Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Purpose of Our Journey Becomes Forgotten

In my family a defiance against progress exists: both my parents and myself maintain a subscription to a physical newspaper, even in this ever-demanding high technology environment of machineries and the processes of ever updating applications for household gadgetry, from computer to phone.

It is a ritual in the weekends to brew the coffee, step into the frozen word for a scant series of minutes, collect the damp, coiled paper, and begin remembering what world we live in— the beautiful and the ugly. Grey smudges forming across the palm and tips of fingers. The sun fragmenting across headlines and various diagrams of the economy, the literary events in New York City, the opening of a new museum in Houston.

The meaning of this ritual will be lost on Brendan in a handful of years, even as he is currently a willing participant in the ceremony. This morning in fact, with the fresh frost torching the neighborhood, he grabs my hand after he’s bundled up, and drags me to the front door shouting “Outside! Outside!” The purpose of our journey becomes forgotten in a matter of seconds. I am without a jacket, wearing only slippers on my feet, slowly moving through the cold grass, but he is determined to motion through the morning, pull me across the street. At the edge of the pavement, he turns around to view his domain, his house temporarily, then at this point he demands to be picked up so he can view the full surrounding world.

Even at this weekend hour, construction workers are filling out yet one more lot in the subdivision, digging into the ground with shovels and picks, creating a small frame for the new foundation. The scene drives his attention, holds his curiosity tightly. But soon Brendan will want to return indoors. Run the length of the narrow hallway which lies in the center of the house. I will listen to the rhythm of his steps as he jogs in the background, pretending to be an airplane or a steam engine. But for now, everyone’s breath fogs in front of their mouths, the workers, Brendan and me.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Words Often Fail

In view of the recent events in Connecticut, one feels the need to say something, say anything, really... but words often fail in times like these. Rhetoric remains merely rhetoric. Useless phonetics.

On my Twitter account I posted: "Holding my son tight tonight. It seems that is all I can do."

—and that is all I can do for the last two days; this afternoon in fact, after his midday nap, when he was still in a groggy-stage of waking, we sat on the couch listening to our house settle around us, letting our bodies fall into the slow motion of a quickly disappearing now moment of time. I held his two-year-old body close, wanting to memorize his warmth, the weight of his presence in my arms, the smell of his golden blonde hair. It was all a selfish act on my part— I realize this. Ricky was at work. The news streaming everywhere displayed the unthinkable. There are parents in the Eastern U.S. are without the same luxury, the same lingering presence. The full tide of sorrow seemed to drown the day.

What it all comes down to is the fact, we as humans no longer can read the full manuscript of progress. The language of the codex is indecipherable— so all I can do is rock Brendan as if he were months old. Slow motions of consolation for the two of us.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Instinct & Compulsion

Tonight produces another strange episode of sleeplessness. After only about an hour of sleep I wake up with my full right arm tingling and irritated from the pin and needle pricks running along the perimeter of my shoulder and forearm. So I lie listening to the overhead fan circling slowly in its redundant path and try not to think about the plans for tomorrow— or the poems I need to write— the unfinished ideas circling my head in mundane circles.

Despite my insomnia the new house sleeps easily tonight: the house, the neighborhood, the whole town of Cypress seems to rest in anticipation of the approaching morning, far off in the distance. We moved recently, barely five minutes away from the old neighborhood—but the house suits the needs of a growing family, offering a second floor for Brendan’s imagination and curiosity to open out adventures, plus providing numerous nature walks with bridges and canals and wildlife en mass . Even now from my writing room I can see the man-made waterway twisting in the streetlights, reflecting back the black night and occasional car’s headlights passing on the far street.

The various cypress trees planted strategically throughout the developing lots are still in a mode of change, shifting from their dark greens to a heavier rust red. The color spreads now off the tips of the outer branches, creeping further down the main trunk. Brendan loves to stand in the shade running his hands across the rough, cracked bark. Confirming its presence in his life. Confirming his understanding of the tree’s purpose. Today in fact, the three of us: his father, myself and the little one, wandered across the borders of the neighborhood, investigating all the possibilities for discovery in the mild temperatures.

I could feel the presence of a poem following us. It lingers now behind me as I type, poking its head over my shoulder every so often to see if I build towards a better understanding of its purpose. My insomnia is not helping of course. Yet, every little motion towards completing the verse moves me closer to the goal. Played with titles earlier in the evening. Played with phrases and word combinations trying to spark a direct path:

Saint Brendan and the Cypress

Saint Brendan Meditating Under a Cypress

Saint Brendan Meditating on a Cypress

The Cypress and Saint Brendan

Psalms of Saint Brendan Under an Autumn Cypress

Prayer of Saint Brendan under an Autumnal Cypress

—all of which come close to the concept in my head, but yet none of them reach the right destination.

All-in-all, this new idea builds a stronger pattern for a series of poems based off of a loose connection between Brendan (my son) with Brendan (the saint). One poem was already completed a few months ago— “Saint Brendan and the Moon”—it has been circulating out in the world seeking publication, bounced across the desks of two or three editors. The final “episode” of course will be titled “Saint Brendan and the Whale”— building the metaphors for the story of exploration and curiosity, all based on the notions of the Sixth Century Irish monk who ventured across the Atlantic before Columbus.

He fascinates me, this monk. His full hagiography compels me to build a series of poems based on his ventures into the unknown. He explains the creative process in a fashion, the development of an idea and the chasing down the presence of instinct and compulsion. It is by accident we named our son after him— Ricky found the name in a series of lists and we liked the nature of its connections to the Celtic tongue and tradition. The name seems to act as guide and protection over our little one, a mystical witness following him— yes, I know I am building an impractical, psychological association with a word just to feel a sense of security in this unpredictable world.

But that is what poetry does for me as well. Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night angry at myself —or resentful at the culture of the times— the notions of developing more poetry brings out a sense of purpose, a sense of assurance as I move blindly, instinctually into the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fragmentary Post

A moment emerges finally for me to shift focus with my blog writing, find a sense of direction, a voice, a perspective of poetry— my boy, Brendan, sleeps upstairs for his midday nap, fighting off the remnants of a cold, with the humidifier steaming his room into a sauna.

