Waking, Now Armed with Butterfly Net

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Waking, Now Armed with Butterfly Net

remiss bliss
I bid you stay
with a kiss
you fall away

eyelids flick
bringing freely
sudden death

a dirty trick
filling me
with your breath

puncturing softly
with careless resourcefulness
only to leave me
aloft in forgetfulness

in shrouds
on the brink
skewing blue

the clouds
lip-gloss pink
reclaim you

when my bed
became the very ground
that we unsheathed blissfully

now my head
empties of every grounded
word you breathed into me

with you along this alluring path
boding replay
a wonderful blunder

and now it’s your reassuring laugh
floating away
leaving me to wonder

if I ever knew its sound
from our beginning
or if that beginning
ever truly began

though I felt you near, around
my heart was grinning
as if we were ginning-up
the tides that ran

in this pale dawn I stand
matter ceasing to exist
I reach for your hand
scattering it in pastel mist

along with your forearm
elbow, dress-sleeve
your promises and charm
lukewarm reprieve

less than I was anticipating
leaving only me
cotton-candy cloud dissipating
where your heart should be

I’ve searched and retraced
our dreamy sham
you saw and embraced
me as I am

as no other had
and had I not leaned
in for more of you
could our moment have transcended
this trick of light?

I find myself glad
and sad that fate careened
into our floral view
as my tongue was apprehended
in thick of night

the sun won’t even pretend
to keep a fair score
can’t recall or comprehend
your name anymore

or if you ever had one
a dream of a life in retreat
dew drops of you rise, undone
but for a hummingbird’s heartbeat

I feel that I wrote
countless poems
dedicated to your eyes
shining only for me

repealed to remote
soundless moans
desiccated in pink skies
a pining, lonely sea

we won’t grow
from what plans remain
succumbing to sea
as bright fields
yawning bliss

I don’t know
what you stand to gain
when coming for me
as night yields
to dawn’s kiss

I must beg you, play not
with sleep so breezily
for next time you may not
get off so easily
***

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 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 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.

Day 24: Ripened

Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay 

Ripened

Never been one like my first;

scent of a mad bloom
throwing syrupy hints
dying to be eaten

royal dark sheen,
slick like a first kiss,
pristine and unbruised

firm, yet yielding to the touch,
thin skin barely containing
ripened flesh for
my mouth only

gushing at my first nibble,
flowing down hand and face

sticky-sweet in a way
of forgetting decorum

noisily slurping and smacking,
moaning as taste buds are
perfectly triggered

as the natural sugars and dopamine
hit the brain simultaneously
in a way that can only be felt as

so good I didn’t care
who saw the mess it left behind
as I rung-out the last
pulp from the pit between
palette and tongue.

But your first plum
may have been different.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 24: Today’s prompt:

Today’s prompt is a fairly simple one: to write about a particular fruit – your choice. But I’d like you to describe this fruit as closely as possible. Perhaps your poem could attempt to tell the reader some (or all!) of the following about your chosen fruit: What does it look like, how does it feel, how does it smell, what does it taste like, where did you find it, do you need to thump it to know if it’s ripe, how do you get into it (peeling, a knife, your teeth), do you need to spit out the seeds, should you bake it, can you make jam with it, do you have to fight the birds for it, when is it available, do you need a ladder to pick it, what is your favorite memory of eating it, if you threw it at someone’s head would it splatter them or knock them out, is it expensive . . . As you may have realized from this list, there’s honestly an awful lot you can write about a fruit!

Day 22: Like the Last Good Day

Image by Nel Botha from Pixabay 

Like the Last Good Day

One afternoon in your next reincarnation,
as the crow recognizes your intent
and the rainclouds run dry of metaphor;
daylight, weakened, outliving its worth
you will know the pain of sending me away
and I will disappear like the last good day
returning only when you swallow the sun
chasing the bitter-soaked roots of regret
today you will squawk and I will remain
returning to roost by your side despite you
you can deny the blue sky if you want
though you can’t see it, you know it exists
but one afternoon in your next lonesome life,
the starling will sing; you’ll hear the whispers
you’ll feel the last good day, as it lingers
but never today, for it lingers for you.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 22: Today’s prompt:

Our (optional) prompt for the day asks you to engage with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Many different cultures have proverbs or phrases that have largely the same meaning, but are expressed in different ways. For example, in English we say “his bark is worse than his bite,” but the same idea in Spanish would be stated as “the lion isn’t as fierce as his painting.” Today, I’d like to challenge you to find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem. Here’s are a few lists to help get you started: Onetwothree.

