Sunday Morning Muse with (what else?) Poetry

I’ve kept my pledge for National Poetry Month – so far – I have written a poem-a-day, and I’ve purchased, borrowed, or swapped a book-a-day.

Among the books sitting at my desk and bedside include these. Of course, it will take more than an April to read all of them. I’ll post about another bunch next Sunday.

You Should Have Told Me That We Have Nothing Left. Jessie Tu  (Vagabond Press). I met Jessie at a writers’ workshop near Atlantic City, NJ, this January. She is from Australia, but studying in the US. I haven’t made a friend so easily in a long while. We walked the boardwalk on a cold Winter morning, ate cheese fries, and talked our hearts out.

I forgot
to

bring in the
ducks.

They froze
to death

on a Sunday
morning, right

before the
snow storm. 

I was grateful
to God, for

saving them
the agony
of my own
grey loneliness.

 

Speaking of ducks, here are a few lines from “Duck Hunting” in PIER, Janine Oshiro (Alice James Books, 2011), winner of the 2010 Kundiman Poetry Prize). 

The hunter he lives in the house beyond the trees. He lives in that
corner. Believe me. It is dark, and darkly

seen, the duck is falling.

 

I bought Lesley Wheeler‘s Book, Radioland, (Barrow Street, 2015) after following her blogs on the Poetry Blog Revival.

https://lesleywheeler.org/

I am enjoying her leaps and musicality. This one, called Abortion Radio, struck a nerve.

                                         I felt
 
something pass, I caught it, my baby. Tiny
hands, skin translucent. every stump resembles
a deer that's poised to leap. My friend just hit
a doe last night, driving home from a conference,
having missed her son's bedtime for three
nights running. Her first thought: I killed a baby

Finally, for today, these words from Elegy Owed, Bob Hicok (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). I’ve not read Hicok before, but I’m very glad to be reading this book now. These lines are from “The days are getting longer” which speaks to me not only because the days are in fact getting longer and my melancholy has lifted, slightly.

She asked


the other day how my day was,
I told her, she asked again,
as if I hadn't answered
or slept in the rumpus-room
of her womb. Do you ever look
at a crust of bread and wonder
if that's God, if the quiet
that lives there is the same hush
we become? I never do too,
but is it, and why are we dragging

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday Morning Poem

Charoset and Bitter Herbs

An amalgam of ground pecans, chopped apples,
red wine, and nutmeg
primes us to recall the taste of mortar— 

the timeworn saga of servitude and how despots’
sovereignties always hinge on slavery.
But instead, it is sweet as honey

and reminds me that all history
is gloss, and how recollection, like nostalgia,
adds false notes of harmony to bitter herbs.

You were my mortar, when I needed horseradish
to loosen tears. You float into view
and I cringe at what I did to push you away.

Sweet and bitter are bound and every year
I recant vows with sips of soured wine.
It is only myself I risk enslaving,

immersed as I am in this freedom song.
As penance, I sometimes wonder
what it was I did to deserve you.

from slight faith, MoonPath Press
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Sunday Morning Muse with Bo

 

green eyes

 

It can be hard to explain exactly why I love him so much. But I don’t have to. I know you understand. Bo is the most affectionate cat I’ve ever had, so it would be hard not to adore him. He likes to climb up on my shoulder and let me hold him like a newborn. Yesterday I told him the story of Jezebel, and he listened attentively, especially to the part when I said,  I think I love you even more. As a youngster, Jezebel was known for boxing with me and walking across the room on her hind legs. This morning Bo, who is perilously knock-kneed, danced for about 10 seconds on his hinds. Tell me cats don’t know when we’re talking to them!

 

knock kneed Bo

I put Jezzie down when I was living in Seattle and she was 19. The five years between Jezebel and Bo were lonely ones.

Jezebel

I’ve not replaced Jezebel,
who died in my arms
with a needle in her paw

years ago. On this dismal
wintry day, shag of snow
in the yard, I’m on my own.

