"Pringles is a very laid-back company. Originally, they wanted to make tennis balls. But when the truck showed up full of potatoes, they just said, "Fuck it, cut 'em up." Mitch Hedberg

21 April 2012

Day 21: Medical Intervention

Medical Intervention (Excerpt)

Bri felt she was a map. She had never been a map before.
There were travelers. She felt one moving from a continent of loss
to an island where no man is a man. It tickled. To the South, icebergs
somersaulted in a slow-motion that lasted years. They drew linguists
even though there was no language, and brilliant scientists
who could not be trusted to cook or eat a meal, or refrain from smashing the plate.
There were similar bodies of ice in the North,
but these were prone to snapping; these drew a certain suicidal tourist type.
Her father was a fjord in a Southeastern continent. Her mother
was a Baltic country, insisting upon its borders, which deviated very little over centuries.

She was a map, for sure, but she began to suspect she was a planet,
for she burned inside, everywhere. It was a wonder that the frail bodies of earth
with their frail cities full of frail bodies were not all consumed in her blinding center.
That water, let alone ice, could rest on her crust.
In every inhabited place, there were altars, statues, candles, bonfires,
none of which could soothe the temperament of the elements.
The elements were not at rest. Every once in a while, the wind would tire,
the ball of fire would burn too hot, the seas would beg to lie down,
but this only generated another event, which was known as a disaster
to those on the periphery of the thing.
She was penetrated and pierced in many places, she felt everything
from mild suction to vicious drilling. Wildflowers spread
as a balm to recent forest fires. Killing was done for nourishment, for harm,
and everything in between. Species lived and died in a breath. Giant squid
inhabited the lightless waters of the deepest oceans.

The first face she saw was Jason's. She couldn't speak yet.
What a shame, she thought, I was just learning how to make it snow.

19 April 2012

Day 19: Midday Flood

Midday Flood

The NaPoMo prompt: take a declarative poem and state the opposite. This is the opposite day poem for Rumi's Bonfire at Midnight (translation: Barks).

Absolute silence from my room,
which I've been avoiding all day.
After all my numbness and unpredictability, you've chosen
to live alone.
You don't want me to.
You take away my food, break me,
remember everything I forgot to say.

A match head shivers in the cold
of the icy daylight silence
the frozen thought, again:
Why aren't all human armies folding shut with this feeling?

It's an amputation, a hand cupped over the instrument
of the mouth, it's a puddle in a crook on a mountainside,
skipping out on our first date like this.

18 April 2012

Day 18: Short Poem for Jude Law


Jude Law, handsome
like a portrait of a WWII hero
who never came home.

Seriously, the guy's not even white;
he's sepia.

17 April 2012

Day 17: Duck, Duck, Gorilla

Duck, Duck, Gorilla

My death, my death, yours.
In the 1920's the MPAA ruled
all monsters must die by the credits.

If all monsters must die,
they will garner sympathy, become, even,
       the site of injustice.

I hate this city.
   Rose ring, rose ring
      protect me,
         for no one here
            understands a thing
               of Battered Women's Syndrome;

that the survival rate of two-bite cupcakes is less than 50%;
let alone the multiple transformations of monsters in early US cinema.

16 April 2012

Day 16: Untitled (Anaphora)

Untitled (Anaphora)

You are most vulnerable
walking to yr car with the money.
You are most vulnerable
making a deposit at the ATM.
Your home can be split open
like a biscuit;
you are most vulnerable
when you think anything can happen.
You are most vulnerable
thinking nothing ever will.

15 April 2012

Day 15: Western Union Fraud II

Western Union Fraud II

Spring fashions in the 6th Circuit
Left to plot: White Jesus
shoplifting into his backpack
at pretrial hearing in Bannana Republic T-Shirt (unironic)
with plaid shorts. Fingernails, body hair untended,
the desire for a tattoo
--Silence, please--

A run in my
 black nylon hose;
totally out of funeral clothes.
Which means no one else is going to die.

I'm too big for mall clothes.
Legacy of the word 'hysteria,'
You said something about the Race Card,
even tho I'm white.

Possibility of a deal
DA DJ Dye Job
don't know / never does.
Not nearly enough scar tissue
for this kind of accusation
--Quiet, please, folks--
Menopausal white woman waving folding fan.

