Thursday, October 28, 2004

Crows Overhead

Before All Soul’s Eve

- it’s ether, it’s queer
and then, at last, it’s done. Now the scavengers arrive.

Imitations Of Drowning, Ann Sexton

a murder of memories
- black, cawing and ready

to boldly gut
that which the predators have

already taken

down - flapping.
Recollections

project themselves
onto the landscape screen.

trees are

not tired, sultry
or lascivious.

yes, they are. gold,
red, orange invitations

to collect again the falling

pieces of life. gathered
to seal between

ironed wax paper;
raked then bagged like victims

or scattered, swept away

by random winds.
never predictable -

cooling the morning,
freezing the afternoon,

heating the night -

except when bearing a floating
screeching change

and those handsome men
on television.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Laugh Before Dying

meditations from a cranky weekend

We are ink & blood
& all things that make stains.

"We Learned," Erica Jong

The moon rose swollen purple.
Mushrooms collided hearts
as the wrinkled metallic sky
gouged its insides out to spell:
“Love one another.”

In that moment, my hills turned yellow and we did.


Ink soaking into paper. Thinking
together they make the story
better than it is. Hope –

water at 32 believing itself
a new stronger creature,
more attractive to light.

Sticky catatonic ecstasy.
The wrinkled metallic sky
sutures sunrise’s whimsy to wit.

The calico threads of dawn.
More passionate than old lovers.

Crystalline fragile and reckless.
How can people reconcile the Sun

penetrating both the Earth and Sky?
My heart is a claw snatching at water.

Over New Jersey, water mimics
my desire – slashes the sand
bar; a happy hour drunk

on high tide. Later,
we will have saints for dinner.
I will make a pallet
next your bonfire soul.


The cackle of stars

a gaggle of albino geese flapping

strobe light protestations

a twilight picnic with our friends.
Sometimes there is too much.

Too easy. Sun and Moon sharing
the Earth’s jealous eyes.

And after too much, God
played yo-yo with your eyeballs.
With every jerk, old
fluorescent pupils flopped and stuttered.


An autumn stomach.
Aqua limbs.
Undertow deep-
throats the Constellations.

If suddenly, my cunt
had dreams

and aspirations. Circle
the correct answer. It would be

a. the water in your lungs.
b. the paper cutting finger.
c. the endlessly moving mouths
of old women pounding deaf ears.
d. all of the above
has never solved

any decent question.

Still -

trees bare themselves for winter.


Prepare. A futile slashing
against the smirking crinkle-eyed sky.

After swallowing a purple Moon,
we are still
Earth and Sun separate,
bellies full of Saints and delusion –

same difference.


I have placed my soul
on the edge of a snowflake.

Open your mouth
so you will remember:

laugh before dying,
cry for life.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Prayer / Poetry

an apology to M. Ayodele Heath,
the first writing about 9/11, turning again to grief,
and the holiness of moments.


The cold wind snaps its fingers like the gay men in my college cafeteria who cheered, hissed or hooted at fashion brilliance or faux pas. The wind, he owns all current decisions. We want to succeed. We do not want to be punished by his quick whipping whimsy.

September has shed her manic depression in favor of October’s blustering frigidity. Autumn is no longer sporting the undertones of relief from slick sweating afternoons. The early trees no longer look like housewives slipping a garment off their shoulder one early-to-bed night. They look like pre-teens on the cusp of regretting their crack-whore-clothing phase.

I am humbled by the ease with which Nature shifts her moods. I am awed by her refusal to apologize for months and months on end. I am heartened by the way no one has thought to research methods to medicate her for the obvious mood swings she suffers. I am uplifted by the way we chuckle, surrender and celebrate these oppositional emotions she displays. I wish I was so free and easy with my feelings.

Right now, my friend Patricia is singing, “into beauty, I am falling,(1)” like a mantra backed by poignant violins, gamboling guitars and a decent drum beat. Somehow, that’s how I’m feeling. “There I go again, into your beauty. Don’t let me lose myself in there.(2)” It is October. I call again my belated grief. For what is grief but the act of falling into of someone’s beauty and the loss thereof?

