Writing a Poem

There’s nothing worse than poetry that tries too hard.
How pretentious is that of me to say?
Like pretentious wrapped in pretension,
pretentious squared,
but there’s nothing worse than
“I’m a jackrabbit cartwheeling on a unicycle into
high speed tentacular futuristic pluralism –”

Whoa.
Slow down there, bud.

Words are pretty for the sound of them
lovely for the truth of them
pleasant for the way they roll from
one consonant to another
but they are not pretty for their crowded
or their race-to-the-finish
or their “how far away from meaning can this
cluster of syllables be”
“can I stretch this string of gum until it breaks”

Stop forcing it so much.

The law of matter states you cannot make something out of nothing
and you cannot pull what is poetry from thin air.
It is translation, transmutation,
combination,
it has to come from somewhere
that is sliver-true.
You take what you love
and you dance around it
in frenzied circles
till like hitting a bell
you finally strike at something
resonant and pure.

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Tapered Joyful

Your words are razor edges
but I take them like they’re rose petals you scattered on my bed.
We’ve all got our tricks for getting the blood stains out.

Happy is a full-time labor and sometimes that means
gripping thistle by its thorns
and pretending it is dahlias.

A job is the thing you do to get paid
but work is the thing you put your sweat into
and steady your breath for
and clean up piles you are scared to touch for
because once you start you cannot stop
you do not know how to break things into pieces.

You do not know that the path is made of stepping stones.
While you’re busy on-the-clock you are
collecting dimes measured in minutes
but you are also working double-shift
as you whip your tired animal
who struggles with his plow towards
happy.

Do not mistake the flower boxes by the window
for the warmth of the kitchen;
what is manicured outside
is sometimes ravaged within.

I am fortress-strong.
I am Troy.
I can stave off your hoplites for years on end,
hundreds need be;
it’s the things that get inside
that will tear me down.

Refraction

Sometimes I feel like I’m
all glitter and sparkle
and I’m just slowly absorbing
all the little details of the people around me.

Sit next to them too long and their
old family sayings or
the way they toss their hair or
the way they lower their voices telling a joke or
the way they cling to the ground with their toes like it all might fall away
becomes imprinted on my body
like a stamp,
unsolicited tattoos,
a permanent addition to my reflection like
a freckle or a bruise.

My dress is full-length mirrors
or maybe it’s jell-o that
shakes and jiggles but
when people touch it with their fingers
they leave little bumps and prints
that won’t go away.
I’m a scrapbook collecting up
all the little pieces of the people
that have come and gone;
their ticket stubs, lipstick stains,
empty coffee cups, beer bottle caps.
You can read me like
the story of them,
weaker where the presence
of a high school friend has faded,
stronger when my sister visits for the weekend or
I spend the day in the city with
an old college classmate
I’m just all bundled-up
reflection,
struggling impressionist,
flounder bedding itself into the scrabble of your ocean floor.

I’m sun bouncing back
because I can’t resist
trying out your light.

I’m diagnosed with a disease
that lets your personality leap like virus
and it clings to my cells
and becomes just another little piece of me
like wood splinters
breaking off in your skin.