Taking a break from Homage Poems for a bit. My initial read-through of Ada Limon's Bright Dead Things didn't inspire anything in me. So I must have been in a terrible mood.
Much like Martin Espada's Imagine The Angels Of Bread, the book starts with a poem I imagine hearing on stage at a slam-related open mic. It's written very accessibly and it deals with the sort of stories and issues people at a slam-related open mic will be quick to cheer for. But as the book goes on it becomes increasingly interesting and more complex.
And I'm always a sucker for a well-written poem about insomnia.
The Tongue Blanket Of Dreaming
I'd like to take a nap.
But not a nap that's eternal,
a nap where you wake up
having dreamt of falling, but
you've only fallen into
an ease so unkown to you
it looks like a new country.
-- Ada Limon, "The Noisiness Of Sleep"
When i grew too exhausted to tip-toe
between the dragons I curled myself into a lozenge
Intent on melting away
on the foulest dragon's tongue I slept
like an accusation against someone you love
the precious treasure was time
i could scale against my chest Of course
i dreamed that i had become my scythe-toothed shelter
Don't we all dream of being our own
killer or savior
This poem is an accidental cheat. I was supposed to be rereading Marge Piercy's The Moon Is Always Female but I couldn't find my copy, so I picked up What Are Big Girls Made Of which I've owned but hadn't yet read. After the first seven poems about the death of her brother, she opened the second section with the title poem.
While I have since gone back and read the rest of the collection, as soon as I was done reading "What Are Big Girls Made Of", I got the idea for this poem and immediately sat down and wrote it, as is.
What Are Faggots Made Of
Abandon and abandonment
An ear for vacuuming
pop culture and slang from other generations
identities not fully compatable with our tongues
Shoulders Our parents' confusion
Never knowing what to say
Saying it anyway
An array of hats
Plaid and everything that clashes
with plaid Lobster claws for cavity searches
Such senses of humor
The ability to see common ground in areas
clearly marked no trespassing
The desire to loose our tongue
in areas clearly marked no
A belief in borders
Neighborhoods without fences but cities
with painted lines Not stars
We are not imagination
We language imagination
We speak for a we that does not have
a singular voice We are made of
I am not queer because
i was a gift
for barren parents Sora would not be straight
if his mother had lived Wyatt would not have
dressed more accountant if he had less
sisters Corey's pronouns would still be corey's
pronouns if there was no church
in their shadow It is so tempting to believe
our bones are fortified tragedy We grew
strong Invasive species thriving
on the coast of straight
Pilgriming inland to
Fish with legs
Mammals with feathers Divine
mistakes of evolution Faggots are made of
blame and fear
A lack of
science The myth of history
Loving the people
the world is afraid to love
Glowsticks and wrestling
nails and shaved heads Manifestos
Lists of incongruous stereotypes
Such musical anger
A pot of boiling realizations
Disappointment in the people we try to love and
try to be The death of
casual heartache The chalk outline of puritanism
Blood so pure it could kill
you if you're not careful
A vocabulary of distance
More heart than genitals Faggots are
not faggots We are
more than reclaiming the hard gs
of outdated taxonomy We are not made of
looking for conflict
Lip synching the gender
Karaoking the rebellion
We are not we are nots
We are waiting for a textbook understanding
that was checked out last century and is so past due
that religion has decided to
pretend they never borrowed it
We are not alone in waiting
We never want to be alone
We grow up believing the ghost story of our wrong
the fables of our impending solitude
We adolesce into camouflage or
We do not sleep for fear of dreaming incorrectly
Humans are made of humanity
It must be driven from us by our ancestors'
ignorance A learned fallacy
A typo in the owner's manual of our hearts
What I like most about Sara Eliza Johnson's work in Bone Map is its sense of constant travel. I never feel like she is stopping to explain her images or ideas, she's just showing you this beautiful short film she made. And you can watch it as many times as you'd like (the book is in your hands, after all) but she's only going to tell you about it once, and she's not going to answer any of your questions.
What I Remember As Panicked
Sitting in the fort your parents built for your
younger dying brother You pluck
a caterpillar from the tree Squish
it between your fingers and rub
the smear of its was down my face
A moth probably
unrelated flies to a tree
we can't reach
It flies what i remember as
panicked But is just
the way moths fly
Your dog will eat
it or its progeny
He being a conoisseuir of injured
bugs and children
He will feast on your brother's arm
That he does not kill him is a fit of magic
Your father the unwilling
volunteer from the audience
will make your dog disappear
from our neighborhood
to the house of an aunt you will never meet
From Cassandra: here's the poem i wrote in response to sara eliza johnson's bone map, a book i really loved and NOT just because it had many deer in it.
in the dream
Cassandra de Alba
the horses run without their hides,
tail and mane fused to muscle,
eyes rolling and strange
in red tapered heads.
dust from their hooves glimmers
in the ghost of sunlight
and doesn’t settle, only multiplies,
a cloud of choking gold shimmer
out of which Columbia strides,
her white dress immaculate,
eyes fixed ahead
like a declaration of war.
under her feet, the skinless horses
like an undammed river
and under theirs,
the country’s splintering bones.
