Day 10: Make This Work

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Photo by Zetong Li on Unsplash

Make This Work

Once content with affixing my fate to another’s will,
blissfully ignorant of the destination, gleefully
glib along the journey, suddenly I found myself
cruising along the gash of rainforest between

the Olympics and the Cascades, within a sea of green
and grey and greying, as if awakening from a dream
a persistent, insidious dream born from the mind
of another person, incapable of acting upon it.

We sped by the soggy world on a grey asphalt ribbon
as I became aware of the world spinning right past me

I didn’t choose to be here – not directly, anyway –
but I cheated death in relentless pursuit of someone
else’s dream destination; I’d forfeited my own path.

I was stranger to myself; ignorant of my own power.

There’s a saying around here; if you don’t like the weather,
wait five minutes, and then kill yourself. It was meant to be
darkly amusing, but after waking to my wasting of
my twenties, nestled within unending wet wintery darkness

of the United States’ armpit, waiting to die, the humor
was long lost on me, leading to a glacial resolution

Gradually, one resolute, measured drip at a time,
I began waking, slowly thawing my dreamy ice-prison,
taking full measure, exerting my will upon my own fate

The sunset pierced the clouds to the west,
bathing the left side of my face in warmth,
producing a double-rainbow to the east
as rain continued to pelt our shuttle.

Mamma told me when I was a child
that sunshowers meant that the Devil
was fighting with his wife. That visual
filled me with fear, but I dismissed it
as I got older. Now I’m not so sure.

“I already love it here!” my wife said,
beaming ear-to-ear. I remained silent.

“I love the rain! Isn’t it amazing?”

“No,” I said, “it’s not. But give me some time
to adjust. I think I can make this work for me.”
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 10 prompt: write a poem that starts from a regional phrase describing a weather phenomenon. I took some license with this one. I didn’t start the poem with the phrase, but I included two of them in my poem, so hopefully that makes up for my deviation.

Day 9: Things that Fulfill the Senses, Leaving Lasting Emptiness in their Wake

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Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Things that Fulfill the Senses, Leaving Lasting Emptiness in their Wake

1.
Singular flames
roosting, dancing atop candles,

especially collectively
as birthday cake toppers,

especially when singularly
illuminating rooms
where lovers begin loving
in earnest,

especially within places
of worship and vigil
and mourning

2.
The round, full sound of bells
singularly, as a bicycle warns stragglers
to make way

or when affixed upon a cat’s collar
to mitigate hiding and stalking,

or from the needs of a beloved
on their sickbed
requesting soup
or cuddles,

or the one tolling
for their sudden departure

3.
The round,
full sound of bells
in plural, as in church
bells after weddings, or a bright
rapid

sleigh bell
cacophony or incessant
rapid ringing of a
land line, leading
edge of

a next-of-kin notification

4.
Laughter of infants
discovering their toes for
the first time, followed

by squeals of discovery
that toes can be quite ticklish

5.
Laughter of my father,
which sounded like a warbling
singular bell when it hit him
deeply and unexpectedly,

informing my insecure childhood
that regardless of any
dire circumstances,

everything
was going to be alright
in the end

6.
My dad’s laugh,
despite himself,

accompanied by his
subtle rebuke and
halfhearted admonishment

as I made him laugh
repeatedly

by quietly mocking
my freshman health teacher
during parent-teacher
conference night

7.
My dad’s laugh, accompanied by
his circular dance on an invisible candle,

as his wide, astonished eyes
observed for the first time,

his adult son, fitted in service dress blues
as a newly-minted Navy boot camp graduate;

I scarcely believe his swelling pride
let his feet touch the ground once

8.
Two decades later,
with a raspy hiss
replacing his resounding laugh,

dad’s eyes,
laughingly admiring me
even as his raspy voice
admonished me

against making him laugh
as it aggravated his cancer
as I continued instigating

because cancer deserves to be
agitated, unseated
whenever possible

9.
Those rare moments when
hilarity takes me by surprise,
causing me to break out
in giggle-fits, only to hear

the warbled-bell of dad’s laugh
ringing from deep within me,

or when I catch him
peeking at me
from my own reflection

as I wipe tears
of laughter
from my eyes

10.
Toes.
I mean, what can I say?
Babies are right; toes are both
hilarious and mostly worthless.
***

Happy Birthday, Dad. You would’ve been 67 today.

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 9 prompt: write your own Sei Shonagon-style list of “things.”

 

Day 8: Two Factors of Access

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Image by author

Two Factors of Access

Trust-association
with me requires
two-factor authentication.

First respect the space
– all space – between you
and me,

boundaries – all types
– especially life
and death.

