Heart to Heart

Here’s another writing journal prompt:  Choose an organ from your body. Do not name the organ. Instead, allow the organ to describe how it feels living inside your body. -EJ Koh

Oh, well. I don’t always listen to instructions. And you’d figure out what body part to which I was alluding anyway. And then the damned thing decided to talk for itself. It’s a little headstrong. Ha!

 

Heart to Heart


It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold. – Zelda Fitzgerald

Only do what your heart tells you. – Princess Diana

 

What does it take, I ask you.
I’ve tried everything. And yeah, I know how I sound.
Cranky and more than a little fed-up.

Soooo,
I figured I’d just throw a little something out there.
Make her slow down. That little brown out, I thought
would do the trick. I know she was pretty young
at the time. But come on, a BROWN OUT. You know,
can’t really see, everything sepia toned. You drop,
just a little. You SIT STILL. And no, it didn’t really work.
But I tried it a few times, just in case.

So, fast forward a few years. I throw a couple seizures
her way. I’m thinking that’ll do it. Eyes roll back, a little
flipflop. Maybe some spittle, a little pee. Just for some
equalizing. Damn young people. Took the damn things
in stride. In stride, I tell you. Oh, don’t get me wrong.
They scared her and everybody else but you can’t
keep young folks down. You really can’t. More’s the pity.

I backed off awhile. Gave her her head, you could say.
School, school, school. That’s all she focused on.
Too much. No sense of balance, that one. She’d run
long past all her tires ran flat, you know? Hit her
with a little lethargy. For years, people. YEARS.
What’d she do? Take up some stupid quasi
parkour crap. Running all over the place. Yoga,
Pilates. Aerobics. Couch to 5K. Everything, all the time.

Finally, I took the gloves off. No more brown outs. I went
for the black. Black outs, that is. The ultimate going dark.
But only for a second or two, here and there. I mean
I don’t want to kill her really. I just want her to notice me.
What happened, you ask. Did she notice? Oh boy, did she.
Got a little pissy is what. Started pushing again
and ignoring me after the initial shock. I hate it.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. Ignoring me. ME! I got it now.
I’m going for the jugular. Breathing. A poet’s
got to listen if you go for the breath. We’ll see
what’s she made of. She’s got to concede. Doesn’t she?

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Sway

I’m at it again. Dreaming that is. My poem, Epiphany, was based on a dream I had a couple of years ago.

Last night’s dream still holds sway over me, whispering its presence and not letting me turn from it. It wants to be heard. Will you listen?

Dream’s Tale 

The drive was a shortcut through a grand dame of a neighborhood
down on its luck. Yards weedy, filled with tumbled marble. Remnants
of better people, better days. Wanting to shave minutes from their journey,
they leaned forward, peering beyond the windshield, already turns ahead.
He threaded the car along the streets past house after house grand
but shabby. Later she could not say why the stop was necessary. A quick
stop, he said, easing the car to the right beside hedge-like greenery.
Just so, he was out, driver door wide in invitation. From somewhere, walkers
appeared. On a stroll? To where? A rift in a Steigerian plane? She saw
the wrongness only after a few moments. The gait unwavering, like its stare.
The lone figure heading toward them. Seconds she gave to look first
at keys still in the ignition, then to him searching the trunk’s contents
and back to keys, open door. The walker was closer, seeming to run while
not. A flicker and it was closer. Was she blinking? Reaching the keys, she
calls her companion to his purpose. Drive, she said. Drive. Drive. Drive.
Was the walker closer? Yes, enough so she could see its eyes or what
should have been eyes. Her mind told her this but she closed the door
on that knowledge. As did her companion in his scramble for his seat.
Close. Closer. Closed. Her mouth opens, calling for salvation. Voice rising,
rising in warning, in supplication, rising to the heavens above.

Worth the Story

On Instagram, CavanKerry Press posted a graphic, The Last Text That You Sent Is Now The Title Of Your New York Times Bestseller. They then challenged everyone who posted their last text to create a poem incorporating the line. I posted “Well, I figure I’ll be tired.”

Poets & Writers regularly posts writing prompts for poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The following one for creative nonfiction was just the thing to spark my CavanKerry Press poetry challenge:

Write a personal essay [in my case, poem] about an event from your past in which circumstances beyond your control transformed what would have been a more standard situation into something decidedly more dramatic.

Here’s what I came up with.

 

Worth the Story

 

On the porch
around the breakfast table
just after you failed to get picked for the team

they’d tell you to hush that fuss
their faces impatient and angry
full of something else

they’d say      you kids don’t know
what hardship is

they’d say     you kids don’t know
how [insert relative name here]

woke fore day in the morning
walked uphill both ways
worked sun up to sun down

just for something to eat
just to get their education
just so you could be here

and here you crying cause
some little badass kid won’t
let you play      go sit down

just wait    life gone get harder
you gone have to get tougher
then they turn away    faces hard

but not before they hug you

I remember them   when I hear those
words from my own mouth  
                                    
when I say             life gone get harder, B
you gone have to get tougher

then I walk five miles both ways
in the morning before dew lands
in the dark as speeding cars
cast pools of light at my feet

just for something to eat
just to get my education
just so I could be here

others ask me now      how I did it
what was I thinking

I say  life is hard, I gotta be tough

I say              I think
“Well, I figure I’ll be tired.”
and start out anyway

Revelations

Earlier one of my readers said my poems “opened windows” into who I am. That’s one of the hazards and joys of writing, especially poems. We writers use pieces of life (our own and others) as seeds for our work.

