April 8 – #NPM17

Some maps have blue borders
like the blue of your name
or the tributary lacing of
veins running through your
father’s hands. & how the last
time I saw you, you held
me for so long I saw whole
lifetimes flooding by me
small tentacles reaching
for both our faces. I wish
maps would be without
borders & that we belonged
to no one & to everyone
at once, what a world that
would be. Or not a world
maybe we would call it
something more intrinsic
like forgiving or something
simplistic like river or dirt.
& if I were to see you
tomorrow & everyone you
came from had disappeared
I would weep with you & drown
out any black lines that this
earth allowed us to give it—
because what is a map but
a useless prison? We are all
so lost & no naming of blank
spaces can save us. & what
is a map but the delusion of
safety? The line drawn is always
in the sand & folds on itself
before we’re done making it.
& that line, there, south of
el rio, how it dares to cover
up the bodies, as though we
would forget who died there
& for what? As if we could
forget that if you spin a globe
& stop it with your finger
you’ll land it on top of someone
living, someone who was not
expecting to be crushed by thirst—

Yesenia Montilla – “Maps”
@yeseniamontilla

 


 

Buddy Wakefield – “Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars”
@buddywakefield

April 7 – #NPM17

The punch-press operator from Flint
met the assembler from West Virginia
in a bar near the stadium. Neither
had anything in mind, so they conversed
about the upcoming baseball season
about which neither cared. We could
be a couple, he thought, but she was
all wrong, way too skinny. For years
he’d had an image of the way a woman
should look, and it wasn’t her, it wasn’t
anyone he’d ever known, certainly not
his ex-wife, who’d moved back south
to live with her high-school sweetheart.
About killed him. I don’t need that shit,
he almost said aloud, and then realized
she’d been talking to someone, maybe
to him, about how she couldn’t get
her hands right, how the grease ate
so deeply into her skin it became
a part of her, and she put her hand,
palm up, on the bar and pointed
with her cigarette at the deep lines
the work had carved. “The life line,”
he said, “which one is that?” “None,”
she said, and he noticed that her eyes
were hazel flecked with tiny spots
of gold, and then—embarrassed—looked
back at her hand, which seemed tiny
and delicate, the fingers yellowed
with calluses but slender and fine.
She took a paper napkin off the bar,
spit on it and told him to hold still
while she carefully lifted his glasses
up on his forehead, leaving him half
blind, and wiped something off
above his left cheekbone. “There,”
she said, lowering his glasses, “I
got it,” and even with his glasses on
what she showed him was nothing
he could see. He thought, better
get out of here before it’s too late, but
knew too late was what he wanted.

Philip Levine – “Of Love and Other Disasters”
More on Levine, his life, and the poetry of working


Anis Mojgani – “For Those Who Can Still Ride In Airplanes”
@mojgani

April 6 – #NPM17

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes – “I, Too”
The life and legacy of Langston Hughes



Natalie Patterson – “Healing Humanity”
@natalieispoetry

April 5 – #NPM17

To crease a sheet of paper is to change
its memory, says the origami
master: what was a field of snow
folded into flake. A crane, erect,
structured from surface. A tree
emerges from a leaf—each form undone

reveals the seams, pressed
with ruler’s edge. Some figures take
hundreds to be shaped, crossed
& doubled over, the sheet bound
to its making—a web of scars
that maps a body out of space,

how I fashion memory: idling
at an intersection next to Jack Yates High,
an hour past the bell, I saw a girl
fold herself in half to slip beneath
the busted chain-link, books thrust
ahead, splayed on asphalt broiling

in Houston sun. What memory
will she retain? Her cindered palms,
the scraped shin? Braids brushing
the dirt? The white kite of her homework
taking flight? Finding herself
locked out, or being made

to break herself in.


Vanessa Stauffer – “Lessons”
@vanopticon



Ken Arkind – “God Box”
Ken Arkind Poetry

April 4 – #NPM17

I wish I was a photograph
tucked into the corners of your wallet
I wish I was a photograph
you carried like a future in your back pocket
I wish I was that face you show to strangers
when they ask you where you come from
I wish I was that someone that you come from
every time you get there
And when you get there
I wish I was that someone who got phone calls
And postcards saying
Wish you were here

I wish you were here
Autumn is the hardest season
The leaves are all falling
And they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground
And the trees are naked and lonely
I keep trying to tell them
New leaves will come around in the spring
But you can’t tell trees those things
They’re like me they just stand there
And don’t listen

I wish you were here
I’ve been missing you like crazy
I’ve been hazy eyed
Staring at the bottom of my glass again
Thinking of that time when it was so full
It was like we were tapping the moon for moonshine
Or sticking straws into the center of the sun
And sipping like icarus would forever kiss
The bullets from our guns
I never meant to fire you know
I know you never meant to fire lover

