Amotivational Wish

I don’t have to say it just because you want me to.

Not a typo. I wrote amotivational on purpose. That’s how this works.

College. Where I find unique challenges every day. I was able to say the same for the Army, but in the Army, motivation was either easy to come by, or all-too-readily available from any number of willing… mentors. In any case, you were simply going to do whatever was to do, and that was that. Rather parental, when parenting works.

In college, motivation can be more elusive. You are truly on your own here, and if the material presented does nothing to move you intellectually or emotionally, it can be hell to get started on a project. I suspect this is why so many students just do what they’re told and buy whatever narrative is sent their way. It eases the difficulty. There’s no real way, from the impotence of the student’s disposition, to ensure that the wheels get greased. So the student’s best bet is to become a wheel and catch as catch can whatever lube is dripped her way.  To wit: an hour in a literature class is plenty of time to know exactly what the professor professes in public and private, and there’s a real narcotic allure to the idea of getting ideologically on board. Your assignments will conform to your conformity, and the sad coitus between two beings of diminished creative ambition will spurt along at a potentially Dean’s-list-level of coursework.

I see it, as best I can, from a distance. I call myself a writer with some confidence now, having produced some papers for school that I am perfectly proud of, as well as having one poem published and another take honors in a competition. I am a writer. There is power there, that I don’t think my fellow majors understand. I can sit in these classes, listen to these teachers, read the little post-modern litanies of a liberal arts education, take in the constantly present sense that “seriously, just do it like us, it’ll be so much easier for both of us” – and still write what I want. All it takes is evidence, and if you read regularly, you become so stocked with the stuff that you could be the 163rd CSI incarnation. I could read a piece of feminist literature and write a 5-page paper that never mentions feminism. And as long as I find the evidence for my points in the paper itself, I am in the clear. That’s the real power of liberal arts, as it is supposed to be understood. The power of being a writer with a little actual resistance in her. The power of turning post-modernism against itself and recognizing how easy it is to be right, within the framework of today’s vacated artistry and dissipated standards.

One of the first things anyone should be able to recognize from inside of the vapid collegiate gestalt is that the last thing anyone should be giving it is what it asks for. Maybe I am uniquely capable of seeing this because I am a parent: I know that you can’t raise a damn thing – child or idea or machine – by giving it what it wants. You have to give it what it needs. The university doesn’t need feminist papers or anti-feminist papers. It wants them both, though, because in either case the student is still just a wheel, safely hubbed onto the framework. What the university does need is true papers, real papers that are disinterested in social propulsion or the narrowing effects of thought-building. The university does not need to be saved by noble conservative infiltrators and their stout anti-political messaging. That’s more of the same, anyway, and absurd. It needs, like a protest needs a mute button, apolitical messaging. It needs, in short, to be made to forget about itself for a while. Again, exactly the same way that a parent knows that a child in a tantrum is best served by a distraction. The university is child to the student, and the student needs to start distracting its disobedient charge from its own illogic. You don’t do that by shouting “NO!” or by presenting oppositional logic. That just keeps the focus on the locus. Distract, distract, distract. You do it with ice cream and tickle bugs, wisdom and wit. You make it get up off the ground by showing it the sky.

But as nice as all that is to wail about for a minute, it’s only a small part of motivation. For instance, I am about to read “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” It’s a challenge that I am simply not sure that I am the master of. It’s ok, though, because again, there is a distance I can keep. A professionalism, and an artistry, even. Sometimes all it takes is is to talk to myself for a moment, and pencil up a poem to buoy me through the surf:

Every Wish has a Rider“Your wish has been granted”
said the Genie to the girl at the protest march.
She rose,
stiffened,
held her sign erect and raised
a single finger for the patriarchy
(forgetting her father)
in permanent letters
on the tip of a
long wooden shaft.
She heard herself say
“Thank you, sir.”

 

In Which We Get What We Ask For

Yesterday’s poems, today!*

*Revised

On the draft of air displaced
over the heads of billioned minions
History whispers:

– out –

and is the only thing that leaves
the still dark office of morning.
Having hissed a warning and gone
to meet more of itself:

– rising –

and having got out,
is forgotten.

Much the way we advance
into a cubist’s missed perspective –
Everything in profile:

– sinking –

and having got in,
are forgotten.

Dawn Seeks Her Mother

Did I just write a sonnet?

