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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?

Killing your Darlings

In the world of writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch advised students to “murder their darlings” in a lecture, and as I revise, I find I am reluctant to murder my darlings, but I’m doing my best to be brutal.

Some lines, no matter how beautifully they’re phrased, must simply be abandoned.

I keep a small notebook with phrases I adore from my murdering stage of my writing. I call it my Homeless File. It’s where lines that are homeless lay their heads to rest, a small trashcan fire burning to keep them warm.

Today, as I revised my novel, I came across one:

Ghosts of an unremarkable past haunted her.

Those words are beautiful to me and conjure up images of a mundane life now gone, but alas, the sentence was unnecessary, so it goes into the Homeless File.

The beauty of the Homeless File is that I can discover other beautiful fragmentary thoughts that add to my appreciation of language and maybe some day, can incorporate into a story or poem.

Ribbon my soul/and graft/the missing pieces onto your heart.

These words, alone, might not sound like much, but they all hold a place in my heart because though I might have given up their ghosts in their earlier works, this does not mean they will not find a home elsewhere.

I have lived so many lives/you might as well call me/a matryoshka doll/(Stacked inside of each other/to keep warm & cozy/we can be our own best friends./Whoever needed anybody else?)

I feel every author should have a Homeless File.

What do you think? Do any of my fellow authors keep the darlings that they kill?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s more of a morgue than a Homeless File.

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.

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.)

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
Photo by Marie-Ève Beaulieu

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?