"There's not much doubt in any of our minds that no complete idea springs fully formed from our brow,
needing only a handshake and a signature on the contract to send it off into the world to make twenty-five billion dollars.
The germ of the idea grows slowly..." - Walt Kelly

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You won't even know I'm gone

painting by Adam Lupton
The chair next to you will still be full,
another body and a different mind,

a wire that stretched out to trip you,
trick you and keep you captivated

even though the future is impossible.
The waves that pulse through your brain

tell you things you don't want to hear -
things you can't bear to know are true -

the rules to a game you could never win
once the deck has been stacked so high.

And every day apart will feel empty,
and every day together will be worse,

a choice between pulling the arrow out
and letting it stay, blood and skin festering,

the phone ringing nightly - distant humming
of molecules as the temperature drops,

and the nightly summer rains will start snowing,
and the cold could snap July clean in half.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Blu, Vanity

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On flights of arrows, sharper than we'd been led to believe

painting by Brad Phillips
Romance is not a
car crash, but a natural
disaster - you seep
into my brain and
poison all the ground,

and when poured into
the form of a cigarette,
you would be sweeter
than nicotine, but
just as cancerous.
_________________________________________________

From the most recent decomP, an excellent poem from Will Arbery.

And here, my friend Zach absolutely kills it.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Skyzoo, The Definitive Prayer

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

100 Words: A rock is a rock, unless it's a mountain

Inspired by a post from my friend Zach

It's a beautiful thing to see, and even more beautiful to hold, he discovers, when he picks it up off the ground, a small mushroom cloud of dust erupting in its wake. There isn't much to it - just a round-ish, smooth shape, speckled grey and black. It resembles a misshapen egg, and he decides that this is why he likes it. There's hope that life might spring from this lifeless object, and as he rubs it between his palms, the heat of friction keeps that hope alive. His watch alarm dings twice before he stops it. Break's over. He places it gently back on the ground and dons his work gloves. He grabs the sledgehammer he left leaning against the cement wall nearby. He picks it up by the end of the handle and drops it straight down, smashing that hope to pieces.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Blu & Nottz, God Shit (feat. Aloe Blacc, Co$$, Definite Mass)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Range

photo by Nicole Hunziker (check her feed - absolutely gorgeous)
Where is the chance meeting?
Two people on a train
and they couldn't be farther apart.
That blank space, mere inches,
a filth of fog and floating particles,
something about tension and
the dry heat of emptiness.

Hope is laid like bricks, and
one loose foothold would ruin
the entire avenue - a gust of
cold wind, so cold it hurts
in the spaces between our teeth,
so harsh it brings down the
entire mountain on our heads.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Shad, Comprimise

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chiaroscuro

A man lives in black and white. He dreams that one day he'll be excited by his own life. He dreams he will be Sam Spade, who would give up everything to do what's right. He wonders how much "everything" is worth and if it fits his budget this quarter.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Phonte, We Go Off (feat. Pharoahe Monch)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Old South

Time has been melting,
just as Dali painted it,
and somehow our customs
have maintained solidity.
Our surroundings, though,
are no less surreal,
and we decry change
every day - in large groups.
It's the lure of new culture,
the destructive urge
to progress, to make new,
to fix what isn't broken.

We are the opposite
of amorphous, like
how the Spaniard made
an angular, metallic Newton. 
Unlike the scientist, though,
no holes in our head,
no holes in our chest,
nowhere for tolerance
to filter through and grow.
So we've built anew
the Old South, as current
in the 21st as in the 19th.
_________________________________________________

Quite a story from Emma Smith-Stevens on Wigleaf.

Another from Wigleaf - Edward Mullany writes a great short.

Leonard P. Wilson is productive, lately. This one is especially good.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Shad, Remember to Remember

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A farm in the early morning

The barn caught fire just before sunrise, so that when it finally reached its peak, the smoke became an eerie pastiche of Afremov paintings as it drifted with the clouds. The surviving horses ran out into the enclosure once the front door collapsed, soot trailing behind them like dissolving shadows.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Tallest Man On Earth, 1904

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Burden of proof

Investigators
respond immediately;
their analysis is
abrupt and callous.
No difference,
they conclude, between
the bullet that killed him
and the one that missed -
simply a matter
of forced perspective.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
InI, Step Up

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Manipulator/Squanderer

[The Greeks] bequeathed to us one of the most beautiful words in our language, the word enthusiasm - en theos - a god within.
- Louis Pasteur

Deconstruct a mind.
Find only a mess of
melted ice cream and
the myriad species of
ants that crawl over it.
What real sustenance
might they find there?

We remember being
a wasted construct -
we remember that it's
rolled up sweatpants;
we remember that it's
angrily burning insects
with a magnifying glass.