Aurora chains anchors to fear-wedded birds
and waits for us, for men, to cut them free.
To hack, with reactions! with acetylene words!
til the broken links are piled on the cast metal scree.
Those traditional limiters now lay piled beneath
among remnants of anciently crafted submission
and the new soaring daughters have been bequeathed
a future of dear, long-sought admission.
But the birds simply rest upon their dropped fetters,
having seen all their sisters fly off and alight
on prison bars set by their corporate betters
where they’ve left their false chains for pilloried heights.
They’ve rushed to what’s promised but can’t find the grace
in a barren, uncertain, un-mothered place.

 

The March of Rain

MOAR POWETREE

Weekend postings are kind of, erm, weak, because nobody is at work. In other words, nobody is surfing the internet for hours, so you don’t get as many readers. I only get 5-10 visits on a weekday anyway, so I can’t get too hung up on details [barring the generosity of Gerard at American Digest (Don’t go, don’t click, whatever you do. You’ll hate it.), which can bring me 10x that many].

Interestingly, as I was typing this, I received a new follower. Thanks, Charly Priest at Crazy Life! Here’s a timely link for your timely follow. Looks like he writes poetry, and as I’ve always said: MOAR POWETREE. Like this, written over time, finished this morning in Starbucks after dropping off the Cherokee for some repairs:

The March of Rain

The Northwest rain has new weight this morning,
Each drop a long-shouted oath from the past.
Memories pool in the potholes
and around the leaf-clogged sewer drains.

The Arizona monsoons had extra anger.
A bridge-killing blitz of clandestine violence.
The tempestuous sentence that nonetheless
woke a torpid desert.
The smell was copper and dust –
fingers after counting the coin jar.

Different were the squalls of the Rockies.
An afternoon sky sunk to fearsome depths –
A swelling purple field over the foothills.
Thunderheads formed like squadrons of Zeros
that dropped their payload and moved on.
The blasted air all electricity and sage,
dispersing over the great plains to the East.

There were the thunderstorms of Illinois,
deliberate and grand.
Heralded by rumblings for hours
from the unknowable boundary of the prairie,
arrogant as an ancient army
behind the mandate of its gods.

The forested marches in the damp Carolinas.
A moment’s wet slumber under a strung poncho.
Soldiers pool in the foxholes
and around the mud-clogged mortar tubes.

 

 

(The False Sartre)

Clocking in with a playful one.

I can point my hands at numbered things
and I can perch upon the wall.
I can wear a face you see right through
and I can speed or I can stall.

But I cannot be the time I tell
nor the alarm you’ve come to hate.
I can only be the thing I am
and wake you up with your bad faith.

What Just Happened?

How does one go about celebrating one’s first publication? I say, I do it with lofty, rather British sounding English. I’m quite chuffed, and all that, even if it makes me sound a bit toff.

Dear Andy Havens,

Thank you for submitting to Fragments. We have decided to publish The Whole Sky, All at Once in this year’s edition. You will be invited to read/present your piece at a later date, this May. We look forward to seeing you there.

I’ve already made the obviously poor decision of wondering whether mine was the only submission, and that took some of the wind out of my sails (or took the piss, if I’m to stay on the British thing). But it’s an annual publication, so I have to believe that at least a few poems were dropped in the queue over the course of the submission period. I don’t know how long that period was, as I saw a notification for it just 2 days before it closed.

They have given me email addresses to contact concerning this whole thing, and I certainly will, what with that whole part about “read/present your piece.” Maybe I’ll do the ugly thing and ask how many other submissions there were. Maybe I’ll save myself the disappointment. I don’t know.

Here’s the big winner. It’s not the first time I’ve posted it here:

The Whole Sky, All at Once

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or you’ll never see the flash.
He would pull the Buick out to the street
and we sat like crooked teeth
in the yawning maw of the garage.
A storm coming deliberately at us
and the tornado siren
wailing with a bored urgency
like the ambulance of the great plains.
We pulled over.

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or you’ll always just miss it.
He would talk about seeing the whole sky
and we sat like crooked teeth
in the yawning maw of the garage.
We tried to look at nothing and everything
while the old corn across the street
whispered with a quickened urgency
like the dying secrets of the great plains.
We closed our ears.

You can’t look for the lightning
Dad said
or someone else will see it.