Friday, December 9, 2011

Poetry Jam #8

Welcome to the latest installment of my growing poetical corpus, a curious body of strange ideas and uncomfortable over-sharing.  Today we have poems written between February and  April of this past year, having aged in my folder for the requisite time and achieved the proper vintage.

Actually, I've been putting off this post for a while, concerned that the backlog I like to keep might have worn thin.  Opening said folder now, I find this to be an entirely unfounded worry.  I have lots of poems in there, enough even to justify holding back the really awful ones.  The terrible poems will dwell in the folder forever, or at least until a future archaeologist explores my artifacts and finds himself wondering what the hell I was thinking.

But enough of that jibber.  Here's the goods:

Teenage Secrecy

Let's carve a place out of the hill
And keep it for ourselves, forever;
We'll care for it, and make it clean,
And keep it to  ourselves, and never
Talk or tell a single soul
About the work that we have done.
We'll cuddle in our little place
And close the warmth inside,
And keep it for ourselves, forever.

Let's whisper in each other's ears
And keep it to ourselves forever;
We'll wait for something good to come
And keep it for ourselves, and never
Leave our pleasant little place
We carved into the tender hill.
We'll catch the moment in a jar
And cool it in our arms,
And keep it for ourselves, forever.

Real Presence

Fill me, phantom,
          face me now,
Awake, and warm me
          with your smile,
Your beaming body
          bearing ever down
In dreams and only dreams,
          in days and nights,

I wake and whisper,
          where'd you go?
It's not enough
          to know you're there,
To rise and reach
          for your real presence
And find it to be false,
          a fading, empty sight.

The Liar

I told a truth, but no one else believed;
They each condemned me, charged that I deceived
And lied in muck and shit, just like a worm;
They scorned me, and I scorned them in return.

I ran away in rage-arrested fright;
I gnash on comfort bones and hone my bite,
To eat and speak a filthy-worded meal
And tell the truth that suits the way I feel.

The Softness of a Broken Wing

The numbing, warm and gentle sting
Of mouth and brain and acid wine,
The softness of a broken wing;

What thoughts and dreams they often bring
Of hopes and plans that once were mine,
This numbing, warm and gentle sting,

This memory, this borrowed ring,
The feel of something small and fine,
The softness of a broken wing.

Within my ear, a length of string
Becomes a pure melodic line,
A numbing, warm and gentle sting,

And resting, nestled in a sling,
The touch of yours for which I pine,
The softness of a broken wing.

At times I hear a woman sing,
And as she does it calls to mind
That numbing, warm and gentle sting,
The softness of a broken wing.

The Magpie

Ten, eleven, twelve o'clock and nothing sounded in the kitchen,
Nor the hallway, bath or bedroom of my lonely little home;
Hours advanced across the window, and the night increased in darkness
As I rested, reading terrors in my sitting room alone;
Hours of existential horrors in my sitting room, alone,
When I chanced to hear a groan.

Minutes, hours and days seemed past, but still the sound resisted silence,
All my best attempts to find it faltered, and the noise grew loud;
Louder, fouler always, ever sickening my brain and body,
Never shrieking din so ugly was so hidden by a shroud;
An excruciating presence hid completely by a shroud,
Never was a sin so loud.

One, and two, and three o'clock, and not a sound in my apartment,
Not a sound could I perceive as I stared madly at my phone;
No sensation in my eardrum, no vibration in my body,
Only memories of terrors met impoverished and alone;
Heard perpetually in silence, isolated in my home,
Since I chanced to hear that groan.

The Ladder

Gaze at the city beyond from the balcony,
Dreaming of freedom and narrow escapes;
Listen for someone who doesn't reply,
Look for the ladder and learn to fly.

Climb on the ladder, to peer in the opening;
Breathe in the dust of that musty old place.

Howl in the attic and bark at the sky,
Fall from the ladder and nearly die.

Two Thousand and Five Degrees

Only a dwindling season in paradise;
Dancing and quivering under the moon,
Talking together, alone in the light,
Slowly unraveling, squeezing white.

Summer in paradise, glowing and simmering
Rocks in the water and heat in the dark;
Bottled and bursting alone in the night,
Sweating and breathing and squeezing tight.

Now a shell of boiling summer,
Shrinking under shine of day;
Someone calls for something bright,
Something must ignite.

I Am Not a One of Them

I am not a one of them:
Unencumbered, unrestrained,
Undeterred by passion, lust
For flesh or drink or breast,
Underwhelmed and under-stressed.

Behind the Door

If everybody's got to make a living,
It stands to reason, someone's got to pay;
And some of us can be too eager giving
While the other ones are taking it away.

A fortune for a moments satisfaction
And a universe of hunger for the same;
Desire pinching at the same reaction
In my heart as from the moment that it came.


