Gasoline: a Poem

The sins of my past tasted like cigarette smoke
and drinking my depravities straight from the bottle.

My broken bones always set
and the lacerations rarely left a scar,

but your words burn through layers of skin.

I never contemplated my future
until my skull hit the floor after
the guillotine slammed shut.

(I wonder if hindsight is 20/20
when you have less than stellar vision.)

I’m the greatest self-saboteur you’ll meet,
but even before he doused his kisses in gasoline,
I was busy learning how to tape together scorched pages
of a survival guide.

(If a metaphor was ever to be scrawled on my skin,
it’d be written in indelible ink,
the tattoo needle vibrating like a lullaby hum

None of this fountain pen sketching,
drawing ink from a piston.)

I have seen the skies ablaze with fire
because his love was arson
(a torching incineration)
and I was the love he poured gasoline over.

Poetry Writing

Olivia Rodrigo in an article by Ben Henry, BuzzFeed News.

I read this quote from Rodrigo defending her use of describing a “blonde girl” (when really, the girl in question, was a brunette) in her song, and immediately, her words resonated with me.

As a poet, I tend to get specific. I say an ex-lover’s eyes sparkled like jade with the rings of Saturn orbiting her pupil. I describe the way he smelled like piney marijuana and patchouli when he danced with me. I might say another’s name tasted like taking a bite of a red apple in autumn but later, all I could taste was the scorch of burnt ash.

So I understand the need to get descriptive, but as a fiction author, I also know it is frowned on to give a laundry list of description: “He was 5’7″ with a close-cropped beard and eyes that glimmered like blue topaz whenever he saw her. He had a freckle underneath his eye that lined up with a freckle she had underneath her eye, so when they kissed, their freckles exchanged intimate greetings as well. He wore oversized dress shirts with the cuffs hanging over his small hands. His hands were stained with tobacco and always moving with a nervous, frenetic energy. When he smiled, she could see his imperfect teeth, but it was a genuine smile. He weighed around one-hundred-and-sixty pounds and was self-conscious of the hair on his stomach.”

…did you enjoy reading all of that?

I tried my best to make it interesting, but let’s be honest – that’s a lot of detail.

So, an author might pick and choose so her audience doesn’t feel alienated from her. While a fiction author has the luxury of using more words, it doesn’t mean a pile-up of details forced down her readers’ throats.

That being said, a poet wants to create a specific person but still leave the details a bit hazy, so when you’ve finished reading, you can tell yourself that the poem was about you or your ex-girlfriend or your fiancé or your next door neighbor or your grandpa who died eleven-and-a-half years ago.

Also, like Rodrigo touched on, the drama can take away the song or poem’s impact because everyone is analyzing it, waiting for reactions, and caught up in the scandal. I prefer amalgamations of people or details that aren’t really details like some of what I’ve written above.

Just my thoughts.

3:21 AM: A Poem

We make do with the banality of our days
as our spirits are ripped asunder
when we witness the shifting of planets
or feel the tactile yearning of a spirit
rivers away.

She wonders these sleepless nights
if he ever lies awake too,
listening to highway sounds
or
the lonely cries of cicadas.

(The nocturnal hour is one of isolation.
Teaches the clumsy to side-step porch lights
and waltz with shadows.)

Could we be alone
(together)?

In the midnight twilight,
I stumbled into an ocean,
its breath briny,
when warned to stay near the shore.

I carried a woman on my back
as I crossed through a sea of crimson blood
like some would carry a cross, a burden, a weight.

After all these years of relentless doggy-paddling,
never being able to catch my breath,
I have discovered what is on the opposite shore.

“I stumbled into an ocean, its breath briny…”

A tribe of aliens and moon-dwellers
with gold streaks of lightning (and lunar silver)
in their eyes
& scars (with no memories of how they got them).

Crush me under the weight of love.
If it gets too heavy, all the better.
I would permit you to puncture my skin
with sterile needles (and etch in a constellation
if that’s what we wanted)
.

You graze your fingertips
against my black-dipped star,
gazing at me in wonder.
“You own a piece of me forever,”
you murmur,
“I can no more forget you
than I can forget a black star
that decorates all my pages.”

It’s twenty past three in the morning,
and she lies in that space
between awake and asleep,
listening to highway sounds
and
the lonely cries of cicadas.

Spoken Word Poetry/The Corpses of Unsaid Things


“The Corpses of Unsaid Things” is live on my Instagram page. I have been toying with the idea of releasing my reading of poems; instead of merely doing a couple of video montages with an overlay of my reading, I wanted to develop the bravery of facing the camera while reading my poems.

This is my first time doing such a thing, and while I know I was extremely uncomfortable, and it is not an amazing performance, I am proud of taking this as an opportunity to attempt to face the camera (flaws, blemishes, and all) and share my words.

Usually, I cower when someone is reading my writing. It could be fiction, and I would still hide or pace when someone’s reading. I only ever had one reader I sat still for, and that was because I trusted him completely with my heart.

But now, I am so frightened about sharing my poetry as stated in “Fears and Submitting a Poem”, yet I am doing what I can to conquer that fear.

So, if I have any friends who are authors, spoken word poets, poets, public speakers, can you give me some tips? I would love to learn from y’all on how not to be afraid when reading your stuff out loud!

Thanks in advance, but also, thanks for listening!

(Also, please, let me know what you think of the poem “The Corpses of Unsaid Things”.)

When we Were Young: a Poem

anemoia: looking through old photos and feeling a pang of nostalgia for a time you’ve never actually experienced. (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig.)

