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 16 – Mindfulness as an Exercise, or Something, Hell, I Dunno, Ah Fuck It

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Sunset in British Columbia, just south of Whistler.

Mindfulness as an Exercise, or Something, Hell, I Dunno, Ah Fuck It

Step number one.
Be your best self.

Right now!

Oh?
You weren’t your best self
at the first stanza?

No worries.
Just be your best self
right… NOW!

Good!
Excellent work!

Now…
just keep on being your best…
ah shit,

you’re not
your best self anymore.

No worries!
Just be your best self… right-
no, no, no, no…

now you’re worse than before
when you were at your best.

Get out of your own head,
it’s a fucking house of horrors in there!

OK, OK,
let’s level-set…

All right…
starting over…
So…

No worries, though!

The most important thing
is for you to be your best self
right…
no, no…
fuck later!

FUCK later,
fuck later like
you’re fresh out of prison!

(Easy, you randy bastard.)

Let’s just not get too
wrapped-up in later, OK?

Later is only for fucking.

The most important thing
is to be
your best self
riiiiiiiiight….

NOW!

Perfect!
No, not perfect,
but it was your BEST!

And it happened at
THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT!

You starting to pick-up
what I’m laying down, homie?

Dammit, I’m NOT patronizing!

All I ask is that you be
your best self right now.

It’s all relative;
your best could be dogshit,
but it doesn’t matter
as long as it is the
absolute best
you can ever be

right fucking now.

Professor X called it
that space between
serenity and rage.

In most anime,
the mentor tells the hero
to just yell a lot
until he starts glowing
and his hair changes color.

I won’t pretend to know
what these things are about,

But as they needed to practice
their serenity-raging,
yell-glowing, and hair-dying,

you need to practice
step number one so you can
call on it whenever you need.

OK, on to step number two.
You ready for this one?

It’s a real doozy.

OK, here it goes:

Not every poem
needs to start
with a view of the path
beyond your garden, OK?

If that’s your best self,
I ain’t mad at ya,
but maybe try a few new tricks,
see where they lead.

If they lead back to your garden,
then so be it.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 16 prompt:

…write a poem that prominently features the idea of play. It could be a poem about a sport or game, a poem about people who play (or are playing a game), or even a poem in the form of the rules for a sport or game that you’ve just made up (sort of like Calvinball).

Since I’m already punchy and sleep-deprived, this is the perfect time to make some rules while breaking some rules.

Day 12 – Town of Green Giants

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Town of Green Giants

The path beyond the garden hidden among evergreen titans rises and falls on gentle sloping hills that seem to roll upon each other like sleepy lovers playfully jostling for their share of the asphalt blanket. The rain, ever present in a fine mist, tamps down much of the troublesome pollen, while simultaneously opening the senses to pine, fir, rhododendrons, and that smell that smells of renewal; the smell that shocks the lungs into expanding to take in as much as possible.

Children play at the end of the cul-de-sac with a sense of oblivious urgency as they sketch in chalk the scaffolding of worlds only they understand, their shrill voices, quaint little bells of amusement amid mild relief that they’re someone else’s problem as long as the squeals don’t turn into sobbing. Kids at play yield to love songs performed by the neighborhood bird choir, who then yield the stage to the sunset, next then a frog symphony, and if you’re extremely lucky, an owl or two might quiz you.

The path curves, rises, winds, and falls, weaving between tree line and homestead, painting unhurried, sleepy tracers from where love lives to where she wanders to prove herself. She need not travel far; all that is needed is within reach. It is a wondrous balance, living inside a temperate rainforest that hosts a town that hopes to remain sleepy; remote enough to be considered a hassle to visit, and yet somehow, at the center of all that matters.

green giants shush me
it’s the wind rousing the trees
yielding their secrets
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 12 prompt: Oh yeah! Stop! Haibun-Time!

Today, we’d like to challenge you specifically to write a haibun that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live. It may be the high sierra, dusty plains, lush rainforest, or a suburbia of tiny, identical houses – but wherever you live, here’s your chance to bring it to life through the charming mix-and-match methodology of haibun.

Anyone who’s been sniffing around this blog from the beginning knows how much I love writing haibun. Still, I’m glad there are no haibun police, as I’m a habitual haibun rule-breaker. I think I did ok with this one.

Day 11 – Who Can Say? I’m not There Yet

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Photo by Niels Smeets on Unsplash

Who Can Say? I’m not There Yet

The path beyond my garden glows for hours
after sunset as winter melts into spring
and spring heralds summer’s pending arrival.

A fringe benefit of living
on the fringe of higher latitudes.

I read that somewhere;
cannot recall exactly where,
it sounds true enough
and I have observed this dim
phenomenon with my eyes.

As I walk the trail of softening afterglow,
I hear an owl cry “Who?” but I can’t see him.

His question is answered
with the question of another owl in the distance,
assumedly her answer to his question
of companionship
in owl-speak.

I shrug and keep moving
as nature is never still,
full of questions and answers
leading to more questions.

