writer’s block
September 29, 2011

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Welcome to the writers’ block.
I’m going to go for a run around it.
Watch out for the barking dogs
behind the chain-link fences;
jump over the soggy newspapers
left out last night in the gutters.
The sweat has started streaming.
My hair is sticking to my neck.
I hope no one sees me
in my rings around the rosy posy glowing
writers’ block.
Ashes and ashes and ashes and
I am falling down.
My knees can’t take much more.
I have passed the same words
scrawled in strained spray paint
across Miss Metaphor’s
front door too many times;
this door is the solid gate to lost lines
in dimly lit back rooms
sitting on disemboweled velvet couch cushions.
I have turned left on Trochee Street,
left on Ego Ave,
left on Transcendentalism Street,
left on Shakespeare Drive,
left to all my own devices,
pick-pocketed by teenagers
hanging out on the corners.
They offer me false starts
and sickly sweet intoxications
and disappear to some other
more successful burgh
where they hide my lost longings
from their parents –
the published authors
with their leather arm chairs,
with their canned cat food,
with their fresh bakery bread
and full faces.
I’m going to steal from their pantries
in the night when
I can sneak away from the warden
of the writers’ block,
eat their bread with the butter I take
from the pop stars,
wash it down with
politicians’ wine.
I’m going to get so fat off
other people’s renown.
Let it happen.
Ashes and ashes and ashes.
My knees can’t take much more.

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tweets remixed
September 1, 2011

Poetry by Emily Dickinson posted my poem on their site!  You can check out the original post, or just read the poem below.  This should also serve as proof that the moderators of PBED will in fact post almost anything you submit.

Love Affairs

My itouch has no batteries,
but I know that Shakespeare has unfollowed me.
He did not like this resurrection,
my contemporary gospel.
“Breathe me,” I told him,
I told him, “Tip toe, I’m fragile,
and let’s drink some tea.”
My skin is beautifully alabaster white.
I am forced to live in Scotland
to preserve this fragility.
Shakespeare wanted me elsewhere.
I tried to tell him that my beauty
would be sopped up by cubicle walls.
He screamed in mysteries,
“But I remember captain future,
and you remember nothing
past yesterday, but you,
remember this our parting,
remember me!”
I loved him.
My itouch has no batteries.

free verse
April 16, 2011

Telling

Tell me I’m a windmill.
Tell me that you know my design
and how nature was meant to move me.
Tell me you know the words to say
so that I will turn exactly the way I’m supposed to.
Tell me that you can move me in the wind of your breath,
then prove it.
Speak the words that have been welling up inside your lungs
like storm clouds.
I am not afraid of your bad weather,
and that’s saying something,
because they could name hurricanes after you.
But instead I am calling every flower by your name
and kissing every petal that opened after your rains.
I am licking every rain drop off my skin
and I can taste you in all of them.

Tell me I’m a library.
Tell me that my soul is lined with Shakespeare.
Tell me that you want to check out all of my volumes
and read them in the dark under a sheet with a flashlight.
Tell me that when I breathe in my sleep
you hear pages rustling.
Tell me that you have walked between my bookshelves
and have found the back corner where I hide all the stories
that no one is allowed to read,
then read them.
Read me and speak my own words to me so that
I know that you know who I am.

Tell me who I am,
because some days I forget that I have memorized my own lines,
and I feel like a foreign country to myself,
and my fingerprints look like street maps
to cities that I have never visited.
But you have left footprints on all of my sidewalks,
so walk down my main street with me
and hold my hand and remind me of my self.
And when I remember the feeling of my own skin,
I’ll take you down my alleyways and past my city limits
and show you the creek in my backyard,
and we’ll catch minnows in plastic buckets with yellow handles
and whistle at barn swallows.

I’ll tell you I’m a cello.
I’ll tell you that you are making
every part of my being resonate
in swimming startime springlight music,
and I’ll tell you that if you bring a bow
and if your hands know what to do,
you can tune me by ear
and play me by heart.

an ars poetica
April 5, 2011

As a student of philosophy in the newly forming post-postmodernist epoch, it is hard not to question the purpose and value of writing poetry.  What “work” is my poetry attempting to do?  What work should it be doing?  Does it need to do any work at all?  Does its meaning reach beyond the bounds of my necessarily subjective authorial point of view?  Does it need to reach beyond those bounds to have meaning for me and a different, though no less significant, meaning for others?  These are the types of questions I run into.

I will admit my greatest fear as a poet to you: I am afraid that my poetry has no purpose outside of myself.  In asking these philosophical questions about the purpose and meaning of poetry, I am struggling with the possibility that while the act of writing poetry may have great personal significance for me, the poems themselves, when sent out into the world, do nothing.  I am afraid that the beauty, complexity, and the deep emotional resonance in my poems exists only for me, the poet.  And it may be that as I age and change, the poems of my adolescence will lose their meaning, even for me, and simply become empty words put together by a naive teenager who thought they sounded good.

I am afraid, then, of an inability to reveal and explore certain universal, timeless, and essentially human themes in and through poetry.  Postmodernists tell me that such themes do not exist.  They tell me that every experience is inevitably subjective, relative, hemmed in by the bounds of its time and place.  “God is dead;” grand overarching themes that give our lives a sense of direction and purpose have been shot down; the gun is in the hands of Foucault and his contemporaries.

Despite the force of the postmodernist argument, I cannot deny my feeling that there is something we all have in common as humans, something that cannot be written off as a product of imperialist western thought.  Shakespeare wrote of love, and challenged us: “If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”  And has anyone proven the error yet?  Has anyone risen to proclaim, “No, Shakespeare, your conception of love and your portrayal of it in poetry does not speak to my own human experience.  You are in error.  I have never loved.  So be it!”  I repeat his challenge; let the man who has never loved speak now.

Poetry is a tuning fork.  The poet carefully constructs it so that, when the tines are struck, it rings out and gives sound to a true, clear note.  Within every human, there is an infinity of strings, stretched to their fullest extent, and we pluck them from time to time and let a music flow out of our being into the world, and when a poem is brought close to us and sounds its note, a part of us resonates and sings out, in tune with the poem.  Perhaps we do not all possess the same strings.  Perhaps we are all tuned differently.  But can I deny that the poems that I hold closest to myself are those that make me think, “I have known this feeling in myself, as this poet once did, and knowing our commonality, our shared humanity, makes this feeling all the more beautiful.  It makes my being sing”?  Can I deny this?  Never.

Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, said in his novel, Timequake, that “a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit.”  The best poetry does this.  It makes us aware of things that exist both outside of us and because of us, of things that make us human and that we as humans make.  These are the things that give our lives meaning; they let us know that there is more to our limited experiences than purely subjective knowledge.  We are a part of something greater than ourselves; poetry shows us this.  It sounds a chord within us that we cannot mute.