Prose is Writing Poetry

Paul Valery said a poem is never finished only abandoned. Welcome to my orphanage. To each reader their own poem.

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We Used “Recitation” as a Euphemism for Sex

Senior year of high school I recited Frost’s Birches in empty classrooms, libraries, stairwells, dark avenues, and vacant football bleachers. Checking my tongue in the mirror, how this sentimental poem of growing up and innocence lost reminded me of a model helicopter crashed in a tree, the rotary blades twirling wind chimes. At a state competition all 59 unrhyming lines come out more easily than my pulse. On stage lights bloom behind my eyes and I dream falling backwards, but really I tip into the mic for a kiss.

*

Backstage with a poem I wiggle into a cat’s cradle between my fingers. On stage Piano Man is pulverizing his audience with lightning crashes on the keys and thunder rolling off his sleeves. The translucent curtain cloaks me in red stage light, I’m close enough to see his fingers plunge like fencers. A voice blows in my ear, “You’re on in one minute.” They fasten a mic to my collar as a final note lingers, held until the ripples smooth to an ice-sheet gloss.

*

The coffee shop is called Fresh Brewed but the performers soured a long time ago. The open mic happens in the same place as the AA Meetings. Many go to both. Bad blues and tongue singing mochas. Me and Matt sit in the back and do our best Mystery Science Theater 3000 impressions. Our whispers dissolve into guitar chords and a Johnny Cash cover. Halfhearted choruses of “Down down in a burning ring of fire.” The slam poets come and go, then keep going and going. My sestina about my dead grandpa who is not actually dead gets applause, but I am not unwashed enough for people to congratulate me personally.

*

Mother distracts small child with a tablet. Professor is twisting and turning a camera, following trajectories of a sun turning over in the sky. The room is on the top floor of one of the city’s oldest buildings. The crow’s nest view announces itself in the tall windows but no one listens. A whole crowd of emoticon expressing faces. No laughter or smiles at the punch lines. The parenthesis keep from flexing when the poem closes on itself full stop.

*

Here is how I first made a woman fall in love with me:

Kid’s Halloween Night at the high school. I improvise a ghost story in a science room so I can leap table to table, stomping my feet, clapping my hands, and whooping loud enough to wake the dissected frogs. One boy tells me I am not scary. The story is about two boys being swallowed up by a haunted house. It is a true story—I just have not told my elder brother yet.

The woman would not confess her feelings for another year. It wasn’t until I dozed in the passenger seat of her jeep, listening to her recite poetry, that I felt a garden flower stir from sunlight.

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tishue:

For example today I was wearing a black corset with matching lace around it and a black leather miniskirt, pink fishnets and black combat boots. I was wearing black lipstick, white foundation, black eyeliner and red eye shadow. I was walking outside Hogwarts. It was snowing and raining so there was no sun, which I was very happy about. A lot of preps stared at me. I put up my middle finger at them.

(via featherpunk)

Filed under literature the greatest fanfic in the world

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"At nights birds hammered my unborn"

At nights birds hammered my unborn
child’s heart to strength, each strike bringing

bones and spine to glow, her lungs pestled
loud as the sea I was raised a sea anemone

among women who cursed their hearts
out, soured themselves, never-brides,

into veranda shades, talcum and tea moistened
their quivering jaws, prophetic without prophecy.

Anvil-black, gleaming garlic nubs, the pageant arrived with sails unfurled
from Colchis and I rejoiced like a broken

asylum to see burning sand grains, skittering ice;
shekels clapped in my chest, I smashed my head against a lightbulb

and light sprinkled my hair; I rejoiced, a poui
tree hit by the sun in the room, a man, a man.

By Ishion Hutchinson

Filed under this poem is FANTASTIC Also hello Ishion Hutchinson you are super cute poetry ishion hutchinson

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The Hands of Pilate

Abraham Lincoln was hard gay. Do not google “Abraham Lincoln Hard Gay”. Instead read this poem he wrote:

For Reuben and Charles have married two girls,
But Billy has married a boy.
The girls he had tried on every side,
But none he could get to agree;
All was in vain, he went home again,
And since that he’s married to Natty.

