100 Poems I Wrote in April (or True Stories. or My New Profession) Part 1 of 3

May 10, 2013

as a preamble to this large project, I want to mention that anything copied into wordpress from a word document automatically becomes double spaced and I have no intention of going through these and correcting all of them.

 

1. Giving It Away

 

[poem for the guy handing out fliers outside the Silver Store in Santa Cruz]

 

It raises the question, what is worse:

to be ignored without thought

 

perceived secondary to the importance

of coffee cups, or to be accepted

 

by a man in bad flannel, who will

talk for fifteen minutes, with no interest

 

in buying silver?  Sometimes one has to work

just to prevent the eyebrows and other

 

less controllable facial features from

becoming an accusatory apology.

 

Convince me this isn’t a shitty job.

Convince me oil travels freely though

your wick.

Convince me you burn bright.

 

2. Together

[a couple asks for a poem about a 10 year anniversary.  no favorite poet provided.]

 

Love me like the sun rises

3650 times:

this is the brightness we have

shared.

Kindness and patience

are tireless as tide;

the way I’ll never grow weary

of looking into your

eyes.

 

 

3. Damn Good Oysters (a Tercestina)

 

[Juba excitedly tells me about oysters from the farmer’s market.  “Damn….Good…Oysters.  Write a poem with those three words.” he uses as his conclusion.  I say “ok.” He never returns for his poem.  Not sure if he thought I was serious or not.]

 

Quite frankly it doesn’t matter worth a damn

if you think your poems are outstandingly good

someone will come thinking their words are pearls from oysters

 

but you can’t let that close you off like an oyster.

One must keep their pen moving and not give a damn:

this is the only way to make art that’s any good.

 

Mary Oliver told me not only that I don’t have to be good

but also that death can be gracious using poems about geese and oysters,

this is why, when you say “poetry” no one gives a damn.

 

Despite this, we go on.  Public opinion be damned.

Every once in a while you have to do what feels good,

just because it feels good, like writing or stuffing your face full of oysters.

 

 

4.

[guy walking by, without slowing his gait, asks without eye contact if I can write a poem that will stop his girlfriend from being mad at him.  I say “I can do that” he stops in his tracks, explains the fight they just had, and ends up asking me to write his apology poem)

 

Sometimes I don’t understand

the tide.  I want you to help me.

The next full moon let’s take a walk

 

you and I, down to the shore.

We don’t need to say much but

 

I want you       to watch the tide

with me.  Under the forgiving light

 

of Earth’s only satellite

maybe I can show you what I don’t understand

 

the tide rolls

out in the direction

of the sunset

every day and every day

it returns.  I wonder: why roll away

in the first place.  I want to say:

return, return, return.

 

 

5.(I keep) no secrets

 

[17 year old with gender neutral hair voice and clothing asks me for a song about secrets.  Yup.  a song.]

 

She speaks to me like a tiny violin

playing a tune that moves

like the distilled sweetness of bees.

 

I cannot remember the tune.  (that is not true)

(I must say I cannot remember)

(she wants me to say I cannot remember

and I gave my word that I would)

 

My word is a rock that juts

in a stormy sea.

 

(I did not know this storm would come)

 

(a secret is a set of words

that you wish would be your lover

they drape themselves

in scant traces of lace

and wait for the candlelight to

do the rest.  You can see and even hold

a lover like this but you can never truly

keep them.)

This is what she whispered.

 

 

6. timeless: without time

 

[60ish year old man with 40ish year old wife tells me his wife is 20 years younger than him and that he loves her no matter what anyone says about their age difference.  Says his favorite poet is ee cummings.  never returns for his poem.]

 

I do not love

(nor do I wish to)

 

like a metronome

a time

clock a punch

card a watcher

 

 

of birds

 

no no I love

like

I love

like

 

I love.

 

 

 

7.  Guide

 

[60ish year old woman walks up to me and abruptly requests a poem about how “kids these days don’t have any proper role models” (exact words).  Walks away before I can ask her if she has a favorite poet]

 

I’ve seen a compass confounded

by the closeness

of magnets

 

I’ve seen the wisteria climb

any ladder left

to reach for

 

I’ve seen the path of my own

tender body

reaching forward

for a guide.

 

 

8. Movement in the Morning

 

[A man in his late 30s with a serious surfer vibe asks for a poem about fog.  Tells me about watching the fog roll through trees while drinking his coffee that morning.]

