Devils: a Poem

My eyes burn dully–
twin lanterns that have been flickering
for decades.
(Every time I swallow, I taste kerosene.)

Looking out,
nothing but darkness on the horizon.
A storm churns clouds in the haunted sky,
& I shudder
from the bitter chill.
(It’s this cold that makes my spine jerk and spasm.)

In the distance,
I no longer smell the burning leaves of autumn-
instead,
I smell smoldering corpses.

Mouth clamped shut,
this taste is the copper of blood.
(I had been biting my tongue so long,
I have forgotten the taste of my own words.)

Ear tilted toward the skies,
thunder roars a warning cry,
and I am yet to heed its warning.

A thousand men lie dying at my feet,
and it is my heart that is the battleground.
(Do they not realize this is a metaphor,
and I would rather taste bile than my own bitter heartbreak?)

I feel like I belong in an Edvard Munch painting or something by Magritte,
but do you see me in a gilded frame hanging in the Museum of Modern Art?
My own heartbreak is taste familiar to me,
and I would rather linger with the devil I do know
than the devil I do not.

The devil resides in a land
where the damned smell burning corpses all day,
and though the odor rouses a certain sense of familiarity,
I would rather run than fight the inevitable.

Former friends and lovers, those I once knew,
are now nothing but ghosts.
(Perhaps they are ghosts because my memory falters,
maybe they exist on another plane of consciousness
and wait
for me to wake out of my fog and think me the ghost.)

A dense fog of sadness spreads its misty fingers over me
in that lonesome field.
(Clutching at my heart, that chill that spoke to me.
My spine jerks and spasms.)

This frostbite burns everything it consumes-
a conflagration of icicles going up in flame,
like stalagmites crafted of ice & fire.
The mere sight of it is enough
to drive a sane person to lunacy.

As I take my first step plunging forward,
I shuffle through the fire and ice
and emerge-
unscathed.

Little bo Peep trembles under a parasol,
tears cascading down her cheeks,
crying out,
“Where have my sheep gone?
Why do my eyes burn so dully?
Where has my happiness gone?”

A bleak day to discover paradise-
the muddy sky will lose all its meaning.
We have lost what we are searching for.

Loneliness is our only path to salvation.
It is in our suffering that we find bliss.
(Amantes sunt amuntes-
lovers are lunatics
as this barren landscape is all we know now.)

These twin lanterns
that were once my eyes
have lost all light.
We must trudge forward
& hope someday,
this suffering shall guide us
(toward our bliss).

Impasto Passions: a Poem

My heart has been wallpapered in love letters,
and its hinge that was once rusty and worn
now gleams like new.
(When we exchanged glances that evening,
you provided me with a heart transplant–
trading in the antiquated
for something fresh
still in its packaging.)

The peppermint scent of you inflates my lungs.
(The inhalation is so much sweeter
for having known you.)

Your breath curls around my ear, warming the core of me.
I taste your passion as my lips lock onto yours
like a zipper catching.
Your whispers blade through me,
sending shivers crumbling down my back.

Romance is a beautiful death
(one in which I don’t mind dying daily).
Your eyes are as turquoise blue as the seas
& I never thought that I would feel at home
in a sailboat.
My quarters have been wallpapered in love letters.
When my stomach quivers,
I don’t know if it’s anticipation or nerves.

I used to fear intimacy-the dark corners
and hushed voices.
The taste of nightfall & midnight always suited me
before you came around.
(It is the glow of constellations that I see spark
from your own starry, starry glances.)

You are like a painting by van Gogh,
and I am not one to roam the Saint Louis Art Museum,
searching for love
(yet I would wander every corridor
if it meant seeing your face at the end of the hall).

-painting “Cafe Terrace at Night”, 1888, Vincent van Gogh-

Magic Mushroom Road: a Poem

Write a poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily-perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood.
(Prompt by Maureen Thorson)

You take life too seriously.
It’d be much more fun
if you remember to laugh.
(There’s so much to cry about,
what if we laughed instead?)

Chase the white rabbit.
This isn’t Wonderland,
but we can still wonder.
Try to hold onto that feeling
when the Christmas lights twinkle
as you breathe in deep,

as you speed past,
time speeds up
(when you don’t have much of it left).

Try to hold the magic inside of your lungs,
inhale as though it were a Turkish Gold.

None of us get out alive.
We might as well sing off-key
and laugh like tonight’s the last night
we breathe.

Take my guitar and strum a melody
to tell you the things that I could never say.

(I believe she’ll explain it to you
one day.
One day when I’m gone.)
You’ll remember my name, my laugh,
but don’t think me a fool
because I’ve proven myself to be much more
than that.

Laugh like tonight’s the last night
and tell the girl you love her
(because I forgot to say it
before it was too late)
.

-inspired by Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology

Requiescat in Pace

Grandmother: a Poem

Pretend a person or a moment in your life is a moving box you’re unpacking as you move into a new home. What do you unpack? How tenderly? Where do you place it? What do you realize you no longer need? What do you realize you have lost?
(Prompt by Todd Dillard)

Gingerly, I pull the packing tape back
and tug the cardboard flaps apart.
(Like wings, they spread.)
The scent of White Diamonds,
floral and sweet,
wafts over me, reminding me
of a grandmother’s embrace.

I remember burying myself into her
as she felt like unconditional love.
The way a grandmother’s hazel eyes are soft.
I unpack birthday cards
with whisper-thin penmanship
vowing “love always” and prayers.
Gently, I pull out the nail lacquer
she always used to paint my fingernails.

My grandmother was a home to me when I felt adrift.
I remember the way she always turned on a light
for me
when I was reading in her den.
She’d marvel at my stories, even when
my words were bland.

