Thursday, April 30, 2015

NPM: Three, Two, One

I am just barely making it under the wire. But it's been one of those weeks. So, here are the last three poems for National Poetry Month. It has been an adventure, as always. I got to share NPM with my students this year (we studied Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein) so that's a wonderful bonus.

Anyways. Here they are! Until next year.

1. Will Not Persist - April 28, 2015

A child who hangs his head
has a mother, she sighs and swears
when progress will not persist
at the perfect pace
or in tactical timetables.
Every other week he works,
fingers frenzied with paper and pencil,
her grave gaze at the doorway,
as if this helpless hour
will charge the change she seeks.
But no one learns life lessons
from a perpetual pinching,
nor from distant discomfort
that dims or dies in the daylight.
But give a boy a beating
and the man will remember,
take a squandering sum
and the pauper will prevail.
Do not forsake the function
or lament life’s teacher
if you only listen lazily,
as seconds and lessons are lost,
all while you wait,
all while you worry
and will not work.

2. The Confirmation - April 29, 2015

My fear of the future is only equal to
my memory of terrified stillness
and the coldness of abandonment.
I step forward ambitiously,
warm-hearted and open-armed.
But my heart is the sun.
My arms are flaming tongues.
This must confirm the reality
I face in the resulting solitude.
Yet I cannot fade or burn away,
remaining too much, or too little,
who can tell?
All I can conclude is that
where there is no goodbye
there is no justice.

3. Beacon - April 30, 2015

There is a guiding voice
of gilded echoes and force
which judges and passes
each merit or curse
and trebles the ethers
with sanctified meter
behind his mouth.

And there is a song
of persuasive, lifting light
which casts out and contains
what you may love or fight
and waves a beacon
for the heart you weaken
behind your doubt.

Monday, April 27, 2015

NPM: Taking Hold, Etc. (Part 2)

Here is the promised post with more poems, to make up for the extreme lack of them. I thought I would only need 7 to compensate, but I'll need 8. Because it's a new day, which means a new poem.

But don't worry. I've got plenty to spare. Although, watch out for the last one. There's a "swear" in there. So if you read these to children... um, don't. That's weird.

1. Little Red Boat - July 9, 2014

In this story there’s a girl
sleeping in a little red boat.
I could get her into the boat
but not into the water.
I got her into the water
but couldn't make her cross.
She has strong arms
but a tired heart
and she asks me
which is better.
Sleep, or row?
Sleep, row, sleep, row.
So when she closed her eyes
I pushed her into the lake
and the little red boat
drifted away from me.
I got her through the night,
I got her here to the morning,
but I still can’t make her
reach the other side.

2, Fearless v. 4 - July 26, 2014

I will fold and refold
my paper lantern heart,
I will gather a string of lights
around me like a cape,
dancing to the edges
of our shadows,
I will shine in the places
we have made dark
with words of ash.
I will fold
and refold
and mend
and remend
until there is nothing left
but a spark.

3. Fearless v. 10 - August 22, 2014 [edited April 27, 2015]

There is no shame in the truth.
I knew it in the morning, but
didn't feel it until the afternoon
sitting in that somehow desolate office
which smelled of black coffee.
There were droplets of rain
making my bespectacled vision
bleary and more sordid
than could possibly be appropriate.
I did the right thing for everyone,
because it’s what I always do.
There is no shame in the truth
and so I gave it away.
It’s still true
even if I don’t hold it.

4. Fearless v. 11 - August 30, 2014

Post-proclamation, I estimate that
it would be efficient to embrace
facing this. But before I even speak
I've started to lie, because it’s improper
to claim I am even minutely able
to face this. Already my body
clenches, anxiety blossoms
like a fanged flower, its petals
fierce and beautiful and scarlet
like flushed skin. I am petrified.
As the leaves of the white birch
turn upward and wait for rain
so my sight ascends to prepare
to face this, as if I could
possibly know what’s coming.

