Found Poetry

I’ve never read any Kerouac. There’s a short section of this poem dubbed into a song I’ve known since forever:

…America and Steel civilization rushing by with San
Francisco Chronicles and green Call-Bulletins not even enough
time to be disdainful, they’ve got to catch 130, 132, 134, 136 all
the way up to 146 till the time of evening supper in homes of the
railroad earth when high in the sky the magic stars ride above
the following hotshot freight trains–it’s all in California, it’s all a
sea…

Wait a little for it, but listen until you get there. It really isn’t all that bad:

I rode down to the tracks
Thinking they might sing to me
But they just stared back
Broken, trainless, and black as night
Climbed out on to my roof
So I’d be a poet in the night
Beat the walls off my room
I saw the big room that is this life

This is my condition:
Naked and hysterical
Reaching to grab a hand that I just slapped back at
This is my condition:
Desperate, alone, without an excuse
I try to explain
Christ, what’s the use?

Read and I felt so small
Some words keep speaking when you close the book
Drank and just about smiled
Then I remembered us in that bed
Put my ear to the door
I just heard hot rods and gunshots and sirens
People kill me these days
There’s keys in their eyes but they locked from the inside

This is my condition:
Naked and hysterical
Reaching to grab a hand that I just slapped back at
This is my condition:
Desperate, alone, without an excuse
I try to explain
Christ, what’s the use?

The Butler Rises

 

I’ve always had a hard time writing to a specific theme. I could come home from a hockey game and write a better poem about baseball than hockey. All of this to say that I don’t think I have a specific Mother’s Day poem in the archives. I do have this, written in 2012, when the kids were still 1 and 3 years old. I was only just starting to get good at this dadding business, and their mother’s work travels left them very much longing, and I with my hands very full. I was still working full time then as well, so it was a whirlwind. We celebrated her returns:

The Countermeasure

Mama’s coming home today!
In anticipation, the pancakes fly
From the children’s plates
To the dog, through the sky.
Mama’s coming home today!

The sun makes noise to celebrate!
In obeisance, the butler rises
To quiet the household’s gears
With oils, and compromises.
The sun makes noise to celebrate!

Mama’s coming home today!
In preparation, a runner’s sent
To deliver the angels’ praise
For surviving, and keeping up the rent.
Mama’s coming home today!

………

She hasn’t traveled for months now, and that is what we celebrate. Here’s to a world waking itself up to travel, and a love that never leaves home.

 

 

The Danger of Overstatements

Fake News!

Let us say that only Everest for the mountains
and the Sequoia for the trees
and the blue whale for the animals
(and if we must split land and sea
then it’s the elephant for me)
can be what we call giant.

I have seen the giant pacific octopus
and wished that it were bigger.

GO AHEAD

Happy to be full of it, sometimes

The last thing I ever want to do is the thing that everyone else is doing. For the purpose of this entry, that thing is playing the victim. Claiming specialness. I am not special. I am not a victim. But I am willing to observe, politely and mildly, that there is a bit of an extant sentiment in society that is, shall we say, ever-so-slightly in opposition to men. There’s lots of things we’re not supposed to be, depending on who you ask. But it’s all the same thing in the end, really. The thing we’re not supposed to be, is us.

So what. My entire childhood and adolescence were based on doing exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do. Big deal. Still, here I am: one of these men – at least in terms of biology and mentality – that we don’t seem to want much of. I write occasional poems in support of others like me because after three years in college, I learned more than anything that the most important thing to do is to celebrate and support with the greatest fervor those things that are the most like ourselves. The liberal arts world in college is a world based on the elevation of things of your own kind, and denigration of things outside of your own cultural circle. And also tolerance. Do what you will with that little contradiction.

I am aware of what kind of man I am. I only very occasionally build things, but I have an embarrassingly impressive array of tools. That kind of cliché. I fold laundry more than I hammer steel, I wash dishes more than I turn wrenches. My hands are not hard or large. I am tall but not imposing, and I am (he meekly admits) terrified of confrontations. My God, I think back over all of the fights I have craftily avoided in my life and I am not proud. But it’s still in there, that core thing, that masculinity that is called toxic nowadays. I know our need of it, and bristle at the mockery directed its way.

I am not here to argue against that. It strikes me as hypocritical in some ways. The masculinity I own and revere does not raise its voice to protest. It works and produces and creates and lets that action speak for it. It follows the cardinal rule of the writer in that it does not tell – it shows. I am here not to complain but to be a fan. To write up my support for the hard things that we are, and for the shittily unrefinable parts of our nature that I would not run from a fight to preserve.

