Paper Napkins

I haven’t posted in such a very long time!  No real excuse, so I’ll cut that out.

Paper Napkins

The dangers of poetry in a bar are often the result of

inadequate lighting.  Some of the best ideas come with the fifth

drink and naturally there is no paper to keep records.
Paper napkins are often the last resort, written with the pen attached

to a chain at the end of the bar (the location of the lone pen

was explained to me as she wrote her number on palm of my hand).
But napkins rip and she spills her drink with no apology

because she doesn’t understand how necessary these words are.

I will forget her name on the walk home

and her phone number will fade on my sheets.  Whatever ink remains

will vanish with a little water and soap.  There is no known method

to retrieve the lost lines, so I bury regrets in the back yard.

But back to the lighting, because another danger of poetry in bars

involves men who think you want something from them.  Who show interest

because you have a pretty face and a way with words.

The one whose eyes you are trying to catch can’t see past the asshole

who just doesn’t get it.  They never do.  By the time she finds you,

someone else has already bought the first drink and asked to take you home.

But the beauty of poetry in bars is the endless supply of characters for poems

you will remember.  An open mic.  A beautiful girl (whose number you already have).

And cheap wine.

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First Posthumous Portrait

My grandmother passed away this morning around 5AM.  I hate 2/14.  Here’s a poem I just wrote (may or may not edit – something to be said about instinctual poems).

First Posthumous Portrait

I.

February 14.  I have always been

suspicious of this day.

II.

Woke up at 3:30am to soundless dark. Difficulty breathing

and I knew today was the day. At 5:00am my heart beat,

expanded and exploded. Knew what it meant. Confirmed

six hours later that that was the moment you died.

III.

Gail said she would whisper parting words before your heart

stopped. “Tell her I am so thankful to have known

the most beautiful woman in the world and that I am a better person

for it.

IV.

“And I’m sorry I never played Rumi-Cube.”

V.

One last beat. One beat that ends a life full of

infidelities, beautiful babies, sleepless nights…

One heart beat thump that took 74 years eight months and seven days to arrive.

It’s all about arrival and departures. Hemorrhage of the brain.

No pain yet no thoughts. I trace the lines around my mouth,

something written across DNA lines.

I once hated how the contour was so defined

so I learned how to not smile.

Now I love them because it connects me the living

to the memory of you, who once was alive.

First Collaborative Poem

Emily and I wrote a collaborative poem about a month ago for the online literary magazine qarttsiluni.  Check out the website for other great collaborative works of art.  Emily came up with the first line and we wrote the poem using American Sentences.  She edited and I gave a few suggestions for revision.

Evolution of the Signature
When I was young I used to sit and write my name over and over.
More often I would trace the names of enemies and their histories.
Their names always seemed much more interesting, more beautiful,
than mine and with only twenty-six letters to play with I forgave them
their fallacies, that my letters were dull, lacking in exotica, that this reflected
something about myself. It was so simple, the act of writing, yet
the repercussions linger. I have scrawled this name thousands of times,
on checks, birthday cards, love letters, and it has taken years for my name
to become my identity, each letter irrevocably mine but also part of something
larger, unnamed, unwieldy, like a forged and forgotten sword
that cuts to the truth: history is composed of letters like mine.

History is proud and permanent, unable to transcend itself
and become more than words on a page. History is the high school jock
who concerns himself only with practical jokes and petite blondes
all his life, and one day finds himself forty years old, still
living in his parents’ basement, no relationship lasting longer
than a six pack or a football game, his purpose lost in the past.

History is like that: devolved from a true story into memory,
sagging and tired, but history allows astute lovers to search out
the foreign. Fingers trace a different alphabet, Cyrillic or Arabic or
Greek, an exchange between two lovers who communicate only by touch;
fingers say the unsayable, run across skin, support the arch
of the spine, dance over the flat perfection between breasts, and the gentle slope
of stomach. I can touch every desire and its corresponding part. Hold me
closer than you think you should. Let me in to the lowest register,
dip your pen below the blue line, deep enough that we know this is real,
but not painful to the point of childhood. I used to sit alone
and write my name, my future unmet but anticipated. If I would have known
that all things come to this, I would not have wasted so much time
tracing patterns that mean nothing. I will keep you and hide letters in pockets.