Of course, I caught his bug. Resulting in my physical speaking voice withering away to either a grumpy frog or a soft whisper. I drink tea. I drink water. I gargle salt. No results. Only a constant awareness of my throat and a faint itchy sensation on my vocal cords. Perhaps after a twenty-four hour window things will change again.

On Twitter this month I posted a picture of a broken ceramic garden sculpture from the backyard.

The image holds relevance towards my current poetic anxieties. Lately words seem less channeled, less specific towards that musical reaction in the gut. Even the nightly haiku/hokku project sputters. The fragmentary urgency of my latest verses fades. Wait. No, “fades” is a too strong of word. What I should say is “hesitates”— the instinctual voice hesitates and pauses without rationalities. Partly, it is too easy to become distracted: three plastic jugs need to be taken to the recycling bin outside, my coffee mug on the desk should be rinsed out, the bed needs to be made, the baby’s medicines recorded, and a lecture revised. All these tiny distractions murmur in my ears, pull me away from the page, away from my pen.

Reading translations of Bashō’s work leaves me envious for his sense of imagery— his tight epiphanies lined up in each verse.

And likewise, for some reason I keep falling back on using the moon as an element in my work. There are days I resent readers pointing this fact to me— other days the moon’s presence blooms over the house, a gradual reminder of why I write poetry in the first place.

On another point, I discovered three elemental topics which cannot be reworked into a satisfactory haiku/hokku verse for me. I keep rethinking the concepts, bringing them to two different extremes. Either when reworking them into greater abstractions, lessening the syllable count, reducing the weight of the words, nothing develops. OR, the opposite, the image is isolated down to a specific thought. A specific time. Even a specific color. Ten words. Twelve syllables.

• Today the cypress trees shift towards tones of blood-rust.
• Stuck in late afternoon traffic: a small twisting of cigarette smoke emerged from a car passenger window; it radiated for a moment in slanted angles of sun. Neon halo.
• Under a crescent moon, a galleon thunderstorm drifted across the eastern horizon line, shouting out random thrashings, thunderings, flashings against the full darkness of itself.

Either way, the concepts do not want to become formalized scenes. They do not want to be something other than what they are.

I do not know what blocks me lately from working on the poems for Grackle, Fox, and She-Bear. This manuscript stumbles along in a drunken pace. Like the broken bowl, it sits there without a function, without purpose. The cohesion for the work exists, but in a metaphoric sense. Somewhere in my head the ideal collection sits waiting to be claimed. But time and circumstances have prevented my full attention towards the project. I feel like whining more about what I have not done this year, rather than motivating myself into action. If one is not careful, these blogs become a laundry list of negatives. I'll blame my feelings on the cold medication and close.

The boy upstairs will be waking soon. He'll offer some insight for the time being.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Faux Pindaric Ode: Metamorphosis

Back in the Nineties I wrote a faux-Pindaric Ode to Greg Louganis— only recently with the current London Games under way reminded me of the modern take I put on the formula. In January this year it appeared in Assaracus.

Even so, with the recent publication date, rereading it here again, another level of reality emerges from the verse. The circumstances are totally different between the poet who wrote this and the now current reader. It began as an admiration of the athlete and the athletic form. An enviable condition. What is interesting, the connection I built in the fifth stanza relating to my father creates a new translation to my life, due to the existence of my own son. A cyclical pattern of realities which stress a newer theme within the lines. One I was blind to, even though I composed the piece.
Metamorphosis: Ode to an Olympic Diver

There are times when you appear, without warning,
          deus ex machina, your figure as an angel
                    walking along the arches of heaven.
When I do recall you, it’s always before the dive,
          the exact moment of hesitation, the time
                    before the translation, before the actions
                              of folding arms and legs, before wings
          emerge from the angles of bone and flesh,
becoming as origami papers, a Japanese crane
          leaping out towards the moon
or pale egrets flashing wings, wide arcs
          open to the night sky.

I am not a sculptor— I am a poet.
          My body was fashioned to stand motionless,
                    withdrawn, a gray-brown fedora on my head,
my form cloaked in a long, winter coat. Only
          my hands were made to move,
                    puppets, really, marionettes dancing across paper,
                              accenting phrasings when I talk aloud,
          even to myself, in my sleep; my fingers tapping,
knotting themselves in nervous positions.
          Even at this moment, trying to motion myself
into this verse, my hands become agitated with me,
          angry that their only function

is to raise an apple to my lips, serve as figures
          of transportation from plate
                    to mouth. They want more out of life,
to create words flowing, a new text,
          or to recreate your figure in clay,
                    knead life into the earth, raise
                              a motion into your elevated limbs,
          a figure in motion, animated life poised above me.
Sometimes, posing before mirrors, I stand naked,
          worrying about the pale conditions of my body;
it will never know you. But then, in the gymnasiums,
          I push myself to transform my image,

to move towards a higher function,
          to be more than just a word-smith,
                    breathing words into the ears of the public,
syllables across the eyes of librarians. Do you hesitate
          before the falling? Do you dream as a bird?

                    I’ve been told a young swift travels western Europe,
                              through instinct only, never landing, never ceasing
          to be what it is for two years, a vehicle of flight, of wings.
It feeds on insects in the air, sleeping in higher altitudes on drafts,
          currents of high winds. It knows not how to fall.
There were times I wondered of these motions,
          the insistence of gravity’s pull back to earth.

I had nightmares of my father
          dropping my brother into a well, or a bottomless cavern.
                    Dark, unbidden thoughts of children.
If I try, I can recreate the fear inside my chest;
          the same fear when I took the first falling
                    into deep waters, my father behind me,
                              invisible to the trauma. His insistence
          to submerge me I couldn’t understand—but my brother,
I kept trying to make him grow wings, against his falling,
          to raise him back into waiting arms, like I could,
returning back to the folding of security, the warmth,
          my body no longer held by water, but by parental strengths.

Swimming for me now is different.
          There no longer exists a curiosity
                    of the loss in gravity. Actions
are effortless in a sense, merely a means to be alone,
          floating, almost motionless. The old fears,
                    and the memories, return at this time
                              again unbidden, but as an adult I’ve learned
          to shut them off. Close the eyes tighter and
cast them away as stones, into the bottom
          of the tides. I remain, as yourself, poised above,
hands reaching for something unseen, as stolen Greek statues,
          glorious in their fragmentations.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Item of Interest: Transformations of English

from Oxford Dictionaries:

Understandably the studies of English language and the manner the spoken word shapes itself for the Modern Era have been interests of mine.

