Monday, April 24, 2017

Napo 24

Image result for medieval marginalia pig with hat

An interesting prompt today! Write a poem inspired by medieval marginalia. Google it and you'll find some really interesting stuff. Here's mine:
Javalina in a Hat
She wants to know what beauty feels like,
A bee slipping between the petals of flesh,
The brush of a monarch’s flapping wings
On her skin, the warmth of a breathless gaze
As someone spots her from across the monte.
Caliche-caked, she sits pretty in the field
Of wild sunflowers, lets the South Texas sun
Brush the bristles on her back. This hide,
A husk of who she is, defines her – a tank,
Built for survival when survival is all
This tough landscape can muster.
Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder.
What must a she-hog give up in pursuit
Of such perfection? Her tusks for rooting,
The cool mud on her skin on a hot afternoon,
the bristles on her back that sway and dance,
stand up at the slightest bit of danger?
The javalina studies her reflection in the mirror,
Preens and smiles. This landscape frames
Her body well. She slips on a fetching hat.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

Napo 23

Today's prompt was to write two elevenies. I wrote four because I'm an over-achiever. Whatever.
Anyway, these short forms are a challenge for me, so it was good poetic practice. I wrote four about the different south Texas seasons.

a beginning
dangling huisache flowers
emerge, a child’s laughter,

The sun
Looming, scorching, loving.
It’s all too much,

Heavy sigh
Encinos release acorns
Parakeets return to paradise,

And gentle,
A cold front
Wafts in, a welcome


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Napo 22

It's Earth Day! Today's prompt was to write a georgic, or a poem about how to grow a plant that can perhaps be a bit political.
I tried doing that, but I think my poem morphed a bit into something more personal. The personal is political? Hmph. Whatever. Either way, I like this. More promise!

The Care and Keeping of Grapes

To grow a grape vine, you must
Have both patience and hunger
In equal measures. You must believe
There’s something sacred in the sweetness
Of the earth, the way the sun warms
The soil, the way drops sail down
From the clouds, clean and perfect.
You must believe this without proof,
The definition of faith.
It will outlive you, bearing your fruit
For generations to enjoy, the vines
Hardening to wood. A lifetime isn’t enough
To savor everything this grapevine has to offer.
Unless a bulldozer has its way,
Or the oceans swallows everything again,
Or the world explodes in an inferno.
You must consider this as you shovel soil,
Reshape the earth to make way for its coming.
If your faith is greater than your fear,
slip the seed into the waiting loam.

Watch it grow all season long.
Know that everything takes time,
more of course than you’ll ever have.
When the seedling pushes through,
Rejoice, give thanks, a trellis.

It will grow, inch by inch at first,
And you will clap your hands, bathe it
With gentle streams from your hose,
Pull the weeds that threaten to steal
The nourishment you give and give.
If you do this, the vine explodes,
in Fibonacci measures. Leaves reach towards sky,
Tendrils like a toddler’s fingers grasping for the cookies
On the kitchen counter. It will become unruly,
So much green and life in all directions.
You will want to let it be, let beauty
Have her way. But if you want to savor
The real fruits, you must unsheathe
Your shears and do the hardest thing of all.

Tell yourself this thump to the ground
Is nothing like death. Tell yourself it doesn’t hurt
While swallowing the pain inside your throat.

And if you do this right, as seasons pass,
You will catch the laughter of buds,
Fleeting and white. You’ll notice
Honey bees and butterflies stopping by,
Ladybugs and katydids. You’ll notice,
Tiny at first, clusters of green,
Orbs of life that promise the sweetness
Of forgiveness. They will swell up,
Dulcet-breathed and perfect
Until they sag, heavy, towards the earth.

Harvest joy where you can.
It only comes once a season
Before the sugar ants march in,
Devouring with a hunger much like ours.

Understand the leaves will fade to brown.
Understand life works this way,
That what falls to the earth feeds tomorrow.
It’s hard. I know.

Hold onto the victories you can.
Cup them in your hands and know
This grapevine will outlive you,
Continue giving sweetness to the world.
Your blood and sweat will flow
Through those vines forever.
Take this knowledge into yourself
Like a sip of wine at communion
And rejoice, knowing life goes on.
Perhaps this is what was meant

By resurrection. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Napo 21

I gotta say, I've been really enjoying this Napowrimo daily writing thing. The prompts have been pushing me beyond my comfort zone. Having to write daily has helped me to let go of the idea of a perfect poem, too. I've enjoyed making these messy poems. Come May, I'll enjoy cleaning them up.

Which brings me to my NAPO 21!
Today's prompt was to write a poem inspired by something you overheard. Well, yesterday, a certain professor was enjoying a snack in the classroom, and he left his trash behind. Que cochino! My friend remarked as we were all leaving, and pointed to the mess.
Que cochino indeed.
It made me think about the kind of guts it takes to leave a mess, expecting someone else to clean it up.
And maybe we do that, collectively, on a larger scale, too.

