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Showing posts from April, 2018

NAPO 30

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I did it! I'm done! What a month this has been! Of course, most significantly, it's been a month of making time for my poetry even when the going got tough. Heck, I wrote a poem on the day of my induction into the Texas Institute of Letters. I wrote poems in the car, in hotel rooms, doctor's offices, and even a few at work with my students.

All in all, it's been pretty charmed. I had some days of "writer's block" and some poems feel utterly stiff, but I also have some gems that I'll come back to over the summer and rework into something wonderful.

Today's poem, the last poem, was to write about a time I didn't feel safe. The moment that comes to mind most immediately for me is just before Hurricane Harvey hit Beaumont. I felt powerless, terrified, and very small. Of course, if you follow this blog, you know B and I left before the storm hit, and what a privilege it was for us to have the means to do so. We had somewhere to go that would welco…

NAPO 29

A Recipe for Time
If only time were something You could brew in a French press. Every morning. If only days Were beans you could grind up, Sip and savor at your convenience Or desire, warm and bitter, Quickening the heart.
If only moments were made While standing at the stove, Learning how to use the molcajete Just right, the pumice in your hand As you grind an avocado As you listen to another story Of all the moments made within this basalt bowl— Chipotle, that unnamable green sauce, Ajo paste that makes the kitchen Smell like home for days.
If only hours could be flipped On the iron skillet like a pancake With a syrupy I love you.
If only days could be created In that stock pot full of beans, Softening like hearts As they soak in the spice of life. If only minutes mixed like your recipe For the perfect martini, Four parts patience, One part dreams, a couple cubes of ice to keep it fresh, an olive, its branch. Alcohol, too, heals most wounds.
If only this most precious thing could…

Napo 28

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Today's prompt was to write about what our revolution would look like.
I wasn't really sure. I'm not very good at writing "political" poetry, though it's something I'd like to learn. On the Poetry Foundation website today, Carolyn Forshe was poet of the day, and her poem The Boatman is incredibly powerful. There was also a podcast about her poem, and I read an essay on her work as poetry of witness.
I'd like to study this further. I just sometimes feel like I don't have any right to speak about some of the "big issues" going on in our world because I lead a sheltered life. I sometimes think I need to get outside my bubble and experience more so that my poetry can be filled with this kind of urgency, so I can make the "political" poetry more of a socially-conscious poetry.
Anyway, that's kind of what this poem is about today.
As some of you know, I've gone nearly deaf in one ear fairly recently, which is an interesting …

NAPO 27

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Today's prompt was to write about the journey home. Of course, I think of The Odyssey as a lens to think about my own less epic commute. But like Odysseus, I have love waiting for me at the end of a long day. How miraculous is that?


Finding Ithaca in Beaumont
My commute takes ten minutes, Not ten years. Odysseus would be jealous. No ogres block the highway. The only sirens singing Are the police cars filling the evening With flashing blue and red. No sea monsters guard my driveway.
Like him, I keep my mind on home, Not what’s around me: The Exxon refinery browning the azure Of the almost endless Texas sky, Washed-up mobile homes From the last hurricane, Remnants of pine forests, Magnolia groves, who never forget The season, spring, and bloom And green accordingly.
Beauty salons, because we try to, too. The scents of fresh donuts Intermix with the chemical stench Of the brown smoke. Gas stations Pop up like dandelions along the highway.
A train announces its arrival, An endless p…

Napo 26

Today was a bit tough. I have a busy day, and I woke up a little late this morning, so that cut into some of my writing time.
The prompt from This City is a Poem didn't really inspire either--what will be missed about me when I'm gone? I don't know, I couldn't write about that because it felt narcissistic.
So I checked out my plan B site, Napowrimo, which suggested writing with sensory details. It offered the poetry of Ocean Vyong as an example, so I took the first line of one of his poems and went with it.
I'm not happy with the results today, but I am happy I got something down on the page. I want to explore this image further--the mimosa butterfly dying on the shores of Sal del Rey, beauty in a hopeless place.
I might contrast it with blooming magnolia beside an oil refinery, a cardinal flying through the streets of east Houston.
I dunno.
Anyway, here's what I've got today:

On the Shore of Sal del Rey Lake


Because the butterfly’s yellow wing Offers a fla…

NAPO 25

I didn't get behind, I promise.

B and I decided to visit our old home this past weekend, and, well, I forgot my laptop charger.
I've been writing on pen and paper (a weird experience). I'll post up photos of my work as proof before the month's end.
For now, though, I wrote a poem today, another one about Sisyphus.


