Monthly Archives: April 2014

#130: Farewell, For Now


I asked my students what I should write my last poem of the month about and one kid suggested I go all meta.  Write a poem about writing a poem about writing poems, he said.  It was a pretty good idea.  But instead, I took the prompt from the last prompt of the month from the NaPoWriMo website, not quite so meta: a farewell poem.

Farewell, For Now

I wrote 30 poems,
one for every day of the
cruelest month, as part of
a national celebration
of Poetry. So,
what now?

A farewell, I guess,
to a poem every day,
to poetry, generally
speaking, but perhaps,
not for long, because,
while it’s easy to
give up on a poem a day,
to give up on discipline
and structure and intention,
it’s hard for me
to imagine a month
without any poetry
at all. What kind of
month would that be?
Cruel, indeed.
So farewell, for now,
to poetry every day.
We’ll take wagers,
you and I,
see how long I can stay away.


Filed under Poetry, Writing and Reading

#129: Recipe for Disaster


Ocean of sky today, blue, clear,
and a monkey siphoned all the gas
from our car, gasoline fumes wafting,
the drip, drip, drip evidence on concrete,
crows soaring above the trees, I taste
the toothpaste still from half an hour
before, and rub an itch on my scalp,
an itch that smells like gasoline.
Rex Putnam, here I come, on bicycle,
not because of a monkey, no.
I listened to The Monkees as a child;
still do. I’ve never seen the word
scoodly-poop in a poem.  Perhaps
it’s not really a word, even though
I’ve heard it spoken by people who
know words. Someone speaks,
inevitably someone else listens.
For crying in a bucket, my mother always
used to say, the blue voice of absence,
the black crow calls for peace in our time.
On my way home today I will rob a bank.
It’s time Jammin’ Jarmer robbed a bank
and he will not, I predict, serve any time.
I have become a warbling bicyclist and I have
discovered this essential truth: Cops love
calamari.  N’est pas?  And calamari
is equally enamored of the smooth
sailing down into the gullet of law,
and order too. Sky blue ocean sky,
crows soar, gasoline, toothpaste.



Note:  Here is the recipe I followed to write the poem above:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

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Filed under Poetry

#128: John Oliver Slams My State


Today’s optional prompt from the Napowrimo curator is to write a poem entirely from the text of a newspaper article, manipulated any way one sees fit. Here’s this thing, courtesy of the Oregonian’s coverage of the debut episode of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show. I guess any publicity is good publicity:

John Oliver Slams My State

National pundits
weighing in
not just from the right-wing.

Left-leaning John Oliver
unleashes a fusillade of
hilarious haymakers.

Lisa Loeb leads an
amazing parody of the cutesy
$10-million-plus Cover Oregon ad campaign.

Yes John, we do live
in a cartoon.
Proud of it.


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Filed under Culture, Poetry

#127: Giant Boy Scoops Up Unsuspecting Bikers Off The Beach


The Bikers were minding their own business,
standing around their bonfire,
working super hard to keep it going
despite the occasional and violent rain,
causing no harm, no disturbance,
when a giant boy in red sweat pants
and a black hoodie scooped them off
the beach and tossed them into the ocean
to a group of hungry Oregon sea lions.
In a fit of joyous hilarity, the giant boy
in red sweat pants and a black hoodie
took off like hell down the beach
against the rain, into the wind,
laughing diabolically.