Napowrimo Poem 21
Cochino, the busboy whispers
Under his breath as he clears the table.
The beer glasses emptied, the food devoured,
The plates all smudged and stained, what else
Remains but the task of setting right
This chaos, this mess someone careless
Ordered with the flick of a finger,
Enjoyed with the smacking of lips,
Created with the thoughtlessness
Of hunger? But for every stain,
A hand must sweep in, dangling a rag
To wipe away the rubicund.
For every empty martini glass with lipstick stains,
someone scrubs the rose away
with suds and mercy for the sloppiness.
For every bomb of chicken bones
Dropped onto the plate,
someone clears away the debris,
throws it out into the oblivion
of a dumpster out back so we can all forget.
For every napkin crumpled and strewn
like rubble across the table’s battlefield,
someone clears it all away
for one more skirmish
in this eternal war of hunger.
Bien cochino, all of us, to forget
about the trash we leave behind.
Create chaos. Pay the tab. Leave.
As if the world owed us this privilege
of a nameless pair of arms to clear it all away.
Que cochino to think a tip
slipped under the check
is enough to wash you clean.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Napo 20

Today's prompt was to write using the vocabulary of a sport. I chose chess. And then I wondered how Helen of Troy would play chess? Lately, she's my muse.

Helen of Troy Plays Chess

Helen knows the real object of this game:
Protect the king no matter the cost.
She plays the queen. The most valuable
Piece on the board. She loves the way
She can wrap her fingers around its waist,
Move it wistfully across the board
As if it were a frothing sea. But Helen
Knows that every move has consequences,
Every smile, every flick of her golden hair,
Every bat of her lashes. One wrong move
And the balance turns. Suddenly, the bishop’s
Sliding into place. Suddenly, the castle is your prison.
Suddenly, even a pawn can swallow the mighty queen.

She knows what it’s like to have a hand
From the sky sweep in, capture her,
Into the oblivion of the sidelines.
She’s felt the pressure of the tongue
Flinging the word “check” into her ear
As she slides away to save the day again.
Though no one will admit that she’s a hero.

Helen plans her gambit, the strategy
Of ungathering her hair, splaying it
Across her bare shoulders. This is life.
Her power lies in her movement.
No retreat in this game called love,
This game called war, this game of survival.
Her body on the line and waiting

To win, to lose. No such thing as stalemate. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue Coming Soon!

Hooray! My next poetry collection, The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue, will be released this fall from Angelina River Press! I'm over-the-moon excited to share this lovely with the world. Publisher sent me the cover design and the book is now officially in the works. I can't wait to hold it in my hands. 

The book revisions three Texas legends, the eponymous one, Slue Foot Sue, is Pecos Bill's lesser known girlfriend and partner in crime. The poems tell her narrative as the focus. She's just as wild as he is, maybe more, and totally larger than life. The other narratives include Lobo Girl, a feral child case from the 1830's in Del Rio, and La Sirena, a Native American legend about a woman who morphed into a mermaid after kissing a catfish. It's a collection of feminist revisionist myth, but of course, revisionist myth is my thing.

Publisher had this to say:

Award-winning poet Katherine Hoerth's The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue opens with a poem presenting the birth of a wild Texas red-headed woman who springs full-grown from an ear of corn. She rides away--no doubt on one of those quarter horses on the cover--to vanish in the distance on the High Plains of Texas with the skyline of Amarillo on the horizon.

You know, this whole new book thing never gets old. It's always an adventure. This book taught me so much about structuring a collection, theme, and it allowed me to experiment and grow as a poet. I think it's my best work yet, and I can't wait to share it with the world! Of course, I'll be keeping y'all posted on the details. 

You can find out more about Angelina River Press here! They've got some nifty titles by some nifty authors I admire greatly (uh, Jan Seale much?). Anywho, seeing this book take shape inspires me to get working on the next one, which is already a dirty little thought in my dirty little mind. Onward! 

Napo 19

Today' prompt was to write about the creation myth. So, I did! In my own way :)


On the first day, she let the light in
Her body radiant with life and bathed
In sweat. On the second day, she traced
The borderline between the earth and sky,
Looked out into the horizon, and knew
Her life would never be the same.
On the third day, she willed the forming
Of a world within herself, continents
Of cells awash within the ocean of love.
On the fourth day, she gave that world
A heart, a burning, eternal sun, a moon
For balance, confetti stars like dreams
To light the night. On the fifth day,
The world teamed at the snap
Of her finger within the depths of her,
The belly an ocean filled with life
That multiples, expands, and fills the emptiness.
On the sixth day, the greatest day of all,
She created, in the image of herself,
An embryo the size of a pin within,
Commands it to multiply, to grow
Beyond the confines of herself,
To burst through the door of the world.
On the seventh day, she rested,

Her universe a glimmer in her eye. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Napo 18

I disregarded the prompt today, which was to make up words.
Instead, I wrote about a chamoy lollipop. I used to hate these things as a kid. I thought they were some cruel joke my friends liked to play on me. I mean, candy that's hot and sour? Gross. But underneath that, mmmmmmm the core is the sweetest, tastiest watermelon candy you've ever had, perhaps even yummier because of the trouble it takes to get to it.
Love's maybe like that, too.