Sisyphus in Beaumont
He knows there’s always more smokestacks Springing up than trees around these parts.
He knows the recycling he neatly collects, Sorts, and drops off at the city,
Mostly finds its way to the landfills, The one off the highway in Port Arthur
That seagulls patrol for scraps of food. He knows for every beer bottle
He picks up along the highway, Another ten get thrown into the grass.
He knows for every sparrow egg He places back in the nest,
another ten will shatter on the concrete. He knows the concrete jungles
Here and all across the world, sprawl More invasive than kudzo, more dangerous
Than their strangling vines, more beautiful Than the…

NAPO 19

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Today's prompt was to write about something I know to be true. I decided to write about a fact that I USED to believe, but now we all know isn't true anymore, that Pluto's a planet. I started thinking about the mythology of Pluto and Proserpina, or Hades and Persephone, how that myth "shadows" the way we feel about the ways men and women interact. I think it's interesting that Pluto's not a planet anymore, kind of in the way that men can't dominate women anymore. For me, Pluto being a planet symbolizes patriarchy. It turns out these "laws" both as they relate to Pluto and gender relations are mere myth.

Pluto’s Not a Planet Anymore
It hung over your head, as a girl— Pluto, the shadowy planet Orbiting out of sight, but always in your mind Millions of light years away.
Imagine that umbra, casting darkness Over everything—world-sized, enormous, Heavy always on the shoulders That someone, somewhere, evil lurks In waiting for the moment you flas…

Napo 18

Today was a little tough. I encountered some mild writer's block at the keyboard today. I just didn't know what to write about. I thought about abandoning these prompts altogether, but even then I hadn't the faintest idea of what to do. So I returned to the prompt (sort of), which, today, was to write about morning rituals. Mine are painfully boring. So instead, I thought about the morning rituals of hummingbirds and how they kind of wake from the dead each morning. That's miraculous! Amazing! I want to think more about the metaphoric significance of this, this idea of a daily rising from the dead, a daily resurrection. And how it happens everyday, and we still call our world a mundane place.

Here's what I got down:


Miracle, Wednesday Morning
They can teach you a lot, those hummingbirds, Spring visitors to my porch with rufous faces, Buzzing wings and ever-beating hearts, A blade for a beak.
These tiny bursts of beauty And toughness Know how to fight For a miracle,…

Napo 17

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Today's prompt asked: Who shines in your city? My mind immediately thought of one person--the cashier, Courtney, at Willy Burger. She's always so amazingly happy, cheerful, and kind, no matter the circumstance, even after Harvey when it felt like the world was ending. It probably also helps that Willy Burgers are, well, miraculously good. And I say that as a vegetarian!  

Willy Burger. After Harvey

Do you ever wonder How Noah and his wife Felt getting off that ark For the first time after the flood— Looking up at God?
You sink into the dark wells of her eyes, Relieved. So many refuges of comfort Here in Beaumont have flooded, Been washed out, destroyed.
But Willy Burger stands. A beacon of bacon, A sanctuary made of onion rings, Dripping grease, malts, A shrine to joy and comfort For the weary survivors Of this unholy flood.
The cashier’s eyelashes Bat as she anticipates your order And you let it fall from your lips In prayer. Courtney nods. She understands. She’s been th…

NAPO 16

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Today's prompt was to write about a list. I decided to write a to-do list for Demeter trying to get out of bed in the morning, reckoning with a sort of existential crisis. This needs some development, but I like the idea.

Demeter's Morning To-Do List, April


Get out of bed. That’s harder than it seems, you know. The barren winter Of my mood Pulls me here, keeps me in a kind of stasis. Think of all the millions of reasons I should thrust the covers from my body, Ignite the morning— The hungry bees, The slumbering bears, The sweet, sweet, sweet Smell of pollen filling the breeze.
Think of all the million reasons I shouldn’t. Another cycle of loss begins. Another spring to create. Another set of blossoms that must die.
Reason with myself. It’s for the greater good. Imagine all of the people out there Depending on my joy— The farmers, sunbathers, Children still stuck in their winter coats. All I have to do is get up. All I have to do is force a smile. All I have to do is try.

NAPO 15

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Today's prompt was to write about an object from a well-known story and personify it. I, of course, chose Adam's apple. He's trying to blame the apple for enticing him, much like rape culture tries to place some blame on women for the actions of men. I'd like to work on this a bit more. I like this idea very much because it gets to the hahaha core of some of our problems.