Source URL: NaPoWriMo Day 22

What I used:

From Thai translator Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut:

The idiom: ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ
Literal translation: “One afternoon in your next reincarnation.”
What it means: “It’s never gonna happen.”
Other languages this idiom exists in: A phrase that means a similar thing in English: “When pigs fly.” In French, the same idea is conveyed by the phrase, “when hens have teeth (quand les poules auront des dents).” In Russian, it’s the intriguing phrase, “When a lobster whistles on top of a mountain (Когда рак на горе свистнет).” And in Dutch, it’s “When the cows are dancing on the ice (Als de koeien op het ijs dansen).”

Source: TED Blog

This was fun! I enjoyed playing with expectations a bit with this one.

Day 18: Nutrient and Toxin

Image by author

Nutrient and Toxin

The world burns
with the worst
humanity has to offer
along with a contagion
coldly vying to
finish the job.

The country where I was born
continues its fine tradition
of ignoring its festering
generational wounds,
allowing a con man
to bankrupt its already
decaying conscience.

The new neighborhood
is full of facile smiles
too perfectly affixed
upon the only books
I’d rather not open.

The sky is heavy,
densely burdened by
the shade of sorrow
that spittles rain in mists
too fine to be noticeable
until it beads upon
fresh spring leaves
and slickens the path
enough to reflect
dreary clouds
back into us.

The tears fall from her face,
mingling internal precipitation
with external condensation;
a reflection of both
my subconscious betrayal,
and the nature of nature.

The sugary-tart sunshine
emanates from my glass of
vodka-spiked orange juice,
rendered pale by soaked,
anemic daylight spilling
into my window.

The long swig I take,
soaking in nutrient and toxin,
reminds me that I still draw breath,
and therefore there’s
always a chance to
set things right.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 18: Today’s prompt:

Our optional prompt for the day also honors the idea of Saturday (the Saturdays of the soul, perhaps?), by challenging you to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. Perhaps it’s the first sip of your morning coffee. Or finding some money in the pockets of an old jacket. Discovering a bird’s nest in a lilac bush or just looking up at the sky and watching the clouds go by.

Day 13: Surface Tensions

Photo by Afrah on Unsplash

Surface Tensions

Look, we could spin ourselves in circles
falsely claiming that you or I
drew first blood. I mean,

not one to quibble
 – it was clearly you,
though you may indeed
erroneously disagree – but
it don’t matter no more.

Sure, you had the prettiest grey eyes
I’d ever seen, and yeah,
I meant that shit, and yeah
it was corny as fuck, but well,

have you ever heard an empty cup
speak-up, looking for something
or someone to fill them
with purpose?

I didn’t think it would lead to nothing,
and was stunned when it did.

We had fun though, didn’t we?
Playing hooky some Thursdays,
laughing at shitty movies,
disappearing off the grid

into our own private world at
a different random Econo Lodge
each time looking to not form
any traceable patterns.

You had your men on the side,
and I had my whole thing going on,
but I wasn’t tripping about
what this was or where we were.

You said it first, remember?
And maybe you thought you meant it,
but at the time, I repeated it
only because I was naked and
afraid of the repercussions
of silence.

After allowing time to reflect
and to see the whole elephant,
I realized that I do care. I care.

But that’s no longer enough, is it?

And I swear to God I never knew
I’d meet someone like her
after meeting you.

She and I are just synched in ways
your sense of surface tensions
can’t possibly imagine.

What you and I had was fun, wasn’t it?

And I don’t understand a thing
about soulmates, but my mind,
heart, soul, whatever gut or
animal-instinct you can conjure;

all of them unanimously tell me
that I’d be a fool to ever let her
walk out of my life,

so… you know…

I didn’t mean to steal your joy,
but I’m dropping all pretense for her
and only her.

Do you get it?

Try to understand; remember the way
you say you felt when you fell for me?

You loved me, even as you were still
loving on those other dudes, right?
Even as you will be tomorrow, right?

Well, I met her, and everything I am
has led me to the moment where
nothing else matters except for
my pulse synching with hers.

