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

Week 3: Just exhale

A beer on the table
not a fancy beer—not arrogant
a good beer, as good as any other
cool and dripping with the label peeling off
put it to your lips and take a drink
it’s cold and goes down smooth and you like it
now lean back and don’t say nothing

just exhale—
it’s going to be alright.

Author’s Notes:

Short and sweet this week. Just a poem to capture a moment. Makes me wish it was June. I like this length because it’s short enough that you can reread it.

I’m not sure about the double negative in the last line of the first grouping. I like that it cements in place the general provincial vibe, but on the other hand, I don’t personally use double negatives in casual speech often and I dislike it when characters are artificially folksy.

(Sidenote: Double negatives are unjustly maligned. They are a natural part of speech for tons of english speakers and there is nothing grammatically or functionally wrong with them, except when you’re writing mathematical proofs.)

Favorite Line:
it’s cold and goes down smooth and you like it

Least Confident Line:
now lean back and don’t say nothing

Week 2: Coat rack in the corner

Light bulb at the center of the room
coat rack in the corner
clock on the wall, relentless ticking
and me with my shoes laced up, ready to go
my shoes laced neatly up

light bulb at the center, filament on fire
bare and hot, a light bulb, a noise
a thud from above, a “just a minute”
and me laced up, in these nice shoes
and me tapping away at the floor
shoes on the wooden floor, anxiously tapping

and I, staring at the wall, at the window, at the ceiling
staring at the coat rack in the corner
at the coat rack full of coats, all coming to life
grotesque and lumpy, there in the corner
heavy with coats, alive and about to leap
“I’m coming,” comes shouting from above
but like molasses slowly, like a waterfall—
a waterfall of honey over honey, a waterfall
of caramel, and me with my shoes on and ready

the clock is being sarcastic on the wall
the spiteful clock, ticking forward in machine gun bursts
ticking in Morse code, ratcheting along
but listen—that’s the stomp of human steps
the clock is laughing, but now another stomp
thank God!—the thud thud thud of human feet
I hear them—one, two, three, four—a creak
now the stairs are squirming and screaming
and me with my shoes laced up and on my feet
down they come and into view, and finally
up and moving, we are finally ready

keys and wallet, light switch struck, coats retrieved
out the door, we are out and going
we are on our way, car doors opening
keys in the ignition, the engine wheeling
and I say to myself, “Well, if we’re lucky
maybe we can make up for lost time
on the freeway.”

we’ll be late anyway, but at least we can try.

Author’s Notes:

This week’s attempt is a lot less abstract than last week’s. It started out as just being about the light bulb (it wasn’t good) and then the story of the poem sort of emerged from there. I can relate to both sides of this situation. It’s almost sort of stressful and frantic to read.

The thing I’m most happy about with this poem is that I think it hits on a h​uman experience that is small, but highly charged, and isn’t usually examined very closely. Being ready to leave for something important, but not able to go, because you’re waiting for someone else…there is literally nothing you can do, but your mind is in action mode, so it latches onto whatever it can.

I worry about the way that it reads, because some lines carry into the next and some have a beat in between them. So to me, it reads well, but I know what I meant it to be read like when I wrote it. I could have used more punctuation to better guide the reader…but on the other hand, I might just have messed it up worse.

And finally…if you’ve read this far, you should probably go ahead and sign up for the weekly email.

Favorite line:
the clock is being sarcastic on the wall

A line I’m unsure about:
heavy with coats, alive and about to leap