Thursday, April 30, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day thirty

thirty pieces

the first thing that comes to mind
is silver. not gold.
does this image still have currency?
does it still speak to you?
will you carry it in your pocket,
listen to the jangling of history and myth;
or are these merely coins
emblazoned with a stranger’s face,
more or less worn by hands.

i would like to think that
these poems are an offering,
laboured over -
filled with intention.
i would like to place them
in your hands, to exchange
the words for sound,
to hear you speak the words
and roll them around in your mouth
and mind, to carry them with you
as you walk away.

i would like to think that
some small pieces will be remembered
or pieces of pieces
rediscovered on occasion,
like lost coins between cushions
or money found in pockets
when doing the laundry.

so, here: i give you these thirty pieces.
i have done my best to be honest
about the voice behind the voice.
i have tested what is good, true and beautiful.
i have polished them
and brought them into the light,
and now i place them in your hands.
spend them however you choose.

That's Not Writing by Derek Beaulieu - NPM 30

“That’s not writing, that’s typewriting.”
—Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac

“That’s not writing, that’s plumbing.”
—Samuel Beckett on William S. Burroughs

That’s not writing, that’s typing.
That’s not writing, that’s someone else typing.
That’s not writing, that’s googling.
That’s not writing, that’s blogging.
That’s not writing, that’s wasted, unproductive, tweaking time.
That’s not writing, that’s stupid.
That’s not writing, that’s a coloring book.
That’s not writing, that’s coming up with ideas.
That’s not writing, that’s waiting.
That’s not writing, that’s a mad scribble.
That’s not writing, that’s printing and lettering.
That’s not writing, that’s tape-recording.
That’s not writing, that’s word-processing.
That’s not writing, that’s following the herd.
That’s not writing, that’s copying and pasting.
That’s not writing, that’s directing.
That’s not writing, that’s using high-“polluting” words to confuse readers.
That’s not writing, that’s aggregating, and there are already plenty of aggregators out there.
That’s not writing, that’s printing.
That’s not writing, that’s art.
That’s not writing, that’s Tourettes.
That’s not writing, that’s posing.
That’s not writing, that’s button-mashing, and anyone can do that.
That’s not writing, that’s vandalism.
That’s not writing, that’s acting.
That’s not writing, that’s blabbing.
That’s not writing, that’s hiking.
That’s not writing, that’s just a knife he’s using to eat pie with.
That’s not writing, that’s bullying.
That’s not writing, that’s dentistry.
That’s not writing, that’s just endless blathering.
That’s not writing, that’s yelling.
That’s not writing, that’s butchery!
That’s not writing, that’s a fortune cookie!
That’s not writing, that’s emoting
That’s not writing, that’s just dressing it up after.
That’s not writing, that’s just playing around.
That’s not writing, that’s daydreaming.
That’s not writing, that’s showing off.
That’s not writing, that’s keyboarding.
That’s not writing, that’s calligraphy.
That’s not writing, that’s mindless pasting.
That’s not writing, that’s an action flick.
That’s not writing, that’s a puddle.
That’s not writing, that’s a tragedy.
That’s not writing, that’s assembly line mass production.
That’s not writing, that’s transcribing.
That’s not writing, that’s computer-generated text.
That’s not typing, that’s data entry.

Beaulieu, Derek. "That's not Writing" Please, No More Poetry: The Poetry of derek beaulieu. Dobson, Kit. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2013. 50-51.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty nine


standing on the bleachers,
getting ready to sing,
my youngest son looks out
at the gathered crowd,
searching for me
while i try to catch his attention
to let him know i am here.
his eyes lock onto my eyes
locking onto his eyes
and a smile brightens his face.
he waves eagerly
as he sees me
seeing him.

was i like that as a boy?
i don’t remember.
all i know is my son
will know my eyes are on him,
he brings me great joy,
his smile is my smile.

i will be this father:
he will walk in the knowledge
that he blesses me.
i will bless him
with both hands.
i will bless him
with words of life.
i will bless him
with joy, and he will know
he is my song.

Monday by Billy Collins - NPM29

The birds are in their trees,
the toast is in the toaster,
and the poets are at their windows.

They are at their windows
in every section of the tangerine of earth-
the Chinese poets looking up at the moon,
the American poets gazing out
at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise.

The clerks are at their desks,
the miners are down in their mines,
and the poets are looking out their windows
maybe with a cigarette, a cup of tea,
and maybe a flannel shirt or bathrobe is involved.

The proofreaders are playing the ping-pong
game of proofreading,
glancing back and forth from page to page,
the chefs are dicing celery and potatoes,
and the poets are at their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.

