Category Archives: Poetry

The Only Thing

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

–Gloria Steinem

Photo from Clipart Library

 

There’s a sort of thrill

In a well-worn notebook

And a secluded corner

Scribbling out half-formed ideas

With ink stained fingers.

Don’t get me wrong—

Confidence is no friend of mine—

But in these moments

I almost feel it:

Like I could almost do anything

But I can definitely do this.

 

As I stare at a blinking line

On an empty word document that’s been open for hours

Trying to decide what order

That my thoughts should go,

So they fit perfect like puzzle pieces,

And maybe I’ll get it wrong

The first dozen or so times,

And everything I do is still singed with self-doubt.

But I realize,

There’s nowhere and nothing else that I’d rather be.

In a Quiet Moment

Photo from tagmagazine.com
Photo from tagmagazine.com

So many bodies melded by proximity
dancing close but still yet alone.

Bright red insecurity worn on your sleeve
like a nerve laid bare on purpose.

Telling yourself you’ve got it together,
a hurried mantra in stranger’s mirror image.

Sobering up under the beaming fluorescents—
sickly pale but you don’t know why.

It hits like a bullet in the temple
right beside where rationality lingers.

What does that hollow future hold,
and will there be assigned seats?

Not now, not now.
Can’t the revelation wait?

Glory Days

My mother asked if I miss High School

I told her, “Not really,”

What I wanted to say was,

Hell no

But I do miss piling seven people

Into a car that seated four on a good day

And praying that we wouldn’t get caught,

I miss my first creative writing class

God, it felt like a revelation,

I miss every over-wrought 3 am conversation

And how, for a moment, we thought we’d figured out

Every intricate detail of the universe,

I miss laughing too loud at all those in-joke we had

That hadn’t really been funny in the first place,

And I miss the people

I don’t talk to anymore

Because maybe proximity

was the only thing holding us together in the first place,

But I don’t miss High School, exactly.

Just the few paper-thin moments of glory

That are entangled in those four years

Which is not quite the same thing.

And then my mother asked

If I’d ever go to the class reunions,

And I said,

“Nah, probably not.”

Bureaucrapsychosis

Photo from Shutterstock

“psychosis, noun: a serious mental illness … characterized by defective or lost contact with reality…”

–Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary

 

She might be beautiful if she’d smile,

Change her perfume from “Trying Too Hard.”

She slid a form across the counter—

Mahogany; everything there was mahogany—

So our hands couldn’t meet.

 

As I turned, I saw the counter’s edge

Where the veneer curled away,

Exposing plywood in unflinching fluorescence—

God forbid they put in a window—

I thought, “That’s the most honest thing here.”

 

I swear I glimpsed our world on that piece of tape:

Government center with an AC unit rattling somewhere overhead,

Streets, grocery stores, barber shops where customers—

That’s all they are in the grand scheme, really—

Prattle on politics, pay with plastic backed by green paper.

 

All hanging loose with no root in the veldt,

No grasp in grass with cricketsong,

Nor toe in shimmering lake—

Favoring corroded pipes running to parks—

Claiming victory as it’s bucked.

 

Could we meet in the veldt?

If I leapt from the street’s end,

Would you hold my hand—

Forget perfumes and forms—

Would you smile?

Live Bait

We had hours yet
before the sun would rise.
I was nine, maybe ten years old,
too young to fully appreciate a silent lake bank
and not having anywhere to be.
I shivered bone-deep in the early air.
My father said he was glad we could make it out–
Before all the tourists took the good spots.

A tiny electric lantern
shined a soft halo of blue light around us.
Dad smoked in stony silence
while I fumbled with my Disney-branded fishing rod.
I told him that I felt bad for the nightcrawlers
that we skewered onto the end of our hooks.
He said that sometimes he did too.

I reeled in a bluegill—
Nothing huge, but still—
My first ever catch with no assistance.
Dad asked if I’d like to keep it.
I told him my fishbowl wasn’t big enough.
He helped me get the hook out
despite the frantic thrashing.
I tossed it back into cold, blue-green water.
For a moment, I appreciated the silence.

