Day 18 – She Still Sees

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Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

She Still Sees

You are the Truth
locked tight in my pocket;
promise kept by my fortuity.

You linger patiently,
meeting my frailties with loyalty
pouring into my cracks.
You stay,
voice soothing my raspy song,
facing, leaning into my calm.

Your will
driving intent to fill my silent plea.
I feel this,
your tacit strain
as you heal my wounds.

You’re afraid to leave
without securing my trust
where I live on abyss’s edge.
You steadily shatter delusions
trumpeting your presence
crossing my boundaries.

But I am not here
can’t be found in the light;
cocooned twilight.
You join our hips
expanding as I contract,
filling void with familiar
you still see me where I live.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 18 prompt:

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

I wasn’t too keen on this prompt, so I tweaked it a bit. Instead of finding an unfamiliar poem/poet, I found an extremely familiar one to me. I chose a poet I admire, a frequent collaborator, and a good friend, Tre. The poem I used as a reference is titled The One I Spared. I encourage you to head over and read her exquisite work.

Yesterday, me and Wifey traveled from Whistler back home, and today I had a talk therapy session, so I’m a day behind in my poetry. Perhaps I can squeeze out another one later.

Day 10 – Vertigo(ne)

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Vertigo(ne)

The path beyond
my garden
stretches beyond
the footfalls
of stone pathways
elongating
with the passing
years where I
can no longer see
where I’ve been
and yet
the destination
remains mucked
by the mist
the morning dew
kisses me awake
and makes
breathing easier
where the words
fall forth,
making the footfalls
easier to manage
and so I travel
forward forever
knowing that soon
there will be no
destination,
no path, no
waypoint home,
and soon
not even a home;
only the words remain,
and much sooner
than later
they too will fall.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 10 prompt: “write a poem of simultaneity – in which multiple things are happing at once.” I don’t think I did it right. Meh. It will have to do. I’m tired, and I’m going to bed.

Day 9 – Of Smeared Rainbows

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Photo by Matheus Queiroz on Unsplash

Of Smeared Rainbows

The path
beyond my
unkempt garden
led me to a black
butterfly fluttering
on fearless currents,
his plain beauty
apparent
even
in morning
shade before the
first glint of rising
sunlight kissed corners of
his wings, igniting
reality
with a
firestorm
of hues.

He is hunted,
snatched from the sky,
knitter of rainbows, felled
killed in the dayglow
by the Anglo-
All-American calico
everyone knows well,
who left it smeared
on the pavement
after becoming bored
from batting the life
from the bite-sized
black body.

The dead butterfly
never even knew he was
being hunted down.

He was
probably altogether
unfamiliar with the very concept,
as he was preoccupied with
feeding on milkweed
and finding a mate.

I wish I could explain it to him.

It would probably blow his tiny mind
to know that some creatures hunt and kill,
shortening a life to extend their own.

I wonder
how he would react
to learning that
some creatures
also hunt and kill
at random
because they’re just
passing the time,
as was the case
with his chaotic,
chubby
calico assailant.

I can’t talk to butterflies,
as we haven’t yet broken
the language barrier.

I don’t know where
that breakthrough falls
on the scientific scale.

I can’t see it ranking
up there with
reversing climate change,
curing cancer, or
perfecting erection pills.

So, I won’t be talking
to butterflies
anytime soon.

I won’t try talking with
that butterfly in particular
because he’s dead.

Smeared on the pavement
by a well-fed, bored calico cat.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 9 prompt: “write a poem in which something big and something small come together.”

Day 8 – Eating the Crow

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Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Eating the Crow

The path beyond my garden rounds a bend
trending down it descends into a valley
where public servants serve and
health practitioners practice, and

I run the gauntlet of penalty lights
connecting me to society
like so many decompression locks.

The clock strikes the mark,
but still seeking a spot to park,
I am overdue,

which threatens to undo my resolve
because who can find time to shine
when one is five minutes behind?

Best to resign; forget the whole thing,
forfeit.

This wasn’t supposed to rhyme,
sloppy or otherwise.

I should quit this too,
but I didn’t quit then, and
so I won’t quit now.

I didn’t quit weeks ago,
when after staring into a void,
seeing the cosmos, but no reason
connecting me to its purpose,

nothing grounding me into
what could be construed as a place
within this chaotic nonsense,
I sought a shaman,

but only found mental health professionals
that refused to be summoned via
passive incantations;

I was compelled to actively pick up the phone,
verbally admitting my stigma to a stranger.

I did balk at this at first.
It wasn’t quitting; it was a
three-week mental break

from this mentally
counter-intuitive method
of seeking mental help.

