Sunday, November 10, 2013

Star Stuff

(The z8_GND_5296 galaxy, via Hubble)

"Now they have a picture of a galaxy that's 30 billion light years away," she said, staring out the night window.

He didn't look up from the book. "Huh." 

"It's red," she said. 

"Red?"

"That's how we see it. Because of the spreading wavelengths across vast distances. Long wavelengths? Red. For this galaxy--with this degree of redshift--we're talking a birthday of some 700 million years after the Big Bang. When our universe was still just a baby."

"Is that so."

She turned to him. "Every atom in your beautiful body was forged from a dying star."

He looked up.

"There are more atoms in your body than there are stars in the known universe."

He put down the book.

"It makes you think," she said.

"What does it make you think?"

"About the notion of soul mates. Pheromones. Compatibility. Strange attractors. All that good stuff."

"How, exactly?"

"Maybe a greater percentage of the atoms in our bodies come from the same star. Born from the same cosmic womb."

"And so humans are attracted to one another based on some kind of atomic awareness of this. Some kind of pull . . . an unidentified energy, let's say."

"Why not?"

"But we met online. We were falling in love before our atoms could even 'sense' each other."

"True."

"So there goes that theory."

"No. They just found a way."

"Our atoms?"

"Smart little buggers, yeah?"

He laughed. "What's gotten into you?"

"It's Carl Sagan's birthday."

"Okay."

"Our world's just a pale blue dot, right? Our atoms traveled impossibly far and long to become us. They braved stellar winds and vast deserts of existential emptiness. What's the additional distance from Seattle to Saginaw when we're talking 30 billion light years?"

"You did wear a red dress in your profile picture."

"See?"

"No. Not actually."

She walked toward him.

"The heavier elements in our bodies came from the really big explosions. Like, supernova big."

"Is that so?"

She sat down on his lap. "Heavy."

"And hot."

"And home." 

"Is this what Shakespeare meant by star-crossed lovers?"

"Some of the atoms in my body, and yours, used to be Shakespeare."

"And Einstein?"

"Sure. E equals you and me . . . squared." She kissed him, then whispered in his ear, "My point is, we're all just recycled star stuff." 

He wrapped his arms around her and looked far into her eyes. 

"We're incredibly lucky." 


----

Happy belated birthday to Carl Sagan, who would have been 79 yesterday. Go watch his beloved Cosmos clip again. What an endless source of awe and poetry.




Friday, November 1, 2013

This is Just to Say




I have eaten
the treats
that were in
the pumpkin

and which
you were probably
saving
for dessert    

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
a mother's love   

---

This one's for our daughter, who loves the original poem. I hope Halloween was sweet, and not too cold, on your end! Our kids took in far more Twix than tricks. 

(I only had one Milky Way. I swear.)


Sunday, August 25, 2013

John Cage: 4'33"

(Bleu III, by Joan MirĂ³)

The man and woman walked the auditorium's halls during intermission, opening a series of doors until they came across a large closet, stocked with costumes and abandoned props. The pair slipped inside and shut the door.

After an hour of Stravinsky, the rest of the audience sank mercifully into their watered-down drinks and conversation. Nobody saw the couple's smiles drop the moment she took his neck in her hand. Searching his eyes for the match he'd struck. A shade of color half deeper than her own. Breaths thick with carbon as she pulled him near and nearer, but still--and still--too desperately far.

Slowly, he backed her against the wall. She arched her back against its chill, breasts nearly brushing his black lapel. The epaulet from a naval uniform tickled her shoulder, and the thin strap of her dress slid down.

Her head glanced to the side. His eyes held. The lights flashed on, then off, then on again, as his lips sank to her neck and the heat coursed through her like a socket's scream.

Intermission was up. 
***

The older couple seated in orchestra left hadn't cared for Stravinsky. Season tickets or not, the man wasn't keen on coming out this evening. His hip ached when he sat in one position for too long, and now he had Cage's silence-as-art to suffer through. He liked Bach and Beethoven. Mozart and Schumann. If that made him plebeian, so be it. He'd been called worse in life. 

The conductor strode onto the stage. The audience clapped. At least modernity was an impatient affair. All of 4 minutes and 33 seconds, from the start to what, he assumed, would pass for an ending. He glanced at his watch. The second hand sighed past six and swept back up.

