NaPoWriMo 2013 – poems
Sunday, March 31, 2013
So it is Sunday morning and I have a pot of coffee,
french-pressed because I love the sludge
it leaves at the bottom of the cup.
What will tomorrow bring?
What will April bring? What rough beast…
I am thinking Whitman.
But it won’t be “the blab of the pave.”
No, more like the whispers of the dirt road,
the Southern dirt road. Tobacco Road.
The me inside, not the mask that I wear.
I am thinking long, pre-dawn walks
along the Potomac River.
I am thinking the beauty of the women of my people,
and the immortality of the soul,
and the indomitability of the human spirit.
All our people. All our souls. All our spirits.
Perhaps we’ll link up in this exercise,
me and my ModPo colleagues (you know who you are!).
What I write will certainly be influenced
by readings and discussions from Know Thyself,
a Coursera course I am taking from UVA.
And there will be traces of thoughts
from Songwriting, another Coursera
course from the Berklee School of Music
that ends early in the month.
This Coursera thing is a cult, you know…
So it is Sunday morning
and I am going for the second cup.
Toss in a pod of cardamon
for a slight narcotic effect.
Sip slowly. “Write fearlessly.”
Monday, April 1, 2013
Some might call it narcissism:
but one can only truly understand
self-analysis by analyzing one’s own self -
Freud told us that.
then and only then can you
walk in another’s shoes,
be them, know them.
Of course there are shoes
I wouldn’t be caught dead
walking around in, despite
the trapping of power and wealth
that we see. I prefer my own soul, thank you,
and I wouldn’t want to be in
their soul’s shoes. The road crumbles beneath
my footsteps as I inch forward, slowly.
The funds for road repair
have been sequestered.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 – The Raven
This morning I watched videoed reading The Raven.
Great actors like James Earl Jones read the poem’s
lines to music, almost as if it were a film script
with a musical score. I fear they missed the point,
rushing through the inside words to make them fit
an outside melody and rhythm. With Poe,
the music already lives, inside the words and lines.
Poe’s words are to be read slowly, deliberately,
intentionally. One word should stumble into the another,
like a drunk man walking, like Poe, bobbing and weaving
his way through Baltimore.
My father would read The Raven
as it should be read, slowly,
with drunken slurs, and sharps,
and flats. “Don’t fuck with Poe!
“Forgive me son,
“I didn’t mean to say that word.
“But Poe is not a joke.”
I learned that lesson well.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 – Morning walk, backwards, at sunset
Last night I walked the normal walk, backwards.
Georgetown sidewalks packed with shoppers, tourists
In town to see the cherry blossoms bloom.
At Key Bridge I glimpsed the western sunset,
Then turned south, to cross into Virginia.
By then, the shopping crowd had thinned to just
Me and other walkers, joggers, runners,
Lovers walking hand in hand, shivering
In the coolness of sudden dusk. Fewer
Animals were out, the tide was running low,
No geese were roosting quietly, no spiders
Spinning webs across the path to capture prey.
Thursday, April 4, 2013 – Morning Walk – Spring is in the air
In just two weeks the weeping willow’s
falling tears have turned from brown to green,
and underneath, clusters of purple clover
cover splotches of winter-whitened grass.
There’s yet a winter chill but Spring is in the air!
I saw my sister Moon – half herself –
In the early dawn light, high off my port bow.
And geese shit all across the walking path –
They must so love to defecate on asphalt.
Saturday, April 6, 2013 – Gunboat diplomacy
is his/her ability
to keep a secret.
Most diplomats are not truthful.
Some diplomats are liars.
is to a diplomat
is to a soldier.
Most diplomats lack courage.
Some diplomats are cowards.
Sunday, April 7, 2013 – A pot of chickpeas
I awoke to an incredible feeling
of comfort and well-being.
It was a fragrance, a scent
that took me back to
Dona Nazaré’s kitchen
in Lisbon. I went into
Filomena’s kitchen and
lifted the lid on the big pot.
Ah! Chickpeas cooking
through the night!
So much love goes into a
pot of chickpeas.
And then you get to eat them.
Filomena serves chickpeas
with cod fish, and carrots,
and rapini, and boiled eggs.
