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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Summer Re-gathers

177 / the scent of mint tea braids tightly within your hair, lingering in your hands— summer re-gathers among the folds of your warm clothes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bowl of Ripe Peaches

176 / a wasp circles close a bowl of ripe peaches, pulling out nectar— then spirals across the yard in the glare of afternoon sun

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spool of Silence

175 / she unwinds slowly a spool of silence, unthreading hours of the day, releasing hems of her dress, singing with pins in her mouth

psalms of consolation

Today's tanka exists as an earlier version of verse 24 from "Twenty-Six Verses from an Apocryphal Psalm"— in this case the stanza shown below is displayed in a shorter format, a more terse statement than what is embellished with additional lines in "Twenty-six Verses—." The image the tanka promotes intends to shift the wandering focus of the full poem from a melancholy view of faith and organized religion to a progressive acceptance of an Unknowable Divinity. An attempt of the poet-speaker to reach back into childhood and recover the security of traditions and rituals.

The full poem itself still lingers, stalling out, still waiting for a final motion from me. More than one person has told me to let it set back for a few days.

It does make sense, on occasion, to step away from the creative product and hide material for a few days, weeks, or even months. The longest extreme "vacation" I have taken was from a poem I began in the Nineties when I lived in the Central West End of Saint Louis. The work contains one of my longest titles as well— "Fragmented Still Life with Cardoon and Parsnips: After a painting by Juan Sánchez Cotán (circa 1602)"— divided into four sections, each chunk of verse is based on a deconstructed view of the English sonnet form. Collectively, the poem runs with a theme of unrequited love, plus containing a fractured message of regret and (ironically) renewal— as if four separate journal entries were ripped apart and scotch-taped back together. The intentions of the verse began from a poor photocopy I discovered in the trash at a college library, the paper folded into quarters. Each sonnet corresponds with a different division of the artwork.

My point: after working and reworking and re-reworking the phrasing and fragments, it was not until 2012 I finalized a satisfactory version— and one which will be published later this year by a literary journal titled The Meadow, printed by the Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.
On an aside, for a quick second I sought out possible images of the painting which started the whole poem— or at least to find which museum in Spain displays the work. Closest thing I could find is a personal blog about Madrid. The blogger comments that the painting is in Granada.

Furthermore, if you "google" the title "Still Life with Cardoon and Parsnips," more often you find an image from 1604 by the same artist, but this version only contains two groupings of vegetables. Maybe this fact will produce a new set of poems?

174 / a children’s chorus, mid-song, releasing psalms of consolation— unfolding as a prayer, a note in a coat pocket forgotten

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Four Tanka

170 / the cat paces the floor, wanting to fall out into the blue winter night air, not understanding my want of his internment
171 / unhinging his jaw, he slowly takes in the moon— the whole of it vanishing in one large swallow— in turn, darkness swallows him
172 / in early morning, shaggy ponies breathe out steam— stand in vacant fields— wild grasses startle and stroke up against their spotted flanks
On my son's magnetic board he randomly grouped instinctual words: boys, sea, quick, and green— due to the manner of the loose arrangement of letters, I pulled the following verse together:
173 / quick boys by the sea fall into greening waves of drag and weave, take their hard bodies beyond any limits— riding their life’s crest

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dead Shell of a Wasp's Nest

169 / middle of winter— the dead shell of a wasp’s nest clings tight to the wrist of a marble garden faun— cherub faced in the twilight —

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Five Sunflowers

Today fits strangely— as wearing an undersized shirt, too tight in the collar and too constricting across the chest. Everything is out of the regular pattern of the week. It does not help that I forgot to post verses for two days; little chaotic events of mundane living interrupted my habitual records. Momentarily I even tried reworking closing phrases on my current project— but the words fell flat, rushed. One of the valid comments I received from an on-going workshop session stated that the ending sounds contrived... and I think I see what she is referring to in fact. Yet, feelings of claustrophobia inhibit the writing process.
The poem below approaches the tanka creation concept in a different direction than usual. In this case, I took a finalized haiku sentence and supplied fourteen additional syllables of phrasing. The resulting tanka (169) then overlaps with the previous generated haiku (566), acting as a blurring of personal memory, bridging the two verses as one idea— the way that recollections emerge into the waking consciousness without warning while one is in the middle of a casual act: washing a dish, closing a book, noticing the hour.

At first, I thought this action would lessen the precept of the exercise or make allowances for passive constructions— yet, I do like the manner the two projects work together as one developing series of thoughts: declaration and secondary observation, or in some cases, point and counterpoint.

