This week I was accepted into the MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Emerson College in Boston. Although it’s possible I could get accepted elsewhere and reconsider, I already kind of want to go to Boston. The city had a lot to do with my decision to go for graduate school in the first place. Another school would have to make a nice financial offer to change my mind. I will be moving from Seattle to Boston to study poetry, literature, teaching, editing, and anything else I can learn during my time there. I’ve been so excited by the news that it’s been hard to concentrate on composing new material. Instead, I will share what was included in my application to the school. Most, if not all, of these poems have appeared here before, but many have undergone significant revision since then.
Apologies for the old material, we’ll be back next week with some brand new rymez!
The Bells of Tuscany
Bold dawn’s bright cut breaks through his dreamy haze;
grown-old boy weeps, wishing he was wiser,
and Tuscan bells ring echoing the day.
A lark and robin chorus lift to play
shrill chirp songs to mark the moments after
a slap dawn to destroy his dreamy haze.
Shy doe stands timid – knows she cannot stay –
flicks out tongue to taste the dew drops faster,
and Tuscan bells ring echoing the day.
In these green hills da Vinci’s childhood lay.
Tame grape-olive fields urged that creator
to flee the dawn that kept his dreams in haze,
and share his bright illuminating way.
Boy sees Beauty here, but Truth outlasts her,
like Tuscan bells shrill echoing each day.
He smiles to hold the sight, then walks away;
Swift-steps echo soundless through the clamor,
as hungry dawn devours his dreamer’s daze,
and Tuscan bells ring bringing night to day.
On restless nights like these I dream of beach fires and the walks
we haven’t taken yet. A salty breeze ebbs through bare legs
to our dimple-dent trail behind. Endless evergreens caress the coast
and our tiny tent is an open face smiling to the sky. We quietly climb
trees to stare out at the fool’s moon smiling. We seize sighs with
only the firelight to guide our eyes. Our romance is silence
and the restless whispering breeze.
Gerard the Gardener
As Gerard gestures toward the lean-light sheen
Of hawk in dew-dropped meadow, his long-flung
Dirt piles resound abundance. Fecund-green
Young buds burgeon fresh from yon dung once sprung.
Grime-wet slick sleeves, kneeled deep in work-made mud
With trousers dappled brown by wet cut ground.
A sudden storm-surge wrestles roots to flood
From fragile loam to swirling purling drowned.
These spring storms and winged forms rolling remind
This grieving gardener of weakened shoots
Remained too shallow, roots never entwined
In solid soil, whose grip spring rain dilutes.
Though the garden’s washed out in a torrent
Of rain, it is himself his tears lament.
On Autumn Rides
SHINE light through mists and pedal into bliss,
Rise with the sun, ride out beside someone;
Admire the fall day from the road, then rest
In mounds of colored leaves dried by the sun;
Repair the rubber of a flat with ease,
Then back on the saddle to ride some more;
You’ll crest each hill, and pedal into dells
With quick speed downhill; you’ll let yourselves soar,
Wildly soar, wheels spinning through the trees,
Until you reach the farmland’s flat release,
And feel the breeze o’erwhelm your winded selves.
Who hasn’t heard the crunch of frosty hoar?
When Summer’s sunny days with haste unwind
To leave the ground a frozen slippery floor,
Thy tires quick-sliding through a harrowing bend;
While struggling through the undulating wheat,
Push’d back by wind’s cool whisper, when a look
Spots the quick flash before thunder glowers:
In moments when the weather dries the street
Surface and sun breaks through the storm’s loud hook;
Then finding that tail-wind, and downhill crook,
One glidests then with ease for hours and hours.
Why must the storm come now? Why, why today?
Think not of it, there’s still so much for you, –
As tree’d isles burst from fog-morning day,
Caressing shimmer-seas with emerald hue;
Breathe in the fresh-cut grass-scent slowly warmed
Beyond the frosted furrows, let it waft
In sweetly and blend with the salty tide;
When ravens cry to clouds and small gnats swarm;
Cold lovers cling; and now in blankets soft
They gather wordless in a cozy loft;
Sharing a cider at each others’ side.
Languish on the limpid
dermis of a lake,
Beyond the silk moon’s gaze
and skeletons of trees:
Ten thousand forgotten faces.
I remember sitting, smoking, incense
Rising, you smiling as we saw tendrils
Weave like dragon tails through summer evening sun
To disperse among prayer flags. Listening
To an album burned on vinyl-print CD till the boy
Started strumming his guitar.
