Monday, April 30, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #30

We Play the Desert Island Game on the Way Home from Her Mother's House, Christmas 2008

1. The Album
London Calling or Sgt. Pepper?
  with sanity's fine threads drawn tight
  beneath her answer.

2. The Game
Legend of Zelda, the first one
  looped by world shuffling rabbit holes
  fall in and forget
  the heat.
She contributes nothing, deferential.

3. The Book
Moby Dick? Really?
  Condom jokes. What better way
  to fight the loneliness of this interminable stretch
  the asphalt sea, rising in gray-white waves
  beneath the yellow sear of the high beams.
Before unassailable Proust, glibly dancing
  before intricate, weighted Joyce
  before Hemingway's sparse daring?
  Little things we learn.

4. The Friend
And whose hand will hold yours
  in salt stained sunsets
  cradle you fallen from palm trees in search of coconuts
  crouch together over ragged whifts of fire
  wake you as the storm blows in
  with rough persistent liquid pressure against your sun cracked spine?

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #29

Perfect Day, Part 2
for my wife on a lazy Sunday in the backyard 

A sunsoaked day
with a thousand sturdy limbs of words and
  your deep, peaceful laughter
stretching like spokes,
A scent of skin over grass
  rolled against ourselves
  shoulders shining joyfully pink,
And you, the axis around which I resolve
  the sunstung expanse of my afternoon.

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #28

I live amid a confluence of right angles-
the monitor rises from my desk
and I hold rigid in this hardbacked chair,
sheer as first love.

I flatten my palms against the counter top
barely aware of elbows, knuckles or wrists
for all the use I have for them,
all the limbs I do not wrap around
run trembling over no curves
softly study no stretch of self that bends when pressed against.

I stand my ground,
square over my shoes with laces tied impeccably together,
and I stare down the hands of the clock
as they measure quarter hours,
the firm limits of my life.

Excited to See David Phelps Added to the Yankees' Rotation

In nearly 600 minor league innings, Ivan Nova never posted impressive numbers until the 2010 season in Triple-A, and even then, he was strong but not eye-popping.

In just under 400 minor league games, Brett Gardner was a slap hitting fourth outfielder, right up until he posted a .345 OBP, helping the Yankees to a championship as part of the center-field platoon. After that, the Brian Cashman and Co were confident enough in Gardner to trade away Melky Cabrera.

Who's to say what David Phelps will bring to the team when the 25 year-old takes his first turn in the Yankees' rotation? His minor league numbers look better than Ivan Nova's (fewer BB/9, more K/9) over 500 innings of work. On the other hands, Phil Hughes' numbers look worlds better than Nova's, yet few Yankee fans would give Hughes the ball.

I've been thinking about prospects, hype, and the MLB learning curve a fair amount lately. Hughes seems to be pitching his way back to the bulpen; uber-prospects Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are back in the bigs; Delmon Young's attitude is making more headlines than his bat.

I could run through the numbers, but the generalities are fairly common knowledge: after the first 10-15 players in a draft in any given year, who's a superstar and who's average and who's a bust becomes a crap shoot.

So, don't be surprised if David Phelps becomes the latest underrated anchor in the Yankees' rotation.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #27


The poem must use only words that contain letters found in the name of the dedicatee. 
The poem should be 20 lines long.
It should be arranged in two-line stanzas, although other arrangements are permissible. 
Each stanza — or every two lines, if another arrangement is used — should contain each individual letter of the dedicatee’s name at least once. 
The opening and closing line should address or refer to the dedicatee in some form, with a strong preference for not using the name. 
However, the address in line 20 must not be a simple repetition of that in line 1; there must be some difference/transformation. 
There are no stipulations for line length or other metrical constraints. 
The title must be an anagaram of the dedicatee’s name.

Home Starts a Lion's Set

You did dare, wrestling with the big guns and the fog
willfully obstinate obtuse, I shall not demonstrate you find it yourself, you said.

We scoured the sour text, drove nails through its palms,
bled it for your bias and hate and genius.

Most of all for brilliance, honed ourselves on it,
come and go come and go, talking of you.

