Friday, April 30, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #30 - Free Day (and Farewell)



Everywhere he went he picked up more tattoos.
The only problem was the ink poured through his fingers
as he slapped them against his dark skin
trying to mark himself with a memento
of the ports that he had visited.

This was his final voyage for he could hear
the roar of seawater cascading into the great cataract
that loomed ahead, a rupture between ocean and sky.

He would have sewn it together again,
but he lacked an adequate needle and thread,
and, more importantly, he lacked the courage
to repair it, considering this sailing one of destiny.

The White Whale drifted in the void, breaching,
breaking through strands of nebulaic gases,
disappearing back into the core of stars
as the skin of hydrogen and helium rippled
over the fathoms of molten heavy metals.

The White Whale blinked on and off,
pulsing out messages of rhythmic information,
a new constellation in the night sky.

He reminded himself this had all been seen before:
if you doubt, then look up at the star-filled night sky
and wait, patiently, and then wait some more

whereupon you will see a flash of harpoon as it strikes
white leathery hide, hits its mark,
as the line is drawn out into the ether
racing, racing, into the depths of interstellar dark.


The line is from Flannery O'Connor's short story "Parker's Back."

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #29 - Front Page News



I know not Nantucket other than walking my fingers over the paper-and-ink topography of a well-worn map purchased from a second-hand bookstore. Geography eludes me, as does elevation.

I imagine an oil-slicked harbor, an iridescent sheen of whale extracts, whale excretions, drifting molecular upon water pink with diffused and diluted blood. Physiology distracts me, as does emotion.

I dream cannibal dreams as Marquesan headhunters heft their harpoons, sauntering through the cobblestone streets, trying to sell cantaloupe-like shrunken heads. Pigmentation confronts me, as does immigration.

They seek the wind they have always sought.

They seek the oil they have always sought.

They seek the people they have always sought.

I set sail, sharpened weapons at the ready, larders stocked with cured meats and hardtack and the freshest exotic fruits, alone, longing for company. Isolation becomes me, as does the sea.


White House takes a bigger role in the oil spill cleanup

Welcome to Arizona, outpost of contradictions

Obama says passing immigration bill may be difficult

F.D.A. approves vaccine for prostate cancer

Volunteers report on treatment of immigrant detainees

Breaking down a 3-way race in Florida

Big wind farm off Cape Cod gets approval

In area with few options, rigs are mixed blessings

A selection of headlines from the snapshot of
1:25 p.m. (PDT) on Thursday 29 April 2010


NaPoWriMo #29 selections from the headlines:

*Contradictions, mixed blessings


*Immigrant, immigration

*Vaccine, cleanup

*Cape Cod


Time for the ideas to stew, further reflection, and then the poem writes itself. Thank you, Muse.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #28 - Intuition



Adam plucked the purple thing from the water
turned it over in his hands as it squirmed
and wrapped around his fingers

He declared to the watching sky
that it would be named


Our giant brains throbbed yet still we pondered
this purple thing for a few moments
and then some more

We declared to our reflections
that without gills or fins
or swift locomotion

That it was clear that the purple thing
would no longer be known
as starfish but sea star.


Lovecraft gazed up at the cold and distant stars
calling them by their Arabic names
dreaming of elder gods

Beings of heavy metals and burning gases
that were as cold and indifferent
as their stellar parents.


The stars pasted upon the linen of night
were reflected upon the surface
of the sea

Hiding within its shallows the familiar creatures
of the tidepools and within its deeps
unnamed nightmares.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #27 - Let Someone Else Take the Lead



Nonsense, I said to her, as her eyes darted about, terror-filled. You must have misheard what they said. There is no way that two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. She began to weep, assuring me that it was true.

I was paralyzed for nearly seven years, a holy number.

Nuclear war was the great fear that held me hostage in my youth. It now seemed possible that nuclear terrorism was just a matter of time, of patience. I waited.

Errors abound.


Eventually, the world shifts again, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but the shift cannot be denied.

Loss cannot be defined.

Even though we try to find distractions to get us through our day-to-day lives, we find it hard to live. The loss is heavy. We knew someone who knew someone who knew someone. We play six degrees of separation. In some sense, we were there, vicariously.

Viewed from ground level, viewed from above, viewed from nearby skyscrapers—the devastation was still the same, whatever the angle, whatever the zoom.

Everyone wondered if the skies would ever be this quiet and empty and eggshell blue again—even the birds were quiet and still.

Night falls and sleep comes. Welcome it.


The acrostic is formed by the first letter of each "paragraph." The shift of tense and person throughout is deliberate. (The jury is still out on whether or not it works, but at least they are aware that it was premeditated.)

Monday, April 26, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #26 - Get Scrappy



It all begins with the same organic guitar squawk found in "Too Much to Learn" by Jesus Jones.