I smash the chickpeas,
sprinkle them with sea salt,
and drizzle olive oil
and balsamic vinegar on top.
Sometimes I smash the carrots, too.
So much love goes into a
pot of chickpeas.
Monday, April 8, 2013 – The words I write
The words I write
are not for me alone.
I pour a little red wine
on the ground for the ancestors
on both sides of the Atlantic
and down on the bottom
whenever I take a drink.
We always keep a little extra
tea inside a special tin
in the china cabinet
for the nieces and nephews
when they come around.
It is the same with words.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 – All the Muses
The first muse was my father.
Polyhymnia. He’d wake me up
in the middle of the night
to slur his way through a poem
he had memorized as a child.
It was torture, pure, but the
seed was planted.
Our muse mother, also Polyhymnia,
taught us to read and write,
made us write.
My fifth and sixth grade teacher
kept us two years, she loved us so.
Her name was Terpsichore.
I still recall the dances she taught us
and the poems she had us memorize,
some her own.
My scoutmaster. Urania.
Taught us the value
of building a camp fire strong enough
to resist a cold wind, cooking over embers,
map-making, compass reading, hiking,
poetry of the forest and woods.
My ninth grade English teacher,
Calliope, showed me the value of grinding
through the classics, the epic works.
My eleventh English teacher, Euterpe,
was a performance artist who shared
with us her first hand experiences
as a young college student in New York
during the Harlem Renaissance.
That first kiss.
A muse-full experience.
Rushed back my room
each night to write poems
about the new high I had found.
The bakery where I worked
was one big collective muse.
All my big brothers and sisters:
Nelson, Alvin, Floyd, Ralph,
Carl, Charlotte, Robin, Lawrence,
James, George, Melvin, James,
Linzell, Jeffrey, Darnell, Richard,
Charles, Michael, Dayne.
One big collective muse.
The sea became my muse,
the vast and boundless sea.
A kind friend taught me
the sonnet form.
She was my Erato,
And the Beloved Community
was my muse.
My peaceful port,
shelter in a raging storm,
my restore point.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 – Ottava Rima
I do not have a poem to say today,
Appalling how thoughts sometimes hit a wall:
The words don’t seem to flow, a sad cliché
That accurately spells with great recall
My present state where words have gone astray,
Imagination covered by a pall.
But just as long as ink is in my pen,
I’ll find my Muse and write a poem again.
Thursday, April 11, 2013 – Tanka
We can achieve it if we write
poetry that rhymes –
that endures beyond our years –
that rises above our fears.
We can attain it with insights
coming from all sides –
breaking a path through darkness –
blazing the trail. No regrets.
We can seek it if we might:
learning from the past –
facing up to truth, at last –
fearlessly, with faith steadfast.
Friday, April 12, 2013 – Remembrances
When she said, “you kiss me
like you want to f— me,”
it should have been a sign
of things to come.
When she said, “you’re making me
fall in love with you again,”
alarm bells should have rang
inside my ears.
When I said, “this is not going
to work, it’s too much like
the last time we tried and failed,”
I should have listened.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
I was a runner in my hapless youth:
two times, four times, eight times around the track;
running to things, running from things, always
in a haste, never taking time to smell
the fragrance of the roses, know the truth.
In time, life slowed me down. I changed my tack.
I learned to walk, to circumspect, unfazed
by every shiny thing my eyes beheld.
But then the boundless sea became my Muse:
Her hidden wonders and her ways seduced
my every thought. Yet she was just a phase,
a short poetic phrase and a malaise.
This sonnet owns no ending, just a star,
to capture our attention from afar.
NaPoWriMo 4/14 – Acrostic Chance – The Concept of Mind
Their mechanics. Still unwittingly adhering to the grammar
Etc. as signalizing the occurrence in someone’s hidden
Considering and executing
Official theory finds it difficult to resist the consequences of his
Not really will. They are
Classes of performances in which intelligence
Explain what makes the
Philosopher’s myth. In attempting to explode
The working of the mind had to be
Other than his own. Even if he prefers
First ten motions made in tying one knot might be identical with
Metaphorical representation of the bifurcation
In this book is
Not unnaturally, therefore, an adherent of the
Dispensed with. Its use habituates…
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The poet does not write and read, nonplussed,
For mere applause. His rhythms and his notes
Might give you pause: for him it’s true relief.
