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
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!)
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. ***
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.
over time, trauma is a thief of joy two fingers of bourbon mug the mugger spring oozed into her room nonchalantly embracing us with equanimity her voice cooing we shouldn’t do this now her lips tasting of why haven’t we yet the fire in her almond eyes read mine we chose the same musk-knotted adventure music was jealous of our harmony you introduced me to Martin Gore and I didn’t get him, but through you, I did I’m jealous I missed your London punk scene and all the parts that broke you apart we were both trauma and broken things we been runnin’, done ran, till we bumped heads finding joy in tending each other’s shards I lived to cut myself open on you seducing you into seducing me say I won’t rise to meet your velvet taunt your tongue had already run us through I marked you as mine when your teeth pierced me by the thinnest skin of goddess sinew we loved, clear-eyed in the blackest of night as the box-springs sang je t’aime, je t’aime you took my life each time I surrendered only to find your dear Eeyore renewed I’ll re-steal this joy, returning to us delightful, bottled beautiful struggle thus was the elixir of our short spring ***
NaPoWriMo Day 5: “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,”developed by Jim Simmerman.The challenge is to use/do all of the list below in the same poem, or as many as possible. This was extremely challenging, but also super engaging. I kicked off my shoes, threw out the punctuation, meditated on a topic that frequents my thoughts, (I was born a dirty old man. Sorry/not sorry) and started tinkering. I fudged some of the criteria, but I honored the spirit of all twenty requirements.
Here they are:
Begin the poem with a metaphor.
Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
Use a phrase from a language other than English.
Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.
I’ve been told that way back in the 40’s our Rosenwald complex was a black pearl on Chicago’s South Side during the blues, jazz, and soul renaissance.
It sheltered greats like Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat “King” Cole, Quincy Jones – girl, I said Quincy Jones!
I think even Miles Davis and Sammy Davis Jr, but no relation, I believe.
I’ve been told that black folks in Chi strutted down gaslit 47th street, danced on smokey Michigan Boulevard, sang on King Drive, and even Wabash like they owned the night;
with a sense of pride and musicality befitting us, inseparable from the music
spilling from every throbbing tavern, and even “hole-in-the-wall” was just a teasing nickname thrown at friendly endearing faces.
If I squint, I can see gilded hallways of way back when, which reek of pungent piss now.
I observe the sheen of polish on some of the tiles not defiled by dual-pitchforked, Star-of-David Gangster-Disciple gang-sign graffiti.
Or is it Gangsta? I try to discern the artist’s penmanship from the ones in our high school instead of
meeting your desperate gaze as you kneel before me, taking my hands in yours in a shameful proposal.
Just yesterday, I’d given up on you. I’d no tears left to cry over a girl who don’t want me no more.
Now you return, on your knees, perfumed in Bacardi rum and weed you never thought to share with me.
What am I to make of this?
You didn’t even respect me enough to break up with me; you ignored my pleas until I got the message.
Now you want to rewind the clock?
Any boy with a good upbringing and a residue of self-respect
would’ve slammed that heavy security door in your face for good, chaining, deadbolting, and security-pole in place for all eternity.
Sadly, this building has seen better days, better than I can imagine.
He spurned you as you betrayed me, you humbled yourself after falling, and try as I might, I just couldn’t kick you while down on that musty-ass floor.
I lifted you from your knees, welcoming you back into my self-loathing and desperation, knowing that I could expect no better.
I walked you home around the corner, across the dusty courtyard that once held fresh, manicured grass when we first moved in.
I held your hand in mine, thinking that to love you went hand-in-hand with my needing you somehow;
that without your water, my life was empty, dead, dusty-brown, a rusted, rotten swing-set without swings;
only tetanus would remain, waiting for antitoxin or inevitable condemnation
and abandonment, twenty years from now, long after our ill-advised marriage cracked, eroded and ended; long after you
kneeled before me once again, begging me to hold up my end of our sham, a plea met with silence and emptiness, like
the decayed ruins we once called home some thirty years and two-thousand sixty-four miles ago, before its renovation into an elderly citizen’s home,
which is fitting, for all things age, slow, decay, and are eventually consumed
by silence; even music – the most beautiful, the most vibrant; – the most soulful, the most mournful is fleeting, and always ends,
making way for the next, as star becoming nebula becomes proto stars.
I hope whoever walks that hallway now smells only lavender. ***
NaPoWriMo Day 2: “…write a poem about a specific place — a particular house or store or school or office. Try to incorporate concrete details, like street names, distances (“three and a half blocks from the post office”), the types of trees or flowers, the color of the shirts on the people you remember there.”
I tried to be descriptive, but I was eventually sucked into the narrative. I may try this one again after this month’s challenge ends.