I love how you said let us play for the children, and I liked to play too so I didn’t have to shake when the bombs fell above and when I had a vision of the scattering of my wife’s limbs, and of her head ripped off for the glory of the enemy so pompous and indignant at the UN.
I love the silliness of you.
Give us this last day to play, because with you I will die happy when we starve, and freeze to death playing a game until we all go see my family in heaven — and I think my wife will like you.
I have so many poems that I threw in the trash because freely flowing first notions and drafts always turn out to be trash especially the ones done quickly and spontaneously without editing. So should I just bleed when there is nothing worthwhile? I don’t know. This is the third one needing editing. Maybe if I can fix the three, I could write about editing. Yeah, like when pigs fly. I suppose I could buy them a ticket, or carry bacon in my carry-on luggage.
Every day I miss you just because you’re divine and I know what they say about hyperbole. but I saw you do a miracle for me do a miracle for a child for a stranger, and you saw a miracle power in me, and I freely gave it to you to use for us for everyone we touched for everyone we nudged towards love just because you let me love the world, and you will never teach me not to miss you forever, and don’t make me cry just because
The International Year of the Potato (2008) and The Last Gasp of Free Verse Poetry
Sax Piano Bird
If you will play I will kiss your tune lips ’cause anything goes when slinking down your keyboard tickling doleful note doodles plinking your chords caressing pianissimo bopping forte, top a’ ya board, chording love accolades staying for improvisations when cool mistys get hot. I shall be cool
when you transpose the glory keys to high toned harmony that sees me exposed with whistling kisses blown all sax-ified, but that’ll be after a race. Y’ know
it was a mystery that birds of a feather could get the winner’s name from the horse’s mouthwash, but I heard them say
she plays with her pet cockatoo at the piano bar down by the racetrack at the end of the race, and I saw you
The bird said, “Leave a tip” I said, “Baby Needs Shoes to win, place, or show me a new tune”
You nagged the feathers off it to snatch bills out of patrons’ hands
After you played with your pet cockatoo I tipped it into a snifter hoping you’d play with me ’cause I bet on the nag, then I said to the showers
I said To install the clean in a froth of warmth above a soapy love, join me in the shower stall by the steamy wall where flights of fancy are never scrubbed. If you will,
then I, with fragrant soap, will wash in tribute the toe that tested my waters, cleansing the foot feats that two-stepped when I was a mere calf and you were knee high to a love like a soap opera. Sing
in the shower from your diaphragm where no melting soap is barred while I swoosh below your breasts with swirling helicopter hands taking off with haste as whirlybirds land on nipple pads. When you say
taxi to the terminal the refueling hose can dock and the passengers can be served hot blessings, but remember the fifth race is soon, time to place bets by the river on the sailboats, although we could check out the entries swimming in the racing waters
where in trepidation you can put a toe in the water of my soul as I kiss it as I would a child’s boo-boo
offering you a future, a splash of my essence; I breathe your perfume a cherry-flavored love
You undress in my river and I kiss your thigh in baptism before lips
Like a mallard I swim aside, a breast in hand worth two in the bush
All goes swimmingly, as I reminisce first kisses raising my mast, sailing our ship, and now anything goes even past the sunset, in moonlit tunes splashed across the stars
——— ** ——–
When Sap Is Not Milk
A sad maple is she, syrup exploited never allowed to taste her own sweetness
Her leaves could have absorbed the love of the Sun of the passing Prince, had she not played her lute too softly to be heard
Never should such a lonely string, such a flower be cut on a slant, dying, put in a vase for a decorative purpose
Because of such sorrow, never let winter ever come again without a prayer implanted in the bosom of justice
The angels have fallen if they would honor wine more than the dangle of the maiden’s dew, more worthy than any untested virgin in a nunnery who has never cried for love and only knits diversions
She is so worthy of forgiveness as are you, when your morning mourning pancake has God’s rainbow syrup on a reawakening breakfast saved at last for eternal joy
How to Spawn Poetry Like Deviled Eggs With Caviar in 10 Elephant Steps
If you’re going to write poetry, please, for the sake of the human race and for the comfort of literate mammals, or those read to, don’t write about what you know, even if you’re a Rocket Scientist. Nota bene (N.B.), a Rocket Scientist must know higher and higher advanced mathematics, and although there is poetic charm in differential equations, the mythology of the moon will be more poetic for a few more years.
