Friday, April 24, 2015

Napo 22 and VIPF BEGINS!


So it begins! The Valley International Poetry Festival!

Yesterday, we kicked it off with a lovely anthology release celebration and reading at the Mission Historical Museum. It was, in one word, magical. Truly. We sat out on the lawn and had a beautiful little picnic and poetry reading as the sunset. The only way it could have been better? If there was wine.

I was honored to have three poems in the anthology this year, and I read one of them at the reading. Always, though, the best part of the event is reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Some of the highlights of the night were meeting Laura Pena, my long-distance critique buddy, chatting up Shirley Rickett and checking out her new poetry collection, Transplant, and holding the new anthology, Boundless, in my hands.

The fun continued today at UTPA, where Mary Ann Escamilla and I hosted a poetry reading with PW Covington and Shirley Rickett for the campus community. It was relaxed, laid back, and a little low key. Tonight, we'll be at The Flying Walrus for a poetry slam! Will I slam? No. I never slam.

Anyway, onto NAPO:

Today's prompt was to write a response to a famous poem.

I just scrolled through The Poetry Foundation's website for a bit until I came across a "famous" poet -- you know the kind, the ones we read back in high school.

So I came across Yeats, his poem, Politics.

And it made me think about all the creepy old men who stare at women, like the speaker in this poem. I don't know, I have an odd relationship with COM...they're everywhere. They're harmless. Sometimes, they're kind of sweet, but most always, they're creepy and make me feel uncomfortable.

And so, here's my response, a bit more, hmm, postmodern/feminist:

Creepy Old Men

How can I, a creepy old man
Standing there at the podium,
Fix my attention on anything
But the curl at the corner
Of his smile, the naughty glint
In the corner of his eye
As I, engrossed in the words
That roll off his tongue, grasp
At a single lock of my hair
And twist it around my finger.

He knows what he’s talking about,
Theory and literature. He’s read
Everything and recites knowledge
like a prayer to some distant god
I've never met, will never meet.

And maybe what he says is true,
But he has no idea what it means
to stand anywhere but there, to be
A tulip sitting in a vase of water, 
Eager to slough her cerise petals
to the floor, wilting in quiet contemplation.

I want to be loved. Everybody does
To become body, to tell him
How it feels, whisper wisdom
In his ear and laugh together
At the irony of everything.

But I know what that look means –
He wants my silence.
He wants to feel young again.

He wants to hold me in his arms.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Photo Shoot! and Napo 21


So, I had a new experience recently!

A photoshoot!

Whaat?

My thoughts exactly.

But it actually was pretty fun. There I am, soaking it all in and getting my goddess on! Here's how it all went down:


Last weekend, I had the pleasure of getting interviewed for Beyond Arts Magazine. They cover all the arts events and happenings in the RGV, San Antonio, and Austin. It's actually a pretty nifty little magazine. Anyway, they wanted to do a little story on me and my award/book. Coolness, I say, and agree, not really sure what I was all getting into.

The interview goes well enough. I meet with Alyssa, the writer, at a local coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon, and she asks me smart questions about my book, my influences, and feminism. We have a great little chat, and then, as we're about to say our goodbyes, she asks me, "Oh, are you down for a photo shoot a little later in the week? We'll need some pictures for the magazine."

In my mind, I'm thinking it's just going to be Alyssa, taking a couple of pictures of me. So I say, sure, what the hey, I'm down for that. "Great," Alyssa replies, "meet me at The Cubby Hole and wear a dress and some cowboy boots."

...

Ok.

Now I'm getting a little nervous. A bar? In a dress? With cowboy boots? Ok, so the PERSONA in my book is a pretty fierce, powerful goddess. Me? Well... I'm a mortal, which means I'm a little self-conscious, shy, and, well, awkward. But it's too late, I've already agreed. There's no backing out. 

So, on the day of the photo shoot, I get dressed and B, there for moral support, takes me to the bar. And who's there to great me? A team of photographers. Pros. With fancy equipment. My nerves at this point are through the roof. The first words out of my mouth as I get out of the car are: "I've never done this before! I'm not a model!" but the photographers are totally cool about it and are filled with advice and encouragement.

The whole shoot takes almost two hours. They have me pose in about a million different ways, doing different things, always showing off my fancy-smancy cowboy boots. I try to look powerful in the pictures, mighty, goddess-like. It's just the strangest experience ever! Having a group of people fawning over everything I do, the way my hair lays on my shoulders, my the angle of my arms, the tilt of my head, my smile. Other than a few Marilyn Monroe moments with the wind and my undies, I think it went off without a hitch! By the end of the shoot, I think I'm getting the hang of it, starting to feel more like a goddess and less like a shy, nervous, introverted author. 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product! I am thinking the article will run in next month's edition of the magazine. We shall see!!!!

Today kicks off the Valley International Poetry Fest, so I am beyond excited about this. See the full schedule here! The Boundless Anthology is going to be released at the Mission History Museum, and I have three poems included. Woohoo! I will likely blog about it more tomorrow.


Here's my Napo 21!

Hummingbirds

Two hummingbirds outside my window dance
With one another, flit like acrobats
Around the feeder, touching beak to breast
To wing, buzzing with an urgency

To make the other disappear.
I wish they’d trust I’d always fill the feeder
With fresh nectar every day, that mine is a garden
Of plenty, a place of respite from the world outside,

a sanctuary for the thirsty if they’d choose to stay,
that there’s enough for everyone who comes
to sip, to drink, to rest their weary wings.
The sugar water flows, a never ending stream

Of sweetness, energy, nourishment, but still,
They dart around the feeder with a thirst
to drink in everything before the bounty ends.

The hummingbirds swoosh through my garden
Every year with an urgency that life is short, to soak
Up all the nectar, visit every cluster of petals
Flashing bright against the darkening sky

Of spring, to drink until their blood becomes
A river of sweetness, of sugar.  Perhaps
They just can’t understand endlessness,
Plenty, they’ve lived their short lives
In a dance with death, starvation always
Threatening to stop their hearts, the buzz
Of their wings, the glitter of their feathers
As the sun rises in the morning.
And so they fight, compete with one another,
Let the weaker and the smaller go thirsty,
To find another garden or their end.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Napo 20

Today truly was just a freewrite. I'm beyond busy, which maybe comes across in this poem :-P

The prompt was to write a pastoral. I went for a quick walk in my horribly overgrown backyard. I got bit by a few desperate mosquitoes. I saw some hummingbirds battle over the last drops of nectar in the feeder. I destroyed a few spiderwebs with my forehead. Meh.

