Category Archives: poetry
photo by bernideen
I have a love to garden deep in my roots.
I breathe in flowers sacredly tended to by divine mothers
hoping they blossom throughout this lifetime.
I wake up unexpectedly sometimes
during that late-night, early morning space
where my dreams seem both near and far
and words that don’t speak flow within me
if I just stay awake a little longer
and press my senses gently
against my soul to hear them.
Tonight there was a melody of rain and crickets
just outside my window and I decided to stay
and listen. My hand reached outside the window
to both embrace and release the rain drops in my palm
interchangeably, and I wondered if this is what I should
be doing with each moment here:
both holding and letting go.
he picked me because i spoke softly
and didn’t criticize even though
i wondered why he insisted on darkness
in his apartment for our soggy french toast breakfasts
the cinnamon so strong we would struggle to chew
coughing and laughing at the same time.
for nights with vanilla candles extinguished
our naked feet lying on separate parts
of the coffee table.
for our rare instances of intimacy,
his head resting on my stomach
my impulsive fingertips roaming his face
spreading his lips into a smile.
he picked dark brown and gray suits,
overtime at work to avoid the crowded subways,
the seat facing the wall in restaurants
he picked me and loved me
even though i couldn’t stay
quiet through a movie
and was attracted to bright colors
he picked me having never met a woman
who didn’t force him to talk about the past or his feelings
having never met a woman
who wasn’t afraid to eat
dark chocolate cheesecake with her fingers
having never met a woman
who didn’t slowly try to pick away his darkness
and I picked him and being with him
hurt less and less with the passing of each dark day
I kiss my demons at night and bathe
myself in their kerosene grins.
I pour liquor and sugar
on my ginger colored edges
and lay on baking sheet liner
deep in their smoky inner hollows.
My skin wrinkles and hardens
but it never changes form.
I never become fire.
I don’t even burn.
Can you burn the fire deep
within you with more fire?
I want to do more
than just evaporate my tears.
photo by TommyOshima.
i’ve read confessional poet extraordinaire anne sexton a lot lately particularly as i have developed the series on depression that i started posting this week. i don’t think there are many people who have written about the disorder better than sexton. she writes about most things better than anyone else but depression is a particularly difficult subject to describe because of its tendency to eat away at your senses. sometimes, i feel like i have huge holes in my memories from periods of my life when depression strangled my world. i know a lot of people must feel that way because of the distortion that depression causes. how then do you write about something that you can’t even see clearly?
… … … … … …
i love sexton’s fairy tale reincarnation transformations and kurt vonnegut jr’s foreward in the book:
I asked a poet friend one time what it was that poets did, and he thought awhile, and then he told me, “They extend the language.”
Anne Sexton does a deeper favor for me: she domesticates my terror, examines it and describes it, teaches it some tricks which will amuse me, then lets it gallop wild in my forest once more.
–Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
i love his interpretation of her writing. sexton writes about the most intimate corners of her life but it never seems narcissistic or overdramatic; she allows a voice for every one of the emotions running rampant in you.
i remember the first time i read transformations. i was staying with an ex in brooklyn who had the most amazing little apartment. his roommate had decorated the living room with a small sofa, wooden statues that resembled different parts of a tree, and piles of piles of books in every corner. for days i wanted to walk around the room barefoot and touch all of the different books. i didn’t though because i’ve always felt like looking through someone’s book collection was too intimate for a stranger to do (his roommate was away on assignment in africa — i never met him) but my ex, a devout writer yet very reluctant reader, laughed at me and laid a giant pile of books on my lap. it was then that i found transformations and entered the mind of sexton for the first time.
i have yet to read any of vonnegut’s books (he’s on my to read list). however, i do love to read and reread his eight rules (particularly #7) for short story writing which are from Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction:
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
He qualifies the list by saying that Flannery O’Connor, and other great writers tend to break all the rules except for #1.
i love the fact that he adds that little clause at the end about breaking the rules. rules and tips are great especially when writers are first developing their style and voice but who needs rules when it comes to creativity?
i sat beside his chair every night for as long as he would let me
his eyes stayed so still it didn’t seem like he ever blinked
the air slowly squeezed in and out of his chest like his body
was in a constant struggle with life his cheek leaned against his hand
so loosely that it seemed like his head might droop onto the mahogany table
the grooves so thick in the wood that the table could split into two
splintering slowly like the mind of a person longing for love
he would stare at the ceiling for hours his arms clenched around his body
so tightly that i think he forgot i was there watching him
he whispered her name softly his eyes racing back and forth
across the ceiling as though they were chasing after something
i stroked my hand against his cheek and he stared at me
the wild haunted glaze in his eyes disappearing behind dark chocolate walls
his lips slowly curved into a mechanical grin
like we were strangers meeting for the first time in a fantasy world
where people and pain stayed behind their assigned walls
as he ran his fingers through my hair and told me to go to bed
sometimes he calls me and i remember
what joy is like — a small explosion
that leaves quiet flecks of longing
in its wake.
around him i pretend loneliness builds bridges
in the hollow walls of my heart.
i smother the fire out of my sadness
by pressing myself against a tiny clump
of grey covers to keep from writhing
into an unacceptable wrinkle of rage.
if he wasn’t the god of my world
maybe i could tell him i cry myself to sleep
wondering if my destiny is enduring
the empty embraces of my cold winter arms.
i protect him from my sadness instead
and talk about the sixteen degree weather
how my body turned winter cold for hours
no matter how close i leaned against the radiator.
i laugh and the sound sticks to my throat
when i say i finished and published my book
about the seven steps to conquer solitude
because of the blessedly empty winters.
he laughs and tell me how easy i have it.
yeah, i say, wrapping the phone cord around my arm
closing my eyes to stop the sticky stream of sadness.