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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A River of Fractured Thoughts

Managed to sleep for almost ten hours in a row during the past three days. A shifting towards my old habits, before Brendan, before early morning classes on the other side of town—
He has watched The Wizard of Oz every night for the last week. However, Brendan has become obsessed with every scene, every fantasy element in the film. I would not be surprised by the fact that he could recite the dialogue, word-for-word. Gesturing with the actors.
Determined to end the year with more declratives, positive closures— even mundane actions: bird seed spilling over the feeder, discovery of a new poem on-line, an idea sparking before night falls full—
                               but sleep is approaching. I feel his presence in the room, encouraging me to turn off the lamp. He strokes my hair out of my eyes,
Tonight, in a few hours, I still need to set up the Fractured Lines Project within Twitter. One line per hour. The beginning of every hour for every day. A river of fractured thoughts for the upcoming year.

Image from: dreamsteep

One debate lingers: leave the lines as momentary, numbered examples received in the readers' head, briefly— or record the entire result, week-by-week here, on the blog. For the curious or those who may have missed a day or two of entries, the later is preferable. It suits my sense of wanting to establish a mark in the literary world. The fickle industry of words.

So, I pull down the physical dictionary from the bookcase, The Oxford American College Dictionary (2002).
fracture n. the cracking or breaking of a hard object or material [...] typically a bone or a rock stratum. • the physical appearance of a freshly broken rock ir mineral, esp. as regards the shape of the surface formed [...] • [as adj.] (fractured) (of speech or language) broken. (531)
Nothing new or extraordinary about the status of the word— it exists how I viewed it: as a means of snapping poetic verse to suit a given situation— as in this case, fit the format of 144 characters per entry. In the end I'll simplify the titling of the full concept: "Fractures"— curt and minimalist. To the point.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Delicate, Soft Tansformation

Driving to pick up Brendan this afternoon I kept waiting for a line or broken phrase to approach me at the stoplight, at the random lull of traffic— but my attention kept faltering. Continually stumbled over tasks and not technique. Even now, at this moment, in the momentary stillness of the house—
In the dry of winter, even here, Southeast Texas, my skin cracks along the wrists, knuckles. As if I bareknuckled an opponent— the skin blisters into red flakes, festers.
I fear the next few days will revolve around the same mundane realities as today’s posting: weather holidays, laundry, insomnia. Beginnings of a cycle I suppose. As my list of fractured lines develops, increasing over time, I begin expecting all forms of writing to reflect a stronger purpose— that is, move beyond casual complaints. Setting myself up for the close of the year. The responsibilities of change.

—as if I bareknuckled an opponent— the skin      blisters
His personality shifts closer and closer towards a mirror image of my younger brother— Brendan, I mean, he motions closer to an image from the past, meaning Lane. The transition lies as a haunting— a delicate, soft transformation. Not a harsh metamorphosis from Greek dramas, but a suggestion of tender emphasis. There are moments I fall into memory, as a transposition, similar to E. B. White’s essay “Once More to the Lake.” Yet, in this case I become my father, Brendan becomes Lane, not my younger self, not the me. So the blur of pronouns becomes even more confusing.


He translates to either persona or subject. The potential for abstract analysis heightens as the moment surrounds the two of us and I become lost in the jungle of identity. We end with a confirmation that the past is always with us. The future becomes history in the present tense.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bloody Waltz

I do not know what to make of recent events: The escalation of violence. The denial of authority. The loss of an individual’s status.
We seem to circle the same issues in smaller circles— bring out the same angry retorts in a bloody waltz against each other.
Under my tongue, a cough drop burns. And I rest, wanting to find a moment of exceptional poetry within the course of the day’s events. An epiphany out of national happenings.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Perpetual Metamorphosis

Lately, I have collected more fractured lines—numerous phrases—an ongoing project for the approaching 2015. The flow of information gathers in repetitious waves—more so than I originally planned. A thread of thought expressed earlier in the litany of phrases reappears later in the series, taking on a new casual reference.

     Collectively they mimic each other.
Nothing remains the same throughout the exchange of ideas. A perpetual metamorphosis.
The artist M.C. Escher proves to be more of an influence on my writing than previously imagined. The patterns moving across the page as water, as mathematical equations. Honeycombs. Pixels of color. A row of birds shifting to young boys shifting to water oaks.
In the same sense of a clutch of dried, potted geraniums— the ones on the front porch— tightly enclosed fists. Yellow lion heads.
Collectively they mimic each other. Yet individually each blossom exists independently of its neighbor.
A metaphor on metaphors.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Full Sense of Self Lingers

Building the second phase of the Metamodern poems written by my English 1302 classes. Although the semester ended early December, I am still constructing the idea outside of the performance of the poem’s recital.

Aside from moon imagery, I also carry an obsession with visual representations of the pomegranate.
For the approaching Spring 2015 term I need to streamline the concept— have images prepared in advance of the students’ participation.
Sleep may be hard tonight—drank coffee late in the afternoon. A full sense of self lingers under the ribcage. A pulsating awareness of identity slip within the organs, under the flesh, hidden within my pomegranate heart.
—and then, to my annoyance I left a scrap of paper in the car containing brief ideas for future short poems. Which now I cannot recollect. Repositioning of previous ideas, yet rearranged into a new sequence of thought. There is time of course tomorrow to walk the short distance between desk and garage, to redistribute the process. Yet, despite the hour and the wet wind— Yes. Hesitation is one of my greatest “skills.”
Reread Paul Celan’s “Death Fugues”— An example of the importance of abstraction in poetry. Why surreal images matter. Bitter reminder of the dangers of complacency. The opening line's use of "black milk" always prepares the reader for future themes of disorder and confusion.
Aside from moon imagery, I also carry an obsession with visual representations of the pomegranate. The fruit by itself contains an extreme cultural and mythical history—by itself it demonstrates the links to humanity’s early understanding of metaphor and symbol.

In part, aside from the mystical themes it carries, the whole nature of the secrets each leathery orb contains suggests prospects of literary elements. The multitude of seeds, in the end, become each a diverse representation of the whole fruit.

Metaphorically it easily becomes an image of a blood-moon, heavily cratered, broken shell of a forgotten history.

It represents poetry. The bitter-sweet translations of ideas. A creative process.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Folding Shirts by Iambics

There are times I wonder how I became so domesticated. Take this moment: waiting for the dryer to finish its cycle so laundry will be folded before tomorrow morning. At least with Brendan asleep upstairs I can have a few moments alone. Time to close out the day within the silence of the house. Try to center latest projects on their goals—
The unnamed ghazal is almost finished. It lies in front of me without a title. Seeking a strong identification. So, I play with impressions, vague references to John Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urn”— but in this case “Ghazal on Shards of Clay”— (No. No. No.)

Ghazal on Found Fragments
Ghazal on an Aegean Vase
Ghazal on Fragments of an Aegean Vase
Ghazal on Shards of an Aegean Vase
(?)
In this case, because the poem is only thirteen lines (six couplets and one lingering line) a long title seems appropriate—
The effects of another cold might be coming on— My mouth feels abnormally dry, a mild desert unfolding under the tongue. Sucking on a cough drop helps slightly.
Again, reread Keats ode—wanting to quote some small phrase or broken line— “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter” (ll. 11-12). —but his theme follows a different intention. His ode motions towards issues of immortality, endurance of art, and throws in a paradox of artistic dependency on the living— with ancient figures frozen in place, eternally unmoving in time or physical space. On the other hand, mine uses a persona seeking closure by looking over shards of pottery which displays one god, scarred by time, yet maintaining a sense of distance and indifference due to his immobile status.

The speaker-persona seeking solace from an inanimate-image.
Reconsidering domestic chores. Trying to use the patterns of folding clothes to break down my blocked thought process. A sense of chaos falls into order: two sleeves thrown inward, bottom hem pulled up. Amorphous shape becomes a rectangle. With iambics. Ghazal/written/on shards/of an/ Aege-/-an vase. Yes. "Ghazal Written on Shards of an Aegean Vase."
—and so it lies. With this declaration as the title, the basic purpose of the piece is twisted into the slightly abstracted lines of the poem itself. An expectation is established for the reader. Perhaps now I can call the project closed.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Continuous Burning

The horizon line is burning— I never noticed until today when the grey morning helped accent the orange flames of cypress trees. They shift to rust on the hillsides surrounding the house, clusters of them haloed in midmorning sun.
A continuous burning as the weather shifts unseasonably within its temperatures—
And odd, despite the cold front moving overhead, the rabbits from the neighboring fields scatter across the subdivision’s perimeter. Driving at night, they flash and dive between bushes bordering the houses, leap between the car’s headlights as I cross the alleyways leading up to our house.
Yesterday, Brendan handed me a burgundy red leaf, a narrow growth from a young tree. Perhaps oak—

Friday, December 19, 2014

I must Remember to Breathe

Forgot what I wanted to say for today. The thread of a conversation is misplaced. At one point the statement existed as strong evidence, explanation of character.
As for the now moment: a large pillar of anger emerges. I almost do not want to dwell on the negative energy—the rage circles, a rage built up from little incompetencies, the lack of attention to detail— at Brendan’s school the teaching assistants misplaced his brand new winter coat… or allowed someone to take it off the school grounds— all in this heavy winter, temperatures close to freezing.

