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64

imajica erasure

I think I'm going to have to get more specific when I choose words and phrases, because this is a tough one. I have been simply choosing words and phrases that strike me. Maybe next week I'll choose words in alphabetical order and write an abecedarian, or maybe I'll make up some other rules. We'll see. For now, let's play!

I'm going to try this two ways: The first will be "reading" top to bottom for each of two pages. The second will be reading left to right across both pages. I'm not going to break any lines at first.

One

damnable magic shivered with unease rituals for the raising simpering, mindless plucked by their summoners It wasn't congenital stupidity it was anguish the summons the binding he was trapped changing his face on occasion search vicious sway he failed to see this wretched interview it took a kind of genius nothing to regret for it "We're ready for you now" won't even know you existed sounded ludicrous extraordinary step condescension without argument revenge the drapes were drawn clutter of bottles brooding weary faces invited to occupy not one face among them wealth and influence forbade

Two 

he failed to see damnable magic this wretched interview it took a kind of genius shivered with unease nothing to regret for it "We're ready for you now" rituals for the raising simpering, mindless plucked by their summoners won't even know you existed sounded ludicrous it wasn't congenital stupidity it was anguish extraordinary step the summons, the binding condescension without argument revenge he was trapped the drapes were drawn changing his face on occasion clutter of bottles brooding weary faces search invited to occupy vicious sway not one face among them wealth and influence forbade

Now, let's try some line breaks.

One: damnable magic

shivered with unease Rituals
for the raising simpering, mindless, 
plucked by their summoners. 
It wasn't congenital, 
stupidity. It was anguish. 
The summons, the binding. 
He was trapped changing his face. 
On occasion, search vicious. 
sway He failed to see, this wretched.
interview It took a kind of genius
nothing. To regret. for it "We're ready
for you now." won't even know
You existed sounded ludicrous. 
An extraordinary step, condescension
without argument. Revenge.
The drapes were drawn. Clutter
of bottles; brooding, weary faces
invited to occupy. Not one face
among them wealth. and Influence. forbade


I like the way the words take on new meaning when line breaks and punctuation take them out of their original configuration. I feel that this one might be going in the direction of "To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet" (Eliot). And I really like the title. Lots of places to go with that.

Two: On occasion, a clutter of bottles

He failed to see, damnable magic, 
this wretched interview it took a kind
of genius. He shivered with unease. Nothing
to regret. for it "We're ready for you now."
Rituals for the raising simpering,
mindless, plucked. by Their summoners
won't even know you existed sounded
ludicrous. It wasn't congenital. 
Stupidity it was anguish, extraordinary. 
step The summons, the binding condescension. 
Without argument, revenge. He was trapped. 
The drapes were drawn, changing his face. 
On occasion, a clutter of bottles. Brooding, 
weary faces search. invited to Occupy
vicious sway. not one face among them
wealth and influence forbade

I'm not as sure of the direction of this one, except that there is a sense of futility present. But my brain is now awake and working! What will get you started writing today?

Barker, Clive. Imajica. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 1991.

Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Poetry Foundation. 2014 Web. 20 July 2014.

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72

 

anansi erasure

 

This weekend's reread was Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. A terrific read, as always, and the natural choice for today's erasure effort. So, here you go.

look what you did!

five bottles of whiskey, plantains, pineapples, mangos, banyan tree. sit and eat don't you lie to me If you lie to me, I'll tear out your throat. what is it? he kills her, loves her places her body he was serious he wasn't going anywhere, It wasn't the first time he's never been born. all stories Even this one. singing the sky and the ocean. he wanted all the stories man gets himself all tangled up he looked like a man. he never changed his shape. That's all.

Now, let's adjust the lines:

Look what you did!

Five bottles of whiskey, plantains, pineapples,
mangos, banyan tree. Sit and eat. Don't you
lie to me. If you lie to me, I'll tear out
your throat. What is it? He kills her, loves her,
places her body. He was serious.
He wasn't going anywhere. It wasn't
the first time he's never. Been born. All stories.
Even this one. Singing the sky and
the ocean. He wanted all the stories.
Man gets himself all tangled up. He
looked like a man. He never changed his shape.
That's all.

Ok. Let's play a bit: 

He wanted all the stories

Five bottles of whiskey. Don't
you lie to me. Plantains, pine-
apples. I'm serious. Mangos,
banyan tree. Sit and eat.
I'm not going anywhere.
I've got myself all tangled
up. You look like a man.
You're killing me. Love me.
If you lie to me. Singing
the sky and the ocean.
I'll tear out your throat. Don't
ever change your shape. 
It's not the first time. Sit.
You want all the stories,
even this one. Replace
my body. Look what you did.

