Category Archives: this is not a love poem

making the most of my free time: or how i took all day to write two poems

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My kiddos are still vacationing at nana’s spa & retreat. They return tomorrow, with nana! I had planned to spend all day writing poems to catch up with my napowrimo pledge. Various and sundry distractions (curse you, facebook, dumb dog, and kingdom of Crammond cats!) served to limit my productivity, but I did manage to write a 2nd poem. And who knows, there could be more…the day is young!

This poem was inspired by a prompt from Laura E. Davis’ blog.  In a random act of poem choosing, I opened It’s Not You It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup, and found “The End of the Affair,” by the late Steve Orlen.  I (tried to) turn (most of) the words on their heads. I kind of like the new poem. I really love the prompt!

The Beginning of the Affair

They pick up their guns, back up, air kiss
for the first time, agree, as they will for a time,
to say hello, and enter the empty playground
by the same public entrance. No-one drives
away–on the same streets or on-purpose
opposite ones–suburban sidewalks
as indistinguishable as the feather-weight
of their first last embrace. His car lights left on.
Her car radio tuned to a different station.
Not one detail is perfectly arranged.
The sky clouds.  Thunder distorts their words.
Somebody’s voice. Hey you.
This is not me. I want to say goodbye.

Some god pulls their strings like puppets.
I knew you were going to say that,
he answers in sign language.
One hand reaches for his gun,
one hand makes the sign for love.

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i speak for the trees

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I have been lucky enough (when I am kid-free…which isn’t often) to take part in a writing workshop offered by Bernadette Mayer. One assignment was to write a poem substituting one theme/idea for something else. That is a poorly-described interpretation of the assignment, mind you. I was given a gorgeous, ancient guide to trees of the eastern and central united states and canada (c. 1946) to work from. Here, months later, is my attempt at that assignment.

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The Lumberjack Plans His Wedding

He carries A Guide To Trees
in his great hands
like a bible,

begins on page one,
substitutes beautiful girl
for tree.

What is a bride?

To the forester she is a factory

producing the most good timber
in the least possible time
at the least possible expense.

He takes notes on her bark.

Plant a bride where you live,
in ten years you will become so attached
to the young oak
you won’t want to leave her.

His shovel is always at his side.

Once unwed women grew in forests—
reed-like and pliant,
saplings stealing the light
in some places so thick
men could hardly see the sun.

Then came the cry:
let daylight in the swamp.

A generation of pioneers felled
the great brides, burned their magnificent gowns
to get them out of the way.

That era is now past,
the wise botanist tells him,
and the lumberjack, almost a groom,
bends to praise his bride’s persistent stem.

napowrimo day four

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The Princess Loses Her Pea

That woman tied to a chair
cannot see her wings.
She was once her own king
and queen, until the ruler’s ruler
ruled she was no longer a subject
but the still-life. Punishment—
the paint brushes with bristles severed
easels with screws loosened
canvases shorn in jigsaw pieces.
Even the windows mock her,
their black mold forming messages
in a foreign tongue. This kingdom
once a utopia of free kisses, roofs
of mouths wide like caves
open for exploring.
What unusual luck, the blacksmith come
to shoe her horse: the mare dead,
his sharpened awl sliding perfectly inside
the heart of her throbbing knot.

napowrimo day 2

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I am the Magician’s Assistant

I fasten the chains around his neck
wind them in a slow dance down his body—
steel girder wrapped in silver—
secure the final link to a bolt in the floor,
step away with the key
tucked in my sequined hollow.

I am the magician’s wet nurse.
I wipe the tears as he mourns his illusion
unfasten the chains when he discovers
he is indeed impotent
not magic but fallible—
mortal as your run of the mill businessman
locked out of his own home again.

I am the star of the show.
My pale hands wave like moth wings
in and around the magician’s black caped torso
reminding the audience
this man is a mystery
a landscape too dark to navigate.

NaPoWriMo #1

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The A to Zs of Marriage

As the bride took wing and ascended the altar, the congregation licked
amens from astonished lips–
……….(bride being a relative term for bored with the way things became).

Crows gathered on the court house steps, the males spreading
charcoal wings to their full length.
……….(Dearly beloved).

Ease into the gown one wing at a time.
Fire of pine boughs in a crumbling fireplace: your honeymoon.
……….(Gather dirt and needles to douse the flames on your own time).

However the fire burns hottest, mark your time, then jump into the blues.
Inflorescence being the one trick your magician never taught you,
……….June bugs are sure to invade your dark body.

Kitchen utensils on a rope around your neck: (check).
Lost, leftover, you wander from tree to tree, looking for a way past the trunk.
……….Maybe you might to read it in the crotch of branches, the spider web of your fate.

Not fond of mowing, one wife grew her grass in cursive love notes (never sent).
Only the postman knows the address
……….(pretend you are wearing clothes when you open the door
……….politely tell him he has the wrong house, wrong woman, wrong package).