The funeral's bride
damage to the rear bungalow.
A hard look at me
and I'm applesauce.

14 April 2012

Day 14: Western Union Fraud

Western Union Fraud

Western Union fraud, shooting wild horses,
urination in view of a preschool window,
$186 in shoplifted Gilette razors,
an eightball dispersed in a fishtank.

Disney World
(not Land)
(not Place)
(not Way)

Proper motions
you ran to make sure I wouldn't see
what you made while talking
on the telephone;

but I saw.

13 April 2012

Day 13: CIA Haiku

CIA Haiku

poison in the meal 
brutal in secret, plain; we
are the infidels

12 April 2012

Day 12: Chassis of the Saint

This is a homophonic translation of a passage from "She Says," a remarkable book by Venus Khoury-Ghata. Homophonic translation is unapologetically nonsensical, and I found the prompt a refreshing deviation from Just Sitting Down and Writing THAT Poem Again. Plus, it summons portions of our vocabularies that we forget are there. 

Chassis of the Saint

The few who ravage the dare, nay, yea.
Comets intend challah, the chassis of the saint.
Brulee the hours; day, she robs,
eats, leaves, the mission quells unlit debris
for miles, years.

The dangers, an alpha-beta fount;
the sordid or I; lords quell anemones
seeping apartment volleyballs;
eat consomme.

The lemur's role, she limits
a tourniquet, lest Pa gets day lemurs, aye;
just because—O—their knees err,
O ball abutments, day sergeants.

Day 11: Dot Goes Home

Dot Goes Home

You're dead, but I can still tie a mouse by its tail to a teacup.
Your daughter says she feels you, she is in ecstasy,
says this in earshot of your proper corpse.

Your stepson, who in the eighties ate his gun
doing fine, one eye in a permanent wink,
no sense of taste, wields his own Tabasco.

His estranged son bears no echo of rage on his face
from finding Daddy that way, tho I hear it was an effort
to get little Bobby to invite big Bobby to his wedding.

All the usual relations and revelations;
She's going home,” “A Better Place”
Dressed in your Sunday best,

blood swapped with blue juice,
in your daughter's mind you're in a palace,
along with the brass saint 

nailed to a wood cross above your box;
who does not look at all well.
Your eldest's a study of implosion;

your grandson looks like he's
running for president.
It is all very pleasant, who am I to call it a myth;

it will be a Better Place than this
stuffy foyer of a renovated home;
motel paintings on the wall,

offensively inoffensive.
In your palace of dirt with your husband
and his first wife, a man whose greatest

courtesy to you was to die in his sixties,
giving you a few decades to play bingo,
take a lover, blow the renovation money

on a trip to Atlantic City.
Go home, now, in your airtight box,
mailed to your God like a letter.

10 April 2012

Day 10: The Evolution of Language

Feeling the burn, feeling raw for sure, but very appreciative for the support of my readers, especially strangers who detoured here during their busy days. And, like the blog title's insinuation: working with whatever materials are at hand.

The Evolution of Language

The alphabet passes through many forms;
it is conjured like lava
from an opening in the body—
names are named or unnamed,
lost or stolen articles are listed:
what is buried, what is embalmed,
what is burned, what is fed in strips to the crows and vultures.

After they are staunched,
they speak softly
and, slow to anger, grow red two days later
louder, now, and somehow still fresh as a kill.

Over a few months, the language turns 
a ruddy rouge, tinged with brown;
not shouting, now, but speaking carefully
like a woman into a microphone before an all-male Congress.

Who would ever disparage an alphabet
that turns from red to silver?
For a little while, at least,
It could never be misunderstood.
It would never be ignored.

To a linguist, at least,
it is sad how these alphabets can pass away within only one or two years of their creation,
leaving no more than a texture; a language divined only by fingertip.

