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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter Magnolia

Winter Magnolia

150 / a blooming opens on the back yard magnolia tree— from the lowest branch pulls a bud: as a blunt tongue or pale phallus-shaped shaft —

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crows in Winter


149 / scraps of blunt phrases strung together— mended beads or as taped pages— the division now removed— crows along a broken branch

With Scissors


148 / kneeling on the floor, with scissors, he cuts slow lines through newsprint, saving articles, material he will never read again

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tight Spirals


147 / Tonight our toddler son insists we dance, circling each other in tight spirals: parents and young son in motion. Without music.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Psalms as Meditative Bridges

New Year's Day bloomed as a gray and chilled series of hours. The boy played upstairs— his laughter carrying throughout the house despite the lack of color outside. A strong contrast of realities, perception. I still feel a lingering sensation of a mild cold— a mere frustration really, just enough discomfort to make me wish I could stay in bed all day, avoiding responsibilities. The illness gathers in my joints and sinuses results in numerous sneezes, coughing attacks, the need for numerous tissues. In the background a slow John Coltrane filters from the stereo: mellow, drawn-out rhythms.
Earlier in January, Bitter Oleander rejected a short series of poems— on a positive side, the editors included a nice note, encouraging a re-submission in the future, providing a connection for possibilities— offering a sense of understanding between us was reached. At the beginning of a new year, such statements carry a strong emphasis. Reinforce a commitment with the self regarding more frequent submissions of manuscripts.
After a brief hiatus, I have begun writing daily tanka verses again. Like the haiku project, I am presenting these in sentence format rather than stanzas. This shift allows a greater experimental notion— a stronger word association game, which enables positive results in longer works. The relationship of metaphors has altered somewhat for me as well— producing the want for a stronger abstraction, rather than a logical, expected bridge of thought. The evidence of this change should be more obvious in days to come.

146 / I did not want to recall the past— and yet here you are, with scents of stale cigarettes and beer lingering under your tongue —
—and then, as well, I have been developing a poem regarding the horrors in Connecticut. As a parent, the event shakes me to the core; the root of my sensibilities bristles with anger, resentment, grief— At this juncture, too many individual threads of thoughts keep conflicting with my need to bring together an adequate response, yet sensitive to those affected.

In my notebook, the sequence of verses began with these phrasings:
torn prayer book
psalms as meditative bridges
child's shirt left over a chair
shells of water-oak acorns
— mere subtle scraps of images, but on the whole these words are helping to bring out an emotional questioning to my understanding of faith and devotion. Abstract concepts which I need to translate and provide to my child. Building some sense of a structure of security in this world of insecurities.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Indecipherable Texts


145 Last night a short rain— tonight a slow fog lifting out of the canals— the hour remains a codex with indecipherable texts.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sudden Rain


144 / after a sudden rain— we shave my head outside— the mirror reflects back my father’s winter face— the ghost of my son’s future

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unopened


143 / without warning, you cross paths with your past again: simply a letter unopened, resting on the counter—waiting for your move

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Without Shoes

From early last December, before the cold snap settled in Cypress.

142 / standing without shoes on the front porch, watching neighbors arrange their houses with holiday lights— a slight chill creeps in my bones

Monday, January 21, 2013

Unbidden Memory


141 / odd the unbidden memory: of waking in the middle of the night, with only myself in bed— and finding fresh fallen snow

An intense autobiographical moment at three in the morning. A time when one is suddenly aware of self. The hour burning blue throughout the small room. I woke shivering, discovering most of the sheets were cast off on the floor, leaving me alone on the cot— so of course with this type of association, the subconscious pulls out ideas from the immediate past— partly in the waking, partly fragmented in dream-memory.

The other members of the house slept curled about themselves, oblivious.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Rough Thousand


140 / wanting a different language in his mouth, a small boy stands shouting back at a rough thousand grackles— his voice fracturing twilight

Autobiographical Narration Example

A strong example of digging into the past for essays in the present. From The Good Men Project, a personal story of a daughter learning new details of her father's history. Daiva Markelis writes in the opening paragraph:
My father told me once, out of the blue, that he had been a cook for the Germans during the occupation. Because he’d left it at that, for years I thought he had willfully joined the Nazis. The fact that his first name was Adolfas—the Lithuanian version of Adolph—added to the evidence compiling in my head. I lived ashamed of his secret past, fearful of the day when proof of his atrocities would come to light, his photograph plastered across the front page of The Chicago Tribune. I didn’t realize that my father hated his name, would correct his American employers when they called him Adolph: “It’s Aaah-dolfas,” he’d drawl.