5. The Choice - September 5, 2014

She said yes, all those many years ago.
She said it, not in so many words,
but enough to know she’d chosen.
But in the middle. There, that spot,
blackened and bruised from
careless words, thoughtlessness.
That’s the one held up in the mirror,
that’s the question echoing back.
If she had somehow known then
what she’d be looking at now
would she have chosen differently?

6. Paper - December 9, 2014 [This is one of my favorite poems ever!!!]

There are no sequins.
There is no splendor.
No lace, no ribbons,
just our sense of wonder.
This was the year
it was supposed to be all right.
We wouldn't suffer or struggle,
or give up the good fight.
We would find sparkle
in shadows and dust,
doing what’s pleasing
and not what we must.
But nothing glimmers
or outshines the heartache
of old pain in a place
we thought couldn't break.
There is nothing gold
to give worth to our blunder
except for this space
where we find ourselves tender.
Here we will make glitter
in the darkness and night.
We’ll take a year made of paper
and burn it for light.

7. Settled - April 18, 2015

There is a truth, settled into,
founded by the precedents
our life has handed over.
We believe it like a memory,
like a debt to be repaid
or a curse we wait to feel
unless we're lucky–
then it’s a dream we hope to know.
Like fools we believe and hold
the promises or evidence
until the world shifts around us;
every wall ascends or crumbles,
the ground disturbed and broken,
And in the tumult we must decide
to alter our perception,
to force our feet into new paths,
to stumble along new halls,
to adapt to a new truth
or close our eyes
and just go on believing.

8. Best - April 27, 2015

The blackest heart loves best
because it can't forget a thing,
because it holds, because it holds,
because it holds on and never lets go.
And that isn't charcoal
or an unrepentant life
or a curse, or a curse,
or a curse that cannot be cured.
Those are the colors of memories,
of regretting what's been lost,
of loving too, of loving too,
of loving too damn much.
And if you paint a pure heart
with a color for every breath
you'll have a heart, you'll have a heart,
you'll have a heart that's black that loves best.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

NPM: Taking Hold, Etc. (Part 1)

"Loss" circa 2010.

This is going to be one of those long posts. So roll up your sleeves, or saddle your horses, or gird your loins, or whatever it is you do when you get ready for a thing.

It has been thirteen days since I last posted here, during this month when I long to post the most. (Look, a rhyme! No, that does not count as a poem.) This is one of those times I feel like an explanation is in order, especially since it relates to the whole pre-cancer adventure and some of you might want an update.

During the first twelve days of April I started my "therapy." This involved taking a pill at the same time every day (or every night, in my case.) The first three days I didn't realize it needed to be at the same time, didn't realize that I absolutely should not have waited any amount of time between those 24-hour doses, and upon realizing my mistake worried that I had messed up the whole process.

But I didn't mess it up. Five days later I woke up mid-morning and began to experience the beginning throes of (what I've decided to call) healing. I won't give you details, because you don't need them. However, it has been tumultuous. I have been anxious, relieved, awestruck and dumbfounded and to put it plainly... I've just been a mess. 

And so during a time I wanted to be writing, and sharing, and deeply connecting with people, I found myself rather isolated. I found myself feeling abandoned. This "healing" has been a profound joy that I cannot share with the world, and the experience has left my heart vulnerable. It's day 9 of this long process, and as I'm coming out of it I want to rejoin the world with all of my words. There's not much as far as an update, except that the drugs are working. Round 2 starts May 1st, so hopefully they'll continue working.

Also, yes... I will be sharing thirteen poems. Six here, and seven in the next post. I would be so honored if you read them and told me what you thought of them--or you can tell me how they made you feel, or what they reminded you of. Not everyone likes poetry, I understand that. But right now they are my way of connecting with you, with the world, with life... so don't be shy if you have thoughts you would like to share.

1. Take Hold - February 22, 2015

We clasp together our wounded hands
and wander out here like orphans.
We hide our pain in the shadows,
we are silent and ashamed.

But you take hold and heal us,
you take us in like a son and daughter.
You raise our faces to the sun,
and we are overjoyed to be redeemed.