We remember that it's
rolling joints in receipts
at four in the morning
and watching the sun
burn through early haze.
We remember that it's
power, pure and evil.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Arcade Fire, Reflektor

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The dark heart

The trees speak loudest
in the early morning,
when thirsts are quenched
and the years pour out -
just weddings and moods
stretched in rippling order.
At night, all becomes tribal
and they dance a strange,
disorderly melody, motionless
as they rend the blazing air.
The seams of the universe
come apart, portals open
in streaks of cold, yellow fire.
It's all cold from this far away.
It's all just wishes, make believe.
_________________________________________________

Been reading lots of good things lately:

From the first issue of Cloud Rodeo, two poems from Quinn White.

Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco nailed it in the newest issue of decomP.

My friend Zach is doing good things - this is one of them.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
OK Go, White Knuckles

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dealing with it

Done. Eyes like
ghosts of
a shattered bottle,
drunk and discarded,

taped loosely
to reality, no stronger
than a dead leaf
gripping a windshield.

The sun is back
by the time he leaves,
anchor chain cut,
adrift on pavement,

his constitution
bound together
with fading,
fraying bandages,

his past like
an old war wound,
a howling twinge
in every rainstorm.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Paul Simon, Hurricane Eye

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hey, slow down

painting by Brad Kunkle
In the dark it's all contrast,
blacks and whites stand stark, apart,
ready for the race to begin.

At the gunshot they run
and the stripes flash like ants on the screen,
a dance we invented ourselves.

Thoughts swarm, eyes swarm,
blinking pestilence ready for a place to land -
wherever the blood spills.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Glasser, Apply

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chewing gum, volumes 1 and 2

Vol. 1:
We're stuck to
the underside of
everything, on
sidewalks and on
things you've built, over
businessmen walking into
storefronts and above
letters on signs about
sensitive subjects.
If it pleases you, 
scrape us free.

Vol. 2:
My tool is an amalgam of anxieties,
a hard steel no medication may chip
and no consultation may bend or weaken.
It is of some comfort, to be truthful,
knowing I am capable of such creation
and that such creation may last the day.

As convictions go, theirs could be stronger,
a brief clinging hope that fastens them
to bulkheads and armatures, to joists and
to ancient keystones - but my tool knows
that their better impulses are suppressed,
and that just a little elbow grease may pry them.
_________________________________________________
Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Shad, Flying Colours Promo (mind = blown...read the lyrics while you listen)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Musings on antiquity

We have agreed to live
in a world built on the dead,
but how many must we pile

before we no longer hear
the voices of a bygone age?
How deep must our history

dive before the bends prevent it
from ever resurfacing? How long
is the story we'll need to tell

to our grandchildren, and their
grandchildren, before they forget
how the ancient tale began?
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Arcade Fire, Black Wave/Bad Vibrations

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bank left and don't look

All these shadows are murderers,
arms up, begging for features,
sent back in time with a flash of light
and a convincing kind of sound
that left them stranded on a brick wall,
on the school's concrete facade, and
on the picket fence - no, inaccurate:
The fence is gone, too.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Tame Impala, Edors Toi

Friday, June 14, 2013

The obvious poem

The proof isn't in the pudding,
something homogeneous -
or so they wish,
if only a dash of
thickening agent
could resolve this sordid mess.

He isn't real, you know,
capitalized letter or otherwise,
just a curl of starch,
wispy as smoke,
to metabolize and speed
the rush to judgement (day).

"What happens when we die?"
they ask, afraid the answer
will be exactly as
they think it is.
Instead, the House
builds them all a paradise.

It's a matter of ancient fear,
handed down by the first,
and as the species
has clearly evolved,
the coping mechanism of record
lacks most sorely, still. 
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
St. Vincent, Laughing With A Mouthful of Blood

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Instructions for building a house

Painting by Ben Grasso
You build a house
with wood.
Self-explanatory, perhaps,
but who considers
a plank of wood
and what, exactly,
goes into it?
Each plank is
a decision, wrought
with knots in stomachs
and cold sweats
in frigid mid-December.
There are good decisions
(sturdy, glossy wood)
and bad ones
(rotten planks,
most probably the ones
a good contractor
will use in your basement).

You build a house
with stone.
Each rock is a gem,
hand-picked by
gentlemen with beards
named Larry and Pete.
In these stones
a steady hand might find
a rib of metal,
or two,
and you build a house
with this as well.
Craft a growling furnace,
a building's beating heart,
set the air warm
and watch Life go -
an inquisitive creature,
actions all founded
on curiosity.
_________________________________________________

Playing on Spotify at this very moment:
Dr. Dog, Lonesome

Friday, May 10, 2013

A person of a different size

This is a two-part post: part promotional and part actually doing what I'm supposed to do here (hint: writing). I saw a very funny off-Broadway show last weekend called 'Old Hats' and while I was at the theater I found something called the Storymatic. I'm giving it a shot here for the first time.
_________________________________________________

They started calling him "Andre" when he was in the sixth grade. He was larger than most sixth graders, and that trend continued as he got older. He never seemed to stop growing, until one day he did. That was the day he turned twenty-eight, and as a birthday present to himself, he drove to the tattoo parlor down Route 18 (it was called "Franz's") and got the name the children had for him permanently etched onto his skin. As tattoos often were, this would be a reminder of the difficulties he had overcome.

