The Whether Here



Woefully behind on NaPoWriMo, but still making an attempt

My friend Lavina and I drove out to listen to Maureen Alsop read in Claremont last Sunday. Always a treat, because Maureen is such an ethereal reader, and the Claremont series is full of friends. They were in a pinch setting up, so I found myself offering to help and was handed a knife and several blocks of cheese. Sounds simple enough, but I got a little carried away, cutting it all down into funky little cubes...

Lavina and I have been challenging each other to write, coming up with our own prompts. We've only done it twice now: The first was a sonnet challenge, and this second one was a little more fluid, only needing to incorporate a color, a tree, and a verb implying movement. I've been dying to write, although I'm still generally swamped and haven't really felt I could spare the time.

Here's the new, unrevised, as-yet-untitled draft:

I awoke this morning to a crashing pain:
A heart as yellow as a sunflower pinned to my chest.
Each petal a spoke on a wheel, yearning.
I pulled the brake and it bled sullen birds.

Your hands hold the birds like my breath.
The oak lay in a thousand pieces at our feet.
Rays of sky pummel down like buckshot
as the leaves turn upon themselves like lace misgivings.

You cannot gift the horse. I cannot tell you not to.
Tectonics could drift, my own beneath yours.
There are no assurances. The weather hoards
a whole continent of consonants.

I have all the vowels.
Yet, still there is only this pathetic flower.

NaPoWriMo Day 15

Are we really halfway there? Wow, the month is flying by.

Today I have actually written a poem on time. Yes, I am procrastinating on other things. Let's blame that on the headache I woke up with, and not on the fact that I don't really feel like beginning certain things this afternoon. It'll all balance out in the long run.

Speaking of balance, here is my poem for the day. Robert Brewer suggested we write a "profile" poem. Yes, I am taking this in a slightly different direction than he intended.


Though I Must Say She Has Incredible Balance

She moves through the world always sideways, sidles through
one locale into another, approaching nothing
head-on. The mirrors present only her best side.

Her shoe-soles wear out along the right edge, the left,
never in the ball or heel like her mother’s.
She has always known she was special. Never

was she told to walk in a particular manner.
Instead, her parents encouraged her to find
her own way in the world. She has never known what

it feels like to have the sun squinch her eyes shut,
has never known the meaning of front door and back:
To her, they are all side doors. There are advantages

to this, though she cannot know for certain exactly
what they are. Sometimes she does find it confusing
to carry a glass of water. Always it winds up

both half-empty, and half-full.

More Catching Up: NaPoWriMo Day's 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14

Phew! I wrote two of these yesterday, half of one yesterday which I finished today, plus two more this morning, so now I'm all caught up -- just in time to fall behind again. Oh well! We'll see how it goes on the weekend. For now, here are my poems for the last few days. Maybe I'll repost all of these on Facebook. And as for the issue of whether or not journals would consider these "previously published", fear not: I am thinking of these as simply exercises to get me moving again, like physical therapy for the atrophying mind.


Day 10: Yes & No

Never again will I not say, “No broccoli!”
Never again will I not scream “Pickles!” out my front door.
Never again will I not climb the mulberry tree in frilly purple drawers.
Never again will I not wear your best flannel shirt to my Great Aunt’s funeral.

Never again will I not not swear to open the bottle neck first.
Never again will I not not promise to imbibe in your vile attributes.
Never again will I not not beam the scotty up when the scotty asks me to.
Never again will I not not walk the dog, not that old yo-yo, that old cog.

Never again will I eat without first asking twice for your opinion.
Never again will I fall from the chariot while you are running behind.
Never again will I fail to inform the nearest authority if you should arrive.
Never again will I never again will I never. Again.

Day 11: Maybe You Are the Prisoner and I Am the Captor

Or maybe you are the prisoner and I am the caption, or the caps lock.
Or maybe you are the frisson and I am the captain, or the cap’n crunch.
Or maybe you are the fissure and I am the fracture, or the impaction.

O perhaps you are you are you are. O perhaps you are.

Or perhaps you are not the pudding-stealer after all.
Or perhaps you are the apple peeler, the core, or the feeler
of the ant that likes the trail I am leaving.
Or perhaps you are the butter, or the father, or the feather
on the stone, having fallen from the white-cold cloud
of feathers that exploded overhead
during that last storm.

Or perhaps you are not following me.
Or perchance you are?
O, per chance: you are.

