Visual formatting is important to me, so when I first opened Jon Pineda's Little Anodynes, I was skeptical. All of his poems are little gutters of words two inches wide. All of his poems. I was skeptical. The quotes on the back of his book are arranged in two two inch gutters. I was skeptical.
But I like his amuse-bouche style memoirettes. Though the poem they inspired ended up being much longer than his.
A History Of Smoke
The third time your roommate almost burns
down the house
in a grease fire You wake up
to a smoke filled bedroom Worse than onions
rotting on the kitchen counter Inexplicable
spoons buried in the soil of house plants
There is no fire yet
Turn the stove off and douse the pan
obviously before you go to work
smelling like irresponsible
Like the failing restaurateur
desperate for insurance Work all day
with that resin of averted tragedy
clinging to what you will later remember as what used to be
your favorite shirt When you get home
blow out each room
Soak the curtains in perfumed soap
Buy a new filter for the vacuum Mop
every surface in the kitchen until every sponge is kombu
Keep the roommate
Evict the behavior
Try and remember
a brand of cigarette that you both hate
the smell of Say parliaments are your father’s
whiskers left in the sink Newports are
the last roommate who tried to burn
down your house Not with a grease fire
but with candles and grief
and the haunting of a dead mother Grieving
with smoke Cooking
with smoke Everyone you love is charcoal
briquettes Wood chips at the base
of your temper Everyone kindling
camels are tomato flavored
fruit roll ups People forget
tomatoes are fruit Don’t linger on fruit
as an insult Don’t consider yourself
a tomato Don’t imagine
your past as smoke
Say salems are You know what
don’t say salems at all
not because of its proximity to
witches Their burning Their smoke
Don’t say salems
because of course another ex asked you
to buy salems and hide them Openly
gay Closeted smoker Only in emergencies
you were to produce a single salem He already had
a lighter waiting He was a state of constant emergency
You were a telemetry nurse
A cigarette machine Say
you never love the fire just
the aftermath The stench Say cling again
but don’t know for certain if you speak
of the lovers or the smell
Stay up all night trying to understand yourself
Lose your sense of chronology until you can only remember
when you are by the flavor of cigarette wisping or pluming or whatever
word describes the barely visible traces of burning tobacco but fail to
consider the weight left in its tiny wake
Remember the camel lights who lived
in your bed just long enough for you
to quit smoking You hated the smell of camel
lights for a decade
You hated the smell from the moment you met him
You were always a marlboro man
Masculinity dreamed up by an advertising executive
who believed filtered cigarettes were too feminine
The circumcised cock as a cowboy hat Your addiction was
always rock hard They say
you never quit wanting cigarettes
and mostly you think
they’re right After two hours in a dead car
with a stranger who had ruined her life
ruining one of your friend’s life you called the man you stupidly loved
and begged a cigarette for the first time
in ten years The first inhale was like kissing him again
Wrong the moment
your lips parted so you kept them together
for as long as you could
Breathing each other
You made it halfway
through the cigarette before giving him the option of taking it from you
or letting you crush it beneath your shoe
He didn’t want it back
You haven’t wanted a cigarette since
But you buried you face in his pillow
every time he left his bed that you slept in
breathing in everything killing him
as if it was keeping you alive
It was so familiar
The first man you stupidly loved was the same
brand But you were so younger
enough to be happy dying
with each other You couldn’t taste the rot of you
The first day the world turned without him
you slept on the couch with his fucken marlboro
spiced sweatshirt over your face to block out
the unrelenting morning He told you he’d call you
and maybe you’d beach day Or maybe
you’d smoke on the patio
until night wisped You waited by the phone
until you couldn’t decide whether you were angry or sad
And when you found out he decided to die without you
you soaked his sweatshirt with the butane of your grief
Today's prompts are from the first two sections of Jon Pineda's Little Anodynes, which kept showing up as a recommendation based on other poetry books I'd ordered, so I decided to check it out.
1. First Concert: This is a pretty literal prompt. What's the first concert you remember going to? Nevermind how it relates to the type of music you like(d). What details of the concert do you remember that aren't related to the actual songs? The smells, the view, the community of people. What was it like?
2. Prayer: When was the first time you experienced public nudity that was not your own. Something that felt out of place, be it a streaker, a person getting changed on a beach. You can start with how you feel, but what about how they felt? Were there other people around? Do you remember whether they seemed to be reacting similar or differently than you?
3. Notes For A Memoir: Another literal prompt. Write down a small detail of memory that you think would make an interesting aside in your memoir. Don't expand on it yet, just give us the kernel.
4. Strawberries: Have you ever held a baby? It doesn't have to be a baby human. Puppies, kittens, cubs, alligator hatchlings, whathaveyou. What was it like? Do you have any desire to do it again?
5. Ceiling And Ground: What's something you threw away in the spur of the moment that you know you can never have back? Have you ever needed it since?
6. Collectors: What was something you treasured as a child that, as an adult, you now don't consider valuable?
7. Silence: Is there a pet or person who you once thought was important to you whose name you've since forgotten? Tell us a story about them.
8. The Ocean: Have you ever picked up a conch (or similarly sized) shell and put it against your ears? Did you hear the ocean? If not, what did you hear? If so, what did you imagine that meant? What do you wish you could hear if you were to find a conch shell right now?
9. Sealed Letter: One of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes serials is about him eating a shocking amount of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs in order to get a beanie hat, which he waits impatiently for. When the beanie arrives and isn't as great as he'd hoped, he, like many children and all cats, ends up playing more with the box than the toy. What's the most disappointing thing you've ever waited for? -or- if that's too much of a downer, What's the most fun you've ever had with a cardboard box?
10. There Is An Edge To Each Image: Have you ever had to get stitches to close a wound? (Whether or not it's from snitching is inconsequential) Do you still have a scar from it? I've had a small divot in my forehead since I broke it open on the edge of a coffeetable when I was three years old. I mostly forget it's there, but sometimes when I look in the mirror, I remember precise details about that night that I don't think I would ever remember if not for the seeing the scar. What's your scar story? Try and stick with physical scars. Emotional scars are a different prompt.
11. Distance: You've almost definitely seen a commercial or infomercial about a poverty stricken area where a supposed charity organization asks you to make donations to help save a child's life. How do those commercials make you feel? Have they always made you feel that way or has your reaction evolved over time?
12. Ellipses: When you're high up on a mountain, or ascending in a plane (or a hot air balloon if you're freaky like that), and the world seems super zoomed out so that the people look like ants, or maybe the houses look like ants and the people have shrunk invisible? Write a poem that zooms out on the world that way, like you are so far above it (literally, not snobbishly) that it's difficult to make out its consequence.
13.. My Place: Describe your laughter or the laughter of someone you love.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.