Napo 20

The weeds take over if you let them,
Drown out everything you’ve planted
Carefully, in a moment when your life
Was something less chaotic. No,
This isn’t the clean, neat garden
You’d planted, complete with herbs,
Chocolate mint, tarragon, and sage
Growing in their tiny garden boxes,
Gardenias, lavender, phlox, blooming
In their flower boxes, the fruit trees
trimmed to maximize efficiency.

No, it’s absolutely overgrown – the rain
Kept coming and you were too busy
To tend to it, to clip, mow, or weed,
And now the garden is beyond repair –
Overrun by whatever took root.
But somehow, beauty finds a way
to thrive, in the swooshing
Of overgrown blades of grass, in the dandelions
Feathery petals, in the vines
That reclaim the fence, spreading
And growing without the help
Of your hands. Somehow, the leaves
All fall where they need to. Somehow,
the earth waters its own with the same storms
that rattled you awake last night, feeds
the hungry mouths with what's left behind.
Somehow, when you loosen your grip
on the world, it doesn’t fall apart.
It keeps spinning, living,
breathing, blooming, thriving. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Napo 19

Today's prompt was to write an erasure poem. I've never done that before, so this was, well, interesting? That's a good word.

I took a women's health article about weight loss, and chiseled this nonsense from it:

There may be no magic pill for weight loss, but dietician Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite for Health stays on top of the science behind taming your appetite naturally. Here, she deciphers recent research and shares six foods that will keep your appetite in check.

Feel like you need some help with hunger management? You're not alone. Most of my clients who struggle with weight loss or maintenance also struggle with hunger. Of course, it's no coincidence — it's hard to walk around feeling famished, particularly when you're faced with the temptation of high-calorie treats everywhere you turn. No wonder willpower wilts!

The good news is that several new studies have identified compounds in certain foods that trigger the release of hormones in the stomach that help you feel full and neurotransmitters in the brain that suppress appetite and reduce cravings. Eating more of these foods can help keep your hunger in check, even as you cut calories to peel off pounds. It's a weight loss win-win!


Apples

An apple a day may keep extra pounds away, according to research that shows this fruit contains filling soluble fiber as well as ursolic acid, a natural compound that has been found to boost fat-burning and may promote lean muscle mass. In one study, researchers from the University of Iowa note that animals given ursolic acid supplements increased their muscle mass and energy expenditure (or calorie burn). And a study that was done on people and published in the journal Appetite shows that women who added three small apples (total calorie cost: 200) to their diet per day lost a little more than two pounds in 10 weeks — more than dieters who did not include the fruit in their diet.

A medium apple has 95 calories and 6 grams of fiber; a small apple has 75 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber. Be sure to eat the whole apple, as the ursolic acid as well as beneficial antioxidants are concentrated in the skin.

Beans (. . . and peas, lentils, and chickpeas)

Beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas are a triple threat against hunger because they contain a lot of fiber; are excellent sources of slow-to-digest protein; and have a low glycemic index to keep blood sugar and carbohydrate cravings in check. A recent meta-analysis published in the journal Obesity indicates that people who ate about one cup (5.5 ounces) of legumes felt 31 percent fuller than those who didn't eat these fiber-filled foods. Another study, published recently in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, reports that overweight people who ate a bean-rich diet lost nearly 10 pounds in 16 weeks while simultaneously improving their blood cholesterol levels.


Eggs

Here's some egg-citing news: eating a breakfast that's rich in protein (20 to 30 grams) suppresses ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite, while elevating peptide YY and GLP-1, two hormones that enhance satiety, according to research. One study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that when subjects ate eggs for breakfast (versus equal-calorie breakfasts of either cereal or croissants), they consumed up to 438 fewer calories over the entire day. In fact, studies have found that an egg breakfast may help control hunger for a full 24 hours. (To keep blood cholesterol in check, you can enjoy one egg yolk per day and use egg whites for the additional protein they provide.)

Greek Yogurt

Need a reason to go Greek? A landmark study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, reports that among more than 8,500 European adults, those who enjoyed a serving or more of European-style yogurt every day (either low-fat or full fat but with less added sugars compared to US varieties) were 20 percent less likely to become overweight and 38 percent less likely to become obese during the six-year follow-up compared to those who ate less than two servings of yogurt each week. How could thick and creamy Greek yogurt whittle your middle? The researchers believe that the protein, calcium, and probiotics may all play a role.

Plain Greek yogurt is your best bet because it's strained to lose the watery whey and some of the natural sugars. It has roughly twice the protein as traditional yogurt (a cup of plain Greek yogurt packs 24 grams of protein, as much as four large eggs) and half the sugar (with only about eight to nine grams of natural dairy sugars and no added sugar).

Mangos

Mangos are not only delicious, they're also diet-friendly. A study in The Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences suggests that mango-eaters weighed less and had better diets than those who missed out on mangoes. This stone fruit contains many bioactive ingredients, including mangiferin, a compound that has been shown in preliminary research to help reduce body fat and added to the diets of rodents prevented weight gain and improved blood sugar and insulin levels when the animals were fed a high-fat diet to promote weight gain. control blood sugar levels. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that mango

A cup of sliced mango has just 100 calories and 3 grams of filling fiber. Say mmm, mango!

Pistachios (. . . and other nuts)

Go ahead, get a little nutty! Despite being high in calories (160 to 170 calories per ounce), nuts can be very slimming. Studies show that nut lovers are thinner than those who avoid or rarely eat nuts. Why? Nuts keep you fuller longer; their calories aren't fully absorbed by the body, and nuts provide a modest boost to your metabolism, according to research.


In-shell pistachios provide a unique advantage for waistline-watchers. A preliminary study from Eastern Illinois University suggests that people who snacked on in-shell pistachios consumed 41 percent fewer calories than those who ate shelled pistachios. The authors say the empty shells might be a helpful visual cue about how much has been eaten



Monday, April 20, 2015

Napo 18

Today's Napo is about my grandmother. I inherited a lot from her -- my name, my chubby feet, my stubbornness. Probably most marked, at least recently, has been my spinal condition, though. My mom and my grandma never got along, so I never really got to know her very well before she passed away. 

So this poem is a little bit about that. I'd like to write more about my grandma Grace, about our relationship that really isn't one, and yet, how she shapes the way I move in this world still. 

Today's prompt was to write a poem about things I know for certain. When it comes to my grandma, that list is pretty short, but hmm...

Napo 18

Things I Know About Her

I know you had to be beautiful once,
We all were in a moment in time
When the sun danced on the tip
Of your nose, when your skin
Smelled of raspberries, your hair
Like gardenias, when you wore spring
Across your shoulders like a shawl.

I know your life must have been marked
With beauty, five daughters, each one
A heavy blessing you had to carry yourself.
I know you gave my mother
Her narrow, piercing eyes, her mouth
That became stone, her grimace.

