From Writing

Even if you stop moving

scoot

Life keeps going.

If nothing else, that’s one thing we can bank on. Even in our stubborn complacency, our unhealthy comforts, our black-hole grief—even if the first thing you think about when you wake up every day is what you are not, or you don’t have, or worse, what you have lost.

This year has been a fierce, really, and in all the ways. Since D died, I have inadvertently split my life into two distinct time periods, before she died and after. Yeah, there are a ton of pivotal moments in my life that could’ve created a similar divide, but they didn’t. Mostly because of who I was before and after, and who I continue to be.

Three years this July.

The anniversary of her death came on so suddenly. It was physical. I was readying myself for a Chicago trip (the same location I headed to the day after her funeral), fussing to finish work assignments, worrying the semester, but then it came on… a wave over me. Not sure that I believe in much, but I do know when I feel her there. She kind of knocks you know. I’m sure you know. I’m sure there is someone you lost or miss and though often it’s the intensity of the missing that conjures them, sometimes they come uninvited. It’s a surprise. And no matter what your beliefs are—god or no god, spiritual or black and white—you invite them in. You invite them because it’s warm and nostalgic, the kind that hurts in the best way.

Do you speak to them? Out loud? A whisper? Inside? I do. I’m not embarrassed to say it—three years later I’m still sneaking in chats. Not like the daily texts and phone calls we engaged in, but car rides and bathroom breaks and walks to the coffeeshop. In that way, I never feel so alone. Not like I used to.

But for some good? Facing fears… and hopefully not foolishly. I got a scooter! It’s a “barely” used guy, a Yamaha Vino 125. It’s honestly been a source of pure joy. I can’t explain it. I’m just glad this summer weather is holding out as long as it is.

Latest poem published by Arsenic Lobster, “ONCE I DIDN’T DROWN IN A LAKE.”

And I finally scored a poem in my white whale of a lit mag, my favorite, Rattle. Scoop up a copy of your own.

But this. This is something that’s been haunting me, this poem and it’s sentiment. It’s so vital. While I wish I’d had discovered it long ago, I don’t think I’d have the Life Equipment to really get it.

Leaving you with it. Here.

mt

 

After Twelve Days of Rain – Dorianne Laux

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.

I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.

Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.

And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me,
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?

I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear,
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

—From What We Carry. (If you don’t have this book, you need it.)

Poetry prompts from National Poetry Month

Greensburg Back Roads

 

Hey, all! I told you I’d recap all the prompts and so here we are.

Yeah, I attempted to inspire the Facebook masses with a somewhat lofty goal of writing a poem a day in April. Did I accomplish that goal? Not quite. 23/30. But I’m not giving up. I plan on responding to these prompts. Soon. (Maybe once I’m done with a Doodle A Day May…. someone smack me.)

 

// NATIONAL POETRY MONTH – POEM A DAY PROMPTS //

DAY 1: Write a poem of firsts.

DAY 2: Write a poem en media res, or a poem that begins in the middle of things.

DAY 3: Write a sonnet. It can be modern, not necessarily rhyming or in meter.

DAY 4: Write a poem about a lie you told. Don’t be afraid of looking bad, though. Be vulnerable and honest and get to your guts.

DAY 5: Write a poem about the street you grew up on and title it as such. For example: “East End Avenue, 1992.”

DAY 6: Write a teeth poem.

DAY 7: Write a blackout poem.

DAY 8: Write a cliché poem using some overdone words, but make it fresh. (Here’s a list supplied by posters on Dan Shapiro’s wall: loam, tongue, crepuscular, moon, impossible, cicada, crow, bird, body, blood, map, ghost, specter, pearl, alone, silver, cerulean, azure, scrim, dream, starling, wolf, milk… Choose a few of these or make up some of your own.)

DAY 9: Write an unexpected poem presented in an unexpected way.

DAY 10: Write a confessional poem. Spill them beans!

DAY 11: Write a poem about another (possibly hidden) side of you.

DAY 12: Write an instructional “how to” poem.

DAY 13: Write a poem about feeling awkward, small or uncomfortable.

DAY 14: Write a haiku. 5/7/5 syllables. You know…

DAY 15: Write a tattoo poem or a “I don’t want to…” poem. Life is for options.

DAY 16: Write a silence poem.

DAY 17: Write a changes/transitions poem.

DAY 18: Write a poem titled, “Dear _____.”

DAY 19: Write a triptych poem, or a poem of threes. Bring together three events or images. (This courtesy of Melissa E.)

DAY 20: Write a recipe poem. Get creative without the kitchen time.

