Sunday, September 21, 2014

Poetry Jam #16

In less than twenty four hours, I'll be on an airplane back to the United States.  And yet, in the nine months I've been in South Korea, I haven't posted any of the poems I've written in this country.  Now, that's no good!
So in the interest of whittling down my backlog and putting a little cap on whatever the hell it is I've been doing here, I present another jam of poems.  Enjoy it with toast, or perhaps hotteok?  If we're going with a Korean theme, that is.  These poems date from December 2013 to March 2014.  Not every random scribble from that time made the cut, so here's the best I could muster.

Venus and Diana

Look at the moon!
You can see its darkness
Look at Venus,
is that why?
Maybe something in the way
she (shrieks)
across the empty space,
as silently as diamonds in the
jaws of Earth at night.
Why suffer in silence,

Sudden Snow

Almost rain and almost freezing,
falling sparsely down like something
from a dirty dream;
precipitation in my hair,
evaporation on the stone
before the cold kicks in, and then it's
it's snow, it's snow,
as many flakes of snow
as clouds can drop
before they're weary
of the cold,
and clouds are hardy creatures
in the months when we have snow.

Stranger's Land

A stranger sits
in another stranger's land,
living off their fruits
and vegetables,
and trying not to seem intrusive
when they sneak a slice
of sweets
from the fridge;
bowing politely,
saying all the politest words
they can remember,
speaking softly so
they can't be heard distinctly,
taking what they need.


The pale sun is hidden by a cloud,
and Buddha's face is hid behind the trees.
The mountain trail, obscured by winter's forest,
winds above the temple in the breeze.
"Look how pale the sun has grown", I said,
and pointed to the sky; but when you turned,
it was too late, because the pale disc
was out of sight, behind the clouds it burned.

Love Thy Friends

Love thy friends,
it's not as easy
as the Bible
reckons it.
Love thy friends
with burning rags
and keep the cocktail
always lit.
Love thy friends
because they need it,
even if
they're full of shit.

Princess Adventures

The magic chest
is in the dungeon,
in the room
beneath the stair;
Just break the wall
behind the mirror,
light the candle
if you dare.
Then fight the fifteen
Stalfos Knights,
and lay a bomb
to blast them bare,
Before you force
the lock and lift
the gauntlet, gleaming,
in the air.
To claim the power
of the gods,
you have to creep
the whole way there.

Portraits of Sound

Let me wax on about the
portraits of sound I hear you
painting at the summer's end -
pointilist notes of blue ascending
from a brush of your fingers
on a most receptive, musical neck,
the contours that you pick and peck,
staccato, silent as the singers
at the span before the bridges
drop, the autumn's brown and purple
lines a counterpoint, a frame
of reference for a portrait,
landscape, treasure map, a concert
of red and gold and violins.

Molten Possibly

The molded plastic in my hands is hot,
molten possibly; if I had time
to check it out I could confirm it, but
there is no time, there is no chance, my eyes
are fixed inside their sockets, only staring
straight ahead.  Their lids are likewise kept
from blinking by this ceaseless stimulation,
mind monopolized by color,
brain distracted by the calculations,
nose unheeding of the burning flesh
(if anything is truly burning now).
The only taste of touch I feel is dull,
no pain, no savor, only dull and warm
against my palm and through my fingers, and
the memory's distinction fading out
the more they twitch, the more the buttons click.
As hours fall between the minutes and
the gap between the present and the time
on the alarm is shrinking, I am sure
that I can stop at any time I choose;
but I do not, because it's Sunday night,
not Monday morning, and besides, I haven't
heard a fire alarm, so there's no proof
the plastic's melting: don't you think I'd notice?

I Still Remember

I still remember throwing up,
I still remember thinking things
I'd be ashamed to fess up to now,
the words to songs I hate,
those songs I used to listen to
without complaint.
I still remember hating people,
being wrong
and swearing up and down
that you were wrong goddammit.
I still recall a few of the lawns
I mowed that summer
and the finishing touches
of a multimedia project for
sixth grade social studies;
so why the hell am I always
looking the same things up in Google?