09 April 2012

Day 9: Strike Anywhere

Strike Anywhere

If only something horrible would happen; the revelation
of a child, hit for the first time, an overturned corpse
on the lawn, if only something ugly would happen
to my lover, or to me, something that would follow me
like a kid lost in the woods while I was hiking,
follow me until I died,
something that would forever turn my head fifteen degrees
to the right, and drop my gaze as if it weighed
so much that it was stuck to the rug. If only murder,
or indifference, or both. If only something fake horrible
would happen, Jennifer Love-Hewitt would be
convincingly bloody and bruised, but she'd be
standing next to her costar, sharing a laugh.
Someone, throw both shoes at President Bush.
A bloodbath. A grenade. An apocalypse
involving a very close family and unlikely travel.
If only the world would break. If Medea
would just pin her children's corpses to the helm of her chariot
and ride off into the sun.

If only a pack of men would pin my gaze to the floor
and slightly to the right, mix me up so bad
that I stutter when I try say their names, so that
I could kill one in self-defense with an ice skate
that I found, by chance, on the floor without looking;
if only I could hide their descriptions in coffee cans,
which I would fill with nails and strike-anywhere
matcheads, and I would have a public place to drop it on,
unequivocally the victim, now the perpetrator,
the lines so clear, please, God, I think they misunderstood
when you said let there be light, you meant lines,
let there be lines as unequivocal as the ones drawn
between the elbow and the palm of a veteran in a bathtub,
let there be good, and bad, and torture, and distinctions,
no conflict, no innovation, no relief, no stories to tell,
just lines and events, a chart of everything
that has ever happened, geometrical, abhorrently practical.
Let all the pain of the earth rise up into my graph paper
until it is simply math, elegant, concrete.

Let there be lines.

08 April 2012

Day 8: The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy

The prompt from NaPoMo today suggested a poem that meditates a chosen color. Which led me to an apartment I used to inhabit that was situated behind some tennis courts, this was a source of both rage and entertainment.

It was the cotton that let me know I was a monster.
I cowered from its texture as a creeping thing retreats
from the light of torches. I hissed a little,
which may have been what drew my mother
to the bathroom, the neat circle of metal tools,
paper products, face cloths spiraled around me.
It was better than any school portrait, me playing surgeon,
one side of my overalls open, my fangs
just starting to cut my gums.

The bag of cotton balls had held such promise,
tight, like a bag of marshmallows,
a pillow cased in plastic; no such sweetness,
just a sickening, grating feeling in my fingertips.
I rocketed backward, knocking her manicure set
and pubic scissors behind the toilet,
holding the offended hand as if injured.
My mother sighed; she had already enrolled my brother
in private school, and it took a good part of the afternoon
to file down the nubs on my sister's shoulderblades.
The batwings would win; I think we all knew it.
We would come not to resent her meticulous efforts
to camouflage us; we simply wished we could save her the trouble.

On a school trip, one boy found I could be driven screaming
from a torch of cotton candy; the next one learned
the velocity of my small bony body. Back at home,
I never got a bonus for my baby fangs,
but my mother can hardly be blamed for that.

Like most monsters, I require very little
of the human body to subsist; mainly I feed
on solace. My studio apartment, the twin bed,
the kitchen with its tiny counter.
My first glass of sake of the day gleams white
as the juice of pearls. The boy comes twice a week
with his bag of butcher paper bundles,
I tip him too heavily, fingers turned inward against my palm,
as though a twenty can hide these claws.

My sister does a peep show, a reverse phone booth,
the kind where a quarter opens to a glass pane.
She has no problem with the work,
although she does punch me in the arm
when I call it Monster Porn, “and they take credit cards now,
dummy.” My brother has worked some of the most famous
moats in Europe, a champion
of lurking. As for me, I am best
grading papers in the dark, pouring over
medical textbooks of skin diseases for fun.
Every now and then I'll sit on the balcony
in my white plastic chair while the sun sets behind me,
watching from the third story, the last tennis match of the day.
Then it's over the railing, then the property fence.

It's the grunters that always draw me out
how they uglify the clean sound
of the padded rubber ball
against the grid of synthetic gut.
For anyone who sleeps past noon, the grunters
are a nightmare, but in the mornings I just reach under my pillow
and shake my drawstring bag of teeth to ward off the
proclamation of their effort, I rattle my bag,
soothing as a rain stick, clamoring for an hour,
just one more hour asleep.

Day 7: Vinegar

Vinegar Hollowing My Nostrils, Pastels, His Hands Like Two Doves in the Air For Emphasis, He Said:

You can't make an omelet.

