Monday, November 13, 2017

This: In Tune

West Indian Sandalwood
on the back of my neck.
Roman Chamomile
on the soft underside of my wrists.
Be still.

In harmony: an agreement
of pitch and intonation.
My soul-engine
humming in step, in symphathy
with the poetry of this quiet house.

Unknown names breach
this frailest silence:
our ruptured trust lasts 32 seconds,
but there is always another pen
available in this suburban Walden.

The moon is but an evening light.
I embrace this monotony, pulling myself
into this rich sameness: this
soft silence, such long stretches
of Frankincense.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Afternoon in October

The red tablecloth is in the dryer
and the late-afternoon October light
falls silently in horizontal bars
across our tattered sofa.

The icecream truck plinked down the street:
one last call before pulling
into Winter's garage.
No one came.

This Fall silence --unseasonable--
is good for writing and being alone;
unless you are 10: boredom lurks,
masking its movements
underneath the refrigerator's hum.

A formattable Grendel to be slain
this Sunday afternoon:
kids drawn to cul-de-sacs
loitering with levity
organizing NERF platoons
calling out call-signs
holding onto this last day.
Who among them is the Geat leader?

A good time for a drink--
whiskey or wine--
I can hear my sobriety
leave my body.

Dustlight dances throughout;
the last load of laundry
clinks in the dryer
and crepuscular rays stream through
the gaps in the blinds.

Restful boredom awaits me--
a wide barrow
overgrown with wild grasses
and dandelions.

My solace over the end
to this October
Sunday afternoon.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Letter to my brother in prison

Dear Eddie,

You were twelve-years-old 
when I left you to grieve alone.

You were in the seventh grade
when I left you to raise yourself.

You were just a kid when I left.

Mom was 45 when she died.
I left to start my life at 19.

What the hell did I know?

I knew our family was broken,
bongs and Bob Marley silkscreens adorning 
the kitchen table.

I knew our house was unsafe for any child.
I knew you would be just fine.
I knew that I had to get the hell out of there,

and believe that you would be just fine.

I was wrong.
You were just a kid when I left
stuck between a state of pathos 
and a synthetic happiness.

Are we reduced to just one line at the time of our death?
TJN of Denver, a daycare provider, died Monday.

What is your line?
ENJ of Denver, a drug addict and frequent inmate, died.

What will be my line?
AEN of Aurora, apotheosized sibling and lionized long-distant relative, died on Friday.

We are all trying to gain some insight or perspective
that will serve us when we put our pens down for the last time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Dysregulation | Disregulation

No matches found.

abnormality or impairment
in the regulation
of a physiological or psychological process

2010: when it came to be used regularly
to describe losing one's shit
all the time.

No synonyms.  Just regret:
planets of regret
sitting in my stomach
dripping with whiskey.

A melted equator
right down the center of my anger.

Planets crumbling.  Unstable Krypton.

So I breathe and sip and take a hot shower
and tell my son that we're okay.  Not abnormal.
Not impaired.

Just full of passion and fire;
he an Aries and my Libra scales
balancing both hemispheres of our collected anger.

No matches found.

Monday, November 06, 2017

The presumption of opening my journal

The presumption of opening my journal
to write a poem:

I notice the rock,
an autumn character
who hurries between difficult languages.

Imagine the pattern
connecting two clouds
centimeters apart.
This season speaks with worry
knowing that Winter water is heavy and near.

I found this silent rock
and opened my journal to write
in the moonlight: my process protects me.
This presumption and experience say

little about my practice, but
much to my passion.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Scratching...

I don't have much to say,
but I'm saying it anyway;

And so I continue to fill the space
between my thoughts and the end of the page.

Scratching...

Scratching, scratching, thinking and
scratching until something comes out.

Either I'm profound and clever
or just sad and desperate.

And so I close my journal for the evening.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Perdita

I'm holding her hand, tighter than I realize,
as we serpentine through the crowd,
when I realize that I'm lost.
I know where I'm walking, the benefit
of living in a decade where I am always the
center of every digital map; watching my haloed
triangle, stylized for effect, gliding toward
that red, inverted-drop-shaped destination

Omnia perdita sunt.

I'm disregulated, close my eyes
to oneiric images of my father
dragging me to the bathroom,
stripping off my clothes, yelling.
Hot tears dissolve in the steam-filled
shower, as I shit myself.
His breath spews forth like lava,
molten magma, scarring my body,
callousing my ten-year-old skin.

In extremis: my memory fades to black.

We've crossed the street, skipping across each
crosswalk stripe, arriving at the park.
My sons run off ahead, fearless and rugged:
Appaloosas galloping in the still-warm dusk.
I hesitate before letting go of her hand,
quickly desperate to never let go of her hand.
We walk toward the swing-set.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

born to catch butterflies on her tongue

She was born to catch butterflies on her tongue.

