This is an ugly poem.
Its muscles are thin
so it topples over,
stretches and leaves
a yowling yawn to the air.
It sits wringing its hands,
elbows on knees,
broken by words it wants
to say, but can’t, will not.
It is silent because
it doesn’t care to be seen.
Its serif edges will buckle,
its first line will cave in
and lead passersby
to only glance.
Company, warmth, love
will not come to it.
One day, it will be dusted off.
The light will strike through a crack.
Its beauty may be found in a beat,
in a phrase that rolls off the tongue
and is still tasted.
In time, it will be buttressed
by wet ink,
dried by warm air,
rededicated to purpose and care.
Someday its ugliness will be vogue.
I want to tell a story with full words and slight stops, but it’s too high in the throat. I have to throttle it out into full drive.
Where it started I can’t say- a silent stare into your eyes, a touch that tattooed my skin, a laugh that jumped into the air and never broke. I sing the songs I’ve hung onto for so long, downcast and depressing, and they have lost meaning, they fly into the background, crash, lay flat, and deflate. The music of vision and purpose, one step in front of the other; a defined path and a case for setting it right on foot, out of the wilderness.
Where it starts- a morning yawn that mouths your name, a stretch that shakes of you, a sound that mimics the crisp Spring.
Lost and grasping, I need to refresh this blank page and start writing, but the blank page collects my imagination and pushes it to months of growing older, to hours of talking it over, to seconds of hanging on.
I want to tell the story with full words and slight stops of who we’ve become to each other, of old eyes seeing new again, of old souls finding home. Of saying good morning and meaning it first, of stepping off this brake and enjoying the ride, of turning fear into life.
This story gets written from here, our tongues in their proper places, our lips pursed to start, our throats clear and ready to scream.
I found this as I’ve been working on my essay about my car accident in 2000. This was written while I was living at Hampden house in the late 2000s. It’s unedited here in this form, but will be pulled into what I’m currently writing. But I wanted to pay homage to it in this early form and introduce it to the world before it goes through a metamorphosis. It’s a snapshot of back then – like a photograph of words. Enjoy.
I am a speed bump in the road. The road holds me. It hugs me. It gives me placement, a base. Once in a while, headlights reflect off of me and into the distance and for a fleeting moment I have a shudder of hope that runs down my spine, makes my gut tingle.
It’s much like I feel when I start writing in my head, staring out at TV hill from the back porch smoking a cigarette or sitting under the front porch watching cars rushing down too fast on the hill that looks more like it belongs in San Francisco than Baltimore.
I’m not impervious. I don’t hurt the cars the ride over me half as much as they injure me and leave their mark. There are tire squeals and drip-dried tar, there’s a few chips in my yellow caution paint from people coming and going too soon. I drop off on the sides like I can’t fill my own space, and it’s a bit notchy. I’m annoying to myself and others.
I stand in my own way and can go nowhere. And once I become too much of an intrusion in everyone’s lives, I’m scraped and replaced… sometimes by a new pseudo-modern stretched speed hump that’s more courteous… sometimes by slow-down strips that are less of an eye sore.
It’s not the life I wanted to live. But I only last for a while. I’m not permanent. But sometimes speed bumps wish to be something more, to grow. Sometimes they do get up and walk away.
Sometimes they find a place that’s more forgiving, a place that lets any good speed bump carry their burden in peace.
And sometimes it rains all night and washes away those marks, like the oceans lap the shore on a beach and I wake up renewed and ready for another round of pummeling.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a poem and believed it to be true. The seasons have slid in, replacing the words – spring cleaning, winterization, falling back, summer vacation. Instead I write what I will do down, a way to recognize them but not fully commit – hours and days become lists of chores, shopping trips, phone calls, and follow ups. They read like lyric to me now and I race to scratch them away:
When I was a child, I literally thought a snake would jump up and bite me in the ass. Waking in the middle of the night, I’d be terrified to pull my legs off the bed, put my feet on the ground. Just like the shadows of leaves I pictured being men with moving mouths on the way, I swore there were snakes and mice on the ground, waiting to get at my toes. I’d pee in the dark bathroom once I half ran there. And I’d sit on the toilet thinking this would be the night I didn’t check to see if the water snake slithered up the pipes, in wait. I’d hurry and wipe and half run, half jump onto the bed, covers over my head to ignore the shadows creeping in.
