November Poem 2: Marina (Part 2)

When I first pushed Jimmy out to see the

Boat, I saw the change. The deep lines around

His eyes softened and the tremor in his

Arms nearly disappeared. He pointed toward

The streaks of rust that came down like runnels.

He said, just a little scraping, a coat

Of paint, and she’ll be seaworthy. He braced

With his hands on the armrests. He almost

Had the strength of the years before the chair.

The years when there was nothing better to

Straighten a man up than hard work in the

Salt air. And the strength he lacked, he brought out

In me. He bought that boat, and I saw his

Dream as I scraped that boat. I saw his dream.

 

Marina (Part 1)

How I Write: a Walk Through

 

 

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November Poem 1: Marina (Part 1)

With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sat and watched

The reflection on my cup of coffee.

In the steam, I tried to imagine my

Daughter holding a sandwich and sitting

Across from me sharing a meal at the

Old card table where I had eaten so

Many times alone.  I pulled my scarred hand

Out of my pocket and warmed my fingers

On the cup before I took the first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.

 

How I Write: a Walk Through

 

Happy Halloween: A reposting of all my Halloween themed poems from oldest to newest.

A Desiccated Heart

 

A desiccated heart

The tool of the patriarchy

Bringing down symbols in the trees

Text messages in the reliquary

 

Bringing down the gates

Cracking the iron bands

The heart a ghostly rose

Trembling in the temple

Of the black demon

 

Amid the carnage

Sated on the hill

Carrion beasts in full repose

A sputter of movement

Arose flapping wings

 

You spent your whole life absent

Alone in your chair facing the void

I chiseled our initials

On the hangman’s tree

 

Dead Woods

 

A well centered in a dead wood

Where ravens come to peck the eyes

Of the children floating in the tepid waters

 

The Wraith of Road 348

 

3 miles down

Under the lightning split elm

Tattered rags

Flapping the breeze

The wraith of Road 348

 

The Chugging Machine

 

The chugging machine

Sulfur and smoke

The building rose

Phantom scented seraphim

Bringing Truth to modernity

 

A Raven’s Cry

 

A raven’s cry

The clay bricks

Baked in the sun

Reclaimed by nature

Destroyed but replaced

Mineralized as fossil

 

Bubbling Acid

 

Dissolved tissue

A white steam frothing

A rose in the bowl

Of bubbling acid

Tearing away your breath

 

 

Twilight in Washington

 

When she feels the churning green glow of the

Hardening voices. She escapes into

The hard binding of her books. She had read

All of the books about vampires who

Fall in love with girls. Now, she has begun

To read about werewolves who fall in love

With girls. Next she will read about mummies

Who fall in love with girls. Then, ghosts who fall

In love with girls. Then, Frankensteins who fall

In love with girls. She was fifteen when she

Broke his corrupt hands and began to slip

From one man to another. Pulled to these

Books to see children rioting in beauty

To see things she had always never had.

 

 

 

The Twilight of the Vampire Mopeds

 

You won’t have to change the tires or fill

Up the gasoline. Just a few drops of

Blood and you will be racing down the street

Impressing your friends and getting chores done

Lickety-split. Just like Bella climb on

Edward’s back and race down the streets in a

Blur just above two hundred miles per

Hour. With a jab to the ribs, he will

Leap to a nearby stand of trees and flit across

The tops. Slice open a vein and pay for

The wide open American culture

Of vehicular freedom. All very

Reminiscent of The Little Shop of

Horrors that is the Texaco station.

 

 

 

Approaching Baba Yaga

 

The bright lights of the stadium lit the

Field leaching everything into shades of

Grey stretching long shadows from the cars

In the gravel lot like the pulling out

And across of the utility knife

To serpentine over the guide line. The

Family walked the paved path along the

Thicket of brush toward the shadow of night.

What could they want out there in the darkness

Beyond the bushes in the mist over

The creek where the mosquitoes bite twice as

Thick and the shadows hold whispers? Is it

The woman in the woods and the house on

Stilts? And do they know her terrible price?

 

 

 

El Cucuy into the Dark

 

Did you see the light outside the window?

Was there a man in the street wearing a

Black hood with an evil light behind his

Eyes, little one? Did you see him? He had

A flaming censor hanging from a pole

Hooked like Death’s scythe. Don’t look out the window.

He has already faded into night.

But if you must, do you see the neighbor’s

Roof? Do you see that small shape in the dark?

