It’s 5:30 in the evening,
my son is playing video games
and my wife is napping
and I’ve poured myself a brandy
after hemming and hawing almost
all day long about what to do with myself.
I did four productive things:
I picked up a ball of cotton stuffing
from an eviscerated dog toy;
earlier, I drove cans and bottles
to the recycling center;
back home, I listened to bonus
recordings in my Kate Bush box set;
and a little while ago I swept
up a pile of dirt and dog hair,
sucked it up with the vacuum.
I’ve felt happy most of the day
despite the weather. We were
supposed to have had the winter
storm to end all winter storms,
people in grocery stores yesterday
behaving as if the world was about
to end, but today, while 30 minutes this way
or 30 minutes that way as the mallard
flies, in slightly higher elevations,
people saw 2 to 6 inches of powder
on their lawns and the roads
were made dangerous, in my
neighborhood we got next to
nothing. A flurry. A dusting.
In an hour it was gone.
I was bored. I thought about
driving to a local wine bar to
drink a beer where a former
student of mine has been
making soup and posting pictures
of his soup. I even went so far
as to put my keys in my pocket
and my notebook in the car.
I’ll write a poem by hand at
the wine bar, I thought to myself,
but it was cold and the dog
needed to go outside and my hair
was a mess and I’m unshaven and
it was getting dark so I decided against it.
I told a student of mine on
Friday who was complaining
of being bored that it’s good
to be bored, healthy to be bored.
It’s an opportunity for creativity,
I told him. He did not believe me.
So here I am proving him wrong:
instead of traveling to a wine bar
to occupy and inspire myself,
I am staying home with a brandy
and I am writing a poem about
boredom and the snow that refuses to fall.
Tag Archives: poem
It’s 5:30 in the evening,
(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.
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.
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.
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.
In a dream, a Hammer crushed
a Teacup, Seagulls flew overhead,
one, wearing a Ballet Slipper,
having lost its mate to a Shark.
I sit at a Wobbly Table, recently
crowned a third time by my
Dentist, singing the Rowboat song.
My therapist, who specializes in
dream interpretation, is sad.
He has no idea what it means.
In fact, he says, he’s worried
about me. But he takes a stab
at it, anyway, because, you know,
what the hell. Hammers, typically
symbolize a violence of some
kind, Teacups, insecurity,
Seagulls, a moment of scarcity,
Ballet slippers, a thing
for ballet slippers, Sharks, danger
lurking or the fear of it, Wobbly
tables, instability, especially
concerning furniture, Dentists,
masochistic tendencies, and the
Rowboat song, infantilism.
None of it is good and
he recommends that I check
myself in. Offers condolences.
This is when I decide to
stop seeing this particular therapist.
I trust my own interpretation:
Hammer: strength, obviously.
Teacup: intellectual sophistication, duh.
Seagulls: rising above the garbage of the world.
Ballet Slippers: a thing for ballet slippers.
Sharks: personal power and agency, of course.
Wobbly tables: a healthy, but off-kilter approach to my problems.
Dentists: the fear of Dentists. Nothing we can do about that.
Row row row your boat, gently down a stream.
Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be just fine.
Recently, I was thinking about self talk, or, literally, the act of talking out loud to oneself, and decided finally, even though I suspected it all along, that it is a necessary and healthful behavior. I mean, what’s the signature feature of Shakespeare’s soliloquies? To me, the key feature of a Shakespeare soliloquy, beyond the fact that the character is talking out loud to themselves, is honesty. And I thought to myself, and maybe I even said it out loud to myself, that if one could overhear another real human being talking to themselves, this would be one of the most intimate of experiences. It would be, for that moment, just as we can in one of Shakespeare’s soliloquies, as if we were reading someone’s mind. And then I wished that, as a child, whenever I used to overhear my mother talking to herself in the other room, that I would have listened more closely. And then I’ve been thinking a lot, because I’ve been teaching it, of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which Guidenstern says, “A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself.” Truer words were never spoken. I would amend that statement, though, by replacing “no madder” with “infinitely wiser.”