On Memory

I wrote this poem this morning, after receiving a card from my grandmother who lives in Florida.  Up until two years ago, we never told each other “I love you” although we always knew the truth. 

 

On Memory

 

My grandmother is a soft-bodied, kind spirit who

wrote me a note with advice from a retired teacher

to the novice.  Three words shine, written like a

solemn and holy verse: “because memory fades”

and although she was referring to former students,

I can’t help but think it meant something more.

She often calls me by some other name.

Gail (her daughter), Melody (my cousin) or

Josephine (an unknown) and she rarely notices

the mistake unless my grandfather reminds her who I am.

I feel her forgetfulness, because I too call myself

different names in hopes that a corresponding identity appears.

 

My childhood was spent climbing trees, scaling river banks

and playing chess near the wood-burning stove. 

Grandma would serve chocolate skim-milk, or “chocolate water”

as my brother and me would secretly call it. 
She would try to trace our family lineage and I

distracted her by offering to play Rummy-Cube.  Now,

at twenty-four and the inability to name myself

 

I wish I would have listened.

Maybe then we both could remember.

The Stanza Poem

During my poetry workshop in college, my professor would give us writing assignments in addition to the mandatory share-a-poem-every-other-class.  Sharona would either bring an object (usually art of some sort) or a story and tell us to write for a few minutes, take our poem home and expand.

The first day of class she informed us that the word stanza is an old Italian word that means “the beginning” but also “a room” and then asked us to write a poem that explored a room.  My first attempt to write my stanza poem was a failure because I never really understood the history and importance of a room.  But now that I have had some significant life experiences, I wrote the stanza poem (three years later). 

Everything In This Room

This room is 288 square feet, not including attic space.

In this room, we were found either fucking, fighting or sleeping.

In this room I threw the framed photo of him and his wife against the closet door (chunks

            of glass were embedded in the wood work).

In this room we attempted to have sex while standing up (failed).

In this room I began to hate him.

In this room I learned how to forgive her.

This room is, in fact, an entire apartment.

The bathroom in this room was not meant for double occupancy.

This room taught me that I do not fare well in committed relationships.

In this room the sheets were changed weekly.

I learned how to iron his Oxford shirts in this room.

At 3 A.M. I would wake to darkness and his hands cupping my breasts.

In this room I began to starve myself to prove to that others would desire me.

He would pull a chair a foot away from the television in order to ignore me.

I am convinced he kissed her in this room.

I am convinced that he fucked her in this room, but I will never know for sure.

In this room, I cooked sweet meats but he never said “Thank you.”

My belongings were stored in the attic in an attempt to cover my presence.  I made it a

            point to go up there to retrieve items as often as possible.

We once had sex for six hours in this room (no one orgasmed).

In this room, I suffered fits of jealousy.

In his room I watched the Bird of Paradise plant wilt.  He kept it (a Father’s Day gift

            from April).

In this room, I came to understand why Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month”

This room reminds me of failure.

This room’s remembrance gives me hope.

In this room he told me that he would never marry me.

My mother stormed into this room, packed my things and told me, “Do not be too proud

            to cry.”

On the car ride home, my mother told me to be strong and lose the tears.

That was not the first time I left.  The third time was the charm.

The walls of this room were coated in layers of cigarette smoke and sorrow.

Twice I threatened to kill myself while standing in the kitchen.

Twice he ignored me, rolled over and fell asleep.

In this room, we watched every Detroit Tigers’ baseball game.

This room was furnished with the following: sleeper sofa, cushioned chair, two end tables

            and two lamps, a dresser, mirror, small dining table and two wooden chairs.

Often I wanted to apologize to the man who lived next door.

The blinds were never open.

April would stand outside the window and try to watch our shadows.

April stole the bird feeder that I bought in early September.

I cannot count how many nights were interrupted by her banging on the door (2 A.M.)

She would deny being there, saying it was my guilty conscious telling me something.

In this room, he shoved me against a wall.