— a moment detailed by what it is not: a moment without angels or holy intervention
Even now I feel remnants of the anger lifting from the pit of my stomach. So, I must remember to breathe. Focus on something else. I want to sleep tonight and not fume or stress over the uncontrollable.
For the folktale poems, the Boy-Hero:
First person narration about the epiphany, the moment of transformation which transports the character to a higher level, from beneath the canopy of an ancient magnolia, Spanish moss, large nocturnal blossoms the size of dinner plates— a moment detailed by what it is not: a moment without angels or holy intervention, just a realization— this after the voices, the sidestories from Fox, Grackle, and She-Bear. Retain a lack, however, a lack of narration from an authoritative voice, an overseer of action. Limited grounding is fine.
Revisit Seamus Heaney’s Sweeney Astray.
How much of Sweeney's madness is a result of anger as opposed to mental instability? Consider the passionate rage.
Image from: University of Cambridge

The full force of the storm in the head. Rational thoughts misplaced. Moment of weakness, moment of anger. The face pulsing with blood, possessed by a demon. Shakespeare's Caliban. Or King Lear. Righteous anger turned within itself into something monstrous. — or alternatively foolish. —or lack of air, turning the body pale-blue.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Necessity Irritates

For an unknowable reason I needed glass after glass of water. The mouth and throat seemed insatiable—unsatisfied for numerous moments, frequent returns to the faucet for more, always more.
Experiencing one of those blank moments, when the page controls the flow of consciousness. That is, the blank page overwhelms, results in a blank mind. Too obvious a connection? Perhaps. But the day developed along a typical mundane path: Visited church service. Drove to the grocery store. Had lunch with my folks. Graded papers at school for a few hours. Read the newspaper after dinner. So, now, a weighted irritation lowers over me. An expectation I suppose. How to become more aware of the time? That fragmentary element which pulses loudly one moment. Then lies silent.
For three or more days my grandmother’s wall clock has been stuck at three. Every so often I step up to wind it for another series of hours—but something distracts me from finalizing the thought: phone call, secondary chore, the cat whining in the hall.
Burgundy red pears. Violent color in the market. Luminous. Amorphous patterns hulking in their crates. Cycles of repetition. Poems unto themselves.

Brendan rubbed both of his hands across my three-day-old beard— rubbing the unshaven white burr of hair into a static notion. Don’t shave this, he said. Then laughed.
In the fold of my arm, a bruise expands. Dark purple stain.

—so, now, a weighted irritation lowers over me.
Nurses had drawn blood for routine tests for an end of the year follow-up. Despite the causal nature of it all, the necessity irritates.
The light on the front porch blinds, spills over into the bedroom. Glaring presence. Insistent message.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Becoming the Past in a Present Moment

He told me to lie down with him, so I slipped between the quilt and sheets, cradling my son in the darkness of early Thursday morning. For a short time I felt his small feet pressing up against my sides— a confirmation of my presence, a reassurance that I remained, until he fell asleep, breathing rhythmically, a heavy pulse of slumber.
Finally began reading W. Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust this week. Falling into his lengthy sentence structures and insistent interior monologues. The same fashion Gabriel Garcia Marquez influences my thought— alterations of reality, the matter-of-fact-descriptions, an unfolding of dream logic.

      Taking the language from experience to recreate experience.
And, also, I just finalized my reading of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Now the time is almost midnight. I am drained. Weary. The story of an unreliable narrator devising a surreal breakdown of plot and character, impractical details— I have to soak in this one for awhile.

Yet, a nagging feeling keeps pestering me—that I read the book before this week—years ago I mean. Some of the scenes echo in my memory: the comparison of bombed-out Dresden to the lunar surface. The mention of multiple sex partners as procreation practices for the race of aliens from another dimension. A heavy déjà vu hovers over the reading lamp.
My fractured lines grow in quantity. Daily. I have reached 669 entries to be posted in 2015— I aimed for much more by the end of this month— a limit perhaps out of reach— but the important element to keep in mind, the clichéd fact of quality-over-quantity. The direction of these lines merge towards the perspective point’s horizon line of one long Whitman-esque, Faulknerian poem played out over an extended timeline.
There are moments when I stand on the bridge looking down at my reflection moth-dark in the water beneath me— inspiration I mean, reflection as meditation. Not mere repetition of what is in the past, but rather becoming the past in a present moment.

A convoluted statement, yes. Yet intentional. Taking the language from experience to recreate experience. Circle within a circle. Gears. Clockwork actions exposed to daylight. Symphonic aspirations.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Contrasts of Reality

Back in mid-October, Ricky flew to Puerto Rico for the funeral of his mother. He took the full event rather hard, breaking down on the phone often while talking to me or to Brendan. I'd be aware of the grief responding in tides, listening to it surge over unexpectedly, swallowing him whole. The death of a close family member is always hard to accept— even when a logical sense tells you to accept and move on with your own circumstances—
So my parents and I took Brendan to a fall festival, a community gathering— keeping the boy occupied so he does not dwell on the absence of one parent—we wandered about in the midday heat of Indian Summer, taking in the expected scenes: booths, bouncy houses, animal exhibits, pumpkin carvings, and balloon creatures. Before we left, Brendan sat for a face painting session, barely moving as the woman carefully stroked silver paint across his forehead and cheeks—recreating him as an alien astronaut, mimicking a seventies glam-rocker with metallic overtones. Later he laughed at himself while looking into a hand mirror. Enjoying the full theatrics.
Contrasts of reality: a funeral. Ceremonial face-painting. Autumnal rites.
She offered to paint my grey whiskers with a neon-red dye. Momentarily pushed me back to the eighties, when Ruth commented on the red tones in my beard, a rust red pine she had said then, smiling.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Instant Thought is not Necessarily an Instant Poem


At the Lone Star- CyFair college campus where I teach English Lit. and Composition courses, I closed out the term with a common brainstorming exercise used to warm up an author’s writing synapses. Each student was supplied a random word: epiphany, poetry, or pomegranate. In turn, the students defined the word in personal, expressive fashion— building metaphors or allusions to explain their individual reactions. Afterwards, the class read their lines one-by-one, a collective poem— multiple ideas blurred into one final work.

Earlier this year, at the close of the spring term, I used a similar idea, with positive results.

In both cases, the writing experience helped break down barriers and helped build a closer relationship between student and text.
The supplied links below break down the current product of the three classes from Fall 2014:

• Lone Star–CyFair College:
English Composition & Rhetoric 1302-5009

• Lone Star–CyFair College:
English Composition & Rhetoric 1302-5011

• Lone Star–CyFair Colleg:
English Composition & Rhetoric 1302-5014
Using jazz as my own metaphor: I love the fact that once they are collected together the student's instinctive voices merge in an improvisational range of themes. A mixture of harmonies. Range of rhythms. A clutch of wild flowers. Out of the conceived chaos of individual ideas, a structure of community presented itself, stressing the unique, personable phrase.

Since we had spent approximately a month examining connotation of words, unreliable personae, and basic phrase manipulation, my aim for this last assignment was to provide students a better understanding of the creative mindset itself— moving their thought process from strictly academic rhetoric to an unpredictable, energetic metaphor.

Admittedly, for some people switching gears like this produces frustration— but the experience of such irritations equally serve a strong purpose, just as being able to break down a writer’s philosophical argument. People often overlook the fact that a casual phrase may have to be developed over many weeks of wrestling with words.

An instant thought is not necessarily an instant poem. Strong ideas need to be developed slowly. Hesitantly and very carefully.

Prompt / Poem / Pomegranate

[A Collective Meta-Modern Poem]
from Students in a Writing Course at Lone Star–CyFair College, English Composition & Rhetoric 1302-5009


preface: Afterwards. Bittersweet. Within the leathery husk moments pearl. Cluster. A gathering of grackles, or maybe—
1. Poems are experiences that are filled with emotion. They can be confusing, up-lifting, or relatable.

