Poetry is a fine hobby, and it can be approached from many angles and still be successful. You can look at the process of writing poetry as though it were like constructing a meticulous puzzle, or following dreamily along with a rhythm, or confessing all your most urgent feelings. There are other ways to write poetry, of course. But you can't expect me to list all of them, can you? There really are a lot.
Writing a good poem is deeply satisfying, and writing a merely OK poem is pretty cool, too. Bad poems aren't as fun to have around, but sometimes you can't help but turn an interesting idea into something nobody ever wants to look at again. Thankfully, ideas keep coming regularly.
These poems date roughly from last spring until August. I am sure of that last date, because I finally got the bright idea to write dates on my poetry last year.
Cold War Boils Over
The bombs will fall on Russia
far, far away,
the bombs will fall on China
very far away;
the bombs will fall on North Korea,
the bombs will fall on Washington some day,
When world war has come to the USA.
The bombs will fall on Wall Street,
far, far away,
the bombs will fall on Main Street,
very far away,
the bombs will fall on Pennsylvania
Avenue at dawn,
the bombs will blow us very far away
when world war has come to the USA.
The Moon Unraveled
The moon was wound too tight and came undone;
the strings and leather fell to Earth in such
cascades they shuttered out the evening sun,
and darkness fell around the tumbling sky.
Before the night was over came the sound
of cracking bats and comets smashed to pieces,
to icicles and particles, and 'round
the bases came the answers to our prayers.
A time machine, a dinosaur, a box
of scientific gizmos blowing smoke;
I had the best vacation of my life
Until the antimatter engines broke.
I want to go to Chicago,
to the land of California
where the milk and honey flow,
where the streets are paved with glittering gold,
and standing on their crowded corners
I can stand alone.
The Night at the End of Wherever you Are
The night at the end of wherever you stay
is colder than water and beautifully clear,
transparently hard as a terrible day
and close as a misplaced fear;
the night at the end of wherever you are
is freedom from life under darkening stars.
What eyes I dream, what
belittle me in darkness;
a candlestick to
light my way
is simply not forthcoming:
I'm left with nothing but those eyes!
Alone in darkness with those eyes,
twinkling with malice for me.
stare me through
until I wake from darkness,
until the morning breaks those eyes.
Fear and Destructive Impulses
There's no way this house is home,
there's no way this room is empty,
someone else's ghostly bones
were laid to rest above the floor.
The boards are crooked, creaky wood,
and footsteps echo in the chamber
every night, and if I could
I'd silence them with screaming fire,
burn the night and choke the stars
with ashy smoke from twisted planks.
Between these doors the shadow mars
the silence of my sleeping dreams.
The hills emerge from dust and distance,
gateways to another life;
the shadows of my past, and only
half a tank away from home.
The burning light, the windy day is
fading with the sound of cars
and distant echoes in the mountains,
half a tank away from home.
Father Shadow's Requiem
Father Shadow, in the darkness
growing deeper every hour,
eyes the water pooling coldly
at the bottom of the waste.
In the wild, only lines of sight
and paths to freedom matter.
In the city, only mercy
keeps the wildness away.
In the walls beneath the gutters
where this mercy rarely flowers,
Father Shadow keeps a garden
in a grave and growing place.
Everybody dreams tonight:
they dream regrets and followthroughs
like birds in empty skies,
crawling on the sudden ground;
An anvil in a burning room
as cold as winter stone,
silent as the frosted clouds;
The Earth expanding through the sea
while summits peek through space,
crumbling into pebbles;
they fall into the summer air
and settle in our eyes,
disappointing waking life.
The Subterranean Statue
An angel dreams of life and death,
never waking from his sleep
and never taking breath
from elsewhere in the deep.
The stillness of the sunken air
is stifling in this barren stone;
now, more than he can bear,
the sleeper stays alone.
An angel of the cave is fallen,
shafts of dark upon his wings,
and strains his ears for all
the windy world sings.
The city feels the shaking
drums of glory, gratitude,
and rock n' roll tonight;
the rhythms and the blues they sing
will tremble in the trees
and turn the hills tonight;
the band is playing louder,
shading drums of memory
and fading out tonight.
Cold War Boils Over is the kind of poem that looks like it has some sort of political message. It doesn't, unless the observation that the United States has rarely born the brunt of the trauma inflicted by war in the past hundred plus years is political. And the fact that it might not always be that way is kind of scary, if you ask me.
I don't know what The Moon Unraveled is really "about," but it's one of my favorites.
I wrote Time Travel in a few minutes in the comment section of an article on the A.V. Club, amidst a number of silly sci-fi poems that people were coming up with. It still makes me laugh, because I am easily amused.
I wrote Chicago while feeling somewhat depressed that my best friend was going to move there. He ended up not moving, so that made me happy, but I still had this poem and I came to like what I thought it represented. I meant to make it longer, but I couldn't come up with a second stanza without it feeling artificial; it just feels about right as it is. The line about California is, of course, a reference to the Robert Johnson song. Of course.
The Night at the End of Wherever You Are is mostly a rhythm poem. I thought up the title and just riffed on the meter a few times. So it's pretty, and I tried to sneak some deep thoughts into it, but mostly it's about the rhythm.
Eyes and Fear and Destructive Impulses were both written shortly after I moved into a new house last summer, a house I moved out of in November for strange and confusing reasons. Perhaps I felt uncomfortable there? It was a nice enough house with good roommates, but it never stopped feeling unreal, and then it ate my security deposit. Grumble grumble...
I wrote Grapevine in an unusual place: the In-N-Out Burger in Lebec, California. When I drive home in the summer, I usually stop here, as it is about the time I get hungry, and it's within sight of the Tejon Pass that marks the end of the Central Valley, where the Grapevine road is. Driving down I-5 through the valley by myself is a dreary experience, so seeing the pass come into view always makes me feel better.
On my return trip, I stopped in San Francisco for a couple of days to visit my sister. Sitting in the Royal Grand coffee shop one morning, I was reading an old book about the poetry of John Dryden by Earl Miner (yes, I wrote all of that down for posterity). Then, somehow, I came to write Father Shadow's Requiem. I don't imagine it has much in common with Dryden's work.
Everybody Dreams and The Subterranean Statue are exercizes in imagery, but the latter is much better. I don't think that judgment needs explaining.
As I recall, I wrote Summer Concert one evening while sitting in my room, slightly drunk. I had my window open, and my house being relatively near the Eugene fairgrounds, I could hear the rock band Heart doing a show that night! It seemed like the kind of thing I should write a poem about! So I wrote two, and trust me, you guys got the better one.