Today, Philip Durkin, Principal Etymologist at the Oxford English Dictionary, posted the five events he believes shaped the English Language.

1. The Anglo-Saxon Settlement
2. The Scandinavian Settlements
3. 1066 and after
4. Standardization
5. Colonization and Globalization

Read more:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thirty-One Observations of Salt

Despite the lack of postings, for the last four months I have been writing— in the traditional manner, pen to paper, almost on a daily basis. Currently, through a new approach to the development of projects, I have reinforced a stronger sense of a fragmented and fractured narration within my themes. It all ties in of course to the creative exercise of generating a nightly haiku. From this continuing practice evolved a collage of different strands of thoughts, a random range of broken phrases, fragmented sentences, fractured impressions, and imagistic paragraphs.

Unexpectedly, happily, what resulted: a full poem emerged from the collection of detailed scraps, a long work soon to be sent out into the world for hopes of publication.

What it all comes down to is the fact that every month, due to a controlled environment, thematic prose and verse were produced. At one point I considered posting these writings on a daily basis on Twitter, or for this blog— an option I still hold in reserve for the future— however, at the moment I like the manner the broken shards of sentences work together as a litany, similar to the commentary I posted earlier this year.

In May, the following material resulted:

Thirty-One Observations of Salt

—the random nature of pure salt, collected in glass shakers

—at one time, the inheritance of kings, now a mundane necessity

—the child pours a handful of salt into my hand, laughing

—I find strong poems carry an aftertaste of salt

—your words leave traces of a fine salt along the edge of your lips

—after dinner, subtle layers of salt coat the table tops, linger on plates

—everywhere I go: a small trail of salt is left behind, as proof of existence

—a poem worth placing in a grain of salt

—the grit that layers pockets: salt residue from living

—the name of a small southern Texas town: Salado

—when adding a pinch of salt to boiling water, her hands always flurried as sparrows

—she remembers some winters when salt licks would be left out for deer and the neighbor’s blue-grey pintos

—the oily saltwater of the Gulf leaving a muddy film across one’s body

—the taste of salt along the edge of your chin

—the slow salty calcium dripping from the teeth of underground caverns over the course of centuries

—the hour of night when couples unknot their desire, leaving a salty taste on their tongues

—there are days which leave me emotionless, a ruined pillar of decayed marble, as Lot’s Wife, nameless and wondering about cities left behind her

—the cliché of tears tasting as salt—

—afterwards, he feels the heavy night settle over the two of them in bed

—a layer of salt lingers under my fingernails, settles between my molars overnight

— in winter, a trail of salt always leads strangers across the ice sidewalk up to the front steps and the waiting doorway

—Tonight she soaks her feet in epsom salts

—he recalls a recent dream of salt, with characters bundled tight against the winter conditions of the spice

—he finds himself leaving ripped packets of salt on park benches—watching the slow wind shift away the granules—

—the sand paper tongue of a cat seeking salt on the hands of its owner

—the taste of salty grief hiding under the tongue, within her two cupped hands

—while meditating he views his life as a broad salt marsh at low tide—pale water birds circling in dense numbers

—the outer edge of my creeping shadow: a pale, fine line of salt

—Ophelia brushes salt from her lap, bread crumbs from her sleeve— gathers a bouquet of dried flowers— then considers the edge of the water—

—the silence of a closed book of poems equals the silence of salt chambers miles under the surface of our cities

—Insomnia leaves salt in the inner folds of an eye closed in tight frustration—

—the salty taste of a poem at twilight, within the silence of the house deepening into blue shadows

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Brendan and the Moon

Our seventeen-month-old son became aware of the moon recently. For numerous weeks I tried presenting the concept to him, more than once, usually in the early morning when he is bundled up and taken to my parents' home for temporary day care. On these moments, his concerns remain on level to Earth-bound distractions: the padded car-seat, his worn pacifier, my hand itself gesturing to the horizon. Unfortunately, his eyes never shift along my arm or motion across the layered atmosphere towards the rising action above the subdivision—

—until this past May. The three of us stood in the backyard with early twilight in process, a darker blue tone descending over the garden wall. Again we pointed at the satellite, a large pale rock level to the roof of our house. One could discern clearly all of the craters, the image of a cracked face of an ancient man smiling down. Somehow this time awareness opened in Brendan's eyes. He pointed likewise, smiling suddenly. "Schtar," he said.

"No," we corrected him, "Moon."

His eyes blinked, in full concentration. I could see his lips struggling with the syllable— he tried again, resulting in nonsensical sounds. But he smiled. A metaphor was built in less than a minute. His world gained new boundaries. A connection was developed.

The three of us remained outside for a few more moments, Brendan's perception locked on a new reality.

Later that night I wrote the following haiku:
380/ For the first time, our child notices the ghost moon rising near our house.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Haiku Chain

This week I jumped into a Haiku series which involved sporadic exchanges between multiple poets. The concept is based off of the traditional poetry games from Japan— poetry circles gathering to write numerous verses on a similar theme or subject.

Melissa Allen (@myyozh) began the chain with a verse she posted on her Haiku blog Red Dragonfly:

          less light than I want
          more than I need

N. J. Barico ( @NJBarico) responded with:

          abandoned love letter
          I read it under the light
          of fireflies

Kris Lindbeck (@KrisLindbeck) responded on her eponymous blog:
          your face
          flickering in and out
          firefly light

At which stage I jumped in with:

          Haloed by milkweed—
          Buddha sits tonight, waiting
          for the first firefly.

The random variety of poems, as a whole, in the end operates like a field filling up with random lights of fireflies, small lanterns— each individual voice shows a distinct theme echoing from among the others. A collection of ideas.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sundry Views of Poetry

Throughout April, National Poetry Month, I kept a running catalog of daily ideas— quick impressions, thirty lines for later use.

