Death of a Battery at 5:30 AM

Death of a Battery at 5:30 AM

Had it happened in the driveway,
We might have been forewarned,
Delayed our start till after the rain
Began to coat the road and land,
Or before salt trucks fired headlights,
And bridges sent cars widely sliding
In wild spirals of tire and ice,
Fingernails, wheels, rails colliding.

Drifting, tenebrous, flakes settled down
Against still shadows in cadence.
Breath turned vapor before speech,
Blood slowed, the flares burned out
And cold pressed round our patience,
Which is when the battery died.

A Drinking Song

Among his myriad moments of poetic genius, W. B Yeats scribbled this tiny snippet. Does he drink to make her beautiful in his eye, or does he drink out of sorrow? Can it not be both? At any rate, I recited it in my best bad Irish accent. Here it be.

A Drinking Song
By William Butler Yeats 1865–1939

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

 

 

Be all that as it may, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Epitaph

ELIZA EVELINE

commander, cellar-keeper, particular,
seamstress, mistress, fortress,
treasurer, stone-hearth-sweeper, and
Wife of
one
A.P. Rodney,
once visited New Orleans,
settling her bonnet lightly
and mouthing wonders at the distance
and decay
and desires to set up in so sunken a city.
She was
A (proud) native of Wilkinson County, Miss.
where rivers don’t float the dead
and every calendar day is
precious, perilous, alive.
but fever or war or accident found her,
and she, settling into the fog,
Died March Sth 1865.
A.P., never to remarry,
buried her in stone three feet over ground,
in a lichen-growing sepulchre that
will not hide the passage of one
Aged 34 yrs. 9 mos., & 7 days
as it eases her into eternity.

image

Just as if . . .

Melpomene:

 
 

A few years ago I went to visit Thalia at her university. In the course of my stay, she told me stories of the local defunct insane asylum. Or, as it used to be called, the sanitarium.

This Sanitarium was known for its fairly humane treatment of patients. And also for its self-sufficiency, until the government took over and they quite suddenly had no money and had to shut down.

This place features intriguing architecture. From afar, it appear blandly symmetrical. But up close, it is anything but. The window casings are different for each floor. The two turrets of the main office are similar, but not alike.

It is terrifying.

 

And then there is the graveyard.

The insane were buried on the property, unless their family could afford to bury them elsewhere. There is the hill of the cemetery, with rows of little, numbered rocks marking each grave. Most of the numbers are worn off, but careful records still identify each person. Except for in one upper corner of the field, where the stones have not only had the numbers worn off, but they are set in a circle.

The entire place is eerie.

Not necessarily with ghosts, but with the weight of confronting humanity, and all that humanity means. Which is what encounters with insanity does: forces  upon us the ideas of what it means to be human.

Last night a lecturer read Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead” aloud, and the imagery brought the Cemetery of the Ridges suddenly to my mind.

And I had to write about it.

I just started scribbling sentences, in between taking notes. Not all of it made sense as I went, I wanted to get the idea-pictures down.

I had known – I think – that this graveyard did not start at the number one. (The first cemetery is missing.) I thought it began somewhere in the hundreds. But “hundred” does not fit well into the flow of a line.

So I made up a number.

The first one that came into my mind.

Sixty-four.

It sounds good and has the right syllables.

When I got home, I looked up the cemetery, to see if this numbering thing was a myth.

It is real. The first graves are lost to time and legend.

This graveyard starts at the number sixty-four. Exactly.

 

 

The poem above is, with a few minor word changes, exactly what I wrote during class.

I revised it slightly on my return home, trying to make spookiness even more present.

 

 

In the Graveyard at The Ridges Insane Asylum

They do not start at one. That one has been lost.
So now they begin in the center of their count:
Sixty-four, sixty-five, sixty-six, white stones on a hill.
Row on row from the crest slope down
To the river, wending, whispering,
With tall, stark pines on one side
And short, flat markers on the other.
We were taught not to step where they lie,
The buried ones, just as if there were not
Six feet of sod between us. But some markers
Stand in a perfect circle, and we are unsure
Which way the insane lay, facing outwards or in.
So we stop, one body length from the edge,
And wondering, gape at the sacred ring of Dead.

Originally posted on Egotist's Club:

 
 
 

A few years ago I went to visit Thalia at her university. In the course of my stay, she told me stories of the local defunct insane asylum. Or, as it used to be called, the sanitarium.