*

Myrtle Beach has one of the strongest concentrations of mini-golf courses in the country. A city of small Dutch Windmills and rounded dinosaurs tossing golf balls down their tails. Some offer booze, pirate ships that dolphin spit water, or the shade of a pretty woman’s face on a billboard tattooed with “MISSING.” Myrtle Beach does not advertise on their website that they are 17th in the country for violent crimes per capita. Or the police report last year that read, “Both share a baby daddy. They locked horns like bulls on the stairs to the Aquarius.”

*

The Horry County Museum will tell you which dinosaurs buried their bones on the prehistoric land. The natives that scattered their arrowheads in the sand. The picture book landscape that sprung up then folded into the ground. The bright flora that thrives in the long, humid summers. The stuffed bear gives its history with the hawk and the fox tries to circle round both. The cannon was peeled out of the Civil War’s cold, stiff hand. The women of the county are represented as dolls, safe behind their glass cases. Charts and an old world cart tell the story of farming. There are no whips pegged on the walls beside them, or pictures of what the blisters might look like on the cotton picker’s hand, and the word “slave” can only be found etched into a bathroom stall.

*

I sanitize my history, too. Like a housekeeper in a hotel. I am keeping this home and making it over and over again for new visitors to mess. Water-spots on the glasses are shined and glossed, shower mold corroded and drowned, beds scalped and linens replaced. Even the dust, all the eyelashes and dead skin of the befores picked up and carried outside for the afters.

To everyone else “She” is “She” without the name Whitney. As if there were not moments where we kissed in the sunshine rinsed rain. That her absence when waking didn’t draw the air out of the room. That before I left her at her grandparents with a note and no warning, I tried to draw her in for one last embrace in their yard. That because I wasn’t honest with her she pulled away, thinking it needless affection. That moving halfway across the country wasn’t to escape her abuse, but my feelings for her.

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Coping Methods II

  • All things are true facts and Nietzsche is dead.
  • Go to a bathroom stall and drum your fingers on the back of your neck. At every pinky fall slap your neck, harder each time.
  • In a department store you don’t work at, follow customers around, carefully refolding all the clothes they leave in crumpled heaps.
  • Lie in bed when the summer is too hot to move and dwell on all the people you wanted to be close to but never could.
  • You are four years old and these seven year olds dared you to drink your pee. They do not reward you, so you fill another cup and pass it out as “apple juice.”
  • Wreck your car while trying to deal with the trauma of an abusive ex.
  • Write a memoir without context.
  • Think about ravens while walking through a neighborhood until you pass a dead one on the yard, fallen out of the sky next to the sidewalk. The ants manicure its feathers while you nod at the confirmation you really can shape the universe with your thoughts.
  • Catch a snake in your house. Everyone is screaming. You grab a Kleenex and pick it up by the tail, carry it outside and set it in the garden, chiding it like a child being tucked into bed.
  • Keep half a bottle codeine under the seat in your car—just in case you really do make up your mind.

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Laws of Thermodynamics

The Farallon Slab is a left over lump of bedrock digging its toes into the mantle beneath North America. Its heyday came in Pangea when it cupped an ocean in its palms, watched sea dinosaurs splash and frolic or giant saw-toothed gods chomp on other Poseidons. The slab passes its time as Atlas to the America’s ass. A cold continent of rock—the head of a spoon beneath a bowl of grits.

*

Religion: bedrock and buckle of the Bible Belt. We’ve all eaten our amens. I was in the shadow of a Beaufort church, standing in for my best-friend’s wife and meeting his father, mother, and sister. The grave-markers raised Confederate and Union flags in battle lines. They pointed out Matt’s grave as if it is a tourist attraction. Me and him spend an hour alone together that night on his parent’s dock at the mouth of a bay. Then I unlaced the water with a kayak, and it sewed up behind me until the light from the shore was a needle prick. The moon’s neon smile for company and the sureness this was it. All I needed. All I thought about was how different everything might be if his parents owned a canoe. I pictured losing the oar and hand paddling in the nibbling dark. A text calls me back to shore. The shower I take to wash the mites off my skin smells like egg-soup.

