Shane Hawley never fails to get a grin outta me.
... Love is not enough.
We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time.
-- Jack Gilbert
I’m meeting boys who like Charles Bukowski and they all want to do brutal things to my body. They tell me they buy a bottle of whiskey whenever they get one of his books and don’t stop reading till they’ve gone through a pack of cigarettes. They blow smoke in my face and say, “He was the outcast king of L.A. Did you know that, huh?” “Yeah, yeah, I know.” I say,“He’s great.”
A new boy gives me a worn copy of On the Road and thinks he’s being original. “We should explore the road together. Would you like that, baby?” I take a sip of my water and look away. Yes, I’d like that, I think. But he’s drunk and imagining himself sixty years earlier, in the back of a bar, sweating to the sound of live bop. Still, I prefer him to the hungry boy that devoured my shirt and said, “You have a tattoo? What’s it say?” ‘mad to live?’ What, are you angry about living? Aw, I’m just kidding, come here, let me take off that bra.”
The next boy I kiss doesn’t read. I ask him to come to a bookstore with me and he stays outside, sighing. He has no interest in words. He has no interest in me. I am thankful for him. For a few weeks, I am able to shed my habit of thinking obsessively and become a duller, rougher version of myself. I dump him when my fingers start turning imaginary pages in my sleep.
I go on a date with a boy who knows I like to write. He calls himself a fan of mine and swears he’s read every word I’ve put down. “You’ve got this voice that’s very modern, but also so classic.” I choke on my water as he says, “I read you to fall asleep.” At night, I listen to him pant metaphors and compare my mouth to the sea. One day, he stumbles across my journal and finds nothing about himself in it. “You don’t really love me, do you?” I shake my head. There is no use pretending anymore. He has read my poems about the boys I want to drown in me. His goodbye leaves my hands covers in ink. He wanted me so badly to be the sea, when all I am is a girl who writes poetry.
I try my best to become poetry. I take a bath and stain the water with black ink. I cut my hair in a motel sink. I cry for people I have never met. I start smoking cigarettes. I use words like “presumptuously” and talk about “post-modernist new wave.” I walk the streets at 4 a.m. and smile at people coming home from a rave. I wear sunglasses indoors. I carry a 500 page volume of poems wherever I go. I drink coffee instead of water. I talk about the “advantages of using film and listening to records.” But no matter how hard I try, I am not the sea. I am a sunken ship that has drowned in everyone who touched me."
I Am Not The Sea | Lora Mathis (via soggypoetry)
The Happiest Day
It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn’t believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of the lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day—
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere—
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then…
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.
What We Want
What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names—-
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.
There Are Poems
There are poems
that are never written,
that simply move across
on a still day:
slowly the first word
the last letters dissolve
on the tongue,
and what is left
is the pure blue
of insight, without cloud
"Success isn’t what makes you happy. It really isn’t. Success is doing what makes you happy and doing good work and hopefully having a fruitful life. If I’ve felt like I’ve done good work, that makes me happy. The success part of it is all gravy."
Philip Seymour Hoffman
William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
My mother died one summer—
the wettest in the records of the state.
Crops rotted in the west.
Checked tablecloths dissolved in back gardens.
Empty deck chairs collected rain.
As I took my way to her
through traffic, through lilacs dripping blackly
and on curbsides, to pay her
the last tribute of a daughter, I thought of something
I heard once, that the body is, or is
said to be, almost all
water and as I turned southward, that ours is
a city of it,
one in which
every single day the elements begin
a journey towards each other that will never,
given our weather,
the ocean visible in the edges cut by it,
cloud color reaching into air,
the Liffey storing one and summoning the other,
salt greeting the lack of it at the North Wall and,
as if that wasn’t enough, all of it
ending up almost every evening
inside our speech—
coast canal ocean river stream and now
mother and I drove on and although
the mind is unreliable in grief, at
the next cloudburst it almost seemed
they could be shades of each other,
the way the body is
of every one of them and now
they were on the move again—fog into mist,
mist into sea spray and both into the oily glaze
that lay on the railings of
the house she was dying in
as I went inside.
Guante - “Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’ “
"We teach boys how to wear the skin of a man, but we also teach them how to raise that skin like a flag and draw blood for it."
Two-time National Poetry Slam champion Guante, performing at Madame in Minneapolis.
This is grand.
To The Harbormaster
I wanted to be sure to reach you;
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks, it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.
For months my daughter carried
a dead monarch in a quart mason jar.
To and from school in her backpack,
to her only friend’s house. At the dinner table
it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast.
She took it to bed, propped by her pillow.
Was it the year her brother was born?
Was this her own too-fragile baby
that had lived—so briefly—in its glassed world?
Or the year she refused to go to her father’s house?
Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?
This plump child in her rolled-down socks
I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me
and carry safe again. What was her fierce
commitment? I never understood.
We just lived with the dead winged thing
as part of her, as part of us,
weightless in its heavy jar.
From the Long Sad Party
Someone was saying
something about shadows covering the field, about
how things pass, how one sleeps towards morning
and the morning goes.
Someone was saying
how the wind dies down but comes back,
how shells are the coffins of wind
but the weather continues.
It was a long night
and someone said something about the moon shedding its
on the cold field, that there was nothing ahead
but more of the same.
a city she had been in before the war, a room with two
against a wall, someone dancing, someone watching.
We began to believe
the night would not end.
Someone was saying the music was over and no one had
Then someone said something about the planets, about the
how small they were, how far away.
Here and Now
There are words
I’ve had to save myself from,
like My Lord and Blessed Mother,
words I said and never meant,
though I admit a part of me misses
the ornamental stateliness
of High Mass, that smell
of incense. Heaven did exist,
I discovered, but was reciprocal
and momentary, like lust
felt at exactly the same time—
two mortals, say, on a resilient bed,
making a small case for themselves.
You and I became the words
I’d say before I’d lay me down to sleep,
and again when I’d wake—wishful
words, no belief in them yet.
It seemed you’d been put on earth
to distract me
from what was doctrinal and dry.
Electricity may start things,
but if they’re to last
I’ve come to understand
a steady, low-voltage hum
must be arrived at. How else to offset
the occasional slide
into neglect and ill temper?
I learned, in time, to let heaven
go its mythy way, to never again
be a supplicant
of any single idea. For you and me
it’s here and now from here on in.
Nothing can save us, nor do we wish
to be saved.
Let night come
with its austere grandeur,
ancient superstitions and fears.
It can do us no harm.
We’ll put some music on,
open the curtains, let things darken
as they will.