You Were the One

cherry pink
compacted losses
pretty feathers
you were the one
i completely screwed over
so softly i barely knew it
a shadow of a move
tracing backward
showered in shame
and emerged under the table
of a dog’s breakfast.

Perpetual Hearts (Inspired by Tony Hoagland’s poem “Migration”)

My writing coach sent me three poems in the mail a few weeks ago. She sent me this awesome package, with a letter, and print outs of four of my poems with handwritten feedback on them. She also introduced me to Tony Hoagland – amazing poet. Funny, piercing, uplifting writing. She asked me to venture into the same exercise of using another writer’s poem as a launch pad for something new for you. I didn’t use much of the poem for this piece – just one line – and it is the very first line in this piece: “The future ours for awhile to hold, with its heaviness -”

The future ours for awhile to hold, with its heaviness –
it’s endless projections
of who I am now
mapped onto a nameless terrain
with all my little hopes
contained in perfect glass structures
warming in the light
of my perpetual heart’s desires.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a miracle happening
in my home town
of smoke stacks and union workers
border crossings and strip bars –
a humble statue of the blessed virgin mary
sits on an average front lawn
in an average neighborhood
weeping at night
with oily tears,
and although she is smiling in daytime
people are talking
about her sadness
her weathered love;
people are praying and praying
at her feet, on the front lawn
a smokey stack on the horizon
feeling touched, being seen
by a presence wished for so mightily
that they too are weeping
and looking, loving and opening.

I don’t believe that Mary
has leaky tear ducks of canola oil,
but I think I do believe
that this is beautiful
this reaching and yearning
an exposed need so raw
human nature so willing;
I want to be there too
standing side by side
vibrating with the miraculous notion
of believing in a miracle.

~~~~~~~~~now Hoagland’s “Migration”


This year Marie drives back and forth
from the hospital room of her dying friend
to the office of the adoption agency.

I bet sometimes she doesn’t know
What threshold she is waiting at—

the hand of her sick friend, hot with fever;
the theoretical baby just a lot of paperwork so far.

But next year she might be standing by a grave,
wearing black with a splash of
banana vomit on it,

the little girl just starting to say Sesame Street
and Cappuccino latte grand Mommy.
The future ours for a while to hold, with its heaviness—

and hope moving from one location to another
like the holy ghost that it is.

~ Tony Hoagland

As Close (and Closer): An Exercise in (Re)Writing

So, I’m working with a wonderful woman, who is my “writing coach”. Her name is Chris Kay Fraser, and here is her website: I write stuff, we meet, or I email her pieces, and sometimes I meet with her and a friend of mine for some group writing. The process has just begun. Sometimes it’s hard to fit writing into my life in a more disciplined manner, as opposed to it just bubbling out of me at spontaneous moments. So it’s really good to be challenged in this way. I also have some goals and desires around how I’d like to see my writing evolve. I’d like my writing to weave more real-deal life stuff into it – as opposed to a more abstract-emotion-based approach….which is easy for me to write, but not always the easiest thing for others to connect with. I’m also just getting a bit bored with my style and want to push myself more creatively. And, I’d also love to write an “Urban Yarn”. But I’m not entirely sure what that is yet exactly. Hopefully Chris can help me with that too.

Anyway…one of the exercises she’s given me is this:

“I want to introduce the idea of the poem “response”. I read this great quote by Freud the other day, something like: ‘When inspiration doesn’t come to me, I go half way to meet it.’ This is how I think of a poem response. It’s a way of bringing our work towards us, so we aren’t starting it alone.

How do you respond to a poem? There a are a million ways, and since you’re such creative and amazing souls, I’m not going to make it too formulaic. Here are some ideas:

~ Take the title
~ Take the first and last line
~ Take the mood of it. The tone. Imitate it.
~ Write a poem on the same topic
~ Write back to the writer — your response to their images/opinions/message
~ Keep writing the poem, as if it didn’t finish where it finished.

… basically, just ask yourself, “What works for me here?” and work from there. Let the poem bring your inspiration half-way.”

ok! so, I took a poem she gave me called “As Close”, by Maggie Anderson, and worked with it. I included my poem first, and then Maggie’s is after that. I love this piece of writing. It brought me to tears.

As Close and Closer

I am alive in October,
and because of the leaves
I am reminded of fractals woven
into every single moment
between you and I,
this room and Markham St.

I know you’ve been let down
and pinched and pulled
by lovers and fathers
that have wrapped you up
into their storms
leaving you hopeless and cynical
recoiling from a gentle hand.

I see you there across the room
your face lined with grimace
holding back tears
and I can’t help but feel hurt
by what you said to me
even though I know
it was your inside-out way
of confessing
how fragile you are,
like wet webs on weeds
in early morning fog.

I have attached my eyes onto you, stranger –
I left that night so badly wanting
to take you aside and whisper:
“I don’t want anyone I’ve ever loved
to leave me now –
they helped me shine from the inside
with their bright lights.”

And if we begin to cry
I want us to know
it’s because of the way
our shirt sleeves brush against
our own arms
and each other’s.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~now, the real deal:

As Close

I could stay awake for years driving the nighttime
streets of this West Virginia city in a rusted VW
that doesn’t belong to me. I am alive in October, ready
to record the rise in the wind. It’s because of the leaves.
How they shine from the inside with that bright light.
How they shift their colors from hour to hour, how they
traipse around the bends of the Kanawha like scrip
pulsing down to the coal towns. I don’t want anyone
I’ve ever loved to leave me now. I want all my friends
and old lovers and the children I know to stand beside me
and push their heals with mine into the damp ground
if it rains. I want us all to stand together in our red boots
in the early morning fog, watching the wet webs on the weeds
and attaching our eyes to their fragility.
If we begin to cry, I want us to know it’s because of the way
our shirt sleeves brush against our own arms and each other’s,
as close as the coming snow will be to the stark trees
and the black branches it will pack up into.

~ Maggie Anderson