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Monday, March 23, 2009

Raw & Naked Prose Poems

For the past week or so, I have been trying to practice prose poetry. Here are some of my unrevised unedited poems - raw and naked:

Starbucks is a place where you can be surrounded by conversations: three men talking about sport couching, a women conducting a business meeting on her cellphone, and two moms talking about which brand of diapers work better. There is always funky music playing, so even if its an empty Starbucks you can be transported to somewhere else. Or old time swing music comes on and you are transported to a different era. I wonder sometimes what kind of era we are in. Here people are meeting or sitting alone, on their latops like me, and all are drinking a coffee. And I think of book I read The World Made by Hand and I worry if it all could be taken away, and what would it me. Driving by a Starbucks not only empty, but out of business just like everything else. Empty stores and all our comforts, distractions, and technology gone. We live in a comfortable world.

This is a time at night when everyone is sleeping that I can hear the buzzing of the refrigerator. The fan on my laptop goes and on and off and my fingers on the keys seems so loud. And the florescent light over the sink buzzes too. But there is stillness and no voices and my thoughts do not got interrupted. That does not mean I do not love those that interrupt me. Just sometimes, It is so nice to just be. But it is interesting to note -It is never totally silent.


Our balcony is small, but it is our little piece of the outside world. It is has a nice view of a courtyard and we can walk along path, climb the rocks, and admire others small landscaping or balcony decorating in their small spots. My daughter though can not ride her bike alongs its path. And there is a rule of no ball throwing. In our balcony sits a pot with dirt that housed last year's flowers, and a special planting plot that was a gift from my mother - special meaning to her, but it is not my decorating taste so it sits outside. I look occasionally upon it with guilt and hope that in some other home we may have some day I can find a spot for it. or I hope really that it magically turned into something else more to my taste. There is a towel hanging out there that has been out there for week on one of our white plastic chairs that we use to use for kitchen chairs. and there is a box of sidewalk chart that i meant to use last year with my daughter but kept forgetting, and I keep thinking all of this would be easier if we just had a house. There is an ashtray full of cigarettes too, and I use to sit and smoke and admire the beautiful birch tree that attracted me to this apartment in the beginning and then my eyes slowly travel down the tree and read again the sign saying no bikes, no scooters, and no ball playing. And my feet push around the green small remains of last years CHristmas tree and covers the balcony likes dust.


The counselor asked, "What brought you to together". I answered, "We had a good time together. Had fun. Enjoyed each other's company." I said something like that as my brain was searching for something more. He said, "Did you have great conversations? Was this a meeting of the minds?" Something like that he said, and I felt embarassed. Two nights ago my partner mentioned that he should have broke up with me once, one night when I went on and on talking nonsense. At first, I had no memory of the event, but then I remembered how I had felt when he got upset with me that night, even a little angry. Confused. Taken aback. Hurt. But I thought about things some more, and I remembered telling someone that I liked that we could talk about politics and were for the most part on the same political page. That first night , or maybe the third of the second, we smoked cigarettes at bar and drank beer, and I thought we had a great political interesting conversation and meeting of the minds. But politics is not the only thing I like to talk about. I am a what if type of person who likes to talk about what ifs.And what if, we were not a meeting of the minds but a meeting of needs. I like the attention he paid me, I felt good when I was with him (initially), I liked the attention he paid me - so much - no one had paid me that much attention before, I loved that he seem so sure of me- no one had before, we would go out and drink and have a good time and I liked hanging out with his friends, I liked being able to tell my friends - for the first time- what a great time I was having with a man and how sweet he was and for the first time I felt romantically normal, and I liked hanging out with him -drinking and smoking and having a good time, and I hate to quote Dr. Phil in a poem - does not seem very poem-like - But "Was I running towards something or running away from something?" and my answer, "Both", and I wanted a child, and he did too -and within a year I was pregnant. The counselor said there are levels to love, and the highest level is when you truly wish for someone's happiness, even if it does not involve you. He said we could if we were willing to work on it have a relationship unlike any we have had in the past. The word intimacy screamed in my head. But was it like a red light, yellow light, a proceed with caution sign, ... ? Neither on of us answered. What if my partner does not want this. Can't do this? And me too. And again what if we came together out of not a meeting of the minds or souls but out of a meeting of needs? The need to feel loved. And what if neither one of us knows what love is? The counselor suggested I write a poem about the levels of love. Maybe I just did. And in this highest level of love is there room for someone to listen to your what ifs?