It’s a little frightening to put those little pieces of ourselves in front of readers. But, there’s no time to give into fear. We have stories and poems clamoring to see the light of day.  And, hopefully, readers to read them.

 

Omens

i.

An egret crosses the street in front of my car
its gimlet yellow eyes fix on mine
white body sleek and stately as it moves
I feel it knows me           our common ground
more than the street between us

ii.

An army of frogs parade across our windows
nightly    we ponder the logistics of so many
army, colony, knot     whatever they are called

 
iii.

what does it mean that they follow me
in dreams    along telephone lines        they cast
themselves as black notes against
a pearlescent sky    ordinary birds        no ravens
no albatross to make the message plain

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Part 2)

Forty-nine years. All my remembered selves laid one atop the other and no longer fit.


YESTERDAY, TODAY, TOMORROW


ii. today

a roller coaster rises shakily in the emptied midway
its operator sports an uneven shave
something dried smears red across his jaw

wide-eyed riders herd onto train cars rusted to a stop
safety restraints tangle at foot, hang threadily outside
he throws the switch with a high laugh     the ride begins

click-click-clicking toward the first of many drops  
splintered track appears out of darkness
panic leaps each glimpse ahead      

                                                         a car goes over the edge



[iii. tomorrow will be posted tomorrow.]

Transparency

Twenty-six days. Four more to go. Writing a poem every day.

It’s been fraught, this undertaking intentional creation. I feel as if I’m on a tightrope making my way across an open space without a net or a balancing pole.

I wonder who will care that I write poems every day this month. As I write my daily poems, I worry everyone will see I don’t know what I’m doing. That I’m a fraud.

Yet, I am doing it.

The trick, I finally understand, is to move forward even when the way is unclear. It’s the willingness to sit with the uncertainty, to embrace negative capability.

 

Imposter Syndrome

 

they are people more famous than I will ever be

they hold hearts beating   
palm up to the heavens

they see paths undreamt of
to places beyond imaging

yet they, like me, sit in dim corners
on sunbright patches of grass

alone
amidst crowds

and know, skin pebbled with cold,
the mob eager for our unmasking

is just behind us

Blessings

I am obsessed with found poems. This one was birthed out of fragments from “Our New Lives” by Helen Coats out of One Teen Story, Issue No. 53 and a quote from Burial Rites by Hannah Kent:

“we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke i will vanish into the air and the night.”

 

Tautology

go in right now against the surge of emotion
come clean, apologize and ask forgiveness
abandon the thought of invincibility
the conviction of a safe landing

to bless and receive blessing
accept the awful coming footsteps
the blowing out of light into the grey
the greasy-bright fluttering in darkness

Inciting Incident

Conversations on the bus. Any dictionary. Emails. It’s all music to me because I’m always scouting words or phrases, listening to the rhythms of our mother tongue. Listening to life. The term, inciting incident, drew me when I read it recently. Especially when I read its accompanying definition: “an event, small or large, that dramatically changes the nature of an ordinary day, that ‘radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life’.”

Stuff happens. All the better to remind us all that life isn’t fixed and control is illusory.

Incident

it was the phone booth in Mexico
instructions written in rebus,
in language determined to be coy

no, it was trying to call home
proud to be only a small dash
from homeland

later in the retelling, a quality
of light made it all a retablo
an ex-voto laid out against sin

the man was gnarled in chain link
half out of one, half in another
homeland of his choosing

freedom spread just beyond
the twist of cloth and sweat
flesh and tears       we both listened

desperate for a yellow brick calle
to the booted echo rushing forward
helpless as others who pulled at him

border guards scattered them
like crows, like pigeons, sullen
in flight        desperados perched
ready for another opening

World-building

According to Junot Diaz (and ok, a lot of other writers), world-building is important in all fiction writing. Actually, I’d expand that thought to all writing–and life.

Writers or not, we all are world builders. We choose between the couscous or the rice pilaf. We choose friends and lifemates. With every decision, we make our world.

Juan Felipe Herrera unveiled his project, la familia (the family), for his stint as our new U.S. Poet Laureate. La familia (the family) is a collaborative project open to all Americans to help in telling America’s (our) story.

World-building, if you will, and giving us all a part in it.

I’m excited about having a chance to be part of such a big thing. I want to dive in and add my voice to project…BUT I’m also afraid. Afraid my voice is too insignificant, my writing too juvenile. That I’m too…silly, somehow.

So I’ve decided to start on a small scale and locally (or as local as the internet and social media allows) to begin, InCollaboration, my own collaborative poem project with you. I invite you — poet and non-poet — to help me fashion a series of poems.

Together we’ll build a world.

 

I Often Feel Silly

It grabs on the point of waking
a previous night’s remark
or the moment of my birth.

In the middle of joyful dance
I become ankles, elbows,
geometric angles.

After the echo of our lovemaking,
I cringe. There is no place, no
time, it is not. Even here–

my voice, now,
speaking to you.