Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Plain Dealer Essay One

A few weeks ago, Positively Cleveland and the Plain Dealer ran an essay contest called "What I Want for Christmas." Not the most original prompt, but at least it challenged me to find a strong, original angle.

I wrote two essays for the contest (three, really, but I only submitted two). The essay that won is in praise of Cleveland: my wish for Christmas is that people in Cleveland will start to appreciate and take advantage of what we have. At first I was reluctant to write this one, fearing that it might just seem like pandering since the essay would be printed in a Cleveland newspaper, for a contest run by a Cleveland tourism group. I ultimately decided that anyone who knows me knows how passionately I feel about the city of Cleveland, and how one of my main goals has always been to look for the positive and share my favorite Cleveland places and things with others.

That essay won and it was mistakenly credited to "Melissa Desantis." Whoops. It got corrected two days later.

I thought I'd post that essay to my blog, but first I want to post the essay that didn't win, since many people in my life are curious about it. It doesn't have a title, as that was not required of me upon entry. But here it is, all 400 words of it:

___________________________________________

This June I got engaged to a marvelous fellow. It all feels wonderful, but our wedding date will not arrive until 2010. Now, for the wedding I’ll be patient. But there’s just one thing I simply can’t wait for: there is no way I can go another year without a KitchenAid Artisan Series mixer.

As a little girl, I watched my grandma mix unreasonable amounts of Christmas sugar cookie dough in her hearty banana-yellow upright KitchenAid. I saw the beater, big as my head, tirelessly whipping potatoes into shape. I ogled the dough hook as it beckoned me with its calculated curve. Grandma used the model with the pasta maker attachment, slicing thick sheets of dough that would plump in her savory homemade chicken noodle soup.

I've always been a tomboy, eschewing girlish stereotypes and making crusades against what was expected of my gender. I always asked for the boy’s toy in my Happy Meal. I refused to wear the color pink. But my Grandma is tough, and so is her KitchenAid mixer. And I want one this Christmas.

Look at it. It's the ‘57 Chevy of home appliances. Seated firmly in the center of my hope chest, it's seducing the muffin pans and spatulas with its smooth and saucy sheen. Frilly aprons, beware! This piece of equipment demands to be operated in motorcycle boots. It's tough, it's sexy. Have you watched the videos on the KitchenAid website? The music is seductive, the camera angles provocative. They know exactly what they're doing.

This Christmas, watch me tilt back its chrome-plated head as I throw back my own in the uninhibited ecstasy of a culinary goddess. This thing can whip up enough dough for nine dozen cookies at one time. And oh, the speed! With that kind of production, I'll never have to worry about running out before Santa arrives.

This Christmas, I want what every red-blooded American wants, woman or man: a 325 watt motor, a 5 quart bowl, a stand mixer that looks like it was designed by the Fonz’s and Andy Warhol’s lovechild. The kind of tough-as-grits wedding present that probably outlasts most marriages. And it can probably beat tough grits, too. Ten pounds at once.

I want this one last whirlwind-whip hurrah before I get married. Or the rest of the wedding registry won't stand a chance.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lunch Hour Poetry

Wrote this one today while peeling an orange. Overheard a line from somebody in the front offices--thanks for the inspiration. Can't think of a title. Sorry for the fragments--my break's almost over.

With bitter rind still
stuck, dusty
beneath my fingernails,
I compose.

Ignore it.
Pull him off the road,
rest on the shoulder in a puddle
of tread-echo
and feel his wobbling head burst forward
like a forced tap.

My left hand fingers
dangling like baby shotguns
on a paneled wall,
a hot swollen door slams
in the middle of a thunderstorm.

These rusted pots and pans fill fast,
fill sideways
with percussive boil-over hope,
mouths skyward and earthward
in a fountain pile of spastic,
reaching
devotion.

Let this be forever
like a roadside mutt that follows close,
bone hips syncopated by the sun beat.
Let it be as loud as screen door-scratching guilt,
and freer.

