Desi Arnaz Western Hills Hotel, Palm Springs, for Open Link Night

Desi Arnaz Western Hills Hotel, Palm Springs 

Phyllis poses on the diving board, arms out
in front of her, stiff as if she’s frozen there,
a zombie in a black bathing suit. Awful.

I should have been the one; I could have
given it a real sense of motion. My parents keep
my medals in the cedar chest they’re saving

for if I ever get married someday. But I
filled out the yellow bathing suit better;
the good thing about that is, I am in

the foreground. I’ll be the one you notice first,
on my chaise by the pool, as Phyllis and I,
Donna, and the rest—I feel sorry for some,

the girls whose heads will be dots in my
background—spin on a rack in the lobby,
by the cigarettes, next year and the next.

 

 

For Open Link Night, at dVerse Poets. Also, take a minute to see if you can figure out, generally, what I’m talking about … and then click here and see how close you think I got. (And many thanks to Kitchen Retro for giving me something to write about today.)

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Please Be My Poetry Professor

I totally bailed on a free, online poetry class I signed up for. I just … I’m busy. We all are, so I’ll spare you the details. Breathless accounts of other people’s busy days are almost never interesting, except to the person giving them.

It also just wasn’t the right class for me, in that it was modern and contemporary poetry, with most of its emphasis, by far, on “modern.” Generally, what you think of as “modern” is really “contemporary.” I have only recently learned this, and used to be mystified by exhibits of modern art in which most of the works were from the ‘50s.

Anyway, what I really need is some type of impetus to read contemporary poetry. I love William Carlos Williams, but I feel like I’ve been gazing at that red wheelbarrow long enough. Where I need a lot more depth is with great poets who are still among us or who are only recently deceased.

But here’s the problem … I’m scared to read those living greats. Why? Because I’m not as good as they are, I’ll never get those genius grants or be Norton anthologized or be poet laureate, I don’t even have an MFA, and also, HOLY %^*#, THAT ONE IS YOUNGER THAN ME. (That last one comes up more and more lately – I am now markedly older than most Olympic athletes, too.)

I’ve shaken off my previous heebie jeebies about reading any living poets at all. Now that I have a good number of publishing credits (is there ever really a good number?), I can be genuinely happy when a writing friend gets whatever brass ring they were going for, and I can genuinely enjoy their work, rather than fretting over whether it’s better than mine. But those are the poets whom I would consider to be in my circle and achieving at roughly the same level as I am.

When it comes to those acknowledged living greats, those sine qua nons and ne plus ultras who still walk among us – and thus, rob me of the one slight advantage I have over many other great poets – I still have a terrible, and very petty, block.

So … Leave me a comment. If I can ever get over myself, what great living poet should I read, and why? And can you relate to anything I said here? (I’m not the only one … right?)

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Remora (Latin for Delay), for Open Link Night

Remora (Latin for Delay)

My shark mother
flies me through the reeds,
up and out to where
the water is deeper
under me, under her.

I have found
a good place
to attach.

I don’t worry much.

We have errands today.
She is hunting, will pass me
the pieces she doesn’t need.
It will be some kind of fish;
I don’t need to know
how to name it.

Everything used to be someone,
and anyway, names tell lies.

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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Instructions, for Open Link Night

Instructions

Welcome to the step-down unit.
We hope your stay is very pleasant
and that the curtains don’t turn you
into lace. That happens sometimes.
The left curtain in the dayroom is
named Sheila. Watch out for Sheila—
she bites when you least expect it.
Such as when you are secretly
eating the Lorna Doones that
were given to Paul on visiting day.
There are Lorna Doones at the
nurses’ desk, too, but they
never taste as good.

 

 

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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Two great things in my mailbox

I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’m thrilled to be in the latest issue of Naugatuck River Review, whose focus is on narrative poetry. I didn’t think I wrote a lot of narrative poems, generally, so it was fun to sift through and identify some that I did think were telling a story.

I don’t usually write with a particular publication in mind, but in this case, I may have — its distinct focus was something I thought about for a few months, and I think it did encourage me to write more along those lines for a while. Encouragement to stretch is always great, and I am honored to be included in this fine publication — and am enjoying reading what all my “page neighbors” wrote.

One great thing about paper is that it allows you to see connections between different poems in a way that I’m not sure you can on screen. That is, editors take the random material that comes in and arrange it in such a way that it seems as if certain poems were made to play off one another. It’s not the same thing, I don’t think, if I can click around and read whatever I want.

I know there is order, too, in a lot of digital publications, and the intention that poems play off each other. But my online reading is fairly scattershot, whereas when I have a print publication in my hands, I feel compelled to read it from front to back, and thus, to follow the progression that the editor has created for me. It seems like every day brings news of another print literary journal going online-only, but I hope paper won’t die just yet — and not just because it’s satisfying to put my author’s copy on an actual bookshelf.

I also got a self-addressed, stamped postcard confirming that my chapbook entry was received. I sent it in June and had been sweating it: “Did they not get it? Should I email them? No, no … I should play it cool. Right?” I always feel like I’m throwing these things into a black hole — because I have entered several chapbook contests but have yet to win one — so it’s a relief to know that at least this one got into the hands of an actual person.

Wishing you good mail, too …

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Driveway, for Open Link Night

Driveway

I don’t think the whole class needed to know about
wet celery in the drain. If you never eat a plum,
how will you know what it tastes like? Sometimes
there is a buzz in my brain like a, like a what do
you call the thing that lashes out and cuts down
weeds with its vicious-fast snake of a tongue?
It’s like that, only nothing stays down for
long; the driveway of my mind won’t stay
edged, devolves into broken pavement and
ant-blasted dirty sand, all the scrubby stems,
meaningless leaves. Nobody sees them.
Everybody sees them. If you forget I was
talking about celery, don’t forget I was
talking about celery. And what
should we do with
the plum?

For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.

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