Hmm...it was a challenge to keep Anansi the spider and the story with Tiger out of this, but I think I've got something to work with here. Critique! And I highly recommend this novel. It's even better the third time around!

Gaiman, Neil. Anansi Boys. New York: Harper Torch, 2005. Print.

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80

marbles

 

On scrolling through Facebook this morning, I came across the article The Fermi Paradox by Tim Urban on his Wait but Why blog. Among other things, this article discusses the vastness of the universe, the tiny-ness of humans, the possibility of other tiny lifeforms in the vast universe, and theories as to why we haven't had even so much as a text from any aliens, ever. Unless, of course, you subscribe to ancient alien theory, but I'll let that one go for now. And so it was that I was reminded of this magnificent tin of marbles I got at a yard sale a few years ago.

Maybe it's because I watched Big Blue Marble as a kid. Whenever I think about stars and planets and solar systems, I think about that image of Earth from space. You know, the one that was so unique way back in the 70's. And now we've got satellites littering space and a whole internet full of pictures of Earth from space. I am reminded of a book edited by Kurt Brown titled The Measured Word: On Poetry and ScienceSome people think that science and poetry are at odds, that there is a deep, unbridgeable chasm between the two. This book explores the closing of that chasm. I believe that science and poetry naturally go together. While I am no scientist, as a poet, I question and seek answers. I want to know the origins of things, I want to understand how things work, and I want to know how humans function in the great expanse of space and time. Poetry is one vehicle for exploration, for discovery.

Anyway, the Prompt: 

Write a poem of exploration and discovery. Or write a poem about marbles. Your choice. 

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110

Food Network color bowls I set out this morning to do an erasure, but after flipping through a few magazines, I hadn't found anything that jumped out at me. Then I got to this article in the May 2014 issue of food network magazine. While some of the items presented are fun to think about; a flame red Kitchenaid stand mixer (ooooh...), a lime green quartz countertop (how cool is that?), a grape cooking range (stainless steel's got nothing on this); it was the colors themselves that called to me. "Flame red," "mustard yellow," "lime green," "teal," and "grape" are rich, bold colors. They are fun colors. But before I could despair about my poor, dull, unfun kitchen countertops and appliances, I remembered Richard Hugo's "Stone Poems."

These are my favorite Hugo poems. They are funny and sad and contemplative and weird. In "Brown Stone," Hugo writes, "Act friendly to the stone. / Smile. Touch. Even pat its brown hand / and say 'good stone, good,' though of course / be alone when you do. Don't get a reputation: /  'Creep with pet rock'" (428). In "Blue Stone," he writes, "A blue stone is only one piece / of a huge blue stone nobody can find. / A blue stone is anything but / a blue stone. It is a speck of sky / in your hand or a tiny bit of sea" (Hugo 429). These poems have switchbacks like mountain roads; they make you go back, look again.

Prompt: 

Pick a color. Pick a dull color and make it exciting. Pick a bold color and make it feel like the last kid picked for the team. Write a poem about color.

"Brighten Up. 60 Ways To Color Your Kitchen." food network magazine. May 2014: 59-68. Print.

Hugo, Richard. Making Certain It Goes On. The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2007.

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102

gloves2 saluda

Draft: 

Work Gloves

You wore your leather work gloves like pearls,
ever-present, necessary accessory
when pulling stubborn weeds from between
volunteering tomatoes, when clearing grass
for a decorative bed of rosemary,
lavendar, a dwarf juniper sweeping
brown mulch with its prickly skirt. When raking
crumbling must of fall leaves, when clearing
baby black walnuts with loppers extended
or with a growling chainsaw. I watched you pull
the string, bring it to life, your hands strong,
padded palms, biceps working slick. The leather
is stiff with your sweat, plant oils, sap, gas,
like pearls worn against a lotioned, perfumed curve
of neck and never properly cleaned.
I would pull them on, flex thick scarred fingers
until they felt at home around a trowel.
The certain weight of a treasured necklace
against my heavy breast.

Critique! Thanks for reading.

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119

gloves2 saluda

Quick one today! Visual prompt.

Post your first response in the comments, and thanks!

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99


Lately, I've been listening to and reading about murder ballads. I find this genre oddly fascinating, like watching Dexter and wanting him to not get caught. Writing ballads, basically song lyrics, is harder for me than writing straight poetry. The rhyme seems restrictive, and the repetition has to really mean something. But I've been wanting to try them, so here you go.

