Friday, April 25, 2008

Ron de Laura

A sad farewell to Ron deLaura, who died suddenly this week. Ron has done the stone masonry repair work at Opus 40 for many years, originally for my mother, Barbara Fite, and later for us...and we've been here twenty years. Ron had the enthusiasm of a youth, the skill of a master. He was a friend to Opus 40, and a friend to us, and a friend to all who knew him. He will be deeply missed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why does Budu McRae keep haunting me? And why does she keep haunting the guy in the song, who clearly doesn’t have a chance with her? She’s so close, but so distant. She’s around the corner, not on his block. She’s just out of reach.

How else is she around the corner? Is she twisted? Perverted? Or just unbalanced – just crazy that way?

The real question, however, is…who’s crazy? Budu may be crazy that way, but the singer seems to be crazy in a the best definition of the word – doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. He expects to Budu to choose him as her partner, in spite of the fact that Butch Stover, his competition, makes love like Casanova. What chance does he have?

He takes another tack. But he’s not really moving anywhere – understandable, since being told that his rival makes love like Casanova. He tries to give us a cute, non-threatening story about a childlike Budu in an innocent, pastoral setting, but he comes up with sadistic overtones, and the truth that he can’t get away from. The bumble bee is Butch Stover, the stinger is Butch’s penis. Budu has had oral sex with him 5 times, and genital sex three more times. This fellow really is a Casanova. He can’t escape the truth of it: “Five times in the eye! Three times in the knee! Butch Stover! Casanova!”

And if the ability to make incredible love is not enough to rule him out, it develops that our hero also doesn’t have the money like Rockefeller. So if he doesn’t have the big bucks, and he doesn’t have the sexual prowess, what does he have?

Only one thing that we know about. Intellectual gifts, If she chooses him, she won’t be getting a dummy.

And that’s the heart of it. The ineffectual cri de coeur of the intellectual. Against Butch? Rocky?

So, like any ineffectual intellectual, he keeps making his case more and more ineffectually, willing to settle for less and less – “hug me don’t you kiss me, kiss me don’t you bite me, love me don’t you hurt me.” He tries to appeal to her working class instincts – “digging a ditch, so we’ll both get rich,” but like any academic, he doesn’t really know how to do it.

He really is crazy that way.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Poem a Day -- day 17

Write a poem in the 3rd person. You can describe a scene, an event, whatever. But there's to be no use of "I," "me," "my," etc.--not even "you" or "we." No, keep yourself completely out of this poem. I'll leave the subject of your poem up to you. (Note: There is a way, of course, to include yourself. You can write about yourself as "he" or "she" depending on your gender. If you would normally write, I woke up in the morning, then for this prompt write, He woke up in the morning.

I disagree with Robert Lee Brewer here. If you're going to write in the third person, write in the third person. Create a character. And I disagree about limiting yourself to your own gender.

Easy enough advice for me, because writing personal lyrics is nice and ease, and I never, ever do anything nice and easy. I do it nice and rough.

So here's today's poem. Our hero still hasn't crossed the border. Now he's keeping an eye, and filing a report on, this border guard who may or may not exist.

He carries a
Kalashnikov rifle
with a red dot scope
night vision

sometimes he walks sentry
with a vest made of
his hand on the
detonator button

age and hair color
may not always
be the same but what is
and what doesn't change

that cell phone
that woman's breasts
those coded messages
if they fell into
the wrong hands

could change the shape
of the whole eastern front
curious they'd trust
him so close
to the border

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poem a day -- 11 thru 16

11. describe something--only one thing--that is either very interesting to you or something you think is often overlooked and taken for granted.

This is easy, if you're paranoid.

the mushrooms
outside the cabin door
I knock them down
but every morning
they’ve grown back

always different patterns
there’s a message
if I could read it
but no help
nothing in the code books

or the short wave
got to work this out
for myself
first the geometrics
then the colors

they’ve shaded from blue
to coral
no way that’s just random
time to move out
proceed with caution

wait for the
woman with the red dress
what I really
wonder about is
who’s leaving them?

12. write an apology poem.

How else do you start an apology poem?

This is just to say
I found the
naked pictures
of your wife and mailed them
to the enemy

I had to
do something to
get the dogs off my scent
and I didn’t know
you’d be back

excuse this note
sorry I couldn’t wait
I would have served tea
but there’s none
and by the way

I did save a couple
of shots for myself
to trade in
case of capture
or for those lonely nights

you know how it is
or you don’t
you’ve probably never
had to cross the border
or thought about it

13. write a poem based off your response to a song.

I wish I could be like
the guy in Warren
Zevon’s song
about jungle work
they parachuted in

parachuted out
with sten guns
clutched in each hand
Mozambique Zimbabwe
Sierra Leone El

a true mercenary
strength and muscle and
jungle work

or steal secrets
from trusting employers
like James Mason in
Five Fingers
or betray my

partisan comrades like
Victor McLaglen
anything but
this cold vigil
this infernal border

14. write a poem with the title "How (fill in the blank) behaves"--with the poem inspired by whatever you put in that blank.