You can almost make out the eyes of the

Owl, blank like two holes in a skull. El

Coco, Cucuy. The disembodied

Head. He is watching, my son. Licking his

Bony chops. Have you been good? Yes, I hope.

 

 

 

The Curse of Old Raw Head

 

Black and white headed goose sliding slowly

Across the pond, is there mourning in your

Call? Why do you linger so long in the

Stagnant waters near the abandoned farm?

Where is your flock? Did they venture too close

To the marshy end where the old dock stands

Mostly sunken and half hidden in the

Muck and swamp grass? Did you fix your stare through

The gaps of the warped slats to the shadows

Under the dock at the dripping pile

Of bones? You were the one, weren’t you? The

One to hear the slosh and suck of his steps.

Did you see the fates in his dead black eyes,

Or just the dripping maw of old Raw Head?

 

 

 

The Roentgen Effect

 

In the red light of the basement dark room,

I have seen Death dancing. A dim specter

In the dark. A shadow skeleton that

Might not be there. Arms outstretched motioning

Me forward. He has shown me photographs

Floating in the chemical vats. Floating

An accident of exposure. Floating

An artifact of suffering. Of black

Limbs solidified in among the white

Trees of an early snow and short sleeves. Drifts

Piled upon the autumn leaves. Weakened.

Unprepared. My son and I chasing that last

Bit of beautiful weather with a small

Burned out fire and Death dancing us on.

 

 

 

The Specter of the Nue

 

Thin wisps of black smoke lay low in the fields.

They disperse almost as quickly as they

Formed. Their haze in the tall grass that has gone

To seed. The smoke gathers thickest in the

Brown grasses that eventually die back

To black spots of earth bare like life in the

Old house with the odd shingles hanging loose

From long years of wind. She couldn’t help him

Or leave him now. But she can watch from her

Perch in the branches of the unkempt wood

Abutting the old property. She could

Float through the weeds and up out of the ground.

She could watch and choke him with her fumes. Cursed

To make him suffer for the love she holds.

 

 

 

Death and the Black Dog

 

That last night, as I walked miles from my

Broken car with a blister stinging on

My left foot, a dog mourned a lonesome howl

Into the darkness of the shard of moon.

He sniffed along the gravel shoulder of

The old country highway. His dark fur could

Hardly be seen in the distance except

From the corner of my eye. But the faint

Green light of his stare so much like the light

That often woke me puddled in sweat. His

Presence brought a chill. Or was it the cold

Wetness of the wind through the roadside pine?

And the vision of a man watching from

The woods, and my blood warming his wet hands?

 

 

 

Enjambment of Pesta the Princess of the Plague

 

Nature is a woman standing outside

An open window blowing the breeze through.

Do you think her life does not extend through

The screen? Do you think she is just broken

Off to begin again on the next line

Sterilized by your four walls? But you know

She will come through and when she does, will she

Come upon her cart with rake to gather

The dead like so many leaves of fall to

Leave the few to escape the tines or with

A broom to sweep them all like dust gathered

On the floor of an empty tomb. You know

Life brings plague on the wind and none escape

Life alive. But you want to be the first.

 

 

 

The Bargain With Death

 

The queer light of sunset lit the old man’s

Face lighting his eyes with blood and fire.

The neighborhood dogs were howling in the

Distance with the old man at the front door.

He let in his neighbor and closed the door.

Breathing heavy, he nearly fell against

The wall one hand on his stomach and the

Other still grasped on the knob. The neighbor

Put an arm around him to help him to

A chair, and the hound in the corner moaned

Out a soft howl in his fitful sleep.

The old man lifted his hand from his shirt

To show a small spot of red spreading on

His button down shirt. The old man said, I

 

Told you about this scar the night I sat

With your wife all those years ago. I know

That you always questioned how I could know

The exact night to comfort her passing.

Tonight, I have seen the visions again.

The Barguest is coming to finish what

He started in the old grave yard in my

Youth. Will you return the favor I gave

Your wife? Sit and lend comfort, and don’t stare

Into the beast’s eyes when he breaks through the

Door. The neighborhood dogs continued to

Howl, and the old man’s dog fidgeted

And growled in his sleep. And the darkness was

Choking out all the light through window.

 

 

 

The Dark Imagery

 

And they walked through the rising vapor of

The creek below the bridge where mosquitoes

Work the keyboards to generate the text

Of my future masterpiece of modern

Poetry. They will find the ether, for

The thick air of meaning brings its own hook

And line to catch the words and breathe the lines

Of verse into being like the blood from the

Bare arms with bulging veins that draw out the

Mosquitoes like little vampires sworn

To the devil. Sworn to bring grief and pain

In long swaths of meandering voice. Sworn

To confuse those willing to subjugate

Their minds to the dark imagery of verse.