This Sanitarium was known for its fairly humane treatment of patients. And also for its self-sufficiency, until the government took over and they quite suddenly had no money and had to shut down.

This place features intriguing architecture. From afar, it appear blandly symmetrical. But up close, it is anything but. The window casings are different for each floor. The two turrets of the main office are similar, but not alike.

It is terrifying.

And then there is the graveyard.

The insane were buried on the property, unless their family could afford to bury them elsewhere. There is the hill of the first cemetery, with rows of little…

View original 406 more words

All About Those As

 

Hi, my name is Melpomene, and I am a pop addict.

I love pop music. Happy, peppy, boppy, poppy pop music. But only the ones that have a hint of old fashioned swing rhythms. (Eliza Doolittle, anyone?)

And my most recent earworm is a chipper, confidant, swaggering number by the rising British pop singer Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”. It explores the omnipulchritude of all people, reaffirming the age old concern over the beauty of cures and confidence. It is absurd. And delightful.

And listening to it during one fateful grading session, I was struck with an inspiration: this song would make a great Teacher Anthem.

So I made the thing. I (and my sweet teacher friend Katey) parodied the lyrics, and now we give you, “All About Those As”. Turn on the video, and scroll down to read the lyrics with the music.

 

“All About Those As”

Because you know
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, it ain’t no easy A,
‘cause I can grade it, grade it
Like I’m supposed to do
But I got those good grades that all the kids chase
And all the red pens in all the right places

I see the homework fakin’, workin’ sparknotes
We know that it ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got questions, answers, just raise ’em up
‘Cause every one of you’s engaged
From the back row to the front

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you can’t play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into then just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As
Hey!

We’re bringing brainy back
Go ahead and tell the common core that.
No we’re not playing. I know you can do it
So I’m here to make sure
Every one of you’s engaged from the back row to the front.

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you will not play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into please just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As
‘Bout those As, ’bout those As
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this A

 

My teacher friends and I want to make a video of this, but we are unsure of how. Does anyone have recommendations on how to make a video?

Poets on Poetry

My friend The Grackle, of The Grub Street Grackle fame and previous adventures, has recently begun a video series entitled, Poets on Poetry. The exercise of this is to see how poets respond to, appreciate, or analyze each other’s poetry. Which is supposed to help the rest of us respond to poetry.

The Grackle has hitherto worked with words and ideas captured solidly through paper and ink, or pixels approximating paper and ink.

The foray into film to explore the sounds, sights, and nuances of spoken poetry is a bold stroke.

And as such, I, your brooding muse of tragedy, am honored that he chose one of my poems to initiate this series. Our friend Ian (his nom de plume is in the works, I shall let you know when it coalesces,) gives a wonderful and insightful introduction to the piece, one which made me gasp in sudden and new-found wonder over my own work. It is a powerful quality in art that it can hold more depth and meaning that the author purposely intended. Truly, poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonian, as Milosz says.

It is my favorite of my poems, and I have many thoughts and opinions about it. But we want to know your thoughts. Please watch, listen, and read, and then comment either here or over at the GrackleRag!

Res Mundi

I dreamed of you last night.
Knobby, creased ground pressed
Up under our feet,
And you were facing west
With your back to me, firm,
As dark as almost shadow,
Fixed and calm;
The moment almost hallowed.
But then you leaned back on my shoulder.
(Shoulders closer than a kiss.)
Weight bouldered
Me awake, and now I press

 A fist against my breast: I ache – how I had forgot –
For the weight of another being upon my heart.

 

To quote the original post,

The written, printed word is our bread and butter at the Grackle. But we don’t mind admitting—we will insist on it, in fact—that what makes poetry necessary is something that turns up first of all in a common breathing and beating of hearts. So what we’d really like is to get together with you somewhere, read some poems, and talk.

We hope the video series in which the above is the first entry gives you a hankering for the same.

If you’ve read a poem in Grub Street Grackle that you’d like to see featured in a future installment of “Poets on Poetry,” please leave a comment below to let us know!


Some questions about the poem, for your consideration:

  1. “Closer than a kiss” seems to draw attention to the fact that the two in the poem are not kissing. What do we infer from this about the speaker and the one being addressed?
  2. Res mundi. Things “of the world,” as opposed to what? Things of other worlds? Eternal things? Dream things? Memories?  There’s a turn in the poem at “But then.” Does that turn tell us anything about the nature of the opposition?
  3. The poem is framed as the recollection of a dream after waking, and the dream itself seems to be of something remembered. At what point does this dream memory end? Take the line, “Weight bouldered.” Is this something that happened in the dream? Then where was the weight? Is it “of the world,” or not?
  4. We are used to distinguishing a literal meaning of “heart” from a metaphorical. Does this distinction make sense applied to the last line of this poem?