The rhythm is set: bass, guitar, drum, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat.

A synthesizer line rises up like a million gathered puffs of gas emitted from yeast bacteria. It folds back in upon itself as the dough gets too light, too light!

Brett delivers his lines with fervor, so much so that his voice breaks like an adolescent boy looking through the newly discovered collection of his father's soft-porn men's magazines—naked ladies beget premature ejaculation, but you knew that already.

I also try to rush toward intriguing things. Do you try to rush toward intriguing things?

Abruptness begets abruptness.

Edges begin to fray.

A hint of Michael Jackson "Billie Jean" drum peeks out, parades about for a few solo seconds. Hello.

As melody, lines, lyrics, notes really start to unravel, some end abruptly, while others overlap, compete, and falter in tandem. It seems that the production suffers, yet this is deliberate, chosen, chosen.

These are games, this is indeed the mystery zone, this is revelation, these are heavenly heights.

Here are the resting grounds of ghosts, the resting grounds of


This poem contains a couple of bits of detritus from aborted poems, as per the prompt. Let's just leave it at that. No identification necessary.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #25 - First Things First



Trouble comes running in the smoke of clove cigarettes,
a flurry of pejorative phrases, insults, verbal games,
practice and perfection of giving the finger—

we are young gods, posing for one another.

Worry comes running in the wrong clothes chosen,
an overabundance of mismatched plaid shirts,
Converse unblemished with duct tape or permanent marker scribblings—

we are young cocks, preening and strutting.


All is facade:
well-told lies.

Neither are we
trouble nor worry—

we are old men, giving the perfected finger
to the chicken gods of yesteryear
dressed in their flannel finery,
faded rags now fit for washing windows.


When I read the prompt, I was listening to Spoon's "Trouble Comes Running" from the Transference album. It happened to be during the chorus.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #24 - Find a Phrase



Empty sky and empty sea: some would name it void; God would name it loneliness. God parted the emptiness with a breath, a word spoken, a breath of many names: zephyr, solano, harmattan, nor'easter, cyclone, hurricane, monsoon, and twelve thousand more.

God created a world: a foundation and a firmament of faith and fecundity, peopled and each piece named. Minor breaths, whispers, were breathed forth, were likewise spoken: the seas churned and the skies writhed with the named breaths.

The people disappointed God with brokenness and frailty, willful disobedience and a need to roar guttural sounds at the named things. Their presence increased God's loneliness; their presence was what God thought the void to be. God roared back with wind and wave, God's unhappiness manifest, God's word always a moment behind God's breath, chasing after wind, chasing after wave.


Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from one person’s envy of another. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind. Fools fold their hands and consume their own flesh. Better is a handful with quiet than two handfuls with toil, and a chasing after wind.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Found sticker art, affixed to a newspaper box, Puyallup WA.

Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #23 - Unlikely Couples



Falsehood seemed to follow in the wake of his fervency
yet we were blinded by his believer's faith

hypnotized by the gold doubloon winding
through his weathered fingers.

His application: impeccable.
His references: deceased yet plausible.

His inaugural day: ostentatious and flagrant
his language peppered with Elizabethan epithets

and King James biblical curses
accompanied by the dancing arms of a carnival barker.

He strayed from his station, strayed from the script
wandered about eating fish and chips, licking his fingers

leaning in toward the glass of each tank
as though waiting for a missive from the briny deeps.

We called the authorities
when he climbed into the tank of our star attraction

Fantasma the Albino North Pacific Giant Octopus
and began to wrestle her, clubbing her with his ivory leg.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The title and text of "The Age of Wonder & Progress" as a wordle.

Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #22 - A Wordle!



God sent us into this new land, this rich wilderness
ordained our establishments and colonies

God sent us forth to scramble forested hills
to ford wide rivers and winter in the wind-worn grasses

We acted upon the dominion granted us
taking of the best that the land had to offer:

dining upon passenger pigeon and the meat of bison,
converting tracts of great timber into clapboard houses

Our tendrils spread ever westward
grabbing at the land of the red man

building rails and cities upon the labor of the yellow and black men
while we shined like fierce angels of the Lord

We gathered common nouns into our vast emporium of goods
people, places, and things of the temple and marketplace

as we became dizzy with drunkenness
and ascended to the throne of God

We slaughtered God, devoured God's flesh
throwing the holy bones into the sea

where the waters turned to blood
and a great squall swept over the continent

from the Pacific to the Great Salt Lake
to the snaky Mississippi and the Atlantic

We clung to small glass cylinders
of white pepper and cardamom and saffron

trying to save these remnant spices
as our great steamworks rusted

as our sinew and strength faltered
the crows flying in ever closer, calling out our final song.


Inspired by (1) the words of the wordle prompt; and (2) Earth Day.