Secondly – and this
is of paramount importance
– I cannot tell you

out loud
or in print.

With a whisper,
you’ll know.
***

Written for dVerse Quadrille #77 – Ace of Poems, and for NaPoWriMo’s day 8 prompt: using business jargon a metaphor for a poem.

Day 7: Of Nothing and Everything

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Of Nothing and Everything

I.
We are born with no expectations
needs are another matter
connections are made and broken
attachment chains us to fallacy
nostalgia affixes our affections
regret is an illusory gift

II.
I knew you had another
saw you kiss him, looked away
saw through your lazy lies
embraced an empty peach pit
knowing that I deserved it
and perhaps, even less

III.
Told you I’d walk my “friend” home
you saw us flirting, looked away
ignored my brittle excuse
you waited in our empty bed
as I fumbled her darkness for light
leveraging for fullness

IV.
Briefly escaping her fiancé’s warmth
she incinerated herself upon a stranger
telling herself it doesn’t count
thighs crush demands for clarity
trading vows on embers of virtue
fading blissfully into warm sunset

V.
No one deserves anything
ready yourself to release infinity
embrace, learn our broken landscape
most hymns sung are incomplete
from revival to wake; no joy without sorrow
we own nothing, for we are everything
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 7 prompt: write a poem of gifts and joy. At first glance, my poem may appear to be a subversion of the prompt, but that wasn’t my intent.

Day 6: Resting Near the River

Resting Near the River

What if Hades’ waiting room
were a McDonald’s
at 9:30am
on a weekday?

With white collar and working class
having already reported to work,

leaving only retirees
regrouping transients
and the unhurried condemned,

resigned to inevitable fate,
hastened by McGrizzled breakfasts
of dubious origin.

Youthful anachronisms
among innumerable ancient ones
include a young Asian couple

finishing their coffees and mutual flirtations,
as hand in hand, they exit the side-door,
crossing the parking lot towards the river Styx.

An even younger mother
is herding a set of toddler-twins,
awakened earlier than they prefer

as they now crankily demand
identical sausage patties
and cheap toys destined for landfills.

What if life is as
bland and purposeless as the
hashbrown I just ate?

One common element of McHades –
aside from the young lovers – it seems that
none here seems pleased with their present
or eager to embrace their futures;

it is a collective rumination,
a group-think procrastination.

What if none of this matters?

But each of us must face what comes next,
and one by one, we do,
slipping through the side-door,

first the flirting couple,
next the mother of sleepy twins,

with the countless octogenarians
each taking as much time as they wish
in gathering their past achievements
and unspoken unfilled ambitions.

What if it’s all just a game,
and I’ve been chasing the wrong things?

My phone vibrates, warning me
that I must soon return to my role
supporting the white-collar,
working-class worlds.

I finish my Sausage McBluffen with Egg
and exit through the side-door. The river

seems much closer these days, but still
I still have a ways to go.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 6 prompt: write a poem that emphasizes the power of “if”.

Day 5: Tethered

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Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

Tethered

I ain’t much on Casanova
Languishing in purgatory on kite strings
I would love you anyway

My world, ignited by your display
Never meant to fixate on pleasure’s lite stings
I ain’t much on Casanova

Just fly your kite; I’ll soar right over
And if you demur from what pleasure might bring
I would love you anyway

Your spark within me will never decay
Though passion-bound, no fancy flights do I cling
I ain’t much on Casanova

Our kite strings are tangled, interwoven
Should you cut the line, fleeing on thermal upswing
I would love you anyway

Tethered in disheveled, joyful disarray
Memories and fantasies carry me over
I ain’t much on Casanova
But I would love you anyway
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 5 prompt: “write a poem that incorporates at least one of the following: (1) the villanelle form, (2) lines taken from an outside text, and/or (3) phrases that oppose each other in some way. If you can use two elements, great – and if you can do all three, wow!”

I gotta be honest, though I’m pleased with the outcome, I wasn’t a fan of this prompt. I found it a bit restrictive, like trying to box a kangaroo inside a telephone booth. (If you’re wondering why anyone would ever do that, well that’s kind of my point, isn’t it?)

I know the prompts are obviously optional, but I’m a sequential thinker and not one to bail on an artistic challenge. Well, not today, apparently, as I managed to box all three elements inside this telephone booth.

Showing my work:

“I ain’t much on Casanova” is from Casanova, by Levert.

