poems, etc.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "walk the streets to get a feel for the neighborhood"

Zelda's Inferno exercise: supported freewrite on random phrase from the Urbanite -- "walk the streets to get a feel for the neighborhood."

walk the streets and feel
under your feet
under the asphalt
the geography of the land
shaped by millions of years
each little hill and valley the result of
catastrophic forces, earthquakes, continental shifts
the slow erosion from the flow of water

walk the streets to get a feel
for the paths thousands of years
of the feet of thousands of people
have worn
each body 60% water
our steps just another form of water erosion

walk the streets to get a feel for the neighborhood
the architecture and the art
the people of the place
the climate, the shade, the sun and the shadow
concrete and grass and bare soil and culverts
the cracks in the cement that become little ponds

the gritty feel of industrial neighborhoods
like dirty used machine oil hanging in the air
the downtown man-made canyons where sunlight never
     penetrates to the bottom
the artificial viridian of chemical-infused exurban lawns
where you will not be permitted to walk --
it is a place for looking not for feeling

walk the streets if you can
the ghettos not safe to walk
but neither the gated communities, where guards eye with
     suspicion any who walk rather than drive

walk the streets and get a feel for the neighborhood
if you can
if you dare

the poetry of Alan Reese

Came out to the "Speak Your Piece" reading at New Age Dine and Dance tonight, to see Alan Reese do his poetry thing. Alan, a fine and formidable poet, was my middle school English teacher, and the man responsible for my introductions to Mark Twain, zazen, Howard the Duck, and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

A few years after I moved back to Baltimore, I was doing an open mic reading at the original Minas Gallery in Fells Point. They had a shelf of local poets, and I found a chapbook, Reports From Shadowland, written by some guy named Alan Reese. Huh, that's funny, I thought, I had a teacher named Alan Reese, ain't that a coincidence. Then I read the author bio, and saw he used to be a teacher in the Baltimore County school system...so I sent him a quick note and got back in touch, and we see each other around in the poetry scene from time to time. (He runs a small press these days, and I'm hoping to get some advice on the book from him.)

Hanging out now at the comedy hour that follows the poetry reading. It's interesting to try to figure out the structure of a comedy routine, the relationship between poetry/spoken word and comedy.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: a poem based around alliteration

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write a poem based around alliteration.

pie!
pleasant something to put in in the mouth
pucker and chew and swallow into peristalsis
as the pancreas puts out its protein enzymes for digestion

please pay attention to each bite

is being present perfect enlightenment?
piffle! no such product as perfection

just put aside the press of distractions
pause the poetic mind
pick up your plastic fork
approach your paper plate
and eat your pie on purpose

Zelda's Inferno exercise: a poetic boast

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write a poetic boast

Why yes, I am that bard 'bout which you've heard
Whose verses give new strength to those in need --
The true poet of wisdom, wit, and love
Who writes a sonnet like a magic spell
And expels demons with a villanelle;
Captures a fleeting moment in haiku,
And writes of love to make a maiden swoon.
And now I come to bring you joyful news:
Fate has decreed that you're to be the ones
Privileged to hear my voice recite these lin

Zelda's Inferno exercise: the "intelligence test"

Zelda's Inferno exercise: Our exercise this week was another "intelligence test", where we made up goofy multiple-choice questions for each other, then wrote poems based off the answers we chose. My questions:

1) Which is these colors is hottest?

a) yellow
b) blue
c) flesh tone *
d) green

2) If you increase the tension on a guitar string, which of the
following would you expect it to do?

a) break
b) make a higher pitch
c) go limp *
d) get louder

3) Which of the following is the largest?

a) sunlight on your skin
b) music
c) Salvador Dali's painting "The Persistence of Memory"
d) orgasm *

4) Before crossing the street, it is important to:

a) yell loudly to scare off any oncoming cars *
b) look both ways
c) jump really really high
d) close your eyes and pray to the gods of traffic

Zelda's Inferno exercise: a poem not about jackets

Zelda's Inferno exercise: first, we came up with a wordlist, on the randomly selected theme "jackets": pockets hoods bubbles grandfather leather reversible book doghair velvet yellow thriftstore burial rain long down

Then, we wrote poems, that could be about anything excepts jackets:

thriftstore coffee mugs on the kitchen table
on a long Sunday morning with the rain coming down outside
and no pressing need to be anywhere else
the appointment book irreversibly clear for the day
nothing in particular to talk about
a comfortable bubble of the velvet silence where nothing needs to be said

on love, death, and pain

As I tweeted about a week ago, the first draft of the book is done. (Except for checking one footnote, for which I await an amazon.com order...and given the snow I don't expect a mail delivery until next week!)

