Thursday, November 20, 2014

I’ve gathered all my nuts and berries for the winter. There’s a storing up process I undertake during the mild, fall months. It’s all intake and experience and documenting­—making sure I have a decent amount of material to hold me over through the hibernating months of cold and snow, so I don’t go mad with cabin fever. I used to find humor in imagining the crotchety hermit who holes up and writes by the light of a candle’s flame. Now, I understand why people choose to live in such a way. 

In past years, I’ve noticed that I am by far more productive when I don’t have the distraction of wanting to be outside in the woods or fields, or on a mountain or by the ocean side.  This was actually the first week I didn’t want to break off freely into the acres around where I live, because hunting season opened and I find it difficult to enjoy my surroundings when rifles are echoing through the valleys. I even purchased my first neon orange hat this year, but I have found it more useful to wear when I’m sitting stationary, chilled and writing in a drafty old house.

Whoever said making art isn’t a war zone too?

Right now, I’m tackling two major manuscripts. They each require abandoning my inhibitions and insecurities to examine new territory. I certainly have my work cut out for me, with many challenges to come and an inexhaustible amount of drafts. But I have time, and recognizing this gives me the patience I need to focus on the tasks at hand.

And this only affirms for me that I will probably never live full-time in a tropical or temperate place (I’ve tried before, without much success), because the reality is that the seasons too closely mirror my motivations and moods and development. And so I’m starting to suspect my fate is sealed in these little dynamic quarters I maintain.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

empty nests and homesick eyes.

I could tell you what
roasted chestnuts taste like
on a cold day in Rome.
How I paid a Euro to watch
a chalk artist replicate Venus,
knowing by evening her
angelic face would be gone
beneath the foot traffic
of men and women in expensive shoes—
the dust of her oyster
flown off on pigeon wings,
to nest in the mausoleums near Vatican City.

I could tell you how I still felt
the ache in my womb,
every time those gypsy children
raised up empty cups and their homesick eyes.
Or how no amount of apologies
or silk stockings,
or decadent chocolate and wine
could make up for those years
that came later—
before you,
and after—
childless and wandering.

But mostly, I could tell you
all there is left to be learned.
That when I see you, I see you away
from me,
not so far.
Standing both tall and naked,
near the light of the closet door—
and not nearly as lost.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I like my experiences rare;
still breathing with life.
The same chemistry in the air
that created red lightening in New Mexico,
before a flash flood.
Cracked ochre whispering, “It’s coming.”
Like me,
thirsty for more.

Like you,
who doesn’t mind the
dirty bottoms of my feet from
afternoons spent walking among gardens
and hanging our washed linens.

Like me,
who doesn’t mind the
calluses accrued of your hands,
learning different grains
with sanders and planes.

Like you,
who doesn’t mind the
bedside lamp, flicked on
and off and on,
through the course of an evening;
as I rise to get these words down
just right.

Like me,
who doesn’t mind you so close
when we’re dreaming.
Or feeling your tender kisses
in the morning 
while I’m sleeping.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

what is salvageable

Typically, mornings if the weather looks clear, I crawl up on the roof and write with a pot of coffee and a beach chair.  There’s a feeling of exposure being up there, having nothing boxing me in or keeping me away from the edges. I watch the birds, and work until the blacktop’s too hot to walk across without any shoes.

On fogless days, there’s a pristine view of the Casco Bay and its outlying islands. The sailboats, the ferries and the cargo ships—all out and going since dawn. And as I discovered from the roof’s vantage point just this last week, the sun coming up over those waters is more brilliant and perfect than the idea of it.

Even at night, under the milky cataract of moonlight, there is something both serene and surreal that makes me feel removed. But also, invigorated; with energy that comes in on all sides.

I lost two poems off the roof today.  The day after heavy rain and there is always a straggling current of air that smells like the stormy day before. I was lost in thought: thinking about how sensually hands shape to organic matter; how they can adjust in force or tenderness, as if they have a mind of their own....I was also listening to the wind blow over the cracked chimney next door, which naturally made the sound of a mouth whistling over a bottle. Two notes: simultaneously high and low.

It was during one of these tailwind gusts, a couple loose-leaf pages—unattached and shoved inside a book I opened too freely—danced right off the roof.  

I sat there for a minute, still deciding what to do. I thought maybe it was a sign I wasn’t meant to keep those words permanent, and that I should perhaps move on to something else.

Finally I got up, close to the ledge and looked over.

One page had landed in a neighbor’s yard among their clutter of car parts and kid toys, and the other had landed on a second-story deck beneath a charcoal grill.