Reading Natalie Diaz's When My Brother Is An Aztec is a brutal an astonishing read. When I first asked people to suggest books for me to read, this collection was on the list. I thought I'd hear Natalie's name but hadn't encountered her poetry. Her book was one of the first few to arrive this summer and I devoured it on my way to work. It's the book that inspired me to start this project and try and love poetry as much as I loved this book.
What To Turn Into
A tongue will wrestle its mouth to death and lose--
language is a cemetery
~ Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was An Aztec
Learning about the fate of her brother
brought me back to the weapon that plants a seed within a person.
Does the weapon declare itself a weapon or a plant?
Does the weapon weep
or does the weapon-- the white employer-- pay her to destroy the land
with golden laughter only?
I can't lay down my teeth enough for the grief in these narratives.
I am wrestling with losses I don't know how to name.
An American prayer nicknamed Payroll,
as if employment were ever liberation.
Survival of an abscess needing survival of the body,
tortured by the burnt nerves of its necrotic tissue.
From Kelly: I liked this book. Stumbled across it after sitting next to the poetry section to hang out with friend in the Porter Square Bookstore. They went to get snacks and tea as I watched their stuff (after they'd done the same for me). While waiting, I looked at the books beside me.
Response to Work & Days by Tess Taylor
Kelly J. Cooper
Gardeners have the best metaphors
where else will you find
seeds, tender sprouts, seasonal changes,
life and death, plus the heartbreak
of fungal infections?
Green, growing, turning sunlight into sugar,
changing colors, nestled in mud,
life cycles are traps,
then guides, then traps again
but the structure helps.
Facing tragedy is easier
when you have something to root for
cheer on the good plants
rip out the bad plants
eat the results
This poem actually started as a Sara Eliza Johnson interaction. I was struggling over three interactions for a few days, all of them nature-based, and then there was C A Conrad's splendid little weird book, The Book Of Frank. So many of my interactions this month have been homage-based, and I was finding it difficult to write in the style of C A Conrad without feeling like I was just poorly imitating C A Conrad. So I decided to write a letter to his character of Frank, instead.
Letter To Frank From My Uncle's Garden, 1982
I don't know where my parents are But my uncle has this video camera And my cousins haven't surrendered their moods to cocaine and mushrooms yet So they are dancing by the pool I am a scarecrow on the outskirts of their flower garden Staked by dozens of bumblebees as big as my five year old fist All they want is me Dancing with them So that my uncle can capture the abandon of our youth Our dumb rhythms to a song i can't even hear See kids they imagine me saying to my own children in thirty years Once your father was as laughter and jumping jacks as you And you can see it all thanks to this betamax recording A medium which will never die When my parents return from their wherever My uncle pronounces me uncooperative A selfish little nancy My parents do not laugh I am pretty sure my uncle still had the tapes of that party when he died My parents and never saw them We have never needed film to remember ourselves
Chika Sagawa was a poet recommended to me by Andrew Campana. So when I was researching the word that I wanted to use as a title for this poem, I was excited to see there was a prompt for this word made by a college student working in Japanese poetry named Andrew. I was then shocked to discover it was a different Andrew. It will never be spoken of again.
Kefukaero is the Japanese version of the Cuckoo call, as well as a classical Japanese phrase meaning "to where shall I return" or "will I come home."
The sky is a balcony nobody sits in
The ground is general admission seats for the ocean
In the morning when the shore
retreats from the orchestra pit and the moon
exhausted from seeing himself in every show
fades out of the auditorium
I throw the rotten scraps of my laughter at the seagulls
The waves in their finest crests
slap their hands on the stage
I go home
not even turning to watch the actors grow
fat on all my excised joy
Andrew Campana is the poet who recommended I read The Collected Works Of Chika Sagawa, and I'm grateful he did. Here's his interaction with her work.
A night wind
Neon flutters at the parking lot edge
The road is slick with petals
All grit and gentleness and half-eaten colour
The husk of a cicada hoards rain under its carapace
Smoke gathers, then is gathered
Filled with caffeine and sugar
A vending machine hums softly to itself
I look out through the wire mesh glass
At the light hitting the light hitting the trees
Five apartment buildings all face a single garden
Shivering under the weight of the Wi-Fi
From Emily Taylor: The Crown Ain't Worth Much (by Hanif WIllis-Abdurraqib) is a masterpiece and there are so many things to do with it & anything I write doesn't seem to do it justice tbh. this is after his poem after Fall Out Boy.
on finding your old converse from 2009
covered in rusty watercolor
from the wet sand of the baseball diamond
where you’d run in circles to ward off
the undiagnosed hyperactivity,
and under that, scrawled lists of bands
and favorite lyrics in thin Sharpie;
partially to prove that you were
a cool girl, even though you are neither
a girl, nor cool, at ALL, but also because
you didn’t think your own words
were good enough to clothe you yet.
These cocktails of punk quotes
your first found poem, your first toolbox
for expression, those were the years
of painting someone else’s words
all over your town, to write
on your wrist so the permanent marker
tingle replaced an old sting, you
were honestly a parody of yourself.
Since then, you’ve found words of your own
to protect yourself, but on those days
where your words aren’t enough,
you pop in your old headphones, lace up
your shoes, and remember the songs
you pulled apart with your two hands,
coaxing this new voice into your throat.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.