*

A mass of water 100,000 times bigger than the sun swirls 12 billion light years away. By the time the light traveled to us it could have already been flushed down a black hole. Gone like ground water. Digging limestone caves below our plane of being. This is scientifically impossible. So are half of all human desires that flit through the brain, but they remain; cold stones sink deeper and push heat up to keep the moving parts in motion.

*

Philadelphia’s steel edge air. Frosted and pressed to the skin. Driving up a horizon of snow to be here. Quiet traffic sliding on the glazed lip of ice. The backlit light of a drugstore over my shoulder. He steps out of the dark, luggage bouncing on sidewalk cracks. That night we undress each other and lie together, cycling warmth. Binary stars mapping points in our orbit. Facing entropy together, hands clasped as constellations fade from our combined sky.

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Feelings I

  • Stepping on the heel of a stranger walking in front of you—they turn around.
  • Waiting for the walk/don’t walk sign to change in a cold rain.
  • A tea so sweet your lips are sticky after.
  • Sunbathing in the grass—waking to spider legs climbing up your throat.
  • Sex in a vacant parking lot during summer break.
  • Your mother giving you the suicide note your sister wrote because school bullies wouldn’t stop calling her a dyke while you lived a thousand miles away, not able to do a thing.
  • Writing a line—
  • Writing a line then checking facebook, twitter, tumblr etc.
  • Gloriously wasting an entire day reading a novel.
  • Concert elbow driven into your ribs.
  • Bird song after a rain.
  • Waking up Christmas Morning in an entirely empty building, alone at last.
  • Your friend disagreeing with you on something you were sure they’d agree with.
  • That feeling of being Felix Baumgartner in low orbit. Of standing at the lip of a tiny capsule, the planet falling below your padded feet, feeling your chest pressed against your space suit as you take a breath. Falling. This space jump is brought to you by Redbull.[1] It will not give you wings. But Redbull knows everyone has been touched by the feeling, just for a moment, of floating.


[1] This Memoir Brought to You By Redbull

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Surprised By Joy

Two teens slurp their Icees by the road in the rain. A truck hydroplanes, ballet-spins off the road, scoops dirt into the air and scatters it like dandelion seeds. The teens are a few feet away. They know the driver and flip him off before walking back to class. So above it all. Their straws make throaty growls in the dregs of their cups.

*

A taste of steel biting your tongue. The vodka steeped in the metal flask under the bed, all of it on an empty stomach. Standing by the window and fingering the blinds, pictures of slamming the car door on your arm. The kiss of electricity when you press a metal prong into an outlet. The current of butterflies beating beneath the skin of your arm into your shoulder. Dinner is ready! You sit with them and when they leave the room you are surprised by joy. By how easy it is to run the knife over and over and over your arm. How good it feels to be slapped when you’re caught.

*

Traveling through time more like never getting off this freaking highway. Float for six hours, sing for sixteen more until the horizon at three in the morning resembles hammered steel. Slip into the furnace of the city at dawn. Wait out the sunrise at an Ihop, stacking the cups of half-and-half until it is a decent time to wake your family and have breakfast with them. The first time in a year. Father at the door tells you mother has been in the hospital the last two weeks. Oops.

*

The Tulsa Race Riots happened on May 31-June 1 in 1921. 6,000 African Americans were arrested, the rest corralled into holding pens. 35 blocks of buildings charred to the ground by fire. It is the first and only time U.S. aircraft bombed a U.S. city. Officially, 39 blacks died, but 300 were estimated missing. None of this is taught in the stifling, windowless room of my Oklahoma History class. The textbook spares a paragraph, a cute anecdote about the only remaining building from the riots, and the bullet holes outlining the memory of a man sleeping in the walls.

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Collage

Strips of leather. All the eyelashes
in a classroom. Coffee stains.
The hem of a mother’s dress.
Fresh shavings off a block of balsa wood.
Shoes made of alligator skin.
The angry protests of PETA
clipped to the corners.
Global warming—reports
of the world’s impending doom
cut into a dress to hang
on your child’s music box shoulders.