— the arch of a crescent moon

— the crackling of a grackle’s call, midmorning

— the cliché of the arc of a crescent moon descending low on the lip of the horizon

— mid-day light pouring from an empty pitcher

— the arch of a crescent moon crossing a window

— a plague of thirteen grackles gathered midmorning in full congregation

— the distance between the window and the yellow arch of the crescent moon

— the arch of a crescent moon crossing a cracked bedroom window

— the crescent moon like a thief pausing beside a cracked bedroom window

— the silence held tightly by an infant as it sleeps, small hands uncurling

— the moon slipping like a thief through a cracked window into a bedroom

— the scent of a baby damp from its bath

— the moon as it stands at the foot of your bed, glancing down

— the quiet sounds of a baby suckling its bottle at three in the morning

— a sudden deer leaping across a dirt back road, flinging itself across the car’s headlights, into the side ditch of darkness, shaking my life awake, pulsing wildly within my chest

— the path of an elderly man pushing his electric-blue walker down side streets, looking like a personification of winter in ragged clothing

— his Whitman-white beard falling to his chest, his bamboo braided hat with a wide-brim pulled out against the rising morning sun

— a bitter-sweet cup of coffee, bottom of the pot, leaving a ring of black grit at the base of the mug

— a book opened to a blank page

— the slow drag of a siren slipping down the highway at night

— the snap of a match igniting

— a woman in her thirties smoking one last cigarette, pulling the sensation deep into her memory

— in the evening, the scent of gardenias pool at your knees like memories

— interlocking rings of water left to dry on a kitchen countertop

— the arch of fat bridging over the waistline of a middle-aged man as he pulls a fresh shirt over his shoulders

— the nicotine stains on her nails raising up recollections of her grandmother’s hands

— a wrinkled corpse rolling over in the dust bed of his coffin

— in a splinter of afternoon, a clear glass vase with fading paper magnolias

— the pull of past impressions after watching chimney swifts arc over gravel driveways at twilight

— the manner insomnia clings to the body, as a young boy with a clutch of thirty dried marigolds in his two hands

Friday, March 2, 2012

Item of Interest || When is Haiku Not Haiku?

David Coomler, on his web log Hokku, has a recent post on the hokko/haiku relationship— an issue I only recently began studying myself. From a limited and hasty process of research over the last five years I discovered the evolution of the modern term haiku is not entirely the same notion of Bashō himself intended.

In his opening paragraph he states:
"Bashō called what he wrote hokku, as a part of his practice of haikai; that was true whether the verses appeared independently or in linked verse or in travel journals. The same is true of all writers of the verse form in the centuries prior to the 20th. And of course those who write hokku rather than modern haiku today continue to use the same term – hokku — as was used in past centuries."
Confusion sets in due to the basic casual reading of these forms of poetry: in English typically, three lines of poetry look like any other three lines on any other piece of paper. And also, it seems that only fairly recent has interest in the Japanese cultural writing peaked.

However, there are subtle differences and these should be acknowledged and address when teaching these different forms. After all, as I stated in the comment form to Coomler, a Renaissance Italian sonnet is very different from a modern English sonnet; even though they are both sonnets by appearance, themes have altered overtime. The approach to the same fourteen lines transforms into something other.

It will be interesting to see where future changes develop in the teaching of these two forms.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Discovering the Epiphany Moment

Feeling frustrated with my latest writing attempts— the phrasing unravels on the page into heavy abstract, codified lines. At the core of the resulting poem I sense my main idea lies hidden, as a buried acorn shell wanting to crack open and reveal itself— a sprouting of a tree— yet, the idea remains too hidden, in other words, too obscure. Perhaps I read too much of Jean Valentine, G. C. Waldrep with John Gallagher— their post-post modernism have built a foundation of psychological impressions and expectations in my head, rather than tangible prayers, tangible chants—but even my analogy is failing tonight.

The issue at hand, I have a surreal fantasy concept to describe, yet, it is necessary to place the course of action in a realistic realm of thought in order to communicate an accurate depiction of the scene. What results: I keep recording random expressionistic ramblings which result in confusion, not objective interpretations. The latest material reads as automatic writing exercises and not as finalized, coherent thoughts— as if the pen were in control and not myself.

I have thought of generating a long title as balance, as a means of adding a grounding element—but even then, —

A Shaman lost in Translation as a She-Bear
She-Bear Under Cover of Night
She-Bear Dreaming of a Former Life as Shaman

So, the annoyance builds— overwhelmingly. I wanted this section completed before March, but at this rate the schedule radically turns on its head. Perhaps after a twelve to twenty-four hour break the points expressed in the verse will be articulated in a clearer fashion…

          Slumbering, half
lumbering— she’s bundled in
          heavy folds of night,
quilt heavy bulk of darkness—
stars sewn close to the landscape.

          The night sky reveals
no dreamscapes any longer—
          prophecies are stilled,
unstitched from the horizon—
oracle scrolls are silent.

          Stumbling drunk shaman—
she’s wrapped in a quilt of guilt.
          Intricate threading
of past lives as a heavy
winter coat— surrounding close.

          Swatches of colors
shift cross the hand-dyed cotton,
          the rows of beadwork,
strung stones of her memories,
rosaries of discomfort—

Seventeen hours later: The story in the poem still lies undisclosed to my ears—not as severe as last night mind you, but an intense level of indecipherable phrasing lingers— another way of looking at the situation: I do enjoy language poetry to a large extent; I even seek out construction of such forms on a frequent basis. The most successful types of this venture are poems which establish a strong metaphor. The reader understands an aspect of what the poet bridges together, allowing a greater connection to the piece. A sense of background development is required for better reciprocation.

It comes down to this: for my she-bear situation, there is no established connection. And therefore I need to do something about it. Which results in the frustration. The argument within my head with the Negative Critic who tells me I am not good enough. Odd. This is the second time in a short week’s time he has emerged into my conscious awareness.

One rule of thumb that I adhere to: if background visualization is needed, then the poem has failed. Sometimes confusion and surreal dream-logic are often employed in order to generate a mood in the reader— but in this case, the above stanzas were intended to invoke an atmosphere and a story line— similar to Anne Sexton’s Transformation poems. Her text reinvents the Grimm brother’s collected stories into something other—

I just pulled the book off the shelves and am thumbing through the pages. Sexton’s poems were written with the premise of altering a folk-story to a modern sensibility, a modern vernacular, without losing the original framework of the plot… if one does not know the Grimm brother’s original work, is something lost in Sexton’s translation? Are these merely the same concept of Andy Warhol’s photo-reprints of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley in flashy colors and different adjectives? Of course I know the answer to these questions. But for me, in order to make the intentions of the she-bear poem work, I need a slightly stronger basis of character development to justify the abstract nature of the passages.