The Hummingbird Sings the π Song
Running in circles in a dream about π I traveled to the hummingbird muse,
she among banana peels and fruit flies, 3 meters from hiding places in elm, mulberry, and willow that she
might indeed feed on flowers after our magic hour.
Her fluttering wings murmured a song for me an answer to a question I hadn’t yet asked.
“How big is π ” I asked.
She stood a moment: convulsed two wings oddly flat and still like outstretched hands
Almost like a fisherman bragging: THIS BIG.
Oh! I said. But that’s four centimeters. TOO BIG.
After a flutter she stood again: THIS BIG.
Um. three centimeters. TOO SMALL.
Well then I’ll flutter a song I call: Too Big Too Small: it starts loud and fades away, and you must tell me when to stop when I’ve shown you what you want.
How will I know?
It’s your dream so you’ll know. Hmmmm.
Hurruph gee I murmur many times though the song is beautiful
It’s fading, and then… Hmm, I say “STOP!”
The wings were stretched a smidgen over three centimeters. But how much?
I don’t know, she said. Look and listen to the song. When the music is in your heart you’ll hear it in the silence.
Writing poetry is impossible if you want to be stylish with ambiguity or vagueness. True poetry does not flow out from pen or sword or computer. It is a thing that escapes on the backs of creatures who run wild or sleep on a couch, but is it encapsulated like a virus. No, there is a poetic skin on its matrix of thought that is entangled in emotion, and sometimes the creature is injured and bleeds. It growls and purrs but often bleats from the woolly heart of chaos, bleats on the cold beachhead at dawn, setting patterns in the crystalline sands of time. Mello, it retreats to the meadow, becomes a lamb. Is there a shepherd or a wolf about, or is it a wolf? Behold the blurted poem — record it. But if you must write in blood, write in ketchup, because it tastes better and bleeding out tends to stop a poem. Remember, in greasing the way, French fries are deep fried, shallots are shallow. We mostly have onions. Yes, poetry is impossible. Poetry exudes from the pores like sweat and oil. It stains the fabric of exhibition. So then some items to consider:
1. Don’t read too much recommended poetry. Poetic poisoning can seize you eruditely, taking you, clouded in pristine smoke, to a land of oxymoronic sweet stench, an un-pop literature den of denizens pontificating with lit cigar wands waving towards an unholy upper atmosphere, a heavenly hell with cirrus puffs, those feathery clouds with dandruff flakes.
2. Write from the middle. When you start to write a poem, you’re in the middle of something. You’re going to have to write an introduction so somebody will know why rambling through a forest of ideas doesn’t make birds fall out of the trees from boredom or from being frightened by a crazy person invading their territory. So, when you start a poem from a notion, it’s likely that it’s going to wind up being a pitch in the middle of a game — you’re going to need a new beginning and a new end. By the way, as I started to imply, nature poems usually don’t work out. When I’m tempted to try that stale genre I get my ideas from the horse’s mouth or in this case, from a little bird. [Idiom alert: “from the horse’s mouth,” and “a little bird told me”].
I’ve always wanted to speak to the smaller birds, so I’ve done a lot of weird whistling
Sometimes a little birdie cocks her head and tries to see if I’m a threat or a bird benevolent, but I’m neither a mate nor predator, just a conversationalist
So I whistle something which means “give tomatoes to Owls, like Caesar.”
And she says, “Huh, what? And for a Human you don’t look so bad even though you have no feathers. Why is it that you can’t fly? It’s so easy.”
And I said, “Why is it that you can’t speak and write novels.”
“Well, then,” it said, “have you written one lately?”
And I said, “Um, no…”
And it said in a way that I think it meant kindly that I was a birdbrain.
3. So you have a great idea or theme and you’ve written a line. Now you think the next (or alternate line) must rhyme. Sometimes none of the rhyming words make sense with your theme, and all the synonyms you might try to substitute for the first line don’t really express what you want to say. Despair? Oh, to rhyme is divine, sometimes, if you can keep your original thought, or re-do the whole poem to match the new theme that’s been implied by your quirky synonym choice. I mean, you have a poem about a “pest” and it could be about a guest or an insect or both, but you definitely didn’t intend it to take place in Budapest, or on top of Mount Everest, and a cockroach doesn’t have a “breast.” So you have to decide whether to stay true to your original idea or go with Kafka, or go with God, or go to an inquest for a dead metaphor, or don’t rhyme.
