Posts

Showing posts from 2019

Writers for Migrant Justice

Image
I know, I know, it's been far too long since I've updated this blog. I'm guilty.

Summer wasn't even incredibly busy, so I don't have a great excuse other than the fact that sometimes I just don't have a whole lot to share in terms of my writing progress. That's not even true. During the summer, I completed a brand new poetry manuscript (Benzene Benedictions), found a publisher for my collaborative project (yay!), presented at Gemini Ink, and taught a poetic analysis class for the first time. It was a good summer overall--a little stressful because B was furloughed from his work, but he's since found a new job, so we're found a new sort of normal. His new job is in Beaumont, so we're waiting for our lease to finish, and once that does come the new year, I hope we're moved to Beaumont so we can both ditch this nasty commute from Houston (but damn, I really love Houston's poetry scene!).

The fall semester has begun, and it's off to a f…

Napo 23

I got behind again. I don't think I'll make the 30/30 goal this year, but maybe that's ok. Here's one I wrote today, a sort of ars poetica. I usually HATE ars poeticas, but the prompt was to try one, and the purpose of 30/30 for me is to really try new things.



To My Students
Your poems may not always sing like a mockingbird’s crepuscular serenade. They may not always trill with the wind In spring, tinged with love and lust and magnolia blossoms opening their wide eyes to the world.
They may not always sit on a wooden fence On another peaceful southern morning Calling out to other mockingbirds With beauty. Always beauty.
And that’s ok. Some songs have a greater purpose than melody.
Come dusk, today, a chick Must be nestled in the branches of an oak In my backyard. The song its parents sing isn’t beautiful—it’s a war cry, a warning to the waiting cat below, that they, like a poem, can dive-bomb down from the sky, beak pursed, ready to hit the powerful, the huge, the…

Napo 22

Today's writing was a little difficult. The prompt was to write about a word in the dictionary. Dictionary.com's word of the day is rhubarb, so I titled my poem that and meditated on the color red, how it means both beginning and end, love and anger, the two extremes. Maybe the "two extremes" aren't so different . . .


Rhubarb
I think about the paintbrushes, How they fill the roadside lawns with flecks of red, The color of flush flesh, of blushed cheeks, Puckered lips, the tongue
How red attracts the bees, The hummingbirds, the hungry, How it whets the appetite— Cherries, rhubarb, radish
The fine line between love And anger Carries the scent Of passionfruit
Whenever I wear a red dress, The color of those wildflowers, And slather my lips in that same hue, I too become spring, No matter the season, And behind me, the heat Of summer seems to follow
My face turns that color as the blood rushes to skin
Sunrise, sunset, We drip with it The moment we come Into the wor…

Napo 21

Today's prompt was to write about a bird. I saw a roseate spoonbill on my commute this morning, and it was striking.

Texas Flamingo
On another dreary Houston morning, I’m driving on the freeway, staring up Into the smoky sky. I sip my coffee, Let its lukewarm bitterness slide down My throat. I cross the San Jacinto River— Wonder how many years this waterway Has donned this hue of rust. This city robes Everything in somber colored shawls, it seems.
A roseate spoonbill proves my theory wrong. He rises from the brackish estuary waters, Dodging barges, flying through the smog, And soars across my windshield’s field of view. The bright magenta of his feathers fill The morning’s vista with a flash of glory as he glides with grace above the highway.
How did his feathers get so bright and pink? He breathes this same stale air. He feasts on fish From this water where refineries Dump waste. Like me, he calls this bustling wasteland Home. But somehow, still, he spreads his wings And finds…

Napo 20

Yesterday's prompt was to use spoken word, actual speech, in a poem. I went to Subway yesterday and was really delighted in the way the two "sandwich artists" spoke to one another. They were excited about the Subway actually being closed on Easter. I want to revisit this idea. At the end of this poem, I'm playing with the idea of the speaker as a contemporary Mary Magdalene.

Overheard at Subway
Don’t bake no more bread, girl. Tomorrow’s Easter and we closed.
We got to throw All that bread out And yeah, I know it feels like sin but the old’s gotta go, make room for the new. Ain’t nobody want Stale bread sandwiches After their Easter hangovers, Know what I’m saying?
Course you do. Shit. It's spring and outside, I feel like the whole world blooming again. My backyard's done full of myrtles blooming, and bees too, if you'd believe it. Here in the middle of Houston. You imagine that? Bees. Shit.
What you got planned tomorrow? I feel like it's a gift, you …

Napo 19

Yesterday, I had some brain fog from the aftermath of a migraine and I couldn't focus on writing or anything mentally demanding. So, instead, I went for a nice long run, grocery shopped, and played some video games to let my head work through the mush.

