Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Empties

The Empties

Full shampoo bottle stacked
on top of the empty,
new roll of toilet paper propped up
by bare cardboard tube.
Every need a phoenix, a lack
to be solved by flinging
forth the new. Here, four beers
in brown glass, and in
return, give me what’s left over
from the four you drank,
just the vessels. An even trade,
matter to consume and
then a container holding nothing.
Wait, is this world a
bottomless Pez Dispenser or not,
what day do they
replenish the vending machines
around here. You’ll
never get your nickel deposit back
because you forgot
you gave us any money, you forgot
that we take things
and use them up until we forget
that these glass jars,
roosting and beautiful on our shelves,
are our prizes for
having finally run out of everything.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Infinity Pool

Infinity Pool

The illusion of no edge
becomes infinity

as soon as we wrap our
language around it,

we could swim into sky,
could fly from

this small pocket of water
into the great

non-place, the vast negative
space we see

as blue fields, as crayoned
line lidding

a page. As a dollhouse is
to a child’s

bedroom, that is our sphere
of experience

within the planet, our planet’s
hamster cage

within a parking garage, tiered
without end.

You cannot go where you are
trying to go yet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lousy Paperweight Co.

Lousy Paperweight Co.

Memory of the agate ocean,
you are the worst paperweight

my brain has conjured, even
worse than fear of falling from

the elevated train’s platform,
even worse than feel of water

sliding from the sun-warmed
green hose without touching

the spigot, yesterday’s remainder.
Bodies at rest tend to leap into

activity when the room tilts
and shakes. Too many papers,

pal, that’s our problem, and
proximity to big windows.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Because It Pierces the Earth

Because It Pierces the Earth

You can be in the space between trees
and the space between roots and the trees
they belong to. You can still breathe.
You can make a springy cocoon
from the rotary phone’s curlicued cord.

There are still some places where
you will hear very little
interruptive sound. There is quiet
full of process. An ocean of air
rolls over us, unbeknownst to us,

a baby chipmunk is going to be
born next year, and walk across the place
where your foot is touching a leaf now.
A pine needle has already fallen
since you were resting here,

generations of pine needles
have grown and fallen here for
a hundred years, since the pine’s
birth. A thin strand of grass appears,
green as the trees, and we call it a blade.

Friday, February 22, 2013

On Creativity: Listening on the Brain

Apparently, I’ve had listening on the brain.

Evelyn Glennie’s TED talk, “How to Truly Listen,” is continuing my fascination with sound and how we experience it.

Her talk really resonates (there are so many puns in describing sound and understanding...I find that interesting!) with me. She talks about the differences between being a technician (focused only on technique and correctness) and being a musician (interpreting the music as a whole, including everything not written on the page). She also brings her ideas around to the importance of empathy (another pet cause of mine). Fascinatingly, she’s a mostly-deaf percussionist--she expands the definition of “listening” to include our entire bodily perception (not just ears, which is such a limited sense). It’s a valuable reminder that we cannot make assumptions about the abilities or experiences of others.

I also love this part of this video (at 5:38 or so), where she is discussing that technician vs. musician idea. She says, “We have to listen to ourselves, first of all. If I play, for example, holding the stick where literally I do not let go of the stick, I’ll experience quite a lot of shock coming up through the arm, and I feel really quite (believe it or not) detached from the instrument and from the stick....By holding it [the stick] tightly, you feel, strangely, more detached. If I just simply let go and allow my hand, my arm to be more of a support system, suddenly, I have more dynamic with less effort.....I feel at last one with the stick and one with drum, and I’m doing far, far less.”

There’s something important for us, as artists, here. Glennie is talking about a rigid, controlled approach versus a relaxed, less-scripted, less-guarded approach. She’s so right. Somedays, when I’m writing, I can feel myself overworking or strangling my words; those lines never turn out right. On the other hand, if I can let my writing be what it wants to be, and nurture that, it turns out much stronger.

I’m not advocating for laziness or sloppiness. Instead, it’s crucial to be attentive to our ideas and the moves our brains make, and work toward our best versions of our own work. I’ve always felt that this is my job as a teacher--to help students hear where their voices are at their best, and to write toward this strength.

Glennie’s talk reminds us to create with all that we have, to create art by more fully inhabiting the self.

P.S. Emily Rapp's post on RoleReboot, "What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent," also reminds us how important it is to listen and be present.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Listening Party

Listening Party

So often, we see what we think
cannot be seen: rain before
water as clouds and bird chatter,
a neighbor across the street
whose life continues when she
enters her home. Through her
living room, sliced by a window,
you see her lift a mug to her mouth,
reach over the computer screen
to turn it on.

Where does proof come from.

How does the mind decide,
imperceptibly, that we see
what we see, and what we
see is happening.

When a new album is released
(released, we say, like prisoners, or hounds)
your friend hosts a listening party.