Chamoy Lollipop

To love you is to take you whole
Into my mouth, knowing the taste
Of you will burn my tongue, my lips,
Make my mouth flood with saliva.

To love you is to let you sizzle,
To feel the prang and pang
And still, go in for another lick.
Underneath this skin of sandpaper,

I know there’s sweetness, the dulcet
Of watermelon. Yes, there has to be,
And once you break through the rough
Exterior, you taste it, sweeter than ever

Against the fire of what you were,

Dissolved by my persistent mouth. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Napo 17

I loved today's prompt, though I didn't realize I loved it at first.
Write a nocturne, it said. But it's so bright out, and I really am a morning person, I thought to myself.
But, I guess inspired a bit by Easter yesterday, and also my brief cleaning spree, I came up with this nifty little thing. I want to come back to this one and shape it, develop it some more. This one's got a little promise. 

Nocturne for Mopping the Floor

You know, come morning, the sun
Will be back. This daily miracle

Streaming in through the dirty window,
Illuminating everything fingertip smudge,

Every baseboard still needing scrubbing,
Every crevice of grout discolored.

And so you mop. Your faith is greater
Than your exhaustion. Nothing

Is so dirty that can’t be scrubbed clean
Again, even the tiles marred by the mud

Of your own boots. In this world,
there’s always more dirt than bleach.

The lavender scent of soap
can only cover up so much.

The mop loses its threads to this good fight
Of your sin. The broom frays. Your muscles ache.

If only the night would cloak this room forever.
If only this cleansing were as simple

as kneeling on a cold floor, eyes closed,
a nimble tongue asking for forgiveness. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Napo 16

It' a gorgeous Easter Sunday here in south Texas. I'm enjoying some respite this leisurely morning.

Today's napo was to write a letter. In the spirit of the holiday, I wrote one to Mary Magdalene.

Letter to Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday

Today, on this holy day of resurrection,
A preacher says your name, calls you a whore

As lilies bloom around his feet, as the stained glass
Shimmers with strength of Texas sun.

The word bristles against my heart.
I finger the Bible’s pages in my lap

And bit into my tongue. Even a whore
Can be forgiven, can be chosen, he says,

Then continues his story of faith
And miracles, of sunrises and eternity.

I think of the woman, two-thousand years ago,
Who kissed the feet of the fading, felt the warmth

Of blood on her trembling hands, who anointed
A lifeless body with spice and love, who saw

An empty tomb and wept at first in disbelief.
Isn’t that enough to be remembered as a saint?

You were beautiful but flawed, like everyone
Sitting in these pews, contemplating forgiveness

As we dream of being anywhere but here,
Of sloughing these tight church shoes,

Of running in the fresh cut grass of spring.
Virgin or whore, preacher or prostitute,

Why can’t your legacy, Mary Magdalene,

Be one of your faith and not your body?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Napo 15

Today's prompt was to think about being halfway. I don't know why, but I keep thinking about roadtrips. Maybe it's because, lately, I've been doing so many of them. Journeys. They're such a compelling metaphor for so much of what we do in life.
Anyway, here's my rough freewrite. I want to come back and play with this poem a little more and think about the journey as a metaphor for life, the rest stop like a philosophical fork in the road, where you can turn around and retreat back home, or punch the gas full speed towards your destination, goal, whatever.

Rest Stop

We’re halfway through this journey
Up the state of Texas and my husband

Says he has to stop and piss. We pull off
Into a rest stop, and on the roadside

There blooms an abundance of wildflowers
An embarrassment of colors, petals blushing

As numerous as stars on a clear night –
Winecups like puckered lips, Indian

Paintbrushes like wisps of blood,
Bluebonnets reflecting heaven, at once

So far away and at the fingertips.
The flowers sway in spring’s gusts

Of wind on the equinox. The beauty
Overwhelms, too much to take in

Here, in this place where trucks idle,
Spewing black smoke into the air,

Where a man in his car hurridly
Unwraps a burger, stuffs his mouth

With fries, where a child scurries
Across the lawn and tramples flowers

Under her sandals as she makes her way
To the rest stop’s bathrooms. This place,

Is almost heaven but not quite, drenched
In sun, unearths a mid-journey crisis –

Where are we going anyway? I ask.
And why not turn around? My husband shrugs.

