Polywog

Poetry

Years ago poetry was central to my identity and to my vision. But poetry has slowed to a trickle as i’ve explored other ways of being in the world and other ways of figuring life out. Now, i still love poetry and occasionally write poetry, but i do not want to hold my poems up to the standard of “good poetry.” For me, now, that judgment undermines the whole process of expression. The risk to express becomes greater than the pleasure of expression. (My past “poet” self would have hated this thought….) So i share my poetry here in the spirit that it is the process of poetry that i adore, and the result is secondary. Most of my poetry is erotically explicit and some of it, since i’m going to type up some of my early early poems, is appropriately juvenile for the age i was when i wrote them. So i hope all this can pass without too much judgment. A dear friend has asked for a collection of poetry from me as a gift, so i thought i’d compile some poems here little by little, in the breathing spaces between work for my women’s history degree.

~~~

against haziness: like gold

i want gold. to touch its hot sharp

with nimble fingers, wield it with skill

in both hands (it does hurt)

hand it to you. look at this bit of clarity

i’ve produced. no one can argue

what it is. in my mouth, tiny sun

shining behind my right muller, rolled along the tongue, tongued

against the roof of my mouth. My smile shine

my words crisp, you could eat

each word picked from my mouth i will give it to you

sharp. The best way. i am articulate. you understand. like gold

nothing in the way.

~~~~~~~~

(another permutation…)

Like gold.

i want to touch its hot sharp

wield it

in both hands it does hurt

hand it to you. no one can argue

what it is. in my mouth, tiny sun

shine behind my right molar, clarity

rolled along the tongue, tongued

against the roof of my mouth. it cuts

burns your mouth

you understand like gold

nothing in the way

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Forever

is a long time but it happens

all the time

bright alive a thousand yellow hands

cast off the gingko trees

when you love someone

you take the good

with the bad

you take her

where she wants to go

you take whiskey

at her bedside and fuck into metal-

we rip with our teeth

into ripe and heavy selves

In bed I play banjo for you.

Fingers trace the notes

of another language,

mental tongues speak back

what neither I nor you

can fully understand. You don’t care

about my nervous stumbling

uneven rhythms. You care

only that I try. I feel you

in the deep of my fingers

you cry for no reason

you play me play the

banjo

love

  1. I like reading your poetry, like I like it when you read to me. I hear your voice and I hear my voice as the lines roll off my screen into my eyes and out of my mouth. I stumble like fingers on strings as I read the words. I interpret your poetry for myself, it makes me think of memories and of dreams, and I wonder what you were thinking when you wrote it. I love the way you start Forever.
    is a long time, but it happens all the time.

    May this find you well and loved.

    Comment by Eug — August 1, 2008 @ 11:13 p08

The Accident

You emerged from the envelope

I mean ambulance

a whistling teapot, a scorched tongue, a red

road-killed rose.

Alive as the Earth

breaking

eight limbs rising

from the flame, the scream, the body–

You spilled out of a coffee cup,

You were a jeweled lipstick case

someone lifted from your purse.

Strapped on a bed

that harnessed your beast soul: A clock.

An attic. A pomegranate

that burst. And you were the seam at which the broken

world was spilling

screaming

Mother Kali emerging

from your fourteen year old broken

third eye open

bloody body.

~~~

———

March 15

Loving women happens
all in arms.
not in full moon bellies
not in touching breasts
not even in the two different belly buttons

***

Loving women happens

Not in crouching together on a curb
whispering
not in two tiger hearts
not in the dangling feet of the one
who rides on the other’s handlebars

***
No, loving women happens

all in arms
the knots they tie:

***

overhand, bow,
eight on a bite with a follow through;
and loving women happens
in untying:

***

the girl-woman
riding away on her bike
the other

turning the corner

around a brick building

***

hands in pockets, elbows bent
the way a string holds the shape

of a knot long after

she’s been untied.

~~~

The Bookshelf (2007)

the case half built

lays prone along the floor

sides but no back.

I am sitting inside the walls

like it’s a boat, the blue carpet

an ocean. the atlantic.

my books stare at us longingly

from their cardboard boxes, the shore.

as I slide the plywood back

into the precut slits, suddenly I am a rower

on a quiet lake, the fan above me

humming. some memory that isn’t mine.

then the back is pulled up

and I’ve accidentally trapped myself,

less like water or floating,

more like closing myself into a coffin.

the wooden box about to enclose me,

stiff, I think of the one person

who I knew well before he died.

