Sunday, February 8, 2015

Poetry Jam #18

So soon?  Yes, I'll be picking up the pace on the poetry posts for a little bit.  I'm happy with this, because poetry has grown into one of my favorite forms of creative writing.  Hopefully, you readers will be pleased as well.

Thus far, I have kept a large backlog of unposted poetry in my journal and on various electronic media.  As a result, the poems I post on this blog tend to be several months old, or perhaps a year or more.  Lately, I've found this system less helpful and logical, since sitting on my work for months at a time doesn't really change my perspective on it as much as I might hope.  On top of that, I recently started posting some of my old (and less terrible) poems on my Tumblr blog, and this experience has helped me realize that I really have improved quite a bit in the many years I've been at this.  I feel more confident in displaying my work with a significantly shorter time delay.

So here's seventeen poems, written between July and September of 2014; the last set of poems I wrote before I returned to America from South Korea.  They all have their qualities and I'm happy to share them.  There are references to sex, blood, death, and other strong themes in a few of them.



The weather spoils
a vendor's cart
of tender fruits.

The umbrella twists
and my feet are soaked
in spite of my boots.

I doubt that it could
be any worse -
then somebody shoots.

A body writhes;
the wind is wrestling
back its roots.

I never thought
I'd be so afraid
of men in suits.

The Ballad of Bad Science

Eric stripped the power line
and Ernie stole the juice,
Then Emma stuck the wire in
the Pleasure-Droid's caboose.

Now the robot's running naked
through the forest like a moose,
immodest as a peacock,
anatomically a spruce.

At first the droid was harmless,
but its moral sense was loose:
it frightened all the campers
with its flagrant self-abuse.

Poor Eric was arrested first,
but no one could deduce
where Em  and Ernie fled to
when they set the sex-bot loose.

They never caught the robot with
the wire in its caboose;
the horny folk who try are only
chasing wild goose.

Spiderweb Hill

I didn't know its name
before I broke
the seventh spider web,
and pulled the silk
in sticky little strands
across my cheek;
these awful tourist traps
were laid to keep
transgressors like myself
off Spiderweb Hill.

A Tragic Jeju Sestina

He fell like water from the beach,
and she was carried with the tide
a thousand meters out to sea;
Precarious, un-anchored sand
could not support the ocean's weight,
and neither could volcanic cliffs.

The lovers, standing on the cliffs,
had left impressions on the beach
below; a memory of weight
and heavy breathing with the tide
was sunk into the yielding sand,
then swallowed by the rising sea.

That night, the hungry man could see
the darkness shining on the cliffs,
a silver moon-shade on the sand;
the woman heard the naked beach
lamenting the arriving tide,
the pressure of the ocean's weight.

They disappeared beneath its weight,
those voices silenced by the sea;
the woman felt his fingers tied
with hers, she felt a strength like cliffs
erupting from the mortal beach,
a sterner strength than flowing sand.

But they had laid upon the sand
and left impressions with their weight;
the memories that marked the beach
were disappearing with the sea,
and even those titanic cliffs
had lost some surface to the tide.

The man was first to go: the tide
had drained his youth, the fickle sand
had shifted, undermined the cliffs;
the aging woman lingered, waited
for her time to join the sea
where she last saw him on the beach.

The tide is like a heavy weight;
the sand submitting to the sea
while cliffs are yielding to the beach.

Normal, Long Black Hair

There's a monster living in my town.
She wears her head on backwards,
but today she's walking backwards too:
you'd almost think her normal
with her normal, long black hair,
until you looked down and saw her toes,
her shins, her knees, her breasts,
all under normal, long black hair,
and going the wrong way.
It's nice to see her change her pace,
her face was more disturbing
in its backwards way;
I'd prefer a longer glimpse
of her normal, long black hair.