But after picking up the phone and
admitting to the disembodied voice that
I needed someone to help me with the void,

the space between she and me and

between me and every other living thing
she scattered colored talisman on a map,
pointing me to the sacred realms nearest me.

I chose a female therapist with an
extremely therapeutic-sounding name
within five minutes of the path beyond
my garden, and so my arriving five

minutes late was actually an impressive
feat of procrastination, even for me,
and so I wanted to quit and eat the co-pay,
but I ate the crow instead, owning my tardiness.

She didn’t seem to mind, which pleased me,
proving that she was in fact
a mental health professional.

But then she wept bitterly at
the telling of my origin story,
which led me to question her
professionalism, my

tenuous place in the universe
unmoored yet again, or still.

Against my better judgment,
I liked opening to her,
so I signed up for a second session,

which I soon cancelled,

as mandated by the laws of seeking
someone to help make sense of things,
she is only available when I’m not.

But I didn’t quit and that alone was legit.

Perhaps when I’m ready to stretch myself again,
I’ll grow more.

Perhaps seeking my personal shaman
is its own medicine.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 8 prompt:

Let’s take a leaf from Shelley’s book, and write poems in which mysterious and magical things occur. Your poem could take the form of a spell, for example, or simply describe an event that can’t be understood literally. Feel free to incorporate crystal balls, fauns, lightning storms, or whatever seems fierce and free and strange. Poetry is like that (at least when you’ve been reading Shelley!) If you’re in search of inspiration, maybe you’ll find it in this poem by Louis Untermeyer, or this one by Kathleen Graber.

I liked this prompt.

Day 7 – Fork

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Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Fork

The path beyond my garden
forks at impossible angles
like the leading edge
of a switchback where I can
climb or descend,
should I choose one.

On the high path
beckons a
wood nymph;

the low path is guarded by
a cat darker than
light’s absence.

As I approach the switchback fork,
the nymph squeals with delight.

“Follow me,” she squeaks,
“into the sunlight! Ahead lies
treasures of impeccable sights!”

I take a step, but
soon paused to observe the cat,
who shrugs and licks his scrotum,
nonplussed, matter-of-fact.

“I’d go with her if I were you,”
he said between luxurious
unhurried licks.

“Down here, there is only truth
and the sad epiphanies
one can only obtain
through pain; it is the

hard-won knowledge
only attained by loss.

“This path is not for the timid.”

The nymph grabbed my hand with a jerk.
“Up here!” she cried, “on this trail,
no one grows old or dies!

“Your mom is alive and well
and rational and laughing!

“Your not-dead-from-cancer dad
is mighty proud of
all the mighty things
you never did or said, but
imagined mightily
inside your head!

“Your children aren’t disappointed
by your disengaged inertia!

“Racism, jingoism, war,
famine, pestilence don’t exist
up here!

“Follow me, and it
will all disappear,
enveloped by your will!

“What will be will only be
if only you dream it so!”

I glance back at the cat,
who just sat and shrugged.

“I won’t pretend to compete
with the little fairy up there.

“Down here, there is truth;
only the reality
of what is, and tough
conversations leading
to more sad truths.

“You may learn new things
about you that you may not like,
only to find that
you’ve always known them.

“Reckonings don’t come with good vibes.
That’s why they’re called reckonings.

“But there is knowledge
in great abundance”

It’s the same daily routine,
and I follow along,
playing my part as if guided
by some sacred ritual.

I always “let” the nymph
drag me along the high road,
not just because it’s easier,

but I could take the path
a billion times and it always
leads me somewhere new.

But upon return,
I accompany the cat
upon the low road,

knowing it always leads home.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 7 prompt:

In our interview, Kyle Dargan suggests writing out a list of all of your different layers of identity. For example, you might be a wife, a grandmother, a Philadelphian, a dental assistant, a rabid Phillies fan, a seamstress, retiree, agnostic, cancer survivor, etc.. These are all ways you could be described or lenses you could be viewed through. Now divide all of those things into lists of what makes you feel powerful and what makes you feel vulnerable. Now write a poem in which one of the identities from the first list contends or talks with an identity from the second list. This might turn out to be kind of a “heavy” exercise, emotionally, but I hope you will find the results enlightening.

Indeed, that did sound like a “heavy” exercise, and as much confessional poetry as I write, this one didn’t appeal to me too much. When I start making lists of things that I am, that list inevitably turns dark for me. I still did the prompt, though I skimmed the surface, opting not to dig much deeper.