A poem can unlock even the toughest safe.

2. Eyes wide
a gasp
warmness all over due to it
a million singing cherubs and heavenly
trumpets
the clouds parting
moving a mountain
tears of everlasting joy
jumping like gazelles

There! There it is!

3. Poems were created by bored writers.
Not knowing what to do in life.
Purposely trying to cause headaches.
Trying to be artist of writing.
Confusing readers using wordplay, igniting
angry emotions.

4. A pomegranate is a very versatile fruit in the culinary world because you can eat the seeds of juice it. With its juice you can turn the sauce into a gel. The pomegranate’s flavor is versatile because its sweetness, tartness, and bitterness compliments other natural flavors and pairs very well with foods such as corn, Brussel sprouts, and fois gras.

5. As when an apple fell on Newton’s head. A quick thought ran through his mind. Why does everything fall downward and why not upward. Epiphany.

6. An explosion causes Anarchy and Tranquility.
Chaos births expression.
From that expression comes powerful freedom.
Freedom craves no structure only balance.
Balance is good and bad.
Every action receives an equal reaction.
As do the talking of poets.

7. Pomegranates are sour like an old man after being forced to take his medicine.

8. Baì văn (or) Baì tho’

9. Falling from the sky to the world’s earth. Reading to eat as it has brighten like a dying sun. Taste not of this world though it was born here. A sensation of mixture of flavor from both worlds of sweet and sour. Reflecting the object in space in form.

10. Poetry is the expression in which you take the flight of imagination. It makes you sad or happy because you connect with past and be hopeful to think about future. A poem brings out the soft untouched portion of yourself. It has the ability to link up so tightly with the harsh reality of life, as well as to disconnect and disorient yourself from yourself.

11. Red outside, juicy inside. Seeds all around, squirting as they come out. Big-like butt, hard to get the stains out. Glorious fruit, colony of deliciousness, that is time-consuming. Creatures trapped inside want to be released and swallowed as whole by giant whore.

12. The one who tends to be last all the time in life will find guidance in the life changing moments they experience. The realizations that open a new view or feeling will lead to a different life. God delivers epiphanies when He sees one is needed.

13. Going up a building to floor one, continue to two, three, and keep going to the top.
Enjoying the moment,
Reaching the top of the mountain.
Enjoying a superior success.
Living the best moment of my life.

14. A pomegranate is a vessel that holds new life as with earth. We, as people, cannot naturally move beyond Earth as with the seeds. The pomegranate that is healthy and ripe keeps the seeds or the people prosperous. Nature recreating itself in various forms of the Earth itself.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Empty Hands / Full Hands

Empty hands. Found myself standing in my office, forgetting why I walked into the room. My empty hands only served as a reminder of need. I needed something. My empty hands curled. Expecting.
Slight moment of inconvenience earlier today—Ricky habitually locked the back door as I sat talking on the phone on the porch. He took Brendan to the grocery store, a gathering of the week's necessary supplies, leaving me without a means of getting back inside the house. Thankfully, I had scrap paper with me—and a pen. Passed the time generating fragments. An irritating itch formed along my right index finger.
A mouse has found its way into our garage. As I parked the car tonight, the slender shadow of a rodent slipped across boxes and folded canvas chairs, traveled over the edge of my stored work table which leans against the wall. Heavy sense of guilt bloomed—knowing a trap will be set down soon.
Bathing Brendan, I watched his lithe body trembling within the lukewarm water. He laughed with the application of soap, the damp flannel crossing his face and chest. Every opportunity allows for splashing. For slippery escapes, seal-like adventures across the tub. A stronger sense of his independence emerges nightly. Yet, I hold him firmly in my waiting hands.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

His Anger Pitted Against the World

A knot of anger sits in my gut.


An unresolveable frustration blocking any chances for rest or sleep. It all stems from the child not taking a nap this afternoon— which causes late afternoon fussy behaviors, which escalates into tantrums by evening when he doesn’t get his way over childish matters.

He is almost four, I remind myself, but he knows how to manipulate, play emotions to gain favors, play out a scene to his advantage. Tonight Ricky pulled his back, leaving me to pull Brendan out of the tub, simply dry him off, carry him upstairs. None of which fit into his schemes. Papi was supposed to do the chores, only Papi can carry him to bed, only Papi was allowed to move beyond the second landing— Brendan would not listen to words, to angry tones, to stern phrases— he bawled, squirming on the path to his bed, almost falling out of my grasp more than once.

So of course, I lost control of my temper. So of course, now I cannot sleep. All I can focus on is his resistance. His refusals. The anger he pits against the world for no predictable reason.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Motion Your Wings

—as simple as that, after one more night of twisting phrases, I believe the ghazal is complete. At least now, this morning, I have a finalized full draft. Part of my earlier frustration dealt with hesitancy towards bending traditional rules. For example, stanzas 4 and 5 are composed with iambic hexameter, rather than the other stanzas' construction in iambic pentameter.

Yet. By maintaining the expected refrain phrase without elaborate experiments, and then using a softened, occasional, random rhyming within key couplets— I gave myself permission to play with other traditional elements. Make the form my own, in other words.
The closing stanzas now read:
          (compare with the earlier entry this week)

as photos of a summer god, found on clay shards
gesturing with open arms, flinging back his wings

in a divine wind— yet, the god’s face is obscured,
full features blurred, erased by time’s casual wings.

He leans forward, as if to speak my name
from the laptop’s blue screen: motion your wings,

He says: motion, forward.
The title… now that is another complication.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From the Laptop's Blue Screen

As it is with such matters, after a peak of frustration: tonight a break-through. By eliminating one small three-letter-word (his, )the flow of information within the ghazal project readjusted, shifted an emphasis to the resulting new line, and then motioned the poem’s rhythm forward, down the page. The river was no longer choked.

By removing the possessive pronoun, a stress of subject became placed in a generic, universal ideal, not locking the secondary theme to an objective subject… it is still unclear why this process hindered the writing— yet, there it lies. An overly rational reasoning for an instinctual change.

Perhaps in the next day or two the full work can be finalized.
Ghazal on Fragments (Shards?) of an Aegean Vase
Meditations on Fragments of an Aegean Vase
Ghazal on Found Fragments
Ghazal on an Aegean Vase

As if numbers matter, six egrets wing (5)
over the house while Brendan sleeps, his wings (5)

of summer translucent in his dreaming, (5)
his softened countenance on sheets of wings. (5)

He mirrors more my brother’s face than mine, (5)
my brother who still haunts my words, spreads his
          out wings(,)— (5.5)

as in photos of /as
(as) images of a summer god found on broken clay (6)
          shards of clay
gesturing with open arms, (wings, flung back) flinging
          back his wings (6)

in a divine wind— yet, the god’s face is obscured, (6)
by time, full features blurred, (as in a photograph) erased
          by time’s casual wings. (6)

The winged god (he) leans forward from the computer screen as if to say
my name, as if to say my name


He leans forward, as if to speak my name (5)
from the laptop’s blue screen: motion your
          (own) wings,
(5)

he says: motion, forward. (3)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Soft Pornography of Wikipedia

October 11th. In a sense, a waste of a day: took Brendan to early soccer practice. Watched an animated film after cups of coffee and a sugar roll with my parents. Took a nap with Brendan— then when he shifted into a deeper sleep I wandered through the internet for a few hours, half looking for a sense of a poem, but in reality distracted myself by following basic hunger drives. The soft pornography of Wikipedia: film plots, synopsis of graphic novels, background histories of comic book characters. There are times when the brain need to decompress—
Facing writer’s block over a ghazal. The poem leans too close to sentimentality— over drawn emotion. In part a ghazal requires such sense of loss, of absence— but I am trying to extend and twist the expectations towards a different perspective, which complicates the strict formula. And yet—
Slow responses from publishing houses only complicate matters. One would think my acceptance of others’ rejections would be less painful. A mere shrug of shoulders. A hand gesture through a small cloud of gnats. However, I have to take time out to complain in my journals. Waste minutes whining over lack of support.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wasps, Hornets, Bees, and Needles

Unexpected emergency this past October: a wasp stung Brendan on the underside of his right forearm, the soft tissue swelling up at the reaction. From my office in front of the house I heard him screaming in the back yard, traveling across the downstairs rooms— a shrill whistle of pain and fear. We both held him, running cold water over the bite, holding a cold compress on the swelling— and ran to the emergency clinic down the street. By the time we arrived, Bren was less frantic, more curious, scientific, asking questions about wasps and hornets and bees and needles— items with evil intentions, sharp bites of pain—

