this is terrible of me to say because no one is really hurt by people writing bad poetry but
holy shit, read some contemporary poetry before you write something and call it a poem
this is terrible of me to say because no one is really hurt by people writing bad poetry but
holy shit, read some contemporary poetry before you write something and call it a poem
Before she boarded the bus, she looked her mother
in the eye and lied. She had never lied—not about
pocketing the pack of Wrigley’s, not about the dead mouse
in her brother’s bed. But she lied about Jesus.
“I know him like a hand on my neck and beads which have slipped
through my fingers as prayers.” But she lied
about Jesus. Her mother didn’t know she meant,
“In the night like a moth flicking its wings against
the porchlight.” Her mother knew Jesus for years
before the first child, back when she scrubbed pajamas
in a birdbath and rubbed her sagging eyes. Others talked
and murmured in the corners of her ears, but she washed
until her fingernails split and her knuckles flaked, and when
her daughter lied, she believed, because she had forgotten the smells
of the market, the fabrics in their colors spilling, baskets
erupting melted jewels, the tang of the foodstands mixing
and hanging in the nostrils. So she believed, not knowing
her daughter meant, “A man in the attic, hot and metallic
in her teeth, hand sprung like small brown bows.”
I brake and turn for the Shell Station on the cusp
of town so I can buy rolling papers, a Hundred Grand,
and pump some gas. The cashier smiles at me with ancient
elbows and two missing eye-teeth. The spot on her left breast
for a nametag is bare. The hill out back behind
the Grub Mart props up an ungrateful Windstar, rusting
on the too-green grass like a wounded
animal or a beached whale. A man in a hat opens
the door, the bell smacking its lips at me, and I hear
a strain of “God’s gonna cut you down” murmur
from pump three. I imagine the Windstar
crumble to a chrome, sparkling dust and sifted through
the grass and gone, obliterated by the sun until
the grass remains and waves and
flowers, stretching toward the air hard and fast like a
boy escaping the school bell.
The world begins again, hooves press the carpet
of the hill, battles cascade the slope in rifle balls and
bowie knives, husbands and wives recline with terriers
and kids. I row my boat through the years
until I boomerang back around. The clock hands
circuit enough times that the hatted man yanks
the door and Johnny Cash ushers the first clangs
of “Green River.” The heat squeezes my neck, and I
take my change, the cashier’s tongue pressed through
the holes, back, forth, tick tock.
there’s an ice cream truck near our house and it’s playing a loop of Yankee Doodle interspersed with sounds of children going MA-HAAAA
Our ice cream man was a Jamaican guy with a shotgun.
I bought the shit out of some ice cream. Even though the song was “Oh Susanna” interspersed with dog barking noises. It was way weird, man.
I want 3000 words today, self! Now get down on the ground and give me… uh. Three thousand.
Guys. Guys. Guuuuuuuuys.
WRITING IS HARD D:
I’m pretty pleased with myself so far, though. A tidbit for all the people who don’t give a shit:
Speaking of queens, she decided she must look the part of one, if the stares were any indication. She tried to ignore them as she moved toward the auciton room. A familiar voice stopped her short, however.
“Hey, Princess — I mean, Lady Kisaragi, you look like hot stuff tonight.”
Yuffie turned, and to Reno’s visible surprise, delivered him a shallow bow. “Reno,” she said, unable to keep her genuine pleasure and amusement from her tone, “and Elena,” she added, bowing to the blonde woman who trailed behind her redheaded partner.
She heard shutters clicking and knew the press was going to have a field day with her deference for the Shinra dogs. She didn’t care. The world needed a reality check — she had respect for the ex-Turks. They worked for the WRO, and she would not tolerate any more bad words for them. They had done good work for a number of recent years, the world was not black and white, and she was tired of animosity, tired of games and grudges.
“Where’s Rude?” she said in the slightly awkward silence. Reno smirked, his scars stretching, no longer off-kilter at her actions. “He drew the short straw. Then again, he never really was much for parties, the big guy.”
She didn’t question it. She guessed Rude was probably perched in some high place with a very slick gun and a high-powered scope. Yuffie felt a little better knowing it and entertained, not for the first time, thoughts of training her guards in some of the Turk methods. They would do well for it.
Yeah. Hot off the press, so highly unpolished but damn if I’m not going to enjoy this next scene. 70,000 words, here I coooooome!