The defining moment of this generation will be, “where were you on 9/11?”
On 9/11, I was absent from reality. I was consumed with an idea that poetry and spoken word are a universal healing force. I had fallen into a beautiful idea to which I refused surrender regardless of any other forces trying to rock my faith. Planes crashing into the World Trade Center? We have children to speak to! We have the message of individual voice to convey! We must show them through the example of our very actions that we will not be bowed down; we will not cower before your destruction; we will not stop and acknowledge your aggression. We will speak of hope, and family and love and peace. And we will bid the children to do the same. So, there Al Queda, in your face man! “We will “be the change” we want “to see in the world.”

High rhetoric and justification for what I look back on as the singular most shameful moment of my adult life. How like Bush I was in that moment. How arrogant and assumptive - that my way of being in the world suited anyone but myself. And with all of this busy madness - I had one of the most delightful voices of our generation in tow. He knuckled down - the consummate professional - and honored his agreement to speak, to educate, to perform in spite of probably feeling like he wanted to watch endless loops on CNN like the rest of the nation. Still, he flowed along my wave of denial, action, re-action and

serenity at any cost.

We did not stop to grieve or feel or think or digest. We poet-ed, and performed and acted and then we got him the first bus out of here. I am sorry M. Ayodele Heath, that you had the misfortune of being in my manic faith on that day. “There I go again, into your beauty. Don’t let me lose myself in there.”

It’s no wonder I haven’t heard from him since. It is October, my personal month of grief. It is the time I ignore or recall the moment in time when my faith was devoured to the bone for the very first time. The month when I think or do not think of Ricardo Luis Ramos - the first dearest ever peer who died; the man who drove me to an Indiana truck stop for mashed potatoes when I was pregnant; the man who wrapped my bottom in soft white towels, then took me out dancing when my water broke; the man who had coffee spat on him at the birth of our daughter because I was too stubborn and political to tell the nurse I was crowning. Because even then, I refused surrender to bullshit and he supported that. “Magic is the act of changing consciousness at will.”(3) We refused to believe in death. And still he died.

And I recall sweet Emily Ann Bailey. My daughter’s preverbal friend - a girl whose camaraderie infused my daughter’s life well before they had language to label anybody friend or foe; the girl who instant messaged back and forth from Ohio to Pittsburgh with my daughter about the fantastic way they refused surrender to stupid Cosmopolitan-Seventeen-TeenBeat idea about womanhood and beauty. Courageous where my daughter failed and timid where my daughter was bold. these girls fed each other their own unique brand of womanhood. When Emily was diagnosed with a brain tumor, they both decided -definitively and unequivocally - that she would live on and on past Imani. Emily died tragically and quietly.

It was the second time the gristle, internal viscera, tendons and organs of my faith were eaten while I was alive to watch in horror. Because my own flesh and blood had used her “magic” to sustain her friend.

“There I go again, into your beauty. Don’t let me lose myself in there.” I was lost there and there and there

again on 9/11 - never wanting to give in.

I still don’t think I want to give in. I still think I’d rather be eaten alive by optimism than emaciated slowly over a long time by despair. I forgive myself for dragging Ayodele all over town in the greatest ever act of resistance - faith. But, my dear friend Lawrence said in his recent sermon, he must give his “absolute and unmixed attention, which is what the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil called prayer. My prayers don’t begin kneeling, with beads or a shawl, but around a quarter past six, or sometimes a quarter to seven now that the autumn is here and the morning is dark longer, and they need to be fed and wrestled into clothes and touch and dance and find quiet and sing all day long. My prayers are demanding, and I grow tired of putting on their socks and shoes through the morning and each time we get out of the car, but through them I experience the everyday world in remarkably new ways, experiences that likely would never happen without our rituals and rhythms.”(4)

This acting out - is prayer -
this bludgeoning of the world with active, personal, gentle, faith;
this being in the present moment and accepting or denying its import;
this surrender to the cannibalization of faith and feeling;
this resilient reconstruction of self in spite and hope
this rebuilding of holiness in every moment -

this is prayer. Every small movement and motion. Every loving touch. Every suckling at my breast by my son with his feet flailing defiant, wide loving, laughing, challenging eyes fusing into my own. Every crazy untimely call from my firstborn and the full attention I give to her - even at midnight. Every sock my husband picks up and puts away. Every touch and kiss or long hug before the baby slips between us. This is falling into beauty with full knowledge that such things are ephemeral. Swift, loud and riotous as Autumn’s shifting moods.