Today, I feel sharp. Ready to write.

The prompt for today, Easter Sunday, was to write a surreal poem modeled after Lorca. I love Lorca, but I can never make sense of his poetry. That's the point though, isn't it? Today, I practiced letting go of sense in favor of sensory details to describe what it's like to live in Baytown, to live within spitting distance of both the Exxon Mobil refinery and the Chevron Phillips refinery. It's never truly dark here because those are so bright. In a strange way, like NYC, Baytown, too, never sleeps.


The Sun that Never Sets
Here, a fire always burns in the sky— The flare stack opens its mouth And never closes it, breathes fire And light into the night sky, the stars Faint but there…

Napo 18

My brain fog is gone, thanks to some vitamins, some caffeine, and a run. So I was able to come back to write another poem draft to catch up a little. Yesterday's prompt was to make the abstract feeling of grief concrete. I really haven't experienced profound grief, but B has.


The Gold Watch
I don’t know when the gold watch stopped— It sits, tucked into the darkness of the cupboard, No longer catching the rays of sunlight, Telling him the time, Or clanking on the dinner table As he ate his dinner. Once, its face looked up, Met the curious eyes, or the worried eyes On a Monday afternoon, or the languid eyes On a Sunday morning, or the tired, bloodshot eyes After one too many martinis. Now it collects dust. The time reads 7:56. I wonder if it stopped In the morning, or in the evening, it’s gold hands Showing the way cryptically. I wonder if the gold watch Felt the moment the pulse Stopped. I wonder if this gold watch went cold, how it felt to feel the heat of that old man’s bod…

Napo 17

This is getting difficult. I'm fighting some brain fog this week. Bleh.
Abecederian for Survival in a Hurricane
A is for the aftermath— Be ready for it, Closed roads keeping you from home, Debris of lives floating through neighborhoods, Endless work to clean up the mess created by this.
F is the flood. I thought we’d been through this already, God. What ever happened to that covenant? Harvey taught us to have faith In nothing anymore— Jesus, Karma, Love.
M is for the monster finally fading, the clouds eventually parting, Nothing could stop it in its tracks. O is for the shape of our mouths, Perpetually hung open as we picked up the pieces, Quelled our fears, Rebuilt our lives from the brokenness.
S is for the streets, Trash piled high like mountains of Unimaginable loss—your father’s favorite chair, shattered Vases filled with molded lilies, Wooden desks, built by calloused hands, water-logged and ruined.
X is for the exodus of people that never returned, even after Years have…

Napo 16

Ah, yesterday I got too busy.
Monday, we drove back to Houston from the valley and arrived home around midnight. Then, I had a long day of work ahead--office hours, meetings, class, an oral exam.
By the time I got back home, I needed sleep more than I needed poetry.
So, I'm going to put in two writing sessions today. Here's my bounty from session 1, in which I used this as a prompt:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/70291/the-image-list

And this was my result:


Night-Blooming Cerise For Jan Seale
The afternoon descends upon us Like a tired grackle coming home to roost. I’m standing in her garden, amazed At how she can bring color To this slab of concrete, joy To the desolate world. It’s spring. How many springs has she seen In her time, I wonder. A curious plant Climbs the brick walls of her home, Fills the bleak grey with deep green, The hue of life we all love, the hue Of photosynthesis that makes the world Breathable, bearable.
What kind of plant is that? I ask.
Nigh…

Napo 15

Again, this needs work. Today's prompt was to write a dramatic monologue. I chose to write a monologue in the voice of a plastic grocery bag. I want the grocery bag, something mundane, to be uplifted to sound like God, but not a very nice god, obviously.