Draft: 

I'm Long Gone

I come home from working, I been working all damn day.
Oh, I come home from working, I been working all damn day.
I come home to find you sleeping,
in our bed with that girl from 'round the way.

The sheets I washed were bunched around your hips,
Yes, the sheets I washed were bunched around your hips.
Well, I pulled out my pistol,
and damned if I didn't empty that clip.

I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind. 
And I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind.

When they find you, they'll find nothing but piles of bones.
When they find you, honey, they'll find nothing but your bones.
I torched those sheets; I watched them burn.
I've got smoke in my hair, and I'm long, long gone.

A hundred miles out, and night has turned to dawn,
A hundred miles out, and night has turned to dawn.
I've got my pistol on my hip,
and every thing's right that once was wrong.

I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind.
And I'm just driving, driving, leaving the blues and you behind. 

Process: 

I started with the fourth verse/ fifth stanza "A hundred miles out..." This is the first image that popped into my head, a woman driving into the night after killing her lover. This is a pretty standard topic for a murder ballad, but there are a few things I left out. I did not give a proper name for the victim or the shooter. I think that this song would benefit from having a name to attach to one or the other. I also did not include justice being served. Usually in a murder ballad, the murderer end up in jail or hanged, or some member of the victim's family exacts revenge. I think I'd like to write more where the murderer gets away with it. And as I write this, I can't help but think...again...what's wrong with me? This genre has been around for a long time and has been popular in many different cultures. Why are we so fascinated with death and revenge? 

I'm not satisfied with this draft, but it's time to post and move on to revisions. Anyway, I'll try a few more, I think. And Nirvana's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?", their rendition of the traditional "In the Pines," just came on my Pandora station. Haunting.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

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242

Home again, home again. I'm back from the first annual Converse College MFA alumni weekend, which was absolutely fantastic by the way, with readings by Albert Goldbarth, Denise Duhamel, Robert Olmstead, Cary Holladay, Leslie Pietrzyk, and Jim Minick; and I got to read with two of my favorite women who also happen to be two of my favorite writers, Sonja Condit and Kathleen Nalley Moore, at Hub City Bookshop. We had terrific workshops involving exquisite corpses (from which emerged the title of this post), fake author bios, and a month's worth of laughter. What a wonderful group of people, and what a terrific low-residency MFA program. If you've ever thought about getting your MFA in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, you should check them out.

So I'm back, and I just realized it has been a little over a month since I've posted here. National Poetry Writing Month was such a wonderful challenge, and I thought I'd just take a few days off, and now it's June. Yikes! So, let's get this party started.

As a refresher: I'll post a prompt. I'd love it if you would add your first responses to the prompt in the comments section by clicking on "continue reading" below. Yeah, you have to sign in, but it doesn't take long, promise! In a couple of days, I'll post a draft of a poem based on some or all of the ideas. You can post a draft, too!

Prompt: 

I'm stealing this from my good friend and fellow Converse MFA alumni Matt McEver (whose latest work "Yonder Comes a Sucker" can be found on Steel Toe Review): What is/would be your own "personal apocalypse"? 

I'll start: oh, this could go in so many directions. From Starbucks goes out of business to my MacBook Pro explodes to the much more serious. I really should back up my hard drive...

Now you! And thanks for playing. Write on!

 

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163

 

nimoy and hendrix

Prompt: 

I love a prompt with directions, especially in the form of  list. I used NaPoWriMo's prompt title "Twenty Little Poetry Projects" courtesy of JIm Simmerman. I think this also fits Brewer's prompt of magic/realism. Enjoy!

Draft: 

 

Listening to Hendrix on Vinyl

Life is an LP record, a vinyl disk pressed in a continuous spiral, moving inward from a vast expanse to a tight circle of bright black where the music ends.

If you start at my left big toe, you can unpeel my skin in one, long, curvy strip like the devil peels a hard-boiled egg.

Skin cracked like thick paint on wood siding.

Skin browned like a cage free hen’s egg.

Skin like salt on the soft white dome, like teeth through thick yolk.

Skin like crepe myrtle blooms in humid air, the scent of steam.

Skin brushed by thin fabric, feathers preened by a beak, sound like sliding the sheet over a browned hip in the night.

Thin skin just a cover, a network of cells. When pressed, it sounds like a diamond tipped needle in a v-shaped groove. Gently drop the arm.