Approval is not the cause, nor the end
Of his efforts. He writes because he must:
An unformed phrase, a clause not spoken
Is like an Albatross that gives him grief –
Until he edits out its flaws and sends
It to a waiting world of laws – and dust.
He draws the strength from deep within: a lust
That gnaws his soul and never grants respite,
Nor takes flight, nor withdraws to sleep at night.
Monday, April 15, 2013
The wicked witch of the East?
The old, decrepit, ancient East?
She dead. House fell on her ass
during the storm. Feet all shriveled up.
That witch ain’t going nowhere!
Ain’t gon bother nobody!
But the wicked witch of the West?
The new, modern, amoral West?
She be alive and kicking.
Causing all kinds of trouble.
Done signed a deal with the Wizard.
The lying Wizard.
Dorothy has her hands full with those two.
And the lion ain’t got no courage.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
In the hustle and the bustle
as we go our chosen way;
in the winning and the losing
keeping score throughout the day –
in the seeking and the striving
as our plans oft go astray;
in the comings and the goings
and the things we do, and say –
in the kicking and the screaming
of war’s battles, of the fray;
in the plotting and the scheming
of our deep naivete –
Our pure love knows no decay:
stay in my arms forever.
NaPoWriMo April 17, 2013 – English translations of Pessoa’s “Autopsicografia”
Translations: “Autopsicografia” (Self-Analysis) Fernando Pessoa from http://www.disquiet.com/thirteen.html
additional links posted here
O poeta é um fingidor. Finge tão completamente
Que chega a fingir que é dor A dor que deveras sente. —Fernando Pessoa
The poet is a fraud. He is so completely fraudulent that he begins to fake that he feels pain, pain that he may legitimately feel from his fraudulent deeds. –Ray Maxwell’s translation
The poet is a fake. His faking seems so real that he will fake the ache Which he can really feel. —Keith Bosley
The poet fancying each belief So wholly through and through
Ends by imagining the grief He really feels is true. —Roy Campbell
The poet is a feigner. He feigns so completely That he even feigns that he is suffering The pains that he is really experiencing. —Ernesto Guerra Da Cal
Poets are people who feign They feign so thoroughly,
They’ll even mime as pain The pain they suffer really. —Jonathan Griffin
(Poets feign and conceal So completely feign and pretend
That the pain which they really feel They’ll feign for you in the end —Michael Hamburger
The poet is a faker. He Fakes it so completely,
He even fakes he’s suffering The pain he’s really feeling. —Edwin Honig
The poet is a pretender. He pretends so completely
That he even pretends The pain he really feels. —Marilyn Scarantino Jones
The poet is a feigner. So completely does he feign
that the pain he truly feels he even feigns as pain. —Jean R. Longland
The poet is a forger. He forges so thoroughly
That he even forges the pain He really feels as pain —George Monteiro
The poet is a pretender. Pretend as completely
That comes to pretend that pain is The pain that they really feel.
—Google Translate (Douglas Storm)
Poets are liars. They lie so completely
That they make up pain Even when they’re hurting. —James Parr
The poet is an inventor. He invents so completely
That he succeeds in inventing That the pain he really feels is pain. —F.E.G. Quintanilha
The poet’s good at pretending, Such a master of the art
He even manages to pretend The pain he really feels is pain —Peter Rickard
The poet is a feigner his feiging so complete
that he comes to feign a grief in the grief he really feels. —Raymond Sayers
Poets pretend They pretend so well
They even pretend They suffer what they suffer. —Martin Seymour-Smith
The poet is a faker Who’s so good at his act
He even fakes the pain Of pain he feels in fact. —Richard Zenith
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 – Letter to Walt
Dear Walt: I seem to recall we met, in the future, in the past, or in a dream –
maybe in engineroom lower level,
repairing a valve or calibrating a gauge
on an obscure hydraulic line;
or maybe on the bridge, transiting the Strait of Gibraltar, or the Strait of Bonifacio,
or the Strait of Messina;
or maybe having a smoke on the fantail while the ship rounds the Cape of Good Hope, or the Cape Horn, or Ras Kasar.