A few weeks ago, Elissa asked me if I had done any writing about Piccolo's passing, and I told her I planned to work something into the book. So here's that. Not including the copious appendix, these are the closing words, following on a discussion of life and death and reincarnation and anatman:

It’s now January 2010, a few years after the trip to Japan that started this book. As I have been concluding work on it in the past few months, death has come and paid me a visit, taking the two dogs who were my close companions for over twelve years.

People are much more forthcoming with questions and advice when you lose a dog than when you lose a parent or a spouse or a child. And so friends have been asking me, “Will you get another dog?” (Compare the questions “Will you marry again?” or “Will you have another child?”, which we often wonder about but seldom ask the bereaved spouse or parent.) Many have suggested that I do so – some even to the point of implying that grief is something to avoid, that I should fill the void as soon as possible.

Another advisor, though, pointed out that taking another dog into my life will just have me back in this same place of grief some years down the road. And this is true – but it is also true for any relationship. Every connection we make eventually ends with us saying good-bye, from one side of the grave or the other.

The only way to avoid that grief would be to never love – an even greater tragedy. I am reminded of an aphorism attributed to author John A. Shedd: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Just so, a heart that never loves is safe from the pangs of grief; but that’s not what hearts are for.

And so the death of a loved one (two-footed or four-footed) is a reminder of the grief that is common to us all, a call to tenderness, a call to open the heart and let the whole Cosmos in.
As I knew that my second dog, Piccolo, was in failing health and likely to pass on soon, I wrote this prose poem:

The snow is gone. Where did it go to? There were billions of snowflakes, in my backyard, each perfectly detailed, dazzling faceted. Now they have gone, and my yard is mud.

Did they go to snowflake heaven? Did they reincarnate as packed powder on some ski slope?

Each snowflake was a nexus of conditions, of water and temperatures and altitudes of clouds. Each snowflake was a mass of Arctic air, plus an ocean breeze, plus a low pressure system. Each snowflake contained the cycle of seasons, the tilt of the Earth's axis, the deep ocean currents that make the climate, the Milankovitch cycles that make the Ice Ages. And more: the formation of the Earth itself, the Sun, the element of oxygen born in a dying star, the hydrogen that condensed out of the Big Bang, the whole universe in each snowflake.

And then those elements move apart, no longer overlap and the snowflake cannot be seen. But it is not gone, because the seasons, the Earth, the Sun, the Universe, remain.

And what is true for a snowflake, is no less true for a dog or a human. We are the snow that appears when conditions are just so, and then melts and goes into the soil, and is taken up by trees and grasses, and rises to become the cloud skittering across the sky, and then falls to become the stream and the ocean and the puddle, part of other sets of conditions, each glorious and beautiful. We melt into the world, and our oneness with it – which never went away – is again revealed.

And this oneness is also revealed when we open our hearts, remove the boundaries, and let death remind us of our own tender Buddha nature.

"we are playing games"

we are playing games

across the miles, Scrabble on the computer
building on each others words
a sort of improv two-author poem

in person, chess
we sit over her board, hand-carved wooded pieces
we both play slowly, carefully
considering each move

but as I steal glances at her
I am considering another game

where I win if I keep the spark of a possibility alive
in a space and time where circumstances aren't right for the fire

and no guarantee they ever will be

but with every single beat
every strand of muscle on the left side of my heart
the stronger side
says "love her...love her...love her"

but the right side
connecting to the lungs, to the breath, to the moment
whispers, regretfully, "not now...not now...not now"

so I try to wind between the tight boundaries
of too much said, and too little
how much can I say without saying?
a look, a smile

we finish the game
this chess game at least
and time to go

an embrace
that
I want
to last forever...

but
"not now...not now...not now"
and so I say farewell
and, with both sides of my heart, drive off into the night

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "To focus & believe creates what you want"...

Zelda's Inferno exercise: supported free-write around the phrase, "To focus & believe creates what you want, like prayers over a Rose Bush will Burst Blooms!" A long one, so I played with it piece by piece, and ended up with a stream-of-consciousness sort of thing.

to focus and believe creates
creation via an act of mind -- only what we believe in, focus on, exists --

at least for us

to focus and believe create what you want
what you want
what do you want?
to know what you want is deep wisdom
you can never get enough of what you didn't really want
and so we spend our days chasing the wrong things
eating food that will not fill us

to focus and believe
to believe to behave to beehive to be or not to be
to focus to folk us, us folk, we
we believe
we retrieve
we re-believe, again and again and again

to focus and believe creates what you want, like prayers
now I lay me down to sleep, hail mary, who art in heaven, bless us o lord and these thy gifts, for we believe in one god
or two, or three, or a hundred, or a thousand, or zero
we believe in minus one god
we believe in the square root of minus one god
we believe in an imaginary number of gods, in an irrational number of gods, in a transcendental number of gods, in an aleph-null number of gods, in a square number of gods, in a perfect number of gods, in a prime number of gods

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