Half-Life

Half-life

Words half-read

Words half-heard

Conversations half-remembered

Half-truths

fully believed

Half-present

all the time

so we can have the time

we never have time for

as we exponentially decay

To-Do List Poems

Our literature elective class and I wrote poems modeled on/inspired by Jen Hofer’s “future somatics to-do list” and her notion of “a poem that is a to-do list that is a poem”(read the original here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/future-somatics-do-list).

 

Carter’s poem:

Normal To-Do List 

Go to the store.

Get milk.

Get macaroni and cheese.

Get treats for that get-together.

Get treats for just myself.

Finish that poem for class.

Finish that essay for class.

Get milk please.

Don’t worry about the past.

Get cereal.

Clean my room.

Don’t think about the past.

Cry.

DON’T CRY.

Charge laptop for classes tomorrow.

Learn my lines for the play.

Think of the future.

Be anxious of the future.

Get milk.

Finish writing

treats for the

Think of

Milk

Do cry.

Avoid

anxious.

Crawl up

Do cry.

Go to

poem for

clean.

to the store.

my room.

Charge laptop

for class.

Calm down.

Take your medication.

Sleep.

 

 

Erin’s poem:

“A To-Do List”

 

What kleenexes are best for wiping away tears?

Where in the body does loving take place?

How to move on from losing someone?

Where to buy flowers?

What is a good store to shop for black dresses? The silky, long ones, the short cocktail ones, the poofy ones, short sleeve, long sleeve, middle?

How to be there for family?

Who do we consider family? Is it the ones we love the most? The ones who are blood related?

Why do we cry?

Where in the body do we forget?

Where in the body does grieving take place?

Where in the body does loving take place?

How to write a mournful speech?

What are the best memories?

What are methods to cope with grieving?

What are the best types of headstones?

What do we say to express condolences? I am so sorry for your loss, they will be deeply missed, they were a wonderful person?

Where do tears come from?

How to get the red puffiness to go away?

Where to get good waterproof makeup?

What photos are good?

Why is it so hard to lose a loved one?

 

Klaire’s poem:

“how to find your worth: a to-do list”

 

Wake Up.

am I really worth it?

convince myself I am.

(you’d never know,

I can’t stand my reflection.

maybe there’s a reason I never told you,)

I have questions for you.

ask myself why you’re so interested in me

how does one go day to day waking up happy?

tell myself I am beautiful.

can you tell me you believe in me?

paint on your smile.

what is my worth?

who is worthy of me?

am I wrong to feel?

what am I good for?

why do I break and shatter?

why me?

cry under the covers.

think about all the happy things in life,

then cry some more.

finally tell myself

I am worth it.

Fall Asleep.

 

 

Melina’s poem:

“Life: A to-do list”

 

what is life all scratched up to be?

what is the most important thing?

is it adventure?

do adrenaline and experience control your quality of life?

is it triumph?

do your successes determine how happy you are?

is it happiness?

do the highs in your life show how far you’ve come?

is it love?

blood or otherwise, do these people accentuate your virtues?

is everyone’s answer different?

is everyone’s answer the same?

does anyone have more than one answer?

does anyone have hundreds of answers?

does anyone really know for sure?

or is everyone simply in a state of oblivion?

and that’s not all.

because after life comes death.

what about death?

where do we go?

what is made of our souls?

or our bodies?

what determines whether we lived a good or bad life?

is it the same subjects as the living?

which is more dreadful?

to be alive in a state of unknowing?

or to simply be dead?

 

Sadie’s poem:

“Losing: A to-do list”

 

Did you have to look at me that way?

Shame, regret and disappointment bleeding together.

Did you have to frown that much?

A small rainbow sitting on your face, but grayed out.

Did you have to strike me?

A red handprint now sits on my cold cheek.

Did you have to shout at me?

Your voice cracked a few times.

Did you have to take those clothes?

We bought them together once.

Did you have to call me that?

I thought you promised to never call me that.

Did you have to turn sharply?

You seem to hate the sight of me.

Did you have to leave?

You could’ve given a better explanation.

Did you have to leave out what I did?

I don’t even know what I did.

Will you please come back?

I’m all alone.

 

Mr. Polking’s poem:

“Past Tense: A Was-Done List”

 

Did I return your message?

Did you return mine?

Did we speak in person?

Were you “fine”?

How long did we maintain eye contact?

Did we listen?

Were you smiling?

Did we soften?

Did you fall in the forest?

Did I hear you?

Was our love star-crossed or merely lost?

Did we stumble or were we pushed?

Did I mumble or did I crush words together,

A portmanteau of pre-emptive strikes

Against the possibility of more?

