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

Week 1: Only true to wander

Little hedge maze, only true to wander
take tender sleep—leave gentle or I’ll dream
forget this forest, this village, this universe
these mountains have buried more than kings

little tambourine, autumn of angry leafs
the globe and all its curves, cut just for you
labradors write clumsy love poems with their noses
I’d snap my glasses in two for a daisy and a wish

little rain drop, I would only have it this way
cherries appear upon their stems without my asking
so tell me all your quiets and your glows
spin beside me, here in the empty cosmos

little sparrow, you are my loose heartbeat
you are the sweet of summer ice cream, and
you are the long drip of a mountain thaw, and
the lonely desert at night, with its bright eared foxes

little sparrow, you are my loose heartbeat.

Author’s Notes:

I really like this poem. It’s sweet, meandering, and full of interesting images. It’s hard to nail down what the poem is about explicitly, but I suppose it has something to do with loving something unknowable and beyond your control. It risks being too impressionistic and patchwork, so I don’t know if it hits the sweet spot of a poem that is both accessible and has depth. You have to read it fast or it will bog you down.

At the very least I think it is interesting, even if it leaves a lot of work to the reader. I worry that it’s the type of poem that I like because I am the one wrote it and therefore spent lots of time with it, but might just seem too tightly packed and burdensome for readers.

So I’m not sure if this one is a failure or not, so you can send me an email telling me what you think.

Favorite Line:
the lonely desert at night, with its bright eared foxes

Least Favorite Line:
I’d snap my glasses in two for a daisy and a wish