This border
is often unguarded
makes me suspicious
why guard at all
if you don’t

have some purpose in mind?
So I monitor
the patterns of
the sentry
he’ll tip off their approach

through binoculars
on the screen of
his cell phone
pictures of a girl’s breasts
always the same girl

different poses
dropped to reveal one
or the other or
both some kind of

morse code like the mushrooms
which I should report
I tested by
eating one

15. Write an insult poem

Today we faced
each other across
the border
I was armed to the teeth
with invective

I called him a swine
a mongrel
I mentioned several things
all of them vile
about his mother

her habits
pertaining to hygiene
her sex partners
her choice of footgear
(combat boots)

I was just warming up
I questioned his
racial and ethnic
his taste in underwear

none of it seemed
to have an effect
perhaps he
speaks a different language
or else he’s deaf

16. Poem With a Twist at the End

Well, most of these have had some sort of twist at the end, so what could be different?

Time to file a report
they’ll be worrying
about me
its been three weeks
since I last made contact

short wave radio
shorted out
I’ve repaired it
so many times but now
flux exhausted

torch burned out
can’t heat solder
it won’t flow up the joint
have to improvise
getting there

crackling static
sound fading in and out
got to let them know
I’m still here
it’s dead again

the last thing I hear is
they’ve got a new dance
it goes like
this and its name
is the peppermint twist

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Poem a day -- 6 thru 10

Catching up on posting these here -- and I'm a couple of days behind on the challenge -- still have to make up 11 and 12.

6. The mandate: today's prompt involves recording all the details of your day and generating a poem from that material. My guy would have to be very careful in recording what he did on any given day, so I translated the poem into Morse code:

- --- -.. .- -.-- .. ..-. --- ..- -. -..
.-. --- .- -.. -.- .. .-.. .-.. .- .--. --- ... ... ..- --
... -.- .. -. -. . -.. --. ..- - - . -..
--.- ..- .. -.-. -.- .-.. -.-- ... . .- .-. . -.. --- ...- . .-. .-
-.-. .-.. .- -. -.. . ... - .. -. . ..-. .. .-. .

-.- .. -.-. -.- . -.. -.. .. .-. - --- ...- . .-. - .... .
.- ... .... . ... -- --- ...- . -..
.- --.- ..- .- .-. - . .-. --- ..-. .- -- .. .-.. .
-... . ..-. --- .-. . . .- - .. -. --. .. -
.. -. .- ... ..- -- .- -.-. --. .-. --- ...- .

...- --- -- .. - . -..
-... ..- - .... . .-.. -.. .. - .-.. --- -. --. . -. --- ..- --. ....
- --- .-. . -- . -- -... . .-.
-.- . . .--. .... ..- -. --. . .-. .- - .-
-.-. .-.. --- ... . .-. . -- --- ...- .

- .... . .-. . ... - --- ..-. - .... . -.. .- -.-- ..
... .... .. ...- . .-. . -.. .-- .. - .... -.-. --- .-.. -..
.. -- .- ... - ..- .-. -... .- - . -..
- --- -.- . . .--. -- -.--
-... --- -.. -.-- .. -. .... .- .-. -- --- -. -.--

that’s my report
all anyone needs
I should reach the border
with new papers

If anyone is curious -- yes, there is an actual poem here.

Day 7: Today's prompt is to write a "ramble poem." That is, I want you to write a poem where you just start rambling without worrying about where you're headed.

Well, I always write that way, so I decided to put my character into a state where'd have to ramble.

I don’t know where I am
or how I got here
starting to

a childhood I never
had a governess
given to
nude sunbathing

on the promontory
overlooking the
she’s getting up
shaking drops of water

like a dog from her
pubic fur
each drop becomes
a new version of her
like the dragon’s teeth

phalanx of
naked nannies
where are they taking me?
powerless to re
fever down

8. Painting -- today's prompt asks you to write a poem that is inspired by one of the two paintings linked below. Please indicate the title of the painting or the artist's name somewhere in your comment as well. Of course, there is also the possibility that you could blend the two together. Hmmm...

Anyway, here are the paintings:

Painting #1: Piazza d'Italia, by Giorgio de Chirico

Painting #2: The Little Deer, by Frida Kahlo.

I took The Little Deer.

Everywhere reminders
many have tried
this same route
and many have failed
the border is littered

with their remains
some picked clean
by scavenger crows
bones polished by fire ants
others bloated

and right here
mortally wounded
becoming animal
as life leaches
out of her

my predecessor
who sent dispatches back
sealed with a kiss
I ask her
for any last words

but she can barely talk
I settle for
what’s death like?
It’s nothing special
not really worth the wait

Day 9: Today's prompt is to choose a word (any word) and then write a poem either about that word or using that word in different ways.