Since I was too embarrassed to knock on either door to ask if I could retrieve my poems, I chose to sneak around the building to the more accessible yard, hoping no one would see me or ask why I was trespassing, “For the likely story of a poem,” right?

As I located the piece of paper among a litter of other gutter remnants, I was startled by someone clearing their throat. Looking up to the porch behind me, all I could see was a pair of jeans and a partial eye peeking out from a foreground of tomato and pepper plants.

I waved my hand in greeting, holding the page over my head. “My poem flew off the roof,” I called out. “Just grabbing my poem.”

Instantly, I realized this could’ve been a pet parakeet I was referring to and I probably would’ve gotten the same response, which was:

“These tomatoes. I didn’t think they’d go, but they did. Now look at 'em.”
“They’re beautiful,” I agreed. “Must’ve of been all that rain we just got.”

The man behind the bushes then pointed out to a corner of yard now taken over by a forgotten swing set. “Used to have a garden, there.”

I tried to imagine it, as he moved away from the plants and the balcony so I could see his face. He had sad eyes, and he limped on the stairs.

He looked at me, then back to the wooden boxes full of healthy green vines. “Those are some tomatoes, huh?”

I nodded, and he seemed satisfied with this and went inside.

Walking down his driveway with poem in hand, I knew I wouldn’t be getting the other lost page back, because of what it might entail.

When I returned to the roof to finish my work, curiosity got the best of me and I took a look over to see if the page was still there on the deck beneath the grill.

I discovered that it wasn’t, and it was likely picked up by the residents of the house. I then wondered if they had decided it was trash and threw it out.

It was a short poem, written in a flash of thought. I know I won’t remember the exact words I used, so it’s already a forgotten poem. But I understand that more poems can be formed from even the faintest memory of verse. Just like the man who planted his tomato seeds remembering how he once had a fine garden of his own.

The Salvaged Poem

Stillness disquiets those who don’t,
or can’t possess it.
And so I walk,
as an act of observance:

A single broken wing,
lying fallen on the sidewalk—
entrancing, like a pretty girl
and a three-legged dog.

Someone calling out to “Redemptus!”
As the sculptor’s plaster splatters,
and the scent of vinegar
comes through a window.

All in a day’s scouring of corners. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In the margins I’d written, *Trees have trunks
to move away from us.

Us: the plural collective.  

* I wish to live at the level of the trees,
with the birds—
away from the grit
and the faces.

Easily, I’m amused by the weight of a laugh—
in decibels of light,
and the masses. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

writers take to the beach.

As we move into mid-summer, spoiled by these pristine days, I wondered about other writers who in their time put off work days for a little beach bliss.

Here is a collection of some of my favorite seaside depictions:

Virginia Woolf & Clive Bell
Studland Beach, Dorset 1909
Jack Kerouac, Peter Orlovsky & William S. Burroughs
Tangier, Morocco 1957
Sylvia Plath
Henry Miller
Sylvia Plath
Jack Kerouac

Hunter S. Thompson

Thursday, July 3, 2014


In time, we'll be old as ferns,
silver spoons buried in the yard with the Forget-Me-Nots.

I think of the widower Ed, who's lost a day,
shuffling in and out of his sadness;
as if his sadness alone was a platform for a train.
Binging on beer and sugared lemons,
he pays his debts in Bermudian seashells,
because he can't afford the change.

And here I am happy,
with nothing but time to work,
and time to love.

Making my daily toasts:
to an inalienable life,
your Spanish mouth,
and the myths we essay into command.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

it's better to be like a ball with no edges.

I’d forgotten what it was like to put time into a longer project. Following the wrap up of graduate school, I optimistically deserted my thesis (and its many incarnations) knowing that it was in the best interest of my sanity to let my first manuscript stew in a drawer, out of sight, out of mind. And if I ever felt so inclined, dried up, or nostalgic, the one-foot draft pile would be there where I’d left it.

I honestly believed that there were bigger and brighter ideas to tackle out there (in the figment of every writer’s world). Things that people really cared about. I already knew some things, and could certainly write my knowledge into the broader spectrum of things.  And so it was the end of a proverbial relationship, my manuscript and I were taking a break, and surprisingly I didn’t feel a morsel of remorse over how it all went down.

I joked, It will be my first written, last published piece. Posthumously, of course. Since we all know how the ego loves morbidity.

