April 30th poem

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Woke Up Feeling Like the Bionic Woman Doll, and Not in a Good Way

Now that you are finally, in reality, hopefully in the actual middle
of your life, are you completely different?  The Queen
of Sandalwood?  The Hobo of Denmark?  The Count
of My Toes?  Does your first mind tell you that capability
is a water table we can all tap into?  That if you're sufficiently
interested you can do anything except force external cash
prizes?  There are certain symptoms of symbolic rebirth:
a singing right ear, a stutter, waking with a feeling
like a sock to the jaw.  Thinking fire made of blood
but meaning blood made of fire.  Some nights the only
comfort is in tube socks, the contemplation of a ballroom dance
by a vivacious cross-eyed Australian, and the hush that comes
when the music of the spheres is set to "off."  This is how
you got into this predicament in the first place: Walking around
thinking "only child syndrome" and waiting for your brother to call.

April 29th poem

Saturday, April 30, 2011

If We Break Up

Who gets custody
of the cardamom?

April 28th poem

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Everything Dance

Everything's a little too stylized when you call it a dance
but the alternative is another conversation about my allergies.
According to their commercials, if I take the pills my neuro-
transmitters will do a sleek and elegant dance of light and quiet
victory.  I'll stand in the dance studio in the white-gray light wearing
a hoodie with other middle aged ladies wearing hoodies, stretching
gently to the side one time.  I'd rather stay on my regimen of coffee
and almond butter and fish oil every two weeks when I remember
to take it.  A mojito and fish tacos on a sunny day.  Three Reese's
eggs around Easter before I go off sugar again.  I'd rather start
writing down everything I eat and stop writing down everything
I eat and walk clear across Central Park 2.5 times ruining my ballet
flats I bought on credit at the Ann Taylor Loft three years ago.
This is my dance. 

April 27th poem

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Remember

[from an in-class writing exercise; apologies to Joe Brainard]

I remember strawberry Shasta.
I remember chocolate chips in front of the tv with Joe.  I remember how close to the tv we would sit and how the tv was a piece of furniture.  I remember how the word "Special" would spin around.
I remember The Wizard of Oz and how I would inch toward the stairs during the flying monkeys.
I remember hanging onto my grandmother's hips.
I remember going back downstairs and the field of poppies.
I remember she would wake up in Kansas too soon, and what if I woke up in Kansas.  Everyone would be around my bed, but would I miss Oz?
I remember the creek we shouldn't go in because it was downstream from a meatpacking plant.
I remember Joe saying he saw a cow skull in there.
I remember a nightmare that I had to hide under my quilt with the leaves because there were Nazis in our neighborhood, and would the quilt hide me?
I remember that I was a girl with dark hair under the quilt, alone by the bridge over the slaughterhouse creek.  The Nazi boots walked on by, but would I make it back home?

Also yesterday

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April 26th poem

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

[Foot tanka]

Tell me, when you think
of us later, of our year
of touching and not
touching our feet together,
what will you remember most?

April 25th poem

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Is Undoing the Damage of Haste

There’s no cerulean in this poem.  There’s celadon maybe,
but not really, not celadon.  It’s just the way spring refuses
to move, its giant glass gears of a machine you didn’t build
and will never understand.  It’s standing on your poet barge
on dead water, knowing all the living water moves much
farther down.  Now the apartment is quiet, except for
those contentious birds and that non-jet rumble.  I’ve swept
the floor.  I’ve eaten lunch.  The trees in the middle distance
glow from within, their green.  The closest tree refuses to budge.
Is anyone else dizzy about the time it takes to live a noticing
life, and how in two generations, no one will know?  There’s dark
chocolate with tart cherries.  There’s tea.  There’s cloud cover rolling
over and back, over and back, like the scrim at some boring opera. 
This is my life being lucky.  No, really.  It is.

April 24th poem

Monday, April 25, 2011


If I'm hating the idea of writing poems that use words like tendrils and cerulean then I should just not write poems that use words like tendrils and cerulean, instead of sitting around using tendrils and cerulean a million times in a poem about how I'm hating the idea of writing poems with tendrils and cerulean.