 

 

 

 

 

Speed Poems, or What You Will

Last month, I went to Comic Con.

It was fantastic, in the old, heady, fantasy-based, rather terrifying sense of the word.

It was also exhausting.

No, I did not dress up as an anime character. I went as an exhibitor.

My friend, to be known as The Grackle, (that is even how I have saved his phone number,) runs, organizes, prints, and hand binds a literary magazine. This entertaining and enlightening romp through a vale of modern literature and literary critiques is called the Grub Street Grackle.

This Grackle, being tenacious and persuasive, decided to sell magazines and promote the brand name at Comic Con. And he offered me a free ticket to help him man the booth.

Being of a slightly nerdy persuasion, I agreed.

But there was a catch. The gimmick was to offer FREE bad poetry.

“Free baaaaad poetry! Step right up and get your freeeee bad poetry! Give us three words and five minutes, and we will give you the WORST poetry you have heard all day. Guaranteed or your many back!”

It was exciting, intense, and exhausting. I give you here some glimpses of our efforts. (Some are done my yours truly, and some by The Grackle Himself.)

 

Words: hat, peanut, hero

Bad Poem:

How deep are the depths
of my soul?
They about as deep
as the inside of an overturned
hat, like a really big one,
like, think Abe Lincoln
times a million.
How rich are the contents of my
fertile mind?
As rich as the contents of a very
good peanut.
I am my own hero.

 

 

Words: ancient, dead, Tardis

Bad Poem:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the Tardis is spread out against the sky,
Like a walrus, dead on a table.
Ancient in its magnitude,
Rogue in time and space and fable.

 

Words: guinea pig, insomnia, creepy

Bad Poetry:

Oh, my, oh, me, oh, oh,
oh.
Ah me.
I lost my guinea pig.
Now I live
alone.
Except for my room mate.
And he’s real loud and creepy.
Now I have insomnia.
Oh, ah, me, ah, oh.

Words: daisy, girth, testicular

Bad poem:

I travel the cosmic daisy chain,
Hopping form leaf to leaf,
Flying between elaborate worlds
In my ship, the “Absolute Girth,”
Flying my sails occasionally furled,
And avoiding vestigial, testicular claims.

 

Photo: The challenge words were: testicular, girth, and daisy. What would you write?

 

 

 

 

Words: children, lighthouse, castle

Bad Poem:

We in this world
are all but children,
adrift in a sea of confusion
with no guide,
no lighthouse,
helpless,
sad.
Like kings without a castle,
or something.

Words: chloroplast, amoeba, eggplant (but a the time I could not remember how to spell chloroplast)

Bad Poem:

You are my chloroplast,
My darling chloroplast,
You shake my amoebas,
When I’m on an eggplant fast.
You’ll never know dear,
How wormy my cells are,
Unless you blast light at
a magnified degree
through a microscope
at your eye and see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many, many more, discovering in varying degrees the cross-section of idiocy and brilliance. The rest, should you wish to pursue them, may be found at the Grackle facebook page. We wrestled with words like Ramadan, cat, Jayne Cobb, regurgitation (that one was given by Captain America himself!) spaghetti, and carcinogenic.

And I know that there is one I wrote about watermelon and love that is actually almost a decent poem, but I cannot find it. If you spot it, let me know!

The rest of Comic Con was fun too. Crazy, obsessive, and bone-wearying, but fun.

Daddy

Daddy Drinks

I gave my dad a whiskey flask for Christmas.

He laughed. He has never had a taste for whiskey.

But because I gave it to him, he treasured it.

He brought it to work and showed it off,

trying to hide the proud pucker of his smile.

It had my school crest on it.

When I was small, I would be jealous of my cousin,

(he was grown-up,) smoking spicy cigars and drinking

on the porch with my dad, under thick, warm light

Decanting through the tree trunk silhouettes.

They would talk, and nod, genially, toward the window

at the sight of me.

He favors wine, but when I come home he pours me

a tumbler of Scotch – smooth, slow, golden-

as he asks me what I am thinking. I sip, and answer

in excruciating detail. And I pretend it is the

harsh heat of the whiskey making me choke,

            as I drink with my dad.