Week 29: Haze

The low shimmering light—a chill and a slight haze
this sunset was lit four billion years ago, and still it glows
the river below tells its ancient story to the rapids
the squirrels have taken to their branches
and the songbirds have forgotten their songs

the moon aches in anticipation of the night
early stars begin to arrive and take their seats above
and satellites leave home to wander heaven’s streets
as darkness seeps into the cracks and low places

if you took a photo of us, it’d say we came here together
but accidents like this are more divine
soon I’ll watch you walk away, and soon we’ll both forget
for the moment, though—at least for the moment
each of us is here, and together we are perfect.

Author’s Notes:

I don’t have many thoughts about this one, other than to say my goal was to work a moon into the poem for moon landing day and I did succeed. I like how it focuses in on a particular moment, and just sort of lets it hang there.

Favorite Line:
“the moon aches in anticipation of the night”

Most Confused Line:
“the river below tells its ancient story to the rapids”

Week 28: The Mourning Dove

The air, it echoes, ringing sweet
sorrows sung, replete repeats
a breast is beaten, garbs of gray
and burdens born away, away
so close your eyes, enough! enough!
and listen…


The Mourning Dove

Author’s Notes:

Short and sweet and simple this week. Lots of repletion in it—the idea being that it mimics the mourning dove’s call in a way. It’s funny, but reading it somehow it doesn’t really feel like a ‘me’ thing to write, but a change of pace isn’t a bad thing. It feels a little old fashioned, or cutesy or something—I’m not sure.

I do think it is soothing in a nice way though.

Favorite Line:
‘sorrows sung, replete repeats’

Shortest Line:

Week 27: Still Going Sweet

A slender, unlikely stalk pokes through the damp soil
slowly winding up its pole, decade by decade
seeds planted long ago by pale men
with a pale notion of justice
nourished and enlivened by time, blighted by fear and envy
pollinated by the persistent buzz of optimistic workers
roots tended by humble worms beneath the earth
seasons of warmth and cold, tender buds appearing
sometimes nipped away by frost
sometimes blooming in sunlight

But spring fades—
petals shrivel and fall, and hope is lost
but then we realize there is something there
beautiful, green, and round, and full
still unripe on the vine, but slowly growing plump
in the summer heat

Land of incarceration, home of the insecure
promissory note still unfulfilled
those in despair, stung too often by hope
it is small comfort, and not enough—I know
but know this—we are not finished
we have not yet arrived
the fruit you long for has not gone sour—
it is still going sweet.

Author’s Notes:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

America has never fully lived up to this ideal. Often to an absurd degree. As a black man in 1852, when Frederick Douglass gave his famous Fourth of July Oration in Rochester, NY he very vividly pointed out how he was excluded from “the rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence,” bequeathed by our forefathers.

And 111 years later in 1963, in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note…” He also was unable to fully enjoy the promise of July 4th, 1776.

And now, 56 years later, we still live in a country working through the legacy of white supremacy and sexism—where voter suppression and Gerrymandering are used to entrench political parties—where money equals speech—where we have the highest incarceration rate in the world—where we’ve decided justice is to destroy the lives and communities of immigrants who simply want to partake in that promise.

But there is nothing more American than fighting to be an American, even in the face of hatred and power. It doesn’t happen fast enough, and it isn’t fair, but at least we can look back at people like Douglass and King and see that progress can be made. And even though it doesn’t happen fast enough, and it isn’t fair, I do believe we’re going to keep bringing more people inside that inheritance. That’s what makes the Fourth of July a holiday worth celebrating.

Favorite Line:
“it is still going sweet.”

Most Heavy-handed Line:
“Land of incarceration, home of the insecure”

Week 26: Haunted by Butterflies

He walks in sunlight, sparrows
on his shoulders, haunted
by butterflies, rabbit ears
poking through the grass, chipmunks
chatter as he wanders past

Lost in a flowerbed of thoughts
the shadows creep and grow—
quickly they swallow the path
and the mourning dove cries
as he is left standing alone
beneath the sickled moon.

Author’s Notes:

I had another week where I struggled to get a poem posted, but I got up, took a break, and got the camera out and took pictures of bugs in the flowerbed, and came back and started over.

I kept going back and forth and back and forth about whether to make this first person or third person, and I ended up landing on third person because it’s a little darker seeming in first person. And then I went back and forth on whether I wanted it to be she or he, and I decide to make it he because I thought it makes the vulnerability in the poem a little more interesting and more mysterious.

I did a search and found that this is the fourth time I’ve used the word moon in a poem. Not sure if it’s a lazy trope or a thematic repetition…for the sake of my dignity, I’m going to say that it’s a theme.

Favorite Line:
‘haunted by butterflies’

Most Cliché Line:
‘and the mourning dove cries’

Week 25: Flow Quickly

Waters flow quickly, like you mean it
Seep around the toes of mountains
Carve valleys and roll flat the loud cities
Build long deltas and bury proud harbors
Renounce your channels and your banks
Gash new landscapes and forget the old ways
Laugh your way through levees and dykes
Weep over feeble dams, dislodge the bridges
Reclaim your swamps and plains with violence
Spare none but the catfish
and his kingdom of mud and reeds.

Author’s Notes:

I’m not quite sure why, but this week’s poem feels a bit different from normal. I like the imagery, but I haven’t quite wrapped my head around what I think it is really saying. It seems very apocalyptic.

Favorite Line:
Gash new landscapes and forget the old ways

Most Evocative Verb Usage:
Laugh your way through levees and dykes

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.