06 April 2012

Day 6: Goat Songs

Goat Song: For My Father's God

I know kidnapping was extreme, but how cruel
to anoint acne-ridden teens with oil,
to tell them it is not a moth, but an albino butterfly,
to teach them to covet translucency
even though the ocean always reciprocates
the sky, the atmosphere. Infuriating cosmetic theology,
subjective to light. How cruel to answer,
“If all roads lead to Rome, then why not Athens?” with the extremist
velocity of a wooden stick made for measuring.

Yes I hijacked the bus when I saw them there,
twelve, fifteen, the chorus of youth
gathering at the very altar where once
their kind was incinerated. Spectacles, testicles,
watch, wallet, indeed. My vision is perfectly poor,
but, as some of us lack the physiology
necessary for true genuflection, 
I chose action.

1. All roads lead to Rome.
2. Not all continents are connected by roads. Thus,
I do not think we will make it to the amphitheater on time.]

Go ahead, God One, God Two, tell them
all disasters are natural. Even the tomato
wrinkling in the sun will summon proper terror.
All acts will be measured but fail to add up
into a convenient formula, a logic whose gaps
are populated by ribbons of gauze.
Did you see the movie? Lazarus
almost pulled the Christ into the tomb; his gaze
was mummified, impossible to meet. To Lazarus,
only the stinking drunk shall inherit paradise.

All roads lead to holy ruins,
but rather than elicit submission,
I tried to navigate my small flock
by way of the rosy fingers of dawn and wine-dark seas.
A squaw who knew the land was supposed to meet us
at the trailhead, but she was just a Spanish actor
wearing imported feathers.
“Rather than immersion in mysteries, I was only
leading you to common ground,” she explained,
shortly before stepping on a poisonous snake.

Goat Song: A Much Shorter Version

Go ahead, Thing One, Thing Two,
tell that all roads lead to Rome,
but at least show us
to the motherfucking harbor.

05 April 2012

Day 5: PTSD Blues

PTSD Blues

Between the wars, I forgot what a poem is.
Between the wars, I forgot what a poem is.
Now I live between the stacks; I don't know where home is.

See, I used to speak my mind all the time.
You know I used to speak my mind all the damn time.
Now I've got a rosary of stories to pray on; to speak them would be a crime.

So damn haunted, feels like a joke.
You know I'm so damn haunted, it feels like a joke.
Hell, I've started numbering my suicide notes.

You say you'd love me if I'd just be more open.
You say you love me, but I must be more open.
Well I broke the silence once, and baby, it's still broken.

04 April 2012

Well, this is kind of badass!

The lovely Jennifer Knox chose me as one of the best poems for day 3 on the Best American Poetry Blog! I am totally honored, and a little bit floored. My appreciation goes out to Maureen Thorson, creator of the National Poetry Writer's Month project, to Knox, and to all my fellow participants, who I believe are pushing 800 in number, and can be found on the site here.

La la la!

Day 4: For my Ex-Girlfriend, On Her Wedding Day (Epithalamium)

For my Ex-Girlfriend, On Her Wedding Day (Epithalamium)

When I am not wishing him
some horrible disfugurment
I am wishing you both well.

He can fill you so deeply,
your body is changing shape.
You will be furnished

registered, your greatest
kitchen wishes come true.
The cobalt cups, the garlic press,

you should wear them on your gown.
Personally, I like you better
in those old tank tops

we know better than to call
wife beaters,
and a baseball cap;

the way you bend
the crown repeatedly,
just so, your relentless,

your perfectionist hands
(my knees, my knees), and
I would choose

any kind of bliss
for you, even domestic
if it were mine to choose,

but Pachelbel?
Is there anything more narcotic
than that 4/4 stupor,

redundant, I guess,
as me at your wedding?
Do you recall our vows

to wear red to one anothers' funeral?
It was me, I gave you life
from the inside, animated you 

when it seemed nothing
could put a smile on your face,
pulled you with gleaming

white hot hands
from a very dark place.

I didn't get you anything.

I gave you everything
except that which was
never mine to give.

I am with a man now,
I keep my hair long
in observance of an unspoken rule.

Whenever I turn my back,
he reaches for my breasts
with the entitlement

of an infant;
I have one bisexual foot
astride the door.