He had heard that it would hurt, and it certainly did, but it was worth it. Just a little more discomfort before you can really start enjoying life, he thought as he sat in the tattoo artist's chair. The artist, Franz himself, was silent as he worked, bobbing back and forth for different views of the nameplate he was imprinting onto the other man's arm.

Finally, it was over.

"All right, buddy," Franz said, rolling his chair back to the side of the room. "You're all set, man. Take a look."

He pointed to a mirror on the far wall. "Andre" walked over to it, but had to squat considerably in order to bring the tattoo into view of the glass. The words shone back at him like they were luminescent - some kind of farfetched species of fish in the deep black of his flesh. Trapped.

"I guess it's none of my business, man," the artist said, "but I don't know if I would be so public about it."

Turning from the mirror in a flash of newly-reddened skin, "Andre" fixed a puzzled look on the artist, who now sat slumping in some kind of uncomfortable-looking position on the counter along the wall of the room, wedged underneath a cabinet.

"Well, you know, whoever this Andre guy is, he must be pretty special to you," Franz said. "You know - like, really special."

He unhinged himself and hopped down from the counter.

"Can't say I agree with it, man. Not really my thing, if you know what I'm saying."

Despite the irritation the artist was causing, "Andre" did what he had learned to do a long time ago when faced with criticism. Keep silent. Unflinchingly, uncomfortably silent. He shook his head in frustration and straightened himself out, unleashing his full size upon the room. The artist took a step back, fearful for what retribution might be coming, but "Andre" only turned and walked out of the room, pausing only to drop the necessary cash on the counter as he passed by.

          *          *          *          *

Back home, "Andre" continued about his life, and for the next week he moved about with an increase in confidence. He felt himself opening up more at work, interacting more smoothly at the supermarket and not noticing the glances and stares that were directed his way.

One morning, though, all was not well. He sat down at the table, his breakfast in front of him and the scent of bacon still wafting throughout the kitchen. He flopped open the newspaper to the editorial section (the only one he ever read - he trusted opinions more than "objective" news) and ran through the headlines. He scanned over the letters to the editor, and one of them caught his eye.

"American values disintegrating at increased pace"

Though he valued opinions, "Andre" was not one for the fear-mongering and scare tactics at use in the modern discourse. Naturally this meant that he had to read the letter, and he did. In it, a concerned citizen mused on the decline of American society, remarking that same-sex marriage was chief among his concerns. "Andre" bristled. He did not appreciate such criticisms, but opinions were opinions. He kept reading.

"Why, just the other day," the letter said, "I had a man walk into my place of business and demand that I give him a tattoo of his lover's name. Andre, the name was. Now, I don't know Andre, and I don't know the gentleman who came into my store, either, but I can certainly tell you that whatever these two men are engaging in is a part of the problem in this country. I chose to live in ignorance, but now that it has been brought to my very direct attention, I don't believe I can continue to do so."

The letter was signed with one name. Franz.

"Andre" was furious. He felt his hands start to shake and the flimsy newsprint crumple in his intensifying grip. He rose from the table, his breakfast cooling by the minute, and walked to the closet. He donned his shoes and jacket and rushed out the door.

          *          *          *          *

Franz was at the computer when "Andre" arrived, checking to see if there were any comments in the online forums for his letter to the editor. He had hoped there would be a few angry readers - he enjoyed arguing more than most. But when the massive frame of "Andre" burst in the front door, all other thoughts vanished from his mind.

"He-hey man," Franz stuttered. "What's....um....what's up?"

He stumbled backwards against the front counter of the store, steadying himself with his elbows. "Andre" approached, looking as menacing as he could (which was not difficult) and placed a hand on the artist's shoulder.

"I read your letter this morning," he said, glaring. "I can't say that I appreciate what you did there."

"Hey man, hey," Franz panicked. "I didn't mean any disrespect to you or Andre, I promise."

The larger man rolled his eyes.

"There is no 'Andre,'" he said. "I got this tattoo to remind me of what the children used to call me when I was young. But now, I need you to remove it." He lowered his gaze and deepened his voice. "Now."

Franz squirmed under the considerable weight of the hand on his shoulder, sinking as he spoke.

"Well, you know, hey man, I'd love to help, I really would." He stopped, seemingly weighing his next words. "But, um, well - I can't do it, man."

The grip on his shoulder tighted.

"Hey, listen," Franz said. "I wish I could, but it's part of my thing, you know? I never go back on an ink, man, not ever. It's my art, man. You know?"

Disbelief swept across "Andre's" features.

"You mean to tell me," he said, "that you won't undo all the trouble you've now caused me just because of your stupid artistic integrity?"

Franz gulped.

"Yeah...yeah, man, pretty much."

"Andre" sighed in a deep, earthly breath. There was nothing more to be done here, then. He squeezed even harder on Franz's shoulder, causing the artist to writhe and give a squeak of pain.

"There's only one thing you need to know, then," he said.

Franz's eyes widened in terror, and beads of nervous sweat popped out on his forehead.