“I would love you anyway” is from Sweet Thing, by Rufus and Chaka Kahn

Day 4: Fred (“He’s good and dead now”)

Fred (“He’s good and dead now”)

Fred wanted to be a New York Yankee
But a greater calling led him to lead
Honor student; voice for impoverished need
A credible threat to bureaucracy

Uniter of races spanning rainbows
He was drugged and slaughtered by his own state
Two rounds to his skull, not the final blows
His work became bloodied, sharing his fate

We wait for justice as brown bodies pile
Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and more
Respond as technology streams the gore
But know these slayings were here all the while

Slaughter of leaders, of boys, of teachers
In-justice? These are not bugs; they’re features.
***

Shared to NaPoWriMo’s day 4 prompt: write a sad poem that achieves sadness through simplicity.

Also shared to dVerse OLN. Other poets contributed here

Written for all of our innocent brothers and sisters gunned-down by the state, and especially Fred Hampton, human rights activist who was allegedly* assassinated by the Chicago Police Department in partnership with the FBI’s highly successful effort to destabilize the leadership and political power structure of impoverished African-American communities and many other minorities.

The quote “He’s good and dead now” was allegedly* said by the policeman who administered the two fatal shots to Fred Hampton’s head, execution-style.

I prefer escapism, love, loss, and the human condition over the sad realities of the world we all share, but for some reason I was moved to write about this tragedy… this massacre allegedly* sanctioned and administered by the state in 1969. It was my hope to bring perspective to all the recent alleged* murders of black men and minorities by the state captured on video, and all the hand-wringing and outrage at the judicial system’s collective shrugs.

Everyone who are wondering how we could possibly let this happen in the twenty-first century needs to know that it has always been happening for the past 400-plus years. You only get to witness the massacres second-hand through the miracle of modern technology.

(*I added allegedly for legal reasons… but come on now. Y’all know what’s up.)

 

 

Day 3: Belle was a Humbug

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Photo by Mark Pan4ratte on Unsplash

Belle was a Humbug

Belle was a humbug. No such character
could ever release a loved one from
his promise with a full heart. It is
unrealistic and takes me out of the story.

Or perhaps I should not have revisited
that tale during dreary mid-January,
with all the cheer
left at a New Year’s Eve party,

where we couldn’t be bothered to pretend
to like each other anymore. A trick
time plays on us makes us mistake three weeks
for ages ago,

and a mostly-empty midnight bus ride – heading
towards total emptiness – lurches forward
into a future free of certainty and old routines.

“End of the line, boss,”
the driver reminds me.
“You good, young blood?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” I lie easily
with a smile – cause that’s my thing as
a practiced liar – skipping off
the bus into a freak wind storm.

Yes, I still skip from time to time. What,
you’ve never seen a black man on the
back-end of his twenties skip before?

It happens; get over it.

I soon stopped skipping as I began walking
North with the wind rushing me along
with the rest of the displaced litter,

placing further distance between
where we’d been, and
where ever I was going.

It began to rain that annoying Seattle spittle,
except for the random fistfuls of spite smiting me
in the face as the wind swirled and changed directions
as if it didn’t know what it wanted to be either.

I’m chilled to the bone,
knowing I deserve far worse
than this climate change.

It was only slightly too warm for snow,
but cool enough to keep me moving
through a desolate tree-lined park where
people smarter than I had long abandoned,

and the long, twisted shadows
had longer twisted memories.

“Human garbage,” mocked one of the shadows.

“You wanted her to catch you in the lie,”
sneered another. “You didn’t even have
the guts to end it like a man.”

“Shut up,” I countered. “I tried
to end it. She wouldn’t let me.”

“But now it’s different!” a third shadow joined in.
“She saw your text messages! She knows where you’ve been!
Where you’re going! And she still wants you back
like nothing happened! After all you let happen!”

“She knows,” I repeated,
“so we can never go back.
I made my choice.”

The darkness echoes with laughter
as the shadows talk over one another.

“What a safe and terrible answer!”

“You replaced a woman who truly loves you
with an empty vessel! An Idol of newness!”

“You’re not losing a wife;
you’re gaining a side-chick!”

“Side-chick, indeed? Ha!
You mean rebound-chick!”

“I’m sure this side-chick-rebound-upgrade is
going to work out great for you, young man!”

I hope you are truly happy
with the path you have chosen!”

I cover my ears
and cinch-up my hoodie.

Damn know-it-all shadows.

Leaving the mocking shadows behind, I
arrive at my destination, knocking lightly
on the door, as to not disturb anyone
not expecting me who may be already

asleep. I’m just used to slinking around.

A single light comes on, and soon she
is scrutinizing my soaked face.

“I did it,” I said.

“You did it,” she repeated with a smile.
“To be honest, I didn’t think you had the guts.”

“Yeah,” I said.

She leaned into me, gently kissing my wet lips.
“Things will be different now,” she said.
“Much better than hiding. You’ll see.”

“Yeah, different,” I repeated.

