August 1/365 Found poem/poet

dear Kim
Ashley said you wrote to her & said something
nice about me & gave me
your address
GMU gets worse not better
and I envy you being away
everything here goes well
here at the house
Jody the journalist is in Cuba now
Chris in Florida
Anne in NYC
Javier god knows where
I’m enjoying the quiet
hope you’re stuffed with turkey
Peter

NOTE: Found on a postcard. This does not count as my poem, I only found it and messed around with it a little.

PhotoScan

August 2/365 October 2011

A Nor’easter blusters tonight. Close your eyes
Trust your ears. Dry leaves and creaking oak limbs
By dawn little dead branches will scatter
Over the turkey mounds. Eight Octobers
Here in this house. Today I counted to see
What seems improbable. How can we have lived here
So long, and still be strangers? There is so little
Of light of weight of shadows, so little in this
Least haunted place by ghosts of us.
No half-heard voices, no whispers of scent – remember
The faint perfume of pipe tobacco in Kansas City?
Remember the face at the window in Pittsburgh?
I wake up, as I often do, and walk through
The midnight hallway, down the stairs to darker rooms
And never once disturb a nightmare. You think
That would warm me to this house. How long
Can this gale blow before a tree comes down?

 

NOTE: And I blew right through the word limit that I set for everyone. Sorry.

August 4/365 Three Mile Island, the Saturday After

 

Don’t go. The air will be soft with poison still.
You don’t know where the water is coming from.
The dust that lines window sills may glow
With unspent energies. Ashes before death.
Don’t go.
                But we drive his big white Galaxy
Through the middle of Pennsylvania, finding
And losing the Susquehanna over and over.
His charm pulling my molecules apart. My arm
Out the window, fingers splayed to taste the air.
Don’t worry. 
                      We will never get close enough
To be damaged. In the shadow of silos, sheep
Grazing on tender fields, wet earth turned fresh
To the Sun, the steam rising. I feel the sweet
Mutations of spring all around me. I almost dare
To take his sharp face in my hands.
                                                          Don’t worry.
We will never get close enough to be damaged.

August 5/365 Epistle to Millie

If only you had held on a couple more years to see your boy.
You would have swelled up, little woman, pride so loud
So Brooklyn. Not for nothing, your time with him, not for nothing.
There is something clear blue down to his bones. A good man.
I carried his cake to Boston in a Tupperware from your cupboard.
A gift from Bobby, from you, from years in a three-room apartment
Living over Those People. I gave him his birthday cake, and his eyes
(always cornflower, you were right) remembered you, I saw
The recollection there. Bubba, you were right there when we cut
Thick slices standing in the kitchen between his two friends. The cake –
Too rich for you, not simple and nice, like a crumb cake – weighed
A ton, you should have tried to lift it! Then he washed the plates
The forks the cups and set them to dry. I watched him squeeze
Soap out of the sponge and place it just so on the edge of the sink.
Not for nothing, your time with him. Not for nothing.

August 6/365 Most Men Never

most men never
understand the power
of a sideways glance,
through lashes,
and the slow turn
line-of-sight never breaking
never blinking. Most men react
quick, wolf whistle,
no subtle taste
of interest across
the skin of her arm,
no moment when watching
widens his eye,
pushes her black edges
back and releases
the sigh that stirs her,
wakes her, makes
the drumming in her stop
for one beat, maybe two.

August 7/365 Falling Behind

“Kim was solemn and neo-classical and condescending”

I had forgotten these words, in this order, in context.

Here’s the thing: Peter Klappert was usually right about me. Damn him.

I am too solemn when I write. (But not in life: I have a laugh big enough to fill an Irish pub, and I quip with the best of them.) But on the page, I drop, dead weight, into melancholy.

Jesus, neo-classical? Seriously? Just when I wanted to be avant-garde, there was his grinning satyr face telling me my porticos were sagging and the columns sprawled out of line. (Though I do wonder why he hyphenated neo from classical. He rarely erred.)

Condescending.

Con

des

cend

ing

Yep

I hated that workshop, and it showed.

We had a falling out. Bitchiness on both sides, and a tendency to hold a grudge on mine. The truth: I missed Diva-him the minute we stopped talking. Before the grudge eased, I found a new lover, crashed and burned out of the MFA program, married my lover and

Peter said, “For some women,” <raised-eyebrow glance at me> “marriage is toxic to writing. Doesn’t matter if it is a happy one or not. It gets in the way.” (My paraphrase: he probably used better words, with dubious hyphenation.)

