Here I Am Again, Again, Again (Part 1)

I’m just going to get this down, without any links or cleverness. My poetry writing has been deeply stalled out for a long time now, primarily by two events, one good and one bad:

1) winning a chapbook prize several years ago, and
2) the November 2016 U.S. presidential election and everything that occurred since.

It was a gift, an honor, and a thrill to win that contest and have a chapbook published. But as soon as it happened, it’s like I saw a tombstone in my mind. Seriously, I did — and on it was written the fact that this was the best and greatest thing I ever achieved in my writing life.

In the years since, I tried to prove that wrong by entering subsequent contests, the idea being that — though I’m not following the standard arc in many other ways (MFA, becoming a creative writing professor, etc.) — I would follow a standard path in which one prize led to another and another, and then I would sift through my little pile of chapbooks and assemble a book manuscript, and then that would win a prize and be published, and then … I would be a real poet at last.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, I entered one contest after another — $25 here, $30 there — and the most response I ever got was the slow, quiet golf clap of the honorable mention. Which, when added to the foul cocktail of insecurity that is my usual state of being, just served to further prove that my one win was a fluke and would never be repeated — and that therefore, I was not quite real or legitimate.

And then, the election. If you recall back when I was writing and posting a lot here, I like persona poems, weird themes, and funny tricks. Occasionally, I get into a confessional vein where I expose more of my real life. But I don’t do protest poetry well, or the kind of poem where it’s like “Lulling you with beauty/Painting a deceptively tranquil scene/Pulling the rug out from under you –/aha! — here is the ugly and violent truth.”

Guess how essential funny ha-ha weird poems have felt since November 2016? Yep. On the flip side, guess how self-indulgent and navel-gazing it has felt to consider writing about my own life experiences? Yep.

When babies are in cages, in all of our names, and I can’t write about that because I’m not good at it? How dare I write about anything but that?

OK, this has become a two-part post because life goes on around me and there’s more that I need to say. I will pick this up again later today because I’ve told myself I can’t do other, less essential things until I get this all out.


Steal the Pretty Tray

Hang a mirror on a summer-hued cocoon,
feel a touch of coffee that makes the best of
small changes. Books are more enjoyable with
a small woven basket and a handy bar cart.
Silence and favorite tricks. Your trouble spots
are more durable than your perfect happy place,
but a helicopter is smoothly on the fringes of
the room, still trying to keep afloat. A light.


The Look of Aged Copper

They see the person who knows the perfect canvas
for turbinado sugar, goldenrod, light showers.
How to be a better parent—that’s the job.

Learn more about wind, make it shine under your
banister rails, hunt for sounds around you, roast
the seeds of summer, the grifter’s other eye.


Powerful Water

From now until Labor Day, at the beach
a metallic balm in the sun, a mist at the end
of the sun. The sun. Years later, a ghostly glow
that becomes our world, the heart of our lives
this side of sleep. Sleep. Sleep is trickling in
airy sand. Hello, beach. Wake up every day.


The Moment We Decided

Don’t take the heat for your return to the 1900s.
We’re fans of the star of everything you dreamed up.

Create a home for a skeptic. You’ll go back to the bottle,
a trace of berry minerals, the chill throughout the day—

this self-proclaimed skeptic is diving deep into the oil,
a balm of light, a golden new conceit to inspire you.


California Dream

It starts with a smooth, sweet resin
in an elegant, seaweed-driven city.
That’s what gives unicorn-like colors
around the green latte stones like
liquid pearl sea kelp. I see lots of
colors, craft-store gems, a mellow
glitter of lemons and sunshine.


The Allegations Have Been Completely Fabricated

At the end of day one, she rejoins the team.
She’s in a mood to catch the chatter of a bed.
After several hours, smoke. Electric blue boots
down the catwalk. Makeup smudges around
her eyes. He’s on the phone: “Hey. Doing good?”
She is already planning her next ride
to Popeye’s in drag. It’s a laid-back birthday,
a tabletop vignette of Nordic royalty. A queen.


Can You Please Play Fair?

It’s time to start revealing that philosophy:
Imitation is the sincerest form of vigilante.
Enough water for everyone.
The role of a child.
Why couldn’t she put on a plaid shirt?
You have a new message: Knocking on the door,
I ended up being something under the sun.