Skip to content

Month: April 2012

Rewrite

I’m reworking “The Nightsky Often Looks Like a Mound of Feathers” and retitled the poem (I may re-use this title in a future poem). Here’s the result:

A LETTER TO CALICO SKIN

1.

Early on, you appeared
like a curled robe

on the side of a highway, like
a young woman dying in the corner

of a room. For years, you appeared,
followed me to states I could not travel to

in real life. I remember the way
you seemed to make others ill,

as they disappeared
from my dreams

entirely.

2.

After years of silence, I found you
in a poem, in the form of a man,

with a name for the illness
that I could not name as a child: leprosy.

And again you returned—I was lost in the woods
and you gained ground, bending with

the shadows, offering me flowers
with poisonous thorns.

3.

Soon I realized you might follow
others: the way he described a woman

with calico hair, and I tried
to not believe him.

I collected flowers, like you in the woods.
It was when I began to search

for sunlight when I wondered
if I had ever told him about you.

Stared at the roses. In this moment,
you became an impenetrable mass

of searching.

*

The poem referred to in Section 2 is David Dodd Lee’s “The Calico Man,” from Orphan, Indiana (University of Akron Press, 2010).

Share

Speech Impediment

You often says things in which
I can say little in return—my growing

deficiency—and the sky turns yellow.
We lay a blanket in a field in the middle

of nowhere and return to find it
covered in earth that cannot grow.

We lie in this space and stare
into a sky filled with clouds that are

lined with mildew. It begins to rain, and
we take in the moisture

and softly blossom with pastel-
colored flowers. We lose the ability

to speak, to use our peripheries,
only knowing that the other lies

under the same sky, forming a hill
in the same space. Like-minded flowers.

Share

Writing Process

This is one of those poems that is not very good, needs a ton of editing but will not get out of my head. I imagine part of it will be useful, but for now, this is it, in its roughest form.

THE NIGHTSKY OFTEN LOOKS LIKE A MOUND OF FEATHERS.

1.

Ever since you were young, you tried
to stay awake through the night, observing

only the odd shapes made through the room
as the moon shifted in your open window.

When I was young, there was a woman
of calico skin, eyes and tongue, curled up

on the side of a highway. I yelled to my mother
to stop the car, and when we backed up,

she had disappeared. She followed me
for years, through airports and gas stations,

always sickly, perfumed with what could only
be death and wind chimes.

2.

Sometimes in the middle of the night
when we cannot sleep, we lie

in the middle of the backyard. We do not fear
this darkness or the strange shapes

of the Arizona shrubs and flowers
that seem to wilt with darkness.

We listen to the wind, in silence—and I wonder
if perhaps this isn’t part of a dream, too,

since sometimes we remember we really live
in Midwestern snow.

3.

During one of these nights, you
make the mistake of telling me

of a woman who followed you
through your dreams

when you were young, one with calico
hair only, and I try not to believe you.

I pluck one of the flowers, wilted black
with nightfall, and smell the rank fumes

of its funeral, trying to decide
whether or not I ever

told you about her.

Share

No Skin Included.

Break open the branch. Inside–
there is lime and tree foam. Like marrow.

The white liquid that illuminates
the skin, full of leaves and freshly-plucked

strawberries. Like dawn, opening:
he captures this about her

in a painting, surrounds her
with blood oranges, places roses

around her face. The girl becomes something
like a funeral, the white-marrow quality

of her skin, the hair curled across
a pillow, the hands poised

for picking daisies.

Share

Analecta Publication

Saturday evening, in conjunction with Jim Daniels’ reading, was the IU South Bend student writing awards and the first reveal of the 2012 Analecta.

Since I was unable to attend, I just picked up my copy, and I’ve spent the past hour or so flipping through it, reading it, admiring it. This very well might be my favorite Analecta yet!

It’s also exciting, because I was a part, however small, in this year’s publication, since I was one of the Assistant Editors, along with a few other very awesome people, and I was also published (I included the poem below)! It’s a great feeling to have multiple roles in such an admirable annual project…

Thank you to Jeff Tatay for your awesome work and dedication to this year’s Analecta. I’m sure there are many others out there who are as excited about this year’s edition as I am.

*

Poisonous Snakes

1.

You, you remember
those earlier days

when you walked along
a more putrid river

surrounded
by chamomile and violets

where the moon

hung itself

in the trees.

The new moon became
the funeral

you walked into.
You dreamt many times.

2.

You remember how, once,

your legs somersaulted

without you,

as though filled with wind,
as if they
were predetermined
amputees.

You wandered into someone else’s backyard
without them,

as if it would help stop the bleeding,
as if it would somehow tell you

you have somewhere else to be.

And when you awoke,

you walked into a woman’s yard,
hanging laundry.

Admired
the childlike size of the clothes,

the smell after washing
still suggesting illness.

3.

The rain had pelted through
the scarecrow’s body,

limp on his pole.

She placed his clothes on the line,
she said, to keep them from molding –

(while the scarecrow lay limp
on the desert rock,

he with a torn mouth,
his body –

the tan-to-brown S shape
that then suggested

poisonous snakes.)

Share

Jim Daniels at IU South Bend

Tonight, Jim Daniels appeared at the IU South Bend English Department Student Writing Awards and performed a reading.

Unfortunately for me, I was unable to attend the reading. Call it an example of how a writer must lead a double-life, split between the artistic edge of experiencing poetry and functioning within the “real world” and/or workforce.