Today’s code word is “night”
I get it
over short wave
radio at 10:
45 every night

“night must fall”
means the border
is closed don’t try it
“cows often move at night”
means I can

make it across
if I can procure
an armored vehicle
--like a cow?
I see myself

a knight in armor
my childhood fantasy
where honor
was everything
and one rode bravely

into the teeth of war
Sir Gawain
Sir Lancelot
General Custer
Charge of the Light Brigade

10: Today, the poetry prompt is to write a location poem. You can write about a city, a building, a planet, etc.

Here, by the way, is the only place you can read an unexpurgated version of this poem.

I’ve spent three nights
in this woodsman’s cabin
can’t risk a fire
in the corner

next to the
black potbellied stove
a stack of cordwood
on the table
a candle

I can’t light not even
with the shutters closed
the bare mattress
stinks of piss
and more curiously

the lingering
scent of sex
who would have wanted to
fuck here? But I know

anyone would
if I could
wrap myself in a warm
human body I’d
fuck my sister

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Poem a Day -- day 5

Today's mandate -- something you're worried about

Suppose I don't
reach it by nightfall
should I sleep
under a bridge or
take my chances

at a local farmhouse
my contact
tells me they're mostly
partisans here
so the odds are with me

but that's not
what worries me most
human contact
I've had too much of it
too much sex

and too much sharing
other people's secrets
I don't want
to know what they fear

what they hope the
revolution will bring
don't want to
break the news to them
it never does

Friday, April 04, 2008

Poem a Day -- day 4

A poem in which you're thankful for something. And it isn't even November.

Well, this theme didn't come from nowhere. We're all haunted by this and that, and some part of the creative corner of my mind has been haunted for a while by Samuel Hynes' The Auden Generation, and his evocation of the young Isherwood creating a mythical country, the young Auden writing about journeys to and across borders, as a generation of poets embraced socialism, prepared for war, argued about the purpose of poetry in a workers' paradise.

thanks to Auden
for inspiration
the leftist
poets of the Thirties
they believed in

the revolution
in borders
murky not safe to cross
staying in Berlin

for the sex
then to watch the rise of
Hitler's Third Reich
ideals smashed close up

the front now everywhere
some went to Spain
Spender John Cornford
who died there
along with idealism

Auden to New York
hopes expired but that
came later
this is thanks to Auden
who crossed borders

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Poem a Day -- day 3

Today -- write a haiku. I hate haiku, never write haiku, was hoping Robert wouldn't prescribe specific forms for any of these, since I had been working in my own form. But I'm committed.

border unguarded
message tucked into new growth
not the time to cross

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April Poems Day 2

Wasn't expecting this -- the Day 2 assignment is to write a poem where you speak in someone else's voice. Of course, I always speak in someone else's voice, but this was to be a little different.

Put yourself in someone (or something) else's skin and write a poem about the experience. Who (or what) ever you become, please make that the title of the poem.

Someone else. The Communist courier of the first poem? No, obviously the directive was leading me to a different point of view, but I wanted to get farther away than that. The Communist girl is a mysterious figure, and I want to leave her that someone who watches over her. From across another border.

Dolores Ibárruri (La Pasionaria)

I still control
the fervent strategies
the intellect of
young women
when their bodies

become an extension
I am the one who
lets them loose
so their bodies
shimmer from inside out

but holds them on course
true to the
the directive that they
never lose themselves

give in to
weakness give up
control but in my dreams
such dreams as we have
in this place

I abandon
the borders unguarded
myself to desire
I let them
all cross over

I hadn't realized she lived so long, or died so recently (1989). But I think that works for this character.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Poem a Day

That's Robert Lee Brewer's challenge, on his Poetic Asides blog. For National Poetry Month, write a poem a day for thirty days, each one on a theme or word of his choosing. Here's the first challenge:

Since today is the first day of the month, write a poem about a first or a series of firsts. This first could be a first love, first job, first funeral, first marriage, first divorce, first child, first Wal-Mart shopping experience, etc. You could also flip this around to be a poem about beginnings (after all, the beginning of anything is also a first step in a process).

So here's my first one. I knew I didn't want to write about first love or first kiss. and I ended up not exactly writing about first anything, although "first" is the first word of the poem. After that, it went its own way.

It's a 5/4, and I'll try, although I may give this idea up at some point, to write them all as 5/4s and keep developing this story.

First stop the bank
I’ll need cash
for travel expenses
and at the border
for bribery

in case they
stop and check my luggage
but with any luck
no one will care
about the

dark music that only
appears to come from
my portmanteau
yet strangely arousing

it got me this far
though in Madrid
I was forced to
use it I was afraid
once more than was safe

the Communist
with eyes that never slept
even after sex
obscure cravings

This is a poem a day, so there's no revision to speak of. If I come up with anything I like, I'll revise later.