Category Archives: Poetry

#351: Earth Has Acquired a Brand New Moon That’s About the Size of a Car

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Here’s some good news for a change.
I love how the earth can acquire moons
and I hope this won’t be the last.
I’d like to see a moon the size of a bus,
a really big bus, one of those accordion
busses that bends in the middle, and
I’d like to be the first man on that moon.
I would sit towards the back
so that when the bus takes a sharp
corner, I won’t be able to see the
front of the bus, so instead I’ll just
look out the window at the earth,
the big blue marble we call the earth
and I’ll be happy to be on a moon
the size of an accordion bus.
For now I’m happy with a moon
about the size of a car and I hope
when it decides to leave its orbit
that it goes fast in the other direction–
because we need a meteor about
the size of a car like we need
a hole in the head.

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#350: The Garden of Earthly Deep Purple

A0695 DEEP PURPLE Deep Purple III (Self-Titled)

Today’s NaPoWriMo suggestion was to write a persona poem in the point of view of a character from Bosch’s famous triptych “Garden of Earthly Delights.” A great prompt idea, I think, one that I would have liked to write from. But even after I watched and listened to the interactive tour of this crazy thing on the link provided by today’s prompt, there was a childhood connection to this painting, intersected with my early love of music, that I could not shake. So the subject of the poem sort of dictated itself to me from the get-go. The following is the result, and, FYI, it is the first time in three weeks or more that I have not written about the pandemic.

The Garden of Earthly Deep Purple

For the longest time, I thought
I had imagined that, as a child,
I listened to my brother’s Deep Purple
album, the cover of which was
the Hell portion of Bosch’s
“Garden of Earthly Delights.”
The album made an impression,
the music and the art together
made an even larger impression,
perhaps the first time in my
life about which I could say
I was somewhat haunted
or moved by album cover art.
In recent years, I have
tried to find that record with
the tree man with the tavern
in his ripped open skeleton belly
and the beast sitting on the toilet
eating people and immediately
pooping them out the other end
into the sewer hole. I couldn’t
find it, and eventually,
thought that something about
my memory of this early musical
experience was faulty.

Since the last time I researched
this question, the internet has,
as technology does over time, improved.
“Deep Purple,” sometimes referred
to as “Deep Purple III,” did in fact
feature this art, art which, painted
between 1490 and 1510, apparently
in 1969, was controversial. For that
reason record stores wouldn’t carry it
or would deliberately under-stock.
The record sold poorly. Eventually,
the album would be reissued, the
Bosch art would be minimized and
placed underneath a stupid band photo
over the top of a music staff with
a transcription, perhaps, of some
music from the record, but probably
not. At any rate, this is all to say
that I listened to “Deep Purple III”
today, that I found it not entirely unpleasant,
that I found that the music, most of it,
held up pretty well after all these years,
that I relived a childhood music
memory, found it not to be false,
and that I studied Bosch’s famous
triptych closer than I have ever done,
or maybe ever would have, in my life.
.

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#349: Twenty Little Poetry Projects

I thought I would just share the instructions from the optional prompt today on the NaPoWriMo website, so folks could have some insight into the composition of today’s poem. I tried to write a line or lines inspired by each item of instruction in chronological order, rather than jumping around, in the hopes that the poem might be more cohesive or comprehensible. I think it fails on both counts. Not as easy as it looks. I chipped away at this damn thing all day and it’s pretty silly, but I gotta say–I like it. Here were the instructions:

  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 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.

 

Twenty Little Poetry Projects

Sunshine, medicine I need.
Some honey bees out back just created the world.
Breeze against the skin, greenery abounds, the birds
trill and thrum, nose the fresh cut grass, and the toothpaste
from this morning’s brushing, lingering,
the taste of yellow, lime green moss on the roof
of the noisy wood shed mouth.
Old man Bill Wheeler, as our paths crossed
on Swain Avenue, said, lovely day for a pandemic.
His name wasn’t Bill Wheeler, and it might have
been Risley Avenue, but the rest, what he said, true.
Airline travel is down, as is air pollution.
Completely, utterly, snatched. As I have said,
the Sun also rises, falls, and as I have heard others say,
you can’t have your cake and eat it, as the prickly pear
of love fights off the doves of war and  the potus slam
dunks the ball for the win! Jarm Dawg says, they
don’t call me Jarm Dawg for nothing.
We will all return in glory, not to judge the living
and the dead, but to put the school house back together.
These old teenagers will once again populate and deck the halls.
This butter has marbles in it, comprenez-vous, n’est pas?
Back to the sun, remember, whispering its sweet, warm gibberish
into skin, green things, the birds, the grass, toothpaste that
starts to taste like whiskey.

