the elk breaks up with me

April 15, 2014 - Leave a Response

Stop what you’re doing. Stop it right now. Okay. Now go read Patricia Lockwood’s hilarious essay, “Is It Work?” In addition to being an extremely talented poet, Lockwood is insanely hilarious (and also really good at twitter). But to the point: in this particular satirical essay, she argues that poetry is indeed work, even if the only sweating involved is “the weird thing that sometimes happens under your right arm because you haven’t lifted it up for 8 hours.” And she also pokes fun at several canonical poets, such as Elizabeth Bishop, who “only ever wrote one poem, a villanelle about an elk breaking up with her (“The Elk Breaks Up with Me”).” On that note, I realized that the internet needed this poem. Desperately. So I wrote it. 

(With endless apologies to Bishop, whose original poem, “One Art“, you should probably read)

The Elk Breaks Up with Me

Breaking up isn’t hard to master;
so many loves seem filled with the intent
to break that their break is no disaster.

Break a heart every day. Accept the fluster
of broken promises, the text badly sent.
Breaking up isn’t hard to master.

Then practice breaking farther, breaking faster:
engagements, marriages, who it was you meant
to call. None of these will bring disaster.

I broke my purity ring. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of friends with benefits went.
Breaking up isn’t hard to master.

I broke two romances, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some oaths I swore, two pacts, without lament.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even breaking up with you (the fuzzy nose, a feature
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
breaking up’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

skeptic

March 24, 2014 - Leave a Response

I am worried about the children 

who too soon stop believing the lies they are told,

which is to say I am fearful

for my self, alive, limbs still attached,

miraculous unity, symbiosis 

of muscle and mind.

I am stitched together,

threadbare at elbows, knees,

lips and tongue;

pull me and I’ll tear

in all the necessary places.

Cut me loose, watch my self spill

across the altar of virtue and decay.

What a way to live, but tell me,

do you know another means 

of making it from one day to the next?

You, who would live,

memorize the names of the dead

and speak them again into being.

For a moment, feel the privilege

of your heat and terror

while I remind my self 

to breathe, to sleep, to breathe again.

the serious taxonomist

March 23, 2014 - Leave a Response

(A poem presented without comment on my long blogging silence because really I have no excuse. Not even writer’s block. I know, I’m terrible. I’m sorry. Please don’t hate this thing I wrote. It has been a long winter.)

When you imagine, as you do,
Vladimir Nabokov at his microscope,
poring over the genitalia of butterflies,
you wonder what makes writing good.
You suspect it involves will,
observation, and time,
not mere skill, but dedication
to crossing out phrases that don’t belong,
replacing them with ones that do.
Perhaps it is also a question
of plot, character, truthiness,
but what has that to do
with the bleary-eyed lepidopterist,
purblind from the strain of study?
He knows only how to preserve
the color of the spoken word
and the symmetry of two blue wings.

 

new year

December 28, 2013 - One Response

While I love having chips and salsa for dinner and watching as much Battlestar Galactica as humanly possible in a single 24-hour period, I can only handle a few days of winter break before I start to go mad. In the spirit of easing myself back into meaningful activity, I’ve closed my netflix tab and ventured back to the literary side of the internet. Surprisingly, it is still alive and well, despite my growing concern that the entire US population is out shopping (I went to the mall yesterday: 0/10, would not recommend).

Eunoia Review featured two of my poems this week, “Home Room” and “Baked.” The Eunoia editors are wonderful; they somehow manage to be organized enough to feature a new writer every single day, and I’m very pleased to have contributed to their blog.

Also wonderful is Thrush Poetry, whose editors very graciously rejected one of my recent submissions. I saw this rejection coming from a mile off, given that I originally discovered the journal on this list: “Top 10 Lit Mags to Send Your Very Best Poetry (and get happily rejected)“.  Regardless of Thrush’s polite brush-off, I love their November issue, particularly Geffrey Davis’ “Could You Forgive My Clumsiness.” He writes, “I’ve not yet learned // how to make clean, unequivocal room / in my poems, to offer an evenhanded display // of my inconstant heart.” It’s one of those poems that I read and wondered why I didn’t write it first.