We both show up,
and your neighbor, and your neighbor’s neighbor,
and strangers who are your friends.
We crowd round the speaker
like it’s a fireplace.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dark Alley

Dark Alley

You will be chased down a dark alley,
hallway of tin trash cans and slimy brick,
shadows scurrying from you
as you run.

At the end of the alley, a metal door,
rusted handle.

Your ring of keys in your pocket.
The brass one with the squared-off top.

You could never remember what it went to,
but now, you know. It fits.

You knew to keep it.
Hurry. They're coming.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013



When the song ends
it doesn’t just evaporate

like frost from the lawn.
The song snakes away

from us, into the realm
of Songland. Brink of

evening or morning,
always, miles of pines

and riverbeds and
crosswalks. Songs

nestle in the branches,
strewn like crepe paper

in all the song-spaces.
No people here, the songs

feel lonely, they wait
for you to call them back.

When we sing, we summon
them. When we want to hear

them, we summon them,
and when they slither from

our throats or into our heads,
they think they must be

dreaming to feel so much
clear euphoria and love.

Monday, February 18, 2013

You Should Try to Get Some Sleep

You Should Try to Get Some Sleep

Flame in the fireplace,
leaves stretching in the greenhouse.

Small room full of the dark
and puddled with chemicals for coaxing

images from film. Meteors
sleeping soundlessly in the burning fields,

and encyclopedias snug
in the highest shelves, beneath blankets

of dust. Water rushing down
the drain in the sink and the bathtub,

the dead and dessicated spider
carried off by the wind to the big web

in the sky. Undiscovered
gems glittering in the hills under

rocky eyelids, and the next
few days’ supply of gasoline resting

like well water in tanks under
the Shell Station just down the street.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Things I've Accidentally Learned While Writing Poems (This Week)

The earliest recipe for peanut butter cookies directing bakers to make a criss-cross pattern on the dough was in the Schenectady Gazette in 1932.

There is a robot inchworm called The Meshworm.

Eye size in animals is greatly affected by the animal’s lifestyle (not just the body size).

Speaking of eyeballs, scientists said they may be able to grow eyeballs in the lab.

This is the Grotto on Georgian Bay. It looks beautiful. Has anyone been there?

Mercury is NOT in retrograde. Yet.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

On a Large Wooden Plaque on the Wall in the Lobby, in Brushed Silver Letters

On a Large Wooden Plaque on the Wall in the Lobby, in Brushed Silver Letters

At the Center for All Who Step Off Elevators
When They Stop and Open,
Regardless of Floor,

there are ninety-nine floors,
wall buttons that go from flat white
to glowing marigold under the finger,

thousands of people with their minds
flung in front of them and their bodies
scurrying forward,
the front end of the inchworm reaching out
and tugging at the ground to travel,
the tail end, struggling to reach
where the mind wanted to be
a moment ago.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision

The most beautiful thing about your
goggle binoculars
is not the color of the iris or the soft
yawn of your pupil
widening, narrowing. It’s the limits
to what you can see,
the built-in edges we are given at
birth, installed within
eyeballs. Vision means tunnel vision,
the exclusion of sewer
or gutter or drippy-bladed icicles.
Your eyes grow up in
you, gain a few millimeters, and fool
you into naming yourself
All-Seeing Oracle, The Viewmaster.
The eyes make the world,
half of it, at least, tell the looker what
to trust as true, even if
we got our start back in the kitchen,
inventing batches of truth.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013



There is nothing over there.

Over there, nothing is there
to separate us, to show us
how close the trees are to
the house.

Omens, omens, everywhere.

Everywhere, omens, omens,
Omens R’Us, made and given
as comic strip-swaddled gifts.

The grotto is flooded,
the statues are gone.

Flooded, the grotto is
blotto with seawater
and bobbing statues,
who says statues can’t
dance. Have body, had
pedestal, will travel.
Come on, clay pals,
let’s show this ocean
what we can do now
that our feet are free.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading/enjoying....

“Our No Audio, Ourselves,” by Natalie Shapero on the Kenyon Review blog. I think Natalie is brilliant and awesome (not just because of her poems or this post, but her work certainly contributes). In this post, she briefly explores the logic of censorship on reruns of Sex and the City.  A little snippet:
“While the syndicated version of the show offers plenty of substitutions for the types of swear words you might yell at a crashed computer, references to parts of the human body are typically replaced not by synonyms, but by silence.”

I Am Sitting in a Room, by Brian Dillon. This book is the first in Cabinet’s 24-Hour Book series....that’s right, an entire book composed in one day. My favorite part is the strange index at the end....there’s a list of “Books Consulted” and “Food and Drink” consumed. Hey, Cabinet about a book of poems (um, a slim chapbook) composed in a day? I’d be up for that challenge. (Thanks for this book, Dad!)