"What?" he asked, horrified of what the answer could be.

"My real name," the larger man said, "is Philip."
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Common, The Food

Friday, May 3, 2013

The greatest lie

Painting by Joe Rea

In the language of the ancient Greeks he was the bringer of the dawn, the bright morning star that separated the heavens from the earth. For a long time, he was nameless, and that was the way he preferred it. He kept the headlines in front of him, and when he needed to speak, he spoke well, his syllables floating effortlessly as though they were filled with helium.

"Speak plain," he would ask of his constituents. "The road is paved with honesty and with simplicity. Any bumps we feel are as warnings that one among us has laid down a lie."

Skeptics fell before him as grass in an unending wind. He would dazzle them with tricks and illusions. He would cover the ugliness of the world as one would bandage a wound. It was something to behold, this chicanery.

I witnessed it once. We were out among the highest steps, a vantage for the ages, when he beckoned us to the edge and gestured our gazes out into the distance.

"Here," he spoke. One word, nothing more.

We were silent, waiting for something to appear or occur. He stood, his back to the horizon, cloudless and clean, and said nothing. His expression suggested that he was waiting for us to realize something. None of us did, and moments passed. Then, one of us, a troubled soul, stepped forward.

"It's a trick," the troubled one said. Confident, but not loud. "There was something there, but you've taken it. Haven't you? It's somewhere far from here, hiding where only you can find it."

The morning star smiled and shook his head, enjoying the confusion he had sown among us.

"No, my friend. It is here. It is always here. There is nothing up here you can take away - it is all permanent, parts of the scenery, so to speak. The only thing that changes here is what you see." He turned and spread his arms. "So, what do you see?"

The troubled soul gave him a doubting glance and stepped forward, focusing intently on the airy landscape before him. He spent several minutes that way, adjusting his stance, his vantage point, going from standing to crouching and back again. Murmurs spread through the crowd behind him, tiny whispers ("Do you see it?") and silent denials.

The bringer of the dawn stepped up beside the troubled soul and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"There is no shame in this," he said. "None at all. Do you think any of these beasts behind you would have better luck?"

"I don't know," the troubled soul said. Subdued now. Uncertainty tainting the tone of his voice. "It's just - it's just not there."

"You're right," the morning star said. His grip tightened. "In a sense."

He stepped away from the troubled soul and turned his back to the scenery once more.

"There is nothing here, friends." He placed his hands inside his pockets, feigning sheepishness. "I've lied to you. Perception is an untruth, a bump in the road. There is only what is and what is not. What gray do you see here, up in this world? What middle ground have we found? None. None, because have not built it."

He removed his hands from his pockets and gave a flourish, a magician standing before awestruck children. He wheeled around, his shoes grinding two half-moon shapes into the terrain beneath him. His back to us, he raised his hands high and out to the sides.

"My hopeful allies," he yelled, "I have built our middle ground."

His arms flashed to the side and he gripped something invisible. With a single motion, he tore the bandage from the wound and an enormous, cloak-like sheet came tumbling down from the background. Pale blue as the sky, it blanched as it fell to the ground, a pallid shroud.When we could tear our eyes from it, we looked up and saw, appearing in the sky, a single, tumultuous cloud. Its folds fell over one another, a mirror of the cloth that lay crumpled at our feet.

"So you see?" he said, triumphant. "What was not here now is. But what is it, really, besides a conjurer's trick?"

The troubled soul fell to his knees, choking sounds back into his throat.

"Enough," he cried. "There is nothing to this but madness!"

The morning star knelt beside him, stroking his shoulders.

"Fear not, my brother. There is no madness here. I said you were right, in a sense, and I meant it. It is a conjurer's trick, and I am only a conjurer."

He gave the troubled soul one last touch, then stood and walked to his creation.

"The truth is, this cloud does not exist," he said. "And neither do I."

He shook his head and laughed - a deep, horrible sound.

"So many bumps in the road."
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
St. Vincent, Just the Same But Brand New

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

After all

Day Thirty: It's the last day, and also opposite day. Today's prompt is to try rewriting a poem with as many opposite words/phrases as possible. I chose Drinking Alone Beneath the Moon, by Li Po.

Away from the dead petals, myriad bottles of liquor.
There are many others here, and we pour it together.

Lowering our glasses, we curse the feeble sun,
and avoiding our reflections makes fewer enemies,

though the sun has always understood liquor,
and reflection seems to ever be one step ahead.

An irrelevant age bereft of sun and reflection,
we've lost a sadness that won't extract winter:

We mourn, and the sun stays still as death;
we sleep, and our reflections stitch back together.

Drunk, we're apart and miserable. Sober,
we grapple together in a shared distraction:

Separates for now, we're stayed and worried
and are missing anew in a small world's nearness.
_________________________________________________

I'd like to thank the folks at NaPoWriMo.net for another year of great prompts and other inspirations. Also, if you're looking for more, check with my friends at Roadmaps to Nowhere and I Bought the Flood. They've been on the poetry train with me all month, with excellent results.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Geographer, Kites

Monday, April 29, 2013

The thorns in our side

Day Twenty-Nine: International poem! Well, sort of. It's a poem with a splash of another language.