The piece began. Piece, being generous. The orchestra was made into a mockery of itself. He sniffed, rather too loudly, and his wife gave him a look. Shrugging, he stretched his leg into the aisle. 

Coughs sounded like gunshots in the cavernous space. Someone's cell phone vibrated. At least his ears were still sharp. He looked over at his wife's profile. A study of indifference. As mute as the pearls hanging off her ears.

Her hearing was going. A bit irritating for him lately. The number of times one had to say something in order to be understood. Not her fault, and yet . . .  

A sort of scratching came from over his left shoulder. Rhythmic. Repetitive. An eyelash tickling the pillowcase. Something of that magnitude. 

He leaned back and found the noise persisted, beneath the gustier hum of the building's electrics. Glancing over his shoulder, he detected nothing untoward. A wall. The sconce. A set of double doors. The brightly lit exit sign, in case of a fire. 

All these docile people, rushing for their lives. He tried to imagine it. Their force, crushing him.

The conductor raised and lowered his baton to indicate the start of the second movement. The performers turned blank sheets of music, breaking the tension in the room momentarily. Several people readjusted themselves. A few chuckled or cleared their throats. He did none of these things.

Instead, he leaned back further, into the pocket of bewitching static. It was a mouse in the attic, this scraping and knocking. A scurrying of electrons, some rapture of friction. 

An abandoned cell block of his memory lit up. His chest tightened.  

The pulse of life, with its charge and shock and sometimes spasm, bolted through. He drew his leg in and sat up in his seat, fully erect. Aware. Alert. He looked around himself, blinkingly. 

His wife, with her eyes closed. Lost in memories, perhaps. Regrets, possibly. How many of those included him? Had he told her she looked pretty tonight? He couldn't say. Where was she wandering to?

Where had she walked that he'd never touched? 

Woman sounds now. Sharp cries of mounting pleasure, haloed by a pressing need. He shook his head, but the breathlessness blossomed. Muffled, like a conscience. But as deeply acute. All his heat rushed his cheeks and center. His breaths were shallow. 

He was a man yet. A diminished man, but a man. Reaching over, he took hold of his wife's hand, resting limply on her knee.

Her eyes opened. She looked at him. 

Third movement. Final movement. One minute, in all its rapid movement.   

The tempo of the friction--the rhythm of the cries--grew faster and pitched higher.  She was tipping. Perilously close to the fracturing point. Taking his wife's hand, he placed it between his legs. Her eyes widened, staring at what her fingers touched as the woman in the wall split open, as her cries dove off their plaintive peak, swept into the surge of her lover's tide, out of time's rotating door, where a hall of silence received them.  

From behind them rose a giggle. 

The woman he loved looked into his eyes. Her hand closed around him as the audience began to clap and cheer.

The conductor bowed. Their foreheads touched.

4'33".






Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Quantum Entanglement




Some collisions
across space-time--
no matter how brief
or well defined--

imprint on the one
the other's reverse,
maintaining contact
through mysterious bonds.

Like the reach
of his eyes
through her sleep
deep at night

stirring the water
of her dreams,
changing the chemistry
of what he can see.

There is no leaving
what will not be lost.

The stage may go dark,
and the music fall shy,
but once entangled,
the dance is such

that if one goes left,
the other,  
light years away, 
tilts right.

Einstein called
this phenomenon
"spooky action
at a distance."

I call this
love.



Monday, July 1, 2013

For Chris



I could have let you
fade away

It would have been
easy to do

I never held your hand,
after all

Never heard your laugh
in my ears

Didn't even know, for starters,
if your eyes were brown or blue

But no.

Something on this screen
made me look up your name

which seems right

because for me
and for us

This
is where you lived.

And now that I know
--now that I've seen what
I should've known before--

that your life could not
be contained by

a world of make-believe,
emoticons and avatars

or by two sons you loved 
so fiercely

Now that I know
where you went

and how you chose
to arrive

Now that I feel
how blue
blue really is

I wish to God I could
rewrite an ending
that had firmly taken
hold of your hand

--

For my friend, Christine Eldin, who was the light and the glue and as fine a person as she was a writer. I'll meet you on The Strand.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bitten



("The Lovers," by Rene Magritte)


Through the jaws of time,
he tossed her a line

anchored around
a carnivorous tooth

The cave closed in
(with her)him

and stranded, she scrawls
her Babel of runes

on the weeping walls
of a darkness so starved

it chews on its tongue
for relief


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jennifer Zobair's Most Embarrassing Moment in Publishing


This is a guest post by Jennifer Zobair, author of Painted Hands. Leave a comment (bonus points if you include your most embarrassing moment!) for a chance to win a signed copy of her book, a $25 Amazon gift card and, if you're a writer, the option of having a query letter critiqued by Jennifer.




Wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have one?

The most embarrassing moment in my publication process came while I was querying. There was an agent I really thought I wanted to work with, mostly because of her prominent online profile. I sort of built her up in my mind, and when she asked to read my full manuscript, I was ecstatic. About a month later, I got an email from her saying incredible, detailed things about my novel, but then she said she was afraid she might not be able to sell it “in this market.” After considering it, she said she was afraid she’d have to pass.

I was devastated. It was one of those “maybe I should give up” moments: If someone who loved my work this much wouldn’t represent me, who would?  I said as much to my aunt when I forwarded the rejection to her. Except? Instead of hitting “forward,” I hit “reply.”

I’d sent my despairing, feeling-sorry-for-myself email right back to the rejecting agent.

Fortunately, I hadn’t said anything bad about her in the email. I apologized immediately, and she was truly lovely in her response. But still.

It took some time for me to get over the rejection (and the mortification). But here’s the making lemons into lemonade part: I chose to believe the good things she’d said about my manuscript. I decided to query agents who were actively seeking and selling multicultural fiction, stories like the one I’d written. A couple of months later, I signed with Kent Wolf, who sold my novel to St. Martin’s Press.

So this is what I would say to writers: First, don’t give up. If you believe in your work, do not give up in the face of rejection, even when it feels crushing. Second, if you’re querying, it’s really important to find the right agent, the one who both loves your work and has a kick-ass attitude about selling it. That’s the agent you want. And finally, a little attention to detail when forwarding an email can be a very good thing.

------

Sarah here. 

What Jennifer didn't say--and what I know firsthand--is that all her embarrassing moments put together would be dwarfed by the quiet constancy of her kindness and good faith, not only as an author, but as a mother, wife and friend. 

When Jennifer started visiting this blog 5 years ago, all I knew was that she routinely left the most perceptive comments I'd ever received. It was worth posting a piece just to learn what Jennifer would say. When I visited her blog in turn, and read her writings on feminism, especially in relation to Muslim women, I was deeply impressed by her passion, fight and obvious intelligence. 

Then I read her first piece of fiction. Which rocked me with its exquisite imagery and emotional swell. I told Jennifer she reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri. 

Jhumpa Lahiri, people.   

I was fortunate enough to be an early reader of Jennifer's manuscript, Painted Hands, before she started querying agents. Jennifer was kind enough to mention me in the "Acknowledgments" section of that novel, where she thanks me for being "thoughtful and sure."     

And I was sure. Miraculously sure, for someone so otherwise adrift in uncertainty. 

Sure that this brilliant book would one day sit on my shelf, where it will soon be placed, if I can just stop picking it up to grin at its gorgeous cover with my gorgeous friend's name on it. 

Sure of how proud I am to call Jennifer a friend. 

Sure that the moment we stumbled across one another was one of the luckiest I've known, and that the quality of that good fortune has very little to do with publishing or writing at all.  

Remember: leave a comment to win the items mentioned above! I'll draw a name at the end of a week. 

Visit Jennifer Zobair and be sure to read her wonderful essay in The Rumpus
Read my review of Painted Hands 
Buy Painted Hands: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Anniversary


Twelve years in,
and forever to follow

I can hear your laugh
and every time--
every time--

it makes me smile. 

And how it is 
that my breath will catch
when you steal up softly
to encircle my hips

where I lean on the past 
and watch our future
crest and crest 

and never break.  


Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Review: Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair


In this groundbreaking debut novel, Jennifer Zobair expertly weaves together the friendships, careers, and romantic relationships of three Muslim women, illuminating the points of intersection with nuance, empathy, and a writing voice that shines. Painted Hands is a book for people who love richly drawn characters and tight, riveting storytelling.

As the novel's heart and soul, Amra has worked years of grueling hours toward achieving her goal of making partner at a prestigious Boston law firm, only to fall hard for Mateen, a childhood acquaintance who may have more traditional expectations for the woman he marries than Amra wants to acknowledge.