Five Sunflowers

168 / for no apparent reason, you recall her dark hair in morning light— how she always arranged sun flowers in clusters of five—

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Blank Page

167 / an unlit candle— empty glasses—a blank page— a chair in shadows— a ghost at the bedroom’s door—arc of ever-changing hours—

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Words Fade

166 / Heavy winter rain. Your voice on the telephone, murmurs long distance— with weak cellular phone lines crackling. Words fade in. Then out.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stitched in Shadows

165 / empty nest, still moon-shaped with fragments of phrases stitched in shadows and woven grass— still intact throughout the winter months; waiting—

Startled Flock of Grackles: Informal Renga Cycle

Recently I participated in a Renga poetry exchange with a fellow poet O. Prejean. As an informal practice, this exercise enabled a whole new approach to the typical poetry-writing practice— sometimes the ideas arrived in a mad rush, such as when a startled flock of grackles erupt from a casual field, then scatter around as black fractions of the whole flock. More often than not I had to concentrate intensely on the themes and images Prejean proposed in his work, all in order for me to generate a proper response— and at the same time— suggest a slightly new direction to take the full poem.

It is important to stress the fact: I
do consider the full work as one long collaborative work. Just as a quilt represents one form, this poem is composed of smaller squares of individual expressions, which in turn represent one multi-textured idea. Furthermore, due to the informal nature of our e-mail exchanges, none of the pieces are formatted in the same fashion. We left our individual styles apparent, and using a word association technique, often allowed each individual poem to have its own diverse form and appearance. As you read the full exchange, some verses contain punctuation and standard presentation of proper nouns, some do not. Some contain indented lines; some do not.

Finally, the themes range in the manner memory works, sometimes as a scattering of random phrases, sometimes as a coherent, bridged conversation. Together we talk about family, friends, lovers— the elements that make up human experience.

Below, the stanzas in blue correspond to my writing, the non-formatted text belong to O. Prejean. 


A field hawk shifts in
winter as my child slips in
a deeper sleep.

spilled wood shavings
reciting Virgil's Aenid to
my proud grandfather

From a distant room
sounds of piano scales fall—
a handful of stones.

evening rainfall — old Bach record on repeat

After winter storms,
the night remains overcast.
Roads reflect back grey.

sun in Kyoto
     near lit lanterns
holding his hand

under the bridges
of Cypress, the sunset blurs—
spreading as a bruise

at the feet of gods:
cornstarch sand browned
in egyptian heat

halflight of twilight— I watch a mosquito dance on the window's skin—

frozen evening i keep sentry over my lover’s form

A splinter of moon motions under the bedroom door throughout the night.

far from a downed shrub in the dark my fingers strum your thigh

The sun descends
over your figure
as you brush out your night-dark hair.

sun bounces off gilded birdcage the repose of your strong thigh

sudden lifting crows—
the shadow of his hand slips—
her sleeping body

beside the bed
he reaches for my phone—
across the room
the colors of a Matisse
vivid in sunlight

Yet one more haiku
written to the moon drifting
outside my window.

lonely woman
     off-white paint on
bus stop's bench

She unspools the thread—
then sews on a new button:
bright red, misplaced star.

his burnished,
alto voice
churning a sky
darkened by rain

Holding my son close—
one last reference to the moon—
a falling pebble.

in russian
she tells me i’m woman
of a broken promise

Spanish lullabies
orbiting the warm grey room—
scents of oranges.

under the man
vicious love's what i
need in silence

Unlit cigarette
dangling from chapped winter lips
—his smile in shadows.

footsteps through day
     thoughts of you
pianissimo in my mind

house front: cracked sidewalk,
pulled dandelions, scattered—
Bach falls from windows.

we, who no longer
know our own bloodsongs;
we, strive to
compose life over a
feast of yellow'd bones

a pitcher of oil
pouring over gathered hands—
grief collects below.

in echoing tom-toms
autumn moon reflected in witch-doctors'
eyes, ancient jungles

Cracks in the ceiling,
Stretching forward, then splinter
To let the night in

elongated sunset, a month spent closing her house. her memories.

wrapping up a
work day, my
stomach lurches thinking
of tomorrows recital.

Still drunk on moonlight
a cockroach stumbles over
the cold kitchen tiles

strained crow caws moving into an evening mist

—lemon, spring onions,
and the woman I almost
married walking through
the house, her dark hair glowing
in mid afternoon sunlight

around for this morning’s
love, touch, smell...
ancient rains mingle
with your closed voice

He speaks of passion—
I imagine a pear tree
blossoming— young moon.

as autumn arrives
changing the bed sheets in
the dead daughter's room

middle of the night—he dreams of unfolding
a soft-peach kimono

apricot midnight, with cool fingers touching your warmth

stolen memories:
damp alley, a salty kiss,
scent of autumn plums

Friday, February 15, 2013

the trembling || 7/7

A continuation of the "Apocryphal Psalm" series:

164 / or then, perhaps as a procession of children casting down fresh palm branches in church aisles, the trembling, narrow descent of green

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

prayers we utter || 6/7

A continuation of the "Apocryphal Psalm" series:

163 / by definitions we establish, the prayers we utter at night on bent knees seeking a faith, a stronghold in the darkness,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

as a Holy text || 5/7

A continuation of the "Apocryphal Psalm" series:

162 / when we hold our child, we support him as a holy text, a book of reverence, a book of hours, his body bound by our hands