2. Crash Test - January 5, 2015 [edited April 26, 2015]

I am magnetized
back into your orbit.
I am drawn to the darkness
you made a house inside,
where you forced me to live
without oxygen.
I breathed only you
and thought someday
if consumed
you would simply set me free.
But all this time
I've been my own
and still I am possessed.
Still a prisoner.
Always wondering,
was I an experiment?
Did you bend me
just to break me
when the pieces didn't fit?
You let me crash and burn
but blamed me for who I am,
and now would rage
against the world
for not accepting
your love or your plan.
You told me
it was my fault
like I made the prison.
But the truth is
the chain of sin
has always been
your decision.

3. Meshed - June 3, 2014

Long ago, when we adored other men,
when the world inside our souls
was meshed without our knowledge,
when the air hung so densely
we could swim in its summer breath,
awash on the shore like
stranded changelings from the ether,
we met. A friendship swapped
between white-washed bricks
and solidified under a cherry tree.
We foraged like mercenaries
without causes for combat,
hunted madly like wild sisters
abandoned by our brothers.
The sun shone so brightly
we could taste it. So we drank
of the cherry blossoms blooming
and the green grasses reaching
and the sweet, bright rays
of that summer we fell out of love.
Today we soaked in it once more,
looking back on the storm clouds
that covered our silver linings.
A blue butterfly grazed my hand,
drifted from me to you to the sky,
as if it might have known
that in just another heavy moment
we would come full circle and
float back into the heavens.

4. Nobody Else - June 12, 2014 [edited July 2014]

**Author's note: This was originally a non-rhyming poem, but through the process of mourning a lost friend it turned into a short song on the guitar. I am really bad at playing the guitar, but the lyrics/poem aren't awful. So there you go.

I returned to life once,
having been on the run,
like a vagabond
But I came back to you
with my broken shoes and my
broken song,
wearing colors
I could not forget.
And you loved me yet.
You said,
No one could wear those
colors like you.
No one colors the world
the way that you do, you do.
And I don't want
to say goodbye
or watch you ride the train
into the sky.
But even if you asked me to
I couldn't keep you here with me.
No, there is nothing I could do
to stop eternity.

5. Be Mine - December 28, 2014 [edited April 26, 2015]

On a holiday, overcome with rage
not at my own circumstances,
I held at arm’s length the obvious,
regarding those lost second chances.
And my chest filled up
like a thirstless cup
with all the stuff a heart can hold.
The world ran for cover
as it all brimmed over
and I felt suddenly cunning and bold.
And within the confines of my body
rushed the longing for only what’s right.
Senseless with energy and without reason,
something in me just wanted to fight.
So I will look for the battle
through blitheness and prattle,
I’ll break boundaries and cross lines.
Somewhere a war needs a warrior,
and I will make it mine.

6. Make Me - May 31, 2014

My heart is stillness, it is patient
with all things, bears all things, it is
merciful and not ambitious
it exudes tranquility and peace,
it offers grace to you
and to everything
but me.

I offer myself bargains
and deals I cannot keep.
I barter and trade my best,
hating the thing inside my chest,
awake inside the void
hearing that damning voice
that just won’t let me sleep.

But I want
what everyone wants.
I want what they have
despite their faults.
So make me pick me
first in line.
Make me allow me
a second try.
Make me graceful,
or merciful, not hateful.
Make me offer it up
like a reflex I can’t stop,
make me give
the right to live
without limitations
or sordid hesitations,
without seeing failure
to go with the plan here
in my responsibilities and
unsavory obligations
to the bitter thing which holds
my heart’s place.
Someone make me give myself

Monday, April 13, 2015

NPM: Six Whole Poems

I love weekends, but there is something peaceful about being alone in the classroom on Monday nights. The solitude and the open space is somehow calming. There was some sort of bustle last week, though I couldn't even tell you what I became busy with, except that it kept me from blogging (the horror). Yet in the previous six days, despite having missed writing/posting poems for each of them, my view counter increased by about 200. That phrase is probably meaningless to you, so I'll break it down: Over 10,100 people have viewed my blog. That's like 200 people just in the last week. 