I know you gave me your name
And I carry it on my back, a cruel
Joke, Grace, as I stumble through life.

I don’t know if you were good,
Or evil, I don’t know if simply
Did the best you could, or perhaps
You could have given more 
of yourself, your tired, heavy body.
I know that you gave me your spine –

each crick, each twist, each crack,
My mom said you’d be delighted
That I’ve stumbled into your footsteps,
Fallen into the same crevice of pain,
A cycle of pills, stiff muscles, days wasted
In the hospital, only to claw my way back
into the sunlight. There’s so much I don’t know,

And if you were still here, I would ask
How you got through it all, rose
From your bed each morning,
hoisting the huge weight of earth
Onto your twisted, tired spine. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Napo 16 and 17

At the poets' table! From left -- Edward Vidaurre, Emmy Perez,
myself, Sergio, Nayelly Barrios, Celina Gomez, and Chris
My love, B, was behind the camera, which is his usual spot.
So, yesterday was pretty special. I was honored to read a poem at the wedding of my friends Rodney Gomez and Sara Herrera. Being invited to do this was just so humbling. When Rodney told me about his plans for this evening, my heart melted. I eagerly agreed.

The only problem? I don't really write love poetry. I'm a feminist poet, and, well, us feminists have a pretty conflicted relationship with love poetry, because so often it comes across as objectifiying -- written by a male subject to an unmoving female object. Bleh. Or it comes across as cliched, overly sentimental, gushing and bleh. So, in short, although I love the idea of love and love poetry, it's just something I find difficult to do well. Or maybe it's just that love is such a powerful force in our lives as human beings that it's so difficult to find words that give it justice.

Anyway, this event was a perfect opportunity for me to try my hand at writing some love poems, but hopefully, in my own voice. This past year has put a special kind of pressure on my life with my health issues, and B's been having some personal struggles, too. So I thought to myself, what can I say about love? What might ring true from my experiences, being married now for 10 years, having endured good and bad times?

I came to the conclusion that love, the kind I feel anyway, can't have a reason or a pretense, it has to be simply for the sake of itself. There can't really BE a reason you love someone, because that reason can be pulled out from under you like a rug. You have to love without hope or expectation.

And then, that reminded me of what B does out in our garden. Regardless of the season, he's always there, tending it, taking care of it, loving it, no matter if it's a time of plenty of a time of decline. He does it because he loves it, that's all. When there's fruit or flowers, he loves that, too. When the garden is mostly just naked branches, he takes care of and loves those twigs and dead leaves. He simply loves the company of our garden.

And I like to think he feels the same way about me, too.

Anyway, so I wrote a little series of poems for Rodney and Sara about a gardener tending his plants throughout the seasons simply because he loves them. No reason. No expectation. No pretense. Just simple love. And that's the love that I think will get you through the decades. If B loved me for my body, well, it's broken now. If I loved B for his fancy car (ok, maybe I did back when I first met him), he's sold it so we could pay the rent back when we were young and broke and stupid. Love needs to be simply for itself. Because, you know, if you work at it, that'll always, always be there.

The wedding itself was gorgeous. I attended the ceremony and the reception. Sara, the bride, is Catholic, and I always feel so awkward at Catholic services because I never know what to do and end up looking silly (I'm a Baptist). The reception was held at the history museum, which was such a cool venue! Rodney, the ultimate romantic, wrote a book of poems for Sara and gave them out as wedding favors. It was titled Fair Weather Machine, which is absolutely lovely. Regardless of the storms, he's always got sunshine because of Sara. Awwww....

The poetry reading itself was just after dinner. I gulped down some wine. Rodney had also invited Celina Gomez, Nayelly Barrios, and Edward Vidaurre to read. Each of us read at least one poem from Rodney's book. I read the eponymous poem, just because I loved it so much, in addition to my own poem. Edward read a really sexy poem which got the crowd hooting and cheering. It was pretty much perfect.

The poems I wrote for the wedding are actually Napo 10-14, though those are rough drafts. These two poems are ones I wrote after the wedding, inspired by all the love in the world. There is so much to celebrate, and you know, it's kind of miraculous.

Napo 16

At the Wedding

His was a carefully choreographed dance – first,
Lift your hands in prayer, then kneel and close your eyes,
Fill up the chalice of wine, serve the communion bread
On a silver platter, ask the couple if they’re willing,
If they understand all that’s to come, the marriage
That he blesses with a prayer that rolls from heart
To tongue to congregation. The incense rises
To the ceiling, illuminates the rays of light

that glace the bride’s bare shoulders. Her voice
is like hesitating raindrops before the storm.
Her fingers quake as the groom slips the ring on,
His own words swift and faltering like wind.
When their lips meet, shy and trembling,

They taste the uncertain musk of earth.


Napo 17

Lying in Bed, Listening to a Thunderstorm

Lightning rips apart the stillness
Of the moments before dawn outside
my bedroom window. Gusts of wind
rush into the cracks. Clouds obscure
any traces of the sunrise, a slate wall
of gray and black that swirls in
off the gulf. It’s spring, the season
where rainstorms rattle me awake.

I lay in bed, my body still beneath the covers
Wonder for a moment where I am,
Who I am, a wet leaf in the center of the storm,
Until his arm wraps around me like a stream
Of sunshine and he pulls me into his warmth,
His breath warm like gentle summer breeze.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Napo 15

Today's prompt was to write a poem about urgency. I didn't have too many ideas, so I kind of pulled this one out of nowhere. I'm going to revise this one and work it out some more, but I want to write a poem about a little girl hearing the ice cream man's song, and it proclaims spring's resurrection, kind of comparing the little girl to Mary Magdalene and the ice cream man to the resurrection. Meh. This draft doesn't include all of that, so... I'll work at it :)

Reawakening

The world was dead, quiet, not a single bird
Or cricket sang. The nights were long, endless,
winter hadn’t loosened her grip yet.
The season was for mourning, coming to terms
With the reality of a lifetime of slate skies,
The cold and lifeless ground, crocuses
Forever sealed inside their bud like closed fists.
So when, early in the morning, I stepped out
Barefoot onto the cement outside,

I had to suspend my disbelief at the warmth
Of spring’s fingers on my face, the smell
Of life, the sound music slicing the early
Morning silence. A harbinger of spring,
I screamed across our thawing lawn,

Dad, it’s the ice cream man!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Napo 14

A tiny anecdote about my day before I share this poem:

I often blog about trying to write fiction. I am trying. My best. But it's hard, you know?