At last, the spring.
Windows flash open
and the houses are black holes;
the trees bend and the swarms rally
as they are pulled by a curious breeze.
"Dove รจ la rosa?" it asks,
its inflection child-like and
its accent difficult to understand.

At a touch the world vibrates,
any more pressure and it cracks,
l'abisso, the way to the old hell.
The breeze is a vehicle only,
something to carry the past out
and the future forward,
replacements up as ranks fall,
gunshot and spent queries.

There is no answer in the dark
(long anticipated, to be fair),
and the last twitch of current
before the moon lulls it to sleep,
trapped in la notte della presa,
is an instinct, wild,
quick as the brush of dead lips
and a failure to understand.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Maps & Atlases, Pigeon

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nature vs. Nature

Day Twenty-Eight: I used an idea from one of the featured blogs (this one) to use a wordle for inspiration. Here's what I picked:



The Mother has offered us a cure,
something tried and certain
to keep us from outdoing ourselves.
"On the ninth day," she rumbles,
"time itself will unwind and be
as a snake in the grass - the animal
waiting at the warming threshold
of your safe place - slight as a sigh."
For this danger we arm ourselves,
but no swords or arrows - a task,
a thing to keep our minds busy,
a way to saturate the brain with
the most intimate of all nonsense.
It is a bandage for the skeptical
and, as always, they rip it off;
the might of paranoia has long been
the choicest side dish, served raw.
The Mother dies a slow death,
her last breath a crumbling mountain
and the dusty bellow of control
as it is relinquished to the bold.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Andrew Bird, Imitosis

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The night became intimate

Day Twenty-Seven: Tried the prompt, but it didn't work.

At once the world was gone -
it erased itself, a wisp of smoke
exhaled and inhaled with a cough
and a slight discharge of blood.

Adrift in the vast blankness of space,
we see colors - the deepest and truest
of every classic hue - and in time,
the population floats asleep, in dreams.

Before the sun can rise once more
it must first set, but the moon rebels,
a shot of teenage angst extrapolated
on an interstellar scale - so they sleep on.

She sealed the passage of time quietly,
a breathless whisper that dissolved to vapor
in the strength of the vacuum, a faint wish,
back-lit by starlight and still an empty prize.

Her kiss is not always the beginning or end -
it can also be the middle, a stopping point
between the day your known world ends
and the night, when mysteries take hold.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Menomena, Pique

Friday, April 26, 2013

Drea           d

Day Twenty-Six: Write an "erasure" of another poem. I've chosen Poe's Dreamland.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule-
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE- out of TIME.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the tears that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters- lone and dead,-
Their still waters- still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,-
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,-
By the mountains- near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,-
By the grey woods,- by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp-
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,-
By each spot the most unholy-
In each nook most melancholy-
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past-
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by-
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth- and Heaven.

For the heart whose woes are legion
'Tis a peaceful, soothing region-
For the spirit that walks in shadow
'Tis- oh, 'tis an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not- dare not openly view it!
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.
_________________________________________________

Playing on Spotify at this very moment:
Wilco, Jesus, etc.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Perspective

Day Twenty-Five: No prompt today, either. Just not feelin' it.

The world is busy.
There's a crowd.
A man is dying inside it.
His family circles him, faces salty with grief.
Around them, the crowd buzzes.
There are businessmen on cell phones.
There are students weighed down by books.
There are underwear models wearing complete outfits.
They walk and they run and they stumble in high heels,
but they do not glance at the family.
They do not pay their respects to the dying man,
nor to the family begging silently for compassion.
This goes on for hours.
At the end of the day, when the sun falls and the world darkens,
a young man joins the crowd.
He is apprehensive.
He tries to keep pace with his constituents, but is often slow
and they become unhappy with him.
He issues an unending apology.
As he passes the family, the young man slows and then stops.
The family looks up, relieved to be able to share their sadness.
But the young man gives a sympathetic shake of his head
and then moves on.
The family is alone again.
They wonder and cry aloud, "Why us? Why us?"
They pray to a deity and they ask him to explain himself.
The man has died.
The crowd buzzes on.
The world is busy.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The New Pornographers, Falling Through Your Clothes

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cherry blossoms

Day Twenty-Four: No prompt today.

It has sprung, and the petals
are all memories of times before
(how many...pointer, middle...)
when I've made the same mistake.
They fall and flutter like snow,
awash in a cold as stark as winter.
"No regrets!" the others champion,
and I wonder how unrealistic
the rest of their lives must be.

I lie with the shades up,
sunlight slanting through the pane
to my forehead, and I wonder -
no, I am hoping, wishing
that this window was sharper,
a magnifying glass, and this ray
would burn a hole through my skull
to eradicate the part of my brain
that let things end the way they did.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Broken Social Scene, Sweetest Kill

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Obfuscate or consecrate

Day Twenty-Three: Write a triolet. Or in this case, a TRIO of TRIOLETS. Please hold your applause.