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Day 5 – Zion, the Midnight Tree Goddess

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Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

Zion, the Midnight Tree Goddess

There is night emerging beyond our garden path standing near Zion
her branches end starvation of tidal-locked, structured souls
in her drunkenness, in her leaves, we grow old, regaling our wonder

There is night emerging beyond our garden: lavender scented foresight
in deeds defined as barren, fallen branches lie apart from her sullen trunk
night reveals, night compels gorging on unripen fruit in solitude

Last stand under stars of this cosmos. Ruminating over severed gardens
one last man demands the wooden goddess to tell him of the other souls
in the world. In gruff, even monotone, even miserly tone came her reply

Dancing the same, even, rooted hug-and-sway. She let him know that
her severed night emerged beyond our understanding, even she, Zion: to deceive them
is to be stranded among the river of stars, to intersect brooding night alone

Paralyzed by light-governed dark, synapses break like glass vessels
alone then / alone now, lonely then / lonely now
untended as broken branches.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 5 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that, like the work in Translucence, reacts both to photography and to words in a language not your own. Begin with a photograph. Now find a poem in a language you don’t know (here’s a good place to look!) Ignore any accompanying English translation (maybe cover it up, or cut-and-paste the original into a new document). Now start translating the poem into English, with the idea that the poem is actually “about” your photograph. Use the look and feel of the words in the original to guide you along as you write, while trying to describe your photograph. It will be a bit of a balancing act, but hopefully it will lead to new and beautiful (and possibly very weird) places.

Weird places indeed! That was certainly challenging (and at times frustrating), but I’m glad I stuck with it and I’m pretty chill with the result.

The poem I chose is titled, rather fittingly, A Big Bang, by Runa Svetlikova. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the actual English translation is far more optimistic than my fake one.

Day 4 – Black Thumb’s Mercy

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Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

Black Thumb’s Mercy

The path beyond my garden is knotted and
frayed at the edge where our overgrowth tumbles
onto boundaries between us and them.

No major action taken thus far by us,
the current owners, to curl back the
photosynthesized nonsense from the
well-manicured landscape of our neighbors

– that is, outside of
assassinating a few weeds

– well, wifey does that part,
as I’m fortunate enough to have
asthma’s hacking fits, and the man-child
who still honors us with rent-free company

over-promises and delivers but a
lukewarm token hack-job, earning him no pay.

Best leave killing for the pros, anyway.

No matter though, as wifey has enough
murder in her heart for thugged-out weeds,
shriveled plants that were once treasures, and
even the poor trees guilty only of being

rooted in the wrong place at the wrong time, as
she hacked down the sturdiest foliage planted
too close to home to be considered safe

– actually, for this part she mostly
hired contract killers, but she may as
well had pulled the trigger herself.

While watching from the safety of the living
room, I successfully pleaded for the life
of the largest tree landmarking the edge
of our property with the biggest spring blossoms,

the sturdiest leaves that clutter the driveway
in autumn, and – basically, it lives as
the tree wifey swears at the most.

She spared this tree because I enjoy
looking at it from our living room window.

This slob-of-a-tree and a few Rhododendron
– or Azaleas, because Christ – put a gun to my
head and I still couldn’t tell the difference

– are all that remain from what was once a
thriving botanical garden of what wifey called
ugly plants that deserved to die.

But she spared my messy-ass tree, and
kindred spirits make for good company.

I bet the neighbors miss the previous
gardeners as much as the slain garden,

especially in the back yard, where it looks
like zephyr invited squall and tornado
to a rave, leaving behind pine-needle
confetti as neighboring trees litter
their dead-weight over the fence into our
yard in the form of broken branches.

They don’t know how lucky they are to have
been planted on the other side of our fence.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 4 prompt, and I’ll just quote the prompt from the site:

Today, we challenge you to write a poem that is about something abstract – perhaps an ideal like “beauty” or “justice,” but which discusses or describes that abstraction in the form of relentlessly concrete nouns.

This was easily my favorite prompt thus far. I don’t know if my effort measures up, but I relished the challenge.

Day 2 – Laundry Room Confessions

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Photo by Romain Robe on Unsplash

Laundry Room Confessions

The path beyond the garden soon to be rented by wifey and me in new life lied before us in sun-kissed San Diego adobe pastels when I caught a soon-to-be new neighbor sizing me up behind soon-to-be briskly shuttered blinds, disrupting what I thought to be a giant bee, but in actuality, was the first time I laid eyes on a hummingbird, which scurried away from our mutual startled scenery on wing of the bluest blues and rubiest ruby plumage I had ever seen, and my heart soared with her along unfamiliar blooming scent which smelled of promise and renewal, like nature herself was settling old scores.