I know we never meant to hurt each other
Now the sky clicks from black to blue
And dusk looks like a bruise
I’ve been wrapping one night stands
Around my body like wedding bands
But none of them fit in the morning
They just slip off my fingers and slip out the door
And all that lingers is the scent of you
I once swore if I threw that scent into a wishing well
All the wishes in the world would come true

Do you remember
Do you remember the night I told you
I’ve never seen anything more perfect than
Than snow falling in the glow of a street light
Electricity bowing to nature
Mind bowing to heartbeat
This is gonna hurt bowing to I love you
I still love you like moons love the planets they circle around
Like children love recess bells
I still hear the sound of you
And think of playgrounds
Where outcasts who stutter
Beneath braces and bruises and acne
Finally learning that their rich handsome bullies
Are never gonna grow up to be happy
I think of happy when I think of you

So wherever you are I hope you’re happy
I really do
I hope the stars are kissing your cheeks tonight
I hope you finally found a way to quit smoking
I hope your lungs are open and breathing this life
I hope there’s a kite in your hand
That’s flying all the way up to orion
And you still got a thousand yards of string to let out
I hope you’re smiling
Like God is pulling at the corners of your mouth

‘Cause I might be naked and lonely
Shaking branches for bones
But I’m still time zones away
From who I was the day before we met
You were the first mile
Where my heart broke a sweat
And I wish you were here
I wish you’d never left
But mostly I wish you well
I wish you my very very best

Andrea Gibson – “Photograph”
@andreagibson


 

Kavindu “Kavi” Ade – “IT”
http://www.awqwardtalent.com/kavindu-ade.html

April 3 – #NPM17

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.
Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light
Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.
And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke
Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,
Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,
As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir
Of something other than waiting.
We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,
And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,
It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you
Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.


Tracy K. Smith – “I Don’t Miss It”
http://arts.princeton.edu/people/profiles/tksmith/


Mama Sol – “Hard to Swallow”
@MamaSol

April 2 – #NPM17

My ancestors are made with water—
blue on the sides, and green down the spine;

when we travel, we lose brothers at sea
and do not stop to grieve.

Our mothers burn with a fire
that does not let them be;

they whisper our names
nomenclatures of invisibility
honey-dewed faces, eyes sewn shut,
how to tell them
the sorrow that splits us in half
the longing for a land not our own
the constant moving and shifting of things,
within, without—

which words describe
the clenching in our stomachs
the fear lodged deeply into our bones
churning us from within,

and the loss that follows us everywhere:
behind mountains, past oceans, into
the heads of trees, how to swallow
a tongue that speaks with too many accents—

when white faces sprout
we are told to set ourselves ablaze
and this smell of smoke we know—
water or fire, or both,

because we have drowned many at a time
and left our bodies burning, or swollen, or bleeding
and purple—this kind of language we know,
naming new things into our invisibility
and this, we too, call home.

Mahtem Shiferraw – “Nomenclatures of Invisibility”
https://mahtem-shiferraw.com/


Danez Smith – “Principles”
@Danez_Smif

April 1 – #NPM17

I am always moving towards you.

On my bad days, I say to myself: “then you”.
Sure, this now. But then you.

I will keep tossing myself life lines.
I will keep writing myself afloat
until I don’t have to write a poem for every mile marker
from here to California.

You and I together is the most foolish thing
I’ve ever hoped for. You and I apart is more foolish.

When I can’t sleep at night, I dream up
conversations with you. I never call. I never push.
I try not to whine. I just write it all down.

Sometimes I want to apologize for wanting you out loud,
like too many people know the reasons
I am going to have laugh lines.

Sometimes instead of distanced pillow talk,
I want to curl up with the phone
and read you poetry.

Instead, we just talk about it.

You say, “honey, how was your day?”
And I say, “today I wrote another poem
about your coffee cup mouth
and all the ways you still keep me up at night.”

I hear a sigh in your smile.
You make a sound that reminds me of
fighting with my bags at the airport;
but you’re still too far away.

 Trista Mateer – “Laugh Lines”
 @tristamateer 


Hieu Minh Nguyen – “Notes on Staying”
 @HieuMinh

It’s National Poetry Month.

Part of me has always wanted to believe there’s an alternate universe where poetry is the universal language. Everyone speaks it to varying degrees. Writing is taught in couplets and tercets. We live in stanzas. Free form is the new novel. Sonnets are the only way to give people a reason to believe in life after death. There is an eternal repetition of people shouting from street corners how to exist. Can you imagine?

Can you imagine a world where poetry helps us understand where we have been? Where we are going? The space in-between the two are the margins–the blank spaces on the page where invisibility exists and becomes universal, too. We become something different when the text is on the inside and we are not.

Can you imagine a world where poetry is mostly what we use to understand ourselves and others? It’s a tool that is used to wrestle with our disagreements; a wrench for the tight bolts, a needle and a thread for what needs stitching afterwards, a shield for the protection we are looking for every time we meet someone new.

