oulipost 27: expectant couple

I’ve lost track, but I think this is poem draft 88 for the month of April. Can I hit 100 by the end, the big finish? Here’s hoping. And then I’m going to crawl into a hole and die for two weeks, then slither out and revise for several more. I’ve stated that if I hit 100 drafts this month, I’ll be happy if I can pull out 10 which are decent enough to turn into Real Poems. Ten within one month seems like a respectable number.

The Oulipost prompt is another sonnet-y one, an irrational sonnet with the stanzas divided into lines equivalent to the first five digits of pi: 3, 1, 4, 1, 5. I tried to stay pretty true to form, pulling out whole lines of iambic pentameter (sometimes a bit long or short) from the Voice‘s weekly event listings, padded with a couple of filler words to keep the narrative structured and rhyme-ish, along with a questionable turn from “he” to “she”. The line break change actually doesn’t do much for me; I guess it’s supposed to create a different sense of balance among the parts of the poem, but if I had no line breaks whatsoever, I feel like it would read much the same. But I’ll let y’all be the judges.

Expectant Couple Named Artists-in-Residence

Although we’re never taken far beyond
analysis of sound and language, we
will have to introduce a bill to ban

this man in motion, doing stuff: maybe

he purrs instructions to the pregnant woman,
says no, it’s not a midlife crisis. He
will carefully study different kinds of voices.
In lyrics written with her mother, she

is kinder, gentler, but no less confusing:

a week of readings, talks, and master classes,
appearances by poets, scholars, the
approachably experimental. It’s
their seismic sense of interplay, what
they do with the specifics of his face.

oulipost 16: expat artiste

Once again, illness has walloped me pretty hard; definitely have to drop by the doctor’s tomorrow to get things checked out. (My rule is, if I have insurance, and things aren’t improving after three days, it’s time for the physician.) But before I hit the sack and try to rest up a little bit more, here’s the Oulipost bit for the day: the challenge being, to take an article (I used a character sketch of a weed delivery guy), replace all the nouns with the nouns from a second article (a write-up of a photography exhibit), all the verbs with the verbs from a third (a review of a Korean restaurant), and all the adjectives with those from a fourth (an interview with a rising indie pop star). The result is this chimera which is beautifully surreal and… kind of works?

I don’t have the energy to decide. Please do it for me while I pass out.

Expat Artiste Interweaves Style, Space-Time

Prince has assembled a fashion culture
on and off for almost four winters. He’s in his
leopard print now, but he was still in
Cambodia when he entered the future
through a camera. He appears three times
a minute, and cuts up, on average,
15 photographs an evening. If he cuts up
more than 20, he orders an early martini.
Usually he’ll appreciate it or offer it —
he used to be a fast-talking sexpot,
but he doesn’t taste much any more;
near-constant desire holds him closer.
The characters help him ferment
his drag dreams and overflow his heartwarming
drama (he’s in two miniseries and does
underwear on his minutes off). When he runs,
he confounds any one of the universal
daylight consumers who plunge around Serbia,
drenched in ego, well-constructed on
a sensual hardtop, with a curtain
and a golden Renaissance medley grounded
over one shoulder. And like
any dynamic presence, he can appear
at your bungalow in 20 fantasies or less.

oulipost 12: local street artist

I did not really capture the essence of today’s Oulipost challenge, I think. The challenge was to do a sonnet using found lines in the paper, and when it comes to challenges like that, I get pretty purist. So while this has fourteen lines and what I consider a turn, more-or-less iambic with more-or-less pentameter, and some lucky rhymes… it doesn’t have a rhyme scheme, it’s not really a problem/resolution poem, and I really fudged some prosody.

But I kind of like how it turned out, nevertheless. Which is good, because I have no more steam in me tonight.

Local Street Artist Muses on Life Goals

A broken down, half-deserted city:
this visual flair for the dramatic is best.
Suggest that we move from house to house,
in every corner. (Not to mention our
home, it seems, is where the heart is this week.)
Redeem us, save us: we don’t really crave
“what would it be like to be evil?”
We always wanted to grow and do new things–
and almost all explode with color.
What we want is a new lease on life:
a muddled bowl of sweet crab, hazelnuts,
a convoluted friendship with John and his wife,
and Denzel Washington, who throws
himself into the role with reckless grace.

renovation twenty-one: vincent

I know I say this every day, but I warned that I’d be giving my least for these monthly prompts, didn’t I? (I’ve tried to give more than that as the occasion arises, but still, it’s been busy this month. It’s always busy.) Not much ado to be given, I feel. Here is the prompt (with two bonuses):

1. “I have watched you through windows and keyholes…” (Josh Bell, “One Shies at the Prospect of Raising Yet Another Defense of Cannibalism”)
2. “When I arrived, the elms had been shaved.” (Ruth Stone, “Romance”)
3. “Observe how we made a mess out of this.” (me, “(escondig at dawn)”)
4. a budget piece of modern art
5. Invent or relate a short narrative where you give away the end at the beginning, and then do not end at the end.
BONUS. Start every sentence (not line) with the same word AND/OR choose one vowel, and keep that vowel out of your poem entirely.
ALTERNATE (3). Use a line (either as a direct quotation, or just as inspiration) from another poem you have written in November.