I've written a handful of stories over the past two years, and now, I'm just getting to the point of submitting them. In fact, one of them was just published in The Thing Itself! I am so incredibly proud of that, because it means that my efforts aren't futile, but to be completely honest, it's amazing how fiction comes so, UNnaturally to me, compared to poetry anyway.

Or maybe I struggled this much with poetry, too, only it's been so long ago that I don't remember?

Anyway, today was kind of funny.

I got a rejection letter from a literary journal from a fiction editor. It's a nice rejection with a few suggestions for revision, an encouraging note to try them again. But the curious thing? At the end of the email, it says, "Oh, and by the way, congrats on your big Texas Institute of Letters win..."

:-D

Why, thank you very much. I just thought that was too funny. Poetry I'm good at. Fiction? Well, I guess I still have some alearnin' to do. 

Anyway, here's Napo 14. I'm going to TRY TO get caught up with Napoing this weekend, since I'm actually caught up on grading and everything else (A miracle? I think so).

Today's prompt was to write a social media poem. I don't know what a social media poem is, so I just kind of scrolled through my feed and wrote about the things I saw. I don't know, not feeling too much promise here, but it's good to exercise the old poetry muscle nonetheless.




Social Media Poem

All the beauty, all the ugliness
that turns up on my Facebook wall. I scroll
through it in the morning from my bed,
my lazy finger lifting as I glimpse

the world before I rise – A picture
of a squirrel asleep and curled within
the arms of a stone angel,
A lovesick groom declaring his love for the bride
He’ll marry tomorrow, snapshots of a winterscape
in April that make the Texas spring outside my window
Seem so loud, so bold, so filled with life,
A video of two cats licking one another’s faces,
A tangling of tongues, of fur, of purrs,

The faces of three pups, forgotten in
The animal shelter, their eyes wide, afraid,
The weather forecast predicting hail,
Damaging winds, and thunder
That sweeps across the map before midday,
Depressing news about the oil prices
How another dozen men will be laid off.

As I toss the covers aside, I can’t help but think
about the squirrel, how he looked so peaceful
lying there in the angel’s arms, staring up
towards the sky, and I wonder where
that peace can come from,
what can make an animal that’s made
of fear lay back and close his eyes and dream
Of nuts, of trees with endless branches for hiding,
Of spring that’s bountiful and never ends,
And I figure that the only answer is
He must be dead.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Napo 11, 12, and 13! And an Announcement!

I spent the morning writing. Is there any better way to spend the morning? No. There is not.

Yesterday, I left off with my AWP recap. Today, I want to tell you about what happened the next day, on Saturday, April 11th, which was probably one of the most memorable of my life so far.

I was awarded the 2014 Helen C. Smith Prize for the Best Book of Poetry by the Texas Institute of Letters for my latest collection, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots.

!!!

Yes, you read that correctly! I had received word about a month ago, but was told not to say anything until it was officially announced at the awards banquet and annual meeting. So, I had to sit on this bit of wonderful news.

Anyway, that's why I had to leave AWP a day earlier than expected. I needed to be in Houston to receive my award. Unfortunately, the reception for the award happened a day early this year, on Friday, so though I missed that, I was at least able to attend the banquet.

So, Friday morning, I wake up at the ungodly hour of 3am to catch a shuttle to the airport. I think, in the past three days, I'd gotten a total of maybe 3 hours of sleep. I running on adrenaline, pure and simple. That and a ridiculous amount of coffee.

By some miracle, mom and I make it to the shuttle and off we go to the airport. I'm half asleep, full of nerves and all that good stuff as the shuttle goes from hotel to hotel, picking up weary writers around downtown Minneapolis to take them to the airport. Two women sit behind me, chatting, when I hear, "Texas Institute of Letters..." I turn around.

"That's where I'm going!" I say, surprised and a little embarrassed.

The woman looks familiar, but it's too early in the day for me to place names to faces. I learn that she's being inducted into the institute. I tell her about my award (ok, maybe I'm not so good at keeping secrets). As we finish our conversation, delighted in the strange coincidence, she tells me her name is Nan. "Nan Cuba???" I ask, suddenly getting my geek on.

She laughs. "Yeah, that's me."

I had seen Nan read a few years ago at TCU as part of the Texas Association of Creative Writing Conference. She was the keynote speaker. I'm a little starstruck. "Oh. My. Goodness! You're like, famous!"

Anyway, Nan is gracious and wonderful and doesn't take my weird behavior the wrong way. I think she's a little flattered. Off we go to the airport! It would be too much of a coincidence that we'd be on the same flight, right? Right. It was. I tell Nan I'll see her in Houston in a few hours and we say our goodbyes at the airport.

Yay, a new friend!

The flight to Houston is... well it's not so bad, really, but my body is about ready to give up. My back is achy. I'm beyond tired. And the worst thing? I get overcome with this terrible nausea. Ugh. But I put on a happy face and try to just focus on the evening ahead. Scratch that. The evening ahead makes me even more nervous. I close my eyes on the plane and try to meditate. It works, kinda.

Did I mention I did yoga at the AWP book fair? And on the plane, too? And that it wasn't the weirdest of things going on?

:-P

Ok, I survive the flight, and in Houston, I say goodbye to my mom who's catching another flight home to McAllen. B, my love, is waiting to pick me up at the Houston airport. Yay! I missed him so!

B and I get some lunch at a delicious local pizza place. Only, by this point, my nerves and nausea get the best of me and I end up tossing my cookies. Oh well. Better now than at the banquet, I figure.

We check in to our hotel and I take a much needed nap. Afterwards, it's time to get fancied up for the banquet, so I do, and yay, by some miracle, I look halfway decent! I put on a happy face and head to the cocktail hour.

Once I enter the room, it's filled with people that look vaguely familiar, but I don't really recognize anyone. I scan the room, and then, standing there with a huge smile on her face is none other than Jan Seale! She gives me the biggest hug ever, and all of the sudden, I'm not so nervous anymore. She takes me around the room, introducing me to all of her friends, which is pretty much everyone who's anyone in Texas letters. Professors. Novelists. Publishers. Journalists. Poets Laureate. I'm a little starstruck. And the amazing part was that they were all wanting to meet me. Little old me!