Which window it hardly seems to matter
though many have a favorite,
for there is always something to see-
a bird grasping a thin branch,
the headlight of a taxi rounding a corner,
those two boys in wool caps angling across the street.

The fishermen bob in their boats,
the linemen climb their round poles,
the barbers wait by their mirrors and chairs,
and the poets continue to stare
at the cracked birdbath or a limb knocked down by the wind.

By now, it should go without saying
that what the oven is to the baker
and the berry-stained blouse to the dry cleaner,
so the window is to the poet.

Just think-
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.

And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.

I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman's heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.

Collins, Billy "Monday" The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems. New York: Random House, 2005. 7-8.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty eight


and so we sit and speak of poetry

sipping sherry and innis & gunn

we take turns to read various scribblings

talk about intention and attention

speak of wounds and hope and struggle

opine about the uses of poetry

we live here in this shared language

or the desire for shared language

the rhythm of words and how they connect

words to words and poets to poets

spirits and bodies and hearts

poetry is a way of saying things

you cannot say in any other way

one of us says, and we all agree

with friends only it is possible to be this direct

with friends only is it possible to be this hopeful

perhaps we are even romantic

these lovers of words are my friends

The Introduction by Billy Collins - NPM28

I don’t think this next poem
needs any introduction-
it’s best to let the work speak for itself.

Maybe I should just mention
that whenever I use the word five,
I’m referring to that group of Russian composers
who came to be known as “The Five,”
Balakirev, Moussorgsky, Borodin–-that crowd.

Oh--and Hypsicles was a Greek astronomer.
He did something with the circle.

That’s about it, but for the record,
“Grimk√©” is Angelina Emily Grimk√©, the abolitionist.
“Imroz” is that little island near the Dardanelles.
‘Monad”--well, you all know what a monad is.

There could be a little problem
with mastaba, which is one of those Egyptian
above-ground sepulchers, sort of brick and limestone.

And you’re all familiar with helminthology?
It’s the science of worms.

Oh, and you will recall that Phoebe Mozee
is the real name of Annie Oakley.

Other than that, everything should be obvious.
Wagga Wagga is in New South Wales.
Rhyolite is that soft volcanic rock.
What else?
Yes, meranti is a type of timber, in tropical Asia I think,
and Rahway is just Rahway, New Jersey.

The rest of the poem should be clear.
I’ll just read it and let it speak for itself.

It’s about the time I went picking wild strawberries.

It’s called “Picking Wild Strawberries.”

Collins, Billy "The Introduction" The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems. New York: Random House, 2005. 61-2.

Monday, April 27, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty seven


i walked through the door
and she was already talking.
not a stream of words
but a torrent, a wave.

she just kept talking,
drowning me in sound -
a wall of noise -
a battering ram
against my thoughts
in this previously
quiet moment

non-stop talking
as if desperate
to fill the spaces
with something,
anything but
silence, talking
in circles, the same
introductions, the same
invocations unchanging
rhythm of the same phrases
lurching back and forth.

the talking continues
even now at home
as she kneels
to say her prayers
unwilling to receive
the peace, nothing
in her mouth
but her own

The Student by Billy Collins - NPM27

My poetry instruction book,
which I bought at an outdoor stall along the river,

contains many rules
about what to avoid and what to follow.

More than two people in a poem
is a crowd, is one.

Mention what clothes you are wearing
as you compose, is another.

Avoid the word vortex
the word velvety and the word cicada.

When at a loss for an ending,
have some brown hens standing in the rain.

Never admit that you revise.
And--always keep your poem in one season.

I try to be mindful,
but in these last days of summer

whenever I look up from my page
and see a burn-mark of yellow leaves,

I think of the icy winds
that will soon be knifing through my jacket.

Collins, Billy "The Student" The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems. New York: Random House, 2005. 51.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty six


let’s say the body is a window. not like. is.

let’s open it up. carefully. find the pockets.

where disease sits and waits. where possibility lies slumbering.

the body is an amazing thing. relentless.

discover the life in it. every cell determined.

let’s agree that you are not your body.

look. we just might see eternity through it.

take my hand. now say it like you believe it.

Abstract by Sam Hamill - NPM26


It was a dream and you were walking through a field of hosannas
and the immense sea rocked with the blue voices of the dead
when you stretched out supine to dream lotus dreams which I
could not read.