With shooting stars in her eyes,
she waits for rain
to wash the day
out of her hair.
Sitting on a small, dry patch of grass,
she closes her eyes
and waits,
anticipating the flutter on her tongue.

As a child
she advised balloons
on bouncing and stretching.
She interrogated hens
until they told her
the truth.

When she tires, she closes her eyes
and shrinks to the size of a pea;
hides under a maple leaf
in the backyard.
She feels safe there
resting and dreaming
of a world filled
with butterfly wings.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ornithology, or how to identify your feelings

I am but an amateur:
my Pathos sits in the shade of a pool umbrella
as a yellow-breasted swallow performs
schizophrenic swirls upon
aquamarine translucence.

These are the dimension of love that are difficult:
full commitment to the dive,
then changing your mind abruptly;
Kamikaze Logos - my inward thoughts
performing as a handsome aerialist.

We use science to understand the world,
but I am still an amateur
misidentifying my regrets as I sit
by the pool watching this bird
eat his breakfast.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Petrichor

She smells of the sun
and sounds like summer sun
showers smashing into dry, dusty asphalt.

She bursts into rooms like fizzes of
aromatic aerosols, telling me, asking me,
showing me; creating memories she can draw from
when reading a beach novel, warm sand
heating her towel and she can't quite put her finger
on it: palpabilis.
Or when she touches an unknown word.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Memories of You via Marc Cohen

-to Mike
You are miles away from us, past elevation,
past Mt. Evans, where 30 years of rose petals
are embedded in rocks, layers of sedimentary
memories; glistening metallic with a river
that is always colder than it looks.

I miss you, true companion;
who motivated me to teach;
who taught me to really read;
who told me not to give a damn and focus
on my students.

I want to remember the way I remember:
Emerson's toothless, cherub smile,
golden hair brushed out of her eyes
around her ear: just like a vision she rises.

You're an old man, sitting, waiting for a
miracle, dozing off: what else are you going to do?
Do you remember conversations -- Whitman, Yeats,
Don Quixote versus the windmills?

I can't wait anymore -- I can't wait for you
to return to a better time: political rhetoric
spewing forth between bits as wine flows.

I will think of you, talking in Memphis,
sans Fox News, when you read real newspapers
a 4:00 AM, before you drove to teach high school,
in jeans: a gun rack in your Chevy
in pouring rain to teach teens
to write about life and not giving up or in,
raging of the dying of the light.

I wish I still saw that spark;
I fear the moon has grown dark,
the lilac bush, grey in the yard,
no stars at your elbows and feet;
the evergreens wilted.

I want to remember you as you were:
A Marc Cohen song -- a bottle filled with lightning
and rain.
I want to wash away what you've become:
a translucent figure boarding the ghost train,
not remembering where to get off.

As the 3/4 moon rises in the dusk
and I sip my last spot of red wine,
I think of you this Thursday night
wanting to go back and fight
wishing I could see the buffalo run
through the Rocky Mountains
sitting underneath the cork tree
smelling the flowers for free.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Song of Myself

Ah, Whitman!

The leaves of grass may be dead, yellow and brown,
covered with a littering of sharp pine needles,
but the ground is warm
and smells fresh and new.

I chose to sit in the shade, on this side of the tree
that slopes upward toward the concrete school.
I want to face downward, downhill, but I want to feel the strong,
rough bark of this tree hold me in the breeze.  I feel safer here,
so I try to avoid glancing at the school.

In order for you to understand,
I must look, but understand
I am doing this for you.

It's depressing, really, to see
the sun warm its cold, white walls.
The sun does not differentiate
between concrete and grass
(although it should).
It shines, warms every body,
tree, building, and child's head.

The juxtaposition of grass to concrete,
city to nature, warmth to cold,
is understood by us all.
Thoreau is not the only one
to notice the banks of Walden Pond.
Nor Whitman,
as he sat and cradled the leaves of grass
capturing their in nity
for us to understand.

The difference:
Thoreau, Whitman (and now myself, I suppose),
continue to notice and
continue to write.
But they are dead, you say,
They cannot write!
Ah! But they do, for
they write through me and in me,
and by me.

Thoreau: in every drop of water;
Whitman: in every leaf of grass.
They are still here, and so am I; glad I chose this side of the hill;
Glad I chose this pen,
and this day and this sun.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Matera

Take me out of this moment,
this place in time, and
invite me to your home,
smooth and quiet.
We can take my boat and

float down this milky-white river
and pass the rows of yellow tulips.
I will speak to the raven
overhead and ask him to fi nd me.

Take me to your cobbled streets,
and show me wide buildings
crowding the shops. Let me

sit in the cool corner
under forgiving basil plants.
I want to smell of mint and basil,
so let me bathe in Romanesque sun.

I can feel us nearing
the bright, green clearing, malve growing in Santa Lucia;
smelling the stones
of the short, wide homes.
I can see the raven calling
and the rain falling.