When I woke to find you staring from behind a mountain
of smoke, framed by the riotous orange wallpaper and
the delicate bedposts, I knew our story would
never be told. I knew I could not speak your name
the right way, curling from my mouth and through
my arched, frenetic fingers. We would be a story in thirds,
scattered and incomplete like gunpowder, told in your
saloon’s shadow and transfigured by high noon, melodious
footsteps, and a horse. The horse is important. I’ll
recall your hand on the flank. I’ll recall
the three nights’ ride and the foam on your knuckles
and the sweat clinging to your yellow whiskers.
Afterward, after the lies—25 years of nothing and
Our story is nothing—afterward, go back to the
beginning. Part the smoke like a woman’s hair and smear
your lips down my braid, my arms still covered and proper.
No jacking my petticoats with your sand-bitten nails, I say.
No flicker of your pupils in the fire, no heat in the
heat. I tell no nights soaking in stars and snake venom.
Just of three-feet distances between and spitting out grit,
blood, bits of sky. Above, it stretches
over and around to beneath you, so long, so old.
We tread clouds and cornbread, fingers licked, locked
“Can you hold this robot? It’s too heavy.” — Boy in the furniture salvage store
“Feeling pressured to do something by the eyebrows of others?” — Dana, reasoningwithvampires
(Selecting lines at random from The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, then crafting them into something entirely different, then stringing it all together in an attempt to actually write something decent for once. Don’t really think it worked, but oh well. Practice is as practice does.)
It takes a special obscurity to rot
bananas like this house does, all
flapping, gummy rinds spotted
in the window, hungry deer gazing
in, then fleeing at the creak on the stairs,
the percolating coffee.
My flea-bitten hip bumps the fruit bowl atop the dish
washer, and in that moment, I can’t tell what is a
good war or a bad war and whether my father likes Ann
Coulter or just likes
brown, creased apples.
When I run over the oppossum tonight
I smell hot, wet pavement and, curiously,
My brother rains at times, feels unwanted and beats
his shivering, brand new puppy when it pisses
hot and fresh
on his bedspread. The puppy comes back thick and grateful,
all cow spots and pink belly. My brother will smoke
until his hands become wise, until his fingernails
wither. Nicotine and tall tales and thieving for drug-money.
I don’t want to write about death — they all do —but
then the bananas blacken and Aunt Fran shrinks
beneath cancer from the waist up, and I beat
a single drum on a oppossum with my tires, smash
a cricket for singing
too loud in the stems of the peace lily
and some muggers kill Steve Gale, a friend of a friend
on the internet, and a motorcyclist lies prone in
chunks of plastic as I pull over
for the ambulance.
by Howard Nemerov
Late in August, when the summer wears thin at the seams, and the patchy clouds have scrubbed the moon bright-eyed and clean, I run over a opossum with my twenty-year-old Honda Civic. The thump rattles my crooked front teeth and my mind. A quarter of the mile down the road, I yank a hard u-ey and return to the junction of Whitesville Rd and Upper Big Springs Rd. I get out of the car.
My brother’s puppy puked on my passenger seat an hour ago, a livid orange protest painted in Chef Boyardee Spaghetti-O shades. An hour ago, I dropped off him, his dog, and his pregnant girlfriend. She is sixteen and wears a bow splashed with buffalo checks in her short red hair. Probably my seat will always look like I beheaded the worm from Tremors there. I’m so tired — of my mother and my brother and his pregnant girlfriend and the way he dropped out of school and his feather-light promises of GEDs and working at the Happy Stop.
I cannot find the opossum for several minutes, but it’s there, somewhere.
Hades dreams only once. In his sleep,
Persephone eats one pomegranate, hands
curved around the fruit. She pops the seeds
between her small white teeth, and juice trails
the length of her throat. He says, in the light
of a summer day, in the hush of real trees, he says,
Your eyes are like bluebells, like dust. She hikes
up her skirts and crooks a lock of hair
around one finger, a question mark. He is like
an artist in a wax museum, but her flesh stays
cool beneath his blazing hands, and her laughter
snags the sheets with a false ring.
She dreams only of pomegranates, the weight
in her palms, cupped, the skin broken in
her mouth. She flows beneath his hands,
a riotous burn. Demeter has taught her of men,
of Zeus and of greenery growing in the soil.
