Tag Archives: poems about poetry

Regretting All This

Poetry: damn
it for its
storm versus calm,
misplaced lightning
coming down, 
metaphor over all
trench warfare way
of life.

If it weren’t
for poetry, I’d have gotten
more sleep. Maybe I
could have been happy:

a little blinder, certainly;
maybe a tad less overwhelmed
by just breathing on Earth
among all its poisons
and attacks; missing out,

of course, on how to speak
exactingly of what
another’s skin feels like
upon my own;
or of how when 
at noon during a walk I stop
to sit on a stranger’s stone wall
and imagine that the sunlight
is the kiss of some god.

Poetry: this damned art,
this curse of primary sensation
that will not let go. If I had never known
of it, I’d be different — lesser,
yes, and I would have said yes
to that; it might
have kept me safer.


Boudin Noir, Boudin Blanc

It’s not enough
to just say sausage
in a world with
boudin, andouille,

sujuk, saveloy,
bratwurst, kielbasa, 
chorizo, linguica, 
mortadella, and more;

or to speak of booze
in the presence of

arak, poitin, tiswin,
pulque, Calvados,

lager, pilsner,
Henny, MD-2020, aquavit,
absinthe, corn liquor,
and whiskies galore;

this world is built
on specifics, motes 
of savor and flavor
and all manner of tastes

pulled from local waters
and land and legend.
To condense them
only leaves you wanting;

to turn away from soft words 
toward ones with gristle
is to humble yourself
until you can sit

at rough tables
with tough people,
listen to them
speak of joy and pain,

sucking the burn
of andouille, or
debate, laughing, between
boudin noir or boudin blanc;

wash a thick meal down
with strong bock followed
by shots of schnapps or korn;
perhaps hear someone tell

of how they came from some place
where the old folks made one thing
that put all else to shame, and
hear in that a cry for a lost home;

a home where the right words
open the right doors
into where and how the world 
is made right.


The One In Which I Trust

There — a poet 
saying

soul, crystalline,
illusion, diaphanous,
eldritch, mystic,
heartstrings, crystalline
(again);

and another 
saying

justice, aggression,
oppression, supremacy,
revolution, war,
peace, justice
(again).

Over my shoulder 
the voice of one
saying

nuts, bolts, 
pencils, slipjoint pliers,
leaf-litter, lighters,
smocks, lighters
(again);

this is the one
I turn to hear,

the one
in which I trust.


Among Poets

I’ve decided not to be among poets anymore
They smell to me of anarchy and whimsy
amplified to the point of pain till it swamps truth
All their misplaced love of words over action
Their bouquets of mystery obscuring the obvious
I know some who claim poetry will save the world
much as gun nuts and organic juicers do
who make the same claim with far more evidence to go on
Poetry only changes the world as a stiff breeze does
if it moves the people to action you can say it but not till then
So a poet who tells me this or claims it or stands on that hill
is someone whose words I expect to be a hurricane
but more often than not it’s a slight breeze of ordinary
or barely a leaf lifter’s worth of language they toss 
and maybe they try and maybe they fail or maybe the world
is heavier than they ever believed but still they keep at it
as if it could matter what a poet might say
as if poets can’t die for what they might say
though they have and they will and they will once again
because people believe that old line about change
so I’ve decided not to be among poets anymore
even as I sit with a pen and plan fusillades and charges
as I sit with a pen and imagine I matter or what I do matters
I will not be among poets with their spiderweb gossip
I will not be among poets with their ardent machinery
I will not be among poets with their flagrant weak fists raised
until I can look at what I’ve done and say
I belong here beside them as weak as they are
as fragrant with idiocy and self-importance as they are
till I’m just as ready to swing in the breeze
or put my back to the wall
and go to death with them
be gone
and forgotten


No Muse

I wish I had a Muse who could do for me
what some of you claim one does for you.

Oh, I do not doubt you
when you say it; I only know

that I have been alone 
in this work. Nothing whispers in my ear

or comes to my bedside
to shake me awake in the dark

and say, “now then…now then,
here is the pen, and there is the book;

all you need do is take down
what I telling you.” Not me.

I have to scrape it up
from the desk while battling

fatigue and neuropathy. 
I have to drag it out of me

myself. I have to, have to,
have to look at every word

like a nail in my eventual
coffin or more like one

that needs pulling from a board
I need to cut to make that coffin.

