dimanche 26 octobre 2008

as your eye finds me

before your camera

i'm too self-conscious
you can see it in my eyes
and read it in my smile
i'm trying too hard
to be beautiful

my mother was beautiful
elizabeth taylor beautiful
i'd stand at her side
as she brushed her hair
put lines on her eyes
like a cat or cleopatra

lips perfect, brows narrowed
cheeks flushed with apple
and those round, full
breasts that took away
my breath whenever she
held me too close

(me and everyone else)

and i'd think never before
was a child so ugly
they'd scream you're a witch
they'd chant you're a freak
with my long thin nose
like a goddamned ski slope

i believed myself an
orphan, i couldn't be her
daughter, no wonder she
was ashamed of me and
had no time to listen
to my songs and poetry

all i had was words for
charms, magical words
to draw the stars and to
understand what earth could
hold and could not hold
this bag of skin and bones

(ontologically insecure)

i learned to frame
a line of verse and hold
it up like a beggar's cup
collect their awe and smile
and bow, a gallant minstral
or perfect clown

i learned to dance and
shake my hair and put
on makeup (just a touch)
i wore strange clothes and
starved myself until i
looked a part of smart

but little did i know that
beauty can hurt, it aches
with the pain of a one
night stand, so i learned
to love my funny frame
and to turn on a dime

(and drew men like flies)

beauty is only skin deep
she'd say, then enter my
classroom with a long sashay
and i was so proud even
if she was not mine, i'd
claim her anyway anytime

just as you claim me now
as your eye finds me out
and you focus in and
click, and i turn and dance
a quickly jig to make you
laugh, and then look up

my eyes are larger from
below, i stare at the lens
and shuffle and glow
i'm beautiful in your eyes
i know, and i'm just not
comfortable and it shows

(i make myself small)

learning to love yourself
is hard, harder than hard
when you're born so weird
but you come to see that
your soul is transparent
in someone's caring heart

in someone else's frame
there's a little bit of star
there's glamor in a camera
when it's filled with love
and the dance has begun
with a jig and a nod

and i'm not afraid
to play the fool and pretend
to be beautiful just for you
and i'm amazed as i see
the pictures you've shot and
can't believe it's me

(uniquely wrought)

samedi 25 octobre 2008

random thoughts on misunderstandings

each one unique
yet all the same
we break our bread
then lay our blame

offer up love
then hit the fan
overrated balm

i'm just a worm
lying in wait
for another corpse
on which to eat

forgive me
i'm slimy
a pestulance
of neo-psychology

each one unique
yet all the same
we lay down odds
to frame a debate

one is rich
and one is poor
we feast on lore
grapple with god

educate ourselves
about the cold
put a sweater on
and just shut up

i've had enough
of deep division
i'm going fishing
in a frozen pond

maybe i'll sleep
perhaps just nod
as beautiful souls
turn into frogs

i'll steep myself
for a second time
in lore's bright colors
and poetry's rhyme

forgive me, i'm
but a ranting log
replete with bugs
and dessicated wood

i'm outside in
and leftside right
i'm torn asunder
by frozen blight

each one the same
yet each one unique
opening blithely
closeting the cheek

trying to belong
aching to be better
with horses naying
and rag-a-tag weather

i'll put me to bed
wake up, try again
but i'll never quite get it
will i, dear friend?

each one the same
each one a god
we'll die before
we understand it all

lundi 20 octobre 2008

night, les vers

i wrote a version of this poem a year ago in paris and over this week have completed it. it's one of those rare poems that, no matter how long i rework it, i find myself dissatisfied. finally, i had to admit the reason: a long-standing grief.

when i was in college studying french and english, i discovered an amazing word in the french language, "vers". this beautiful word means both "lines of poetry" as well as "worms", and with this discovery wrote the most amazing poem in french that i have ever written, about a dead poet who cannot stop articulating "les vers", even as he lies beneath the earth and "les vers" pour from his mouth.

