I’ve really been enjoying the museums I’ve visited on this trip, especially those in Crete. I particularly enjoy staring into the eyes of the statues and wondering what they’re thinking. Here’s a haiku from one of those experiences. I found it in the bottom of a bottle of Rose, so cut it some slack.
I lived, didn't I?
In a way I did not die
Being seen sustains
My husband and I were sitting at a cafe in Athens, looking at a cathedral and eating feta dip in silence. I felt like a character in a Hemingway short story – maybe “Hills Like White Elephants,” but with all of the grand openness and none of the depressing stuff. Here’s the start of a poem I’d like to work on:
Oh, to be an old woman on an airplane
To be expected
And still spry enough to lift my own bag
But creased enough to merit a steadying hand on my arm
I set up reminders on my phone to remind me to blog, not that I really heed them. Why? Maybe because I’m lazy. Maybe because they get lost in a sea of other notifications. Maybe – hell, probably – both. Here’s a found poem I constructed out of the notifications from WordPress, the Calm app, and more that I’m ignoring on my phone’s drop-down menu just now.
Storage Space Running Out
Tap to learn more
Take a few calm deep breaths
Memory for you
Clear the clutter
This is your reminder to create something today
Don't miss out
I feel like lately, with offices and bars and theaters reopening, people are out, but they’re out with giant wounds – the kind of wounds that show sinew and bone. Some people have emerged with an extra thirty pounds, a stack of unemployment checks, a mental health diagnosis or two… Some people have emerged alone. I have emerged awkward. The lack of chit-chat in the aisles of the grocery store, and the fact that I didn’t have to flash a perfunctory smile at a dozen or more people a day have left me wooden and stammering. Here’s a poem about how I fit into this new scene… Or don’t.
How Can I Help You
So far I’ve gotten by
On good wine
I thought that divorce was
One of those things,
You know it’s out there
But you don’t bump into it
In the checkout aisle
You don’t worry about it hurting you or yours.
It’s for real housewives of various cities
And that aunt you avoid at Thanksgiving
You don’t rehearse what you’ll say
If divorce breezes in the door at a house party
Or if it tells you that your blouse looks nice.
You don’t know how to put someone’s divorce
Into the box with the other forbidden dinner table topics
Like hemorrhoids and that football player
Who either does or does not disrespect our country.
I cannot give out advice about divorce
Because I cannot even write a good poem about it
I finally got rejected by the New Yorker! Why “finally”? So I can stop wondering about it. I was involved with the translation of a (very dry) philosophy book, in which the philosopher mentioned that there’s a sense of relief when a dropped glass shatters, because you’re no longer worried about catching it. Here’s a poem about a different sort of ending.
Before I am born
Then when I'm too tired to walk
Metaphorically, when I'm too ignorant
To forge through life
Because I know you'll do a good job
And you give the best eulogies
And I could never face your corpse
Without asking it for advice
I have a rash on my face, my laptop is perhaps-hopelessly broken, and (more importantly) the world is still being ravaged by a pandemic. That said, there’s no real excuse for not writing. Anyways, here’s this:
Dark nights and fireflies
The sun's rays peeking through my blinds
When there's light
I think of you
Happy anniversary, The New Yorker! How has the world treated you for the past year, when you weren’t opening my submission? You don’t have to tell me you don’t give a damn, love – that’s what the “Submissions” page on Submittable.com is for.
Some good news, though: my writing partner, who has watched me barf without a shirt on and get married (NOT in the same day) had a poem get published on The Voices Project – here’s a link http://www.thevoicesproject.org/poetry-library/funeral-rites-by-taylor-grueser#comments Try to leave a better comment than mine, just try! Alright, it’s not much of a challenge. But seriously, this poem is so meditative and raw.
I wanted to put a poem in this post, but I feel that it would detract from Taylor’s accomplishment and the New Yorker’s insult. Here’s a haiku, as a compromise:
What am I to do
In a world that cannot hear
Having found my voice
The other night, I decided that I was going to be the woman I was destined to be: the kind of gal who had a tasteful glass of wine rather than a flowerpot full, the sort of radiant dame who gets eight hours of sleep and drinks a big glass of water first thing in the morning. The endeavor to be my own embodiment of feminine mystique and glory came to a screeching goddamn halt when my first purpose-planned night of rest was chock-full of nightmares. Enjoy – I know I didn’t.
To Be Well-Rested, I Must Rest Well
It’s a foul dream,
My world through a funhouse mirror
Someone, somewhere, is laughing at me
Wake up, wake up
My heaving breast aches for the morning dew
Reaching through horror
I sense some shift of me
Some luckier phantom
Floating under my duvet somewhere
Behind waking’s gauzy curtain
I want to shake her into knowing relief
I don’t want these eight hours
Were you, reader, ever the younger child? Did you have to watch your sibling get a training bra, go to prom, pick out a college first? Did it hurt? Or, more simply, were you ever grounded? Did you have to watch through stained-glass tears while your parents carted away your Gameboy or your stuffed dog, with the assurance that you’d have them back in three days, four days, a week?
My sister got married
And set atop a high shelf -
I was grounded from her.
I waited and stared impatiently
As she moved North,
Took semi-annual international jaunts
Wore the latest fashion
And left her tabs open
She barely decorated her mansion
And found every excuse to come home
But by then there was nothing to talk about
No common wire to perch on
Two years and a torrent of abuse
Locked my sister behind glass
While I continued to stand below her shelf
To catch her
Now, though – I hear it in her voice
A storm is coming
I throw out my arms.
Does this poem need a trite little backstory? No. It’s specific – that’s the one piece of advice I’ve gotten, over and over: “be more specific”. Billy Collins told me in my Masterclass, an editor at Ghost City Review let me know when I asked for feedback following a rejection, and my mother told me after wrinkling her nose at one of my more half-assed attempts at being deep. Here’s a poem – don’t guess what it’s about.
An Evening Alone with a Question
I don’t need plans tonight
I have a recipe I’ve been dying to try
And a candle to keep me company
I’ve got a record that I turned on
To rumble and purr
Like you do
If you came home, though
Paid your tab and got back in the car
You could spin me in lazy circles around the living room
Make me forget about the record and the Pino
When you come in, late
I’ll let you try the apple crumble
And tell you how relaxing it was
To wonder where you were
What you were doing
Why you didn’t want to bring me
All while sipping on a mostly-empty glass.
Here it is: try it