Tuesday, April 26, 2011

“Hello…is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me; is there anyone home?"

I never offer up anything but poems on this little piece of the blog-cosmos that I call my own--but it is late, and I don’t have a poem in me or an old one to patch up. Sure, I can bare my private parts with abandon in simile and metaphor; I can communicate most purely through the broken line—sometimes I hit it, sometimes not so much. This is just as true in everyday life. No doubt I can communicate in that certain “socially acceptable” chatty way—I swipe my debit card while yammering with the cashier, shrug and smile, tilt my head. Indeed, I am fascinated by people and wish that I could speak to my random everyday acquaintances in a more effective, compact language—having nothing to do with the weather forecast or the price of gas or where I got my skirt (it was my friend’s; she outgrew it, thank you). I want to understand why the convenient store clerk flushes and mumbles when he says Have a good one now. And the little boy across the street sits on the front stoop and fingers the hole in the knee of his jeans--his shoulders are always hunched. I want to know why he is sad. From my driveway it looks like he is singing to himself. I imagine his squeaky kid-song-whisper. I want to know: that’s why I write poems. They help me to get to those bleeding roots, the tangled places in myself that are not so different than anyone else’s—my own weird gesticulations, my own bland silences, my very raw self-consciousness.

A blog-candidate I was not. The word itself grosses me out. It sounds so…unwriterly, so anti-lingual. Like snore or scuzz. It happened that a good friend of mine was always harassing me to get my poems out there, so what, publication-smublication, the world needs poems, more poems. Your poems. My insides stiffened when she talked like this. Who the hell cares about a poetry blog? Don’t people want to read about each others’ day and dole out sewing tips? This was the same friend who held her transistor radio close to her ear as it fuzzed and mumbled its way through a local poetry show I did. K was the type whose concept of technology included the words transistor and radio—and yet she was bugging me to start a blog. She died last summer, my brilliant snarky friend. For awhile I typed letters to her for hours on end, night after night. Writing to her like that, to the furious clunky music of the typewriter, made it like she wasn’t completely gone. But that didn’t last long. I didn’t have my best writer friend. I just didn’t. So I decided to do the thing. Make a blog. It was both a cathartic and sentimental move, and I was secretly embarrassed. But I also secretly wanted a blog. There is, after all, a riot in my soul---and I don’t mind taking it to the streets. I’m just self-righteous like that---I hate to follow trends, and I especially loathe mixing poetry with them. It feels dirty and lazy. Like how I feel when my muse sniffs in disgust as I ignore her to watch "Weeds".

Yes, I know the world is unfathomably big and I, with my handful of poems, am infinitesimal—but everyone’s got their standards. I found myself compromising the latter for vanity,  or validation—I’m not sure what.  I started out with a fervor, listening carefully for the praise and spot-on criticism that K would have doled out. It’s been a little less than a year and I have 13 “followers”. What a terrible, wonderful word to have heading up a list of your poems….but the number!---so small! This is the equivalent of being on the outside of the outside of the outside of the popular group in high school, or reading a poem to a good friend whom, when you look up, is all hesitant eyes and pursed lips. Every time I post a poem it is like standing naked in front of the skin doctor under those awful snot-colored lights. All you can see is the crumpled tumble of your clothes in the corner, those embarrassing pink thongs that you meant to tuck into the leg of your jeans. The air smells like paper and whatever the doctor had for lunch.

I have caved to a certain ego-ruckus: the idea that whole bunch of people should be paying attention. To my poems. Right now. I mean, not just looking—scrutinizing. I check my ‘stats’ at least once a day. My heart rate picks up when I see that blue tracking-grid: it’s as if the grid were a heart monitor. I feel attached to it by thin, primary-color wires. Electrodes smash into each other, the lights start to fritz, my pupils dilate: okay—no flatline. Good. Good. But no major leaps either! And, worse...no comments, or new followers, or messages…I can feel my scalp tighten up. I swear my lips chap. Somehow my elbows hurt. I think to myself: Christ—what has happened to me?! These are my poems and I am treating them like e-bay items that no one has cared enough about to bid for, or fight about, or even click on. But then, sometimes, an unidentifiable silence blows into the room: it plays my ribs and sweeps my fever. It calms me in the same way that looking at my favorite picture of K does. The photo is an explosion of glitter. The glare off the camera bleaches out whatever is behind her---it is an intense, summery picture: everything is white. Mammoth Janis-Joplin sunglasses nearly smother her sharp pixie face. Her daughter is standing just in front of her, mugging and squinch-eyed. K’s teeth glitter like a row of shined-up pearls—her mouth is open in laughter: she is hauling light and heat into her summer-browned body. I love this picture. It makes me cry, or smile, or laugh. Sometimes it just pisses me off. I miss her. Missing is the color of bruised, rotted plums. Grief is a boiling, bottomless cannon. Sometimes I try to stuff that canyon with a language that makes sense. Poems make sense to me. They made sense to K.

