Tag Archives: National Poetry Writing Month

#316: Chakras and Chi Balls (the Last Poem of April)

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Some people
associate a rainbow of colors with
various parts of their bodies and
they ascribe certain powers
or characteristics of their psycho-emotional
life to these various colors or energies;
Some people think you can concentrate
on a color, say, orange, and a body place,
say, your privates, and that somehow
your relationships will be more intimate,
the sex will be better, and you will
experience a kind of emotional centeredness.
And some people play with imaginary balls,
balls that contain something called Chi,
and that Chi Energy allows one to touch,
warm, or heal someone else
without laying a finger on them
or to feel their energy coming right back.
I held my imaginary Chi ball
and a couple of people moved their
hands around it and I felt pretty silly.
I just wanted to be quiet.
Or I wanted to look at a real thing,
say, my specific thinking about an
issue in my life and in the world,
or I wanted to read a poem
about dirt, or birds, you know,
something like what Mary Oliver would write,
and then just be quiet around that,
and maybe talk a little bit about it
with people who were interested in things.
And I don’t mind checking out someone
else’s energy, but I think I’d do that better
without the use of imaginary balls,
with my eyes open, looking at them,
hearing them talk, listening to their stories,
asking them good questions.
I’m not trying to debunk or
otherwise poke at anyone else’s Chi Balls
or Chakra energies, and I know it’s
wrong of me to call these things
imaginary; I just think I’m in a
different wagon, one that’s lower
to the ground, one that steers
toward the concrete, materialistic
world of stuff and things and the
myriad processes of the heart,
the brain, and all those other organs.
All my invisibles are manifested there.
Sure, it doesn’t hurt to color them up
like a rainbow, and I can imagine the
middle of my forehead as glowing
a deep purple color if I want,
but no matter how many times
I catch myself in the mirror, my
forehead is still going to be the color
of my forehead, and that eye,
the third one, has likely divided
and moved to either side of my head
where it has become ears that listen,
or it has submerged deep inside my head
where I think my thoughts and live my life.

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#315: On the Penultimate Day of April, the English Teacher in his Penultimate Year Writes a Long Rambling Poem Inspired by Sylvia Plath’s Burst of Productivity in the Months Before She Died

I’m not going anywhere,
but (having lost now both mom and dad)
I notice thoughts about mortality
enter the noggin with more frequency
these days. I’m reading, or rather,
listening to Life Reimagined, where
Barbara Bradley Hagerty argues
essentially that there is really no such
thing as a mid-life crisis for most
mid-lifers. Much of that belief is
myth, she says, and she’s beginning
to share a number of conclusions
she’s come to about how to maximize
the middle. And this, from Sylvia
Plath’s “Crossing the Water.”

Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.
Where do the black trees go that drink here?
Their shadows must cover Canada.

Rosencrantz comes to mind,
who asks, do you think death could
be like a boat? Guildenstern’s reply is
that death is the ultimate negative, that
one could not NOT be on a boat.

Rosencrantz: I’ve often not been on boats.
Guildenstern: No, what you’ve been is not on boats.

While I find these lines hilarious,
don’t ask me to explain what they mean.
I’m on deck, though, with Guildenstern.
Which brings me back to Hagerty’s
meditation on middle age, and back
to Plath, who wrote 67 poems in the last
ten months of her life, some of her best
work, I understand, though I’m no expert.
I love what I’ve read of hers, though,
and I’m sad when I think about her early
death. But she was a force, and I find
this burst of productivity at the end of
her life more inspiring than anything
else, having no reason to expect an
early demise, feeling healthy (give or
take 10 pounds and the discipline
to drink less and exercise more),
and having written 29 poems in
29 days, 315 poems over five years,
in short, I feel hopeful about my middle
and sometimes, manically inspired,
like there’s a bug or a boat or a voice
whose insistent refrain is create, create.
Make poems, make music, tell stories,
read books, walk in the woods, camp
under stars, and stop worrying about
those papers sitting on my desk right
now that need grading. Whether or not
this is in actual fact my penultimate year,
I nevertheless resist working harder
at the finish and instead continuing to
work smarter and better, to ignore the nag,
that other bug, boat, voice, cut-paper
people, those black trees casting a
shadow over all of Canada. I’d like
to go back to Canada. Live there, even.
But that, is truly, a digression.
And I don’t know how to close.
Let’s just optimistically choose
a new color and end with what
Peter Sears called poetry by corruption:

Blue lake, blue boat, three blue, true-blue people.
Why do the blue trees stop to drink here?
Their shadows, blue, sprouting their thick,
green, springtime oak leaves, shout O Canada,
because at the top, Victoria seems only like
a block or two away.

Postscript: Super cool Sylvia Plath website– https://plathpoetryproject.com

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#314: To Whom It May Concern

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To Whom It May Concern
Wherever You Are
City, State, Zip Code

Hello to Whom,

I think this may concern you. I’ve been thinking about you, lately more than usual, I guess, ever since the weather turned. There’s been a disturbance. It’s been too long. That thing people say on postcards: I wish you were here. It’s a true statement. The trees are beautiful and the water is fine. The food is super edible and you should see the horses, all the pretty horses. Goats too. And too many boats to count. Too many boats and goats. Mares eat oats and goats eat oats and little lambs. I’ve always felt sad about that. Hope you are well and that someday you return to us in your customary way–because we like your customary way. Please write. Send words. xoxoxo

Michael

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#313: The World Is Too Much All Up in Here

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I have no idea what any of this means. 

(my advance apologies to anyone serious about this stuff, and to Wordsworth)

My world card tells me
that I’ve got time in my pinky,
a king on my ring,
twenty one flip-off capacity,
death in my forefinger,
and a sun up my thumb.
But I’ve got the whole world,
as the song says,
in my hand (repeated over
and over again), literally,
inside the palm of my hand,
and some random stuff
floating around that I’ve
got no ideas about, such as
400 of something, the symbol
for pi, a dagger especially effective
at engraving question marks,
some twigs with leaves,
and most importantly,
an M that leads both north
and south, into the clouds
and down under dirt,
towards the heavens and
into hell, loud as the number 11
and pianissimo on the other end.
The world is too much all up in here,
late and soon. It’s a damn
hot potato, a sordid boon.

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#312: Senses Working Overtime

Unseasonably warm on this 26th of April, 86° in the shade, giving new meaning to “the cruelest month” moniker, and I’m biking home from work, still in work clothes, feeling myself try to crawl out of them, the sun beating down on my back as I pedal home. It’s a short ride, but long enough. My heart beats a little faster than it normally does as I pedal into the drive. I put the bike away, drink a tall glass of sparkling water with a tinge of lemon and let the dogs outside. They run in circles, bite at each other, eat sticks and clods, dig holes in the rich spring dirt, bark at nothing. She sends me a text: a picture of these blue bird feathers she found today in the sawdust, a poetry prompt, she said. Spring time carnage. I’d forgotten to tell her about yesterday’s discovery in the gravel driveway: a decapitated bird head, covered with flies, still attached to a spine four or five inches long. Nothing else left. I didn’t take a picture of that. Too small to smell the rot, but as I scoop it up with the shovel, a memory of the smell of animal death visits briefly, and I toss the thing unceremoniously into the trash. It’s difficult and kind of terrifying to imagine what must have happened while no one was looking. A neighborhood cat maybe, or those damn crows, too smart for their own good, they say. Everything blooms. Everything dies. Look at these bluebells cropping up like weeds, these pink things, these sweet, spicy lilac flowers. Smell the sawdust in your fingers as you pick through in your gloves to remove the dead bird feathers. And today, and yesterday, Wordsworth and Shelley both sang “Mutability” to my 10th graders. They understood.

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#311: Warning

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Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate
anything in this room.
This bag is not a toy.
This thing right here: do not eat.
Watch your step.
If symptoms persist,
consult your physician.
I am out of band-aids.
Men below, please don’t throw.
Slow children.
This hand sanitizer is
flammable. Think about
that for a minute.
Do not flush.
Pull only in an emergency.
Do not spray your perfume
in a crowded classroom, you idget.
Listening only occurs when
your mouth is closed.
Reading only happens when
your eyes are on the page,
and even then, sometimes not.
Sometimes Y.
Failure to listen and read
may result in abject stupidity.
Don’t tell me it wasn’t you, or
that you weren’t doing anything.
The first part is undeniably false,
the second may be true, but
that’s the whole problem.
Duck and cover.
Don’t look for hidden meaning.
There is no hidden meaning,
only meaning that you can’t see,
which is an altogether different thing.

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#310: An Elegy for the Essay in English

I read his essay out loud
the way it appeared on the page.
In about five hundred words
the student used two paragraphs,
and, beyond a single period at the end
of the first paragraph, used no
commas, no semi-colons or colons,
no dashes, no quotation marks, and
no more periods, not even at the end
of the second and last paragraph.
Leaving the placeholder from the template
where it was (in place), he titled his essay,
“The Title of Your Essay” and proceeded
to write in response to a prompt in
which he was asked to discuss
three different perspectives on
bilingualism represented by the
three different writers studied
in our unit, a unit about, you guessed it,
bilingualism. I read his paper out loud
and I did it in all seriousness,
deliberately inhibiting any impulse
to laugh out loud, because I really
did want to see if I could somehow
understand what he was trying
to say, whether or not, despite breaking
or ignoring almost every convention,
he might still have known what he
was talking about. I concluded that
he did not, and in the process of
attempting to prove otherwise,
he had killed the essay in English,
killed it in a bad way, killed it in a way
that would question the wisdom
of ever assigning another one again.
Mostly because I began to despair of
ever being able to teach a certain
number of students anything ever
about writing well. They’re too far
behind, and the interventions needed
too radical and beyond anything
we could ever offer them in the way
of meaningful help. And yet. . .

And yet my teacher heart decided
that the boy had written 500 words,
more words than he had ever
written for me before, and there was,
at least, something to celebrate in that.

 

Here’s the reading of the work the student submitted.
 

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