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#126: On Meeting Colin Meloy at the Beach


My friend and I
walk down Laneda Avenue
in Manzanita when his wife,
also a friend of mine,
calls the cell phone and says that
Colin Meloy is inside the Cloud and Leaf
signing books, and, like a teenager, I start
running down the street.
Having been earlier inside the bookstore,
having thought about purchasing Wildwood,
because, you know, I like the Decemberists,
and Colin Meloy’s a musician
and I’m a musician, he’s a writer
and I’m a writer, he lives in Portland
and I live in Portland, and his book
is a book for young readers
and I think it might be a fun book
to share with my son, but deciding
not to buy for whatever reason
one decides not to buy something
one wants, and walking away
up Laneda Avenue, I’m three or four
blocks away when my friend’s wife,
who is also a friend of mine, calls and tells us
that Colin Meloy is inside the Cloud and Leaf
signing books. My teenage heart
trapped in a middle-aged body
goes pitter-pat and suddenly
I am motivated to buy his books
and I run, I run down the sidewalk,
dragging my friend and my eight year old son along.
I burst my way into the bookstore
like Kramer making an entrance in a Seinfeld episode,
and there he is, Colin Meloy, making a purchase.
And I say, Colin, as if  we were long lost friends,
and he says, yes, and I say, are you signing books?
He points to a table of freshly signed copies of Wildwood.
I shake his hand, tell him my name, that I’m a fan.
He thanks me, walks out, and I buy his books and that’s the whole story.

It was not the best part of the beach trip,
only the most unexpected and strange,
because of the chance meeting of a local rock star, sure,
but mostly because of my behavior, which surprises me
in both good ways and bad.  Not one to faun
over idols, as I get older even less so, I find it funny
and odd that I sprinted down the street so as not
to miss him, that in this moment, meeting Colin
Meloy was somehow monumentally important.
Was it that crucial to have attention and approval
from someone famous, my vanity satiated by
introducing myself, identifying as a loyal supporter,
or was it simply the discovery within myself of that part of me
never too far from the surface, hiding nevertheless under
middle-aged dignity, that part  of me belonging to the
eternal teenage rock and roll fan club?
Guilty on both counts.

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Filed under Culture, Literature, Music, Poetry

#125: This Is Not A Poem


This is not a poem, but a message.
This is not a poem, but an explanation.
This is not a poem, but a note
to say that,
this is not a poem, and that I have not
eaten any plums, but rather,
this is not a poem, and I will be off-line
tomorrow, so there will be no posting
of poetry for the 26th day of
National Poetry Writing Month.
This is not a poem, but a promise that
even though I will not be posting a poem
tomorrow, I will nevertheless write a poem,
using a pencil, perhaps, or a pen,
or a quill, and I will compose said poem
on the technology most people refer to
as paper.
This is not a poem, but a promise
that on Sunday, when I return from
my hiatus off-line, I will post
two poems in one day, the poem
I pen on paper on Saturday,
and the poem I compose Sunday
upon my return.
This is not a poem.
Forgive me.  It was sweet
and so easy to write.

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Filed under Poetry, Writing and Reading

#124: Bricks and Windows, Windows and Bricks

“The way they boxed us in here. Bricks and windows, windows and bricks.” –Willy Loman, Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller

the old neighborhood

the old neighborhood


In my old neighborhood they tore down
an abandoned psych hospital for new town homes.
There was no big loss, the end of an era
polluted by horrific scenes of suicidal escapees,
children being committed against their will,
an inmate shot for dangerously wielding a pencil.
Close it down.  Good riddance.  And welcome
to my new neighbors, a hundred of them, perhaps,
an entire city block turned into living space
for middle class families, retired people,
and single professionals, some who would
become good friends, a fitting reward
for tolerating the tear down, the noise of
machinery and trucks, hammering, drilling,
digging, pounding, whistles and beeps.
They put trees in the parking strips,
sadly removed one huge tree, but mostly
windows and bricks and wood and a tall
roof line replacing the ugly concrete
and the aforementioned psych ward.

Now, in my new neighborhood, four
houses across the street on double
or triple lots will be destroyed to make
way for 32 single-family homes.
So, here we go again.  But this time,
I’m conflicted.  They’re all rentals,
the landowner clearly making a killing
and turning affordable housing into
properties where none of her previous
tenants could ever dream of living.
Conversely, when the project’s finished,
my neighbors might be more like me,
which might be a good deal for my family,
but not necessarily good for people displaced
and trees and animals displaced to make way
for another new suburban development
where people used to plant gardens
and children could run for miles
in their own back yards.