The road behind us stretches, endless,
Turns to ocean. The road ahead, the same.

At noon, the stomach rumbles.

We’ve miles to go together.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Napo 14

I went looking for the missed prompts from Napowrimo and I missed one about repetition. That's pretty easy. Obsession.


It was so damn hot in August in South Texas.
It was so damn hot the air-conditioner gave up,
So damn hot it sputtered smoke and coughed.

It was so damn hot. She put her hair up in a bun,
Let her damn hot shoulders feel the breeze,
That was also so damn hot. The gulf swirled

With damn hot winds, like grandma making
cocoa so damn hot regardless of the season,
So damn it burns her lips but still she sips.

It was so damn hot even in mesquite shade.
It was so damn hot the mockingbirds took siesta.
It was so damn hot the cacti turned the color of a penny.

It was so damn hot and the ice cream truck
Came down the damn hot streets and sang
A damn hot song of sweet redemption,

and the damn hot children barreled from their houses,
damn hot screen doors slapping their butts,
damn hot pavement hissing at bare feet.

It was so damn hot even the raspas morphed to oceans,
A damn hot sea of red and chamoy. She threw up her arms,
It was so damn hot, her skin sticky with sweat.

It was so damn hot she dreamed of the gates
Of the damn hot inferno, and wondered when

The damn heat would suck her in for eternity. 

Napo 13

A nine liner!

Nine Lines for the Ruby Throated Hummer

How does your little heart carry you
across emptiness of the gulf, to end up
Here, sipping from a hibiscus, so red

It pales the sunrise? Your blood, furious
To make the most of this day, pumps
Through your tiny wings, your brain,

Your flicking tongue. I watch you
From the window, your brief existence

Proof of what I’ll never understand.  

I want to rework the last stanza to open up the poem more. I might expand this beyond nine lines to really explore the idea of the ennui and miraculous all at once. Hm...

Napo 12

Today's prompt was to write a Clerihew. It's a little four line poem in AABB rhyme that talks about a famous person. Well. Trump sure is easy to rhyme. So... how could I resist? :)

Napo 12

A Clerihew for Trump

If only Donald Trump
Would crawl out of his dump
Of gold and visit the borderlands,
Touch the magic with his tiny hands.

That was too easy. I'm going back in for seconds to try and get caught up! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Napo 11

Today's task was to write a ghazal. I don't really like writing ghazals, but I thought I'd give it a try. I wrote about some of my favorite trees in the valley. This could use a bit more development. I want to work in how the palm trees have become a part of the landscape now, and the valley is synonymous with them.

South Texas Tree Ghazal

These palm trees came as immigrants to the Rio Grande Valley,
Like me, and sunk their roots into the fertile soil of a valley

Already brimming with trees: mesquites, tough with thorns,
But sweet with sunny catkins, huisaches, ushering in the valley’s

Spring in January with the opening of blossoms, ebony
Along the river, welcoming the breeze that moves this valley

Into bloom. The live oaks cast a merciful shadow, house
The mockingbirds and feed the javalinas passing through the valley

On their way through the brush, a place of respite from the heat
To sip sweet tea or aguas frescas after another hot valley

Afternoon. The acacua flowers constantly, romantic petals
Spiraling to the crabgrass, the only snow this warm valley

Ever sees. As if this magic place needs another kind of tree.
But chachalacas build their nests in crowns. This valley

Wouldn’t be the same without song of palm trees swaying, harmonizing
with the songs of katydids to welcome all into the Rio Grande Valley. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Napo 10

A little messy today, but I found some time in my day to at least get something down. Today's prompt was to write with alliteration. I tried to include some in every line without overdoing it. 

Bluebonnet Smile

Smile, he tells you as you’re struggling
To keep your head up, hair in your face,
Eyes on sparkling cement at your feet.

This stranger simply wants to see you
Bloom like a field bluebonnets,
Your lips lulled open by his presence

As though his words were spring,
His tongue the month of March,
His wafting breath the wind.

But your books tell you your body
Is not a coppice in spring, created
to always be beautiful. But if it was,

too, you’re allowed russet sometimes
like that same grove in August, giving up
and letting the drought dictate

the color of your Monday mood,
a frown forever draped in brown.
Your face tumbleweeds in trepidation

As you bite your tongue, taste
the bitter summer dust of blood.
The world will come, take selfies

of the waves of wildflowers,
display the loveliness of this land
as if that’s all there is to see. Who wants

to remember the desperate face of drought,
the windswept, weathered landscape of your body.

