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Category: My poems

POEM: It’s not me, it’s you (November Poem-A-Day 24)

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This is poem #24 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. Today’s prompt was to write a “spaces” poem.

It’s not me, it’s you

You stay there.
I wish you were here, you said,
but it’s best for all concerned
if you stay where you are
and come no closer.

I have since turned off my phone
because the ringing
sounds like distance.

I bought a special scale
from an old man in Chinatown.
He said it measured regret.
At first I didn’t believe him.
Then he reached into my chest
and pulled out my heart.
Placed it on one side of the scale.
Told me exactly,
to the day,
how long it had been.

My new toy is here, in the kitchen.
I am sitting at the table right now
looking at it.
Next to it, in a small velvet-
covered box,
is my heart. As it turned out,
the man was better at removing
and weighing
than he was at restoration.

It’s OK, I tell myself.
I wasn’t using it anyway.
It’s not me, it’s you, you said.

Before I turned off my phone.

So I am sitting here at the
kitchen table, deciding what to put
in the space where my heart
used to be.

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POEM: Can this be how life unfolds? (November Poem-A-Day 23)

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First and foremost (and totally unrelated to this poem) — Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister, Gretchen!

This is poem #23 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. Today’s prompt was to write a poem using a specific poetic form. I’ve done that, and I’ll leave it to you to figure out the form I used. Good luck!

Can this be how life unfolds?

Am I to travel down this
road alone, suitcase in hand?
Or is there some other way? Will
love soften my path,
even as I hang my head and
expect the worst?

Daughters of Odysseus crowd
around me, pulling at my clothes.
Whence come their songs in this
night of all nights?

Seven times seven stars hang above my
head, a crown fit for a king,
even one with no subjects.
Rarely do I consider the alternative,
wish upon one of those distant jewels.
Only you can understand my song,
only you can make sense of the story I have set
down on this tattered, tear-stained parchment.

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POEM: Protest (November Poem-A-Day 22)

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This is poem #22 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. Today’s prompt was to write a poem that takes a stand. As is often the case, this poem takes a stand … and a left turn into weird territory.

Protest

I am holding a sign, it says:
DON’T KISS HIM!
in block letters.
I wrote it last night, overcome
by righteous indignation.
I stand before you,
brothers and sisters,
as a man without a country.
A wanderer in the pale lands.
I have an expired passport —
the picture is an x-ray of my chest
with an arrow pointing to the middle
and the words “You Are Here”
in friendly red letters.
I will chain myself
to the gate of her house
while the bulldozers approach,
bent on my removal.
Brothers and sisters,
I will not waver in this struggle,
though history and time and
a thousand sharp words
cut me to the quick.
I have a dream that is becoming a nightmare.
This sign and these words are my gift to all of you.
Remember me.

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POEM: Always

Listen to this poem using the player above.

I’m losing my voice today, which has the positive side effect of lowering it by about an octave. This is how I wish my voice always sounded. So I took advantage of this illness to record an audio version of this poem. The music is “The Lady of Khartoum” from the album The Lady of Khartoum (Creative Nation Music, 2008). Thanks to Eric Hofbauer and Garrison Fewell for allowing me to use the music. Buy their album, OK? It’s brilliant.

Always

Who is anyone to say always?
Always is a lie. Perhaps
a white lie, told to stave off
loneliness, to salve the bite
of the onrushing winter
and its gray mornings.
Always is a road with a sharp bend
around which can be seen … nothing.
Nothing at all. And the future rushes
toward us around the corner and we,
for all our best intentions,
are forever unprepared.

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POEM: permission slip (November Poem-A-Day 21)

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This is poem #21 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. My poetry tractor has apparently driven into a ditch and I am therefore confined to writing on one topic and one topic only. Ah, well.

permission slip

here is your hall pass
my room is at the end of the hall

you’ll recognize the painting
you were there when I got it

please don’t linger in the hall
just come straight to my room

I’ll be sitting in bed, reading
but as is my habit these days

I’ll be reading only so my mind
has some words to swim in

while I think about you
my delicious affliction

I’ll put the book down
when I hear your footsteps

and if the light is just right
you’ll see me smile as you enter

and if the light is just right
you may notice my cheeks are wet

and if the light is just right
that won’t matter

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POEM: The movie Tombstone is first and foremost a love story

I love, love, love this movie. I’ve watched it many times (most recently tonight) and I’ve always liked the love story the best.

The movie Tombstone is first and foremost a love story

Sure, Wyatt Earp chased down
the dreaded Cowboys.
But when that was done,
he found Josephine
in a theater dressing room
and they danced in the snow
for the rest of their lives.

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POEM: What used to be on the jukebox (November Poem-A-Day 20, take 2)

This is my second stab at a “what is right or wrong” poem for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. “Stab” is probably the right verb, too. Ethics, shmethics. Am I right?