You smiled that secret you’d whispered to me of him
And we three sat pow-wow on the same small mattress.
I set my crush aside, watched smile and eyes grow wide
Into that musical improvisation.
You were hooked.
Early mornings at the Smilin’ Dog with two grumpy gruff boys
Tired from too many late nights, but you kept us on our feet.
We chopped onions wearing scuba masks to stave
Off tears you seemed immune to. Your smile again.
A silent laugh at the rings the masks left on our faces.
Pushing through for a pumpkin quesadilla
Despite the bickering. True now as he said it then,
“I got nothin but love for ya, Natanya.”
What a team.
Bright Eyes at the Showbox. Just you and me
This time. Chinese food and gin obscure
What I wish I remembered better.
Crammed in a photo booth for the best
Shoot of my life. Though we could cut and paste
The best face from each and have a nice pic,
I prefer the silly giggling smiles.
Grasping for clarity from fuzzy memories.
A night of too much indulgence. My birthday?
You over did it and paled,
Turned as white as it. Despite it
And our addled minds we jumped
Up speeding to the hospital.
The first time you had me worried; realized
We must be careful.
Can’t be so reckless.
Years passed and we lose touch.
Whispered warnings and words misunderstood
Hint at your fading picture. Floundering while I’m
Wishing for more island time and some new memories.
Missing friends and wanting more adventures;
A last chance to climb in that one working window
To sputter to the bluff in your bleak-beige Volvo.
A gathering of friends and familiar faces.
Somber reason but elated spirit. Your smile
The same despite the pain, so happy to see
us gathered there to celebrate for you,
Relieved my missing feeling,
But still the last time I saw you.
When he died so died my creativity, taken by a thief
Of mourning. I still tried, but each thought seemed tired and old.
Once shimmering prospects evinced fool’s gold.
Grandpa’s eyes glimmer through mine to remind me of the brief
Bright before the fall. When disbelief
Slipped in to shatter a once-bold
Boy, muses scattered from a fresh-dug tomb, uncontrolled,
And my dripping eyes let dreams slip in the grip of grief.
How long to embrace this urge to erase
Each written line? Smothered light searches for a slit
To shine through, but I’m locked in place:
A stasis where inspiration fades and I can’t get
To the details. Left for naught, not ready to face
For years: no way to write it out or choose not to omit.
into your gyro: marinated lamb, tahini and feta,
but something new this time. A five-star sauce
starting as a slow burn on your tongue’s tip,
quickly catches and spreads like wildfire raging
through your palate. At first you taste garlic
and some middle-eastern spices, but the midsummer’s
sun abominates distinct flavors. You sweat, red-faced
with a flowing nose; a tickle tingles your skin
and then: oblivion. Your mind clears and you open
to the moment of the possible. Nirvana? Not quite;
too fleeting, but you find some peace within
that takes you away. Ebey’s Landing, where the
circling mountains meet at the trailhead
and the world opens when the sky is clear.
Baker, Rainier and the Olympic range each stare,
and the emerald-white waves snarl on the shore below.
Gold wheat-field waves in the September breeze and
she smiles to see it all for the first time. Light drapes
the dimple shapes behind smoke-curls as she spins
in the axis of your world. Exhale and return to a neon-
lit table by a mural of painted cedars and a single changeless eagle.
Wipe your brow and sip your soda before your next bite.
The Los Angeles Aqueduct
Celebrates 100 years of blooming in the desert city
since its first sip from the Owens River.
Los Angeles drinks the spirits of star-struck actresses
and screenwriters fanning fame. Drawn desperately
from the American desert, they seek fortunes
in Hollywood’s Garden of Eden. It is twenty-thirteen,
and you are drinking from Los Angeles. But
the thirst of Los Angeles cannot be sated
till it blossoms like a rose amidst
the Dust Bowl burned in barren channels around it.
The lake bed dries as the thirsty desert moves
from city to valley; from irrigation for food
by natives and farmers, to the biggest
dust factory in a filthy nation.
But Los Angeles is not concerned with
or the particulars of its ongoing water wars.
Los Angeles thirsts.
The dry desert grows
ever outward from arid Los Angeles,
as Hollywood thirsts for talent
from the dusty desolate heart of America.
“Would she learn to love us, and, perhaps, have other human emotions as well? Would she be well behaved, rebellious, intelligent, or stupid? Would she mother her offspring? Would she learn to talk? How intelligent might she be?”
