Week 24: And Now We Pass

Stranger whose silhouette I now see
whose footsteps I first heard over the hill
whose dark eyes I have daringly now just met

I have, without thinking, given you a name
I have given you a history and place in the world
I have given you dreams—I have dreamed them for you

And now I brush briefly against you and now we pass
into each other’s goodnight and already I miss you
sweet stranger, goodbye and live beautifully—
fade gently from my thoughts with the same grace
that first brought you by.

Author’s Notes:

I was really struggling to get a poem put together for this week and was getting frustrated, so I took a break, and then came back and found this one waiting for me. It only took about 15 minutes after that. Funny how that works.

Hmm…what are my thoughts? I like the way using the word ‘now’ a lot in the first stanza sort of flattens the poem out and makes it seem like it is physically unfolding moment-by-moment, and then how the second stanza switches completely
to ‘have’ which takes it out of that physical time into a kind of mental time, where things develop very rapidly. And then the third stanza ties those two worlds together.

Favorite Line:
And now I brush briefly against you and now we pass

Most Revised Line:
fade gently from thought with the same grace
that first brought you by.

Week 23: Collector of Small Things

I don’t want to know your favorite color—
you are not the movies you watch or the music
you play on your car stereo, or the books you read
or your bright sneakers, or beautiful hats
or the places you go, or went when you were young

Indulge me—I am a collector of small things:
the gap between breaths, the unconscious pauses
between words, the things you want to do
but have never thought of doing, uncatalogued desires
the distance between a smile and its laughter
the vowels you slightly mispronounce, the secrets
that you don’t realize are secrets, because
they are so small they slip through description
like minnows darting playfully, in and out
dancing through the loose weave of a coarse net.

Author’s Notes:

There is a tendency for people to tie their identity with the things they like to consume, which I think *can be* a little weird and sort of dull. It’s also something that I catch myself doing, and I think that it’s just a feature of the world that we live in, so I don’t think it’s awful. But it’s nice to be reminded that a person’s taste isn’t who they are.

I don’t really know how well this particular poem captures the breadth of that idea, but I like that it tries to. One thing that is interesting to me reading through it now is the ‘I’ that I created in the poem is trying to make this intimate sort of connection beyond just knowing what the other person likes, but can’t totally escape being a consumerist himself. He specifically calls himself a collector and is very performative about it.

Favorite Line:
or your bright sneakers, or beautiful hats

Line I Have the Most Ambivalence About:
Indulge me—I am a collector of small things

Week 22: On the Way Back Around

She lost something warm and dear out there
Somewhere in the movements of the planets

Too long to wait for an old hope
It’s more easily left behind and forgotten

If it’s still in orbit on the way back around
She’ll blow a kiss and wave as she shoots on by

Author’s Notes:

The idea of reencountering people or places or things that were important to you at one moment in your life is interesting because there is always a temptation to try to recreate something that is gone—to try too hard to relive the past or recreate something that is gone. I think being able to encounter the past gracefully, with joy rather than feelings of loss is admirable. But at the same time, I have some ambivalence because I think there is a version of doing this that trivializes and ornamentalizes the past in a way that is just a way of denying loss by saying it’s not that important. I’m not sure which I think that the subject of the poem is doing.

Despite my paragraph that perhaps over-explains my thoughts about it, I think this week’s poem is simpler and more accessible than last week’s, and I feel more comfortable with it, so I’m happy.

Favorite Line:
Somewhere in the movements of the planets

Saddest Line:
It’s more easily left behind and forgotten

Week 21: Arrival

Inverted horizon, pearl-green sky
I look up and see a shape, a human form
a white silhouette falling from the upside-down moon
streaking silently across the sky
but motionless—like a feather frozen in ice
falling for eons, or maybe only seconds
and then landing without a sound, miles away
beyond the curve of the world

I take one step and suddenly I am ripped away
transported, now standing above him
he is curled up in a ball, slender and pale and glowing
plain brown hair touched with a hint of fire
perfectly still, like a fawn sleeping in a bed of flowers
I watch as his eyes slowly open and instantly
I am not me anymore—I am him, on my back looking up

There is a black silhouette towering above me
and it begins to bend over, dripping down like ink
and I begin to panic, but I feel something soft
like a feather brushing against my cheek
or kiss landing gently on my forehead
and slowly the features begin to resolve
a chin, a forehead, the hair dangling off her brow
a set of eyes, a nose, a faint look of confusion

And now I am floating above us and I wonder
what conspiracy of forces, natural or divine
has designed this strange arrival.

Author’s Notes:

Ok. Well this is one of the weirder, more surreal poems I’ve done. I like the ambient feeling it creates and the mysterious, unresolved story, but I do wonder if it’s one of the poems I’ve done for the project that is more likely to fall flat for some people. Frankly, I wanted it to be something else, but it ended up this.

I like how the poem starts off-balance right away, and how jumping between perspectives makes it difficult to get your footing (that is probably the weakness of the poem too).

Overall, I personally like a lot of things about it—particularly the feeling of uncertainty and anticipation it creates—but I’ve felt better about the punchier, more concise poems I’ve written (last week’s, for instance, was a favorite of mine). I think part of it is when a poem is short, I feel like I can be more daring, without as much risk of losing the reader’s focus.

Favorite Line:
but motionless—like a feather frozen in ice

Most Odd Line:
beyond the curve of the world

(the reason this line is odd is that ‘beyond the curve of the earth’ is clearly more natural sounding to me, but given the nature of the poem, I didn’t want to be locked into it being Earth)

Week 20: Footfalls in the Dark

Fireflies swirling, you are more beautiful
Listen for footfalls in the dark
We are alone until the curtain goes
Smile again, my cheeks will burn away

Glasses fog in the cool air
A quivering lip says more than a tongue
Your eyelids don’t keep their secrets well
I won’t waste my breath on questions

The moon is snow and ice tonight
It will weep if it ever learns
the cruelty of its beauty.

Author’s Notes:

I’m very happy with this. It’s pretty and mysterious and I think you can read it in a few different ways. I’ve found I enjoy doing these little vignettes that focus on a small moment, without building much context around it. Like looking at an old photo of people you don’t know anything about, one snapshot is enough to provoke your mind into reflexively generating a meaning and context that is relevant to you.

Favorite Line:
Your eyelids don’t keep their secrets well

A Line I Find Slightly Cliché, But Still Like:
Fireflies swirling, you are more beautiful

Week 19: Wash Away

Letters left on the beach to wash away
a song sung into a cassette recorder, a box
of player piano rolls lost in an attic, Polaroids
tossed on a dashboard, edges curled by the sun

a stack of diaries in the basement, a manuscript
stored away in the back room of a museum
a mural painted over in white, ashes delicately chalked
onto the walls of an unexplored cave

a wish whispered to the stars
a postcard lost in the mail
a message left on an answering machine
and never heard

Author’s Notes:

A classic ‘list of things’ poem. This is the first week I’ve had trouble landing on a name for the poem. My practice has always been to pull text directly to use as a title (which I did end up doing here), but it really seems like ‘Washed Away’ would be a better title. I’m not sure, but Polaroid might be the first Brand that I’ve mentioned so far in this project.

I’ve been experimenting with something called enjambment recently, which is when a line ends uncompleted and continues on the next line. I like how it can add a bit of energy and flow to this type of poem that might otherwise seem really flat.

Favorite line(s):
a song sung into a cassette recorder, a box
of player piano rolls lost in an attic

A line that I removed, but still like:
An ancient echo, wandering its canyon like a ghost