In this room I learned how love devolves into violence.

After June, I do not recall him saying “I love you”

He would have me park my car across the street if I wanted to stay the night.

We fought every day in this room (that is no exaggeration).

I spent Valentine’s Day alone in this room.

This room represents a year of my life when I lost myself.

He drank approximately a case of beer every day while sitting half-naked on the couch.

I accumulated bruises and scars (physical, emotional, etc.) within these four walls.

I became malicious in this room.

I became spiteful in this room.

I finally found compassion in this room.

In this room I realized conflict is not the answer.

 

 

 

Catharsis

Forgive the instability of this post.  Things I need to quickly release because there are poems waiting to be written and this is easiest.

*How you would baracade the door with the chair and when I learned to break through that you would use the dresser and I had to climb through the window.  Or I would give up at that point and you would call me as I was halfway home and ask me to come back. 
*You kept every photo that she would drop off but put my pictures or gifts in the attic.  In the event that she would drive down and you would let her in, she wouldn’t know that we were together.  That damn “BIrds of Paradise” floral arrangement that was delivered for Father’s Day 2008, thanking you for the wonderful marriage and beautiful children.  The basket was still there when I moved out for the last time. 
*Me throwing her framed photo against the wall.  Did your landlord deduct damages incurred from your deposit?  And the thing you worried about most was how to tell her what happened…
*April (she deserves a name instead of a pronoun) constantly pounding on the door and how you would become absolutely hysterical.  I didn’t care probably because I was hoping you would go back to her and let me have any semblance of a life.
*When, in early February, she surprised me and we had a two hour discussion.  She was so thin (mix alcoholism with anorexia and voila! emaciated body!) and we sat in my car with the heat cranked.  I lied to her for no reason, except to save you.  And when you pulled up in your ’86 Cutlass, you left me alone with her.  The first time I realized she wasn’t to blame.  It was you.
*We were perhaps a comedic couple in that we were either fighting or having sex.  Strange but we never had an intellectually stimulating conversation.
*Your mad jealousy.  I didn’t want to be with you but you made me hate myself so vehemently that I didn’t believe anyone else would want me. 
*I stopped drinking alcohol because you were/are an alcoholic.  And when I told you that the reason my mom left my dad was because of alcohol, you cooly replied that at least you didn’t beat me.
*I don’t know what kept me going.  Remember that night I stood in the kitchen with the knife to my left wrist and you just sat in the other room? 
*My mom and I talked about the nature of emotional abuse and how the victim could dream up outrageous justifications for staying.  I always thought it would get better post-divorce.  But when I realized that you were not moving forward in the process, I realized things wouldn’t get better.  And that’s when I left.  Because I couldn’t stand who I had become.

Disruption

Here’s a poem I wrote last night. 

 

Disruption

 

From below, the plunge looks effortless.  Body scaling side of rock, feet pushing off edge of rock, body crashing into the current and searching for the surface.  I am interested in surface tension, the attraction between liquid particles.  I wonder if my fascination alone allows me to walk on water.  Probably not, so now I am faced with negotiating my body up this rock only to return to things sublime. 

 

I reach for your body, fingertips glide across your pale skin (but you are warmth).  I remember how my hands were once expert in their search, but now I am clumsy.  This is a result of a fear that too much will be invested.  I am also afraid that you are not as fascinated with the disruption of surfaces and will carelessly drop stones from the edge.

 

As I stand on the edge, looking down twenty feet to where the waves gently lap down the Gauley, I realize that I incorrectly judged the ease of the jump.  There is only one way – forward.  Nothing prepares you for these moments. 

Like the first kiss, a rush of adrenaline,

an experience I know but have not known with this person,

the one I desire, until this very moment.

 

I have jumped before but did not anticipate the thrill of this.  Feet push and body plummets on the first attempt

just like it should.  Air pushes through lungs but for a moment the organs forget what to do with the rush of oxygen. 

 

My body crashes through the watery surface, disrupting any trace of symmetry.  Thrashing in some obscure direction, my eyes open and sunlight streams from above.


As we sit here, listening to jazz, I want to crash into you to create an image of beauty
unparalleled.