I am here;
we are near;
I do not fear
anything.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On Death

Part I

I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind--and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement.
Dr Peabody--As I Lay Dying

eldest son

Son, she's dying..
Mom's dying.
I knew,
somehow.
The Stillness:
cold, quiet;
There is nothing,
and I felt it.
Moments before,
it was clear.
(The pounding, crashing sound
rips me from it…)
I knew,
somehow.

father

We're going to beat this thing.
I don't fail.
I cannot fail.
I'm not going to lose;
I can fix this thing.
You gotta be smarter than the…the…
renal cell carcinoma.


eldest son

Months before
Weeks before
Days before
moments before
I knew.

youngest son

Mom's sick,
in bed
sick
smells funny
(I don't like her smell)
Does it hurt, Mom?
No, sweetie, I'm just tired.
Go to sleep, Mom.

eldest son

I fall to the ground;
my legs do not bend.
I crash;
my head
slams me down;
I cannot move.
Weeping, weeping, weeping:
no tears will fall.
I can't talk.
How long?
(The voice; sound
stabs me).
Six months…maybe less.
I'll drive down.
I'll see her.
I will stay with her.

Part II

It's because I'm alone. If I could just feel it, it would be different, because I would not be alone.
Dewey Dell--As I Lay Dying

middle son

I hate you!
I fucking HATE you!
How can you do this to me?
You've always hated me;
now you’re dying?
Fuck no!
Hell no!
I don't need you,
just go,
leave me alone.
Stupid bitch!
Goddamn you!
Goddamn it!
You never loved me,
liked me.
Just leave;
I don't need you.

father

You don't know; you fucking doctors
don't know crap…how to fix this!
We're going to beat this thing,
Toni.
Don't leave me
with these kids…
are my life.
This house is yours.
These kids are yours.
renal cell carcinoma
yours.
Mom's gonna be just fine.
Don't worry,
we're going to beat this thing.
Don't you damn doctors know
how to beat this thing?!
Worse?

youngest son

mom's breathing
breathing
the tubes are breathing
looks funny
(mom looks scary)
Mom, can I go to play?
Sure you can.

eldest son

How's she doing?
Ok…not good.
How long?
A month…maybe less.

middle son

I can't do it
not going
hate hospitals
NO GODDAMN IT!
not going
can't

father

I can't do it
anymore.
It's a poison:
toxic.
I can't do it
anymore.


eldest son

I got class:
school.
I can drive away,
cross the line
into
no death
no cancer
no.
I got class:
homework
a test
finals
I'll drive down this weekend.

youngest son

her hands are cold:
white
like bones
Mom, cover up with a blanket.
Mom is wet,
her forehead is wet.
Here's a towel, Mom.

eldest son

I'm tired,
waiting.
The painful lights
strike me down,
strike down my skin:
numb.
I'm tired,
numb,
waiting.
I've got school tomorrow.
This must be hard,
difficult
for Ellen.
I'm sorry, honey.
Sorry.
I love you, Mom.
Love you.

mother

I'm so ugly
feel sick.
I'm tired
of being
not ready.
Ed, be a good father:
be around.
Stop working so much
and be a father.
I'll take care of it;
my family is my life.
I'm sorry.
Eddie, you be a good boy
for your father, and
listen to your brothers,
especially Adrian.
Be a good boy
good boy,
Son.
I love you:
take care of my sons.
I love you,
you're my number one son.
Be a good son, Tyson,
for your father.
Don't cause trouble
Be a good son,
good son.
Tyson,
I love you.
I love you, too, Mom.
(I hate you)
I love you, Tyson.

eldest son

The stillness
remains behind
after we have left,
she's left
us.
There is nothing.
I notice the badly-decorated walls,
ugly,
so ugly.

father

I'm not ready yet, guys.
I can't do it.
I just feel close to her.
I can't.
It's only been a year,
give me more time.
I can't do it.
I'll take care of it.

middle son

Dear Mom,
I didn't want to
hate you.
Didn't want.
I miss you.
I love you,
always;
no matter
what was said,
you said.
I will love you.
I will miss you.


father

I just don't feel anything
for women.
nothing.
I'm just so depressed.
depression, depressed, depression.
sadness.
I'm just so down.
I can't imagine myself
with another woman.

Part III

I heard my mother is dead. I wish I had time to let her die. I wish I had time to wish I had. It is because the wild and outraged earth too soon too soon too soon. It's not that I wouldn't and will not it's that it is too soon too soon too soon.
Dewey Dell--As I Lay Dying

middle son

I'm just so depressed.
I'm just so down.
I wanted to be close
to know
you liked me.
I never felt, knew
before.
I know now.
I will love you.
I will miss you.


father

I miss your mother…so much.
depression
I'll take care of it.

eldest son

I knew,
somehow.
I knew there would be
nothing
within these walls,
this room:
cold, quiet.
I feel it
again…
moments before,
forever after.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No more drafts

After receiving my latest rejection email, I have decided to put the rest of my poetry online.  I have been holding onto a few poems, some old; some new, that I have been afraid to publish on my blog because I am holding out hope that they will be published in various journals.  Yes, that would be amazing, but I am tired of holding onto these poems.  I want to release them out into the world for all to read and comment on.  I am not coming from a place of high-and-mighty: I do not feel that I have been depriving you all of my amazing poetry!  Instead, this is about release.  I need to let them go so that I can stop letting these poems hold be back.  I am only as good as my last poem and I have not written anything for a few weeks because I have been holding onto these poems.  No more!

