Tag Archives: surrealism

#290: Coda (Zebra Boat)


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
moat pavilion.

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.

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#183: Brain Blimp

"Brain Blimp" by Curtis Settino

“Brain Blimp” by Curtis Settino


Brain Blimp

I have painted a painting of you,
a portrait, so to speak.

I have painted your brain, or rather
I have made a painting of your brain.

It’s on the wing, so to speak.
I’ve portrayed it not as bird
but as blimp, powered by rocket box

adorned with an eyeball
and soaring above blue water
against blue sky over the loam.

You may not see the resemblance.
You may wonder why I did not
simply ask you to sit in a chair
so that I could paint your exterior,
the features of your face, with
special attention perhaps to your eyes
and the way your hair sits there
on your head
doing what hair does.

You might even be wearing a hat.

Instead, I painted what I imagine
in my mind’s rocket box eyeball,
so to speak, the part of me that sees
the part of you that can’t be seen,
the inside part, the grey matter part
where sparks fly with infinite possibility
above blue water against blue sky
over the loam, blimp-like, where
everything happens and the world
is made and remade and shaped
and reshaped.

I must confess that my
mind’s rocket box eyeball is in actual
fact represented here as the rocket
box eyeball that bears your brain
aloft, because that’s how I have
come to understand the way we
work, the way my eye rocket box
bears your mind aloft, the way, so to speak,
I have carried you and you have
thought for me through infinite
possibility above blue water against
blue sky over the loam, blimp-like.
I have painted your brain.
I have painted a painting of you

and I, too, am in it.
I’m really in it.


(This poem was performed at the Gallery 114 event, “Ekphrastasy,” at DeskHub on October 9, 2015. Seven poets responding the paintings of Rich Powers, Curtis Settino, and Jerry Wellman).

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#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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