On the hospital bed he curled next to me, wanting to hold my hands, head propped against my shoulder. Valiant little soldier. Observant judge.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dancing Mania and Cicada Shells

My son has begun collecting cicada shells, as I did at his age, hunting for the hollow husks on the coarse bark of evergreens, seeking out the other-worldly-exoskeleton as they hang beetling in abandonment of self— Brendan’s fingers roughly tug at the papyrus remains, almost tenderly, casting the carcass aside in a shallow bowl—
dancing mania: a hysteria among the people of Europe, the Rhineland, figures grouping in circles to leap and prance in spontaneity, around churches and streets of the cities— dancing to excise demons, cast out evils, like the mad women dancing after Bacchus, forever moving, gesticulating their bodies for hours (Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, 334).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Text Keeps Unfolding Itself

During the past series of weeks I have kept constructing various fractured phrases, collections of broken ideas loosely brought together by random themes, similar sounds, or vague word associations. Because the basic concept has no set repetitions, no set line count, the text keeps unfolding itself, adding new dimensions and shapes off the original twelve lines. What began in August has spread out over the last two months, almost on a habitual basis. A poem in a poem about a poem wrapped around a poem. Diamond facets mirroring each other, endlessly.

Apparently I work best in morning— when caught in mid-rush hour traffic. A vague subject exposes itself. Deconstructs the former day’s notions. The seemingly incoherent connections actually prove useful—since three or four projects have stalled out, I have been seeking new associations to build off old images.

A library of clay shards. Untranslatable cuneiform cylinders. Scripted ideograms. Possibilities.

Monday, November 10, 2014

As an Afterthought

Yesterday, by nightfall, after hours of reworking ideas in my notebook, I resented the developing ghazal. It irritated me, as a sore tooth, a constant reminder of an unresolved issue. Throbbing. Waking me up in the middle of the night. Motioning into awareness, out of strange dreams, alien landscapes with foreign suns.
So tonight I purposely ignore the concept. Avoid the notes. Attempting to forget the full point, momentarily. Allow some time to subconsciously rework the full broken bridges of phrases—
At the bottom of the nightstand drawer— a button. Blueblack. Ordinary. Yet. I have no recollection of the shirt it belongs to. Or if I found it on the stairway and just brought it into the bedroom as an afterthought. A casual act instantly forgotten.

Friday, November 7, 2014

lunging once more— the same mile

Late in the summer we went to the community pool, the three of us, Brendan swimming with Ricky as I stayed under the awnings trying to shape a modern ghazal into being.

Intentional, strategic repetition invites a stronger lyrical reading process. A greater sense of ebb and flow is brought to the details. As swimming. Motioning across the racing stripes balanced on the surface of the water. Repeated trips down the same strip of water. Circling back across the water, then lunging once more— the same mile.
series
The few hours in the sun left me drained. Even in the shade, with a mild wind, I feel a heavy exhaustion from the day. Fighting off sleep for a few more moments.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

At night my vision blurs

At night my vision blurs in an extreme fashion— even with my glasses angled oddly on my nose, shifting the bottom territory of the lens higher within my eyes’ reach. Even now I watch the motions of the pen across the page, the soft textured lines waving—not the words, nor the language. I can only hope my word-choices translate clear into the readers’ consciousness—no confirmation of my ideas making clear sense.
Need to find academic commentary on Allen Ginsberg’s American sentences. I only have second hand information from a web source, a web site frozen in the previous decade. And I have not researched beyond this fact. Time to do some formal digging to allow a better idea of Ginsberg's methods.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

50 to 25 / 2014 to 1989 [in progress]

(Minneapolis)

As always. It comes back. It always comes back. At odd times. Strange intervals, the glance of a boy in the college commons, inciting the falling between, the constant limbo of indecision and lack of motivation: the winter storm, travelling across midwestern tundras. The car close to failing more than once. Tires iced over, the accumulation of winter building over us— burying us. Singing aloud with the car’s speakers: oh you got green eyes, oh you got blue eyes, oh you got grey eyes. Caught in a loop of existential loss. No direction. Snow blinding the road. We drove thirty miles per hour on the highway, aiming south. Ever wandering. We both sang loud, shouting into the winter:
And though it hurts me to see you this way
Betrayed by words, I’d never heard, too hard to say.
Up, down, turn around,
Please don’t let me hit the ground.
Tonight I think I’ll walk alone
I’ll find my soul as I go home.
Bob, you never found your way back home. You were always wandering, a ghost in a blizzard along the highway. The manner you still haunt me. Your past figure influencing the present tense. Perhaps even more so than my brother these days. There were times we whispered together in the alleys between the warehouse bars. Two figures in heavy coats, two ravens hunched over in the wintering. Our dried voices meaningless; our bodies gestured without motioning. (See T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” ).
25 to 50

Remember to keep your desk by the window. Not as a distraction, but as a confirmation. The fat oaks pulsing. And myself, I exist as a constant reminder in the back of your head. The thin, slumped boy. Misdirected. Isolated.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The hum of blood is thick in my ears tonight.

The hum of blood is thick in my ears tonight. As slices of warm bread. When I walk through the house at night, after everyone has gone to bed, the silence builds thick about the head, plush dough, vibrating with the rising moon, intensifying across the hours. The heavy lack of words, deafening.
Found a copy online of Maxine Kumin's "On the table"— a modern ghazal. Making its own rules and structures. I admire its loose existence. Without a rigid form. Yet. I still would like to create a short series of these verses based on a stronger connection to the original expectations— although the refrain alludes me at the moment. Running off downstairs, startled by my sudden movements across the room. All I wanted to do was turn off the side lamp. Glance at the night sliding across the windows. Wait for the idea to approach me. The cautious word, ever careful.

It does not help that these last few days I have been grading papers. The ever present composition resting along the curves of my desktop. Thomas Jefferson. Keystone pipeline. Racial intolerance. Same-sex marriage. Charlie Bird Parker. A sundry of diverse topics to select. Shifting my focus.

Like Eliot's stray cat, brushing across city streets and fallen fences between back alleys— Wandering across machineries humming to themselves. That ever present hum in the ears.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brendan Woke Early

Brendan woke early this morning, before sunrise. He climbed into my bed, half awake, curling like a ball of blue yarn against my chest and belly— almost a full four years of warmth coiled beside me.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

My self-imposed exile is over.

My self-imposed exile from social media is over. Just under a month of avoiding responsibilities of Tweets and web logs, tonight I have a rare moment, a rare hour, to pause. To look at my handwriting form on the paper. Watch the ebb and flow of an idea form out of scripted letters.

That is— not to imply the weeks have formed a deserted terrain, a dry landscape of silence. However. Time has been scant for long, in depth conversations with myself. Just a small minute here. A brief minute there. Too many hinderances emerged into the daily schedule of things. Corrections or clarifications. Maybe if I were a hardcore insomniac hours would appear more readily, moments of. Isolated freedom for finalizing a formal essay or two—
sometimes organization is a distraction. sometimes it is otherwise. sometimes organization is a distraction.
sometimes it is otherwise.
sometimes—
Idea: perhaps back to sonnets or ghazals? Five pornographies. Dry commentaries of the scripting of blue movies. Various decades, various role play— frank. Painfully honest. Five rooms. Five couples. Tangled scenes of various lives. As an abstraction by Picasso. Cubist impressions of two people. Their warm room. Disordered sheets. Rumpled clothing. Unkempt hair. Uneasy breath.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Witness of the Fading Past

151/ In the photograph of your parents’ wedding, he stands, your father, resolute and unsmiling—a young man determined in his black and white world, in the style of the time, a serious recording of a major event, witness of the fading past, as he holds your mother’s laughing, trembling hand.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Blueing Hours

150/ He pictures winter: a large house in the middle of a field. With night circling the perimeter of the gables, he turns on every light. One by one. Like water they pour out yellow onto the blueing hours, shifting tones. As couple enter, wearing dated clothing, dance their circle masquerades, shadows flickering like candles on every wall.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Trying to pull out a positive note tonight—

—but so easily I find myself falling to the negative. A litany of reasons— lack of sound sleep at the top of the list. So it is important to shift focus. On my own terms that is. School lectures continue during the next few days— my attitude here, in the journals, reflects back to the students there, in the classroom. Atmosphere and environment can be channeled into something other by mere will. I have seen people do such acts of manipulation.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Feeling Drunk and Wandering

Last night the heavy stench of steamed vegetables filled the entire bottom floor of the house— when I moved from room to room, a thick greening covered me, — a dense awareness of food. Even now a sense of vegetation lingers in the bedroom, in the sheets, the curtains. As trying to walk underwater. Or feeling drunk and wandering.

