In the kitchen there are too many dirty dishes. In the car there is a bag full of empty coffee cups and a new girl asking about astrology. The wind follows me around as a reminder. I went to throw something in the river, but I ruined the moment on my own accord. I changed directions, then found my way by moonlight. I put up a happy front. I juxtapose my emotions. I say, be brave, when talking to my heart. She’s the decision maker. I’m along for the ride. I don’t even try to backseat drive. If I was paranoid that would be a good excuse to go home. If I was cold/hot/hungry. But instead I scribble notes about secrets. When do I get to reveal myself? When does the seventh skin drop? I look at my calendar for answers. I want a crystal ball and a time machine. Frame a picture of you. Keep that picture of us somewhere deep inside. Pretend not to be disappointed. Notice the lack of fireflies. The dress that hangs from a wire. The shoes that have lost their owner. That’s how I feel. A message flashes on repeat. Even the dogwalkers have gone home.
My voice is not enough. I have to remove these states to show you the big picture. There is a way out from under this dark cloud. When pleasure is pain and there’s no blood under your nails. I shape you like clay. Like a Barbie doll in an Osprey’s nest. Like love on a sandal. Like too many hawks in the sky. On the side of a mountain. When no one’s looking. We go looking for Jimmys. There is a list of three, but I won’t ever tell. Suck down the cancer. Wearing a backpack is the first sign. A large button is a good way to spend millions. How many seconds between me and you? That was a question. There is an answer. Where is the somebody on the other side of the line? My nerves are shot. My fingernails are frayed. I’m going to Memphis. I’ll walk if I need to. And I don’t wish for peace. There’s a train running through my room. There’s a pile of rubble on your floor. Best to move. Best to keep moving. I need a Camel and a U-Haul. She’ll be bought for five camels. A small price to pay. I work inside of a valentine. I wear black and white. I match the inside. I want red sneakers, a red hoodie, a red heart. I’ll pay for an upgrade. I’ll trade in. I’ll marry up. I’ll space out.
For several months now, I have been experimenting with poetry. My method so far has been fairly simple. When the mood strikes me, I free write in the notebook I always carry with me. I give it a few days, trying not to reflect on what I’ve written till I have a bit of distance. Then, looking back, I’m able to pick out which parts I like and which parts I can scrap.
Once I have pared down the writing, I type it up, officially transforming it into a poem. However, lately I have been a little disappointed with how these poems are looking in a traditional form. So this time, I tried writing it up as a block of text. I feel like it fits better with the prose-poetry which I tend to gravitate to.
Below are both versions, and I would be very curious to hear what you think about the two formats. Is one more effective than the other? Do you have a preference? I look forward to hearing comments and critiques!
The Mayor’s Arm Candy
What is it about leaves turning yellow that makes me want to write a poem? Like counting your tattoos. Today not one person said thank you. I’m a girl among friends. I don’t know his intentions but I know my own. I want to read your words like I want to share your air. Can you lick the gold from my tongue? I know you prefer whiskey but the gold is hot and sweet going down. It cut my throat. The inside. The dark wet inside is lined and cut up with gold. The same color as your sheets. The same notes as my typewriter. I want to hear those keys clack. But I know they’ve been lonely since you met me. Since I met you it’s been nothing but blue skies and downpours. Did you do that? Did you make that rain? This heart? These hands? I want them back. I am their rightful owner. Unnaturally far, separated by five states. I drive through those states, like blood in the veins, making my way back to the heart.
The Mayor’s Arm Candy
What is it about leaves turning yellow that makes me want to write a poem?
Like counting your tattoos.
Today not one person said thank you.
I’m a girl among friends.
I don’t know his intentions but I know my own.
I want to read your words like I want to share your air.
Can you lick the gold from my tongue?
I know you prefer whiskey but the gold is hot and sweet going down.
It cut my throat
The dark wet inside is lined and cut up with gold.
The same color as your sheets.
The same notes as my typewriter.
I want to hear those keys clack
But I know they’ve been lonely since you met me.
Since I met you it’s been nothing but blue skies and downpours.
Did you do that?
Did you make that rain? This heart? These hands?
I want them back.
I am their rightful owner
Separated by five states.