As my last lover shut
the door, she warned,
You’ll die pet-less and unwed.

Now I live like a nun
who’s slept too many nights
in a habit of coarse cloth.

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Tuesday Morning Poem

I am not at risk

Today I am not at risk.
No one touches me now. It is my own choice. Or is it?
Was I ever at risk?
If you count the times I shot meth.
If you count all of the unprotected sex I had with guys when I was living with my             girlfriend but trying to get pregnant.
If you count all of the times I started IVs in the emergency room without wearing gloves.
If you count the six years I provided GYN care to HIV-positive women in the South Bronx.
If you count the time I got chlamydia in my eyes, since gloves don’t protect eyes.
Gloves only give the illusion of protection.
If you count all my losses, I am at risk.
I am at risk as long as there is an epidemic.
As long as people give and take viruses through acts of love or sex or healthcare or IVDU or violence.
We live in a world of illusions when we deny risk.
I live in this world.

I am at risk.

Published on 4/4/18 at HIV Here and Now-NaHIVPoWrMo

 

 

 

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Sunday Morning Muse with a Surprise about a Book

My new book, slight faith, is scheduled for release on May 1st, but today, by chance, I found that it’s already available online at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. (By chance, you say? I was inslightfiath-frontcov-withbleed fact looking for it.) This means that if someone orders it today, they could receive it before I receive my copies later next week. My publisher, Lana Ayers (MoonPath Press) released it early so that I could have it in hand for a reading on 5/5/18.

Somehow the timing has fallen into place and I will be reading on KPTZ on 5/4 and then reading with Susan Rich and Susan Landgraf on 5/5 at Anna Quinn’s Imprint Books in Port Townsend.

It all seems very sudden at this moment, but the truth is, slight faith has been a part of my life for the past 5 years, going through its paces, revision after revision, submitted and rejected, picking up some semi-finalist spots and one finalist before MoonPath accepted it for publication in August of 2016.  And then waiting and more revisions and more waiting, and finally choosing a cover and then the production back-and-forth and now, here we are.

You probably know that there are a wide range of feelings when a book leaves  the nest and flies out into the world. Fear, excitement, relief. Today, mostly I am grateful. To Lana who has been a perfect editor and who rejected it once, but encouraged me to submit it again. To early readers including my co-editors at Headmistress Press, Mary Meriam and Rita Mae Reese. To Mary, who tirelessly searched for the perfect art work for the cover. For the nice rejection from Copper Canyon Press. To editors who took the time to give me feedback (thinking here particularly of Kelli Agodon, to whom I’m grateful for so many things). And of course, to the amazing poets who wrote blurbs for it- Susan Rich, Michael Schmeltzer, and Laura Foley.

And especially, I am grateful for all the outrageously fabulous poetry out in the world today that has inspired me, and thrilled me, and kept me almost sane in this crazy world.

 

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Tuesday Morning Poem

Abiding Winter 

How we made it through another winter’s
not the question. Nor is it an answer
since one of us was left behind in winter.

In Spring, in buoyancy, you asked a question.
Cups stood their ground between us, tea and coffee.
You wished to be the answer to your question.

Then winter comes again and yet another,
a darkling season full of melancholy. The yanking
of my soul back to the gutter, that other

place where questions have no answers,
and answers only placate. It takes rafters
of steadfast faith, or mettle, to seek answers.

Truth is brutal. So much we can’t recover,
years I’ve begged for you to wait for Spring to bloom
again, living in despair beside each other, and another

stormy season while we tussle for an answer
or a coda to the sum of all of life’s bother.
I’ve learned to hold my tongue, to question
nothing. Questions are another sort of winter.

Originally published at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

 

 

 

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Sunday Morning Muse with NaPoMo on My Mind

This will be my 10th year of participating in NaPoMo. I’m joining the group I’ve published daily poems with in April for the past few years. Like most participants, I doubt if I will write a new poem each of the next 30 days, but I will try my best. My plan has always been to do it first thing in the morning. If possible, I write a couple of poem-starts, to use as ‘leftovers’ for days when nothing is forthcoming, or I don’t have the 30 minutes to write.