And I wasn't even here.

No, I won't make it up to the world by writing a a gushing fountain of poems. But I will post six, because I owe six. That will have to be satisfactory. In any case, enjoy these. :)

1. Senbon - Written March 24, 2015

To blame myself
gives me more power than I deserve.
I bitterly hoped
for nothing but the worst but
never really asked for such fruition.
And when I said
those hurtful words to curse you
they were spoken from a desire
that I would merely be blessed too.
So I will not feel guilty
if you will not feel slighted
because I know the weight of loss
and no one
can carry it alone.

2. Under the moon. - Written January 18, 2015

Reaching for each other
under the moon or
in the sun
Hands chained to hearts
bring us both
to light

3. Femme - Written June 8, 2014

I send you out with diamonds for eyes,
I have made you a promise of gold.
You will nourish the hearts and minds of men
until all but your love has grown old.

4. The Worst - Written June 5, 2014

My favorite song asks me what I’m so afraid of. 
It asks me why I feel scared–because it knows
it’s just a feeling, and nothing more.
It asks me, what’s the worst that can happen?
And in those moments after I've prayed
like a wounded bird about to take flight
I ask myself those same three questions
to somehow gauge the distance
between the anxiety flooding my body
and the reality I must endure, regardless
of whatever the worst might be.

5. Sacred. - Written May 27, 2014, Revised April 13, 2015

I am not better than you.
I am stronger than I was,
I am wiser than I was,
older and better
than the person
I have been.
And so are you.
But if you unlearn the lessons
we learned separately,
and yet
in equal measures
of turmoil,
you will undo all
the damage I've repaired.
I promise,
and do not threaten,
to be better angrier,
to be better sadder,
to be better forsaken
than you were ever sacred.

6. Middleofthenightness - Written April 12, 2015

Like everyone else
I look back.
Some people see
a great loss
or mourn for
a great love
and wonder at
the great divide
which shelters us
from the people we were.
But I see a girl making
a great mistake
while she longs for
a great love
and fights against
the great divide,
but losing myself
is the only thing
I do not count as
a great regret.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NPM: Pour Out (Day 7)

A small update among the pages of poetry. We didn't get the job we were hoping for. My heart is broken in some ways, and at peace in others. There is a reason for everything, you know?

Pour Out - Written January 9, 2015, Revised April 7, 2015

In that breath which held
more solitary twilight
than every exhalation of
these twenty and six years,
I stilled at the precipice
of the parched desert,
my body merely flesh,
my heart merely stone.
And I would have perished:
this is documented truth.
But sincere sorrow expressed
by the simplest of minds
begged for me to stay
in all my colorful forms.
A request only for me,
reaching mournfully
to the pitches of the sand,
uprooted my soul
from the unloving earth.
As the horizon set ablaze
with scarlet curses
I poured out a song
of oceans and rivers,
I emptied myself
of the darkness and blues
which had been carried
for that very purpose.
The knowledge of that weight
was somehow not suffocating
but freeing, for no longer
was my heart an anchor
but a melody rising
on the desert wind.

Monday, April 6, 2015

NPM: In Every Measure (Day 6)

National Poetry Month, Day 6.

In Every Measure - April 6, 2015

I will make plans for a season of rain and
build a house, build a house, build a house.
I will find structure useless and vain and
burn it down, burn it down, burn it down.
I will sustain misguided hopes and
dig a hole, dig a hole, dig a hole.
I will replace memories never known and
fill the hole, fill the hole, fill the hole.
I will discover someone else's treasure and
hold it tight, hold it tight, hold it tight.
I will find loss in every measure and
give it up, give it up, give it up.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

NPM: Buried (Day 5)

A poem for Easter.

