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Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Born on the cusp
between two worlds

he never looked back
except with sadness

nor reminisced
but under pressure

from sons and daughters
eager to learn his source.

He kept that world
of loves and wars

tucked tight away
in his heart’s attic

for the world of his now
was challenge enough

without memories
of one that was no more.

k

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Editing is hard.

Editing a work you love is very hard.

Editing a work you love and that carries great personal weight is more than very hard. It’s an emotional maelstrom, pulling you deeper with every pass, dragging you farther into the vortex of its intensity, capable of drowning you at any moment.

And poetry—my poetry—carries great personal weight.

Which is why I’ve been a spiritual shipwreck this week: I’ve been editing a collection of poems and vignettes, gleaned from my writings of the past two decades (and a bit more). Some of them have appeared here; many have not. All are, for me, distillations of power, and each one—be it a three-line haiku, a twelve-line sonnet, or a 43-line piece of free verse—is surrounded by a nimbus of context that exists only in my heart.

Nothing I write can be as powerful to a reader as it is to me. This is the nature of writing: it is an imperfect means for the transference of memories and emotions and thoughts, but it’s the best means we have. Naturally, you do not know why I wrote a particular poem, but I certainly do, and editing it, reading it over and over, even if it’s only a check for proper capitalization, even if it’s to ponder a comma at line’s end versus a period, I must perforce relive the moments, the weeks, sometimes the years that surround that poem’s inspiration, which means I must also relive the grief, the joy, the anger, the frustration, the ineffable beauty that I hoped to have captured in the amber of my words.

Despite this psychic exhaustion, I’m chuffed about this little project, as it is, in some ways, a turning point. Where I used to present myself solely as a writer of novels, this is my way of acknowledging that, as a poet, I’m not displeased with my work, and that, in this regard at least, I’m still growing as a writer.

Proofs will come in tomorrow’s post and I’ll get a chance to see how well my editing and layout skills have served me. I’ll also get yet another chance to read—this time with a proofreader’s eye—the four dozen pieces I’ve chosen for this collection.

And then, most likely, I’ll sit in the evening’s fading warmth, sip some wine, and think of something new to write.

Already, I have some ideas.

k

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It’s been a week of retrospection, and I mean that in the most literal sense.

We spent most of our week going through old papers—letters, receipts, documents, and such—searching for the most important ones to put a fireproof box. This was our way of jump-starting the Big Adulting task of writing wills, issuing powers of attorney, and all the other things attendant to, well, to our inevitable death.

Naturally, as happens when rummaging through one’s past in this way, we come across a lot that was not what we were looking for, and I mean a shit-ton of it. But for every time I found a manual for an appliance we no longer have, purchased with a now-defunct credit card, issued by a bank that collapsed a decade ago, I also found a photo of my brother in Mali, a 1946 letter from my great-aunt, a receipt for baguettes from the boulangerie around the corner from our Paris walk-up, a love note from my dad to my mom, or a ticket stub from the night I took my girlfriend to the movies in Jerusalem. None of it will mean anything to my heirs (presuming I have any), but for me, each item carries incredible weight.

As I hold that old Oyster Card, I hear my panting breath as I climb the stairs to hear Big Ben strike the noon hour. Picking up that acorn, rattling in the bottom of the cardboard box, I’m hit with the unseasonable heat of Gettysburg in October, surrounded by the humid scent of wild onions as I walk beneath the oaks of Devil’s Den.

It was a long journey, this week, due to the many, many side trips we took while digging through banker’s boxes filled with, okay, filled with a lot of junk, but also a lot of our collective past. I found things I’d merely forgotten about, but I also found things I’d never seen, items turned over en masse by my folks or accreted from their estates; like my 3rd grade school photo, the one with me making a Calvinesque goofball face, the one that pissed off my mother something fierce, the one on the back of which my dad jotted a hidden note: “This is Kurt. He’s smart as a whip, and I have trouble keeping up with him.” When had he written this? And to whom? And why had he kept it so long? And why had he never expressed this thought to me?

These boxes seem filled only with musty paper, small trinkets, and fading photos, but in truth, they’re filled with love, joy, grief, anger, wonder, and history. Should the tragedy of fire strike our home, they’ll not survive—only birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, deeds, titles, and passports will have that honor—but even if I had a fireproof box the size of a two-car garage, I don’t know that I’d protect them there.

They are my history, sure, but like me, they are transitory, incapable of permanence beyond the time circumscribed by my birth and my death.

And perhaps, this is the way it should be.

we are
ephemeral
mayfly deities
standing at the verge
in sight of the distant shore
ready to leap

k

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The Key

It is not a needle.
It is not a syringe
It is a key
that fits my front door
but now that I have it
will I use it?
Am I ready
to leave my distanced redoubt?
Is my unmasked heart prepared
to trust those I meet?
I cannot say
but the key turns
the dust-dry tumblers
the bolt withdraws
the door creaks open
I squint at the sun
of a different year
smell the aromas
of an unmapped summer
hear the surf noise
of my lifeblood’s anticipation
and I step outside

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In the space
Between their words
They stand
Wondering
How they arrived
At this hollow space
Where neither
Can see the other
Where friendship
Rimed with hoar
No longer warms
Both captive
To their own
Righteousness

 

k

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Fingers deep in waking earth
  clearing ferns from wintry somnolence

Their feathered, spiked, serrate fronds
  release spores in ochre clouds

Raindrops drum my hat brim
  enthusiastic paradiddles of spring

Hands set blade to swordleaf
  trimming old stems and rusted detritus

From the center I lift accreted duff
  revealing curls, verdant and sleepy

Nestled in that fiddlehead crown
  is the confidence of rebirth

Hope is spring’s eternal gift
  a promise of life
    and all it contains

 

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I do not believe

. . . that all cops are bastards

. . . that all pharmacists want us sick

. . . that all lawyers are heartless

. . . that all Republicans are stupid

. . . that all Democrats are socialists

. . . that all conservatives are evil

. . . that all progressives are anarchists

. . . that all Blacks are criminals

. . . that all Whites are racists

. . . that all Arabs are terrorists

. . . that all Hispanics are gangsters

. . . that all men are pigs

. . . that all women are bitches

The world is greyer than this

Much, much greyer than this

On these points

And a million other ways

Thinking so

Denies

Everything

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