This Author Disease: a Poem

My handkerchiefs are stained
as though I have been suffering
tuberculosis
all my life,
but instead of blood staining the cotton
a crimson Rorschach test,

it is the black of India ink.

She pressed a needle into my skin,
and I think the color seeped into my bones.
Now, I am fated
to spill ink wherever I go.

My scribblings have found home with me
(like shadows, like fireflies
inside of a Mason jar).

Even when I was locked inside of a cellar,
threatened with the rust of blood
and the tarnish of my reputation,
I carved poems into my mutilated flesh.

A dragon guarded my door,
false love glimmering in his eyes
(lust poisoning his tongue,
naïveté curling around me

like a lonesome lover).

The taste of gasoline numbed my soul
and left me begging for an exorcism.
(I never knew the Latin word for surrender,
yet I pleaded with the demons for the fruit of knowledge
.

Desired for them to vacate
this hollow body,
but they traveled the miles to remind me.)

The more ink I spill,
the softer their wailing becomes
until their keening is their own elegy.

I will never forfeit these words again.

(I will not neglect them
like a surrendered child
because some call them an obsession.)

I might never shatter the walls
of this foreign heart,
but give me a fountain pen
and I’ll wield it like a sledgehammer.

Poetry Spotlight on: Carlene Gist

The last poet in my poetry spotlight is Carlene Gist or “T.C.” Not to make Carlene self-conscious, but she is the oldest poet I interviewed in this series and has a broad range of experience. Named after her father, Carlene is the first born of seven children and was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. In her own words, this poet says, “Poetry is a genre of writing that I’ve always admired. While in the first grade, I committed to memory and recited “The Night Before Christmas”, for the Christmas play. I’ve been writing but mostly reading poetry since then. Acting, singing and dancing are a few of my favorite things. I went from beating on tabletops to beating on the djembe, which is something I do to center myself. I hope one day to be a published poet.”


You have witnessed several historical events throughout your years as both a person and a poet. Do you find that current events shape your writing, and if so, how? What kind of events propel you to write poetry?

Being born in the late ’40s, I’ve seen a lot. Current events most definitely influence my sentiments when expressing myself through the written word. Poetry, to me, is one way of expressing one’s feelings and perspectives. I can find poetry in almost anything if I but just be still and observe. I find myself stirred by events that display man’s inhumanity to man on any level.

How has your writing changed over the years?

I used to write only poems that rhymed and a lot of love poems. I now write in free verse and about a variety of subjects. I also like writing haiku.

What influence does being a spoken-word poet play on the way you craft your poems?

I know that poetry, as all forms of art, is subjective. I do give effort in trying to find the most effective words and weave them in a manner that might help the audience receive the sentiment I am aiming to convey.

What poet, living or dead, would you like to meet and have dinner with? What would you serve your special guest?

Edgar A. Poe; Kahlil Gibran; Henry W. Longfellow; Paul L. Dunbar; Langston Hughes; Maya Angelou, to name a few. I would have said my peer, Nikki Giovanni. After hearing Amanda Gorman recite her poem “The Hill We Climb”, I would love to sit, chat, and break bread with her. I’m interested in what the younger generation has to say. I believe pizza might work.

What are your favorite aspects of your own poetry?

I like the way I’ve been able to provoke one to think about what I’m trying to convey.

When do you usually write your poetry?

Usually at the midnight hours-between midnight and three a.m.

What do you do when you experience writer’s block?

It’s really tough for me to start a flow when I’m experiencing writer’s block. Prompts, music, or just write what flows through me and edit later.

It

Written before the new time of 9 min. and 29 sec.