I would like to say he was wrong, but Peter Klappert rarely erred.

 

August 8/365 Catching Up: A Complaint About Formatting A Poem

Until this week, I hadn’t needed to space words intentionally on my blog in WordPress.

None of my words needed to be placed part way across the line.

Not really like this, which only
depends on selecting align center.

But to place a word directly below the ending of a line,

Like this………………….

I could only approximate by selecting align right, and typing a bunch of useless periods.

WordPress fundamentally doesn’t like me to decide where the letters should go on the gray screen….unless I purchase a plan, because then there is a fix. (Or if you have a bright, techie son in Boston, he can almost fix it by changing the code!)

August 9/365 Plott Hound

A hound can speak with its ears, love with its eyes, see with its nose.
When did she arrive in the world? In what Alabama barn, born
one in a sprawl of damp pups, licked clean by a lean bitch’s tongue?
My daughter, my sons! No tiger stripes showing yet, just balls of light
and dark fur, and a sweet odor of new life and hay and dust. She drinks.

Blind for now, she paints a picture from the lull of cows, the yakking crows,
the discussion of her mother’s heart and boney tail brooming lost corn
across the barn floor. The tapestry of scent weaves in her mind – milk, dung,
and the spring breeze that penetrates every board, a cold clear birthright
that all hounds share: this kaleidoscope fracturing of all that stinks.

Somewhere in the dark genetic code, a command to tree, to chase flows
in her very bones. The puppy fur now inked with brindle bands should warn
us that this Plott travels in disguise. Even now, against the hay, her young
form blends into a world of line; you might not see her pack, until in flight –
attack aborted when the old cow whirls to face the coursing high jinx.

Only she knows the history of the path from barn to this. The terror shows
in her tail wrapped tight to her thigh. Does the hound have time to mourn
the loss of pack, of pride, of coon calling and the chase? Of songs sung
as dark mist rose over the warm fields, and her mother nudged good night
to each tiger head? Name and number listed, she sits behind bars and blinks.

Too bright. The hound cannot see beyond the reek of fear and piss. Neon glows
eternal – what is night without the thin rake of insect song? Darkness torn
to shreds, like the spatter print of her, one by one her senses fail; she’s flung
into despair. Her ears lose voice, her eyes kindness, her nose vision. This acolyte
slinks into the farthest corner, but here the stripes fail – naked, she shrinks.

August 11/365 Who’s Your Dada?

I assumed that a Trumpian news lead would lend itself to the absurdity of dada. I was right. But there is a logistical problem with retrieving all the little chopped up words: the longer ones all get pulled from the bag first. That leaves the poem sputtering out articles and prepositions at the end…a true dada moment. The line breaks were determined by plain white bits of paper. When I pulled one, that created the end of a line. The lines were enormous and wouldn’t work in this blog format. So the indents are the continuations of the lines.

dada4

August 12/365 Geckos I Have Known

The one who death-slept
in the butter compartment
of the refrigerator.
I pried his suction feet
from the cold plastic,
warmed him in my hand
until his heart twitched,
tail flicked and he
leapt to freedom.

The tiny one waiting
on the bedroom wall
near the lamp light.
Every night
while I read my book,
she slowly crept
onto the pillow
to examine the text.

The tail-less ones,
escaping feline paws,
impossibly
separating
the interesting bit,
the skittering tail as bait,
while the legs carried
the necessary away.

The one joyriding
on top of the Sentra door.
When I tried to exit
in front of the local store,
four men watched me
dance when she fell
into my hair. Or was
that a skink? Hard to tell
I was moving so fast.

August 13/365 March 20, 2015

The Spring will not come
Early enough. Snow
Bands stretch from Erie
Down to Maryland.
Again the old dog
Watches the world erased.
His eyes clouded, blinking,
He faces into the woods.
Taking a long slow
Breath and then shaking
Ears hard against his head.
One step slides over
Frozen bricks. His paws
Break the insulation
Snow gives us, the deep
Quiet white. He leaves
A trail for me – here,
He says, I’ve gone here.

The Spring will not come
Early enough. Geese
Riding storm winds cry,
A winged wolf pack
Hidden from our eyes.
The old dog looks up.
That he can hear this
Astounds even him.
We stand like two fools
In snow falling ever
Softer, colder down.
I do not know what
He thinks of this last
Snow, does he sense like
Me the shuttering
And the dimming light?
Or only the joyful
Cries, the wild music,
And Spring in the wings?

