Tag Archives: poems about poetry

To The Friend Denying Who He Is

Stop. Stop this.
You sang the corners and more.
I heard you. Everyone did.
We know who you are.

Stop. Stop this.
We saw you watching, listening,
writing. The backs of keno tickets
know who you are.

Stop. Stop this.
That you say you never this
is proof. We all say this. The “why you start”
stops mattering once it’s who you are.

Stop this, start that,
continue or not. Being is being.
A fist, a pen, a handful of snakes and roses.
You see them the same. It’s who you are.


That Brick

I am swarmed with the absolutes
whenever I sit with this world — nothing,
nowhere, everything, everyone.

Sit, trying to see details,
trying to examine the particulars
that vanish in the wash of

outraged experience. The older I get,
the more I am drowned in absolutes,
the more I extrapolate from

that brick on the sidewalk, most likely
left over from some long-abandoned
project, kicking around here

for so long I can’t recall
its first appearance. I fantasize
it’s a leftover not of building

but of destruction, a leftover
of streetfight, revolt, of windows smashing
in defiance of landlord and overlord —

fall headlong into
nothing, nowhere,
everything, everyone

and there I am again, out in the world.
Far away from the brick on the sidewalk
in front of my house. The one

I have kicked aside for years
and never picked up. Never looked at,
not much anyway.

Never tried to build
or break a thing with it.
It’s just a prop for my immersion

in the absolutes of theory
and what I ought to be doing
with this art, this life.

I should be ashamed
that I have never
lifted that brick myself, stopping

to notice the specifics of any concrete
adhering to the sides. The discoloration,
the pitting. The weight.

I ought to have known its particulars
before deciding if it was to become
weapon or poem.



Land Mines

This work is not for the cowardly.
Everything in a room or yard could be
weaponized upon first glance;

if not, it could be a key to a room
where land mines are stored, left
carelessly armed and all over the floor

the last time you were in there.
You’ve lost limbs over this before.
It takes time to grow them back.

The growth hurts like hell itself.
Nonetheless you forget all this
the second you begin to write.


Manifesto

First principle must be
that words matter more to you than
anything: ideas are in words

and all you need to release them
is a key that opens a chest full of
right words in which to trap physicality:

truth comes out of that
even if you must lie or fantasize a little
to strengthen a listener’s sensation:

based on what words you pluck
from your breath you recreate
this world as it truly is:

a paradox of course but
that is how it works
and always has:

ideas coated in words.
Truth coated in words.
Reality coated in words: it’s

mythic work — not lies,
enhanced sensing of how words
carry all, weight beyond meaning:

truth balanced on syllables
balanced on sensation and
under all, ideas. Bedrock.


Carbonated Mouthwash

Upon waking from a dream
of being awarded the Nobel
for inventing
carbonated mouthwash

I immediately look up the possibility
that the dream was prophecy
and not a side effect of the weed
I smoked before bedtime

only to learn that not only
is the invention a done deal
it was in fact a bad idea
for what it does to teeth

Once again I’ve dreamt
of being honored for crap
Gotten my hopes soaring
over dangerous and unoriginal thoughts

and thus have replicated in this dream
and its sobering aftermath
the entirety of
my literary career

Fortunately
there’s some weed left


Heresy

Some people say they just need
the paper. The scent of a book
in hand, the weight of it,
the slight bend of the page
just shy of creasing
between their fingers as it is turned;
to me it is as if they hold the vessel
more dear than the words within.
It is as if the vase matters more
than its flowers. As if the poems within
are less real if they can not be highlighted,
scribbled on, or torn out; as if the stories
only work if they can be burned
for warmth when society comes to
its eventual end, which will come
once its artifacts are worth more
than their contents.


Never Have I Ever

I tell myself: to be read
and heard
by enough is enough.