Having said that:

GO AHEAD

Be dirty and don’t hide 
your large hands that could 
                    split timber.

They flip thin pages, too,
rattle pans and
feed their fighting heirs.

GO AHEAD

Be mean and lift the heavy thing 
and don’t mind making a little 
                    show of it.

Your beambroad back
can bear it and
won’t tremble in the least

GO AHEAD

Be hard, clumsy and cruel
and let the sneer of the timid 
                    mock itself.

You hardly can part 
from that look that
feeds you its forsaken strength

GO AHEAD

Be bare-knuckled and nude
because we need most what
                    no one wants.

The world knows and 
keeps a place 
for the things we expel.

 

Independence Day

Not THAT independence day.

Independence Day

Grandpa, Grandma, can we talk to you
	about our mom and dad?
	I don’t know quite what’s going on
	but things are getting bad.

	Dad’s been crying at the news 
	and his voice is higher pitched.
	His jeans get tighter all the time
	and there’s a limpness in his wrist.

	Meanwhile, mom’s been swearing more
	and wearing suits to her new job.
	She hasn’t fixed her hair in months
	and on weekends she’s a slob.

	Dad’s afraid of everything –
	plastic straws and – what’s a Russian bot?
	Last week was Independence Day,
	and he said he “just forgot.” 

	Mom hasn’t cooked a single meal
	since she went marching in D.C.
	And now our yard has all these signs 
	that say “welcome refugees.”

	Dad almost asked if it was right
	but she wouldn’t let him speak
	so he’s been getting craft beer growler fills
	every day for two straight weeks.

	We don’t know what to do right now
	We’re prolly just too young.
	But maybe you’ve got some idea
	of what’s been going on.

Granddaughter you’re a clever girl
	and grandson you’re no fool.
	So we’ll tell you something here and now
	that you’ll never learn in school.

	You’re noticing about your folks
	that something’s kinda wrong.
	It’s not just them – it’s everywhere.
	We’ve been watching all along.

	If it’s hard these days with mom and dad,
	to know just which is which
	You may not have the words for it,
	But your dad’s your mommy’s– 

You’re right, grandpa, school’s no help
	our teachers are all so strange.
	They say two-plus-two and Judy Blume
	both equal climate change.
	
	They took us out of class one day
	to line up on main street
	with signs that said the world would end
	from the President’s next tweet.

	I just want to build some things,
	and when sister tries to sew
	they swear that STEM’s the thing for her
	and I’m privi- toxi- I don’t know!

	Do you think that you could talk to them?
	To our parents and the school?
	Tell them that they’re scaring us
	and that they all seem real confused.

We surely could go talk to them
	but they hate that we’re so old.
	We remind them of the ways they’ve failed
	and the truths they’re scared to know.

	There’s a wisdom in our wrinkled skin
	that they’re trying hard to kill.
	And if kids like you are catching on
	they’ll start trying harder still.

	For now it’s good you’re noticing
	and that your guts say it’s not right.
	Just keep each other close at hand –
	pick your spots, and fight your fights.








2016 (Asking After Your Brothers)

Questions…

They say in the aftermath 
	the evil’s come out
but the evil out there 
	lives in their mouths.

So it’s something to look around
face to face, hue to hue
listen to someone being accused
	...and know...
	...and know...
the opposite’s true.

I think you dig me, Mr. Hughes

And when you said you -
a Kentuckian -
were brothers with an African
that was fine  

and I mean that the good way you would mean it
back in your place and time,
not sarcastic like we do in mine.

But I wondered (this one's harder
	...I know...
	...I know...)
could you have reached your other brotherhand
to secure a little kinship
with a white man?

Talk about fine!

Yes

Don’t look back

God has taken from us the sun, 
which loving was too much like firefly July, 
watching our brother kiss the girl 
we were too little to love 
but loved! 
with cloying loyalty anyway.

A name in a notebook 
and the little electric leavings 
	of her path across our sky.

But must we just go sunless sad, 
wearing moods like wet vestments 
at a mirthless service? 

		No!
 
We kick wet leaves 
on the cooling coals of long November
and hoist such a hard, proud December 
that our summerlost girl 
- hand still in rival’s hand - 
turns in a wistful flourish 
to look back once upon us 
and wish that she 
were half so free 
as we.