Monday, April 20, 2015

21/30: lasts

The first time she picked me up I was
a fraction.  Less than a tenth, surely.
Swaddled, capped, or maybe still
covered in blood and shit and god
knows what.  There was a first time
she held me. Who could forget it?
But there was also

                          a last time

she set

Sunday, April 19, 2015

20/30: the train ride

here is a mess of dishevelry:
a frizzy woman on a crowded train
cross legged in the floor     beholding
     out the left windows:
ragged green mountains tattering thick
dark lint-puff clouds.
out the right: a jagged coast flirts
with a choppy ocean creating
a chorus of blues.
smoke rises from her tangles.
soon the train will pass on the winding
road, a tousled lank of a man mounting
a charger so classic it qualifies antique.
it rattles and rumbles beneath his
knotted thoughts.
what precise magic, these
transient intangible connections.
every person between them is their own
trash bag of dreams.  they know that they
will pass but can't won't know
when it happens.

might one catch in one's mouth
     an atom of the other's breath?

a day before they stood
on the edge of a wild mountain
listening to the same wild music
ringing from thickets and vines
whispered rather than speaking
pockets full of jade shards as they breathed
     deep together
inside a passing cloud,
inconsistent rain pattering the mad heat at bay.

she sits among tattered cardboard,
kicking babies, old women pissing
their pants.  the speakers crackle, announcing
an upcoming station.  the train passes
the motorbike.  she singes.  she flames.
she burns.

19/20: What do you remember about the earth? -Bhanu Kapil Rider

I remember the entry:
the red, wet pain of it,
the exploding in my lungs.
I did not remember it while I
was still there, but here
now, I can feel it.  The slap
of light, the deluge, the shit
and shit and tears.  An opening, a bang
of sweetness.  The years that followed,
as muscles bettered and nerves mored,
as thought thicked and beautied.
Til I could make and speak and run
and make and love.  Til I made
love and unmade love and love
unmade me.  I do not remember
the exit.  I was there, and then I wasn't:
just so.  What I miss most
is the fertile black of it under
my nails, the hot rain soaking through
everything, breezes strong enough
to buffet a body, the visceral, the honest,
the bliss: to stand on the side
of a mountain, silent, breathing every
atom in.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

18/30: Verbatim

Hi!  Today I'm writing (or, tweaking?) a "Verbatim" poem, which my friend Taidgh Lynch introduced to me in this post.

My Verbatim poem is coming from "Uncovering Grammar" by Scott Thornbury.

Grammar, Grammars and Grammaring

The focus of this first chapter is to argue
that grammar is in fact a verb.  Or, at least,
that there should be a verb
to grammar, to go along with the noun
grammar.  Just as there is a verb to rain to go
along with the noun rain.  Or to walk and a walk.

To use an analogy:
an omelette is the product
of a (relatively simple
but skillful) process
involving the beating
and frying of eggs.  The process
and the product are clearly
two quite different things, and we
could call one making an omelette (or
even 'omeletting') and the other
an omelette.

In other words, grammar is not simply a thing.
It is also something that you do. Or (as we shall
be arguing later) something that -- in certain conditions --


Thursday, April 16, 2015

17/30: tell the story backward

Today my prompt is to tell a story backward.

After living two years in Taiwan, I flew back
to my childhood home where my father nursed me
to poor health.  The longer I stayed the more I wept
and the less I ate until the last two weeks I ate soup

or nothing, and never left the house. Your electric words
hatefulled me half to death, so of course I put myself and my dog
in the car and drove two days straight to you
without stopping.  Crept into the house while you were away:

you came home and went to sleep while I hid in the other room.
That night I tried to kill myself.  Came home and we had
a spectacular fight.  Had it again and again for two years
until you started to fuck me again.  You started to love me

again. After we made love, you'd take me to dinner.  Our last date
you asked for my number, we talked for hours outside a closed bar,
then went to dinner where we laughed about wearing the same color shirt,
then went home.  I opened a message on a dating site, looked

at your photos, and marveled how little they looked like you at all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

16/30: Catching up, and a silly ode

Today I woke up and my friend was still dead.

I took off work yesterday.  Keith and I hadn't been close since I left the Hot Springs area, but he was always someone who had significantly impacted me when I was younger, and you don't just lose that.  I was some sixteen, seventeen year old punk kid who tried writing and was scared, and he was one of the people who encouraged me.  He and a short list of others made me believe I had value, my voice was worthy of being heard, I should continue trying this crazy thing called art.  We'd catch up whenever I went back to visit, but he always seemed a little distant.

I guess now I know why.

Depression is a motherfucker.  And that ain't the half of the reality.  It KILLS people.  Don't think of suicide as selfish.  Think of it as tragic.  It is not something people do with the intention of hurting others.  It's something that happens when people cannot possibly hurt any more.  I wish I were back home right now, I wish I could gather with everyone who wants to honor Keith's memory.  I wish I could shake his daughter's hand and tell her how honored I am to meet her, after hearing so much for so many years about her, about how much Keith loved her.

My friend isn't coming back.  When I go visit home next month, I won't see him.

So I have to hug the ones I see even harder.  Love them even louder.

I love you.


So you're reading my blog!  Wow!  Every year I get more readers, more views, more comments.  I remember once, talking to an ex-lover about something I wrote and said, I mean you probably haven't seen it---

He interrupted, "I read everything you ever write."

What kind of mad praise is that?  My whole heart sat with that and still sits with it.