Create your own wordle.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #21 - Perfectly Flawed



You wandered into this world with a dead-center heart
doctors and nurses searching with stethoscopes and instruments
listening to the left side of your chest wall
met with silence, or perhaps a faint humming.

I stood vigil, smiling, without care or concern.

You wandered through this world with your dead-center heart
calling the weak and infirm to Come and follow me!
listening with your healing hands and gentle eyes
met with the stones and jeers of neighbors in the street.

I stood at a distance, staring, trying to comprehend.

You wandered out of this world with your dead-center heart
pierced through and emptied of its joy
listening to the gathered crowd squabble over your provenance
met with the quiet of the heavens, or perhaps a faint humming.

I stood still, frozen, doubting that I had ever seen anything.


This began as a poem about The Child's anatomically dead-center heart and went elsewhere. I followed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #20 - The Hero Poem



Swallowed a child, he did
then another and another

swallowed a polished stone, unbeknown, he did
ruminated upon it, marinated it

stewed it in his belly
until it was pockmarked,

scarred with thought.

Swallowed a knife, he did
pondered its presence for a long while

until his thoughts fostered our thoughts.

Sliced his belly open, we did
him looking like a male seahorse giving birth

his body a Trojan frame
pouring forth children and the stonework

for their new fortress home.


Waddled about, he did
a pockmarked stone resting upon his feet

keeping it close as he wandered
near the warmth of the fire.

Stared up at the stars, he did
watching them dangle from their stellar threads

the bowl of sky, dark and distant.

Traced the scar on his belly, he did
slowly and ever so slowly

longing for the children
whose names are engraved upon the stone.


I could have easily titled this "Father" for it represents the sacrifices that my father made for me, and the sacrifices his father made for him, and so on for generations past. These men are my heroes.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #19 - Light Bulb Moments



The rings of outer darkness
are filled with lamentations,
the gnashing of teeth.

We keep the lamps filled with whale oil,
boiled out from thick slabs of blubber,
hold the night at bay.

We deplete the ocean populations,
garbage gyres left spinning in the wake,
plot and plan our next steps.

We strip the earth of metal and mineral,
our teeth and eyes flash fluorescent,
our hands twitch, our faces writhe.

Give us more, we plead of the earth,
even as she weeps over her brother,
calls forth greater darkness.

We keep our houses filled with cheap currents,
build temples to Uranium,
bend at the waist as we loose our bowels.


I played with the spirit of the prompt. For the most part, my poems are not about personal exposure, even when they may appear to be such. Therefore, I bent the prompt.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #18 - Meow!



Schrödinger's cat: to open the box or to leave it closed?
That is the question.

Smirnoff gives birth to her kittens during dinner time, prostrating herself on the living room carpet at the transition to linoleum tile and kitchen. We devour our Hamburger Helper as we watch her womb open and close with each kitten that emerges, mewling, trapped in the wet confines of its amniotic sac, which is torn away and eaten by Smirnoff, licked away into nothingness, leaving behind a small and blind new life that squirms and searches for a teat at which to suckle.

The scrawny black cat, most likely feral I tell myself for comfort, without collar or tag, darts before my car and there is a solid thump when bumper meets tender bones. The legs thrash briefly and cease movement, while I take my foot from brake pedal and apply it to accelerator. I drive away quickly, hit-and-run, nauseated, trying to hold back vomit.

Another scrawny black cat, except in this moment, I witness someone else hit-and-run, but this cat is not instantly killed. It thrashes about in a pool of blood as dark as used motor oil that stains the asphalt and runs toward my shoes. The cat looks up at me, its mouth flapping open and closed, open and closed, open and closed, its eyes searching mine for mercy. I watch the blood runnel around the soles of my sneakers.

A young feral neighborhood cat, living by the river, chooses our porch, our doorstep upon which to sleep, curled up in fitful dreams. She meows in the middle of the night, sitting in the window wells of the basement, nudging the dryer vent with her nose as sweaters are warmed and robbed of their moisture. She meows and stares at me, her eyes searching mine for mercy. I open the door and she comes in. I close it and never open it for her again. I name her Kama, "emotional attachment."

Kama naps on her blanket on the back of the couch, warming herself in the sunshine coming through the picture window, peeking an eye open every few moments, the nictating membrane sliding over the cornea as she watches goldfinches and chickadees and Oregon juncos steal sunflower seeds from the hanging bird feeder and flit past the window for the relative safety of a rhododendron. Kama stutters a meow each time an individual bird passes her. Outside, her cousin or sister, Ghost, a cat that haunts our garden and yard, but skitters away when approached, watches the birds from below, waiting for a weak bird or one less attentive upon which to close her jaws.

Ghost wanders over the graves of Tigger and Bhakti, Kama's predecessors, as she makes her morning rounds.