Jan is amazingly gracious. We sit together at the banquet. When they announce my award, I'm all blushy and dorky. Maybe it was a good thing that the official reception was the previous night, because the other award winners had to give acceptance speeches, and I probably would have just sounded like a giddy, tongue-tied little girl. At the end of the ceremony, I mingle some more. One particularly special person I got to talk to was Norma Cantu. She was the contest judge who selected my book, and it's actually a little special, and here's why:

Back in 2010, I went to a conference El Mundo Zurdo at the University of Texas San Antonio. Among the Mariposas had just been published, my very first chapbook publication. I was really just cutting my teeth as a poet, so to speak. Anyway, after the conference itself, I decided to go to a reading at a art gallery and coffee shop, Gallista Gallery. There were a lot of attendees from the conference at the reading, including Norma Cantu, a leading scholar on Gloria Anzaldua and a badass poet

Anyway, I read a poem at the open mic. I remember it was "The Common Denominator," a little poem about my mom and I feeling uncomfortable but at the same time at home in a culturally diverse nail salon. After my poem, Norma approached me and bought one of my chapbooks. She gave me a hug and told me to keep writing, to keep going, keep striving, that one day, I was going to go far. I'd never forgotten that moment. She was so gracious and kind to me. I know my work was rough around the edges, but she took the time to encourage me.

So, fast forward 5 years later. I have to contain myself not to run up to her and give her a big hug. But actually, it's totally cool, because she's from South Texas and knows that's just the way we are :-) Anyway, I tell Norma the story. She remembers! She says, yes, I remember you, I remember your book, and I remember that reading! It was at Gallista Gallery, no? I turn all red. It's just too much. Too much specialness. I am beyond blessed.

"Just remember to pay it forward," she tells me with a wink.

And that's really the sentiment I left the evening with. I owe my success to so many different people who's supported me, encouraged me, and shown me love through all the steps in this crazy journey as a writer. It's all lead up to this moment, so many people have helped to build me into the poet I am today. It's just, overwhelming how much goodness there is in the world, in the hearts of others. From my first poetry instructor, Emmy Perez, who taught me the foundations, to all the classmates in my MFA workshops like Rodney Gomez, Joe Haske, Lady Mariposa, whose feedback, support, and reactions helped me hone my craft, to Steven Schneider, who helped me take my poetry seriously, one step further to putting together a thesis manuscript, who believed in me early on, to Maria Miranda Maloney, my first publisher who told me, yes, you're worth it and yes, I'm going to take a chance on you, to Christopher Carmona, my editor at Slough who picked up my first full manuscript and made me feel like a "real" poet, to Chuck Taylor, the publisher who gave me the green light to be myself, to Edward Vidaurre, who, buddy, first called it that one day I'll be Texas Poet Laureate (I'm working on that, Edward), to Daniel Garcia Ordaz who ushered me into the Valley poetry community with open arms, to Linda Romero, for being an awesome friend and critique partner, to Jan Seale, who's taken me under her wing and mentored me through wild world, to Jerry Craven for bringing me into the Lamar University Press family, for championing my work in a way no one had before, and of course, to Norma Cantu for encouraging me early on, and then, again, at this stage in my poetry career. There are so many others I've missed. I owe my success to everyone who's ever read my poems, critiqued them, encouraged me in big and small ways. This is just a tiny cross-section of everyone I need to thank. Of course, most of all, my parents, my family, my love, B, without whose support I'd be flailing in the wind.

I love them all. Dearly. Truly.

It's been a wild journey so far. My cup is overflowing with love, with joy, with success, and most of all, with gratitude. I'm the poet I am today because I stand on the shoulders of everyone who's come before me. I'm incredibly, incredibly fortunate, and sometimes, well, all the time, it's just overwhelming.


Now, I need to figure out how to spend that $1200 burning a hole in my pocket B-)




Ok, enough sappiness, here are the poems:

Napo 11

Summer

In summer, there is always more. You feast
on everything the season has to offer –
the sun’s embarrassment of riches streaming
down to feed the flowers, large as dinner
plates, already drunk on their own nectar,

tropical rainstorms tumbling ashore
to wet the fertile, sodden soil, the days
that almost seem to never end. You spend
them in your garden, clipping, digging, planting
with an urgency to make the most of plenty.

Your garden drinks you in, the sweat that rivers
down your back, the soft touch of your hands
the dirt beneath your fingernails. For love,
you toil with a smile as bright as June,

dreaming of those cool and humid nights.

Napo 12

Fall

Her love in autumn’s just as beautiful –
It enters with a sigh of satisfaction
At the heavy, heaving branches filled with fruit
That you created hand in hand together.

You stop to pluck one, hold the blazing fire
Of an orange in your calloused palm,
A star that’s made of life, of sweat, of love,
Of everything the two of you can offer.

You peel it, let the flesh dissolve atop
Your tongue, and taste the sweetness of tomorrow.
You’ll savor this together underneath
October’s sky that rumbles, warns the world

Of what’s to come. Breathe deep, take in the smell
of fallen leaves returning to the earth.

Napo 13

Winter

The few who love in winter know a love
that’s unlike any other. Every petal
fell to the earth months ago. The fruit
has been devoured, savored. Branches hang,

naked, brittle, but you come to listen
to the beauty of them rustling in the wind.
A cup of cocoa in your hand, you wander
through the garden, tend what’s left to tend

with gentle streams of water. Now, you run
your fingers through the soil because you’ve grown
accustomed to the smell of earth on skin.
She’s nothing left to offer but herself.

May your marriage always be of this --
loving simply for the sake of love.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Napo 10

Alrighty! Let's recap some more. 

My AWP 2015 experience.

After our panel, Celina and I decided to hang out together. We headed to a panel featuring (gasp) Ana Castillo! The panel was put together by Feminist Press and featured her and one other author. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately?) we were late because our own panel's conversation went on a little long, and so by the time we found the place and walked in, Ana had already read. But we did catch the conversation afterwards, which was just as enlightening. The main thing I took away from this panel was that a lot of women really don't feel like they have permission to write. One woman asked Ana who gave her that permission, and Ana said, quite frankly, she gave it to herself.

How can we do that as women? Give ourselves permission to be this outspoken, out there writer? I think supporting one another is hugely important, encouraging other women to be brave and bold, but my goodness, at the end of the day, I think it's just a matter of allowing ourselves that space and freedom. In a world that silences women, it's hard to do, but, if Ana can do it, then it's possible. I teared up. I got goosebumps. I had to go up and meet Ana after the panel... (again, I met her for the first time back in 2007).

So Celina and I get up the courage to go and say hello, but once we get there, we're blabbering idiots and Ana Castillo looks a little annoyed/worried. Oh well. At least we left without regrets! :D

Anyway, after that, we head out to lunch. And then to the bookfair. Which was huge, overwhelming, scary, and beautiful. The best part? As we were walking through the aisles, we hear a voice call us over. 

Hey! Hey! You ladies? Katherine? Celina? You were just speaking at a panel, no?

We turn around. 

Yeah...

I just wanted to say "hi." You're like, famous and stuff. 

Celina and I look at each other, blush, and laugh. Famous and stuff? Well, alrighty then! 

:D

That was probably my most favorite moment at AWP.

