Five Minutes to August

“Just the bare necessities
that’s all I need,” I used to think.
I could hear the wind blowing
and leaves rustling and imagine
the walnut trees bobbing and heaving
like some portly prizefighters
as invisible hands rained body shots
and tickles on their flabby greenery.
Now I see them move left and right,
back and forth and think about
raking all those leaves come October.

It’s only five minutes to August
and I’m concerning myself with
half past Autumn.
Unless you’re Emily Dickinson,
a poet should never use
a roof and four walls as sunblock.
Sure, windows make fine frames,
but horizons gird much bigger pictures.
And you know what? Everything
encompassed beneath
the dome of the sky can be found
in one raindrop.

Two bird-shaped pieces of night
just crossed the sunny length
of the shed roof. I’ve gotta
get out there. You might say
it’s a necessity.

I’ve been stuck, stuck, stuck for weeks. Maybe months. And today I just gave up, though not like I have been giving up. I grabbed the first book of fiction I could find in that bookcase to my right, turned to page 8, transcribed the eighth sentence, and then started writing from there. It ain’t perfect, but it was a subconscious lesson I needed. And I just realized something about this book. It’s “Kafka on the Shore,” by Haruki Murakami, the first book of fiction I bought myself a decade ago to restart my reading life. And that, my friends, is what’s so magical and spooky about this writing thing. Get out. Get out of your own way. Get it out of your system. Get something close to happy.

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A Tailwind for Sisyphus

So many wants sit within me,
but inertia and headwinds negate
any attempts, starts or begins, see,
what I once hoped would be my fate.

But Fate she’s a mistress most cold,
one who’d just as soon leave me crying.
Muses turn that way, too, I’m told,
and if I said “Oh, not mine,” I’d be lying.

There’s been more than one pushed my pen,
each gave my heart a stir and a taste.
I thought I loved each, and yet then
they left my poetic heart still chaste.

Now my wants have grown old and dusty,
not lost, but neither kept well oiled.
Such desires are wont to grow rusty,
and without fulfillment they become spoiled.

That’s why these lines squeal so loudly,
like cogged gears spent years without care.
Oh, I cared, but never so proudly
as a man believing in himself might dare.

So my fate remains unrealized still,
and today’s step was just mere mumbling.
While writing this was a Sisyphean uphill,
Sure, two back, but one up without stumbling.

I’m going to keep writing these until something clicks within me. I’m one hundred typewriting monkeys with a not yet totally broken old dream on the other side of this door. And I’ve found the sound of thousands of keys clicking an inspiring song. Who knows? Maybe one of those keys will be the one that unlocks it

Completely ‘Merican Spoken Here

The further twisting of this twisty tongue,
made of words homegrown and appropriated,
has gone unabated since I was young,
and some I have even procreated.

I guess that’s the price for a language loose
as the American vernacular.
I’m fine with words made up by Dr. Seuss,
but it’s the disuse I find spectacular.

You may not notice how the public speaks
as they hear language on TV mangled.
In texts their lack of care or knowledge peaks.
I gave up on participles dangled.

I’ll still weep for Mother Tongue, totally annoyed,
whenever I hear, “completely destroyed.”

Day 24 of my poem-a-day quest, which I’ve already completely destroyed…uh, I mean…

Oh, and the prompt for  today was a poem with a title beginning with “Complete…”

Unreasonable

Each night I lie in bed
and ponder why I still sit
in that chair every day
trying to tell stories
of a me and a you
that never happened,
why I scribble about memories
that are the barest of vapors
moved by a breath I’ll
never feel on my cheek.
These days I ponder
that same question even
as I sit in this chair
talking to myself alone and
not listening, just transcribing
the silence where once spoke reason.
Maybe that’s why I still do this.
I’m searching for reason
where reason doesn’t exist.
No longer reasonable,
yet unreasonably necessary.

Day 17. A “reason” poem. It’s true. I lie in bed at night and wonder why I even do this pointless exercise, this seemingly fruitless waste of what time I have left. Then I get up, sit in this chair, open a new document, start typing and still don’t know why. Maybe that last sentence, which I just looked up and found sitting there, is my unconscious self’s explanation. It’s necessary for at least one of us.

Song of Self

Here I am again,
whispering in your ear,
telling secrets about myself
so maybe your own you can hear.

Here you are again.
Is that your name you hear
even though you’re all by yourself,
so no one can see your tear?

Here we are again,
conversing as if we’re near,
sharing secrets about ourselves,
yet each always alone, I fear.

There I go again,
never exactly making it clear,
but it’s no secret, this Song of Self,
which you read alone, is yours alone, my dear.

Day 10 of poem-a-day NaPoWriMo, a “lone” poem. It’s strange that someone who has written scores of poems about loneliness and isolation, while sitting all alone, hopes they might touch many people, though each in the alone-ness of their own minds and hearts. Loneliness is a lack, a feeling that something is missing, a pain, a depression, a need, an incompleteness, an absence. Aloneness is presence, fullness, aliveness, joy of being, overflowing love.You are complete.Nobody is needed, you are enough. Love makes you complete. This loving act of talking to everyone by talking to just myself makes me complete.

Recapturing His Muse to Let Loose His Wolf

I’d like to tell you a story,
but, nowadays, the stories
just won’t come.
I’ve tried all the old instigators,
but none of those break the spell
rendering me dumb.

