Coyote Azure

Photo by Hugo Kemmel on Unsplash

Coyote Azure

Trailing the golden hour
everyone craves and praises,
there’s another wondrous state;

a shade of blue found
only in nature,

in latitudes nearing the poles,
nearing summer solstice,

just beyond sunset,
just before night snaps shut,

just above shadowed tree line,
when the sky reflects only
what’s needed; apology,
forgiveness, promises vowed
and kept, secrets shared

with roosting songbird and stirring frog as
coyote announces dinner to her band;

other than sunlight’s brashness,
coyote azure is the only color
that is felt and heard
more than seen.

Today is cloudless and fair,
and I look forward to
hearing this evening’s colors.
***

Quintessence: Have You Gotten Your Copy Yet?

Pardon my need to signal-boost my dear friend trE’s inaugural literary magazine. Fifteen writers contributed, including yours truly.

I’m pleased to report that trE hit her initial goal of forty-issues sold! Now she’s shooting for forty more!

A Cornered Gurl

QuintessencePhotosQuintessence Photo Collage: Issue# 1, Spring, 2020 is here. Don’t miss out!

“Quintessence” is a literary magazine to be published yearly in the Spring. The writers you see featured in this literary magazine are contributors to A Cornered Gurl and have been faithful in their support, encouragement of others, and submitting strong and poignant work to be read freely on the platform. This is the first issue.

A Cornered Gurl Presents QUINTESSENCE: A Literary Magazine of Featured Medium Writers was published on April 10, 2020 (Good Friday), and is ready for your purchase, perusal, and praise. We will take your constructive criticism and pointers too, as we intend to grow each year. I plan on keeping the published writers in each issue to a minimum of around sixteen to eighteen.

In this first issue, there are fifteen writers, including myself. The magazine has three sections: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry. It is…

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green branch and vine reach skyward
grey heavens drift indifferently
I too sit with back to nature
we all seek the unfeasible
gleaning meaning from raindrops
***

My first attempt at a Gogyohka.

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

Photo by Andrew Draper on Unsplash

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

I.
I dreamt I died today,
and this was my last poem,
which isn’t a big deal;

I have died twice before,
run-through at seventeen,
undone at twenty-eight,

Respawning’s not instant;
often years overlap
some pieces remain lost,

the burn unrelenting
as pain from phantom limb
connect me to this realm.

Vast, and marvelous, we
are no more than my dream;
reality is me.

We cling to each other,
turbulent distractions,
our skin, burdened touchstones;

massaged lies, we embrace
pleasure clawed from our truth;
we’re so very alone.

Love me without knowing,
you’ll never see the seams
that bind the shame that is.

I would taste better as
ashes upon your tongue.
Love me until the void.

II.
Nothing warned me; nothing prepared me.
There was no vocabulary
for the remnants, for when the sun
turned away, withholding all of nature.

Nothing foretold the catastrophe,
nor was it immediately known, but felt
in phases; a series of cascading
calamities leaving the world dimmer
in stages as sources of nourishment
withered and fell like so many dominoes,

and soon, I found myself face-down
on momma’s couch, immobile,
unresponsive to external pleas to eat
or demands to get my shit together.

Soon, external voices no longer registered
as loud as the absence of the one who
no longer cared if I ate or starved,
and so I fell, falling behind the
dimming event horizon, leaving
only with what I entered; ending
as I began, staring into the space
between atoms as fields dissolved
and barriers melted to nothing.

III.
Perhaps in another life,
in a reality we’ll never know
I persevered against your will
shattered your absurd barriers
and married you.

I made you happy, filled your cup,
and exposed your doubts
and the specters of my many fears
as foolhardy fairy tales.

We had a girl and fought furiously
to name her; I wanted Olivia,
you demanded something African
that I couldn’t pronounce.

We compromised, choosing Nefertari
with Olivia as her middle name and
I was a good dad.

We loved each other
and lifted each other up,
instead of yielding to fear,
spite, and desperation,

but I guess if that all came to pass,
I wouldn’t really be me,
you’d be someone else,
and our daughter, a specter;
just another fantasy
of a foolish old man.

Stare into the void long enough
and the phantoms name themselves.

IV.
We all feel that lonely, empty,
meaningless pull towards twilight
of eternal nightshade where the
unknowable hell-verse beckons
as a perverse lullaby to our
seemingly incessant suffering
and so we are compelled to seek
its finite serenade towards infinity.

We hope to name it in order
to cast it back into its bottle;

we will ourselves to defy it
by defining it for ourselves, for

to chronicle it is to vanquish
its unshakable power over us.