Jimi Hendrix live at Otto’s Grotto grinds the span of my hips, slides around my ribs.

My skin can no more be removed than the devil from your hand.

I don’t believe in the devil.

At the coffee shop, I bite into an omelette replete with feta, tomato, and consider a picture of Hendrix standing hip to hip with Leonard Nimoy. 

Because the picture is in black & white, the cream is old and clumps up in my cup.

I don’t really like coffee. I just keep drinking it hoping I’ll start to like it, like beer.

The thin skin of hue is a cold blue when held to the light.

Membrane less like a shroud and more like a sliding glass door. 

Pull it aside. Step through. 

Gabby’s record is played out. The needle skips. Skips.

It will slide all the way to the center. Rise.

Pressed egg like a record, like grooved black vinyl.

The needle settles into my skin.

Pa’lante, pa’lante, pa’tras ni pa’ coger impulso.

I follow the groove to its inevitable end where I rise, return, rest.

Run your devil fingers in a spiral on my thin skin, press this surrendered silk shell.

 

 

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146

534px-Mars atmosphere

Mars Atmosphere: Viking Orbiter Raw Image Archive 1976

Prompt: 

NaPoWriMo: write a poem using a news story

Brewer: write  a "settle" poem

First, I thought, well, I don't read the newspaper. Actual paper was the first thing that crossed my mind. So I almost gave that up, but then I thought, aha! There's this thing called the Internet... I Googled "settle news story" and came up with a surprising number of Seattle sites and a bunch of law suits/cases, but then, there was this: Mars One - Human Settlement on Mars. Ahhh...yes. That's more like it.

Draft: 

Settling

I will write you a story explaining everything.
Its pages will be blank. I got that from Voltaire.
Voltaire described Mars' two moons (panic/fear) and
(terror/dread). He got the orbital distances,
orbital periods info from Swift. Who probably
was just speculating but pretty much got it right.
These moons are not nice and round like Earth's moon
named Moon. We are very concerned with whether or not
the Moon had water. And then if Mars had water.
From space, it sure looks like it. And so humans can settle.
In 2024, we will watch humans shoot one-way
to Mars to live in Mars trailers. They will grow their own
greens. Two men and two women from disparate cultures.
They paid their $38 or equivalent based
on per capita income. They will have shown
"indomitable spirit" ("What"). From the "Five Key
Characteristics of an Astronaut": "Your humor
is a creative resource, used appropriately
as an emerging contextual response" ("What").
Reality TV from space. With no escape.
What would make me get on that ship. What would make me
get in a wagon and head west. What would make me
get on a boat and head west. What would make me.
Panic and fear in my pocket, orbiting terror and dread. 
I will write you a story explaining everything.

Process: 

Oh how I love the Internet. Who knew that the author of Candide wrote science fiction? Ok, I suppose a lot of people knew that, but I didn't until today. I also didn't know that there are at least a couple of groups raising money to settle Mars starting in 2024. Part of the funding will come from film rights. Reality TV from Mars. Awesome.

Critique! Only two days left of NaPoWriMo. Bring it!

"What are the qualifications to apply?" Mars One. Web. 28 April 2014. 

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120

forge

Yes, I've missed two days in a row, and I'm starting to get twitchy. Poetry withdrawal! Imagine what it will be like on Wednesday, May 1st. No more NaPoWriMo... Ah, well. Here's a three-fer!

Prompt: 

25th - NaPoWriMo: anaphora (repeated phrase) and Brewer: last straw poem

26th - Brewer: water poem

27th - NaPoWriMo: write a poem based on a photograph and Brewer: monster poem

Drafts: 

Guess my name.

I spin this straw into gold for a king.
Silken skeins pile up around the lovely
miller's daughter. Guess my name. She is
beautiful in her poor-girl's dress of brown
like earth. Surrounded by fine-spun gold,
she sleeps on a bed of straw. Guess my name.
My fingers are short and broad, but they were made
for spinning. I would not have the miller's daughter
die. Guess my name. I draw the straw down, pull it
into thread fit to adorn the slim neck
of a queen. She will be queen, and I
will be alone. Guess my name. This spindle
holds her fate. I twist straw between my thumb
and finger, measure it out. There is just one
little pile of straw left. The miller's daughter
is wringing her hands that have known work.
Guess my name. If she names me, I will not
raise her child. If she names me, I will rattle
through the castle. Lonely ghost. Guess my name.