My partner, in the beginning, when I barely knew him, used to wrap his arms around me at night and tell me stories, he made up, about how he found me in a cabbage patch and about the Goldenfish who had sent him three women, and I was the third and he hoped she did not make another mistake this time. Did I like the feeling of someone telling me stories - like fairytales? Yes it made me feel safe, comforted, like a child who was having bedtime stories read to them by Mom or Dad. (When I was little I memorized the story The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I thought I could read. My sister used to tease me and insist that I could not. And I couldn't , so someone must have read that story to me a lot. I can not remember who. I can not remember being read do. Someone did, but I can not remener who.) Perhaps us meeting in a cabbage patch is fitting. He came and found me he said. But what exactly did he find? And will he- like he said-be returning to the Goldenfish to return me if I turn out to be defective? And if she did send me to him, does he understand why? Hindsight is everything. And there really is no Goldenfish, just ourselves, but if there was, I'd ask Her a few questions.


They left the house at ten past ten. Eventhough she was in a great deal of pain, neither talked. The had waited till her contractions where coming almost just five minutes apart. Crazy as that seems that is what the doctor told her to do, and she was one to follow directions. The husband was not, and seeing and "feeling" her pain all night, he kept saying this is ridiculous lets just go. Lets just go now. But she wouldn't and instead went in to her future daughter or sons room and laid there like dog who had gone off to die. The pain lasted only a minute each time it came, but it was unbearable, made a minute seem forever, and she was agony that somehow made her feel more human and less, connected with other creatures, she felt primal inside a well built house full of technology all the modern comforts, yet she might as well as been out in the woods like the dog who goes off to die. She could not lie near the husband cause he was agitated wanting her to go earlier to the hospital and because she felt primal and this pain was hers and hers alone so she went off by herself to experience it, and then finally they left the house at half past ten 12 hours later than when the first contraction came, that had started intermittently, spaced far apart, then settled in to twenty minutes interval for hours and then at ten minutes apart the husband could take it no more and he made her go. Her words I can't stand this I can't stand this or her doubled over was the last straw. And she left at half past ten while still five minutes to spare she thought. On the way they passed a funeral, two actually, and she thought this strange, but everything was so hypersensitive and even though she wasin a car a fancy metal machine of technology she might as well have been on horse or walking. she was primal. She felt everything the pain the funeral death dying and all the lives living around, the mother walking her baby, the people driving by in cars, the children passing by in their bikes. Birds and squirrels. Crows in trash cans. Even the insects she could not see. She felt living. And they passed two funerals. The husband it made him nervous he saw it as a foreshadowing a warning that his wife was in danger. Who sees two funerals on the way to the hospital to give birth? And he swore and raged inwards telling himself it was not the grim reaper but just a funeral annoying for how slow- it was going so slow -and he wanted to rush around it. Fuck those people mourning their loved one. He wanted to drive right past them through them if needed. She did not see it as an omen. She knew she was not going to die. for she was primal now. and she felt it all. And she knew that she was not being shown death for any reason than no more than she was being shown life. yes there were two funerals but living and dieing was everyone around pulsating through here. He just wanted to get to the hospital quickly and safely. She no longer wanted to go. She did want to let her child go let into these teeming multitude discordant life and death forcefield that was all around her. The pain though was unbearable and the only way to stop she knew was to get to the hospital and give birth. When they got there they kept her waiting longer 30 more minutes - could have been hours- at five minutes apart the started- when she was dilated just the right amount the gave her anesthesia and later that night in the wee hours of the morning actually twelve past three when no one else was around she held her beautiful daughter and said she was sorry. I will never be able to keep you completely safe again. The world is full of life and death. And for months she rubbed her belly missing her there.


After the counseling appointment, they went for Pizza. My daugter was making funny noises with her straw, saying the straw was making a sad sound. I placed my hand on my chin and just watched her. With full attention, thinking of nothing else, I watched just watched her. Relieved the appointment, I looked at her, enjoying her. And she said, Mommy, why are you looking at me over there? Now I had her full attention and her eyes were clear and behind them I saw that she was curious. And pleased. I smiled and said, I like looking at you. And she then she smiled too.


A rainy day can stop you. Damp and chilly, you wish for the sun. You have to settle for rain. Raining outside. Raining within. Raining with flowers. Flowers can not grow without rain.


Libraries are not always quiet places. Doors open and close often. And even hushed conversations are audible and they rise and fall and sometimes they are not so hushed. I would love to be in a library now without all the noise and people and enjoy the stillness of all the books that wish to speak to me and I would listen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Gift I Never Got

I have been following the advice given of practicing prose poetry. When I have done more than a few of them- hopefully a lot -I will post. There are quick sketches in rough form, and I will post them that way. Unrevised. Bare and naked in a sense. Later I will revise some of them. But as person who needs to appreciate the process more and not concern myself so much with how the product looks, it will do my soul good to post them as they originally came to me. Maybe a little embarrassing too...

