Saturday, June 4, 2016

Poetries #6

It's hard to take poetry seriously when you're being paid to do something else.  It's also hard to take your own poetry seriously when you're reading some one else's.  I've got books by B.H. Fairchild and Rae Armantrout checked out from the library right now; reading the work of a professional is an important reminder of the vast gulf that exists between me and "them".  It's not just about skill or talent, but rather about the intuitive sense of living in the space between words, manipulating them as naturally as a bird sings in the morning, that a successful poet conveys.  It's also about skill and talent, though.

Needless to say I am easily impressed, which is both encouraging and discouraging for my own poetry.  But since I've been so neglectful of this blog while I've been working my new job, and since in the last five months I have allowed the Dreaded Backlog to resurface, it's time to put aside such small concerns as "quality" and get them the heck online.

The dates of these tiny compositions run from January to May of this year.  So I guess the backlog isn't that big, nor have I been especially productive in the poetry department.  Like I said, I've been busy!

My usual fixation with sex and depression remain a thing here, but once or twice it was happiness which drove me to scribble, and I think that's worth celebrating.

Blessings in Bed

Early on that blessed evening,
I was knocked unconscious by
the fury of your hips, your fearsome
kisses in our private room;

But truth be told, you had me at
a terrible disadvantage, dear,
from all the strength I had expended
on that blessed afternoon.

Rhapsody of Foreplay

Wine and fish, with lemon, butter, pepper;
salty with the pearls of the ocean
and as sweet as apple-flower honey,
warmer than the breath of bubbling springs.

Half asleep I taste your mouth, a fever
burning in my dreams; a sudden waking
in the body of a blazing eagle,
rising up in glory on its wings.

Dancing through the dewy morning flora,
left and right, as quick as thieving fingers,
fiercer than a hive of bees in summer
armed with fatal, suicidal stings.

Wet with pressure, live with storm and gasping
in the sturdy grasp of icy water;
never have I been so fully woken,
eager for the breezes loving brings.


Melissa worships Death, and
Death is praying for her mother,
sweetly warm like honey
baking in the afternoon sun;
Death ascends, and
takes Melissa with her,
again and again and unto
the final generation
she takes her,
somewhere sweet and warm
to die, in veneration
of the face behind Death, the
Mother of Worship, the life of
honey, the face of
dear Melissa.

The Promise of Poetry

To find your voice
amidst the strange disorder
of your thoughts,

to hear the truth
as if within a moment
of creation,

to forge a bond
between your mind and body,
fierce and raw,

to know the devil
of your soul, the angel
in its nature,

for the price
of a sacred promise:
never look away.

But Now I Remember

I wondered why I didn't hear them,
twenty years of wondering, why
the voices in my head were silent.
And tonight, at last, I realized
the voices in my head had never
stopped their howling, their infernal
baying - I had simply, in my
unbounded arrogance, forgotten
how to listen to the hellhounds
and their voices in my head.

Old Frostwine

He lingers in the lower places, cold
as the burning sun of morning, white as a ghost,
sleeping off the wine his gracious host
provided from his vineyards in the wold.
The lights of spring advance across the hours,
bearing swirling storms of migrant birds
on gentle breezes, singing foreign words
and phrases to the lambs among the flowers,
rudely waking him with hot discord
from dreams of thawing flesh, immersed in wine.
He clings in desperation to the vine
with fingers stiff as weary oaken boards,
before submitting to a wakeful piety,
embracing nature in its wild sobriety.

Old Records

She read it from a list
of great ideas for cheap dates;
"spend an afternoon
browsing through some old records".
And I felt intoxicated,
because it hit me like a hot whiskey
that, by definition,
every record is an old one,
just another echo
of a never-ending, infinite present.
It felt so good, I had
to close my eyes to concentrate,
to kiss the girl goodnight,
and fall in love all over again.


This life will be my death, before my time;
I shall approach my end in great excess
of all the limits of cosmic speed, and just
in time to catch the eternal instant replay,
cringing with the angels in their seats.

Running Out

The future is an empty space,
expanding in my heart, and slowly
filling with the resolution
of grainy moments, slipping down;

Like bits of sand the moments race
along transparent slopes, to lowly
rest, a failing destination
that slips to grey from pale brown.

A Token of Courage

The feather in his cap was cool as ice, but red
with thunder's blood in circles all along its length;
and this was called a subtle imperfection, as
the thunder should have never given him a fight.

The Ocean Styx

So long, so insensitive;
deep in the warmth of my
pillow, I long to be
fully dissolved in a
tincture of silence, to
abdicate memory.

Bear me through currents of
dreams, slow, relentlessly,
high on the delicate
wings of an albatross,
further than any have
dared to be taken.

So long, and so quietly
passes the journey, and
this is according to
plan; I am rich among
travelers, fortunate
here among galaxies.


The spear becomes a shield at
the most inopportune of times.
An army captain contemplates
the rank disorder of the lines,
and gives the men their share of water,
whiskey, butterscotch and limes -
they burrow down and bear the winter,
chilling slow beneath the waxy pines.


