Saturday, December 31, 2011

Where I'm From

(This is the second draft.)

I'm the runt in a litter of four.

I'm from mango trees and stray cats.
I'm from cigarettes and crossword puzzles.
I'm from chew with your mouth closed
and sit up straight, and don't bring a book
to the family reunion.

But I'm from books, rows and rows of books
uneven and yellowing like teeth.
I'm from fairy tales and dreams and poems,
and stories of ghosts after the war,
like that time it rained indoors when my mother
was a child. I'm from superstitions.
I'm from Our Father and Matthew 6:25-34.
I'm from grandfather who spied on the Japanese,
and buried his gold, and died before I was born.

I'm from letters that said more
than I could say out loud.

I'm from the sea, which healed most hurts,
before it got too black to swim in.
I'm from oysters and carabao's milk,
and Folksy Bakeshop's fresh bread.

Even after listing it all, I often feel as if
I don't belong anywhere. I had a house full
of carelessly archived memories left behind:
papers burned, books and clothes given away.

I learned to cut the string that tied my heart
to things. In the end, I own these words,
and they shape the past between syllables,
and foretell the future with every phrase.

I'm from this poem, and more poems to come.
Based on George Ella Lyon's poem of the same title.

Friday, December 30, 2011

W asked for a poem for the holidays

& so I made a zine called "Pass the Poetry, Please" that is based on George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" poem. It invites readers to write their own version and then pass it on. I'm thinking of giving other friends copies. I'd love to make more to sell, but that would be a copyright issue, so maybe I could make up my own poem to serve as model. (I would have to be a better poet first.)

Anyway, I'm still on my first draft of my own version of this poem. It's really long compared to my usual work. It's 42 lines, divided into stanzas of three lines each. (I am writing more and more with this form; I wonder why?) It feels like a mini-autobiography, though of course there are ellipses.

List poems are about generating material, and then picking through them for details and images that could lead somewhere unexpected. The ending surprised me, but it's not quite polished enough. I'm giving it to W in two days, so we'll see what I end up with. (He could get draft 2 or 3, and then I'll revise it some more...) This is the kind of poem you can write again and again and come up with a completely different tone depending on your current internal weather.

The year's almost done. A fitting way to end it, perhaps.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I aim

1. to produce a substantive body of work (write)
2. to be a better poet (revise; read more deeply; live more sensually)
3. to be part of a local community of poets (publish; join contests; read locally)

Reach of Mortal Endeavors

If you read His book and pray
and then you draw a perfect map,
it doesn't mean you've found the way.
Tomorrow will prove it wrong.
But with no guide to follow,
I cut my days to bits and pieces
and it's easier to swallow
down. Architecture has to be built
from the ground up, and we stand
on scaffolds like they were stilts
and imagine the tip of towers

scratching heaven's door.
And what for? To reach beyond
this territory bound by grass,
to touch between the stars,
and all our knowns surpass.

I really like this, but I'm going to have to alter the first quatrain. It was written based on a prompt: Grab the closest book. Go to page 29. Write down 10 words that catch your eye. Use 7 of words in a poem. For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.

Words: found, architecture, background, prospect, territory, pieces, between, grass, draw, banners