 

Of Murders and Memorabilia

 

I remember when I first heard about

The carved wooden legs like a tiger’s paw

Holding an apple. They glinted in low

Gloss and hunched near to the ground. You could have

Sworn that you had seen them move or tense or

Twitch ready to pounce. The handmade table

With swirls carved like eyes and a point in the

Middle like one long retractable fang.

A deadly venomous sting dripping in

Anticipation of the moment you

Dropped your guard. But there on the auction house

Floor. It was just another old piece of

Furniture. It’s probably not even

Valuable except the story of it.

 

The story of how they say it got the

Brown stain that could look like dried blood. If you

Thought about it really hard, you would be

Able to see menace in its designs,

But not really. They say, this was the one

That they recovered from the site of that

Grisly murder from two years ago. The

One that had been held in evidence. The

One that had been found with the bloodied head

Sitting on top. It was too clean. Not a

Drop of dried blood. And the finish had not

Been dulled by any harsh cleaners. But it

Would do for my collection. And hell, I

May even get it for a damn good price on it.

 

 

Ghoulish

How I Write: a Walk Through

I like to write first thing in the morning before the rest of the family is awake. I make a tall cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen table and write and write. If I am lucky, I will have a poem or two in the making within the first 15 to 30 minutes. If I have been writing for a long time and I have yet to strike inspiration, I go back and reread the words that I have written looking for an image that came up in my writing and I expand on it.

For example, in the first line of the last paragraph I used the image “morning” along with “tall cup of coffee” and “kitchen table.” I could take these images and expand them into something like:

With the white frost of morning on the window lighting in the first rays of the sun, I sit down to watch the steam rise off the cup of coffee in my tall white coffee mug. The rim of the cup where I sip from is stained the same brown as the peanut butter in the sandwich sitting next to it on cheap plastic card table where I eat most of my meals.

Typically, expanding on this image until it creates connections or connotations to other thoughts or ideas and I follow that rabbit hole as far as it goes. And as for my example above, the cheap card table and the peanut butter sandwich breakfast make this feel like a story about someone who has little money, and the frost on the window as well as the steam rising off the coffee along with the possibility that the speaker of the poem is poor makes it likely that there is no heat on in his or her house, so I could expand the narrative with those ideas in mind.

I pull my right hand out of the pocket of my tattered foul weather jacket and warm my fingers on the cup before grabbing the handle to take my first sip. The day was much calmer than last night when the wind had the boat bumping against the dock and rocking me to a fitful sleep of remembrance.

Now, as you can see the narrative has changed to show that speaker lives cheaply in a boat so I am going to have to go back and change the word “window” to “porthole” to match the nautical theme. And we also learn that this speaker has a story to tell. And the story along with the tattered jacket makes me believe that this person is on the older side rather than just being broke from being young and just starting out.

I can see that there is a lot more of this poem to write, but this post is getting kind of long so I will take what I have written so far and format it into poem form and finish the rest of the narrative at a later date. But for now, I am going to format the poem as a sonnet and again as a string of tanka so I can compare the resulting poems and decide which one I am going with as the final piece.

The sonnet is a poem comprised of 14 lines with 5 metrical feet. A metrical foot consists of two syllables. One syllable is supposed to be accented while the other is not, but I don’t worry about that. I find that if you write enough sonnets you start to learn how to write in a pleasing rhythm even if it is not the traditional “Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum, Da-dum” rhythm. Also, sonnets traditionally rhyme, but I don’t worry about that either. And the content of the sonnet is supposed to follow certain conventions, but I let my story decide how to use the form rather letting the form decide for me how to tell my story.

With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sit down to

Watch steam rise off the coffee in my

White mug. The rim is stained the same brown as

The peanut butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on the old card table

Where I eat most of my meals. Pulling my

Right hand out from the worn pocket of my

Foul weather jacket, I warm my fingers

On the cup before taking my first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.

The tanka poem is the taller cousin to the haiku. It has 5 lines. The first and the third lines are 5 syllables long, and the second, fourth, and fifth lines are 7 syllables long.  Tanka are typically about nature, and somewhere around the third line, the poem is supposed to take a turn. But at least no one expects it to rhyme, so I don’t have to break that rule. Often you see tanka as single stanza poems, but there is no rule against linking them together in a string.