Blighted knight, arrange your merits.
Are they a consolation for your cigarette shortened dotage?

Because I do not understand, how such gifts and expansive scope infirm the glory of an hour,
because I find your air fetid, because I find myself whirling against the Word,

I strain to hear your mermaids singing lullabies,
drown myself, breathe in green sea and foam, exhale modernity.

Did you know the hates we'd glean pressed inside the ink
Did you believe you marred the verse?

Or did you know, taunt us dare us to find lies embedded within lines,
cast your long striding shadow across lands rimmed by disorder?

I've seen you running, long lengths of ankle joined to tibia and femur,
trailing streams of smoke and dissonance, grinding meaning to sparkling dust.

Now never grow old, minor prophet with your hair parted behind
little stuffed man of death's dream kingdom.

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #26

Cento of James Joyce

Monsieur de la Palisse, Stephen sneered, was alive fifteen minutes before his death
pious because no man would look twice.
Laughter leaped from his throat dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm,
bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay.

It wounded him to think that he would never be but a shy guest at the feast-
Melancholy, the dominant note of his temperament
tempered by recurrences of faith and resignation,
as mistakes are the portals of discovery.
Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not.
His heart was going like mad,
that queer thing genius is the standard of all experience:
a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #25

Nocturne for My Pillow

When I fall, at last
drained of all my hopes for the day,
I drop my heart like ink
into a wicker basket beside the bed,
splattering oxygenated blood in long streaks.

When I crawl home, at last
stinking of half finished hopes
clinging to my hair like smoke,
I find my callouses cut by the whittling work,
dreams corked and stored,
the never finished always waiting
promise of tomorrow.

Friday, April 27, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #24

from here
Autopsy or Exploratory Surgery

Dissect the moment of breaking
  weigh its parts like organs
  the tumbling lungs pushed against contrite kidneys
  your anger engorged with blood like a liver.
Run the marathon of the moment
  until you feel them churning inside you.
Count the beats of blood in your temple
  debate the location of the soul, of holy vows
  wrap my faults in gauze despite the mess
  aim your fingers anywhere but my taken rib
  then scrub until your cuticles crack.  
Hold the scalpel against the last five years,
  then decide.

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #23

from here
We Candles

We stuck eight candles in a cake, we three
carried melting wax and wick burning down.
And we split our faces smiling, singing
to avoid seeing how our shadows danced.

We carried candles in cake burning down,
eyes on each other, staring too long
to avoid seeing how our shadows danced
for us: cast thin limbed and flint skinned, fading.

Eyes bent on each other we staggered down
grasped hands out for the others, measuring
our thin limbs for weakness, checking flint faces
to make our celebrating seem earnest.

We measured our reach in slices, in candles
we three stuck, my saccharine friends
celebrating being seen, burning earnest.
We split our faces smiling, shouting.

Happy Friday

Almost survived the week. Nothing finished despite all my frantic doing.
But closer now. That must be enough.
Happy Friday!

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #22

For Gracie, long since crossed the blue-white horizon

There was a view of Toledo
  which hung over your bed when we,
  on the first night- once we burrowed
  into that sweet lazy content,
  white cloud drift only allowed on
  nights of first kisses, legs tangled
  beneath blankets like gunpowder,
  arms curled soft at the tender crux
  of a neck, each settled like stones-

on the first night we lay and looked
  finding the angles of Toledo
  as new as us, its horizon
  as limitless, as beckoning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #21

for Jane

We've heard so many of your stories, Scheherazade
  -sliced thin from your tongue to mine
  sweet rich, eye-collapsingly bitter, tangy spiced-
so many tales I remember as music
  -the late night music of folding chairs,
  played to an intent table filled with faces in your ally paneled room-
so many songs weaving one into the other
  -orchestral jazz, building motifs out of stray chords
   stretching chords like sinew, testing the limits of strength-
stories more tightly woven than tapestry.

