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

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.





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.


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


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

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

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


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—