The frost lighting the

Porthole in the first rays of

Sun, I watch steam rise

Off the coffee in my white

Mug with its rim stained the same

 

Brown as the peanut

Butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on

The card table where I eat

My meals. I pull my right hand

 

Out of the pocket

Of my tattered foul weather

Jacket and warm my

Fingers on the cup before

Grabbing the handle to take

 

A sip. The day was

Much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat

Against the dock and rocked me

To a sleep of remembrance.

For both forms, I had to make several changes to get the words to fit the meter of the lines. After condensing the text down quite a bit for the sonnet, I found that I only had 13 lines so I had to come up with another 10 syllable line which really seems to reinforce the narrative. But the tanka reads stronger because of the rhythm imposed by the layout of the line breaks.

While both the sonnet and the string of tanka have their benefits and drawbacks, I think I like the sonnet is better because of the extra line about shaking off the grip of dreams. So I will leave you with the sonnet as the final version of this installment of this poem.

 

With the morning frost lighting the porthole

In the first rays of sun, I sit down to

Watch steam rise off the coffee in my

White mug. The rim is stained the same brown as

The peanut butter in the sandwich that

Sits next to it on the old card table

Where I eat most of my meals. Pulling my

Right hand out from the worn pocket of my

Foul weather jacket, I warm my fingers

On the cup before taking my first sip

To shake off the lingering grip of dreams.

The day was much calmer than last night when

The wind bumped the boat against the dock and

Rocked me to sleep in fitful remembrance.

 

What do you think?

 

Which do you think is the stronger poem the sonnet or the tanka?

 

Do you like this type of post where I explain the decisions I make while writing a poem? Should I write more posts like this one?

 

Also, please visit my contact page and send me ideas for future posts.

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October Poem 56: All Those Nice Things

Often comes a fun

Day when bikini straps and

The smell of sunblock

Course this writing. The day when

Fluffy kittens bring purring,

 

Smiles, and bouncy

Hearted pawing with only

The slightest hint of

Claw. The day before the bad

Burn that brings fainting spells and

 

A bloody nose slammed

Against the corner of the

Wall. The day before

The hint of claw becomes bared

Teeth and claw sunken in skin

 

And meowling and

Rakes of the back paws with claws

Out for what he can

Reach during manic bouts when

He runs up and down the house

 

In the dark knocking

Over candles and flower

Pots and clawing at

The cabinet doors just to hear

Them swing open and slam shut.

 

 

Fluff

October Poem 55: I Write Of…

The pier floating out

In the water away from

The shade of trees or

Even weeds. The pier with its

Planks worn raw from the rocks and

 

Sand of years. And feet

Tracking debris down its length.

And the day’s sun rising

To bake and blister long and

Red in another hot soak

 

Bearing the weight of

The men carrying the poles

And tackle and vests

And buckets and coolers to

Boats that bump its wooden sides.

 

Poetry, the first

Plank of the pier, raw and red

That never seems to

Fully heal because I feel

So very derivative.

October Poem 54: Of Lights in the Dark

The hot air out through

Your lungs like the static and

Juxtaposition

Of silhouette on headlights

Bringing visions through fingers.

 

Visions of moonlight

Through my keyboard. Visions of

Stars the truncated

Length of dreams. Visions in black

And white strips of newspaper

 

Folded into birds

As the origami of

Drunk driving reports

Both on paper and online

In your dreams and the headlines.

October Poem 52: The Winding Paths

The light through the glass cross opening on

His April of persistence, the old man

Stared toward the altar of an empty church.

Why with the melting frost in his hair had

He watched the blood boil on the kettle

Whistling like the distance between him and

His wife? Why had he poured it out over

The separate teabags in separate cups to

Let them steep in their own loneliness? Why

Place the cups on separate table ends to

Grow ice cold while he stood staring out the

Window at the golden light watching the

Winter grow short and cold? And why now in

The cathedral does he contemplate God?

October Poem 51: Cowboy Chili

I write in the kitchen and the words come

As the darkened leather of dried chilies

Their seeds shaking like maracas until

Cut open and poured into the old ice

Cream container where the scraps are kept bound

For the compost heap to be spread in the

Garden. To come up as volunteers. To

Be cut down as weeds. And the chilies are

Chopped and then ground into powder, added

To other spices, and boiled with dried

Tomatoes and chopped steak for several

Hours before they are ladled out to

The page to be read alone or with cheese,

Onions, and a dollop of sour cream.

 

 

Orange