So let’s try making something happen
as I’ve had to for so many,
many weeks.
A poem punctuated with rhyming words
at least rolls the ball downhill,
though not up any peaks.

There’s this guy I know, perhaps so do you,
whose life feels empty when he can’t
tell a story.
He’s told all kinds, from weepy to creepy
even gory, though none yet
a “Finding Dory.”

He thought a muse could bring him
the old inspiration, grist for
his creative mill.
But, of course, she was an illusion,
even to herself, now a wraith
of substance nil.

And so one day he reaches into that ether,
grasping at straws
not really there.
For five hundred more words,
or even for two, so long as they’re
not more hot air.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said to
the ghost of she who felt she was
his Keats’s Fanny Brawne.
“Just say a phrase, and in misery
I’ll phrase, a story sad as
Yeats’s with Made Gonne.”

So now he’s off to string thoughts
of some kind, in a story,
kind of together.
Of course this story’s about me,
now feeling free, loosing my prosaic wolf
from its tether.

All The World Was His Stage

Will always got a perfect mark from his favorite professor. I don’t begrudge him his success. He came from pretty tough circumstances. First of his family to go to college, small rural high school and all.

Okay, I kind of resent the fact that Will Shakespeare got a reputation as “the most inventive and gifted writer our English Department has ever produced” according to a college newsletter to alums and donors.. 

Will was a nice enough guy. Quite friendly and very well-spoken. We hit it off our first week at a dorm mixer. I’d say he over-compensated for his farm boy upbringing by walking around like he was strutting on stage or something, but it did get the attention he craved. 

“Christine, I understand you write poetry,” he said as he swept up to me.

“Uh huh,” I said. “Been lucky enough to have a few things published. But I want to be a doctor, so the artist side of me will have to take a bit of a hiatus, I guess.”

“Wow, I’d love to have my words published one day. See some of my stories turned into plays, movies or even video games. Would you like to read some of them?” Will said.

“Sure,” I said. They were pretty bad. 

After that, Will was always hanging around my room. That is, if he wasn’t sucking up to the head of the English Department. 

Will made sure we always sat together in our Freshman Composition class. Soon it became, “Christine, I’m having trouble with this poem.” “Chrissie, how can I straighten out this essay?” “Chris, can you fix this story for me, pleeeeze?”

And, for whatever reason, I would help him. That more often than not, ended up with me putting aside my Organic Chem or Spanish 3 and essentially rewriting his work.

“What do you think of this?” he’d say.

“Will, you saw that on TV just last night.”

“So, it was a good story.”

“Yes, but you have to switch it up, give it a different slant, change the characters and setting, and puh-leeeze stop writing ‘should of’ when it’s ‘should HAVE.”

“Show me,” he’d say.

He was very sweet. Handsome in a gentle, long-haired, softly goateed way. I loved how he’d massage my shoulders while I turned his chicken shit prose into Chicken Kiev for Professor Kaplan. He’d enter my room with a flair, never wander in, always a grand entrance. 

And I loved how he’d softly compliment my hair, my nails, my new bedspread, the photos I’d taken from my trips to Europe and California. Oh, and my clothes, always my clothes.

He’d wear those skinny jeans with nice buttoned shirts that bordered on something from Forever 21. He even asked if he could borrow one of my peasant-sleeved blouses more than once. He was pretty skinny and could get away with wearing a size 10 or a medium. Just like me.

Next thing I know, he’s borrowed (stolen) a pair of my leggings and he’s wearing them around campus under a pair of workout shorts. As I said, he was pretty skinny and about as unathletic as a combined English/Theatre major could be 

“Will, I want my clothes back,” I told him.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Chrissie. I thought I’d try that look. Nathan loved it and he gave me a pair of his running tights to wear instead — more colorful than plain black. I’ll drop them off tomorrow.”

Nathan was Professor Kaplan. And tomorrow was never. Next thing I know, Will left school. His roommate told me he headed to New York with Kaplan to meet some of his old theatre buddies. Never came back. No note or a text or any kind of goodbye. When I got back to school for my senior year, I saw that alumni magazines with a photo of Will on the cover. It said he’d become a protegé of some writer-producer and had mounted his first off-Broadway play, which got great reviews from the New York papers.

I can’t remember if I cried the night I read that. Not that I should care what a skinny, femme, social-climbing, plagiarizing wanna-be Sam Shepard did with his life. I was headed to Duke Medical School, after all.

Will died recently. Nice obit in The Times. I was surprised when I received a letter at my Charlotte practice from a New York lawyer.

The Broadway whiz kid had mentioned me in his will. I was to receive his second Golden Globe, the one for that execrable movie that his last mentor had juiced the Hollywood Foreign Press to give him.

A second envelope, addressed in Will’s flourishing script was addressed it to me, Christine Marlowe. I pulled from it a note written by Will. No doubt. It read:

Good friend, for Christ’s sake listen,
Without you my career would sure be missin’
Thanks for always being there to save my ass,
And fuck those critics who doubted I had class.

Yeah, he always sucked as a writer. But the boy could act. Oh, how we loved that boy’s act.

This is a quickly penned response to a prompt from writer Julie Duffy. I needed the help. I was supposed to write a story of 750 words or less (FAIL!) featuring a character from history or mythology, but place them in a different era. I pulled this scribble out of my nether regions in about an hour. I know. Reads like our Will Shakespeare’s hideous “real” writing. I may try this again with someone else later.