Poetry, poetry, all I do is poetry... and not enough of that, if you ask me. But I've got another line up of beauties here, and it's time for them to shine. If you want to call it shining, anyway; they do have their own sort of luster.
Having exhausted my backlog in the last Poetries post, I can say that all of these have been written quite recently. They're fresh, and perhaps less labored-over than some of the poems I've posted before. Not that I've ever been that much of a perfectionist, but it may be I want to slow down again in the future. We shall see. Some of them are silly, and some of them are less silly; I hope they're all enjoyable in their own way.
There are only fourteen of them, but the last one is extra long, so we'll call it fifteen, why not? As always, I'll yammer on at the end. Some of these poems have a kind of dark sexual edge to them (oh, so edgy, ooh), so watch out for that; some others have only a light sexual dusting. The poem Sustenance may also be triggering to people with a history of abuse or eating disorders, so here's a warning ahead of time.
I can feel it grow, like wire
through the edges of my face,
and every day it makes me older
with conspicuous lack of grace.
I scramble to evade its trap:
my youthful smile it would eclipse
and make me nigh un-kissable,
with itchy chin and whiskered lips.
The answer is apparent, though
it pains my heart to make the pledge -
the victory takes violence,
a slashing from the razor's edge.
There was a time, I'm almost sure,
when I was much too young to grow
a beard like this, so stiff and scratchy:
oh, age is such a cutting blow!
Once I ate a bulb of garlic,
with oil and salt for flavor,
sesame and pepper,
warm and savory, a surge of umami
wrapped in paper -
but I guess I should have known
(or should have guessed)
that it was all a dangerous mistake.
From Her Lips
Even when I was a selfish boy,
I would have gladly given my power of speech
to learn the kisses in her mother tongue,
receive instructions in her native grammar,
and a lesson in the arts of Lithuania.
A decision is forthcoming:
white smoke rises from the chapel,
and the world nods as one, they know,
at last, I have elected,
I have been selected
and I have accepted.
Now the flock can breathe my smoke
with open nostrils
and thank religion for the privilege;
now the saints in heaven will admire
my cowboy hat.
But someone has to find my hat,
I do not pay
myself enough for this,
I am become a very busy man.
My regnal name is loaded
with the riches of the ages,
I do not pay
myself enough for this -
I could have made a living
in any old place,
I could have been
a real fine potato.
Never Send a Poet
The only real irony in life
regarding the state we know as "bliss"
is that the poet, should
they be so lucky,
could describe it.
Blessed by holy flesh,
the heat of dandelion wine,
the blinding music on a whisper's lips,
their thought becomes as fallow ground,
their hand as nothing new
to write regarding
Darling is a coil of rope
around my throat,
as tender as a ribbon
like the veins she gently teases.
melts in a pool of magma.
Darling kills me deathly every night,
as painful is the genesis of life.
the fire is restrained
shall see it through its life,
It feeds beneath my roof
and should it gnaw the ceiling,
would drown the embers, soak
If you should make the same
would anybody blame me,
A Ruined Mess
hand of shame -
handling me with
ire and blame,
a curse upon
my wretched name!
But life continues
all the same -
my friends became,
these kinks of mine
are (mostly) tame.
The Natural Aristocracy
all a boy had to
to impress his buddies
was own the newest toys
before their parents
could afford the same -
which is to say,
the boy in question
really didn't have to
anything, but ask.
You shouldn't come to me in dreams,
it isn't faithful -
even if you play it coy,
and restrict yourself to cruel teases,
I doubt your lover would approve.
is not my business,
even if the taste is tempting,
so I'll be waking up now
to wash the kisses out of my mouth.
The Chef is famished; she refrains
from tasting any of the courses
she prepares with her own thin hands.
She loves this hungry man, and always
keeps him happy, warm and fat;
she wishes he would starve to death.
Another someone feeds the Chef
in secret, so is it any wonder
when the kitchen is gutted by flames?
Seventeen in Reno
But is he really English after all?
Every time he opens his mouth, I'm getting
less and less convinced that this is so.
And everyone else in this crowd is over fifty,
drinking in the name of the summer of love
from cocktails served by breasty, long-legged girls,
smiling bright with braces on their teeth
and bits of glitter dusted around their nipples.
The banner called it "Rock and Roll", and my father
nodded, adding sagely, "this is history -
this English guy was a really great rocker
when I was younger than you -" and my eyes are fixed
on her pink nipples, but my ears are listening,
and if he says he's English, I won't argue.
Market money, weighed in heavy
gold and silver, laid in piles,
overwhelms the weight of justice
to the joy of Crooked Scales.
Crooked Scales and his Justice
keep the pieces in position:
debtors on the brink of ruin,
patients with expensive treatments,
native people out of sight, and
Mexicans and blacks in prison.
Crooked Scales has the people
paying for their subjugation,
subsidizing the protection
of the friends of Crooked Scales,
who will never come to justice
while the band continues playing,
'til the chairs have been diminished
and the only person seated
is the soul of greed incarnate,
the contorted Crooked Scales.
The Weeping Mountain
Misty skirts about her ankles,
hand in woolen glove;
she is the kind of mountain girl
a valley boy could love.
With hair as gay as autumn leaves
and eyes as bright as snow,
her beauty is a legend with
the valley folk below.
Her tears of laughter, in the morning
when the clouds are grey,
awake the flowers from her doorstep
to the valley, far away -
her tears of everlasting sorrow
when the night is dim,
flood the river, where the valley
people buried him.
In bygone days she sang a tune
that echoed from her roots,
and so inspired a lover from
the valley's doomed pursuit.