I loved you. I did. I still do.
But I can never let her go.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 13: Today’s prompt:

There’s a pithy phrase attributed to T.S. Eliot: “Good poets borrow; great poets steal.” (He actually said something a bit different, and phrased it a bit more pompously – after all, this is T.S. Eliot we’re talking about). Nonetheless, our optional prompt for today (developed by Rachel McKibbens, who is well-known for her imaginative and inspiring prompts) plays on the idea of stealing. Today, I challenge you to write a non-apology for the things you’ve stolen. Maybe it’s something as small as your sister’s hairbrush (or maybe it was your sister’s boyfriend!) Regardless, I hope this sly prompt generates some provocative verse for you.

Oh, thank God! I was afraid that this might be one of those Erasure – found poetry prompts that I suck at find so frustrating. Thank goodness it’s just a prompt about good-old stealing! Yay for stealing!

Day 11: Fate of the Lilies

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

Fate of the Lilies

it was an Easter Sunday
she wanted the white lilies
or maybe they were tiger
or stargazers; who can say

I’m no botanist for sure
but I gifted them to her
roots in-tact for repotting

she squealed with impish delight
showering me in kisses
I fought her back, kiss for kiss

she said she loved me, then gasped
asking if that was ok

I assured her that it was
and that I loved her as well

when can I see you again
she asked between prolonged hugs
her sparkle drawing me in

as soon as we are able
I said, strengthening my grip

she blinked back tears with a wink
cramming with delicacy
her potted plant and body
into her car to depart

I’ll text you when I make it
she said with one more blown kiss
she was true to her word, but

I never saw her again

looking back, it hurts to breathe
but still, it was for the best
as we were from different worlds

I don’t know what lilies mean
but the ones I got for her
are probably long dead now.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 11: Today’s challenge – Language of Flowers:

Our optional prompt for the day is based on the concept of the language of flowers. Have you ever heard, for example, that yellow roses stand for friendship, white roses for innocence, and red roses for love? Well, there are as many potential meanings for flowers as there are flowers. The Victorians were particularly ga-ga for giving each other bouquets that were essentially decoder-rings of meaning. For today, I challenge you to write a poem in which one or more flowers take on specific meanings. And if you’re having trouble getting started, why not take a gander at this glossary of flower meanings? (You can find a plain-text version here). Feel free to make use of these existing meanings, or make up your own.

I found out retroactively that the white lily is associated with purity and is often used as a funeral flower. Also, in Buddhism, tiger lilies represent the virtues of mercy and compassion. Make of that what you will.

Stargazers symbolize lots of stuff. Google it for yourself. This blog poem about flowers is over!

Day 9: Heart-Shaped Dispensation

Photo by Robin Spielmann on Unsplash

Heart-Shaped Dispensation

                        I often                                              wonder
               who came up with                       the valentine-esque
          shape of candy hearts,      as   it resembles nothing of the
      real thing; the vascular     juggernaut seemingly balled into an
    angry fist, forcing fluids     and nutrients to their destinations, no
     thought ever given to its      alleged fragility, or odd tendencies
        for breaking upon rejection,    betrayal, or loss; still though,
            then again, upon reflection,     after experiencing each
                    of these things personally,      at the moment of
                            impact, it was my own    chest I grasped
                                  at, hoping to ease    the pain. Still,
                                           it’s an odd, silly     design,
                                                     though, but     for
                                                          now, I will
                                                              allow
                                                               it.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 9: The Challenge:

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a “concrete” poem – a poem in which the lines and words are organized to take a shape that reflects in some way the theme of the poem. This might seem like a very modernist idea, but poets have been writing concrete poems since the 1600s! Your poem can take a simple shape, like a box or ball, or maybe you’ll have fun trying something more elaborate, like this poem in the shape of a Christmas tree.

Obviously, I went with a heart shape. Perhaps less obviously, I tried to put a crack in it, but it came out rather wonky. Well, at least I tried.

(A special thank you to Maureen Thorson for featuring my Day 8 poem on her NaPoWriMo site. I’ve never been moved to write for the site traffic, but the unique hits here have gone through the roof, and I greatly appreciate all the new poets and readers visiting me. I’m a bit overwhelmed right now, but I will do my best to visit each of you as well.)