A Contemporary Fiction

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Photo by Steve Roe on Unsplash

A Contemporary Fiction

I wanna be able to
walk away from folks
like anime characters do,
ya know? Like, not even

wasting energy
on words like
“I love you,” or
“Goodbye forever,” or, or,

or, “I never wanna see you again.”

Somewhere within that spectrum, ya know?

Because regardless of where
you fit on that scale,
you should already know it,
ya know? Where you stand…

Without me needing to spell it out to ya.

Yeah, I’d leave the scene
with an unhurried gait and
a stoic, hardboiled heroic
Hemmingway protag expression

poker-facing what lies beneath the surface
where it’s clear that I’ll cherish the bones of you
till it causes my own bones to perish,

aching at your absence
or reluctance to stare into the heart
of this shared melody with me.

But just glimpsing my
flatlined visage spin on its heel,
about-facing into
the shadow of what was

would reveal to you a context
not easily decoded by layman outsiders
who cannot hear the song
that splits me to the bone

as I am undone by the truth
that offers no solace in the fact that
sometimes love isn’t enough.

We could really lean into the cliché
and have it be a twilight summer rain
sound-tracking our final parting,

as if nature herself weeps on behalf of
eyes too composed to cry for our own loss
as our last sliver of daylight
gets doused in westward skies,

the wind billowing, blowing
long flowing garments,
disturbing locks of hair
in wild contrast to personal stillness
and economy of movement,

slowly creating distance between us
until we could scarcely hear parting words
even if we wanted to
breathe them into existence.

Ya know? Just like anime characters.
***

Where Have All the Fireflies Gone?

Where Have All the Fireflies Gone?

1
As a small child
I caught fireflies in the summer
because that was natural
for kids my age.

I’d use them as nature’s night light,
marveling at their bioluminescence,
wondering why they seemed
dimmer from my mason jar,

saddened and bewildered
by their slow death
and refusal to eat the grass
I placed in the jar for them.

To this day,
I still have no idea
if fireflies eat grass or not.

Never bothered to do the research.

2
“Hey man.
You play the hand you were dealt.”

That was my boiler-plate response
to anyone who asked about
the state of my first marriage.

It was a flippant, self-mocking
humor-of-the-remanded
simultaneously answering
nothing and everything.

Don’t know why I took
such a resigned stance
on being unhappy, lonely,
and with the wrong person.

Didn’t even try to hide
my dismissive shrug
from inside my mason jar.

I often thought that
if I reshuffled the deck,
I’d someday find the right person,
and that would fix everything.

Simply a matter of finding
the right grass to add, right?

3
Outside right now,
there is a bird singing his little heart out
at the cloud-obscured sunset.

I’m unfamiliar with the tone and cadence,
but it rings of a desolation and isolation
I haven’t heard in a long time.

Its song goes unanswered.

The ebullience of a neighbor’s deck party
partially drowns him out.

Their unnatural laughter
reminds me of a henhouse
agitated into commotion
by an invading fox.

Its cacophony
cancels-out the bird’s efforts.

He soon falls silent,
leaving only the sounds
of the fox-stirred coop,
its revelry soon extinguished by
a spontaneous late spring shower.

Nature always wins.

Now that I’m thinking about it,
I can’t recall the last time I saw a firefly.
I wonder why that is?
***

Day 30 – Spring Chant/Prayer to Persephone

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By Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) – Eric Pouhier (May 2007), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2129759

Spring Chant/Prayer to Persephone

Centerline keeper
Breath my air
Inhale, share
Mutual dreamer

Centerline keeper
Move in close
Feel repose
Outer gate-sweeper, brace you

Centerline keeper
Closer still
Overfill
Tender will-seeker

And you want this?
I know I do

Centerline keeper
Nose to ear
Hush your fear
Uncommitted leaner

Centerline keeper
Concentric girds
Say the words
Sensitive feeler, face you

And do you want this?
I know I do

Limerence
Is it
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Opening us to
Loss of contact?

Ignorance

Was it
Lonely
Opening to
Mutual attract?

Limerence
Do you want this?
Can we will this?

I can feel the sun
In the curve of your smile
And I want the day to grow longer

And I can see the fun
In the swerve of your style
And all I want to say,
You know, is to conjure

Cupid, Aphrodite, Eros,
Frigga, Hathor, Juno,
Flora, Sabine, Persephone,
And the whole damn team

And the whole damn team
Just to make you say
You share the same space
And feel the same way

Are you inspired by the way
I admire your existence?

Do you require further sway
Towards desire or assistance?

Are we both liars who display
A misfire of consistence?

Renewed, I aspire to today
Rising higher, void of distance

Limerence
Is it
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Opening us to
Loss of contact?

Is it ignorance?

Was it
Lonely
Opening to
Mutual attract?

Limerence
Do you want this?
Can we will this?

The path beyond the garden
Beyond what I thought I knew
Beyond a life filled with
Dewdrops alive with you
When I relied on a new
Love supplied by you

Beg your pardon
Beg your smile to rise higher still
A spring rain brings a tap
On my windowsill
It brings pain and sappy need
To say the words with a greater will

The season of renewal
Where the flowers grow
And the lovebirds sing
Where my heart didn’t know
What our world would bring
And the sun didn’t show
The clouds gathering

Fate may be cruel
But I’ll face it with a truth
That belies the fear
Can’t replace what a
Youthful heart supplies to steer
Our airspace closed with
A soothing baptized revere

It would be foolish to build a life
On a starry night shared in the throes
Of what we know is obsession

Is it?

