The Book Life

Monkey Tea

April 13, 2011
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

Evidence of Abandonment

April 3, 2011
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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


April 3, 2011
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I’ve had mantras before. I’ve written poems about them.
Although admittedly the translation didn’t take
and the whole thing turned into an epigraph.
But that’s a little bit of the point, I think, to a mantra.
It should be shorter than a poem.
The other bit of the point is to say that I can do this,
the mantra thing. It’s familiar to me.
It’s supposed to be a tool.
In the past it’s just been words I love,
phrases on repeat like the chorus at the end of a pop song.
An ideal embodiment.
Something solid to grasp when feelings crash fast.
An incantation to make them come.
Something to make them easier to carry.

What you are asking of me, here, is new.
How I imagine it would feel to pray the rosary
if I were a more sincere Catholic. Calming. One word
for each breath. I’ve always connected with symmetry.
Searched for it. But I am not a sincere Catholic,
and I’m concerned here about my ability to remain
sincere. But this seems easier to return to. Seems to ask less
of me. Seems, oddly, like a scythe, clearing the brush from my mind.
Before, the mantras appeared in the midst of my flailing,
more a tool of steadying. Reaching for the nearest word,
taking what I found there.

Today’s mantra was granted to me. Gift-like,
but me, free to decline. The breathing, alone,
has been a gift from the start, even the strangest of exercises.
But even at its best depths, it seemed shallow.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it was the words that finally filled the exhale.

It was bound to happen, the poem about yoga. I hope it’s not too… yoga. You know what I mean. Because I really like the breathing, and I find the mantras unusual. But they seem to do nice things for me. I just don’t want to interrogate that too much – I’d rather enjoy it.

Definition of Specific Crimes

April 1, 2011
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Specific crimes are offenses against existence.
Begin with an image. Slightly transparent people,
waveringly thin. Heavy seaman’s rope draped over shoulders,
knotted at waists, wound around wrists.
All connected, net-like. So very easy to set fire.
Specific in the initial act, arson burns us easily and equally,
traveling the rope like a subway. Another: garden shears
and sharp cuts. Each separation a weakening of our pull.
Also: a very strong wind, arising without time granted
to attach ourselves more firmly to the ground or to the furniture.
Again, the harm equal; once one of us takes flight, those ropes
take us all sky high, and we fall with equal speed.

I would criminalize, with this document, also the severing that you
undertook, despite your fumbling attempt at reattachment.
Retied, the rope continues fraying while I’m forced to watch it daily,
a bulky knot, untutored in your haste.

An individual act. Specific. But the impact here,
unequal. Born unduly by yours truly. That knot you left is heavy,
ugly and unwanted. You put things back together poorly.
One could ascertain you didn’t try very hard. Read no books
on tying knots and have never been a seaman.

I will choose the punishment
for each specific crime.

Keep in mind the net. The seaman.
Each departure and act of arson offends existence.
I am the rule maker. This will be my model code.

I’ve always wanted to merge my worlds and write a series of poems based on the “Specific Crimes” section of the Model Penal Code. I imagine this poem as the opening.

We sailed away on a winter’s day with fate as malleable as clay.

April 1, 2011
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April 1st is here again. National Poetry Month, and with it, NaPoWriMo. Such a nice and overwhelming reason to remember that I am a poet as well as a law student, and that I should be writing more than I currently am. So I try to write a poem a day, which for me usually is even more difficult than making time in life for exercise, even though it shouldn’t be. But writing, like many things, is the most rewarding and the most evasive joy. It is hard to track down, hard to locate amidst the explosion of my journal, even harder when there has been less exploding than arranging into compartments and corners. Which is where I currently find myself. But April brings spring and everything begins to open up again, myself included. So it is that time, my friends. A poem a day, keeping doctors of all kinds away.

Posted in NaPoWriMo, Poetry
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