If I had a Muse I could farm that out.
I could lie back and laugh

at their cruelty in the name
of art while waiting for the glory

of seeing my name alone
on the Work. Instead

I’m here between the gas bill
and the rent scratching in the dirt

to free a sprout from a seed I planted
thirty years ago and forgot to water

until now, and yet it’s coming along
pale and proto-green and maybe

if I worry enough about that and
forget the bills it might have a chance

but I’m hungry now, and angry-handed
and in pain, and money’s tight

and I’m old and this is Work
I’d love to lay off on a Muse,

but per usual I’m in this alone
and if there’s a stray Muse to be found

anywhere, I’m sure
it would offer too little and too late

for me to even bother with a summons;
back to my stubborn

scratching, worrying, and
digging in the dirt.


Regret

I adore how each word represents itself
in the congress of language.

It stands up, demands,
cajoles, thunders. It makes itself

known. I wish I’d been born
a word instead of…this.

Had I been born a word myself
instead of one enslaved to them,

I might have been more secure
when I spoke, could have gestured

at myself in many situations
and just said…”this.”

I might have been enough
had I been born a word

instead of fumbling among them,
seeking to put the best of them 

in the best order, hoping
to say something that validated me. 


Henge

You were told 
once and then again
that there are no rules
to this art and 

shortly after were scolded
about how many rules you
were breaking
They knocked you down and

made it hard to continue through
all those ghost rules that
were not to be found in one book
but were engraved instead upon the panes

of a henge of glass
Some you saw through and slipped past
while others cut you and some
were long broken but still standing

In the end you saw in them
what you needed and (as you
should do with any sacred space) you
gave of your blood and walked away

having changed it and
yourself by seeing
how the edges of the rules
were the center of the path through


Cobbler

Originally posted 2001.  Revised.

words do not come independently
to me
looking for equations to solve
or causes to exalt

instead words
work for me
like ants
in service

to something underground and distant
whose existence
is inferred
from the way the words

draw attention away from themselves
and in tandem
draw attention
toward a common end

so that
only upon reflection upon the many
do first the pattern and then the path
become clear

my trade:
make
language
over

so that to speak is
to stitch words together
and shoe meaning
with them

so that meaning and I
may walk in steady pace
across
rough ground

so when I get to where
I am bound
I can set language
aside

and set meaning free
to dip itself in cool spring water
wriggle in the grass
and be itself

this is the nature
of the way I work with words
it is not the job of a poet
it is cobbler’s work

I’ve been apprenticed to a hard master
seated at the bench each day
I must be simple before the need
and sing as I work

at each day’s end I can feel the welts raised
on my callused hands
from building these verses
I make my bed at night

knowing I have come far
knowing that
tomorrow
I will rise and set to work again

to make
language
over is
to work

as if meaning
is enough
as if work
is enough


Write A Continent

Prompted by a misreading of a Facebook field that actually said, “Write a comment.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Start with a mountain range,
or a single peak, or a ridge
on the peak, or a string
of boulders, or a single boulder,
a stone, a pebble, perhaps 
a clump of a few grains of sand.

You could do a novel on 
a few grains of sand.
Multi-volume, intertwined plots,
unresolved conflicts — get these handled
before you move up to the continental
challenges. In your lifetime
you may never get there,

and woe unto you if ever the words
“compose an ocean” swim into
your field of view. That’s how
you die unfulfilled. A recipe for 
drowning. A death sentence
you’ll never be able to appeal.


August 16

1.
Too often now I stare at a screen
and try to recall what it was like
when I could easily change blank
into not blank.

Sometimes I’d make
a good thing, more often I would not. 
However it ended, at least there was 
a result. Back then emptiness

didn’t stare at me like an adversary
the way it does now. The challenge now
is to survive, more or less, 
while fighting the whiteness of that void.

2.
Yesterday, Aretha Franklin passed.
Today daylight is still sagging
in the absence
of her possibility. 

Eighty years ago to the day
Robert Johnson passed. The moon
still hasn’t recovered all of the melody
it loaned him.  

Somewhere in between them
Elvis Presley died — same day,
different song; I know people miss him
but what song we lost that day, I can’t imagine.

3.
I’m not ready yet.  If I go tomorrow
the only song I’ll take with me
is a small one, a pebble in a shoe
shaken out after a good day walking,

forgotten once the immediate pain 
subsides. A tuneless whistle 
to get by one of life’s little discomforts.
Right now, that’s all I’ve got.

So back into the empty white I go
to blotch it up then read the portents there,
turn them into full-blown glory. I want the earth itself
to mourn me. It may not happen. I will try.


Poem Or Trigger

I’ve done many things
already today

but what I cannot apparently
do today

is pull a poem.

Once I could do that
as easily as I could once
pull a trigger. 
It might not be good —

I have been admonished
more than once
for abruptness, for

doing it too fast,
for not taking time

to breathe or aim 
as I should —

but I could do it easily
and most of the time

strike where I aimed.