The child asks me, Where is Tigger buried? knowing that it is beneath the sandbox in which she plays.

The Cheshire Cat: blinks on and off, present and absent, tangible and kenotic, binary.
He smiles and softly hisses: Open the box.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


From left to right:
Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte, 1995
Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields, 2010
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier, 2010

(Interestingly, all three are published by Alfred A. Knopf.)


I am screaming at a book!


I have been moved and provoked and challenged by many books, but there are very few that I have found cause to yell at or converse with out loud. I distinctly remember Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital as one of those rare volumes that I madly argued with as though Negroponte was present in the room.


I find that I am doing the same thing with David Shields's Reality Hunger. I actually said to the room, "Oh, come on, David, that is bullshit!" Then I realized that I was speaking aloud.


I find that I am nodding my head in agreement with many of the pieces of Reality Hunger, more so than I am taking issue with it.


I checked out both manifestos—of Shields and of Lanier—as soon as I realized they were being published and would soon be available. I quickly realized that I would need my own copy of each. I don't write in my books, but I will mark and highlight passages (with Book Darts) and type up notes on my readings. I realized I will be spending some time with these books, both in the immediate and long-term.


I still pull my copy of Being Digital off of the bookshelf to talk to it, to rant at Negroponte.


Reality Hunger begins in a rather clunky fashion that it quickly discards. It establishes a rhythm that keeps moving at a rather brisk pace.


I keep checking the back of the book for the sources of Shields's material. I don't have to, but I find comfort in doing so. It is interesting to see the threads of thought that are informing those of Shields and the conversation that is having with those voices.


manifesto: noun. [1] A public declaration or proclamation; esp. a printed declaration or explanation of policy (past, present, future) issued by a monarch, State, political party or candidate, or any other individual or body of individuals of public relevance. [2] A proof, a piece of evidence. (from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, fifth edition)


Negroponte, Shields, and Lanier are all "individuals of public relevance," all having connections to the academy, the internet, the public sphere. They are each declaring something about from whence we have come, where we are, where it appears we may be heading, and where they hope we will actually arrive.


I speak too much and read too little. I need to read before I speak any further.


Lurking in the background of all of this noise is William T. Vollmann's Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Feminity in Japanese Noh Theater: With Some Thoughts on Muses (Especially Helga Testorf), Transgender Women, Kabuki Goddesses, Porn Queens, Poets, Housewives, Makeup Artists, Geishas, Valkyries and Venus Figures, which I am also currently reading. The connection may not be clear (even to myself), but Vollmann is trying to glimpse the reality behind the masks that we construct for our selves, and, hence, is really carrying on the same conversation that Negroponte, Shields, and Lanier are having with the culture.


I end with the final line of the preface of Lanier's book, especially relevant to a fast-food, Facebook, instant gratification culture; and then with silence (for a brief while).


"I want to say: You have to be somebody before you can share yourself."
—page ix, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #17 - Something Elemental



The map is unfurled,
revealing the cartographer's mad scribblings:

four corners of the world
form a square of concern and exploration.

A point is selected,
the compass and quadrant commence their work

whereupon new sketches
are birthed, new routes are calculated.

Melancholia advertises for partnership:
cold & dry seeks warm & moist to complement,

the arctic seeks equatorial
climes for conquest and consumption.

Black bile searches the sea
for the warm blubber and blood of toothed whales,

earth hopes to reconnect
with the spark of fire hidden in rubbery layers:

oil belches forth
its flame of luminescence and sustenance

while veins and arteries
flood the flensing table and then the briny waters.

We sail onward
the wind quick in our sails, pushing us along paths

and planes predetermined,
as summer is to winter and in-between.


The four elements and then some—other "fours" of creation and mystery.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #16 - What's That Smell?



...relish the smell of printer's ink each month as The Believer arrives in the mail. I remove it from the plastic pouch, resurrecting it from the confines of this protective shroud, releasing the wonderful aromas of mechanical reproduction and the work of young men, printing press machine operators, whose arms are slathered in black and magenta and cyan and yellow, fingers as bruised as the pages.

Printer's ink is the martyr's blood of our age.

Printer's ink is the the sea I choose to sail, a vast surface of information and denotation, a film that floats upon fathomless depths of imagination and connotation.

Printer's ink is the dark wine of my communion.

I remember Harbor Books and its stock of pulp paperbacks and Dungeon & Dragons modules. It too smelled richly of printer's ink. It was here that I placed my first special order for a book: New Tale of the Cthulhu Mythos, short stories written and loved and lived by artists indebted to and influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. I mowed lawn upon lawn, reveling in the scent of freshly cut grass, a scent I would soon trade for the smell of printer's ink, as well as sacrificing the hard-earned dollars of my twelve-year-old self, currency that was itself a product of printing and the press. This was my immersion into an adult life of literature and love, a beginning of beginnings, a start of a time to relish the smell of printer's ink each month as The Believer...

