The Book Life

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 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

Sometimes I Need a Poetry Morning

October 13, 2010
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Walking to school this morning, I listened to “Boy with a Coin” by Iron & Wine, which is a song that I was temporarily obsessed with all summer. It reminded me of the city. It reminded me of the other half of my life. It was 55 degrees out, although October has been stubborn about fall this year. As I walked down 6th and crossed Grant, I had a wonderful moment of aloofness. I was temporarily
my own life. It made certain things less painful, other things less stressful. Took the edge off.

It was fleeting, naturally. But now I’m in the law library, reading poetry, so maybe it wasn’t all that fleeting after all.

There are other parts of me. I just want to tell everyone that, sometimes. And when they are awake, they lend perspective, make me introspective, make me weird, but make me more specifically myself. (Make me possibly unclear.)

I’m emotional, and I don’t hide that, and I won’t apologize for it. I know it makes me a difficult person sometimes. Makes me seemingly fragmentary, fragmented, roller coaster-esque.

Here’s what I’m reading, because there’s nowhere else to put it.

“What Constitutes a Proper Planet” (by Ashley Capps)

I decided to drive to the beach, where I sat in the sand and dug a large hole.
There was a tiny translucent crab with eyes like my mother
and such a specific inner life I tossed it fast back into the tide.
The sop I scooped out made a kind of wall which slid in on itself if my pace slackened.
I had to dig quicker. I dug frantic. Kids appeared with plastic shovels-
I wanted to ask them not to collapse it, but they hung back, a cautious tribe.
Till at last, one poked me with a stick and asked why I was doing that.
And I said, to keep the ocean out. And then they all joined in.


April 30, 2010
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I am tired of backwards. I want up,
or sideways, or something. People behind me
are smoking and speaking Italian.
Let’s be friends. Let’s go back to Italy.
See? Backwards. I’ve already been to Italy,
not that I can’t go again, but still –
there are so many places I haven’t been.

I learned the other day that “metaphor”
comes from the Greek for “to travel”
and “to carry.” I liked that it was both,
because when you travel, you’re always
carrying something. Even if you don’t bring luggage,
you carry yourself.

I found myself while traveling,
and this is what I’m talking about,
about tired of backwards. I traveled
to learn to move forward.
And while I was out there, traveling,
not in Italy, but out there, there was this moment
I could never quite fit into a poem.
A moment where I knew I had caught it –
the person I was in that moment.

I’ve spent so much time reliving that moment,
telling the story but just never writing it down,
that I feel like I’ve already written this.
So maybe if I actually write it,
I can stop reliving it,
and try to actually re-find it.

The moment itself was the poem.
This is nothing more than record:

once, everything aligned.

[PROMPT: Intuition. Free write on an a-ha moment in your life, then poem it.]


April 30, 2010
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Maybe if I frame it right
Allow appropriate space around the edges
Refocus on something less distant
Coming home without you will be better than
Harmless – will be hopeful.


Maybe motionlessness will
Allow insight
Refocus energy on exactly how to
Home whole.


Midnight has never been my hour.
As much as I love its
Romance; dawn is much more my time.
Close by the window, watching
How the sun just never stays down.


Maybe March will
Allow me to open another year
Renewed, and with feeling,
Calling all former years
Harmless and ended.

[PROMPT: Acrostic day! Thank goodness, too, because I’m running on empty. Though I wrote a bunch, based on “March,” my birth month, because it was short.]


April 30, 2010
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Shamelessly Self-Involved Poem that I Can’t Help but Write

I went and bought a coffee
I didn’t even want
so that I could talk to someone,
and have something to work with
for the “first thing someone says to you”
writing prompt today. How sad is this lack
of communication? It is finals time.
Finals are lonely, because other people
are distracting, and finals need focus.
So I orchestrate a conversation
that I know will begin with
“Can I get a drink started for you?”
and end with my “thank you.”

“Not easier, just faster,” he says, of my drink choice,
after I try to take the drink
belonging to the buy behind me.
Mine is not ready yet; I am overeager
and feel almost unable to function out here,
with the world, after so many hours alone,
studying in my apartment. So I smile at him.

He has an accent from somewhere.
I want to be friends with him,
with both of the baristas behind the counter.
They are cute, and I bet they aren’t in law school.

[PROMPT: Write a poem based around the first thing someone says to you today.]


April 30, 2010
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Hand over fist I’ve held onto you
as you ran out your line to the sea.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to follow you,
but I wish I could watch you
swim away from me. I hate that I find
you beautiful. You hate
that the line even exists,
but are not bold enough to break it.

I cannot use my hands for this,
this kind of holding, and cannot break the line myself;
it will tear the skin,
leave great circles of bright red,
unprepared for even air.
I do not need to live for weeks
with bandaged hands; I do not need
those scars. So I let go.

I’ll try to use my hands
for another kind of holding.
One hand just holding the other.

[PROMPT: Use The Phrase Finder to find a phrase, then write a poem. I didn’t go much beyond the phrase itself, ’cause I just ran with “hand over fist.”]


April 30, 2010
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The grass at my funeral
will want to tell its story,
so don’t forget to let it speak.
I don’t know what it will want to say,
though I can’t help but hope it will issue some complaint
about being trampled. I hope it feels
some hundred feet bending its blades,
heedless in grief. I do. I do also hope it recovers quickly,
when they leave, because after that,
it’s just me and the earth and the worms,
and I will need the grass will tell me sweet things.
Its green is so much comforting
than the dark brown earth, all crumbling and cold.

The grass will want to speak,
I’m sure, so later, after I’m under the ground,
please find someone who can sit,
listen to its song, maybe hear it talking
to me. Find someone who will understand.
The grass will have stories to tell, and requires an interpreter.

If you can’t find someone with the necessary skill,
please come yourself.
Acquaint yourself with the morning dew,
sit down in the dawn, feel the damp creep into your pants,
and be still. Listen. Maybe you will hear the grass,
maybe you will understand,
maybe you will write it down. Maybe
you will hear the grass giving me my daily
weather report.
Maybe you will hear
me answer.

[PROMPT: Combine a speaker and an event that don’t usually go together. This is very late – I’m posting this on the last day of NaPoWriMo, and I admit, I have been slacking. Not having internet at home is quite painful, and it’s also exam time. I have been writing about every other day, and I will power through the rest today!]


April 23, 2010
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Tomorrow I will be fierce.
Pushing back the curling tendrils
that hang in my face like tears,
tomorrow I will not flinch.

My hair is the color of rust
and all this time it’s been fading
toward a nonchalant version of brown
while I sit here in the near dark
and night never seems to fall,
dizzy with the scent of imagined saffron
golden in my nose. Tomorrow,
I will be fierce, will not flinch,
will stand up to spite the squall
and cut my hair off.

I have been waiting for a reason,
to a hear a rooster crow and wake me,
for a cock to crow and shame me;
I need no more signs. I will be fierce,
will leave this room, its sadness,
and I will leave my rust-colored hair
on its floor, walk clean
into the emporium of tomorrow.

Tomorrow. I will do it

[PROMPT: A wordle? I have no idea what means, but there were some words in a crossword-type shape, and I used some of them in a poem.]

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