Might as well record this one for shits and giggles. That’s not part of the poem, BTW. I wondered out loud and on the page whether or not I would record any of these original things, but this one, I think, might be fun to read out loud and I hope, might be fun to listen to. Enjoy.

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#348: Don’t Do Something

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I get it.
People shut in want
to get things done,
they get all ambitious
and want to complete
the house project, write
the great American novel,
exercise themselves into
hardbodies, record a hit
record, paint their master-
piece, read 20 great books,
write poems every day.
The experts tell us
to knock that shit off.
Today I hardly know
what to do with myself
even though the list
is long of things to do,
things that need doing
and things I need to do.
And I’m trying not to feel
bad. Today, I think, I’ll
take the advice of the experts
who, in their infinite wisdom,
are trying to tell us,

Don’t do something,
just stand there.

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A Journal of the Plague Year: #15

Famous people are sick and dying. Yesterday we learned of the passing of Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne. I love that band. He was 52 years old. That makes me sad and anxious. So, among the new coronavirus developments is this understanding that you don’t have to be old to be especially vulnerable. The CDC is asking us to wear masks in public while there is, as far as I know, still a shortage of these things for medical professionals. We’re seeing some more blatantly reckless behavior from politicians, like the governor from Georgia who apparently just learned yesterday that the virus can be carried and spread by people who are asymptomatic, causing him to shut down his state three or four weeks after almost everyone else did it. There ought to be a law against that. How many people did that stupid man endanger? According to my research, about 10 million people.

As we reach the end of the fourth teacher work day in this new reality, it’s still National Poetry Month. My workday ends by trying to write a poem. It’s interesting to me that the NaPoWriMo website has said in the first three days nothing about the pandemic. Maybe that’s intentional. Writing creatively might be a way for us to take our minds off our troubling current situation. I really did try to write a poem with today’s suggestion of using a rhyme generator for inspiration. I drafted a funny little thing after collecting about 40 different rhymes for the word “butter.” But I found myself returning to A Journal of the Plague Year and writing more poetry for the pandemic. My strategy, perhaps, is to go through rather than around. Here’s my 347th blog poem, my third offering for National Poetry Month, 2020:

#347: Distance Learning

Don’t stand so close to me.
Everything we used to do with
people we should now do with
computers. We’ve had some
practice with this. Soon we’ll
be old pros, but for now,
we’re going the distance.
It’s going to be a long road
and nobody I know has a map.
Distance makes the heart
something-something but
I’m not sure I buy it.
No exertion of the legs,
Thoreau said, could bring
two minds closer together.
He may have been wrong
about that. Maybe not.
How far could you throw
a bouquet so that your lover
could catch it? I know now
one friend who is sick.
It’s not a severe case, but
she has to stay away
from her husband and they
must communicate through
a hole in the wall like
Pyramus and Thisbe
from the play Pyramus
and Thisbe
, or A Midsummer
Night’s Dream
, if you like it.
There’s a forest in that story
so deep, the distance seems
impossible. We’re in that boat.
I know there are new metaphors
right around the corner, hiding,
the little bastards. We’ll dig
them out, learning about distance,
distance learning, and in some
distant day, I am almost certain,
we’ll be able to touch each other again.

id-distance-learning

 

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A Journal of the Plague Year: #14

Today, was the third day “back to work” as a Distance Learning Public School English Teacher and the second day of National Poetry Month, April, 2020. My contact with students thus far, remotely, has been minimal. Our district has given us three days to prepare the rollout of some supplemental learning resources for our students, and then (while the tech department is delivering laptop computers to families without the technology), about ten calendar days after that to roll out Distance Learning officially, where students are not just offered optional opportunities, but are expected to proceed with their high school education via the powers of the internet, lessons, assignments, and grades all delivered remotely. Today, I offered up the first enrichment, supplemental assignment (what I like to call “extra soul credit”) to my IB Seniors: visit the NaPoWriMo website, learn some stuff about poetry, write some poems, if you want to or are able, one a day for a month! I don’t know how many takers I’ll have, but I assured them that I was doing the assignment as well, so that might motivate a couple of them. It is my general philosophy to never assign my students a task that I would not be willing to do myself. And the extra soul credit is always the best kind.