Perhaps the situation falls into identification: I need the reader to identify with an iconic representation of a familiar symbol — something solid, immediate— tangible as a stone in hand, and then I can twist, reinvent the image… Like Galway Kinnell’s “Saint Francis and the Sow” two instant, traceable images brought together on the page, then embellished with new meaning. I have mentioned this poem in particular back in April of last year— it remains that much of an influence on my mind, poking at my project list with a reminder to get other concepts down into verse. I have thought of using a mock archetype from Greek myths— one of the dramatic goddesses or tragic heroines trapped in the guise of a bear— one who has temporarily forgotten her heritage and history. Which is of course one of the themes in the overall project: reclaiming the past, reinventing the present. Discovering the epiphany moment that is temporarily hidden by unplanned circumstances.

A Short List of Possibilities

So I close my eyes. Fall back into my own memory. Concentrate. And again: concentrate.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sensations of Existentialism

Yesterday strangely culminated into an unexpected moment of paralysis. The child stayed at my parent’s home for a few remaining hours; the flood of student paperwork lowered to a minimum level; my e-mail and snail-mail letters were read and addressed; even the cat felt a sense of purpose, curled in the corner of his couch, black fur tongued into appropriate placement and array. However, for myself, an overwhelming lack of creative resources existed. In a very frightening series of minutes, what began as a gray blankness expanded to a feeling of extreme impotence. A ‘why bother?’ attitude. A dark, numbing, Joycean epiphany. Where do these extremes form in the neurons? As a metaphoric species one would think these severe sensations of existentialism would be erased from our consciousness.

Despite the trauma, the daily generation of haiku sentences does continue— words still appear on the page with defined prospects. Watching the full collection gather itself raises metaphors of grackles or magpies— mocking birds calling out from water oaks in my front yard. Every so often I fear the phrases exist as only repetitive nonsense, weak-imitations of the traditional forms of Japan, reproductions with harsh syllables. On optimistic days, a feeling of accomplishment surfaces— a satisfaction that I still build these connections with craft, showing myself a sense of validation of my own worth.

Because of their abundance, soon it will be necessary to archive the full mass of poems— which now leaves me currently debating on the approach and design. With the simplicity of their appearance, haiku deceive the reader. In verse form, three little lines can promote a quick, shallow reading. I always caution my students to not fall into this perception. Haiku are intended to create a sense of meditation— generate a reconsideration of perception. In the end, when multiple haiku are printed on the page, the reading eye quickly jumps from one to the next. Swallowing the images down, moving along the flow. Devouring as much as possible in one sitting. Ideally, it would be great to print them out individually, singularly. With much white space surrounding the text as possible to reinforce the atmosphere of solemnity.

[For my English 1302 class I created a specific demo that addresses the issue.]

The task at hand now remains: how to digitally archive hundreds of these verses and give each one a sense of importance? I’ll let you know the outcome.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Half Whisper, Half Statement

Often Brendan makes nonsense garble as he wanders throughout the house, moving room to room repeating monosyllables, juggling sounds across his tongue. On Saturday morning however, Ricky half cradled Brendan, the two of them watching an educational video for babies and preschool children: I leaned over, making baby noises at my son. He reached out, tugged on my whiskers, looked me directly in the eyes, and said “Da-da,”— half whisper, half statement. For me, inwardly the world titled on its axis. One of those moments for a first-time father. My role in his life confirmed. The simple phonetics served as clarification, definition. You could see the tumblers clicking in his mind, making the proper identification of language to object. The world is now his oyster.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ancient Trees and Underbrush


For a brief interval in my childhood my father smoked a pipe. One of my earliest memories is of visiting a small tobacco shop watching him go through the process of selecting the right blend of leaves and finding the proper resulting aromatic scent. The air was always dense with various fragrances—from a sharp cinnamon to a drowsy oak. A forest of impressions. Dad always chose a vanilla-apple blend, a scent somewhat similar to the sensation of burning leaves in October. The store was kept in warm shadows, from the dim lighting to the dark colored woods making up the counters and shelving—the proprietor always conscious of the specific conditions of the rooms to ensure longevity of the leaves.

This memory only explains further why I venture into coffee shops and tea aisles in markets— a flooding over of the olfactory senses successfully reminds one of the details of the past.

In fact, used book stores and university libraries produce the same results for me these days—a slight sensation of falling, dropping back into personal history—especially the older books, the leather and cloth bound books which have texturized bindings marked by use over time. I miss the row of used bookshops I visited in Saint Louis in the Nineties—each visit produced a treasure hunt for an unknown item, the unanswerable curiosity of the week.

Today I fall into these recollections due to the fact I finally found a copy of a text casually mentioned by Isabel Allende in her essay: “The Jungle Queen.” In midst of her exploration of the Brazilian Amazon and within herself, she casually states: “Finally I understood the meaning of the last line of a famous Latin American novel: ‘He was swallowed up by the jungle.’” Although she never mentions the title of the work, nor the author, with the help of a few students I at last located an English translation. Ironically, none of the anthologies which list the essay never follow through with research to explain Allende's reference. This in itself is one of the problems I have with many college textbooks these days. However, I finally discovered that the book Allende refers to is titled La vorágine (The Vortex), written by José Eustasio Rivera and set in the Colombian jungles during the decade of the Twenties.

Finding an English translation of the book seemed impossible. Thankfully, after a month or two, my local library found a copy and now I am lost in the middle of the plains of Colombia following the treks of the protagonist Arturo Cova as he searches for some sense of inner peace. He does frustrate me however. Cova is displayed as a very emotional, reactionary man— very self-centered, egotistical in a vain-youthful manner. But a good protagonist is supposed to show a different perspective on life. Through Cova's complexities the reader develops a stronger understanding of a portion of the South American experience.

