Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poetry Jam #14

The new year is upon me, a full seventeen hours earlier than usual.  With 2013 slipping out the door, I thought, what better celebration for the turning of the calendar than another batch of poetry?

Other than Dayquil and chamomile, of course.  I have quite the sore throat, unfortunately, so I won't be reading any of it out loud.  Did you know I usually read them out loud?  Of course you didn't.

You might do the honors instead, if you're interested.  Poetry is for the ears as much as for the eyes, if not more.  These poems date from February to July of 2013, so keep that in mind for your pronunciation.

Have a happy, multi-sensory new year.

Real Strange Genes

There ought to be a song about
the way your fingers do that thing
they do sometimes, when you are trying
to impress a crowd of girls.

That thing they do is brave,
bizarre, and just a bit offensive;
"got himself some real strange genes"
they'll sing around a minor chord.

But no one ought to sing this song
in public, if they have good taste.
That thing your fingers do will get
us all arrested soon enough.

You will know me by the time I'm gone

You will know me by the time I'm gone
and you won't miss me.
You may wonder where I've gone today
but you won't wish that
you were with me:
it will already be so.


Sometimes I don't get sudoku.
Sometimes it seems arbitrary,
like there's no solution,
almost like the rules are changing
while I scribble in the boxes;
sometimes, it's a bother.

Other times I want to break them,
force the numbers into order;
sometimes I can do it.
Sometimes I take weeks to solve it,
then the obvious solution
kicks me in the stomach.

Sometimes I dislike my puzzles.

Law and Order

Anyone like me can see you're happy
in your little house, where
anyone who'd like to hurt you only
has to force the locks;

that's just life in human cities on the
walls of planet Earth, where
freedom and security are promises
of little talks.

Silhouettes can vanish from the window
of a little house, where
law and order keeps us happy, sleeping
in our little box.

That's just life in human houses under
stars and moonlit nights, when
anyone can soundly fall asleep in
little city blocks.

Cognitive Red

Nothing's red about red
and none of you can prove it;
keep your reds and I
will do with mine as I
see fit.
If I see fit to deny it,
I will deny,
and if I see fit to claim it
for myself,
then all the rest
will have to make do with other
hiding under every bed,
with what is right
and what is red
and white.

Keyhole Wisdom

Hold your own and shake your head,
before you're beaten
on the field of crimson flowers
bloomed in triumph,
blooming in the sunset,
stained with crimson
by defeat.

Don't allow your fate to flower
in these fields;
hold your own and shake your head!
That's what father
in his wisdom

That is what I overheard while
listening that night
before the field was stained with red.

Glory is a Lie

Glory is a lie,
is a fiction that we tell ourselves
when other lies are stretched
beyond the breaking,

is the last resort of human minds
that must acknowledge truth
when they are murdered

by ideas - killed by politics,
immediate, abstract
and calculated,

bleeding out because of economics.
Glory is a lie,
a comfort to the ones
who face the Terror,

for the living and the dying, but
no comfort to the dead
or those who miss them,

or the ones whom Terror takes
without remorse.  The violence
is not redemption,

nor a path to everlasting lives
with noble, selfless friends
who've lost their heads and

hands and heartbeats, but retain their smiles
at their duties done.
Their death is death
and glory is a lie.

How to Talk about Scallions

How to talk about scallions
in a format that is not a cookbook,
garden magazine,
or esoteric journal?

The work of some alchemist
who wouldn't settle for less.
How to talk about scallions
in a way that

everyone would accept was worth the talking,
not a waste of alchemist's breath
or ink from inviscid pens?

How to talk about scallions
like a professional,
when what you really want to talk about is

and its flavors and its uses
and the peculiar facts of its

How to talk about scallions
without pausing to mention
without pondering the steps

by which an "a"
becomes an /i/
without anybody noticing?

Keep it focused, keep it flavored,
keep it peppered with the love
that is its due.

How to talk about scallions
in a poem about onions
that smells like a kitchen
preparing the most incredible soup
the chef has ever boiled?

How to say enough about


Memory is chemicals
and everything is chemicals
and everything we know and love's
a chemical illusion,
but we love it and
we wouldn't have it any other way.

Understand the chemistry
and everything's a mystery
in spite of everything you know:
the beauty of our love is
that the mystery
persists in spite of everything we say.

Memory is wonderful
for making love, and chemicals
can turn you on, and turn you off,
before you can remember
that you love it and
you've waited for those chemicals all day.