I take out the prayer books and the holy medals.
I unfold the comforter from her bed,
the thick one that buried us like snow.

I remove her vinyl of the soundtrack to Sound of Music
(and in my mind, I hear her trilling arias with Julie Andrews,
her warble beautiful and pure)
.
I smell her hand lotion and recall the blue eyeshadow
applied every day
(until even the dementia taking that away).

Her memories have been packed away
eleven years.
It has been eleven years since I heard her voice last-
I remember that night in the memory care ward,
that last night,
she turned to me, her hazel eyes watery,
underweight, and leaning on a walker,
and she said to me,

“Izzy, you look so pretty tonight.”

I lost someone who cared for me
and loved me unconditionally.
Like a leaf blowing away in autumn
(delicate and fragile).
Remember the afternoon we picked you up
from that foul hospital with the smell of shit and piss
and I sang to you a jazz lullaby,
thinking you were dying.

I hope someday to be your princess
(again).

Chasing Stars: a Poem

If the stars fade and the ink from my hipbone vanishes,
will I still see you home?
You’re no stranger to constellations,
and just when I thought moods were mercurial,
you shock me
with your steadfastness.

the star on my skin is a map to guide you home…

Every breath began with you,
I wonder if they will terminate with you as well.

Renovations: a Poem

Poetry often takes us to strange places-to feelings and actions that are hard to express except through the medium of a poem. To the “liminal”, in other words-a place or sensation that exists at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold, neither one thing or the other, but something betwixt and between.
(Prompt by Maureen Thorson)

Abandoned and neglected
(in decay from misuse),
you swear changes underway.

Making promises you can’t keep.

-image courtesy of @SpaceLiminalBot on Twitter.

Silly Girl: a Poem

Write a poem about your own road not taken-about a choice of yours that has “made all the difference” and what might have happened had you made a different choice.
(Prompt by Maureen thorson)

Don’t fall in love
at first sight,
you silly stupid girl.

Don’t look
into those magnetic eyes
and believe
words that tumble out
(like falling boulders).

They will land on your heart
and shatter it.

When he says “love”,
it’s a vacuous word,
but you made the mistake
of looking into those magnetic eyes.

You brought him into your home.
Offered him refuge and comfort
from a cold, cruel world.

(Not recognizing the frozen hostility
from his lungs and fists.)

When he was on top of you,
he begged for you to tell him
“love”
(like it was wedding vows).
You whispered it
(like it was a secret).

You waited nine months
to see
what the secret hatched.

And your heart splintered and cracked
only a hundred and twenty-two times
along the way.

Abandoned something pure,
relinquished the first thing that loved
unconditionally
(twice),
but what if…

what if? what if?

What if you had been selfish
and kept that whispered secret
bundled to your chest
(like a trinket from a relationship
gone wayward)
?

What if you had held it
to your heart
and allowed it to suckle from your breast?

Secrets,
just like hearts (and drywall),
can break,
shatter to dust and leave holes
that need to be spackled over.

No one could predict a tornado,
but now, they map the changing weather
and warn you
when storms rumble through.
(Warnings that could very well save your life…
and theirs.)


-inspired by Robert Frost’s “The Road not Taken”

Faded Paper Bouquets: a Poem

Prompt: Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.
( Prompt by Holly Lyn Walrath)

Faded paper bouquets all smell like newsprint
but close your eyes and you swear you smell
the fragrance of roses.

You vow you have nothing up your sleeve,
but the only magic I have ever known is
sleight of hand and smoke & mirrors.
(You slowed time to show me the romance
of slow-dancing alone-with the whole world watching-
and dichotomizing song lyrics.)

I knew better.

I knew magicians starved their rabbits
so they slipped through threadbare hats
all the easier
(ribs exposed & thin fur,
bulging eyes,
even magic has its secrets).

Nothing lasts forever, not even promises
hooked on ring fingers,
worn at the throat.
(I have worn a necklace for years
and a scar for even longer than that,
but Lazarus
still doesn’t rise from the dead.)

-inspired by Janet Fitch’s White Oleander

Genesis: a Poem

“Seductive Fantasy” Sun Ra Arkestra (animated by Chad van Gaalen)
Write a poem based on “Seductive Fantasy” (Sun Ra and his Arkestra).
(Prompt by Maureen Thorson)

Out of the universal midnight
creeps a neon specter.
(An explosive amoeba,
a colorful bacterium.)

Dancing along
midnight black
flora and fauna
in Technicolor rainbow hues.
(Straggly tentacles swaying
as if by a silent breeze.)

With a ball of lunar wax
floating in the heavens,
life animates itself–
planets rolling along
like bowling balls
down a cosmic lane,
human bodies leaping out of
electrified skeletons.

A shock of color
(laser-bright pyrotechnics piercing
against midnight hues)
.

This is creation
under the influence
of psychedelic mushrooms
& papers placed on your tongue.

Plants burst from the earth
(gigantic enough to consume you
in your entirety in one, huge gulp)
.

A clam-man snapping his jaw
(open and shut,
shut and open)
tugs along his yoke–
a burden all of humanity has to
carry.

A living, breathing sculpture roped & bound
wants to soar beyond the midnight black ink,
desires to break free of their tethers.

Bubbling beneath the sea,
the world is still
in creation.
New Orleans is submerged;
its jazz & zydeco performers
play on.
(Singing for the fish and the algae.)

Shapes drift past like Cubist paintings
and abstract art,
transforming into Warhols and Lichtensteins
(and flesh-and-blood people in their own right).

Life began on another planet;
perhaps it started on the moon.
We are all lunar children,
learning the collision dance of the cosmos.