Shuffling through old photographs,
a wave of emotion undulates inside,
churning up a long-dredged emotion.

This anemoia conjures up memories
(memories of a time that never was).

You showed me photographs of you
when you were young –
your eyes glimmering bright
(twin stars gazing at me through the Polaroid),
that mischievous grin.

Are you sure our paths didn’t cross
when we were young?

I showed you the photos taken at school dances,
shiny hair, forced smiles (braces exposed),
dresses with corsets (constricting my breathing
like being smothered or controlled)
.

I told you how I wished I had known you then,
butterflies in my hair,
a few wriggling around my stomach.

Maybe we could have climbed that tree together,
and when I fell out of the branches,
you could have grabbed my hand.

I look through the photographs you hand me,
a past I never witnessed except through your stories
and think, “We would have been inseparable.
Why didn’t we meet sooner?”

Girl Making Bubbles Selective Focus Photography

When we were young,
we rode our bikes like maybe we could escape
this town.

When we were young,
we believed in magic tricks and caught fireflies
(and wishes on stars light-years away).

When we were young,
we were brilliant with naiveté.
You could have kissed me in that treehouse,
our mouths tasting like honey lemonade
and jangled-up nerves.

Instead, I grew up, wondering if I’d ever be loved.
I grew up, thinking myself in terms of ugly and stupid,
despicable, a monster.

When we were young,
we were impressionable.
You could have saved me
(and I could have saved you).

Fears & Submitting a Poem

For years, I have been subscribed to and watching videos of spoken word poems from a poetry publisher based out of Minnesota. Their poets never fail to make goosebumps prickle up and down my arms. Not only is it because of the language they employ and the metaphors they utilize, but the way these poets perform their poetry is nothing short of an art form. I interviewed a spoken word poet on my blog for Global Poetry Month (Poetry Spotlight on: Carlene Gist), but now, here is my opportunity to be a spoken word poet. I have read my poetry before, but spoken word poets have a different way of wielding their words. They emote their poetry. My personal favorite line from a poem I wrote is the very line I use as a headline for my social media and my blog:

Pierce a vein and watch calligraphy spill on the page.

These poets do not just spew lines like that haphazardly; no, they actually prick a vein on stage with razor-sharp words and raw emotion floods out. This is what I aspire to do with my poems: craft something raw, something that shears through emotions, and oozes the heart of what I’m feeling.

So, I am combing through my poems, trying to find the perfect one to put to video for this submission.

A couple of years ago, after my muse whispered in my ear that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to, and so, I braved my fears, quieted the demons, and submitted a chapbook to Button Poetry. It wasn’t accepted, but I was proud of myself for putting myself on the chopping block like that.

I think it’s possible to get too comfortable in your comfort zone.

What do I mean by that?

If you get too comfortable, that means you aren’t doing anything that scares you, and I think it’s important to do things that scare you. Those can be the things that make you feel alive. Sometimes, being too comfortable can feel like slowly being smothered by a pillow.

So, sometimes, I like doing things to shake it up a little.

Therefore, I am challenging myself to record a poetry video and submit it to this contest…because change is scary, but not changing at all is even scarier.

Submerged: a Poem

Submerged
(but hope sparkles).
Seawater fills lungs
(but still, we glimmer).
Finding our breath,

we might fail
& our throats cake
with salt–

but still,
we shine.

Choices are our own.
We’re not destined
to sink,

though our gazes travel
to the schools of fish
with fluttering fins & sputtering gills.

Person Holding Firework

We do not relinquish control.
This life is ours.
(We grasp sparklers like rope
to save us.)

We’ll hold those glittering sticks
above water
(illumination like stars).
We can guide the way
like constellations in the north
so the others don’t end up Titanics
or other colossal ship wrecks.

We are not alone,
despite what the devils in us hiss.
There’s a Navy boat submerged,
holding its breath
like a birthday wish,
teeming with sailors.

One day,
that boat will be an empty husk.
(A skeleton with no soul
to animate it,
but today,

hope shimmers
like a firework.)

But still,
we glimmer.

But still,
we sparkle.

Woman Holding Sparkler

Dream Series

I have been writing about my dreams here recently, and this morning, I jotted one down to share when something my best friend told me struck me: “No one wants to hear about other people’s dreams. They’re boring and nonlinear and make no sense.”

On rereading the dream I had written this morning, I saw his point: my dreams are boring. Aside from the ones I have that feel more like visions, my dreams are generally only interesting to me.

That being said, I will be discontinuing my dream series.

Home

When I was young, perhaps eleven or twelve, I read the poem “Silence” by Marianne Moore. It was right around the time that I had started to explore my own poetry and craft my own metaphors. I remember the phrase “the glass flowers at Harvard” sticking out to me in a beautiful way.

At the time, it was a lovely phrase in the midst of a mixture of words that didn’t make sense to me. Now, on rereading it as an adult, I see how beautiful and eloquent Moore’s entire poem was. It speaks to me on a level that it did not when I was a child.


My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
or the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self-reliant like the cat-
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth-
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech,
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "Make my house your inn."
Inns are not residences.



Given my childhood, it’s funny what pierces my heart and stabs my soul. It’s not the beauty of the phrase “the glass flowers at Harvard” (though, to Moore’s credit, that is a wonderful turn of phrase). It’s the last two lines of the poem.

Without getting too autobiographical, my childhood home felt as though it was curated for an interior design magazine. It did not feel like a home. I felt like I was walking into a stranger’s house every time I came home.

Home is such an interesting concept to me. I would love to explore the idea of it more in my writing.

PS: Anyone interested in reading an excerpt of a short story I’m working on?