Today’s (optional) prompt is brought to us by the Emily Dickinson Museum. First, read this brief reminiscence of Emily Dickinson, written by her niece. And now, here is the prompt that the museum suggests:
Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.
I went back to my earliest memory, when I was 3-4yrs old, and possessed neither a room of my own, nor the very concept of a room of my own. I did have tons of questions though, just as I do now.
“You look good all dressed up”
a voice said, and I turned
to see her two grey eyes fixed
upon me, devouring my contrasts
and contours, reading my reactions
as if she knew I’d always wanted
for her to say something, anything
to me, knowing I wouldn’t know
how to reply as I stammered out
a cheesy, but sincere “well, uhm,
you look good anywhere” retort
that made her snort, her crooked
smile twinkling down upon me
from the declining escalator we
both shared that seemed to descend
endlessly into the gutter of dirty
things I wanted to do with her that
made me blush as if she could
read my intimate thoughts on what
had to be the protruding horns of
my corny forehead that she reached
out to touch gently, having heard my
thought that said “please, for the love
of everything holy, reach out to
touch me gently, or even not so gently,
I don’t even care, thank God you’re
here-” my thirst interrupted and
quenched by a tender kiss and a soft
reminder that it’s time for me to end
the escalator ride towards the center
of us and awaken to the real world,
and much like my dream, this poem
will end abruptly with a vague sense of
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.)
The deckplates pitch,
dive, and roll
beneath my feet,
denying any firm sense
Darkness pours into sight,
lenses straining for substance,
pupils expanding to
engulf any semblance
of light in moonless night.
The ship’s hulking,
lurches into view,
slowly shrugging as
I ride her spine,
the sound of her
slicing the ocean
is a choir of
shushing our advance
through His domain.
The peacefully disquieting scene
is almost bearable until
turning my gaze upward,
facing the weight of the cosmos itself,
the twinkling slivers of each planet,
star, cluster, nebula, galaxy, light
from both minutes and millions of years ago,
all bearing down upon my brittle soul at once,
crushing me with the weight of
my own insignificance…
“Do you remember that sensation?”
she asks, pausing to clean
dappled feline fur
my tormented meditation.
“Stop it!” I gasp,
squeezing my eyes shut
“You became disoriented,
and had to look away
to regain your bearings,”
chuckling to herself.
“Remember how the
points of light
became the spots
of my fur?” she pressed on
“Just reminiscing about it
makes my head spin,” I whimper.
“Please, Nihirizumu. Enough.”
“But you asked me
about the pulse of your poetry,”
in a mocking tone.
“You wanted to know
where that throbbing vibe came from,
so long ago
or did you not?”
“I remember now,” I concede.
“It’s too much for me. Please stop.”
“Very well then,”
said my poetic pride
with a weary sigh
and dismissive tail-flip.
“But you need not shrink away
in fear of the cosmos.
“You think yourself insignificant
in comparison to its light,
but you are both from it
and of it.
“I hope that one day
you will gaze upon the vastness
secure in knowing
that you gaze upon yourself.”
I opened my eyes,
took a deep cleansing breath, and
began writing this.
While there is virtually no link to my poetry and what I do for a living now (frankly, each entity exists despite the other), there was a link to when I was once a sailor staring into the night sky free from light pollution for the very first time. I don’t recall ever feeling as small as I did that day, but that was only part of it…
With the deck moving beneath my feet and no point of reference, it felt like being everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. It was as thrilling as it was terrifying.
A familiar summer scent
smiling, embracing our path
you’d sprung onto winter’s end
before knowing our spring need
unexpected kiss warmed us
your lips activated mine
your tongue filled me at love’s loss
What manner of spell is this
where I can relive seasons
of past-lives unlocked by smell
as weaponized nostalgia?
Will you cling to innocence
as you move to turn the lock
sealing us within our vice?
Lock me in; I will not flee
pour yourself upon my chest
envelope me in warm breath
crash and strain, power exchange
slake your thirst and wring me taut
plum our depths and bottle them
encrust us in lush reprise.