The translation of José Eustasio Rivera phrasings does manage to convey a strong sense of the poetic nature of book. Furthermore I can see why Allende references it within her own essay. A commonality of intention exists in the creative presentation of the topographical landscape within South America.

Which of course is what I venture into myself every now and then, losing the self in a landscape of an imagined region, in a wilderness of one’s own creation. I have been lax with creating new poems for the project series Grackle, Fox, and She-Bear, but the full forest of poems sits in my head ready to be slowly presented— I often picture Brendan as he works his way through the ancient trees and underbrush, encountering a variety of creatures and obstacles within the resulting verses. With a better layout of my time, I should be able to approach the full labyrinth of ideas again, fairly soon.

Yet another resolution: break down the sensations for all projects under development: one-by-one, poem-by-poem, progress towards the full idea.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oedipus and the Hummingbirds


On the corner of my writing desk leans a pile of notes, clippings, scraps of papers. One leaf of photocopied information contains an illegible scrawl in my handwriting—made with a red felt marker, which I rarely use, the script displaying a rhythmic pattern, wave-like, expressive scratches asserting a strong point. An indecipherable point, but something of importance nonetheless. One portion of the note seems to state the word hummingbird then a few words later rather than Oedipus. Since I do teach Sophocles’ play Antigone, the marginalia could reference the lecture— but why hummingbirds?

This past summer when the Texas landscape burned from drought conditions, migrating hummingbirds became displaced as their territory became engulfed in sudden flames and progressive wildfires. My parent’s backyard transformed into a haven for these miniature birds. Almost every afternoon we would watch handfuls of them stitch across the property line of trees, darting and embroidering the landscape to reach a feeder filled with syrupy nectar— each little warrior representing an idea. A word. An unclaimed sentence. A bridge into a stronger metaphor. A miniature epiphany ready to dart close to a woman’s ear and whisper newly disclosed secrets.

Of course, today, middle of winter, the back gardens are in disarray. Milkweed stalks cut back expose left over weeds spreading out in the mulch. The sight of the backyard generates a sense of overwhelming responsibilities. New projects to finalize— every day a new line added to the list of chores. Oddly enough, Brendan sleeps longer during his afternoon nap; he has merged his two daily naps into one lengthy sleep during the middle of the day. But I am afraid to move sometimes. I know as soon as I start working on something he will awaken and demand a yogurt or some fruit concoction to satisfy his growing desires. So I take projects at a slower pace. Ready to stop and cater to his needs whenever I am the only one in the house. What results, in the end, I allow the projects to sort themselves. The various poems shift and float in the head as carp waiting for food— the larger ones scurry quickly to the surface of the water to gain a mouthful compressed pellets, a new phrase, a rewording, a casual additional word.

Lately I hunt for newer, more elusive wordings. Phonetics which I have unintentionally avoided in the past. Take raunch for instance, or vulgarity,— the typical word that would not appear in a haiku. A rust-covered shovel or decomposed remains of a bird—I have said this already in the past weeks. But it bears repeating. Reinforcing the intentions into my consciousness, into my active writing mind. My series of haiku dealing with a dive dance club continue to develop themselves. It’s interesting how a series of short fractured verses blend and blur into something larger.

A handful of my own favorites:
17/ A man just walks in— wears a dragonfly tattoo on his left shoulder.

24/ As he walks into the back room his dragonfly tattoo flutters once.

26/ Waiting to score a trick, he leans in the alley— breathes in smoke— exhales.


More important: in March I will be participating in a poetry reading in New York. Twenty-five poets in Manhattan reciting their work. Building up a sense of nervousness considering what poem to read, what jacket to wear, what ad lib remark to introduce the work. Full information can be viewed here: Assaracus: A Celebration of Gay Poetry.

Still cannot comprehend my old note—human? humanity? humus? Maybe in a few days the verbiage will click again once I go over the full page of notes. Then again, making a connection between hummingbirds and Oedipus would be interesting.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Item of Interest || Random Notes

from John Gallagher's web log Nothing to Say and Saying It:
Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder, and you'll find there is no reader. Just you and the page. Feel lonely? Good. Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone.
I want to tattoo this on my forearm for future reference— a constant reminder. Or across my shoulders as a warning.

A few days ago I found a list of practical approaches to poetry created by William Matthews. See number three.

Random Notes for a Bar at Last Call
• a tray of glasses falls
• he stands under clump of devil's ivy or mother-in-law tongue
• in the corner of his eye
• another moment
• lights rise / fog of alcohol lifts
• then he hears soemone call his name

The above random notes establish phrases for possible later use— a situation undefined and without cohesion.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Rebellion of Individuality

Today exists as a day without a concise organized movement— that is, the mind’s goals quickly become tangled into a maze or obstacles and hurdles— partly self-induced, partly outside circumstance. So. After two early morning lectures on basic Analytical Literary Criticism I walk across campus for a strong cup of coffee— set a short path to an achievable prize. Not as an act of procrastination per se, but rather as a method of stalling to clear the head. Break free of the patterns built into the blood.

Lack of sleep does not help. Last night Brendan woke up howling at 11:36, either from a nightmare or discomfort, something unknowable at any rate. His diaper was only slightly damp, but he cried continuously for a good fifteen minutes after the changing. Perhaps it all stems from the fact that last week he started walking and instantly he moved into the toddler mentality of self-independence. He understands barriers exist. He strides into the room now ready to conquer any potential obstacle. He demands attention. He expects answers. One can see the strategy of his young mind seeking preferences for the toys or the picture books scattered in the room. Last night was no exception— after the change of pajamas it was clear he did not want to be rocked back to sleep. He communicates now with arching and twisting towards his desires: away from the parent and towards the goal. Last night he wanted to be placed back in his crib and have his back stroked— only this action served as consolation— only the smallest amount of my parental presence was required, my fingertips running in circles around his shoulder blades. He and I have reached a new level of communication.

Afterward, as expected, what resulted was the fact I could not go immediately back to sleep. I lay in bed trying not to think. Scattering of responsibilities always managed to drift to the surface of my consciousness the more I tried to submerge details of the approaching day. Phrases of poems bobbed on the brim of sleep, as carp wanting food. The remainder of the night existed as a series of rising and falling motions, short series of slight slumber, then half wakeful awareness.