Theme in Red

With credit to The Crucible, Carl Sandburg’s “Theme in Yellow,” and the 2015 film The Witch, here is my creepy Halloween poem:

 

Theme in Red

 

I stalk the fallen leaves

With reddish work at night.

I light the eerie mist,

Sulfuric in my intent

And I am called Old Scratch.

On the last of October

With the scrim of dusk hoisted

Upon us

Children clamp and cower,

Me circling around them,

Offering plaintive pleas

And love to the sullen moon;

I am a hoofed beast

With feral teeth

And the children know

I am not fooling.

 

“Dost thou wish to live deliciously?”

Songs of the Season

My high school literature elective class recently worked on poems inspired by/modeled on “The Blower of Leaves” by January Gill O’Neil. Read the brilliant original poem here: “The Blower of Leaves”.

Below are my version and student versions (used with student permission).

 

The Blower of Snow

Always there are flakes after flakes waiting to fall.

An infinity of alabaster, swirling in

 

the fading December sun, glazing my eyes

In a welter of white. My driveway is their destination.

 

Today I kneel to the feeling of possible grace,

the beauty of what’s unseen—the holy world

 

of our work made harder without you,

while the soft kiss of snowfall caresses the ground.

 

I am a fool. Even as the wan sky feebles and falters,

it is still lovely. I scan the creeping maw of dusk

 

for its remains. All this time I was praying

to a forgiving God to absolve us,

 

but really I was hoping for you to be enough.

It was a failing that whirled inside me,

 

a bleak symmetry, a synapse of grief pulsing enough,

enough. How I had conflated it with survival.

 

I can forgive the snow covering the bare maples,

the blade of the plow scarring the grass,

 

but without you there is no forgiveness.

Only silence. Only the sky’s dying cover

 

And ice masquerading as purchase.

Nothing is ever easy or true,

 

except the snow. It falls.

Dependable as a season.

 

Klaire’s “The Grower of Roses”

Always there is sky after sky waiting to grow.

The luminosity of the light

 

in the April sun, blinding my eyes

in a curtain of color. My yard is their landing strip.

 

Today I bow to the power of positive space,

the beauty that is now showing–

 

the hard work of yard work

paid off with you,

 

I am a fool, thinking I could do it alone.

As the ground warms, the roses grow.

 

There is no more snow. All this time,

I was just waiting for you to tell me

 

that I was enough.

It was a feeling that swirled inside me,

 

my blood pulsing for you to say I was enough,

enough. How I had mistaken your hidden love for unhappiness.

 

If I can forgive the wind blowing branches over our roses,

crushing them, after they have grown,

 

I can forgive you for hiding

the love you have for me.

 

It’s time to grow.

 

Sadie’s “The Catcher of Blossoms”

Millions of blushing petals falling to the ground.

they flood my vision and bring forth a smile

 

that they gladly carry even as they land

on the rigid earth. They carry so much more.

 

Today I lay and offer prayer to falling petals,

the plea to fill what’s missing–the feel of you.

 

I’m a fool. Even as red stains the freshly fallen petals,

they cannot offer me healing. I stain their lovely color

 

with my life essence. All this time I was waiting

for you to tell me of your hopes and dreams,

 

but really I was waiting for you to say listen.

It was a feeling that gnawed at my heart,

 

as though my heart were wood for a beaver.

How I had wished for that happiness to come.

 

I can forgive the many petals that land on my clothes,

the drops of rain that soaked me to the bone,

 

but with you there is no forgiveness.

Only hate. Only the growing vengeance

 

And hate keeping me alive.

Nothing is ever pure of heart,

 

except the blossoms. They all bloom.

Much like love and hate do.

 

Erin’s “The Falling of Rain”

Always there is rain after rain waiting to flood.

A million raindrops falling onto

 

The vibrant green grass, leaving its

Diamond glitter. My yard is the store.

 

Today I woke up to the power of rain,

The beauty of what’s missing- the sun

 

The sun hiding behind the clouds,

While the rain falls to the ground.

 

I am a fool. Even as grass grows stronger

They still break. I feed the gaping mouths of the mower

 

With their remains. All this time I was waiting

For the sun to shine above us,

 

But really I was waiting for you to apologize.

It was a feeling fluttering inside me,

 

An overcast, a hurricane of the sadness,

How I had mistaken it for happiness.

 

I can forgive the weather,

The mud and puddles,

 

But with you there is no forgiveness.

Only forgetting. Only the lawn not being mowed

 

And weeds dancing in the wind.

Nothing is ever easy or true

 

Except the rain. It floods.

Dependable as a season.

 

Carter’s “The Roasting of Rays”

Always there is sun, causing shimmering

simmering light. The kids swimming in

 

their phony, periwinkle, plastic pools.  Teen

girls sitting in the sun. Adults too busy

 

working to have any fun.  