On that note, here is one of my poetic cast-offs, whose only future lies in my dogged dedication to this blog. Think of it as store-brand poetry: cheaper and just as filling.

Confessional

Sometimes I go to sleep with everyone I’ve ever kissed
called to the forefront of my thoughts,
and I am always too alive
in those moments to give myself up
to the unconscious necessity within me,
but I try.

I don’t have enough words for the truth.
Even now I am lying,
because the whole truth would be us two
in a perfectly lit room,
stone sober, bare limbed,
me telling you that I don’t cry anymore.
(Does honesty still count
if no one believes me?)

I read somewhere that the average person
has been intimate with 4 people during their lifetime,
and I think that the average person is bad at truth
or bad at arithmetic or bad at intimacy.
Probably all three.
I don’t know what I’m bad at.
I’m just trying to find the way
to be most myself.

belleville park pages

November 26, 2013 - 2 Responses

Is everyone excited for Thanksgiving? Have you bought all your groceries? Are you starting to thaw out all the frozen pie crust you’ll need in the next 48 hours? In my house, there is going to be pie for days, and my body is ready. I’m also making a stuffed seitan roast for the first time (I’m one of those vegan weirdos), which should be exciting/disastrous. We’ll see. Even if all else fails, there will be mashed potatoes and wine.

But all that is beside the topic at hand, which is that I have some poetry in the current issue of Belleville Park Pages. It is a small literary journal published out of Paris every two weeks, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Paris, London, Boston, or Brooklyn (in addition to a few other cities listed on their website), you can get a copy for just £2 at a bookshop near you. So go do that!

In the meantime, here’s a poem in honor of the first snow of the season.

Traceful

A creature of nostalgia and carbon, I was
perfectly singed toast, candles cinnamon-scented,
and wooden picture frames.
Everything crisp-edged, smoking.

For now I am all whorls:
the spin of laundry in the machine,
your cow lick, water draining from the sink,
the sweep of blue dye into white paint,
the tail of a comet.

In the end,
thinking myself almost nothing,
I’ll imagine my breath to be
the impression left by sunlight
between the hours of 6 and 7am
after a snowfall in the night.

 

 

a halloween poem

October 29, 2013 - Leave a Response

The Rodent
with many apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a school night dreary, while I graded, weak and weary,
Reading many a quaint and scribbled essay slipped beneath my office door,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
“‘Tis some sophomore,” I muttered, “tapping at my office door –
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak November;
And each separate blogging ‘Tuber cast their tumblr on my floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From their gifs surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost JSTOR –
For the dear, omniscient search box whom the scholars named JSTOR –
Nameless here for evermore.

And the papery, sad, uncertain rustling of each freshman essay
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some student there entreating entrance at my office door –
Some late tutee entreating entrance at my office door; –
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Yes, hello? Come in!” I called, “Your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my office door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you” – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no adjunct ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “JSTOR?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “JSTOR!” –
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the office turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something in the ceiling venting;
Let me see, then, what is rending, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the heating, nothing more!”

Open here I flung the grating, when, with many a squeak came skating
Down the shaft a snow white squirrel of my college days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of Dean or Trustee, crouched above my office door –
Crouched upon a bust of Schiller just above my office door –
Crouched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ivory squirrel beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore,
“Though thy tail be scarred and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient maven wandering from the campus tour –
Tell me what thy college name is on your ghostly campus tour!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

Much I marveled this ungainly rat to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no learned and tutored being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing squirrel above their office door –
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above their office door,
With such a name as “Nevermore.”

But the squirrel, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered – not a hairy ear he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other things I’ve lost before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my notes I’ve lost before.”
Then the squirrel said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some untenured Master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his books one thesis bore –
Till the coursework of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never – nevermore’.”