And to think I heard the crash
from seven blocks away,
the sound that didn't matter
of the wreck that changed my life,
the twisted beam that stopped
my heart,
the hours
of waiting
for the news
I didn't
the whisper of the truth
that put my walls to rubble,
and the sorry, sudden death
that tore my ribs to shreds

The Androgyne's Song (Part 1)

Awakened on the warmth of dusty ground,
a half-remembered dream, as soon discarded
as the sleep, a consciousness unbound -
such grave sensations carefully regarded.
Their thriving mind as fresh as morning dew,
the sky as barren as the desert sand,
they turned their eyes toward the dawn, this new
attendant of an old, abandoned land.
The Androgyne, we call them, though they never
knew the Greek, bestrode their tiny Earth,
Their ears in tune to life, a brain so clever
they perceived themself, and knew from birth
their destiny amidst the painted stone:
to foster growth and cease to be alone.

The Conservatives

This rebellion may attract you
when your house is in arrears,
but the crown will pay you handsome
for the heads of mutineers.

The old regimes will try to corner
you, and prey upon your fears;
whispers of the cruelest rumors
find their way to frightened ears.

Revolutions are averted
by their ruthless engineers,
while the blood and sweat of freedom
fighters lubricate the gears.


All the useless garbage in my way
is not the sort of thing you touch, that makes
you want to wash the filthy smell away;
the filthiest of all is what he takes.

The biggest chunk of greasy, rotten trash
that odors up my room is empty spaces,
wasted time and effort: how it clashes
with the hopeful scent it would replace.

Heap of Computer

Useless gifts from above,
they let you know
that someone really loves
you in this place:
a pair of crippled doves
to make the peace,
an old, soiled glove
across your face.

Someone Sent Me Flowers Every Night

Someone sent me flowers every night
this week, the kind of yellow, fragile things
that wilt with too much water, too much light.

When my world wasn’t feeling bright
and all these somber thoughts were gathering,
someone sent me flowers every night:

Anonymous, in sleeves of paper, slightly
bruised in transit, tulips they would bring
that wilt with too much water, too much light.

They made a wan impression, almost white,
all pressed together with a tightened string:
if someone sent me flowers every night,

Am I to hope they understood my plight?
Am I so feeble, like a bloom in spring
that wilts with too much water, too much light?

As if my troubles weren’t enough to write
a song, the very devil’s bitch to sing,
someone sent me flowers every night
that wilt with too much water, too much light.

Gangbuk Voyeur

I always found it easier
to see outside my walls
than peer inside a window -
something about the lines of sight,
and who'd deny this seventh story height
will make a difference?
That's why I feel so comfortable
standing naked at my window
and gazing down at shops and shoppers,
gardens on their rooftops
and elliptical machines
in motion under black lights in the gym.
I've always found it easier
looking down and out;
it makes me feel more confident
than looking up and in.

Too Much

Before the party's over,
I want to do too much -
cocaine or schnapps or Mountain Dew,
it doesn't matter much.

I want to be excessive,
to take excessive moves,
have too much sex, or rock n' roll,
or bossa nova grooves.

I want to hurt my body
with a toxin or a vice,
to sleep for twenty hours
on a feather pillow, twice

as many hours playing
Donkey Kong in bed;
forget the drugs and alcohol,
some tea would serve instead.

I want to eat some doughnuts
and miss an interview;
it sounds too cute to say, but I
should share so much with you.

Watch the Mountainside

If you travel in a rainy place,
be sure to watch the mountain side: observe
the subtle ways the weather hides its face,
the warning every mountain has to serve.
Is it coyly masked with wisps of cloud,
revealing, as a tease, a gentle shower?
Or while the thunder blasts are booming loudly,
is it cloaked in heavy sheets of power?
The mist that crawls across the mountainside
is all the omen nature will allow;
so wonder, as the smoky waters glide
away, what dangers must await you now?
The rainy season's time is soon to go,
the mountain keeps the secrets it may know.

Clear Skies over Namhae

The phoenix glides for years
behind the rising moon;
the tide is coming in.

Every second lasts, it nears
infinity again;
the tide is coming in.

The great bird's shadow hears
the rushing of the surf;
the tide is coming in

And bringing lunar tears
to light across the sand;
the tide is coming in.

The phoenix disappears
before it flaps a wing;
the tide is coming in.

The rising moon adheres
a halo to itself;
the tide is coming in.

Going Home

In a mirror, sitting,
twice as distant; eating
bibimbap as slowly
as a sideways glance.

The bean sprouts and the pepper
paste, a satisfaction,
kicking like the steam
that rises, twice as distant
from the hot stone pot.