April 23rd poem

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Visit

I was drawing some doodles like cobra swans with purpose
and family members were in the other room observing Easter
with Yul Brynner.  Mom was saying things like, "I'd go to France
for a fruit tart like this.  Or just to the France at Epcot Center."
But the weather made us all morose for much of the day, except
for Bill, who walked around saying "Hola!" to people
in my neighborhood and cheering up the newstand guy
with his yellow tourist vest.  It may just be that certain days
my lymph nodes do a thing, or no one notices that my hair
looks good, or my mom keeps grabbing my hand saying,
"Put some cream on these.  You're just a baby.  I'm going
to paint your fingernails."  I'll be fine after I sit in this room
for a while and rest the left side of my throat.  You should
be so lucky.  Happy Easter!

April 22nd poem

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In the Hall of Human Origins

You and your little Indonesia skull

You and your Lucy bones

Unexpected kinship with the modern humans
(the ones behind glass)

Something in me remembers the mammoth bone hut

April 21st poem

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Found poem: Visit from Mom

What is this, Afghanistan tea?  

Put a big blob of Vaseline between your eyebrows every night before you go to bed.  You're starting to get a 1.  Not an 11, just a 1. 

It's great to be here.  I tried to make everyone jealous before I left. 

April 20th poem

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

[poem was here]

April 19th poem

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April Soundings 

Waking up two hours behind to a quality of weirdness.
C's alarm not having gone off, the two of us sleeping through
loud drilling, scraping, and banging noises just outside our window.
An unsettled ship-like feeling to things.  Sea legs.  Rations.
Measurements and fittings and huge spools of ribbon everywhere.
It's near-kite weather.  Or just, I'm moving in circles on my day
off, trying to work up momentum to take off out of the apartment.
All of us curators in private museums of loss.  Wait,
see?  Even there.  I meant sloth and wrote loss.

April 18th poem

Monday, April 18, 2011

I have a mysterious story to tell you. 

My grandfather was born in Kentucky in the 1920s.  Later, we were on the earth for about seven years of the same time.  We were even at Carowinds together!  (The amusement park.)  Then he became ash and cloud, and I became this other person who would not fit into one of those small planes on the kiddie ride at Carowinds.  Someday I, too, will become ash and cloud.  By which I mean, in doing so, learn about yourself.   

April 17th poem

Sunday, April 17, 2011


April is a mofo.
It should mix me a drink. 

April 16th poem

Saturday, April 16, 2011


In the middle of our fight, I turn my head and see this very round black bird with a bright yellow beak out your office window.  Then I go into the living room and look at the same bird out that window.  I want to call out, "Hey!  Look at this bird!"  But I only say it softly.

April 15th poem

Friday, April 15, 2011


We're some kind of funny animals in this picture,
my pregnant mother in her flowered mini-dress
and me inside there, being a fetus.  When I think
of love I think "as if to weep" and also of the breaking
laugh my grandmother used to do.  You'd get her
going and she couldn't stop and couldn't stop. As if
to weep.  We lived for that sound.  That day I found
my mother on her bed, her eyes all red, looking
dissolved--  I was just scrawny and eight and back
from running stringy-haired around the neighborhood.
"Are you crying?"  "It's hay fever."  "Are you sure
you aren't crying."  "It's just hay fever."  That's when
the crying lodged in me.  My hair got thicker; I grew
six inches.  I started moving in circles, away from their
laps and back again.  That old joke about being
a daughter.  That helpless laughter.

April 14th poems

Thursday, April 14, 2011

(two short ones)

Teaching today, I read out loud

That scene where she still doesn't fit, she's still on the road
She must drop all her assumptions and start at zero
My eyes well up like idiots

Found poem, Alice Neel documentary

By looking at herself
and examining herself
she could give herself a chance

April 13th poem

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

[poem was here]

April 12th poem

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Other Funk

Clif says, You go into these slow dirges sometimes.

April 11th poem

Monday, April 11, 2011

Overheard on the Bx12 Select Bus on the First Really Warm Day of April 

I like real cherries, though.
Not the fake ones.
I like the real real ones.