I’d also forgotten what it was like to be in a relationship with another human being. Not another artist, not another project, but another person who made time for me and deserved my time in return. During the occasional bout of rationale, it seemed essential to shift my energies to what was budding between me and my new love interest. Someone actually wanted to be my partner! I didn’t know what to do with that sort of evidence. And once we got past the I Feel Worthy, You Feel Worthy insecurities, our shared sentiment to let our love run freely and evolve naturally, restored my faith in the organic matter of things. I didn’t realize how regimented I’d become in my personal life and routine, and how much I actually beat myself up over not creating or not producing enough/smarter/profound material; how much I aimed to be better at everything I attempted to an unhealthy degree.

It’s better to be like a ball with no edges, a friend reminded me. You just keep rolling with it, bumping along even the rockiest of terrain. Now, when you find you and your lifestyle are more fashioned like a box, you quickly become stagnant or sedentary, sometimes requiring a forceful budge to get momentum going again.

In less than two weeks, my partner and I will be beginning what we hope is a sustainable, cohabiting future. I confess there were years and years where I questioned if I could ever live with another person. And if I did, how would my art be affected? I worried about falling into one of those scary “comfort zones” in relationships, where self-motivation is muted, and passion gets squeezed out by obligation and the constant proof that unfulfilled individuals seek. I think about that line in the movie Reality Bites, where the character Vickie (played by Gene Garofalo) says, “My parents have been married for 26 years. They’re like brother and sister at this point. She goes to the bathroom with the door open… [Na-ah, I don’t want that. I want passion the whole way through]” And who could blame her?

So, the true test will be finding the balance of honoring the passions I know fulfill me as an individual (because I’m damn good at doing it alone) and melding together with my partner in a sharing of experiences and interests and dreams, and also being able to draw inspiration out of the places I never even thought to look before.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

They became lovers in the midst of naming things for what they were:
Latin labels, thymus serphyllum, creeping wild thyme.
The moon: Luna, feminine, a lambent pearl.
He stroked her arm and told her about The West,
sucking cold air through their imperfect teeth,
she was impressed by what he was not.
That's how it began really,
challenging the other in what they knew,
or could never be.
They were not allies—
would never be,
because they were frustrated versions of themselves.

She bought him books she knew he wouldn’t read,
he quoted Russian poets he knew she’d never heard of.
They looked to the written word for the answers they did not have.
They threw terms around like loaded dice: transcendence, superiority complex, 
Either one of them could’ve fit the bill.
Later, she wrote him about the cobblestone streets,
the meandering snakeskin of rocks,
the bodegas she passed,
the places she thought he would enjoy.
It was assumptive,
she didn’t know him that well.
At night, she would recount the memories backward,
only to impress him with her keen observation skills:
the rarity of a half dimple,
his soft pronunciation,
and etiquette in pouring one’s coffee.

If you only knew as well as I,
then perhaps I’d be telling a different story altogether.
The men in the smoke shop know me as the writer with a vision.
“Where the hell are those pages?” they holler in my direction
from open doors and entryways.
And they listen.
While they want a taste of simple verse,
few can comprehend my technique.
Not everything computes.
Some things fall through the cracks,
some are too delicate to hold.
When my stories don’t sell, they become poems instead,
since there’s nowhere to hide in a poem.

Over time, she gave him examples of what she didn’t understand:
how flight was possible,
lost languages, shibui,
how one could both desire progression and yearn for the nostalgic,
genocide, "the mainstream",
where our souls go after we die.
To him, she omitted nothing.

So, when she stumbled into that bookstore on a rainy afternoon—
the one around the corner from her West End apartment,
it was in search of a selection they could channel together,
a juncture of where they could meet.
The title was so clearly named for them both,
an arrangement most intrinsic in clever ways—
function absorbed by text,
and all laid out there for their taking.
And she readily saw it for what it was,
the doctrine they would never write themselves in.

Then she picked lint from her money and purchased this item,
and went on with her usual day.
I think she must have had a drink after that,
and surely sat down and wrote a few hundred words about:
What IS the nature man?
And thus, kept this secret to herself,
because she loved him once,
if only for that summer.
Because she wanted to protect him from what she’d just found.
Because she was taught still young:
Too much truth can ruin a person’s appetite.
But mostly, because she knew
the only thing she could do for him,
was keep giving her non-answers.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

steering into the anonymous possible.

In the afterthoughts of a catkin rain,
you said, there’d be cherry blossoms in Virginia,
about this time of year,
when youth is remembered as the sweet-tasting fog
crawling carelessly over your shoulder blades,
and the swales of the Blue Ridges.

I alter inward like loved hips,
speeches coughed from bourbon mouths:
of tuning clarinets,
and of decent men.

Where nothing is distinguished—
Foundation or pillar.
Or joy,
as an extension  of our being.

Whose heady principles
cower in the smallness of a grand scale.