I don’t know what any of this means.
Here’s a reference to a poem I don’t understand.
I’m quoting now a line from a poem I don’t understand.
Here’s a reference to another poem.
I’m quoting the poem now. Look, I’ve
cited the poem’s title and the name
of the poet and the line numbers and
I have even placed quotation marks
around the lines I have quoted.
I know the writer is saying something
but I don’t know what it is.
If you look closely at this phrase here,
I’m sure you will be just as confused.
If I were to sit here and study it for
about an hour I might get close, but
who has that kind of time?
And what if I did spend an hour
and at the end of it I was still lost?
That would be a total waste of 60 minutes.
This thing I’m quoting right here,
I think, is something kind of like a
metaphor, but I don’t understand it.
There, I have made six references
to the poems I don’t understand
in my essay final. I’m pretty sure
I’m done now and I am very proud
of my work.
I sit here in your classroom
and I am barely alive.
I cannot keep awake.
I fall off every few seconds
and just hope no one notices.
Mostly, no one notices.
I could probably put my head
down on my desk and drift away.
Some teachers might gently
coax me awake, others might
startle me with a ruler or a stapler
slammed down on the desk in front
of me. I don’t know what this guy
will do. I guess I’ll find out because I
am so heavy tired and the teacher
could be, like, doing an elaborate
soft shoe right now in front of me
or a stupid fucking puppet show
and I would still not be able to
keep my eyes open and awake.
I overheard a teacher once
talking to another teacher
I conclude now that I am a
mouth-breather because I
contribute nothing and
continue consuming the air,
this stale, warm, putrid air
full of adolescent sweat and
cheap perfume and hand sanitizer.
I cannot make myself
read a book or write a
paragraph or talk to anyone
about ideas and feelings.
I think everything is stupid.
And people, too, mostly stupid.
I know it’s a problem, I know
I’m not doing myself any favors,
but nothing sticks to me at all
and one failure leads to another.
Sure there are reasons. I have
my reasons, but do you think
I would tell you about them?
You go ahead and guess, guess
away, why don’t you, about my
family issues or my broken home,
my lack of good nutrition and rest
or my addiction to video games and
social media that keeps me up
until 3 am on a school night.
Yeah, you can go ahead and
guess, but you will never know.
You will never know what it’s
like to walk in these shoes.
I am persona non grata,
and, thank you very much,
I like it that way.
Today’s napowrimo suggestion is to write a poem in the point of view of a minor character in a folktale or myth. I choose neither. Because Shakespeare:
Rosaline Goes to an Old Accustomed Feast
I was on the guest list and I decided to go
even though I knew he would be there.
I wanted no awkward moments but I trusted
there would be none. I think I convinced him
that between he and I there could be no hope
of anything like an enduring relationship,
let alone the kind of fling thing
for which these boys in Verona are so keen.
I let him down as easily as I could, or rather,
I devised, I must confess, a diversionary tactic,
one against which there could be no response
or argument. I told him I have sworn
that I will still live chaste, forever celibate,
no monkey business, that soon I would be on
my way to a nunnery where the concerns
of worldly desires and the dangers of menfolk
would be far away. This was a lie. Frankly,
I’m really looking forward to the mystery dance,
but, truth be told, even though he’s pretty good
looking for a Montague, I won’t do it with him.
I just don’t like that guy. He’s flighty,
too much like a boy, his friends are creepy,
and by the looks of his behavior at the Capulet
shindig, he’d be about as faithful to a woman as a
honey bee to a single daisy. Never have I been one to gloat,
but truthfully, Paris is the man that floats my boat.
Down there in the red Root the ground is slipping.
That navel orange Sacral space is pretty much on fire and
my Solar Plexis spins like a drunken dervish on a yellow sun.
All the Heart Stuff bubbles and boils dangerously
toward destruction, comes up green in my throat and
I find myself shouting all the time. Finally, I spy
with my Third Eye something like a clearing out,
a cleansing, a purple purge of everything that’s broken.
Violent delights have violent ends and a violet Crown
now sits on my head.
The optional assignment from the napowrimo website:
Today, I challenge you to fill out, in no more than five minutes, the following “Almanac Questionnaire,” which solicits concrete details about a specific place (real or imagined). Then write a poem incorporating or based on one or more of your answers.
It took me longer than five minutes, but here’s the result:
Lord Capulet Takes an Almanac Questionaire
Weather: Unseasonably warm.
Who’s idea was it to build a fire?
It’s summer for Christ’s sake and
the room is grown too hot.
Flora: Holly, cork, oak, pine and olive groves.
Architecture: renaissance, chiefly, stone and brick.
Customs: We dance, fight in the streets,
arrange marriages for our 14 year old daughters.
Export: mostly olives and wine.
Graffiti: Down with the Montagues.
Lovers: I have seen the day when I wore
a visor and could tell a whispering tale
in a fair lady’s ear such as would please.
‘Tis gone, ’tis gone, ’tis gone.
Conspiracy: Friar Lawrence is a shifty guy.
I don’t trust him. He’s up to no good, I can tell.
Childhood dream: I wanted to be rich
like my father and his father before him
and his father before him. Having watched
siblings die, even as a child I knew that
when I became a man I wanted my
children to survive. I wanted boys.
I have one daughter and she’s been
weeping non-stop for 24 hours
about the loss of her cousin. My brother’s son has set.
Found on the street: Tybalt’s dead body, not cold yet.
I know what’s coming.