 

In the morning, when the parallel is the clearest,

before the sun climbs to its point

 

of authority, I watch the fog slither

between the trees like drunk friends

 

it does not wish to wake.   The fog does not wish to slide

over the ocean like the body of a new lover

 

who has not yet pulled it close.  Then

I inhale,

blow the steam from my coffee

and let the fog clear from me

as well.

 

 

9.

[a very quiet woman in her early 20s reads both volumes of work I have in front of my cart, and then watches me write for 20 min or so.  She then asks me for a poem about solitude, says she does not often get out, nor does she have many friends.  In the process of writing, I have a quiet and complete feeling of something coming through me.  Handing the poem to its recipient felt like a psychedelic experience]

 

Some mornings the pale blue and blush

of the rising sky is a challenge

that I don’t feel like answering.

 

Some mornings the only kind of safety

that makes any sense to me is the heat

accumulated off my body through the night,

 

like some sash of soft darkness was laid

over me with each lightless hour

and each sash knew my sleeping body so well

 

that they loved each other silently, as

no one seems to know how to anymore

and to get up and leave this bed behind

 

is to push off of the world

this rare and quiet affection.

I promise some mornings

are worth it.

 

 

10. define:evaporate

 

[30 year old lady asks for poem to help her boyfriend who works with a homeless services nonprofit who has chronic stress and is always like a kettle about to boil because of it.]

 

Perhaps you could tell…

with tense insight

about the temperament of steam.

 

what catalyst of liquid transition

ignites beneath us all

…you must know about this already.

 

The very heat that will move us

and accelerate us in our changing

can eventually come to a boil.

 

Where we thought we once were:

(here, liquid)

we are no longer.  We become lost.

 

let me be for you a tray of ice cubes

to drop one by one into you

so that you may keep your heat

standing over the flame

without losing your passion

like vapor taken

by the jealous air.

 

 

 

11.) Remember Santa Cruz

 

[for one of two exchange students from Sweden who had been in Santa Cruz for three months and were boarding a plane back home the next day]

 

Here is one thing that I will never forget:

the way the sun here slides

over the hills in the East.  And another:

 

the white petals that take the attention

away from each spring sky so that

a talentless poet could spend days

 

writing about them.  The mad glare

of the boardwalk.  The long neck

of the wharf.   Each sleepless

night I’ve spent here I could hear

the moon complaining:

 

“I have spent so many evening hours

coming out early just to hang above

the same small flock of gulls for

which I have no love, nor for their

flawed song.”

I do not listen to the moon.

Some find it hard to love what they have

before its gone.

 

 

12.)  Photographs of the Ocean

 

[a woman who is walking with a man I assume is her boyfriend gives me flirty eyes and asks for a poem about the ocean.  I write the poem and give her a private reading (standing, and giving her my seat) before she ever uses the word “brother” to refer to the man who I was desperately trying not to flirt with her in front of.]

 

There is a certainty in the tide that speaks

of the ocean’s conviction.  I could sit

 

on the sand everyday:  I could watch the spray

rise from the descending waves as they roll in.

 

I could point the camera at each sousing

and still never know what is more true of our moments:

 

whether time will roll through us as a

wave approaches

the shore

 

or if we are only the still odd moment

before another

when the spray

is suspended

and then caught in a frame.

 

 

 

13. My First Time

 

[I was asked for a poem about coral]

 

At the aquarium as a young man

I touched coral for the

first time.

Rock-sized and lost

from its home

now in my palm I thought:

this here that I hold, is

the bones of the ocean

some knuckle ruptured

and lost I hold here.

Surely the mariana

trench must miss its

knuckle.  What irony

that it lost them here

in my own digits greedy clasping.

This was, of course, before I knew

how many carbon based beings

I thought were inanimate,

before I knew what we leave behind

when we die.

 

 

 

14.) Abandon

[a man in his early 50s asks for a six line poem about a cigarette butt on the pavement]

 

We all abandon pieces of ourselves somewhere.

There are times when this is metaphorical.

But that is not today’s story: today was

long in its holding of heat and slow

to submit and sink into the sunset.  Today

did sink slow and I do not lament to follow its descent.

 

 

 

15.) The Young Gods

 

[for Kirby Scutter]

 

When Janus had children

they sprung, full grown

from his skull.

His first instinct

was to devour them.

They survived and this

is how the gods were born.