Adam Blames the Apple
When you sprouted from the branch, At first a blossom, did you know How much chaos your flesh could cause?
Do you feel guilty? If your skin wasn’t quite so rubescent, Your curves so lovely, The scent of your ripening so sweet, If only you didn’t fit Snugly in the palm of a hand, If only you didn’t hang so low, Enticing more than the bees, Maybe history would have played Out a little different.
Were you asking for it— To be plucked from the vine, to be held against the nose pressed against hungry lips, nibbled by teeth, penetrated by my hunger?
If only you’d hung on a little lon…

Napo 14

Today's prompt was to write about a bargain, an exchange. I don't eat doughnuts because I want to be pretty. Oh what a Faustian bargain I make everyday! :)


Ms. Faust
If you ask me what the soul is made of, I’d say it’s probably doughnuts. Glazed. Fresh and hot From the oven of some tiny bakery In some East Texas town, The oil still glistening, The dough dissolving on the tongue.
The smell wafts down the street, Into my bedroom, my dreams, Beckoning me into some kind of promise Of a paradise of sugar, Full bellies and joy.
And every morning, I’m Faust, Turning up my nose the heaven In exchange for this—my own flesh, A Mephistophelean bargain Called a diet, in which the soul Is sold for price of a waist.

Napo 13

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Today's prompt was to write about something that's different from what it seems on the surface.
I decided to write about Big Thicket's longleaf pine trees. These guys are so tall and sturdy that you'd think they'd last forever. They're a keystone species in the forest, too. So much depends on them. But the reality is that they're vulnerable and endangered. The forestland is being taken over by commercially farmed lumber pines. Only 3% of the longleaf population exists today.

I want to talk about the pines, but also, I want this poem to reach beyond into a metaphor for people we admire, who seem invincible, who are the keystones of so many around them. The giants of our lives. I'm thinking of my mentor who loves the thicket and the pine trees. He lives out in the forest, and when I visited him last summer, he told me exactly how many pines had to fall to build his home. He knew and acknowledged their sacrifice. He's my longleaf pine in so many ways,…

Napo 12

Today, it was a little tough to write. I had a really busy day at work, and I feel so far behind with everything. I feel like I'm spinning and spinning and getting nothing done.

My mind's been a little fuzzy since yesterday. I'm seeing a specialist for my recurring ear infections. I've had one that comes and goes since the beginning of the year, and it's done a ton of damage to my ear, destroying my ear drum and, I learned yesterday, some of the bones in my middle ear, too. My specialist is now referring me to another, more specialized specialist (I had no idea that was a thing) in Houston, to take over my case since it's gotten more complicated. So that sucks. Houston is an hour and a half from Beaumont. And he recommends surgery.
So I feel like I'm in a bit of a funk. I hate being sick all the time. But hopefully, this is what I need to finally get on the other side of this. We'll see. The saga continues.

But, I found a few moments this evening to at …

Napo 11: Elegy

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Today's prompt was to write an elegy. I decided to write one for Proctor Street, the main drag in Port Arthur. It's a really surreal sort of place. It's essentially abandoned, though it clearly was once a very prosperous place. In doing a bit of historical digging, it looks like it became abandoned due to a multitude of reasons--hurricanes (it's literally on the coast), white flight after segregation ended, and its neighbor, the nation's largest oil refinery. I want to write more about this place. I need to return and take some notes/pictures and such. I also want to incorporate Palmer's quote somehow. We remember and relish and wax nostalgic, but in the middle of it all, we're sick. Sick. Physically because of the pollution. As a nation because of our racial divisions and economic disparity. Spiritually because we've come to see a miracle as commonplace, expected. Anyway, this needs work, but I at least got a start this morning.
Elegy for Proctor Stre…

Napo 10: Magnolia Street

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Today's prompt was to write about a place's geography and its names. I decided to write about Magnolia Street, Port Neches, which is close to where I live. It's a really quaint and cute place filled with cute shops, an adorable bookstore, some kickass BBQ and a brewery making the most fantastic local beer. But an oil refinery looms just in the distance, looming like a shadow over the place. It's trying to be beautiful. It really is. That's the impulse of this poem.
Magnolia Street, Port Neches
If you call something “magnolia” it must be beautiful. This quaint street invites a stroll—a charming bookstore, a funky brewery, a downtown filled with the scent of bbq smoke wafting. Magnolia, the name blooms with beauty and baggage— the scent of flowers following this street like the lovely, troubled past of a belle returned to town after years of being away, her absence inspiring rumors of all kinds.
Here, Magnolia bloomed before this street As built, before Dixie had me…

Napo 9

Today's prompt was to imagine the large and the small coming together. I had a little fun. I want to keep working on this poem yet. I imagine a poem about God baking a cheesecake and being disappointed with the results, the cracks, like the cracks and fractures that exist within our own society.


