Wednesday, November 29, 2006


It's been a week or so since the last time I put down any thoughts here. Actually, I spent all of Thanksgiving Break writing a massive research paper for my Poetic Sequence Directed Study, entitled: "Louise Gluck's Meadowlands: The Palimsestic Mimesis of the Human Impulse to Create." Sounds riveting, no? It is supposed to make it to cyberworld on our class blog, so don't worry your little heads...

So, I find that in enersing myself in literary criticism and theory, I am unable to write my poems. Or if I do allow myself even one tiny moment of revision of my creative work, hours are snapped up in no time, and I have forgotten to eat, sleep, swallow, or do any of my other homework. So I banned myself from my own poems for the duration of Thanksgiving Break and hammered out twenty pages of genre theory instead. Sweet. Hence I haven't been blogging. I have been thinking about my blog, however, and how it will soon undergo yet another metamorphesis of purpose. I am spending 5 months in the lovely city of London, beginning in January. So, this space will hopefully expand accordingly into an ongoing multimedia travelogue, without losing its creative, poetic edge...

What I really wanted to talk about was a post I created back in the late summer on this blog announcing the departure of my mentor for another university. I have been elated to find out that he is returning, for love of the institution, and I couldn't be happier. The relationship of a mentor and a truly connected student is not a thing to be held lightly. The last year and a half of my undergraduate academic career looks like the most promising yet. Stay tunned...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another long, difficult draft...

“Bird Tracks”

Zen masters are to be
like the tracks of birds in the sky,
untraceable, always their own—
not self-consciously proclaiming
or not-proclaiming,

We learned.
That was our beginning.
Five-hundred miles from me, you talked,
drinking only one cocktail before calling,
to calm your nerves, but keep your wit.
You read Buddhist philosophy aloud.
Eventually, leaving the drinks,
and claiming a dimension
you saw in me, in us.
I could not see.

We didn’t know each other, yet.
I preached the Middle Way. Then, let you
distinguish between your insights:
it is all meaningless,
or meaningful. No. I said.
It is.

we would change opinions, our minds
shifting like air.

(I told you once, the child I was wanted to be
a feather-footed Indian, hunting.
But my walk is heavy-heeled.
No number of feathered willows caught around my hair
or war-paint
made me silent.)

It is
all I know to tell: what I understand
to be universal, and my suffering.
Self-conscious remembrances
dropping like breadcrumbs—
once each footfall,
each heartbeat.

And you follow, bird.
Slipping down from your tracelessness
to swallow what I’ve left there, not knowing
that there sometimes is
poison in the tales.

I trail him
in my lost sleep, and imagine
that his breath still comes evenly at night,
begrudging him that peace.
You follow and cradle me.
I know you hope
that your hold might
chase him out.

You don’t know
how many times you have driven me down the street
where he still lives
in a brick house.

I don’t tell you all things.
But, surely you notice. I fall silent,
fingers clinching palms, eyes
hopelessly tracking the alley
where he collapsed me. Though, it was him who left
with bruises, bloody teeth marks on that day.
I could not hold my rage at his words,
ripping my hair and screaming, while the world
swirled closed around me.
Then, I ran nowhere
along root-broken sidewalk.

Surely you hear the crack of pain?
And can still see my colors fly down the sidewalk,
as I can? And see,
see the wreckage running a river
out my soles?

On the day he left, I was wearing
the lavender scarf I let you borrow, yesterday.
It is the one my grandmother gave me
the Christmas before I knew him—
a shield against the cold
I would feel anyway.

When that night fell
I found him, drunk and angry.
There was a bandage over his arm.
And he would not talk or look at me
as I sat down, begging to stay
in our bed. He lay down, clothed. Recoiling, even in sleep,
from my touch. Nauseated,
I lay in hell. Except that I was not dead,
and could not rest.

The days have spent themselves, with some effort,
for a year. The birds went, and came again,
re-teaching me to eat and sleep,
read, write, and sing.

To come upon you, feathered,
and eager to forge a path unfollowable.
I find myself as yet, unable.
You ask me daily to release my legs, the ground beneath,
the street, the alley, for wings
and the tracks of birds.

We could each make our own way, you say,
stopping only to rest together, to hunt and gather,
without possession.
Then, set soaring again,
one by one,

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The reason Textiles starts with Text...

I have undertaken a new hobby in the last three months or so...crafting and embellishing all of my clothes with a few simple tools, needle and thread, fabric paint, and markers. Go to a thrift store, buy something second hand and create the text you want to wear... It's inspiring. And fun! I am going to start posting some of my TEXTiles to my blog. It's art, that I wear.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"Pigeon Spikes"

“Pigeon Spikes”

He talked endlessly of the birds
of San Marco’s square.
But, you’ve never been there.

The birds, from a height, look like
living carpet, like so many grey hands,
fingers spreading and closing,
grasping and holding.
And from that height,
the spikes fang up in the foreground,
over gold mosaics of Byzantium,
of men brown-bearded as you or him.

I hate the stench of that place in summer,
putrid water found charming,
too many blown glass sculptures,
too much refracted light, colors.

I hated that his woman before me
was Italian, brown-skinned, dark-eyed.
And her name ended in the warm, soft whisper
of -ggio, -ggio, -ggio like wine thick on the tongue,
and a sigh of pleasure.