As for my new neighbor, her blinds did not stay shuttered during our stay, though she stayed curiously guarded and curious of my own curiosity as we shared a thought or two, subconsciously synching our laundry days in the community laundry room, a respite from separate-but-equally unrelenting realities as she hid her bruises while I just hid and pretended not to notice, which wasn’t too far a bend for someone so frequently locked inside his own head; in fact, she said she’d never seen me smile in all our contrived, randomized encounters, and she wondered aloud if I was happy. Most times, a lie would do, but in this case, I felt she deserved to know the truth about that hummingbird.

it’s raining sunbeams
warming my faith, compassion
sunburns and bruises
***

Inspired by dVerse Haibun Monday: Faith prompt, hosted by Mish. I was going to try to stick to NaPoWriMo prompts this month, but today’s Day 2 prompt challenged us to play with voice and different tenses, and I feared that folks might be sick of me always playing with tense by now. Eager to see what Day 3 has in store!

 

Day 1 – Coyote

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Photo by Joshua Wilking on Unsplash

Coyote

The path beyond my garden
slick with rain, heavy falling,
weighing all down with greying
fur of a coyote blocking my way,
challenging my journey.

His fur, saturated by rainfall,
hangs in greying tendrils,
his soaked shadow bolstering
his foreboding visage.

His yellow eyes lock onto mine,
knowing them with a
disdainful familiarity.

“You fear me,” he said,
almost wearily,
“even now, even still,
fearful they’ll know it all,

not just all the sobbing
– you’ve been a crybaby all your life,
yet you hide in plain sight – but you’re
fearful of revealing deeper shame.

“I was an uncooked shrimp
held by your father to
menace you at age five,
remember?

“You cowered from your unprepared dinner,
flummoxing and enraging your dad into
giving you something real to cry about.

“Your chest-piece was forged that day.

“Remember many years and
several armored fittings later when
I pushed you down with no one around to see?

“I recall your relief
at not having to look into
mother and brother’s eyes.

“You were glad you didn’t have to fight back.

“I don’t know how long
you’d have let me pummel you
before a child half your size
rushed in to defend your meekness.

“That’s when you rose and
gave me everything you had left,
knowing it wouldn’t be enough,
I guess it didn’t matter.

“I know your secret shame,”
said the weary coyote.

“Even now,
you would surrender
if there were no one around
to witness you quit.”

“You are a fool to think you know me,” I laughed.
“You are but a ratio of a shadow;
a trick of light and absence of color.

“It’s true I’ve always been soft and meek in a
world that’s too hard and brutal for my liking.

“But what you see in my loved one’s eyes as
pity and shame, I see as compassion and love.

“I don’t shy away from it;
I draw strength from it.

“And though my impenetrable exterior
may be a well-crafted illusion,
what lies beneath my meekness is
a ferocity I fear most.

“Yes, I would rather run away
or curl-up and take the hits,
but if they need me, then
I see things differently.”

“One day you’ll grow weary of
hiding your true self,”
snarled the coyote,
closing in on me.

“I already am, fool,” I retort.
“But this is who we are.
And now I am cold and wet.
End this foolishness,
and return to me.”

With that, the coyote leapt at me,
draping himself around my chest,
back, and shoulders.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 1 prompt: write a poem that is based on a secret shame, or a secret pleasure. Obviously, I chose the former. 

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A Cat

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Photo by Antonio Lapa on Unsplash

A Cat

On the first day of spring
a cat came to me.
Her collared tag sparkled,
reflecting glints of sunlight
from her bejeweled collar.
Regal, majestic, passive poise
was her manner of movement
and sitting stillness
– if a cat’s movement and
stillness could be considered
in such human grandiosities.
She received me just as
Grandmaster Yip Man decreed
when teaching novices
basic grappling techniques
– “Greet what arrives,
escort what leaves,
and rush upon loss of contact.”
A Wing Chun master feline,
ruler of our centerline,
razor claws, carefully
retracted while restricting
movement and momentum,
intimate dominance, fleeting
for before I made sense
of my senses, she fled.
Why she came I cannot say
– she wasn’t hungry, and
she only knew me in
the manner that all cats of
certain domestication
know their fellow humans –
and yet she came right to me
leaning into my space,
mewing a few kind words
I could only guess at
since I don’t speak cat.
Of course I mewed right back
unclear on the syntax
but knowing that only
lonely souls lean out to find
random comfort across
diverging species.
***

Shared at dVerse Poetics: Soul gazing , hosted by Paul Scribbles. Poets have contributed to this prompt here.