A cathedral of sky arched overhead. I wanted to know
whether your eyes were closed, I wanted your dream of song or prayer,
o I wanted, and the sun grew brighter and the breeze fairer
that immaculate day

unfolding like a poem, like a song I half-remember and ask,
Did we sing it once a long time ago, did we sing it together,
was it our hymnal, our beautiful tragic chorus, our anthem,
the day like a new white canvas.

and here I add marine blue, and there cobalt blue, and a cloud in amber,
and the light is transparent yellow, and the brush makes a sound
like wind over sand, but there are no whitecaps, no sailboats,
only canvas and paint and the body's dance.

No kite. No gull. No things. Everything goes.
No dream, no dreamer. No certainty, no doubt.
Only the infinitely blossoming hosannas of the emptiness within,
echoing the emptiness without.

Hamill, Sam. "Abstract". The Body Electric: America's Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review. Berg, Stephen, David Bonanno and Arthur Vogelsang, Eds. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. 236-7.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty five


i heard you say
be more concrete
so i interpret it as density.
i pile up my ideas,
big as buckets,
and fill them with words
fluid to the touch,
the mind dipping in
and grasping at water
until the hands grow tired
of fishing
and you draw nearer
to the edge,
arms extended,
which can’t get you deep enough.
so then the first tentative steps
until you are immersed,
acclimating to this cold verse,
wondering which direction
you should face or where
this stream flows
until you either find purchase
or the courage to float,
be carried away,
or submerge.
look for pockets of air -
a space to insert your own voice
where it is
enfolded, and embraced,
and held under
the weight of the river,
the wet tradition of words,
the way language waters
the ground,
the way it grounds
your feet as you enter the story.

A Dubious Night by Richard Wilbur - NPM25

A Dubious Night

A bell dipthonging in an atmosphere
Of shying night air summons some to prayer
Down in the town, two deep lone miles from here,

Yet wallows faint or sudden everywhere,
In every ear, as if the twist wind wrung
Some ten years' tangled echoes from the air.

What kyries it says are mauled among
The queer elisions of the mist and murk,
Of lights and shapes; the senses were unstrung,

Except that one's star's synechdochic smirk
Burns steadily to me, that nothing's odd
And firm as ever is the masterwork.

I weary of the confidence of God.

Wilbur, Richard. "A Dubious Night" Upholding the Mystery: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 326.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty four

a nature poem

this was supposed to be
a nature poem

i had good intentions
of celebrating this earth

having lived in the mountains
majestic off the back porch

i wanted to rejoice in its fecundity
its embarrassment of riches

glacial pool, cavern, fold and thrust,

black-footed ferret, swift fox, grizzly bear,

greater sage-grouse, whooping crane,
mountain plover

boreal felt lichen, prairie fringed orchid,
townsendia daisy

instead, i think of stewardship
of how much we lose

even when we discover
new species, or entire ecosystems

i think of the northern white rhino
surrounded by men with guns

saddened, even shamed
the recognition of failure

the question of why
we didn’t stand guard earlier

Seven Paintings by Breughel by Anne Simpson - NPM24

The Triumph of Death

These watches. Ticking, still. Each hour is cold:
the rims surround quick voices. Shut in rooms.
Gone. Tick. The towers. Tock. Of fire. A fold
in air. We're smoke, drifting. A painted doom
where cities burn and ships go down. Death's
dark sky--a grainy docudrama. Time
swings bones on circus wheels. Listen: wind's breath,
a shriek. Theatrum Mundi. In their prime,
the living. Leapt. That buckling of the knees.
Then gunshots: plastic bags on fences. Snapping.
Or loose. Thank you--shop--at. The lovers see
nothing. He plays a lute. She sings. Clapping--
machines sift through debris for the remains.
A sales receipt, a shoe. The silvery rain.

Landscape with the Parable of the Sower

A sales receipt, a shoe. The silvery rain
has many hands. A stream--Fresh Kills--elides
with river. Think and slow. A landfill plain:
a ghost in biohazard gear. Gulls ride
the thermals, circling high as barges come,
a linking chain. Blue metropolis, far-
off glints of light. The cranes all lift and hum,
making hills of metal, bone. Crushed cars.
So garbage rises: this stench is monument.
Yet Brueghel's farmer takes the seeds, flings wide
his arm. A miracle: small event. We meant
to go, but every boat was laden. Tides
pulled home, pulled here, then left us for the birds.
We take the shape of soil, abandon words.

The Tower of Babel I

We take the shape of soil, abandon words.
The world will change without us. Did we glean
a little shine? Perhaps. These wheeling birds
drift down to earth. Crying. The air, unseen,
seeks entry without keys. All locked, shut down.
A spackled light gets through. We merely craved
a taste. Hello, my name is _______. A crown,
a king. One makes the other into slave.
Behind is Babel's core. Red as a heart
opened for bypass. Laid bare. Wind, idling.
It's quiet. Still. The horses, loaded carts,
are stuck. The ships, the docks. Thin bridles
of cloud. All stopped. Each thing unclocked, undone.
A man who kneels to plead his case. Warm sun.