"It" looks into the camera. I watch
Knee on neck, hands tucked comfortably in pockets
Some might say cavalier, I say eviler
A cold and icy stare.
My eyes feel frostbitten, they hurt. I sense danger.
Like an ostrich who buries their eggs in the sand
Like an ostrich who senses danger and can’t run.
I bury my head in my hands. I feel not better but safer
Can I fear what I can’t see?
Under the covers a child will hide for fear of the boogeyman
Two minutes pass, spread my fingers and peek.
My heart races, as pressure rises. “It” is still there, knee on neck
hands comfortably in pockets. Under my covers I retreat.
Bury my head in my hands a little longer this time.
Hoping this time “it” will surely be gone. Three more minutes pass
and “it’s” not gone yet. Still there, icy stare, knee on neck, hands tucked comfortably in pockets. Hugging my pillow tight, I start sweating and crying.
A fearful child becomes so scared it will call for their mother.
They trust and believe Mother, the person who witnessed them take their first breath is able, and will save them from taking their last if she can.
Sounds of voices unfamiliar to me, I decide to peek and see.
I’m petrified I can’t breath, “it” won’t leave. Why must “it” torture me so long?
Three minutes seems like three hours I’ve waited for “it” to cease.
Eight minutes now, seems like eight days of holding my breath , suffocating under my covers.
They say fear leads to hate and hate to destruction
Forty-six seconds later “it” is still there but George Floyd is not.
Mother came to get him.
I slowly lift my head out of my hands and start to breathe again.
-Carlene Gist

A Shattered Autobiography: a Poem

Like collaging layers of parchment on top of one another,
I have buried myself underneath the rubble of trauma.

Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon
or a phoenix rising from its ashes,
I am discovering my autobiography
written in between lines of poetry

and fiction

and fire.

Every word I scribble in a frantic attempt
to name a feeling that is beyond words
is my way of sketching the rocket ship
that will guide me back to my galaxy.

The sanitized version of reality
is a bitter pill to swallow,
but I see myself in the paint splatters
and little messes
she was so anxious to take a damp rag to.

(This is an imperfect work of art,
lines crooked and acrylics splattering out of bounds.
This is not something that will catch the eye
of an art dealer.

This is my little mistake on canvas,
but, you see, that inked-in star
is home for me.)

I have spent years skirting underneath
piles of paper, hiding from who I could be

but the truth is

I could be amazing
if you listen to this autobiography.

Who am I?
I’m in media res,
still in the progress of discovery,
but I swear, even in the shattered mosaic bits,
I, too, can shimmer.

I, too, can shine.

(It is because of your belief in mirrors and me
that I can see the vestiges of beauty
through the broken.)

An Illness: a Poem

This poem, written years ago, is about my personal relationship with depression.
Inspired to post by Nicole Lee.


This monster reigns as king
as heavy as an anvil
(as visible as air).

It begs a fight
when all I have wanted is peace.
The bruises it leaves
rot
from the inside out.

The pain sears, yet
the monster hides
(cloaked in shadows).

It may lie dormant for years.
When it wakes,
blood drips from its teeth,
snarling, seething,
it searches for a captive.

It takes and holds me hostage.
It is as toxic as fumes and
as haunting as nightmares.

Grayscale Photo of Womans Face
It begs a fight/when all I have wanted is peace.

Metrophilia: a Poem

I have calligraphied crib notes
adorning my arm
like a scripted tattoo.

Ink has always found a way
through my bloodstream,
inching its way through my veins.

I used to scribble unvarnished truths.
(“A girl like me is God’s reject –
she deserves Hell.
Wings smoldering in the flames.)

Language that became the dialect
of suffering.
(The patois of pain.)

A flood of anger.
A deluge of emotion.
Words razored into memory.

I learned to speak the language of poets.
Every feeling was a cipher
(translated into code).
The code was similes and metaphors.

(“My stained glass heart shatters
when he takes what is mine
and violates it.

Like filling voids-
the empty even I didn’t know I had.”)

How do you articulate words that have been carved into you
longer than you have been alive?

How do you say what has been emblazoned in your eyes
since you stopped resisting what you could be?

(I want to stop looking at the smudged lettering
tattooed on my skin
and speak my mind.
Shout my sins from the window sills.)

How do I tell you the profanities
that have proven themselves to be a weapon
are the very tools I need in which to survive?

Poet Spotlight On: FH Denny

My poet today is FH Denny. For the month of April, I have found a diverse group of poets willing to bare their souls to me and share both their poetry and answer my questions. Global Poetry Month is a great time to learn about poets across the world, and the people I have chosen to interview are a diverse group with a wide variety of identities, ages, and cultural backgrounds.

