I drag my tired, sweating body high up Enchanted Rock, gaze out through the wind at what surely thrilled even the Comanche in their wildest cowboy fighting days. From this rock in the sky, I can see the ancient highway binding the horizons. I remember oceans on each end, all the stories written in the asphalt and the sky between. Civilization so long gone, only the old man in the ranger’s hat remembers anything but vultures, yet home lies just over that hill, down that endless road.
And with a prose poem, that’s the end of another year of napowrimo. I managed to write poetry every day: 22 small stones and 12 long poems including 2 ghazals, 1 pantoum and 2 prose poems. I’ll write something more reflective of the experience in the next few days, but for now I’m happy I managed to do this.
Now for a shameless plug: the paperback edition of my book is still on sale at Amazon through the end of the month, which is only a few more hours.
Cauliflower’s been working out, ripped clothes and muscled arms urge everyone to dance. The blueberry girls and grape chicks with their leafy hair giggle and smile nearby. In walks Whole Grain Hipster, sporting a suit of bread and cereal like a seventies cartoon pimp, swaggering down the lunch line, healthy, cat, healthy, he nods over at the clique cliché of all the artsy individualistic girls: the lonely beet, eyes closed playing Dylan on her sad guitar, the bubbly pixie art grape, splashing paint so dreamy. Off in the corner by the water fountain, a cluster of grapes with black-eyed peas for eyes, fruit from the vineyard by the reactor, laugh through their carefully carved mouths while a lone mushroom makes his getaway on a hot rutabaga balloon made from some unfortunate member of misunderstood beet girl’s family, turned upside down, greens shredded and stalks used for lines. It’s a tough world for veggies and the fungus always wins but it’s healthy, man, so healthy.
I administered our state social studies test to a group of sophomores and juniors in the cafeteria today and so I had a lot of time to study the posters in there. File this one under ekphrasis.
First he thought it was the stars, that creaking groan and grind of tired years but with time the tension grew and he realized the problem lay not overhead but underfoot (as problems often do). Some days the gripping stuckness beneath his feet felt tighter and other days it felt looser like someone else’s shoes depending on where he walked and what he ate for breakfast. Out on the plains where the stars rattled so faintly as to be almost inaudible, he located the source of this tension, unzipped the blackland earth and studied the dull gears that moved the gears that made the world go round. He turned a wrench against the machine—so surprisingly simple to adjust, this mechanical universe—and retuned the planet’s motion relative to the earthly key of his own aspirations. That’s the way he explained his good fortune years later as he leaned back in the worn leather chair of his old age, smiling in the knowledge that he was now very close to achieving his lifelong goal of living happily ever after.
For Magpie Tales #109
She holds her smoke. She’s swallowed the sun. Tendrils drift blue from her nose, a curtain obscuring the year. Cars weave through the lot. She stands among leaves, refusing to flinch at the sound of tires rolling over gravel like fragile bones. Her resistance radiates through the trees’ bare branches and out to space with the smoke from her lungs as the light between her fingers fades. She flicks the butt to the sidewalk, a comet to inspire the prophesies and curses of the ants. She runs her hands through her long and tired hair, pushes open the door surprising herself by humming snatches of a tune she thought she’d forgotten. The ants gather to celebrate this thing, this fire, they believe is theirs.
Prose poem or flash fiction? Who knows. This is based on this old post from 2009.
When everyone else is asleep, he listens to rats scurry across the roof of the house. His stomach rumbles, and he tries to remember when he last ate. He struggles to remember other things he isn’t supposed to forget. Fearful that sleep might steal what he knows, he creeps out of his bed to the kitchen where he empties packets of ketchup and mustard onto a blue-lined plate. Using a thin carrot as a stylus, he writes in red and yellow script his products and sums, the genealogies of silent gods, and the names of animals long gone. When the plate is full, he carefully rinses it into a glass and drinks down the mud-colored water and the knowledge suspended within. He returns to bed and drifts to sleep as numbers multiply in his blood, extinct creatures rumble in his belly, and all the while rats and cockroaches sit on the roof counting stars dropping below the horizon.