Water

The human body is 60% water.
Cry me a river.
It is often recommended that humans drink 64oz. of water per day.
Alice cried herself a pool and floated right through the keyhole searching for the white rabbit.
71% of the earth is covered in water.
My mother kept a Mason jar for our tears next to the vitamins in the high cabinet.
Your face flooded with tears.
Your eyes are limpid pools. I drown in them.
On shore, there is a mouse, a duck, a dodo. They cannot get dry, and the sea is high and counting.
I feel your pull.
It is all very confusing.
Tears always make me think of Alice and jars.
And things that make me small.
I want you to wash over me like the tide.
I want to drink you in.

(This next one goes with the picture!)

Warning!

An oven for fattened up children,
a forge that must be fed on chubby legs,
fingers sticky with chocolate, wet suckers
collect bits of string and hair. Don't forget
that birds and woodland creatures eat breadcrumbs. 

Ok! I guess I had stories on the brain today. Let me know what you think!

 

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119

office wall

Prompt: 

I think today's combo is the easiest one to put together so far. Brewer's is "Tell it to the _________" and NaPoWriMo's is to use some aspect of masonry in a poem. So, you know, tell it to the wall. Here we go.

Draft: 

Tell it to the Wall

The weather is always a surprise after office hours.
I have no windows, only poems, notes, drawings
crayoned or penciled, each one with its own super powers.

We wrote the poem together. Its college-ruled window devours
my urge to quit with lines like "sleep's specter comes, teeth-bearing."
The weather is an abrupt wake up after office hours,

like coming out from a movie. Fluorescent lighting scours
my brain of the memory of weather. A student's note sings
penned on a post-it, infuses me with its super powers,

tiny yellow square of a window lets me view the flowers
in my field of students, thousands now. A constant spring
though the weather might bite, whip wind, after office hours.

My children's drawings, taped to the wall. Their windows tower,
acres of glass through which I see their faces concentrating.
My son, crayon in gripped fist, frantic circles, super powers

for a red-breasted Corn Pop Iron Man. My daughter showers
her paper in hearts run through with rooftop antennae, love's sting.
Let the weather surprise my tired eyes after office hours.
Tell it to my wall of paper windows, proof of super powers.

 Process: 

My brain is fried, so I thought I'd try a form today. This is a villanelle. I like to use this form to explore things that are repetitive, for things that often seem mind-numbing, but are important nonetheless. I like this one so far. Hope you do, too! 

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144

Prompt: 

I'm going for the combo prompt again today I'm really enjoying the process of trying to put these two prompt sources together. Today's were especially intriguing. Brewer: write a location poem. NaPoWriMo: take a poem in a language you don't know and try to "translate" it in homophones. 

I chose "Tatú" by Nuala Ní Chonchúir. It was hard not to read the translation before I tried the homophone exercise, and I didn't avoid the word tattoo, but this was really cool! And I love the original poem. Here's what happened:

Draft: 

Glamour Church

I attend the stained glass panels on your back.
I buck faith. The bold cobalt of the sea
swirls the span of your hips, the cold gray
waterspout column snakes your spine. 
I hear the spell spun, the roar. Glitter-scaled 
water dragon circles your ribs, teeth 
at your shoulder, whiskers trail to your neck, 
your slippery side. Your jeweled eyes draw 
lightning. There is truth in rain. I trace 
the black outline of electric claws, 
hear them scrabble on wet rocks. Push faith. 
I kneel at your feet, attend the scroll writ 
on tender flesh. My unleashed hair brushes 
your ocean-damp skin. I have no faith 
in paper. You have glamoured me. I attend.

 

Process: 

 

 

The first phrase of my "translation" that stuck out was "glamour church." It fit the location prompt, and my brain started to work on what a glamour church might be. I finally decided on the magic/enchantment definition of glamour because I didn't want to write about dressing up for actual church. Wasn't feeling that whole idea this morning. Since I had the idea of a tattoo in my head from the original poem's title, I thought it might be interesting to write about the tattooed body as a church, and what a person might want the viewer to learn, like stories presented in stained glass windows. 

 

Let me know what you think! This one definitely took me out of my own head.

 

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1304

Prompts: 

Aaaaahhh! OK. Now that that's out of the way. NaPoWri Mo's prompt is to write a poem for children. Brewer's is to write a pessimistic/optimistic poem(s). Here we go!

Draft: 

While We're Young

At night I turn into a bear,
ramble around the house.
My skin grows fur. It's only fair;
my sister is a moose.

