Showing posts from April, 2020

Napo 30

I made it! Pandemics seem like a good time to write, and I'm glad I muddled through, even and especially when I felt the malaise hit. The malaise hits today, but I wrote in response to a prompt anyway and told myself to work on this for at least an hour. I have the time. I have this gift. I will not always have such a precious thing as time. Today's prompt was to write about something that returns. Fireflies return each summer. But maybe not so much. We can't take beauty and love and goodness for granted. Another thing I'm thinking about is periods. I might, instead of using the fireflies as a metaphor for love, use them as a metaphor for menstruation in future drafts or in a different poem. Of Love and Fireflies Once, I loved you like a firefly— Remember how they used to make the fields Effulgent like the midnight sky once was? When this was orange fields and the heart Grew wild like the monte? Remember how Each year those lightning bugs returned

Napo 29

Eve During Quarantine Is this how she felt millennia Ago, sheltered in Eden’s refuge? A cupboard always full Of everything she needed— Garbanzo beans and quinoa, Organic mac and cheese, Jars and jars of marinara sauce So red and blushing. A freezer full of chicken, Ground beef, loins of pork. A bed, rendering pleasure. A home, a foundry of succor. Here, I want for nothing Save the sunset, red like an apple Or a pomegranate or a cherry, Setting on a backdrop of a dead city. Standing in her garden, Naked, did Eve gaze beyond The walls of her garden Like me, standing at my window, Smudging it with her palms, And weep? This fragile body Be damned. Mortality Be damned. Life be damned. Did she ache to return to the work of the living?

Napo 28

I have to admit, I'm getting some fatigue. I guess that's to be expected during normal times, and I suppose during a pandemic too. Most days I'm totally fine, but I find myself just not wanting to do things anymore. Ritual and routine are vital to me, so follow them, go through the motions. Morning writing is one of those rituals. So is daily tidying of the house.  I want to write more and with more depth and complexity and urgency and passion, but I don't know, I'm having trouble channeling that. Maybe once the semester is through and I'm staring at a long, glorious summer ahead. I need to find a new project to get fired up about. Napo has been a nice distraction. But I need direction. I'll find it, soon.  Until then: Tidying During COVID-19 This morning smells of bleach And lavender soap. I make it so: I wash the sheets each morning After waking, a ritual to keep this Eden clean. I snap the wrinkles from the sheet and lay it o

Napo 27

Review of 2020 Ramen noodles in a plastic cup. Mac and cheese from a box In a ceramic bowl. Tuna from a can. This is what the year served us, Set for us on our tables with a smile And told us to dig in. It’s the cuisine Of hard times, of survival, of uncertainty. Located on the corner of life and death, Of boom and bust, of breath and breathlessness, 2020 is a self-proclaimed hole-in-the-wall. Its ambiance is doom and hope at once. Its windows open to sunlight; Its curtains wear a veil of dust. All its tables are set for one and one alone. It’s the kind of environment one expects For the story of our lives to unfold, Where survival is served on a chipped plate And tastes like heaven, or hell, or music. That year, I ate boxed mac and cheese And cried because it tasted like the past, Like better days, like my father at the stove Adding weenies to the dish and shakes of pepper. That year, I ate the perfect loaf of bread From my own o

Napo 26

What I Will Tell My Great-Grand Children About the Plague The sun still rose each morning. The lovegrass swayed in the wind. And, if you drove and drove and drove Into the countryside, you could breathe And close your eyes and smell citrus, Like it was any spring day in south Texas. Our house smelled of coffee and love. My cat, Rascal, perched on my lap. Grass snakes and blind snakes and corn snakes Didn’t know or care. And the snappers off the coast Had a moment of reprieve since the fishermen Were afraid of each other for once. I still had dreams—being lost in a forest, And there were forests to be lost in, still. A dirty penny was a thing to fear. The oranges still tasted sweet, But I wondered who picked them In times like these, who braved The fields to bring a bit of sweetness. And you have to bless a heart like that. The president told us all to drink bleach. Can you believe that? No one listened. I was in love with a man wh

Napo 25

Today's prompt was to free write after Schuyler's "Hymn to Life." The poem is winding and long and reminds me a lot of Whitman. There's something magical almost about poems like this, and it's a magic I must admit I don't quite grasp. But here's my free write for today. Free write Hymn to Life The wind blows in off the gulf this morning. It’s warm, too warm,   and it makes me feel suspicious of its intentions. I’ve grown accustomed to winter and here it is, spring, and it’s hot. The summer marches in, gets the floor muddy with its boots, and plops itself on the sofa like an unwelcome houseguest that I know isn’t going anywhere. The cat sleeps in my lap and warms my thighs. Love is warmth and heat and the quickness of breath. And sometimes love is letting things happen. “You let the light inside the body,” the president said, The UV light, the sunlight, and in a way he’s right, You have to let the light in the body to show wh