April 10th poem

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poem Beginning with a Sentence from Laura Ingalls Wilder

(for Kim Piper Hiatt)

She thought to herself, This is now.  The sun on the sleeve
of her right arm, the man to her left looking at news on his phone,
his hands and jaw not the hands and jaw of anyone she knew.
She supposed that she was not the only person to ever decline
the full body x-ray scan at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, only
to be given the full body pat down, only to pretend it
was some sort of healing ritual toning her beneficent energies.
But then again, maybe she was.  Sitting on a plane on an abundantly
sunny day eating a granola bar and waiting for some minor repair
to the skin of the plane before she could fly back to a less sunny place--
what's that a sign for?  What about a woman in a bright yellow vest
walking slowly under the wing of the next airplane carrying two full
(of what?) shopping bags?  Is the vest woman thinking, "This is now?"
Will she too go home after several more hours, take off her damn
brassiere, and begin to figure it out, the next move?  Once there,
will she see the jaw and hands of a man she knows well?  Or, if she
doesn't know him well, a man who is at least somehow inscrutably familiar?

April 9th poem

Saturday, April 09, 2011

I Hereby Give You Permission to Hypnotize Yourself

Why would anyone want to change?  Change is difference
and difference is like the pleasant feeling of a vintage rocking
sailboat when you've had too much beer and ice cream.  I'd like
to give you permission to know how to be one of the art people.
Walk into the ballroom.  Use the dessert fork for your salad.
Listen to the words of the keynote speaker.  Look at where
your hands are now.  Did you only just notice all the mirrors,
all the carnivalesque exclusion?  When the waiter nudges
your arm to get at your empty plate, make as if to start
laughing, in a whimpery sort of way.  There are conversations
you might have with secret librarian poets who win
the student scholar award.  These conversations are secret
and not for the faint of heart.  Like crows cawing in palm
trees when you leave for outside the luncheon.  Did you
know you could do that?  Pool sounds, orange-scented
water, the cawing palms.

April 8th poem

Friday, April 08, 2011

Notes from the Literary Conference

In keeping with the novel's cosmopolitanism 
I am at the Cheesecake Factory
in terms of a master text
It's very loud in here
upsets readers' assumptions
but I'll work on my poem anyway
a defamiliarizing literary pedagogy
I'm waiting for my mojito, wondering about the bread
It is a truism to state that rhetorical context shapes meaning
maybe a little bread
Packaged, marketed consciously to make an intervention
I'm eavesdropping, as per usual
Framing it to ask readers to see it as an ethical issue
It's too loud in here to eavesdrop effectively
The narrative "I" is one that demands to be recognized
This mojito is very sweet
How those different discourses are used and when 
I spent the day listening to papers about violence as textual intervention, violence as actual fact
Ethnic gaze-- ethnic gasp
My lime spontaneously jumps from the side of my glass
Who is "directing"/manipulating others at various moments
I've come here because the fish tacos were recommended 
Mexican wrestlers with superpowers
My server is an older white guy from Brooklyn (Are you from Philadelphia?  Do I look like a cheesesteak?-- I'm from Brooklyn, NY) 
Alienation effect of the italicized prose poems
Many of the wait staff are young attractive people of color
A larger ongoing national story
Old people and families dine so early
Emotional response vs. intellectual response
The guy to my left with the kelly green oxford shirt, the light through the blinds illuminating his face in an angel way-- he has a very kind face, like a poet or a hard of hearing person
The image of her face at the end, playing across fire and smoke

[Cheesecake Factory, Boca Raton FL, April 2011]

Some of my people

Friday, April 08, 2011

My great-grandfather; my great-grandmother; my other great-grandmother (with the bow); my grandfather; my grandmother's Aunt Tilly.

April 7th poem

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Travel Day List

1.  Waking up sweaty at 4 a.m., having just dreamed some kind of poet version of Being John Malkovich.  Joanna Fuhrman was explaining to me that the taller you were, the more soul(s) would fit inside.

2.  Talked to a woman at my gate about why the Delta people seemed to hate their jobs.  One of those conversations that you enter into with someone, and you talk as if you are already acquainted.  By the time we boarded, we had covered the unequal distribution of wealth and the possible need for revolution.  Me and an upper middle-class looking Jewish woman about to board our flight for Boca.  Fellow travelers. 

3.  The Japanese couple taking a video of their tomato juice.  Maybe it was moving slightly in its cup?  Maybe they weren't Japanese. 

4.  The serious intelligent pale little face of the Russian kid in my row.   She kept looking over at me with interest, but then looked very mad and looked away when I tried to talk to her.   

