Just kidding. I know someone's reading it. I have the page views to prove it. Unless they're just stumbling in here by accident, taking a quick look, and running like hell.
I've been thinking lately about why I allow such a large backlog of poetry to build up before posting it on here. I think these thoughts a lot, usually when I go through a period of writing a lot of poems. I always come back to my usual excuse that writing a poem, and then ignoring it for nearly a year, allows me to view it later with a critical distance. Is this necessary for quality control? Maybe. I don't even know. It's just what I do.
These twenty (twenty!) poems date from July to November of 2013. Future biographers will note this as my "waiting to go to Korea" period, and some of these poems are sort of about that. A few of them also contain references to death and violence, so be aware.
No less a man for being filthy,
no less honored for his shame,
and nothing more and nothing less
than human in the face of death,
or wrapped in the embrace of living.
That is what he'd have them write
before they cleaned his filthy corpse
and put his innards into jars:
no more a corpse for being filthy,
no more honored for his tomb,
and nothing less the loss of someone
human to a mausoleum,
lost in the pursuit of living.
Have a look at your city
through the window of a bus.
See the people of your city
in their comings and their goings,
all these people of your city
through the windows of a bus,
see that face of yours in
need of shaving, faintly,
in the window of a bus.
Find the driveways and the
stones of houses in your memory,
buildings from another time
that linger in these windows,
trees from other times before.
Have a look at your city
through the window of a bus
and see it like it's new again,
and never forget it.
The Role of the Praetorian Guard
Waste your day in vain ambition,
dream of rule and wake in ruin;
so the princeling's guard had said
before they dragged him from his bed,
and dashed a club against his head
and, joyless, watched him as he bled.
Thus the realm was saved from ruin
through the princeling's wild ambition;
so the younger princeling said,
a crown of laurel on his head
and bodyguards around his bed,
the wardens of the walking dead.
Whenever I could manage,
I would build my castles
out of clay,
so the sea would have a
more difficult time
in taking them away.
But when I came back to
my little kingdom,
I never found my castles
made of clay;
thicker sand won't coax
a work of life to stay.
I don't know magic in this life
but when you speak, your tones,
your precious words that move me
with your sorrow and your crying joy.
With all my doubts dispelled, my love,
my heart embraced with silks,
the charm is truly cast,
my love, I need to hold you in my arms.
So summon me, across the sky
and to your bedroom, love,
so I might comfort you
tonight, before you make your sleeping spell.
If there's a force that could keep us apart,
I know I've never weighed it on a scale;
they don't make a scale big enough to measure
all the weight they'd need to hold me down,
to keep me here, to stop my arms from finding you
and holding you before you fall asleep,
to hold you up from falling.
Elisabeth Sullivan's Parrot Paintings
The lady found her theme, and it was
parrots, clutched intently
on the tips of boats and surfboards,
sinking in the water, never sunk
while wings could soar;
parrots, perched in waters
where the colors never faded,
parrots on the shore
and parrots where the people
never go anymore.
What time awaits me, I will never learn
until that time remains with me no more,
escaping me, but granting me in turn
the awful knowledge of that open door.
The wisdom of the living for the night
will have no business on the road with me,
wherever roads may lead, whatever light
may shine, wherever my arrest may be.
I would depart in love, and I would choose
to shed the weight that rests upon my brow
before I close my eyes, if I could lose
the fear that holds them open even now.
And if I had a choice, I would forget
the limits of our words, and be at peace,
if time would grant the courtesy to set
a warning of the day of my release.
Beach bones broken by the sea,
scattered, lying next to me;
beach bones built of burnt-out wood,
leaving roots where once they stood.
Beach bones bitten by the breeze,
Bony husks of weathered trees.
Beach bones barely passing by
the hours of the ashen sky.
Campfire in the Light Mist
I like the way you build
I like the way you build
my dangerous tendencies,
the way your fingers run
the crackle and the
hiss and pop,
the soft implosion, pulsing flame,
the way the sturdy log is thus
the way the water sizzles
in the heat of you,
the mist upon the fire,
the burning want.
Document Based Question
The first quote is from someone who
the second is from somebody who
dies alone with it.
As you can see, they are very different.
If you want to talk about magic potions,
I can buy them at the grocery store
in packs of six, or more if I choose,
in handsome marketer's packaging.
These potions are of limited uses,
but I'll take them over spells of love
and draughts of shrinking land, until
such time as they are brewed like beer.
Untitled October Second Poem
My lungs and your heart,
somehow working apart
from each other, in spite
of how we miss each other,
no matter how hard I breathe
or how few steps there are
from here to your door,
no matter how I distract
myself, if it's you
I want then breathing is
unsatisfying to our hearts.
Letters of the Alphabet
Q looks like an alien letter,
like a body-snatcher,
standing in for K
(or maybe C?)
and hoping no one notices
or asks too many questions
that they aren't prepared
to hear the answers to.
But Q is not a foreign glyph,
at least no more than C
or G or even K
and long lost friends like Þ.
Our symbols have a history,
a right to be among us
and to spell our words
as well as they are able.
Q is not a body-snatcher,
Q is not a rank impostor,
Q does not have to answer to U.
Like a summer sun on winter mornings
you are here,
waking me with brilliant warmth, and
you are here
because you want to be here,
nowhere else, my miracle, my paradox,
my crisp summer sun.
Tea Time on the Edge
On my right, a steeping mug
and on my left an oily plate,
but one of these is finished;
ten fifteen, it's time to start,
there's so much time I have to fill,
but I am tired of filling time
with tea and Thai food, yeah?