Rays of really resplendent radiance running to the earth.

 

Creamy clouds crawling cross the sky,  

relieving the sun with a relaxing rest.

 

High schoolers sleeping in late in their

calming, comfy cots.  Messing with their

 

perfect phones, proudly pretending to know pleasure,

but knowing nothing but pessimistic pain.

 

Summer showing nothing but somber sadness,

feeling sorry, yet showing nothing.

 

High school students submit to the sorrow of school.

Summer is stopping.

 

Sadie’s “The King of the Mountain”

Birds let out their cheerful song

into the warm throne room. Golden petals

 

filled the empty comforting air. These flowers

have been blooming since the prince died.

 

Today he thinks of who he all lost

all those years ago because of the humans.

 

Water flowed from his watering can,

mimicking the tears his family shed

 

all those long, painful years ago. He felt

empty as he thought of his once perfect family.

 

He’s a fool. Even as hope dwindled in the monsters,

he pledged war against the humans.

 

The very creatures that trapped him and his people,

were also going to free them

 

with their strong souls. All this time he was praying

that no more humans would fall down,

 

but really he was praying to free his people.

It was a sorrowing feeling that devoured him,

 

like his heart was butterscotch cinnamon pie.

How he wished for his former life.

 

He could forgive his wife for leaving him,

the humans who killed his children,

 

but with himself there was no forgiveness.

Only blame. Only his golden flowers

 

And chirping birds to comfort him.

Nothing is ever whole or complete,

Dreams they complicate my life

Last night I dreamed of dust and distant thunder.

Summer dust shuffling into openings, settling onto all inert objects.

Dust as solar tears;

When your tear ducts dry, you suffer.

Last night I woke and did not cry;

I woke and heard the rain drip, descanting into the darkness.

Last night I slept and wished for more.

As with eating, we have forgotten how to sleep, two fundamental acts of living:

We complicate what should be simple & simplify what should be complicated.

Last night I woke and saw intruding headlights.

As a child, I needed light to sleep—

Now our days and nights slip the grout and become a seep:

I wake without waking and sleep without sleeping, drowsing through the deep.

“Selfie” Manifestos

My literature elective class read Becca Klaver’s “Manifesto of the Lyric Selfie,” using it as a model/inspiration for our own “selfie” manifestos. You should Klaver’s original poem here. As always, I wrote along with the class. You can read my version below, followed by student versions (all used with permission).

Our swipes
They are multiple
We shuffle them
often as we peer.

They can match us.
We can match ourselves.
We’ve got our
To-be-swiped-at-ness
Oh we have
Got it.
We leer and drool.
Go caveman.

We’re all bros.
We’re all swole.
We write our poems.
On our biceps.
We write our manifestos.
While flexing in the mirror.
While catcalling on the street.
We think: if only your eyes
Could see me now.

We pose to show
How hard we grow
And deny our feelings.

There are no more emotions.
There is no more tenderness.
We smudge our sadness.
We flip the cam around.
What is burning in our little hearts?
Hashtags of lust,
Licking like spit.
We had been reflective.
We have been reflected.

 

Student versions:

Klaire’s “I’m Bossy” (with apologies to Kelis)

There are multiple “me”s

It’s a hard pill to swallow,

Refresh and reload

Scroll through my feed

You don’t have to love me,

but I’m the boss.

We peer and cross,

lazy look,

girly look.

We’re all pretty

Bossy.

We write our poems

on the mirror.

We write our manifestos.

Telling everyone to get in the photo booth.

Take the picture,

We all look

Pretty Bossy.

Strut across the street,

everyone stop and look at me.

We pose to show

the spontaneous overflow

of powerful feelings.

What is burning in our little hearts?

Hashtag bossy

We had been reflective.

We have been reflected.

 

Erin’s “Manifesto”

Our likes

They are multiple.

We look at them

often as we please.

We can post them

We can take them down.

We’ve got our

Perfect moment

Oh we have

Got it

We peer and cross.

Go like it.

We’re all girly.

We’re picture perfect.

We write our poems.

We write our manifestos.

While sitting at the dinner table.

While watching a game.

We think: if only I

Could post this now.

We are ready

To show

Our “perfect” lives

There are no more sunsets.

There is no more enjoying food.

We smudge our panorama

We flip the cam around

What is igniting up in our hearts?

Numbers of likes

Lighting up like flames.

We had been liking.

We have been liked.

 

Taylor’s “Manifesto of the Lyric Media”

Their lives.

They’re perfect

In every way and form.

I see the smiles

And the ideal lifestyle.

I wish to be them.

I want to be them.

But that’s not who

I am.

Scrolling and tapping

Makes my inner emptiness

A little more dark.

But it doesn’t fill the void

That engulfs me and my

Emotionless life.

I care for these people,

I swear.