I've spent so many night running my hands over your stories
  grabbing you characters by the shoulders
  shake them
  beg them to leave me to silence
Still they sing-
  filament eyed boys and the bird muses warbling
  the clove-breathed photo negatives kissing the housewives of the revolution
  the giddy soft and the defiant broken hearted writing home late at night, drunk
  all in a windows-down muppet-dancing singalong
  the same soulful symphony.

This is just to say
  let's peel our plum bruised skin back together
  examine the bones and ligaments.
Let me crack open my knuckle for you, look.
Now a femur, see there?
In the marrow, see your face?
  Not an image, not a Madonna formed on a window
  made of grease and Windex and slanted light.
See your face there, breathing?
See your stories, buried in my bones?
  I know I'm not the only one.

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #20

from here

Let's meet before sunset, when wind and night bite and streak orange. We'll watch fireflies flash over the sluggish length of the river, dying soundlessly in the swooping mouths of bats, and we'll both smell the coolness of water, notice how the half light hides our graying aging, remember other mouths at other rivers. We must not speak of this.

You may choose to lean against my shivering shoulder, inviting me to press my nose or my lips into your hard parted hair. I might toy absentmindedly with your braid, drawn too tight down the back of your neck and lying atop the bony ridge of vertebrae between your shoulder blades. I might count your bones through the cotton of your shirt, through your pale goose-pimpled skin, as I run one restless knuckle down and up your spine. I might lose count, because counting has never interested me at all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #19


There was a girl named Marianne,
  built like a coffee cup
  stained by too many fill-ups and chipped like a heart
and we slumped together on swiveling bar stools
  atop plastic cushions that gave no comfort
  bolted to the floor by the weight of our soles.

We would laugh, until I left her,
  those high long trills meant to push at the night
  at the neon lights and the small city noise
and we washed the fear back down our throats
  with flavorless meals fried and black burnt coffee
  salted waiting with wishes and swallowed.

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #18

Work has swallowed me
writhing whole. Deep ached, tired I
weigh my unbowed strength.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #17

from here
I love to ride the world against your hip
  snug against your stride and folded
  into a half forgotten weight-
  ready to face the expansive days no longer limitless.

I empty myself
  allow myself to spill across
  counter tops and coffee tables, counted
  hoping never to be found empty
  rendered useless after the wear.
I've begun to tear
  a light thing, where my edges meet
  as friction and falling sands
  press me pale.
Still I pour myself against the warmest parts of you
  to hold heat and hope,
  the place you fold scraps you must not forget,
  but will not remember now.

5 Poetry Writing Prompts That Have Helped Me Get Through the National Poetry Month Challenge

"Make the reader believe one impossible thing" produced this poem.

These pictures as prompts led to this.

This poem came from the suggestion:
when I’m on the prowl for inspiration, I visit the Missed Connections section on Craigslist. Posts usually range from idiotic to desperate to hopelessly treacle, but every once in a while, there’s a gem to be found: a sweet, self-effacing recounting of a single moment, a simple memory of days long past, or a single sentence loaded with mystery and intrigue.
"Write a poem with an invented biography for yourself" gave me this.

"A poem about the weather" turned into this.

Hope these help spark a few ideas for you, too.

Review of Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley: Book 15 of 52

There are spoilers here.

From here
Reading Bryan Lee O'Malley's six Scott Pilgrim books (Precious Little Life, vs. the World, & the Infinite Sadness, Gets It Together, vs. the Universe, Finest Hour) has been on my to-do list for a number of years, and they moved into my "read very soon" stack when I read and enjoyed Lost at Sea back in January.

Scott Pilgrim and his friends inhabit a world of magic realism, where their otherwise normal lives are occasionally interrupted by video game style fighting, 1-ups, and intrusions into their dreams. I think of it as a digital-age twist on Watchmen. Where Moore asks, "what would superheroes be like in real life," O'Malley pushes at "what would happen if a 23-year-old slacker handled his problems like a character from Street Fighter 2?"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bughouse Chess

A Bughouse game, from here.
On Thursday nights, I head down to the local coffee shop to play chess.
I love chess, though I'll save all the reasons for that for a different post. Suffice it to say I find the game satisfying whether I win or lose because chess is a narrative. My moves counter your moves while each move subtly hints at future moves. When read in reverse it's often easy to see where the crucial blunder occurred, which move of mine opened the avenue for your attack, and how I could have foiled the threat if I'd only seen. Like a novel, the fulcrum moment is easy to identify when it's over, but while we're in the middle of the action anything remains possible. Like baseball, it's a game that rewards steady play, where the consistent accumulation of advantages causes a lead to snowball.