DAY 21: Write a poem centered around one word. Make it the title. Definition? Maybe.

DAY 22: Write a poem in couplets. Be a hero.

DAY 23: Write a Craigslist poem, inspired by findings therein. Personally, I like browsing Missed Connections. Typical.

DAY 24: Write a poem of or about colors. Be a painter of words!

DAY 25: Write a stolen text poem. Grab the nearest book or pamphlet. Flip through it and point to a place on a page at random. Write a poem centered around that word, phrase or image. Maybe even use it as the title?

DAY 26: Write a poem titled, “When I Stopped _____.”

DAY 27: Write a tarot poem. Use the image or idea of a tarot figure or minor arcana card to tell a story in verse. Have you ever picked which major arcana card best represents you?

DAY 28: Write an ekphrastic poem using album art as inspiration. Not just ANY album art, but the art of your favorite high school album.

DAY 29: Write an ode poem. It can be to your lover, your favorite sweater or a bottle of Ketchup. Make us feel the love.

DAY 30: Write a sestina… BOOM! (Easily my favorite form!)

 

Any hey… I’d love to see any of these, so feel free to share—here in the comments or my email!

 

 

Scary shit

Dingy Diner Doodles

Sometimes I catch a feeling, a gigantic wind. It might be that I feed it, let it consume me. If I do, it will grow and so I count on it as I would any tangible thing so big, lake or mountain. It will become memory inevitably, taking up (I think) that same space.

Years later, something may poke at it—an image, a person, a song, a smell—and it seems the weight of those years has flattened it, a two-dimensional feeling.

Sometimes I am grateful that it isn’t so strong.
Sometimes I am disappointed by this.
Sometimes it makes the better poem, flat like that.

But no matter the outcome, the passive yet brutal way in which time can take down mountains… that scares the shit out of me.

Moleskine musing

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I’ve slept on floors, on pull-out sofa beds, on ash-sprinkled backseats, my body tucked in on itself, conserving space and dreaming. I grew up and into shapes, edging  corners and rounding curves—an eye on my imposition: how much of me could fill the room, how much of me could remain invisible.

Now, the world makes me, turns me over in its sweaty palm like an imperfect marble, weak planet, dwarf star. I’m dense, punctured, changed without my permission. Alien. It’s true: what we endure creates who we are. Even then, experience has only made me feel lonelier. Is that the emo kid speaking? On a Weebl toon the other day called “Late Night Shopping 2,” I caught a tiny detail in the cartoon, a box with some scribble on it. I had to rewind to see:

“Emo Cakes: The cakes that eat themselves.”

That sounds about right. Hah. Is that what I’m doing?

Anyhow, where once was the vastness of blue-blanket sky, the hope of impossible highway miles, the canvas of unpaved lots, the wings of folded and refolded maps in my car’s door pocket… I have come to this, book-ended.

Everything keeps getting smaller but what’s in me.

What’s with that?

 

mt

 

Hung up on holidays and poetry scribbling

Besides re-watching the episode where House and Cuddy finally get together and downloading the Sims 3 Seasons Expansion Pack, I might say tonight was uneventful. Hah! God, I’m lame. I also excitedly ordered the 2014 AP Stylebook, dined and gabbed with my wonderful aunt and aimlessly walked around Target staring shiny-eyed at the Christmas decor.

Before we go into Christmas… Halloween went swimmingly. Our Red Neck/White Trash Bash was a blast. I slipped seamlessly into that character, the hillbilly grandpa, and nearly didn’t come out of it. I’m pretty sure my roommate and I were annoying the shit out of everyone with our banter.

“Eh, Jeb, whyonchu hand me that there fancy beer (a Yuengling) and put somethin’ on the tube.”

You’ll have to check out my Instagram for some snaps of that.

In other news, I am once more attempting November’s Poem-A-Day from Writer’s Digest. It’s not easy. This time around, I’m allowing myself to produce small bits, to produce anything without hacking it away then and there. I’ve been feeling awfully inspired, poetically speaking. I’ve been reading more, which helps. What are you reading? Does what you read ever change the shape of your day, your thoughts? It’s powerful to get into a book too deeply. You might live there for awhile.

3 Books of the Moment

Along with these three, A and I have been reading Margaret Atwood’s trilogy beginning with Oryx and Crake. I have read two of the three long ago, so it’s a refresh for me. Even now, years after I first fell in love with them, they (and her writing) blow me the hell away. She really is my hero.