But if there had been no
understanding between us,
would I have sought her out
and tried to win her now?

I knew the answer.
It’s all a big humbug.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 3 prompt: write a poem that meanders, full of digressions, that takes its time getting wherever it’s going. Since that almost seems exactly what I always do, I really let myself ramble here. Sorry about that. 🙂

Author’s note: It’s only day three and I’m already struggling to stay on the pace! Also, between work, homelife, and writing, I haven’t tended to my reading and comments as well as I should. I’ll try to do better, but thank you all for continuing to drop in on me.

Day 2: Orpheus When you Fell

Orpheus When you Fell

Do you remember me, Eurydice?
We danced the summer in the upside-down

In moon-soaked gardens of Persephone
Below the fruit-bats, we swooped through town

Do you recall the bells we rang;
the song I should not have sang?

Can you trace our song back to me?
Or did you forget the key?

Our harmonious flight
You took wing beside me
Our alighted midnight
When we swelled like the sea

Whether wrong, it felt right
No time for a reprieve
Weather right for delight
Harmony our main key

I could live in your light
Did you want to believe?

Do you remember me, Eurydice?
August nights in electric tide pools

You inhaled habits that felt unhealthy
We exhaled our smoke of fools

Do you recall my answer, miss,
when you asked me for a kiss?

Do you regret the spell?

Cause I don’t kiss and tell
Reminisce on our bliss
Time much shorter than this
Did I comfort you well?

Lost our reprieve from hell
On this I feel remiss
Looking back gives me fits
An improper farewell

Orpheus when you fell
Can we crawl from abyss?

Do you remember our kiss?
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day two prompt: write a poem that resists closure by employing many questions and ending with a question. I enjoyed this one and wanted to add to the unsettling vibe by playing with the cadence and changing it up from time to time.

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Day 1: Aftermath (How not to Declare Love)

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Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay 

Aftermath (How not to Declare Love)

Allow her to drift back into blissful slumber
next to you
even after she gently tugged you
from your own dreams
to indulge in her fragrant valley
for the second time that night
long before the glow
of the very first time
you urgently knotted yourselves
had dissipated.

Sitting up in her bed,
with moonlight kissing her skin
where you had also done twice-over,
observe her naked breast
rise and fall
in melodic peace
as she
begins adding snores to
the composition of frogs outside
singing for their own
companionship.

Reminisce about two months earlier,
when random chaos
compelled your collision with this woman
whose smile gained a foothold,
whose laughter melted your guard,
whose eyes conspired with your own,
creating a micro-language,
with syntax known only to two.

Resist,
as much as you are able,
the persistent feeling that
even if this woman
is not to be yours forever,
so be it,
for some part of you
will always belong to her,
no matter how much you
rage against
this peculiar sensation

while simultaneously
flirting with abandon
to gain her favor,
knowing that in some way,
she also fails to resist her own
internal battle
as she is drawn to you.

Believe the lie,
with all your heart,
that you must stay the night,
for it is too dangerous to be
on the road alone
at this ungodly hour.

Accept the backrub,
for you are indeed tense.

When she kisses your bare shoulder,
your neck,
gently turning your head to kiss your cheek,
offer your lips,
for it is only polite
to accommodate a host
who holds your next breath
within her breast.

Allow what is occurring naturally to happen,
and then allow it to happen a second time.

Return to the moonlit moment
as she sleeps peacefully in the aftermath
mess-of-afterglow
you both created.

Overwhelmed by unwanted emotion
that has always been a persistent companion
to her captivating charisma,
nuzzle your naked frame into hers,
holding her close
as if you could grasp and own this moment
forever,
and whisper into her ear
the inexplicable truth
part of you wishes was a lie;

“I love you.
I don’t know why or how,
but I do.

“Perhaps I always have;
certainly, I always will,
but I do love you.”

Watch in muted horror
as her snoring stops suddenly.

Sigh in relief,
once her snoring resumes.
Add your snores to hers.

Awaken to a new day as if nothing happened,
for after all, this is just a casual encounter;
just a “friends with benefits” thing.

After all,
feelings are for suckas,
right?

In fact,
once she drops you off at work,
don’t even lean-in
for a goodbye kiss.

But do pause before leaving her car,
as she has just said your name
and tugged at your sleeve
to gain your attention
(as if that were ever in question).

Allow the goosebumps
to infiltrate your skin
as she kisses your cheek,
and when she turns your head,
offer your lips,

for it is only polite
to kiss the one who
offered you a ride to work
after claiming your body, soul,
and dome the night before.

Try not to react,
even as your heart
leaps from your chest
when she tells you,

“Oh, by the way; I love you too.”
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 1 prompt; write an instructional how-to (or how not-to) poem.