To be read and heard
by those who wanted it
or did not know they wanted it,
those for whom it filled a need
or want,
those who then were moved
to tango their own darkness
out to sunny plazas and dance on
before all,
as well as those who instead
would then take heart at what they’d read
and at last be ready to flee
the false light they were raised in
into more comfortable shadow,
that is enough and will be enough.

Enough. Enough.
The word I keep staring into —
when will this be enough?
Will I ever be able to look back and say
that’s enough, let me stop right here
and rest and offer not another word?

Enough. Enough.
The word I keep staring into —
will this be enough
or have I already passed into bloat,
glutton with this work, so far beyond
what was needed or asked of me?

And when does the whispering stop
that it was never about them
and always about trying to convince myself
that all the things I claimed
for why and how I did this
were true and enough?

To be read and seen and heard.
To look anyone in the eye at the end.
To not need a mirror to look at myself.
To not know anymore who is looking back.
To only see the Work anytime my eyes are open
.

Enough.



I Cannot Write Those Poems

I cannot write those beloved poems,
poems of nature and love, poems on how light
takes its time on surfaces

like a beloved’s hand in leisure
stroking with pleasure over a perfect
arm or shoulder,

although I have nothing
against such poems and read them
like food, nourishment for

long days and nights without that beauty,
without what some consider
the enduring truth of the world

that exists beyond us, beyond the works
of humans, as if we are not a part of that world
when we war and kill and mourn,

as if to visit beauty is to release oneself
from seeing oneself in the pain of human life,
to absolve oneself from facing it all —

I cannot write those poems as my hand
is tethered to something else — not better
but not that, a coin-side away from that,

poems people would rather set aside
than read, poems some consider too immediate
or too enraging or worst of all too ugly

to be thought of as poems — and yet
for someone they are as good as hard bread
that can be broken open to reveal

delight within and then after being consumed
will offer strength to get to the next sunset,
the next perfect sunset, the cocked angle

of song bird on branch preparing to sing
as if the world could be created just by that although
someone had to dig the dirt to plant that tree.


Another Stumble On the Ring

A joint smoldering in the ashtray.

I’m breaking my own rule
about trying to write behind smoke.

It hardly matters other than
as a break in my routines,
my long and stubborn tradition
of disliking the way I write
when I’m smoking.

I come back to it,
usually the next morning,
look it over and moan.
Then, it’s gone.

I wonder where I’d be
if I’d ever grown to like
the looser words
I too often saw.

Tomorrow,
I will have
another chance to reject
this. Another step upon
the ring around the sun
I call my control.


The Unwelcome Poem

Not for the first time
an unwelcome poem arrives
and demands your attention.

Perhaps it is the one you’ve always avoided
about your hometown, how it’s like all others
except where it is unique, one that insists

on pushing you
toward extravagant words
you have no time or energy to spend.

Maybe it’s the one that explains
how you believe in God but fear
the response of your atheist friends

because they’ve shown no mercy
to others in the past and while you are
not at all insecure, you know how rage goes

when you are enraged, and they
have enraged you — but you’ve held back the poem
and cannot attend to it now,

because God stopped talking to you
more than an age ago and you are trying so hard
to get along without counsel.

You don’t write poems any more.
You mostly take notes for poems
which keep nudging you: your time

is running down, your energy is
trickling down, your attention is
grinding down.

Today’s poem is knocking, not for the first time.
It refuses to introduce itself. Go away,
you scream at the door. Go away, I’m done…

and just like that, it’s gone.
One day it won’t come back.
Already the gaps between its appearances

are growing
and you are forgetting
it was ever here.


Art (Mud)

Playing in noise like it’s mud,
joyful childhood mud, hard construction
even in rain mud, slog through
because home is on the other side mud.

Knee deep mud holding on to your waders;
that deep suck then rushing sound
when you pull free, almost falling on your face
with the effort.

