series of curtains blowing in wind

Escape Hatches

Escape Hatches.

A writer has to get out of the way of a great poem.

It can barrel down your brain at three in the morning, announcing itself, demanding brashly that you wake up, pay attention.

It can arrive with less fanfare, creeping stealthily into a corner of your brain when least expected, while you’re on the expressway or in a fast food lineup, wholly intact, ready to deliver itself.

Some may be difficult to hold onto, like children running ahead of you in a playground. You can see them but they will not be corralled.

Others visit you fleetingly for but an instant, offering up a potent word, a loaded image, deftly uncovering a long forgotten moment.

They all ask the same, merely this: Take heed. Do it now. I  am already planning my escape.

 

olive garden

At what cost?

I’ve been thinking about social media a great deal. It is an unequaled tool for writers, manna from heaven actually as a way to connect with readers, old and new. But at what cost, I wonder? In its formidable wake, what is it that we are relinquishing?  

Are we forsaking the art of conversation? The glorious handwritten letter that flutters through the mailbox? The relaxed, cozy, stop and chat????

Here is a poem that resulted from my musings:

 

Bowed in Prayer.

At the Olive Garden on a Friday night, on my own,

I have just ordered the Tour of Italy and

notice the family huddled into a booth across the way,

six of them, three each side,

their heads collectively bowed over a cornucopia of glowing electronic boxes,

their fingers tapping away at microscopic keys,

the light reaching up to their faces at speeds

impossible to imagine.

So enchanted is the group with the cavalcade of data

pouring forth beneath them that I count a full two minutes

before any of them notices the waitress,

standing waiting at the head of their table.

Shall I come back, she asks graciously,

exhibiting a patience far above her pay scale.

 

Yeh, the one nearest to her finally pipes up,

the closest he’ll come to a conversation all weekend, 

and he didn’t even lift his head to say it.

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The Trouble with Science

The Trouble with Science.

 

If it’s true,

as grim neurologists now claim,

that our memory is far from intact,

that the very process by which we retrieve the past

is flawed, random, that it plays fast and loose with

fact, detail, even colour.

Then how exactly do I conjure

what was us.

 

If it’s all up for grabs,

if all bets are off,

what exactly was true? 

The way you looked at me that evening on the boardwalk,

was it as tender as I picture it now?

And your kiss. As deeply felt?

Did you profess your love in three languages

or was it just two?

Before you round the corner do you actually

turn to look at me

one last time?

Are you in the blue shirt

or the red?

Are those actual tears?

 

But science falls short. It overlooks

the power of the human heart

which has a memory all its own,

where the moments of our lives never alter,

fade, 

or grow old.

Where a look remains as tender

as when first it was delivered,

a heart quickens just as it once did.

Yearning ever as fervent,

passion as acute.

And in that special place

the moments worth remembering lie in wait for us,

inviolate,

undefiled by synapse

and the waywardness of time.

 

 

sea glass.

I Am a Poem

I was thinking about the sheer power of a poem this morning over my third coffee, watching the ebb and flow of the sea from my perch here in the main room. Ruminating on all that a fine poem can do, exactly what it can deliver to us. And this resulted.

 

I Am a Poem

 

I remember when you’ve long forgotten.

I return to you the details that still matter,

The ones that got lost along the way.

 

I tell your story.

My lines are your lines.

My words, entirely yours.

 

Exactly what it feels like to not be chosen.

That time you felt like giving up

And almost did.

Under a leaden sky one long ago winter morning

When he bid a cavalier goodbye.

Your saddest songs, your deepest regrets,

I hand them back to you, intact.

I resurrect them all.  

 

I hold fast to the anguished moments you find

too painful to remember.

I speak the words you are afraid to say.

I lay them bare.

 

I am holding fast to them all.

I am ready when you are.

I am a poem.

 

 

 

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While sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade. 

The Galleons

Because I am reading Frank O’Hara
while sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade
 

I am aware it is 10:30 in New York
on a Tuesday morning

the way O’Hara was always aware
of what day and hour and season were in front of him

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
he wrote almost sixty years ago on a July moment

that must have been like the one I am having now
the summer hour blossoming

at the promenades by the rivers and in the parks
and in the quiet aisles of the city
 

when everyone who should be at work
is at work and the trees are meditating

on how muggy it will be today
and the fleets of strollers are out in the sunshine

expanse of the morning
the strollers that are like galleons

carrying their beautiful gold cargo
being pushed by women whose names once graced

the actual galleons Rosario
Margarita Magdalena along with other names

Essie Maja from places that history has patronized
like O’Hara going into the bank

for money or the bookstore to buy
an ugly
NEW WORLD WRITING to see what

the poets / in Ghana are doing these days
or the liquor store for liquor

or the tobacconist for tobacco
and sitting at the Brooklyn Promenade I haven’t looked

at the news to see who now has died
though my fingers keep touching the phone’s face

to find out that when it is 10:30 in the morning
in New York it is 11:30 in the night

in Manila and it is 4:30 in the afternoon in Lagos
and in Warsaw and it is 9:30

in the morning in Guatemala City
where it is also Tuesday and where it is also summer.

 

– Rick Barot

 

 

 

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From Rilke’s Ninth Elegy –

 

But because truly being here is so much; because

    everything here

apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in

    some strange way

keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all,.

Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,

Just once. And never again…

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Calisthenics. For a Poet.

Micro poetry — the delicious challenge being to create an entire world, or conjure just a single moment in time, in as few words as possible. It’s akin to calisthenics for the poet, the closest I’ll get to a gym.At Rest

Placed atop the bed sheet,
inert,
his lovely soulful hands,
mapped in deep indigo veins,
the long expressive fingers,
this,
this was where his humanness
would reside the longest.

crumpled paper

I Want Those Words

It’s one of those nights. Those nights when a poem I am struggling to write is just out of reach. The frustration lies in sensing its potential, the piece it might become, if I can only find the exact words. Through a series of drafts I look for the words.

And wrote this meanwhile to try and express how it feels…

 

I Want Those Words

Sometimes the words are not enough not nearly
enough and the language stalls right there in front of me
like a runner,
gasping and giving up. If only I could
tease out another alphabet that would carry in it what
I yearn to say, struggle to say about the way the nurse
dismissed her cavalierly that day in mid-sentence
as if she didn’t exist,
my mom.

Not the road-weary dog-eared chewed-up
chewed-over words. Not the tried, true, tired ones.
Other words, so much better, pitch perfect words,
incandescent spellbinders that strung together
make the reader nod her head and lit from within
with that magical moment of understanding, say:
Yes that’s right, I know now.
I want those words.

The ones behind invisible iron curtains and years of
Catholic school and Catholic guilt and my own fear.
The ones I cannot summon to describe meeting him that day,
how even the way he walked toward me told me everything.
The ones muscular enough to tease out,
commandeer the most elusive of feelings.
I want those words.

The words I don’t know. The ones I don’t even know
I don’t know.
The words just out of reach. The finest words.
The sublime.
I want those words.

subway

Poetry Waits

Poetry waits patiently for the poet
as the molten glass
awaits the artist,
the microphone the singer.
the expectant groom, his bride.

Waits
for the moment the woman decides to leave
and the man does nothing to stop her.
The moment the bus driver accelerates
rather than wait for the runner,
for the subway doors to slam shut a second too soon.

Biding time,
watchful for the seemingly insignificant,
smallest movements
when our lives turns on a dime,
cocking its ear for the words that go unspoken,
only then setting to work,
preparing to speak volumes.