The Book Life

Monkey Tea

April 13, 2011
1 Comment

It’s so hard to write poems about friendship.
What I want to say is simple,
it is “I love you” and “You’re wonderful,”
but this poem wants to be
more subtle than that.
So perhaps I’ll begin with an apology
for not remembering your name the first time we met.
I cataloged you in my phone by last name only
until I caught you introducing yourself
to someone else. By dinner three days later
we were exchanging gynecologist stories
and lamenting skinny jeans. Later,
(regarding your relative forwardness, your fearlessness)
you said “I just decided we were going to be friends.”
And I would just like to say that I am grateful.

There Are Four Ways to Approach a Body Other Than One’s Own

April 12, 2011
Leave a Comment

The first is not so much an approach
as an invitation. As if via magnetism (so channel that).
This is how you do it.
Begin by discarding everything.
Books, the clothes on your back,
every word you’ve written or heard,
all baggage. Put everything down.
You will not miss it, with all you will attract.
Then find a field of any kind.
Stand in it. Try to be naked, but that’s not essential.
Don’t lie down. Open your arms out to a T.
Look at the sky. Now choose a personal way
to announce that you are ready to be approached.
However, this is not the time for subtlety or glances.
This is not a time for eyelashes. You are ready.
Open your mouth and tell them.

The approach outlined here
will be easier if you have less to carry
so those instructions from part one
still apply. Put it all down. Deep breath.
Look around. Make a choice, and run.
Quickly, before anyone can walk away.
This is the speed/surprise combo.
What it lacks in grace it gains in success rates,
although admittedly on a short-term basis.
When the surprise fades and speed slows
not much tends to be left, and thing can get
weird. Back away, and repeat as necessary.

Stop wearing headphones.

The final method requires the very most care.
Nothing in the way of preparation is expected, but awareness
is essential. The ability to watch for the signs.
This method only works in specified situations
and signals have been arranged for your convenience.
For example, an open tulip. Perhaps a gap in passing clouds.
A coincidence or plain deja vu. It’s not a science.
Just subjective intuition. In fact, retract the comment
dismissing preparation. What you need is exercise
in trusting your gut. Start small, with menu items.
Work your way up. At some point, there will be a sign.
Don’t worry about missing it. There will be more than one.
Then you approach. Gently, slowly.
With care and carrying all you own and are.
Deliberately, walk forward. Approach each other.

Posted 4 poems today, because I’ve been less than perfect about writing absolutely every day. Regarding this poem in particular, the title is a line from a book about science called The Canon, which I read last summer. I kind of ran with it.

Summer Bagels

April 12, 2011
1 Comment

city’s summer
owns us
with its heat

nose to nose
close and sweating
we are watching this happen
to each other

in the morning
you’re toasting my bagel
and I’m trying to stay cool
in front of the fan

I see a picture of you
on the dresser
and I soften a little,
around the edges
just looking this picture of you.

imagine what could happen
when you walk back into this room
with my bagel

I Told You It Wasn’t Sad

April 12, 2011
Leave a Comment

This is not the saddest story ever told.
This is not even that sad of a story.
Boy meets girl or the other way around and she,
at least, knows better. Knows it’s trouble from the start
and that’s part of what draws her.
Tired of the safety of her life so far
she just runs. Runs right at him.
And it isn’t so much that he runs away.
That isn’t it.
It’s more of a standstill. His standstill.
Watching her, vaguely bemused.
Like he finds her antics cute
in a zoo animal kind of way. Nothing he’d
take home. And he stands still. And she comes back.
And back. Always headed right for him.

The most that could be said is that he sidestepped.

Like I said, though, not the saddest story.
Smart girl, smarter than you’d guess
from the semi-desperate race she’s running.
Not a quitter, but it seems now she’s learning to do just that.

She keeps moving. Continues past safety where possible.
Not learning every lesson. A different target every time.
She knows better than to hold her breath
for someone to turn and keep pace. Smart girl.
She keeps breathing. I told you it wasn’t sad. She keeps breathing.


April 12, 2011
Leave a Comment

I’m letting
you in just
a little
at a time

like last night
when I opened
my eyes and kept
them open
a few seconds
my forehead
to yours

and though I was
too close
to see
I could feel you

me, finally meeting
your eyes
like opening blinds
so slowly in the morning
because the sun is so bright
after night

I Promise

April 8, 2011
Leave a Comment

How did you measure my promise to you?
The law said I gave up nothing, just words
in the air, unenforceable.
You looked sad, driving out of the courthouse lot.
I watched you go.

I measured your promises to me
in the number of times
I cleaned my hair out of your drain,
in the length of my leg with your hand on it
(it got longer, then).

But we never made the real exchange,
gave our word, signed the line,
we showed very little
consideration. We were considerate.
Well, you were; and I tried to be.

How do you measure the lack of my promise?
The real question. Was there breath withheld,
the crossing or legs or fingers?

