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.

Poems for May

I have decided to share some of my National Poetry Writing Month poems here on my blog during the month of May. Each week, check back and I will share a few of my favorite poems. These poems are based on prompts from the NaPoWriMo website https://www.napowrimo.net/.

If you have a specific poem you like, please let me know! I appreciate your feedback because it helps me grow as an author and poet.

a newsletter for those interested-
please subscribe.

https://isabellepalerma.substack.com/

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

These Sleepless Nights: a Poem

These love songs wallpaper my heart
and smother my sleep.

(This insomnia takes the best of me
and churns out poetry instead of rest.)

I am stupid with love,
my tongue too thick with desire
to be profound.
I’d give up every dream I ever dreamed
to be with you
(and to see what illuminates your eyes like moon).

I know all the beauty the world has to offer,
yet all I can do is shelter myself
(in a cellar crafted of words).

I have buried myself in this tomb
for too many years,
and when I finally emerge,
my words are bombs.
We are starting afresh,
and only roses & dreamers are allowed
second chances.

I haven’t dreamed in years.
This restless sleep haunts me
and I wander these courtyards
like a ghost.
(In my memories,
we drove for hours,
your hand on my knee,
humming the songs we loved.)

Tell me the grass is greener.
I’ll gladly hop the fence
to be with you,
but tell me:
will you still hold my hand
on the other side?

Always keep me close
even when I push you the farthest from me
you could ever be.

My heart isn’t cold merely because it is distant.
(The stars are how many miles away,
yet they burn.)

I haven’t dreamed in years.

I need you more than your witnessing eyes can see.
Maybe perhaps once I visualize these things like you do,
I can return to dreaming.

Poet Spotlight on: LowKey

In her own words, the poet LowKey says this: “I go by the name LowKey. I write about anything and everything that stirs me enough to want to pick up the pen. Blessed with an attention span of a goldfish, the brevity of my literary work comes as a given. Simple yet effective is my writing mantra.”

LowKey writes poetry that hearkens back to more traditional poets, yet has a distinct style all its own. Whether it is one of her short pieces or a longer work, she stops to make readers of her poetry think and contemplate the content of her works. They are a reflection of the world we live in, both our interior realms and the external.


When did you first discover that you were a poet? What was that experience like?

When I was around 18. It was more of a “okay, so I think I can write poems” than a “aha! me is a poet!” I remember being pretty nervous when I asked my mum to have a read. She is an amazing writer and poetry is her thing. I saw her eyes welling up as she was reading the piece. I think that was the first time I realized how my words could actually impact people. It was empowering, humbling, liberating, all at once.

What are some of your favorite subjects to write about? What inspires you to write poetry?

I think the darker shades of human emotions is what I like to explore and write about. We as a society present ourselves in a neatly wrapped package with a red bow around it. What goes on underneath that shimmery wrap is something we usually shy away from or deny. So that is what I love to discover through the words I pen. I think pain inspires me to write the most. I know that might sound a bit whack, but some of the best creative pieces I have written have been from when I was in a dark place. Maybe it is because my need to lean on creativity to express myself is the most during those times.

If you could spend the afternoon with another famous author or poet, who would you choose and why?

Has to be Sir Walter de la Mare, although he isn’t amidst us anymore. He is my absolute favorite. The way he built an entire atmosphere around the reader with his words is beyond amazing. From his poems, he seems to have been pretty intense and quiet. It would be fascinating to see what he really was like.

What is your favorite aspect of writing poetry? What is your least favorite?

I think the healing that comes from writing, regardless of the form of writing is my most favorite aspect. The least favorite aspect is someone out there always does it better and you go, “Damn! why didn’t I think of that!!?”

How did you discover your style of poetry? How did you find your voice as a poet?

I feel like every writer has something unique to offer that might be lost if one tries to emulate. I think “inspired” would be the right word for me here. I like subtlety. I always have. So when I began writing, it was something that came naturally to me.

What advice do you have for poets who are just beginning their careers as poets?

Be honest and unfiltered. Creativity is where you can just let go. So, make th most of it. Most importantly, don’t be swayed by the negativity that your readers might hurl at you. As long as you keep your “writer conscience” clear, it’s all good.

Do you think shorter poetry is easier for readers to digest? What influence has social media had on your writing style, if any?

Oh yes! I am not sure about the digest part, but people nowadays definitely prefer brevity. Social media fortunately has not affected the way I choose to express myself through my writing. The reason I said fortunately is because it is so easy to be engulfed and affected by social media in this day and age. From creating pressure to making you doubt yourself to making you lose your originality because you have fallen prey to trends, social media can take away the voice that it so freely provides as well.

Who are your favorite poets to read?

Beside Sir Walter de la Mare and your pieces, I really like reading Edgar Allan Poe and J. Andrew Schrecker.

Where can readers find more of your writing?

https://www.lowkeyrants.com/

Deception

Little Tommy, five years old
Sat with Grandpa and learnt to fold
Colored papers, ribbons, and casks
Into little party masks.

Birthday masks and ballroom faces
Held together with glue and laces
Funny, scary, bold and rude
Different masks for different mood.


"Why do people hide their skin
Behind a veil, so weak and thin?
Tell me, Grandpa, if you can,"
Tommy asked his grand old man.

Grandpa smiled, a smile of lime.
"People do it all the time,
Scared to come out in the bright
They keep their true self out of sight."


"They coat all bitterness with sugar and honey-
They cover their sins with grey black money;
The colorful masks cover their lives,
But their real self reflects in their eyes."

"No mask ever made can cover the mirrors
That show perfectness and all errors;
The greatest gift of God, no lies,
All truth surfaces in one's eyes."


"So, be true to your own self,
You'll need no mask, you'll need no help-
Let your face reflect the love
That He showers down from Heaven above."

"Be honest, and love mankind-
These things these days are hard to find;
One by one, these steps will grace
And make the world a happier place."

-LowKey

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 splashing 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.)