ZEUGMAS FOR ZOË
here is a poem for a friend
and deadline missed—
inspired by a hurricane
and heartache sweeping through the week,
neither less deadly because announced—
all amid a virus
and head of state threatening the nation
with fever and shortness of breath—
preceded even earlier by warnings
like vowels clearly sounded out—
crackling forests and firecrackers
a drought of rain and new ideas—
so to kill the time and not ourselves
play piano and video games
watch television and the seasons change
drink wine and the doom-filled streams—
hoping we can remember our dreams
when we wake up
in a new bed
in a new year
under a new roof—
the same old constellations.
KENNINGS FOR KURTZ
when ice-cotton falls, falls, falls,
and the land-water rises, rises, rises,
and the wood-congregation burns, burns, burns
and the wind-spiral spins, spins, spins
there’s no one that can stop em—
but soul-people exist
and heart-people can feel
and brain-people can think
and body-people can dance—
and dancing is just
GNOMIC VERSE FOR MS GROSS
at the end of the day
when all is said and done
there is a way in which
how you show up
put in the work
hit the right note
in the eye of the storm
shows your true colors
gets in your head
cools your heels
not one iota
when hell freezes over
in your own little world
amid the pandemic.
two great pines the color of ghosts
streaked grey and faded pink
through two square, wood-framed windows
greet me with morning—
i walk the misty, gravel road with my dog,
two bellies grumbling the dawn.
buttertones singing inside
my friday night skull, my tongue
sticks prickly red
but i remember honey: just a spoonful
sparks rivers, alluvial fanning
on the inside of my cheek,
how do you read a poem—
the lines on the page
one word at a time.
how do you dry socks—
you put them in the machine
on the line
in the wind.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 21
Life. I’m thankful for life. As horrible, terrible, disgusting, and messy as it can be, I’m thankful for life. It’s just awful and we’re all going to die, and that’s why I’m thankful for this breath. A breath of fresh air, a glass of cool water. The crashing of ocean waves—terrifying, awesome. The simple things, easy as a spoonful of honey. Ice cream. Cookies. Pizza. Relaxing on the couch. Feeling good, feeling the flow. Lying in bed after a busy day. Making love. Dancing. Hearing a song so beautiful, you cry. Crying, crying, crying those tears that make you choke and gasp for air. Feeling that surge of anger rise in you and knowing you should remain calm but screaming instead. Deciding to conquer your emotions, jedi knight style. Watching cinema, feeling elevated; watching a stupid movie, feeling like your brain’s sippin on anesthesia; watching TV, happily sharing in the collective stupor. Sharing a meal with family, with friends, hysterically laughing. Playing with a silly dog, petting a purring kitten. Yes, good hair days. Yes, one day my hair will be grey and then later my head will be nothing but a skull and then later still nothing but dust but today my hair looks good, thank you very much. I appreciate you. You remind me to treasure these infinite hellos, here-i-ams, goodbyes. Exchanging smiles with a stranger. Going to work. Getting good work done. Pay day. Watching the sunset, waking up to the sunrise, bathing in the midday sunshine. The entire length of your body against bare earth. Staring at the Milky Way. Sitting by a fire, taking a sip of whiskey. Returning home from a trip and taking a steaming hot shower. Sharing ideas, conversations. Working together, creating. Writing words like this in a giant stream of consciousness that maybe only one person, your mother, will actually read the whole way through. Always a little too much death for her taste. But black is just another splash on the canvas. Beating the drums, laying down the track, keeping it funky, singing the spirit loose. Making something real, setting it free.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 20
In the beforetimes, I tried to read at least one poem first thing every morning. Instead of reaching for my phone, plunging myself into an abyss of messages from friends, meetings and action items from work, and the incessant catastrophe of breaking news, reading poems aloud would simultaneously ground me and lift my spirits—the best way to start the day.
If you open your eyes and ears, poetry is everywhere. Only in the most narrow view is poetry just another genre of literature: Prose can be poetry. Fiction and non-fiction can both be poetry, as can standup comedy, a dramatic play, or a memoir. A religious text. A speech. The liner notes on the back of a record. But what about the record itself? Poetry doesn’t need words: A painting or sculpture, a film or a song can all be poetry. But poetry doesn't end at art either. A conversation on the bus, a dance move in the club, a quiet moment with a lover at sunset...
It’s not just another genre like “fiction” because, in reality, “poetry” is a praise word. In other words, a book is just a book and a song is just a song, but poetry is the good stuff, the stuff that sends shivers down your spine. Poetry makes you new.
Today I’m thankful for that.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 19
There is work for money. And money is nice. As family, friends, and millions of strangers have lost their jobs, taken pay cuts, and had their hours cut, I must admit that I‘m grateful for my job.
But there are other kinds of work, like a set of push-ups on the living room floor. Or dancing in the club. Or cooking for a loved one. Or staying late at the machine shop, constructing a compass that points to the center of the universe. Or driving three hours to the countryside studio to spend eight hours a day laying down punk rock on tape for god knows whom. Or, hunched over the typewriter, cranking out a novel that maybe no one will ever read. Or carrying, giving birth to, and raising an entire actual human being.
We put in hours, we put in sweat, we put in our mindshare, we put in our souls, we put in time, we put in space... and what do we get? If not money, then hopefully strength, knowledge, or maybe simply the satisfaction of having done something good. Because: If you’re gonna do it, as Bill Withers sang, “do it good.”
Today I am thankful for work.
QUARANTINE GRATITUDE — DAY 18
Video meetings in leopard-print pajamas, happy hours in leopard-print blazers. Chatting by the water cooler, chatting by the well. Muttering atop the castle wall, murmuring in the trenches. Asking mommy why the sky be blue, babbling on the Zoom.
We observe. We notice. We communicate with others, exchanging observations. A vase falls to the ground; later, we pick up the pieces, trying to figure out how it fell. A virus sweeps the planet, and our first defense is perhaps our oldest—not vaccines, not guns, not swords, not love, but
The motherfucking Internet.
Information, communication, cooperation.
Today I am thankful for the data we gather from the world around us, the methods by which we exchange what we’ve gathered, and, upon that foundation, our daily-growing knowledge and wisdom.