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"Ode to Augurs, Ogres, Acorns, and Two or Three Things That Have Been Eating at My Heart Like a Wolverine in a Time of Famine"

So many birds are flying above my house it must mean
            something or how could the Romans
have built their roads and cities based on the movement
            of sparrows and falcons in the sky above
the Capitoline Hill, Caesars asking the augurs
            when they should cross the Rubicon, poison their wives,
conquer Asia Minor, and as geese cut across my sky in a sharp V
            or starlings swarm into the church tower at sunset
I can see how the Etruscans and later the Romans would look
            to the clouds and these last remnants of the dinosaurs
to help them make their way in the world, so I believe in birds
            as I believe in the mad woman on my street in Florence
who lifts her skirt to show her stuff to anyone
            who won’t look away, or Merchino,
the tall gaunt man with a short torso who stalks down
            the Borgo la Croce like a savage medieval prince covered
with tattoos, and when he passes me as I leave our apartment
            or walk through the market, I feel as if he is pulling
the moment in a swirling tornado above his head,
            lifting me in its wake like a magician, though Fabio
tells me he has done time for armed robbery, which is a kind
            of sorcery in itself, evil magi of the passeggiata,
when Italians walk out before dinner arm in arm, boys with boys,
            girls with girls, couples old and middle aged,
all in the dying light. Or think of last fall when the three oak trees
            in our yard rained down a plague of acorns, pummeling
our roof all night as if a Nazi panzer division had popped through
            the fabric of time, though their bullets less malign,
and the squirrels so roly-poly that the cats could finally dream
            of catching them as Pharaoh dreamed of the seven fat cows
and the seven lean cows, foretelling the seven years of plenty
            and the seven years of famine, so what do the acorns mean
in their mysterious plentitude, if anything, because the world
            can trick you, as when I was driving toward New Orleans
on I-10, and in the gloaming the semis were bearing down
            on my little white Toyota as if they were ogres
from a fairy tale-giant, muscular killing machines, gobbling
            up everything in their path, though most of the drivers
were probably thinking about dinner or Kansas or turning the garage
            into a sunroom, so maybe the sparrows and acorns
are just sparrows and acorns and the glorious inhabitants
            of the streets around Santa Croce are not magis
and hag goddesses, though as I walk down the cobblestone
            street and the light casts its spell over the city
I seem to see something on the edges of my vision,
            a wolverine-masked earth sprite running
along the edges of any path I take as the sun sets in the dark
            woods. There’s Leonardo trudging up Monte Cassine
to test his flying machine, Dante skulking away to Ravenna,
            all our crashes and exiles tearing at our hearts
like wild animals reminding us how far we are from home.

By Barbara Hamby

Filed under poetry Barbara Hamby

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"Revival"

Lately it seems that you and I
are trying to remember how to live without each other.
In the basement you warn yourself not to bump your head.
I wonder if I’m strong enough to till the garden.

Old habits slink out of their dens,
remaking themselves at home.
You scramble eggs and burn my favorite pan,
I go off to bed without a thought, the lights still blazing.

We keep seeing these unwelcome guests
as we glance over our shoulders at the dimming afternoons.
They chill the house with their feral weather,
chapping our lips.

We don sweaters, make room.
Our tongues taste metal and salt.

by Juditha Dowd

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Weather Patterns

Locked in my parents’ closet at seven. We could hear the twister from a mile off. I was chewing gum and blowing bubbles and my brother smacked me and said, “I don’t want that to be the last thing I hear.”

*

The birds yelled from the eyeball sockets of trees. The clouds cracked open and the sun an excited kindergartner colored in the blue and ran over the lines. A canvas by Monet hanging in the air. On the ground people tip-toed over rooftop shingles and upturned nails. Kids already made a fort out of an overturned truck. Power lines let down their hair. The windows busy at picking themselves up off the lawn. Adults spoke to their scalped homes, to take stock of everything that needed doctoring.