Monday, February 11, 2013

scraps of paper || 4/7

A continuation of the "Apocryphal Psalm" series:

161 / lines of their discourse becoming scraps of prayers— but then we are caught unprepared for disaster for the sudden unexplained

Sunday, February 10, 2013

fractured psalms || 3/7

A continuation of the "Apocryphal Psalm" series:

160 / even fractured psalms translate to children’s voices— the pitch of phrases caught in the wind, fragmented across the distance, broken

sometimes children's palms || 2/7

A continuation of the "Apocryphal Psalm" series:

159 / sometimes children’s palms tremble when holding a holy text, their shadows slipping slow over pages, shivering with God’s full weight

Saturday, February 9, 2013

a torn envelope || 1/7

Over the course of the next seven days I will be posting individual tanka which have merged with a longer poem which consists of twenty-six short stanzas. Earlier this week I mentioned the work in detail, "Twenty-six Verses from an Apocryphal Psalm" and posted numbers 12 - 15.

I have already noted that in a major way this work resulted from heavy reactionary emotions. Currently I am work-shopping the piece with two other writers to hone the phrasing closer to my intentions. Likewise, because of its expressionistic abstractions a cautious approach needs to be used before declaring it finalized at this specific point in time.

What these seven verses show is a partial beginning of the finalized form— by themselves they carry a separate message. Ironically, when brought into the fuller piece, the meaning shifts to a different emphasis, an alternative frame.

158 / a torn envelope for instance, with a scrawled name, illegible in dark red ink, as a reminder, as a task forgotten

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Blinds Flung Open

157 / without forethought— the winter night descends slowly— he undresses with every light on in the house, blinds flung open to darkness—

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Grackles Invade

156 / yet again, a flock of grackles invade our yard, translating themselves to the same metaphor within my broken lines of poems—

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


155 / walking to the mail— not as walking on water, but rather on small metaphors, looking to build greater connections— bridges —

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Square of Moonlight

154 / a square of moonlight travels across the bare floor, slipping over the living room couch, then pauses near the cat’s curled, sleeping form —

Sunday, February 3, 2013

insomnia— again

The baby woke after only an hour of sleep tonight. I calmed his night fears, then rocked him into deeper slumbers. Now, three hours later, I am not only restless, but wide awake, wired. Tonight's bout of sleeplessness falls in a territory of undefined behavior— tomorrow's chores only involve light grading and formulating a lecture for a Tuesday class— no major issues or dates. No parties, no football games, no socializing. A large list of "no's"...

I suppose working on one of the few remaining projects is not unwarranted, but the head feels slightly foggy, a portion of my self is not quite fully functioning. Typing itself is no matter. At this stage of my life, it is habitual. An instinctual, second act— like breathing. Creating poetry, on the other hand, needs that full awareness from my right side of the brain— that side of the head which is currently drowning.
Picture source: "Singing game." Wikipedia.

Looking at the sheets of the most recent poem, my most political verse to date, I am in a bind with identification. Its title currently reads: "Twenty-six Verses from an Apocryphal Psalm" — yet, it suggests allusions to Medieval caroles, referencing children dancing in a centuries old church or temple. For instance, near the center of the piece I wrote:
12/ When we hold our child, we support him as a holy text, a book of reverence, a book of hours, his body bound by our hands,

13/ by definitions we establish, the prayers we utter at night on bent knees seeking a faith, a stronghold in the darkness—

14/ or then, perhaps as a procession of children casting down fresh palm branches in church aisles, the trembling, narrow descent of green

15/ —even light trembles for a moment before a candle is lit, just as we tremble in darkness at the prospects of the world, as we watch a sleeping child.
Later, the work mentions the children dancing in rings, laughing, wearing tunics.

My point: I am slightly torn with identifying the poem as a "psalm" while I have the notions of a carole in my mind. This slight bump in the process creates a roadblock in terms of completion for the final lines. Yes, I realize that the biblical Psalms were intended to be sun to music, perhaps even dancing.

The main problem is I do not know if I have a problem. My issue could be that I am wanting to have a problem in order to justify my stalling... and frankly, the more I think about this, as I type out these words, I am realizing, there is no issue. I just need to bring together some appropriate phrases for closure.

153 / for the moment, a cup rests on the side of the desk— empty, save for a thin ring of milk, lingering inside the rim’s blue shadow —

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Falling into a Dream-State

Another view of writer's block. Lately, the sensation varies in waves of intensity. Fortunately, I have discovered that by using a technique of self-hypnosis for insomnia, the grey static-blur lessens. Falling into a dream-state sometimes produces immediate memories of the day. When this concept fails, simply making creative comments about the process itself, or the lack of results from the process, helps produce words.

152 / an open notebook lies on my chest, blank pages exposed, waiting for my motions through the fields of waist-high pampas grasses—

Friday, February 1, 2013

Blanket of Clover

151 / after drinking his life to a hospital bed— nightly, he lies awake, defiantly growing out a blanket of clover—