A Fire Was In My Head

Two Stanzas of an Incomplete Work
31 July 2011, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Draft

I haven’t quite figured out what to do with these.  They’re two good little quatrains, but I don’t think either follows the other directly.  They don’t make up a full poem yet, to say the least.

As adults we lose our sense of play, and as an “adult society”–that is, a society which has progressed from an earlier, larva state, a central cultural myth–we seem to have lost our taste for rhyme.  Why is that?  Where does it leave us?  Do we have to press so unhaltingly “forward”?  Should we remember and savor more than we do?  I think so.

The above questions marched through my mind when I wrote the poetry below.


Lo, what’s become of our dear schooltime whim?
The words have slunk away to the new young
As light bejewels a silver jungle gym
but not the backturned children whence were flung.

The posies all have petrified to coin.
(We might improve our floorboards and our sidings,
but bored we ask and boring they rejoin
about some soon-to-be-forgotten tidings.)


Map Dreams
16 May 2009, 10:37 am
Filed under: Draft

Here is a meditation on spring rain.  It isn’t quite W. C. Williams.

Map Dreams

Once rain falls
for six days
and no one
on the city grid
meets my eye
or shakes my hand;
they are hunched
and I am hunched.
We keep to our hoods
and stooped shoulders,
regard our toes;
we are nowhere:
on these days
I return to my pillow
soggy and ready.
Closing my eyes
to the flood
I anticipate
a little esper:
Drifting in a dry sky
of crisscross lines
falling in a dream
to dry, dry oceans
full of hurricanes
like borgesian swans.

An Exercise, A Slump
1 March 2009, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Draft

A few of my other poems have been forming as slowly as metamorphic rocks, so I took a break and some advice form Richard Hugo, whose book The Triggering Town is of extraordinary use to me as a poetry teacher.  (I have no idea if he is a good poet, but he writes plainly and strongly about helping others become good poets.)  I stopped thinking about layers of meanings.  I stopped thinking about rhyme.  I stopped thinking about stories I know I want to tell.  Instead, I took a factoid from my Dad’s life that he mentioned to me on the phone earlier today and ran with it.  (They called him “Cadillac” Stephens in high school on account of he got rides from a family friend who only drove Cadillacs.)  Here’s what happened:


Witness the Cadillacs
slide in like ice cream,
hubcaps angel’s skin bright.
The girls fall forever
into the creme-de-menthe
bucket seats.  The whole slick scene buzzes
over to the lakes kicking
up a Sahara cloud of gravel
that sticks in the cracks of our eyes
and makes our socks sag.
The kid on the mound
sweats so much he can’t throw
a strike.  I’m on deck thanking God
when ball four sails, cause there isn’t one of us
could hit a planet
when the Sahara cloud comes down.

Not a terrible slump busting activity. Just let the words come.

QWERTY criticism
8 February 2009, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Draft | Tags: , , ,

You have been loyal readers, and I have been a negligent writer.  I owe all five of you an apology.  Unfortunately, the best I could muster at my little Suedoperuvian typewriter was this off-topic complaint:

QWERTY Criticism

Curse the proud mechanics
who were so vain of this peacock
array of hammers, its forest
arrangement of green keys spaced
to impede my liquid fingers, punishing
flight by metal bramble.
                                        If only they knew
the impossible lag, the network of gaps
and senseless dendrite thickets
these blocky fingers, already,
will never overcome.

Call (draft)
18 November 2008, 10:41 am
Filed under: Draft

“Call” is only the wisp of a beginning, the first draft of an introduction to a much larger project.  I aim to catalog the great American jazz master Charles Mingus in a series of poems.  I draw on the composer’s personal history, his musical ambitions, and my own experience as a listener.  The series may amount only to the gilding of a legend, but Mingus lit up his nook of the world.  It follows that someone ought to versify his genius.

I am not yet happy with sections of “Call.”   However, the basic thrust of the poem, which imagines a speaker standing in the Ganges River, presumably near the spot where Mingus’ ashes were scattered after his death, and venturing a grotesque communion, seems presentable enough.  If it reads too obscurely, that is partly because it is certainly too obscure, but also because it will depend on the network of other poems to form a more coherent history.

Please let me know what you think of the “Call” draft in my comments section.


Mingus, I am summoned
to the Ganges, a carving knife
beside my head. You may
take my ragged ear.
Let me speak your voices.

Let me dig at you
tucked in the deep
clef. Call, and here we unlock
a sound from enchanted shallows.
Hear my knees wet
like rats above you,
these timid vibrations: we
(the common bathers at my flank
cannot sense it, are blind
even to the sheen of my blade)
form one chord
in harmony. What a sly magic:
vertical arrangement.
So you are three. But
rest now, Mingus; stay low;
sequester in these words;
it is come the hour of possession;
regard your lively treble; I swear
each shall prove the other true.

Sing in me your razor backbone
pulse. I will hiss
your old desires and thunder
with the fury of a whale
and the capsized ship.
Let us wail,
the fated crew
murmuring down our murmurs
burbling up.

Here, inhabit this
slender open vessel
and speak, once more, these waters
bright with life.