I hated that he could not love me
except that I had been there. I could tell of the stretch
of cathedrals through a grey, late spring sky.
That’s how we met—
I parted my lips to talk of St. Peter’s
to a room of half-sleeping American children.
He pursued me, that day. The next. The next.
After that, he walked me down the steps, every day,
faking a need to go where I had to go.

I hate that the woman with him now
has hair long, dark brown.
She’s in Firenze,
he calls her bella,
the thing he once called me,

I wrote letters—
one a day, postmarked to Italy,
that summer.

My Dove,
My Happiness,
My Wings,
My Sun,
My Everything,

Do not go missing…
I’m afraid that you are dead…
Or, have you fallen away?
I am no grotto, no duomo,
nor scaffolding to keep the pigeons at bay.

I have seen these things.
Still, I do not own them.
I cannot find a way to wrestle Venetian stars,
I am not so glittering as they are,
nor so near, in your eyes.
I cannot empty my head of heard voices,
sweet and cajoling, over your shoulder,
across this ocean.
I cannot kill the birds
landing on your arms. I am no spike
swiveled up, hanging bloody bodies
that would crumble our hallowed dwelling—

So, be prudent.
Be prudent.
Damn it; do not drown our love out.
You are just foolish enough
to cover what’s sacred
with the shit of birds.

I lay face down in your bed.
I sleep this way, turned under,
though it bends my neck, crooks my spine.
I dreamt of him again,
last night, of birds.
I cannot speak or look at you,
through my pallor.
The spikes are wrenching up
my chest, or heart, an ache
that never quite quits,
coming in waves.
You want to take it from me,
but I won’t let you see the source.

You’ve never been there.
It is an ocean away.




I am angry
that a year has not taken the pain
He’s still here,
a spot on my happiness—
our happiness—
like someone writing words
over music
after the composer has died.


You are playing—
my head in a pillow,
eyes on a book, or
the space just over it,
the cat a warm vibration,
soft against my exposed foot.
It is too cold to sit outside,
and now too dark.
The sun sets over a few leaves
clung on trees, and wires,
dead from breaking
off too many tender things.

You don’t sing
when you play your guitar.
Not while I’m in the room.
You hum the melody, maybe.
Concentrate the world away
while your slender fingers
count their way up the frets
and down, and up,
and down, making
that delicious sound-between-sounds
of a finger drawn along
a nickel and steel string.

I am angry
that he is here.
Though, you mostly don’t hear him.
He spits through words clanging across
the page,
an interruption, ghostly,
of the harmonies we make
when I am forgetting him,
and listening.

I am rarely forgetting him.
I am rarely listening.
Though you go on playing.
And I am here, hearing.
One day. One day soon,
I will forget to speak,
the way you do when your fingers
alight and rise, in turn, eyes shining,
making something
of the very air around you.

I want to forget to speak.
And I will not need the words you do not say,
which cause you so much pain.
No more pretty lies, no more ghost.
Music isn’t written that way.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Birds in D.C.

This has got to be one of the coolest photos i have ever taken. These birds were having a bath in the fountain beside the Smithsonian of African Art on Sunday. I am still working on identifying them more specifically.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The poetry if Ellen Bryant Voigt.

I attended a reading of Ms. Voigt's in Richmond yesterday, to celebrate her upcoming book, a culmination of a lifetime of poetic achievement: Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 .

I cannot say enough about the melodic quality of this woman's incredible voice. As she was reading, the poetry lilted into a new life on her "southside Va-gin-ya" tongue. She recited, more than she read, looking deeply at a packed room of students, professors, community members, and others. Her eyes are a pale blue, and her shock of white hair is like the crown of an egret. She is an impactful pressence, but she exudes warmth, kindness, and laughter.

She spoke briefly, to preface the "new cache" of poems in Messenger about the nature of poetic sequence. I am trying to write a poetic sequence now. And, I am beginning to see sequence everywhere. Voigt spoke to an increasing turn toward the sequence among contemporary poets, away from the shapely volume, or perhaps, as a sort of mutation or progeny of the latter. She claimed her own fascination with the form of poetic sequence, with what happens when you "lay lyrics next to each other" and they begin to speak, one to another, to the reader, to the writer, to the literary tradition. Sometime in December, I will have an entire sequence of poems to lay end-to-end on this blog. Many of them exist in draft-form here already.

The reading also provided an interesting snapshot of a local literary community. Among the audience-members were professors from several universities in Virginia, including Mary Washington's own Claudia Emerson, winner of the most recent Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. And, the young woman who happened on an unpublished, heretofore unknown, Sylvia Plath poem, was also in attendance. The politics of literature, like the politics of any profession can be daunting to an up-and-coming, such as I hope to be. Social strata are interesting animals, and word-of-mouth is a powerful tool. I always wonder, where genius and interpersonal struggle meet? How do they combat each other? What escapes into the cracks as a result?

I digress.

In short, read Voigt. You will be richly rewarded.

Also, here is a recording of her reading of "The Feeder," a prize-winning poem published both in her new book, and in "Blackbird," the literary journal sponsoring last nights event. Happy listening: