Just Another Day in Suburbia

From Unpredictable Hue, 2019.

Just Another Day in Suburbia

Ant siege in the laundry room
look at them coming in the door
heading straight for the box of detergent
turning left. They’ve cut me off from the kitchen
if only I had my phone with me
but I wanted some time alone with
the smell of clean towels and socks
was that so bad? and now look
I’m sitting on my washer as waves of ants
wash around me. Do ants eat people?
I need to know the answer right away
because I am entertaining the suspicion that
all that’s saving me is the ultra-slippery
baked-enamel appliance paint brilliant white
on this high-end washer which I am so glad
I paid extra for it though at the time I was shocked
at how much a simple attempt to keep up standards
costs. Thank goodness I did not choose
the steel gray option because I would not now
be able to distinguish the lines of ants
mastering the surface and marching toward me.
If only I had a couple of cupcakes to throw
but I haven’t made any today. Quick I’ll swing
across the ceiling – gas pipe to water pipe
hug the water heater kick out the back window
that class at the gym is finally going to pay off.
Here I go I hope the cat will be all right
I feel pretty good about the goldfish’s chances

Don’t worry guys
I will bring help
unless the ants
have surrounded the house
then all bets are off.

8/23/18

The Orchestra Presents a Special Program

From the collection published in 2015, Spring Cleaning.

The Orchestra Presents a Special Program

Muted by the distance the harsh metallic
clank
clank
of a backhoe
syncopates with the beat beat of
helicopter blades and
the steady rumble roll of car traffic
along the street
Where a woman running
slowly
pumping her left arm more than her right
illustrates the music of the suburb
in the afternoon
before the kids come home from school.

Musical Chairs 18 x 18 10-17 small

“Musical Chairs”, 2017.

Opus

From Spring Cleaning, 2015.

Opus

Two o’clock in the afternoon
in a suburb doesn’t matter which one
but you know how
there are things going on
in that daytime kind of way when
many people are at some office or driving around
making sales calls or that kind of thing
but you aren’t.
You are sitting in the park under a puffy-cloud sky
Watching
Your part in this composition is
Lady sitting on a bench in the park
Thinking
Pulling her pink sweater a little closer
around her chest against the wind
and
Thinking.

Clay tile lady sitting on a bench with birds @ 7x7 1-18 small

Clay tile, @ 4″ x 4″, 2018.

Lure

From Spring Cleaning, 2015.

Lure

Playground.
Fake enthusiasm in Dad’s voice
calling to the children
rightly ignored by the children
and by Dad himself.
Actually
He is
more interested in talking to the neighbor’s wife
who happens to be at the park
today.

Postcard, 9-17

If I Had To Choose

From Look Winter in the Face, 2015.

If I Had To Choose

Morning. Not that early, but morning.
Cold. It snowed yesterday.
I drive down a street.
Houses. Mailboxes. Garages.
Clipped bushes weighed down by snow.
Lady in a wool coat and
pink plaid pajama bottoms and
I don’t know what kind of shoes
I’d guess slippers
Walking with a tiny white dog
togged out in a blue knitted sweater
The two of them attached to a red webbing leash
and even from a passing car
I can tell
I’d take the dog’s judgment over that of the lady
on any topic
on any day.

“Ava”, acrylics, 2017, 6″ x 6″.

Short Little Drama

From the poetry collection Look Winter in the Face, 2015.

Short Little Drama

The woman parks the car
a great big thing of a car
opens the door
hits the snowbank
hard as a rock
the door can’t open any more
she squeezes out
the baby is crying
she can’t open
the rear door
the snowbank
she pulls the door a few times
hard against the ice
might chip the paint
I think
the baby is crying
she slams the back door
gets into the driver’s seat
takes off
I did not see if she
parked in another space
or if
she just went home.

Poetry Marathon Wrap-Up: 2017

Fifty-two sessions of the Installment Plan Poetry Marathon have come and gone in 2017. I thought I’d investigate some statistics, just from my own curiosity, as I think about what I want to do in 2018.

I figure I spent about 5 hours in each session, roughly – 260 hours total. This number doesn’t include any time I spent making notes or thinking poetry thoughts on other days, nor any of the time it takes to make up a print book manuscript. Just the writing, on Marathon days.

In this time, I wrote a lot of poems. How many? It’s hard to say. You see, I keep a listing of each poem I write (I started doing it so that I didn’t duplicate titles and well, because I just like lists). It has become essential for me to keep records, though, if I want to keep track of my poetry books, what’s in each one, and where to find a poem.

Anyway, according to the listings of the four books I did in 2017 (three published: Refuge, Repairs, and Redirection, with #4, still unnamed, to come out in early 2018) I have 525 entries.

