100 Poems I Wrote in April (or True Stories. or My New Profession) Part 3 of 3
June 3, 2013
So it turns out that it took me a month to properly edit the end of this large project. Again, 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. If you would like these poems without the awkward spacing, you can track down the orignial poems with the misspellings included but without the awkward spacing as a note on my facebook:
64.] Another Dream
[a woman asks for a poem about her husband. Tells me they were recently married and living on a farm/vineyard and that he works as a chef and they’re loving their life, eating delicious food and being surrounded by beauty]
in this dream
I begged Oberon
not to take
this potion off my eyes.
I told this lord
of forest magic
to let his enchantment last:
“You must understand
this dream I’m having
under your spell:
The sun everyday runs
from orange to white to orange again and everyday
I’m seeing this light on this face
of one I love, I have coaxed a bounty
from the earth and opened my eyes
to it.” And then, it was dawn
and Oberon and the dream
were gone. I opened my eyes and you
were beside me. Just like this,
I thought, if I must wake from this dream too
let it be just like this.
65.] Vespa bravery
I am not saying that today
when you put both your legs
around my Vespa, that you experienced
the same emotion as St. George when he
faced the dragon, I am just saying:
“I am glad you came.”
This can be scary, I know. And every year
they will make thousands of movies
about what it means to be brave
and they will all get it wrong.
There will always be explosions or evil
threats to the world and car chases
and backflips. I do not need this bravery.
Every year, they will make thousands
of movies about what it is like to love.
They will not capture what it is like
to have you here
arms around me
on the back of my Vespa.
[a 10 year old and his brother ask me if I can write “one of those poems where the first letter of each line spells a word” about soccer. This is the first acrostic anyone has requested from me.]
So what if I never played midfield willingly,
Or offence if I could avoid it.
Can’t say I liked playing wing,
Cringed at the thought of goalie
Every position has its own deterrent.
Really, I should find a new sport.
67. Poem for the Ocean
I am nothing as wide as the tide
which rakes daily over this serene shore.
I have not, by my hand, turned rocks
into sand or nurtured all life on Earth.
I have no released myself to the pull
of the moon, nor shipwrecked anyone
and taken them whole.
[ A woman asks me for a poem about moving from one apartment to another. When I asked he what the hardest part of moving was, she said getting rid of her couch.]
I hope the idle sidewalk loves you
if no one else will take you in. I hope
you don’t get doomed to a dorm and damned
by some spilt beverage or other unsavory
fluid. Couch, who has held me on my good
days as well as my bad, in sickness as in
health, and even that time I got sucked in
to watching Battlestar Galactica. You
outstanding upholstery, blessed to be
best of all possible seats. I hope for you
a happy home. Or, if that doesn’t work
out for you, I hope you grow arms
these boxes are heavy
and I could use some help.
[a man asks me for a poem about a woman he’s about to drive to San Jose to see that his friends think he shouldn’t see, and he knows his friends are probably right, but he knows he’s going to go see her anyway.]
The heart may have reasons that
the reason knows not
but that doesn’t mean
my heart isn’t a jerk sometimes.
I’ll get in the car
with my heart, thinking
we’re just going downtown
for a cup of coffee and then
my heart slams on the gas
and we’re Vin Diesel-ing down the highway
to your heart’s place
to get fucked up
on drugs that can only be made
by the insides of our brains,
and this is on a Tuesday night.
I’ll never learn.
[first time I ever used Vin Diesel as a verb. won’t be the last.]
[a man walks up to me and asks for a poem about snakes, provides little elaboration. After it turns out he is on his way to do a reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz, where he read this as the opening poem of his set]
What bad name to be given to a belly
creature: viper, serpent, they use
“snake” as an insult, those who are least
comfortable with their bodies hurl this
hurt without hesitation. They do not
know the beauty of a skin stone smooth
they assume the worser part of grace.
To some this quickness is
uncomfortable. They cannot say why they cannot see
the beauty of that which is
A marble on a downward tilt,
most conscious school children,
credible rumors about world leaders:
some things were made to be moving.
Time could be one of these things.
