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.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Lucy and her Diamonds

Lying face down in the grass,
my face is moist.
Dew collects on my hair;
I am sweating.
I breathe now, not having
done so for some moments.
The grass smells of summer.
The blades scratch my face.
I open my eyes:
cannot see.
I am disoriented:
breathing.
How long has it been?
I roll over:
cannot move.

My mind is processing movements.
My body is dumb.
The fresh air fills my stagnant lungs.
The sun warms my back.
At least I can feel it now.
I melt in the sun and slowly move.
Pain seizes my joints,
but I face upright.
I see my reflection in the sky
next to Lucy and her diamonds.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Twleve

1.
Her naked back,
silhouetted in the darkness,
is relaxed.

2.
An odd shape,
pools of white
reflect my image, my stare.

3.
Surrounded by the ashen forest,
a clear meadow
shines in the moonlight.

4.
The bright light
blinds me momentarily,
for I need to stare,
but remain in the shadow.

5.
Shielding the delicate,
it is powerful
and makes her strong.

6.
Sloping toward the shades of gray,
I cannot tell which side is up,
or where to begin searching.

7.
I am intimidated by the sheer
face of the cold slope.
I begin my climb,
but cannot finish.

8.
Sliding down her spine,
I cannot control
my movements.

9.
Heat radiates
and she begins
to glow.

10.
The ridges
of her vertebrae
are stacked like building blocks.
I want to play.

11.
Still and cold
her stone
collects snow in patterns.

12.
Water running
over her shoulders
collects at the nape.


Monday, July 31, 2017

In the Table

If I look
closely,
with my head
pressed to the wooden table,
and if the light
from a warm, April afternoon,
hits us
(me and the wood)
together...

If I look
closely,
I can see myself,
trapped,
in the table,
in the wooden
lines.

My nose
(its faint outline-long and German)

I am there,
if only for an
afternoon moment.

Friday, July 28, 2017

quantum scimus sumus

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.

I am what I know:

Nonconforming helps be sleep at night.
I write because I have to.
Reading is good for me.
I am solid and sound and insecure and brave.
I am one person.
I am emotional.
I forget.
I reconstruct my memories again and again.
I am constantly learning
quantum
               scimus 
                             sumus 

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

In vino veritas

When commotion starts: kids at play,
I steal away;
A glass of wine in my hand
and disappear into my land
to read poetry.
And calm my mind.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Light

The quality of light from my window is black.
An absence of light.
Cold.  Dark.  Frigid
wind blowing outside.
A single car drives past onto some black road
into the black night
leaving my window behind.

He will never escape the darkness.
He will just drive onward trying to
lose it, but he cannot.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lying with Snails

In a soil thick with snails and rich as grease
I lie alone, untouched, unspoken, waiting for 
the spade.  The sound of the cutting of the earth:
grass ripping, worms splitting open, oozing 
into my surrounded bed.  This dirt, these snails
are my home now.  I am dead to the blue sky,
the white air.  My air is brown; my air
is grease; my companions are snails.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A writer with nothing particular to say

Flirting isn't the right word.  I am teetering with the idea of being a writer.  It is unsteady and lonely.  I like to write.  I love to read.  I know that I am capable of penning my thoughts.  I can definitely structure my days (blocking out specific time) to include writing.  Hell, I got my Master's and PhD while working and having kids.  I'm no stranger to late nights.  The difference?  With those, I had something specific to say.  I had a required format to communicate my ideas.  I wrote essays and papers and theses and a dissertation: hours and hundreds of pages.  It was difficult and sometimes I just wanted to go to bed, but the words always came.  They always came.

Now, I journal about my days, copy favorite poems, and every now and then I notice something that I try to fit into a poem.  The words come, but what do they say?  I'm not a pastoral poet.  I am not trying to communicate my love of summer evenings.  I'm no Allen Ginsberg.  I am not trying to describe getting drunk or the misguided politics of 2017.  I'm a dad.  I'm an educator on summer vacation.  I'm a writer with nothing particular to say.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Sangfroid

I want to lie on my back in 
the April night and see the stars
without an orange-pink street lamp
blinding my purview.  So, tonight I will wait until
4:00 AM to speak to the sibylline sky, telling
her my regrets as a man, asking for
forgiveness:


self-possession;
impermeability and water-tight protection for my sins.
The  cool, black breeze of the morning
washes over my body, lying there on the
capstones, I vacillate silently,
a fire in my head, an ember of hope
in my heart:

I want to kiss the
silver apples of the moon and awaken
to the golden apples of a new sun. 
 