Read more at http://goodmenproject.com/

Markelis' introductory paragraph pulls the reader into her account of a man she thought she understood, and then reveals the hidden depths.
[English 1302 students in particular pay attention to the last section of the essay where the author juggles personal history with critical analysis. Note the verb tense changes.]

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Bright Blood Moon

1965

With our son turning two last December, and my own half century birth date looming close, I pulled out old photo albums of my childhood for comparison. One of the first few series of pictures builds my earliest memory— myself in the full sun of a south-eastern Texas November, chasing a large, red ball, the toy becoming the sun, becoming the toy—and myself laughing with the arc of descent, the inverse action of a rising, a mirroring of the motions of coastal Gulf waters.

It is not clear which element precludes the other: memory or photo, however, I still sense the room, the halfdark of midday, with small, stray motes of dust caught in sunlight. My father controls the scene, the ebb and flow of the ball between me and himself.

This scene plays out in one of my early poems from Vermont College. Titled “Myths of Anam” it focuses on a fictitious persona and his development—a mask of course for my own history, morphed into something “other”— the poem merges a psychological rambling with stark realism: analyzing the acceptance of self-identity through an imaginary playmate… perhaps I should not admit any personal connection to the text, leave it all vague— as a surreal daydream.

The opening section reads:

I can’t say how I recall East Texas, 1965,
when my father, a meteorologist, brought home from work
a weather balloon, the size almost the twice of me, pale
orange filling my sight, a large October sun; I remember
the dark room, the smell of thick plastic,
the falling and rising.

It was then I recall this memory of a boy being born
with gray eyes, his head already covered in a shock
of black hair, small fists curled against his chest
as he lay next to his mother, asleep with the window slightly
open, seasonal rains falling inside, green tropical water
overflowing sewers in the street;

I do not know where this memory
was made. I do not know the color of the sea
Mare Imbrium, where the people baptize their children
and cut off the small, fleshy tail near the end of the spine,
where the rise and fall of the tides are erratic,—
without warning boats suddenly find themselves
          on the base of the reefs
the lunar surface of the sea bottom exposed to the sun until
a few minutes later, the water returns as suddenly as it left.
The full poem appears in Slant, Summer 1993, issue VII.

In memory the ball is twice my size— almost translucent, a thin layer of plastic. My father recently tells me it was most likely a weather balloon taken from his job at the small airport where he was stationed. The photo shows it as an ordinary red balloon, dad in the background still in his work clothes with a plastic protector in his breast pocket.

Overtime I have made the image a central part of my identity, a bright blood moon rising over my birthday, after the year tilts close to winter.

Somewhere, I have read that all memories are false impressions. They exist as warped copies of an original event that cannot be accurately recorded or perceived. Such ideas trouble me; the lack of a static account for the world seems to reduce past history down to an existential, pointless existence…

At this rate, I can see my son perhaps will have no fears. He seems to welcome change, takes on all risks, falls down, then bounces immediately back up again. This trait does seem equivalent to my father, now that I think of it. He exists as a steady presence in my background, a constancy. A watchful witness for change.

Something I should aim to be for my own child.

139 / new medicine causes violent dreaming; unaware, you sleep beside me— when I startle awake, I hear winter, leaning close

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Gray-tipped Crane


138 / for a brief moment, a gray-tipped crane pauses at our gate, reflecting on possible poems to write with flowering magnolias

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Eaves of the House


137 / late in the season, a short rainfall brings crickets out in multitudes— under the eaves of the house, I listen to their chorus

blue horses


136 / in an old notebook, the ghost of my brother lies hidden between scrawled lines of uneven text and images of blue horses

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Silence


135 / within the space between two sentences, a drawn out pause extends beyond the punctuation’s borders— a deepening silence—

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Metaphor


134 / this is how metaphor began: the mouth struggling with sound, motioning to meaning, phonetics stumbling on the tongue with language

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jazz of the Moment


133 / take the jazz of this moment— rip it open as a pomegranate; place six or more bitter seeds on the surface of your tongue

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Mathematics of My Daily Routine

It’s odd— and frustrating— how the slight shift from writing formal haiku to formal tanka exists as a difficult transition. A self-made barrier becomes planted in the middle of my path. We are talking a difference of fourteen additional syllables— only two additional lines. Yet, the whole process causes mild headaches and writing anxieties which I never experienced before. Some nights I skip the ritual due to built up nervousness and developing anger. I have to remind myself that the whole idea is only a meditative exercise, a brief mental jog to create new phrasing, different word play on the page. But for me, whereas haiku shape themselves without issue, reshaping the concept into other forms remains difficult, elusive.