I drive through those states, like blood in the veins,
In the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, she recommends the exercise of listing the reasons why you write. If ever you are feeling stuck with your writing, it is helpful to simply start with that question and see what answers you come up with.
I did this exercise myself a few months ago in one of my journals and then promptly forgot about it. Coming across it the other day, I thought it was pretty funny and wanted to share it with you all.
Why I Write:
I write because I’m hopeful
And I want to put myself through the wringer.
Because a desk job is just too painful.
So I can feel good about myself and others will too.
So I can feel bad about myself.
Because there has never been anything else.
Because of the feeling of pulling a story out of thin air
And turning it real.
Because of my friends who inspire me into creation.
Because it’s fun to make fun of people.
So I can create my own heroes.
To get through my own demons.
Because I still want my mother fucking yacht.
I would love to hear other writers’ responses to this prompt! Feel free to create your own list and leave it in the comments.
In the few months I’ve been home, I’ve done several readings around the Pioneer Valley. It has been nerve racking and exhilarating to read my prose in front of an audience.
Last week, I chose to read some of my poetry at Spoken Word Greenfield. It was a completely different experience. Poetry, being so much personal than fiction, was much more difficult for me to get through. I felt vulnerable and exposed.
It was difficult, but it was a great experience, one in which I hope to build on in the future.
I would love to hear from other writers out there. Do you feel a difference when you read poetry versus prose at an open mic? Which do you prefer?
Here is one of the poems that I read:
Out in the woods I stand in the middle of a bridge
And I can’t tell which way the water is moving.
Like myself, coming and going
Moving perpetually in two directions.
I’ve seen enough roadkill to last a lifetime.
I don’t want to drive anymore.
I want to close my eyes next to you.
Be near me so I don’t have to think.
Be near me so I don’t’ have to know myself.
There is too much inside.
No matter where I go I find myself at a trailhead.
I walk fifty yards into the woods and then turn around
Because I fear its depth.
Like how I stand in the shallow end of my soul.
I don’t want to know how far down it goes
Or what lurky beasts hide in its midst.
It’s all mist down there.
Caution signs everywhere.
I told you to stay away
That at the end it would feel better.
But then, that’s a lie
Because I batted the fuck out of my eyelashes for you to come over.
What took you so long?
I’ve been watching the clock,
Not long until my moods swing.
Let’s hit the bathroom.
Oh it’s too nasty?
I like to play dirty.
So I guess it’s all my fault
I wind up with shards of glass in my skin
And dirt in my eyes.
I don’t want to stop.
Nothing feels better than pen scribbled on paper.
ROBERT FROST TRAIL
Ok, this is awesome:
I’m in the middle of the world.
Water moves by slowly.
Straight, tall trees march up the hill
And cling to rocks.
A few trees have fallen across the water
Casualties of winter
But I won’t be one.
I have my face to the sun for the first time in months.
I am blown away by love
But I’m in love with nothing so petty
As a person:
The whole universe.
In the spring months since my homecoming, I’ve enjoyed bringing my notebook with me out in the woods and doing free writes. I’ve been turning these into poems, which I am looking forward to sharing. Here is one:
I’m writing from the spot of so many firsts
Far from cities and nightclubs and bathrooms.
The mountains are dark blue
The sky is grey.
Driving here I passed a sign:
“Your community farm.”
Send me back to the city
Where I belong
Or at least where I can disappear.
I always go to Target when it’s raining
And try to forget about the world outside.
Writing letters to you is my new poetry.
I miss the tortured city days.
I miss the destructive side of myself.
It gave me an edge.
Now the wind blows the pine trees and little else.
I am dying to be swept away but then why on earth are my feet planted on this ground?
This ground that is so much my own.
I can’t share.
I’m selfish as an only child.
This is my turf and no one can possible know it like I do.
In the summer I will walk on the other side of the reservoir.
Maybe I will be alone
Through the woods
Until I reach the rock.
There I will hang my belongings on the knob of a tree
Remove my clothes
Climb the rock
And dive in.
I’ll swim across the expanse on my back
Till I reach the island
Emerging on land like the first dinosaurs
Eyes wide open.
I’ll sun myself
Pine needles sticking to my wet skin.
The sun shining red behind eyelids.
But today is just a rainy spring day
And I am eternally waiting.