You know you could could just go around.
You could just stop playing in mud,
give up the call of dark soaked clay
and grow up like they’ve been telling you
for years. All your friends did it — climbed up
and out and cleaned up and joined the world
of hard surfaces and silent journeys —

but that mud, that impromptu playground mud,
that naughty slop, that flying up splat landing sound
of mud being mud while you get in and get dirty?
Playing in noise like it’s mud because it is mud — earth
and water singing? You know you want in. You know
you were born for going back in with both feet.


Words And Guitar

I wrote my first poem 
when I was almost too young
and marked by that
went on to write only poems
for an entire lifetime;
that was music to me.

It was always music I sought
in words, how they butted up
to song, slope of one line into
another, beat of syllables
against my teeth and tongue.

When deep in later life
I touched my first guitar
I thought of all those poems
and as my fingers built chords
I recognized what was happening;
it was the same.

All of that is vanishing now.
The need to play is slipping
from me. I sit and think
of my dusty guitar
on the far wall. I sit
and think about the dust
on the seams of this poem.

There’s fantastic music,
clouds of it in fact,
still playing clearly 
outside somewhere;

none of it 
is meant
for me to play.


No One Writes Me Cool Letters

Experimentally yours
Charles

A letter I received yesterday
from someone I barely remember
bore this signature
I did not recall the name at first
but then it came back to me
that we’d been in college together
for two semesters before I dropped out
to pursue a life of drugs

The rest of the letter was mostly illegible
What was not was incoherent
Reeked not as much of experiment 
as of utter incompetence at language

This is something
I am somewhat of an expert at
as being a writer

qualifies you for a life
of deeply felt incompetence
perpetually chasing proficiency

Charles however
had raised this to a new level
I fell in awe before the paper
upon which was scribbled either
a recipe for pineapple-glazed sofa cushions
or a scathing critique of barber shears
or perhaps a combination
with an added sprinkle of a conspiracy theory
regarding the true origin
of blue pancake batter in a secret lab
at Fort Detrick

Charles
I whispered
you have bested me
at the game of artist inscrutability
and began to mourn

Shortly after that I realized
that the letter wasn’t meant for me
The name and address
were for the house next door
where a perfectly normal
and consistently coherent guy lives
and as always
I’d received a communication
intended for another
from the Muse
totally by accident
and in fact 
I’d just committed a crime
opening the envelope

So I did what I could
I stole as much as I could
from Charles’s letter
Grew jealous of
the perfectly normal
guy next door
Wondered how he got 
such a strange friend
Took some doctor issued drugs
and shrank
just a little more


A Plant

Grown averse to contact,
to being in the presence of.

People have always believed
me to be animal but in fact

I’m mostly plant. 
Call me stick in the mud.

More and more I just want
my own pot to bliss in.

Everyone else can just
dig my fruit and shade from

the other side of the room.
No regular need to interact, really.

If I need you, though,
I’ll need you acutely and quickly.

So: don’t go far, I think.
But don’t come close.

I’m as confused as you are
about this language I’m currrently using

in which every word’s a boomerang
coming back upon itself.

Plant, animal.
Aloof, needy.

I don’t understand it all myself
but that’s why I’m an artist: a plant

growing in a medium
without which I would die;

I’d droop, wilt, sag, fail.
And then I’d be brittle. 

So: don’t touch but give a little water,
a little sun.

You can have the fruit.
Sit by me and talk,

but no touch — offer care without
embrace. It will be

a breeze in 
my leaves.


Routines

waking up
before my father
in my father’s house
at sixty:

Sabicas playing softly 
before seven AM.

sitting upright
on a half made bed
wondering if it’s too early
to pad softly downstairs,
leave the house,
go get coffee for us both.

nearly forty years since the last time 
I slept here,
and so much has changed.

the music is not rock.
I’m not thinking about how to sneak out
to go get my car
from where I left it
at the bar.

everyone in the house is old
and fragile, in one way or another.

downstairs my father sleeps
waiting for my mother 
to come home from the hospital
and resume their routine.

somehow, 
here I am again

lonely,
worrying.

somehow,
as if I was back
at the beginning,

a new poem.