Demeter has not taught her to ignite as a candle
in Hades’ gaze. Persephone smiles, the slow swing
like a trap as the bards play laments on their lyres,
retelling for all: The Rape of Persephone.
Mom digs the curlers from my hair with acrylic nail precision. I just want to see how gorgeous it is, Sissy-bear. Hey, Tommy, take a picture with your telescopic zoom monstrosity. You can name it “Modern Misery” or “Mother and Daughter.” He coughs like an old door hinge and picks up a new Marlboro as the old one’s end still twinkles. Tommy Fincher, who has a hernia and asthma and smokes like a freight train, hands me a prism and watches with crystalline sensitivity as I peer at him through one side. He fuzzes apart at the seams, unraveling into red, blue, yellow. No ceiling fan knits his smoke, but an air purifier rasps under the taxidermy trophy on the wall, a large mouth bass gaping for the second-hand thrill. Every camera in the house, 17 total, models a smoke waistcoat, Tommy’s fingerprints a mash note declaration of his dedication, a delicate blazon of tinkering, loneliness. His grandchildren grin beneath gritty yellow glass, and I wonder if picking Tommy apart could be as simple as three primary colors. The purifier might wheeze a song, a sympathetic rattle rhythm to Tommy’s woolly drawl, the smile spreading across his face like lukewarm syrup as his eyes trace the veins in my mother’s deft hands. They loved each other once, tangled up in argumentative sheets together. Only a nicotine friendship remains, and he fiddles with the insides of a camera, then pins me beneath the lens. I am less a moth than he is, my mother his lightbulb fizzled. He will die of lung cancer someday, and I hope it is not soon. In his absence, the shutters will not blink anymore.
They powwowed, all eight teenagers and their mothers and their fathers. A scrap of paper matched the whites of Ronnie’s eyes as he stared down past his scrubby brownish knees, positioned Indian-style in the Leonis’ den. The shag rug itched. “How many times have you smoked pot?” He had imagined a summer unfurling into Aerosmith and Mr. Swanbeck’s hay barn in the country, not that pussy Pat Mulligan squealing louder than an escaped balloon.
“How many times have you smoked pot?” The nubby golf pencil scraped against his palm as he considered the answers, a roulette wheel in his mind: Never. Once. A few times. I’m stoned right now. James Sr. seized my father by the back of his 1974 auburn mane and said, “Me and Ronnie’re gonna have a real party, folks.” In the basement in Warren, Michigan, the suburban house frozen into the dirt by January, then baked in by July, my father’s eyes remained drier than the Gobi, brown and sparking as I knew them at birth, through life. On stroke twenty-five of The Stick—a three-inch thick, two-feet long section of floor molding used for punishment—my father deployed two tears, to end the beating.
He lined the siblings up like dolls, oldest to youngest—Melinda, James Jr., Cheryl, Debbie, and they watched with unblinking mannequin gazes as grandpa brandished the clippers like a rapier. “This is what happens to drug users in my house. Aloise, shave his head.” Aloise F. cried like a good mother and he said, “Shave the hair off his goddamn head or I’ll rip it all out with my bare hands.” Grandpa James ruled Machiavellian. My father begged then, “Mom, please, shave my head.” And they watched as each hank of red-brown hair fell dead to the carpet, flies or feathers or leaves shed for that Yankee winter of soul-freezing cold. He wore a wool knit cap for an entire summer and fall, no matter the heat or the setting—the table, school, to sleep. The welts on his thighs allowed no sitting for two weeks. The welts and his naked head allowed no speaking to his father for three years.
Ron Regier swipes the safety razor over his skull tanned with generous sun and hunger in the outdoors, and I watch, uncomfortable for the first time at age ten that my father will be bald. He snorts at my wide eyes in the mirror, his russet beard and mustache the only evidence of his lopped mop. When he’s through, I rub his shiny scalp all a-wonder at the polished rock feel, and his head tips back, his jaw stretches wide like some wisdom I didn’t understand then, and he laughs long from the belly.
(To be cut into poem form and re-drafted at a later date.)