This article, “How to Give Birth to a Rabbit,” by Carrie Frye at The Awl. Shudder. Creepy and fascinating.

This explanation of the Dugway Geode Beds, courtesy of the Utah Geological Survey. It’s too bad I’m not good at science, because I’m so darn interested in certain aspects of it! I'm not sure I always get it right in my poems, but I'm so appreciative that I can Google "How do geodes form" and "What minerals are inside of geodes" and "When did Lake Bonneville exist," and have all this information available. Thanks, internet!

How about you? What are your eyeballs lapping up this week?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Greetings from Lake Bonneville

Greetings from Lake Bonneville

Somewhere in Utah, a volcano’s stomach
growled, six million years ago. Magma

bubbled up, hot, thick, made into lava
by air. Pockets of gas formed in the quick-

cooling rock as it settled, dragon-haunched,
over the land. Groundwater swirled through

land’s veins, like magma, spat minerals into
the rock and then, into the hollows. Launch

space into the solid pieces of the world,
and see if it doesn’t get filled, caves

and their stalactite grins, tidal waves
beginning at earth’s split lip and hurled

at shores. Good old Lake Bonneville
shows up 30,000 years ago, yo-yos

in size, and digs its claws into those
rocky pockets (remember them) still

clamped up tight like oysters, before
they’re split. Here’s that round rock.

Your chisel. And you, who the clock
and the geode have been waiting for.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Within the Blizzard

Within the blizzard, a miniature snowstorm
pinging the windshield. Specialized weather,

Eeyoric, Pig-Pen’s One-Man-Dust-Storm.
A snowstorm looks like a galaxy, wetter,

whiter, stars wiped clean before frost forms,
and the winter storm over you that peppers

only your car is a salt truck, transformed
by you and the snow and the night, together.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Everyone’s a Curator

Everyone’s a Curator

Glory, glory to the holy
ordinary, black road going

white in the snow, early
flowering trees, green field

of clover adjacent to the
playground, at night,

brighter under streetlight.
Lilac-covered Rebecca,

bathtub-smudged and
crinkled, salt and pepper

shakers of Pilgrim
squirrels, buckle shoes

and bonnet and bushy
tails. The church of My

Favorite Things, of
every collection embedded

with melody and narrative,
of trinket as collection,

one memory as object
to display and shine.

Friday, February 1, 2013

On Creativity: Anne Champion

Anne Champion
Anne Champion’s Reluctant Mistress makes you look at what you don’t want to see. There’s a couple in therapy, men and women hurting and sleeping with each other (sometimes simultaneously), dying deer, voodoo dolls and love spells, and above all else, the body. Bodies and body parts are everywhere in this unflinching collection. In one poem, “Ritual,” the speaker and her best friend drink a bottle or two of wine, and verbally “castrate” their former lovers; what interests me most in this poem, and the rest of the book, isn’t Champion’s wit or mockery. Rather, the speaker knows why they do this. “The tender aches laughed off,” she explains, “the lovers fully sacrificed/ to the narrative arc, our stories woven/ together to transform/ old pain into absurdity.”

That’s what I most enjoyed about Champion’s poems--their surprising insistence on transforming pain into wisdom and growth.

(NOTE: After the interview below, read “Daphne, Upon Transformation,” and “The Old Red Maple,” both of which appear with permission of the author. Pre-order Reluctant Mistress will be released on April 1, 2013).

Q: So many of your poems (including “Daphne, Upon Transformation,” “Woman Folding Origami,” “The Red Maple,” and “Change,”) beautifully explore change and growth. Yes, these poems are about love, lust, and heartbreak, but more importantly, they are about how to live with brokenness and pain in you. For you, what is the relationship between transformation, healing, and poetry/art (including your own poems)? What poems/art do you turn to in times of pain?

A: I want to start answering this question with the last three stanzas of D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Tortoise Shout:”

The cross,
The wheel on which our silence first is broken,
Sex, which breaks up our integrity, our single inviolability, our deep silence
Tearing a cry from us.

Sex, which breaks us into voice, sets us calling across the deeps, calling, calling for the
Singing, and calling, and singing again, being answered, having found.

Torn, to become whole again, after long seeking for what is lost,
The same cry from the tortoise as from Christ, the Osiris-cry of abandonment,
That which is whole, torn asunder,
That which is in part, finding its whole again throughout the universe.

I recognize a profound truth in these lovely lines: the idea that we are broken into voice, that this voice is a way of reaching for another, that our voice can and will manifest itself in both cries and songs, that this brokenness is cyclical—a wheel that continually churns.  You see it in the word repetition within his lines: silence, voice, silence, cry, calling, answered, found, cry, torn, whole, torn, whole.  This back and forth of brokenness and healing, of desire and punishment, seems to exactly pinpoint the hefty emotional work of us all, and it seems to explain why we must give our brokenness words.  Our cries are innate: we have no choice in how they manifest.
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