Posted in poems
Tagged prose poems
We communicated in images. Flickering moments on dueling monitors. Shoes on cobbled pavement. Clothes rustle in the wind. Wind? We both understand this thing, wind. The colors are suddenly blinding. I can’t even name them. The view of open parkland and a blue pond widens to almost 360 degrees. My stomach drops as the ground falls away, earth tumbling into a pit of sky, images bleeding off the monitors now. We’re flying again. It’s all she thinks about, the only thing she’ll show. I rip the cables from my temples. She flaps them from her wings. We stare at one another across the sterile distance of the research lab. Going nowhere. Again. A white feather floats on the air-conditioned current. We’re as alien and far apart as ever. Three feet away yet separated by species and the awkwardness of the now-severed connection with its illusion of understanding and love. Can she feel it too? She doesn’t blink, her avian eyes as incomprehensible as the machines humming in this lab. I glance at the security cameras and lean in. Please, I whisper, please. Don’t make me leave. I’ll show you everything. Outside, I hear engines and the wind of ten thousand wings beginning to flap.
A flight of egrets
glides toward the setting sun—
the moon rises.
This is for Big Tent Poetry’s challenge to write a haibun about travel and an encounter with an imaginary creature. I love haibun, though my approach has been intentionally nontraditional. I’d like to learn more, but I also like the notion of feeling my way into something new and playing with it a little bit like the way I’ll fiddle with a new instrument before attempting to learn how to play it.
I suppose this is why my haibun tend to read more like prose poems. Most of them actually start with the haiku, which tend to be pretty straightforward and traditional. I then write a prose poem piece that goes in a completely different direction. I often think of the prose piece as fictional process notes.
Sometimes I think I might just revise the haiku out completely and let the prose stand alone, but for now I like the way the haiku contrasts with the prose and grounds the charge, bringing things back to Earth. This Earth anyway.
Savage calculations based on the positions of a thousand stars determined the shape of his prayers. Warped triangles, sometimes square-bottomed pyramids with eighteen sides. Once a dodecahedron, but that was when he was drunk and homesick and working through some things. On a roadside one night, he stopped where a vulture’s dark remains were pressed into those of a squirrel killed a few hours earlier. The edges of feathers that escaped wheels fluttered in the small hurricanes of passing trucks. This squirrel-vulture creature, its greasy form pressed into an asphalt shadow and branded by the ridges of a dozen tires, was something new. There was no shape for this awful smash-boned prayer he knew he must say. Dazed and lost, he placed his hands on the cooling pavement. He released all his body’s weight. He said his mass and counted it down to zero. He followed the escaping heat out of the atmosphere, rode the highway’s shimmering prayer and carried them home.
After a few days under the grackle tree, the blue sedan began to develop a white pox, which spread with each passing night. The automedics shook their heads in grim certainty, fully aware of the limits of their training and skill. Eventually, it was decided that the problem was environmental, and men with shotguns came and took determined aim into the trees before firing blanks into the upper boughs. Sometimes the grackles would scatter at the sound, flying off to local birdbaths where they would clean up before returning to their usual roost. The men, satisfied, moved down the street where they would take shots at the starling tree, pigeon tree, and a supposed second grackle tree that legend had it was located somewhere south of 16th Street. Despite the diligence of the men, though, the grackles always returned, and the slow infection of the blue sedan continued. After a month, no one remembered what color the car had been, and no one ever discussed its owners and what became of them.
boughs shake and chatter
at the cars
I’ve got 2 prose poems up at Poem2day. They are “Portsmouth, 1988″ and “Newport, 1990.” Go have a read and while you’re at it, check out “River Water” by Angie Werren, which is also there and how I learned about the site, so h/t Angie.
There’s a swagger in the way the cattle egret walks across the fields of this fenced frontier, wingtips looped into his belt buckle. He won’t talk much at first, but if you get him going he’ll spin stories like country songs—beer drinkin’, cloaca kickin’ and trains beyond the horizon. He’ll tell of blue northers ripping down the plains and the time he lit a fire under a mule that hadn’t moved in two days. He waits while you imagine what a burning mule would smell like and then tells how the mule just moved over a couple feet from the fire and stayed put another two days before movin’ on. Usually, though, he just stares out past the longhorns, dreaming lonely dreams from another time. Maybe he even writes a song or two about the rough and tumble old birds of the past. In the evening, after a long day picking bugs off the backs of settled cows, he sends demos to Nashville and Austin hoping he’ll make it big someday.
the cattle egrets fly off
into the sunset