The physical place is less important than the metaphysical space we share:
lonely, tired, perplexed, distressed,
missing loved ones - lonely, tired, perplexed, distressed,
surrounded by loved ones –
seeking refuge from war’s alarm,
whether fighting on distant battlefields,
or negotiating in hostile boardrooms,
far or near, seeking refuge from war
and the rumors of war, seeking peace.
We share the womb of America - twin biracial souls within the same mother, bouncing around in an aqueous environment.
Scandalized, scapegoated and heart-broken, we forge forward together on this mystic trek, guided by an unseen star in the Northern sky, inspired by love, and hope, and steadfast faith.
Letter to Walt (trans. Helga Fernandes, Bonjour Roquentin)
Querido Walt: Se bem me recordo conhecemo-nos, no futuro, no passado, ou num sonho –
talvez ao fundo na casa do engenho o nível mais baixo, reparávamos uma válvula ou calibrávamos uma bitola numa obscura linha hidráulica;
ou talvez na ponte, atravessando o Estreito de Gibraltar, o Estreito de Bonifácio, ou o Estreito de Messina;
ou talvez enquanto fumávamos na popa no momento em que o navio dobrava o Cabo da Boa Esperança, Cabo Horn, ou Ras Kasar.
O lugar físico é menos importante do que o espaço metafísico que partilhamos:
sós, cansados, perplexos, angustiados, saudades de quem se ama; sós, cansados, perplexos, angustiados, rodeados de quem se ama –
em busca de refúgio para alarmes de Guerra, ora lutando em campos de batalha distantes, ora negociando em salas de reunião hostis, longe ou perto, em busca de refúgio de guerra e de rumores de guerra, em busca de paz.
Partilhámos o ventre da América, gémeas almas bi raciais dentro da mesma mãe oscilando numa atmosfera aquosa.
Escandalizados, bodes expiatórios e corações quebrados, avançamos juntos por esta mística caminhada, guiados por uma estrela não vista no céu do Norte, inspirados por amor, e esperança, e fé inabalável.
Thursday, April 18, 2013 – A Walk Down Franklin Way
I walked down Franklin Way in Philadelphia today.
Benjamin Franklin, founding father, diplomat, statesman,
abolitionist, musician, scientist, grand master.
Smart things he said are written in stone
on the pavement of Franklin Way for all to know and remember:
“Being ignorant is not so much a Shame as being unwilling to Learn.” 1755.
“He’s a Fool that cannot conceal his Wisdom.” 1755.
“An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure.” 1735.
I paused and thought,
what wise men who founded this great nation?
They must have been inspired by a high calling.
That their words continue to ring robust
and true is a testament to the power of their thoughts.
How might history treat today’s political leaders:
“Diligence is the Mother of Good-Luck.” 1736.
“Half the Truth is often a great lie.” 1758.
“Well done is better than well said.” 1737.
What was his political party? Patriotism.
What was his religion? Deism
What was his stand on issues of the day?
He kept himself above the political fray:
“There are no Gains without Pains.” 1745.
“A true Friend is the best Possession.” 1744.
“Doors of Wisdom are never shut.” 1755.
My visit to the City of Brotherly Love has come to an end.
And I must return to Chocolate City,
head of the Beast, seat of corruption and graft.
My soul yearns to be with you again, O Philadelphia!
Friday,April 19, 2013 – Amtrak: Northeast Regional
a train ride
is such a sweet relief –
the men and women
who check tickets are
so friendly, so courteous –
I watch as the Pennsylvania
dusk becomes the Delaware
sunset becomes the Maryland
nightfall becomes Chocolate City
church steeples, oil rigs,
smoke stacks, Old Glory unfurled –
I watch it all from my window.
the end we think
we seek is not near
and it’s not the end
and it’s not what we seek –
Her feet are hurting
in those high-heeled shoes
but she won’t listen to them
when they speak.