I.
The world spins faster upside down,
so we'll hang on as best we can,
even consider skipping town.
The world spins faster upside down,
makes us feel as though we may drown
and sets fire to many a plan.
The world spins faster upside down,
so we'll hang on as best we can.

II.
A scowl is set upon the brow
of those who'd built this place to last.
They worked the fabric well, but now
a scowl is set upon the brow,
a foreman left to wonder how
ambition left him so outclassed.
A scowl is set upon the brow
of those who'd built this place to last.

III.
Tomorrow brings a better day,
stacked to succeed, the force of will.
The governor is made to say,
"Tomorrow brings a better day,"
though he, at night, will kneel to pray.
Such syllables, they taste of swill.
Tomorrow brings a better day,
stacked to succeed the force of will.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Avalanches, Since I Left You

Monday, April 22, 2013

Countdown

Day Twenty-Two: The prompt is to write a poem in keeping with Earth Day, but for some reason all I came up with was about the world ending.

The world
has never been so small
as in that moment,
long forewarned,
when the sun stops moving.

It is all one,
heat and cold,
mirrors of emptiness
and, in a touch of empathy,
mirrors are windows.

As grass is fire,
so is the urge of a species
that has had it good
since an ape stood upright -
violent and pure.

To the last,
they make a bad thing worse,
trampled and trampling,
overrun with instinct
and the tools to act.

For once, it is true,
even as the sands run clean -
nature takes over
and as it pushes its boundaries,
the animals are in control.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
TV On the Radio, Young Liars

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Things will happen to you

Day Twenty-One: Rewrite Frank O'Hara's Lines for the Fortune Cookies.

The camera will stop, but you will continue to act.

Yes, your dreams of becoming a professional athlete are still dead.

Sunday will not be the best day for you; wait until Wednesday.

Your daydreams will seem as truth - you will find your truths lacking.

Despite what that girl at work tells you, you do NOT look good in brown.

Be wary of flattering situations - you are a closet egomaniac.

You have become too smug for your own good.

You will experience a period of great anguish at some point this week.

Congratulations! [Name of Favorite Sports Team] will win the title this year.

Spend more time knitting. Knitting soothes the soul.

All of your uproar over politics will get you nowhere unless you run for office.

Consider a career in wedding planning, despite your distaste for weddings.

Therapy is not the answer. Scotch is.

Before running, be sure to ponder the mysteries of the universe.

Enjoy a good filet mignon this week. They're on sale.

Your mother-in-law will find your paintball obsession unsettling.

It has been said that you will fail at a great task. This is only partially true.

You will find great relief in the words of a frenemy.

Do not trust anyone who uses the word "frenemy" seriously.

To last in this business, you may need to actually do what your boss says.

Upon waking, your first thought will be of Gerard Butler. Do not ask why.

Drink Pepsi®.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Sly and the Family Stone, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The svelte non-pareil

Day Twenty: Write using at least five of the words on the list provided (it's in the link). I used a few more than five, I think.

A ghost of the past absconds to Paris,
the lure of cheese and bread too much to bear,

his brain a generator, buzzing proud
to load artillery, a rising curl.

He would squander a lifetime of worries,
time spent far upwind from his deepest dreams,

the strands of his future made willowy,
draped thin as his cut and salted ego,

but at the farthest end of owl's sight,
he would find no corporeal homestead.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Tame Impala, Elephant

Friday, April 19, 2013

On collateral damage

Day Nineteen: Not following the prompt. I'm rebellious. DEAL WITH IT.

If a tree
falls in the forest,
what is crushed
beneath it?

Amid the plume
of black dirt and
bits of leaves,
is there not also life
that seeps, trembling,
from the crumpled bark?
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Band, Up On Cripple Creek

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mist and shadow

Day Eighteen: I'm doing a spin on the actual prompt (which is to write a poem beginning and ending with the same word) and trying a circular poem, one that ends and then rolls back into itself. Get it? Spin?

these morning hours
bring us no new peace.
There are only bloated lies
blurred and buried,
just the tops peeking out
while the rest lurk
and wait, hungrily,
feverishly, to spear the hull.
And neither is there new life,
just safe, weary rumblings
made by the dead,
as the dead have earned them,
asleep and alive within and
breeding malice simply because
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Radiohead, The Tourist

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kindly leave

Day Seventeen: Write a poem of greeting.

In many
cultures,
traditional
greetings
are often
reserved
for those
individuals
groups are
especially
happy to
see. In
this case,
though,
that is
tempered
by our
impatience.
Nice of
you to
show up.
Aren't you
needed
elsewhere?
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Deerhunter, Earthquake

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wake up younger

Day Sixteen: I tried to follow the prompt but my brain was not working the right way for a translation poem. So, here's what I did instead.

It's the hollow note
before the song begins
and the players move,
a stone-dry reminder -
like a bad joke
made in bad taste
by a bad man.

It's the last chirp
in the new forest
as the hammer strikes
and the powder lights,
words in flight
dying slowly,
piercing clouds.