The Cracked Cheesecake of God
What the fuck? I tried my best, Followed the steps laid out By centuries of wisdom— Warm everything in your palms With love, crack the eggs With a certain gentleness Into the bowl, mix slowly, Slowly, slowly, let the batter Come together gradually Before pouring it into that spring foam pan Of a nation that will mold it into something Everyone agrees is a masterpiece.
But no. I slid it into the oven, Put a low heat, and still— I leave it there for a moment, Step away to fix my tempest In a teacup just to find Those hairline fractures in the surface of its skin, Separating, deepening as it bakes Into faultlines that mar What should be perfection.
Shit. I did m…

Napo 8

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I love this picture so much. That's me and my amazing colleagues, from left, Jerry Craven, Jerry Bradley, and Jim Sanderson. I don't think I need to tell you which one is me. We're at the Texas Institute of Letters Banquet in San Antonio. It was my first banquet as a newly inducted member. I owe these men an enormous debt of gratitude for believing in me, empowering me, and encouraging me. Plus, they're just plain fun to be around!

I have to say, though, that I'm a little glad this weekend is over. B and I are driving back to Beaumont now, and I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again and return to my routine. Also, I miss my cats.

So, being on the road and not driving, I have some time to write. So, I got this little draft of a poem together. What's infinity? That was today's prompt. I think that most things, when we understand them, we learn they're not really infinite. The ocean has a bottom. We know the sun will eventually putter out. Texas sum…

Napo 6, Napo 7, and TIL!

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Howdy from San Antonio! There I am, giving my reading at my induction to the Texas Institute of Letters. Last night, I read my poems beneath the stars in La Villita to a crowd of supportive and inspirational writers. It was amazing. My former professor, Steve Schneider, was also inducted into the organization, along with another talented poet whom I just met, Sheryl Luna. Last night was the poets' ceremony. This morning, we had a delightful breakfast and a ceremony for the children and young adult authors. Tonight, the main event will take place, a banquet at The Menger Hotel. Needless to say, I've been busy.

Fortunately, I had written one "extra" poem on April 1st, so I'm counting that as my poem for yesterday. I'll paste an excerpt of it below. At some point soon, it will be posted on This City is a Poem in its entirety.

And today, I slipped away from the festivities into my hotel room for some much needed peace, quiet, and reflection. And a nap. And some …

Napo 5

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I love Houston. It's a "real" city. It doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't It's the kind of city that takes a beating and rises up anyway. It's the kind of city that's strong because it's so diverse. It's industrial and dirty and tough. It's urban and sophisticated and cool. And it's art scene? Amazing.  I drive through/to Houston often now that I live in Beaumont. It's skyline IS almost charming. The city really is an urban sprawl, though, and I was thinking about that today. It's a jungle of a different kind. So, this is my poem to Houston. 
Urban Jungle
You pronounce the Houston skyline “charming,” How the buildings rise like cypresses From the swamps of yesterday. Below, Pedestrians like fire ants march along The sidewalks on a mission to expand This forest made of concrete, glass and steel, While others buzz around like honey bees Emerging from their air-conditioned hives To sip the nectar offered at the bars That blo…

Napo 4: Put a Dog in There

Today, I followed the Napowrimo.net prompt about describing something abstract (anger) as something concrete (in this case, a mean mutt). I followed the craft advice from  "Put a Dog in There: Poetry and the Power of Concrete Nouns"
Julie Marie Wade perhaps a little too literally :)


Anger
Your anger is a barking dog That won’t shut up. It yips, yips, yips. It bares its little teeth As a growl grows within its heart.
You keep your anger On a short leash, Or lock it behind a chainlink fence. You don’t want your anger To bite the neighbor kid, The mailman, a lover. You don’t want your anger To escape at the wrong moment, Run out into the street, Eat a small child or a cat.
Sometimes, your anger Slumbers in a plush bed, Her eyelids twitching, Her lips lifting, And you know She’s dreaming of sinking Those white teeth Into someone who really deserves it. You tiptoe around your anger As not to disturb it. You stroke Its head, keep it well-fed, And do a lot of praying. Sometimes y…