4. Yes, you do have to edit. Put it aside and try to forget about it. Come back using your best method acting skills and pretend you’re another person. This other person should be able to read and understand the poem. If the meaning is obscure, you have a problem. Perhaps you can add an explanatory phrase, or add a dramatic interlude. If you fade back into yourself, you might find yourself saying, “What was I thinking?” Maybe you can answer yourself or look for your scrap notes.
5. Make scrap notes.
6. Develop the proper attitude. I sometimes do OK, but
I Hate Poetry
I claw through words growling to rip the meat, add a soupçon to a consommé, but don’t make me eat my soup in the woods
Like a bear I hate poetry, because it’s senseless to be dense letting forest rangers throw huh words in a campfire.
What would I want with dense description: it makes my soup too thick, and if I burn my tongue, emotions will be hot without corn indigestible.
Don’t make me eat in the woods. My kingdom for a kitchen table.
Can I just have my Parmesan cheese, nutty and fine, not looking for patterns in the wallpaper, equations for space travel, ’cause I can stare beyond the stars some other time after I’ve had my soup with a spoon that need not be silver like the moon, a simple spoon, only
large enough not to stew me, not vaporize ineffables like vegetables
7. You may find it odd that you’re struggling to write a poem when everyone else is doing it easily. After all, a herd of sheep can arrange themselves in the form of a poem, and any boy can guard them from the wolves of criticism. You have probably been taught the Aesop fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Actually, something over the years has been lost in translation. It originally was called, “The Boy Who Cried Run-on Sentence.” Well, not every very long sentence, embellished with care, is improper, and such a complex sentence, running naked through the streets like Archimedes, can be used to trigger thoughts for a poem. A main clause just needs a subject and a verb. Dependent clauses run wild. Put them together. It’s not always true that sentences are runaways. These sentences, gracefully elaborated, embellished with the sounds of glorious triumph, with cacophonous instruments of drunken loquacious musicians strung out on their heart strings, like birds and cats who are mine, playing around with joyful noise, making every trill a wave to glory, oceanic, are not runaways, being ensconced in dreams, and pray tell, if I may continue, the words of the angels are infinite and concise like love that sings forever charming and as elaborate as is a sentence to joy, many times re-phrased, re-claused like a Santa Clause whose mythology endures way beyond his run away sleigh, bells of grace reverberating with every sentence pronounced by judges and supplicants gracefully joined in symphony, in sympathy, in empathy, and joined on every path to any pathy even daffy, because the complex can be simply wonderful like you all who indulge the marathon run into oblivion with a billion words and who pause to hear my running word.
Sentences, gracefully elaborated, embellished with the sounds of glorious triumph, with cacophonous instruments of drunken loquacious musicians strung out on their heart strings,
like birds and cats who are mine, playing around with joyful noise, gracefully making every trill a wave to glory, oceanic, are not runaways, being ensconced in dreams, and pray tell, if I may continue,
the words of the angels are infinite and concise like love that sings forever charming as elaborate as is a sentence to joy, many times re-phrased, re-claused like a Santa Clause whose mythology endures way beyond his run away sleigh, bells of grace reverberating with every sentence pronounced by judges and supplicants gracefully joined in symphony, in sympathy, in empathy, joined on every path to any pathy even daffy, because the complex can be simply wonderful like you all who indulge the marathon run into oblivion with a billion words and who pause to hear my running word.
May I write a poem that is like a story or fable?
It’s like the children’s game, “Mother, May I,” and you need to get permission from Big Brother or Sister, a Union Leader, the Main Stream Media or Academia, or permission from a proper Party Leader or Intelligence Service like in George Orwell’s “1984” in order to express an unapproved opinion, and even with permission, you’ll probably be erased.
However, just because everyone is playing a children’s game, that doesn’t mean you have to. Besides, in colloquial English, most people don’t distinguish between “may” and “can.” Anyway, if you are physically able, go ahead and write a “narrative poem.” However, you don’t have to model it after the “Iliad and the Odyssey,” unless you’re writing in Greek. It’s not traditional but you can do it in free verse until it’s squashed or shadow banned.