No more drowning in my sorrow

I can't listen to the opening notes of Over the Rhine's "Poughkeepsie" without crying.

I think I just want to start singing old spirituals. Isn't harmony the best thing in the world?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sexism/Idiocy Brewing at McCafe

This morning I saw a McDonald's commercial that troubled me deeply. The commercial is for McCafe, McDonalds' new attempt at competing with specialty coffee chains, providing lattes,
cappuccinos, and mochas for the fat masses. Homogenized products for homogenized people.

The commercial opens with two women sitting in a cafe and their dialogue is as follows:

Woman A: Now we don’t have to listen to jazz all day long!
Woman B: I can start wearing heels again.
Woman A: Read gossip magazines! (tosses book away)
Woman B: Watch reality TV shows…
Woman A: I like television!
Woman B: I can’t really speak French.
Woman A: I don’t know where Paraguay is!
Woman B: Paraguay?

After my mother told me that there was a male version of this same advertisement, I looked it up on YouTube. Here is the dialogue from the transaction between two men:

Man A: I can shave this thing off my face
Man B: We don't have to call movies films anymore.
Man A: We can talk about football.
Man B: I like football. I like sitting and watching football
Man A: I don't need these glasses. These are fake.
Man B: I do need mine. They're very real.

Alright. There are quite a few problems here.

The commercial seems to attack liberal elitists by creating caricatures of people who frequent specialty coffee houses. While I can agree that elitism (intellectual or otherwise) is obnoxious, this advertisement seems to wrongly define elitism as cultural awareness, well-roundedness, and even basic intelligence.

The message seems to be: "Only stupid people should drink McDonald's coffee. If your only interest is football or gossip rags, or if you don't know where Paraguay is, we have the perfect McOpiate for you!"

Furthermore, clear gender roles and dangerous sexism are perpetuated in each of these ads. By McDonalds' definition of what is normal and acceptable, women who don't wear high heels are pretentious, snobby, and undesirable. And it doesn't matter that neither of the women in the commercial is intelligent. (The fact that the one woman actually gets giddy when she learns she can wear constrictive footwear is deeply disturbing as well.) It also seems to say that intelligent women can't wear stylish or sexy footwear (since heels are apparently stylish and sexy...so I've heard.)

Can't speak French? Don't know basic geography? That's fine--we don't expect you to. Stop overworking your poor tiny little lady brains pretending to be educated.

And she throws her book away! In this commercial, there is no happy medium. You cannot read substantial material and enjoy a McLatte. Books are for stuffy, pretentious beatniks who hang out in coffee houses discussing philosophy, world events, films (not "movies"), that evil and intolerable jazz music you hate so much, and a slew of other topics you can't be bothered to
deal with or relate to. But let's see what TomKat is up to over a watered down Styrofoam cup of saccharine garbage. That's something normal, down-to-earth women can get behind.

I can't believe she throws her book away.

The male version of this commercial is just as bad. First, the idea that having facial hair defines a man as some sort of counterculture pompous snob is absolutely absurd. I get the idea that these men are supposed to be "regular guys." When my mom told me that this commercial existed, she said that it had "two jocks" in it. So I guess I get where they're going. But I know so many "jocks" with chinstrap beards and soul patches...

In this version, the men don't seem to have collected quite as many pretenses as the women, but they also don't seem to be very deep or interesting. They are the ultimate cliche: two straight men who just want to sit and watch football. Period. That's it. American men should strive for nothing more. Just football and homosocial encounters over cheap McCafe beverages with their bros. Why can't the men be interested in literature and film AND enjoy watching football? I've never met a man who was exclusively into sports. Even my dad, a retired football/basketball coach and self-proclaimed jock reads books, eats at independent restaurants (and McDonalds), and enjoys classic and independent film. My fiance is one of the most well-read people I know, but he still plays cards and watches the Steelers with his friends. The same goes for a lot of women I know. But the female version of the ad doesn't even acknowledge that American women enjoy sports. Because they totally don't. Not ever.

