The Twelfth Night

You get another beer and say,
I wish there was a shipwreck, shouting
sailors, the perfect storm, both of us
almost lost at sea, washed up
separately on a strange shore, pushed
together at last by the plot, the past
behind us like an empty stage.

I nod, I take a sip. I still
don’t like beer, I’m only doing this
for you. I keep trying. It’s bitter,
it tastes like poison. You keep saying,
we’ll find the right one, we’ll find
something you like, trust me. I swallow
everything you say and then some.

I know the play you mean. I know
everything you know,
you know?
Everything we say now
has an echo, we keep forgetting
we’re not talking
to ourselves anymore.

But those characters, I say,
were brother and sister, not whatever
we are. We are both silent. We are
alone and terrifyingly together. We are
not even in the same state. We have
mistaken identities, we know
this can’t last much longer.

I’d be your brother, you say at last.
I think about this third option,
shared childhood baths, wrestling
to settle disputes, remembering
each other’s memories. The stage lights
flicker, a wave floods the proscenium.
Shakespeare, in the wings with the twins,

shakes his head and asks,
Is this what you want?
What should I write?
He tries my beer,
spits it out. It’s all right,
he says, in the end, trust me,
the confusion will be over.

Thirteen things I never got around to telling you

I think adjectives are underrated
and I am very particular about prepositions

I have been to Samarkand, I have seen a courtyard
decorated for a wedding, long tables set out
under the trees, all the place settings adorned
with oranges and Coca-Cola

I am not very fond
of any of my names

I have a sister, I have ten living cousins
and one dead, I know the full names
of all my great-grandparents, I spend too much time
thinking about how genes are sorted and combined

(Some things go here
that can’t be discussed in public)

I appreciate how elephants communicate,
over great distances and in such low tones
that no one but other elephants can hear them

As a child I spent a lot of time in the attic
visiting the unwanted things

I am clumsy, I can’t throw balls
or catch or hit them, I’m always falling,
I have bruises I don’t understand,
I’m always bleeding somewhere,
learning the steps of the simplest dance
is utterly beyond me, when I stand
and talk with people I’m never sure
where to put my hands or head,
I’m never really sure
where any of the parts of my body are anyway

My car is yellow,
my bedroom is purple,
I dream in color

In the first dream I remember
Dracula chained me in the attic
and flew in every night
to see how I was getting on

I don’t like birds I might just be jealous

I read the same books
over and over, always order
the same thing off the menu,
hardly ever take up
with anyone new,
do you understand
what I’m saying

I sleep on my left side. I am lying on it now.
It’s cold in this room, the window might be open,
it’s November now, it’s dark, the cat
is pressing herself into my leg, my birthday
is in February, I’m a winter child, did I mention
I’m cold, always cold, and this poem
is shuddering with cold
and terror

now we are six.

Happy May Day! I almost forgot it was my six-year blogiversary. But when I remembered I knew I had to post so as not to break my winning streak of having posted every May 1 since 2010, and also just to say I’m Still Here. I’m even writing poetry occasionally and it’s even being published occasionally, as in this awesome issue of moongarlic that just came out.

Still I have to say that I’m more and more being drawn to work in prose, which requires me to turn my brain less inside-out to write it. I think my brain got weary of being turned inside-out. I think maybe I need to give it a break from that for a while. I’ll let you know how it works out. I hope everything is working out for you.

 

what i’ve been. doing.

Sorry I haven’t been around much. I actually have been writing, I’ve just been keeping it selfishly to myself and trying to figure out what to do with it, along with everything else I’m always trying to figure out what to do with. (Life would be so much easier if I didn’t feel this constant need for it to make sense.)

Also I’ve been working on a few other haiku-related projects, which have come to fruition lately. Please check them out, because they’re kind of amazing, and I feel I can say that because for the most part they involve other people’s writing, not my own.

  • Haibun Today 10.1. I edited the haibun section of this issue and I have to say I’m really happy with the mix of pieces we published. More and more people seem to be writing haibun from a wider variety of backgrounds and I’m seeing some very interesting work being submitted. It’s a pleasure and a luxury to read it all and to work with writers on editing their pieces. (A little-known secret of many, many writers is that a lot of the time we’d rather be editing than writing.) Speaking of, Glenn Coats, who is an excellent writer and editor, is in charge of the haibun section for 10.2, so send some work his way.
  • Bones 9. Once again Johannes, Aditya, and I shared the task of selecting work for this issue and once again, I feel (if I do say so myself) that this journal is one of the most exciting out there for the quality and innovation of both poetry and artwork. Our submission period for Bones 10 is May 15-June 15, which is a ways away, but that gives you plenty of time to write something you love to send us.
  • Juxta 2.1. I had nothing to do with editing this journal of haiku research and scholarship, but I did contribute a piece I had a great time researching and writing–a cumulative review of the three editions of The Haiku Anthology. For this effort I was forced (ahem) to read each edition all the way through several times, which I’ve theoretically done before but it’s different when you’re reading with a historical-critical eye. I learned a lot, including how to appreciate many writers and styles of haiku I hadn’t previously thought I had much interest in. I also spent a lot of time looking into the background of the anthology and the history of the English-language haiku movement, which if you know me you know is basically like saying, “I spent a lot of time eating chocolate cake and watching Cary Grant movies.” Anyway, if you’re interested in that kind of thing, give this journal a try.