So, without further ado, today’s offering:

#346: Pandemic Shopping

I’ve taken out the Honda Fit
maybe three times in as
many weeks. I did some
curbside record store
retail therapy, and I’ve done
the pandemic shopping.
A few days ago, when there
was a break in the rain,
I walked this time
up Concord Road, crossed
McLoughlin Blvd., trudged
across the Harbor Freight
and Tools parking lot into our
neighborhood Grocery Outlet,
the bargain market, the store
a friend of ours likes to call
The Used Food Place.
That’s not fair, but
I find it really funny.
They have marked
the floors of the checkout lines
with duct tape in six-foot intervals
so that customers don’t get
too close to each other.
Everywhere else in the store:
it’s a free-for all.
They make you bag your own
stuff and that’s fine.
The clerks mostly act like
it’s just another day and
that is also fine. I bought
milk, half and half, hot dogs,
buns, and a six pack of beer.
Buoy, IPA.
Walking back home, I kept
switching the hand that carried
the heavy bag so I wouldn’t
end up with arms of uneven
lengths. And maybe while
I knew that was not a likely
consequence of favoring one
arm over the other, it felt
real, and that’s good, when
you’re pandemic shopping
and nothing else does.

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A Journal of the Plague Year: #13

Today is April 1 of the year of our pandemic, 2020, but it is also the first day of National Poetry Month, during which, over the past six years, I have celebrated by writing a poem every day for an entire month. This will be year seven in a poetry writing streak. To the best of my recollection, over the last six Aprils I have never missed a day, and if I did, I’d write two poems the next day to make sure I had a poem for every day of the month. I was hard core. Additionally, I started writing and publishing poetry here that was not written in April. I numbered all of the poems, more than anything else, to easily distinguish blog poetry from blog prose. I’ve got 344 poems here. But every once in a while I will have started a series that is also numbered–like this one you are reading right now, #13 of A Journal of the Plague Year.

I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this, among many other things, that I do not want to stop writing A Journal of the Plague Year, that I do not want to skip this year’s National Poetry Writing Month, that I do not want to write two blog entries a day, that I do not want to cause number confusion, and finally, that I’m not sure how I feel about recording video performances of my own shitty rough draft poems, not after reading Rilke and Donne and Oliver and Stafford and Piercy and Wordsworth and Rumi and Dickinson, which has become a kind of tradition in my Plague Year Journal. For readers who were especially fond of that segment, who maybe (I shudder to think) skipped ahead of all the verbiage and went straight to the video–think how disappointed they might be to find me reading, not Berryman or Bishop, but me!

For now, I have reached this truce with myself: I will combine the Plague Journal with the original poetry for April. The poem will be imbedded within or conclude the day’s journal entry. I will continue with the numbering of both pieces. Maybe, they can work nicely in tangent; maybe the poem, in and of itself, can be The Journal. Still unresolved is whether or not to continue with the video recordings. That remains to be seen. Especially now that I am officially (but remotely) back at work. The time I spent “slaving” over those video recordings may just not be available to me anymore.

As I get to the end of this long preamble, feeling surprisingly fatigued from video conference calls and trying to get my brain wrapped around my new teacher reality and writing a longish letter to my IB Literature seniors, I’m having a difficult time writing the damn poetry. Visiting the napowrimo website for some inspiration, I left feeling uninspired. I can’t write a poem today about a bird and I don’t feel like a metaphor self portrait, although I did have some minimal fun with a “synaesthetic metaphor generator” where I found the phrase “the colossal bays of escarpments.” So I started from scratch today with three completely different ideas, all shelter-in-place-for-the-pandemic related, and I landed on this one.

#345: What Our City Looks Like from Above

A photographer took drone pictures
of our city during the pandemic.
Beautiful and haunting, beautifully haunting,
there are no cars, trucks, or busses on the freeways,
there are no cars, trucks, or busses on the bridges,
you can just imagine how
the freeways and bridges no longer
stink of exhaust, which is nice,
but also terrifying, and why I’ve
been sitting at home for two and
a half weeks, only now starting to
reconnect with the life of my school,
remotely, from a safe distance,
sheltering in place,
emanating zero exhaust.

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Photo courtesy PORTLANDRONE®

 

 

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