This is poetry and my daily prayer.

I commit myself to “absolute and unmixed attention” to the better world at my fingertips. “Into beauty, I am falling.”

(1) “into beauty”, between the waters, Track two from the album , “connection.”
(2) ibid
(3) Starhawk, The Spiral Dance
(4)Lawrence Gordon Wray, ”The Seeker & The Community: Sermon for Smithton Unitarian Universalist Church.”

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Paying The Math Tax:

(or why the lottery is more lucrative than literary pursuit.)

Everyday, millions of people spend a minimum of $1.00 on the off chance that they will choose exactly the right numbers and win a ten, fifty, a thousand or a sixteen million bucks. That’s a minimum of thirty bucks per month - or $360 dollars a year. They would most likely benefit from betting the local numbers runner that they:
wouldn’t die in a plane crash;
get struck by lightning;
die in an auto accident with a drunk driver;
or have a Cesarian section with fatal complications.

Yet, everyday, thousands of poets turn their noses up at the unwashed masses and spend $ 1.75 minimum on the off chance they have chosen the right combination of letters and may just “win” a chance to see their name next to a musing they wrote (one caffeinated or drunken afternoon) which is likely be seen by maybe 1,500 folks - of whom 1 may be a big shot and remember them. And this isn’t taking into consideration “reading fees.” That’s a minimum of $52.50 dollars a months or $630 per year!

It seems like lottery playing to me. I am assured it is not. I am assured it is as objective as something so subjective as poetry cane be. I am assured that no one knows or owes any one in this process.

But, why do I worry if I schmoozed enough at the last conference? If I “hooked up” enough “rising stars?” Did I stroke the “major literary divas and demigods” until they purred? Guess not.

Or maybe I’m not that good. But, then why am I almost sold out of self-produced creation I have made? Why, if it is not good, does my “maternity leave” drastically impact my family’s income? Why do people beg me to perform “that one poem about...my daughter...my lover...that one time in National Record Mart...the way I discovered I was beautiful?” (Buy the cd "in the image of angels" at: "www.poetryslam.com"

I was under the illusion that merit superseded subjectivity. Long gone is anonymity. Long gone are fragile typewritten pages of genius. Flung back and relegated to obscurity are the humble, fragile souls who made sense regardless of economic status.

All of the journals who require:
two typewritten copies of the poem,
on CD or disk, (in MS format - - because even if Mac is cheaper we must pay our dues to the great empire of sameness.)
a cover letter,
bio page,
a SASE,
and reading fee,

I ask what about the voices of those whose hungry children ate the external/internal CD-ROM, or disk drive or groovy laser printer? Is it poetic that food was more meaningful than a sheet of Black history stamps? Do you even care?

Regardless, it seems the State Math Tax is more economical and realistic. But, then I love this thing called poetry. I only wish someone would teach me some magical formula for time management or give me the fiftieth book on how to figure this whole publishing puzzle out.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

This Taunting Tender Night

now
a tattered cacophony.
here
flagrant disrobing.
this
seasonal lust,

each tree, bush, flower
well spent and fading.

shiny buckeyes roll their pupils
on the rumpled leaves.

acorns slip off their hats
smooth, brown. innocent

love.
a naked tree.
orgiastic
foliage undulant.
slippery
leaves, slurping gutters

guzzle rain water.
skin, hair tingling.

road at night presents
it’s peculiar V. Husband sleeps

cradling an infant’s head.
four lips dream of suckling.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Stumble & Fall

“& infants are hard wired to shriek
when their milk supply is threatened.”
the midwife said at the 3 week check up.


stumbling passion. quixotic
release. the leaves threaten
a great flashy performance.

we all know it goes by so quickly.
then the bare trees claw gray skies
and green becomes a craving
worse than estrogen beckons
chocolate. or turgid pungent

familiarity. spine deep intimacy.
still, we all cheer the crisp
apples, air, bread crust.
having lived in sweat
and steam. slippery groping
heat. we applaud the first red

maple or yellowing cherry.
blow our fingers warm;
stamp our feet;
breathe as if we can snatch,
press and drink this cool
moment; dream of friendly fey

in the haunting morning mist.
my womb clenches and spasms
fully awake for the first time
in over a year. We do not
stumble like Fall.