But at Thursday night chess, we also play a very different game called Bughouse Chess. Two boards are set side by side, and each side plays with a 5 minute clock. My partner sits in the seat beside me playing the opposite color I play. The catch is that (if I'm playing white) as I capture my opponents black pieces, I pass them to my partner- who can then drop them onto the board in any legal position.

It's fast-paced, brutal, and almost random. Since I have no control over what pieces I (or my opponent!) will receive or when, strategy can largely be summed up as: keep your king safe, and if you're on the attack (have tempo or initiative in chess-speak) never ever ever stop attacking.

I've been thinking a lot about what is a game since I read this really great essay in the New York Times Magazine about viral video games. Its author posits that there is a distinction between a game and what he calls a "stupid game," "a repetitive, storyless puzzle that could be picked up, with no loss of potency, at any moment, in any situation."

In Bughouse, I find my game often follows this structure: my partner begins to lose material in uneven exchanges or in outright losses, this material shifts to my opponents bank, and once my attack is stymied my opponent launches an attack that results in my checkmate; as the defeated player, I give up my seat to the next person waiting to play. The catch is that I can't shake the feeling that I didn't lose, at least not in a chess sense. My partner lost through a seemingly endless sacrifice of material, the checkmate just happened to fall on my board. (I don't mean this to sound onesided: I'm a terribly bughouse player, and I'm often the blundering partner who costs my team the game). It's exactly that feeling of uncontrol that makes the game interesting, a shot of surprise injected into a game of meticulous cause and effect.

The game frustrates me because I feel that there's a limit to how much a player can learn, and after a few basic opening strategies, the game becomes unpredictable. So is Bughouse a game of luck?

Friday, April 20, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #16

The moon is twice itself tonight
  its hanging craggy face
  potmarked with the insistence of everyday
  stormed by age with nothing to stir the dust.
Also it's glint reflection
  wavering in water, younger
  stirred by our toes and the soft breathed breeze
  born in the lack of space between
  your face, my fingertips.
Two moons, too, my sagging face
  furrowed and lined and deep bagged under my eyes
  where the chill run rough through my legs from the cool deep lake
  and reflected in your
  tender pupilled ponds
  I see me as always then
  thinner, firmer, strong.

NB: Thanks to Hazel and Wren for running a blog with writing prompts to help me on the tough days.

Local Food Day at the Dining Hall

Asparagus from here
One of the downsides of working at a college is that there is always more to do. I often feel rushed, and being a slight workaholic, I'll come early or stay late. One of the things I always try to do, though, is to keep the middle of my day clear so I can take my lunch hour.

One of the perks of working at a college is that there's a dining hall, so on days like this I can grab a quick bite to eat there.

My co-worker and I went to lunch together today; we sat on the open air patio with our meals and basked in the sunshine. That was wonderful.

What made it doubly wonderful was that today is (surprise!) local food day at Hodson Dining Hall. So as we savored this beautiful April day, we did it over burgers of local grass fed beef topped with locally produced pepper jack cheese and topped by locally grown portabello mushrooms, with sides of local asparagus and a delicious oyster stew (the oysters were from Virginia, which while not quite local, is close enough).

Best part: the meal cost under 5 bucks. Best 5 bucks I'll spend this year? Tummy says yes!

Happy Friday!

This dizzy life of mine...

Dover for dinner? Elkton and Philadelphia tomorrow? Sleep in Sunday or conquer the world?
And who knows what Monday will bring...
Well, I know what Monday will bring, but I'm not allowed to say yet.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #15

On the day I came home the sky split

It was not a Jesus on the cross split
  no glory strew thunderheads peeled back to
  reveal a blood red sun hung in the sky
  like the bloodshot eye of God.