But that is not the whole story. I maintained these lists by date, it being important to me that the books portray the order in which I wrote the poems. In April, I started doing the Little Vines; each week saw about 15-20 of these tiny poems emerge. On my listing, I mention them as a group – Little Vines 33-54, let’s say. As of the end of 2017, I’m up to 530 in the overall list.

Subtract the group entries, 35 or so, and add back the total number of Little Vines, and I end up with about 1000 poems done this year.

Well, my goodness. I have to sit back and take that number in. It seems incredible, absurd almost, that I have written that many poems. I had no idea (honest, I mean it) until I added things up that this much work had been done in those weekly sessions.

As I think about it, I see that I have never stepped back to think over the whole experience: instead I have focused week by week. Each session I concentrate only on what is before me. I am immersed in the weather that very day, the drive to the library, the season, what the students around me are doing, what shoes I am wearing, what I ate for breakfast. I am not connecting today’s work with all the other days – I’m just here to write, here in the present. I make a conscious effort to leave the flow of everyday life behind and just – write.

 

 

The first thing I thought after coming up with these figures was: There are so many. Too many? Are any of these poems any good?

And the next two things I thought: How would I know? and Does it matter?

For question number one, I did not keep a poem that I was not happy about, that didn’t feel “right”. So, I’ll say that to me, they are all good poems. I said what I wanted to say the best way I could at the time. Although of course I think I hit the mark a lot closer in some poems than in others: Some I’m really proud of – others are less satisfying, and all the rest are in the middle. I don’t think that quantity automatically means low quality.

For question number two, I have no idea at all if my work is any good and I’ll tell you that right up front. I don’t even know what “good” is beyond satisfying myself. I hope people will like reading them, and if they do, maybe that is “good”, in that larger sense. I don’t have any illusions that I’m any kind of standout fish in the ocean of literature, certainly. That’s fine, too.

For question number three, it doesn’t matter if any of them are any “good”. I like writing poems. I enjoy the whole poetry-writing experience and I love doing the Marathon day each week. I do feel very grateful there is a blog world in which to share the poems and I appreciate every reader and every comment – I am so encouraged when it seems someone understands what I am saying. Poetry-writing is an exploration of belonging, I think – a way to make sense of this world and my place in it.

Having said all of this I do think quantity means something, and that is – practice. I like to exercise, and practice is what it is all about. In running you have to put in the miles. In pickleball you have to play the games. To participate in the body combat class, you have to repeat the moves. In swimming you have to go up and down the pool. Practice.

 

So, the sheer number of poems written and hours put in do add up to something that is good. I practiced writing poetry. I do think the repetition has helped me gain skill. I feel more confident and fluid in my writing, and that is from – writing.

*******

What is the point of this discussion? I had planned to use this analysis as a way to decide on how to continue poetry-writing in the next year. But I see that I don’t really need to make plans. I am on a good path now. If changes need to be made as I go on, it will be made clear to me, I feel. Until then, I think I’ll just keep working.


I do think 2018 deserves its own Marathon name. I’ve been trying to come up with something. Pretend we’re traveling along in the middle of next year and you open a post – could you face

The Great Big Poetry Pie Slice #23?
Paid as You Go Poetry #44?
All Over the Place Poetry #35?
Spewed Out Syllables Session #28?
Long-Drawn-Out Poetry Marathon Milepost #41? (I’m kind of liking this last one…hmmm. Tongue in cheek, yet very descriptive of the concept of – putting one foot in front of another, one word added to another…)


Thank you to everyone who follows me and who reads my work. I can’t express how good it makes me feel to have companions on my journey.

Margins

From the collection Look Winter in the Face, 2015.

Margins

She sits
across the table from me and she opens her mouth
in a runaway exhalation.
Such bad luck financial problems ill health
Can’t stop thinking about them
and the state of the world oh my goodness
what a mess and that woman dropped her carton of milk
in the checkout line and
they were nice about it but what a stupid thing
for her to do that’s what I thought
and you know what they are saying about the weather
yes, again, and this time much worse.
I sit
in a hard chair on the other side of the table and
I breathe.
I smell the hyacinths in the yellow pot.

“Yellow Bouquet”, collage, 24″ x 18″, 2006.

To Be Needed

From Autumn Opens a Door, 2015.

To Be Needed

The building inspector walks
close to the edge of the building.
He looks up
from under the brim of the hard hat he is wearing
though this building is not a construction site
but a library been here ten years.
He
Stops outside my window.
Consults his clipboard
Pauses and then steps away
quick. I watch but
nothing falls off.
He moves away, head down. I get the feeling
he would very much like to find
a little something wrong
nothing too serious
but enough so that he can write up a report.

clay tile, December, 2016, 4″ x 4″.