Now, when I pee in the middle of the night, half groggy, listless, I keep the door open and stare into the dark hallway. I often feel like someone’s waiting, someone’s watching, some invisible curious being that I believe Ivan notices sometimes. I hear a scurry of a possible apartment mouse. They keep coming back. Who am I to think they find interest here, that this is even worth being around?
I speak to the dog to keep from speaking to myself. But I still practice dialogue out loud that I plan to use for the fiction I have yet to write. The fiction ideas that pile up on some white page in an unnamed file on the desktop of computer. In bed, on my side, I wrap one arm around my shoulder not to feel so distant from the empty. I write a line of poetry in my head that’s so good to write down, but I wake in the morning and it’s smoke.
One night, I sit alone on the couch as the dog snores behind me. I watch a baby mouse scurry across the living room carpet and then jump for a minute repeatedly, finally to grasp a vent rung and slink into the utility closet. I turn on the TV.
I triple check locks on the door; set six morning alarms on my phone five minutes apart. I close all the doors and the drawers and the cabinets. I move books and coasters so they’re flush with straight angles.
I’m supposed to make lists to keep my mind from spinning. I’m supposed to Be Here Now, to practice the art of mindfulness to get these anxieties to wilt away. She says if you drink coffee, drink the coffee. If you shower, shower. If you read, read. Focus
How am I supposed to focus with so many lists? I could spend my day jotting down these schedules, these tasks, like every day poetry and never get to any one of them. I want the cold, clean calm of a fresh inked line through a word, through a thought. I feel like I’m inventing a new style of writing in this everyday feverishness of nothing ever finished.
I prefer the shorter parts of my life:
Grinding poetry from pulp to juice,
mashing the rind to sync the words with my meaning;
naps that lull of full-on sleep,
wearily rested and ready to move on;
a trail of thin lined cloud above my windshield,
the sun sherbet over my morning commute;
not the slow-sapping of pounding and putrid energy,
the night’s whispering and ear’s ringing, shuffling my legs,
the incessant throbs and aches ricocheting off bone and muscle.
The day often starts without me:
it’s awakening that’s easy.
I hear pages rustling in tender morning sleep,
stacks fanned through thick fingers,
the air gliding toward my nose.
The waking moments I can’t forget:
I did the work for you and
I’m not finished yet.
I’m in the middle of a fairly large writing project due for my second week of the MFA program, but I felt compelled to post two items.
The first is an existentialist quote from Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat,” which I studied and deconstructed for my undergraduate thesis, using it as the basis of an argument that the close friendship between Stephen Crane and Joseph Conrad caused Conrad, either consciously or subconsciously, to almost completely crib whole passages and ideas from The Open Boat for his book Lord Jim. Regardless, this quote has been in the back of my brain all week:
“If I am going to be drowned — if I am going to be drowned — if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life? It is preposterous. If this old ninny-woman, Fate, cannot do better than this, she should be deprived of the management of men’s fortunes. She is an old hen who knows not her intention. If she has decided to drown me, why did she not do it in the beginning and save me all this trouble. The whole affair is absurd. . . . But, no, she cannot mean to drown me. She dare not drown me. She cannot drown me. Not after all this work.” – “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
Secondly, I’ve decided to post a poem, from my archives, unedited. I consider this Found Poetry these days. Enjoy.
It’s nice to throw away this feeling once in a while:
That nothing I’ve done could ever amount to the
wide and deep of Wednesday nights,
when I am hungry and so tired I could bleed uselessly
The puddles in Baltimore today
were as wide and deep as the space between
our bodies, settling lightly in the dark.
And for once they could swallow me whole
if I didn’t keep moving.
Next: A rumination project on a useful object…
I fear I don’t know what to do. I print every page out, highlight any direction that is required of me. I sit here typing this out, unable to correct my nervous behavior, except with some nervous typing. My stomach feels stuffed. I feel like my legs are shaking but they’re tight, heel on the ground, soaking up carpet. I have errands to run. Should have done them last night? When do I check in? When is dinner? What do I wear? Am I as awkward as I think? I felt so when I was at that birthday party last night, and all the girls wore pretty dresses, and I had flipflops and capris on. At least I wore a flower in my hair. But I can’t speak about children or weddings. I don’t have it in me. Instead, I have this fear that everyone looks at me strangely. I have a fear that I’m not worth what I think, that this might have been a mistake. That I am not up for this task. What have I gotten myself into?