Anyway, we spent most of the afternoon at the bookfair. My back was starting to hurt, so I needed to take a little breaksie anyway. I wanted to meet so many more people, but I just didn't have the energy, either physical or mental, to do too much. I was happy to at least find the editor of Free State Review and thank him for his amazing comment at our panel (and he gave me a free t-shirt! Score!). So many more people I wanted to bug! But oh well. Next time. There WILL be a next time.

Oh, did I mention?

I brought my mom to AWP. Yes. I'm THAT nerd.

Anyway, if you follow my blog you know I have some health/mobility issues, so mom coming with was a real blessing. She didn't attend my panel or come with me to the actual conference, but she was hanging out at the hotel, helped me through the airport craziness, and made sure I was able to find my way around and get where I needed to go. Did I ever mention that I have the world's most amazing mom?

So, after an afternoon of... that, Celina and I decided to check out an offsite reading together at a nearby pub. How cool is that? I call my mom and see if she wants to join us, and what do you know? She does!

So the three of us trek over to the Yes Yes Books celebration. It. was. awesome. Truly. One of the best readings I've attended in my life. Danez Smith was my absolute favorite. New poetry crush? You know it. I wanted to buy his book, but they were totally sold out. Phooey. 

Anyway. After the reading, I was tired and achy. It was time to head back to the hotel. After all, the next day was going to be just as full of events and craziness, starting with a 4am shuttle ride to the airport to catch a plane! :-O But I'll tell you all about that tomorrow. 

Meanwhile... Napo 10?

I cheated a little with 10 in that, well, I kind of revised 9 and reworked it. I'm thinking to turn this little thing into a series of poems about the four seasons, comparing gardening to love/marriage. This topic is heavy on my mind lately. I was invited to read some poetry at a friend's wedding this weekend, which I'll blog more about soon, too.

Anyway:


The Gardener’s Song

Spring

Everybody falls in love in spring.
It’s easy with the pollen in the air,
sun peeking through the slate clouds, shy
at first, a smile held back, about to burst

into radiance. The naïve come
eager to work their clean hands through the soil.
Your garden gloves are stiff, a price tag dangles
From your sunhat. Pansies fill your arms

with blooms in every shade of love, mauve
of tongue, pearl like skin the sun has never
touched, or golden like the way her voice
feels against your ear. You tuck the seeds

into the earth and wait, water, dump
Miracle Grow, although the earth’s already
wet with dew and love. The first bud opens
its petals, slips into the lips of March.

The world is different now. Her flowers bloom
in every corner of your lovesick mind. 



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Napo 9 and Our AWP Panel recap!



So, these past few days have really been amazing...

On Thursday, I left town to head over to Minneapolis for the AWP conference.

In short, I had an amazing time, though there was so much more I wanted to do. On Friday morning, I moderated a panel on Revisionist Mythmaking in the Borderlands. My other two panelists were Robin Scofield and Celina Villagarcia. The panel itself went better than I could have imagined. Though I was incredibly nervous at the beginning. I introduced our topic, explaining about Mouthfeel Press, what Revisionist Mythmaking was, and why we feel it's important as women in the borderlands to reclaim these narratives.

Robin Scofield read a series of really interesting poems from her collection, Sunflower Cantos, about a woman traveling through the Borderlands region, encountering all of these stories for various different mythologies. I loved it, especially the connections to native mythologies, because I think that's something we often overlook in conversations about mythmaking.

Celina was up next. Oh. My. Goodness. She is such a character. I loved her the instant she opened her mouth. We were short two panelists, so she threatened the audience that if they didn't ask questions or spark conversation, that we were going to show them pictures of our cats and dogs to fill the extra time! Luckily, we didn't need to do that, though I'm pretty certain it wasn't an empty threat :) Celina read from her collection, Pulp, which revisions folktales and legends from the borderlands. Her work reminded me so much of home, but from a fresh perspective.

I went last, reading from Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots. I read a handful of my favorite Tex Mex goddess poems. It's always a little scary to read poems to a new audience, so nerves.

And then, our panel finished. A few crickets chirped for suspense. And then...the panel morphed into this really interesting, deep and real conversation about appropriation, feeling like an impostor as a writer, in terms of gender, culture, and even in academia. It was just, in one word, amazing. This one young woman asked Celina about her background, about why she chose not to pursue an MFA, and if that made her self-conscious as a writer. Celina laughed, said it just wasn't right for her, and that it's not the path for everyone to take, it's a personal decision. But in the end, yeah, she felt like a bit of an impostor here on the panel because she didn't have those academic credentials. Robin explained that, as a woman not working in academia, that she felt that too, and would especially get disparaging comments from other writers about not belonging. I chimed in, too. I feel like am impostor everyday -- I have an MFA. I'm a professor. But still, there's this sneaking suspicion that I don't belong, that I don't deserve the badge of poet, of writer, of smarty-pants.

And yet, there we were! Sitting on a panel, talking to a room full of talented, amazing writers, giving them advice.

It's a never-ending struggle, accepting yourself.

My personal favorite moment of the panel was when someone in the audience asked, "Do you ever feel like, that by rewriting myths, you're not creating something new or original?"

I responded, explaining that really, today, nothing's totally new anymore. We're all writing in response to something else, furthering the conversation, pushing it forward, rather than reinventing it altogether. The wheel's already been invented.

But then, a man stood up, and introduced himself as an editor of a literary journal, Free State Review.  I had never seen this man before in my entire life. What he said made me blush beet red. He explained how, when sifting through his slush pile, he'd come across the most original poem he'd ever read about Eve making a sandwich for Adam. He pointed to me. "Katie there is the author. We ran her poem in our latest issue."

Squeee!! I totally did not plan that!!!! :D

Anyway, the panel was an absolute success. Another person asked where our table was at the bookfair. Unforunately, MFP wasn't there at the conference, but I mentioned that we all had a few books for sale. After the panel finished, we were swarmed (no exaggeration) by audience members who wanted to chat and buy our books. I sold out within ten minutes. We actually had to be kicked out of the room because our amazing conversations continued after the panel discussion was officially over, so we chatted it up in the hallway.

I'll post more about my experiences in the coming days. In the meantime, here's my next Napo. Totally a freewrite, but whatever.

Spring

Imagine that our love is just a garden –
It’s easy to make it bloom in spring,
The hordes come out, stiff-gloved,
Ripping the price tags from their sun hats,
Bags of soil, of Miracle Grow in their arms.
Anyone can fall garden in the springtime.
lantanas bloom because they must,
the air is heavy with everybody’s pollen,
the body aches to be outside, soak up
the gentle sunshine, pluck a couple early blooms
and stick them in her auburn hair.
The first flower opens, a stamen
Slips Into the lips of March,
and your world changes, the flowers

are everywhere. 




