National Poetry Month 2020, Day 30

“ars poetica”–unfinished

“A poem should not mean, but be” –Archibald MacLeish

on my knees

i am at the mercy of meaning

oh muse

lift me up

send a cloud car to steer me back in time to see

the Bard, quill flaming

set me down in the soil

so that i can sprout strong roots

ignite wonder

in a world that has shrunk to four walls

the mystery of poetry is the miracle of love the miracle of love is that is comes to you unbidden

oh muse

sweep me upwards to Mont Blanc that i might take in the dizzying heights with Percy Shelley

oh muse

drown me in the deepest depths that i might interview the tortoise princess whose love left her for duty

oh muse

make me stalwart like Quixote that i might always have the madness to write art onto this world of dust and insults

oh muse

seed me deep into the rich, black soil

and send the harvesters in

when i send up strawberries

National Poetry Month 2020, Day 29

Assessment: i want to post a poem tomorrow–i don’t know what yet–so today i want to reflect on my poem-a-day project for National Poetry Month.

For the first time since i started this blog, i have blogged (almost) every day for a month. i only missed one day. It made the month go by fast. March was one of the slowest months of my life, but April went by fast.

It proved true something that i have heard all my life: that writing leads to more writing and even more writing. It’s just a question of beginning. Having a deadline every single day meant that, in my head, i was–or rather, am–constantly composing poetry and also constantly revising in my head.

In the interest of expediency, i did NOT draft by hand this month. i drafted right into the WordPress word processor. As a result, i do not much like the poems i wrote this month, and i do not feel close to them. And i feel very vulnerable, having posted on this blog poems that are barely thought-out when i usually don’t post anything until it is shined and polished and subjected to rigorous re-vision. So, i am looking forward to re-writing the poems i started this month, and the first thing i will do is copy them by hand from the screen to a piece of paper. i roll old-school like that.

i wish i had planned my posts out. Instead, i took it day by day: i posted at whatever time the poem was mostly formed, and then i let the poem rest. And then i woke up the next morning and thought, “Okay, what am i going to post today?” It was fun, but i could have planned things out better: Today is this topic, tomorrow is that topic, the day after that i’ll revise today’s topic.

i wondered what would have happened if i had given my poetry more focused attention. i have other hobbies–knitting, crochet, trying to learn the guitar, and in this shelter-in-place season, i have been trying to learn to sew. i am not talented at any of my hobbies; i have become hooked on yarn because the relaxing feeling of yarn running through my fingers is “cheaper than therapy”–as yarn-crafters say. i am pathetic at playing the guitar, but being able to make music of my own is extremely enjoyable. Sewing is actually practical, and i wish i had asked my mom for lessons years ago. Yet–there are times that i do wonder what would happen if i put the yarn away and focused more on my writing. But i am afraid to do it because i am afraid of facing the writer’s block.

i realized that i need to carry a little notebook in my purse again. i bought three little notebooks from a Papyrus store, and they filled up quickly with journal-like prose and to-do lists. i also composed my poems “autumnal” and “Lois Lane” in them–poems of mine that i like. and there are a bunch of half-formed ideas in them that made it into my blog this month. But ideas do strike me a lot when i am out doing errands and standing in line–my “Ode to the White Chocolate Mocha” started on the back of a sticky note while i was in line at Joann’s, for example.

So, it was a fun project to do, and i’m glad i did it, and a lot more poetry is going to come from it.

National Poetry Month 2020, Day 28

“ode to the white chocolate mocha”–unfinished

white chocolate mocha, you speak to me of the summer i fell in love with starbucks, when a barista named Jeff recommended you as one of his favorite drinks. that was before i had a “starbucks name,” and whenever Jeff called out, “Venti white chocolate mocha for I-leen,” i didn’t have the nerve to correct him.

white chocolate mocha, the first sip is the sweetest, just like the first cut is the deepest, and i was getting over my first love that summer, and i told this to this dude i met there that summer. i actually tried a line out on him, a really stupid one, and he was wearing headphones, and he looked up and replied, “huh?”

white chocolate mocha, my hands tremble in appreciation of you, and i have to explain it every time i sub in elementary school: “ms. p, why are your hands shaking?” “oh, i had my coffee this morning, and caffeine makes my hands shake.”

white chocolate mocha, you bring back the frantic days of grad school, the all-nighters, hurtling through an entire class in a month. and when the novels of Jane Austen became work and ceased to be romances, you would fuel me through the day until quitting time at 3am, and i would wake up four hours later with the terrifying realization that my day’s work was to research and write about Jane Austen, and I had chosen that fate myself. “Jane”–by the way–is my Starbucks name–my middle name.

white chocolate mocha, the last sip is the sweetest. at the bottom of the cup is where all the syrup lingers.

