Tag Archives: snow

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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villainous villanelles

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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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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we can all be buffalo.

I love how my work over this past semester reflects the change in seasons. So here’s one for the shift into winter. No class prompts, no (real) research save for the “Buffalo Jones” theme song and Sufjan Stevens’ Seven Swans album and a clove cigarette to help me think.

A Buffalo’s Prayer

My Great Mother, I open my self to you, to every
rustling soul stirring in the tall grass that is you.
I am preparing every part for you, every stiff-
legged step into the cold, every silent white
star that prickles in the burnt sky, every turning
chord hidden beneath the sleeping prairie sod.
Will I be invited into the sound?

I am still. I know my sign. The winter is
an angry animal blowing these bracken stalks
into shapes shuddering and strange, and I am
grateful, so grateful to turn my face into its winds.
I will not lie awake in this dark and weep
for my sins. I will embrace every broken
enchanted thing, every circling wing of grief,
every umber-stroked thread of clay beneath me.
How much longer before I join the dirt?

You are heavy on my hulking back, but
not impossible to bear. You are every throb
in my solid heart, wet and visceral and real.
You are every huffing steam of breath
wavering in my nostrils, sharp and scented
with firewood and frost. You are the changing
tears of rain and brush wandering my plains,
painful, pulling, and I am everything in you,
ever-roaming, ever-rising, like the secrets
in these carpets of snow that frost, then wither
with the gasp of another golden dawn.

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Really really rough stuff

So, last week we were up in the mountains, and I wanted to try to capture some of those peaks on paper. Unfortunately, I feel like my midwest words were too small to capture them in all their depth, but this is what I came up with. Maybe if I gave it more time, let the images stew a little longer, I can edit this and make it better. Not great, but better.

The summer edition of Poetry Quarterly comes out in 5 days, and I got an offer to enter in their contest. I’m torn about entering or not, since I feel like all my summer work has been kind of disappointing so far, with all the skipped/unsatisfactory prompts to incomplete work…Man, I can’t wait to get back into a workshop setting next semester…

Mountain Song

Mountain man sat in his mountain house with his fraying
moccasins and his guitar with a broken string and joined
his songs with the applauding trees, spruce and fir rusting out
like junked cars as their lives snuff out. The peaks press
their slopes together, holding the last gasps of alpine white
in their polygon palms: snow caught in all the rocky grooves
and gaps. Twisted pines point up, up, where mountain man
wants to go with snarled but steady steps that grind into every
graveled lip of the switch backed path, as the wind sweeps
the air from his chest and his head blackens as the pressure
changes within him. In secret groves, glacial carpets seep
and crawl towards rivers so braided in their running
they seem to stampede from dreams, ocher and aqua threads
wild in their falling farther into the cliffs spotted
with cloud shadows and sun-ray strokes. Everywhere is blue,
iced and hazy, from the harsh summits settling in their memories
like teeth in a dog’s mouth to the cold swills of mountain lakes,
where the water is so clear what lies below snowmelt shores holds
no secrets, only crystalline songs of geology and change
which mountain man fingers into the ranges of his guitar frets,
struggling to harmonize with the rough bass of mountain beats.

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An Ice Storm Approaches. Not.

Bloomington holds its breath for the biggest letdown of the month as the biggest snowstorm in a few decades whooshes by. They say I’ll eat my words, but we’ll see in the morning.
Anyways, I thought it was an appropriate time to post my poem about Siberia. Everyone always assumes Siberia is cold and stuff, but they have a big wildfire problem. Weird.
Also, I’ve been writing a lot of winter poems. Winter needs to end.
Also, I submitted to Spring Canvas…fingers crossed for that!
Aaaaand here’s what you came here for:


There is no such place as Siberia;
no political or territorial entity has
Siberia as its name. Hovering
over the northern latitudes like
a watermark shimmering on the page,
like crystalline radial ice-blots weeping
in silvery, spiraling roses on the earth,
Siberia is the longitudes bending together
on the globe, the sad roads of exile
swallowed up in the haze of wintry
snow drifts and summer taiga fires. Sleeping
, the Tatars dubbed it, with ribbons
of metal and ore dreaming under the Earth.
Awakened by the rattle of railways and the rumble
of convict feet on rock-strewn tracts,
Siberia runs in the wrong direction: away
from home, into the blank edges of the map
as distant and bleak as the moon. Lenin
did not disagree with his punishment
of place, gazing into notebooks
where words spread open and infinite
as the steppe. Later his people would pale
before him like the icy tundra to which they went,
but then, under the boreals and hemlocks
of his banishment, he saw the subarctic sky
blue with glacial air, rivers shivering
their way to the polar seas and the roads
of possibility unraveling at his feet.
Every stone forbade turning back,
and he finally knew of the places created,
far away and forgotten, too frightening
to exist, too sacred for the body to rest.

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A Walk, 01.06.11

The science of the hazy sun
is the science of the stride
is the science of the snow-clouds
flaking in a restless shush
over the streets. The harsh blue-white
of cigarette smoke streaming is
the cold dryness of my hand
brushing my face. There is so much
weight swinging in my steps, ghost
trails slicing through the sheets of crystalline
frost. I am dying for some air, solid
as it gasps into my lungs, icy and real.
There will be a moment when I
earn a moment of emptiness,
I’m sure. Shivering trees whisper
to the static sky, while time
recites to itself on my wrist. Everywhere
there are the steps of others turning
in circles like some kind of dance,
feet pointing this way then the other, moving
along. I walk a lonely line, shadow shoes
leaving a single phrase in the snow,
repeating over and over: “I am going
nowhere, going nowhere, going nowhere…”

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