Tag Archives: winter

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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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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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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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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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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PAAAISE

Praise poems were the prompt this week. I’m really happy with this one…maybe because it’s so upbeat? It’s also subject matter for which I will always sing my praises…frogs.

Peepers

Blessed be the Indian summer, the frost forgotten
for one last bloom of feverish fall air. Blessed

be the choked and shuffled refuse scattered on these
boggy banks, bleached of their greenery for acidic

yellows and cider browns. In this swill of summered
fall, blessed be the pop and patter, the evening crescendo

of love tuning and turning in amphibious throats
like the squeaky spiraling of a screw in wood,

like the keening jingle of olive-drab, gelatin bells
that breathe and shift with the ephemeral shores

of the sunset-stained marsh. Blessed be that writhing
of notes in those bugle-cheeks, whose chimes earn

names worthy of their songs: pinkletinks, tinkletoes,
pinkwinks. But beneath the mud-slicks lies bladed

the promise of a winter that presses peeper-husks
under barks and briars, frozen, but only just,

as life taps the softest touch into lycra peeper-hides.
Blessed be those cruciform patterns on lily-backs, the mark

of seasons crashing into themselves: dancing
leaves and shivering buds set to a sporadic semaphore,

a tentative chirrup I chase with muddied palms,
both asking and answering: Yes…Yes?

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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:

Siberia

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
land
, 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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