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Napo 8

Today's prompt was to write a poem about changing your mind.

I don't mean to get crazy personal, but in terms of my illness, I feel as though I simply had to make a choice to be healthy or ill, and to wear one of those two labels when I'd get up each morning. Deep down, it was my choice, how I decided to frame myself. Most days, I choose health. Sometimes, that's a hard choice to make.

How I Chose To Get Up Again

I was tired of being sick –
The mind’s stiffness, growing numb,
The glow of the television, the ache
Of muscles that ache to move but can’t
Or won’t, I hadn’t decided yet.
Because the smell of sitting
Became too much. Because I was sick
Of my tangled hair in my face,
Of reaching up for someone else’s hand
To rise, because seasons change,
Because the body wants to, too,
Because flowers bloom and die and bloom again
Because even if I wasn’t ready, life goes on,
Because I’d already exhausted every episode
Of Gordon Ramsey, binged through
The seasons of Orange is the New Black,
the Golden Girls, Frasier, anything
to take my mind off myself. 
Because I was sick of medication,
The habitual swallowing of pills
As natural as breathing, as walking,
The numbness that follows
Of body, of mind. Because the days
Were going to begin and end with
Or without me. Because I had to take
That first step, work through
The pain, either swallow it down
Or let it linger on the tongue,
The choice was mine. I grabbed my cane.
I winced. I stood up on my own two feet

stumbled into the sun.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Napo 7

Bleh.

Tough day today. The going is getting tough in general.

But here's a little something. It's a super rough draft that I hope to return to in the coming months. How much do we have to give up in pursuit of money? I've worked my share of crappy service jobs, so here's a freewrite about that.


Cashier Girl

Once, when I was working
at an entertainment store,
a man came up to me to pay
for some, well,
how can I put this delicately?
Porn.

It was my first day at this job.
I'm incredibly nervous.
I'm 17 years old.

The guy tries to make
an awkward situation
less awkward
by making conversation.

It doesn't work.
My hands are shaking.
I'm laughing nervously,
giggling, really.

I'm trying not to touch the porn.
I'm trying not to look down
at the woman on the cover,
her legs open, her fingertips
on her nipples, her eyes
memorizing.

I'm trying not to make
eye contact with the creepy old man
who keeps trying to make eye contact
with me. I ring up the video.
It doesn't register.
I have to search for the barcode. Ugh. 

This takes time. The woman
stares into my eyes. I stare back.
I blink. I frown.

The old man gets even more awkward,
begins asking me about myself.
How long have I been working there?
Where am I from?
Do I have a boyfriend?
Then, just as I ring up the video,
he asks me, "How old are you?"

"Seventeen,"
I say, looking down at my feet,
clearing my throat, my heart thumping.

The register rings and opens,
demands ten dollars.

"Oh," the old man says,
a little disappointment
in his voice.

"Probably just a little younger
than the girl in the video, huh?"

I laugh nervously, slam the register,
hand him the video, forgetting
to take the money.

He walks off with free porn.
I'm left ten dollars short
at the end of the night.

My new boss scolds me,
asks me what happened,
but I pretend I'm just a bimbo
who can't count, do basic math.

He threatens to fire me,
but it ends up being the first day
of a job I'll keep all through college,
a job that I grow to love.
A job that pays my tuition. 

True story.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Napo 6

It's Monday. It's a busy week. I've got meetings to go to, papers to grade, students to scold, a trip to plan. I'm busy.

But still, there's a tiny silence for poetry.

This morning's prompt was to write an aubade. After a bit of thought, I wanted to write a goddess aubade about getting up and recreating the world through a routine. This poems needs more magic, more mightiness. I want to show the magic in the mundane. I want this poem to parallel different creation myths, but on this busy Monday morning, I haven't the time to do the research. I'm leaving this note in hopes that I'll remember to come back and rework this little free write.

The Goddess on a Monday Morning

Let there be light, and there was,
She flipped the switch, alit
Their bedroom into being, colored
Everything the night obscured.
She rises from the bed, shakes sleep
From her hair, brushes the sour taste
Of lifelessness from her teeth.
Her bare feet meet the tile,
Creating a music of morning
As she ambles to the kitchen,
flipping every light switch
turning everything aglow
with morning. She makes the kettle
whistle, creates the smell of coffee,
of life, with pouring water,
undoes the mess of last night’s dinner,
washes everything clean –
the grease, the lingering smell
of must, the crispy bits of mistakes
left at the bottom of the pan.
She pours sunshine into bowls,
sets life onto the table, clanks spoons.
The toast pops up. The coffee moans.
Then she awakens everyone
With her voice, a yell that echoes
Through the hallway, brings the world
Back into being. Breakfast!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Napo 5

So, it's Easter. Easter was never a big holiday for my secular family growing up. So here's a poem about that!

Easter Morning

We never went to church on Easter mornings,
Instead, the day began like any other –
I woke up to the house, clean, empty and quiet
As a tomb, awash in in the dim blue color
of early mornings before the sunrises.
I was the first one up and so I snuck
Into the living room, turned the TV on,
the volume down as not to wake my brothers,
let time flow through me as I lay in wait
For everyone else to awake from their slumber,
For the lights to flip on, for my father’s
hushed murmurs, for eyes to bloom open,
the pounding of feet down the hall,
for the smells of life to waft through the house,
coffee, bacon grease, burnt toast, for the sun
to stream through the dusty kitchen windows,
for the taste of orange juice on my lips,
for the kiss on my forehead, a nudge
on my shoulder, as if this awakening
together happened every single day,

as if it wasn’t some kind of miracle. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Napo 4

Today's prompt was to write a love poem, avoiding cliches about love poems. I need to come back to this idea, though. My goal is to turn this poem into an almost anti-disney princess love poem, poking fun at how love is portrayed to girls. Like, it's supposed to be this transformative thing for us, but in reality, falling in love with B was wonderful, yes, but I'm still me and he's still him, though we've built our lives around supporting one another. Anyway, here's what I've got so far. I'm not happy with the poem itself, but I like the idea of rethinking how we look at and experience love.

Love Story

We don’t have a great love story.
We were strangers once, and now we’re not.
There was nothing magical about seeing you
Across the classroom, no singing birds, no rainbows,
Just a florescent light, an empty desk that I would fill.
On our first date, we didn’t fall in love –
Just got to know each other over soggy calamari,
Sweet iced tea, and stories of our pasts.