Monologue of the Plastic Grocery Bag
I will carry your burdens If you fill me with them— The box of breakfast cereal, The cans of green beans For the Thanksgiving table, A rainforest of toilet paper.
Whenever you need me, I’m there. Translucent like a ghost, when released to the wind, I can float For miles and miles, Find my rest in an empty field, Be mistaken for a wildflower In spring. Notice how the sun Catches my skin and shines.
Some forget about me, Stuff me into a drawer For later use like a Bible. I collect dust in the folds of myself.
I can wander the sea For millennia, A lost god, Aimlessly riding the waves.
I survive the belly of the whale— Bring down the biggest of beasts Without mercy.
My creation warms the earth. I…

Napo 14

I had some trouble writing today. I have a headache, probably from dehydration from my long run this morning. I spent most of the day working on my column, also, which required some brain power. So I'm beat.
Today's prompt was to play with homophones or homographs. I decided to riff on the pray/prey. I want to do some more thinking on this idea, but here's what I have for now:


Prayer of Prey
Up in a palm tree, A great horned owl Returns to its nest Of dying fronds.
My coming startles her, And she drops her bounty To the ground with a thump—
A headless dove, its neck Bejeweled in red. She flutters off into the sunset, Leaving the treasure At my feet.
I want to say a prayer For prey. I want to say A prayer for the hunter, Hungry. But who to pray
To? Who created this awful Lockstep of devouring And being devoured?
My skin turns to gooseflesh As I shovel the fresh kill Over the fence. I can’t look at so much red, a portal to a question of who could let such beauty go to wast…

Napo 13 and a workshop

Image
Today was great. I'm visiting my home in Edinburg, and I had the opportunity to attend a poetry workshop at Luna Coffee House with some old MFA buddies. My goodness, how I miss this poetry community! Julieta was giving a workshop on revision, and it was nice to push me out of my comfort zone. These folks were an inspiration! I saw old friends Rodney, John, and Diana, and met a couple new writers as well.  Julieta gave us a prompt to write in response to an M.S Merwin quote that went something like this: "On the last day of the world, I would plant a tree." I wrote some mumbo jumbo in the workshop itself, but after the workshop, while driving home, B and I saw a man selling avocado trees on the side of the road, a common sight. "I'd love an avocado tree!" I told him. "But you would never get to eat the fruit," he reminded me. "Those things take decades to grow."  And then I felt a little sad. He's right, of course. Who knows if we…

Napo 12

Ode to my Bathrobe
I’ve worn this robe Through some of the best moments Of my life, when, waking in the morning, Unhinging myself from his arms, The embrace of the bed, To be born again in the warm bath Of morning sunlight.
I wear this robe As I stumble from bedroom To kitchen, fill the kettle With water, and prepare The morning coffee.
I’ve worn this bathrobe Through my sicknesses— It’s soaked the sweat from fevers, Comforted me as I lie on the sofa, Kept my flush skin warm.
When I shed it like a second skin, it falls to my feet, lifeless but forgiving.
It wears the holes of cats’ claws, The stains of coffee, The frays of laundry soap.
It always hangs at the ready, From a chair, at the foot of the bed, And sometimes, in the closet, Waiting for my body To animate it, bring it back to life.
It never demands much— Like a pair of jeans that digs into the hips, Or a collared shirt, stiff against the neck. I fasten it around my waist, Relax my gut, slip my arms Into its arms like it was …

Napo 11

I'm still riffing off of yesterday's prompt to write about weather related regionalisms. I'm loving this article about them.
Here's my poem:
A Testament of Ice
I sit down to my morning coffee, Turn on the news. The weathergirl,
A modern oracle in a tight red dress, Forecasts another day of heat,
One of countless in this record-breaking summer. It’s going to be as hot as Hades, kids,
She says and I believe her. Yes, that’s where we’re going, All of us. A continent away, a glacier sits
Atop the world in dominion, gazing Out at the ocean. One must have faith
In glaciers, their ice spanning miles and miles, Keeping the balance of summer and winter,
Life and death. Even here in Texas, I can feel the ice, how it holds us
In its hands, how time has shaped This terrible beauty, how it slices
Into the landscape, making even mountains move. These titans quench the forests,
Fill the rivers that feed into our water spouts That wash our faces clean each morning,
Here in this urban…

Napo 10

The Gospel of High Water
Some people say “Come Hell or high water.” I think of the Hell that high water brings every time I drive across the bayou bridge, every time I see a raincloud approaching from the gulf, every time a drop of water falls, unexpectedly, onto my hair.
And I remember the Hell of high water— Middle of the night evacuations With the cats loose in the backseat Of the car, meandering the mazes Of closed roads, flooded streets, Shuttered windows and gas stations. Even the refineries knew better And shut off their bright lights, Their flare stacks, their smoke.
High water as a way of teaching you How to pray. How to let go of everything And leave it all behind. How to select What really matters. How to trust The chaos, to roll the dice, To close your eyes and drive across that road that might instead be river.
The gauges, the bayous, the floodgates— All false senses of security. The Hell Of high water obeys no rules, Fills neighborhoods, houses, Nostrils, lungs. Come …

NAPO 9

Today's prompt was to write a list poem. I decided to list some of the things you really shouldn't touch, but sometimes you do it anyway.