We barely fit inside the hall.
We leave marks on the paint,
and each night you can see how tall
we've grown to what we ain't.

My claws are sharp, her antlers wide,
which makes it kind of hard
to open candy jars or hide
behind trees in the yard.

It's fun to turn into a beast,
to be so big and strong,
but moose and bear can never feast
on marshmallows and song.

I guess we'll have to learn to be
happy just as we are.
She'll just be she and I just me
our eyes upon a star,

dreaming of an animal shape
but talking 'round the fire.
Desperate for a hero's cape,
but squelching our desire.

No. I am the bear. Sister moose.
We clomp around the house.
Our ears are tuned to Mother Goose,
gold eggs, live spoons, a crooked mouse.

At night, my sister jumps the moon
much better than a cow,
and I know morning's coming soon.
The only moment's now.

We turn to fur, to claw, to hide,
to forms that feel just right.
Our mother says enjoy the ride,
and so we say good night.

Good night.

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161

Prompt: 

Going for the mash-up again today because they seem to fit so well together! Brewer's is write a back to basics/ basics poem, and NaPoWriMo's is to write a "New York School" poem using the "recipe" found here.

Draft: 

The Audacious Canvas

The Lucian Freud paintings at the MOMA
in 2005 arrested me from around
a corner artificially made
for just such effect. The breasts like albino
watermelons, flesh stretched beyond
the capacity of comprehension.
Bellies slack in sleep on couches, reclined
in regular chairs like no one would ever sit
at home but for  those who make a study
of themselves. Have you ever rested, spread-eagle
on your La-Z-Boy watching Big Bang Theory
or Chopped? Maybe it's just me, but even
all alone, kids and husband out of town,
I wear my most comfortable clothes, threadbare
but covering flesh I might pinch or grasp
in both hands and jiggle like my diabetic
grandfather attempting to terrorize
his grandchildren. "Cm'ere Gabrielle," he'd leer,
pull up his tobacco stained t-shirt, jab
his fat with the orange-tipped syringe. Shake
the significant segment of skin,
navel like a blind eye, the plastic plunger
shimmying in grotesque display. Freud's nudes
demand attention in their natural-ness,
the anti-selfie, the true portrayal
of the body. The flaccid penis,
the diminutive buttocks topped with a torso
like a bloated carcass three days
on the side of the road. I don't mean
to denigrate, though I know I sound
disparaging. The body is the body
is the body. Freud's Kate Moss is as likely
to make me want to avert my eyes
as Benefits Supervisor Sleeping; 
have you seen them? Maybe it's that I am just
as fucking convinced of my own body's
shortcomings, of my own fat deposits
and ill-conceived imperfections as the next girl
grown on lingerie catalogues and swim suit
models, soft-focus lighting and Spanx.
If I knew an honest artist like Freud,
I would beg to pose, skin loose in repose,
not arranged like poppies in a vase of blue glass
on a Moroccan table inlaid,
but a woman whose beauty lies in her eyes,
closed against the end of the long work day.
Whose body is a study in color,
hollow, shadow, and bulge. I would see this shell
as it is, and I, too, would gape.
Stand before the audacious canvas and stare.

Process: 

Ooohh...well...when I read the "recipe" for  New York School poem, I thought about all my experiences in New York, and serendipity gave me the memory of the Freud exhibit at MOMA when I was in town for AWP. These paintings are the type that I almost can't stand and look at. They are honest; they are real. The memory made me think about the "basics" of an American girl's adolescence: Victoria's Secret catalogues, Sports Illustrated models, largely unrealistic expectations of the body. My female students write about this all the time; so much so that it has almost become a standard argument holding little meaning. But this is what we imagine when we look at our bodies in the mirror: where am I not enough. Where am I less than.

This came very easily, but was not so easy to leave in writing and post. Let me know what you think, and thanks as always for reading.

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sarah bw

Prompt: 

Robert Lee Brewer's day 20 prompt is write a family poem.

Draft: 

A Good Home

Sarah came from a carpet-lined cardboard box
a father and son, both blonde as floss, had parked outside
the local Food Lion. She came tiny with her name
like a dare from the son's bright lips. Pop eyes the color
of smoke in a skull like barely balanced blocks topped
her body. She mewed from the boy's careful grip,
claws and teeth primed to fight. He held her out and up,
an offering, a plea. The father flicked flame at the tip
of his cigarette, ran his grease-rimmed fingernails
through his son's cornsilk hair. It's the last one he murmured
through a thin mouth pursed around the yellow butt,
as though I could not see the bottom of the carton,
the frayed beige remnant dotted in fleas. Sarah's belly
distended as she hung from stubby fingers,
her pale gray skin imbedded with pests. I took her,
watched relief spread like the end of a burden
on the father's wind-reddened face, like punching
a time sheet at the end of a shift. Watched the son's face
fall as he followed his father, as he glanced back at me.