What used to be on the jukebox

Happier Than The Morning Sun

crying
into the dishwater

“Every day I searched for the star
that never was in the sky.”

two phones, a satellite, outer space

“Now I see
this star is on the Earth.”

in the western desert
shining out past the neon facades

of the casinos
perfect metaphor for risks taken
losses suffered

the dishwater went cold hours ago

still standing in the kitchen

the song repeats
without mercy, without mercy

the house is time
the house always wins

he leaves empty-handed
wanders into the desert night

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POEM: The philosopher sits on the mountain top and argues with an echo (November Poem-A-Day 20)

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Poem #20 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. The prompt was to write a poem about what’s wrong or what’s right. I’m not thrilled with this one — it feels trite.

The philosopher sits on the mountain top and argues with an echo

this is wrong
        this is right
this is a mistake
        this is long overdue
this is not how I planned it
        these are choices beyond strategy
this is a turn in the road
        the road is a circle
this is not me
        this is exactly you
this is too painful
        the pain means it’s working
this is a sign of weakness
        this is a sign of recognition
this is the end
        this is the beginning

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POEM: She leaves, and takes everything with her

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She leaves, and takes everything with her

So this is what she had felt,
all those years ago.
He hadn’t realized,
hadn’t been able to accept how it hurt
to lose the center of the world.
Now he stood on the pier,
watched her sail away,
felt his soul sink beneath the waves,
to drown in an ocean of tears,
like the poets write about.

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POEM: Lost and found (November Poem-A-Day 18)

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This is poem #18 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. Today’s prompt was to write a “lost and found” poem. I decided to use that as the title as well as the inspiration. I posted an audio version of this one, too. That’s something I haven’t done in a while.

Lost and found

I’m not sure how many more times I can rewrite this poem
you were there, then you weren’t
then you were there again, then I wasn’t
then we were both there, but you came only part of the way
into the room

Stevie Wonder has been playing on my stereo all day
the good records, from the period when he had harnessed
all the music in the universe and pressed it onto wax
I dance while doing the dishes, dance while sweeping the floor
my hummingbird heart singing fragments of lost songs

for years my stomach hurt
it hurt every day, often most of the day
doctors put tubes and cameras and chemicals in there
trying to get to the cause
only to discover (years later)
that they were looking at the wrong organ

today my stomach doesn’t hurt, it just vibrates
like a train is running through it
like my spine is wired to the grid
I send out my messengers with their instructions
most never return, or they bring back indifferent tidings
I can hear the distant sounds of warfare

will you come back to me? can you?
is “back” even the right word?
you should have cut down that tree years ago, you told me
before the roots got under the house and cracked the foundation
and its branches threw the bedroom into shadow

now my axe is sharpened
I am standing in the yard
on a cold November night
I await your command
kiss me, and I will swing the blade

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POEM: Tell my why this happened (November Poem-A-Day 17)

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Poem #17 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. Today’s prompt was to write a “tell me why” poem.

Tell me why this happened

Why it took me so long
Why you called
Why time runs in a circle
        but never repeats
Why it took you so long
Why I answered
Why this commercial plays
        over and over
Why last night was different
Why the other nights were the same
Why some are alone, and some are not
Why this hummus tastes like summer
Why it took us so long
Why you called
Why I answered

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POEM: Weight (November Poem-A-Day 16)

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This is poem #16 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. The prompt was to write a “stacking” or “unstacking” poem. I struggled with it until this evening when I was re-watching Unforgivable Blackness – The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, a documentary about the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson. Then this came to me.

Weight
(for Jack Johnson)

in this pile are:

nearly one million gallons of African blood

enough wood to put a COLORED sign on every water fountain

with enough trees left over to hang those three-quarter people from

ten thousand or ten times ten thousand children ripped from their mothers

blood snap of the leather whip on the backs of who knows how many

no one knows how many becaue no one bothered to count

and I ask you:

what does this pile weigh?

and who is strong enough to lift it?

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POEM: Cheerleader

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This is not part of the November poem-a-day thing. I wrote it at the basketball game tonight.

Cheerleader

I am waving.
I am waving.
I am waving.
No one is waving back.

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POEM: You can’t talk your way out of this (November Poem-A-Day 15)

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Poem #15 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. Today’s prompt was to write a “just when you thought it was safe” poem.

You can’t talk your way out of this

said the counselor, so I took the pills
let them dissolve into my bloodstream
within a few weeks, the sun
shone outside my bedroom window
and I lost 23 pounds, all from my psyche
I think we’re going to be OK, I told my wife.
I think this time we’re going to be OK.
On the dining room table, my teacup
started shaking. Do you feel that? she asked.
Feel what? I said.

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