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #15 - Carrying a Tune



And the glitter is gone
once begins the bass drum—

the pen’s off and writing
to the squall and wail

of Ira wrestling his guitar
frets and strings and pickups

the hypnotic drone and drive
of throbbing bass, rhythmic percussion.

(The roar of pure silence
former ground beneath my feet

departs in a quick wave
of sonic noise and pulse

that continues for fifteen minutes
of rare glory, joy, hope.)


Imagine there is a lot of feedback in the music of this poem and it might work a bit better.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #14 - You Want Me To Write a What?



Desiccated fruit awkwardly rolls
after me in the aisles of Produce

begging for moisture
from my fatted body

an orange in leathery rind
calls out to me from his pile of relatives:

You’re 60% water,
you can spare some, buddy!


You want me to write a what? Exactly.

Today is the day when I couldn't meet the challenge. I couldn't make the cleave work in the time allotted. It sounded forced or corny or both. Instead, I wrote a brief comic poem.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #13 - Smoke a Dubie



You wondered about skin
wrinkled by looking at jewels.

You drank glass after glass of whiskey,
chasing it with cheap beer as the night aged.

You telephoned in the middle of the night,
drunk dialing, hoping to speak with your daughter.

You asked me to buy you unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes,
and bring them to your hospital room.

You peppered me with gifts from mail order catalogs,
trinkets and throwaways of a plastic knick-knack culture.

You declared that they stole my liquor,
but they will never get my smokes!
while I nodded in assent.

You sang to me and we wandered the hallways of the cancer ward,
our rectums bleeding, leaving a trail of painted carpet in our wake.

You spoke of your beloved eagles and cardinals
and tiny songbirds as though they were the very angels of heaven.

You laughed a warbled throaty laugh,
wet on wet and then some.

You did nothing other than breathe,
trying so hard to put puffs of air together like puzzle pieces.

I held your hands, the skin soft like baby hands,
warmth slowly dripping out through the drain tube of hours.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #12 - Secret Codes



I dreamt a sentence, one which I would prefer to never diagram nor serve, an unwieldy and awkward structure of loneliness and half-beauty.

I would like to tell you that the ocean called to me, called me by name, my full name, enunciating each syllable with utter delight as though my secret lover, my mistress, but that would be a lie, a falsehood, for it never happened; in fact the opposite occurred—I found myself walking along the beach, the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean, in January, as the rain pelted me, driven at a forty-five degree angle upon that same beach, while I walked along, alone, swallowed up in my father-in-law’s goose down filled hooded jacket, because I neglected to remember my own winter coat in a frenzy to get in the car and drive, in order to arrive here and drop off the belongings I had packed at the rented cabin, so that I could be here on the beach, wandering northward, calling out at the ocean, lamenting really, inquiring about why the sea had neglected to call me to sail its waters, or, at the very least, to swim in the shallows or even in the waves that continued to scour at the limitless grains of sand, over which I now traversed, singing my sorrow in off-key improvisation: "Why have you not called me to your depths, O Ocean, as you call the giant squid, swimming in your nether fathoms, avoiding the searching jaws of a toothed whale recently arrived in these arctic waters after migrating from a wintering ground in the equatorial currents of South America, thousands of miles to the south, farther south than the point from which I began to wander and sing this song, this lament, to be something I am not, called to where I am not, swimming with ease, yet ever watchful."

The sea responded with a whispery voice, belched softly forth from its great trenches, carried ever closer with each wave and ripple. Come and swim, the sea reciprocated in offer.

I feared the voice, fled it, leaving behind a small rolling suitcase, a couple days of clean clothing, recently purchased snack foods, as I drove inland, toward the suburban and secure.

The sea sought me with its siren song—Come and swim, love me. I feigned interest, even though piqued, alert, erect. I trembled and fled once more, retreating to the apartment of vacationing friends.

The sea sought me, pulsing through the pipes, pushing gently against the plaster walls, an ebb and flow of residential tides. I slept fitfully through cycles of condensation and evaporation, as the sea wrote a series of Arabic numerals upon the wall in trace salts and minerals: global positioning system coordinates, a latitude and longitude of location, a meeting place, a rendezvous to Come and swim.

I knew this mathematical language, yet I played the part of the fool, pretending to be ignorant of all languages, lacking a grammar, a structure, a vocabulary.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #11 - The Thing You Didn't Choose



I dust off the old bones of my ancestors:
begin my archaeological dig
into the now chalky marrow

discovering itinerant preachers and soldiers,
vagabonds and alcoholics,
housewives and homesteaders.

These people are my people, supporting
me upon the framework
of their lives and lessons.