Today, you’ll save your smiles for the mirror. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Napo 9

Today's prompt was to write a bop!
I'd never read or heard of a bop before, though after reading a few examples, I figured it out.
My mind was still very much on the road through Texas. That roadtrip. So. Long.

Bop for the Long Drive Across Texas

When you drive across the state of Texas,
You learn to see the world a blur
Of countryside overflowing with wildflowers,
Sprawling ranchland dotted with longhorns,
Rusted out towns that’ve seen better days.
You put your foot on the gas and go --

Time barrels down this highway like a sports car

And always you’ve somewhere else to go.
This roadtrip is life. You’ve long ago realized
You’ll whirr past the most beautiful moments,
An embarrassment of bluebonnets crowned in gold
At dawn, a congregation of clouds reminiscent
Of heaven, some glorious old man on the roadside,
His thumb in the air, his blue eyes, a clear sky
On you. You punch the gas. You’ve places to go.

Time barrels down this highway like a sports car.

You sit up straight. The mile markers scream
Your time is finite. Someday, this endless journey
Ends with a simple destination. San Antonio,
El Paso, Houston – wherever home is it’s not here
Amidst this peaceful beauty and the flocks of grackles.
Your mind fills with thoughts of home, with sleep.

Time barrels down this highway like a sports car. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Napo 8

I'm falling behind! Will I be able to catch up?
Two poems a day is brutal, but I'll try.
Here's my poem #8, inspired by my run yesterday with my pops.

Sunday Run with Dad

I remember as a child, watching as you’d set out
For another morning run, wishing my legs

Would sprout like beanstalks so I could follow
You into that jungle of streets and country roads,

That place you go to disappear into yourself.
And now I can. Running shoes on my feet,

Hair in a ponytail, my legs always in motion
Like yours. Today, I’m just one step behind.

We’re a pair of shadows separated by a generation,
You with a stoic fatherly silence that fades

To conversation as we pass these miles,
The hours we spend together on the road,

And me, with a heart that can never drink
Enough of you, that knows our time is finite.

Today, we set out for six miles into the sun
That promises to swelter, to turn the distance

Into a shimmering lake, to drown us both
In south Texas heat. You weather everything

With leather skin, a grimace and a groan.
You’ve taught me well: to know your father

Is to know yourself. I’ll always chase you,
Run in the coolness of your shadow,

Hoping to catch up, to find myself

Between the beats of your relentless heart.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Napo 6 and 7

Howdy from Ada, Oklahoma!

I'm here for the Scissortail Creative Writing festival at East Central University. What a fantastic way to celebrate National Poetry Month. I've met some amazing poets today and had just a marvelous time. The only down side is that this place is a ridiculous drive from home, which means tomorrow, like yesterday, is going to be exhausting.

So, have I been writing? Actually, yes.
Yesterday, I spent the day on the road and didn't really write anything, though as I was driving I worked a poem out in my head! So that counts, right? I wrote it out today during a lull in the conference. My Napo 6 is about having a religious experience looking for tampons at Buck-ee's truck stop. Yes, true story, unfortunately. I actually REALLY like what I wrote today, and for that reason, I'm not going to post it on my blog. I don't think it needs terribly much revision before I start submitting, so we'll leave that poem private. But rest assured, I did write it!

Napo 7 I wrote here at the hotel this evening, and I like the idea though I'm less happy with the execution. I'll post this here since I plan on building on it as I revise (and work it into blank verse as I do most of my work). So, here's my napo 7!

God has a Handlebar Mustache

You may ask me how I know
God has a handlebar mustache.
I once was lost, wandering
The streets of a small town
In Oklahoma. No address
But a vague idea of where
I was supposed to be, staring up
At an infinity of sky.

It was spring. An embarrassment
Of green filled the vista.
My hair, swept in a bun,
As a cold gust of wind
Coaxed my coat into dance.
The smell of burning chicory,
Ominous in the distance.

Never had I felt so misplaced
In this small slice of world.
North. South. East. West.
They spun in circles
As pick-ups whirred past,
Spit diesel. My eyes widened.
Nothing makes sense
When you’re a stranger
In a strange town, except the voice
In a low, southern drawl asking:

Are you lost? Echoing down
From the shimmering distance.
And I was, in every sense
Of the word.  And he’s there,
Unremarkable save a handlebar mustache –
A man haloed in sunshine
And spring. A face
Furrowed with eternity
Like an old, live oak.

He pointed the way
With the certainty
Of black and white
On a fluttering page.
And I’m found, there,
The straight path
Unfolding before me
Like a story etched

Into the mind of us all.

When I have a bit more brainspace, I'll try to return and tell you more about my experiences at Scissortail, beyond that it was amazing. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Napo 5

I'm pretty beat today. I didn't get very good sleep last night because B came home from a trip at 3am and woke me up. And then I couldn't get back to sleep. I had appointments to meet with students one-to-one in my office from 8am-5:45pm today to go over their research papers. And, to top it all off, I had to observe a colleague's poetry class from 6-7pm.
Upon getting home, I had a bunch of housework to do in preparation for my trip to Scissortail, plus packing and now I'm just exhausted.