Saturday, April 20, 2013 – Longings
bones are creaking –
soul is in need
of a trans-Atlantic crossing –
A submarine ride would be nice:
to feel the sea all around me
on top of me –
from the darkness of the depth
into the brightness
of a new port
and fresh food
and sweet scents of flowers and perfume –
A freighter would do the trick:
to feel the tradewinds burn my face –
to taste the salt of the seaspray
and the occasional unruly wave –
to see the sunrise on the true horizon,
and the sunset, day, in, day out –
and the moon, ah! the moon!
And the stars for navigation
on a clear crisp night.
But for now my car will do.
I’ll take a drive out west on 66
then southwest on 81.
I’ll stop at Luray Caverns
and go inside,
deep inside the earth,
where trickles of condensation
Then I’ll blast some sea shanties
on the stereo
for the long drive home.
Sunday, April 21, 2013 – Feeling the heat of NaPoWriMo
I am feeling the heat of April battle
and tasting its bittersweetness. Still on track,
though other things fall through the cracks of space
and time. Poetry is a jealous mistress, after all,
a possessive lover without gender who demands
every gram of your attention and devotion.
“Forget any other dedication,
any outside legal or moral obligation,”
Poetry warns, “and ignore
that silly wench you call your Muse!”
Poetry screams, “Be with me alone!”
And you accommodate, first haltingly, reluctantly,
then eagerly, anxiously, as you become narcotized by,
and soon addicted to the sweetness
of stolen waters.
Monday, April 22, 2013 – Two Gates to Washington City (a riddle)
Two sets of Italian-casted brass statues flank primary routes into Washington City.
One, anchoring Memorial Bridge
is named The Arts of War:
Sacrifice on the near side,
Valor on the far.
Both feature a man on horse with
a woman walking proudly alongside.
Another, flanking Rock Creek Parkway,
is called Peaceful Arts:
Aspiration and Literature on one side –
a man is holding a book, Music and Harvest, the other –
a woman is holding a harp.
Pegasus, the winged horse sits on both sides of the parkway. A spring bursts forth wherever his hoof hits the earth. Giver of water, life, hope.
Little more need be said, but there is so much more to say –
One suggests that sustenance
derives from war, aggression, conquest,
and the valor and sacrifice that
guarantee success at war.
The gilding is clean and polished. But the heavy casting is gaudy, stagey. Its foundation pedestal has cracks and the bridge itself is in a state of quiet disrepair. Sequestration.
The other predicts that peaceful pursuits, music and literature, will bring us the harvest and the aspiration our survival requires.
It bears a refined, light, lithe casting, but its gilding is dirty, dusty, tarnished, and dull, as if neglected, as if seldom appreciated. Yet its foundation pedestal is solid.
A curved concrete walkway
(and 41-step staircase) follows
the curvature of the Potomac River
and connects the two gates at right angles to a tangent
drawn from its midpoint. That tangent line is parallel to the face of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol, all parallel to each other.
Parallel things are forever the same distance apart, near or far, and never touch.
And two things both at right angles to the same straight line are parallel to each other.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 – To my brothers and sisters at-arms
“I will write the evangel poem of comrades and of love,
For who but I should understand love with all its sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?” –Whitman
That bitter, acrid taste that war and combat leaves in your mouth - cleaves your tongue - and gives you a sixth sense about things…
For example, the guy out front:
the leader. Will he die for you?
If so, then you will die for him,
or live, make his mission yours,
and accomplish it.
But if he won’t, and your sixth sense will tell you so, then neither will you for him. And his goal can go to hell.
And if you are out in front,
will you die for the men and women
in your care?
If so, then they will die for you,
or live, and make your mission theirs,
and accomplish it.
But if not, you should quit faking
and just go home. Because those
behind you, in your charge, following you,
will already have a sixth sense of things.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 – Now she calls it the ‘family” IPad
Now she calls it the “family” IPad.
I offered to get her her own, but no, no,
she wants to share.
PC means personal computer, I say.
The tablet is the daughter of the laptop
and the laptop is the son of the PC.
So tablets are “personal,” not family, I say.
It is all in the lineage.
When I started college in 1975,
we waited in line to get on a key punch machine,
then punched out a stack of green cards,
then dropped the stack off at a window
to run it through the Main Frame.