We packed up just as the sun began to rise.
I could hear birds chirping in the background.
Dad handed me a Styrofoam cup—
Still half-full of fat grey earthworms.
“You can let them go, if you want.”
I dumped the cup out into a nearby patch of upturned earth
and watched the worms writhe their way out of sight—
Pretending that the birds wouldn’t get them.

 

 

Featured Image from Tennessee State Parks

Big Damn Beautiful World

When she finally takes off that

God-awful sweater her grandma made—

The one with the cross-eyed kittens,

Foreign fruits that might be apples,

And no sense of season or dignity—

That no one likes but she wears anyway

For Grandma’s sake—

 

When all that’s left is a thin, snowy shirt

Through which all is clear as ice-capped peaks—

Where the whisper of the river climbs unfettered

Over trembling blushes of leaves,

Cupped palms of valleys,

And undressed trees yielding to the breeze

To rest at the summit and roll back down—

sweater
“She finally takes off that god-awful sweater her grandma made.” Photo from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/91/9a/91/919a9144344e1996f967fc1cea459840.jpg

When she can dance without being whipped by knitted sleeves,

Exposing her teeth as a smile spreads—

The stars peeking through bare limbs

Where the crisp night sky cradles them,

Lays them down on the grass—

She cries out in delight

For this big damn beautiful world.

Like Nihilism, but Less Depressing

depressed
“I find a sort of comfort in the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.” Photo from: http://academyofideas.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/nietzsche-caspar-david-friedrich-468×375.jpg

When I was younger, it terrified me
To look at the universe as some brutal, uncaring thing.
I expected it to be organized and meaningful
Like all the little quirks
Mom expected me to grow out of.
(Neither I nor the universe
Ever lived up to expectations.)

I don’t worry over fate quite so much, anymore.
Now I find a sort of comfort
In the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.
It’s like realizing
That the prison walls are cardboard,
That the steel bars can crumble in my grasp.

Maybe there is some unseen structure to it all,
But maybe there isn’t.
Maybe it doesn’t matter—
At least, not the way I thought it did.

Radio Rust Valentine

My poems are shit.
My face ain’t much, either.
Meet me tonight
By the FM receiver?

The signals are mixed,
The liquor is steady.
Should you bring Hell,
Know my liver is ready.

We’ll put on a record
Of Coltrane or Davis,
Stare at the stars
With our heads on the pavement.

radio
“We’ll put on a record of Coltrane or Davis.” Photo from: https://grahamdunningreagarden.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/radio02.jpg

As horns fade away
To crickets and crankshafts,
I’ll read you Poe
As your lips recite Plath.

And when you walk off
Across the old levee,
I will not ask
So you can’t reject me.

Bipolar is the Game

The waiting room in the psychiatrist’s office

Is not the place to giggle.

I think about the juice head that is surely here for rage problems,

How he cut me off in the parking lot

And almost spilled his jamba juice in the process,

His face purple from screaming.

I look over at the woman

Who is seemingly always here,

Her caretaker and that permanent frown.

The woman who is in a club dress

With ugg boots in the middle of July.

And they think I’m crazy.

But the thing is,

I am.

I’m sitting in a waiting room,

Thinking about pick-up lines

Should the opportunity ever arise.

“Hey, I really like the dark circles under your eyes. It really brings out the crazy.”

They always make you fill out these progress notes,

I never take them seriously.

What is going well for you today?

I made it here in one piece.

What is not going well for you today?

Traffic.

The whole act of going to a pdoc is strange.

You sit in front of a stranger

Who is a politician with a medical degree.

Everything about you condensed into 10 pages

Of charts and medical history.

Your brain,

And how much you deeply mourn your last dog,

In a neat little packet.

The stereotype of lying down is so wrong.

That person must have stumbled into a massage parlor instead.

All I get are two chairs that are brown,

Are warm from other people’s asses,

Reek of the ghosts of long passed gas,

And sound like farts when you sit down.

psychiatrist office
“They always make you fill out these progress notes, I never take them seriously.” Photo from: https://st.hzcdn.com/fimgs/9f21d7040a942e70_6660-w496-h316-b0-p0–home-design.jpg

Doc lets out a heavy sigh.