It's the sharpened knife
descending, devilish,
begging your forgiveness
for its master's many ills -
lonely at night
and, mostly,
feeling misused.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Middle Brother, Middle Brother

Monday, April 15, 2013

Untitled

Day Fifteen: I missed days thirteen and fourteen, but at this particular moment I feel no urge whatsoever to catch up. There isn't much left to say, I imagine, so I'll just give what thoughts I have. 

I know what it is, what
makes them do this. It's
weakness.
Weakness
seeps in and dominates
their thoughts, runs their
lives, feeds their hunger
and tears apart the remnants
of whatever self-worth is left.
We are all capable of violence.
In the end, it's a matter of
who decides to let their
weakness
get the better of them, lets
their past impede on our
futures. It's a matter of who
decides to act on that
weakness,
and who decides that they're
strong enough to fight on.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Say it like you mean it

Day Twelve: Not using the exact prompt, but following their link and taking inspiration from one of Charles Bernstein's poetry experiments.

Of
all the
forms of body
language, the disapproving sigh
is, without doubt, the worst
and most uncomfortable reaction when you've
just told someone you love who you
really are, because the next acknowledgement will inevitably
be one of absolute derision, one that means you
are now forgotten, even though you're still standing right there.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Fleet Foxes, The Shrine/An Argument

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A brief interlude

Day Eleven: Write a tanka, or a series of them.

The beasts are blissful,
neck-deep in the sweet morsels
of the new morning.
The road to the edge of the
world is very long, indeed.

Their long necks slope up
to reach something beautiful,
put themselves at risk.
The jingle of pocket change
brings unwanted visitors.

A slow revival
prolongs the pain - brass droppings
fail to drown the screams.
Heaven is a grand ideal
and an even better con.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Dodos, Sleep

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Something with shine

Day Ten: No prompt for me, today.

The flight patterns
of falling stars
resemble the discarded
peels of bananas,
both in shape
and in the fact
that there is a good chance
you may slip.

Now a pile of books,
half-stacked as they
plummet to hardwood,
dropped
by the man
melting in his suit.
The product of a wish
or of old fruit?
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Mos Def, Got

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Street sense

Day Nine: Write a noir-inspired poem.

There's nothing that can't
be turned on its head
in this city - nothing that is
above the pull of the dirty
and the desperate. How
to deny the depth of its
charm, then? How to reach
outside the confines borne
on the opaque comfort
of obscurity? How indeed!
But it is worth asking, if not
to rescue ourselves from the
grit and steam, then to keep
from rolling any further down
into the grime of the gutter.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Circa Survive, Stop the Car

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eternal, more or less

Day Eight: Write an ottava rima.

In snow there is no pleasure but the past,
cold memory and wasted tones of truth.
To see beyond the winter's hold at last
takes only the warm hope that comes with youth.
The shadow of antiquity is vast -
uncompromising and, at best, uncouth.
But visions of the future hold a hope:
a rescue and a way back up the slope.
_________________________________________________

Playing on Spotify at this very moment:
Good Old War, Coney Island

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Time is linear

Day Seven: Write a poem in which each line is a single, declarative sentence except the last, which is a question.

Only parts of the world go dark at night.
This is a relatively recent discovery.
It is widely known that science moves quickly.
There are many who express concern over this.
In the music of progress, some notes are out of tune.
Geniuses have deemed this problem "uncorrectable."
The people have taken to using flashlights.
They have accepted this as a temporary solution.
In Sydney, they are pointing and laughing.
In Japan, they are gripped by bouts of insomnia.
The time difference is seldom accounted for.
In the morning, scientists wonder at the confusion.
To what do we owe the pleasure?
_________________________________________________

Playing on Spotify at this very moment:
Blind Pilot, Oviedo

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Days of old

Day Six: Write a valediction (a poem of farewell).

Peace be with
the way we used to live,
the way we opined
and, most of all,
the way we carried
and split ourselves.

The very best riddance
to all amendments
we made to our character
and other things
we need never have done,
if not for human nature.

We're better off without
certain bright flowers,
pollen spread like disease
and complexity reduced
to formula - more ways
to ward off the inevitable.
_________________________________________________

Playing on Spotify at this very moment:
Pepper Rabbit, Older Brother

Friday, April 5, 2013

Better than static

Day Five: Write a cinquain.

To some,
bolts of lightning
are little else besides
expenditures of energy.
Not true.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Saosin, Seven Years

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Irregular apocalypse

Day Four: Write a poem with a title drawn from one of the spaceship names in Scottish sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks' "Culture" series.

In the beginning
there was logos,
a reason, but it was not a god.
It was a man.

He was of the people,
only occasionally by them
and never for them.

He was a flash of light
and the sharp tinge
of brass, horns blowing
in alarm and fury.

He was all information,
a slurry of misleading
soundbites and curses
mixed by the editor's hand.

The masses saw him
and knew not whether
to expect salvation or death,
whether to fly a white flag
or to sew a new one,
something buoyant and
of courageous conviction.
But they did know
what he stood for,
what would certainly follow.
They built themselves
fortresses, shields, things
to keep the sun
from burning them alive.