However, I was able to sneak away for a bit and write a little. Today's prompt was to write about a plant, animal or landscape that's familiar to you, kind of in the style of Mary Oliver. I found myself writing on campus at UTRGV under an oak tree near my old dorm room. And I was thinking, damn, this tree has seen me through so many chapters of my life. I was such different person then. And the tree? Well, it's probably gotten a lot bigger, shadier, and leafier. Anyway, that's what inspired this poem:

Under the Live Oak

How many
Years has she stood
And watched life

Happen as her truck
Widened with rings,
Ants climbing her furrows
Of bark, the spring passing

As lovers stroll
Through her cool shade,
As doves mourn in her foliage,
as kisskadees sing.

April’s wind thrusts leaves
Into a gentle sigh.
Each year brings
A chance to stand

Taller, to reach
Up into the boundless
Texas sky. The live oak
In its immense patience

Illuminates with the sunset,
Sings with the grackles,
Celebrates a first kiss
By tossing petals to the breeze

That float into my hair.
Foe eternity
she stands tall, dressed
in the season. Catkins

cascade like curls,
Seed pods ache to drop
Into eternity
Of El Valle soil,

For the warm embrace
Of sun and rain
To be swallowed

Like day by night.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Napo #4

Today's prompt was to write an enigma poem. I decided to describe a PLACE without saying where exactly it is. Here, I'm describing Sal del Rey, the salt lake here. I remember visiting it a few years ago. It's an eerie sort of place. In my poem, I'd like to work the idea of Lot's wife in a little more. I kind of allude to her at the end, though I'd like to draw more parallels throughout.

Anyway, here it is!


Centuries ago they came for the salt,
Mined this place but not to death.
Today, it sits alone in the middle of the monte,
Crowned by a thicket of mesquite
That wants to keep this place its secret.

If you come,
A snake will glide across your path.
An omen. Let your curiosity be greater
Than your fear. Let it lead you
Into a different kind of Eden –

A landscape where even the muck gleams
Underneath a covering like ice
In the middle of South Texas summer,
A layer like a glaze of sugar
on pan dulce ready to be licked clean.

Here, the birds take refuge.
Here, the javalinas come
And leave their hoofprints
In the mud. Here, listen
To the chacalacas coo
And rustle with your coming.

Walk towards the lake.
Hear the crack of crystal
Underneath your bare feet.
Let water swallow your toes.
Let salt sink into your skin.
Let it crack your lips.
Let it crystalline your flesh
So you glimmer underneath

The heavy-handed sun.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Napo #3

Today was a nice surprise -- it was the first meeting of Circulo de Poetas, a poetry collective that I hope will blossom and thrive in the coming months. There were poets from the university, poets from the community, students, new faces and old friends. We laughed, wrote, organized, ate and drank. All good things. 

So, for today's Napowrimo poem, I'll share a freewrite inspired by these lovely poets.

Love Poem to El Valle

I will miss you when I'm gone --
uprooted from this soil
my toes will always thirst for.

You've spoiled me with mild winters
the soft, warm breath of your January love,
your frothing ocean washing clean my toes,
the air thick with your citrus blossom perfume.

I've grown accustomed to your stern hand
of heat and the prick of your thorns,
the arid taste of your cloudless sky
sticking to my tongue in August.

You are my place of comfort and my prison,
the walls of Eden closing in
hugging me tight. You are the place
I'll come back to when I close my eyes,
wishing to return that plucked persimmon
to the leaning branch. 

Good tacos. Real chile. A mariachi's seranade
on my birthday. A warm kiss on the cheek
from a stranger, the soft sigh of a palm at dusk.

You are pico on the tongue
the ache of a grito burrowed
in the back of my throat
the fire in my belly raging,
burning to break loose 
and rage across the monte.

You, valley, 
have toughened my footsoles,
calloused my palms
darkened my skin
given me a taste for fire.

El Valle how can I leave you behind?
Your dust always on my boots,
your scent always on my skin,
your home siempre in my flesh.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Napo 2

Today's prompt was to write a recipe poem. Since I'm thinking a lot about Helen lately, I decided to write a bit about her and her recipe for omelets.

Helen of Troy’s Recipe for Omelets

First you gather everything you need:
A swan’s egg, perfect, round, and cold
To the touch. Olive oil, slick like skin.
A whisk. A sizzling pan. Some salt and pepper.

The perfect thing about omelets 
is that everyone has their own desires 
to be fulfilled. You can please them all
With just this simple egg.
Denver. Southwestern. Greek.
All men share a hunger
With subtle differences
You can learn to please.