It's also quite telling that the men don't have to do all that much to shed their false intellectual skin. They basically alter physical attributes: remove glasses, shave goatee. Next to the female version of the commercial, this shows that women have to try a lot harder to be accepted in the intellectual community; they have to pretend that they know things instead of just donning a pair of spectacles to appear confident or astute.

The commercial doesn't really go much further than this, except for presenting the silly idea that wearing glasses denotes intellectual elitism, and then trying to make good by giving one of the characters actual prescribed eyewear.

Nowhere in the commercial does McDonalds mention value, which could be a preferable consumer-empowering way to sell its product: "You're smart; you like to save money. So order a McMocha." Maybe they don't use this selling point since most McDonalds specialty drinks are only about fifty cents less than those offered at Starbucks.

It doesn't really mention quality either, but that's not much of a surprise, since McDonalds is clearly uninterested in selling quality products to quality people. Just simple, aw-shucks products to equally simple [read: stupid] people.

Man. And I thought McDonalds commercials were just racist most of the time.

And to make one thing certain: all of this is not in defense of Starbucks. I tend to support local. All of this is in defense of people--people who deserve more respect from advertising agencies and from each other.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Caves of Sound

My favorite parts of my job have little to do with my actual day-to-day duties, who I work with, how comfortable my desk chair is (the answer is moderately, if you're curious), or how often I get out of kitchen duty.

One of the best things about working 9 to 5 at a desk is that I have an hour commute that often allows me to listen to a complete album on my way to and from work. This morning on the way in I listened to Times New Viking's loud, infectious, and refreshingly lo-fi Rip it Off. On the way home I think I'll do Constantines.

The other great thing is that for eight hours straight, I sit in my cube, covered in a blanket with headphones wrapped around my skull in a warm cocoon of music. Since most of my work involves documentation and email correspondence, I rarely have to tug at my phones or deal with anything but my own little private fourth wall of sound.

I still maintain that the car is the best place in the world to listen to music. Sam Jones affirmed my belief in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco. As a musician, I get some of my best songwriting done in the car, fueled by the romance of coming miles and an anxious feeling of transience. A car trip is the best way to listen to a new album. You are focused, captive and free. You are both plotting and distracted. It's very possible to be swept away by a new unheard-of something.

In the film Once, a group of newly-recorded musicians leave the comfort of the plush recording studio to do a "car test" with their new record. Because anything sounds good pouring out of a set of pro-grade speakers, but the best albums sound good everywhere, where real people are, and where real people are going. In Once, the musicians and their producer prance and delight along a grey, dismal autumnal beach, an ethereal celebration of creation, and completeness.

There are some albums that have become synonymous with the road for me: My Morning Jacket's Z, Over the Rhine's brilliant double disc, Ohio, Neil Young's Harvest, Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits, and Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, to name a few. Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago is my new favorite night-driving album.

At 74 minutes, Sufjan Stevens' Illinois is almost the exact length of the trip from my home in Cleveland to my fiance's home in Beaver Falls, PA. I've made a game where I try to time my arrival to the end of "Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run." As much as I am going to love having my man 100 miles closer than he is currently, I will truly miss that 1.5 hours of uninterrupted musical immersion.

Great music is meant to be shared, but my most intimate and affecting moments with music are when I am completely alone, even if my aloneness is just a pair of snug headphones, a rolled up car window, a two foot padded cubicle wall, a wish for the other warm-bodied shoegazers to dissipate and leave me staring, central in the room, at a new local band that is selling me their goods, raw and sensuous and kinetic.

I look forward to my Greyhound ride to Cincinnati this weekend.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ears

I was blessed with taste and smell. My hearing? A constant battle. This poem has been inside me since I was a little girl, squeezing the arm of a sterilized chair with my mom looking on like she was in pain for me. It still doesn't say everything, but it feels good to write about my ears for once.