I write stories for my own children
and my children's children,
stuffing them into my skin

and sewing them in to nourish my own bones.


Dwelling on the things I didn't choose does nothing for me. That way of thinking only leads to regret and guilt. I am the person I am today because of the choices I made. I celebrate those choices rather than challenge them or denigrate them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #10 - Celebrate!



Deschutes Cinder Cone Red Ale
Deschutes Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale
I thought you would be ever present,
my favorite session beer,
gift from the gods.

Rumor came that you were
being discontinued, replaced
by a younger cousin,
of a similar flavor profile,
although of a different style of ale.

Which brought me to a place
of overlap,
a Venn diagram
of longing and memory,
of remembrance and new memory—
one in hospice
one in the nursery.

I tried to keep the wisdom
of Stu Stuart singing to me:
“We Americans are too hung up
with the concept of style.
If you like a particular beer,
then you like that beer;
who cares whether or not
it is an IPA that tastes
like an amber?”


The bottle is poured into the glass:

a brilliant, clear body
a finger of ivory head birthing
small spots of lacing
that cling to the side of the shaker.

The nose is excited by:

caramel and
dark fruits, a rich and bitter plum.
citrus notes, bitter orange.

The tongue plays well with the nose,
reinforcing the strongest scents:

caramel and
dark fruits, a rich and bitter plum,
citrus notes, bitter orange,

while introducing
things new and tantalizing:
dandelion and newborn nettles,
fresh cut grass and mature nettles,
a hint of dark rum,
a hint of lemon zest,
rich sweetness
sharp crispness
upon the finish.


There is true loss
and celebration—
a remembrance of the elder
as he is laid to rest,
a welcoming of the younger
as she takes her first steps—

a slight shift
as the final drink
is quaffed:

plum and brown sugar,
orange and brown sugar,

that fades away,
beckoning me back
for another session
with an

Friday, April 09, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #9 - Your Mission



The world turns upon a gold doubloon.

We dream ourselves dressed as gods—beaver hats, velvet suits, pocket watches—ladies of leisure resting against our loins, their lips pursed.

We begin the mutiny when the stowaways, the Captain’s private whaleboat crew, are discovered.

Our hypnotic thrall is broken, our coin lost upon the deck.

Jugs of spiced rum and other spirits are taken from the hold, passed around from man to man, until all are fairly bruised by liquor, inhibitions massaged away.

Small glass jars of jam are discovered in Captain’s quarters. One of the harpooners opens a container, scoops two of his fingers within, withdraws them coated in a viscous smear, removing it with the scrape of tooth and tongue. In mere moments he promptly vomits upon the deck, retching violently, revealing his supper of barely digested pebbles of pumiced hardtack.

We wade through the thick blubber smoke of the try-works, to light lamps for the court, a luxury of additional illumination upon a ship with a lesser eternity of whale oil.

The trial is brief, the verdict is guilty, the judgment is swift.

Captain tries to limp away, but we nab him just the same, remove his whalebone leg for its ivory, and cast him into the waiting maw of the sea, food for sharks and octopi.

“You marionettes of misfortune,” Captain screams as he attempts to tread water.

We slather the timbers of the main and mizzen masts with pail upon pail of whale oil and light them aflame, torches sailing through the night.

The sudden squall we encounter trims the flames, allowing only a charring of wooden skin.

We cut the rigging and cast it out onto the waters, applauding our ingenuity, welcoming the weeks and months of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We crowned ourselves in death, thinking it the kingdom and the power and the glory.

Remember this is business, we tell ourselves.

The sails of our bone ship are naught but fringe, yet still we drift toward the end of time, the edge of the world, the battle between giants and gods in the final winter.

We hear the sweet calls of crows, then the flap of their wings, shortly before their shapes alight upon the upper yards.

There is an iridescent sheen in the sky, a rainbow bridge, a promise.

Shore is near.


The mission was to:
*Use at least twelve words from this list: flap, winter, torch, pail, jug, strum, lever, massage, octopus, marionette, stow, pumice, rug, jam, limp, campfire, startle, wattle, bruise, chimney, tome, talon, fringe, walker;
*Include something that tastes terrible;
*Include some part (from a few words to several lines) of a previous poem that didn’t quite pan out; and
*Include a sound that makes you happy.

The italicized portions are from my failed poem "Minor Explorations." The cawing of the crows is the sound that makes me happy.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Domestic and/or domesticated fruit.

Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #8 - Unusual Love Connections



Robust men wither and dry
decay in their own red skins

soft gums tender to the touch
hard teeth loose at the foot

dreams of tropical fruits
spiny urchins of the trees

breadfruit and coconut
Marquesan puero and kuuhaa

pepino and prickly pear
seaport markets of Ecuador

curves of sour flesh
rivaling the whores of Quito.