Napo 24

Dear K— Dear knells, dear kegs, Dear kazoos, here is another day I am far away from home, The small town of Kiel, Wisconsin. I write a friend from Odessa, Not in Ukraine, but in Texas. She is afraid of the countryside. I am afraid of the city centers. And fear, yes fear, keeps us apart, Though there is a kinship between us. I think of all the oil well there And how they pump the blackness From the softness of the earth, The klack klack klack of fracking. Where does a city end? When it dips into the openness Of west Texas? When it turns Into the rural roads, when fear Changes from urban to emptiness— Where the color of the skin of the people Change, too. The sun can do that. The blood can do that. Gerrymandering Can do that, too. Once, walking In a city, Baytown, another oil town That does not begin with K, Like my name, like my hometown, Or Kafkaesque, which is how I felt, When a black man asked me for directions And my firs

Napo 23

Home, to the Borderlands On 281, heaven smells like citrus blossoms— Faint and far away, but a memory The finger can’t touch. Here, the javelinas rule the brush, Die on the roadside And the mesquites bow their heads. These empty counties were made For driving through on the way To somewhere else as the sun Scorches and urges movement, Migration, fleeing. St. Peter Mans this checkpoint In a green uniform— But only stops those who leave This sacred place. A camera Flashes to record your stay In heaven or hell or the afterlife Or just a refuge where time moves at the speed of Montezuma cypress trees. The city lights glow like southern stars. The lightning bugs used to, Before the weeds of progress Filled this landscape. I come to baptize myself In this humid heat of spring, To this southern tip of Texas To the edge of the world, To the beginning and the end.

Napo 22: Proverb Poem

In Praise of Rust “Those who rest grow rusty” What if, instead of fighting it, We let it happen: rust, the slow Changing of color from silver to amber, The roughening like palms That’ve spent their better years Putting the world back together Or cleaning it with bleach, The soft flaking of flecks of the self. What if, in rest, I let the moisture of you Soften the iron fist, the steel heart. If the cogs of the world stopped spinning Long enough to notice the patina Clothing the body in beauty As it reclines on the sofa, Settles in for another long evening With you, a movie, a pizza between us, And our quiet metamorphosis to rust.

Napo 21: Homophonic Translations

I never really like doing homophonic translations, but I humored myself today and just gave it a try. I'm staving off a migraine, so I needed a sort of easy assignment anyway. But then, at the same time, I want to write something that maybe made a semblence of sense. If I can return today to the blog, I'm going to do another prompt, but if not, then this will count as Napo 21 (the homophonic translation) and Napo 22: a poem that I salvaged from the wreckage of it. In Uncertain Times (Homophonic Translation) In uncertain times, a somberness emerges that I try to stifle clandestinely as it dances across the plains. In uncertain times, I can’t breathe. Penitence stifles, Careens, prevails. The whooping cranes, The bluebonnets, say that toil, say that betting on humans will flank temporarily on the platform of fortune in the constellation of largess and dance upon the billiards of sand. Tuna passes, abandons and deprives Our uses. T

Napo 20: A Walk

I'm a day behind in my NAPO, but yesterday's prompt was to go for a walk and gather a few things, so I did that this morning before sitting down to my writing desk. I just walked around the yard in my nightgown. It was such a beautiful morning--the birds were chirping and singing and doing their things. The rolly pollies were moving the earth. The flowers were dying and blooming. And life, it seems, goes on, despite the virus and the unrest and the unemployment and our anxieties and worries of the future. So it goes. Then, I read "Tell the Bees" by Sarah Lindsey. So this became an inspiration and framework for my writing about the world, going on as it where, in spite of everything. The News Somehow, the rolly pollies missed the news— They keep doing their thing in the dirt, Moving the earth beneath our feet. I want to tell them, to wake them from their joy, That the world, as we know it, is ending. I want to ask them why they keep on worki

