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