Consequently, a fable milieu can be attempted while trying to be a witness to truth. Sarcasm and satire are handy tools to use while you’re searching for an alternate witness protection program where you can get a new identity. You would need plausible deniability to write something like this:
The Depravity of a Union Teacher
Depravity would be seen as unforeseen consequences: a union of travesty gravity and dirt
The botanist had had a child in school. Had sad time off; there’d be time too for the funeral soon. There would be
blood in the kitchen, a kind of spilled wine in the garden for teachers of the vineyard who demanded more whine privilege than little giggling girls like her Randi used to be, but the Union
had demanded masked smiles until doom, more rules for tiny children in a classroom.
The botanist had more time off from work for the funeral.
Walking in a hellish haze the botanist felt nauseous along the way from the smell of her daughter’s favorite flowers
far afield she wandered drifting in a fog, in a random eternal pattern to reach the ceremony of the grave; had a thought (Randi’s vision made her cry)
She was startled by a reporter. Blurted: “yes, I am certain that the teacher is an idiot.
“You want to know? You know… My little Randi darling flower spirit was precocious ‘once upon a time’ before a teacher tore her petals off”
This Mom was a little nauseous smelling her daughter’s favorite flowers as she walked in a daze remembering
far afield she wandered in a trance yet jolted by the voice persisting; replied:
“Yes, I’m sure it was suicide. You want to know? You know… my child vomited in her mask, and the teacher wouldn’t… (you know) she came home; said school was fine — the usual kid denial, and the counselor said don’t worry
“Yes, you know the story — report it.”
Far afield she wandered in a trance yet jolted by the voice persisting; replied “the nurse said it was nothing”
she smelled the flowers
The reporter fell backwards when she vomited on him, and she enabled his fall over the unmasked cliff with prejudice.
Startled, she turned around to walk home, so as to smell the corpse flower, and to join her daughter with a plunge of a kitchen knife into her own heart.
Actually, as poetry, if you examine it, you’ll find some partial internal rhymes such as here:
Walking in a hellish haze the botanist felt nauseous along the way from the smell of her daughter’s favorite flowers
and the “el” sound in “felt” and “smell.” Also, if you read it out loud, you’ll hear some rhythm patterns.
More On Sentences
9. Oh NO, not that! Writing clear but wild sentences can set you free from too much abstraction and vagueness like this sentence has had.
Unfortunately, most native speakers of English were first taught grammar when they were 12, 13, or 14-years-old. For many, those were very bad years and they were much too young to understand grammar. The saving grace, of course, was that since they were already fluent in the language, they had an instinctual grasp of grammar, usually knowing what “sounded right” or “sounded wrong.” However, knowing how to deliberately construct a wild and proper sentence can be helpful in forming elements of a poem. Therefore, you should obtain a college-level English style book to refer to (by the way, English is not Latin so you can end a sentence with “to”, contrary to conventional ‘wisdom’).
While ruminating about the closing of the Grammarland Park where dangling participles grow on trees like money does, pay special attention to subordinate clauses.* One doesn’t always have to abandon sentence structure for the sake of poetic licentiousness, oblivious to mindless rhymes, clueless and obscure, splayed in a littered meadow. No. As they say, “A well placed thought is often dreamed away while driving a car.” Think a moment then.
Keep in mind, the poetic vehicle doesn’t always have to veer off a mountain road, off a cliff, doesn’t always need to crash into a ravine to gorge on swallowed tears. Indeed no.
Are you not the Poet-in-chief, commander of the alter-ego subordinates? But do pay special attention to the actors and their lines. Let them have their coffee breaks and line breaks, if necessary.
After you have chosen your main idea, connectives signal place, time, cause, or qualify the independent clause. The independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence — the subordinate clauses (dependent clauses) can not. However, sometimes it’s such a common and subtle subordination that it’s barely noticed. Sometimes the word “that” can be omitted and is understood: He thought the fun would last forever [that omitted]. In poetry, the word “that” can be clumsy and upset an iambic rhythm. But there are more elaborate subordinations to chew on while spitting out “that”.