In front of me, a puzzle,
mostly empty, getting fuller,
waiting for the ink to fill the spaces,
but my inspiration struck (or did it?)
and the tea is steeping hot
and I just want to drink my mug, yeah?
before I get caught up in something big.
The Language of Ice
The ice is talking to me,
speaking through the water,
every crack a verb
and silence an imperative:
"get out, get out"
you fool, (it says)
and take your little ideas with you."
I can hear it growing softer
as the ice's edges melt,
but if you listen very closely
you might just make out the mockery
inherent in its accent,
defiant to the last
of its most treasured independence,
before my thirst negates it.
I don't want to be a king,
a ruler of the boardroom
or the bedroom,
emperor of some new money manse
not without your wisdom,
not without your sovereignty
exalted up with mine,
abolishing the very thought of sovereignty
with all the tenderness of common sense,
the only rule we'll know is kiss
and pray for rain,
and make the most of weather
when it snows.
The Victory of Music over Painting
Sound is sight-deprived
and sight is silent, hollow,
cracking through the skull
like ripples in the frost.
But sound is free from sight,
so sound is warm and comely
as a body's heat;
this sound is just as much
a spike in temperature
as echo in the ears,
a triumph over eyes,
and ice, and window glass.
a sound can melt your heart
before a sight can make
you want to change your mind.
The bear who came to life to hold your hand
when you were crying on your bed, alone;
his plastic eyes, his fur of ruddy sand,
the way his empathy has always shown
when no one else could look you in the face -
would you trade him for a cigarette,
a carton-full, a bottle (or a case)
if anyone could make that bear forget?
Let the commentary begin!
Epitaph puts us off to a nice, morbid start with a consideration of what it must be like to be a corpse. I don't remember why I wrote this, exactly, but it's confusing and provocative and I like it.
At the time I wrote Omnibus, I was in the process of moving out of Eugene, Oregon. Having lived there for the better part of eight years, I was putting things in storage, getting packed for a quick jaunt to San Diego to visit my family, and preparing to subsequently live at my girlfriend's house in Canby until our flight date was set. I found myself riding the bus home from downtown one day, and feeling all nostalgic. So that's what Omnibus is: blatant nostalgia with some little repetition tricks.
I wrote The Role of the Praetorian Guard while reading A Game of Thrones. This cultural phenomenon was in fact a series of books before it was a popular television series, and could easily have been retitled "A Series of Horrifying Murders." Somehow, it got all up in my poetry.
Magic Love and Science Love are in fact a pair, though I don't remember if I planned it that way before I'd started writing the second one. In fact, it was probable a happy accident. Magic Love has a fun little 4/3/3/5 metrical scheme, though I clearly cheated on the second stanza with those gratuitous "my love" insertions. Science Love has a really wonky meter and I'm not sure it's actually good. But dammit, these two are meant to be together.
Elisabeth Sullivan's Parrot Paintings is about exactly what it sounds like. The artist, Elisabeth Sullivan, was at the San Diego Art Walk in August last year, and so was I (as a booth wanderer, not an artist). I thought her work was lovely, and something inside me really appreciated the liberal presence of parrots.
My return to San Diego came with a very unexpected emotional impact. Shortly after my arrival, my dad told me that members of the extended family were gathering for a memorial service. My cousin and two of my uncles, all of whom had died in recent years, were going to have their ashes interred together at the San Luis Rey Mission. A few days before the service took place, my aunt (who was conducting the event) sent out an email to invite any of us to prepare a speech or poem if we would like to. This prompted the writing of Preparation, though I was too shy to read it at the time, or to show it to anyone up until now. The service was very emotional, both for its suddenness and because I remembered that the last time I'd been to San Luis Rey (2007? 2008?), my cousin and my two uncles had all been all been alive and present for the interment of my grandfather's ashes. Anyway, I'm proud of Preparation, and I wish I'd read it then.
Beach Bones and Campfire in the Light Mist both came out of a weekend with my best buddies on the Oregon coast, as the countdown to Korea began. The first is about driftwood and, yeah, driftwood, whoo. The second is about our campfire, which we somehow kept alive through the Oregon coast's notorious and incessant rain. It somehow spun into something disturbingly erotic. Don't read too much into that.
Magic Potions is really funny to me now that I've quit drinking. Aside from the obvious, I got to use the phrase "draught of shrinking land" in a poem about beer. I am and will always be a huge nerd.
I have no idea what's going on with Untitled October Second Poem. I read it today, blinked, and counted out the meter:
-/ --/What the fuck is this shit? Is this free verse? Is there any sort of plan here? I didn't even remember writing it. But I liked it, so it's here.
-/ -/ -/-
-/ --/ -/
-/ -/ -/
-/ -/ --/
-/ -/ --
-/ -/ -/ -/
Letters of the Alphabet is probably really stupid, but I like it so I will subject you all to it too. To read it properly, recall that the letter Þ is called "thorn". If you read it in your mind as "P", you are a very silly person.
Summer Sun and Royalty are about Tara, and my feelings for her in the time that her parents were gracious enough to allow me to live in their house indefinitely while we waited months for our Korea departure. She likes it when I write her poems, and she is a wonderful muse.
Tea Time on the Edge and The Language of Ice are documentary evidence of what an exciting time that was. When you're writing about the way ice cracks in water over time, you know you need to go outside. I kind of miss Thai food, actually. I think I've only had it once since I got to Korea.
Lastly, The Bear is a poem for making people feel bad about smoking and drinking by invoking the memory of their childhood stuffed animals. That probably makes me terribly square.