Stay tuned for a slew of regular poem posting.  Thank you again for everyone who reads.  As always, I appreciate any comments you are willing to make for my poetry.  

Friday, October 06, 2017

Where is love stored in the heart?

I can feel it, starting in my groin, my inner thighs,
rumbling.  It isn't desire, love, nor sex.
It's dull scratch elicits nausea
as it rises to my abdomen.  I ignore
it's pull, tugging a my intestines, focusing
instead at the children around me, waiting for their
swim lessons, crying as rubber swim caps
get yanked over tangled hair.
Children waiting for their turn to splash:
chicken -- bird -- soldier
Different lives surround me and I can
still feel it growing, a direct B-Line
to my chest.  I stare
at the other mothers trying to distract
my brain, for once my head and heart are
connected, the rumble has won.
It is difficult to go back once it
has grown: full-blown longing, insecurity:
sadness takes over.

As a last resort, I dip into my reserve
supply of gratefulness, stored in the left
atrium, pumping oxygenated blood throughout
my body: a temporary shelter, a lean-to.

It's time to pick up my own children from the pool.


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

I may be untitled

I really would love to tell you that I can never
find the words to say:
I'm a poet/writer/coach/father/husband
I don't know why I drink whiskey
at night except to understand
and seek for understanding.
I love this album!
Sipping whiskey, I feel connected to
Yeats
Whitman
Heaney
and others....

All the other writers.

I'm drunk; or may be, but my pen is still moving.
This is the space I need and want
to transport me to a deeper, higher
level of everything.

I may be untitled, but I'm still writing.
I will see you on the other side.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Decision

The boiling water,
fresh from the whistle,
splashes onto
the black, glass
stove-top,
and I wonder
if I need to slow down,
possibly read a book,
or just stare
into the cool evening
waiting for dusk
to whisper into my ear.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tea

The teabag bleeds into
the hot water,
slowly oozing its nectar,
like a deep, red wound,
red river (split in two),
darkening{becoming pungent.
Hot blood in my coffee cup,
just below boiling point.
Who has wounded you?
Are the ripe, red strawberries
in my cereal your brethren?
Bobbing up and down,
the blood continues
without cries of pain
or shock.
I feel sadistic,
watching my tea bleed,
waiting to drink from its cup
as though ritualistically sacrificing
the adored lamb, waiting for its mystic
blood to collect in some holy, tin cup.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Waiting for Inspiration

I find myself waiting for inspiration.  I journal each day, sometimes at the end of the day, recounting the details from the time I awoke, to when my pen hit the paper.  I am detailing these banalities hoping something poetic will arise from the ink.  If I go back through my journals, I can find an archaeological phrase or poem that I can post to my blog.  I flip through pages and am reminded that many of my days sound the same.  Perhaps this is why the days seem to blend together.  


Still I write.


I believe that it is important to write through writer’s block.  I think that with any work, there will be plateaus and times when you don’t want to continue.  If I repeat the motions, go through the movements, I may not have a book of collected poems or pearls of wisdom, but I will have written every day.  I will have written my life; documented it for my children’s children and all of the nameless, faceless Internet readers.


Still I write.


I received a few more rejection letters last week.  I should clarify that they were emails, not letters.  People don’t write letters anymore.  One of the emails was an obvious form rejection letter; the other one was more personal.  I appreciate the personal letdown, but sometimes the form rejection is easier to accept: like when you carefully insert a wrinkled and torn dollar bill into the vending machine and it is immediately spat out again.  There is no tiptoeing around the issue.  The bill was rejected.  So I try again and again and again and again until I get my damn candy bar.


Still I write.


The personal email feels more like a breakup than and rejection.  It is like they really wanted to accept my poems, but they just couldn’t: don’t worry, you will find someone out there who is perfect for you; not me, but someone out there is perfect for you.  So, I feel wounded, but not angry because they wanted me, but the universe said no.  I think prefer the quick dollar-bill rejection instead.


Well, here I am write a short blog post that is part journal confessional, part insightful essay.  I think I need a few hundred more words before I am allowed to classify this as an essay.  In the meantime, I will read my daily emailed poem, try and get through Alexander Hamilton’s biography and Beowulf’s saga, and go to work each day to change the world.  