Last month I underwent mild knee surgery. The swelling of my right leg and the ever increasing pain reached a point of necessity for change. Now, virtually nothing remains of the prior months— no evidence of limping, no shots of electricity across the joints, no scars. As if I walked into a parallel time stream— one without a history of wounding. Without the tearing of muscle tissue.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Unused Words

Unused words: bloodshed, Alzheimer’s, flycatcher and goduit, grout
As with typical late summer, now the night creeps in quickly, no longer the blur of a delay or casual hesitancy to drown out the landscape— one can close his eyes and daylight pulses into twilight. Blink again, evening emerges. Time motions under its own control.
149/ At the bus terminal, she waits for a late ride— undoubtedly stalled due to the heavy downpour, the unexpected rainfall drowning out major roads all across town with flashfloods, over flowing congested gutters, and stalled vehicles abandoned on the sides of the road— but her impatience grows, crests over with a bitterness, a vague hopelessness at feelings of being stranded in late twilight, that is, until the young runaway sitting nearby hands over a large maple leaf, blood red, the imprint of a hand really, his blonde hands smaller than the leaf, but he offers it out, then disappears inside the terminal, avoiding her questioning glance.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Breathing the Night Softly

Salty bubble and squeak. Cooked in butter. Spicy sausage. Cold amber beer.                      —heaven.
A day without time for myself— until now, when the house settles into itself. The cat wandering the hallways. Resting in windowsills. Watching the moon rise, a burgeoning bulb. Brendan almost asleep himself. Breathing the night softly. Right hand opening. Closing. Heart pulse.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ten Variations of a Winter Image of Pan

Stonehead of Pan– ©David-Glen Smith

As a random experiment, I took a short phrase into alternating levels of meaning, the same effect as exploring multiple, parallel realities moving towards the same resolution. The one controlling aspect of all ten presentations: the single lines of text must contain only seventeen syllables, with rare shifts of imagery.

One interesting factor developed with the placement of winter either as subject or adjective. Or the alternating placement of emphasis on Pan, in this case shown either as a human-made garden decoration or as Pagan deity.

A stonehead of Pan rising from stilled green— almost frozen in winter—
A stonehead of Pan, rising from green, stilled waters— he grins sheepishly.
Laughing in old pond water, a stonehead of Pan rises from the green.
From out of greening water, a stone head of Pan, laughing long and loud.
Almost frozen in winter, a stonehead of Pan rises from the marsh.
Breaking the silence, Pan’s laugh lifts from still water— bathing in winter.
A winter head of Pan, stone-faced, rises slowly out of green waters.
Pan’s laughter lifts from still water— his winter stonehead rising slowly.
Rising from stilled green waters, a stonehead of Pan laughs — winter falters.
Winter falters as a stonehead of Pan lifts from lowering water—

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Defined Path Always Seems to be my Priority

Despite the level of mundane roots spreading distractions throughout my limited, scheduled freetime—I managed to develop a running list of fractured themes, phrases of thought, ideas for future possibilities. That is, simply a scattering of words.
Scarlatti is on the radio. An empty coffee cup in hand. Outside a light rain falls. Autumnal environment. An overwhelming sense of absence sits in my lap. As if I were seeking something more profound to say, rather than random thoughts. Daily meditations.
Perhaps it is the caffeine.
Developing a clear path, a defined path seems to always be my priority. And I am a person who hates formulas, templates. Look at it in this fashion: I create boundaries in order to rearrange them or erase lines to later reshape territories.
Shards of lines later become poems.
8, 760 lines = 365 days X 24 hours
4,380 lines = 365 days X 12 hours
Starting November, the scattered words will be collected in rough order. Let’s call it a continuous poem, a visual metaphor of language. If played carefully, the material will display itself in a limitation of a year— similar to the 365 Haiku project from last few years.
I want to see how far such an abundance of phrases can pour themselves out, overflow the page. How far a collage of themes can be pulled out of a common source.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Litany of Failed Friendships and Lovers

Sonny Rollins on the radio. Odd how the arrangement, slow unfolding of meter opened out every wound from the past fifty years. Every bruise resurfaced. A litany of failed friendships and lovers. The indifferences. The misunderstanding of phrases. Casual slights. Verbal assaults. Targeted infidelities.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wandering Empty Buildings

For a brief moment, I knew exactly what today’s entry would entail— the mood, the tone, language, closing message. As it is, nothing remained in my head, aside from the opening phrase: For a brief moment— only a pale tundra remains, a dry rime underfoot, crunching softly as I wander, lost, looking for a point, a lingering red thread of an idea— blood red, earthy blood red, a hue which stands out clearly in an all-white world, but—
The three of us went to the nearby college library this afternoon, trying to instill the notion of books into Brendan’s caffeinated personality, offer him words, phrases— pictures. Even so, he seems more influenced by athletics, science, definitions, numbers.
Afterwards we crossed the campus. The heat of early afternoon settled thickly across shoulders, humidity determined to shift us away, chase anyone from wandering empty buildings and walkways of the college, silent in the weekend afternoon hours.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Re-Making of a Hummingbird

An hour to myself this morning: hummingbird visits the cannas— little warrior, mechanical windup music box.

He splinters time and light. I re-envision him at all points of the compass simultaneously, circling the red blossoms,

existing in the now moments across linear timestreams,
existence merging, splintering, blurring identities and moods.

The flux of an idea spun around itself, continuous motion—

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Making of a Villanelle

Closed form poetry and I often bicker. Our relationship is a troubling one, dysfunctional at best. Times exist when the arguments and cursing flow, charging the air blue with abnormal, unacceptable vocabulary. Other times— an abnormal peace lingers over my notebook. At best, we tolerate each other, a nod of respect exchanged in the midmorning reading.
In my records of past journal entries,I pointed out that I was seeking:
—to remember the name of a song for a reference point for a blues poem idea, for expressing a personal tragedy in the shape of a story-poem: the loss of a partner to war, being told of the loss—
Over the last ten days formal poetry and I have been conducting heavy discussions, late night debates. My journals and papers shift to red ink: rearrangement of syllables and rhyming sounds. A villanelle entered the equation— a form with high expectations of iambic meter and steady repetition of lines— in a sense, loosely similar to a blues refrain.
A1
B
A2

A
B
A1

A
B
A2

A
B
A1

A
B
A2

A
B
A1
A2
In actuality, this discussion all started because my manuscript Quintet seemed too light. The jazz poems seemed less experimental than I would have liked. In particular one persona, the solo vocalist, emerged into the text only once or twice— she needed a larger presence in the unfolding scenes. Using the mentality of staging a night club act, one short song-poem was not enough to allow her figure to blur with the environment. Taking the one completed song, I motioned the material from a single form to a three part cycle of blues-based lyrics. Each of the three stand now independent of the others, yet, a commonality between all of them is bridged in a subtle manner. Three becomes one, yet retaining three parts.

I found a great resource form the library, a collection of American war poetry, edited by Lorrie Goldensohn. Its weight is severe in my hands. The heft of words, somber.
Shrapnel itself exists as fragments of metal; portions of the whole wounding the body continuously; a life continuously at war within itself. Fighting the hidden. Even years after the battle is over.
Shards. Remnants.
After multiple drafts, (and rejected lines, phrases) the animosity between poem and writer has calmed. We’ve reached a lingering truce. The opening stanza reads:
There’s little left of what my world contains
since that failed Sunday cars slipped up the drive—
and through the screen door three men spoke your name.
From here, the narrative unfolds, showing the song’s persona struggling with bad news.
At its core, the poem deals with the sudden unexpected timing of death— the same personal level of my brother’s passing, how it sent shock waves and multiple aftershocks throughout the last thirty years. The initial burning declaration is what the verse concentrates most of its emphasis: when the world fails, when words fail.
Using a villanelle to close out the song cycle, the universal themes displayed are birth, love, death— and the consequences of all three. The after effects.

Likewise, a hidden story develops, allowing readers to build their own theories of exposition, plot, epiphany, denouement. A process of handing over control to the audience so they can derive what they will from the full text.
Will I fall madly in love with formal poetry? I doubt it. However, what has developed is a closer understanding of how language and poetry connect with one another— rather than simply stringing decorative phrases together at whim, in this particular case, a path is outlined. A trail glimmering in the moonlight. Allowance for small changes or emphasis from the casual meeting of a stranger.