The obsessive love is mine: for Melville and Moby-Dick and all things whaling. The unusual love is for fresh fruit. It isn't necessarily mine, but sometimes my own longing (for whatever) feels like a lack of that for which I pine.

I also tried to play with shorter image "bursts" à la yesterday's tanka prompt.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #7 - Love, Funny Side Up



Counterpane covers
islands adrift, now anchored
boundaries erased—
Marquesan & Manhatto,
lush jungle, New England snow.


Inspired by "The Counterpane," chapter four of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

The challenge was to write about "humor in love" within the five-line constriction of the (English version of the) tanka poetic form. I find the friendship of Queequeg and Ishmael hilarious; you may not. I find the form and structure of tanka overly constrictive, especially with its thirty-one syllables (5-7-5-5-7); you may not. (It definitely runs to counter to the lush "overwriting" of Melville.)

Does the above work? Not as well as I would like, perhaps. I was thinking about things that demarcate boundaries and things that erase them, all the while trying to keep those concepts purposefully ambiguous.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Picture by The Child. "Cheryl Plays the Organ While The Choir Sings."

Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #6 - Converse with Images



"Who-e debel you? Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me, I kill-e!"

Debel you?

Not me.


Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Enter the tents of Mr. Melville’s “Tales of the Exotic: the Polynesian Peepshow”! Experience the tropics! View cannibal man in all of his savage glory! Come so close that you can almost touch his tribal markings, the mysterious and painful-looking tattoos! Watch as he wields various weapons! The spear! The harpoon! The lethal lance! Keep your children near at hand, that they don’t end up the next shrunken head of his ghoulish collection!


Miguel Covarrubias restores nobility to this heir of the throne, this son of the king, this prince who is divine. There is no Icarian fall here. There is no stooping from his station to serve aboard a Nantucket whaler. There is no selling of one’s birthright for a pot of porridge, a bowl of cod chowder. There is only majesty made manifest. There is disconcerting bravery, masked and regal, yet rightly bestowed by the gods upon this royal man. This is the strutting and befeathered cock. This is the light that emanates from the heavens and her inhabitants. This is the indigenous island native in his natural habitat.


Here then, is 1935 Heritage Press Editions Typee Queequeg, an embryonic version of the half-man, half-spectre of unearthly complexion and dark purplish, yellow color. This is 1941 lithograph Mexican Street Scene transposed from Mexico to the Marquesas, turned ninety-degrees from profile to full-frontal portraiture, seated to standing, transgendered, clothes and caution now thrown to the non-existent wind (because these scenes are both situated in the breath of the God of Elijah—no earthquake, no fire, only stillness and silence) Queequeg. This is breach of time-and-space, non-linear, semi-non-Melvillean Queequeg. Yet: the spear, the harpoon, the lance! Step right up!


The images I played with:


Queequeg from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Italicized quotes are from Chapter 3, "The Spouter-Inn."


Young fierce Marquesan warrior from Typee by Herman Melville, as illustrated by Miguel Covarrubias for the 1935 Heritage Press Edition.


Mexican Street Scene (lithograph, 1941) by Miguel Covarrubias. (I recently viewed this lithograph at University of Puget Sound's Kittredge Gallery.) Also, a reimagined Queequeg, combining elements of all three images, although revisited primarily through image #2.


I conversed with the images. The images conversed with one another. Covarrubias conversed with Melville's ghost. Queequeg conversed with his alternate selves. The conversations recorded themselves onto the page.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #5 - Make Your Poetry Personal



Crow is to a dropped and long-forgotten French fry, encased in its clothing of congealed grease

as Crow is to a glittering bauble

as Crow is to a knife of shattered mirror that retains an image of the last person staring into its glassy dimensions

as Crow is to a string of multicolored yarn

as Crow is to a scrap of discarded newsprint tattered by weathering wind into a poem of its own making

as Crow is to Canadian pennies

as Crow is to a deformed root vegetable, rising from the worms and making itself known to the hardening glare of summer sun

as Crow is to scratched lottery tickets

as Crow is to a shred of red-dyed aluminum can that sings its “la” to all who will listen

as Crow is to chewing gum wrappers

as Crow is to a chip of paste-white paint from the peeling picket fence of a neighboring farm house

as Crow is to half of a wooden nickel

as Crow is to the lid of a spice container from a store that specializes in stocking supplies for the familiarity and comfort of its Latin American immigrant customers

as Crow is to the feather of another crow gliding earthward in a game of feather tag

as Crow is to a rattling blackened walnut shell with a hint of dried meat within

as Crow is to the newborn nestling of the screeching and scolding house finch hen

as Crow is to the warm muscle of a shellfish surrounded by bits of its shattered exoskeleton, having been dashed upon the shoreline’s riprap

as Crow is to a piece of broken vinyl record

as Crow is to a small key missing from the necklace chain that kept it safe until needed to open the diary and jotted thoughts of a ten-year-old girl

as Crow is to a piece of broken vinyl record

as Crow is to a dropped and long-forgotten French fry, newly rediscovered.