Very shortly thereafter

patricide was discussed

with a high level of seriousness,

but when the young gods

found they could not

wrench life from Janus’

immortal soul

they served him

 

with lease violations.

 

 

 

16)

[a young woman asks for a poem about romantic indecision]

 

The 3 O’clock knows

what it wants:

the sun just shines

a wide brush of blue

over the far lifting sky

with conviction in its own

desire.

I have been chasing

an eight O’clock love

when the sky can’t wrap

it’s fingers correctly

around any hue,

and the night is a thief

around a slight corner of time

with empty beds in his pockets

and false secrets on his breath

about the hour and the color of the sky.

 

 

 

17)

[a bald man asks me for a poem about cosmic compassion, never returns]

 

I would like the moon

to smile more often

out of compassion for those

 

of us below.

I would like for mankind

to smile more often:

 

I think we would

if we knew about the power

inside

 

a compassionate act.

I have felt

in my moments of greater

 

grace, my whole heart

open like a sky

at night, awash with stars.

 

 

 

18.)Octopi

 

I cannot weigh my heart

down

even with

the weight of all these arms.

 

they only

give me more ways to reach

 

for another cephalopod’s

heart

 

that has

been lonely and scuttling

 

the bottom of the sea, just

searching

 

for another

area of aquatic affection;

 

searching

for a heart like mine.

 

 

 

19.) What One Wants

 

[a couple approached me when the sky was getting dark and asked for a poem about anything.  They had just left a fancy restaurant and told me it was because what they really wanted for dessert was an orange]

 

Somewhere in Florida a tree is lonely,

its branches without balance:

this is only one way to see this orange,

 

as a lost treasure, but why produce sweet

flavors

if not to give them away?  Who can say

 

for sure that we are not made to desire

so specifically this

citrus sweetness at this time?

 

Who can say that there is a better way

to spend an evening then to forsake

all of the offered desserts

in favor of one’s true desire?

 

 

 

20.) Listen to this State

 

[an Indian family of five asks me (through the father as a translator) to write a poem for the grandfather, who is visiting America for the first time]

 

The California poppy

opens its bloom enthusiastically

to the sun like a trumpet

 

pushing a high note

in the borrowed color

of a monarch’s wings.

 

The sunflower

overstates its conviction

like a kitten roaring

a lion’s ferocity.

 

But these are the collected song

of California.

Look at the wide notes playing

in this field.

 

 

 

21. Rules

 

[for a self-identified “gamer couple” celebrating their one year anniversary]

 

How old and wonderful it is

that our minds made rules

to better be able to play.

That we did not make rules to

constrict or to bind, but bind ourselves

 

to rules to better fly

 

the desires of our minds.

 

 

 

22. $

 

[Two women ask me for a poem about money and never return to pick it up.  They also do not pay me for the poem.]

 

I often wonder if cash

is a bad bone in the

human body.  If we could remove

 

it and cure the disease.

Other times I want

a yacht

 

and a villa and a few

steaks a week, new

shoes and a shirt

 

without holes in it.

I wake from this dream of desire

to list only that which I am able to give.

 

 

 

23. for Santa Cruz

 

[a young man from a “progressive Christian organization” asks me for a poem about love.  When I encourage him to specify what kind of love, he asks for a poem of brotherly love in Santa Cruz.  I later discover that him and his organization have laid out butcher paper across Pacific Ave and are asking passers-by to draw what they think love looks like]

 

Look, Santa Cruz

I have a great time

just hanging out with you.

You just really get me man,

like I can just say anything

to you like the tide can say

to the shore whatever truth

rolls off its roiling tongue.

When we hang out I can

just                             …be

honest about who I am

like the moon actually is

a pearl rolling

in the wide black bowl of the night.

I want to wear your friendship

about me like a garment woven

from our intention to ease

and invite the grace of this world

what I’m trying to say is:

I love you man.

 

 

 

24.

 

[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another” I decide to include bones in all of my morning’s poems) a woman asks me for a 10 year anniversary poem for her husband]

 

I imagine someday our bones

(some 40 or 60 or no more

than 100 years from now)

will have something to say

to each other.

 

I imagine they will turn

to each other casually

with the same knowing look

you give me now

and say:

 

“you held together

quite the companion.”

and my bones will blush

and in their own way

reach

 

for your hand

by dispersing toward you

in the soil.

 

 

 

25.

[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another”) a student asks for a poem for his mentor who has just been diagnosed with a terminal cancer]

 

The bones, too

are illusion.

 

They are only the wick

of this oil lamp.  And when this lamp tilts up

 

and your essence collects

it does not affect

 

all the wondrous change

that is inspired by your flame.

 

 

 

26.

[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another”) a young man asks me for a poem about an emotion he spends 20 minutes explaining]

 

anyone can look at October’s leaves

and say “look at these bones”

bout only a man who is bones himself

 

will see the way

they cast and cascade

 

and even in the slow wind,

 

roil,

and know

(if he has become bare as well)

they are more like dead bats petrified

on extended wing.

The bountiful man may look at the same

branches and say:

“look at these buds

that are yet to be.”

 

 

 

27. JC Bootleggin’

[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another”)  a street magician who I tend to find obnoxious asks me for a poem about Jesus Christ bootlegging liquor]

 

I, for one,

would buy moonshine from Christ.

 

Something he cooked up

bootlegging in his Father’s basement.

 

As long as it was actual moonshine

(light from the moon)

 

I would go blind drinking that bone

white light.

I would go blind.

 

28. Date

 

[a couple on a first date asked me for a poem.  Neither had a favorite poem or poet.  After getting their poem, I saw them kissing on the street corner.  Success.]

 

A giraffe

went on a date with a lemur.

It was unsuccessful.

 

A koala

went on a date with a puppy.

It was adorable.

 

I went on a date

with a sociopath (this is a true

story).

I found myself jealous

 

of all other conceivable

dates

 

including yours

right now.

 

 

 

29.

 

[a woman asks me for a poem for her friend who is terminally ill.  She describes this woman as her sister, but explains explicitly that they are not blood related]

 

what bliss is implicit in “sister”

what love in me knows that even

this close name is profane for

 

the true feeling.

We could take dictation from

the daisy: it uses no words

 

to express how it feels for

the sun, but if it did, I would become

a thief and steal that word

 

and use it

for the ways saying “sister”

falls short.

 

 

30.

 

[a man who was visiting from Sacramento had his car broke down, we talked for nearly half an hour about how he could never make up his mind what to do.]

 

I would not bend so radically as the wind

at time I will cling to the branch

as if it were my own

bones.

 

But even these leaves

will travel in an unknown

direction, far from the space

they grew above

dependent upon

 

the will of the wind alone.

 

 

 

31.

 

[a  15 year old in a group of 6 peers asks me for a poem about her boyfriend, who she has been with for three months.   One of her 15 year old male makes three offhand remarks about the race of her boyfriend.]

 

Do me a favor:

smile.

 

Because your smile is softer

than the petals of the plum blossoms

you have rows of full moons

behind your lips;

part the night clouds for me.

 

Smile:

bring the bright shine of your joy

to me.  I want to share your smile

with every day of my week like a cake

too rich to eat in one sitting

 

I want to savor taking

my lips to it

day after day after day.

 

 

32.  Inner Beauty

 

[a 14 year old girl asks me for a poem about inner beauty.  When I ask her why, she responds that it is the reason why she would like to fall in love someday]

 

The principles of gravity,

 

the words traveling between our phones,

 

the wind that pulls

the petals of plum blossoms from their branches:

 

there are many things I cannot see.

 

But hidden in that invisible wind of white flutter of these petals is pulled.

We are as unable to see it at that which pulls

 

heavily the human heart

the unseeable and unstoppable

truth of attraction.

 

 

 

33. Surfing

 

In the ripcurl of tide

a ride

 

to shore’s

 

sand and safety.

 

Also, in safety there is control

and also boredom

 

let me sail on this

surf again

let me muddle the velocity of gulls.

 

34. The Wolf

 

[a hairstylist asks me for a poem about wolves.  Tells me that he asks every street poet he has ever met for a poem about wolves]

 

An Italian man with a fantastic white hat

once told me

that we live our lives

in the mouth

of a

wolf

 

and the

only

difference

between the common man

and the brave man is

 

the common man tries to survive the wolf,

the brave man attempts to kill it.

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2 Responses to “100 Poems I Wrote in April (or True Stories. or My New Profession) Part 1 of 3”

  1. Matt Moore said

    Hey Kevin, I believe if you wrap what you are copying/pasting in between

     

    tags it will retain the original spacing/formatting.

  2. Matt Moore said

    Err, it stripped it our – “pre” tags

     

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