We scrawl the void in ink and blood
and then someone labeled it poetry.

V.
In some eastern religions,
philosophies, and fiction,
heaven and hell are recast
as reincarnation and

the void; an endless chasm.

It is said that if our souls
carry too much vile darkness
at the instant of our death,
instead of our soul’s rebirth,

the last remnants of our light
are cast into the abyss,
never to feel warmth again,
left alone in an endless

chasm of despair alone
with the dreadful comfort of
all terrible emotions
imaginable to us.

At first blush, that doesn’t sound
all that bad to me; in fact,
it sounds like a fine place where
the best poetry is forged,

but never allowed to see
the light of a brand-new day.

But on second thought, perhaps
eternal life in darkness
as death’s greatest unshared poems
really is a hellish fate

to avoid at all cost.
***

Day 30: Observations from a Past May Day

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

Observations from a Past May Day

Shattered glass,
streets littered with trash,
defiant fists raised,
“peace-keepers” overwhelmed.

You can only push
cornered, hopeless folks so far
before they push back.

Tomorrow, streets will be cleaned,
windows boarded and replaced,
shops will reopen,

life will continue
as if the raspy cries
for fair wages and trades
had never happened.

The pulse of cosmopolitan life
requires each person
to know their place in the world
and do their part,

but what of those who
wholeheartedly reject the
collective vision?

They’re dismissed as crazy
until they begin to wake others.

Then they are swept away.

Next comes more broken glass,
sometimes on May Day, and
often on any random day
after disruptive, “crazy”
voices are silenced, but

that’s easily swept away too.

Pay those crazy, cornered,
fist-pumping folks no mind.

Tomorrow the stores will open on-time.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 30: Today’s prompt:

And last, but not least, our final (optional) prompt! In some past years, I’ve challenged you to write a poem of farewell for our thirtieth day, but this year, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something that returns. For, just as the swallows come back to Capistrano each year, NaPoWriMo and GloPoWriMo will ride again!

Sorry to end NaPoWriMo on such a dismal note. I could’ve gone with some type of spring renewal, but I guess I wasn’t there.

I was just sitting here thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely (and rightfully) squash the May Day protests tomorrow, but our US (and nearly global) capitalist economy is just chompin’ at the bit to throw our sick, broken bodies back into the churn, risk-assessment be damned. I hear talk of rushing to get “back to normal”, and it just makes me wonder, normal in relation to what, exactly?

Thanks for hanging with me this month. I’ll see you back here next year, but until then, feel free to hang out and read my infrequent poetry postings.

Day 29: No Pets

Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

No Pets

What can I say, Wolf?
I’ve never owned any pets.
Too much overhead, too much work,

oh, and also because of slavery.

Yes Wolf; I mentioned pet ownership
and slavery in the same breath,
but it’s not like you’re gonna call me on it;
you’re just a dumb dog,

one that’s been dead
for nearly thirty years.

But fine, I remember those soulful eyes,
so I’ll try to explain it.

There’s something to be said of those
unlucky in birth who persevere
against all odds
to overthrow their oppressors in triumph.

Americans especially love these
underdog stories,
as our recorded history is full of them.

But what of the other stories?

With Tubman, Douglass, and The Amistad
as outliers of four-hundred years of
mostly humdrum,
garden-variety slavery,
with all the standard rape, abuse, and
outright murdering of slaves too stupid
to mask their intelligence,

how many stories of the voiceless do we know?

It’s weird, Wolf. You were a dog – a beautiful
German Shepherd/Doberman Pinscher mix

 – but when I think of all the voiceless slaves
who were born and died in
unconscionable suffering,
I think of you.

To be honest, Wolf,
I haven’t thought of you in ages,
and that’s a shame, but

the less remembered
of your tragic life and death,
the better for me.

Or perhaps not; after all,
I’ve left your memory as it were, untamed,
but there it sits upon my return,
waiting patiently
only for me.

What if my sidestepping your legacy
is but one more injustice for you?

Our lives were intertwined for so long,
with much of the trauma descendent
directly from my ancestors in bondage.

You weren’t even my damn dog,
but I was your reluctant caretaker,
and there’s nothing poetic about
feeding you and cleaning up your shit,
but I felt your loyalty
and your agony in-kind.

Wolf, you were an idiot of a dog,
raised on ignorance and cruelty,
and yet you were still sweet and loyal.

I’d given up on hiding grandma’s tools
of discipline, as she’d just find herself
a sturdier switch to snap on ya,

but I taught you to sit using head-rubs
instead of grandma’s rubber hose;
you were always a good boy.