For me, the sky quietly pulled away from itself
  the way the once wet pages of a book curl
  apart as they dry. The split seam rippled
  rainbowed absence overhead, breathed the quick
  deep breath of a toddler asleep.

I was too fragile to bear the horizon
  refracted, folded back against itself
  the cardinal limits of my life multiplied.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #14

Riverside Park, You Were Babysitting

The city receded at last
  its electric hum, that city
  of a thousand cliches and
  the million empty faced power
  walkers, vibrating with missed, wanting
  connections, city charged even
  as a backdrop- where I claimed
  a park bench for my paperback
  for my sweet, quick cooling coffee
  a place to steal stray rays of sunshine
  in April while trees sprout a summer
  of syrup, cloying white-blue buds
when she crashed into me, a blur
  of pink and tricycle pedals
  I scooched and she squealed the joyful
  little girl giggle of the world
  spontaneous surprising new
and you appeared sundressed and sandled
  your face close and bright-flushed red-gold
  like sunrise against skyscapers
  tomorrow endlessly reflected,
  smiled your sincerely happy tired
  youth at me that city morning
  when all my words bubbled and caught,
  you turned away before I could say
  I'd like to learn to trail goodness,
  teach me how legs chase joy across
  electrified sidewalks and these
  narrow stripes of spring growing green.

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #13

Praying for Rain

Beaded heat layered against her upper lip
  blanketed late afternoon sun
  the clouds cry the long low rumble of rain not falling
  and the river echoes back in thirsty barely lapping waves
  the miserable gods of June.
She has a spot beneath the shady arm of the church
  a wide brimmed hat and an iced drink exhaling hope
  she folds damp hands across the exhausted length of her stomach
  interlocks her fingers, grimacing unhappy clammy
The steeple watches the clouds advance
  a broad chested phalanx of thunderheads
  the street dust dances, she rises supplicant
  as she mops her forehead, then tugs her sweat-damp dress
  from her waist, one shoulder and then the other.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #12

Visiting my grandparent's home in the winter of 2003 to see the bright spots on the wall where their pictures used to hang

Papa left a depression on his side
  of the bed deep as a grave but narrow
  enough to throw an arm across, which my
  grandmother did in the purple moment
  each morning before sun struck dusty blinds,
so the mattress remained, worn away by
  fifty years of sleep carved like the beds
  of our glacial lakes, hollows in the hills
  lined with serrated shale and muck thick longing
  like a heart failing beneath wrinkled breasts,
remained after the weeping pictures were
  smothered behind paperbacks, after photographs
  were unfurled and secured under tableclothes
  with careful even-cut strips of scotch tape
  where I'd find them years later when she died
  at last died, from the missing metastasized.

Monday, April 16, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #11

Isaac Levitan, The Vladimirka Road, 1892. Oil on canvas. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
I've dreamt of you
dusty little stretch of endlessness overgrown
miles empty into themselves back and forward
you nowhere bound road I dragged my aching over

Prison without walls
thousand mile forced march toward the receding horizon
your weight on my tongue like pebbles
insignificant except in accumulation

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #10

Break a mirror
listen to the silence
between pings of falling splinters
slip your name in that space
so it fills with reflections
let the world strike you like a typewriter's teeth
measure your unmarked parts
press them against the world

Friday, April 13, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #9

Places I Try Not To Think Of

About fifteen minutes south of here, if you follow the red gold curves of the creek while the day is still ending, if you walk the soft black dirt path in August's electric reverb watching leaves drop, if you can keep your eyes on the lip of the water running ever away and keep your voice from cracking, there's a curve in the world where Michelle kissed me, our hands held surprised at our sides and our eyes afraid to open.

My tires hummed three-hundred seventy-one frost glazed miles to Watertown so Sam could talk while the ice sank, and we ate hamburgers fried in plate staining slime and drank milkshakes with the flavor of water to triage the red-eyed afternoon, to make it easier to dissect books we'd not read yet, to babble over our unlivable tomorrows, to study accumulated snow like tumulted life built in drifts, built on wind and unwound lengths of ribbon used as suture.

