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.

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Room for others

Sometimes I have to remind myself it’s not all about me.  I have to make room in this life for others.  Otherwise, life’s not worth living.

With that  firmly in mind, I’m sharing a most excellent poem, Happiness, from The Poetry Foundation by a favorite poet of mine, the late Jane Kenyon.

Happiness

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Jane Kenyon, “Happiness” from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Poetry (February 1995).

 

At Home in the World

Some years ago, I went to New York and Connecticut.  I attended the New Yorker Festival; hit the Metropolitan Museum; took a train from Grand Central Station to visit friends and walked miles. It was glorious.

Yet, my small town heart suffered.  Where I’m from, we speak to people on the street, whether you know them or not.   Heck, we even say Hey! to drivers in cars as we wait to cross the street.  In Riverside Park, I met a most wondrous little pug named Olive.  She made me feel right at home.

Riverside, Manhattan, New York

The verdant piece of parkland at 80th and Riverside,
a repotted scrap of home, is filled with clusters
of walkers, dogs and owners in tow.  My small town heart
breaks its restraints and I call unacknowledged

hellos to pets and their humans, to squirrels in hiding
and flocks of sparrows barely visible among browning
leaves and grass.  I move deeper into the park, chilled
out and in, when she makes her move.  Her brindled body

travels in the perfect trajectory of meeting.  Unsure of intent,
I turn to face her.  A lolling smile, the radiating warmth
of flesh leaning into flesh and a rapid swipe of tongue
against my leg and she’s off to her next welcome.

Color A World

There’s nothing like the smell of crayons to reclaim childhood.  As a kid, I spent hours sprawled on the floor–coloring book center stage and all of a 64-count box of Crayola crayons scattered around me.  Coloring was my meditation and play well into junior high school.  Now I’m well into adulthood and I rediscover the joy of coloring books, crayons (and gel pens) every 15 years or so.  Long Live Crayola!

 

you take a gel pen and place
a chartreuse swipe within the lines
of a flower        maybe gerbera
or ox-eye          could be sunflower

 

you follow the curve of petal
remake it into yours in saffron
in azure       is it rudbeckia
or black-eyed susan

 

you don’t care about realism
whether it follows proper form
because it is whatever you want
your need right now

 

you focus on the drawing
let it fill your eye’s horizon     color
a hand-reach outside expectation
bold enough to muffle feeling

 

 

Take A Look

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Look up in the mirror
The mirror look at me
The mirror be like baby you the sh*t
God dammit you the sh*t
You the sh*t, you the sh*t
God dammit you the sh*t
God dammit you the sh*t
You the sh*t, yes sir

 from Feelin’ Myself by  will.i.am and Wiz Khalifa

 

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to look at yourself in the mirror.

 

 

Take A Look

 

Do you see that face reflected there?  The one
dark and sharp with yearning. How to answer
the question those eyes ask. You tremble
when they hold your own, don’t you?

 
Hold still now and take it.  Interrogation
is daunting, is it not?  Especially face to face.
Turning away won’t save you. Come back.
This a face you know.

 

It is yours.

 

Umami

I’ve never understood people who say they only eat to live.  As for me, food is my friend.  Just as you would with a close friend, I spend a lot of time with it on my mind.  😀  So imagine my surprise when saw this picture about five weeks ago. I had never heard of a cruffin.  Now it’s all I can think of thanks to a new bakery I found out about.

Interestingly enough, I am not even remotely a “bread” person usually but… Too bad I’m already taken or I’d marry that coffee cream cruffin in a snap.  Funny, the things you discover about yourself.

Umami

crust, burnished and butttery
dusted in white grains of sweetness filled
with the lush unctiousness of coffeed cream
a deep-bodied bouquet of dark chocolate
and round-jaggedness of salt
or the sunny wholesomeness of strawberry
married to the airy neutrality of yeast

Terra Incognita

Some years ago, I had an e-mail address–with a provider which is now defunct–that was forever inundated with spam. ( I have the nasty suspicion they sold my address to various and sundry unsavory operators.) I discovered the crooked e-mails contained scraps of random prose. It appealed to my inner poet, so I cribbed snippets of prose from those and other spam.

I figured since I couldn’t block them all, I would at least subvert them into a bit of beauty. Transform them into poetry. Years after I began I stumbled across the term–found poem. A new poetic form!

Silk from a sow’s ear.

 

Terra Incognita: a found poem

What should I have been without him? Still
I lost him into the silence like a sloping roof,
as if he were a stranger upon earth,
a revelation of human inconsistency.

Underneath burning glass, he looked strong.
There is something I want to tell you, he said.
Trust me no more, but trust me no less,
than you would an inspired heap of sand.

Desire Lines

I love reading. I always have three or four books going at a time. A life-long habit which may or may not have had any bearing on my making a career in librarianship. While I wish I could say all of my reading is profound and enlightening, I’ll confess to really liking a good vampire romance.

Years ago, while reading an eclectic and enlightening bit of nonfiction–like Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust, I stumbled across an architectural concept–desire lines–which fascinated me.

Basically, architects build structures but will often leave surrounding pathways unfinished for a brief period to allow users of those spaces to choose the pathways they desire. The architects watch for those pathways or lines of wear in the soft surfaces, like grass or sand, to figure out where to set permanent pathways, i.e. sidewalks or gravel paths.

I love thinking my need for a quick way between university buildings dictates where generations of other students will wend their way around campus. Or how my love for solitude decides the direction of a hiking trail.

Reminds me too of how when writing poetry I can influence a reader’s very breath.

 

Desire Lines

 

The man, sharp in the humid froth of budded trees,
is convinced his hand’s map explains his failures. He watches
briefly the women, cool in sheer tops and clinging wisps of skirts.
Waves of them move past his green isle of a bench.

The pocketed scrap he uses to wipe the fine spray of sweat
from his face flashes a white arc when it slips his grasp. He knows
what must be done now, sees the pathway clearing before him.
If thy right hand offends thee, cut it off.

Medicine

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.
–Proverbs 17:22 King James Version (KJV)

The best feeling in the world is to awaken with a joyful heart and laughter in your mouth. I’ve only experienced waking up mid-laugh a few times. I yearn for more.

Another rarity, my attempt at writing formal poetry: a pantoum.

 

Medicine

 

laughter followed
circling up
yellow bright in morning air
blessing and welcome

circling up
around the bed and room
lifting from sleep’s void
bodies loose in release

around the bed and room
effervescence in the gravid house
bodies loose in release
stretched beyond holding

effervescent in the gravid house
laughter followed
more abundant in sharing
yellow bright in morning air

Houdini

Late one night (or really early one morning), I caught the ending of the movie, The Great Houdini, on TV. Paul Michael Glaser’s depiction of Harry Houdini mesmerized me.

[Disclaimer: I was a kid in elementary school and more than half in love with Glaser from the TV series, Starsky and Hutch. At the time, I even owned a Starsky and Hutch poster. Their red Ford Gran Torino with white stripe featured prominently.]

I quickly read up on Houdini and his tricks. Just the thought of Houdini escaping from canisters and slipping out of chains altered my idea of what is possible and what is impossible.

 

 

I am learning to let go

and not look back
at the places        things      people
trailing like breadcrumbs behind

I will not be Lot’s wife
turned to stone with the weight
of sorrow and regret

I keep my eyes forward
moving toward the distance
even if I have to run