National Poetry Month 2020, Day 27

stream of consciousness on errand day

bananas cuz we go through bananas like bananas and kira brown posted something about bananas on instagram too shake the bag shake it off like a dog we all still quote mrs doubtfire hmm there are more people wearing masks today i am embarrassed of my homesewn mask bread for pbjs cuz me and dad could eat peanut butter every day furikake to sprinkle on tofu for mom her new favorite btw what is it about a pandemic that makes everyone buy all the tofu this mask hides my smile in this world ive lost my smile turn away and hide my face when it’s too hard to breathe so used to the shelves stuffed full when my parents didn’t grow up with supermarkets they had times when they actually literally had nothing to eat so just to walk into one for the first time and see all the food you could need in your life all at one time is this really our life now is that starbucks across the way really closed that store where i spent so much time crocheting until closing time am i really gonna try the gluten free pasta yah maybe next quarantine where would all of us be if we weren’t getting essentials and where are we all going and why aren’t the new fudge m&ms here

National Poetry Month, Day 26

“Praise Song”–first revision

You’ve been so good to me

I can’t help but praise You

You’ve been so good to me

I can’t help but sing it out

And You’ve been so good to me

Everyday of my life

You’ve been so good to me

I can’t help but praise You, Lord

Love abundantly, love abundantly

Deeper than the ocean, flowing like a fountain

Love abundantly, love abundantly

Deeper than the ocean, flowing like a fountain

And You’ve been so good to me

From the darkest valley

You’ve been so good to me

I can’t help but praise You

And You’ve been so good to me

Great is Your mercy

You’ve been so good to me

I can’t help but praise You, Lord

Love abundantly, love abundantly

Deeper than the ocean, flowing like a fountain

Love abundantly, love abundantly

Deeper than the ocean, flowing like a fountain

Grace falls like rain

You’ve been so good

I can’t explain

You’ve been so good

Grace falls like rain

You are so good

I can’t explain

You are so good

National Poetry Month 2020, Day 25

untitled, unfinished

tell me that i unnerve you,

that i bring you to life,

that you lose your breath

at the very sight of me

there must be some good reason

why you left

why do i miss you

why does it ache

when you are absent

National Poetry Month 2020, Day 24

“let go”–unfinished

“the highest good is to be yielding like water” –Tao Te Ching

the steps down to my beach are narrow and treacherous

the path down to my beach winds uphill, both ways

and there was a time when i wanted to show you Gibson Beach at Point Lobos

just as it was on an August Sunday

cloudy but it was warm when i laid down on the sand

the water an aqua dream that no plein-air painter ever quite captured

and a girl dressed in a wedding dress and a dude in a tux passed before me

and climbed onto that rock because the tide was out

and an Asian dude started taking their picture

and i wished that i could be here in a white dress with you

but i am here


with a letter i will never send you

to put my love to rest

at sea

National Poetry Month 2020, Day 23

“The Man of My Dreams”–country song–unfinished

Well, it was so nice to see you

Late last night at three-fifteen

Now that it’s all over

You’ve become the man of my dreams

Well, you were wearing that blue shirt

And your favorite Wrangler jeans

And I was wearing the bracelet

That you gave me for sweet sixteen

You’ve become the man of my dreams

You’ve become the man of my dreams

In the daytime I can barely breathe

But I saw you last night in my dreams

National Poetry Month 2020, Day 21

“Learning to sew”–unfinished

Grandma, this was your specialty

You outfitted eight children in times of poverty

And i can’t even sew a straight line on my $60 sewing machine from Wal-mart

Grandma, how needful your skills are in this time

You would have turned out a thousand facemasks all by yourself by now

And i have only folded a square of fabric into a “no-sew” mask held in place by hairties

Grandma, machines and me don’t mix well

This learning to sew has been disastrous to say the least, but I am not giving up because I have your DNA; somewhere in my blood, there must be a sewist

I speak Spanish and a smattering of French, and, with a master’s degree, use my hands to write poetry, knit, try to form new chords

And with a sixth-grade education and the hands God gave you to plant orchids and play the piano, you were fluent in the language of sewing machines

I did not speak your dialects and so spoke to you less and less as disease robbed you of all quality of life

Grandma, if only I could sew a zipline to carry me back through the years to the one summer you spent in our freezing apartment in Castroville, sewing on your secondhand machine from some thrift store–I would watch you for hours and ask a million questions

And if only, after the master classes, I could stitch up the lost years and fabricate a bridge, somehow, between your culture and my culture, between your tongue and my tongue, between your home and my home