Or it could be allowed to be
like a dog in a yard on a summer day
with no master. I do not desire
to be time’s master, only to build
a larger yard in which it can roam.
72. My Sweet
[A young woman asks for a poem about her boyfriend. When I ask her what she likes about him she says that he’s sarcastic and he plays lots of video games. After a long pause she adds that he also likes chocolate.]
Those who describe chocolate
only as “sweet”
have not refined
their tasted tongues.
Who would have the canvas
of their palette
beat monochrome in flavor?
This is the true gift of chocolate:
in the cocoa also a hint
of coffee, a hazelnut accent
tint of bitter blended all.
And still this taste is simple
compared to the sweetness
I find in you.
[a 12 year old girl asks me for a poem about horsies and doggies]
if I were a horse
I would be the best horse
my powerful legs would
take me away fast enough
to make my mane and tail
wave in the wind.
If I were a dog,
I would be the best dog
I would be good at fetch
and great at the park
but today and yesterday
and probably tomorrow
I am human, and I
will be the very best.
[A man asks me for a poem about madness, and continues tells me a very impressive story about some part of the beat movement he was heavily involved in. I was too busy thinking about how to write a madness poem to properly listen.]
the heart grow fonder.
the world go mad.
The poet makes
the eye dart from
for a very poor
And we all burn with a madness beyond
the genius of the sea
though at times it may hide,
it is inhuman
not to smolder.
This day has
about it a certain justification
of this much sunshine
but the rays have transformed
and become shy:
this one masquerades as a chord
pushed from a piano’s false
percussion, which is secretly strings
this one is the red relief
of sunshine in a strawberry
A transformed ray ready
for a mouth.
This one has become a thief
you can tell by the way it plays
around that last curl of hair
it is just waiting to steal
Humor is a mixture of grace
and critical perception.
An apology is a mixture of grace
Love is a mixture of grace
Let me be,
bathed in your grace.
77. How to Say
The ground grows no food so sweet
nor (as those who chew rinds will know)
And still for any flavor we all
in our way must create praise
for the day.
The California poppy
does not need words for this
you can simply see
in the way it tilts
its neck towards the sun
it is saying:
I love you,
I love you,
I love you.
[another love poem that mentions poppies.]
For its ability to open
like a storm cloud
for its draw on me
like the sun on a poppy
for I could count all the birdsong
and still the tones
and tunes of my heart would
play more profuse
for the swing in the arc sub-atomic
or the curve of the worlds’
which are more the metaphor
of the large and small ways
we move endlessly
on the desire
to be closer
[the most social awkward person I’ve met on the street asks for a poem about strangers, and how there are some strangers you wish you could get to know better]
I don’t know who this is
blasting hiphop with their windows
across the broad wash
of Pacific Ave.
I don’t know who this is:
walking cocky with a white
spade beard and flat tie.
I don’t know who this is
whose dress is charming
and stockings stylish
and smile sharp
and hair enticing
and walk divine.
So often I would like to know
how to know
80. In the dark
[a poem from an androgynous human being who wanted a poem for her girlfriend, who she fell in love with in a lighting booth while working tech for a theater performance in high school]
Something is blooming in the dark
of a lighting booth somewhere. I will stain
my fingers with the juice of a raspberry
to show the color of this bloom.
There was no wrath in her. There is no
promise of forgiveness, just one heart
folding open in the dark. From a girl
like you, for someone like me.
This is true
if history is kind enough
to repeat itself.
Grease on the fingertips
working at glass,
eggshell in a liquid
broken glass all over
the haystack where I search
for the needle all day
with the same four bars
of an unnamed tune
repeating themselves for me.
The hands on the clock
have no fingers.
82. Mr. Bones panhandles to Santa Cruz
[this poem and 83 were written not by request, but on a day when it was slow enough to just write for myself]
Everyone here without exept-
ion rattles. I rattle in
the morning. By the line
that waits for Forever
21 to open. In the evening
I rattle to the masses
and collect my change.
83. It becomes the rule of the spirit’s desire
After, their reaction implies
that I had said something like proposing that I could live
without my bones.
