Thursday, June 28, 2007

poem fragments and drafts from my portfolio...

poem fragments and drafts from my portfolio-in-progress...

“rewrite of someone else’s persona poem”

Rain soaked through your broken-brimmed
hat at the bus stop, as I changed gears
and clicked the wheel of my iPod around again.
I coasted through green, looking up to study
the waves of skin and rainwater cresting
to hair-thin carved lines around your slate-colored eyes.

“rewrite of someone else’s poem to a mother”

You drive fifty miles to Charlottesville to find a beautiful dress,
curl your long blonde hair, tie the pearls at your throat,
keep the house clean, and two Christmas trees up
after Thanksgiving. Eliza nearly choked
trying to eat the noxious poison
of your blessed cold cream, scented like roses.
and Daddy’s never here to see your dress.
The cowering husk you’ve become frightens him,
though he had two fists in creating it, himself.


You came home to me kneeling
where the wall broke onto the floor
and the cat mewing, circling,
green stuck to the pads of his paws.

“red light, downtown”

I thought the girl in the milkweed-yellow
tunic was you, at first—
cowl neck and loose trousers,
tugging at the front door of St. George’s.
She (you) found it locked, and walked
on down Princess Anne. Eyes
like the blue-grey smoke curling
through her hands, she half-smiled.
I don’t know you. But, I thought
you were there in the loose brown
gathering of her hair.

“Florentine summer”

I remember the smell of lemons
being combed through my wet hair
and you in the foggy bathroom,
sending me out to swing in the sun.

my hair will never be so light
as yours, though blonde crept
through it then, along the winged strands
curled up with sweat around my face.

It’s darker, now that I am grown.
But people know I am yours
when we go downtown together—
eyes the color of jade
in the shadow, and limes
wreathed in flames, in the sun.


Laced wings and frail grey blot,
swirling in amber. Thursday night.
A man walks by as I release you
to the pavement, between thumb and forefinger.

“The Corner of Cherry Street and Main

He says they are purple martins
dipping in and out of gourds
on the lawn edge, where we
found a rat snake at the cellar-mouth,
rotting pecans in greenest grass,
the wind chimes, and two
strawberry shortcake tricycles in the shed.

There is the flat-topped tin
carport, the out-of-place gym bar,
the out-of-use clothesline,
the well-kept hedge backing up
to a grass alley, two dirt
tracks beaten in by years
of yellow cars.

There are my grandmother’s pickling
jars, and the bird bath near the gourds,
and the foam always at the edge,
and the sweet gum balls
we pretended were spiny cherries
or small planets, suspended
around the stump that is always home plate.

There are the blue glass bottles
aligned at the kitchen window,
and the woman who adopted this house
and all of us, stands elbow-deep
in soap and water, by the thin-crusted
pie on the cooling rack.


(i couldn't resist)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

take your art with you...

these are photos that I have taken with my cameraphone; their low quality adds to the artsy vibe, and makes me think of polaroids...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"list poem" assigment for ELS 302...the scraps, and the draft...

The scraps...

It’s the exact color of my dad’s 1989 Ford Explorer,
greener than the Trojan EZ wrapper at the corner,
greener still than your bedroom, but bluer than your kitchen.

Handlebars spread over with the rust of individual raindrops,
tea-colored as the river istea-colored,
shining, otherwise, like the river shines.
And tasting like your mouth after you suck
the summer sweat from my neck and shoulders,
if you mixed that taste with a hint of blood.

We take the front wheel off, to fit the car’s cabin—
this man I have never before met, and I, on the sunny side
of Grove Avenue in Richmond. He is easily twice my age.

The child on the stoop with him wears ethereal,
golden Spanish Moss for hair, and wastes no time
telling me the latest characteristic he has been taught
about himself: “I am this many,” he says, grinning
through his thumb, middle and pointer fingers.
(I remember someone telling me once that the dexterity
of children his age lends itself more readily to this display,
rather than one in which the thumb is held down.)

I refuse a bottle of water, and hand the man
his fifty-five dollars. He invites me in the blue
row house, apartment no.3. I say ‘no.’
He brings me cool, not cold, water apologetically.

The draft...