Day 12: Zero Hour


Day 13: When the Glue Dries

There is a ghost that eats the soup at my table.
He doesn’t dare stand or the soup may stain my chairs.
Somehow the bowl never grows shallow, the soup never colder
than it is right now. Dip your pinky in the broth and see
that it is no colder than I am. And I am no ghost.

There is a ghost that sings in the shower beneath the hail
that drives through him like tiny spears that leave
no holes, that drill the enamel from the tub
as he sings along with the water heater
humming in the distance.

There is a ghost that sleeps on my couch, that lays
his feet across my lap while I read, that sprawls the length
and doesn’t move when I want to sit down.

There is a ghost that cries that there is no ghost, that wets
the sleeves of my sweater with his tears
every time I tell him that he is not here.

Day 14: God on an Off-Day

One cat is coiled tightly into the belly of another
like lovers spooning, her belly bulging with kittens
or, possibly, singular: kitten. (But in either case
unlikely to thrive.) They do not mind. Their minds
are on the sleep they share, and the failed wind’s
attempts to dislodge them from their spot against
the fence. Mated, they love like the day will never
end, like night is not hovering like some small storm
encroaching overhead. Even when she aches,
she is his queen, yet I -- I am the one who could
take her from him, or him from her, should take
care to prevent the travesty of each failed labor,
kittenish bones loitering behind each bush.
But still I let them carry their own pale lives, watch
her labor again and again, watch her relocate their litter
first beneath one bush, to beneath another, & another,
hoping against hope that, mercifully, none of them survive.

Happy Poem In Your Pocket Day! 

Woo-hoo! Two posts today!

First, it's Poem In Your Pocket Day! What are you carrying? I am carrying around Matthea Harvey's "Shiver & You Have Weather". Here it is:

Shiver & You Have Weather

By Matthea Harvey
In the aftermath of calculus

your toast fell butter-side down.

Squirrels swarmed the lawns

in flight patterns. The hovercraft

helped the waves along. From

every corner there was perspective.

On the billboards the diamonds

were real, in the stores, only zirconia.

I cc’ed you. I let you know.

Sat down to write the Black Ice Memo.

Dinner would be meager &

reminiscent of next week’s lunch.

So what if I sat on the sectional?

As always I was beside myself.


You can watch a very cool animation of her poem here.

Because I've fallen so far behind with NaPoWriMo I think a second, separate catch-up post is in order, instead of cramming it all in here. So...

More Catching Up: NaPoWriMo Days 7, 8 & 9

Just quickly posting because it's a totally lazy, gorgeous, coolish day. I'm playing catch up on my poems. Starting on Monday I should be able to get back to a routine after the boys go back to school. In the meantime here are days 7 (a "what if" poem), 8 (a "getting ready to celebrate" poem) & 9 (a poem marking a specific time); the latter is a found poem, a transcription of Bradley's monologue as he plays the Wii game "Big Willy".

I've gotten away from any specific focus for these poems, and have just been writing what comes to mind. At minimum this is a good warmup for what I'm hoping will be a more productive spring.

Also: Just a reminder, if you haven't already, you should throw your hat in the ring for my Poetry Book Giveaway both here and on the Poemeleon blog.

* * *

Day 7: What if

there were a two-cloud minimum
at the Bar None ranch

where the cowboys smoked their lighters
and their singular soft-eyed cow
alighted on the field
like a flying barge

and the light illuminated nothing

and the corn was as bittersweet
as a foal out of season

and the salt lick gathered the women
like the deprivation
of a deep-set winter

and what to do if the stars should fall
out of their eyes, hailing
a taxi to the nearest



Day 8: Hail to the Queen!

Put your party hats on. The queen is dead.
Her horny toes protrude from the beneath the bed.
Don your party hats: The queen is dead!

How fond we are of party hats, of the ungloved
dead, lazing in a broth of grief, backstroking
through our icy dread. The queen is dead,

but even if she weren’t, were only on the brink;
were still a breath and a half this side
of that fantastic chasm (which she is) --

even still, she is as good as, and just as
useless in her stony gown, ribbons
unfurled from her knotty hair. The queen is (not) dead:

Don your party hats. Protect your head.



Day 9: 1:31

You’re never gonna get me --
Zap youuu.


Eat your brain! I smooshed her.
Do you like barfing or lazer better?

I burned down Big Willy.
Whoever’s shooting at me’s gonna die.

Hey I’m gonna grab that. Wheeee.
I smashed something with a car.

I threw a car and hit another car.
I’m gonna eat your brain, you people running.

Bye! You’re dead now.
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