If there was a command out of order
or a wrong value, or an asterisk misplaced,
you got the stack back with a print-out,
found your errors, and did it all again.
It took hours!
I never saw a football game my whole freshman year.
And the only girls I met were the girls in engineering.
Always in Graham Hall, running programs –
All Saturday long.
Small wonder I joined the Navy!
We all shared one big computer then.
I seem to recall they called it Harris.
But now we are in the era of the individual computer.
No more waiting in line,
no more punching rectangular green cards,
no more dropping off a stack at a window
and hoping it works.
So why would she want to go back to those times?
I’m getting her a new IPad tomorrow!
The old one is mine. Thursday, April 25, 2013 – A triolet
Sem ti, tudo me enoja e me aborrece
sem ti, perpetuamente estou passando,
nas mores alegrias, mor tristeza. – Camoes
I’m not long for this world of woe –
of strife and quarrelsome divide;
so I’ll content myself with poems –
I’m not long for this world of woe.
In time we reap the deeds we sow:
Our words and acts and thoughts collide –
I’m not long for this world of woe –
of strife and quarrelsome divide.
Friday, April 26, 2013 – Every man must meet his fate
Every man must meet his fate –
early or late –
his judgment day must come.
Each woman must know her reason –
in or out of season –
Her reckoning, bright or glum.
Every one must face their truth –
branches and root –
Or else the prize is scum.
Saturday, April 27, 2013 – uploaders and downloaders
dedicated to everyone who attempted the NaPoWriMo challenge!
humankind are two types:
those that upload material,
good or bad,
and those that download.
the uploaders are the producers,
creators, gatherers, aggregators –
they add value – by the sweat of their brow –
to the common good.
the downloaders are consumers,
critics, dissemblers –
they subtract value –
wherever they find it –
for their own use.
of course, the downloaders are the majority,
but the uploaders manage to balance the account.
I would use the book of agreement more often
if I were you – the dictionary –
which one do you think you are?
Sunday, April 28, 2013 – For Phyllis, Emily and Gwendolyn
The words we read,
the lines we write are gaps
in time, that soon take flight –
poetry has that property
transporting us through space –
we write a word and make a rhyme
and aim it to its place –
if accurate, we hit the mark,
we reach the goal we seek –
but if precise, we claim the prize,
and scale the highest peak –
the words and rhymes unwind, divide
with measured purpose, need –
then seek to replicate the thought
and shape the world of deeds –
The message in the poems we write
is free, yet hidden in plain sight.
Monday, April 29, 2013 – A Conversation with Erato, my Muse
It’s not a ballad poem, she said,
and it’s not even poetry,
it is a royal mess.
Let me show you what real poetry is,
she said. And she wrote:
Were I to undress,
would it cause you distress,
or would you make perfect, sweet
love to me?
Were I to recline,
would it help you unwind,
or would you fret over what
was to be?
Were I to spread wide,
would it help you decide,
or would it make you write more
The words frame the plan:
You were never “The Man” –
It is I, your kind Muse,
can’t you see?
You’ve a taste for Rodin,
Age of Bronze, Walking Man,
but these words you write down will
last longer –
And you like the Matisse
and Renoir, every piece,
but these thoughts laced in words will
grow stronger –
Stick with me, your sweet Muse,
all distractions refuse,
and together, in life, we
will wander –
Writing rhythms and words
about scenes we observe,
as we share, you and I, thoughts
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 –
we will write these poems
until we have breathed
our last, final breath
And then our poems will
read themselves out loud
for your ears to hear
I am missing you –
we turn our love
on and off
like a broken faucet:
an old fashioned fixture
with separate taps
for hot and cold –
when I open the valve.
Did we forget
the water bill?
I sit and wait
at the bottom
of the sink –
one drop of hot
would do –
One drop would do:
I am missing you.
was a fabulous experience.
So many new friends,
so many old friends with whom
I had never shared this love.
we have all shared
in the transformative
power of language,
and in some measure,
big or small in proportion
to our investment,
this sharing has transformed us,
as we have transformed words,
shaped by rhythms,
to express our inmost thoughts.
All that’s left is to say thank you.
Thank you all.
END OF NAPOWRIMO 2013