A general awe at the thought
that they were the free ones.
I do not want to play by the rules of bones any longer
though there are so many who believe.
[an engaged couple who have known each other for 7 months and met at a meditation circle ask for a poem about how they spent a week together after meeting and she “kind of put a magic spell” on him]
If I didn’t know any better
(if I weren’t still somewhat bolted
to this world with its appointments
to be kept and dentists
to be seen and oil
to be changed inside real metal cars)
I would swear it were magic:
(something harnessed or tweezed
from sea mist or strawberry
seeds drawn from a week that
existed beyond existing)
this which draws me
to you and makes me close today
and wish for more closeness
tomorrow, and all days: a wish
to have you about me, like the mist
that rolls from the ocean
in the morning.
[a man asks me for a poem about his 70th birthday, but he has to go to dinner, so he hands me a business card and asks me to mail the poem to him. His daughter adds that it should include the themes of “trips, sea turtles, and the American Chestnut tree.”]
I can only hope to have a smile
on my face fit to compete
with Sam Kusic’s when I turn 70.
I can only hope to have my heart
so full of shipsmen ready to set
rigging and hoist sails for a trip
as Sam Kusic’s heart when I turn 70.
I can only hope not to be narrowed
by where I have been. To avoid falling
into the false beliefs that my journey
has taught me all I need to know about
journeys, I can only hope I am as open
to the lessons of the turtle & chestnut
as Sam Kusic when I turn 70.
I can only hope and let time wind around me
in its whipstitch of sunrises until
I will be where I will be in 15,436 days:
I will be as old as Sam Kusic is
today and (if I am lucky) as wise.
[another Happy Birthday poem]
At your age
if you were a bottle of wine
think how they would argue over you.
if you were a wheel of cheese,
think how fast they would toss you away.
How lucky then
that you are neither of these things
but your wonderful singular self.
87. my socks
I’m a believer
and an advocate of seizing socks
of all varieties: short socks seamed or
seamless, paisley or patterned, prints or
plaid. I have ample amounts of argyle
to adorn my ankles. I could salivate for
saucy socks: silk stockings stitched on buttons
pulled up high as a thigh. Oh socks divine
cinched down to the shins I could slip you
over an instep and toss you into a corner
if you were knit and dry or wet and wool
I would love the sockiness of you.
I could get lost in a box of your
[a lesbian couple approaches me 1/2 of the couple grumbles about how I couldn’t write a poem about 1978 (the year they met in santa cruz) because I wasn’t around, the other says she bets I could and encourages me to do so. They never return for their poem.]
When my bones were negative
the world still had this:
up the spine of the Santa Cruz
& the salty breath
of the ocean
sprayed from the waves
angles and mists & also (as you know)
some human spark, some angler of the heart
some pull from some hook and some decades
for both ends of this ribbon to pull
Hold the gentlest part
of your finger right here:
there’s a knot to be tied.
[a woman who has the same name as a lover of mine, asks for a poem for her husband, who has the same name as me…who she describes as a unicorn.]
When the time comes
and it is the end
and the walls of this world
maybe then we will be able
to see it all clearly
a red ribbon taught
between us, this hair of all
passionate happiness strung
and drawing me
90. mangled bird
[a woman asks me for a poem about a bird she just saw that had two talons missing from one foot. She says her favorite poet is Margret Atwood]
I don’t assume it was a fight.
There are many places in this world
where one can assume violence.
These assumptions are
not always true: look at these
scars, this fissure of tissue
I did not fight for, simply lofted
The back wheel of a bicycle
over my shoulders, grated pavement.
Easy for me to say, after all,
I’ve still got my talons.
But I would like my wings back;
my wings are still missing.
They’ve been missing all these years.
[a poem from a mother to her son as he graduates from film school]
The camera’s lens is only one way
to view what’s been happening
in this wide and unpredictable world.
Another is to peer out of my own convex
eye. There has been too much
passing my vision to fit even into wide
screen. CUT TO: You were small and wailed
and wailed. It seemed nothing
would stop you. I cradled you.
Perhaps this doesn’t make you feel proud
or powerful, but you were so human.