Silence covered the distance above the Bay, while the bridge stretching beneath bore us interminable as the arm of God, to whom we both exhaled lukewarm wishes while our breaths steam, my fingers furrowed through the moonstained wheel and Jane's hands folded in her lap rolling pumice-rough seconds against her skin, out the window waves peeled at the shore and the endless trestles like the tolling of midnight begun.

Happy Friday

Friday. At last.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #8

Learning By Doing, But Slowly

Verses roll like dough- mix, kneed, taste. You could
say what's wrong: nails tip tap the countertop,
but I play my way to ready, a touch
more sugar, another egg. Cut cookies

from each stanza- No. Thrown away. Decide
to make bread. Heat butter in my hands, spin
eggshells towards the trash not in, let dishes
pile up until you shaking go. Greased pan

meet oven. Yes! the rising lump. See how
yeast and hope are interchangeable? Cool
then cut through the thick crust for the soft heart
savor the scent of rhyme on my fingers.

Review of The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, Book 14 of 52

Last weekend, I read Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists. I haven't tried to give "stars" to books I've reviewed because it seems so arbitrary; not all flaws are equal. But if I ranked books with stars, The Imperfectionists would earn them all.

It's been a while since I read something this good. The plot is simple: The Imperfectionists follows the founding, rise and decline of a small English language newspaper based in Rome through interconnected short stories: each vignette takes us into the personal life of one person associated with the paper.

I'm partial to this narrative approach- I never get sick of any of the characters, and I never tire of the surprises and reveals that each chapter brings. So Rachman scores easy points before I even open the cover.

But this book truly was magical. Each character leads a miserable life or will soon, and by the end of each chapter each character has had a chance to see their life for what it is: an unfulfilling charade. Some accept it, many ignore it, a few strive to change their lives. One by one, each character decides who he wants to be. The obituary writer responds to tragedy by delivering on his untapped potential, a lonely reporter ignores obvious and horrifying truths about her new boyfriend, the nervous possibly neurotic copy editor checks into a hotel room on New Year's Eve pretending to be on a business trip rather than face her empty apartment.

Ignoring the obvious is an important part of life everyone in The Imperfectionists, just as in real life. It straddles the line between poignant and black comedy, a literary genre I adore. 

I get each of those people in horrible and charming ways, and I recognize myself in every character, every chapter. So will everyone who takes the time (treats themselves) to read Rachman's debut novel.

Book 13 of 52: Title Redacted

Just for the record, I read a book as part of a book club I participate in. It was a young adult book that I have nothing to say about. So I'm not saying anything about it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #7

Gray Day

The low slung sky hunched around the eaves of the house,
haze draped morning where
the front yard oak waves bare old arms.

We rise.

Filter grounds through my old shoes,
let it runs through the hole in the heel
grow thick with the worn away work of three walking years
until the coffee hits our cups, molasses.

Fry two eggs, yours and mine.
Pretend to break
the yokes on purpose when I try to flip them
too soon. Salt them with wasted Saturdays
store the sleep late hours above the stove
until they grow stale, then grate them
keep them in a spice bottle close at hand.
Drop another block of butter in the pan
stick your nose into the sizzle
the smell of success downsized.

Open Mic Workshop Hosted by Hazel & Wren

Today my brain belongs to other people's poems. Hazel & Wren are hosting an online open mic workshop, and there's some really powerful stuff there plus a poem of mine.