The Sailor's War

I was a sailor in the war
because they couldn't burn the sea,
and every strip of land, they swore,
would smolder for eternity.
It was no navy's clothes I wore,
or battleship that carried me;
for fire screams from cannon's bore
and water beckons to the free.
My boat was mine, and nothing more
but salt and fear and memory,
some fish to catch and cans to store,
a motor and a rusted key.
I didn't seek a peaceful shore
to build a mansion in a tree,
but watched the people I adored
expire from the shallow sea.
With dread I heard the rattling scores
of bombs reduce them to their knees,
and on the people's heads they poured
a toxic stew of misery.
And thusly I survived the war
until the day they burned the sea,
and all of planet Earth (and more)
was broiling with humanity.
Now dying, seared and aching sore,
I scan the flames, and I can see
one sailor's life is nothing for
a final act of liberty.

Refracted Heart

O refracted heart,
an arrow passes through you
in discontinuity,
embarrassing the angels,
shaming Eros
(who never learned the science)
and confusing lovers for want
of a straighter shot.
How did you accomplish this,
O heart,
and are you as frustrated
as the arrow looks?

The Fire and the Heat

Let's talk about John Lennon,
talk about the guy
who spent his life in search of saints
and ended up a chintzy saint himself.
Do you love the songs he sang
about his broken heart,
or did they all get lost among
the people-power, hippie-anthem stuff?
And what about the famous one
about the girl he had,
or had him, so he burned her flat?
You know he beat a few in real life
"because he was a jealous guy",
or words to that effect,
a child of nature, lost, and longing
for his mother, for a ticket out.
Would he want to be the man
on every hippie's wall,
forgiven for his cruelties
because he was against a fruitless war?
I know he tried to make it better,
and I love him for it,
like I love that famous song
about the girl he had, whose flat he burned,
because she had the nerve to laugh,
because she wasn't his.
I don't believe he ever lit
that fire, but I know she felt the heat.

Terror Tea

I want to drink a tea,
steeped in the salty ocean,
and hallucinate from all that garbage.
Not the small, safe visions
of a drug like LSD
or PCP,
but the ugly, mind-fucking terror dreams
that plague the minds of those who dare
perform incredibly stupid acts.
I want to drink the tea
and smile,
blog it on my tumblr blog
along with all the illustrations
of the goblins in my eyes
before I die.

Something Useful

An artificial reef,
a murky place of refuge,
somewhere new to swim;
a hipster affectation
of sophistication,
something that the neighbors
hadn't thought to flaunt.
- What are ways a fish could use a bicycle?
Venus and Diana should have been in the last poetry post, I guess.  It was the last poem I wrote before I came to Korea.  The subject matter reflects my reading material at the time: I was speed-reading The Golden Bough so that I'd have one less book to pack.  So, that explains that.
Sudden Snow and Stranger's Land are exactly about what they seem to be about, and I don't have much to add about that.  They have similar free-versey tics, and I'm sure I had a very good reason for that.

Gakwonsa is a Buddhist temple, and I wrote Gakwonsa after visiting it.  It was the first big touristy-thing we ever did in Korea.  It is in iambic pentameter, so I guess that means I was actually trying.  More white space between lines definitely makes for a nicer read.

Love Thy Friends and Princess Adventures were both written at work, when I should have been working, but I don't feel guilty because that job was a total scam, yo.  Sometimes I like to experiment with very short lines.  And yeah, Princess Adventures is clearly about The Legend of Zelda.  There was a rumor around that the next Zelda game would star the princess as the heroine, and I sort of wrote it with that in mind.  As for Love Thy Friends, I tried to express succinctly my thoughts on loyalty.

Portraits of Sound is kind of pretty, and Molten Possibly is kind of a mess.  Both are kind of hard to read without stanzas, I suppose.  I think I like what they are about more than I like the poems themselves.  This blank verse, non-rhyming stuff always seems like a good idea at the time, but I never seem to execute it gracefully.

The Sailor's War was a very self-conscious attempt to write something longer than usual that didn't suck.  I even ran it by some of my friends to ensure that extra level of not-suck.  And it's an anti-war/environmentalist statement to boot!  Not too shabby.  Rhyming the same two rhymes over and over is tough, but also kind of fun.

I worked really hard on The Fire and the Heat.  Being a huge Beatles fan, and growing increasingly aware over time of the very glaring personality flaws of John Lennon, I struggled for some time to articulate my feelings about him.  It's hard to reconcile admiration for someone with the recognition that they've done some awful, indefensible things.  I tried to depict some of that tension.

Terror Tea, if memory serves, was motivated by my frustration in our attempts to leave our first job in Korea (which, you'll remember, was a total scam).  I just wanted to write something really grotesque.  Fortunately, we managed to escape a very short while afterward.

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