Project for December, Plans for 2020

I meant to post this soon, anyway, but I see that it’s my 8th bloggiversary, so …

After writing and posting every day for the past month, I didn’t want to just stop, and possibly stay stopped for another whole year, but I also needed a break from all the personal stuff. What eventually evolved is that this month, I have a new project, and I plan to do a different project for each month of 2020.

Every month, I’ll post what my project is, in case you want to try it, too, and I’ll post a couple examples of my own work. I can’t continue the daily posting of poems because of the well-known Previously Published hex that renders blogged poems useless in terms of submitting to most publications. But I also don’t want to withhold everything, because I enjoy sharing and getting feedback — more than I ever get through publication. So, let’s try this for a while.

My project for December is that every day, I’ve been going through the current issue of one magazine (same one each day) and writing a bunch of found poems using only words and phrases that I find in it. I’ve been stitching them together in order rather than mixing them up. I guess these are erasure poems.

What I mean is that if you did this with my preceding paragraph, you could have:

For December, going through a bunch of words,
I find I’ve been mixing up …

but not:

I find a bunch of words
every day, mixing up …

I’m not telling you which magazine I’m using, but I will say that December issues of women’s magazines are especially good for this because of all the holly-jolly striving. It leads to rather jarring poems about sugarplums and stress.

Maybe the formula from now on is that I post what my project is on or near the first of the month, then post an example around the 15th and another at the end of the month. See you around the 15th, then!


All My Homes Were Home

Let’s end it here, even though so many things happened
before and after. Let’s drop back down into our
brick-walled kitchen in Thief River Falls (sometimes,
I’ve just said Minnesota, but today I’m being precise),
where my mother asks if I want Kix for breakfast, and
when I say yes—giggling because I know what’s coming—
she kicks me lightly a few times with her quilted slipper feet.
I knew the address was 903 N. Knight before I confirmed it,
maybe because I’ve looked it up so many times before, or
(get this!) because I’m now Facebook friends with a
previous girl in the house before I was a girl in the house,
and she once made the trip back, posing with her brother
under the house numbers we all shared. So many things
get layered over and under, it’s hard to tell how much
we really remember, from when. But here’s this:
On Google Maps, just now, I moved the street view
around and around, almost trying to eat it, my house,
with my eyes, as if I could go inside if I just looked
hard enough. We only lived there from 1979 to 1981.
You wouldn’t think it would count as home.
You wouldn’t think so, but it does.

Today’s (final) Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was “the end.”


Have Mercy

On most of us in these poems, both the living and the dead.
Maybe it’s true that we are always—in writing and in memory—
lightly fictionalized versions of the people we were then.

On me, too, if I have smoothed some rough edges or roughed
some that should stay smooth. I finally got that rock tumbler
from the Sears Wish Book, but I don’t know how to use it.

But no mercy for Howard Durst, still. He deserves judgment,
not having received it in life; we girls could not speak it yet,
or we lived in a world that was not designed to hear.

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was “Have _____.”


Something Precious, Like Your Hill

I’m grateful for Olentangy River Road,
that one house—contemporary in 1989,
or whenever it is they widened the road
alongside 315—with its forlorn sign:

Goodbye, sledding hill.

I’m grateful because it showed me that
even if we hadn’t moved so much,
we still could have been fucked with;
you can stay in one house and still lose

something precious, like your hill,
scraped off by the city, so that
if you ever sledded again in your yard,
you’d hit some passing Camry or another.

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was to write a gratitude poem.


A Story That Contains My Mother

My mother, talking to some fancy lady
on the phone in our yellow-and-blue kitchen,
the one in Dayton, one morning before school,
while I was watching the Today Show
and half listening in, to the talk about PTA
or room mothers, or whatever it was.
At the same time, she was trying to make
orange juice, from a can, but it was not quite
thawed, and I watched as the balky cylinder
refused to go into the narrow hole at the top
of the Tupperware pitcher, and instead
oozed down the sides as my mother tried
to scoop it back up, and in, all while
cradling the phone between shoulder and ear,
maintaining the conversation and also
catching my eye, letting me know that she
knew that I saw, and knew it was funny.
A story that contains my mother. How can I
tell you why it means love, if you
don’t already know?

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was a love poem or anti-love poem.


Meals While Moving

Kentucky Fried Chicken on paper plates in Nashville,
and am I right that we sat on the floor, using boxes
as the table because the table was already on the truck?
A disturbance, the knowledge that I would never
see this place again. I was only four, but I felt it—
never think that a young child doesn’t. We do.

Some Ponderosa or Bonanza somewhere,
some other move (Minnesota to Ohio, maybe).
A nearby woman becoming family lore—urging,
extolling the virtues of lime Jell-O to her husband:
It’s light. Refreshing. Won’t fill you up. Try some!
You had to be there, perhaps. Something about it
struck my mother funny, so I laughed, too—
with her, and at her impression—for years.

So many motel room breakfasts.
Those little boxes of cereal that became bowls.
So many states that we drove through,
I couldn’t name them if I tried, don’t know
all the places I’ve been while we were
going someplace else.

Today’s Poem a Day Chapbook Challenge prompt was to write a meal poem.