Check it out! (direct link to my poem)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #6

Trees Say

smiling pink pale fragrant, the cherry blossoms warn
sing morning against the blue sky
tuck clouds away for later
bid the sun to spill marmalade and the tangy savor of charcoal lit for lunch
open arms fresh furled with florets
the blossoms empty their eyes of tomorrow
no use no need,
they grin today with a windchime scent
celebrating blooms that fall as we open
paint the ground flush with today

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #5

He carries bumblebees in his mouth,
  flutter fat and gold striped black at the back of his teeth
  every grin buzzes honey and venom.
Which is why you swell where he kisses
  those raised red welts where the lancets dove
  melittin and histamine mixed with adoration.
His smiles are bumblebee flight
  sporadic lift and shredded aerodynamics
  the uncertain thrust of cheek muscles like four-part wings
  fighting gravity, the world seen in spectrums stretched into the ultraviolet
  where the self-destructive sting has the last defense.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Yeats, Perfection of the Life or of the Work, Happiness, and Play

Being already 4 days behind on my National Poetry Month poem-a-day Challenge (today is the 9th, I've got 4 poems finished and 2 half poems), a week behind on my book a week New Year's resolution, a month behind at work, and a lifetime behind on my become a famous writer life goal, I've been doing a lot of thinking about Yeats lately.
The Choice
The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story's finished, what's the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse. 
 I don't spend much time raging these days. Is it harder to write when my life is in a good place, or is that an excuse I make for myself when I don't have to spend all my time alone with my thoughts? Before Carol and I moved in together I was writing a blog post or two every day, reading a lot and writing plenty of poetry. Not that I mind, but she's a bit of a distraction.

There was a great article in the NYTimes Magazine yesterday about "silly" games (the kind of endless games like Tetris or Angry Birds that can't really be won, demand little skill or creativity, but that absorb a huge chunk of our mental energy). My takeaway was this:
In her book “Reality Is Broken,” Jane McGonigal argues that play is possibly the best, healthiest, most productive activity a human can undertake — a gateway to our ideal psychological state. Games aren’t an escape from reality, McGonigal contends, they are an optimal form of engaging it.
Now, I recognize that I have a limited amount of mental space each day. Every minute I spend playing Pandemic with my wife (or working on my blog post about how addicted we are to Pandemic, stay tuned for that!) is one less minute I have available for poetry. But what would I do differently? I'd change very little right now, just hoping that (like Randall and Dante in Clerks and Clerks II) the non-productive times in my life are really just building towards something.

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #4

This afternoon, after work, I broke and rebuilt a wine glass for you, Dear

I clipped the table with my hip
  and as the wine glass spun a breeze blew through the window,
  a cold April rain-coming wind
  the sort born from sunlight that's not yet strong enough
  when everything is green buds and the threat of frost,
The glass tipped off the table and traced a parabola to the hardwood,
  which gave in to inertia and bent
  bowed like a servant shuffling backwards from the master
  and allowed the slightest mark to remain to remind me of the arc,
  defined the difference between the good path miswalked and mistake.

The glass splintered and froze
  for its impossible moment showed a thousand fine lines,
  like the county roads twisting back to our house through the fresh-tilled fields
  like the contour lines of the hills running down to the lake
  like your wedding dress lace,
I seized that moment and framed it
  traced the glints as gravity released shards, fragments and grains
  collected them all and with the stem as my keystone
  put them back in painstaking place as the breeze held its breath
  and April looked on with skies promising rain.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Friday

Happy Friday world!
Lunch with my lady, the First Friday on the town (and if I get my act together, on the water, too)!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #3

The way we walked

Sunrise rolled on the brick sidewalks, and it cantered
beside us through the thick spun river fog. We walked arm-in-arm
toward the scent of Sunday coffee, crossword aromas.
The convergence of robin's hops on the path
marked the moment when lead tinted morning fed
hungry mouths, you looked away
clenched, the beak wrenched victory from the dirt
and the head snapped back. The hill still
crests and descends, where we etched stones with our heels
measured our lives, tallied the times we walked
the distance home from the coffee shop until
we couldn't anymore.

More on Blankets

I thought, having written my review, I'd be done thinking about Blankets (at least for a little while), so I could write some of the other reviews I have pending.