Another way to think about it: the rhythm of tanka falls in a less impulsive fashion… the breath and natural pauses I use for writing do not easily translate to a new limitation of five lines…
Perhaps Dante would reserve such self-imposed traumas in-between the fourth and fifth layer of Hell— just before the marshy banks of the River Styx. Damned poets would appear trudging in knee-deep mud, in wet, rust-red clay which ends up staining their tunics, their faces— their hands trembling with anger as they wander, clutching their half completed manuscripts and a cup of faulty pens.
In a manner of thought, the predicament is similar to the recent move into our new house. Even now, after five months later, I still have packed boxes in my office to sort through, we have bare walls to hang posters and paintings. The timing does not feel right for unpacking and rearranging the immediate environment. Shuffling furniture around would only cause more personal stress. What remains: the mathematics behind my daily routine keep causing knots of mismatched figures and awkward rhythm schemes. An accountant’s nightmare of illogical calculations and a poet’s misery of sputtering syllables.


132 / a moment exists, a hesitation frozen between two figures— a recognition— as she hands him a ripe pomegranate.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Instinct and Natural Mechanisms

Today the weather shifts back to more spring-like temperatures. Despite the warm day, I fight off a cold: stuffed head, dripping nose, weakness in the legs. And then too the medicine causes me often to daydream and lose focus. To compose one sentence may take five or more minutes of concentration.

It does not help that my writing desk faces the front of the house. The full landscape outside the window distracts, and at the same time, comforts my wandering eye. The scene includes a man-made canal and small copse of trees, clusters of cypress and water-oak. This afternoon I have watched a marsh crane patrol the banks, walking slowly, steadily, purposely, marching up and down the edges of the water, hunting for food. Shall I compare him to a Prussian soldier? —traditional priest in an ankle length cassock? —wandering haiku poet?

More than once he has appeared in my haiku poems: a presence of authority and custom. His rhythm suits a poem. The whole of his body ticking forward with a precision of joints and feathers, instinct and natural mechanisms. A counter-example of the tanka verse I wrote for today.

131 / another series of weeks, leaking oil, locked in slow decomposition—the neighbor’s car remains unmoved from front of their house—

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Remember


130 / Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe—

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Offending Bone

Received a rejection from Agni yesterday. The material I sent was among the best poems written to date, so the news produced a little frustration. The material ventures into a new territory for my style— and as a result now, of course, I question the choices made— rereading the words over and over. Digging to find the weak element in order to remove the chunk of granite. The offending bone buried in secret by the family dog.

Partly this is all due to the fact I stumbled across a phrase in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita which stung. In the early stages of the book, his narrator comments about his past academic choices, stating: "At first, I planned to take a degree in psychiatry [but] I switched to English literature, where so many frustrated poets end as pipe-smoking teachers in tweeds" (15). Who wants to hear the truth from such a flawed, mentally-scarred character?

In the end, all I can do is bundle the poems up again and resend them out into the world.


129 / —a broken phrase lies as a broken branch, blossoming even though fractured from the full thought— splintered glass waiting for a broom sweep—

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Almost-Full Moon


128 / you whisper Spanish lullabies to the baby— even the almost-full moon leans in to listen closely to catch every word—

Monday, January 7, 2013

Three Pale Lilies

127 / on the chest of drawers an empty ceramic pot, painted over with the images of three pale lilies— hungry mouths leaning—

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Winter Oleander

winter oleander

126 / sometimes, even silence has something to say: distinctly, firmly, in the voice of winter rains, or an oleander, closing—

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rambling Meditations

In two years I turn fifty.

The statement weighs heavy as a specific measurement, a concrete declaration of formality, a process, rigid rule keeping. And of course what results is the need for self-reflection, self-analysis, that same old cliché that develops for all humanity.