However, I still wanted to share in the excitement. While I may have not gotten to see and hear Jim Daniels recite his own work, buy his books, meet him or get the books signed by him (siiiigh), I can at least still appreciate his writing!

Here is a link to one of my favorite examples of How a Poem Happens.

Here are two videos, the first of Jim Daniels reading from From Milltown to Malltown, and the second of Daniels reading from Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry.

And finally, here is one of my favorite Daniels poems.

JIM DANIELS

Taking the Leap

My faith had gone to the dogs.
Dogs will eat their own vomit
if you let them. That’s faith.
They swallowed my faith,
and I’m not sure they kept it down.

Fifteen, drunk, I fell back through the plaster
to avoid my mother’s kiss. She’d jumped
off a chair in front of me.

*

She’s eighty now, and blind.
My son, fifteen, forgot to take out
the garbage last night. I’d offered
to help him earlier, but he declined.
Declining is the slant here.

I’d tap dance through hell
to get a smile out of him.
Is he drinking yet?
I can still jump off chairs.

I’d jump off a chair to surprise my mother
if she could see me, if I could be sure
she would not fall.

*

Fragile and faith get rewound, refined,
redefined. My dog Prince once chewed
Jesus off the cross. Oh, we all had a laugh
over that. Helluva way to get resurrected.

We never gave my son faith in God
so he has not lost it. Just his faith
in us. He smiles a little when he’s lying
but he’ll cure that tick soon.

*

I edited that part out—about me being drunk—
for the family oral history. Just a cute little tale
of a man-boy not wanting to kiss his mother.

Last time we embraced was after he ran away
then came home. I’ve told him to run away
many times since. Even though that night
the porch light glowed and I sat there waiting
for him to leap back into our lives
and may have even prayed.

*

She pulled me out of the wall.
My ass covered in plaster dust.
Everyone admired the empty tomb
except my father who stuck his fingers in
to assess the damage.

My mother got another shot
in her hip last week so she can keep
that wheelchair in the garage.

*

It was hard throwing Jesus away,
even a chewed-up Jesus. No way
was he going back up on that cross.

My son, fifteen, forgot to take out the garbage.
Last week, a girl sprayed him with perfume
as a joke. He wouldn’t come near me. Sat alone
in the back seat as I drove him home.

We’re in freefall here. We’re tearing the walls
back to the studs. We’re excavating for relics.
We have no evidence. We’ve stopped taking pictures.

What did my mother see then? Why wouldn’t
I let her kiss me goodbye?

I’ve got enough sight left. The dogs
bark outside in the cold. Their breathe rises
in the street light and disappears.

He tells me he’s heard all my stories,
though I know that’s not true. He broke a chair
last week just sitting down.

My father sealed up the hole, though you could still see
the faint outline of where I fell.

He barges into my room without knocking, but won’t open
his door to talk, tries to shut it on me.

We fight about the basics—sleep, food, time—
we stick with what we know. My father hit me
for the last time when I was fifteen

and I’m sure I deserved it. Just an open hand
to the cheek. My son jolted away from my hand
on his shoulder on Christmas day

but opened all the gifts. We’ve got baby Jesus here
in the house of unbelievers. All I can say is
sometimes a good story can keep you going

a long time. I tap danced through hell
and even Satan applauded. I lifted
my guardian angel’s robe

and saw nothing underneath. Jesus escaped
out of a hole in the wall. My mother
got her sight back. She threw away her walker,

she sang, dancing with me like back
when I was little and laughed, thrilled
to be in her arms.

We lost our wings a long time ago, my son,
so take me in your arms, catch me
as I fall.

*

from Pleiades 31.2 (2011), Eds. Wayne Miller and Phong Nguyen

Share

The Silent Film

In this dream, I have lost you, and
suddenly my heart has turned

and I am dreaming about a man
who has died.

In his fury, he cut open his hands.

I become the girl who can see him,
can see the blood

and the way it looks like a family
of birds, red crows, with eyes

that have been removed.

He reaches for me with his blackened hands
and still I search for you.

I imagine you as if you would be
swallowing roses, and everything turns red—

the sky, the trees, my lips, empty,
without sound.

Share

A Poem–different from my usual work

SPRING MORNING

It is without a word that you
follow me outside

like a lumbering shadow.
We reach the sidewalk, our steps matching.

Wind tangles in my hair as we pass
apartment doorways and windows.

It is when we see the shadows
of two people making love

through an illuminated curtain
that we realize I have been out of touch.

We stop under a tree that reminds us
of a cherry tree, the pink blossoms, and

your breath falls down my cheeks, my neck,
warm against the still-crisp spring air.

Then we are warmer, the touch of lips.
We say nothing, the fog of breath

accumulating, and finally we walk on,
the crunch of tree seeds under our feet.

Share

When He Asked Her to Turn Him into a Poem

She removed his shirt
and pushed him

into the moonlight.

He became all silvery skin.
And so she painted him—deep black

covered portions of
his arms, his hands, his face,

until finally she moved him out
of the moonlight.

He disappeared,
except for a hand here, a limb there,

and also his eyes, the pale blue,
that reminded her

of the moonlight.
He was only floating pieces,

shining. And silence.

Share

Nights that Dreamed Her Open

There was a morning when
she opened herself to horses—

it was a sort of release, the wind
and soft petals under her toes.

She waited out in the field, their bodies
lingering off on the horizon.

They looked black against the sun,
manes twisting, all muscle.

She imagined their eyes, like dew
and something melting, opening her skin

and finding nothing, heart pumping,
the twist of hair over closed eyes.

Share