Secretly whistling words in my ear,
Wishing for something unsubtle, she
Beckons to hold her and scold her at will,
Name her my darling, my dearest, my dear;

Crushing my shoulders and holding me still,
Wasting for something unspoken, impatiently
Pining for, dying for me to come near,
Slowly unwinding, exposing a chill.

Cascade Square

The trees are swinging in the sky;
Their leaves are shining in the light,
And now a cloud is passing by
As noon is drifting into night.

And lying on my back, I wait
And hope that things are not too late.


My love is like a summer's dream
I woke from in a fitful start
And tried in vain to recollect,
An absence weighing down my heart,

An impulse felt, denied and mute,
The urge to run away, ignored;
A heat is blushing at my neck
As I am walking slowly, bored.

Golden Wire

Entangled in a golden wire,
Hanging from a yellow thread,
I lie consumed in silent fire
Burning in my silent head,
And drowning as my dreams are mired
In the darkness of my bed.

Yes, that's the way I feel tonight,
Alone and frightened, hurt and sad,
My heartbeat isn't feeling right,
My brain is slowly turning mad;
If she would only shine a light
I might have cause to feel glad.

I don't, because she's far away,
Her glow is shaded from my eyes
Although it shines as bright as day,
And somewhere in the night she lies
Alone and empty, locked away;
But does she know I realize?


And now for some notes!

I wrote Teenage Secrecy out of a desire to write something sweet and dreamlike.  My friends and I have a (somewhat) weekly writing group, where we share our scribblings by email.  One of my friends read this particular poem and, bemused by my "tender heart," suggested I try writing poetry a little more like Edgar Allen Poe.  This will be relevant later.  I struggled with the title for a while; I had half a mind to call it Teenage Sex.  With that title, the perspective changes a little bit, and I wasn't sure if I wanted that to be the perspective people brought to it.  Anyway, since the poem is about secrecy, I think it's appropriate for it to have a "secret title."  But now everyone knows it, so...

Real Presence is a kind of experimental poem.  I was intrigued at the time by the aesthetics of the alliterative meter used by Anglo-Saxon bards in days of yore.  I wrote another poem around the same time that was even more experimental, using a complex pattern of alternating between voiced and unvoiced consonant alliteration.  But while Real Presence is pretty and meaningful, this other poem (which really deserves no title) is ridiculous and terrible.

The Liar is a meditation on an observation I had about how two people can tell the truth about a single situation, and still disagree so strongly with one another that they devolve into trolls, or something.  I don't know.  I was reading about international politics at the time, and I generalized back to individuals.  Sometimes people's interests are the truth.

The Softness of a Broken Wing is a really pretty one, if I do say so myself.  It is written in the form of a villanelle, a very strict form of verse requiring the repetition of the first and third lines at specific points.  It's a beautiful form: Dylan Thomas wrote a very famous one, Do not go gentle into that good night, that everyone seems to like.  It's also frustrating as hell to come up with six rhymes for "wing" and six for "wine" that actually flow together in an interesting way.  Villanelles are fun, but like many strict forms, I don't find myself committed to them for long.

The Magpie is my response to that friend who asked me to write more like Poe: it is, in fact, a flagrant Poe pastiche.  I lifted the meter directly from The Raven (a magpie is a smaller member of the corvid family of birds, you see), the "plot" is an echo of The Tell-Tale-Heart, and the tone and diction are as generally Poe-ish as I could manage on my ability.  Looking at it now, it seems kind of silly, but I worked much too hard on it to keep it suppressed.

The Ladder and Two Thousand and Five Degrees are both experimental, in a way.  They're both products of my (successful?) attempt to invent a unique, reusable poetic form, which is why they have the exact same meter (excepting the coda to the second one, which is just a condensed form of the meter).  Two Thousand is kind of steamy, I guess.  Everyone likes some steamy goodness.

I wrote I Am Not a One of Them and Behind the Door one night in San Francisco, apparently in a monkish sort of mood.  It wasn't until I wrote it out just now that I realized that the first one makes absolutely no sense, but oddly, that makes me like it more than I did before.

And as for the last four... honestly, I was obsessed with a girl at the time.  There's no redeeming way to say it!  Awkward as I am, I don't have a whole lot of experience with dating, but last April I managed to land myself in an emotionally exhausting run-around for about a month with a person who didn't seem able to make up her mind about what she wanted.  The specific course of events don't really need to be related, seeing as they were extremely confusing.  Needless to say, I wrote (or started writing) a LOT of poetry at the time.  Most of it was horrible, but I like these four.

Insecurity, in fact, I would go so far as calling really, really good.  Look at that rhyme scheme!  Look at those unstressed rhymes on lines two and six!  So good.  Cascade Square is pretty little piece of fluff, a poem for a postcard you might say.  Weight works (for me) primarily because of the jarring contrast between the cliche first line and the subversion that immediately follows it; other than that, I don't have much use for it.  Golden Wire is pretty heavy on the psycho-melodrama, so I don't blame anyone for hating it, but I felt pretty strongly about it at the time.

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