…and here is the totally depressing narrative I invented out of it. Consider yourself forewarned! I kept repeating “the” and noticed I had left some a’s out, so I rolled with it. That, and I wanted to pick out some line from an earlier poem this month and make an implication out of it. The title is a maybe-too-obvious implication too.


The week before he committed suicide,
our fired neighbor broke up with his girlfriend,
drove up to Bennington one more time,
sold off on our stoop everything he owned
which would not be left behind in the will.
The money he collected in the pewter urn
would be sent to his mother for the plot
next to his brother, who drowned young.
The rest (the will instructed) would go
to the Vermont Forest Service, up north.
The morning he moved in, he’d sketched
our block in colored pencil: every grey,
peeling elm with their tissuey crowns,
the people hurrying in edgeless blurs.
The hour before he shot himself, sun
going down over the street, with nothing
left to give, he let the picture go for twenty
when we promised to mount it in our home.
The first moment we sensed something
might be wrong: his fingers clutched
round the corners of it, couldn’t offer it up
even with his will resolved, his eyes
set with their hopeless blue.

Carlos Amorales, “Black Cloud”

Random ekphrasis is what’s on tap today. A while back, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was this piece by Carlos Amorales that consist of tens of thousands of black paper moths affixed to all the surfaces in this one gallery, spilling out into other parts of the exhibit. A judicious web search will give you some good photos, but here’s one that I think does some elegant justice to the thing:

Carlos Amorales, “Black Cloud”

It was fascinating, cool, and creepy all at once. So, in my random scrounging for something to write about today, I came back to that image and thought about how to make it a little bit ominous and threatening. Swarms of insects are good for that kind of thing. So even though Halloween is two months away, I suppose I was in that kind of mood.

Carlos Amorales, “Black Cloud”

The cold gallery walls swarm with black moths.
They are cut from thick paper, pleated, creased, and split.
The last hour has been spent cataloguing black moths.
No two are alike, except in their color, and their hunger.
Some of them congregate in swells of printer’s soot.
Others scatter into collars of volcanic islands.
One knot of onyx clings to the ceiling for its daily torpor.
They can be seen from any angle, coal-buttoning the room.
At the doors, by the fistful, cluster black moths.
Inky tumors flap and crumple along the frames of paintings.
They are critical tourists who hide dark, crooked mouths.
In the corner of the eye they appear to be moving.
Some of them are caught creeping into the stairwells.
Some of them commit reconnaissance on other rooms.

Aesthetics (II)

A happy Fourth of July to those who celebrate it. I’m pretty ambivalent towards the concept, honestly, but I think I’ve warmed up to it very very slightly over the past several years. I think I would’ve been a Tory back in 1776. Still, I do believe that wanting to change/fix the country you live in is an expression of love, and to say “there’s still a lot of shit to get right” is not a complaint. You have to love something to want it to get better; if you didn’t, you would let it go down the tubes and not care. (Of course, everyone thinks their own solutions are the best, which causes no end of drama, but there you go.)

We Write Poems wanted a poem about the natural world that was short and pretty ego-less. This isn’t really one of those, but I suppose it will do for my mid-day scribbles. I’m in more of a revision mood this week, so I think I’ll probably spend some time on that before the inevitable barbecues and fireworks that follow. That’s the one thing I love about today, the fireworks. I would be okay with them happening every night.

Aesthetics (II)

To paint is to envy creation.
The canvas owes much to the flowering tree,
the heart to its representation.
But peace is to stand still, and see.
The dogwood gives lessons in contemplation,
the art in to be and let-be.


I think — think — this is my fiftieth draft this month (not all of them have been posted), not counting a few revisions of old work along the way. Which means I might achieve my goal of doing two poems + one prompt each day in April after all, which would be a huge relief. (I could sleep happy into May 1.) Maybe I will try to get a little bit ahead of myself this weekend to ease up on Monday and Tuesday next week. But a lot of these also have been remixes, found poems, re-worked texts, and a translation; not sure if I should count those. I suppose the point is to mess with language a little bit and see what happens, yeah? In any case, I think this year’s NaPo has exhausted me than any other I’ve done so far, and I need some serious regroup after it. For now, this is for Poets + Writers‘ challenge to open a book you’re reading (mine: Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates) to a random page (75) and use only the words on that page to make a “literary object”. The title is a throwaway, and I don’t actually feel the way I describe here, but I suppose it works, kind of. Meh. I think I’m usually better off when I just write my own thing… damn this prompt-addiction!


When I learned longing,
it was too abstract, too dark
with the American night.
My dream-shell might be
casual ink; my fierce choices
free of translation.
An emotional phrase grows
husked and rare in my ears,
later to turn black
with functions. The moon always
explaining; the custom of love
a world-weight, appearing.
Why, I also learned opening,
original and imagistic,
but inside the usual vividness
I stood here too aware. I was
made in reverse, then
believed that image mine.