 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

I Hear America Crying

I hear America crying, the multitude sobs and sighs I hear,
Those of mothers, each one crying hers as they should be,
The child crying hers as she is called inside before dusk,
The father crying his as he makes ready for work, hoping he returns,
The student crying foul at the misogynist comment made by
his professor during a lecture,
The immigrant crying as he sits with his family fearing the
knock at the door,
The lawyer's song, the 25th Amendment rolling around his
head and off his lips,
The angry sobs of the mother, or of the sister, or of the
grandmother, or of the aunt -- all singing their laments together
for those lost lives: stolen from them instead of protected;
Each crying what belongs to them (undeserved and forced) and
to none else,
The day what belongs to this 4th of July -- at night the party of young
fellows, somber and scared,
Crying with open mouths their strong fight-song:

knowing where wheels and people are,
knowing where cops and traps are,
knowing where deaths are, where the kind kills are.

Converting all sounds of woe
into fine fury.


Monday, July 03, 2017

Click here to unsubscribe

Every summer I begin the process
of unsubscribing from mailing lists
I either don't read, or I forgot I joined.

And so begins my process:
click here to unsubscribe
looking for the fine print;

becoming lonely.


See, an inbox of 25 new emails
(3 of which are important)
makes me feel connected and important.
I delete them
because I can.

Slowly, by the end of the summer,
I open my email to discover
I have 0 unread messages;
No responsibilities:

just my pen and paper
and thoughts.
See, I want to remember

what it was like before
the clicks and retweets

and empty importance.

click here to unsubscribe

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Summertime

He collapses in the grass:
the shade of a baby tree
not tall enough to provide anything.

Every so often, he turns and
looks at me: ten turns to two;
he seems so tall for a toddler.

The neighborhood boys stand sentry
discussing summertime,
passing around a water bottle

flipping it to stand on
it's own.
How proud they look

standing and loitering on their own.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Get busy and do some actual writing!

Stephen King just told me to take the act of writing seriously, and he's right.  Perhaps that is my problem: I write as a distraction, but I don't get serious; I hold back, attempting 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.  Lately, I have been floating around a bit, 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!"

Stephen King is right: I know what to say (if not exactly)l I just need to sit down and write!  My creativity isn't dead or hibernating or too ill to get out of bed.  It is just waiting for me to get busy and do some actual writing.

"If you can take it seriously, we can do business.


I know that I can take writing seriously.  I don't need a publisher, an agent, or a book deal.  I just need my pen and the balls to write down what I actually think.  I still have stuff to say.


Song of Myself #20

--Walt Whitman


Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude; 
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? 

What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you? 

All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own, 
Else it were time lost listening to me. 

I do not snivel that snivel the world over, 
That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth. 

Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, conformity goes to the fourth-remov’d, 
I wear my hat as I please indoors or out. 

Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be ceremonious? 

Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel’d with doctors and calculated close, 
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones. 

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less, 
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them. 

I know I am solid and sound, 
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow, 
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means. 

I know I am deathless, 
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass, 
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night. 

I know I am august, 
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood, 
I see that the elementary laws never apologize, 
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.) 

I exist as I am, that is enough, 
If no other in the world be aware I sit content, 
And if each and all be aware I sit content. 

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself, 
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years, 
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait. 

My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite, 
I laugh at what you call dissolution, 
And I know the amplitude of time. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Whiskey

I need some comfort tonight.  I pour whiskey
over ice, just submerging the frozen blocks.
I take a sip and the novelty burns
slowly down by throat.  I turn the page.
I read, reread my favorite poetry:
Digging, Death of a Naturalist, Follower;
I take a drink.
It burns less as I read Personal Helicon and Antaeus.
A 1966 comfort
against the heavy Irish rain and smell of potato mold.

I turn to Whitman with my next sip:
larger this time with shards of ice sliding down my throat.

