Poem: Weather Alert–The Dirty Side Kills #NaPoWriMo

She said,
You don’t want
to get on the dirty side
of a hurricane
because that’s what
kills people.

And that became
a central metaphor
for our relationship.

Don’t get on my dirty side,
she’d say, or I’ll mess you up.

Or I’d say,
The dirty side is moving in,
so you better back off.

And we always talked like that,
the way people talk about the weather,
but we never did anything about it.

(“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.”–Mark Twain or possibly Charles Dudley Warner)

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Poem: The Epistemology of Indifference #NaPoWriMo

I hadn’t really noticed
You had stopped calling
Or coming around
Until a mutual acquaintance
Mentioned you were struggling
With unspecified issues.

I was curious, or course,
But didn’t really ask much
Or follow up in any way,
Because I have other things
weighing on my mind.

I don’t worry too much
about your health,
job security or children.
I haven’t checked to see how
your business is doing.
I am confident your life is flourishing,
Though it sometimes seemed like disaster.

No, I’ve forgotten that I once relied
heavily on your trust and confidence
while fretting constantly over your
well-being and safety. When I have
some success or crushing failure,
I no longer immediately think to call you,
at least to the best of your knowledge.*

*Apologies to Kenan and Kel in Good Burger.

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Poem: On the Significance of Triumph #NaPoWriMo

Some people are never satisfied.
I swear, if they won a Pulitzer Prize,
they’d complain it wasn’t a Nobel.

Sometimes the small triumphs
mean the most,
like not re-reading the hateful email
your ex sent to all your mutual friends.

Or when you didn’t leave the crumbs
on the counter after eating the
last slice of key lime pie
from your hands.

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Poem: On the Fine Art of Collecting in Aid of Mental Stability #NaPoWriMo

Some of us get lost in details.
Minutiae absorb our minds.

I could never,
perhaps because I never wanted to,
find myself so lost in statistics,
dates, patterns, smells, and materials.
I never really cared who signed what and when
or what colours were used in any particular year.
I didn’t have the focus.
Anyone who ever tried to teach me
complained that my mind wandered off,
and I could not be present.

So, I envy the others who are so lost
in learning and remembering exactly
what shades of blue were in use in 1872.
They seem so untroubled as they delight
over the 1919 edition they found on Ebay for
only $35, less than dinner at a mediocre restaurant.

They get such pleasure from harmless hobbies,
while I stay shackled in the torture room,
collecting nothing but my own thoughts
of eternal suffering presaged by infinite dread.

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Poem: Center Drugstore (#napowrimo)

You would open the door to mingling aromas
of coffee, toast, perfume, and disinfectant.
After the shock of the olfactory assault,
You’d see a few toys to attract the kids
alongside perfume and various toiletries
to attract their moms. Three aisles
pretty much stretched the length of the store.

Items became more personal as you made your
way to the back. After the toys and toiletries,
you’d find grooming products, followed by
over the counter medications, with “feminine”
products, haemorrhoid creams, and laxatives
at the absolute end of the aisle. To get condoms
or prescriptions, you’d have to go to the counter
that stretched across the back of the store.

These were the earliest days of the birth control pill,
and it was only purchased in silence with no hint
given to prying bystanders that the customer at
the counter might be in search of childless sex.

To the left of the three aisles of products, you
would find two fairly comfortable booths,
big enough for six people to slide in,
three on either side with room to read a paper
or magazine while eating breakfast or lunch.

Behind the booth was a long counter with
bolted barstools inviting a brief reprieve,
but not comfortable enough to encourage lingering.
Behind the counter, you’d find the usual:
Soda fountain, griddle, toaster, sandwich counter.
You could get a standard assortment of bacon, eggs,
toast, coffee, soda, grilled cheese, or maybe a tuna sandwich.

No one complained about the menu. People rarely
complained, except to get a rise out of the soda jerk,
just for amusement and to pass the boredom.

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Poem: The Shame of Engine Sludge (#napowrimo)

I always dread this task,
emptying the oil and
replacing with clear and shiny
fluids flowing through fresh filters.

I should say I don’t mind
most of it—it’s refreshing
to screw on sparkling protection
and fill the block with lubrication.

It’s the old detritus that vexes me.
I’ve done this thousands of times,
but I still leave spots on the pavement,
evidence of attrition and abuse slowly
wearing away the efficiency of my engine.

I know others see the harm I’ve caused,
and neither power washer nor industrial
soap can spare me the injury of a shameful past.

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Poem: QED (for WCW)

To us this is not so, not so if we prove it by writing a poem built to refute it—otherwise he wins!! ~William Carlos Williams

What if you wrote the poem
that proved everyone wrong,
but they refused to accept
the conclusion and continued
to walk with invariance
on metered and predictable feet?

What if they never learned to
breathe and step down
to a natural rhythm?

What would be the point
of walking under the
white disc of the sun
and counting
the steps to
death?

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Poem: You Tried to Keep Your Head Up (for James Byrd)

You lived a life that made your family proud,
But the weak-minded hated the colour of your skin.
You lived a life that made your family proud,
But fuelled master race fantasies for neighbour kids.

You trusted the boys who claimed supremacy.
To be generous and relieve your heavy burden.
You trusted the boys who claimed supremacy
as they brought your death and your ascent began.

You tried to keep your head up,
as those bastards laughed through your screams.
You tried to keep your head up,
with pain and blood in free flowing streams.

You were the only man there
as you were tortured by these boys.
You were the only man there,
Your body drug through gravel like a toy.

You lived gently and kept your head up,
And you died in excruciating pain.
You lived gently and kept your head up,
So we must ensure white supremacy never rises again.

Other works inspired by the murder of James Byrd, Jr.

 

Poem: The Problem with Irony

Nobody really liked Connor’s poetry,
anyway. It didn’t really even seem like
poetry. It just seemed like someone
rambling around trying to tell a story
the way Connor did every time we
tried to get a cup of coffee with him.

Anyway, he said that’s what he wanted
from his poetry was for it to sound real
natural like he was just talking to his readers,
and he figured he had a few things he
wanted to say and what better way to say
a few things than in the context of a poem?

But honestly no one ever knew what he was
going on about because he just sort of
started talking and then went around in
circles for a little while with no kind of
point that anyone could see. And instead
of an ending, he’d just sort of trail off.

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Poem: Your Face

Jesse Bernstein died after he stabbed himself
in the neck, and it was all because there was
something wrong with his face.

That’s what he said.
He said there was something wrong with his face.
Something just wasn’t quite right.
It’s sad when something is wrong with your face,
because you can’t do much about it.
It’s your face and you’re stuck with it.

When people look at you,
you can tell they’re uncomfortable with your face.
When you look in the mirror, you always feel a little
nauseated and you have to look away.
The worst part is that you can’t figure out
what is wrong with your face.

It’s just a face everyone hates.
A face you hate.
And people make all those face jokes.
You know, like they’ll talk about something horrific
and then say it reminds them of your face.

And that’s so fucking funny it takes your breath away.
And you don’t know what to do, so you end up sticking a knife in your neck.

But I found something I love. Something that brings me joy. Even if you can’t bear to look at me, listen. I found something that gives me hope:

Your face.

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