One aspect of this speculation is the fact my partner and I ended up in Houston, Texas where a majority of my first memories were formed as a child, where personality emerged, hesitantly. A stumbling along, seeking myself out from a crowd. Partly I find the phrase “full circle” too convenient. Are my acts pre-ordained? In other words are we as a species wired to always return to familiar territories? I always disliked the notions of fate and control. I always said that free-will impacts human development in a stronger fashion than pre-ordained situations. But that is another topic I do not want to fall into at this stage—

Another aspect for my increased self-analytical behavior is the fact I am a father now. Each day the title is easier to wear; every morning our son chases me down and identifies himself through me and his labels of me. His definitions become specific and demanding at times— so I follow his cues. There might come a time when he wants a better understanding of my identity, by my own terms. I do want him to have a clear definition of how I see myself if only— … wait. The wording is not sounding correct. The language chosen is too static. I want Brendan to have a tangible understanding his father and how I see myself as a father. In this fashion a solid starting point can be provided for him…

And perhaps all of this process of meditation is unnecessary. My boy is not hesitant. He is fearless. He does not hold back from testing new ideas or pushing boundaries. He clearly likes the foreground and having an active presence in all areas— whereas, I remember myself as a child holding back more often than not. A recluse. Individualistic. Remaining cautious in the security of the background scenes. At this stage we seem inverse personalities.

inverse


125 / after watering the potted geraniums— a sudden lizard— from inside the house I hear the baby call out my name

Friday, January 4, 2013

Small Fugues


124 / down the hallway of the storage facility— I hear the last cricket of the season darkly thrumming small fugues to himself

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Impatience and Hope

In regards of submitting material for publication, I have extreme passive-aggressive tendencies. Oftentimes I fall into a ritual of sending out poems, chapbook manuscripts, full book manuscripts — and then promptly fall out of the habit once the negative results filter into the mailbox. One needs to be careful with the on again/off again relationship with editors and publishers. Writer’s block can establish a strong root system within these slow periods of impatience and hope while a poet sits at a desk, waiting for a returned manuscript.

In short: this year I plan on a new approach. By making a public declaration, perhaps the shift in the formula will stick. Some habits are good for the soul, after all.


123 / curled on your side of the bed, the cat lies in a tightened knot, pretending you will not enter the bedroom, replacing his warmth

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Creatures of Constant Motion

There exist specific images I tend to over-use in my poems: the moon, nighttime, dreams, and lately hands.



stigmata

Of the human anatomy, the hand expresses as much emotion and temperament as the eyes. In theory I blame the Renaissance painters and their theatrical reenactments from Greek myths and Biblical passages. The actors on the canvas must express a range of ideas and circumstances without being able to utter a sound.

As a child I spent hours glossing over the Italian Masters and their interpretations of Adam accepting the forbidden fruit from Eve, or Saul on his journey to Damascus— all of which clearly show the flickering gestures of the paintings' protagonists in a variety of moods.

I can include the obvious analogy of typing, my fingers and wrists are always in motion along a keyboard, stroking characters on to the screen, clicking away at the lap top or smartphone— Even now, between paragraphs and moments of slight reflection, my hands agitate against the air, creatures of constant motion: small birds.

122 / the overhead fan spirals continuously— yet, you sleep soundly beside me throughout the night— my nervous hands motioning

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gray and Chilled Series of Hours

New Year’s Day blooms as a gray and chilled series of hours. Without much concern, the boy plays upstairs— his jazzy laughter carries throughout the house despite the lack of color outside. A strong contrast of realities, perception. I still feel a lingering sensation of a low-grade cold— a mere frustration really, just enough mild discomfort to make me wish I could stay in bed all day, avoiding any responsibilities. The illness gathers in my joint and in my sinuses, resulting in numerous sneezes, the need for numerous tissues. In the background a slow Coletrane filters from the stereo: mellow, drawn-out rhythms.

Last week Bitter Oleander Press rejected a short series of my poems— however, on a positive side, the editors included a nice note encouraging a resubmission in the future, offering a sense that a connection was built— a slight understanding of our styles was achieved. At the close of the year, such statements carry a strong emphasis. They reinforce a commitment with the self to generally submit more material, more frequently. Stay on schedule.

Not surprisingly, keeping a steady schedule is not one of my strong points. After a brief hiatus from creating daily Tanka verses, I again have begun writing these terse poems. Like the Haiku Sentence Project, I will be displaying the tanka form in a linear form, less traditional, avoiding the showing of the stanzas within a rigid syllable count. Yet at the same time maintaining the full poem's 31 syllable-count.

121 / a lamp left burning by the back window attracts pale luna moths—in morning sunlight, they scatter, a crowd of tipsy old men
This experiment in presentation allows a different fashion of capturing a splinter of a moment— exposing a fraction of the full epiphany in the act of unfolding. In this sense, what I hope will happen, the now-moment gains a stronger potential to expand into the current reality of the reader as well— but through fragmented prose.

Over the next few months I will share the results of my instinctual world-play. I detect some benefits already within my longer poems.