Eavesdropping

They argued in the office supplies store: Mother and young Daughter, bickering over the material needed for the upcoming school term. In the past I would have ignored the scene, but today, out of an odd compulsion, I briefly trailed behind, listening to the pitch of their sentences, the emotional weaving of the argument over money and appearances. The whole scene played out into my future, a newsreel of familial melodrama with the Son insisting, the Father stoic and resistant. Something inside left me feeling fractured. Splintered.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Always Waiting

In three days the random pile of harvested spearmint reduces to dry twigs, kindling. Brittle branches. Burnings.
Seeking some aspect of the day— some small moment to record, if even changing batteries in the smoke alarm, forgetting my wallet at home,— not realizing its absence until hours later, while grading random papers at school.
Reread for morning lectures Annie Dillard’s “Heaven and Earth–In Jest”; somehow I forgot her dense similes and numerous allusions hiding within the text. I envy her style, her sense of Self, her ever-present present tense which does not trip the tongue with awkward phrases—
Brendan is desperate to fly a kite, yet the last few days offer no wind. The hours are balmy; even the birds seem to notice the stillness, the thick presence of atmosphere overhead, lingering as if waiting. Always waiting.
145/ a silence slips under the cups and saucers in the pantry
146/ she sought out a word to mend a gap in her thought process— a phrase to prevent the scattering of self through the rooms embedded tightly to her sub-conscious

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Palms Smell of Mint

The first time I grew out my beard, the whiskers flared out a deep reddish hue, almost a burgundy tone. My creative writing instructor told me the hairs appeared as the colors of pine-torched rust— a contradiction to the darker brown filaments on my scalp.

Now my goatee is covered in a frost, a silver coat of first months of winter. Some mornings it surprises me, catches the eye with an unexpected intensity. I forget how time alters the countenance of Self.
In the last hours of the day, I ripped away excess overgrowth of spearmint from the back fence. Since last year it invades the full perimeter of the garden, an ever-increasing tangle of vines and leaves. Now, even after washing my hands repeatedly, my palms smell of mint, vague notions of a wild tea brewed over summer.

144/ In twilight, my son’s hair still smells of the sun, a blonde scent of outdoors that retains its presence in every room, in the fashion my brother controlled the spaces between objects— no matter the room he lingers in, an aspect of the sun lingers wherever he wanders.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

the litany of verbs spread out across my calendar

Lost almost a week of writing— mundane acts cluttered my schedule, leaving me exhausted by day’s end: picking Brendan up from his grandparents’, setting up lectures for later in the week, grading a stray quiz, folding, sorting, clearing drying, fluffing, unfolding, moving, taking, draining— the litany of verbs spread out across my calendar, clogging it with present tense –ing verb forms. Save for now, now a rare halfhour lingers before sleep descends.
143/ the guilt of the book’s endpages as they rust with mold, brown stain of time and humidity, lack of reading, the poetry within turning stale, stiff with rot and decay.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Six Fragments

137/ A guilt exists with the overturning of a rotten log in the woods— the moist underbelly world of mud exposed to sudden sunlight—
138/ At one time, he collected in a pocket notebook pornographic words of desire; the guilt of their phonetics drowning in lust.
139/ the guilt of the living
140/ the guilt of the dead, packed up in cardboard suitcases, packages to be carried for the last stage of a trip, bundled in red string
141/ innumerable carp twisting under bridges— gold or blue tremors of the lake’s guilt
142/ bathing the child in the last light of day—

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rejected Lines of Poetry / Rejected Phrases

delay
stall
hesitate
procrastinate

your mother reading her mail
your father feeding the dogs // I stood still

through the screen door three men spoke out your name (5)


three men folded / your name into a flag

Phrases overheard from a Memorial Day NPR broadcast about the current military death notification process—
• their world collapsed
• getting behind the stare

your mother stood in the shadowed background (5)

your absence like shrapnel
their words, unintended shrapnel

on the roadside—another bomb
checkpoint

the sun lifted off the roof of your parent’s house
as they spoke your name

and then I heard the chaplain speak your name (5)
breaking apart the phonetics of your name (5)

and then I felt the baby kick inside (5)
the first time I felt the baby kick inside (5)


spoke clear
whispered
shouted
proclaimed
declared
announced
pronounced
chanted

repeat
assert
136/ the guilt of a stone in the hands of a child

Guilt

135/ faded paper flowers fading to gold in afternoon sunlight: her mother’s guilt

Friday, August 8, 2014

broken shards of your name

Earlier in the week, I was trying to remember the name of a song for a reference point for a blues poem idea, for expressing a personal tragedy in the shape of a story-poem: the loss of a partner to war, being told of the loss— the scraps of ideas keep gathering in various pages of my journals:

four men at the front door announcing the news— a name wrapped in a flag; wych elm budding, leaves blossoming early—
four men                    four seasons of the year 
four elements: earth, wind, fire, water
four cardinal points of a compass
talking to the deceased directly: they gave me your name on the front porch, fumbling their words—

sniper           roadside        
artillery         armored car

within the shell of your name      (3.5)
broken shards of your name      (3)

your father was in the back of the house      (5)
the day they came to deliver       (4)
your name wrapped in a worn flag      (3.5)
134/ under the folds of his rolled up sleeves, in the shirts he always wears for work, in here he tucks segments of his guilt, small squares of fabric, torn edges of red cloth—

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Old Scratch and Weather Patterns

A thin edge of storm hung over our house— leaving the western edge in full sun, the eastern half, the backyard, in clouds to the horizon. Facing the full sun a fine dense rain lowered over the neighborhood— everything slick with water.
Where did the logic of the old folktale develop, the one explaining rain on sunny days as the Devil beating his wife? There seems no apparent connection between a figure of Old Scratch and weather patterns.
Earlier today, after grading research papers, I stumbled across a web site detailing a crime scene during World War II in England. The place names and elemental images carry oddities, shadows of further folklore:
                    Witch hazel tree
                    wych elm
                    Hagley Wood
                    Wych Bury (Burning?) Hill
133/ At night he sweeps his guilt under the bed, among loose hairs, filaments of the real, a broken wing of a blue Sunday moth, a stray patch of paper from a magazine, a plastic ring from a bottle of milk, a piece of gravel, a cooper penny, the lost button from his workshirt, the hesitancy between the telephone’s rings—

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Manner of Moments

Spent the day grading. So as a result the day passed in a manner of moments. In random chunks of hours. Without strategy or plans.
132/ In the shower he stands washing out the guilt of the day, watching the dirt and stains slip across his awkward form, his nakedness as an offering up to whatever god he worshiped, the sins falling away as an oil slick of retribution.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

thus the poem


Formalizing an idea: creating a new Blues poem for the solo-vocalist persona in Quintet —another song— creating a session of three songs in a row, a blurring of three distinct lyrics. “Devil Wasp Blues” and “Canal Street Blues” are combined— but the third verse needs to bring everything into a stronger cohesion. A specific story told within the three. Braid them tighter together with common language. Common rhythms. Common formulas. Repetition of names. Place names.
—or then again. Not. Leave the three verses independent. Individual. As free standing, short poems. They (by themselves, their themes, their formula) are brought together by the vocalist’s performance— as would be the case with any jazz set. The small tie grouping all three can be loose chronology. Birth—midlife—death. The last poem should carry a heavier, darker tone: loss of husband, partner…

turning it into a social commentary of experience, of witness

• having the absent male die through consequences of war— or as a soldier wounded, returns home to wife and kids, PTSD.
• or a policeman, fallen in the line of duty
• or junkie wrestling with dependency
• a real character taken from headlines—

His absence transfers to family’s grief. Thus the poem. Society shown in a limbo. Searching for a meaning.

Wasn't there a song titled “Memorial Day Blues”?

