Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Popcorn Girl Podcast 10: Heretic

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Counting Down

Counting Down

Harold Meyerbeer is a
meek man with a
desire to do something a
man has not ever done

He does not yet know what it
is, but he knows that if he
sits in this bar long
enough it will come to him

The clock is ticking oh it’s ticking

Sharon Gufaltefel holds off the
world by earning degrees.
The less she knows, the more she
needs proof that she knows more

She walks her den, lined with
diplomas, and strokes the
letters that follow her name like the
heads of beloved pets

The clock is ticking oh it’s

Karen Gotterdammerung vows that,
once the last of her seven
children strikes out for college,
she will do what she really wants to do

When the youngest hits
high school, she retreats to
the bathroom and feels an
emptiness ghosting her spine.
She takes her birth control pills and
tosses them into the toilet

The clock is ticking oh

Bill Keiderweltz spends forty
years preparing other people’s
taxes, composing mental movies of
their lives from the hints contained in
their receipts

Today he applies an apostrophe of
umber to the leftmost margin of an
oceanscape and stands back

Astounded that his hands could
have done such a thing

Puts on Gershwin and cries
Notes: The wish to create something is oft-stated but rarely fulfilled. I have been gifted with the ability to take that first step, to not care about looking foolish, and I wish I could share it with others, but it's something that has to begin inside.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Popcorn Girl Podcast 9: City in a Snow Globe

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Conversation, Ante Meridiem

Conversation, Ante Meridiem

She says her second husband committed
suicide to spite her first husband who

also committed suicide and now she
thinks of committing suicide because her

son has moved away and her
daughter is almost out of school she

waves across the street at her
old house and says he shot himself right

there so are we going to
have sex or what?

I say yes but the sun is
hovering over Cairo and
wants you to know he’ll be back.

She says are you hungry I
think I have some salad.

Notes: This is less poem-writing than dictation. Except the bit about Cairo. But I do think that's the thing to say to people who talk of suicide. The sun will be back, and things will look better.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mimi at Nepenthe

Mimi at Nepenthe
(For Kirsten)

They drive to Big Sur and
pull into a lot hovered by
witchcraft oaks

Says Rodolfo:
It's named for an elixir,
one that takes away all sorrows

Says Mimi:
In that case,
let's drink all that we can!

Scrubby hillsides sprayed with
copper sunset, a single
cloud in the shape of a boomerang

The Pacific far below,
a shade of forever nightsky that wraps the
continental rift like a fitted sheet

A fresh fire over
Mimi's left shoulder

Rodolfo takes a rhapsodic breath,
brings the fork to his mouth and
chews on a glazed duck that could
bring La Scala to tears

Even in Puccini,
such moments should not be possible



A truffle is a truffle because it looks like a truffle; a trifle is a rifle gone south.

The sky makes so much sense. The hunter chases the girls; the big dog trails behind; a bull stands at the gate. And the great bear, ready to dig his claws into the burberry and spin you away like a retreating galaxy.

Even on Valentine’s day, the kid with the arrows should not wake the slumbering Ursa. He is truth on four legs and not to be trifled with.

The prisoner queen sits crookedly on her throne and I am Cygnus, craning my neck into the cosmic wind. Take away the belief and astrology begets astronomy, dry telescoppery, no longer engaged in the business of seduction.

Even the serious stars are not much more than our best guesses.

Notes: I didn't initially think much of this poem, but then I made it into a shape poem (using the California flag's bear as my template), took a photo of it, posted it on this blog and was shocked two years later when it had received 4,000 pageviews! (Some website referenced it as a good example of a shape poem, and from there it got into the search engines.) The first line is a signature device: I often begin a poem by indulging in nonsense that somehow leads to sense. I have been a fan of constellation stories ever since I wrote an amateur astronomer character in my novel Courting the Seventh Sister. The last line could be my favorite last line ever; it even contains a subterranean pun referring to the dog star, Sirius. 

Popcorn Girl Podcast 8: Sparks

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015



Smiling Carmella finds the hard place in the middle of the garden, taps the keystone with the nail of her finger, calls me to her side.

She brings me questions wrapped in brown-bag book jackets, counting the days on her knuckles until wherefore turns into why and fires roots into the loam.

When the lightning bugs come, you’ll need solid shoes to trod the corn rows, mayonnaise jar in your hands, roll of string in the pocket of your jeans.

Goodbye, Carmella. Greet the morning side of the lake for me. Ice blue eyes, one oar at your back and singing always singing.

Notes: I know some people don't believe in this, but Carmella is completely a child of my imagination. The lightning bugs, however, are from my Uncle Mike's farm in Indiana. What a silly, destructive thing, caging innocent insects for our entertainment.

Popcorn Girl Podcast 6: Voltaire and Jefferson

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Sunday, December 13, 2015



Each night, the picture comes to kill me:
you and the baby, walking to the bedroom.

You tie an American flag around his eyes,
then sit in the kitchen and study your final option,
silver and cold to the touch.

When did the math arrive at this?
How many drunks, flare-ups, divorces,
pregnancies, bad dreams?

Hold an invisible gun in your hand.
Pull the trigger.
Feel how it flexes a muscle all the
way back to the elbow.
The finger cannot do this work alone.

Each night, I stand next to you in a
field in Atlanta as you bring the
metal to your chest, and I ask,
What was your last thought?
Why didn’t you think of calling me?

Notes: about my dear friend Sharona, who committed suicide ten years ago, along with the kind of random thoughts that go through a grieving mind looking for reasons: the similarity to the final scene from Madama Butterfly, and, oddly enough, an interview with a pitching coach on how throwing a forkball causes wear and tear on the elbow.