Grown fat now, Sarah's plush black paunch sways side to side
as she ambles through our house. Her feet along the hall
punctuate the morning like a child's patter. Often now,
she is still, staring at the corner of the bottom stair.
A family of field mice scurry inside. It is winter,
and our house is warm, dry, and kibble is easily filched 
by mothers of hungry pink babies. Some mornings,
I find a small gray body in the middle of the floor.
I wonder about the pups, blind, naked, deaf, creaking
across shredded stolen tuft, paper lined plyboard, 
the dark forgotten space of underneath, a good home.

Process: 

The first thing I thought about was a family - extended family - of mice that we have had in our garage this winter. It has been an especially cold winter for us, and the mice have taken advantage of our het and our dog food. Our cat, Sarah, stares at the bottom stair for hours - the mice took residence in the space under the stair through the garage. Then I thought about all the puppies and kittens that people used to give away from cardboard boxes outside grocery stores when I was growing up. I haven't seen that in a long time, and I wonder if it's a California thing? Anyway, Sarah did not come to us that way, she was a pound kitty, but I always thought that giving away that last kitten or puppy must be bittersweet. I hope I conveyed the idea of different kinds of families connecting in small ways: the father and son giving away kittens "free to a good home," the families who welcome the animals, the animals who are unwelcome in the house.

Critique! I hope you're enjoying National Poetry Month with me.

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chama lazarus det as spondylus arachnoides -245247

Figure 1: "Lazarus jewel box (chama lazarus)" ZooChat

Prompt: 

Today's prompts are to choose from a list of shell/bivalve/etc names (NaPoWriMo) and choose a color and make it the title (Brewer). So...who knew shells had so many wicked cool names? Peruvian hat? Incised moon? Seriously? Here we go...

Draft: 

Linen

The color of cheap fabric wrapped
around the bodies of the dead.
Binding leg to leg. Arms to body.
Lower jaw to upper jaw
and skull. What color must it turn

strapping spices to skin, aloes
and myrrh, ointments of unknown
origin. Bodies carefully washed,
dried, swathed in aromatic salve.
Oils absorbed by fibers ripped

in strips by hands mourning
moving on. The body a box
of jewels. 
Hardened case. Ruby heart.
Dried 
in a desert, compressed
in 
dressings wound by hands holding

court. Lazarus rose, wrappings
unfurling, 
fraying from furtive
movement. 
A frilled outer shell.
Inner, nacreous 
layer
gradually exposed 
as he walked,

dazed, from the chiseled hollow.
Iridescent in the shallow
light. Free the body 
hinged
to harbor skin, the body 
fixed
to everlasting stone.

Process: 

Oooohhh...well, it's nearly Easter, so I suppose my various brands of Christianity upbringing must have something to do with this one, but I was very, very intrigued by the shell name "Lazarus Jewel Box" from NaPoWriMo's prompt. I did not expect to go in this direction, but I really was trying to figure out why this organism, a bivalve mollusk (unless I am mistaken), was named after the story of the man brought back to life. And I absolutely love the fact that this group of organisms is classified as "jewel boxes." As far as I can tell, they do not typically produce pearls, but they are beautiful in form on the outside, and they are beautiful in a very sensuous, raw way on the inside, both in flesh and "bone."

So...I thought maybe the outer shell looks like the traditional linen wrappings on a body in a tomb. And then I thought about the body as a jewel box. The Lazarus jewel box affixes itself, cements itself to something for life, and Lazarus was entombed in stone. Anyway, I like this draft. Hope you do, too.

Critique! Thank you for reading, and happy spring.

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Prompt Day 17: 

This one is another combo of Robert Lee Brewer's prompt (pop culture poem) and NaPoWriMo's prompt (describe something using three of the five senses). 