I’m always excited about NaPoMo because some of my best poems have been started during this lovely parallel-play with other poets. It’s also a time to encourage and support others, a time to look for the best words or the most startling line in a draft, that line that later will be the edifice for a mature poem. It’s a time to flex the poetry-writing muscles, to do the reps.

Wishing everyone who takes on the challenge a fabulous ride!!

national poetry month.jpg 

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Tuesday Morning Poem

Before World

Now the earth was formless and void,
and darkness was over the surface of the deep.  —Genesis 1:2

Birds don’t sing.
Jazz don’t swing.
Bees don’t hive.
Men don’t jive.

Life swims before it flies.
Life crawls before it leaps.

Before houses, men don’t build prisons.
Before fences, coyotes don’t kill chickens.
And then earth is partitioned.

Trees teach birds to perch.
Birds teach frogs to jump.
Frogs teach girls to skip rope.
Girls teach words to sing.

Songs sing before sin.
Sins teach women to pray.
And then prayers teach hate.

Before prayer,
Women aren’t spoils of war.
Black men don’t swing from trees.
Landmines don’t amputate boys.
Kids don’t drown in the sea.

Alternate end line: Kids aren’t shot at their desks.

Originally published in Lavender Review.

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Sunday Morning Muse with Leftover Saturday Ennui

DSCN0750“It’s Saturday.
I’m just trying
to reclaim my bearings
after
a week that divulged
how much
I need Saturday
to take my bearings back.”

All day yesterday I was feeling listless, unmoored. I’m in such a different head-space during my work week, and like everyone I know, I look terribly forward to my days ‘off’ so I can  be left alone to my own devices. But it’s not so easy; transitions rarely are.  You probably know the feeling, so much to do, not sure what to do, not comfortable relaxing with so many things that need doing, picking up book after book, starting task after task, but unable to connect and finish anything, spending too much time checking email and Facebook, nothing to show for the day. It’s almost the end of March, and I haven’t begun even thinking about the garden. I have enough leftovers in the fridge so there was no need to cook. Laundry, done. The sun was out for a couple of hours, but by the time I took a shower, the sky had clouded over. I never made it out of the house. Listless. Uncommitted. Tired. A wee bit hopeless. Perhaps it was just one of those days.

Of course, there was this: I knelt in awe of students who were out in the streets speaking truth to power, demanding an end to gun violence in their schools and communities. And I was heartbroken by it too. Wanting to be hopeful, yet wondering whether demonstrating against war in the sixties really made any difference in the long haul towards a more peaceful world.

Then, Sunday blooms with possibility. There will be breakfast, coffee with a friend, a walk, some writing.  Finding the effort, the will, the inner resources that allow me to find meaning, to move forward, to survive.  To be grateful.

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Tuesday Morning Poem

 

To a woman I might have loved

I raised my hand to my forehead, scanning—
(I don’t know what for, was it fever or despair?)

hearing my father had died, unable
to reach his body before its burial

I brought my hand to my breast, thinking
heartburn or infarction and wept for him,

for others, for all my corpses

but that was years ago, and then I hear
that yesterday you raised your hand

to your forehead and buckled, rushed
by helicopter to Harborview never knowing

(was it stroke or lost hope?)

a scribbled message that fell into my lap
from a woman I’ve never met (your friend)

said, taken off life support, but the image—
the hand, the puzzled brow, the collapse

so vivid

and how did she know to call me, you and I
(can I say we?) had only just met, and did she know

you had written a poem, sent it to me, as if
seeking my advice about poetry, until

(another hand-to-head moment) I realized it was
you, flirting, but instead of dinner or shy embrace

you are dead. Last night I dreamed our first
kiss, our last kiss, as you darkly departed.

 

Published in Whirlwind @ Lesbos, Headmistress Press 2016

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