"of all the earth her heart most full of sorrow because most full of love."
Last night I cried with no one to kiss away my tears.

I take another sip and flip through
Leaves of Grass until I come to an old,
folded paper; names of former students:
Tatum with Dylan
Alyssa with Eli
Why did I put Joey with Amy?
Why is this memory lost, stuck between
Song of Myself versus 6 and 7?

"What is the grass?"
I take a final sip, smell warm dead grass
handfuls pressed underneath my nose.  I inhale
deeply and close my eyes.  This is my song;
my comfort.  This is myself I sing, interrupting
myself to ponder in silence.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Death

The way you describe Death
in that last poem
as a mysterious traveler
with no sense of direction,
counters everything I've ever thought
about the subject.

Perhaps the death of my Grandfather,
sudden and shocking,
or all of my childhood pets
playing now, on a giant open farm
near the moors of the Yorkshire countryside
as I was told:
they all go once Death meets them.

Most likely, though,
my mother's death
solidified the concept for me.
Her beautiful, bountiful, golden curls,
bouncing from her shoulders
like one of Charlie's Angels
as she walked hand in hand with Death
one afternoon down Hermosa Beach.

You see, to me, Death is lonely
and needs such company.
Death is an animal lover
and enjoys watching fields of dogs,
guinea pigs, birds, cats, mice, and still others
frolicking together.

Death needs grandfathers to teach
how to fish, hunt, and put together
a bicycle chain.

Death needs grandmothers to care,
filling their little farmhouse
with smells of German food,
baked breads, sweet rolls:
warm smells.

But, most importantly, Death needs
a beautiful companion,
such as my Mom,
to warm the bed on those
deathly cold, November nights.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Aubade

I will think of you
alone in your study
4:00 AM blinking on the plastic face of the clock,

or perhaps you have an old grandfather clock:
long chains attached to circular disks,
slowly ticking the moments.

I will think of you
awaiting the first bird to deliver his call,
those 3 notes.

I will think of you
while I am putting on my socks,
lacing up my running shoes,
fighting my inner daemons of laziness,
plugging in my iPod,
putting in my earbuds,

awaiting aubade.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Poems of Billy Collins

The Poems of Billy Collins--
I shouldn't be surprised
that I'm writing again.
It only takes about

half-a-dozen of your poems
to cause that itch,
forcing me to write again.

Do you use special ink?
Magical, mind-altering ink pens?
or are your books laced
with a drug that eliminates

even the most stubborn
writer's block?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Lost Ideas

I’ve had
more attempts of
poems
than poems.

I have sat,
pen in hand;
(actually,
open laptop,
white screen,
blinking cursor,
fingertips pressed lightly
on the keys,
almost feeling each letter)
to be more accurate.)

I almost hate
when an idea hits me,
square on the back
of my head,
like a hot slap,
after a sarcastic remark
to my father.
If I do not have
pen and paper,
computer and outlet,
the idea is lost.

So, I run
frantically
looking for
napkins,
tablecloths,
scraps of paper,
a pencil, pen, marker.
I would use a knife
and write in my own
blood,
if the idea was
that good.

Most of the time,
I wait,
looking over my shoulder,
for a periodic
slap,
that is a poem.




Monday, May 01, 2017

Jagged

The grey mist
swirls
around jagged and cracked rocks.
I’m staring out onto
an endless ocean:
“Am I alone?”

The glowing, grey dimness,
full of shadows,
approaches from the sea
like a messenger,
soaked with rain,
bearing ill news.

I hear the sound of waves
crashing on the rocks
below
my bare feet.
Cold, damp penetrates my skin
vibrating my bones.


The silence in the sky.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

So much depends

so much depends
on
a little boy
held in my arms,
so many hours to go
before he sleeps,

so many hours to go
before he sleeps.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Crepuscular Poem-ideas

I shall read poetry only in the morning,
writing some of my own thoughts as they pass
my way.  Plucking ideas out of the air;
motes back-scattering words in the opalescent window frame.

Poem-ideas always seem to change when seen
from different angles in fading dust-light.
What could be better than a dog, cuppa,
and the sunrise and the still of the house, and
the periodic hum of the refrigerator?

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Suburban Spring Evening

"Love is the last light spoken."