In the kitchen, burning
rice against the dolsot -
crisp and dry like seedlings
in the summer, twice
as distant from the stove
as from the hungry mouth.

Warrior Queen

There's a woman with an old tattoo
who's swimming in the river.
She's a lion with an eagle's wings -
the ancient markings give her
something dangerous, an eye that's true
and arrows in her quiver.
Heady brews of ink and magic bring
a fire to her liver.

Brutes started out as just a rhyme exercize, inspired by a walk home from work during a windy storm.  As I reached for more rhymes, it sort of turned into a noir vignette about a mafia street assassination.  Or something like that, anyway.

I wrote The Ballad of Bad Science partly in the shower, trying to think of something funny and bawdy (since I don't really do that often in my writings).  What's more funny/bawdy than a masturbating robot?  Seriously, I can't think of anything.  That may tell you something about me.

When Tara and I went on our summer vacation to Jeju island, our tour bus took us overnight to a port town called Mokpo.  It was early morning and most people were trying to sleep while we waited for our ferry, but I went for a little walk, and found a lookout point on top of a big hill.  I climbed it for the view, which was wonderful.  Less wonderful were the invisible spider webs I kept running into, and the presumably massive spiders that wove them.  Hence, Spiderweb Hill.

A Tragic Jeju Sestina is exactly what it sounds like, Jeju being the location of its composition and a sestina being a poem that uses six words in the particular pattern I've employed here.  Whenever I start writing poems in semi-obscure closed forms like this, you can probably be sure I've been re-reading The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry.  Anyway, I like this poem.  It has sex and death and sorrow, which is basically all you can ask for in a "tragic" poem.  And it still evokes the landscape of Jeju in my mind.  I was pleased with how fluidly the form suggested narrative possibilities to me.

I am not sure what, exactly, I saw that made me think I saw a girl with her head on backwards, but I saw some one in a crowd near our apartment in Uijeongbu that for a second made me think that's exactly what was going on.  So I wrote about it in a poem, and that poem is Normal, Long Black Hair.

Commute is a little awkward for me to talk about, because it was born of nothing except insecurity and paranoia.  Tara and I used to commute to different locations while we were working in Korea.  I would walk, but her school was further away so she would either take the train or bus.  It happened one evening that, while walking home, I heard what sounded like a car accident.  I kept walking, but my imagination started running wild and I didn't really feel OK until she got home.

A sonnet!  Lately I've become more inclined to this form.  The Androgyne's Song is sort of a creation myth, about a thinking being coming to life for the first time.  This being is neither masculine nor feminine, as the name suggests, and I tried to make the pronouns reflect this.  I had an idea years ago of writing a mini-epic about this, but it never fully happened.  This is Part 1, and the only part written thus far.  I can't say the rest won't be written, though!

The Conservatives illustrates a partisan political point, and it's pretty transparent.  I recently wrote another poem with the grisly imagery of blood being used as a mechanical lubricant, without remembering I'd done it here.  It makes me wonder where the hell I come up with these images.

So anyway, that thing where I lost my job happened in early August. I'm not going to get into all the details again.  Suffice it to say, I had a lot of free time to write poetry, and I wrote Garbage, Heap of Computer, and Someone Sent Me Flowers Every Night in quick succession.  I am especially proud of the last one, it's not easy to write villanelles.  I was going through some real emotions back then.

Gangbuk Voyeur, Too Much, and Watch the Mountainside were all written in the apartment that Tara and I moved to in Gangbuk after we left Uijeongbu.  I lived there for about a month, initially trying to obtain a new visa before I gave up/got denied and went home to America.  All of them roughly reflect my state of mind at the time.  Too Much is a little too cute, but that's just what I was going for. Going Home is from a little bit later, right before I left, and one of the last times I went out for lunch at a Korean restaurant.  I really miss those.

Less fraught with emotion is Clear Skies Over Namhae.  That poem is very much about the beauty of nature.  Tara and I took one last vacation together, camping on the beach on Namhae island.  As luck would have it, we were fortunate to see bio-luminescent plankton in the waves one night.  Combined with some cool cloud formations and a full moon, they inspired this poem.

I honestly can't remember the thing I saw or read about that inspired Warrior Queen.  I just know I really like it.

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