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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.

A and W

Patty’s Charcoal Drive-In

 

First job. In tight black shorts
and a white bowling shirt, red lipstick
and bouncing ponytail, I present
each overflowing tray as if it were a banquet.
I’m sixteen and college-bound;
this job’s temporary as the summer sun,
but right now it’s the boundaries of my life.
After the first few nights of mixed orders
and missing cars, the work goes easily.
I take out the silver trays and hook them to the windows,
inhale the mingled smells of seared meat patties,
salty ketchup, rich sweet malteds.
The lure of grease drifts through the thick night air.
And it’s always summer at Patty’s Charcoal Drive-In—
carloads of blonde-and-tan girls
pull up next to red convertibles,
boys in black tee shirts and slick hair.
Everyone knows what they want.
And I wait on them, hoping for tips,
loose pieces of silver
flung carelessly as the stars.
Doo-wop music streams from the jukebox,
and each night repeats itself,
faithful as a steady date.
Towards 10 p.m., traffic dwindles.
We police the lot, pick up wrappers.
The dark pours down, sticky as Coke,
but the light from the kitchen
gleams like a beacon.
A breeze comes up, chasing papers
in the far corners of the darkened lot,
as if suddenly a cold wind had started to blow
straight at me from the future—
I read that in a Doris Lessing book—
but right now, purse fat with tips,
the moon sitting like a cheeseburger
on a flat black grill, this is enough.
Your order please.

Barbara Crooker

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Debris

This by William Brewer. The last two lines are perhaps the best of all –

 

Storms are generous.
Something so easy to surrender to,                                                                         sitting by the window,
and then you step out into the garden you were so bored of,
so bored of you hated it,
but now it needs you.

 

                                Twang of the rake’s metal tines biting at the dirt.
You destroy a little camp of mushrooms,
pull leaves into a pile,
are struck with wonder
when there rolls out
a little bird’s nest—
the garden’s brain.

 

                                       You want to hide in it.
Twigs, mud, spit, and woven in:
a magenta strip of Mylar balloon that glints when turned to the sun,
a sway of color you’ve seen before.

 

                                     You were a boy.
You told your grandfather you spotted a snake in the yard                               between the buckeyes.
He revved his weed whacker,
walked over,
conjured a rose mist from the grass
that swelled in the breeze, swirled together, grew dark,
shifting through fans of sun,
magenta, then plum, blush,                                                                                                                                     gone.

 

Smell of exhaust. Tannins of iced tea
you drank together on the porch later,
his spiked with Wild Turkey,
the tumbler resting on  his thigh,
the ice-sweat running off, smearing the dried snake juice,
pooling in a divot of scar tissue.

                 A souvenir, he called it,
from the winter spent sleeping in a hole in the ground in a Belgian              wood,
listening for German voices to start singing
so he knew he could sleep.

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“My life was a gift that I wanted to return.”

She doesn’t combat topics like, ‘My daughter got into Yale’ with, ‘Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs.’

A “good day” means such widely different things for everyone, doesn’t it? Never more clearly rendered than in this poem. Within it I found such relatable stark truths about the state of depression, about its toll, that I haven’t read in recent memory. Well done, Kait.

 