But they were wrong.
He landed and it was
silence, air that smelled
of steel and slick blood.
And then it was the
age-old battle -
speed versus power -
and everything was waking up.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Brand New, Not the Sun

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hello? Yes, this is brain

Day Three: No prompt for me today...just going to wing it.

I've been recalling smells, lately.
Understandable, I suppose,
given my nostalgic nature
and the well-documented kinship
between memory and scent.

At first it is only a thought,
like something I once left behind.
But it transforms, semi-permanent,
and registers just for a moment
as a flash of the olfactory system.

And now I wonder, nervously:
Is it possible that there really is
a fresh batch of pancakes nearby?
Or, in an unconsciously sad moment,
am I merely remembering a better time?
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Coheed and Cambria, The Willing Well I: Fuel For the Feeding End

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

It's a trap!

Day Two: Write a poem that tells a lie.

I'm planning a vacation.
It will be something exotic,
something potentially life-changing.
The kind of unbelievable experience
you end up creating a Flickr account for.
I think it will be a trip to Mars.
I'm definitely going to invite you
since we're still such close friends.
It all might sound a bit far-fetched,
or perhaps you are wondering
about the depth of my sanity.
You might be right to do so
but above all else, you should know
that I am being honest with you.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Nine Inch Nails, Only

Monday, April 1, 2013

The uptake

Day One: Write a poem that has the same first line as another poem. I've used the first line from Babel (the voices) by Jessica Beyer.

There is, as you know, only one story.
It's the one that begins and ends
in the same place - a loud darkness
bereft of genius. But not all science
is gone here. There is a good thought
somewhere between the Higgs Boson
and the decision to stay up too late
watching reruns of Adam West Batman.  
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Foo Fighters, Everlong (acoustic)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Crystallinity

A life is like glass:
easy to see through, but then
in an instant, clouds.

A life is like water:
flowing and constant, but then
it evaporates.

What a life is not:
an ordered, stable landscape.
Where's the fun in that?
_________________________________________________

Playing on my Spotify at this very moment:
The Head and the Heart, Rivers and Roads

Thursday, March 28, 2013

No one is there except all of us

He's been worn
and shed, hung up
as an old coat,
battered with brooms
and with old rakes
to shake off the dust.

"I will not be a sheep,
crying to be fed."
He clenches his teeth,
stretches his lips,
works out the stiffness
brought on by nerves.

He convinces himself,
so that he may convince them.
"And when I am no more -
and I will be no more -
I will be validated
or I will be vilified."
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Shad, I Get Down

Friday, February 1, 2013

There's a contest happening!

No, it's not my contest. I don't have anything to give you people anyway. It's being held by xTx, here.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Free for all

Her boss was an empty chair
that sometimes swiveled on its own;
pirouettes on four worn-down wheels
and a slim steel base
that would hold up an emperor
if he ever decided to show up.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Givers, Meantime

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Plain to see

This isn't a fairy tale. She knows it because in that version, he isn't breaking up with her. In that version, he's holding out something small, indistinguishable if not for its shine. She doesn't need anything fancy - she conceded that long ago - so the object's modesty doesn't faze her.

But that isn't this version, she reminds herself. He's still talking on the other side of the kitchen table, but at this point she's barely paying attention. She remembers the beginning of the conversation, when he told her that she "didn't do anything wrong." She wonders how, if that's really the case, this is entirely necessary. She knows the real reason he called her. She knows the real reason he asked her if he could stop by. It's that new girl in the consumer marketing division. She wonders, if she really didn't do anything wrong, what this girl has been doing right, in particular. She wishes she could ask and take notes. She knows how strange that would be.

He finishes talking and asks if she's okay. She is, and she's not sure entirely why, but she doesn't question it. Sure, she says, I'll be fine. He says he's sorry, which she isn't sure she believes, and she represses the urge to make a smartass comment at the new girl's expense. He stands up and walks to her side of the table. He leans in to kiss her cheek, and does, and she turns to stare at him, wondering if he knows the cliche about insults and injuries. He leaves the apartment and closes the door behind him. She hasn't moved from her seat.

She turns and stares out the window, eyes to the sky. Her kitchen is dim, so she can see the edges of a few constellations, peeking out from behind the corners of neighboring buildings. On nights like these, she fancies that she is out there, too - a star burning an unimaginable distance from the earth, hidden in the dark, visible only to those who care to look the hardest.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Delta Spirit, Strange Vine

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sour notes

All her life was percussion,
deep bass thumping in her chest.

There were times she spent abroad
that left her eardrums buzzing,

nights in strange, lonely places.
There were glimpses of sunlight

but then she was on her way,
a cobbled road back home to rest.

And if each dreary afternoon
could be just a little less acoustic

and a little more ringing brass,
she would know which melody

would lead her closest to the dream
and to rhythm's smooth embrace.
_________________________________________________

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Middle Brother, Million Dollar Bill