In my e-mail this morning however, a blast e-mail from the Academy of American Poets provided a poem by Arthur Sze that stood out, titled “Comet Hyakutake.” I cannot pin-point which specific line or image or phrase that connects, yet Sze weaves together a collection of unexpected elements to show a commonality within diversity, ancient and modern. To simply quote a phrase breaks the intense structure of a full river of information. To select only one fragmented line from a collection of fragments destroys the whole.

Here is the full poem with the line breaks preserved as the e-mail presents them: “Comet Hyakutake” Arthur Sze

Comet Hyakutake's tail stretches for 360 million miles—

in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—

the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—

in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—

first silence, then reverberating sound—

our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—

a comet's nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—

two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the invisible rays of an airport scanner—

we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—

in nature's infinite book, we read a few pages—

in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—

the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—

budding, the child who writes, "the puzzle comes to life"—

elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—

a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—

Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—

no matter, ardor is here—

and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—

In part what Sze creates here confirms what my newest project attempts, deliver minute fractures of a picture, allowing in the end for the reader to piece together his/her own unique story through a process of blending all of the supplied various elements together.

I find it ironic he uses a comet as a major vehicle for his overall theme of the work, whereas with my poem, the image of a comet is strictly a simile, a short bridge moving between two ideas.

For the Grackle, Fox, and She-Bear series of poems here is the latest:

Turn the page. The thought
lingers behind— yet splintered.
Yet whole. A red fox shifting
between cypress trees, moving
as comet, as metaphor.

Silence weighs heavy—
without warning the language
of leaf and branch snap
shut, forgotten. Phrases lost
can no longer be carried.

Reddened cypress leans
forward to tell me something—
but comprehension
scatters. Brought down to nonsense
sounds: foot-treads through under brush.

A slight smear of blood
on a pale white kimono
or a red cypress
branch spearing a bank of snow:
at one time past, this was me—

or rather a brush
fire at midnight, red trails
slipped over landscape
in the darkness, a blank page
suddenly stroked in red paint—

Now I’m limited
to one shape— one small shadow
kept clipped to the ground—
my definition remains
whole, but without translation.

Let me clarify—
Its hard to provide private
personal accounts, details
of a true hidden nature

even to myself,
even with open moments
like this: an open
book in your hands, your face close,
leaning to knots of my words…

At this point my major hurdle is preventing the work from transforming into something much larger. There is an art for simplicity and understatement. I, on the other hand, tend to overstate and over-embellish, translating a simple idea into a grandiose, complexity of language. Trimming back excess remains a challenge at times. As the world’s readers spin closer and closer towards wanting smaller clumps of information, my poems spiral out towards pages of text, volumes of discourse and (re)examination. What was to be a six stanza poem becomes almost three typed pages.

So it seems I am much like my son— wrestling against the safe and the expected. Wanting the rebellion of individuality. Only thirteen months old and he has begun teaching me new ideas about myself.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Ghost of T. S. Eliot Comes to Visit

The latest poem in the newest sequence remains untitled, still. This fact hovers over the entire project. For some unknowable reason I need a title to help flow the tide of words and phrases. Titles act as an anchor for the reader. A stability to base the flow of information which the poet-writer provides. In this particular case, with this serious of poems a strong grounding in some sense of reality or logic is necessary do to the fantasy-folktale world the project bases itself.

Anyway. Currently I collected a menagerie of possibilities, each one a slight rewording of the main idea—from January 11:
Monologue from a Displaced Character
• Displaced Nō Character in Monologue
• Character Monologue from a Japanese Nō Play
• Displaced Character Wearing a Japanese Nō Mask of a Fox
• Ray Soto as a Displaced Figure from a Nō Play
• Ray Soto Wears the Mask of a Displaced Fox
• Narration from a Displaced Figure in a Nō Play

Obviously, none of these work. They are too specific. Too clinical. What resulted: the ghost of T. S. Eliot came to visit and snickered at my distress. Every school term I lecture on the Modernist movements and of course "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"— which shows how a poem can be defined by what it is not. The title declares an expectation which the poem does not deliver. Nor does the title directly warn you it will be a narrative monologue. This classic example of creative manipulation set me into a knot of contradictions. What needed to be resolved: what is my main purpose in the end?

In my particular case— unlike the works of say Jean Valentine which depend on a lack of strong realistic reaction of the world— or the nightmarish situations Yannis Ritsos creates, which defy logic and coherent thought— my recent series of proposed works need a clarification to help justify their quest-theme.

I do dislike the word "justification." It is too close to the word "defend" or "explain." The independent-rebel-artist in me cringes at the need to "validate" a creative description."Confirm" is a good word choice. Or even "uphold"— "support." Let's use support then: A strong title will support the quest-theme in the series of verse.

It falls into the logic of choosing, or not choosing, a specific form for a project. A restriction for a traditional sonnet sets the goal-posts in a recognizable pattern. Likewise, a strong title sets up a sense of a restriction for how the poem will perform.

Tonight, therefore, I fell into sleeplessness, again. Found myself wandering around the titles verbiage:
Displaced Character Wearing the Nō Mask of a Fox
• Narration from a Displaced Character in Transition, Wearing a Nō Mask of a Fox...

"Narration from a Displaced Character in Transition, Wearing a Nō Mask of a Fox"—

—for some unknowable reason this works. Within this established definition of the work lies room for experimentation and creative phrasing. At least what resulted is something to play with and develop over the next few weeks.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Slightly Drunk, with a Blurred Voice

So. Here I am again. Insomnia returns like a past lover. Calls up in the middle of the night, slightly drunk, with a blurred voice in the phone. Wants to talk about what actually went wrong.


Basho would more than likely use this opportunity to compose a psychological-intense verse. Me? I begin to rant like an irritated old man. That old song and dance. Yes. Well.

Trying to remember the last time this happened. The sleeplessness, I mean. It has been quite a long time ago... maybe even more than a year... yet now, for the last three nights in a row I have awakened after only an hour's rest, the mind slowly re-emerging into the waking world. After maybe five or ten minutes, then full consciousness, signaling sleep has left the building. And then the anger sets in— maybe bitterness is better word. And resentment. A review of failed goals, broken ideals. Again: bullshit. Fight the cynicism.

