Tag Archives: religion

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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theodicy

the next post is the product of the prompt: ‘describe a scheme gone wrong.’ i thought it worked nicely with this thing i’ve been kicking around in my head about good and evil and religion. if god exists, why do bad things happen in the world? this is the elementary question of the religious doctrinal debate known as theodicy. so. here’s my contemplation of god’s existence in the face of evil.

When I Lost Faith in God

Baby, we almost died on that street in Montmarte.
We felt so free, so drunk in our wrenching
open of the world, lapping up the marrow
of life: Bordeaux on the lawn of the Basilica of Sacre Couer,
lime and rum in the streets of Le Marais, staggering
through the cobbled streets of Bohemia—
The sour suction of guilt drains down my scalp
in a migraine, turning my stomach, boiling
up my throat. I suffocate on the reverb of memory
echoing through my lungs, on every shard
of the trauma that touched us that night: you, ripped,
using your body in ways you never dreamed
to save it; me, adrift, my limbs too heavy to fight—
from the backseat of the Parisian cruiser the sun
stroked the mullioned face of Notre Dame
with a pink and peaceful ray and I snarled
at the fantasy. Forty hours of insomnia, stale coffee
and imported cigarettes with Che’s face on the carton,
Oh God, Jesus, Fuck—theodicy unraveling in the cruelest
fashion as the train rocks us back across the English Channel.
Calls come in from the hospital, the embassy, parents
too far away: static on the airwaves save for the halting
breath that inquires into the anguish, wavering, falling
flat. I am a poet strangled to inarticulation, Frenchless,
Englishless, stripped of every fiber of intelligence
that flew me over these seas. Clinging to you, I feel
the miles spiral under us in the city of broken love
as its bore its brutality to us: hypnagogic gyrations cut
with sallow streetlamps and concrete, harsh alien syllables,
sterile waiting rooms and pooled blood in smoke-scratched
eyelids praying to close, to break the bad dream.

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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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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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what do we call poetry? an experiment.

I was writing this paper on a book of poems by Hafez of Shiraz, this mad Sufi bloke (he is so good, you should read some of his stuff). As I looked down the table of contents, I felt like each title was chosen as a line in a poem all its own. Does anyone ever notice that? Anyways, I decided to play with the titles a little, and created this. But that leads me to the following question: Is this poetry, the simple act of rearranging lines already forged by another hand? In one way, this is slightly plagiaristic. In another, its a re-conceptualization. Do I have artistic license here? Or am I just being lazy in pointing out something poignant that existed outside of me?
Anyways, it looks and reads kinda cool. Maybe I just want someone else to notice that.

The Subject Tonight is Love:

Forgiveness is the Cash
At This Party
Why All This Talk
In a Handful of God
Because of Our Wisdom
We Keep Each Other Happy
This Place Is Where You Are Right Now
In a Tree House
We Are a Couple of Barroom Sailors
No Other Kind of Light
You Say, I Say
Where Do You Think We Will Be?
The Day Sky
Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds
I Knew We Would Be Friends
That Sounds Wonderful
Your Shape of Laughter
Something I Have Learned
Narrow the Difference
The Small Table of Time and Space
The Happy Virus
The Wonderful Lawlessness
They Call You to Sing
Your Medicine
It Happens All the Time in Heaven
I Saw You Dancing
Absolutely Clear
Carrying God
Deepening the Wonder
Join Me in the Pure Atmosphere
Playing the Brilliance
And Acting So Cool
Just Sit There
A Suspended Blue Ocean

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Gee, writing about animals. That’s new and different.

I can’t help myself.
They’re just too cute.
If I’m going to write from real life, I’m going to write about animals, I guess. I’m just an anthropomorphizing sucker.
This is also dedicated to Quest, the dog. And to my efforts in convincing my parents that we ned to get another lab, since it’s been about a year since Lucy died. Woof.

Enlightenment

Black lab bodhisattva shines on his holy
tatami mats made of Midwest grass, in perfect
zen. Where canine paws pad down, lotus
blossoms bloom and kiss the air with fleshy,
joyous petals blushed pink and white, thankful
for the pulse of water and air that pulls their roots
through black, sticky earth. On his brow glows
the onyx sutra, the jasper filigree of creation
etched into his pleading eyes. Each pant is a sermon
steam forth from a canine smile: Let go, please—

toss that ball far out into the forests
of my universeever secret, ever unfamiliar,
where I will bound in samsara. I am fleeting
and fast, four legs flashing in a sable sword dance
that slices through miles shade and soil, searching,
snapping and slobbering as I seek the orb, return it
and sit stretched, waiting for it to soar overhead
once more. My mind is my snout, an organ
for digging down deep into these hills. The richest
vein lies buried somewhere here in the sandy, cool
bottoms of reality, just within this bhikku’s reach.

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Dark Shift

So, the last poem I submitted to class was crap, and I refuse to post it here.
Meanwhile, the next poem I’m kind of proud of and will post it here.

Prompt: Write from the standpoint of a mythical creature.

In fact, I loved this prompt so much, I wrote two poems. Which do you think was more successful?

The first:

Quetzalcoatl

All my feather-scales stretched out, burning blades
of earth and sun, keeled and vaned in galaxies
of green and red. I brought you the Fifth Sun,
untied it from my chest and let it soar in swirls
of jade flames, writhing birds and morning
stars. With every breath I loved you, panting
my last laughter over you softly like the hiss
of scales over stone, like the scraping brush
of a plumed wing stroking your face. I sliced
the world in half as the wind and the dawn,
I made the soils move for you, I gave up
golden sheaths of maize and lapping tongues
of the Yucatán to you. When I came among you
with my serpent skin in torso curls and bicep
braids, cloaked in ocelot skins and conch-shell
chains. my children, I wanted you to break
the black mirror of Tezcatlipoca, the trickster,
the god of shadows and shame, of dark dreams
and demons. Gleeful among the ruins
of Chichén Itzá as I drowned, my twin danced
and dashed the rocks into themselves, sprinkling
plague over the waters of Tenochtitlan,
blinding you with the brilliant white gleaming
off the chest plate of conquistador kings. Fear not.
The world dies again, but I will embrace you and all
your broken bones, constricting you in my coils
as I make the world anew. In the flaring feathers
furling forth from my scaly sides, Tezcatlipoca and I
will turn again, the scorch of the Sixth Sun
whistling away from us into a resurrected sky.

The second:

The Djinn

It was our intent to run ourselves into darkness,
indistinct eraser-ash in the pages of your minds.
When the day came that Allah built up the walls
around paradise and sculpted man from clay, he also
swept up the scattered scraps of angel-light—smokeless
flame—and blew it into our shapes: we are the end
of all fires, black shadow skeletons, acrid tastes
of soured thought and tangled dreams. Be careful
where you step in the world, or where
the sparrow-shudders of your mind may lead.
In the wastes where the ashen sands turn over
in dustbin dervishes, or through murky forests,
where the spindle-spokes of needle trees loom
over you, or way out on ocean flat like Sahara land,
we wait for you. Like bad dogs, we attack
the black holes yawning open in your head,
the eddies and currents that course through you
in the depths of night. We are no one and no thing,
save the snatch of whispered doubt caught behind
your ears. We thrive free of form or physical
ground, but there is one thing we fear:
the day when our confidence grows too great,
and we look in the mirror to see your faces,
solid and human, forever knotted into our own.

All I write about anymore are Latin American and Middle Eastern culture references. Eh.

Anyways…probably going to up the volume of content, here. Could reeeeally reeeally use some feedback….
Stay classy, friends.

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