All the Things You Shouldn’t Touch
A hot stove will scald your fingertips— You learn this quickly as a child, Anything that glows orange, Anything illuminating, The colors of fire.
You learn not to touch The electric socket For the same reason. It bites, shakes you awake.
Don’t touch the shards of glass On the kitchen floor From the plate you dropped.
You won’t touch the edge of a knife Against your fingertip, not even a little, Not even to savor the warmth Of crimson on your skin.
Don’t touch the dead— The sparrow that crashed into the window.
You know better than to touch the hill Of fire ants with your bare toes, Unless you want to feel A million fangs, A million sparks of fire. Maybe you’ll poke it with a stick To watch the soldiers well up In an army made of rage.
Don’t touch anything that can hurt you except the burning fire of a love…

Napo 8

Today's prompt was to write a poem modeled after Smith's "Good Bones," which is one of my favorite poems of all time. If only, right? The prompt was to take a metaphor from professional slang and try to build on it. I decided to go for a medical slang term, circling the drain, for a patient who seems to just be getting worse, going under, about to be swallowed.  I want to work on this a little more, but I like the idea. 



Mother Earth
Our world is resilient, or so I try to believe. Our world is tough—a big-boned workhorse Of a woman with calloused hands And grease burns on her arms. She’s the kind of woman who wakes up At the crack of dawn, cooks a full breakfast For a house full of children, then goes to work, Comes home, bone-tired, and starts her second shift. She does it with a grimaced smile, unashamed Of the gap between her gritted teeth. Her generosity, her goodness, her open arms Are eternal, or so I try to believe. High blood sugar. High blood pressure. Ar…

NAPO 7

Today's prompt was to write about a gift you'd give yourself. There's no greater gift than the gift of forgiveness. It's raining outside this afternoon.


Rainy Sunday Afternoon
You’ve been holding onto this for too long— This imperishable burden lingers in the air
thick with humidity, the sky An infinity of grey. The last rays of sunlight
Recede into the distance. How long Have you been carrying this?
Across a continent, from one ocean To another, guilt lugged around,
Follows you like a turbulent cloud follows The monsoon trough. It’s Sunday afternoon.
Even the day itself weighs heavy on the shoulders, an inevitable catastrophe,
an undulation of hope and despair, of rain and sun. Thunder mutters its warning in the distance.
Sometimes, the weather gives us no choice but to let go of everything, to give in to the pull
of a rainy Sunday afternoon. The tea kettle whistles as raindrops
Dither on the windows. Light flashes Across the darkening sky. Thunder
Tears this da…

Napo 5 and 6

I promise I wrote NAPO 5. I wrote a villanelle, as instructed, about Trump "tilting at windmills." Because it's a villanelle, I probably won't completely overhaul it in revision, so I'm not going to post it here on my blog. I will, however, post the first stanza just for accountability:


Tilting at Windmills
Why are you so afraid of windmills, Don? Do you imagine that they’re giants, too? Their turbines usher in the coming dawn

Which brings me to NAPO 6, today's prompt. The instructions were to write a "what if" poem. I started out thinking about what would happen if we were immortal. How would that change the nature of our love?  And then I took it in another direction entirely:
Love Song for a Plastic Grocery Bag

If love floated like a plastic grocery bag Over the city, catching sunrays and gulf wind
In its open mouth; if it bloomed perpetual, The only flower you can count on,
white against the green spring prairies, or flourishing beneath the aut…

NAPO 4

Today's prompt was to write a sad poem in simple language. The extra bonus over-achiever prompt was to make it a sonnet. I'm an extra over-achiever. No shame. I decided to write about running with my dad and  the start realization that one day, I'll have to run without him.
The Finish Line
A marathon’s a race that never seems To end. When I was young, I’d watch my dad train and run the races. In my dreams, he was immortal, an Olympiad,
invincible and ageless. My legs grew. So did my heart. And soon, I started running By my father’s side, always a few Steps behind my Superman but gunning
For the finish line. We logged the miles. He trained me in his image, and together we powered through the aches, the pains, the smiles of gritted teeth as sun turned skin to leather.
But every race must have a finish line; He’ll cross his before I can cross mine.