“Early-1970’s Raleigh one-speed cruiser”

the exact color of my dad’s 1989 Ford Explorer,
springs hanging like twin beehives under the wide seat,
the old frame, the added lights, original paint,
the crest bearing a burnt orange “R” that becomes a crowned peacock,
the year that the color burnt orange was popular,
the name of the town where my first love was born
printed neatly down the front.

the handlebars spread over with rust
in the shape of raindrops fallen
on the fan district of Richmond last winter,
the fact that the rust on the bars looks dappled in the same way
as the tea-colored and blue river water down the street.

the place where a bolt and a kickstand once were,
below it, the numbered inspection sticker looking more
like a thoughtless lower-back tattoo than an ‘amen’ at the end
spokes crossed like skinny, silver arms on a body that’s bored of standing up
air pressure valves that rest unevenly—the front tire’s
on twelve o’clock, the back tire’s at roughly half-ten.

the breadth of handlebars and lilt of frame that make
the glimmering sun suddenly seem to be playing
down the back of a dryad or a sea maiden
rather than on these pipes of aluminum and chrome paint,

then, a bewitching thought,
to write a name and number,
and tuck the half-sheet of notebook paper
in the crack of the door at the stoop’s summit:
“to whom it may concern:
if you want to sell the bike, please call me back.”

Columbia Poetry Review no.20

(cover painting, Self Portrait as Tender Mercenary by Julie Heffernan)

I TRY NOT TO WALK INTO BOOKSTORES. I try not to walk into bookstores because there, like the animal shelter, or a non-profit thrift store, I can nearly always talk myself into spending money that I don't have. I'm a student, and as much as I long to bulk-up my bookshelves constantly, the public library is more my budgetary speed. However, I made a most rewarding bookstore purchase last week, the 20th edition of the student-edited Columbia Poetry Review. Sadly, I was not invited to the big party in April to celebrate the largest volume of poetry ever produced by CPR or to commemorate 20 years of excellence in publishing contemporary verse...BUT, I adore it all the same. And I think you should get your grubby paws on a copy too. There is nothing so refreshing to a writer of poetry than to read contemporary poetry. It was Kirby who said something to the effect that we cannot create the future of the craft without first participating, at least for a bit, in the contemporary movement of poetry in which we find ourselves. This is contemporary poetry in its most diversified collection...I LOVE IT!!

Also, you should check out the archive of back issues...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

a riverside virginia summer...

“Alley Bookshelf”

I rescued a bookshelf from the alley
there’s a bike there too,
gray Schwinn without a chain.
I think the girl we heard moving out
must have left them.

(If it isn’t gone by trash-day,
will you call?
Ask Travis to mend it,
and tell him I’ll pay him.)

I know you hate that I walk alone,
but I need it.
You remind me this isn’t
one of my European cities.
Try not to worry.

Tonight, I sat by the river until I could
hear the geese but I couldn’t see them.
Then the train passed over,
and I knew it was probably nine.

A man like a shadow came,
and my lips were wet with tea
and my breath hot with cigarette smoke.
(I didn’t mean to buy them. I know you’re quitting.
It’s just that I walked up to the store, to escape
the paint smell, and they were there, buy one, get one free.)

And the shadow man asked me
to drink beer with him,
and if the river was nice.
And because I am a girl, slim-waisted, and pretty,
I told him “no, I don’t know you.”
But he told me how he sees me around this town
all the time.
“I see you around here all the time.”
Probably he and I are the only ones walking these streets.

He left, and I went to the alley,
and carried the bookshelf in.
Now, the cat is rubbing his face on it.
He thinks an alien, whatever doesn’t
smell of him.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I captured Feist singing 'The Park' live at the 9.30 Club in D.C.

Grizzly Bear at the 9.30 Club:

Feist at the 9.30 Club in DC:

Monday, June 11, 2007

old, found poem fragments.


"There was"

There was a me that loved you.
But I stopped listening to her
years ago. She was always
wild-eyed and scary, stupid,
and crazy for love of you.

But I can’t hide from her longer.
It’s worth it to feel whole,
to turn around and hold her.
She had long hair and fewer
clothes. Remember?



She hands me a dirty canvas bag—
a load of change;
it’s so heavy around my neck,
crushed against my breast.
I fight the heat to breathe
and the lump topples into my trunk,
following me for days.

How can I not realize
that the change stifles?
(Because I carry it.)
Limitations dangling from
my shoulders, strapped around my eyes.

A burst of fresh air and
a still-aching heart,
a new loss.
These compete, change,
to unglue my notion of something
permanent .

and memories
That picture of a black-haired baby
circa 1986.
That is not me.