Amra’s best friend Zainab is a gorgeous, suffer-no-fools politico spearheading a Massachusetts Senate campaign, whose Islamic faith becomes a convenient target for Chase, the up-and-coming, conservative radio host whose lifelong ambition is checked by his growing attraction to the strangely familiar, and magnetic, Zainab. 

Amra’s law firm colleague, Hayden, has become an unlikely convert to Islam after years of being marginalized by men. While her new religion is a salve to her loneliness, Hayden has drifted into a more fundamentalist sect of Islam led by Fareeda, a woman who abhors Muslim feminists like Zainab and is all too eager to shape Hayden’s interpretation of what a “true” Muslim woman should be.

Throughout the novel, Ms. Zobair highlights the Pakistani and Indian practice of women dyeing their hands with henna before the wedding of a family member or friend. Amra and Zainab have maintained a lifelong tradition of embedding their dearest, most secret wish somewhere inside this intricate pattern of loops and swirls.

And that’s how reading this book felt: like a beautiful secret unfurling across the pages, drawing me nearer to these smart, vulnerable, and very human characters in a story as original as the women it paints, and as universal as the heart’s desires.

With Painted Hands, Ms. Zobair has lit one more light for hope and understanding in this fractured world. I highly recommend it.   


---
Buy Painted HandsAmazon, Barnes & NobleIndie Bound

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hearth & Home



I dreamed of a boy
in a fireplace.

Curled inside
its cold recess,

he slept the sleep
of the innocent

while I stood outside,
powerless.

But the flames
wouldn't spark

and the boy slept on,
fetus-like.

Perhaps he dreamed
of a birthday cake

or of a woman watching
the darkness at play.

Perhaps he was the smoke
poured from my addled brain.


For there are times it 
seems too sick a fate

to be a parent on
this cold, dark stage.

Where every lick
of what if
dances nearer upon
this matchstick life.

Ascension



Did his failures follow him
into the ground

and, given lead,
did they lime him down?  

Or did the bitterness rise to
where he last dragged his eyes?

Like a blue balloon.

Like some endless, white flag. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dearest




He died on a Tuesday, but it was Friday before she got the email.

Subject: Sad News

She dwelled on the other names in the dean's send list: 

Jacob Hershel. 
Emma Wallace. 
Owen Mather

Her brain kicked at them, but they had the spongy resiliency of youth. Her eyes slid past the rest, falling off the screen into her lap.

Thirty-six years. 

It had been thirty-six years since her stint as Max’s research assistant. It shouldn’t surprise her that he was dead. She was old enough now. 

--passed away after an extended illness--

Yet it wouldn't stick.

She made herself available to the information, and it just wouldn't stick.

The problem was that she hadn’t experienced the world as anything less over the last three days. This seemed a proof enough. Surely she would have felt something had Max been dead. She would have sensed it, if only in hindsight. 

She wouldn’t have gotten her hair done in a universe bereft of Max Jamison. 

She wouldn’t be folding her hands like that. 

--survived by his beloved wife, Jean, and their two children, Rebecca and Joshua. A service will be held--

A scholarship will be endowed--

His legacy lives on in the many--

She stood and went to her bedroom. 

In a shoebox beneath her bed, she kept the few things he’d given her. There was the time he’d insisted on adding her name to a journal article he’d authored: Ignobling the Noble Gases. Months later, he’d cooked up a pink crystal in the shape of a snowflake, before presenting it to her in a petri dish in the lab. To deflect her euphoria, she had teased him about its potential toxicity. For an instant, he had looked hurt and she had felt so very sorry. 

Setting the things aside, she reached for the letter.  

Dearest--

She let the paper drop to the floor and brought the envelope to her mouth. Closing her eyes, she brushed the flap of the broken seal across her lips.

Nothing. 

So she did it again. 

And again. 

And again. 

And again. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thirty Days of Poetry

I decided to write and post a daily poem for 30 consecutive days for the following reasons:

1. I'd fallen out of love with writing. It had become another pressure, instead of a happy wandering. I've been wrangling with the same novel for three years, and I thought it had beaten me. I didn't even care that it had beaten me, particularly, but I did care that I didn't seem to care.

Poetry is the purest form of writing for me. If it couldn't pull me back, then maybe I wasn't really a writer anymore.