A baby is found buried in the mud. Ten miles from the home it was plucked from. It is completely untouched, like the tornado rocked it to sleep and set it in its dirt crib.

*

The first rule of novel writing is don’t start with the weather. If it is raining say instead, “These characters are all wet and sad.” If it is sunny: “The opposite mood of a rainy day.” Never speak the wind’s name again, or any of its breezy nicknames, even if its knotted fist knocks the breath out of you.

*

Last year in May a storm went through South Carolina that was pleasant and soft. I opened the window to let its song soothe me to sleep. Seven hours before, my parents could not get into their neighborhood because it was destroyed. A reporter said, “People are walking around like zombies.” My friends’ homes were brushed aside. Twenty kids killed inside an elementary school. My sister’s grade school swept over. There is a video on youtube of a teacher recording the strike on her cellphone and in the background my sister is shouting, “I hate this.”

*

Oklahoma kids are tucked in and told bed times stories of squall lines and dips in barometric pressure. When they are out playing on Saturday they know exactly when to go in for lunch. At noon, the siren alert system is tested and all through the state the air is saturated with its ghostly aria.

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The Most Embarrassing Part of this Memoir

That time I wore a pink fox yiff-suit. That time I was drunk in an A-frame cabin because the first guy I really felt in love with was there. That time where a kissed the taste of vodka and the scratch of five-o-clock shadow. That time I tried to blow the boy while five other people were there watching my first time with another man. That time they decided to make it a group activity. That time I fell backwards down the stairs to get away. That time that time that time that time that time

*

CSI did the episode on furries. I was fourteen or so and my head filled with pebbles scooped from the streambed. Lewd orgies in panda suits—what an endangered world! Really conventions are not orgies, but clever donation schemes. Even small cons donate upwards to 10,000 dollars for local animal shelters. Furries are really animal lovers who have seen too many anthropomorphic Disney movies. Statistically, most are queer men. I’ve caught my twelve year old sister watching furry parades on youtube. She will, statistically, have many queer men for friends as she grows up.

*

That time I pulled away from my desperate crush in the cabin and saw his eyes were iced over ponds. That time it was October, but a frost had moved in the night before. That time I learned what polar bear swimming meant. That time I jumped in and the cold clapped my chest like a hammer and I couldn’t bear to breathe.

This time I spend running, turning the world under my feet.

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Coping Methods I

  • Hold the door open for someone who is fifty steps away. Stare into their eyes, sweat beading your brow, a universal expression of, “Hurry up—run and don’t look back—Orpheus don’t look back just forget love and forget the language of grief and forget poetry and forget black, foul death!” on your face. Shut the door on theirs.
  • Climb the façade of a building because you can. Ask yourself how you plan to get down. Bake in the sun with the bricks lifted from a river basin.
  • Spend an hour conversing with a homeless man. His teeth yellow dominoes and his scars the layers of depression on a topography map. Sit at the bus stop with him on a sun-rinsed Sunday and tell him all of your problems. Do not tip him. Feel bad about yourself after. Feel very bad.
  • You and your girlfriend have found the quietest spot in the library. The Time Magazines are stuffed together and walk backwards 100 years. Her back rest against all that history. You on your knees in supplication, the words they wrote in 1914 running down your chin.
  • Beach day! Your best friend is depressed. While you frolic he floats face down, trying to drown himself before the waves haul him to shore.
  • Write a poem while pushing 80 on a Tennessee highway. The poem will not be worth it, but maybe everyone’s face will be when they learn you care so little about everything else.

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Painting Materials

Your childhood friend, a steel hammer, a couple of wooden bats, golf drivers, 20 pounds of the worst fruit at the supermarket, your elementary school.

Take these to the school and give the old brick a new coat: pitched tomatoes, citrus split into wedges, a watermelon scattered into bleeding chunks, avocados smeared on the windows. The heaped desire swelters at your feet, the blacktop burning your toes. Split the halves of a coconut between you and think, Now’s the time, now’s the time, now’s the time. Don’t kiss him. Clean up your mess. Get in your car and drive far, far away. Until the curve of the earth is great enough that you know you won’t ever see him again.

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