"What is it that poets fear?"

What is it that poets fear, you ask?
What musicians fear.
Everything is filtered, fitted, made art
from an inability to do otherwise,
a self-destructive need to reopen wounds.

I look at pictures, you say.
Because they make me hurt.
They always make me hurt—
the gentle throb of not being
somewhere I used to be,
my former self, loving
whom I loved and perhaps
love still. Being.
I want to look at being.
And it is so small, rectangular,
colored—or not. Small.



"While walking, the body and the mind can work together, so that thinking becomes almost a physical, rhythmic act--so much for the Cartesian mind/body divide. Spirituality and sexuality both enter in; the great walkers often move through both urban and rural places in the same way; and even past and present are brought together[...]And each walk moves through space like a thread through fabric, sewing it together into a continuous experience--so unlike the way air travel chops up time and space and even cars and trains do. This continuity is one of the things I think we lost in the industrial age--but we can choose to reclaim it, again and again, and some do..." -Rebecca Solnit, from the introduction to Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

HERE IN LAND-LOCKED VIRGINIA I spent a summer Sunday, circling classifieds and clipping coupons on a downtown stoop in "America's Most Historic City" (or so the back of the trolley car giving tours says). I take long walks here, but bipedalism has become a more conscious and recreational act, than its functionally transportative quality in my London life. I walk and write, in my head, and I think about the skeletal structure of the human body, our widened hips, and narrowing knees that let us walk this way, each body segment stacked on the one underneath like a child's dexterity toy. I am trying to keep myself conditioned to thinking that a walk of 20 blocks between my sub-let and my boyfriend's apartment is nothing...even in such a humid climate. When I am not walking, I am at least sitting outside. Something about the rhythm of exterior space is conducive to my writing, if not to my reading (I am frequently distracted by passing sounds).

...more results of these walking musings soon...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"out of the city/ and down to the seaside/ the sun on my shoulders/ and wind in my hair/ but sandcastles crumble/ and hunger is human..." (joni)

I DID MAKE IT HOME from London, about a week ago, now. I wanted to write here...I craved to write here. But, the adjustment home has been one rife with the most personal sorts of discoveries. I spent a week at "home" with my family...I use this term loosely because my nuclear family no longer lives in the town where I grew up, and I am not sure that town is home anymore anyway. Perhaps the best I can do is merely transcribe some of my journal here...since that has been my refuge more than usual in the last nine days. Mixed--conflicting?--emotions plague me. I am having terrible dreams that jump back in time, and then forward, and are filled with unwanted encounters and scenes of violence.

I am in my college town, now, having moved out of my house and 6 hours north-west, as the car drives, to the place where my adult life seems is playing itself out. I expected to come home from London and find that I saw things as flat, lackluster, two-dimensional...rather, it seems, the older I get the more dimensions life has, and some of them are more than unpleasant...they are disheartening, disillusioning, and despairing. More than ever before, I wanted to see my beautiful, sprawling, traditional family with the eyes I had as a child. But families are made of people, too, not saints, or superheros. Their faults are not heroic, except from the distance of several generations. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that I spent many hours in the middle of the night last week scanning old photographs of my family into my laptop, and editing them. They are (mostly) black and white. And I removed the blemishes and stains, the aging thick paper, the matte finish and stamped and annotated backs, explaining who and where and when... The results are here. They are beautiful. I feel a poem-bud forming...

My other refuge as of late, has been the rich, sweet, sad music of Joni Mitchell...which I have always gravitated towards in times of contemplation. Song to A Seagull is my most recent acquisition of her discography...some lyrics of particular resonance are below:

"Song to A Seagull"
Joni Mitchell

Fly silly seabird
No dreams can possess you
No voices can blame you
For sun on your wings
My gentle relations
Have names they must call me
For loving the freedom
Of all flying things
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

I came to the city
And lived like old Crusoe
On an island of noise
In a cobblestone sea
And the beaches were concrete
And the stars paid a light bill
And the blossoms hung false
On their store window trees
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

Out of the city
And down to the seaside
To sun on my shoulders
And wind in my hair
But sandcastles crumble
And hunger is human
And humans are hungry
For worlds they can't share
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach out of cry

I call to a seagull
Who dives to the waters
And catches his silver-fine
Dinner alone
Crying where are the footprints
That danced on these beaches?
And the hands that cast wishes
That sunk like a stone?
My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach Out of cry