It’s happened before, as if in a loop,
in exactly the same way each time
and it never ends well.
But I’m always surprised:
the shouting in the streets,
the alarm, the subsequent chaos,
my wife charging into the fray
screaming bloody murder over
the death of nephew Tybalt.
And I’m like: what the fuck. Not again.
The prince demands an explanation
and Benvolio gives it to him in spades;
he goes on and on and on
defending that little Montague shit
and I stand there, for once,
speechless. No words.
Mercutio and Tybalt are dead
and Romeo is banishéd.
Here I am, again, picking up the pieces.
Things have fallen out, sir, so unluckily indeed.
Not much to do during act two; again
I pick up a pen and listen for my cue.
Note: Here’s a persona poem in which the speaker is aware of his author/creator and for which the writer/actor slaved all day to make the damn thing rhyme and then asked one of his fellow actors to take a picture of him as Lord Capulet. Also, this poem responds to the napowrimo optional prompt in a kind of cheater way: write a line that you are afraid to write. Well, here’s a few, but alas, they are not mine, but Daddy Cap’s instead.
Lord Capulet Speaks of the Unspeakable
What I am afraid to say
could fill a book or another play.
They say brevity is the soul of wit,
but Shakespeare didn’t know the half of it.
Or, if he did know, he left it out
and here I am alone to speak about
the unspeakable. My world is one
of obfuscation, and I am done.
Lady Capulet, my partner, my wife,
I must confess was not the love of my life
or anything like it. It’s my own fault
and this will die with me in the family vault
but, still, I have this nagging fear,
as long as we are being honest here,
that my loving wife is loving another
and worse, for shame, I suspect my brother’s
son. For this, I am in discordant tune;
Tybalt, that rat-catcher, nearly ruined
everything, my happiness and my party,
and I have been so angry that I could hardly
keep up appearances, maintain my composure,
risking a certain and most awkward exposure
when I cursed him and later introduced
him to the door. Now this Paris wants to seduce
my child, wants the hand of my daughter.
He’s a good man, I know, but no farther
can I trust him than I could throw him.
He’s rich, and while he’s a little dim
in the head, I think he’ll treat my Juliet
with as much respect as one would expect
in this time. Tybalt pissed me off to such
a degree that I must confess I was not much
paying attention to what Juliet thought of the guy.
I was thinking instead: if Tybalt were to die
it would not be so great a loss of life.
One nephew down and I’d have back my wife.
I hold her body in my arms,
dead and not dead,
my child and not my child.
I am Lord Capulet
and Kate is Juliet. In life
we are virtual strangers,
but on stage, I hold her in my arms
and under the hot stage lights
I weep for her death, or close to it.
I don’t know what killed her;
I don’t even ask. I simply speak
of her settled blood and her
stiffened joints and the ice
of her skin. And even while
I speak, I talk of not being able
to speak. Death has tied up my
tongue. I don’t know she’s not
really dead but only sleeping;
I am, as they say, in the dark.
And I remain there, in darkness, until
the end of Act V, when my child
who is not my child dies a second time,
this time for real.
I lose this stranger-daughter twice
every night, and every night
when I walk off stage for the last
time I have to work really hard
not to lose it, to remind myself
that I am in a play, that this young
girl is not really my daughter,
and that when the lights come back up,
we will experience together the final
curtain call–and that’s not a metaphor.
Barack Obama Speaks of Mirrors
What I see.
Damn, I am handsome
and my wife is beautiful
and my children–exceptional.
I am the most handsome
president in the history
of these United States
I, too, am perhaps
Did you see my spiel
at the White House
Damn, I was funny.
Michael Jarmer laughed
so hard he wept.
And that evening when I
took the chair away
from Stephen Colbert:
I absolutely killed it.
So I am handsome and funny.
But could I be the most
progressive, the most liberal
U.S. president of all time?
I very well could be that,
too. And that’s one reason why,
despite positive approval,
I have so many detractors,
ravenous detractors on the
right and far right and wing-nut
right. The other reason is because
I’m black. The irony is not
lost on me. Our nation’s
cloistered, closeted racism
rears its ugly head when
a black man becomes the
president, just as its sexism
will rear its ugly head
when we elect a woman in 2016,
and we will elect a woman in 2016.
Not that racism and sexism
had not already been rearing
their ugly heads–only now
it has become like a game
of whack-a-mole. It’s everywhere
and all at once. But here’s
another thing I might take
credit for, if I may be so bold:
we can disabuse ourselves
finally that we live in a post-racial
society. We can finally talk about race.
And we can finally talk about gender
and sexual orientation.
That’s not all me, but in large
part I take responsibilty.
Look at me. Handsome,
funny, liberal. People have
health care now. That’s me.
We are climbing out of the
largest deficit in American history.
That’s me. Job growth up. Look at me.
I’m ending wars, not starting them.
Sort of. That’s the tricky part,
and, I know, despite his almost
unfaltering admiration of my job
as president of the United States
of America, it’s the one thing
that worries Michael Jarmer
the most. I would ask him,
has there ever been a president
who, by some kind of executive
decision, has not killed people?
Jimmy Carter? Is he the only one?
I have to look myself in the
mirror each and every day
and I have to be able to say
that I have made the best
decision I could make toward
the best outcome with the
least amount of collateral
damage. Bad guys are dead.
Some good guys, unfortunately,
have also died. Let’s be specific:
noncombatants, women, children
are dead. And I did that.
I’ve sent the drones that dropped
the bombs. I see myself.
This is also a part of
what I see.