In the movement of your shoulders, nothing spectacular or marvelous, but hypnotic, quixotic, a heave, a push. Can I be the stain on your collar, can I be the soft in your skin clean-shaven. Uneven nails you pick at your jeans, a thread unravels a fuse from one end to the beltloop, all collapsing kaleidoscope. Hello, sweetness, I don’t wanna be your shoebox like Catherine Bowman, no, just your tongue, your tralala, your doe a deer. The day you breathed first I was learning the taste of dirt face-first nosedive in the mud. You inhaled, so did I. You screamed and through the grass I tasted centipedes, Autumn, the footprints of everything. Before you, a man with a mouth like a couch told me I was sexy and touched my knees. Not your shoebox, maybe your hat on your copper hair to sit jaunty in the cold, in the chilly trust of winter. I admire the shoebox. Possibly another box, though, a jukebox, hundreds of records of Simon & Garfunkel, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers, you know the type—the wailing mournful melancholy ones that sound like love in hard times. Days that stretch screaming and end in footrubs, in ottomans. All these days I own the struggle of your shoulders, the shapely shape of your calves, the pattern of freckles sprinkled on your arms, the curl of your eyebrows laughing at me.
Once, my father climbed the corn silo while I, six years old
and ready to bolt, stood guard and watched for our angry landlord.
The air inside tasted of rust and pine straw and not like corn
at all, and the ladder ran rickety into the gloom. In my hands, a bicycle
bell warmed my skin like anticipation. At the stone farmhouse
in Brown City, MI, three barns, paint peeling in festive curls, rose from rows
of corn abandoned by even the bored scarecrow. The landlord, Mr. Epps,
wore a leather jacket, an American flag cracking on the back.
He looked my father in the eye and said with menace in his sibilants,
Stay out of the barns. Stay out of the locked room upstairs. My father smiled,
nodded, then staged a coup. We were Lewis and Clark,
Ponce de Leon and his one-girl crew, quixotic and curious.
The keyhole in the upstairs room gaped in invitation, and my father
picked the lock with me latched to his left elbow. I followed him into the secrets
of Epps: three broken lamps; a child’s bicycle crippled without wheels;
ten years of farmers’ almanacs, pages glued shut by water damage;
a headboard flawed by initials JCR+CLK nestled in a ragged heart; two dolls,
eyes caught half-open, arms stretched for absent mothers. A patina of dust
layered it all. From the handlebars of the bike, my father plucked an ancient
bell and caged it in my hands. He pulled the trigger, and it rang like a lake in thaw,
tentative and rushing beneath the surface. In barn two, Dad found
a deer carcass behind a false wall, the skeleton hung from hooks. I clutched
the bell, watched for Mr. Epps, waited to ring the alarm. Inside, in the ribcage,
in the plaintive light of the one high window, webs glittered. Spiders,
trapeze artists, spun like lazy masters in the space that had housed
lungs, electricity. Lacy curtains of skin dappled their stage. When he emerged
from the shadows of threshers, dirt striped the corners of his eyes and trailed
into his hair. He climbed the corn silo last. I wonder now: why didn’t he leave
me at home? My father came back from second shift as a factory rat
at Guardian Automotive every night and burned a cigarette on the porch, the smoke
curled around his hairline already receding. One day he brought home
a box with two ducklings inside, and then he looked into my mother’s eyes
and saw unanswered phone calls, the shadow of skipped sermons,
the contours of cold sheets. He took me by the hand and taught me
to escape, to thrill, to discover before the red maw of a barn stopped weakening
my knees, before a tadpole sprouting legs stopped widening my eyes.
In the silo, I saw no one, but I rang the bell once, frantic, and the sound bred
against the walls. My father climbed to the top anyway. When he came down,
he knelt and rang it in my hands, sat cross-legged in the barren tunnel and rang it,
and the sound went on for miles.
The tidal pools hush a rhythm into her midnight work—
a careful weave here, no mistakes—a net knotted in the kelp of
her home. Bright but fragile, the sand castle girl awaits
a hurricane to sough away the sand. She waits,
net in hand, ready to snare a wish. Blood thrums behind
her gums, the ocean puckers her skin, and she waits.
Hair collects at the corner of her mouth, snags the color
of wet parchment, and the waves scrawl
a message in the beach. The sea, in all its turbulent, tempestuous
finery, extends one finger to her hollows, to the tick-tock
rhythm and grasps with a shark’s intent. Her elbows dip
to the horizon, and she casts the net. Fish, bright and
fragile, flip helter-skelter into the sand at her feet.