I wish I had told you that more.

I remember you having the audacity
to demand more head-rubs from me,
swatting at my hand with your paw
like Bunky the cat taught you,
and I happily gave them to you.

I wish I’d given you all the head-rubs.

But I’d graduated the basement
and fled to the Navy,
making the cut despite the odds.

I heard of your fate secondhand,
and I wept real tears over a freaking dog
that I didn’t even own

who lived his entire existence
chained to a waterpipe
in a half-finished basement,

life snuffed-out, most likely,
by someone well-known and trusted.

Can you imagine that?  

Anyway, yeah,
I’ve never cared for any pets.

Too much overhead,
too much work,
just too much.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 29: Today’s prompt:

And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.

If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse. For inspiration, I direct you to a selection from an 18th-century poem by Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno, in which the poet’s praise for his cat ranges from “For he is docile and can learn certain things” all the way up to “For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.” Personally, I’m lucky if my cat doesn’t just sleep the day away, but I find her pretty delightful all the same.

This was painful to write, and I nearly scrapped the whole thing. I kept trying to walk away from it, but it kept calling me back.

It’s unpolished, and I won’t be revisiting it at all, but Wolf deserves to have his story told.

Day 28: Figment

Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

Figment

The shining city
on the horizon is not
actually there.

It is much lower,
and cannot be seen from here
with the naked eye.

What’s visible is
a mirage; a refraction;
trickery of light.

Theoretically, it exists,
though where you think it is,
there is nothing tangible.

In the beginning,
I had nothing,
but it was all mine.

No room to call my own,
but I owned every room
in momma’s universe.

The space we called home
coalesced from a hazy shade of blue,
brightening at the boundaries,
basement half-windows facing south,
allowing indirect light.

In the mornings and afternoons,
the TV was mine to visit Sesame Street,
Mr. Rogers, Mickey’s Club,
until evening, when dad returned
from some place called work.

We played until it was time to be silent;
I asked questions until the answers dried-up;
I cowered from the silent shadows
until the birds sang-in the blue again.

Sometimes momma kissed dad goodbye;
sometimes the silence between them
needed the icy space of January air
to thaw again; but either way,

the space was mine again
to build, to ponder,
to question.

In the beginning I had nothing,
but it gleamed along the margins,
and it was everything to me.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Today’s Prompt:

Today’s (optional) prompt is brought to us by the Emily Dickinson Museum. First, read this brief reminiscence of Emily Dickinson, written by her niece. And now, here is the prompt that the museum suggests:

Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.

I went back to my earliest memory, when I was 3-4yrs old, and possessed neither a room of my own, nor the very concept of a room of my own. I did have tons of questions though, just as I do now.

Edited: Shared with dVerse OLN.

Day 27: Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

This thing is defective.

It fails to connect,
except that when it does,
it will burn itself out.

But it almost never does.

The camouflage is
impregnable to a fault;
if worn for too long,
crisis of identity will occur.

The bubble is beautiful,
if its theory is explained,
which it never is.

It protects by deflection,
gestating its own physics,
lighter than oxygen,
sturdier than steel,

ridicule-resistant,
but nonexistent
once integrity
is compromised.

This could lead to a
cascading failure
and frozen self-reflection.

The external shielding
and internal barriers
can become polarized, and
is susceptible to both

self-aggrandizement
and self-loathing
meeting incidentally,
annihilating everything.

At this critical point,
mixing with alcohol
and cannabis products
is not recommended

but it is most likely
inevitable.

Overall, all it’s really good for
is writing poetry,
cracking mean-spirited jokes,
overanalyzing its passions and joys,
and waiting for death.

Retention recommended,
but only for the jokes.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Today’s prompt:

And now for our (optional) prompt. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)

Well that was easy…

Day 26: Sculpting You

Image by Nadine Doerlé from Pixabay 

Sculpting You

I run my hands across your marble,
molding you into a goddess to worship,
cupping your curves in a familiar pattern;

suddenly, through repetition,
derivation of muscle-memory
we both know the way your lines end,

so I blend charcoal
and the ashes of Nefertari
to color your purity,

but your smile tells me
that the sun has shined for both
the old and new goddesses;
divine birth and rebirth;
unblemished, and golden-kissed.

You whisper the mantra
already breathed into life countless times
before, by you and then I, folded,
and then refolded upon we
and suddenly, I am unfit to carry on.

Your familiarity reaches out
beyond the common monolithic
colorless slab as if to say,

“I know you know. We are
already well-acquainted. But
will you start again, anyway?”