No, no, I am thinking of “Decoration Day” by John Lee Hooker. With the Cowboy Junkies later twisting the female voice to express the loss:

People I had a woman, she was nice and kind to me
           in ev'ry way
People I had a woman, she was nice and kind to me
           in ev'ry way
But Lord, she died and she left me, I sang the blues on ev'ry Decoration Day

Lord, I hate to see, I hate to see my baby go
People I hate to see my baby leave that mornin',
And my Lord takin' my baby 'way
She said, "Johnny Lee, don't you worry,
Bring flowers on every Decoration Day"

I was 'round my baby's bedside, when my Lord takin'
           my baby, 'way
Lord, I was 'round my baby's bedside, when my Lord takin'
           my baby, 'way
It hurt me so bad, so bad, until I, just broke right down
           and cried
Hmm, hmm

She says, "Fare you well, I see you on every Decoration Day", I tol' them
I told my baby, I told my baby, "I bring flowers on
          every Decoration Day"
I bring you some flowers, babe, just to decorate your grave

People, y'all havin' a good time now, just like the flowers
           that comes in May
Y'all havin' a good time now, just like the flower that
           come in May
I think about Lou Della, Lou Della, Lou Della on
           every Decoration Day

Lou Della, Lou Della, Lou Della stays on my mind
Lou Della, Lou Della, people, boy
Lou Della stays on my mind
Lord, she died and she left me on one Decoration Day
Lord, Lou Della's gone and Lou Della's worryin' me

Monday, July 21, 2014

brief entry || from July 28

sick. tired. exhausted. nauseous. It is an effort just to drink small mouthfuls of water.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Laughing— Always Laughing

Outside by the community park, I sat in twilight, watching Brendan chase his Papi around the manicured grass, laughing— always laughing. In the lowering halfmist, marsh cranes circled in the halflight.

His eyes shine winter blue in twilight hours.
During the drive back home, Brendan sat in a casual, pensive mood. He asked, lisping his ‘th’s from his car seat: “What happened to your bruder?” Everything paused around us. One of those eerie moments in life when time itself stalls. Freezing the material world into a limbo of sorts. The lights. The blue hour. The sun. The auto’s motor. The sense of self—

Lane, my brother, passed away twenty-seven years ago, this August. Lane was only eighteen. His body failed him one night around one in the morning. His heart simply turned itself off on its own accord. No rational logic.

We have photographs placed around the house in strategic positions. I’ve told Brendan who the images are— but without in-depth exposition. Today was the first time he made the association of Lane’s absence.

I kept my answer short. Brief. Establishing the notion of an afterlife in basic terms, even though I myself have no firm foundation of faith to explain the concept adequately. Let’s call my belief an acceptance of death. Let’s say I have a reserve on mystical claims. I’ve experienced at odd moments a clam meditative connection with a notion of a presence— that hour I held Brendan for the first time, my valuable package wrapped in blue sheets.

Whatever I said at that now moment I forget. The answer, however, worked. A resolution was reached and Brendan shifted to a new topic.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mild Annoyance

This afternoon, after completing the final stanza of a self portrait poem, just now I realize, a major portion of the plot echoes an older piece I wrote ten or more years ago. A plagiarism of self. Lifting of the past. Leaving me now frustrated and without a plot device to support the actions in the resulting stanzas.

Perhaps the motivation can transcend from the two characters sneaking off to slug whiskey shots, something other than smoking clove cigarettes.
The past looms up in the dark of the backyard, howling at the kitchen door, drunk in the wilderness.
131/ He shuffles an empty shot glass between his hands— left to right, then back again— right to left. Minutes passing, back and forth. Repeating actions. Over and over.

Leave the page Blank

Part of me wants to leave the page blank. Turn off the light and go to sleep. Another part however is wide awake and seeking an image to twist within a new poem—
                      Longing transposed to gold.
130/ The guilt of silence compiles within idle hands.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Making and Unmaking

In the distance from our house construction machineries can be heard humming: the air pulses with their manipulation of the landscape, making and unmaking the territory, dinosaurs insistent for procreation, their mating rituals vibrating across the suburban lawns—
After his bath, drying Brendan’s terse frame, he reached out and clutched his small, naked body against my chest, clinging both arms tightly around my neck. A sudden panic for an unknown reason. An unspoken fear.
129/ Guilt formulates overnight, appearing across men’s faces, a blue, early frost, persistent, expected.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Elaborate Acrobatics

The cat is under the bed raising a ruckus. She is chasing her tail in elaborate acrobatics. She twists in half circles to catch her shadow. I lie on the top of the bed with my swollen right knee, trying to ignore the pain. Another two months of waiting, before surgery.
Received another rejection for a manuscript in the mail the other day. No comments. No words of explanation. On the whole, the submission process is easier to deal with these days. One (I) cannot invest much emotion into the lack of editorial responses, lack of connection to a manuscript. So I bundle up a new assortment of poems and send off another arrangement to a new set of eyes.
128/ Guilt hides within the dirt of fingernails.

Jefferson's Complexity

[Image from: historyplace]

Despite the fact Thomas Jefferson wrote the American Declaration of Independence, declaring a break from Mother England for the colonies, Jefferson owned slaves.

Despite the fact he owned slaves, he approached abolitionist philosophies throughout his life. On this humanitarian venture, on both a personal level and a governing level, he failed. It is hard determining his mind-set on this movement. He left behind numerous, contradictory statements found in many of his letters, journals, and documents.

One of the few attempts by Jefferson to legally remove slavery from the emerging country can be seen in the composition draft of the Declaration of independence. Not surprisingly, this passage was deleted by the Second Continental Congress.
[King George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
(Norton Anthology of American Literature 655)

A digital copy of the surviving "Rough draught," in full, can be read here: www.loc.gov/exhibits.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Waiting for the Waiting to Cease

Strange bundle of moods. Raw emotion.

Maybe a mundane story can explain the catalog of feelings— surging up to the surface of the skin. Wanting to shift towards more optimistic, creative, expressions. Focus on the positive.
Brendan practices unbuttoning and buttoning my work shirts. He almost has the method down, the motions of both hands going in opposite directions, taking the coin-shaped disk and slipping it under, then, through the fabric.

He prefers me in casual pullover clothes— he dislikes shirts with buttonholes because they signify “work” and an absence of a parent's presence. T-shirts mean chases around the room. Horseplay. Building caves out of furniture cushions. Walking to the park.
127/ Watching the clock tick forward. Waiting for sleep. Waiting to wake up. Waiting for the waiting to cease. Waiting for the constellation of Orion to pull forward, above the horizon. Waiting for the iris blossoms to open, to break free of the stalk, to expand. Waiting for the moon. The sea. Acknowledgment.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hunter as Archetype of Fate

A bow hunter in red was seen merging with the sparse woodlands of our neighborhood. Aside from the fact the territory here is considered a wildlife preserve, and hunting is off limits, the full region is public land, with homes and yards, and children home for Summer vacation. My mind wanders into various plausible tragedies due to careless people.
hunter as aggressor / antagonist / archetype of fate
126/ in winter, he boils scented potpourri on the gas stove: a harvesting of apples. The bluegrey rooms echo with the ghosts of a former wilderness, phalanx of trees crowding out the inner city flat.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Power, Finance, Fertility

Reworked a poem while Brendan swam. On occasion his voice peaked up: Lookatme! Lookatme! Seeking approval and reassurance as he jumped off the pool's edge. He loves the danger of sinking, full submersion in the waters, rising with a piercing squeal, then a heavy laugh.
As a result I reworked haltingly on the poem I began recently as a short phrase in a freewrite, self portrait as the golden calf. Quick research revealed important facts I have been overlooking. The calf itself is considered a male deity, cast as a young bull. This echoes the ancient cultures using a male heifer as a status symbol of power, finance, fertility.

My first draft ultimately produced a brief metaphor using a disembodied voice, the disgruntled persona speaking with a heavy tone of rejection. However, what was missing: the sense of story or identity, personality of the writer-self, the purpose behind the voice.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Persona is a Mask

Another experiment. Twisting the notion of a previous entry back on June 13, 2014, twisting the notions of a self-portrait into another form of autobiography. Or to put it yet another way: if a pesona acts as a mask the poet wears, then the persona-mask-voice speaks of its personal history and not necessarily with the writer-poet’s-voice. (I am working through a defense of the idea in this paragraph; refining the notion.)

So. If a verse is titled “Self portrait as X ” then the subject X gains control of the theme, and not necessarily the author him/herself. The poet therefore is not required to reinvent the theme to suit the actual autobiography of the poet.

The writing, in other words, does not serve the purposes of a confessional poem, but rather becomes a fiction, a warping of reality to suit a theme.

Perhaps these statements are drawing out the idea too thinly across the page… How much of this would be considered common knowledge? Works I have in mind are T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Cut” or even “Lady Lazarus.” Both Plath and Eliot denied the poems were from their own personal histories. Plath in secret used confessional methods, but did not acknowledge her technique.
125/ In the back seat, the child’s head bobs with the drag and surge of traffic; half awake his eyes flow on nothing but the blur of the landscape running beside the car, slipping under his feet, carrying him to his expectations of the hour.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Guilt of Milkweed

The milkweed stalks finally went to seed for the first time: five pods cluster on various plants, ready to splinter at any given moment. And still the growth continues adding new layers, new inches. I broke one sheathing open, spilling fleece-like fibers and seeds across the gardenscape— a few meandered across the fence, caught on the slant of evening.