I remember throwing a handful of dirt,

seeing the pebbles rickashay

off the shiny wood of his coffin

I remember not knowing how to pronounce the Hebrew

words that closed the end of his life

I remember the elegy I wrote about cherry trees,

and how grandpa loved to say gze gzunt

goodbye, go in good health

and the rabbi read my poem just as badly

as I read Hebrew

messing up the lines. not pausing

when the poem wanted breath,

not quickening, where the words went

quickening… a lack of fluency

permeated the scene. my grandmother

could not watch her husband, still

there, under handfuls of soil.

I stand the shelf upward, dragging it several feet

to avoid knocking out the light on the ceiling fan.

this is me trying to keep my towering grandfather

from another fall.

how he wavered, like a building

built especially for earthquakes, a skyscraper

designed for so much wind.

when the shelf stands I realize I’ve gone wrong.

I flip backward through the manual,

back through the coffin and into the boat. I sit between the sides

riding on the life of another.

we all make mistakes. and sometimes

we learn from them. there is usually not

a manual. the ocean is much deeper

than carpet. when the shelf is done

I put it in its place in the corner

and organize my books on the shelves.

the pages flutter with excitement.

they like the touch, the careful placement, the gaze.

finally, this knowledge is lifted from the floor.

I am in a place neither my father or grandfather

have been. but something familiar

lingers

~~~

Now & a Girl

Loss

And this is how I behave: breaking

Over the only edge I can find. a girl

At the martini bar on new years eve.

And finding

An infinity tattoo doubled over the muscles of her arm.

I couldn’t make sense of our flirting. It was new years eve.

But then, it was only new years eve.

Three faint lines flayed like wings

On either side over her eyes.

I said ‘I like you’

She said ‘how do you know?’

I didn’t care. I only wanted to be

One seamless, shapeless spilling over

Of life from the edges. She could do

What she wanted.

And loss.

She is only empty space

Days after the kiss at the bar. 2am

Behind red velvet curtains

The space between me and my leaving.

She is only the beginning of these strong queer girls

I am told, and I know

I’d fall in love with everyone of them

Crack my heart open on the side of their stability

Martini glass, their wanting, 2am teeth

In my lips I’ll crumble

Red curtains I’ll open

Small wings

And finding.

When and Where I Enter (2008)

Paula Giddings’ book, When and Where I Enter, begins with this: “Only the BLACK WOMAN can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole….race enters with me.’ –Anna Julia Cooper, 1892.”

Letter to you, from a white woman (2008)

‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole….race enters with me.’ –Anna Julia Cooper, 1892.”

I am so sorry, Anna. Your words echoed

Through all our bodies but History still clings

To our backs.

History clings.

My body is a sign posted where everyone can see.

It doesn’t matter what I say:

Another word for Amylee is white girl

Another word for Sweetheart is daddy’s girl

Or rich girl, or You’ll Never Understand What It’s Like girl.

My body chafes against history,

raw and sore and sobbing but not dead

like the million black bodies

in the Atlantic.

White people press a thousand years

into my body

and the difference is

it doesn’t hurt.

Only when and where I enter

unhinged from history

when and where I enter

i meet you

out bodies built up from the sacred

mud of the earth

born from loving bodies

loving bodies

speechless

alive

~~~

Learning History (2007)

Today I was sad

So sad, I walked slowly

To the chocolate store and chose

From the case, a chocolate

Let it melt over the tongue

Of 1983, Grenada

~~~

(2007)

Love and anger, caught

in some

entanglement

(whether making love

or fighting),

their elbows are locked

to the ground.

this was for a very old friend…. (ps. I think “wings of my distance” might be from someone else’s poem, or just another one of mine.)

The Lion and the Crow

me, with my fur
all grizzled, and you,
thin and sad, perched
on my big head
with a sunflower
in your dark beak.


I have to leave soon
as usual
but i can’t leave
without writing you
this poem. About our

strange relationship.

You buy me flowers
named
after places i want to go
: African Daisy
You hang your tall head,
wilting dark dreads,
I name you

Black iris. Black Iris
asking “how much
is this one?”
Holding a sunflower
for me who wants to be a lion
the vendor says
“This flower is free.”
so you take it
and give it away on the street
(really giving it to me
in some impermanent way)
knowing i wouldn’t take it

I am afraid of disappearing
and you are imperceptible
as a crow against the night

opening in the day
wings of my distance
everything we don’t do


because i say i wont,
I say and i say
there are a thousand things
better than a kiss.

I will never be a lion
but every day you are a crow flying away,
black and indistinguishable from the night,
skirting across visibility and transparency,
Fluent as night into day

wings of my distance

I wont.

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