Sorry for the long preamble, but it all leads to today’s prompt from napowrimo, which is to write a dialogue poem between two of your identities, one that makes you feel powerful, and another that makes you feel vulnerable. I’ll begin with the list I made of my various identities, in no particular order.
avid music fan
And here’s the poem between the powerful and the vulnerable, essentially, between the teacher and everybody else on the above list. Maybe because it is the way I usually structure my own self talk, I’ve chosen the second person pronoun. Is this a paradox? This turned out to be more like one voice talking to the two sides, than the two sides talking to each other. A dialogue, nevertheless.
Two Sides (a Dialogue with Self)
You are doing good work
in the lives of young people.
You know, that even though
what you taught might not
stick with them forever,
how you taught will, and
more profoundly, perhaps,
how you treated them. And,
to your credit, mostly, as far
as humanly possible, you
have treated them well,
and you have presented
to them your authentic self.
That’s all very well and good,
but you also know that in your
capacity as a public servant
you have hidden away a great
deal about who you are. To a
certain extent, professionally
speaking, this is necessary, but
on the other hand, it sometimes
feels like a betrayal, doesn’t it?
Even though you know that
your politics, your philosophy,
your artistic aesthetics, interests,
your deepest beliefs and proclivities
have no place in the classroom,
you sometimes wish that they did.
But you do feel authentic there
because, again, you know that
to be authentic does not mean
that you must be all-revealing.
That guy in the classroom is
the real you, but only part of the
real you, and there’s nothing
wrong with that, is there?
No, but you still long, don’t you,
to have a place, a sphere, a community
with which you can be fully
who you are in every moment.
You doubt sometimes that this
is even a possibility.
Ah, so this is not just a struggle
in the classroom, is it?
It’s everywhere. In every sphere,
it’s a balancing act, as a husband,
a father, a friend, a member of
a community. To be known–
one of the great projects of a
conscious life, of an authentic life,
remains elusive, slippery.
But worth it, my friend.
Today, the napowrimo website challenges us to write a poem that reacts both to photography and to words in a language not our own. We are to begin with a photograph. Then we are to find a poem in a language we do not know. Ignoring any accompanying English translation, we are to then translate the poem into English, with the idea that the poem is actually “about” our photograph. On the face of it, this seemed like a super difficult task, but an intriguing one. So I gave it a try, with apologies to Xavier Roelens from Belgium, by “translating” his poem “Coda,” inspired super loosely by the photo above. Prepare yourself for some serious nonsense. I found myself a slave to making English-sounding equivalents of the words in the original language.
Coda (Zebra Boat)
The ship in raging water, zebra hoofed, named him
by the poison that overcame the obstinate rain and
cries words she puts on.
That the zebra harnesses blood & guts defies understanding.
But the shipmaster reopens, sparkles in soft oblivion, while
in the bilge, zebras, invisible, even in Homer’s ear,
ooh, contact problems in the making, have more angels
speaking, have more hair round a kitchen, up so near
islands that they might blow, soak, die in the opposing
Gross most stinkingly, the sun comes as an actor,
waking, almost a sinker, as our zebra ship
recharges herself. This damned longitude,
like a zeitgeist from on high that has never heard,
never beheld zilch, sails our boat of zebra.
The first poem
of the month
has a provocative
title, and suggests,
that Jesus was
joking. He made
us think he was
dead and then
rose again on
the third day,
the first day
of April, to
with his friends.
Most everyone was
totally fished in.
You would be.
But of course,
the day we
if we celebrate
Easter, is arbitrary
and changes every
year depending on
force in the calendar
in and of itself,
is a kind of April Fools
joke. Jesus was not
born on December
and he did not rise
from the grave on
April the first.
No one really knows
when he was born
or when he rose
from the grave–
and for this and
for a bunch of other
stuff, he has been
laughing at us
for a very long time now.