The Tower of Babel II

That man who knelt to plead his case, that sun:
they're gone. In time, air hardens, growing dark.
The wars go on; beyond the TV, guns
talk to themselves. One, two. They whisper, bark.
Erotica. And Babel: height's desire
is weary of itself, but there's no end
to greed. A cruise, a condo. Guests for hire.
On the rug: a shirt, a shoe. Whatever bends
one body to another. We've forgotten.
Those painted clouds are knives. Slipped in walls
between the ribs. This plot device: rotten--
the thing exploded from within. Small
papers, white flakes. Last wish. Someone's cellphone.
("Are you still there? Are you?") A voice falls. Stone.

The Slaughter of the Innocents

"Are you still there? Are you?" A voice falls. Stone,
unbearable stone. It grinds. It tastes of grief.
Don't watch. Go blind. Oh Lord, those moans
will haunt us. This one. That one there. Brief
lives. Snow. And here, between the black trees, blood.
A leaping dog. A bird. Everywhere we turn
there's whiteness in the air. And memory, a flood
of killings no kindness can assuage. Urns
half-full of ashes: nothing that we knew
of those we loved. So young. Such shining hair,
those gleams recalled. A silence follows through
the rooms of when and how. Now, up the stairs
a rescuer is climbing. But he's too late.
And look what happened. This. Short straw of late.

Hunters in the Snow

Who knows what happened? A short straw of fate,
all that. Years ago. But now we've changed;
those terrors tucked back in the heart. "Just great,
that weekend special: everything arranged."
We return; the house looks strange. Each thing
deceives. The counters, the cutlery. Believe
the chairs; they guard the table in a ring.
The hunters come. They're trudging, slow. Reprieve
makes curving flight, a song in evening's sky:
pale green at dusk. Some children skate; they laugh.
And history has no place. Easy to lie
on queen-sized beds, dream a little dream. Half-
heard, the phantoms speak: No, you weren't there--
We turn; we sleep. But once there was a prayer.

Christ and the Adulteress

We turn; we sleep. But once there was a prayer,
a way to finger mystery. It floats,
one plastic bag, freed from the fence, that snare
with loops of wire. We translate into motes,
a glimmer in a shaft of sun. One glide,
we're gone. A painted scene: against this plea
is set a stone. An end. Each thing is tried.
A man makes notes in sand. The wind goes free.
One gust: his words are ghosts. The dust, absolved,
has vanished too. First kiss, last glance. Tick. Tock.
All goes to ground. We kneel down and dissolve.
Turn in. Turn out of time. Where nothing's clocked.
A touch: so light. Love's breath. Things we can't hold:
these watches. Ticking. Still. Each hour is cold.

Simpson, Anne. "Seven Paintings by Brueghel" Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets. Queyras, Sina, ed. New York: Persea Books, 2005. 201-7.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty three


it’s a lot of work
to straighten out meaning
to clear a path to the door

rather than trundle
through the undergrowth and the brambles
looking for a path

find a way to enter into the words
to find a place to rest your eyes
light falling line upon line

From the Curriculum of a Serpent by Chard deNiord - NPM23

Search your heart for any trespass
you might have committed against
your neighbour, weighing each slight
and peccadillo on the scale of the earth
beneath you, then remove the ballasts
of generous deeds from the mass of your
transgressions since they are timid birds
in the mind of your neighbour, flying off
on the wings of forgetfulness to leave
the dead weight of insult behind,
tipping the scale beyond its highest
number. Try next to guess
the number on which the sharp red
needle would settle if the numbers went
that high. Gaze down then if you can
to see how stuck is the needle
on the highest number, which is only
the partial weight of what you feared
was true about the heft of even
the smallest hurt on the scale of earth
that stretches out before you.

deNiord, Chard "From the Curriculum of a Serpent" The Double Truth. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. 28.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty two


so still

on chest

the drum
of heart



to wound

and now
this promise



What Beauty Knows About Itself by Chard deNiord - NPM22

That it is a genius in its diversity and therefore ruthless.
That it is not enough in the end to hold the beloved,
although it seems to be at first, more than it seems.
That it hosts a worm that is capable of consuming the heart in a day.
That it is perishable, like fruit, if left out too long.
That it needs a sister, like Antigone, to add something essential
to its otherwise pusillanimous character.
That it is transcendent form, criminal catalyst.
That it might as well be motherless since death is its mother.
That it fades much quicker than it appears.

