully this contemplation is a token of gratitude for the inspiration?

The Mystic

She had a totem dream—goat
spirit raced to her from the rockiest
peak, consuming everything. She opened

the tarot door, rode her Bianchi down a concrete
creek—-black crossbars and aluminum rims.
Her cards spilled art deco on my carpet:

indigo damask and maroon arabesque, the twist
of horn-bones and hollyhock ghosting desert sky,
the roll of rocky courses down a mountain spine—

Pay attention to the pentacles, she said, the whole
fucking spectrum of experience.
Chakra lines
bloomed blue, the refract of her veins at the wrist—

come up from your hollow, she said
to the surface where we wait for you.
I couldn’t ladder her Dao chiasmus

braiding down the page. She drew
a ram-skull on her scapula, got a head
of garlic tattooed to her ribs. I’m trying

to take care of myself. She rode home
alone to her new apartment, everything still
packed except some speakers and an album

of jangly dream-pop on fuzzy repeat,
basked in a beam of pastel violet, the bounce-
back of Capricorn caught in her curtain.

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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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SHE-WOLF.

we had a ‘fun day’ in class for halloween. we had to write a persona poem as a werewolf. so much fun.

Lycanthropy

My ribs unlace like folded fingers
as the red vessel-pocked moon of my heart
travels its ecliptic expansion, beating
with the lunar phases: white crescent leering
to a waxing gibbous, to a full iris-less eye,
catching glimpses into the inconsolable
twists of my mind. No one knows
the things that howled through me
last night. No one knows the agony I bore
in the black timber, in the moonbright,
in the ribbons of river I swam. I hunched
into the flaming mantle of my fur,
the stretch and compression of muscle
and tendon—is this my body, this new
architecture meant to run, to kill?
I hear its voice like breaking bones, keening,
ravenous for the long high note of blood
on the cedar air. Constellations wheel
while I freeze in time, reduced
to a scream-shredded trachea
and steel-trap jaws. I am racing
to meet you at the place of your death.
You’ll find me, predatory brilliance
like a lunar flare and with a smile—
human, save for the dire tang of lupine fangs.

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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.

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i got a little sick of the happy

The listening portion of the Beach Boys course I’m in right now is kinda driving me crazy. The love songs are so happy lovey-dovey, so I decided to write a song-poem that turned that shit on its head. Love is a scary, dangerous thing, folks. Too much of a good pop song can break you. 

Kiss Me, Baby

I was not afraid when the bottle bashed
across my jaw and awakened me to love.
You and I under the florescent falls of suburbia
too full of Brooklyn Pilsner and bladed words
for the time of night. The front door with a broken
hinge, the mildew seething in the kitchen tile–
you grabbed my arm and the soft space
between the nest of your palm and my wrist
drew maroon puckers on my skin.
Please, don’t let me argue anymore
The white curtains with pink roses, grubby
from years of neglect. The sting of my fingers
as they shattered over your temple. The evening
thunder loomed, far away with darkness
like the clear water I’ll use to wash out the wound
as Brian Wilson whines on the stereo.
Kiss a little bit, fight a little bit—
The sheets of rain crushed into gray piles
on the stoop outside where you smoked.
KISS ME, BABY, LOVE TO HOLD YOU—
I felt the blue drapes of my body
loop over themselves, thick and rubbery
as the heat of busted-bottle blows bloomed
down my neck, slow as a caress
that stabbed me, stabbed me, stabbed me, cold.

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enJAMbment

Class assignment: 20 enjambed lines.
This is inspired by the stuff I have to read for my Quranic studies class…based on the miracle of the cleansing of the heart of the Prophet, in combo with my favorite surah…just a real quick blurb, nothing super fancy.
I think that religion and mythology provide the best fodder for poetic inspiration. The stories told are always sincere and a little crazy…the metaphors, narrative and allusion are all built in–I don’t have to do much work. Heh.

Sura 94

From the trachea and through the sternum
they cut, slow and deliberate, and reached
into the soft, red cavern where the heavy
curves of your organs slept. In the light
of the Most Holy, they saw the black
cysts, the twisted puckers of your faults and
plumbed you out: liver, stomach, heart
unwound, washed and replaced
with belief. They flooded your veins
with the icy stab of faith and sent you
back, weightless. Are you not free
from your sins? And yet by the dawn
you feel yourself starving, wondering
about the clots they took from you—how
something so small could have caused so much
pain. You relay their voices in synonyms
and metaphors, every word an opening
door, a new prayer. Your people breathe
the name of those saviors and you sing with them
despite your missing lungs. But in silences,
the wound still suffocates, a different burden to bear.

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world news

Inspiration comes from so many places. The other day, the Google sidebar called out to me. It was an article about a squid ship from Japan resurfacing near Canada. The picture, to me, was kind of haunting. And the impacts of the tsunami are still being felt in places. I wanted to access that emotion, that haunting, in a way I understood. It may not be a real reflection of the news, but as a writer, I take internal truths, ghosts of the news, and reconstruct them in a new way. So, here:

Backwash
“An aircraft patrolling the seas off British Columbia saw the vessel… from the Haida Gwaii islands on Friday. It is believed to be the first large item from the millions of tons of tsunami debris to cross the Pacific.”–BBC News

The oceans pushed me back to land with an azure hand
after the clap of saline and spray that washed me away
from the coastal teeth of the Hokkaido. Take me back
to rock-strewn sea-cliffs, to the scream
of water against Earth, the rushing collision
of waves straddling themselves as they teem
towards the shore. I was vast once, holding inside
myself the heavy tools of nautical labor, dark and solid
and greasy with saltwater. The Pacific lapped along
beneath my keels and nets, and I was strong
in my stroke against the currents. Then the tremendous
upheaval, the rapid flood of tidal bores into the harbor
like the whipping of one great sheet in the wind,the smashing
force of shoaling crests, the draining drawback
that yanked me from the jetty and swept me adrift.
In that blue emptiness, that suspended stillness
of so many depths, the rust blossomed along my hull,
and my sea-tossed body refused to sink.
Approaching that black brow of horizon again,
I know I am all hollowed out, a ghost of myself.

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