PAN across some 20 years to this
small stage where a young man holds a
passion for creation
larger than a lens, larger than a screen,
but smaller than my overwhelming pride.
92. the thwarted wanting that leads to inner peace
All I wanted was a fucking ice cream cone.
The Ice Cream store told me
they were sold out
(of fucking ice cream cones!)
and that they only had kale.
I considered burning down the store
but decided against it when I realized
the sentence for even attempted arson
was likely slightly worse
than eating frozen kale.
[a woman asks me for a poem about finding one’s center. When I ask follow up questions she alludes them all and insists I write my own “my own poem” …about finding center)
I have searched in the exhale
of my body.
I have searched too in its motion
in the minds of writers
(of mortality various).
I have searched as well
when I did not know I was searching:
when washing a dish
or standing on
the jagged edge of a bright sleep
that refused to come.
It is often there
I am told.
I have been told many things.
I am just now learning how to listen
as it is one more way
94. Granite and Manzanita
[…in the strangest request I have received a couple asks me for a poem about Granite and Manzanita. I ask them lots of follow up questions]
I have at times thought of myself
but if we are being honest very few
things thought of as true
are true. Paraffin thinks of itself as solid
until unzipping flame
traverses its taper.
Granite may think itself strong
until Manzanita runs
its fingers gently
over the weary mountain and who
is it that has fingers
that have the same affect
[three young women who met while working for the UCSC newspaper ask me for a poem about newspapers, I completely ignore the statement that their collective favorite poet is TS Eliot, because at least 2/3rds of the group seem surprised to learn this fact.]
when you quip
at your characters for not having
“ate paper or drunk ink”
you made it damn clear
that you’ve never worked for a
newspaper or else
you would have said:
“he hath not considered murdering
the chief editor, nor hath he
argued alone in his office
with a submitted op ed piece.”
get your iambic shit together
and get a better copy editor.
We could hang out on the corner
and throw rocks at people
to more clearly define the line
between random and evil. Let’s throw match
sticks at radical preachers
while yelling “repent!” and we’ll see
if they politely ask us what it is
we’re talking about. Maybe this is
not exactly what you had in mind.
Maybe more of a hike or a road trip
or an OUT THERE flavor
of ice cream. Whatever it is
just as long as life
knows you’re planning
the kind of curveball
that will make it look
like a sucker in front of its friends.
97. For a stolen backpack
[two hikers ask for a poem about a stolen backpack and never return]
There are days when I can believe
that it is true
that I am large and I contain multitudes.
But it is not a common day
that I am able to stuff a tent
into my mouth and throw myself
over my own shoulder.
This is why we need backpacks.
there is no solace in knowing
that thieves will never prosper
true solace lies
in my missing blanket.
[a man in a tight white T shirt and a vest asks for a poem about transition, pays me $5 in advance, and never returns]
I do not see any complaints
when I look
at bare branches. In this town
the branches are wiser
All along Pacific
you can see the blooming
next to those
more solitary. You could say
“These are bountiful
and these others: cold.”
But these bare branches
are the wise ones that know
their glorious budding
awaits around a corner
in a sharp turn of time.
[a man asks for a poem for his sick, but recovering wife. I asked if she was recovering from a surgery or major illness. “no no,” he replied, “just the flu.”]
The truth is that illness can change
us the way the sun can change
what you view in a pane of glass.
At the right height and angle
all you’ll find is a faint mirror
reflecting your face and all that stands
behind you. But time rides on
the heels of the sun, sweeping on
this angle of light until you
can see right through
and everything is clear
and your eyes
and whole self are ready again
to take in the beautiful day.
[around 7pm a woman approaches me and without asking any questions tells me that I should write a poem about how young people today don’t have any guidance in their life. I tell her that I can, the poem will take 10-15 minutes and that I’ll be closing up shop in about an hour. She tells me that she’s going to a movie that will play for about two hours and after that she’ll be back to pick up her poem. Never saw her again.]
I’ve seen a compass confounded
by the closeness
I’ve seen the wisteria climb
any ladder left
to reach for
I’ve seen the path of my own
for a guide.