Draft: 

Dinners & Movies

 

I’m trying to think about what pop culture smells like 

and I realize it smells just like the inside 

of my car, a little dusty, the dull scent of grease 

from a few lost french fries like someone’s worn leather couch,

 

just like our tv room. Fading furniture polish 

and old dog, my son’s wet head. It tastes like lazy dinners 

eaten from a platter in the middle of the plank 

coffee table made heavy and square by your grandfather,

 

like curly fries and your panko crusted shrimp, like ranch 

dressing, salt. It sounds like the roar of an animated 

dragon and the thwack of an elven arrow in an orc’s 

thick neck. Like the shudder and rumble of wind rushing

 

over robes and aerodynamic sticks on the tail 

of a broom, like the metallic flutter of a sneaky 

snitch. Like our children’s voices, so similar now 

they can be mistaken for each other, pitched up 

 

in questions about legends and stories stored so deep 

in our minds as to be ours. Like our earnest answers. 

 

 

Process: 

 

When I started to think about pop culture and the senses, I realized that most of my experience with it is in my car or in my home, listening to the radio or watching television/movies. How everything from Big Bird to Dexter smells like the tv room in my house. Actually, it might be fun to go back and try to use Bog Bird and Dexter in the same poem...hmmmm... But for today, we've got Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, two of my most beloved book and movie series. These are stories my husband and I both want our children to love as much as we do. 

 

At first, I had the whole poem lumped together, but I think the ideas got lost with that structure this time. I broke it up where it seems most logical, where each idea seemed to start and stop.

 

Critique! Thanks for reading.

 

 

Prompt Day 18: 

 

This one is all Brewer: a weather poem. I didn't feel much like rhyming today, although I'd like to try the NaPoWriMo prompt (ruba'i - AABA) at some point.

 

Draft: 

 

 

Transplant

 

There is always one day 

that feels exactly like 
Southern California. 

 

The air is dry and smells 

like sun sitting light 

upon bare skin. It is clear.

I can see every detail 

outlined by flawless blue, 

hear the quiet joy 

of the calico cat 

stretching out, eyes lidded 
in a feline smile. 

 

Though my feet are flush 

against weathered wood, 

it is hot asphalt I feel. 

The concrete sidewalk 

to the 7-11. 

The slick black lines 

marking lanes at the bottom 

of the municipal pool. 

 

 

Process: 

 

 

You know, no matter how long I live in Eastern NC (and I've been here for 17 years), I will always think of Southern California when I think about weather. It's where I grew up, and it seems that it will never leave me. There are a few days here every spring where I can walk outside, close my eyes, and really believe I'm back on my childhood front lawn, back roller skating in the street, back smelling like chlorine after a swim meet under that California sky.

 

 

 

 
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Prompt: 

Ooohhh...I just know this is going to be fun. NaPoWriMo's prompt is write a 10 line poem where ech of the ten lines are lies, and Brewer's is write an elegy. Evil laugh, evil laugh. Ok, so I haven't written it yet. Let's see what happens.

Draft:  

One of these statements is true

Your eyes are the milky blue of an uncertain winter morning.
Once, you looked into me and saw something you wanted.
At no point were you ever out of control.
Your eyes are gunmetal gray when you are angry.
I never dream about the smell of the ocean on your skin.
Once, you brought home a nice bottle of wine just because.
I had no doubts as I walked towards you in my mother's veil.
Your eyes, the color of every tropical shore, never gave you away.
At no point did I ever think about how someone else's hands would feel.
I never saw it coming.

 

Well, there it is! I think I'll come back to this idea later. Let me know what you think!

 

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So...I have been grading LOTS of papers, and I haven't had a whole lot of time to post process notes, but I'm still getting it done! Woo hoo! I love NaPoWriMo. 

Prompt: 

Mash-up of Brewer (love and anti-love poem) and NaPoWriMo (terza rima) again. Let me know what you think!

Draft: 

I Heart Horror

I think that there is something wrong with me.

I have fallen for the same type of guy

over and, well, you know. How can it be

that I understand, even sympathize

with serial killers? Fictional, ok? 

Real ones? Everyday sickos? I despise

them. But write me a killer with something to say, 

a murderer with charisma and wit,

and I will root for him. I might even pray

for his continued freedom. In the pit

of my dark heart, I admit I admire

their conviction. They do not take the bit

in their thirsty mouths. They would rather fire

burn in the palms of their hands, in their teeth.

Their tools, saws and knives, the thin garrote wire.

Each to his own. Why I celebrate grief-

makers, men who take lives because they must,

I don’t know. I’m a sucker for a thief

with a brain. A sociopath who “just”

kills the guilty, a purposeful butcher.

A cannibal the honest soul can trust.

What monster awaits me in my future?

What writer will whet my appetite

for moral ambiguity, suture

my psyche? Worn thin wounds sewn up tight?

 

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