But in the meantime, here is another prose poem shared in the book I am reading that I really like:

The Gift I Never Got

It was not unusual in my house for the phone to ring once, just once, and then fade away into silence. It was not unusual in my house for my father to suddenly announce after one of these calls that he had some errand to run. Often it was a trip to the store, or some forgotten task at work. It was a usual day in my house: the phone had just rung once, my father had just left to go to the store, and I was eight years old. Christmas was near and I was searching the house for presents. Under my parents' bed is where I found it. It was a bright red toy car with real rubber tires and plastic pipes that looked like real chrome. I couldn't control myself and soon I was pushing it along the floor. I could feel my heart thumping in my head and my hands were slick with perspiration. Later that night I dreamed about the car: it would be my favorite toy. On Christmas morning I bypassed the Stretch Armstrong Doll, I totally ignored the Dr. J. Basketball, and went looking for the car. It was some cruel joke. "Where is it?" I cried. I ran into my parents' bedroom, rifled under the bed, but it wasn't there. My mother followed me."What are looking for?" she asked. "The car! The car!" I screamed. The phone rang once- and I heard the door close as my father left to go to the store. "There is no car," she said. "Yes there is. Yes there is!" I screamed back. "It's just like when the phone rings you always say it is no one. Well it would not ring if it wasn't someone." She didn't speak for a long while after that. She just looked at me. Finally she said, "Alright, we will ask him about the car. We will ask him about the phone that only rings once. We will ask him about all those trips to the store".
-Vincent Draper

I like how you know what is happening in the very beginning and it does not take away at all from the tension and the telling of what happen.

This is an epiphany captured in a poem.

I also see with this poem how it can be a fine line between interpreting this as a short story or prose poetry. (It covers more than one moment.) But as Kowitt said forgot about all that...It does not matter what its is but what it says and how it makes you feel.

Doesn't your heart just break for this eight-year-old boy?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

dried yellow roses

I have started rereading a book titled In The Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Handbook. I skipped over the first two chapters to forgo a tendency to redo things I have already done. I had read those chapters a long time ago.

This chapter is on writing prose poetry. Here is an example given:

Something must have been bugging my father the day I asked him for fifty cents in the upstairs kitchen, because although he was always a sweet and gentle man and gave me almost everything I asked for, this time he turns around from the sink where he is washing dishes and starts swinging at me front hand and backhand, again and again, his face contorted with a rage I have never saw before or again. I shriveled into the chair by the kitchen window sobbing and begging this stranger to stop. Eventually he does, and the silence of the rest of our lives swallows the moment forever.
-Fred Moramarco

I love some of the details in this prose poem. He is asking for fifty cents so I picture this time being not recent but perhaps thirty of forty years ago. They are both in the upstairs kitchen, which lets me know that they have two kitchens in their home and makes me wonder if they are an Italian family, who I have been told liked to traditionally have two kitchens, or maybe it is a multi-generational family and one kitchen is for grandma and grandpa.

I also like what the poet tells us. This was a one time incident that was not spoken of again. And that: Something must have been bugging my father that day... and this stranger...

Steve Kowitt the author of this book on writing poetry gives some helpful information about prose poetry:

* Prose poetry may be an easier place to start writing poetry. You just need to know how to write an effective paragraph. You do not need to wrestle with line placement, line breaks, and how the poem should sound.

* Do not overly concern yourself with whether you are writing prose or poetry. It will only tied you down. General, the lines of prose poetry run from margin to margin. Verse poetry does not where line breaks are not determined by the margins but by the poet's choice. And is what you are writing a short story or a poem? Again his advice is to not worry about it. But he does try to clarify. Short stories have a plot that stretches across a period of time. Prose poetry usually deals with one specific incident. But thinking about it too much will just get you confused, so just write.

* Use action and rich details to show your moment.

* Tell the reader what is going on up front. Don't surprise the reader at the end.

* He writes about what an epiphany is. It is when the reader, the character, or the narrator has a revelation, or it could be a combination of the three who realize something important. I like what he says about an epiphany's broader context: ... it implies that the world is momentarily beautified, made sacred or marvelous, seen with a sudden or enlarged vision (p.25)

I have not finished the chapter. It has specific poetry assignments to try. But he asks you to begin with simply practicing; noticing places, objects, and people, moments, and describe them. Write and rewrite he says. Try writing more than a few- or a lot- of prose poems.

Here is my first:

The dried yellow roses are behind me on a shelf. I have to turn to look at them. They stand upright, still with their leaves and most of their buds. One bud is missing. They sit in a green empty wine bottle. The occasion when it was opened is forgotten. The roses were a gift for Valentine's day, years past. Or maybe it was Mother's Day. I remember though that I took the time then (whenever that was) to hang them upside down for awhile to help their preservation. Their color has faded, their smell is long gone, but they are still intact. I still save flowers, but not all of them, and I don't take the time to hang them upside down anymore. I just empty the water and they stay in the vase they were placed in until new ones come along.
-J.N. Sinclair (a.k.a. morrow)