A Good Day

Kait Rokowski

Yesterday, I spent 60 dollars on groceries,
took the bus home,
carried both bags with two good arms back to my studio apartment
and cooked myself dinner.
You and I may have different definitions of a good day.
This week, I paid my rent and my credit card bill,
worked 60 hours between my two jobs,
only saw the sun on my cigarette breaks
and slept like a rock.
Flossed in the morning,
locked my door,
and remembered to buy eggs.
My mother is proud of me.
It is not the kind of pride she brags about at the golf course.
She doesn’t combat topics like, ”My daughter got into Yale”
with, ”Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs”
But she is proud.
See, she remembers what came before this.
The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,
how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.
She thought each phone call from an unknown number was the notice of my suicide.
These were the bad days.
My life was a gift that I wanted to return.
My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.
Depression, is a good lover.
So attentive; has this innate way of making everything about you.
And it is easy to forget that your bedroom is not the world,
That the dark shadows your pain casts is not mood-lighting.
It is easier to stay in this abusive relationship than fix the problems it has created.
Today, I slept in until 10,
cleaned every dish I own,
fought with the bank,
took care of paperwork.
You and I might have different definitions of adulthood.
I don’t work for salary, I didn’t graduate from college,
but I don’t speak for others anymore,
and I don’t regret anything I can’t genuinely apologize for.
And my mother is proud of me.
I burned down a house of depression,
I painted over murals of greyscale,
and it was hard to rewrite my life into one I wanted to live
But today, I want to live.
I didn’t salivate over sharp knives,
or envy the boy who tossed himself off the Brooklyn bridge.
I just cleaned my bathroom,
did the laundry,
called my brother.
Told him, “it was a good day.”

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Bread Crumbs

Writers are natural allies.

We patrol the same landscape.

We know the three AM grope for the right word.

 

We try not to wake anyone.

We stare at a comma. Just stare.

We wrestle with line breaks.

Semi-colons mystify us all.

 

There is fascination in miniscule detail.

There is a perfect title. A perfect modifier.

If only we can find it.

 

Our thesauruses are well thumbed.

We concern ourselves with cadence, clauses.

Care deeply about the present perfect tense

versus the past perfect.

 

We are entranced by detail, minutia.

We know the weight it must carry.

The girl’s hair down, or should it be a braid?

Her shoes – navy blue. Or better, yes -

Royal blue.

Was it raining or threatening rain.

Did she say the word goodbye or whisper it after.

Was the door left ajar on purpose.

 

Out of all this steely-eyed focus

Nothing is assured.

Recognition, hard won.

What do writers, poets, actually do?

Rebuke in the tone.

 

We creep into bed in the wee hours

Still grappling with the last line.

Wondering if we came even close.

 

But on those solitary singular nights

When we may get it right

We dare to join the pantheon before us

Who persisted in the dim light

For what so often seems out of reach,

Leaving bread crumbs behind for others

Should they find themselves

Suddenly

Astonishingly

Lost.

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The Best New Year’s News!

 

Picture me smiling.  I awoke this morning, the first of the New Year, to discover I had won the Goodreads.com January 2017 Poetry Contest with my poem The Things I Learned as a Bartender.

My success here encourages me to dive even deeper in my writing and strive to uncover, to examine, the seemingly insignificant details in our lives so often overlooked that help us understand ourselves –  and one another.

My fellow finalists are all gifted artists: I am proud to be among them.

Thank you to the Goodreads judges and to everyone who took the time to participate.

Let’s make 2017 amazing.  Are you in?

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I am a Goodreads finalist!

I am over the moon to learn that I’m a finalist in the Goodreads.com January 2016 Poetry Contest with my recent poem The Things I Learned as a Bartender. Proud to be in such supremely gifted company.

Read all the contenders here: https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/147616-goodreads-january-2017-newsletter-top-finalists-poems—-please-sele?utm_medium=email&utm_source=copypastepoll

 

SW06

The Cost

Yes, painful, so very often
to have fewer filters than most.
To be wide awake to the hurt in the world.
I look across at the driver next to me at the stop light
and wonder if he is loved.
It is involuntary. Born in some. Inescapable.
Manifest.
This breathing in the pain of others. Then carrying it.
Never failing to notice the one lonely person in the room,
the resigned among us.
Drawn to what is broken, all that needs tending.
Powerless to look away.
And always more to see.

But I pay the cost.
Would pay it twice in this life of mine
for what it gives in return,
this unseen affliction.

See me here.
Still standing,
bearing scars under my clothes,
yet laughter rises easily in me.
Still able to take a child’s delight
in an unexpected gift,
a fresh snowfall,
a baby returning my smile.

See me here.
I am still standing.
And so terribly vulnerable to joy.