I smile to myself,
molding your rounded flesh,
flexing densely-knotted muscle fibers
into a slightly different direction,
knowing that you already know
that I will.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 26: Today’s prompt:

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). This is one that we’ve used before, but one test of a  good prompt is that you can come back to it! For this prompt, you will need to fill out, in five minutes or less, the following “Almanac Questionnaire.” Then, use your responses as to basis for a poem.

I tinkered with this prompt for about thirty minutes after answering the questionnaire (My answers listed below) before completely abandoning the prompt. The prompt itself is fine, but I began to experience Deja-vu, as if I were just retreading old thoughts, writing the same themes, and feeling rather stagnant and unoriginal.

At that point, I stopped, and gave myself permission to start again, independent of the prompt. The result still feels like themes I’ve covered before, but it also gave me an unbound sense of expression, so I went with it.

Maybe I’ll return another day to tinker with my answers to the Almanac Questionnaire.

Almanac Questionnaire

Weather: overcast, calm
Flora: evergreen, fir, new green, apple blossoms
Architecture: twenty-first century modern residence
Customs: America first, hoard the most nuts
Mammals/reptiles/fish: deer, bunnies, coyotes
Childhood dream: play halfback for the Bears
Found on the Street: nothing substantial
Export: thoughts, prayers, comedy
Graffiti: none
Lover: strong, confident, vulnerable
Conspiracy: only a genius could fake such stupidity
Dress: aggressively casual
Hometown memory: Bulls winning the 91 NBA Championship
Notable person: Kendrick Lamar
Outside your window, you find: air and water
Today’s news headline: tedious and depressing, as usual
Scrap from a letter: “You will not have this day…” (Seriously, Who has written a letter recently? I went with Chancellor Gowron’s last words after Worf, son of Mogh killed him in one-on-one armed combat during the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Yes, I’m a nerd.)
Animal from a myth: Pegasus
Story read to children at night: Go the Fuck to Sleep
You walk three minutes down an alley and you find: the scene of my mugging
You walk to the border and hear: slander, hearsay, and tribalism
What you fear: spiders, exotic insects, tribalism
Picture on your city’s postcard: A curtain being drawn beyond the Magnificent Mile, revealing the quiet suffering of its forgotten citizens. 

Day 25: Starting Back at One

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay 

Starting Back at One

There is a madness, a quickening, a voice
saying things one feels to be true, but
doesn’t want to hear, and so we stop and
shutter the door to beginning, living
in a state of non-living, but waiting for
death as if it were the next bus out of the
slum of existence, and so maybe the voice
should be revisited and heard to see where
it leads, and so we settle into the sound
even though we know it as a figment of
an active ego we’re vying to wrestle
control from, even if for just a moment
and the only sound observed should resonate
from the pulse, the heartbeat, the controlled breathing
of one who is close to oneness, for the voice
is just an awakening of noisy mind
being disciplined into silence as our
eyelids lower and the body sinks into
the chair and then the ground and then the softness
of cosmic fabric, and for the briefest of
moments it is felt, the connection we so
secretly crave has been there all along, for
you and I are now linked to everything
and everyone that has ever lived and who
will come after we are dust, and thusly, the
voice is silenced for a moment as water
becomes what is it shaped to become, just as
you and I have become water and the spring
season beckons a sliver of all seasons,
the pollen that tickles the nose coming from
a breeze that was the dying breath of artic  
jet-streams thousands of miles ago, roused by a
global spin and the sun’s disparate heating
of the sky; it is all connected as we
are unified by the breath of life, so when
I yield to you, I’m yielding to us, and once
bowed and humbled, you will see the good earth
and know that it is both ours and no one’s.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Today’s prompt:

Because it’s a Saturday, I have an (optional) prompt for you that takes a little time to work through — although you can certainly take short-cuts through it, if you like! The prompt, which you can find in its entirety here, was  developed by the poet and teacher Hoa Nguyen, asks you to use a long poem by James Schuyler as a guidepost for your poem. (You may remember James Schuyler from our poetry resource for Day 2.) This is a prompt that allows you to sink deeply into another poet’s work, as well as your own.

I included a bit of a shortcut to this prompt. While I found the poetry of James Schuyler to be amazing and engaging, listening to the speaker read it was a bit grating and took me out of it. Instead, I read it myself while playing a live Tibetan meditation music channel from YouTube. Midway through reading, I broke-off and began crafting my own poem based on how I felt in the moment, paying no heed to the other steps.

I think I did pretty ok. I certainly felt better allowing for a stream of consciousness and getting out of its way a bit before returning to shape it a bit. It was an intriguing experience and helped to center me a bit.