Today though.
Not today.

A poem is
beyond me — 

ah, but the trigger
is simpler and more
to the point and while
it has been a long time

even scared and unsure, 
even possibly at the risk
of making things worse,

I think I have no choice.

That’s how it always is
with a poem
as well.  Right down to the 
potential for 
death resulting, but

in the face
of such a day as this,
who am I not to do
what I can.


For The Sound

Originally posted 4/25/17.  Revised.
 
You think of this work I do
(when you think of it at all)
as the opening 
of petals, or of veins,

no matter how many times
I tell you otherwise,
no matter that you know
how many years I’ve been at it.

If it were the opening of petals, 
I’d have long ago turned to fruit,
fallen to the ground, 
rooted as seed, regrown.

If it were the opening of veins?
How red would your hands be
every time you touched
one of my poems? Would you feel guilt

waiting to read
the next one?
Would you wash
your hands first?

This isn’t as easy
as simply blooming or bleeding.
It is indeed an opening
but one more like cracking a safe

or picking a lock
and then pulling 
a door
until it swings wide. 
Inside, maybe,
will be flowers, maybe 
buckets of brimful red.

You can have those.
I live for the cracking, the picking;
for the sound — my God, for the sound —
of those moving doors.

 

Arse Poetica

With one glee-drenched hand I push myself closer to the edge.
I’ve always liked to think I do better there.
No matter how wrong I am I keep pushing.
A little off balance has become my motto.
Teetering is my preferred exercise.  
A fall just confirms the risk I will take for small reward.
It makes me an artist indeed. 
A tightrope’s frayed end for a paintbrush.
A crumbling ledge a blank canvas.
A cracked pane of glass over a sixty story fall for an empty page.
I press my nose into the fractures and watch a spiderweb grow.
I stare into the rotten soil above the view of where I’ll drop.
I wriggle my toes over the unraveled line above the drooling crowd.
I reach back and put one sticky hand into the small of my own back,

bow,

and fall forward wondering if it will be at last enough
to make a masterpiece.


The Wave

While working on someone else’s work
strictly for my pocket’s improvement

I’ve been thinking all day of
cresting a deep drone tone

played on a dark electric guitar
as if it were a wave far out at sea

racing toward land overnight
across the whole of an ocean

moving toward the shore of a stage
where it will break

and alter everyone in attendance
with a drench of black sound

I don’t know how to create it
and from guilt over things undone

I’ve touched no guitar today to try and learn
But tomorrow — come tomorrow

I’ll put in less time on someone’s job
and bettering my normalcy

Instead will surf the deep ocean
riding the imperceptible wave in my ears

from origin to end to see what comes with it
from abyssal depth or strange port

as if I were a brave sailor and not
a prosaic and mundane slump of a man

worried about bills and chest pains
to the exclusion of making the music I’m here to make

along with words to ride the wave
all the way 
over the shelves of shore

into the high tide line
so everyone there gasps and says

they were glad to be present when it came
to be present for such a sound


Retail Therapy

When I am lost and disconnected
my retail therapy
is to buy a new pipe
or flask. The process
of breaking in distracts me:
do I go with bourbon or Scotch,
dense purple or loose green? At the end
I’m still lost and still disconnected
but warmer. I own a lot of flasks
and pipes, but can always add more
and that gives me something
to look forward to.

When I’m less disconnected
than enraged
my retail therapy is 
to buy a folding knife. Do I go
with assisted open or simple
old folder, liner lock or frame lock
or old school switchblade
from a disreputable source? I tell myself
it’s the workmanship that draws me, 
but I know better, you know better.
I own a lot of knives: not as many 
as I once did, but I can always buy more.

When I am lost and restless and need
to reach out on the deepest level, seeking,
my retail therapy is to buy a guitar.
I lose what little sense I have and
the last money in my pocket for the joy
of stumbling the same old chords over
the stiff strings of something new, and even if
nothing or no one answers, I try.  I struggle
toward nothing new with the same hands
that I’ve always had, I try. I own fewer guitars
than I used to, but then again, I try less, too.

When I am broke, I write. 
I don’t have to feel anything
when I write. I don’t have to 
pretend it’s going to work
this time. I don’t have to pretend
I know what “working”
even means anymore.
Is any one poem
better than a pipe,
knife or flask?  Is this keyboard
better for me than a fretboard?
I can’t say. I just know
I’m broke more than I’m not
so I have a lot of poems
and though I’ve not spent a penny for them
they still cost me plenty.