Napo 19

Mask Making               For Martha, Who Made Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic She said, “I will cover you in with the blood of Christ,” As she handed me a mask she’d made from cloth. Roses bloomed. And when I slipped it over My blooming smile, I felt like I, too, was spring Again, reborn and brave to face the world outside. We couldn’t hug. I couldn’t touch  the warmth of her hands that made this mask, this gift, And I imagined her, spilling out bits of fabric, Choosing this one, the rosy one, to make A set of masks for me, to cover me in red The color of the paintbrushes blooming outside, The hue of suffering and resurrection, The shade of miracles. My suegra has half a lung left. Cancer ate the rest, and so she heaves As she breathes, but damn, she breathes And keeps on breathing everyday. A walking milagro , she calls herself. She sits at her sewing machine all afternoon, Cussing and praying and singing and crying

Napo 18: Ode

Yesterday's prompt was to write an ode to a simple thing. I looked up odes on the to read a few for inspiration. Of course, Neruda has his amazing odes, but I've read those countless times and wanted something maybe a little more contemporary to get my own juices flowing. As I was reading and browsing, I came across Allison Joseph's "Thirty Lines About the 'Fro" and knew I wanted to write something similar (it's a wonderful poem!). I think most women have a weird relationship with their hair, so I wanted to write about that. We battle it. We know the world measures our value based off of beauty. We try to tame it. But in the end, it's just hair, a part of our bodies, a part of the gloriousness of humanity. I grow my hair really long--I've always liked wearing it long. So I wrote a poem, an ode, to my tangled long hair. This draft is still a little too similar to Joseph's to be anything more than an exercise, but I want to

Napo 17

Floppy Disk How can I explain this to my children: The enigma of a floppy disk? How, today, no one can read them anymore Like a dead language, all but lost to time. How poems and term papers and photos, The things we tried to save, decay Underneath ancient sofas or in landfills. How they reminded me that memory Was finite. How I could only save What mattered most. How I could hold It in my hand, and feel it, precious. How I could snap it like a kitten’s neck, Erase memory like a line on the chalk board. Today, memory hangs over us, A cloud that gathers and gathers And gathers all our lives. We never have to touch it, no, But we carry its weightless On our backs, somehow a heavy load, A hymn we keep humming and can’t forget. My children, they’ll laugh when I explain how sweet it sometimes was to lose.

Napo 16

Today's prompt was to write a poem in praise of something else. It suggested that we use hyperbole, but I wanted to I suppose bring this a little bit down to earth, to the reality outside. Yesterday, I went grocery shopping here in McAllen. And goodness, those HEB employees are heroes. Or are they our society's sacrifices? Here, I compare him to David, fighting Goliath. No armor but a dirty bandanna. Not even a stone in hand to throw. And still, he goes out each day to try to save the world for strangers, and for a paycheck that will allow him to live another day. Praise the Grocery Boy  named David, working on a Sunday afternoon in spring of 2020, the nimble way he handles cans of beans and bags of rice for ladies as his chest heaves, a kind of shield against the coming darkness. Muscles ache with toiling, feet sore with fear,  his teeth, gritted, smile underneath his stained bandana, a gift of beauty no one gets to see today— the lan

Napo 15: Music

Today's prompt was to write about music in some way. I'm really not a big music person. I listen to instrumentals when I write. I like to run to classic rock. In the car, I listen to NPR, but sometimes the rock station if I'm in a mood. I've never felt like music was necessary for me the way some people do, though. I never was very good at playing an instrument, either. But my dad? He loves music. So I thought instead of writing about my relationship to music, I'd write about my dad. He plays multiple instruments, has a regular gig (when the world isn't in a pandemic, of course), and he has a nuanced knowledge of music styles, though mostly he likes classic country, bluegrass, and folk. Also, he played the banjo long before it was cool. Howling at the Moon By day, my father was a teacher— Strait-laced, carrying a briefcase and a smile Everywhere he’d go. But come night, After he’d already kissed my forehead, Brought me cookies and milk, r

Napo 14: Heroes

Today, I wanted to write a bit of prose instead of poetry. The prompt was to write about your poetry heroes. I have been fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate) to have met my hero. Hero I’m one of the lucky few poets who got to meet her hero. And by hero, I mean the woman whose work inspired me to write. I remember, as a graduate student, studying her poetry, her essays, anything she wrote as though it were some kind of bible, some kind of instruction for how to be a woman in this world, the literary world of men. She wrote about reclaiming stories, rewriting history, feminist empowerment, all the stuff I so desperately wanted to be a part of. I looked up to her as a mother. I could hear her voice through her writing, and her voice told me to keep on writing, to be strong, to grow to grow to grow. So, when I had the chance to hear her read, I was so excited. It was AWP, and so many writers were gathering together. I’d had this fantasy that I’d meet her sitting at the bar, and w