I saw one day last week I got nearly two hundred views. In one day!  I mentioned it on Facebook, and a few different people said they'd been poking around, catching up, reading old posts... Think about how much it means to be SEEN in this world.  To know that people are looking at you.  On purpose.  Because they want to see you.

SO many of us don't know this feeling.  I think Keith didn't know.  If he'd known how many of us read his book, how many of us looked forward to seeing him again, would he still be here?  Would that have been medicine enough?

You are my medicine.

Say something.  Leave a comment here, or on a past post you enjoyed.  Or one you didn't enjoy!  One you hated!  Tell me what's working for you in the piece, tell me what isn't working for you and could be tightened up.  Tell me what you miss.  Tell me who you love.  Let's communicate and celebrate - we're still here on this side of the ground.

Yesterday's poem was part for Keith and part for all of us with depression and life-threatening mental illnesses.  Today's poem is part for Keith and part for celebrating life and part for poutine.

Yesterday was hump day.  The 15th of the month, out of 30 days.  So now we're coasting downhill toward home.  Why not write a silly poem?  I've been serious all month.  Today let's celebrate something that made me happy.  Today, that thing was a poutine burger from A-Chi, the best burger joint in Pingtung and maybe even all of southern Taiwan.

I neglected to take a photo before I dug in. I was too excited to have it in my mouth.  Halfway through I thought, I should write a silly fun poem today, for Keith, and took a photo.  No "after" photo because you've all seen a blank plate before.

Ode to the Poutine Burger at A-Chi:

Behold the meat patty,
so full of potential,
so undirected: raw
in the cold air, behind
a tightly sealed door.  Behold lettuce,
ripe tomato, white onion thinly sliced.
Pickles bathing, relaxed,
in their vinegar.  Behold cheese
and bun.  Take all of this and you would have

a burger.  But today
is not just any day. Today we add
mashed potatoes, brown gravy plus cream
and mushrooms.  Today, I glut.
I debauch.  I celebrate another day
on this side of the ground with
GRAVY.  There be no tidiness
here. No means to dainty my way
through these pillows of exploding mash,
these gravyfalls of deliciocity!  This
is bliss, and it's all over my face:
someone once
told me
a terrible joke.
I will now suffer it upon you.

What's the difference
between pussy
and mashed potatoes.

Pussy makes its own gravy.

LIKE THIS.  Oh, poutine burger, inappropriately
named, in this country without curds I don't care
what I look like, seated outside at the table
in front of the restaurant, I wear you without shame,
I wear you with prize, nose to neck, sweet sweet
poutine burger, I left my last wife,
the chili cheese burger with real pickled jalapeƱos
FOR YOU, in this country with no chili
and no pickled jalapeƱos, for YOU, oh my love,
there can be no other above you, no day of work
is too terrible that you cannot wash
it away with your sauce, gravied potatoes, gravied
bun, gravied lettuce and gravied onions, gravied red
ripe tomatoes, oh my god, gravied PICKLES.
The occasional saucy mushroom tries to escape

but my fries are at the ready.  POUTINE BURGER,
never leave me.  POUTINE BURGER, never die.
can stay
my wandering eye.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

15/30: For Keith, who stole pencils

There is community and then there is
community. Some you can see.  Girl Scouts.
A crowd dancing under manic lights. A weekly

cancer support group.  The huddled prisoners
of war in their cells.  Two bodies passing in a crowd,
a nod when they recognize each other's tattoos.

Participation in community begets love and loss
and loss.  One scout moves to another town, one dancer
kisses friends goodnight.  Cheryl doesn't show up

for this week's meeting.  Tomas doesn't come back
from interrogation.  Some loss is heavier
than lifting. Who can say what the community feels?

I can.  Today I heard of a poet's death, his lifelong struggle
with a disease no cheaper than cancer. Keith took his life? No.
Depression did.  A poet, depressed, still writing, he was

my community and on this unholy day I feel
my own death here in the room.  It is small
as a baby's fist.  A sour, overripe plum

cradled between my teeth. It poisons my thoughts.
He isn't coming back like so many others and this disease
is killing my friends, my heroes, my mentors, our

artists, and one day it might kill me.  A fruit
I cannot spit out, fermenting, brewing a wine
no one should drink.

Buy Keith's Book Here

The poem Keith wrote when Pete Seger died:

I listened to your voice
more than I did that of my own parents
though I did hear theirs
much more often than yours
your voice told me not just
what I needed to hear
but what I wanted to her
as well
Now, I will bid farewell
to part of you
but not the part that matters
the part I still posses
so do millions of others
all around this world
some are still around campfires
as I once was
That’s when we were first introduced
it did not matter much
that you were physically absent
from that introduction
we still formed a bond
that will not be broken
not even with that hammer
the one that works morning and evening
all over this land
We still have a bond with
millions of voices loud and soft
and those voices are still
as effective today as any hammer
“If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land…”
January 29, 2014

Sunday, April 12, 2015

13/30: landai

In honor of these women, today I write landai:

Sisters: they tell us we are not enough!
But they are forests chastising matchsticks.


I loved him too much so he told me to go.
Now I laugh as he begs for a bite!


I fear to go home because I fear I won't want to leave.
Or worse: never want to visit again.


Zurima asked for love, then for fire, then water.
Now all she has is dust, rocks, and stars.


I have seen death, danced with it, kissed.
I ask you: What now do I have to fear?