I can hardly let him inside me
anymore, even though
or perhaps because there is no

risk of your depth of puppetry, (look, 
I am hardly moving my lips)
and and even as you are writing your own vows,

I am writing mine,
my pink spraypaint vows
are so fine against the red brick

of the church: even as you model
so many aprons,
wife, mother, hostess,

May the women
that I love, may she
never be eclipsed.

03 April 2012

Day 3: Untitled

I am the owl. Bring me dust, red dust
flash paper; gunpowder
in the silhouette of a woman,
shower me in paprika.

I am the awl. She just wants a hug, that's why
she's crying; she wants to reveal, one by one,
her punctuation tatoos; font: courier,
the sphinxlike question on her ribs.

I am the all. Unquarantined lymph system
intact, arrhythmia in the formula, appetites

I am the cowl. I pray using FedEx boxes;
I make poison out of camera film
and the organs of hyperpronated  pigeons.

02 April 2012

Day 2: The Hundred Year-Old Girl

Prompt, chosen at random: "Tell a tale once, and then tell the same tale again, this time revealing what really happened." Thinking, as I often do, about beauty, women, blood, and penetration, I palled around with The Grimm Brothers.

The Hundred Year-Old Girl

His metal vest sparkles and his leather shines
kneeling over the perfect woman, newly so,

gleaming with permission and puberty.
The halls of the castle, infested with thorns,

creates a susurration of whispers. The young woman
cocooned in unconsciousness, she begs

to be unwrapped, peeled open, flower metaphors et al..
The ability to bounce light is a kind of wanting,

the wanting to be kissed, opened. Why, 
everyone should feel like a princess at least once,

to awaken, sought and chosen, from a hundred painless years.

The prince enters, weapon first, ready
to negotiate new terms of an old curse.

She is beautiful because she does not yet know
the suffering that is cardinal to beauty;

all she remembers is wandering the halls, beloved,
a silver hairbrush in one hand. Fifteen, the first penetration,

first blood, first prick, an old woman's trick. Outside,
his knights try to make a fire from the hedge of thorns

but the stuff won't burn. The man's lips are soft
but he is unshaven from travel, and it is his beard,

a thousand tiny thorns, that wakes her.
Briar Rose and her king, Briar Rose and her king,

a wedding that will cost vats of slave's sweat;
cost the meadows all their petals.

She will ride with him, among his men,
kneel for his parents, kneel for the crown,

she will kneel for her king, ready herself
with the help of six maidens for the next prick,

ready, this time, for the sting.

01 April 2012

Day 1: Seize the Carp (sestina)

The prompt for our first poem on the National Poetry Writer's Month is a "carpe diem" poem. This isn't really a poem in that vein, but I've always wanted to use this tonally inappropriate title.

Seize the Carp

There is so much granite
here that they are murdering the elders
just to produce tombstones.
The mason wants to buy land
build from the materials there;
to write my name and birth date on the door.

The taste of aluminum, the angry door.
Taxes may only be submitted in granite.
The scab-eater can come but the mason stays there,
where the best prisons are made of elders,
and the crows circle the tower twice before they land.
The big gray church, a big gray tombstone.

So what if this watery, singing tombstone
of mine has one hand on the door;
plans and labeled boxes and wilder land,
leaving the mason alone with his granite
bicycle, the broken mop, the branches of the elder
scraping against the walls, there,

by the headboard, the damned bells there,
disrespecting late sleepers and the tombstones.
Surrendering a crop of holidays to the elders
neglecting the statuary, worshiping the door.
Even the constellations were built with granite,
the stories we tell, unearthed from the land.

The bells circle the crows, the cow eats the land.
Felines watch from windows there
on the second floor, as the statues, the granite,
the churches, the stars, the tombstones
rub their shadows as far as they can reach. Doors
are fragile as the hymen, the elders

say we can only pass through them once. The elders
have retired their chisels, shovels; the land
is not even tired. It will shower you with stars and doors
statues, tandem bicycles, no twin to marble but there,
working his plough between the tombstones,
the mason composes oxen machines from the granite.

Poor mason, with your tools of unearthing; there there,
a purse of stone coin, a sin of tombstones,
Set the table for one, a feast of granite.