A giantess, she truly was:
her arms embraced the sky!
And when she held him to her breast,
the valley boy could fly;
across the great expanses of
the mountain maiden's heart,
above the wide terrain, of which
the valley formed a part.
The mountain maid could see the earth
in all its awful size,
reflected by the starlight in
her valley lover's eyes;
she loved him from the moment when
he climbed the highest fir,
as much or more intensely as
the valley boy loved her.
And through the living wilderness
he walked with her for days,
the giant girl enraptured by
her valley lover's praise.
He promised her a country wedding,
dances through the hills
and a honeymoon festooned in wreaths
of valley daffodils -
"I'll only fetch the preacher, have
him meet us at the church;
you know the one, it's shaded by
the valley's silver birch."
So down he ran with lightning speed,
the grace of youthful years,
and the mountain maiden filled the valley
with her joyful tears.
But even tears of joy from her
could raise the waters high;
when last the boy had come that way,
the valley bridge was dry,
but now he found it rocked by foam
and creaking from the stress.
The valley river surged beneath him,
tossed him to his death.
The bells announced his funeral
and killed the maiden's dreams;
she cried with loss and misery,
and filled the valley's streams.
Today the weeping mountain's river
floods in darkest night,
but only when the girl recalls
her valley lover's flight.
Beard and Garlic Lover are prime examples of the sort of poem that I consider funny, which may not say much for my sense of humor, but as long as I'm having fun, right? Both are very true to life, and believe me: eating a whole garlic bulb is a terrible idea. Don't do it. You will regret it for days.
From Her Lips is a poem about my first girlfriend, who was born in Lithuania and about whom I was crazy. It's not exactly an original concept to equate a foreign language with some kind of exotic romance, but it suited my mood at the time. There's something I like about the idea of five lines of iambic pentameter, I don't know why that form doesn't have a name. Five by five, right?
Then there's La Papa, which is free verse and not quite stream of consciousness, but pretty bizarre regardless. The title is of course a contrived multilingual pun: "el Papa" means "Pope" in Spanish, while "la papa" means "potato". This poem is, therefore, about a Pope who may or may not also be a potato. With a cowboy hat. And a propensity to committing various frauds? It's a curious situation. I had a lot of fun working out the line breaks on this one; it came pretty easily, but I spent more time than I might have getting it right.
Sometimes poetry is a vain attempt to express the inexpressible, and my vain attempt to express that is titled Never Send a Poet. "The blinding music on a whisper's lips" is kind of a cool line, but this poem is still too coherent to really represent the gulf between what we want to say and what we end up muttering softly.
After that are three poems about some darker aspects of sexuality. Darling was an attempt to write something that had a real dangerous bite. The first stanza is probably the most successful in that regard, with its reference to breath play, but each one references a kind of sexual fetish. I would stress here that writing about something doesn't necessarily mean it's part of my own life, but other than that I have no comment on what sort of thing I'm into. Cruelty sort of "discovered itself" halfway through the writing; I had the idea of using "my pet" as a refrain, and sort of arrived at a theme as I kept working with it. Naturally, that poem is about some kind of manipulative monster. Finally, A Ruined Mess is about kinks, and kinkshaming, and feeling ashamed of one's own kinks. The best that can be said for a good, honest kink, I think, is that it's perfectly fine in private. Writing dimeters is kink of tricky, especially when they rhyme, but it's a neat exercise.
The best thing about The Natural Aristocracy is the conspicuous emphasis placed on the word "do". Other than that, it feels a little stilted to me, and I'm not sure what purpose it serves. It's got a message about... social class? immaturity? both? Something like that.
Jeans is another sexy-guilty poem, about dreaming an erotic encounter with someone who is otherwise attached. Have I done this? Why of course I have. I assume everyone has. Right? Of course, a dreamer isn't usually so fastidious in resisting temptation as the protagonist of this poem. Why the title? In the most recent dream I'd had of this type, the girl was really rocking some jeans. It seemed like a sexy title.
Sustenance is a pretty easy metaphor for domestic abuse. It grew out of a conversation I'd had with a friend a few years back about emotional feeding, a concept I've been thinking about ever since. There's also a reference to eating disorders and other issues of body image. The last stanza isn't quite as strong, but I wanted it to end with some measure of justice.
Seventeen in Reno is a true story, hand to god. My dad took me to see Dave Mason in concert at a hotel in Reno when I was seventeen, and there were absolutely half-naked waitresses there. I don't really remember if there was glitter where I said there was, but it's my memory and I can embellish it as I please. As to Mr. Mason's ethnicity, I am satisfied that he really is English, but we bought a live album after the show that's been on my hard drive ever since, and I have to say his accent doesn't really show it. This is another of my occasional unrhymed sonnets, pseudo-epic forms suited for pseudo-epic events.
If any poem here has a message, it's Crooked Scales, a hideous screech at capitalism and the corruption of the justice system. I consider its lack of rhyming a weakness, but the attempt at rhyme felt like it was only getting in the way. I derived the name of the central character (sort of an embodiment of the capitalist order) from a certain Supreme Court Justice, whom it would be very unfair to single out by name. The whole system is guilty.
Last is The Weeping Mountain, part of my ongoing fascination with long-ish narrative ballads. It's the third I've written in the last few months, after all. It's a sad little story about a (fake) local legend concerning an unlucky boy and his lover, who may actually be a mountain. How does a boy love a mountain? With all his heart of course, but it's also possible that she's simply an enormous girl. I only put the last six stanzas in satisfactory form today; I was having a lot of trouble getting them right on paper.