Filed under Poetry

#123: On Shakespeare’s Birthday


Harold Bloom
said that Shakespeare
invented the human.
Bloom’s a blowhard
pretty much but
I think in this case
he might be right.
What writer in English
before Shakespeare
anticipated Freud
and Jung, fleshed
out all the archetypes,
captured the various
loves and hates and
the myriad mental states
and the thousand natural
shocks that flesh is
heir to? No one.
And no one has
done it better
since.  Sure,
Shakespeare stole
a lot of material–
none of his subjects
emerged entirely
from his own imaginative
territory–but those lines,
all those words, that
richness, that wisdom;
almost every
possible thought
can be found
there somewhere
in the deep, deep
landscape of his plays.
So, happy 450th, Bill;
your work so much
a part of me now,
I feel, in fact, and often,
almost invented.


Filed under Literature, Poetry, Writing and Reading

#122: To My Son

Fancy Em

Dear son,
whatever befalls you in life,
whichever direction you choose to go,
wherever you go to school and
whatever you decide to study,
whatever religion you choose to follow,
even if you choose, wisely I might ad,
to follow no religion whatsoever,
to be a spiritual non-religious person,
whatever instrument you tackle,
even if you choose, poorly I might add,
to play no instrument at all,
wherever you decide to live,
whatever work at which you endeavor,
and finally whomever you choose to love,
I have one simple wish for you;
sure, call it advice, or instruction,
or admonition–I choose to think of it
as a request, a favor, a hope, a plea:
son, don’t be an ass.

That’s it.  It would be tempting
to list all manner of behaviors
uncharacteristic of an ass,
all the virtues and values and ideals
antithetical to the ass,
but somehow, I doubt this
would neither be helpful to you
nor make a good poem.  So I
say to you once more,
with the proviso that almost
anyone with half a heart or mind
can see and feel and smell
an ass coming from a mile away,
as I hope you will be able
to sense and check the tendency
in yourself, as your father has
tried and sometimes failed to do:

My dear son, don’t be an ass.


Filed under Parenting, Poetry

#121: Poem (Johnny Depp’s New Movie is a Flop)


What follows is a strange little thing called a New York School poem, of which type, while I didn’t know its name until today, I have seen from time to time in my travels as a poetry reader.  Apparently, there’s even a recipe for such an animal! I used some of the items from this particular recipe, but mostly I took my cue from a Frank O’Hara poem and I wrote about my school’s neighborhood, some colleagues of mine, and the disparaging headline I saw today about Johnny Depp’s new movie.

after Frank O’Hara

Johnny Depp’s new movie is a flop!
I was riding my bike up Roethe hill
against a severe headwind and
away from the neighborhood strip bar
(has The Dolphin finally shuttered itself?)
and you mentioned later how impressed
you were as I turned into the Putnam
driveway that I did not seem to be struggling
and you wondered if I was in some kind of granny gear;
no, numb nuts, I was just in a hurry
to begin my day with teenagers a whole block
away from strip bars and Pogy’s Subs and
Little Caesar’s and the Plaid flipping Pantry
and almost immediately after my arrival
I saw the headline on The Huff Post that
Johnny Depp’s new movie was a flop
and I thought to myself who gives a shit?
And while I think you’re a fine science
teacher and a guy I enjoy being around,
I’m not always sure about your politics
and I’m not always sure you mean what
you say or if you’re just trying to get a rise
out of people, like Tom or Chris, mostly Tom;
I’m no Drew Coleman, but despite the cold outside
I was hot from the ride and I took off my gear
and thought, oh, Johnny, everybody flops
and you’ll probably do it again and none
of us holds it against you.





Filed under Bicycling, Culture, Poetry, Teaching