2. I use my slowness as an excuse not to write. Writing can feel like digging to me. Or rather, the process of editing and revision feels that way, which often segues into paralysis. I usually tackle writing--even poetry--from the left side of my brain because it feels safer. I fall too much in love with an idea, a construction. I don't trust my instincts. I make things complicated because I'm drawn to metaphor and puzzles (not to mention second-guessing myself), forgetting that simplicity is the poet's most sincere and transparent friend.

Being forced to pen and reshape a poem every day seemed like a good way of combatting this tendency to fuss things up, if for no other reason than I wouldn't have the time to be as clever as I might wish.

3. Winter. This is my worst time of year for being withdrawn and contemplative. Anyone can write a poem a day in the springtime; they practically float from the trees. To push them out during the darkest stretch of winter seemed especially challenging, but also like a good way of channeling some of that introspection and making me appreciate that bleakness can still be beautiful, especially with so much love and good fortune at my side.

4. Photos. I am no great photographer, but I had a collection of photos I hadn't used on the blog before (in addition to some that I had) that I had forgotten all about. I really enjoyed taking my camera out when I was blogging more often, and I wanted to reclaim that habit by pairing each new poem with a new or old photo.


So those were my reasons. (Actually, in no way did I reason this all out before impulsively making the decision to do it. But we can all pretend.)

And how did the experiment go?

1. I did fall in love with writing again. I also hated it again. I'm pretty sure this is normal. I'm pretty sure I've always felt this way, no matter my tendency to romanticize the past.

Writing a poem a day is no great feat. A lot of people do this without any fanfare. But for me, it was hard. Yet maybe not as hard as I expected? I tried not to place ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself. There were only a handful of days in which I struggled to come up with an idea or finish by a particular time. Overall, I surprised myself. Which is always good.

2. I did not overcome my tendency to complicate things, nor did I always present my ideas in a clear, transparent light. The rough drafts came easy. But I'm still doing a lot of tinkering. The time constraint led me to post a lot of poems I wasn't particularly happy with. I tried to pretend I didn't mind. Then I tinkered some more the next day.

I still struggle with expressing myself without embarrassment or regret.

Room to grow, for sure.

3. Winter is my bitch now.

Okay, but seriously: some of these poems could use more cowbell spring.

4. My camera is feeling well-loved again. Mission accomplished.

(Random spider pic)


I suppose I should make a good charge at finishing that novel now. I'm not sure what's causing the delay. I was sort of hoping this poetry diversion would offer some enlightenment on the subject.

I think it's the distance between my vision and the execution. I want it to be perfect, and it's not. The pursuit of perfection is not only the enemy of the good, but sometimes, the authentic. I can't stand my own contrivances, yet what is a novel but an author's contrived manipulations of character and plot? What is revision but the endless second-guessing of your gut instincts, the very thing I'm trying to be more accepting of in myself?  I get tangled up in such silliness.

But that's likely another blog post.

Thank you for reading any part of this month's output. I really do appreciate your kindness and support.

Monday, February 18, 2013

30.



From mountaintop
to mountaintop

we embark on the path
of survival,

searching for the guru
who will grant us eternal arrival.

Instead, we scramble upwards
to enjoy the view

momentarily,
before we start in wondering

how the next summit's vista
could be better.

But time's face will slowly condense
into a single, fixed point

where contour lines grow infinite,
and we'll see our mountains

for the ring they've carved,
with an ego-sized crater

keeping the middle,
cradling all that we have sown.

So when I step
on my shadow's heels

and my feet shuffle off
the eroding ledge,

I hope I will wish
for dandelion wisps,

and nothing more,
to greet me in the valley.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

29.


Son 

You are a piece
of non-fiction
I take for a poem

when it's just
you and I

and you're showing
me something
you think is awesome

because you want me
to agree it's awesome

because you think it,
because it is.

And you know what?

It is awesome.
Thank you.

And these blocks
you've started stacking
around your 8-year-old
emerging person
are not enough now
(or ever, Buster)
to keep me at bay,

as I gather you close
and kiss you defenseless
while you're looking
at your thing
and I am looking
at you

because truth
is a passion
passed down
and returned,
a toy way better
if played together

--a heart with wings--

some crazy awesome.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

28.



If I could pick up
all the heads-up
Lincoln pennies

from every
sidewalk
parking lot
food court
truck stop
farmer's market
wishing fountain
Walmart
in America

and invest them all
in the man with the
cardboard diploma:

WW II Veteran
17 years sober
Will work for food

then I might put
more faith
in superstition

and give his
"God Bless You"
greater currency

Friday, February 15, 2013

27.