Half head
a diving bell,
invisible and flooding
with murmur and hiss,
with feeding hummingbirds.

I move about the office
as a string of ribbon released
from the cage of a fan.

Not knowing how to heal,
my body simply
leans,
adjusts,
bargains with floaty side effects,
tossed covers,
increased effects of alcohol,
imbalance.

In the chair
he asks if he's hurting me,
but there are abstruse degrees
I can't pretend to understand:
high alerts
and low, like unfathomable pitches
ringing out of range
and burning.

A flood of saline solution
bursts from his trained hand.
Feverish dead cells hurl and sweep,
fluttering like warm children
in the rush of a flushing hydrant.

When they leave I am open
only briefly
and a little less each time.
I keep filling
with lifeless white tissue,
or some unborn child's body
curled up and swollen within my
tiny ear canal,
his dead silence
becoming more
and more pronounced.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mmm Mmm Salty

A few days ago I ate a can of Campbell's condensed chicken noodle soup. This may not seem so impressive or interesting or uncommon, but to me, scooping spoons full of thin, salty, golden broth with its wiry inch noodles and tiny chicken bits was satisfying in such a pure, unpretentious, classic way.

A simple lunch, warm and quieting Campbell's soup took me back to sleepovers at my grandma's house--me and grandma and one of my cousins splitting a family-size can when my grandma didn't have time to make us her homemade noodles. It's the kind of meal you have to eat with a big spoon. Our bellies were always grateful.

I know that Campbell's has always used nostalgia, goodness, and American values to market their products. And I know that I always tend to get a little sentimental at the beginning of soup and sweater season.

I think it's just that for a while I've been beyond Campbell's classic chicken noodle. I've been dining at local restaurants--at bistros enjoying gazpacho and cous cous, at brew pubs eating creamy beer cheese broth. Even when I eat canned soup I've been doing the "healthy choice" varieties with less salt and more veggies to compensate. And all of these things are good (some more than others), but there are varying degrees of perfection.

And the commercial with the snowman is pretty adorable, too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Love, Asiago-ly

I came to Panera to write tonight. I often find that I'm more able to concentrate outside of the house, where I don't have a needy kitten or a DVR to distract me.

Tonight when I came in, I plugged in near my regular leather armchair next to the fireplace, before realizing that the middle-aged man in the royal blue turtleneck one table over was going to use his outdoor voice for his entire visit. He sat and jawed at the woman across from him, who was dressed in what looked like corporate attire from the early nineties, about playing the keyboard and giving up "rock star aspirations," the state of the global economy, installing carpeting, and how he could have saved her thousands of dollars if he helped her remodel her condo. The woman maybe said five things, most of them polite questions about his topic-of-the-minute.

Then I saw her get up to leave, and I noticed that she was holding a single red rose. "I'm so glad we got together," I heard her say. In the parking lot, they exchanged a painfully awkward hug. So, I thought, I just witnessed a really awful first date. Much worse than when I thought he took her to Panera to sell her wall-to-wall carpet. I don't think there's going to be a second.

After that horrid exchange, though, something entirely different happened. A young man dressed in gym clothes and flip-flops walked in and said hello to the girl behind the counter who gave me incorrect change earlier tonight. They exchanged some words out of my sight, but I got the sense that they were romantic.

Then, he came back in moments later and called her to the other side of the counter. He got down on one knee, in his gym shorts on the bread crumb-covered floor, and asked her to marry him. She said yes, and the two threw their arms around each other, he dressed like he'd been watching football on the couch, she in her green work apron and visor. And they looked so incredibly happy. Satisfied with her answer, the young guy left her to finish the rest of her shift. Every few minutes I hear squeals from behind the counter.

This is why I come out to write. To be in the middle of everything, to witness the mundane, the traumatic, the ecstatic, the odd, the trivial. Tonight I got a little bit of everything in one sitting, and I haven't even gotten a refill yet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's a Start...