I make dents in the universe.I thrive on inspiring others to greatness.I love questioning the status quo.I am a shaper.I create cultures that release the creativity and originality in others.I am an independent thinker; nonconforming and rebellious.I ask lots of questions.I push the boundaries of what's possible.

Still I write.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Father-stuff

Am I filled
with the same father-stuff:
coarse and cold
and hard?
If so,
let me rip
my seams,
tear out my insides,
drain all my blood
onto the floor,
until I am but
a shell.
Let me find some new father-stuff:
white, wispy, soft, solid
warm and close.


Will I love
my child
the way he loved me:
distant, cold and course,
task-oriented?
When I become
a father (my father?)
please let me
find some new father-stuff.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hands

I look for chores to busy my hands,
inherited from Marie, my German grandmother.
She barely sat down for 76 years.  She would clean
and cook and wash and cut the grass.

Except when Frida would come over.  Two German
sisters: sitting over coffee, chatting in German, smiling
at their grandchildren as I meandered in and out of the kitchen;
until one day I was old enough to sit with them.

I told them I was studying German.  They asked me
to speak, clicking their tongues as I twisted and curled my
tongue.  They tsked at my hochdeutsch.  Their own speech
born out of the Depression, WWII, cleaning the bank, raising children

who didn't want to stay in Laurel, MT.  Their language,
the words they used, had so much more substance.
My textbook talk was highfalutin, stuck in meaningless
conversations about Claudia and Hans ordering coffee after school.

Marie and Frida talked, spoke their truths and then stood
up from the linoleum kitchen table to wash the dishes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Still I Write

I will continue writing
until the lines run out;
then I will grab another journal:
more lines
more words

This is not a goodbye;
(so cliche, I know)
just a see you soon

Still I write
And still I write
Bowed head and lowered eyes
weakened by my soulful cries

But still, I write.

Monday, September 18, 2017

At the Grave of my Family: Father and 2 Brothers

This is the longest that I've spent with them,
lined up beneath the earth, side by side:
a united family.
This is the closest I've been to them,
all three so near, but 10 feet beneath my feet.
They all felt, at one time or another, that I was
better than them; put me on an invisible
pedestal high above them.
Now I'm above them.  I'm left alone
even though we've been estranged for decades.
I am alone.   It is quite here;
we haven't spoken in years.

I am the last on, penned with a name
that I had to grow in to;
A name that I pass along to my own children,
without strings attached to each letter,
each false memory, family lore that dictated
my behavior.  I.  am.  here.
staring at my name chiseled three times
into granite stones:

Here lies               Here lies               Here lies

I give my sons this name, Germanic and complete:
a name without lies;
The lies they told me, themselves,
the police.

Here lies the end of an era,
a fictional family made up of non-existent birthdays
Christmas cheer, Easter egg hunts, Holy Communion.
I have laid these lies to rest.

I turn around, take my sons' hands and
go home.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I'm emotional.  I drank too much wine and ate too much lamb curry.  Cat Stevens brings a single tear to my eye -- for the dad I never had, but always wanted.  Cher closes my throat, chokes me up -- for a mother, whom I miss so much it hurts.  I often wonder if I'd feel so depressed as often as I do if she were here.  She would annoy me for sure, but she might keep me in check.  I'm tired and sad and have a stomach ache, probably diarrhea tomorrow.  Tonight, I'll just puke out my feelings onto this page, scratching at the paper and the floor.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Marie

I think of food and her strong calves and
her flipping around in my dad's slippers
five sizes too big.

I think of her beautiful German accent on my answering machine. 

I think of her simplicity and her cleanliness. 

I think of her immaculate house with clean sheets. 

I think of the washcloths she made; her inability to sit still. 

I would wake up to a silent house, smelling 
seiza panna kuche.

I think of her smell; how hard she worked;
of her kitchen, surrounding me with food—always. 

I think of her soft voice. 

I think of how much she loved. 

I think of her little feet. I think of Laurel, MT. 

I think of her laugh: it was great, like a chuckle. 

I think of her drinking coffee with Aunt Frida. 

I think of how she would sneak sweets, even though she wasn’t supposed to, and the face she would make: like a little kid knowingly doing something wrong. 

I think of the amazing adversity she lived through. 

I think of how she would take out her teeth before bed. 

I think about how she was always concerned about her family. 

I think of how she never complained about anything, ever.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Door Slams

Something brushed up against my leg as I finished listening to a poem being read by a NY poet about feeling small in a universe filled with suns and moons and Mars.  And so I am here.  I am left to dig up images buried beneath the soft silt below the ocean: God help me.  I'm trying to paint with words, not numbers; trying to be a devious craftsman, but sometimes all I have is red wine and ten minutes alone with my pen.

A door slams.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Shanti, Santhi or Shanth

Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
But there is no water.

There is no water, but I drink
whiskey instead.

Giving.
Compassion.
Control.

I must sacrifice these to the Gods
to by greater self; but I
fail.
I struggle.  I take.  I judge.  I indulge.