Poet and fiction author FH Denny was born in the U.K. but now lives in New Zealand. He/they write fantasy novels as well as poetry and are a passionate reader, stating his/their favorite book as the novel Watership Down.


In my poetry, I often find a common theme, but your poems seem to run the gamut of different themes. What inspires your writing?

If I were writing a book of poetry, I would try to stick to a theme, but the poems I share on my website are inspired by how I feel at the time. I’m using that space to experiment with different topics and finding new ways to express myself.

What kind of rituals do you have when writing poetry?

I’m not sure I have rituals. I am fairly spontaneous when it comes to poetry. I go through short periods of poetry-inspo where I write whatever comes into my head. Then I go for months without writing a single poem, not even a haiku.

Is there a particular time of day or place you like to write?

I write most of my poetry in my room on my computer. My desk is placed in front of a large window that overlooks the garden and fields that slope down to a small brook fringed with willows and lilies. We rent the fields to a neighbour who keeps the cutest miniature horses. Sometimes you can see the black rabbits that have made a home here and families of pukeko, New Zealand’s raptor-like swamphen. I write best in the mornings. My brain is sharpest then.

When did you first begin writing poetry?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was little. However, those poems consisted of made-up words, a shortcut to ensuring my sentences rhymed. Think of it as a poorly crafted Lewis Caroll attempt.

What transforms a poem from “good” to “spectacular” in your eyes?

The best poems are noticeably authentic. They’re not pretentious, nor do they try too hard with their structure. Even where craft is lacking, true emotion and honest sentiment ensure a profound connection with the reader.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

Emily Dickinson, W.H Auden, Sylvia Plath.

Do you find yourself emulating them when you work on your own poetry?

It’s more succinct and I’m learning how to put complex ideas into simple prose.

Which areas do you think you excel in? Which areas do you think you need improvement
in?

I do not think I excel at all when it comes to poetry. I am definitely still a rookie. Therefore, I feel I could improve in every area. If I had to pick a specific weakness it would be a tendency to repeat myself. I like to say things more than once. Even in everyday speech, I have form for echoing what I’ve just said.

What is your favorite part about writing poetry?

It’s a way to put into words your inner fears, desires and hurts. As opposed to prose, you don’t have to worry about context, you can get straight to the heart of the matter. It’s probably one of the most therapeutic forms of writing.

Do you have a favorite word? If so, what is it?

Equivocal. One of my editors uses it a lot. I find the sound rather humorous. It’s such a pompous sounding word, yet it has a pixie-like ring to it.

Where can readers find more of your writing?

www.francesdenny.com

Condolences
I don’t think you are in – Heaven – you are much too earthy for – Heaven.
I don’t think you are in – Hell – you are much too good for – Hell.
I don’t think you are a – spirit – you were not the spiritual type.
Although mum told me of fairy blood in you – as runs through the veins of the Manx.
Then you must be in your grave, but I don’t know where that is – we could not visit your funeral- See – but you can’t see for your eyes are closed, as is the custom of the dead. 
Then you must be sleeping – somewhere where it’s green – or in a chocolate shop – maybe? Where would you have liked to lie – if lying you have been?
Pity – I wouldn’t know; I didn’t know you well. 
Had I been far, far, away over the seven seas – maybe – but I fear you’d have more to lose.
I asked mum one day what you feared the most – she told me losing your mind.
I’ll tell you one thing, Grandma, God did not create this world, but perhaps it was Murphy’s law – I may have known you better, but you may have known me worse.
The more marbles you have cluttering your mind, the more marbles you’d likely lose.
A pity how the mind contradicts the heart – as your heart gets bigger, your mind gets smaller. You had friends in many places, from Nigeria to the Isle of Man and from New Zealand to the Isle of Crete.
Grandma, the world is unkind when it steals a nurse’s mind. 
It is why you’re not Murphy’s nature – spirit, or a Heavenly – creature
But instead a valued memory – that touched those who mattered.
Grandma, those memories you lost weren’t really lost. They were just passing through – from your mind to your friend’s minds – to your family and kin.
I may not have known you that much then but I can picture you now.
Grandma – I know where you are now – you must be in our minds.


- FH Denny