Suddenly descended an owl from royal-inked skies,
landing on a sturdy low branch of a tree
darker than its own shadow,
his golden-gemmed eyes trained upon my progress,
he tilted his head quizzically, asking me,

“Who are you?”

“I don’t know,” I answered,
in part because I didn’t know,
but also because I was too startled by
the bird’s complete, articulate sentence
to give his question the consideration it deserved.

But mostly because
I had never considered the question before.

“What do you want?”

asked the owl,
briefly stretching his wings.

“I don’t know,” I answered
before immediately recanting
the lie I’d just told on myself.

“I want contentment,
peace, understanding, longer
dusks like this one, too.”

“Where are you going?” asked the owl,
turning his head nearly 360 degrees
to preen his back feathers.

“I guess I’m just following the sun,” I replied,
which was technically true,
but wasn’t always the case.

I once obsessed over success, fearful of
each morning light finding my flaws and failures,
fretting over being caught unprepared
for the next one to shed light on wasted effort.

Now when I think of tomorrow
– if at all – I think of who
will share breakfast with me,
where will whimsy find me at lunch,
and how far will I travel along
the path leading to twilight.

“Who will you be tomorrow?”

asked the owl, taking flight
to the part of the sky
that had already turned night.

He didn’t wait for my answer,
but not wanting to seem impolite,
I answered him anyway.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 11 prompt:

a poem that addresses the future, answering the questions “What does y(our) future provide? What is your future state of mind? If you are a citizen of the “union” that is your body, what is your future “state of the union” address?”

I greatly enjoyed this prompt, and reading the interview with Kwoya Fagin Maples was amazing and inspiring. I didn’t know who she was, but I will certainly be getting familiar with her poetry.

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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 6 – Summoning the Summoner

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Photo By Nick Farnhill – cheetah killUploaded by Mariomassone, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18938737

Summoning the Summoner

The path beyond my garden yields to both reason and whimsy,
the tiled stone becoming clouds
charting my unsteady gait towards the gates of eternal twilight,
where Nihirizumu-no-Kage summons me for reprimand.

My writing spirit is an elegant, lean feline
pacing impatiently in ethereal mist,
her fur dappled in pixelated violet, orange, fiery-red dots,
forever rearranging themselves in new patterns on the fly,
helping to camouflage herself among pastel skies
with long shadows and eerie afterglow.

She is a huntress,
built for chasing down dreams rapidly
while evading what she perceives as threats.

I am perplexed,
as she has never demanded an audience
before now.

“You didn’t heed my call,”
she accused with a hiss,
for she is incapable of roaring.

“How dare you ignore my cry? I had several tales
of love, loss, and woe chambered for you; you only needed
to present the hands to scribe fantasy into reality.”

“I cannot be at your beck and call constantly,” I countered,
“For I am mortal with responsibilities, deadlines, and
people who rely on me to be present. Besides,

I set aside blocks of time awaiting your arrival,
and you rarely visit me then. Why is that?”

“Do you blame the cherry blossom
for blooming only when it’s inconvenient?”
Nihirizumu asked. “Your favorite time of day
is the same as mine; just after sunset,

just before soft blushes become indigoes
and indigoes blend into black.

“Do you blame the sky
for only being that way twice a day,
and only in fleeting moments?

“Only in these moments can you see my beautiful wings,
which only exist to reflect and refract the light
of every sunset ever seen or missed
into every color within the spectrum of our fantasies and realities,
allowing you to see possibilities not yet conceived.”

I narrow my eyes,
glaring impatiently at my impatiently glaring,
pacing,
ostentatious writing spirit.

“You are being willfully dense,
intentionally vague,
and hopelessly unreadable,” I accused, adding,

“Next time,
just come when I ask you,
and not when you clearly know I’m busy.”

Nihirizumu laughed, snorting pink flame from her nostrils,
her eyes, once golden sparks, now electric blue,
freezing ice crystals between her and me.

“And there you go again,” said she, “lashing out
at what you fail to comprehend.

“You like to think that you command me. But still…
I will come whenever the mood suits me.

“And next time,
I expect you to be prepared
to drop everything
and just write.”

Before I could draw breath for rebuttal,
I found myself returned to the stone path beyond my garden,
wondering if evening birdsongs were a battle hymn.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 6 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that stretches your comfort zone with line breaks. That could be a poem with very long lines, or very short lines. Or a poem that blends the two. You might break to emphasize (or de-emphasize) sounds or rhymes, or to create a moment of hesitation in the middle of a thought. Looking for inspiration? You might take a look at this poem by Lorine Niedeckerthis poem by Stanley Kunitz, or this one by Amiri Baraka.

I wrote this poem as a stream-of-thought block of text with little line editing or punctuation. Then I went back and accentuated where I thought the breaks should be instead of limiting myself because a line was too long. It was quite liberating for me.

Folks familiar with my previous blog might recall me summoning my writing spirit from a previous poem. I’ve never been one to shy away from my nerd stuff. 

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 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.