And yet, I go on and
improve myself daily.

Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina  
How can I purify myself from
past indiscretions, vices, sins, apples I have eaten?

Quando fiam uti chelidon
Let me love tomorrow!
And be loved in return.

Sitting before the fire
not cold enough to warrant one,
I am torn:
vice and virtue
Place du Carrosel and home.

There is water.  There is love.
And so I drink.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

In Memory of John Ashbery

John Ashbery died today:
on one of the hottest September days we've had in years.
I've never read any of your poems
until today.

I guess I can blame many things:
graduating high school when Wakefulness was published.
I was the opposite of woke.
But, I read today.

I was seven when that snow fell near Lake Ontario
and you ran through thistles one moment
and across a sheet of ice the next.
I read today.

I was a new father when you wrote They Knew What They Wanted.
And while you were watching Turner Classic Movies
I was watching Little House on the Prairie
in between feedings, wondering how Pa managed it all.
I read today.

So, what am I, the reader, to make of this?
The rest is only drama; the noise which distracts us
from our inner poetry.
Some days I wish for a breezeway;
others, I try and slow
to see my banalities with fresh eyes.
The days go by and I go with them.
But today?

Today I read.

Friday, September 01, 2017

On Body Positivity

I promise her all the free sex
she can get if she just
loves her body: intuitively believe
you deserve my touch--any touch

We're in our upper thirties for Christ sake!
We're supposed to be enjoying ourselves.
There is that word again:
supposed:
generally assumed or believed to be the case, but not necessarily so.
Assumptions hurt.  Pause.  Think.
Or don't think
(this is harder than I thought).

She rolls her eyes and suppresses
a wince (she knows how difficult this will be).  I promise again.
As much as you want!
All you can want!  And more.
  1. Reject your old mentality
  2. Honor your hunger; your body
  3. Respect your body
I want to skip to #s 3-7 and
go straight to #8: respect your body;
expressing the angry spleen.
Now, come to bed, please.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

My Head Hurts

I'd love to close out my day
with a poem: something
pastoral or lyrical or political or important,
but my head hurts.
My daughter wants me to read her a story,
but my head hurts.
My wife wants me to watch TV,
but my head hurts.
Life hurts my head hurts my children hurt me I hurt myself I hurt them they hurt each other.
Everybody hurts by REM.

I want to be present and happy,
but I feel as though my children beat the happiness
right out of me; discarding my velveteen
body, worn from laundry, bedtimes,
shower arguments, homework, yelling,
lots of yelling, and they
throw me
away.

And so I will get ready for bed and sleep and start again
tomorrow because I love my family,
I love my children, and
I love my life.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Own (draft #2)

I sign their names, as my own
underneath their poems
as if they were my own.

I claim that their words are my own
their memories, emotions, are my own
Because I am too scared to write
my own.

Perhaps this is a poem
a thought in time
that someone else can write down
when writer's block sets in
as their child interrupts because she poked herself
in her eye and needs a hug
while their spouse is upstairs
watching YouTube instead of talking.

Perhaps we all need someone else
to tell us what we are
who we are, and how we feel.
Perhaps we need to live vicariously through other people
because our own lives
are too clumsy, difficult, painful, mundane.

Perhaps.

Monday, August 28, 2017

He is a Writer

I helped my son write an essay last night. He’s eight.  He struggles with writing.  In fact, he hates writing.  It took us 35 minutes to write four sentences about a girl named Hannah getting ready for her birthday party.  Four sentences.  It was painful.  He hated every minute of it.  He does not see himself as a writer.  He looks for any excuse to pause or stop writing altogether.  It was difficult for me to watch him struggle through this assignment.  He focuses so much on the minutiae of writing: the size of the letters, spelling, finger spacing, capital letters, handwriting.  It is excruciating to watch him struggle.  

He is a writer.  

How do I know?  Because he can ramble on and on and on and on about a story that is as outlandish as it is believable.  He creates fictions that are ridiculous and funny.  He has a gift for lying and telling stories, which gives him a leg up on most writers today. Sometimes, I have to take a step back, press pause, and actually listen to his creativity.  Instead of being frustrated that he is listing the reasons why he is not responsible for spilling his water bottle all over the carpet, I need to listen to how he draws me into his world.  He may struggle with the mechanics of writing, but that is temporary.  

He is a writer.

I don’t want him to grow up and think that writing is effeminate and only for the smart kids. I don’t want him to think that he only has to write about flowers and his summer vacation and the book he had to read for school.  I want him to know that writing is communicating and when performed well, is powerful!  Words have power.  With great power will come great responsibility and I know he will listen because he thinks his is Spiderman.  Outside of school, he believes that he can conquer anything.  If I do anything successful as a parent, it will be to teach him that he can conquer anything, even school, because school isn’t where learning happens.  School isn’t where the real writing happens.  School is the day job he will need to keep in order to fund his writing life.  School will pay the bills and writing will amplify his soul, energize his spirit.  