With my head
on your shoulder

I watch
the moon
and the stars
and the clouds
take flight

through a fogged-up windshield

on the eve of Earth's
existential
what-if

we ride our pocket
of brightness

listening to
a music
of corduroy
and nylon

holding our breaths
as the wheels lift
and dip

to the whims
of a country byway

across spacetime's
extended grace

Thursday, February 14, 2013

26.



In our other world,
you blur the lines
and make me forget
what day it is

with your eyes
and your fingers
and your breath
mixed with mine

like the paints
of a canvas
draining back
to the palette

a beautiful mess
of reciprocated Pollock,
crimson drips and
violet blossom
and colors we never
thought to invent

without the shape
of our love
running off
the edges

to be caught
in the cross
of this lovesick
gaze

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

25.




Every night,
in the field by her house
she dined with the moon
as her only companion

excepting the nights
when the moon was new
or the sky cloud-smothered
and then the rain
became her soup
and her eyes turned
dull and starless.

But when her friend
was at his fattest,
the food did flow
and it was difficult to say
where her skin began
and where the moonlight ended.

She ate for two
during Harvest Moon
to keep from feeling lonely,
because for all his brightness,
her mate was tongueless,
and the land he lit
was desolate-cold.

Until this year,
this month,
this phase,
this day,
this holy,
white-washed
hour--

When over the hill
there came a person,
half-starved by his search
for love and knowledge,
as near to bitter as
the cloves he gnashed.

They were not young--
did you think they would be?--
for one shouldn't put youth
in such Gothic settings,
as the young and beautiful
are not keen on solitude
or so likely to don the eccentric's hat.

But both were beautiful
in the then and there,
gobsmacked and moonstruck
and dumb with shyness,
each sore afraid,
separated by nothing
but a table's bounty.

He spoke.
She smiled.

He spoke again

while the moon laid low
'round his head
like a lantern, a halo,
a shimmering egg.

Her smile cracked,
breaking up the crickets'
one-note sonata.
She patted the seat next to her.
He took the hint.

And once they'd finally
finished their feast
and upon the moment
when the man did reach
to bring her lips toward his,

all the moonlight she'd swallowed
in the harvest of years
bloomed from the kiss
as lilies-of-the-valley.

And from that day on,
they took their meals
beneath a yellow sun
(or a yellower umbrella)
and the lilies were their children,
playing at their feet

tossing in a sea
of their tranquil dreams,
while the moon looked on
from a wider berth,
perpetually full,
sated.

Monday, February 11, 2013

23.



Children should be seen
and not heard.

It's not that he says it with the
same conviction.

But my dad will still bring it,
like a Victorian poker chip
no one's cashing in anymore
that nonetheless, he feels compelled to play.

It's in his blood, these iron spades.

But they're not in mine--
it took years for me to flush them free--
and it's with this distance that I weigh
the lightening of a man
in his grandchildren's hands.

The generational shift
is most likely a cause
and I don't mean to pretend
that the thaw is profound, but--

There is a softening now of his hardest edges,
the wryest indication of amusement and tolerance,
as if his grandchildren's cheerfulness
and frank expectation of the same from the universe

were a land he might choose to vacation in,
before returning, a little sunburnt, to his solitude.

And even I, who in spite of his love,
feared this man for most of my life--
not for any specific unkindness
but because he seemed to expect me to

Even I, occasionally--
if I lay down my arms--
will gamble across the rusty river
on the little bridge that time built.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

22.



Card-in-all 

You could be her scarlet
letter

or his
red badge of courage,

their Sunday sup of
sacrifice

against His fiery
Second Coming.

Out, damned spot,
foul fruit of Eden!  

Begone, blood lips
of all ye fair maidens.

Unless I, in turn,
be the worm
uncaught

then you are a red wheel
barrow

or you are none of
these.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

21.



I'm wiped free
of words today

but I'm taking the kids
to the library later

and I'll get a
fill-up there.

Say . . .

If you could be filled
with only one story

which would it be
and why?

A mystery that teases
your cerebrum?

A romance that wears
your heart on its sleeve?

A thriller that strips your nerves
down to spark plugs?

A children's classic
all stained with laughter?

You refuse to answer?

Well, I can see your point,
but . . .