And it would be a sin against nature
To win you on surface-level physics,
Playing Loki to discretion

Only
Is it?

When did this spin out of our control
And grow, filling its own chasm?

When did we spin and invent
Our enlightening phantasm?

Lonely
Was it

Formed when we were born
At the event horizon of an orgasm?

When did we spin out of control
And grow into this unwieldly thing?

When did we begin? Was it
The beginning of spring?
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 30 prompt:

…write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.

The strange and fascinating fact I used is that the fighting style Wing Chun literally translates to Spring Chant or Eternal Spring.

Sorry for the late ending. I’ve been really busting my hump at work and haven’t had much time to write. But I’ve been tinkering with this one off and on for a while.

Day 29 – Salix

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Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Salix

I know the bottom too well. The path beyond my garden, birthed:
I fear it greatly.
It is my birthright: my inheritance.

It is the formless darkness,
Its frustrating absence,
For its expanse outpaces sunlight’s nourishment.

I’ve loved in the dark.
By both touch and muscle-memory
Coarse: I burrow deeper, suckling at your earth.

Or suckling at another’s red clay, urgently,
For when a heart is formed, I follow it to fruition,
Blending, blending.

What nectar you know of that sounds so sweet?
Feel stamen’s stamina, and be healed.
Rooting in fruitless void: finding succulent flesh.

Sunrise finds us intertwined by audacity.
Clinging to sap and stem;
Elongated, deciduous, draping, reaching for more.

Flailing about, numerous cat-o-nines, self-flogged,
Beaten by breezy beauty
We stir the scent of the now: whispering wishes.

Morning light chases darkness: she lurks behind me,
Elusive in plain sight.
Her emptiness mocks me. Or compels me to seek fullness.

I am drunk. I am drunk.
And yet parched, I thirst still, knowing not what I seek.
Your dreams are not mine, yet I still drink of them.

You course through me, I whisper for more.
The breeze carries my voice
Finding nature’s comfort, some mingle with my plea.

Many are just as fearful as me
Or they inhabit their lie;
Ignoring their murmurs of soul’s torment via ripened flesh.

Seasons birth, die, rebirth.
I am rooted, and yet propelled irrevocably towards rot
Is my senescence driving my urgency?

It is the newly-formed heart I chase.
Not the intercrossed sowing
So wondrous in its embrace of fleeting fullness.

From my bones, sketch in charcoal
He cheated the abyss. His flaws, a numerous, loving greed.
He loved. He loved. He loved.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 29 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on the Plath Poetry Project’s calendar. Simply pick a poem from the calendar, and then write a poem that responds or engages with your chosen Plath poem in some way.

This one was rather intimidating. While I respect and emulate the greats like Poe, Wild, Hemmingway, Langston Hughes and even Chicago greats like Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks, I have always feared Sylvia Plath. She was a unique genius, and emulating her work is a lot like trying to describe the void. I’d much rather look away.

Anyway, the poem I chose was Elm (the April 19 entry), and as I feared, It kind of sucked me in, chewed me up, and spit me out. I didn’t even have time to write my day 30 poem.

Oh well, there’s always tomorrow…

Day 28 – Postcard in Praise of My One-Time Online Secret Girlfriend

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Postcard in Praise of My One-Time Online Secret Girlfriend

Why are you here? Why am I? Why are we? Even though we’re both evenly among our peers in our late twenties, this feels… odd. Oddly uncomfortable and weirdly familiar in keeping welcome company. You seem to be enjoying this bass-boosted noise even less than me, if that were ever a possibility. You say nothing as you gallantly support the nightclub wall with your back, your face screwed into a question mark. You’re puzzled by how different I am IRL than online. You’re with your girls and I’m with my homie, but I spot in your eyes, a symmetry. Or is it synergy? It’s a mystery, but I can see that you too wish it were just you and me. I have poor self-esteem, so I don’t take these vibes lightly when they come to be. You speak softly, drowned-out by the club cacophony, yet I feel your words settle next to me. I won’t forget how you let me hold your hand gratefully, us both grateful no one else could see.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 28 prompt: “draft a prose poem in the form/style of a postcard.”

OK, so perhaps I would need two postcards.

Day 24 – Elegy of Beloved Disputes

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View from my livingroom  window. (Ignore the trash bins and the ugly Hooptie. It’s my son’s fault they’re in the picture.) 

Elegy of Beloved Disputes

The path beyond my garden
leads to my favorite tree,
bursting with flowers that
remind me of you and

it occurs to me that
you would’ve marveled at
my sweet-scented tree if you
were still alive to smell it.

The sudden reminder of
your absence steals a breath
or two from me, and then
I laugh at the absurdity.

Asthma took your laugh
from me permanently.
It is an affliction
of the lungs, you see?

Had you lived long enough to
fill your lungs with my
beloved tree,

you’d have sided with Wifey,
demanding its removal.

I don’t like confrontation,
but I’d like to think I would
have enjoyed that argument.
***

Every morning on report card day, from kindergarten to third grade, momma would sing this song to me while I was eating my cereal. It was hilarious. It was terrifying. I fucking loved it. 

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 24 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

I’ve written elegies for both parents, and both of my grandmothers passed away last year, so I wasn’t exactly eager for this prompt. Still, I couldn’t resist the challenge of adding some hopefulness to a poem about loss. Best to keep it short though.

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 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 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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