He is a writer.

When he is ready, I will induct him into my secret society for boy writers.  

Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.


He should not fear his lack of confidence.  I will help him lift up his russet brow, wipe away his tears, and tell him that he is a writer.  Tell him that his words dance upon the level shore of the blank page.  

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love’s bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.


He is a writer.  He will not fall between the cracks.  He will rule the shadows of writer’s block and one day, I will pick up a book of his short stories, or see a preview for a movie adapted from his bestselling novel, and I will know that he knows he is a writer too.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I couldn't find a poem, so I wrote one

Mary Oliver wrote poems while walking outdoors:
among the Moccasin flowers, moths, landscapes,
turtles and sunrises and dogfish and white fields;
wandering throughout houses of light,
unflinching in the rain.

I spend most of my days indoors:
a permanent resident of the land of the cubicles.
It is uninspiring.  Climate-controlled.
Artificial light, sound, breath, time.
I must create my own inspiration
build a house of light
design an engineering notebook, write a magazine article,
create a learning experience that will change public
education forever.

Or, I could check my email, take a phone call,
and stare outdoors into the bright parking lot:
the asphalt blinding me from direct viewing.
It's not all bad, just unpoetic.

Does poetry lie in the mundane?
Do verses hide among the myriad banalities?
Can I spot the imagery camouflaged within
the officescape?

Worth a try.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Writer's Life

My summertime indulgences of effortlessly reading poetry and easily finding time to write poetry every day, have sadly passed.  It is now just over a month until the Autumn Equinox, however, in terms of academic school years, we are well on our way to the start of a new Fall.  I enjoyed my reading and writing summer.  I slept in.  Drank tea in the morning and whiskey and wine in the evenings.  I read some amazing collections of poetry.  I took some creative risks and submitted some of my poems to various literary journals across the country.  It was wonderful.  Now that school has started, I am in the process of figuring out how to maintain some semblance of that summer writing life throughout the chaos and time commitments that come with work.  


Over the summer, I read Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.  It was a much needed wake-up call and pep-talk mixture that told me to take the act of writing seriously.  He's right.  Of course, he is right: he’s Stephen King!  My history with writing was that I wrote as a distraction, not as a serious craft that I am honing.  When that happens, I hold back, attempt to pen poetic phrases instead of just saying "Fuck it!  I'm lost and pissed off."  Some of my best writing (at least the prose I enjoyed writing, where I felt I actually said something) came from those times when I sat down with a strong purpose and something to say.  At the beginning of the summer, I floated around, reading book after book after blog post after Twitter feed after poem after poem after poem, looking for something to grab my attention and say, "Adrian, this is important!  Write about this.  Tell us now!" Once I committed to writing every day, it worked.  I just sat down and wrote!  I discovered that my creativity wasn’t dead or hibernating or too ill to get out of bed.  It was just waiting for me to get busy and do some actual writing.  I just needed my pen and the guts to write down what I actually think.  

And then came Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon. Distractions are a regular part of living a writer's life. Hell, distractions are a part of any life! When I discovered Ada Limon, I discovered a gravel, Kentucky road, a few tire tracks imprinted from the summer before.

"Before the road
between us there was the road
beneath us." --Before from Bright Dead Things

I found this road and never looked back. I wanted to be a terrific writer, too, and the signposts she left for me gave me hope that greatness was a possibility!

The charged political atmosphere kept me inside most days this summer. Sure, I ventured out to the pool to watch my children swim carelessly, but I was worried about how to marry my words to my emotions. Clint Smith sat me down and shared his intensity and captivating poetic narrative. Together, we traveled from New Orleans to Cambridge, revisiting Duke Ellington and James Baldwin.

"Because isn't
this the problem? That we must write the most exaggerated versions
of ourselves to show them something they have already chosen not to
see? How can they think us more human if we don't' write ourselves
as such?" --Counting Descent

Clint poured me a whiskey and sat me down on the playground to chat about race, power, privilege, and the occasional cicada and the Charles River.

On my way home, I bumped into Megan Stielstra. I stopped because she reminded me of the essay. The great, crazy-difficult-to-write, inspringing essay. I hadn't read an essay in years, and she cornered me to discuss Kafka and diapers, and being a good parent. I was so happy to hear that we all struggle with the same demons and insecurities. So I read and read and read and read. I'll be honest, it is going to take me a few more passes at Kafka before I can feel comfort in his stories. Once again, Megan reminded me that writing is as important and your life because writing is your life. It is my life. I may doubt myself as a writer, but I never doubted Megan's coolness: she can quote the Pixies. I can't wait for The Wrong Way to Save Your Life.


So, am I a writer?  That is where I find myself today.  The self-identification of being a writer and living a writer’s life is a big step.  I have always wanted to be a writer.  I love writing.  I love teaching students how to write better.  I love sharing my love of writing with students.  So, am I a writer?  I journaled almost every day this summer.  I wrote a handful of poems.  Last year, I wrote a handful of educational blog posts and articles.  I decided to send out some of my poetry to literary journals and magazines.  So, am I a writer?  Is this the writer’s life?  


