Tag Archives: travel

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

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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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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i think of the birds i sight as omen work

whenever i see crows, i think trouble.
whenever i see larks, jays, robins, i think joy.
sparrows signify suspension.
so when scott and i drove through the migration site of the sandhill cranes before we won our respective races, i knew we were going to be successful. here’s the series of fragments i developed for class as a result, with edits.

Migration Land

Useless panorama
punched down deadpack
of February defrost brown

but not brown more gray
cut with divining lines
season cycle luster-fade

harvest chaff and husk
below quieting conversation
retreating cloudshores

reflected in the hot shine
coffee melting
paperboard walls

night-cool
swampland on endless loop
against the glass undulating

sunrise breath steams
detritus tule-rush
whisked hoary ribbons

before the dashboard
a continent opens worried wing
banded white feather bustle

brushing sedged ditches
born there now fleeing
on the exhale crests

arrowed call roofed by red cap
crane-skull nestled easy
the sling of a muscled neck

silvered and hollow resonating
asking and answering minor notes
chasm blush between clean

horizon and the overcast
red tones woven over asphalt-waver
warming rubber treads.

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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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this poem is kindof about amsterdam.

Meditating on the Banks of de Herengracht

I wonder what could lie in all that mud.
A graveyard of machines—abandoned, stolen
illegally parked. Bring me the dumped and rusting,
the buckled wheels and lost saddles. I want
the broken chains and twisted spokes, I want
the warped forks and fenders. I want
someone to help me get this out, write this down.
I can’t trap the labyrinth on the page:
stucco, stock brick and gothic finials,
viridian water choked with grimy swans,
torrential crowds, the smoke on my tongue
stinging like diesel and overripe fruit.
I am endless desire and desperate need. I am lost.
Someday I’ll backpedal into this moment
and skim off the desperation. The reverberating sky
and ruby moons will beckon me back down
tulip-strewn streets, into dark shops and secret
boutiques. I’ll remember the solidity of earth
beneath my body in motion. I’ll remember
the sweat, the joyful loss of breath and the promise
of every cyclist manically buzzing by.

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