During this unexpected and self-concious blog-life of mine, I have stumbled over grief many, many times. That happens when you are so self-centered as to feel you are nailing your poem to a cross every time you post one. It occurs to me that I am in fact nailing my poems in place, keeping them in time and space--- keeping them occupied and bleeding. At the same time I am waiting for them to land in K’s mailbox or inbox. It hits me that I am still waiting to hear back from her, dozens and dozens of poems later. I miss her searing wit and surly indictment of all things fatuous. She was my no-bullshit-zone pen pal, and my punctuation guru. Grief is like a latent, sunbaked snake.

It occurs to me that I am not distressed because I only have 13 followers, but because she is not one of them. She is nowhere on that graph. There is no evidence that she has come and gone, vivid as she was.

So it seems that I did not start this blog because she badgered me, but because I didn’t have anyone else to show my naked poems to. And so why not put them here, on the internet, which is really a peculiar and vast nowhere, for complete strangers to see? It is like bellowing across a moon-sunk lake at midnight: my voice is bound to come back at me---a depleted echo. She is not there to catch and map it, or even swim it back to me like some illustrious, wise fish. In realizing this I have been able to begin to stop fretting about who's looking and liking and perusing and dismissing. I have started to stop waiting for my remarkable, insatiable friend, which is in some ways more nerve racking. I say this, and yet I am compelled, for the first time, to write a post in prose—only to tell you that it is not so cutting anymore, this need to know that someone is paying attention. Hey---just nod if you would.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mail Payment To
for KL

God only knows how many people leave sticky notes for their dead,
Pens pressed against slump-shouldered memories.
We crawl into the safety of our sister's slit wrists.
We soak in that nest of nerves.

I scream down the freeway in my criminal lingerie.
The horizon lowers its damp standards and I am still how many breaths away
From your last? I live in a blown fog. I trace your face with matches and hold
Your poems, their rivet written in the ash of my ire.

Since then---unbrushed teeth and sad mascara; the smudge
Of sunlight across my unawake; hair looped and stabbed by some sharp debt:
A paintbrush, a pencil---Sweetheart, tame those wild curls.
Come now, I am a member of the meat packers union, a milkmaid

Leaking sweet down the street.
Last night you came in and scattered
A fistful of teeth: they stood like little tombstones at my dreaming feet.
Who leaves sticky notes for their dead to read later?

You forgot your wine-stained books. You forgot your baby daughter.
I still wait for the mail---your frantic news. I still say your name and bury you.

*Published in Summer 2011 issue of The Cafe Review

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

after a painting by Amanda Groves Kelley

You paint a crow in the middle of the table and think
to stick him with a fork. Something cruel: a shadow maybe,
or a rusting knuckle.
Creased with secrets as it is, the table cloth is surprised by nothing.
The peach-skinned man sits and melts: he has an angry inner sun
and has lost an arm to your running out of flesh tones.
The woman, she has the personality of a slit throat.
And yet her vagina smiles, exotic cunning ruby.

They sit limp as graveyard addicts,
wait for the dirt to turn and keep good company.
There, an empty plate and its indigestibles!
A fork so clean it can't be used.
The muse is out of the room.

They will sit there until the bird learns to love itself.
They will sit until the plate cracks and the fork makes good with pain.
Even the halfdead hold on to scarlet hope.
Sweetie, is there is scarlet on you pallet? It does us good to wonder where that man's

arm went. Is it with us, hidden like money
somewhere in the room? It is obvious he is done apologizing.
Soon they’ll roll a blunt and eat one another's eyes, eyes like
aborted angels or past-life genitals.
Some god's got her by the hair.
Yes, sit there with your marriageables, your private table collection.
We will bury you there.

Alicia Fisher

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Zoo-girl, your den is empty.
You have some kind of blister-condition.

Havoc and lust and long bodies. Mouths talk, teeth glisten.
Your long-winded letters are hot sobs

And ink-screams. You didn't mean to mail out
Your collection of metaphors.

Terror sucks the grapes
Of cold dictator-nations.

Days later come the lily-girls to tea.
They bring their china-smiles, their

Pale personalities. Some even bring their clean white
Children. One by one you crack their shallow

Cups. And then each chair is empty.
Air is your only friend.