I am a writer.  Thanks to Stephen, Ada, Megan, Clint, and a dozen other writers long since passed, I started identifying myself as a writer, adding that to my list of identities: father, husband, educator, coach, friend.  Now, writer.  So, why is it so difficult to continue writing now that the year has started?  The truth is that each of these roles is dynamic and varies with the amount of time and energy needed.  Sometimes, my role as a father takes precedence (actually, it always does).   During the day, my role as a coach and educator can take over.  So, here I sit, trying to figure out ways to balance my varying roles.  I want to continue writing.  I want to continue reading.  Not just emails and Twitter feeds.  I want to continue developing this fledgling identity.  I am a writer and I will do the work needed to be a writer.  My writing life may not be the same as others, but it will be my writing life and I will write.


I am a writer.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Eschatology

Earth is strong and can take it
fading to the color of smoke: blue
boiling smoke outside.

Dead leaves shine of rust and butter.
I feel it in me: the end blanketing the room
as humankind tweets unkind
#MakeAmericaGreatAgain
#BlueLivesMatter
#HillaryforPrison2016

human beings considered collectively.

I write because I have to
for me, for you, for us
amidst the smoke outside
as vulgarians clumsily tramp down the
frosted grass sleeked with freezing drizzle.

America is strong and can take it
blooming again next month(?)
stronger because of the system 
we are forced to live learn love lie laugh laze lessen liberate
to die in.

Wars of words swirl 
a belief concerning death
for me, for you, for us.

To become aware for the first time,
bringing myself to light:
refracted rays of sunlight;

Grabbing at its tail,
slipping through my fingertips,
I glisten in the warm glow.

We are what we know:
               scimus 
                             sumus 

to know more
to be good, and
to do good
is all we have to do.

I create this space, this silence
for me, for you, for us.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Books

I place books around my house
the way others place home
accents.  A throw-rug under this table.

A math book on my nightstand.

Alexander Hamilton near my office window
overlooking suburban Americana.

Mary Oliver in the kitchen
watching the bird feeders swing gently:
an abandoned swing-set.

Dylan Thomas in my liquor cabinet.

Education books in my backpack.

A Don Quixote audiobook in my car
(George Guidall commuting with me)
driving Rocinante to work each day.

I wander around my house picking up
and setting down books during these
long summer days.

My literary accessories heighten the semantic style of each space:
Instead of a white globe on a gold stand, I read Gulliver's Travels.
Instead of driftwood and blown glass bowls, I read James Joyce.
I have no need for a Mehndi hand, painted wood; I'd rather read
Rumi and Tagore and Kamala Das.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Poetry

poetry:
listening
until my head aches.
Close my eyes.

poetry:
listening
until it soothes my aches,
my sorrows,
my being.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Ashes

The house where she lived (or continues?)
grew cold after she passed.
I can only imagine the intense heat,
blinding, sweaty stinging in my eyes, of the crematory.
Now, I sit by the gas fireplace and
get a chill down my fragile spine
as the skin on my back heats slowly (I feel no pain).
I sit and bake and think of my mom.

The primer is still on the walls of the entryway;
her Martha Stewart attempt at interior design.
I stare blankly at the line where she stopped,
the blinding white juxtaposes the melon green,
staring back at me as if to say "This is when that
tumor debilitated my arm."

I can feel the cancer when I enter the door.
I can see it on the walls, and feel it in the air.
It stinks of emptiness, loneliness, death,
making it easier to weep.
The cold, white kitchen-tile stabs sharply
at the balls of my bare feet.
I feel dead all around me in this morgue
(and half expect to see frozen bodies:
eyes shut, skin cold and damp--like raw chicken)
in the drawers
where my father now keeps his knives.

The bedroom is the worst by far.
Walking in, I imagine the mortuary in MT
where I had to view my grandfather.
The carpet was a deep burgundy and
matched the backing of each pew.
Row after row, the pews (with all their hymnals and bibles)
gently led me toward the front.
I marched manditorily and tried to avert my eyes,
but his cold, dirty, blue skin froze me still.
His hands were swollen
from the embolism.
My father grabbed his hand quickly as if to
catch him from falling deeper into death.
He thurst this hand in my face, but I only
winced and stared at his suit: neatly pressed
and freshly smelling of mothballs and chloroform.

Nearing the waterbed where my parents slept,
and made love that one night I walked in,
I want to see my mother,
cold and pale.
Her urn distracts me.
The shrine my father has made scares me.
Her ashes are so close to that bed and
I feel nausea seeping through me and
it feels like the disease.

Our house feels haunted, but its not.
She cannot be a poltergeist, and phantom,
the urn is sealed tightly
and filled with ash.

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