In this stunning poem on Agni Online, Joyce Peseroff muses about privilege and the gift of a single egg. Agni is one of my dream journals. I’ve yet to be published there, but back in the 80s received an encouraging hand-scrawled note from the founding editor, and more recently received one of my favorite rejections ever, stating “this is not our standard rejection.” One of these days…
My poem, “The Trees are Burning at Midnight,” is live at Fourth and Sycamore, the literary journal of the Greenville Public Library, located in Greenville, Ohio. This piece was originally drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge. Many thanks to Charlotte Hamrick for sponsoring the poem and offering the title.
The Fullness That Precedes
it is not
the moon but
rain that attracts
me to this
place no faint
light no shadow
but the fullness
that precedes its
history that of
magic from nothing
to nothing by
which one may
discern perfection a
cloud the solitary
note of distraction
Written in the 80s, “The Fullness That Precedes” first appeared here in May 2015.
Opened or closed, the mood
with the pull of tooth and
and discarded sound in wet
its odor mingling with
by summer pavement under the
six plastic flowers faded by the
and photographs scattered over scraped
where we stand bound and
I reach toward
and find only
“The Box” first appeared here in May 2015.
Waiting, I open myself but nothing enters. Even music’s comfort avoids me, preferring calmer ports or perhaps another’s wind choices. I drop the weighted cord through the flute, pull it, and watch the cloth ease out. Some days pain drags behind me no matter what words emerge, what phrases follow. Last night brought the season’s first fireflies. This wall of books grows taller each day.
exhaling, I note
smudges in the sky —
oh, dirty window
How to Write a Poem
Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up
the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through
curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read
the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you
need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first
gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,
but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create
and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.
Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.
There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.
Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly
and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,
grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.
“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.
All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.
I have three poems up at Nine Muses Poetry, a new online poetry journal out of the UK. Many thanks to editor Annest Gwilym for taking these poems.
Calm (after H.D.)
I flow over the ground,
healing its hidden scar–
the scar is black,
the bedrock risen,
not one stone is misplaced.
I relieve the ground’s
burden with white froth,
I fill and comply—
I have thrown a pebble
into the night,
it returns to me,
settles and rises,
a white dove.
* * *
“Calm” is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, which is available via free download from Origami Poems Project. It made its first appearance here on the blog in March 2015, and was written as an exercise, using a poem, “Storm,” by H.D. as the launching point. I’ve tried to emulate her diction and rhythm, with mixed success. Still, it’s fun to try these on occasion.
Read this gift from Jose Padua!
Jose Padua is a dish best served cold with onions,
mushrooms and tomatoes in a light broth and
accompanied by a rich lager with subtle aftertones of lemon.
Jose Padua is Arnold Swartzenegger’s imagined tumor
in Kindergarten Cop right when his headache is
at its most painful and the students are ready to revolt.
Jose Padua is the citizen who doesn’t look like a citizen,
the American who doesn’t look like an American, the
human being who doesn’t look like a human being except
in the looming darkness between the last of the previews
and the beginning of the feature film, that precious time
when the prospect of being entertained puts us all
on what the industry calls “a level playing field.”
Jose Padua is a plastic container of air freshener
shaped like a cone that’s run out whatever makes
the almost but not quite pleasant smell that makes
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In his essay “On Poetry and Uncertain Subjects” in the May 2018 issue of Poetry, Jack Underwood discusses uncertainty and “the empathetic negotiation of meaning between poets and readers.” No wonder I so often feel uneasy yet somehow comforted before, after, and while writing…