Queen for a day and not a crown in sight.
Ringmaster, Ringmaster, lend me your top hat
……….(send the clowns after the curtains are closed).

To discover why you want what you want, walk the aisles of the supermarket until
truth (or your lover’s name) floats off soup cans like skywriting.
……….(Understanding the how-to of why you is not as easy as you might think).

Visions of skin-tight vines wrapping his throat will help you sleep.
Why the bald eagle mates for life is a mystery to scientists, a secret the wife will never reveal.
……….Xylophones are the only wedding present a bride really needs. At least three.

Yellow forsythia on the door knob is a sign: blooming in progress. Do not enter.
Zinnias tangled in your hair are a whole other matter
……….(and when you choose to begin again, remember to ask your flesh how the

bones of the dress dug into your sides).
blood and bone, the flesh support structures–that’s what is missing.
……….Corsets, in the end, only fit comfortably on women of leisure. You move, wife, you lose.

 

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These are the 30 lines from my FaBoStaMe 30-status updates in 30 minutes exercise.  I edited a bit and played with form. 

with thanks to barbie, ken & g.i. joe…

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for helping me get a jump-start on NaPoWriMo!

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National Poetry Month is just a few days away, and that’s when the madness begins.  NaPoWriMo.  A poem-a-day for 30 days.  If you haven’t taken the pledge at Read Write Poem yet, now’s the time.  You know you want to!  And once you start writing a poem every day, it will turn into an addiction.  You will HAVE to write. Every day.  Or you’ll burst.  Trust me.  It happens just like that.

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In that spirit, Carolee and I have been talking about starting a little early getting our poem on.  And since we’re the mini-challenge divas, well, you know we have to do it.  This is my pre-NaPo poem #1.  I’m sure my partner-in-crime will have one up on her poetry blog soon.  Like today.  Right? 

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What the Dolls Do While We Sleep

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From somewhere near a pulsing
point of darkness (far from her heart)

Barbie reveals that most of her life
(the part we can not see

beneath skin stiff as bone)
has been lived behind the bushes.

Not a door, or a curtain, or even behind
Ken’s broad shoulders. You see, don’t you,

how letting truth slip from the split
of hard plastic lips is an act of bravery—

truth like a tree fallen over a chasm
your character drawn by the way you cross

balancing step by step on slick bark (courting danger)
or dodging below, stepping lightly over simple stones.

Minus the tree, the wide cavern (gaping hole) in her path
Barbie makes her first decision, slipping

out the window, snagging rubbery toes on the sill
landing hard on adventure’s packed dirt.

The bush is a cliché, rain soaked leaves
a moist haven glistening in the moon’s light

(all good love affairs begin with a cliché and hard rain).
This is where G.I. Joe waits, camouflage pants unbuttoned

gun hidden in a bunch of roots reaching up like hands.
Here in the bushes, Barbie lives another life.

Her dream house is a cardboard box
(so much easier to clean)

her lover, the hero whose shaved head
fits so much better on her belly than Ken’s sculpted crown.

In the music video version, our brave soldier gets carried away
rips Barbie’s left leg from its perfect socket.

No matter how they are molded at the factory
these are breakable times.

Returns are not easy to make
without a receipt, and even then

chances are slim the new doll you carry home
won’t believe the old ones really talk when you leave the room.

Patchwork Poem #2 ala Anne Sexton

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You Are the Answer

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Listen! Listen!
We are not lovers.
We are like pigeons
after the small death.
They have teeth and knees
because they share the same dirt.
…………..Even their song is not a sure thing
……………….it is a kind of breathing—
…………………….we gasp in unison beside our window pane.

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Listen! Listen!
The girl full of talk of coffins and keyholes
with her large gun-metal blue eyes
with the thin vein at the bend of her neck
………………then your hand in her hand
………………………with an old red hook in her mouth.

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We are not lovers.
Now there is green rain for everyone,
their red claws wound like bracelets,
…………tired of my mouth and my breasts,
………………..each one like a poem obeying itself.

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Listen! Listen!
The king has brought me into his chamber.
I’ve been opened and undressed.
Then the chains were fastened around me
……………..(even their song is not a sure thing).
After the small death
……………..it is a kind of breathing.

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I chose these three Sexton poems: “Man and Wife”; “Love Song”; and “Consorting With Angels”, because they seemed to speak from the same place of melancholy and longing.  I tried to find pieces that resonated with a similar tone/voice.  They are all from her collection, Live or Die.   After choosing them, I discovered an author’s note which confirmed that I was on the right track.

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Sexton wrote, “To begin with, I have placed these poems (1962-1966) in the order in which they were written with all due apologies for the fact that they read like a fever chart for a bad case of melancholy.  But I thought the order of their creation might be of interest to some readers, and, as Andre Gide wrote in his journal, “Despite every resolution of optimism, melancholy occasionally wins out: man has decidedly botched up the planet.””