Setting the standards, the falling sun castigates the moods, those theses like statues the Muses make, when the day is long, and when the sun’s insidious shadows of fatigue and grief grow in length. But perhaps there is more to life than subordinating conjunctions and adverbs: when, as if, so that, until, since, although, because. Because of this, driving while drunk on chaotic subordination can be dangerous without strategic repeats. More on this later (dropping fragments with love).
Driving home a point, however, the poetic vehicle may on a dreary day be stuck in a rut. The car can be broken down near a New Orleans wake, or broken down in Memphis, or in some unknown slum. Worse than the car, even a person can be “broken down” as an extension of the car.
Broken down in Sugar Ditch waiting for a scholarship I was wheeling like lightning struck me down…
Notice the word “waiting”. Participles can be very useful subordinators. They are one of my favorites, but it would be useful to research all of these: (1) Participles, (2) adjectives-with-phrase, (3) appositives, (4) relatives understood, and (5) absolutes. Write a poem, heavy with metaphors, light with joy , if it’s to be under the spell of “heavy” and “light,” two adjectives, or do something else:
…I seem to fish by my taciturn stream barren of fin splashes every stone unturned by crab or fish or by intellect avoiding worms, appearing to wait for solutions floating like dead fish, but my rod is wound up…
But there’s a thing about buying a poetic license unlike buying a fishing license. Words can be left out for the sake of rhythm and rhyme if the meaning is still truly an edible fish — at least a rod and line with hook if not bait. In an “appositive”, the words “who is” or “which is” are omitted and understood. “John who is a scoundrel” becomes “John the scoundrel.” “A heart which is frozen in time cannot love now” becomes “A heart, frozen in time, cannot love now.”
Write a Coherent Complex Sentence Before Breaking Out Into Poetry
10. Actually, there are never 10 easy steps to anything. There are always a thousand. But as they say, “The journey of a thousand faux pas begins with the first trip.”
Well, after all that, one can write in the style of simple sentences especially if one is not writing as one’s complex self. I find it interesting that Jannat grew up in a liberal Western world when Kabul Afghanistan was free, expected to get her College degree, and then lost everything when Kabul fell. She is one who wrote a poem (I was thinking of “Romeo & Juliet,” written here in the voice of Juliet, now “Jannat” […oh, and note the appositives: Rafiq, my friend, my love… Rafiq, my sun, my dove…]):
Rafiq and Jannat1
Rafiq, my friend, my love, plays are forbidden but you will write this modest girl the words for a secret blush on cheeks.
Music is forbidden but you will dance with me if shame evaporates like sweet sweat in mourning’s dew.
Refiq, my sun, my dove: a morning will come when love is due.
Yea verily I insist! Ask: why dance amidst the mists?
Begone archaic ways, nuanced rhetorical nits; yes wait for mysterious replies. I insist
you inhere the day, for a bird sings and it is you; a bird is forbidden so it flies
I breathe in joy from the sky and it is you, blue Rafiq
Hush, I am learning spelling, oh Rafiq
invoke my name, Jannat, and you will have my paradise shared
Why? Because I am washing watermelon seeds and not eating them.
I am as fertile as a pomegranate but my juice is forbidden though it’s sweet and tart like you.
Write my name on a fig leaf, and soon I will come and kiss it.
But yet rain inheres the clouds and salt inheres the tears
Spell me. Play me.
Cast me in a play like a spell.
Quick. Send your Aunt to inspect me. I will hide my face, and I will make myself ugly and obedient. She will report that I am suitable.
I want to be a star for you. I wonder if Bollywood is too far. At 4 a.m. I study my physics book and I know about drama…
Launch us a rocket to the stars and find me the “Twilight Zone” video
But yet rain inheres the clouds and salt inheres the tears, the bombs burst in fields
Let me hide us like a benign subtlety in the divine flower of my youth
But flower arranging is a perfume of lies for a girl; obligations for women,
But yet rain inheres the clouds and salt inheres the tears, and bombs burst in fields so soldiers might plunder
I want to be a star for you. I wonder if Bollywood is too far or the North Star too dear.
Rafiq, cast a spell for me. My father has lost his job.
He is too weak from belief and I fear
the bombs in the field. Storms approach our high mud wall.
Father is insane, and he will sell me.
Rafiq, are you real?
you inhere the day, for a bird sings and it is you; I breathe in a deadly mist, I listen
* Sheridan Baker, The Complete Stylist (New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1966), pp. 99 – 111.