To Keep Breathing

I know the human heart,
how inside it’s lined with stars.
I say never trust anyone,
but then I always do.

Who is the one who has to
drag me down? And what is this
about? Everything falls apart;
I wish I knew the trick,

the one that helps you face
the truth. I’m making up my mind
to fight against the tide; maybe
I’ll get what I want this time,

learn how to read my own
breathing. Maybe this time, I’ll
get it: the trick of how I feel—
how to be that kind of girl.



And so we’ve come to the end (of this month-long musical exercise, anyway). I will spare you the lengthy fan-girl explanation of why I absolutely had to close with a Garbage song, and will just say that this band has been hugely important to me for the past decade-and-a-half. Their music has carried me through countless phases in life, and now lead singer Shirley Manson is my role model when it comes to Fierceness Past Forty (to put it in obnoxious women’s magazine-like terms). I aspire only to be myself, but I would love to borrow a little of her take-no-prisoners approach to everything she does, her willingness to let her guard down and say what she thinks, and — yep yep yep — her style, too,

The Trick is to Keep Breathing” seemed like a fitting song to close this month and this series. I have thought of this phrase often over the years. At one point when I was working out a lot, this was always the song that came on just as the treadmill was slowing to a stop. It felt like Shirley Manson was right there with me as some kind of rock goddess/personal trainer/spirit guide. The trick is to keep breathing, so I will — and I hope you will, too.


Easy Come, Easy Go

Any way the wind blows, there’s
a devil put aside for me, and Mama
says nothing really matters. I ache

like a thunderbolt; watch it shiver in
my eye. It’s frightening when anyone
can see me. I sometimes wish I’d been

thrown away, left in the lightning under
sympathetic skies. But now I’ve gone, baby.
Oh, baby, I didn’t mean to make you cry.



Was feeling kind of epic and saw a reference to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on my Facebook wall. Done. Speaking of done, I know what band I’m going to close this month-long music series with (tomorrow — wow). Now I just need to choose the song.


To Catch You Up: Four Poems Written in Portland

I recently took an extremely enjoyable business trip to Portland, Ore. I didn’t take a laptop because the nature of my work there was to take a lot of notes in longhand and then turn them into articles once I got home. As for my music-themed poetry project, I thought I could cope pretty well between my phone and the hotel’s business center.


The first night, I discovered that it was impossible to copy and paste links from the hotel computer, though I was able to (tediously) post my poem to this blog and also for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets. But then things went downhill. There were a couple of nights where the business center computers were all offline, so I typed and printed my poems there and went back to my room and re-typed them on my Facebook page (for some contemporaneous proof that I’d written them) via my phone. By the end, I was cutting out the business center visits altogether, writing poems longhand and then typing them on Facebook. The final poem you’ll see in this post was written at my gate just before flying home.

It was frustrating not being able to Google the lyrics or put in as many links as I wanted because between work, social events, and the need to get out and see the city, it was all I could do to just write the poems and post them somewhere. But it was not entirely bad that I had to work from whatever I heard/misheard, and in one case, mistranslated. It led to poems that were a little less buttoned-up than my usual, and I kind of like their rough energy.

Mainly, I’m glad I was able to prove to myself that I could keep up the daily poems even while traveling and without all my usual tools at the ready.

Without further ado, here are the four poems that I wrote while I was gone and was not able to post before now.


Silver Ball

If I had no distractions,
I could play by smell;
I could use my intuition
to guide everything
into the right socket.
If I didn’t have any
buzzers and bells,
I could lean against
a cool blue wall
and find that it is

From “Pinball Wizard” by The Who. Chosen because after a group dinner, a few of us split off to go to an arcade that was offering all-you-can-play for $5. My carpal tunnels and I rediscovered my love for pinball (though I’m certainly no wizard).


Strange Voices

I could skip my city
if you were still here.
It was cruel, leaving me
to do your dirty work,

climbing a fire escape
beyond all understanding.
If I could escape, I would
not need these overalls.

Now, everything is closed
and bananas aren’t free—
but the peels fly pretty far
if you aim them just right.


Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer,” chosen for no other reason than that I saw this song referenced on a friend’s Facebook wall. I like it, too, though, because of the fire escape — our hotel had an early morning false alarm, and I used the fire stairs out onto the rainy sidewalk because they were the closest and I had no reason to believe it wasn’t a true emergency.


Certain Pain

Every day I drink myself
into another world, too small.

Every day I find
what I look for.

Every day I shout
at the moon.

Every day I fight myself
in a hole in the street.

And every day I ask,
Now what?