Buried - Written March 16, 2015, revised April 5, 2015

we touch solid ground
and from our feet spreads gold

the snow is made of diamonds
because we are treasure
in the aftermath
we are precious
in the alabaster canyon

and this is the message
rising from our ashen insides
we will rise again like
the icy drifts and gilded pleasures
like windy whispers
of a time we already forgot

we wandered in the wilderness
ferocious like barbarians
wild like the foxes
surviving in the abandoned places

until our eyes fall out
and shine like priceless stones
until our hearts turn cold
and are worn like polished pendants

this is the message
rising from our ashen insides
as certainly as we were buried
we will rise again

Saturday, April 4, 2015

NPM: Treason (Day 4)

If you are familiar with the story of Easter (or the trifecta of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday) then you will hopefully find some meaning in this poem.

Treason - April 3, 2015

The final cost of our redemption
speaks naught of our exemption
or requirements never met
even in the sacrifice of a lifetime,
but rather waits in the silence between.
Oh, that impossible distance!--
which grows in shadowed resistance
for this one wretched day
while we are the ashen mourners
unsaved, unloved, unseen.
And we shrink like withered seasons
whose blooms gravely fade beyond reason
for even the wind has grieved,
even the earth cannot be still,
even the sun is black with treason.

Friday, April 3, 2015

NPM: Grateful (Day 3)

This poem is several memories crammed into one. Enjoy. 

Grateful - July 1, 2014

This is the woman who has never feared storms,
who danced in the lightning in the desert.
She has let the gutter rain wash her hair,
and puddles of thunder soak her skirt.
This is the woman who drinks of squalls,
who holds black clouds in her arms.
And yet, when you save her, she is still grateful
that you saved such a wild fool from harm.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

NPM: Fearless v. 1 (Day 2)

I know, I'm cutting it close. 11:50! But I wanted to add some art, and you have to understand I spent the last 48 hours feeling nauseated and dizzy and... losing everything I ate. (Except that 8 ounces of applesauce yesterday.) So, the art was my therapy. Anyways, to the point.

On my other secret poetry blog I wrote, almost a year ago now, a handful of poems on being fearless. A thought struck me at some point about how we view fearlessness, how we express it or feign it. This poem is the first of many (I think I wrote upwards of a dozen) and it is the most tame. I tend to avoid rhyming poetry, but as this first 'fearless' poem just begins to touch on the subject you'll have to be patient. I won't be sharing all of the 'fearless' poems here, but I hope you/someone will appreciate them.

Fearless v. 1 - July 23, 2014

If you want to be fearless
you don’t have to tell anyone.
Just come out and take it
like it’s already been won.
Let your heart be a mountain
and your love be a fountain.
Then if you want to be fearless
you've already begun.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

National Poetry Month: An Introduction (Day 1!)

Each year I wait for April, and the closer it gets the more often I find myself abstaining from writing poetry. This is a difficult task. If you are not a poet or a writer it might sound a little ridiculous. A surgeon doesn't keep away from his doctor duties in preparation for surgery. A teacher doesn't stop writing lesson plans right before she is reviewed by her principal. Most people practice their skills before the big event, to make sure they've got everything down.

Poetry isn't like that--at least, not for me.

Poetry is a piece of me, a part of my body and soul that seemed to be attached to me long before I recognized it or realized it was important. The feelings come effortlessly; it is only the perfecting and revising of words that come with practice and patience. And so I hold in my feelings for a while, in order to let them burst forth later for thirty days straight. The hard part isn't writing when I'm supposedly "out of practice." The hard part is finding the perfect words for the imperfection of raw emotion.

In the spirit of honesty, I must tell you that I am not writing new poems for every day of April. However, they will be new poems to you. I have a secret poetry blog, which is hidden from the public for other secret reasons, but I've selected a handful of poems from this "other place" that I wrote over the last year. They will be edited and revised in order to be shared with you, in addition to some new ones (of course!)

So, without any further dawdling, here is a poem. (This one is new.)

Spectrum - April 1, 2015

Blank slates are black
made rough by white thoughts--
an absent mind
or absent-minded scribbles.
All the colors at once
overwhelmed and beheld,
or all at once
to see such colors.
The right frame of mind
or right-angled frame
makes hues into words
and names into shades.
But seeing holds the belief
in the distinct
without the instinct
to take away choice
and just paint the world gray.