5.  The lady in her silver shoes reading one of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books.  Her large felt bookmark said Teachers Help Color the World.  She was half of the non-Japanese couple.

April 6th poem

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Malfeez #3 

Dear Brother:

That summer Mom paid me to stay home with you during the day instead of working at the library, sorry I got up every morning and put you in front of the TV and fell back asleep on the couch for a couple hours while you watched Fraggles and your weird Maya the Bee show and the Beetlejuice cartoon, which you loved but which gave you nightmares. 

Also, you’re welcome.

 [Text by JPC; image by Alex Lenhoff.]


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

April 5th poem

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

April 5th

Today is warm April raining then cold and some kind of birch
looking exposed white bark and lichen-colored
is about the think of leaves, is waving all around showing
the wonky wind-- a little Madness in the Spring, birds
in the crown, all looking the same waving direction.
That kills me. 


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

April 4th poem

Monday, April 04, 2011

Joie de vivre fragment

When I was in college I sent this postcard to Wendy,
who reports, "It was the semester you lost
your optimism and naivete. And joie de vivre.
But never your je ne sais quoi. (According to your note.)"

Three from this week

Sunday, April 03, 2011

April 3rd poem

Sunday, April 03, 2011

An I and a You

Woke up thinking of motherhood because I have not done that.  In high school I saved my brother from choking on a Cheerio in his high chair, so maybe he'll take care of me when I'm old, even though he doesn't remember.  I'm pretty sure I turned him upside down and everything, until his face wasn't red anymore, and then he just went on with his day.   

Woke up thinking with affection of my student who takes my same bus, who said in class (gently, firmly), "That flip-flopping.  That's how we learn." 

Cornel West says we can stop worrying about "Wholeness" in the Romantic sense.  Twain knew.  West says we all got here through the "funk of life."  "The love push that got us here," he says.  It's easier to imagine if your mother was a hippie, which mine was sort of, and young.

And what if that funky vessel turns around and buys you flannel pajamas with monkeys for Christmas and noise-reducing headphones and reads all your poems, even though she doesn't like poems?  If I never bring more people here, how do I pay it back?  How does the love push work then?

Voice says, "Be your own funky vessel."  The good-enough funk.

April 2nd poem

Saturday, April 02, 2011

List Poem-Essay for A.

1.  Remember when I was Bertha and you were Grace Poole and how we couldn't stop laughing for years, me mad in the attic like that?

2.  Remember us Jane Eyre all that time, our little orphan souls, those dolls?  Those monkeys.

3.  It's been twenty years.  What have we learned?

4.  The look on your face when loud people cornered me in bars in Kansas and told me "smile."  Your look at my look.  Your chortle.

5.  This is my second poem in which you chortle.

6.  In Providence, we put ourselves at the kitchen table with acrylic paints, like kids of ourselves.  I painted a cosmic egg on the back of a cardboard timeline you'd made of nineteenth-century novels and concurrent events for your comprehensive exams.

7.  There's our poem right there.

8.  You sitting in a heap of books outside Schultz's office, wearing tights and a black checked jumper dress.  Your hair was always slightly fuzzy in college, which made you seem worth knowing.   

9.  You once told me it didn't matter if I forgot what I read because I'd already integrated it.  Can I give up knowing things for 40?  I'm tired of "knowing." 

10.  Cosmic egg.

April 1st poem

Friday, April 01, 2011

"Who would ever want to be treated like a woman in a hospital?"
--Bernadette Mayer, "Fixation"

My mother and my grandmother are both still mad
about being treated like women in hospitals.
And that is how we got here! 
I tell my grandmother that my friend Annmarie
recently gave birth.  My grandmother looks at me,
says, "I wouldn't do it for anything." 


Friday, April 01, 2011

Fiiiiine.  I'm going to write a poem draft a day for National Poetry Month again this year.  I was completely on the fence about posting these, but I am going to do it.  I may even throw some drafts of collaborative poems into the mix, if I can enlist my usual collaborators to participate.    

Here's Ada Limon's blog, on which she and Jennifer L. Knox will be posting their poems-a-day.  I enjoyed theirs last year. 

Hopefully by the end of this, the trees will have leaves.  (That isn't a metaphor.) 
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