Week 9: In and Out

Candles trade their wax for a faithless mistress
A match lives only to burn itself into ash

I can remember cold Julys and molten Januarys
Veiled days and moonlit midnights
Morning fogs that glowed so bright they blinded
Stars that forgot their names and fell from their constellations

Existence weaves in and out of nothingness
All things contradict themselves in time

Matches snap unlit upon the strike
Waxes submerge their own protean flames
I contradict myself with every breath
and every breath with the very next one.

Author’s Notes:

I’m not sure what I think of this one. It’s trying to say something broader and more assertive than I usually prefer (I’m suspicious of poems that try to act wise or teach some sort of lesson) but the whole theme of this poem is self-negation and contradiction, so that’s probably ok.

The word protean is an awful and obscure word to use, but for some reason, I decide that this is a pretentious enough poem that it deserves a pretentious word.

Favorite Line:
Stars that forgot their names and fell from constellations

Most Cringeworthy, Pretentious Line:
Waxes submerge their own protean flames

Week 8: Barbed Wire Fences

Be careful
The world is not as besotted with you as I am

The skies may look on you kindly today,
but they would watch you flail if you were struck

Watch your feet and the hem of your dress
Avoid crossing barbed wire fences
Do not engage in any risky plots or wild undertakings

I will be waiting for you one day at sundown
You will find me crouched behind the hedgerow
We’ll whisper our goodbyes, and then
we can dodge the spotlights together.

Author’s Notes:

I like the drama of this one. I didn’t really have a setting in mind for it, but just now when I was reading the line, ‘the skies may look on you kindly today,’ it made me think of a drone. So maybe it’s set in Gaza, or the West Bank, or somewhere else in the middle east. Or maybe it’s set further back, in a concentration camp in Poland. Or maybe it’s set in a YA dystopian novel. Impossible to say.

Favorite Line:
Avoid crossing barbed wire fences

A Line that I Like, but I think is slightly too Long:
Do not engage in any risky plots or wild undertakings

Week 7: An Ordinary Thing

A heartbeat is a normal thing
circulating blood through the body
delivering oxygen to depleted cells
aiding in the endless struggle against viruses and bacteria
and flushing toxins away without judgment

A heartbeat is an ordinary thing

Author’s Notes:

It’s Valentines Day, so I did a heart themed poem this week. It’s interesting that hearts are considered a symbol for love—the logic feels intuitive, but I’m curious if this is a symbol that exists in other cultures. Having a heartbeat is certainly a universal human experience.

This poem is on the short side. It was a busy week, and sometimes poems are short.

Favorite Line:
A heartbeat is an ordinary thing

Most Unwieldy Line:
aiding in the endless struggle against viruses and bacteria

Week 6: Glow

Blue glow — a white window glowing
a black cursor blinking, blinking
fingers quicker than a pianist’s, waltzing
through fiber optic cables, vanishing
into a subterranean snowstorm
of electrons and light

A user name in the command line
a sliver of existence, now here and now there
haunting shells in New York and Tokyo and Sydney
an unannounced visitor, disappearing with a single word

Packets of data, fire ants marching to war
glowworms sparked to life by keystrokes
switches switching like billions of butterfly wings
honeycombed networks, magnetic termite mounds
waterfalls delivered atom by atom, byte by byte

Languages written by languages
cities built by cities
recurring recursions, miniature infinities
abstractions of abstractions
unknowable and incomprehensible, and yet
the simplest idea in the universe:

On or Off
Is or Isn’t
One or Zero

Author’s Notes:

I was really stumped this week, because my mind has been focused on technical things more so than cultural, creative things. But then it occurred to me, at the last minute, to follow that thread. So it’s about computers.

I think this is one of the least complete poems I’ve published so far, because I feel like in the first stanzas I am building a character (the computer user), who just sort of disappears through the end of the poem. I thought this was thematically appropriate, but maybe with more time I’d have tried to resolve it differently.

Favorite Line:
Packets of data, fire ants marching to war

A Line that Might be a Little Bit Much(?):
switches switching like billions of butterfly wings

Week 5: The Long Winds

These feet are bent, bold and on their own
full of a vigor that isn’t mine, I am a captive
pulled along, thrown into gullies, dunked in lakes
tossed into the clouds, I count sparrows from above
I count the red bricks one by one, I am taken
by long winds and heavy currents, by these wicked feet

I am wrenched backward, buried in desert sand
buried in banks of Minnesota snow, buried
in the crypts of ancient kings, counting their bones
one by one, I count them

A glacier grinds me under, waves spit me out
onto a rocky beach, I plummet through the dark sky
and count fireflies, I count street lamps and headlights

Finally, I am marched to the edge of the flat world
the razor between there is and there isn’t
and there is nothing to see, so I count the seconds
so I count the thoughts, and then thoughts about thoughts
and then I count all the things I have counted
each one, and count them all again
just waiting for these weary feet, the tired winds
to take me somewhere that I haven’t been.

Author’s Notes:

I think the idea of counting things is interesting. Counting objects is a behavior associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I think that at its root is a drive to put things in a schema of some sort—a way to make the chaotic world outside you less confusing by breaking it into parts and putting them in order. That’s something that most people probably do in some form or another.

I’m not entirely happy with the name I chose for the poem. The idea was sort of that it has this feeling of driving force, but it’s not as interesting as I want it to be.

Favorite line:
in the crypts of ancient kings, counting their bones

A line that I find awkward but important:
by long winds and heavy currents, by these wicked feet

Week 4: Ghost of the Forest

Mossy air, thick in the valley of pines
slow drifting sun, streaks of needled light
white watchers, their great trunks soaring upward
earth on foamy earth, fog turned under fog
steam rises from the petals of dying flowers

looming figure, like in a dream
translucent and unreal, gently it approaches
sweet and careless, hoof by hoof
with eyes like the north lakes—with lily eyelids
unfrightened, without mind or purpose
uncharmed and unafflicted, having always been so

you are close—so close I could tell you a secret
I could count your eyelashes one by one
so close I could sing you a lullaby
but you don’t stop—you keep walking
and then you step right through me
as if you were a ghost, or wandering spirit
as if you were a vision set loose on the world

I ask you whose dream you have escaped from
and you look at me, and in an instant I evaporate
I disappear, true ghost of the forest
I, the vanishing one who has now vanished
a whisper about nothing, a memory lost
I am gone, leaving nothing behind
but a quiet morning in the tall shadows and
a pretty doe wandering through the green.

Author’s Notes:

This poem is interesting to me because it connects with one of one of my favorite literary movements—the Romantic movement. One of the major literary devices in Romanticism is this thing called Romantic Irony, which is a type of irony where there is a twist where the subject or narrator of the poem (or story) ends up becoming the object of the poem.

My favorite example of Romantic Irony is Winnie-the-Pooh tracking Heffalumps. He thinks he is hot on their trail, but in fact, he is just following his own tracks, which he has been leaving behind while looking for Heffalumps. Romantic Irony always starts off with the subject interacting with something external, only to reveal that the thing isn’t totally real in the end. There are tons of examples of this in Romantic literature that play out in a variety of ways. (A quick side note: Romantic is a confusing word. In this context it isn’t directly related to things like romantic love).

I don’t want to lay the explanation on too thick, so I’ll leave it to you decide if this is actually a good example of Romantic Irony.

Favorite Line:
uncharmed and unafflicted, having always been so

Least Beloved Line:
so close I could sing you a lullaby