Aphids, bumblebees,
chef’s delight -
every fly
gives honey
in June.
Keep lemon
meringues nearby,
orange peels,
queued rinds.
Softly, they
utter vanities:
white xanthan,
yeasty zopf.

Mind in Body Blues

Never enough ice in the bathtub, never
enough soap in the water,
never enough time to cool down,
to clean up, to get wet and
dry, cold in a smooth, still breeze -
there’s never enough of this water
to slake me, there’s never enough
of the shivers to keep me in roses.

Miller's Bullshit

You amateur scientists, studying quantum
mechanics, debating the odds of a universe
perfectly suited to life - could it be?

Could it be we exist in the universe, yes,
and we also exist in a second, a third,
and a fifth, but (apparently) not in a fourth?


Evidently, I wrote Blessings and Rhapsody on the same day, which must have been a hell of a day.  Is it a thing where chronically lonely people compensate with fantasies of being exhaustively oversexed?  I wonder what the psychology is on that.  I was trying to be more verbose with Rhapsody, feeling that my poetry of late (or maybe just all of my poetry) has been somewhat lacking in the "color" that comes from a wild vocabulary.  Somehow that led to food entering the mix, which may be your thing, or may not be.  Not sure it's mine.

"Melissa" is a pretty name, coming from the Ancient Greek for "honeybee" (though that's only one of the reasons I find it pretty).  I think I started writing Melissa pretty much just to work with the name, but very quickly went into something dark and symbol-riddled.  It's got kind of a Persephone vibe to it, though it isn't exactly Persephone's story.  I like the slightly mythic tone it takes on.

So, The Promise of Poetry makes me blush a little.  I started working my new job as a teacher in February, and I was asked what elective I'd like to teach in the semester that was starting up.  The first thing that came to mind was creative writing, with an emphasis on poetry, and I got really excited about it.  Thinking I might have to dive into the teaching pretty quickly, I decided that in addition to collecting some poetry for teaching example, I should come up with a work of my own to illustrate my philosophy on poetry.  So , I wrote The Promise of Poetry, and shortly thereafter was told that for my elective I'd actually be "teaching" Study Hall.  Not that there's any connection between those two events...

But Now I Remember is the product, essentially, of a rush of anxiety the night before my first real teaching day.  The feeling was so acute, it felt at the time like I'd never really been anxious before.  I don't hear literal voices in my head, but when I'm anxious I do feel like I'm being accosted by what I imagine people might be saying.  So I tried to convey that feeling of being accosted by the invisible or unreal.

And what have we here?  A sonnet!  Old Frostwine was inspired by the spectacular imagery I saw on my drive to work, up highway 99 in the very early morning.  I was deliberately reaching for the mythic again, this time for some kind of sleepy Dionysus-type guy.  It was very early, after all.  I think it's one of my better recent sonnets, very pretty in its evocation of mists and farms.

I wrote Old Records on the night of my birthday, after having driven down the 99 again to visit some friends of mine in Corvallis.  I was drinking cinnamon spice rooibos, listening to kick-ass soul records on the radio, and generally feeling like the king of the goddamned world.  I felt so good, I evidently felt like I could write about falling in love, even though I don't recall an actual romantic prospect at the time.  It just didn't matter when I was motivated by such a relentlessly positive feeling.  I think my friends found me annoying that night; they didn't seem to think my "all records = old records" formula was as profound as I did. 

Precog finds me in a lower mood again, contemplating early death.  The worst part of death, according to my anxiety, is the whole "life flashing before your eyes" business.  I'd be fine with skipping that, going straight to the oblivion.  Except I really wouldn't, I guess.

Running Out is one of two poems I wrote on the white board in my classroom during study hall, the other one being a misfire that I have since consigned to the memory hole.  This one's mostly a rhyming exercize, and I admit that resolution/destination is not an especially dazzling pair. 

I think that A Token of Courage grew deliberately out of an effort to make something out of hexameters, on which front it is technically a success.  It's another of those mythic fragments, a small piece of a story about a daring warrior plucking a feather from a Thunderbird.  I got this idea in my head: would it be considered a flaw in the performance of the myth if the hero did not get away clean?  It kind of rung with me.

I don't do drugs, apart from alcohol and caffeine of course.  Poems like The Ocean Styx are my half-hearted attempts at inducing something like a trip, not necessarily psychedelic so much as sleepy.  Yes, that's it.  I'm trying to put myself to sleep.  It's not always easy.  Dactyls and anapests seem to be the way to go.

Mayday, Abecedarian, and Mind in Body Blues were all written, more or less, in the middle of sleepless nights.  They are more literal attempts at combating insomnia, I suppose.  Abecedarian in particular is barely more than an exercise (I think you can see the parameters of it quite easily), but I still like it a lot.  I worked harder on it than I do on some real poems, which probably wasn't helping with the quest for sleep...

Miller's Bullshit is exactly that, mixed with quantum physics.  Just a fun little lark.

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