YOU ASK WHY I WRITE ABOUT DEATH AND POETRY
There’s entirety in eternity,
and in the pearly gates—the pages relate.
I fall prey to
You know, I’ve never understood reality,
then try to relay it—tearily, irately—
and I’m a liar yet.
But when I write about death and poetry,
it’s donated therapy
where I converse with
Emily Dickinson, my inky misled icon.
And when my dream songs are demon’s rags,
I dust my manuscript in a manic spurt
hoping the reader will reread
because I want the world
to pray for poets as we are only a story of paper.
Previously published in 32 Poems
If you could sign your name to the moonlight,
that is the thing!
Sometimes waves scribble their initials
over a path of moonlight. This is the closest
to a signature we’ve ever seen. Maybe,
or maybe it’s the clouds with their C-curves
crossing in front of the O—mouth open,
head thrown back and singing.
We cannot steal words if they’re kept
unspoken, but who wants to live that quietly?
Instead, I want to swim in the dark
sea across paper, climb the barges
and docks that float there. Moonlight invites itself
to our desks and we try to nail its beam
to our paper. We’ve been swimming here
for years, trying to steal what hasn’t been
written, diving to the bottom of an unread sea.
Previously published in the North American Review
KINDERGARTEN FOR POETS
And it was at that age...Poetry arrived in search of me
Ignore Billy who’s bothering Louise
with his sestina, repeating his six words
in her ear when he thinks the teacher
You’re five and September is the month
of poetry subjects:
All About Me, Bones, Love, Roads, The Five Senses
Before your parents leave,
Mr. Pound says what you will do today:
Orally combine words to make a complete thought
Practice proper writing posture
The ABCs of reading
For show and tell, you bring in a cliché
and everyone points it out.
You write your first haiku:
I still dream about being
After story time, you tell the librarian
you enjoyed Beowulf just so he’ll smile and nod.
Li-Young shares his peaches with you at lunch
and you want to touch his hand.
Back in class you realize you have a crush
on Sharon who keeps pulling up her dress.
Wallace mumbles something in the center
of circletime. Few can understand him,
but everyone smiles in agreement.
Quiet Jane prefers to sit alone with a fresh daisy
on her desk. She stares out the window
and notices how dandelions form
into letters: O, Q, lowercase i.
You share a desk with Gwendolyn
and listen to her stories.
In the days to come you will learn
there is no way to stop Logan
from kicking the back of your chair,
or reminding you
that you wore that shirt
yesterday, the same green shirt,
and you dot your i’s wrong. In fact
everything you do is wrong. Well, not wrong,
but not necessarily right.
Later, Franz beats him up after school
and things feel better for a while.
On Halloween, you dress up like a pantoum
and repeat yourself all day.
You are starting to believe
couplets are for babies.
For Valentine’s Day, you write,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond
on your cards, and the principal
calls you into her office
to ask you if you’re getting enough
to eat at snack time.
Sometimes you forget and run with sestinas.
Next year, you’ll begin first grade
and will be introduced to book contests,
submissions, and rejections.
Now, your poems are returned
with smiley faces, stickers, and stars.
You’re happy in this iambic universe,
this phonic jungle where the alphabet
wraps around the room—
Jack-Jack Kerouac, ă, ă, ă.
You wear your sonnet like a cape
and revise the words that spill
from your backpack—
verbs hang from the monkey bars,
nouns lean against the bike rack,
a villanelle of mockingbirds echo
as the bus comes into view.
DURING COMMUNION I ASK GOD FOR HELP WITH A POEM
I ask Him for the next word
and a goldfinch flies through the church.
I tell Him there’s a poem I’m trying to write
and lights flicker.
Each day I ask again. Another idea,
another way to pray.
I confuse poetry with religion,
a white wafer I rest on my desk.
My grandmother says not to call for God
unless I’m dying. Yet I ask
God to help me (again and again)
write the last line.
When I finish the poem
I walk outside and find the neighbor’s dog
fallen by the side of the road.
Its pain becomes what I hold, an ache
fading into my arm—
a sacrifice placed in snow,
the taste of blood when I wanted wine.
Previously published in PoetLore