Tell him you created this
Just for him and wink
As you crack the egg
With your hand.

Let the white wash your palms,
Let the yolk burst into a sunrise
Of gold. Use only the freshest herbs
That always taste of spring.
Whisk until it starts to foam.

Use a low heat. Listen for the kiss
Of oil on egg. Don’t fuss too much
Or it won’t look effortless.
It must be effortless,
This creation of perfection.
Sprinkle what whets the appetite inside
Then flip it with a single twist
Of the wrist. Give it one more minute
To set. Then slide it on a plate,
You garnish lavishly with love.

Know he was made to devour.
Understand his hunger.

Use it to survive. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

National Poetry Month, Some Updates, and a Poem!


It's been awhile again hasn't it?

It's National Poetry Month, and what a better time to return to this space and to my habit of daily writing. With the fury of summer just around the corner, I figure this month's NAPOWRIMO is the perfect reason to get that poetry muscle in shape again.

Before I jump into my NAPO fun, I'll give you a little update on life from the Katiesphere, what I've been up to these past few months since I list stopped in. It looks like I'd left you on a bit of a cliffhanger, as I was on one, too! Well, biospy came back clean and I am in (relatively) good health. As far as everything else, still TBD! Though I hope to drop some good news soon.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, table and indoorOf course, the spring semester rolled in with a roar. It always does. But life has been good, truly, and exciting, too. In February, I attended the People's Poetry Festival in Corpus Christi and presented on Poetry of the Body. Lately, that's been my obsession, my focus, as a poet. I've been working on a manuscript tentatively titled An Iliad of Bones, which is about my own personal health struggles re-imagined through the lens of Helen of Troy. The book is morphing into a discussion, too, about women's agency over their healthcare choices and bodies, which I really like. Anyway, this book is probably going to comprise my summer project, and presenting about it in at TAMU-CC helped me figure out exactly what this book was trying to say/do. There's me (far left) at the People's Poetry Festival.

Then, we had FESTIBA, which is always an adventure. 2012 Texas Poet Laureate Jan Seale hosted a workshop that I helped organize for her, and in addition, we did a reading together along with riverSedge literary journal. It was a great time! Jan and I even went to the Valley Symphony Orchestra together after the FESTIBA festivities :) I always have a great time with her.
There we are, below, the entire riverSedge team: Managing Editor Rob Moreira, Me, Jan Seale, Nonfiction Editor Marianita Escamilla, my colleague Miriam Herrera, Editor-in-Chief Phil Zwerling, and Danielle, the T.A who makes the magic happen. In the back, that's Thomas, another one of my colleagues and a fine fiction writer to boot.

Image may contain: 8 people, people standing and indoor

The following week, I headed up to Austin for REVEL Unclassified, a music and poetry venue that hosts weekly events in a brewery. At first, I was a little skeptical, but in the end, I was so glad I went and had such a marvelous time. I was treated so well, and the audience was so supportive of my work. I read my feminist Eve poetry. But of course! What else? B was happy because he got free beer out of the experience because he was "part of the show" as the bartender explained. And indeed, he was! He took some really wonderful pictures.

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage and indoor

Over spring break, I headed up to Baylor University for the House of Poetry and the Beall Poetry Festival. I had never been to Baylor so I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet new people and explore something different. What better way to spend spring break, right? It turned out to be another fun event. I read a few poems, but perhaps the highlight was an incredibly insightful lecture given by Bruce Bond. I have been a fan of Bond's work for a couple of years now since I'd read a couple of his poetry collections. It has this depth to it, but not just that, an amazing beauty, too. So, getting to hear him talk about his aesthetic as a writer was like returning to school. I learned so much! One of the other really neat things about Baylor was the Browning Library. I had to take a selfie in front of it with Pippa, the eponymous character in the verse drama, "Pippa Passes." The library also holds some amazing artifacts from both Robert and Elizabeth. I hope to return when I have more time to explore. Talk about a nerdy spring break, huh???
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglasses and outdoor

Now it's April, and I really just have ONE poetry event planned this month: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at Eastern Oklahoma University. I am very much looking forward to it since I've heard some wonderful things about it from other writers. I'll be leaving next week!

This semester has been filled with travel, with networking, and with exciting opportunities. I am really looking forward to summer and returning to a feverish writing routine, getting back into my own head for a little while and pulling An Iliad of Bones together.