But I'm not done because when I sent my review out via Twitter last week, Top Shelf Productions retweeted my review, which led me to their website, which led me to this interview they recently did with Craig Thompson, where Thompson talks about how he fictionalized parts of Blankets (ostensibly a memoir/ autobiography) to streamline the plot and draw out the themes he saw developing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reading and Community, the Next e-Book Revolution

I don't have an e-reader yet, though my wife loves her Kindle. I spend a fair portion of my day staring at computer screens, and so when I come home at night it's often a relief to settle in with text that doesn't have an ambient glow. I also think it's worth waiting on the e-reader until some more of the bugs get worked out.

But then I read something like this Book Riot article on the future for e-books, and I think... maybe I'll get that iPad soon.
An isolated reader can’t possibly have all of the answers or see the full range of meaning in what they’re reading. As a member of a social reading community, I can learn from other members and share and be recognized for my own ideas and knowledge.
I think about my favorite books, and they're sprawling, complex labyrinths I would never try to review: Ulysses, Endgame, Bluebeard, Against the Day, Lolita, Good Morning Midnight. I love them because even having read them, I know there's more to them I'm missing. I could read them again and again and again (and in some cases, I have).

Imagine embedding the last half centuries' literary analysis and criticism in the text. I've re-read parts of Don Quixote along with Nabokov's lectures and found the experience enlightening. Could an e-book really let me do that?

Just as importantly, built in marginalia could help suck the terror out of some of the books I've shied away from. I'm looking at you, Remembrance of Things Past. An enhanced e-book could link readers the way that sites like LibraryThing and Goodreads already try to.

Alright, publishers, let's make it happen. Who do we talk to? How do we start?

Monday, April 2, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, Poem #2

From here

Jennifer Was Recognized for Twenty-Five Years of Service With a Plaque Although She Has No Office Wall to Hang It On

She's the sound of her own hard thumped steps falling
  heavy as blackbannistered stairs
  varicosed by yesterday's labor
  and inflamed with tomorrows,
  but she's climbing three flights

Because it's morning again
  she climbs three flights with her head thrown back
  lifts each arm with its scent of anti-sceptic
  one wide treaded boot follows the other like dawns
  and she's climbing again toward the skylight

Her mouth half opens inhaling dust
  the thick stuff that clings despite
  tangy bleach swirled in the rust stained sinks,
  while her hair loses color running away from her scalp
  until it hangs in gray gnarls against her sweat damp collar

She is the shafts of dawn cut
  through the dust she's stirred up
  and the bannister creaks where her left hand depends on it
  clumping the good and the bad legs up the stairs in turn
  while through the skylight morning withers weakens recedes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

National Poetry Month 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge

borrowed from here
Warm Ups

Atrophy comes to mind
  slow degeneration
  the paralyzation of self-confidence
  spell paralyzation azation ization isation?
wait Warm Ups Warm-ups Warm-Ups

Blank spaces terrify me
  the open sea
  the empty page
  that spot on the road ahead as you run towards it
    where it rises and reveals a point that reflects no sunlight,
    so instead it looks slick and wet,
    ominously empty

Try not to think about 30 writing days
  like 26.1 miles, clump it chunk it divide
  just try to keep your lunch down

So stretch like gym class
  hope the girls won't look
  hope the boys don't look, either
  judgements from every angle

Copy your neighbors, even though it's unsatisfying:

  And am I the only one doing this?
  Might that mean I'm doing it wrong?
  Wonder how much work should a warm-up be?

Tweaking the Layout

You'll see some changes happening to ...and a little wine... in the next few days. See the links floating up there in the header? I've been reading other blogs with a more critical eye on layout in the last few weeks, and I'm adjusting my own approach accordingly.

I've moved and revised some of the "about" me information, as well as added some info about my willingness to review books for publishers and authors (that layout was largely stolen from other book bloggers I admire, like Rebecca Joines Schinsky and Word Lily, so I hope I haven't violated any best practice-esque netiquette).

I'm still in search of a good "Related Posts" widget. I've got a text-based one that would work fine, but I'd really like to find one that functions with thumbnails. I have faith that Google will provide. I'm also in the market for a Blogger compatible email submission form, and a Ways to Follow widget. I think I've got the chops to code my own Ways to Follow- I may work on that this afternoon.

Thanks for reading, and for hanging with me through the renovation.