deNiord, Chard "What Beauty Knows About Itself" The Double Truth. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. 27.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty and one


she sits there quietly,
your head nestled in her lap –
restful. at the confluence
of myth and religion,
an image of purity wrested
from its roots and watered
with grace. how we find
the meaning of things:
this animal represents that,
that colour betokens this,
this gesture bespeaks thusly –
how do we refine these stories?
what fires will be required
to purify the past
and make it fit for us
to drink in

in this century, this time
of wrestling. so many
secret potions
portioned to heal
so many poisons.

come here, now, and see.
draw close and enter through the gate.
let the wounded heart
stab through the cloud,
that light encompass us;
a comfort to lift our head
before you bring us home.

Instructions for Telling the Truth by Chard deNiord - NPM21

Begin by removing one article of clothing at a time, slowly,
until nothing's left to take off and no one's watching.
Patience, patience, as your words replace your garments
and suddenly you're standing alone in the square
like a flower that speaks in silence with so many tongues.

deNiord, Chard "Instructions for Telling the Truth" The Double Truth. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. 15.

Monday, April 20, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day twenty


some say the body will last forever.
the skin sensitive to every state,
the eyes always open

scanning the horizon,
piercing the sky,
glimpses of heaven -

that glorious shivering fan
full of sun, moon, stars.
the eyes of the universe

on us, your eyes
searching for my eyes,
blinded by glory -

our own meager glory.
here is the vault of heaven
arranged in a vase,

quivering as you walk past -
the hem of your garment,
soft like a feather.

Writer by Joe Wenderoth - NPM20


A person, for you, is a book.
Impossible to categorize,
it veers from non-sense verse
to the most tedious of novels
and back
in just a breath.
And the book ends, the book ends.
And what makes the person more real,
than a book,
is just that you cannot re-read
one chapter, one sentence, one word.
You must re-write him,
and you cannot.
This inability is the source
of everything you have to say.

Wenderoth, Joe. "Writer". The Body Electric: America's Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review. Berg, Stephen, David Bonanno and Arthur Vogelsang, Eds. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. 734.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

NaPoWriMo - day nineteen

golden beaches

i still remember those Saturdays
you and i heading downtown
to the library. i remember
spending hours reading,
just sitting and reading.
i always thought you were there
with me, your presence like a weight
on my shoulders.

i realize now that you weren’t there
all those mornings. just the idea of you,
the hope of you. as i was absorbed in my books
learning about lions and tigers and bears,
looking at paintings by Rembrandt and Warhol,
discovering Triceratops and ichthyosaurs,
exploring the worlds of Piper and Asimov and Tolkien,
you were elsewhere.

were you looking at architecture,
Frank Lloyd Wright and his modernist boxes,
or perhaps Shaker furniture
and its minimalist elegance?
were you dreaming of foreign lands –
Indonesia, or the Philippines –
and their golden beaches, their
golden beauties, their golden temples?

if i had gone looking for you,
calling your name in the stacks,
would i have found you?
would I have found you alone?
were you even in the library?
did you leave me in its care
as if it were my second home,
a papered sanctuary where i found
the seeds of my own stories,
where the lie that tells the truth was birthed?

were you outside, sitting in the sun,
dreaming for a moment you were unburdened,
without the responsibility of sons and wife and house?
were you imagining yourself
younger, more tanned, drinking
your espresso while watching young beauties
on some golden beach?

did you go for a walk and explore the courtyard
while drinking your coffee?
did you attempt to strike up conversations
with young women, with your broken English
and your thick, sturdy accent?
did you rely on awkward, boyish charm
and your Netherlandish bluster?

or were you further away?
did you meet up with a lover,
carving away time at the hotel next door
knowing i’d be lost for hours;
did you hold the memory of me in your mind
as you lost yourself in her embrace?

did you tell a librarian to watch over me
(you’d be right back)
as you ran to get something you forgot
knowing I would wait,
would step out of time
while buried in books?

it is a mystery to me,
or a secret, that there should be
this ghost here in my recollection,
a great puzzle i cannot solve.
i wish i had an answer.

i try not to read the story of my life backwards,
to let this memory accrue too much weight.
i don’t want to invent
all the reasons i can’t remember.

all i know now is that
i would still wish for your presence next to me.
i would like to sit in a library with you
and read some books,
to share my thoughts.
to discover yours.

but you are far from me,
you don’t even read my emails.
i have lost track of your story.
i don’t know how it ends,
other than you sitting out in the sun,
tanning on a golden beach.