Today, alternate ego, sometime muse, trickster extraordinaire, and my all-around favorite Aesop character gets to have his say. This is the ordinary everyday and the fantastical everyday at play with one another. This is the obsession of Crow as he watches the world. And this is the obsession of Crow as he watches the world. And this is the obsession of Crow as he watches the world...

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #4 - Inside Out



all is topsy-turvy:
tomb is empty
last are first
outside is in.

Trumpets blare and blat.

everything is new:
vibrant, glowing
love manifest
upon the skin.

People sing: Hallelujah!

Hal-le-lu-jah! A-men!


My idea of inside out.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Found sticker art, affixed to a newspaper box, Puyallup WA.

Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #3 - Scared Yet?



Limpet slowly traverses her tidal pool,
feeding upon algae and other microorganic flora

until she is caught in the grip
of sea star, who crushes her shell
and sucks her visceral mass from its safety

until, in turn, the tide flows and rises
allowing octopus to enter, octopus who grasps
sea star and rends him limb from limb

until, in turn, the tide ebbs and octopus
heads back to sea, where toothed whale encounters her,
punctures her mantle with his mandible

until, in turn, the boats sail upon the sea
carrying their monkey-men on their wooden decks,
scanning the sea with their binoculars

harpoons at the ready for the darting,
lances awaiting the final, fatal surgery of the day.


It is an irrational fear, perhaps, but I fear being eaten alive. It seems the most gruesome death to me. As a carnivore on the top of the food chain, I consider myself "lucky" in the big scheme of things, because my chances of experiencing this are minimal. It is not impossible that I encounter death this way, but improbable, especially if I stay sequestered in the cities of humankind.

Friday, April 02, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #2 - The Ol' Acronym Switcheroo



God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
separated the waters from the waters,
resting upon the final day of creation,
leaving subordinates to manage aquatic affairs.

The Southern Ocean was left to Leviathan—
the pale beast breaching, lifting his bulk out of the brine,
taking a quick glance about before slapping his armored scales
upon the surface of his realm, with a noble splash,
his flukes flashing momentarily in his signature departure—
tonight we will hunger for there is no fishing this day.

The Great River was left to Behemoth—
a sulfurous snort signals her arrival near the muddy shore,
where she manages to lumber her weight a few feet onto land,
snapping her claptrap jaws onto the closest vegetation,
trying to turn her massive head from side to side in a swift survey—
tonight we will sit in soiled clothes for there is no laundry this day.

The lesser waters were left to lesser minions—
the swamps to the crocodilians, the streams to the biting turtles,
the warm and shallow tropical waters to colorful barbed fish,
the deeper seas to the sharks and rays and octopi,
the farthest fathoms to unknown phosphorescent monsters—
we are paralyzed for fortnight upon fortnight, immobile and waiting.

We sit upon tufts of grass, our monkey hands wrapped tight
around our sharpened sticks, these new tools we named spear.


When I visited the Acronym Attic site and entered RWP as instructed, I looked through the list for something that could be bent toward the ocean. I found it in "Regional Water Partnerships" and waited for inspiration to strike. When it did, I used my RWP as the title and theme of the poem.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Prompt #1 - Shuffle A Poem



I was trapped for six days at the bottom of the ocean, in a box of fresh water, shaped into its cubic form by the briny fathoms of tropical sea that surrounded it, that exerted pressure to maintain this form, myself safe in an airy womb at its very center, a stomach of oxygenated atmosphere. Here I lived, if you dare to name it such, doubling Jonah’s time in the belly of his God-given fish. I spent a week of creation, minus the day of rest and relaxation tacked onto the end, lasting six days, enduring, when Jonah lasted a mere three.

At night, the stars of the lid were hazy, indistinct orbs of light, diffused and beautiful. They colored the jellies that danced through the water. I spoke to them. Baby, come close, I called. They responded by drawing near, realizing me to be a minor threat, until they encountered the fresh water and its lack of salt and buoyancy. They recoiled, danced away, while I called out, Hello, walls, and poked my finger into the wet membrane.


I don't own an mp3 player. I still listen to music on CDs. I still own vinyl albums. Therefore, I went to Music Randomizer and had it select five songs for me. These are the songs I received from the MR gods:

[1] "Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean" by Explosions in the Sky.

[2] "Stars of the Lid" (It wasn't clear if this was the title or the artist.)

[3] "Baby, Come Close" by Smokey Robinson.

[4] "Minor Threat" by Minor Threat.

[5] "Hello Walls" by Faron Young.