But the squirrel still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned chair in front of rat, and bust and door;
Then, upon the pleather sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous rat of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous squirrel of yore
Meant in squeaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the squirrel whose rodent eyes now burned into my scholar’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s pleather lining that the gif-light gloated o’er,
But whose brownish-pleather lining with the gif-light gloating o’er,
It shall light, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the light grew lighter, lumined from an unseen citer,
Some Chicago-styled writer whose words flickered my whole screen o’er.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy Provost lent thee – by these scholars he hath sent thee
Respite – respite and Zoloft, from thy memories of JSTOR;
Quaff, oh quaff your kind Nyquil and forget this lost JSTOR!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

“Pundit!” said I, “thing of evil! – pundit still, if squirrel or devil! –
Whether I.T. sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
In this school by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there use in Questia? – tell me – tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

“Pundit!” said I, “thing of evil! – pundit still, if squirrel or devil!
By that Wifi that bends above us – by that Web we both adore –
Tell this prof from huffpo dying if, from all your campus scrying,
she shall clasp a reviewed journal from the archives of JSTOR –
clasp a peer-reviewed citation from the depths of dear JSTOR.”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, rat or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting –
“Get thee back into the tempest and that ghostly campus tour!
Leave no white hair as a token of that lie thy snout hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy nose from out my heart, and take thy paws from off my door!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

And the squirrel, never quitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
on the pallid bust of Schiller just above my office door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a spambot that is dreaming,
and the gif-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!

revelry

October 6, 2013 - Leave a Response

The fog comes in the night

when I am not ready,

with its dull teeth and

arthritic hands.

It seats itself at the table,

drinks from the final bottle

of last year’s wine.

 

All the heavenly bodies

are blacked out

on borrowed liquor.

The moon forgets to rise.

The stars tell me

not to wait up for the sun,

And I – I am high

on the inebriated mist:

where can I go

to empty my lungs?

 

The table is all wine-stained,

the bottle dried up.

The fog is expecting things of me

which I will not give.

In the morning, though,

I won’t remember

the questions it posed

or the answers

I – shivering – surrendered.

cloud city press

September 14, 2013 - Leave a Response

Hello, dear readers. Are you excited for sweater weather? It’s still technically summer, but I’m sitting here in a thinsulate-lined wool hat and sweat pants, and I’m really stoked to have an excuse to wear boots all the time. I also impulsively bought a squash at the co-op this week and am beginning to crave parsnips. Autumn!

But small talk of meteorology aside, you should all head over to the Cloud City Press site and read my poem, “Stuffed.” This is my first solicited publication, and I’m feeling pretty smug about it. You should also definitely read through Cloud City’s City Kids with Feelings posts, because they are hilarious little snippets of humanity.

Want some more quality reading material? Check out Whale Archivist. It is written by one of my lovely and brilliant friends from Paris; he has a healthy obsession with Moby Dick, sub-sub librarian endeavors, and short fiction.  

antimatter

September 10, 2013 - Leave a Response

In her address book,

she writes a list

of what you are not:

not a dinosaur or a fetus,

not Napoleon’s horse,

not the string of a cello,

not the Word of God

or the Hudson River,

not a chicken wing,

not a dandelion root.

She coughs into her sleeve,

avoids making eye contact,

notes the type of shoe

you choose not to wear.

These introductions take awhile.

She is still learning the names

of everyone she has ever met.

epilogue

August 17, 2013 - Leave a Response

I recently experienced hard drive failure. Not as serious as nuclear war or a heart attack, just a little disaster. This is the way my world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper and a perpetually rebooting laptop. On the bright side, my computer is now a beautiful, pristine tabula rasa; everything is in its place. It’s easy to organize nothing.

But anyway, despite this minor technological catastrophe, I am pleased to announce that the wonderful poetry and photography blog, Bare Hands, has released its 17th issue, of which my poem “Epilogue” is a part! You should read it. Remember that other time Bare Hands published my stuff? That was pretty great, too.

Expect more poetry once I have salvaged what I can from a cacophony of email attachments and google docs. 

(I have an external hard drive now.)

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