I know everyone on my feed,

I think.

And when I’m done stalking my

Friends-cousins-girlfriends-niece,

I’ll close the program.

Just to open another one.

Hours fly by

And I can already see

That none of these people,

Are happier than me.

Their lives are glossed over

By a pixelated screen.

It seems, that’s all they see.

One after another, the

Apps disappear.

And here I think,

Mine does too.

To feel the feel of happiness,

I know what I should do.

But do they?

 

Sadie’s “Perfection Is A Lie”

I think: if only,

He could see what he created.

That once ‘perfect’ daughter,

Transformed into a

Demonic, yet sinfully beautiful goddess.

Leading an army of spineless corpses,

Along the lands she once was promised to rule.

Watching with boredom,

As the people she’d sworn to protect,

Scream and burn to a crisp from the dragon’s flames.

He looked at her once,

And saw the reminder of his late wife.

So he forced his ‘perfect’ daughter out,

Into the cruel, lonely world by herself.

Walking through town after town,

Feeling the people’s cold, wondrous eyes,

Until she was found.

Envi, the great goddess’s lieutenant,

Who fused her soul with mine.

After that,

How my vessel looked remained unchanged,

But deep down,

She was no longer herself,

But she was me.

A burning spirit rose inside,

And with this spirit,

I set out to quench my thirst for bloodshed.

Now, when people first see us,

They run in fear,

Or think of us as that once kind princess.

Their eyes watch us,

But deep inside,

They’ve yet to meet me.

The me,

That their beloved king unknowingly,

Created.

 

Carter’s version

Our eyes.

There are two.

We use them

often as we like.

We can see them.

We can see ourselves.

We’ve got our

to-looked-around-ness

oh we have

got it.

We peer and cross.

Go gazing.

We’re all watchers.

We’re pretty selfie.

We eye our poems.

We glance at our manifestos.

While sitting in the photo booth.

While looking down the street.

We think: if only my eyes

could see me now.

There is a tranquil lyric

but we see the emotion

with the gallop of the gander.

We pose to show

the spontaneous overflow

of powerful feelings.

There are countrysides.

There are churchyards.

We see with our vision.

We flip the cam around.

What is burning in our little heads?

Balls of interiority

looking like marbles.

Eyes had been reflective.

Eyes have been reflected.

 

Melina’s version

How did this end up happening?

I’ve never been able to understand.

And I know I’m not alone.

Because since when

did people become the greedy beings

that they are today?

Why are materialistic things

more important than authenticity?

All we are is numbers these days.

Likes.

Followers.

Reposts.

It’s a very sad reality, indeed.

Since when did pictures

lose their purpose as mementos

and become replaced as pride?

I always thought that pictures

were used as reflections.

Flashbacks to happy, hopeful times.

Never would I have ever guessed

that they would one day be turned

into bragging rights.

Only used to show off.  

An Alpha Move with Beta Moments

An Amana dishwasher whose color is best described as “wan tan” and whose age is indeterminate but certainly older than any of my high school students.

A gas stove (the nomenclature here has always daunted me—range? oven?) in black whose age more closely approximates the middle schoolers whose twitchy jitters make me shudder.

A bench of slatted wood sitting under the kitchen window where the driveway meets the side door of my house, a bench pressed enough by weather to regress to the color of “not.”

I inherited these items when I became a homeowner eleven years ago.

The stove sputtered to a stop earlier this month; apparently the aging igniter no longer ignites (must. avoid. easy. metaphor. here.), and an ignition remix will cost more than the stove is worth. A replacement arrives next week.

The dishwasher still works—sort of. Sometimes it leaks a bit, as all systems do, though more noticeably than grammar. Sometimes the drain fails to provide proof of concept. “Clean” has itself become a shifting continuum; meanwhile, I fear the neighbors hear the dishwasher operate—this is not a subtle beast. A replacement arrives next week.

The bench remains, but with a personally chosen and applied fresh coat of paint—”Rookwood Dark Red.”

Repainting a bench may merit scant mention for most, but for craft-addled me, this is an alpha move. An alpha move with beta moments to be sure, most notably the sheen of terror at the Bazooka Joe color on initial application. Trust the reasoning —let the paint dry, bubblegum becomes burgundy. A bench renewed, ready to weather further seasons.

Sometimes what worked in the past needs replacing. Sometimes what worked in past needs refreshing. Sometimes we need to be patient with the process.

The new school year begins soon.

 

Venn Diagram

On the worst of days,

the Venn diagram

of what we love

and what we fear

appears as only one circle.

 

On the best of days,

the Venn diagram

of who we are

and who we should be

appears as only one circle.

 

On most of days,

the Venn Diagram

of our living moments

overlap,

spring and neap,

gibbous and crescent.