Spent Saturday revising lectures on Thomas Jefferson, Phillis Wheatley, and Benjamin Rush— so, even now the trio sit in my head having a discourse on American slavery, race issues, and definitions of poetry. The academic mind interrupting the creative writing mind; at the moment an early Kronos Quartet recording murmurs from the stereo: Monk Suite. A CD purchased when living with Bob in Minneapolis, one of the worst winter's on record, and me walking to work in a small arts supply chain in the middle of downtown, spending more money than I could possibly earn in a year. Often I would drink gallons of coffee, paint expressive abstractions all night, or write elaborate modern verse for later use. The cold temperatures would drift under the windows, brush against the arms and hands— You see? Yes, those old ghosts again. Funny how we develop patterns within patterns, the older we get. Is this the catalyst of my insomnia? Regrets of Minneapolis, twenty years later?

Trying to fall into the mindset for haiku—

For my short series on the coat check clerk at the Mid-America night club:

08 b/ Tonight he daydreams arms on the counter, he daydreams Head in hand, the coats dissolve into a cloud of blackbirds.

08 c/ When no one notices, With no one around, he inhales leather musk of the patron's jackets.

08 d/ With no one around, he buries his face within each leather (winter?) jacket.

—or the longer tanka forms; the Brendan poems: the scene plays out in my head but refuses to fall on to the page— metaphorically, at this stage, the poet-speaker is an older man wearing the mask of a ghost-fox, but he cannot take it off— so he sits in his wilderness ruminating in his multi-fold robes of orange-red, fires and ashes, ruminating, seeking closure. But then the sound of a flute in the distance. Brendan playing a flute to the grackle.

The head is tilting forward slightly now; eyes a little more sluggish... first sign that sleep is trying to return. Perhaps it is time to turn off the system and lie down again? Perhaps the demons were cast out once more.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Insomnia and Paralysis


For some unexplainable reason, bouts of insomnia return to haunt me these days— in my particular case, when these moments strike, they hit me with a paralysis— if I try to follow the recommendations of leaving the bedroom and shift the feelings aside, the body sends mixed signals and incoherent thought patterns which result in a lack of productivity. In other words, I cannot write or read or draw or watch television— this is the closest I find myself to a state of vegetation. In these moments, I exist, unable to move or think creatively. The body may be at rest but the mind is raging forward, almost a hormonal storm at sea. Waking nightmares in a sense. Frustration.

2011 was a good year in a number of ways—received a few poetry acceptances, made strong connections, developed new ideas, proved to myself that the Internet’s Social Media concept can work in small ways.

What surprises me, on further reflection, I have six magazines submissions and seven manuscript inquiries floating around publishers’ desks— without any indication of possibility or decline. Usually by year’s end I will have two or three slower responding journals, who react once a query e-mail is sent— but this year a total of thirteen different publications have yet to respond to various projects. THIRTEEN. I find myself checking for new mail every other hour hoping I overlooked a response.

What this situation generates is a feeling of invisibility, of non-existence. Of paralysis. Perhaps this is my second greatest fear: being unable to creatively function in the world. To be unable to respond to the world or to not have the world respond back. This is a death in itself. A frustration building stronger as time passes. In a way, it is the same situation on campus when the semester begins, when the students place zombie-masks over their faces every term. Self-induced nihilism of intellect. A blank no-face. Silence. Communication shut down. Nothing going in. Nothing coming out. An existential crisis in itself.

The worst offender surprises me: Hunger Mountain. Back in March I sent four poems through the Submishmash submission manager system, and my work sits there, in the in-box, “in progress” mode. Two inquiry letters were sent. Posted a gentle “tweet” asking for clarification. No response at all. Not even a form letter saying my message was received.

And of course I have been circulating the work elsewhere. Simultaneous submissions are frowned upon by various journals; fewer these days than from a decade ago I notice. However, waiting over six months for a form-reject-letter is too extreme. So multiple mailings are sent.

Perhaps what irritates me the most is the fact Hunger Mountain was recommended to me by another writer. And the fact that the magazine is sponsored by Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Where I earned my MFA. Hello?

Perhaps it is time for the stone-age-out-dated system of communication: a phone call. We’ll see what happens in the near future.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Raw Underlining of Modern Experience

A beauty lies in decay. In dilapidation and rust. Even in haiku poems, scenes of elaborate filth and squalor or raw tones of decomposition can be utilized to embellish a poet's message. Modern writers such as Richard Wright and Santoka Teneda knew this when creating their memorable poems. Even Bashō on occasion used this technique to his advantage. There is a danger making haiku verse into a sentimental recording of an event, a danger in capturing only picturesque moments or sequences of "deeper meaning"— Recreating moments with disturbing images or even mundane, ordinary objects can impact a reader with a strong emphasis, allowing them to transcend the information into something other.

Some Quick Examples:

     A horse is pissing
In the snow-covered courtyard
     In the morning sun.
                                   —Richard Wright

     While urinating
I feel slightly self-conscious
     Before the spring moon.
                                   —Richard Wright

Making my way through the fallen leaves,
I have a good shit in the fields.
                                   —Santoka Teneda

Red urine—
How long will I be able
To continue this journey?
                                   —Santoka Teneda

fleas and lice
now a horse pisses
by my pillow


What these five poems have in common is the emphasis of articulating the grit of everyday living— and moving beyond the "ugliness," beyond the unspoken rituals of existence.


With this in mind, I am currently developing a series of haiku sentences on themes not normally associated with such meditative verse. The first handful I have generated specifically delve into the night life of a gay dance club— the ones with less than posh atmospheres, the ones that carry scenes of a warehouse dive, or the hidden Mid-American beer joints with secret entrances.

What I hope to accomplish is a stronger, more direct approach towards my writing— a frank honesty, or a means to expose the raw underlining of modern existence. To utilize themes less expected from an average haiku.

A litany of these will be posted on Twitter: @Pan_Within.

A Quick Preview:

1/ From the stage— leaning through a blur of cigarettes— their hard bodies sway.

17/ When he drinks, his tongue slips forward first—darting into the mouth of the glass.

25/ On backstairs, he hears brusque intakes of breath. Then invisible whispers.

Works Cited Page