Hope you’re all well. I have firm resolutions to begin contributing to the blog again, um, some time soon. I’ll let you know if I figure out the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

December, summarized

IMG_6841In between decorating my Christmas tree and then staring at it adoringly every night, binge-watching TV shows as if they were about to discontinue TV, making perfect Yorkshire pudding for the first time in my life (#goals), oh, and working, I have sometimes found time this month to do things that pertain to poetry, such as writing it and reading it. In particular I’ve been reading a lot of haibun, because it’s my turn again to edit the next issue of Haibun Today. Which reminds me, you should send me some haibun. [And please don’t tell me you didn’t know the deadlines or the guidelines or, I don’t know, the fault lines, they’re all right there in the link.]

Uh, what do you mean you don’t write haibun? Don’t you think it’s time to try? I mean, read some first, maybe some of Harriot West’s or Peter Newton’s or Bob Lucky’s or Carol Pearce-Worthington’s, you know, the really great ones, and then lie around indolently thinking about the stories you have known, and then tap into that story-filled indolence and write, because spending hours lying around doing nothing before you start writing is how the real pros do it, trust me on this. Read, then stare into space, then write. It’s a time-honored formula.

Okay, I have to finish up an episode of “Broadchurch” and then get into bed and scribble while lying sideways with my eyes half closed. Now you know why my haiku so often make no sense whatsoever.

deep winter
the only moving thing
the eye of the poet

Back and forth

Oh hi. Thanks for putting up with me for the entire month of November while I wrote a story backwards. What was that all about? If you’d like to investigate you can click on November 2015 in the column to the right and read the story forwards, which is not the way I wrote it but is actually the way I intended it to be read. For quite a while I’ve been thinking that since blog posts appear in reverse chronological order, then obviously to make a story appear in chronological order on your blog, you must write it backwards. Well. Sometimes I get these ideas and run with them. Sometimes they run with me.

In case you were thinking of asking, writing a story backwards is confusing, disorienting, challenging, and freeing. I recommend it to people with writer’s block. One thing you shouldn’t ask me is what the giant is supposed to be about. She’s a giant. Isn’t that enough for someone to be about?

I’ll be moving on to another writing project now. Probably writing forwards this time. For a change.

Protagonist

Although it’s about giants—actually, one giant in particular—this is a small story. There are only a few lives in it and it doesn’t travel very far in time or space. It’s not an epic or an adventure—or at least not a very adventuresome adventure. Perhaps I should mention here that giants, as opposed to unusually large human beings, are not real, so I suppose you could call this a fantasy—but again, not a very fantastical fantasy. Sometimes I worry that the story is more about me than her. Sometimes I then remember that she’s not real so maybe it’s a sign of mental health that I’d rather write about me than about an imaginary entity. This is the kind of thing writers spend all day thinking about instead of writing.

spring again
always the flower
and never the pollen

Begin at the beginning: She was born. I don’t know how big giant babies are. I would like to see one but I never will because she’s the last one. How do you know? Well, that was what she told me, and anyway don’t you think we would know somehow, we would feel it, if there were more somewhere? I have to say that it feels more and more, to me, like giants have pretty much gone out of the world.

the last egg saved for target practice

When she was born I was much younger, of course, and not in any mood to believe in giants. I wonder sometimes what I would have done if she had come stomping down my road then. I wonder what I would have done about a lot of things then. Why is it, do you think, that we’re so convinced we’re the same people from day to day, from year to year, when we’re so changeable, so fickle?

inhaling the sparrow’s warble

Here’s one day she told me about, from when she was very small: maybe the first day she remembered. A fall day, full of warm colors that contradicted the chill in the air. A year when the harvest, the hunt, had gone well and they ate, and drank, and ate, and sang, and ate, and danced, and ate, and played games, showing off: tossing boulders, lifting fallen trees. She was beside herself with excitement and finally fell asleep in the early evening, and woke again sometime later in the night, but before the adults had gone to sleep. They were all gathered around a fire, leaning against each other comfortably, frank with drink and telling all the most scandalous and outrageous stories they knew, and she listened with increasing understanding for hours. In the morning she felt shy with her new knowledge and maturity, not realizing yet that no one could see inside her head and know her thoughts. Stories only change you on the inside.

first day of Advent I write the end