In the land of dissonant whistles
and lolling tongues
and skinny trouser legs clinging
to the ankles of mad lovers,
and of the desperate menthol burn...


Warm tongue vibrations hum
inside painted stained dead walls,
unknown bruises and a burning lead singer,
his necktie caught in a woodchipper crowd
of nodding samefaces,
with their water-slick
levitating bottles of beer.

Hiding in the standing-room shadows
of Thursday night, I am reeking with sex
and breathing the stagnant loitering ego,
the musk of hip,
the sandalwood and cigarillo essence
of the it-girls and boys
who are
tongue-kissing the fall
in someone else's clothes.

How do they live
outside of the frantic evening?
Will their halcyon days
be measured in moonlight?
And why must I fight to be their breed of free,
running my hands against you beneath the bar,
windblown and dehydrated,
and shifting my weight to stay awake
on aching rootless calves?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ride the Moustache Wave

Somehow in the course of our relationship, my fiance and I became equal parts ironically and erotically obsessed with Burt Reynolds. It's one of the many elusive little quirks we share that has a muggy, mysterious origin.

I bought James a book of perverse love letters written to Burt in the Playgirl years. I made James a birthday card with a masterfully cropped image of Burt's famous bearskin rug photo on the front. I bought James an unauthorized biography.

Okay, so perhaps I was the purveyor of this ridiculous obsession and I am therefore the one to blame.

Regardless, we talk about Burt all the time. And the one thing it always comes back to is the 'stache. It's glorious. Sure, the moustache does not make the man, but Burt's moustache is so closely tied to how we remember, perceive, and celebrate him.

The Burt Reynolds moustache is also important because it defies the three most common/seedy moustache associations: Burt's lip fur doesn't belong to:

1. A child molester (we're pretty sure)
2. A porn star (not that he couldn't be one if he wanted to)
3. Hitler

And maybe it's the reason that my fiance, my darling James, felt that it would be okay for him to at last sport some man-baleen.

At first I was pretty excited about the possibility of my man shedding his full beard for a more streamlined look--something that would require one of those neat little metal combs. When the idea surfaced (again, muggily) in one of our late night conversations, I had recently purchased "The Darjeeling Limited" on DVD, in which Jason Schwartzman sports a very sexy, brooding, full moustache. If it works for him, why couldn't it work for my fella?

And so, armed with the most convincing of arguments...

Jason Schwartzman had a moustache for a while. He's hip.

and:

Burt Reynolds.

...I somehow managed to convince my fiance and myself that this moustache would be a good idea.

And so, last Saturday, I waited nervously outside his bathroom door as he shaved with a fully-charged electric razor.

First the sideburns, then the beardy mass. Eventually, he got his face fur down to a simple classic goatee that made him look sort of like a veteran closing pitcher and sort of like a stuffy literary critic (both turn-ons, in case you didn't know).

Then came the Fu Manchu. Ridiculous. Standing shirtless in his tiny bathroom with a sloppy moustache dripping all the way down to his chin, James looked like he was the father of one of the kids in "Gummo," posing for his proudest MySpace picture.

I was at last glad to see the jowel hair go, making way for an adorable moustache-soul patch combo. It looks perfect--all the trappings of a power-stache plus the sensitive hipster presence of the patch. I could really get used to this look. It kind of works for--no, no! Please don't shave off the soul patch, James!

But he did. And there it was. A shocking, straightforward strip of orphaned beard hair, bristling above his grinning upper lip.

Throughout the day, the moustache took turns surprising me, mystifying me, and warming up to me.

It's kind of an okay look for him, really. But I still can't get over the 'moustigma.' The next day we happened upon a pretty low-rent community fair, and there were three things that the good country folk were celebrating there: cheap hot dogs, cut-off jean shorts, and--you guessed it--moustaches. Every burly dude we came across had a well-seasoned bushy moustache and the kind of stiff upper lip that comes from years of working in a factory or lifting weights on a bench in the garage beneath a poster of Tawny Kitaen on the hood of a Firebird.