Ok, and here’s the riot-inducing exclamation of the eve: I had to stop myself from bringing up my little two-foot Christmas tree from the basement. I don’t know what’s wrong with me anymore. Ever since D, I just… I want it to be winter/Christmas all year long. Prior to this, I didn’t hate Christmas, but it felt like a cold stranger. It was sad mostly, nostalgic. In fact, I think I just made a lot of grumpy grumbles about it and everyone around me agreed.

And yes, I did listen to that damned Rosie Thomas song, “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” already. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard, Christmas or otherwise. I don’t know how it could be, as it’s a Alvin and The Chipmunks tune. As one friend put it, “Don’t listen to that alone!” My plan is to master it on the uke this season. We’ll see.

“If anyone of us could write the saddest song ever, it’d be you,” I’ve been told. Hmmm.

Little As Living

Visit the shop and see what’s up >>

Guess what?

My new (and very first) chapbook is up for sale. I’m super stoked and can’t wait to share my poems with the world. I even did the cover, which I’m pretty ok with… but what pressure! And let’s be honest, I’m kind of scared about my words traveling around in foreign hands: honored, excited, vulnerable, and terrified.

I think all of us have experienced a thing (a someone or a something) that has made us question everything, that has made us explore ourselves again—as if for the first time. That is what this book is. Realization (and the process of getting to it). Both of the self and of the tiny universe we breathe in: the mundane; the sleepy routine; the waking-up-getting-a-shower-going-to-work-eating-dinner orbit we spin daily. Finding the meaning in that.

I hope you all will check it out. It’s only $7! Dancing Girl Press made this happen and to them I am forever grateful. Thanks to everyone, to those that believed I could do it even when I didn’t. I’m so lucky to have you on my team.

Best,
mt

 

Here comes the sun

Poetry Month always comes at this time of year: April, when I’m weighed down with school work and coming out of (hopefully) the stark sad of winter.

I must admit, I haven’t been so inspired.

This winter has been long and cold and snow-filled. I think we’ve all taken a beating, you know? Amidst all the funk of below-zero temps and incapacitating snow, my job shifted a bit and granted me more freedom to feel… that loneliness.

I’m not trying to complain here, maybe just reminisce about the winter behind (because I’m only going on and up), but after last year’s loss, I think there is a hole that I still haven’t learned to fill completely.

The good things have been monumental really: poetry readings with amazing friends and colleagues, a lovely partner who supports and understands, selling art and feeling proud for it, connecting with photography, beautiful skies and concrete, all of it. So much of it.

The hope is in the weather breaking, the renewal of life and love and getting something back from the world. Always.

So this note is just to breathe and digest. I hope you are all doing the same. Especially all my local peeps… We’ve earned it after this winter. Be solid. Hang tight. The sun is coming…

 

The house across the street

I look.

I can’t help it. It’s right across the street. It’s a worn white house with ugly brown trim. Looking at it, I can’t quite point out exactly what it is… why it looks as if it’s caving in on itself. But it does.

When I moved in, my roommate told me the story.

A man lived there, a big man, with no family. Nobody really knew him. Middle-aged. He shot himself a year or so ago. Pretty sad. Could it be any sadder, really? And since then, it’s quirks have haunted me.

It’s been only about five or six times, but sometimes a car will be there. On a Sunday. Once I saw a small gathering, a few men and a woman, purveying it from the sidewalk. Solemn.

Sometimes, a light will be on outside. I’ll run a few errands, come back, and it’ll be out. I don’t think it’s motion-activated. I’ve tested that theory. Sometimes, and this is the worst, the screen door will fly open. It will stay that way for days, flapping. I don’t dare close it. I’ve never come that close.

A small driveway, severely sloped and stout, falls into it like an open mouth, a garage tucked neatly below. And, on a morning not too long ago (aptly during the deep freeze of this winter), I heard a gushing sound emanating from it’s eerie cavern. Water line, I’m sure. And I had to call the cops.

“Who owns it? Does anyone live there?”

And somehow I was explaining my haunt to a policeman, leaving out all of my paranoia.

I don’t know what it means or if it will ever be sold or demolished. But it’s part of my (nearly) everyday. And I just wanted to say it somewhere. I’m sure we all have these things. I’ve even dreamed about the place, the man inside who I’ve never met.

Do you have something like that? Something that scares you, a constant reminder of your mortality?

That’s just one of mine.

mt

What’s with weather

The sky has been loud.

See, most days the only way I know how to feel is from this: sky, weather, the way the sun hits and colors. It’s not that I don’t wish it could be more personal, but lately the sky has been steering me, been more demanding of me. I’m not used to it.