I’m pretty sure that he hates me.

His eyes remind me of Leon Russell,

Could be stoned,

Could be indifferent.

I hold my breath

So I don’t giggle.

I have a nervous giggle,

An excited giggle,

And an avoidance of eye contact.

His scornful looks bore into me.

Yes, I’ve been taking the Lamictal.

Seroquel?

There goes my train of thought.

The image of me slumped over a desk,

Drooling over Scriabin’s greatest hits,

Reminds me why I hid those.

Honesty is his policy,

But I’m the best actress.

Putting on my Julie Andrews smile

Doesn’t rid his disappointed look from my mind.

And my brain is the only one I have,

Chemical imbalance and all.

I’m constantly pogo-sticking through a minefield.

He has to be an artist,

Chipping away at the veiny parts

Until there is nothing but smooth marble left.

The Pulpit at Izzy’s Speedy Station

In a gas station with a faded sign on the other side of

Burned Pine Avenue, across the street from

Our Father’s, Will Parish,

I shambled into the restroom where my legs collapsed.

My kneecaps cracked on the browned tiles,

Forehead nestled in narrow trenches,

Clear streams digging estuaries into the murk

Beneath the lightning of a flickering bulb.

I studied the scriptures scratched on the stall:

pulpit
“I bowed before the throne once more, Confessed in holy catharsis.” Photo from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mriEwIDY9OU/U8s7T9iAC_I/AAAAAAAAAPY/ENNC65jTpZY/s1600/pulpit.jpg

The Epistles of Kilroy, the Little Black Book of Numbers,

I bowed before the throne once more,

Confessed in holy catharsis.

Bells from the parish sidestepped the station.

Izzy placed his hand on my back,

Pulled me to my feet and smiled

As the flock left for their townhomes.

To My Aunt

One of the greatest gifts you ever gave me:
A rain-soaked afternoon
Digging through a shoebox of broken crayons
Spinning the stories in my head to their first willing ear.
(But not their last. I swear to you.)
Gentle eyes and complete conviction
as you tell me,
“I bet you’ll be a writer one day.”

rain
“My life’s greatest mystery: How to thank someone for being catalyst to some of the best parts of you.” Photo from: http://answerangels.com.au/images/doyoulikebeinginsideandwatchingtherainoutside2.jpg

A dozen more stories like that
Branded on the parts of my mind
That drag me to my early morning classes
When my comfortable bed warns against it.
There is no thank you card for that.
Prepackaged, Hallmark-branded sentimentality could never hold a candle to it.

My life’s greatest mystery:
How to thank someone
For being a catalyst to some of the best parts of you.
But I think I’ve finally figured out the answer.

Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day,
On the acknowledgments page.

Beautiful Brilliance

A beautiful thought of wisdom born,
A crack in the Great King’s head,
A beauty born with brilliance and strategy.
Even with great powers, jealousy still appears.

Athena
“An owl as her symbol, books as her comfort, A sword at her hip.” Photo from: http://orig05.deviantart.net/1086/f/2014/159/4/7/5_athena_by_sheppardarts-d7lm21r.jpg

The creator of the deadly spider, an animal made out of spite,
An owl as her symbol, books as her comfort,
A sword at her hip for war is always possible.
Intellect over rage, for with blind rage
No one truly learns.

Little White Snowflake

snowflakes
“Little white snowflakes falling on the pale white skin.” Photo from: https://writinginnorthnorfolk.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/snowflake-tears.jpg

Little white snowflake falling from the sky,
Little white sparkles falling on the curls.
White flakes hanging from the lashes,
Light blue eyes watching the gray clouds go by.
Watching the little white snowflakes falling all around,
One, Two, Three, time to fall down.
All the little white snowflakes acting as a bed,
Nice, soft, and very cold.
Little white snowflakes falling on the pale white skin.

Ode To A Desk Doodle

The smudged and abstract set of jaws
Hangs half open with the weight of teeth.
The crude body curls into a cruder spiral
Perhaps a tail, perhaps a shape undefined,
Tightening in on itself until it smears
Into shady gray. Already the decay starts.