 

Apologies for another sad dog poem. This I’ve pulled out from three years ago, when winter overstayed her welcome, and my dearest dog was getting ready to leave me behind. I promise to try to keep sad dog poems at bay, perhaps replace them with happy cat poems, for the duration of the month!

August 21/365 Charged Fragment

What is the point of electricity that sparks
between water molecules if not to ripple
across our skin, to raise the hackles of my heart
and leave our poles confused? A plasma storm, nothing
solid except intension, licks against the field
and lights neon auroras across the ceiling.

 

August 22/365 In Progress

Still working on this….

Again we move a room of boxes to Rochester.
More clothes than can be worn inside a year.
This time I’m certain he will not return;
like me, he flees, sweet velvet boy of mine.
I could not bear expectations – my mother’s sigh,
my father’s startled eyes, who is this?

Again we move a room of boxes to Rochester.
Four empty nails on a faded wall. Travel posters
for imaginary destinations. We ordered them
online when he outgrew the circus animals,
the orange-eyed tree frogs, the snowy owl’s stare.
I do not know what I have heart to hang there.

Again we move a room of boxes to Rochester.
Packed within the skeleton of home, enough to beam
a roof, to raise out of nothing future nights when
he will cross a door and not think once or twice
of those he should miss. Other arms, other charms
will find him, hold him, keep him from the abyss.

Again we move a room of boxes to Rochester.
Professionals, the patterns are rehearsed.
We know the drill. One box on top of the next until
the truck is full. His bedroom stripped of color retains
the central text: a child was here, once, and now his
ghosts of dust and scent remain, and this is best.

August 23/365 Lupines

Someone scattered the first seed heads.
Was it Fritz or Big Mum? Or perhaps
The children, playing in the pasture
Popped fuzzy lupine pods and pushed
The flat gray seeds free, falling into weeds.
Until then, no one cared about that acre
Just land before the woods, junk space.
The rest was tended, gardened. An apple
Tree, two mock oranges, lilacs, a border
Of forsythia and peonies. Plowed squares
For early peas, potatoes, green beans
And the rest of Big Mum’s kitchen spread.

But someone scattered lupine seeds which
Broke through neglect and waste, rising
Regally over the thistle, an Alpine vision
Violet, pink, blue. And Fritz took note.
He harvested the pods, and walking slow
To woods and back, his brown hands dropped
The seeds. He sewed the acre. The plants
Sprouted thick and spiraled out their leaves,
Many lances circling green stems, and spikes
Of folded flowers, tiny keels embraced by wings.
Encouraged, the lupines battled weeds
And claimed domain until all that remained
Was an acre of improbable flowers, mowed
Grass hemming in their three foot wall.

This was the backdrop of my world. Thick
With bugs, and sticky sap, a humming brush
Of winged creatures, a barrier of life and birth
Seeds and bees and all things colored amethyst.
We did not cross the mow line. Fear was there
Because who knew what grew beneath
In the dark places of roots and rotting leaves,
Where beetles ruled, and worms poked through
To taste the damp mineral air. We knew, as only
Children can, that wonders often contain both
Heaven and a nightmare, so we left best alone
And watched the flowers from the safety
Of a hemlock branch, or better yet, a window.

The field is gone. The lupines mowed.
Long years have passed now. Such a ragged
Buggy mess – it had no place in a world
Of lawn and tended land, so with no fear,
My father cut their stems and stopped
The ever falling seeds. My mother stole
Some pods, and nursed the seedlings, broke
Them into garden plants, and now they bloom
Far from Fritz’s field. And yet, in dreams
I never could control, there often rises a wall,
Dark and sweet, I have no strength to pass.
What lies behind, I will never fully grasp.