Manu Chao’s ” ¿Y Ahora Que? ” because I really like him and considered buying one of his CDs (I know, an actual physical thing) at a local record store I visited with a friend. I did buy something else there — just not that.


Bring Me Goodbye

tonight in the flashing lights
tonight I can only ask
to submit it

tonight I will hold you
bring me tonight
bring me goodbye

I’ll see you there
let’s not forget it
you bring me goodbye


Io Echo’s “Shanghai Girls,” because it was appropriately wistful and dreamy for my farewell. It’s also an oblique reference to a very creepy/cool tour I took of Portland’s Shanghai tunnels.

Glad/sad to be home …



You say it is peaceful there,
together on the beach,
in the open air, the blue skies.

You say we should tell our friends
goodbye, go where there is
sun in wintertime. You say this is

our destiny. If you love me enough,
how could I disagree? If I love you
enough, will you stop hustling?

Then I will make no protest; we
will make our plans, and this
is what we’re gonna do.



After “Go West,” by The Village People, because I have gone west on business.


On the Meadow

My horse hears the sounds of the earth,
thinks it’s a beautiful morning to go for a run.
Somewhere, there’s an elephant in the corn;
it has a feeling, something about climbing.
Like a bright, golden haze, I don’t miss
a tree—not even the willows
laughing in the sky.




My grandmother had a music box that played this song from Oklahoma! She kept it in her attic, which had two beds in it and a ceiling that sloped down low enough that a child could brace her feet against it and smell the attic smells and have a beautiful feeling about being comfortable and loved.


Out into Nothing

It’s a long day
when there’s a freeway
down the middle of your heart.

Falling vampires in the shadows.
Good girls are made to be broken.
Is that your name written in the sky?

What carries you away?—Jesus?
Elvis? Horses? Your boyfriend? Or is it
all the bad boys of Southern California?



I wanted a fall song, and somehow I ended up with “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty. There’s more to it than I remembered—lots for me to work with, and a real sense of place.


Block Party

Champagne Bubble-Up
as the whole house bounces
in your dreamy eyes, in your
dreamy carless street.

Let’s get it started; buy
a bikini from your neighbor
at the yard sale. You can
wear it when you drink

wine with your people,
bond with them while you
sit in someone else’s best
folding chair. Bring it out,

bring it out, pasta salad
and a Frisbee. Bartender,
pry me a beer from the
Igloo on the card table.

Block party, and everything’s
light; can’t drink and drive
when the street’s still closed.
Empty the bar. Empty the

bar; don’t bring back liquor
from the block party. Leave it
outside. Stay out to clean up
Solo cups of moonlight.




Based on something called Block Party Riddim Mix because we had our annual block party today. By mix, it means that it’s actually a bunch of songs, totaling about 19 minutes. I realized that last part once I was about 12 minutes in.


And Everything Is Going

Like stars, your begonias
burn holes in my eyes.
My beard grows against
your skin with a lion’s thirst.
Flicking fire, I drag you back—
no more walls. Only an inch,
one sleepy inch, keeps us
from bursting in the dark.





After Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead.” A second one for today, by the way, because I missed yesterday on account of being too tired (and also there might have been a little Candy Crush Saga involved).

And … you know I sometimes write persona poems, right? So I’m not necessarily the bearded guy in this poem? OK, good.


A Brain, Bouncing in Its Frame

My eyeball jumps at you
from inside my mouth;
its eyeball friends spill
down my tongue. Do you

know what to make of this:
scissors, bees, giant fish?
Careful—under her hairnet,
the lunch lady has no face.

I am angry at this shark,
this skeleton hand, these
neon-frosted doughnuts.
It all spins too fast; I can’t

ride my unicycle when
the lunch lady, joined by
clones, is dancing around
my fruited head.  My poor

blob head. How it throbs
with frilly spectacle as
a giant bone pokes in
from the window. What

defense can there be, in
this gas-permeable world?
All I can do is clap. Clap—
and wish for toast.




I jumbled it up, but believe it or not, all these images and more (so, so many more) are in this song from Japan that became a huge viral hit a couple of years ago. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should go watch it right now! Or if you do know, go watch it again—it really is as crazy as you remember.


Open Doors

Son, I am the eagle
that has come
to take you home.

Son, the wind is
blowing; your heart
is machinery going


Son, climb the hill
again; you can trust
imagination. Time

stands still, son;
grab anything
that takes you




After Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” I love this song, but there’s another reason I chose it for today. This morning, I met with a friend who is from China. She has been reading my poems, and we had a very nice conversation about a few of them. She mentioned the BOOM BOOM BOOM in this one. It occurred to me that I knew another song where a heart goes BOOM BOOM BOOM. Betty, if you’re reading this, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