Damn,
if the idea of a book
isn't enough
to get my juices
flowing.

Friday, February 8, 2013

20.



We're each of us
a bird on its tree
watching the grasses
give into the breeze,
catching our allowance
of gold on the wing,
grasping that branch
but as sure as a leaf,
calling out for the one
or ones

who'll sing
the same songs
as we

Thursday, February 7, 2013

19.



Nick Drake still life*


From the morning,

pink moon reaches

for her golden crown

in the northern sky


Day is done,

river man and

his black-eyed dog

are making their way

to blue


Time has told me
you're a rare, rare find

I hope your ocean
will find its shore,

poor boy


*Titles and lyrics belong to Nick Drake (click on links for that song's video)

--

Nick Drake died in 1974 at the age of 26 from taking an overdose of anti-depressants. He wasn't famous while he lived. He is more famous now, in part because of a 1999 VW commercial in which his song "Pink Moon" was featured.

It's not clear whether Drake intended to kill himself or not. But more than any other artist, I have the sense that he was never wholly here to begin with. There is something so hauntingly alone about him. In songs like "From The Morning" and "Northern Sky," this etherealness breathes like sunshine. In other songs, like "Black-Eyed Dog" and "Way to Blue," he is buried so deep inside himself you have to climb back out after listening.

Yet for me, he evades tag words like "brooding" and "tragic" because his lyrics don't succumb to self-pity or despair-for-despair's sake. They're honest and unflinching, not manipulative.

I love the guy. I love his sexless fragility inside the iron-rod conviction of his lyrics and guitar licks. Hearing his music gives me the same feeling as reading Keats does. I probably reach for him more than any other singer/songwriter, especially in the winter.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

17.



after the Christmas lights
and before the thaw

a secret kiss

betwixt
mistletoe
and snowflake

two cardinals
weaving romance

in dots and dashes

great staccato leaps
of burbling gossip

on a white parchment day
in the middle of a fairyland

I transcribe them faithfully

including an incredible bit
at the end
with a berry

Sunday, February 3, 2013

15.



If you've ever
watched a child
watching a ball
skip like a stone or
take off like a rocket,
you could believe that

Sisyphus, broken by Zeus,
dispossessed of all ego,
slave to a route,

might find pleasure in
the act of watching his boulder,
with such thunder and fracas,

roll back down
its mountainside.

And taking this further,
perhaps it's not a stretch

to picture a sunset

or some such other
depression of time

wherein Man's exhaustion
caves in

only to lift him up again

whereupon his feet did follow
the rock's example,

bearing him down
at such terrific speeds

that Sisyphus was not

Sisyphus

but merely a spoke of gravity,

his thoughts busy thinking:

This ain't so bad.

Beats being King, 
at any rate. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

14.



The evolution of youth
as a function of its environment--
the art of slicing and dicing 
our genes into acid-washed,
frayed-kneed mutations of cool--
can be most elegantly studied
by sequencing the posters
on the walls of a room. 

So if in middle school I was 
The Little Mermaid--
naive and sheltered, 
embarrassingly simple, really--
by college I had to be many things, 
simultaneously and emphatically:

R.E.M.,
Van Gogh,
Star Wars,
The X-Files,
and, of course, 
the irrepressible Jane Austen.

The key was to cover every inch
and leave no room for indecision. 

This self-curated,
iconographical assault
(now pinned to walls with
considerably more white space
via Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, etc.)
seemed to be saying,

"Here I am!
Feel free to read that Starry Night 
as a shorthand for Sarah.

(whoever that is . . .
get back to me later, maybe?) 

But I know I like these guys
as opposed to those.
They speak to me. 

Does one of them
(probably . . . no?)
speak to you
so we could talk
or something?"



--
These days, I favor Matisse, Picasso and the smiling faces of our kids, one of whom will pay me back someday for posting that picture of her cheesy poster when she's transitioned into her whatever's-the-2020-equivalent-of-Nirvana phase. Angry Birds, on the other hand, will stay eternally cool. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

13.



February is bitterly
cold and mercifully
brief and burns like
a widow with her heart
torn open and her fingers
frostbitten and her face
in relief,

like she knows
the suggestion and
repression of form
is more blistering
to imagination
than suffocating grief.

And the man she mourns
might be any man
or Everyman
or St. Valentine himself,

but we will shiver like the opal
in her cameo
until the lion
roars for spring.