August 25/365 Palpitations

coffee is cold
coffee spills out
out of my mind
out of my mouth
mouth tastes bitter
mouth makes jokes
jokes are for cowboys
jokes up in smoke
smoke fills the room
smoke rings your face
face up to crimes
face up in the dirt
dirt under nails
dirt in my mind
mind how you talk
mind how you whine
whine of mosquitos
whine of the dog
dog tail thumping
dog chasing cars
cars going fast
cars crashing
crashing into walls
crashing the market
market your skills
market is a bear
bear this burden
bear the pain
pain in the neck
pain killers
killers stalking prey
killers getting away
away from the city
away from the light
light burns bright
light gets in my eyes
eyes bright blue
eyes seeing you
you need to stop
you are a fool
fool you once
fool on a hill
hill so steep
hill hard to climb
climb up the stairs
climb using fingers
fingers crossing heart
fingers tapping rhythm
heart
rhythm

August 26/365 Sisters

I promised myself that I wasn’t going to go deep into the past to resurrect poems I wrote while I had three names. Leave 30-year-old chestnuts alone! I barely remember the woman who wrote these; Indigo could tell you more about her than I can. Another promise broken.

Sisters

NOTE: Apologies for lousy scanning! Something is going wrong with our ancient machine, and I didn’t want to fight with the WordPress formatting gods.

 

August 28/365 Poet

I knew a great poet, 30+ years ago. She lived alone and loved cats, in fact she often cared for my cats when I went away. They adored her. She was my friend, but I hardly knew her, not really. Those were my selfish years when I was licking my wounds, and finding ways to get hurt again.

I read her poems today in the Fall 1987 issue of Phoebe, the George Mason Review. I wish I had her permission to print them here. They astonish me. Perhaps I should take my extra copy of the magazine and begin to send it around to everyone I know. “Take this, read it. It will change you. And then send it on.”

I have wasted hours Googling her, finding no one to match her very common name with the facts I know. Somewhere, perhaps, a mild, sardonic woman is living in a lovely apartment with many cats. She was never a beauty, no, the sort of woman you would pass in the supermarket and barely see. And yet, in her mind there exists such wondrous delights that would bring your heart to the edge of heaven.

If you have luck in finding her, or can see a copy of that issue, read “Telling Makes It True” and “Tlön” by Sharon Martin.

August 29/365 New Dog Blues

A brand new dog comes home today –
a plott hound looking for a place to stay.
Good girls need homes just as much as bad.
Sweet satin ears and webbed toes,
Rufus loves her with his nose.
This new dog, lord she looks so sad!

A brand new dog comes home today.
She creeps round corners with nothing to say.
This hound wants to find a quiet spot.
Golden eyes, and a silk soft muzzle –
Rufus wants to give her all of his nuzzles.
This new dog, lord she’s a lucky plott.

 

 

 

 

August 30/365 Self Ekphrastic

Ekphrastic poems look at pieces of art and attempt to fill in the story behind the work. That isn’t the most accurate definition, but it’s the one I’m working with today!

The cat, foreground, a bend and flow of fur, ending in a paw on the chair.
Its face lifting, white chin and cheek resting, and a smile curling there.
The hand, so pale, cool flesh caressing the swirled lines of hair.
The profile of the woman – no eyes, no mouth, a fractured ear –
A portrait should, while freezing lines and colors, set forms clear.
And yet here we see at best the cat, a certain happy feline pose,
A woman’s hand, so pale and dead, a head of graying hair, and a nose.
What goes on beyond the beige background? What is she looking at?
Perhaps across the room, a TV casts green light and cohosts chat
Or someone washes dishes while others walk through rooms laughing.
It could be that nothing is happening at all and this baffling
Quiet photo is just that, a moment caught between a cat and his true love.
Beyond that nothing much is clear, except for one thing I am sure of –
Purring is definitely happening here, and these two bodies are in love.

senecalove2

August 31/365 Loving Poetry

I’m worn out. How do poets do this? I mean real, working poets, the kind of people who every day labor away on lines that almost no one will ever read. The writers who shoot for that little corner of a page buried deep in The New Yorker. I have no more words that fit together after just a month of this, and that was even with my pulling old work out of my bag of tricks. Why would anyone decide to meet daily with the muse, to wrangle out such irksome lines, to face the constant debate of “Is that the right word, is that the right break?”

They must have no choice. Someone holds a gun to their head or their heart. I figure that the reason might just be that at some time, when they were very young, when the world was stretched out ahead of them, a thug name Elliot, or Browning, or Blake, or Dickinson took hold of them and a contract was signed. A soul exchanged.

I remember the poem that almost made that bargain with me. A particularly dangerous poet-bully, one Shakespeare held a knife to my throat. I would sit in the still, cold November dusk, when the sky over the Hudson turned that impossible violet-blue, and recite these perfect words to myself. Nothing quite spoke to me, even as young and unschooled as I was, as this particular poem.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.