i was in a writing and conference at the time with jeanne bernard, the first french woman elected to the académie française for her teaching in an american university. madame bernard loved "les vers", and after we had worked on the poem for an hour, i returned in my youthful exuberance to give the newly penned poem to her as a gift but without keeping a copy for myself! this was in part, i believe, based on an old idea i held and practiced about writing: i would lie on my stomach in the backyard and pen poems into the dirt with my finger, one word upon the other, believing that all poetry, great and small, would eventually be distributed to the wind. i was probably right, but this hasn't helped the loss i've felt over that remarkable poem, my only recompense being that it was her to whom i had given it.

i've been trying to recreate it ever since without success. in paris, i decided that i would try my hand at a variation in english. while it is nowhere near the perfection of the first, i accept this poem for what it is, even as i must accept my earlier folly, and as the poem attempts to articulate, live with the eternal trials of a poet who longs for an earlier muse.

night of infinite hours

night sans sleep (again)
this no-dreaming pushes
away all the fight in me:

i opened iris bulb in lamp light
with blue and weepy eyes
i dug green shoots into
brown earth, lay erect

felt the cold smoothness
of les vers between my toes
lines of life, worms of death
that leave their trail of nutrients

i savored sweet and bitter loam
its tangy bronzed metals
burned lines into my entrails
i sucked in stinging rain

"Pluck, pluck"
the devil whispered then
and i on my belly tore at roots
like coarse and hanging threads

fragile and starved
and i was their cause
i'll pay any price
to assuage that sin

i'm not where i was
in the beginning

o i used to be much better when
les vers made felt their presence
i could find matter in the dark
and transcend any form

bridging bilingual
with infinite sibilants
like flowers strewn
on a beautified corpse

i was not afraid to die then
i dug in with horrific force
and made the earth
warm and pliant

la nuit me manque quand
huddled with thought
i swallowed red clay
then spit it out, blackened

o unearth my silent thought
break my bones
and shatter my heart
night comes, sans vers

naked and robbed
drenched, torn and cold
my blood no longer boils
with ancient song

a cold blank page
is all that is left
when the worms retreat
and the tongue grows deaf

and the earth opens up
and no flower can stay
when les vers retreat
it's forever day

mercredi 15 octobre 2008

the day my shit got fouled up

the day my shit got
all fouled up
i said, shit or get off
and got off 'cause
you can't straighten
out your shit when
your gut is removed
from your head

a bell went off
and i thought it was
time to bake a loaf
time for the risin'
to be riz so it seemed
but what seems is
not what i bought
or its origin

the pillbox was
hid behind a
bright coffee cup
the bell went off
and i thought
best not to forget
what? the bell
that goes off 3 X
per 24 hours

but today my
shit is all twisted
and the bell just
signifies any bell
and the pills still
sit in their stall
and i'm wonderin'
what the hell?

why is my shit
all fisted in my gut
why's the sound
of a whistle in my
ears and the pangs
of despair and the
fangs of pain
and the end of days

is the end of fear
shit, can't get worse
than this, can only
get better, like
"oh shit, i forgot
the fucking meds
again" and set the
little bell that
rules my world

dimanche 12 octobre 2008

Webster, Mass. - 1972

Shufflin' around this lousy town
I mixed with free radicals and crazies
left my dna in all the wrong places

Mother scolded me about the black
guys I liked, she warned me
mulatto kids have a very hard time

I strummed my guitar in the park
then played opposite Bonnie Raitt
asked her for a Kool and just saved it

Shy to the max and passive
Lots of guys had me and a few women
fancied me when I drank with them

One wrapped me up in her long red hair
made me sing like Bessie Smith
then winked, diss'n me 'til I kissed her

We'd sit in one of those throwaway bars
pretendin' to be older divas and dons
only to be thrown out for being loud

It was disco, Sartre and Frisco
It was dreaming of getting out
but it was not knowing how

Smokin' the last of the grass
we'd lie in the van, sweaty and hard
six legs and six arms interlocked

By summer I was a boy:
Lake Chagogagog was muddy and warm
I swam everyday, cut my hair short

then hitchhiked to Boston
It was a much bigger ride there
It was too big and I missed my friends

As the seasons changed
and the chill kept coming in
I mailed myself back to Webster

Over and over again
Over and over again
Over and over again