Napo 3

Today's prompt was to write about change that happens over a long period of time.
I wrote about my hometown, McAllen, and how change seems rapid there if you leave, but slow if you're living and experiencing it. I want to work more on this idea, maybe how that change of a landscape feels like a metaphor for the change in myself.
Innocence to experience. It's not a bad thing. It just happens.



Magic Valley
It’s easy to believe in magic here In El Valle, where grandmas reminisce About how this bustling city used to be an orange grove, So many rows of neatly planted trees, So many globes of gold, and so much sweetness, Enough to satisfy the hunger of the world. And anyone could take a piece of fruit And hold it their hands, and take a bite, And let the sour and sugar of it all Run down their chins in fall and spring.
And their abuelas then remembered the ranchos, With the infinity of cattle grazing on the endless swathes of green and the countless calloused hands that fed t…

NAPO 2

Today, I wrote with my students! I shared the napowrimo.net prompt with them and we talked about the technique of ending a poem with a question. So, without further ado:

April, East Texas

Here in Texas, we await the summer
like a child braces
for the slap of his mother,
blend into the cowering shade
and await the inevitable:
August. We deserve this season,
the glut, the long days, the rays
like lashes against bare skin,
the heat echoing from the pavement
like admonishment from the sky,
the flush of sunburn,
the pointing finger of noon.

Not even lemonade can quench this.
No sprinklers can wash this guilt clean.
We made this sweltering bed with carelessness.

But today, a cold breeze blows in
from the north and staves the punishment
for now, filling Beaumont with a sigh
of relief. Winter, in its death throes,
cools the afternoon. And I wonder,
what on earth did I do to deserve such grace?





It's NAPOWRIMO!

Well well well...
It's April, National Poetry Month. Of course, I'm attempting to write a poem a day.
Today's prompt from napowrimo.net was to write a poem in the form of instructions. They provided John Ashbery's "The Instruction Manuel" for a little inspiration. I decided to write about patio gardening, and how it's a metaphor for being joyful in difficult times. My poem isn't quite there yet, but I like the idea, and hope to come back to it later. Here's what I've got so far, my NAPO #1.


Eve Tries to Garden in the Fallen World
I look out my window to the fallen world— The clouds of smog hovering just above the city, The vast expanse of concrete, the tiny patches Of green, and I almost forget it’s spring.
I know that I can grow a tiny patch of paradise Here on this patio. I plant natives. They remember This land before the freeway sliced it in two. I believe in the impossible, that this season
Of plenty will last forever. I soften the dirt W…

Writers in Performance, Spring, and Other Katie News

Image
Life, as usual, has been treating me well. Case in point: the photo above. Last week, I was fortunate to spend an evening at Lone Star College in the Woodlands as part of their wonderful Writers in Performance reading series. I had a great time meeting with students, community, and faculty at LSC.

At first, I'll admit that I was a little intimidated with the idea of being a part of this reading series. It's one thing to be on a panel of poets, but it's a bit of a different experience to be the only one reading. Having and event that's "all about you" is a little, hmm... scary. What would I say, talk about, and read to keep people engaged for an extended period of time?

It turned out to be not so scary, though. The first part of the reading was a Q&A with students, and truthfully, I spend so much time in front of students everyday, so that is no biggie. I really just chatted with them about how I got my start as a writer and tried to encourage them to pur…

Goodbye 2018, Welcome 2019!

Image
The New Year began without fanfare for me this morning. B worked the graveyard shift, so I spent the evening at the apartment with the cats. At midnight, I was at my computer, writing a poem. It isn't a very good poem, but it was a good way to begin 2019.

With a new year, I'm naturally reflective. Lately, I've been feeling a little negative about my progress as a writer. 2018 didn't feel like a monumental year, but it really was. Since beginning my vacation, I've been having some health issues again, so my output hasn't been where I'd like it to be. I started having my usual stomach trouble and an uptick in my migraines, so I figured it was a good excuse to find an new doctor in the Houston area. She was concerned with the frequency and intensity of my migraines so she's sent me to a neurologist. Then, during a physical exam, she found an "inflammation" in my abdomen, so she ordered some tests, and after getting the results, more tests. Bleh.…