Just this year have I become unlike myself, my self. I’d like to split them. “Self” as a word seems hokey, but recently it hasn’t felt like mine. This shift, I like to believe, is my trying to be healthy, the idea of relying on myself (my self?) for happiness, because this is what we are told to do. This is what I have resisted my whole life, for various reasons.

You shouldn’t depend on others for your happiness. It’s unhealthy.

I know, I know, I know. Really, at the end of it, there is nothing or no one you can depend on. “Depend” as a word seems faulty now, as does “loyalty” and “whole.”

So I’m sitting here in my button-down and my sweater and my khaki-colored corduroys asking: now what? I have shut down. I have shifted. No one has that ability now–or barely. Now that I have lost some sort of connection with “others,” or more aptly the “underworld,” I have begun looking up for answers? Not for some omnipresent guide or god or being, but for something as simple and surface as weather. C’mon… what’s worse?

Today when I stepped outside of my office, around 3:30 p.m., the world seemed at war: grey clouds huddled on top of each other like walls of puffy sandbags; the darker greys poked from beneath and east; and the sun, in an overwhelming orange, surged to topple it all. Every minute or so, a tentacle of light would peek out from its cage of clouds to grab me with an orange fist. I just stared. I don’t know what it means… what? But I knew that I felt: “hope.” And that pseudo-tangible thing called “sky” could mean things without words or touch.

I may have laughed to myself. I do this sometimes. If the cat isn’t around to join me in my tangled thought processes, I talk to myself (which is also new). To be fair, he talks back. Er… meows.

So now, hours later, I’m thinking again (surprise), but… if “hope” were an image, it just might be that sun trying to boulder its way through the clouds–all that brightness and warmth slamming its back against the grey blanket of Earth. And why, then, I hadn’t thought that way is beyond me. I mean, it makes complete sense now: maybe the sky is a way of feeling and telling and not really touch, but touching.

And so I thought of the day, the sound of my chiming alarm (one of five alarms set) and the sleepy sun that comes at us earlier than before… I imagined it reaching in with that same fist to shake me awake, to rattle me alive. Why am I resisting?

mt

Ain’t nobody got time for pain

This is what I do know:

It’s nearly 5:00 p.m. on Friday, payday Friday, that is.

Binging on Halloween treats makes me feel like a trash bag.
My life feels a lot like Tetris.
It’s November. Bring it on, November. Can you believe that?

The only super exciting thing about November, besides the true death of everything colorful outside (I kid), is the November PAD Chapbook Challenge 2013. If you don’t know, it’s a little poetry challenge. You’re given a prompt every day for a poem. SO YOU WRITE ONE POEM A DAY FOR A WHOLE MONTH. You can do it; I dare you.

It’s inspired by the more well-known, NaNoWriMo. This challenge is actually where you attempt to write a WHOLE NOVEL in a month, since November is apparently National Novel Writing Month. (Get the acronym-ish title now?) But I don’t know about writing 50,000 words in a month—unless I was suffering from verbal Dysentery.

Anyway.

Ain’t nobody got time for that [pain].

I had this very serious post in mind. It was about pain. The kinds of pain, reaction/action… etc. I sat in my car before class on Tuesday, before I even went to the hospital to see my mom, writing about it. “Pain is subjective.” “No pain, no gain!” “You’re a pain in the ass!”  “I haven’t got time for the pain…”

Wait. That last one is a Carly Simon song.

I guess what I’m getting at, or what I was attempting to get at, is that we accumulate pain, maybe, like scratches on a wall. But it’s not just one type of pain; there are so many shapes that pain can take. Some are more triangular, some round and heavy like an oversized marble. And each pain, then, elicits both a reaction and an action. The reaction being more of the “involuntary” sort—auto-spat. The action seemingly becomes a way to cope.

Example:

John’s dog dies.

Reaction: He cries and loses his appetite.

Action: He doesn’t tell anyone, and he never gets another pet.

See what I mean? For me, this helps me to look at my pain. It’s good to find the source, of course, but also define it in my terms—the “subjective” part. I like to examine what has changed because of it. Perhaps, I am doing this because so much of me has changed—not just my living sitch, my relationships, my creative endeavors, but my core. For the better, I hope. In ways. It’s just been a dynamic (geez, that’s being kind) two years. YES, TWO. It’s like an obstacle course. Maybe, just maybe, making it to the other side is what has changed me and not the events specifically. Maybe this will show me that, not matter what, I can do obstacle courses.

Except for rope climb activities. I suck at that.

Happy Friday/Weekend/November, everyone!
Oh, and don’t forget to write your poem!

mt