Our first kiss didn’t wake me from some slumber,
I was already alive to taste your lips, your hesitating tongue.
Your love for me didn’t transform you from a beast
Into a man – you were already whole and so was I.
And when we decided on forever, together,
Our happily ever after didn’t cost me my life,
The sea, the sand between my toes. Instead,
We stood there hand in hand before the uncertainty

Of our lives, knowing that we’d face then side by side.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Napo 3

Today's prompt was to try a fourteener. I'd never written one before, so this was seriously fun. Supposedly, fourteeners are great for narrative poems, which is something I love writing.

This poem isn't finished, but I like what I've got so far! I'm kind of going for a revisionist Atalanta footrace poem, only my Atalanta is going to intentionally throw the race because she wants to kiss the boy and also feels sorry for him. Hmm...


A Footrace After School

I’ll race for you for push-pop,
Johnny called across the schoolyard,
Knowing full and well I didn’t have a quarter to
My name to pay the ice cream man if I should lose the race.
It seemed that bragging rights, that being named the fastest kid

In fifth grade wouldn’t be enough. I shrugged my shoulders, stuck
My hands into the empty pockets of my jeans, and stared
down at my scuffed up tennis shoes. Johnny was the fastest
boy; I was the fastest girl. All week, we’d trash-talked one

another, knowing it would come to this.
You know I’m broke,
I muttered underneath my breath once he was near.
He had his gang of boys beside him, as he often did.
Johnny was the kind of boy who always came to school

In pressed, bright polo shirts, his perfect curly hair slicked back
With gel, a couple dollars in his pockets. You win, I’ll buy
You ice cream for a week. I win, you have to kiss me, here,
In front of all the other boys. Now I was pretty sure

That I was fastest. Ice cream for a week would sure be sweet.
His gang of boys was oohing, cheering, grunting, watching me
For my reaction, but I kept my cool. The stakes were high,
But still I nodded, figuring that more than anything

winning would make Johnny notice me as more than just
a girl to tease. So we agreed to meet right after school,
to run across the baseball field, from backdrop to the fence.
All afternoon in class, I noticed Johnny and his friends

Whispering to one another. Johnny’s face was filled
With worry, more and more as three o’clock edged near. But me,
I was a stone. The race was in my pocket like quarter,
Shining, cold against my sweaty palm. The bell announced

the school day’s end. We lined up to go home, and Johnny slipped
behind me, tapped my shoulder, whispered in my ear,
Your lips
are mine.
And all the boys behind him giggled like a bunch
of little girls.  We hurried to the baseball field, a crowd
of kids already gathered there, had heard the fastest kids
at Lincoln elementary school were going to race and maybe

even kiss. I took a deep breath, gazed across the yard,
imagined sailing past the finish line, imagined ice cream
on my lips, my tongue, and down my throat. I looked at Johnny,
a smile curling on his face as our eyes met. My heart

began to flutter and my knees went weak. I forced my face
into a sneer.
You’re gonna lose, you stupid, smelly boy.
The race began as everyone screamed GO! I leapt ahead
And closed my eyes, could feel the summer streaming down my nape,

and smell it in the clovers at my feet with every breath.
The crowd of boys all cheered and jeered. I knew that Johnny wasn’t
Far behind. His breath was steady, too. It felt as though
The ground beneath us shook with every stride. We were in sync

With one another, but I was ahead.
Go Johnny go!
The crowd of boys cheered.
Katie, make him eat your dust!
The girls

Were just as loud. The finish line was near...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Napowrimo #2

This is seriously unfinished, but I wanted to make sure I posted something. I am thinking of continuing this poem, connecting the idea of the speaker as a sea monster to the Andromeda story -- to have her learn that her place in this world isn't one of the destroyer, the monster, but one of a "good" girl, a princess, a damsel. So I have a little work to do here yet! Thinking how I can incorporate that better... But here's what I came up with so far:

Elk Hart Lake, Early Autumn

My father brought me there when I was six
To practice swimming. It was August,
The endless summer fading into dusk.
I spent the day there, no longer a little girl,
but a sea monster, seaweed clinging
to my skin, mud between my toes, and just my eyes
 above the surface,  searching the rocky shoreline
for my next victim, a grasshopper who leapt
too close, a couple fire ants that I could strand
on a leaf and send to sea, an autumn dandelion
growing on the edge that I could pluck
and toss into the placid lake, watch float
into the open water or sink into the mud.
I was lord over the minnows, scooping
One or two up in my hot pink pale,
Pondering their fate – to dump them out
At land or sea? At dusk, the lifeguard
blew his whistle, called me home
to the shore, where I’d return to being small,
my tiny hand swallowed by my father’s
as he tugged me home. Why can’t we stay
all night, I’d ask, my voice all but drowned out
by the cricket chorus all around us. Girl,
haven’t you heard? Sea monsters lurk
in those waters all night. He pointed to the stars,
and on the way home, told me the story
about the girl in the sky, Andromeda,
chained to the shore, awaiting her fate

to be rescued, saved, and swallowed. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Welcome, April!

Ah yes.

This morning, I awoke to thunder. It rattled the window, my sleep, my blissful peace.

And so begins National Poetry Month!

As I stumbled out of bed, my thoughts, as they often do, turned to writing. I washed the dishes, put the coffee on, remembering the past few Aprils, how wonderful (and crazy) they've been, and how, in some way or another, I've carved out time to write more poetry during each of them. Some of my favorite poems started out as NaPo poems!

So, this month, I'm doing it once again. I'll be trying to  writing 30 poems in 30 days and sharing them here on the blog. I've got so much going on this month, though, but I'm going to do the very best I can.

May April be the month of shitty first drafts. Of musing. Of ideas.
May May be the month of revisions, of cleaning up the messes.

Today, I cheated just a little. I didn't write this piece in its entirety today, though I did take another swing at revising it. So this is draft 2 of a poem I've been working on all week. It's part of a little series I'm working on about Cinderella and her shoes.


Cinderella, In Hospital Socks

She looked too lovely for a place like this,
the ER nurse thought when he saw her, lying
motionless, serene, and almost smiling.
She wore a summer dress in blue that cinched
in at her waist, a plastic flower tucked
into her golden hair that beamed like sunshine
in July, uncombed and everywhere.

He wheeled her through the dreary ER ward –
awash in neutral shades, without a window,
the smell of death and bleach, of sweat and worry
wafting through the halls -- and asked a thousand
questions to keep her conscious, stuck a needle
in her wrist, then wrapped her in a gray
hospital gown.  A pair of peep-toe heels
fell off her feet and tumbled to the floor.
Winter lingered on her naked toes;
he touched them with his palm before he slipped
surgical socks onto her waiting feet.

The only size they had was extra-large –
not quite a perfect fit. The socks were yellow,
the color of the morning sun outside,

the color he imagined was her favorite.