This judgment is deeply seated within me, and I don't know how to respond now that I'm engaged to marry it. Poor James.

And yet, when I look at Burt I feel no trepidation. I feel not a tinge of doubt. I don't associate him with a good ol' boy eating Funions at a truck stop.

Perhaps then, it's one thing to grow a moustache, and quite another to grow into a moustache. To allow the stern and brooding power of a well-trimmed patch of lip hair tell the world, "why, yes, I do enjoy Russian literature." Or, "come. Let's spend the evening savoring small plates at a tapas bar and then retreat to the veranda for cigars and aged scotch. What? Did you think I was some sort of rube?" Or maybe even to let your moustache say to the world, "Why, yes, I did once go out for a pass with a bare ass in an issue of Playgirl. And you know what? I'm still here."

Prove me wrong, honey. Prove 'em all wrong just like Burt did. And maybe someday, your facial hair will also have a band and a sex act named after it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Instant Writing

My professors of creative writing recently sent me a book of surrealist games. I decided to do some "automatic writing" exercises. Each of these short pieces were written without editing, without planning, without stopping. Every time my consciousness slowed or became too present, I ended my piece. The only real "edits" are the breaks that form sections. Here they are:

One:

The journeyman’s pack is full of baked beans and barley wheat, stiff and worn, and full of midday sun. Dried sweat and leaves stick to his calves as he hooks a strap around his ankle and sets to rest in the shade of a willow at the edge of a trickling ford. This is the way we wash our hands, he thinks, recalling some rhyme from his past, some chanted childhood dirge smelling of lavender soap and a warm oven.

Now constant motion is his reality. He is a soldier with active joints and tendons, muscle that has little time to be sore, only to react, to react, to react, to build, to ache only for what is new.

The beard was an accident—a consequence, a guarantee, whatever. It’s there, ruddy and full, consuming his features and blurring his existence.


Two:

My father never asked me to pull his orange cart, though I idle through the market most weekdays with no import. After his heart attack my mother had to re-learn how to cook for him, and consequently grew exhausted. She died clutching a ginger root at the Fratelli’s stand, of old age as far as we can tell.

The thirteen year-old kid from the floor below hooks the cart to the back of his banana bike and pumps standing up down the street, smiling lasciviously at buxom mothers shopping for their family meals. Every day is a Fellini film, full of tit ogling and the coming-of-age celebration of cock.

Every day I regret stealing the bills from his wallet. Every day I punish myself by feeding my supper to the mutts that gather below our window. It’s always unseasoned beef and some sort of limp, wilted vegetable.


Three:

Our prize was a bowing pin, spraypainted gold. My husband hoisted it above his head and gloated in front of the lesser couples, still sweating, still red-faced and fat-fingered. We weren’t bowling—this was a Scrabble tournament. Someone thought it would be funny to have a trophy. Tom found it at a secondhand store, already painted, as if designed with our specific needs in mind.

That’s the thing about Jim. He sweats constantly with no regard for company, for upholstery, for shirtsleeves, for decency. Even with a tray full of vowels for the last three turns, we managed to win. We need to start spending time with people who are more than passably literate.

When you relocate, you make friends with the first genial people you meet. Genial people are mostly simple-minded. To meet anyone with any sort of complexity, you have to put on airs or pretension. You have to be aloof yet full of attractive kinetic energy. We’re so tired from the move though. Jim’s aunt died and left him all of her antique furniture. It smells of rose-petal sachets and her oxygen tank, except that the oxygen tank doesn’t smell like anything.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eponymous

Sam Cooke's "That's Where It's At" is truly where it's at. Best slow dance ever. End.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Back in Action

I found this scribbled on a scrap of paper while I was cleaning my desk yesterday. I'm assuming it's the beginning of a poem, so that makes it qualify for my "Poem-a-Day" challenge. It has no title, and the penmanship is horrible.