When I was young I learned from baseball
all I ever had to know,
that there was no sense in living fast, except
when chasing first or passing second,
rounding third or running home;

as long as there are sunny days
and summer afternoons for baseball,
standing still between the blades of grass
and hearing passing cars,
there is no sense in living faster
than the crack of bats,
no sense in speeding up.

Backyard Nature Reserve

The long grass rippling in the wind -
I will not mow the lawn.
This is where the deer have played,
and this is not my lawn,
this is no concern of mine.
Sun shines on the waving grass,
I will not cut it down
because I like to see it waving
on a blustery day;
it's no concern of mine, except
I hope the deer come back to play.

Against Solipsism

After careful thought,
consideration, and deliberation,
I've concluded that you're real;
on a leap of faith, I'd say the same
of planets, purple flowers,
stained-glass windows.

Their reality I cannot prove,
but yours is indisputable,
beyond a reasonable doubt:
for all my powers of imagination
and my skills of self-deception,
I could never hope to dream you
up from scratch.

You must be real,
or I must be perfect,
and, my love, we know
the latter simply isn't so.

Rockwell Court

In this old house of mine, where I was happy,
I was angry, I was sometimes just
depressed, I am spending one more night,
and I am likely never coming back.

My memories cannot do justice to
a home where I knew shame and found release,
through triumph, and through quiet maturation:
where I screamed 'til I was hoarse and learned
that screaming was against my nature, and
I lacked the time to practice.  Here I dreamed
about amazing futures in the stars
I fixed across my ceiling, and I held
her naked breasts behind closed doors, and made
ridiculous mistakes that will be haunting
me for years.  My poetry cannot
reveal the pain and comfort, or the loss
and joy of living here, of leaving in
a broken state and coming home to be
renewed.  I lack the words to say it right,
and all that I'm prepared to say before
I go is thank you, sorry, and goodbye.

The Tragedies

The truth is the way
things have been since the day
she was born, and the best
of the truth makes her ache
in her conscience and tremble
with rage in her chest.

So she prefers fiction
and speaks "revolution"
and makes life a chore
for the comfortable people
who settle for facts
that they ought to ignore.

The Last Song on the Album

With a few hours left
before I fall asleep again,
I wrote that song, you know the one.
It ends the album on a quiet note,
but gets louder in the middle
like it still remembers glories past
and doesn't want to fade away
like so much noise from little speakers
in my head.
It gets the usual chords and then,
as usual,
gets its melancholy lyrics,
then it fades against its will
before I fall asleep again.


Commentary is brief because I'm sleepy.

The title of Real Strange Genes comes from the lyrics of a Who song, and this is not the first time that has happened to me.  The Who are just really good, ok?  As for what the fingers in this poem are doing, I'll never tell.

Law and Order is my deep and meaningful commentary on our persistent vulnerability to improbable and unpredictable violent rampages.  It is very deep and meaningful.  Honest.

Cognitive Red, Keyhole Wisdom, and Glory is a Lie all go together like a triad.  A triptych, if you will.  Or maybe just a trilogy.  A very bloody trilogy about strife and fighting and dying and all that good stuff.  Like most sets of three, the middle installment is the weakest.  I do like the metrical work on the others, though.

How to Talk about Scallions is a poem about poetry and trying to write it when you have no idea what you're doing.  I never really know what I'm doing.  But also it's about scallions.

Chemicals and Against Solipsism are both love poems for Tara, of course.  I love her so much, I just keep writing her poetry!  Here I express that love in more philosophical and scientifical (?) terms than before.

My landlords went on a long vacation last spring and neglected to arrange for the lawn to be mowed in their absence.  Hence, Backyard Nature Preserve.  I honestly liked it better that way.

I wrote Rockwell Court fully believing that I would never again set foot in the house where I spent my teenage years, as my mom was moving out soon and I was on my way back to Oregon.  It turned out that, when I returned a few months later, I had to go back two or three times to help fix something before the new owners moved in.  Life is never as clean as poetry.  Anyway, it's a poem about being a sad, weird teenager in a setting that's doomed to disappear from one's life.  Or rather, being a grown-up (?) with all kinds of feelings about being that sad, weird teenager.  It's complicated and weird.

The Tragedies is sort of my tribute to girls (and other humans) who don't take shit from the crowd that says "that's just how it is."  Rock on.

You know the songs The Last Song on the Album is about.  If you listen to albums, anyway.  Does anyone listen to albums anymore?

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