Which brings me to today's NAPO #1:

The prompt was to write a Kay Ryan-esque poem. I love these prompts because they force me out of my comfort zone as a poet a little bit. Lately I've been writing sonnets, so today, I did a little writing without a strict meter or rhyme scheme in mind, and I found it quite freeing. Good exercise! Here's what I came up with, inspired by my lazy cat, Rascal, who happens to be on my lap now as I type:

Poem for Rascal, Snuggling

Why do cats
Try to fit
Into the smallest
Crevices of life?
The elbow’s crook,
The space between
Knees, the thinnest
Slant of sun
Pouring in through
The bay window?
To feel the world,
Its tug against
The warm body,
To know the boundaries
Of your flesh,
To stretch out
A single paw
And claw through
The border of your shell 
with a yawn.
May the universe
Be a womb
Your body fills.
May your purr
Lullaby the world

To gentle slumber. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

So Begins the Spring Semester!

Ok, so really, it began like a week ago, but last week was a little crazy for me. The first week of the semester is ALWAYS crazy in general, though this time it was particularly so due to medical b.s. I had my appointment with another specialist last Monday, and she wanted to do a bunch of tests, which required a trip to the outpatient hospital. All of this really threw me for a loop so my first week was a big wonky. I hope students didn't notice too much. Fortunately, that's now behind me and I feel like I'm actually in the swing of things.

This spring, my schedule is actually quite flexible, which is nice. I'm teaching two hybrid online courses, one fully online course, and one "traditional" course. I'm on campus twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, though it's for the entire day. So far, it's working pretty nicely. On my days at home, I grade, plan, and, surprisingly, I've actually been able to write, albeit a little bit. 

So, in theory, this semester shouldn't be too crazy. I should have some time to travel, write, and have a semblance of balance. All good things. 

I feel like I'm on edge a bit, though, in some serious limbo. I'm waiting for word from the PhD programs I applied to. I'm waiting for word on a job. I'm waiting to move forward on my book. I'm waiting for the summer to begin my residency. I'm waiting for the results of my biopsy. All of these things are outside of my control. I've always been really uncomfortable with uncertainty, and it seems that's what my life is made of right now.

Last weekend, I was running with my dad, explaining my conundrum. "I feel like the future holds so many unknowns," I said. My dad said that I should look at these unknowns as opportunities. With the exception of my biopsy of course, the rest of those unknowns are all kind of exciting, or they could be anyway if things shake out the way I'd like them to. It's hard to keep that frame of mind, but I think particularly vital for me. 

For now, I think the best thing for me to do is immerse myself in my work -- both my students and my writing. Easier said than done. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcome, 2017!

Well, it's day two of this brand new year, 2017. Of course, this makes one naturally reflective, so, aside from getting over my little hangover yesterday, I've been contemplating the kind of writer, teacher, and human being I want to be in 2017. Where is there room for improvement? What do I need to work on? What would I like to accomplish this year?

Those are all really big questions. The big thought that's continually run through my head is that, all things considered, I'm doing a pretty decent job at this whole life thing. My career is on track. My health (or at least the things I can control about it) is excellent. I have meaningful relationships with people I love. My house could use to be a bit cleaner but bleh.

So, the whole "new year, new you" thing isn't going to work for me, as it never does, because I like the old me too much. There's no need for a new Katie because old Katie is fine.

Last year, according to my blog, I wanted to finish my next poetry book (check), find a new writerly direction (errr...), do at least 50 submissions (I did 64, finally did the math), 5 Out of Area Readings (I went to San Angelo State, Gemini Ink San Antonio, Malvern Books Austin, Langdon Poetry Weekend in Granbury, and TACWT in San Antonio, so... check!), pursue career advancement (check), and run (uh... yes).

Again, it looks like I have a pretty good thing going, no? Nonetheless, here's what I'd like to accomplish, do, and focus on in 2017:

1. Find direction for new poetry manuscript in the works. I don't need to complete it, but I'd like to have an idea before the end of the year as to how it's going to all come together.

2. Stop being afraid to try new writerly things. I'm a poet, but I'd like to try writing fiction, criticism, memoir, children's lit, SOMETHING ELSE to diversify. Let's make this a goal -- publish something this year other than poetry and book reviews.

3. Thrive in my transition. Change is coming in 2017 in one form or another, and I'm genuinely excited about it. There are so many unknowns, but may this fill me with joy rather than anxiety in the coming months. So far, I've been able to keep that attitude. Change is good. Change is growth. That's my mantra.

4. Maintain a writing routine, even in busy times. I'm a writer, dammit, first and foremost. So why is that not the first and foremost thing I do when the going gets a little tough, as it oft does? Here it is, in black and white. Every. Damn. Day. Katie. Write. This doesn't mean I have to write a poem a day, but it does mean I have to sit down in front of this keyboard everyday and get something down.

5. Keep what's good -- keep going to readings and networking, keep submitting, keep my positive attitude, keep good friendships, keep health a priority. B always says, don't fix what's not broken. So, the things that are working in my life, let's keep those up.

This is all doable. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.

Happy 2017, y'all!