Remember type
before fluidity,
Gestalt dot matrix particles
within
sounds
within
symbols.
Remember
before it left behind
serif
scars?


That's it. Sounds like an ode to my parents' old Apple II GS, complete with noisy dot matrix printer and those perforated reams of paper.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quit Doggin' Me!

I know, I know. Major slackery alert, right? But I will have 30 poems on here eventually. I promise.

I haven't been neglecting poetry completely. In fact, two nights ago I organized a guerilla group of poetry writers, and we spent the waning hours of the evening chalking some great poetry across the campus of Baldwin-Wallace College. Sides of sandstone buildings, sidewalks, fountains, picnic tables--none were safe from our dusty little fingers!

I've also been devoting a lot of my time to a documentary collage that I'm creating for my creative writing seminar capstone. More about that later...

Oh! And yesterday was Poem in Your Pocket Day. More about that at www.poets.org

Okay, here's the next poem. This is actually a "found poem" that I wrote for my seminar. The assignment was to collect words from billboards, road signs, print advertisements, product labels, and non-English textbooks. We were only allowed to use the words we found--nothing more than that. Here's what I came up with:



Night Paving

Bottled,
positively balanced on
shoulder (in
different cities
in one day),
a good alternative to caffeine.

The elderly
de-
clawed consecrator
handling tarot cards
begins recruitment.

Women buy
guns &
tackle
well-balanced flight
attendants,
made of
malty
eukaryotes.

You can...
imply
full-bodied truth
in carbonated
express lanes.
North,


south.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

At the Museum of Natural History

You kissed the little girl
who shares these thick
frames, now clouded
with your skin oil.

Particolored moths,
pinned,
looking the most alive (their
wings are still dusted).


A stuffed kodiak bear,
still hazardous.
Looming,
head-sized paws
stupidly reaching.

Something ceremonial:
a headdress for a wedding...

What implores you to stay here?
I have been here myself
all my life,
her
then me,
like wooden nesting eggs
behind glass.

Pitch

I was only
told
of the last shape he took.


Paws outstretched,

sunning lifeless
on one side in a
clearing
of trees.

Fur unmatted,
legs un-
broken.
Only a drop of blood
creeping from the side
of his cat
mouth.

Death
with a pellet gun,
aimed steady.

Startling,
the way a flashlight is
to a frog
in our creek bed.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Day Three

State Fair

A row
of bearded
pie-eating gallants,
the moon a packaged pad
of butter
in an old man's pocket
at a buffet line.

Baskets of deep-fried
ferris wheel riders
dripping oil onto
the head of
prize pig
with her symmetrical
nipples, roasting
on a spit.

Me the apple
in her mouth,
red and hot
with shame
for having entered that tent
and staring too long
at the man with the
reflective forehead.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day Two

For Maic:

What if I am your sister,
the one bathing
in a pool of
ersatz moonlight?

Unashamed
of my nakedness,
you spring
upon me
in a bear suit
on your tiptoes,
challenging my height.
And you wrap me (like text
at the end of a
line)
in your Stooges t-shirt.

We watch the ball game
broadcast late,
West Coast,
our arms resting limp
on your sweaty
gaping
brilliant bear head.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

National Poetry Month

The title of this entry tells it like it is, for sure. April is National Poetry Month. In the past, I've celebrated by gathering large groups of friends and chalking poetry over sidewalks, buildings, streets, and fountains. I plan to do this again (college being the perfect setting for this sort of play).

This year, I've also decided to write at least one poem every day, and to share my writing, completely unedited, in this blog. I want every poem (or start of a poem) to feel organic and unmussed, for better or worse.

Today's poem, my first of the month, seems greatly influenced by the departure of my lover this morning. I should also note that I've been reading a collection called "Isn't It Romantic: 100 Love Poems By Younger American Poets" edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer & Aimee Kelley." Sappiness often occurs by osmosis.