Can you imagine that you are as you are right now without changing at all? Thoughts and skin and abilities all the same. Habits and writing unequivocally unchanging. We change not; we move for the sake of moving as we always have, we adopt nothing for the sake of changing nothing. Can you imagine?


Late last year, Rainn Wilson (most notably, Dwight from the TV show The Office) tweeted this:

Considering it was almost Christmas, I felt it necessary to give him something that he doesn’t know is there. That hadn’t manifested itself until now.

National Poetry Month comes around every April. This month, I’ll give you some of my favorites. I hope you can get something from this art–some written, some spoken, all touching and heartbreaking and capable of making you, too, start to see something that you hadn’t known was there all along.

I will present you with an opportunity to engage with pieces written by writers who are doing the same thing that we’ve all been trying to do. To live–exist, perhaps–in a space that values our right to do so. To breathe. To hope. Feel, although faint at times, a sense of belonging in world that doesn’t seem to always be the softest.

Though I’ll have much to say, I’ll leave that to the voice inside your head.

Enjoy.

#NPM17
#NationalPoetryMonth

[No Subject]

Write

“Hey, are you not doing your monthly blog post anymore?”

I’ve gotten this question a handful of times and I’m unsure how to answer. On one hand, it was only meant to be a year-long adventure; it seemed sustainable (and in all reality, it is sustainable) but moving into 2017 with such uncertainty towards to state of things, I didn’t know how to make that commitment again. On the other hand, I learned more about myself in 2016 through the writing. How could I not continue on?

As writers do, I backed myself into a corner and resolved to not write at all. Bits and pieces of writing came out at times but nothing coherent. I wouldn’t label it “writer’s block” as much as I would label it purposeful lack of practice.

I thought maybe it would be good to not write. Maybe it would make sense, instead, to explore different things: human emotion, what we do when nobody is looking, art in times of chaos, and so on. These things that everybody experiences but nobody wants to talk about.

See, the truth is that everyone expects writers to have it all together. How could they not? How could we not? We carefully craft words in such an arrangement that makes people nod their heads and clutch their cups of coffee tighter. We string together sentences that make people feel things. To some, us writers have it all figured out.

We don’t.

There are days when the writing doesn’t come. When quiet takes over. When silence is louder than the taptaptapping of my keys.

There are times when the writing is pouring out of me, most of the time it’s a jumbled mess, and there are times when I’ve become inspired to explore wonder. Any given moment, I’m transitioning between feelings–from thought to a held feeling–and it’s typically something I’m trying to make more sense of. I compartmentalize different thoughts or emotions, placing them in neatly-organized boxes on this shelf of my mind so as to bookmark my place in each of them and come back later.

I laugh when I’m not supposed to. I cry when people are watching. I fidget when I don’t know what to say and I appreciate the silence that others give me when they are struggling to find words.

“I really enjoy your monthly articles. They give me hope.”

I’ve been struggling with what this means.

Hope.

In a time when this world is shifting so quickly into a place where hope cannot easily live, how do we become hopeful? How do we commit to making things better if we cannot fathom tomorrow being filled with hope and wonder?

With my writing, I’m often practicing my existence. I’m exploring areas of myself or my world that have come into focus in one way or another. These are usually things that I’ve felt deeply about but can’t always make meaning out of. More often than not, these are things that scare the shit out of me. And they should.

I’m not trying to live my life clutching tightly to the railings. I’m intending to fall a number of times, to fail, to disappoint people so that I can learn how to get back up again. Feeling deeply will likely always be a part of me and I intend to embrace that.

At the end of any given day, you can find me collapsing exhaustedly into my messily-made bed, pulling the covers up to my chin, checking my alarm, and clutching a book. Some days I don’t actually open the book. It’s there to motivate me to read a bit before bed but on the toughest days, just holding the book is enough. I’m holding a world in my hands. A story. The lives of characters, of people, of lives already lived that are trying to teach us something. I wake in the middle of the night and the book is usually beside me. The bookmark is nowhere to be found. I’ve lost my place.

“Are you writing at all?”

I can make a case that I’m always writing. It just doesn’t always show up on the page or the screen. We all are writing. Every day, it’s something new, even if it’s not. It’s a new chapter or a new place to start, even if it’s the same place you always start in.

I have a place to keep fragmented thoughts or sentences. More often than not these fragments are poems. It’s just how my mind works; how can I tell a story or narrative using fewer words? How can I tell you all about a thing without mentioning that particular thing? It’s not that I want to do less work, it’s that my mind has been trained as a creative writer to evoke thought or emotion via enjambed lines, couplets of information, and rules thrown out the window.


To answer the questions, yes. I’m writing. It’s not a monthly post, but it’s writing. It’s not published routinely or on a schedule, but it’s writing. It jumbled and mixed up, but it’s writing. It doesn’t flow well or seems out of order, but it’s writing. It’s not published on a big platform or with strong following, it’s not the featured opinion piece, it’s not a string of researched-based thought.

But it’s writing.