I'm either too tired or drunk
to continue reading poetry by the dying
Spring day light; waning
as evening approaches the gloaming
sun dims.

I can still see the blossoming
plum tree across the street, exploding
whites and dusky yellows iridescent
against drab background of model homes.

Listen.  The sun is setting in suburbia
and children are finishing their Sunday evening movies.  Listen.

I turn to poets' voices reading to me.

Dylan Thomas awakes me to the vivid 
and wild  barbaric nature of poetry (of words);
stirs me to the quick.

Robert Frost brings me down to the synecdoche
of poetry; the whole of his experiences
and his woods.  I prefer reading Frost while it storms outside,

horizontal rain obstructing my view of blossoming plum trees.

W.H. Auden elevates and stirs my imagination:
the pomp and circumstance and traditionalism.
Hearing his voice reciting villanelles
speaking to the importance of simplicity and a simpler era;
staves off chaos with reverence.

I shall learn my mother-tongue.

Monday, April 17, 2017

April 4, 2017: Thunder-snow 49 years later

for Martin


Thunder startles the sky
reminding me that you were shot today.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness."

Can thunder, lightning, tempestuous rain?

I've never seen snow fall after thunder
cracked the sky; shattered into a spiderweb
of fear and hate.  Thunder-snow?
Snow acting as an acoustic suppressor,
dampening my experience, telling it is close.
You were suppressed.  You were close to achieving
justice everywhere.  Thunder-snow.

Nothing is more dangerous than silence.

I can't see through the snow-rain.
I can't see where I'm going.
I listen and keep moving forward.
The earth grows loud.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Emerging Now


It has been one week since my last post and two weeks since my last posted poem.  I am emerging now from a deep study of sound and rhythm.  I have been binge-listening (following along faithfully) to the Caedmon recordings of Dylan Thomas's poetry.  I have always been mesmerized by his voice, such a booming baritone for such a shy poet.  I felt that I needed to listen to him in his entirety when I stumbled upon these albums.  How could I not peek in on the hunchback in the park as he eats bread from a newspaper?  How could I pass on the opportunity to tour Fern's Hill and Sir John's Hill?  I have never traveled to Wales, but I felt myself transported to Loughharne with each poem; especially "Poem on his Birthday" and "Poem in October."  The best part of these recordings is that they are the poems that Thomas wanted people to hear and read.  I have always been a Thomas fan; his language and metaphor exquisite!  But I wanted a deeper dive into his use of sound, alliteration, assonance, and consonance.  I mean, who else write and speaks lines like these?

"Man be my metaphor."
"Now I am a man no more no more"
"seesaw Sunday nights"
"midlife mourn"
"tumbledown tongue"

His poetry can quicken and slow down immediately with his tongue-twisting language! Thomas' use of the personification of time as an omnipresent, binding force is mesmerizing.

Read this from "Fern Hill":

"Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes"

and

"Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means"

When I sat in my chair these last weeks, listening to his roaring roll of a voice, I began to really understand the intentionality of language in poetry. Poets use words and language to discuss and interpret their thoughts and feelings and interactions with the world around them.  Poets, especially Dylan Thomas, choose words pack a powerful punch and crafts lines that could not be written in any other way.  For example,


"When black birds died like priests in the cloaked hedge row"

What an image!  So, I am emerging once again with a renewed reverence for the language and imagery that I use in my poetry.  Dylan Thomas loves and reveres language.  He "cared for the colours the words cast on [his] eyes (Thomas, 1951).  He knew that he "must live with [words] and in them, always: a "writer of words" (Thomas, 1951).  He played with language, dragging up images from the depths of his mind in order to see how they would look and sound on the paper.  Listening to his voice reminded me of his 'imaginative purpose, which is to write the best poem he can" (Thomas, 1951).

I enjoy poetry.  I enjoy reading and writing poetry.  I feel that I can communicate through poetry.  My hope for the rest of the poems I post here, is that you, too, will enjoy them, because that is all that matters.  I will work hard at crafting my images and alluding to other moments only when absolutely necessary.  I promise not to just throw in an obscure Greek or Biblical reference!  I will concentrate more on how my poetry sounds, as well as how it rests on the page.  I may not be able to write a successful villanelle, but I will write more and more and more!

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