Wire

I confess
I am not so afraid
of birds.

But if you will continue
to squeeze my
elbow, to arrest
my pulse
in the presence of gulls,
I will never object
to your protection.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pretentious Literary Form #294: The Lyric Essay

The concept of the "lyric essay" still eludes me, even after reading several essays that attempt or profess to define it. Perhaps it should be expected that writers writing about writing will do so in coy metaphor. Whatever.

In my senior creative writing seminar, we were assigned to write a two-page lyric essay using the conventions of one of these forms:

Flash Cards
Billboards
Catalog Descriptions
Rorshak Tests

I decided to explore the duality and the associative power of the flash card. A single word and its intended definition, teamed together with the intention of being forever committed to memory. The workings of memory and free association are at the heart of my latest effort.

I should also add that this morning I found my love's t-shirt next to my bed, which was enough of an event to make me cry over my oatmeal. I hardly ever eat oatmeal. I'm not generally a big fan of mush. Unfortunately I fear that my first conscious attempt at lyric essay might possess that quality:

Three Spices Commonly Used to Disguise Sentimentality

Tamarind:

The pod of a large, tropical tree, Tamarindus indica, of the legume family, containing seeds enclosed in a juicy acid pulp that is used in beverages and food.


Under creased blue tarps upheld by whitewashed two-by-fours we slip sideways through a sidewalk-wide market, past bulbous tubers and raw earthly monster fruits, and family-owned cardboard signs with tentative prices, your hand in mine as a necessity. This is not my city. To slip away would be the pinch in a muddled Hollywood comedy.

We will complete our mission at an Asian market that is held together by stapled parti-colored flyers and incidental grime. There is a bell, the woman at the counter does not understand us, and we cannot read the labels on the jars. While I pay for the pulp, my eyes gravitate toward the coy lips and navels of a hundred Bollywood women on bootleg clamshell cases, splayed beyond my reach. I want to ask if these films have subtitles. Can we sweat together in bed tonight to the garish trill of Mohammed Rafi and to the beaten sound of your mostly inadequate window air conditioning unit, and to the spices that squeeze persistently through our pores like delivery bicycles in curb lanes? But I assume that this sort of communication is futile. No bag, please. Alright, then. Plastic.

Fennel:

A plant, Foeniculum vulgare, of the parsley family, having feathery leaves and umbels of small, yellow flowers.


This one’s harder. My limbs have elongated, swollen and melting with the warmth of taste. The seed, the stalk, the heady climb up the stairs while the stomach still lingers at the dinner table. During the first set, my eyes are closed and his softer songs are punctuated with clattering silverware one wooden floor below. I forgive them, and weep in time with the percussive nature of the universe, each open-mouthed sob releasing the lingering vapors of thyme and some other spice that still eludes my palette.

On a different evening there are gossamer curtains falling around like fluttering scarves. The room is accentuated with copper and murmur. Everything is flickering. We have trouble with pronunciation for different reasons as the night surrenders to the subtly erotic grace of my elbow, bent with lusty intention towards the waning boddess of a stemless wine glass. Tonight I will give myself to you on a full stomach.

Lemongrass:

A tropical grass (Cymbopogon citratus) native to southern India and Sri Lanka, yielding an aromatic oil used as flavoring and in perfumery and medicine.


The flea market closed before we could make love between the leather bound encyclopedias and the unwittingly racist Americana antiquities, the way we’d buzzed about on especially complacent Saturday mornings. That one time, I let the taste of summer dissolve beneath my tongue, and plunged euphorically past you into stacks of must and warp and hairline cracks from amnesic use. Leaving without purchasing a single relic will be the easiest decision we will make.

Soon after it closes, the Chinese restaurant across the street follows. We have yet to find a new place. Mornings, bristles scrape across reluctant papillae, and we are made conscious of it all again. The taste, when mixed with toothpaste, is understandably unpleasant.