-Maurice K. Temerlin
Almost my happy, smiling, bouncing, bouncing baby
girl, my perfect experiment, but never ‘just’ anything.
Never the girl you saw in the mirror, never
quite the gingham-dressed lass ready with tea
and an embrace to comfort.
Lucy almost always you. Two years
to turn from sipping tea to hurling gin and leering
at dirty magazines. A five minute switch from
comfort to chaos in a storm of almost you, blaming Sue,
who cared enough to lie for you.
I wish I’d never known you, Lucy, never known that
girl who grew to love too much. That almost always
little girl. She cared for her kitten; she caught a fish
from the balcony and handed it to me smiling;
she mixed a drink to celebrate her almost womanhood.
I still dream of you and of the girl you
almost grew to. The elegant hostess in her dress,
ready with tea and cocktails for our guests. I’d be so proud of you,
Lucy, my loving tender almost little girl, and I am.
But you were always over-trusting, too embracing,
And I let him hurt you.
In the shadow of the 520 bridge
The slick-black sheen of motor oil
escaping tarmac above swirls
a rainbow hurricane on the muck.
I tug deep bramble roots,
as trucks and hybrids ramble above.
Caustic exhaust can’t match the lift
of rhododendron’s fresh spring scent, but
mars the sweet aroma with a pinch
of nausea. The highway is
a streak of city-grime,
a line to divide this evergreen arboretum;
it becomes a haven to that emerald-headed duck
paddling beside my wheelbarrow. He knows
my sandwich scraps – his daily
snack – and my ear to hear his quacks.
Five years here and still the dull green gleam leads
me in. One trowel cut
reveals a crushed can of lemon-
lime trash but this time I smile,
for beauty here
lies deeper than mere soil.
It was to be our own sanctuary:
a hidden dell where ivy climbs through step-
stone lined paths in dappled shade beneath trees.
With strong hands you wrought earth, a promise kept
without complaint. You laid plans while I slept
inside in sickness; you carried stones and
placed soil to meet my dreams. You’d take me, wrapped
in blankets, to see the red maple and
gingko placed perfectly. Now that our plan
bears fruit and I’m better, now that our space
bursts with flowery scent, you smile but can’t
appreciate. You’ve forgotten my face.
Sit here now, your hand in mine; I won’t tell.
Our garden is in bloom, but your leaves fell.
Grey clouds reach like ghostly claws overhead;
the early sun erupts in light too bright,
and Benjamin wipes off a final tear.
He waves and grabs his duffle bag to leave
behind this tiny town. The bus arrives,
without a look he climbs aboard, onward
to a new life away from all he’s known:
a pilot winging through the same blue skies
he’d gazed at with longing so many times,
trapped on this flat plain between distant peaks.
As the bus draws new paths on his life’s map,
he wishes for adventures not yet found,
while riding past a past not gone enough.
His dusty album memories filled with
sepia trees leering like watchtowers
at the brown fields around his playground home.
The hollow echo of that place passes,
where more than only childhood burned away.
A rope without a tire catches the wind
where they spun laughing in the sun-dappled
shade beneath the gnarled old oak. Gold hay bails
melt from the wrecked red barn where she kissed him
a dozen lifetimes ago. Love then meant
only devotion to passions hidden
from unkind parents more concerned with church
than happiness. ‘Why won’t she go?’ he thinks,
imagining her fiery hair, her smirk,
and how she’d run away to hide beneath
the stars. He always followed at her heels
until she no longer waited for him.
She ran away and left his heart, buried
without marker in endless fields of wheat.
He wondered whether she was happy now
in her new life she’d chosen over him.
Under the Bed
It’s important to maintain
the element of surprise.
Remain silent while parents
coddle a nervous boy. Cling
to shadows with extended
claws. Don’t let the light hit you
or you’re out. Laugh aloud as
the switch is flipped, but stop when
Junior starts to listen. Don’t
let his suspicions grow too
soon or he’ll holler them back,
just keep him on his toes.
Shuffle past toys from bed to
closet and whistle as wind
through drafty windows. Emit
a spectral glow until he
glances, then hide from sight in
the corner of his eye. Brush
his cheek as you clamber down
below the bed. Whisper, ‘sweet
dreams’ as he starts to nod and
watch him jump awake. Then, loom
large in silhouette, lean in
and grin with flickering teeth.
Hide from his screams while haggard
parents claim it’s just a dream.
Lurk once more until quiet
overcomes doubt, when his breath
slows to snores. Then, shake the bed –
just enough – and start again.