Received word that Minetta Review accepted “Saint Brendan and the Whale,” one of my more experimental poems. There is a satisfaction knowing my instincts were correct when constructing and reworking the splintered imagery; a mixture of the saint’s reality with the humpback whale’s environment. I look forward seeing it in print—mainly due to the Whitmanesque stanzas draw out beyond the average line length for today’s style of writing. The construction is worth reusing for other projects.

• he bundled himself inside his guilt nightly, as in a worn quilt
• guilt hides within fractured milkweed seed pods
• the act of conjugating a verb results in the act of guilt
• guilt / silk: connected by odd rhyming
• every cannas is guilty of blooming
• the screen’s cursor hesitates, flickers through its guilt
• a mouse is guilty of its fleas
• guilty poems exist in print, bound to each other
• the right hand is guilty of association with the left hand

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fragile Closures

Item of importance for English 1302:

Interesting article about closures in novels.

Endings are such fragile things. The slightest exposure ruins them completely. As a result, we are very protective of them—and possessive, too: under no circumstances are they to be given away. “Spoiler alert!” is the now-familiar cry: proceed at your own risk.
http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/queen-of-the-gypsies/

A Fractured Triskelion

Spent the day (survived the hours—) on only one cup of coffee. Now the weight of afternoon lingers in all of my limbs, my joints. I even skipped bathing, rolling in the scents of my own skin. Finding that inner self, bottom core of being human.

As well: reworked an old, old project, at least twenty years old, a poem sitting in a file drawer waiting to be revived, exhumed. In its beginning stages I simply titled it “Triskelion,” referring to the Ancient graphic symbols showing three tree branches or three human legs emerging from a central core, forming a wheel shape. Various cultures used the design, from Ancient Greeks to the Celts.


From the recent changes a new title emerged: “Triskelion: Herakles to Antaeus”— one more poem to add to my re-interpreted Herakles cycle. Even now I am not fully satisfied with the results—the initial concept dealt with braiding three modern sonnets into one form, cycling and repeating into itself. Or in other words, a short orchestration of three movements. Capturing the seconds before Antaeus, a son of Poseidon (Water) and Gaia (Earth), dies in Herakles' arms during mutual combat. I wanted the three sonnets to be presented in a visual knot of phrases, mimicking the notion of the graphic pattern. At the moment, I have the full work presented with the lines centered on the page, rather than flushed left, my standard format. The awkwardness of using centered text, with limited punctuation, seems to justify the rough phrases themselves.

By playing music composed by Austin Wintory, The Banner Saga, actually helps. In particular, the track “Thunder before Lightning” uses militaristic tones, heavy use of drums and brass instruments. It matches the drama unfolding between the two figures of Greek myth: the (im)mortal Herakles and the demigod Antaeus.

Here is the opening section as it stands at the moment. Comments? Suggestions?

Fractured Triskelion: Herakles to Antaeus

1.
afterwards, you lie as a dying Gaul
of knotted desire, still locked in my arms

as a remote angel, with an uncalm
body taking in air, winded, a scrawl

in the margins between heaven and earth,
between what you have and what you are looking for,

leaving me distant, a blur in a photograph.
This last time, your face turns away, your mouth

opens, a wound, like the sprain in my thigh
from your careless touch—and it’s odd, even though

I am aware of someone else in your life, how
he holds close your shuddering form during those nights

you allow him over you, allow his cast out
touch as replacement to mine, even this does not—

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The beginnings of a rite of passage.

Brendan tells me this morning he wants to go to the moon like Little Bear, the character from Maurice Sendak's illustrations and Else Holmelund Minarik's prose. I read these stories repeatedly when the skill of reading first clicked in my head. Even today I feel the influence of the ink drawings and minimalist plot development.
Despite the pain in my knee (or because of it) I walked slowly along the man-made canal, the vein of water drifting through the neighborhood. Despite the fact that summer heat leaned over the houses on the midday hour, I walked the perimeter anyway. Brendan was at school and I had a few free minutes, perhaps for the first time since he was born three years ago. Hopefully this exercise will prove habitual.
124/ A heavy lack lies next to him at night as he sleeps with the shades drawn open, allowing the night to slip into the bedroom through the unshuttered windows, a drowning of blue-black liquid. A coldness. A lack of warmth as he sleeps uncovered, undressed. An awkward body on a single cot slowly disconnecting from the hour.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Standing Behind the Stars for Protection

There are times I need Brendan more than he needs me. Stating this phrase, here, in my notebook, only intensifies the thought. When he was born, I foresaw this moment would emerge. But preparing for the event never lessens the realization. I have known too many dysfunctional relationships. I always thought I would be able to avoid them, flatten out the rising negativity before it could form in front of me.
Yet, tonight, as a counter-example to the above paragraph, while Ricky took extra minutes to clean up and relax, Brendan and I lay in the guest room’s early twilight, whispering to each other. Flashing lanterns at the ceiling, making new patterns of constellations. Stand behind the stars for protection, he’d say, shifting the light around the two of us. Let’s be invisible, he’d add, curling into a fetal position in my arms.
When he takes short naps, we lie down together, side-by-side: father and son. His restless small body shifting, as one with insomnia, resisting the need to sleep. Finally he gives up, his small fists pressed next to my ribs.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Self Portrait as the Golden Calf

The stone in my knee, the pain which gathers and collects over night will be removed in late August. In the meantime, I carry the burden of its existence wherever I go. Even now, I am aware of its presence, a dull creek stone worn down over time. It has become necessary to count steps and measure distances, before walking across the street, down the hall. It sits as a solid fact, an element to contend with daily, nightly.
123/Self Portrait as the Golden Calf.

As Eve. As Adam. As Adam and Eve.

As Orpheus. As Panoptes Argos.

As Io and Isis and Mary.

As the mold forming on week-old tortilla.

The film that forms on the surface of milk.

Crust of calcium forming on the bathtub water spout.

Dung beetle. Cockroach. Water beetle.

Kafka sweating under the woolen sheets of his mother’s house.

A dropped phone call.

The sporadic static crossing the television screen.

The hesitation between a question and the reply.

An actor who has lost his lines on stage.

Burnt coffee grounds lingering in the base of a paper cup.

A child’s balloon, lost and deflated.

Unpopped kernel of corn.

Broken vase on the kitchen floor.

The forgotten apostrophe in a contraction.

Franz Marc’s blue horses.

Myself in a funhouse mirror. In a cracked mirror. In a tarnished mirror.

Lost line of poetry.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The theme of meandering is meandering.

Moments exist when concentration evaporates quickly, ideas dry up —fade. Tonight for instance. The blank page demands to be filled, an because an expectation lies in hand, words stall. Vocabulary stumbles on the tip of my tongue.

Something tells me I used that I used that analogy in the past.

But it does serve a strong purpose, motivating the text forward in a sense, positioning the letters down slowly, preparing them for a metaphor, something slightly sophomoric, perhaps, a steam engine, gathering itself together, coiled pressure tightening within, waiting— however. The pen pauses. Stumbles. Mind searching for anything to relate, other than this foggy landscape. Dense. Thick. Blank.

The page is still blank. The theme of meandering is meandering. Without purpose. Without a safety net to catch us in the end. Just the falling body. Icarus failing into the form of a comet. Shifting from a personal tragedy, a possessive melodrama—night deepens outside.

Monday, June 9, 2014

With Golden Wings

For over a year a few projects have tumbled, repeatedly, across my notebooks; one in particular, a simple poem referencing my son's nightly bathing. The verse argued with me frequently— the page motioning forward at an extremely primitive pace. Partly my intentions exceeded the basic point of the piece: celebration of independence, vitality of a young boy after his third year.

Unintentionally, I was over-thinking the process, wanting to extend the metaphor beyond its breaking point, pulling it to a grander conclusion, an epiphany moment with golden wings, blinding the reader.

However, the reason for the poem’s refusal to transform lay in the fact the short fifteen lines were all that were actually needed. It exists now almost as a quiet, unrhymed sonnet.

[fade to soft grey with the turning of the page]

Brevity sometimes is the best answer.

A lack of resolution can act as a form of resolution.

Metaphors do not need clarification.