Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

therapists often teach their clients to express emotions
in one word alone / i write poetry to find emotions
that require an entire world

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In probably the most famous speech by a fictional character in the English language, Shakespeare presented the problem of decision under uncertainty. “To be or not to be.” That is, to continue or to change? Hamlet is suicidal at the time, stuck in emotion mind. As are millions, still. Yet the question persists whether to step off any more metonymous cliff? The artist faces it. The teacher. The business person. The therapist. The student. I myself consider it every day and can’t find the courage. Self-hate lives there: “The itch for death is like a turn in a wire.” The death of what for what? To overpaint a prior joy? Wherefore? By the time I hear the knock on the door, I’m already under the bed.


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I want a poem to be the kind of thing that someone reads and then says “what the hell just happened?”

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of course they don’t tell me what they think of me
i suspect they’d rather force me back into words
though the small round space heater
at the end of august smells like roasted flesh

as we burn them so let us praise them

sacrament  intraverbal  question  slogan  cautionary  guess
fragment  congratulatory  stage direction  prayer  neologism
morality play  traffic stop  metalepsis  analytic  chant  cliché
echo  observation  command  harmonic  encyclical  subjunct
whisper  synthesis  absurdum  treaty  predicate  obstruent
sacrifice  excuse  myth  online profile  disjunctive  temp-
oral specification  indulgence  conversation  deprecant  animatory
protest  phatic  assumption  ornamental  a priori


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she was supposed to spend the day with him but instead
while his respiratory effort advanced to nowhere she
came late and sat there trying to match him breath
for idle breath

nothing came of it and she stopped
to count the laces of her shoe while the nurse busied herself
about the bed

already on the third admission to the hospital
for the year and she wanted to ask the nurse what they should do

she also wanted to look out the window because his room was often
on the seventh floor and she thought the city must be coming alive down
where cars already knew to drive with their lights on and children
were being picked up by their parents as he used to when she was four
and he smelled like office furniture and eight hour cologne

he never disappointed her and she never failed to giggle
into his arms

finally the nurse left but for all she knew
orchestras were playing and the room could have already filled up
with the colorless odorless outgassing

of her father’s failing body

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my teacher had me read a battered version of johann bach’s
younger suites, inventions of a year he regretted all his life.
the words didn’t come about quick enough and he like me
wanted a certain velocity. to hide the disingenuous caper
of a walked on carpet. it’s not a lot. it’s not a storm. what
is it a gloom begone? after a time no one imagined i played
such that no one could hear.

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one ash wednesday she didn’t want anything
on her forehead. instead she had her father put the
smudge on her left upper cheek. her point was that the
church has been giving the black eye to original
peoples for untold centuries and she thought it was time
to tell the untold. to understand they were not nor
had ever been unwashed vermin, sins of flesh, a transgression
of mind or the off cast after thoughts of a god better occupied
with some manly affair of men. it was time and it was time
she declared so plainly that one could be dead and still hum
the tune, to give up many things. but most of all the idea
of a god who ruled a world created by words, words
he spoke most fluently in whatever story he might appear.

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poetry lets me get an emotional truth not bound up by the facts of my life

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1 tsp sea salt (from galicia like his uncle)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (hungarian like her parents)
whole chicken
extra virgin olive oil


the chicken burned in the oven but he said it would be alright
she wanted to start again
he had basted and seasoned it
she had set the temperature and the time
he forgot the salt but she added it later without telling him
he knew what she had done but didn’t say anything
the smoke detectors alarmed because of the smoke
he knew it would happen and so did she
that’s not the hard part
knowing, predicting, understanding
it’s what you do next that is critical
start over
buy a new chicken
change the way you season it
stand over it
check the timer
don’t wander off
their favorite meal they cooked it weekly
weekly they hoped it might taste different

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                                                At our abductor’s trial, I wagered
                                                my brother for the rights to laughter.

The sun’s heat would soon release the scent of the piñon and mesquite
as the saguaro’s arms pointed over our heads towards rope, wood and outer
Many things were let loose that day.

My trust, your wealth, loving skis, chances. Oh, we saw our share
and surely nothing will ever be the same. No word, no water, no hat,
no drop, no envy, no guilt, no one’s cowardice, not a smile, nor dark
nor light nor even the shadow of a plane against the self-made earth.
He had taken not only us.

Have you ever noticed how every time you look in someone’s eyes
the whole world stares back? Gamblers know it but secrets are easy to hide.
I myself turned out to be something beyond a secret. And heat will not hide him
from a game we play with our child’s hands, filled up from the inside with
little children’s bones.

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