15 November, 2008

Poems and assorted crap.

I miss writing poetry. I need to get back into it, but for some reason I hesitate to do so. I think it's because I'm afraid I lost my touch. This is going to sound incredibly egotistical, but hear my out: I was reading over my old stuff the other day, and I was surprised how good it was. No, really. I don't remember most of these poems being that good when I wrote them. So I used to be pretty talented, it turns out, but what if I try to write now and it turns out I'm not anymore! That would be awful. However, I do think poetry might help me in my quest to stop being so emotionally constipated. A few of the poems that stood out to me were the ones I wrote about my various emotional woes, years and years ago. A few are reproduced below.

1. The "I'm in love and it scares me" poem.


I have found a very great number of exceedingly beautiful theorems.
–Pierre Fermat

I have decided I love you.
Surprised? I don’t blame you, because
je ne parle jamais beaucoup.
Let me explain: I think it was
when we spoke Wednesday night. You paused
and spoke to me about the rain
and physics; subjunctives and
some tired superlatives. Does

lightning strike those runners, shod
in rubber soles, racing streetlamps?
Could I be a victim of God’s
fury at my folly, the camp
I try to pass as prayer? The lamp
shone on your cherubic smile as
you spoke Science, my mother’s god.
Swollen and weak, my left brain has

farther to go. As you tried
to heft my burdens on your pale
and skinny back, I chided
my bête qualms. Male and female,
tall and short, light and dark; entails
that once together, we are whole,
cells matched in every last detail.
I’m too smart to believe in soul
language, too cynical, maybe. Fail

me, my intellect, let this be
the answer I’ve been searching for.
Scrawled by stubby chalk, let this be
my Last Theorem, à la rigueur.


2. "Creepy childhood memory" poem.

Ode to Potato Bugs

What is a childhood without them—those armored pearls,
a single bead of caviar shielded with dull silver slats
that layer into each other like shingles:
armadillos in miniature, noseless and with more legs.

Potato bug or roly-poly, pillbug, slater, chuggy pig or cheeselog:
all better names than oniscus asellus—the common woodlouse.
Not to be confused with the vulgar Jerusalem cricket
whose faces are cruel and legs sting instead of tickle.

These are terrestrial creatures, breathing the smoky Seattle moisture
like a good drag of cigarette, sucking in loggy dankness through their
gills? Who knew? Who knew Pacific gardens housed crustaceans?
Who knew Woodlouse females “gave birth” to pink potato puppies?

Magda claimed she knew about bugs and that god who made them,
who gave horseflies their stained glass wings,
and jesus bugs their nanogrooved microsetae
(you just had to trust her on that one).
Who culled queen ants. Who killed her father.

She and I collected mason jars of potato bugs
instead of rocks or stickers, a veritable colony
of non-communal captives. We prayed over butterflies
enmeshed in spider’s webs and turned over beetles
to watch them somersault and writhe.

Wearing black in heavy procession, Magda’s family of mourners
looked like an order of beetles. Magda and I stole away
from the funeral to play in the St. Mary’s garden, until Magda’s tia found us
and slapped her hard across the face.

We had been looking for potato bugs, our comrades
and prisoners, who never bit or stung or stunk
but when faced with predators or fat-fisted children
rolled into oblivion, invincible, like we wished we were.

3. "Ironic religious" poem.

Dreamt Encounter with St. Elisa

I met my saint the other day.
St. Elisa, smiling serene
among the Nicaraguan green,
her fingers starting to decay.
The statue taller than me, but
pale, without the Church, an afterthought.

I can’t recall what she stood for—
Patron of Ethiopia
or kids dead from diarrhea,
or taxes—nothing great, for sure.
That’s why I never cared to see
if Elisa wished speak with me.

Her eyes were grave, almost angry
as if she longed for some more time
to perform her Life’s Work Sublime
(whatever that was). Was she hungry
to do more good before her death,
fingers worked raw till her last breath?

The clay and glazed woman then spoke
and told me that I had shamed her
by bucking tradition; what’s more:
leaving the family’s faith, the smokes
of incensed cannibalism.
I told her I didn’t miss them.

I shrugged. “I have no need of you.”
Not meaning any disrespect
to her, only my former sect.
She’s dead, and what can dead saints do?
I then walked home with blistered feet
and found the Devil there, waiting for us to meet.

4. "Estranged family member died" poem.

An ode of some sort to my grandmother

Yesterday, Dad left a voicemail for me
to tell me the expected had transpired.
That she had died that morning. I admired
my mother’s outward stoicism. She,

the only one who had the right to mourn.
Because she remembered when Dorothy’s soul
was smoked and smiling, intelligent, whole.
That soul was gone by the time I was born.

Dad pushed me: to write about her. I said
I felt nothing, he snarled at my sloth. Try!
I could neither console my mother, nor cry
I tried to recall that stranger, now dead.

Fragmented second-hand tales shoved my brain.
Dull and worn, like glass surviving a flood.
But when I touched them, they still drew blood.
Our blood, two steps from her heart to my veins.

Unlike my mom, I don’t harbor regrets.
I don’t talk to strangers, and neither would
Dorothy. Neither she nor I ever could.
Those stories make me want a cigarette.

Secondhand seaglass, gift from neither parent, is not
homeless, a parasite in my memories.
These foreign fragments might have come from she
who once had a life. I almost forgot.


There are a few lines in Dreamt encounter with St. Elisa that made me cringe a little. They were too predictable, and I'd like to change them. Maybe I can start with that. Stay tuned.

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