I measured the lack of your promise to me
in the weekly phone calls
and the weak tugging the produced,
beneath my ribs, a softening of the edges
I accumulate, so gentle it’s not even painful.

I am still measuring.

A quiet reminder that maybe,
we could have held love,
but we made no promises.
And where can love live
outside the walls of the promise, all untethered?

Cheating today with some minor revisions to a poem from a few months ago. I tried two poems today. They were terrible. This is better.


April 8, 2011
Leave a Comment

It’s been wordless lately.

Not me. Just the music.

Words won’t capture me or this mood
and the string sounds
I cannot describe at all
just catch me, stop me,
leave me gasping or at least open mouthed,
fully figurative hands on either side of my face,
someone standing in front of me screaming
and my eyes full of tears.

An excess of feeling.
This is what ails me.
A lack of places to put it.
I need more containers
and sometimes the feelings
don’t fit into the poems.

Because I do not understand it,
cannot take it apart and cannot make it,
the string sound draws out what’s left in me,
bits too small or too awkwardly shaped to go anywhere else.
Draws them out with a straw and then spits them out
on the sidewalk for someone else to step in.


April 5, 2011
Leave a Comment

You are beautiful when you move like you’re underwater.
The air around you practically liquifies in acquiescence,
convinced that it has been confused all along, about its being.

I feel the same as the air. Liquified, tears in the corners of my eyes,
like I’ve been going about things all wrong.
Not wrong in a bad way, just a pre-revelation kind of wrong,
like there’s no way I could have known otherwise.

Because we are both human and breathing, I know that we are not
actually underwater.
[I am not entirely convinced that you are human, beautiful.
It’s clear your element is something between, neither air nor ocean.]

I love you within every move that you make.
I cannot turn air into water with the wave of an arm or the arch of a back.
But maybe I only needed the proper inspiration, and maybe now I have it.

Inspired by the ballet “Sea Shadows,” choreographed by Gerald Arpino, as performed by The Joffrey Ballet at the IU Auditorium on April 5, 2011. Definitely a work-in-progress.

Traveling Friends

April 4, 2011
Leave a Comment

I took pictures of their feet
because I knew in the end
that their faces wouldn’t matter.
More that they wore skirts,
rolled up their jeans,
carried their sandals;
mostly that took me to the beach.
I understood their impermanence from the start.
Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t mean,
just true. We probably all knew.
And maybe it was me who impermanent,
perhaps they’re all still best of friends.
After all, I was the American transplant,
the temporary visa to prove it.
I’m not sure any of us cared, that day, about impermanence,
and perhaps that’s what counts.
The social relegated to scenery.
It was the beach and cool sand
and the weather just nothing but British. Not even warm.
And the boys and surfboards, of course.

They never treated me like I belonged, not really.
And only five years later,
I’m clearly okay with having only pictures of their feet.
It’s nice scenery, and I don’t think I was there to make friends.

Evidence of Abandonment

April 3, 2011
Leave a Comment

It feels like you left me.
It does feel, remarkably, like abandonment.
Abandonment, however, I am reminded,
can be tricky to prove. So can feelings.

The initial issue, obviously, is the standard of review:
objective or subjective? Will we be inviting the reasonable man
into our degenerate history? Or can my feelings count?

Your first line of defense, I’m willing to bet more than I have,
will be that you were never with with me in the first place:
You can’t abandon a place you’ve never been.
I’ll counter with evidence of all those times you walked out of bars with me,
all those mornings of not getting out of bed.
I’ll call the cashier at the vaguely organic grocery
to testify to your morning cigarette purchases, me at your side,
probably rolling my eyes. Also the kid working at the ice cream stand,
we went there more than once, and it’s likely he’ll remember
a twenty-ounce milkshake ordered at ten in the morning.
And my friends will agree: you were with me.
I expect your witnesses to to point to your many disclaimers.
The many times you made yourself clear:
“I don’t do relationships.”
There first will be an argument about that statement’s
inherent ambiguity, and whether it means anything at all;
I know a thing or two about interpretation.
There’s also a question of whether the introduction of the disclaimers
is estopped by your obvious behavior to the contrary
(on which I relied, to my definite detriment).
Which meant more: words or actions? An almost classic dilemma.

And the evidence of my feelings.
This is primarily a matter of courage.
Journal entries admitted as exhibits for all to see.
It will require admitting that I allowed myself
to be abandoned, and that I still care.
I also expect that many will call me an idiot for ending up here.
After all, there were disclaimers.
I don’t need to invite that kind of ridicule.

But I need you to acknowledge the abandonment-
without reference to those “disclaimers.”
I clearly didn’t believe them;
I’m not sure you did either. At least not always.
I feel abandoned. Just admit it,
and I can stop trying to prove it,
can stop saving these terrible hurt feelings
for some kind of future

Next Page »