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
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
Mindfulness reminder Tap to learn more Take a few calm deep breaths
Update available Memory for you New voicemail
Clear the clutter This is your reminder to create something today
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 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
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 Alonewith 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
I’m sure all two of you who read this blog have noticed my absence. I have run myself so ragged that even my sister has squawked at me to “slow down!!!” I’ve been doing a poor job, but I did stay in on Friday. I watched Super Troopers with my dog. It was a totally unremarkable evening, and I would like to have more just like it. Anyways, here’s a poem I started about this whole thing.
I'm supposed to be getting better Resting Rebuilding my strength But what is vitality If not a volatile currency A fickle, use-it-or-lose-it force?
A week or so ago, I sent my husband a link to my two personal essays published by Sleet Magazine. His response was merely that the first one, “Bodies,” made him sad. My self-absorbed ass wanted to hear about what a great writer I am, how my husband understands some critical, previously-unobserved part of me, how I am an old soul or some other corny shit. But no, all he said was that he was sad. This, of course, propelled me to new levels of wallowing and self-absorption. I emailed E. Jean Carroll, one of very few people I can confidently call a role model. She congratulated me on getting published and told me that she makes a point to never show her writing to family or husbands. Damn! I grew up reading E. Jean’s column in Elle, so I really would trust her with my life. For several years, her advice column was the closest thing I had to guidance, while my mother was busy working 60 hours per week and doing what mothers do – “seeing about things.” Anyways, here’s a poem for my mom. I’ll never let her read it.
For My Mother, For Father’s Day
I am not half the woman my mother was
Though she never wanted me to be.
Mom fled across the old South
From slick men and robberies
Tenements and community college
To a burnt-out Camaro and a basset hound
Who bayed at my young sister and I
Unable to express his love otherwise
I never knew an eviction notice
Or a too-tight school uniform
Although my mother’s thin-soled sensible shoes
Whispered about budgets and bounced checks
Store-brand food and impending mattress springs
Mom’s eerie foresight and vicious budgeting
Did not account for grit
I would sleep on a thousand floors
To inherit her ramrod spine
The other day, driving home from work, I found a new Spotify playlist called “POV: You’re the Villain in Love With the Hero”. Whoever “Rowan” is, they did a great job curating this bad boy. It’s sultry, playful, and just dark enough. It got me thinking, though: we are each the villain in someone else’s story, like it or not. What lengths do we go to to insist that we’re the hero, blameless and clean? And what does it take to admit that, sometimes, being the skeleton in someone else’s closet it reassuring in a way? Anyways, here’s “Twist”.
We'll meet, I'll say it was your eyes That got me hooked We'll talk I'll stay up late and say Like I always do That I'm in love with your mind
We'll walk through the trees And kiss by the creeks I'll let you call me yours Later, I'll call you another twist In my spiral You'll watch me discard you like the rest
When I was looking out my office window today, trying to relax and convince myself that I didn’t overdo it at lunch today (I’ll admit it: I did), I ended up face-to-face with an ornate, long-abandoned shell of a building. The city put up barriers to keep people from selling their bodies or drugs or knock-off watches beneath the old hotel’s tattered awnings. I ended up with a loose snippet of poetry:
Abandoned hotel You dead downtown lightning bug What stories did you choke Trying to tell?
But what can you do with something that short? I lack the self-assurance and the hungry audience of someone who could present Instagram-length poetry. I guess this stanza will wait for something better, much like the sleeping hotel itself.
Do you have any scraps of poetry that never found a home? Drop me a line in the comments.
When I was in the ninth grade, I had an assignment in my English class to write a “found poem” with words and phrases from the book my class had just read, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I fell in love with found poetry, and hammered out something that I considered to be a sort of gauzy, haunting piece about the way the mind wanders under sufficient stress. In that moment, I loved my poem, myself, and even Erich Maria Remarque. Anyways, I got a C- on the poem.
Found poetry came to mind lately, after I read my umpteenth formulaic rejection letter from a literary magazine. They all sound the same. I get it, it’s the same message from the same type of place, over and over. It’s so droll that it ended up inspiring me. I decided to write a found poem based off of rejections I got from Rattle Magazine, Frontier, The Sun, Poet Lore, Idle Ink, and many more. I hope you like it, or that it at least speaks to your truth.
Thank you very much
Thank you for sending us your work
Thank you for sharing your mind and heart with us
We are thankful for the opportunity to explore the ideas
We’ve read your work
We read everything we receive
Fairly and carefully
We work hard
I was quite torn on this one
There's no telling what we'll fall in love with
It is an extremely difficult decision to choose a few poems
After careful consideration
We do not have a place for your work
We wish you the best
best of luck
Thank you poet friend