You will not last. Your time is short,
A distraction made in minutes and set
To die a careless death in days.
Permanence is a flight of fancy to you,
Immortality a concept impossible to grasp.
A sweep of a hand could wipe you away,
Without even a memory left to hold you.

Were you worth something? Did you
Provide to the hand that so callously,
Thoughtlessly carved you into the world
Some small fraction of amusement?
Some minuscule joy? Or were you
Made and abandoned in the same
Tiny shard of time, a work orphaned
Before it could even hope to be art?

A hand hovers over you
But you do not have eyes
To see it with. Hold your breath
And wait as I consider you.

But I do not wipe you away.
You exist, for some time more
Is that a kindness
Or a curse?

(Inspired by Ode to a Grecian Urn)

Call Me When You’re Sober

Fiddling with a small lighter in his hand,
Sliding his fingers through his ghastly white hair.
His cigarette rests on a shiny red ring which graces
His harsh, red lips.
He is lost, struggling to find himself –
His purpose.
Brown eyes gazing upon the dark road,
He finds himself lighting his fifth cigarette.

Hand resting on the leather gear shift,
So begins the long drive down the highway.
Accompanied by her best friend Captain Morgan
And his favorite chemical –
Acid.
Electric pumpkin hair blows in the breeze.
Down the 20 she drives,
In no search for a destination,
Only herself.

Chance encounters happen every day,
Opposites attract, as do similarities.
Clashing and meshing,
Like a puzzle piece.
That girl, that boy,
Fit perfectly.

needles
“Their bodies unable to carry the weight of love, Addiction setting in.” Photo from: http://www.treatment4addiction.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/drugneedles.jpg

Days spent,
An opener on a bottle cap,
Cold ones drunk,
Injections into the veins,
Munchies and a craving for shitty Mexican food.
Telling stories of adventures
Thought to have happened,
But now never will.
Eyes redder than the blood
Flowing through their veins.
Bags under their eyes –
A lighter color than their lungs after the first pack.

They tried finding themselves,
But only found each other.
Their bodies unable to carry the weight of love,
Addiction setting in.
Destruction of themselves,
Their love for the substances
Tearing them apart from the inside and out.
Maybe if they had met,
They wouldn’t have turned to the poison for love.

Senior Photo

graduation cap
“I look at the girl in the photo, Innocent and young. I don’t remember her” Photo from: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51QFfuJyTbL._UX385_.jpg

Could this have been me–
This girl seated here
Before a blue backdrop,
Hair parted to the side
And a headband like a tiara,
Shiny, youth-blue eyes,
Skin smooth, cheeks rosy?
She has a smile
With brace-straightened teeth;
Eighteen
And starting life.
Months after graduation
I sat in the studio.
A straight-haired woman
Placed my arms
Across ebony folds of fabric.
I can hear the flash of light
And feel the stiffness of my arms.
I look at the girl in the photo,
Innocent and young.
I don’t remember her
Face, her
Hands, her–
Do I know her?
Is she still me?
Can I recollect that girl
Forgotten?
Should I let her stay behind?

Standing

I made one mistake–
To tell the truth,
It helps to believe
The door is slammed shut
In my face.

Keep your mouth shut–
I never said anything of value,
You’d remember.
Kick and scream–
I run
Past the gate and
Down the road
So you don’t hear me
Whisper.

To be seen and not heard–
I’ve walked on tiptoe
All my life.
Chastise and lecture–
I leap
Over fields
So you won’t know I’m
Singing.

You don’t know the meaning
Of hard work–
I’ve spent sleepless
Hours reading and typing and writing
And working to pull myself
Out of the hole
You tell me is home.

girl writing
“To be seen and not heard– I’ve walked on tiptoe All my life.” Photo from: www.culturacolectiva.com

I worked every day of my life–
And I was grateful
Until today
You called me
Fool–
For wanting more–
More
Than trashed up trucks,
A wrecked house,
And more cracked eggshells
To creep over.

Get out.
Gone and running–
I fly
Farther than the sky
So you won’t see me
Standing.