Napo 13

Eve, Grocery Shopping She likes to taste the grapes before she buys them— The green ones or the purple ones, It doesn’t matter. It’s the only way to separate The sour from the sweet, The paradise from the blasé. You only get so many grapes in life, Why waste them on what doesn’t bring you pleasure? She thinks of this while plucking one From the bunch, a moon drop That she slips between her lips. For her, there is no shame in larceny When its done beneath florescent lights. She bursts the moon drop with her tongue And lets its sweetness gush Down her throat. Not bad, she thinks, Though she’s had better fruit before. She steals another piece just to be sure Before moving on to something else: The cotton candies, then the concords, Before settling on a bunch of rubies. The real myth is this: everything belongs To someone else. You fill your shopping cart With days and desires, And before you go off into the sun, You pay t

Napo 12: Triolets

In Praise of Couch Potatoes Spring 2020 No bra. No shoes. A blanket for cape. These tubers are the heroes of the day. Years ago, we used them to escape a famine. Irish farmers wore the cape. Today, coronavirus fills the landscape. On their thrones, these couch potatoes stay. Boob tube on, a blanket for a cape— potatoes are the heroes of our day.

Napo 11: Flowers and Poetry

I love writing poetry about flowers, so today's prompt excited me. It's also Easter Sunday, so I'm thinking about the story of Jesus. Though I should be thinking about His resurrection, today I'm caught thinking of the crucifixion instead. There's a tree called the Judas tree that flowers really beautifully. It blooms in early spring, and it's popular because of its bright color. But of course, it's named after Judas. So there's a tension there. And that tension can, of course, be the stuff of poetry. Here's my draft; The Judas Tree This is how the alabaster flowers Turned the hue of blood: A man, burdened with guilt And gold in his pockets, Hung himself here, And regret spilled onto the petals And stained them for all of history. Even the seeds that came after Wore this color—fuchsia, Every spring, a reminder. The flowers bloom of it, The air smells of it, The wind carries it, The branches slump with it.

Napo 10

Yikes, yesterday I fell behind. I was on the road traveling, so it made writing difficult. Since both B and I are working remotely now, we figured we could work from wherever, in theory, and so we high-tailed it out of dodge to our very favorite place--our old home in south Texas. We'll be here for at least a month. We brought our cats, too. They did not appreciate the 18 hour drive from Nebraska. Here in the valley, though, things are a little different. They are taking the coronavirus pandemic much more seriously than authorities are in Omaha, and masks are required to be out in public. So a trip to the grocery store to stock the house with pantry staples was an adventure. B has an old respirator he uses for painting cars, so he wore that and looked utterly adorable and ridiculous. I blended in a little more in a surgical mask. So that's what today's poem is about, though it's in a haynaku-sonnet form. This was pretty easy to write, which is exactly what I nee

Napo 9: Pandemic Poetry

Today's prompt was to write concrete poetry. I'm going to be completely honest here and say that I hate concrete poetry. I think most concrete poems are gimmicks. A poem should be able to stand on its own without fancy textual effects. If a poem can do that, then I suppose you can play with the arrangement, but if poetry is an oral art, you wouldn't be able to "hear" the arrangement. So meh. But maybe poetry is becoming less of an oral art and more of a visual one. I also suppose I'm contradicting myself because lately, I've been experimenting with creating little poetry graphics, as you've probably noticed. At any rate, I didn't write a concrete poem today. Instead, I read Halpern's poem "Pandemania" from the Poetry Foundation's poem of the day, and it felt strangely resonant. I decided today would be a good day to write my virus-as-a-spring-flower poem that I've been mulling over, and I used Halpern's poem as a kind

NAPO 8: Language Thief

Today's prompt was to use a line from another poet to inspire your own work. I do this all the time. It's actually one of my go-to techniques whenever I'm experiencing writer's block. I used a line from Plath's poem, "Wuthering Heights," to inspire my own poem about Wuthering Heights Park in Beaumont. It's a kind of foreboding park--it has these beautiful shade trees, but it's also not in the best area of Beaumont and sometimes, there's unsavory activity going on there. Plath's line is the "They stand about in grandmotherly disguise" one opening my poem. In her poem, she basically describes a beautiful English countryside pastoral as depressing. It's sheep that are standing about in grandmotherly disguise. In my poem, I want to write about the oak trees. We tend to think of trees as being these benevolent grannies of an ecosystem, but to get to that point, damn, they had to fight. And to survive even today, they have to