this poem is not about you, but that’s up to you

I start off every poem by changing
the font to Hoefler. Makes me feel
a bit more … dignified …
as though I have earned my right to say
dear world I am a confessional poet
when I never really do fess up
and do I really write any poetry

and this too is another attempt.
I want you to imagine the ellipses
as pauses in my typing. Maybe
you could picture this:
I’m … cracking a knuckle …
or two… staring out the window.
Which knuckle is up to you.
Which window too …

Got it? Great. Video by text.

Anyway …
I wanted to tell you that I love you.
Wasn’t any big secret really.
Let’s just say … I would
let you decide
what paint we’d use …
or which leg to cut first if I were caught in a bear trap.
at the height of my fever
I imagined you down at the pound
picking out a stray mutt
and robbing me of part of my affection…

And in another breath I want to tell you I don’t.
Maybe this is the world’s ugliest dog.
Maybe you cut both legs and I die of blood loss.
Maybe this is desperation
pulling … me by the … wrist
like I’m a dart. Is this love?
Most of my life I imagined it
as the inertia of fucking
spilling over into society
because it sure never happened to me now did it homeboy
and maybe it’s a feedback loop
of negative energy … and I’m wrestling
myself in a cage match … I’m working
myself into a chokehold …
… if I were to see you tomorrow
I would have no idea what to say.

my tongue is clumsy and utterly reprehensible

my tongue trips over teeth,

mashes vowels into consonant,

meaning trite and bright yellow

like a hazard sign. it struggles

to ease past past posts, a fat

cumbersome man stuck in his

own doorway. my tongue is the

elephant, stuck in a room made

of ivory, yellowed and polished,

scared to make a single sound.

unable to make a single move.

As You Roamed The Earth, You Felt The Drying Skin of Age Itself

it is the waking that is the hardest.
the first step in sleep deprivation:
you learn you miss dreaming
of holes, the spaces between lines,

the gap between the train and platform.
you dream of ways in which to die,
how the train brushes against your feet,
the space just big enough for your thigh.

there are other gaps you remember:
misspelled gpas, an empty desk
in class. visions of your friends,
long gone and passed, moss-grown,
flowers atop: a forlorn crown.
their faces eating the light.

in chasing the gap you lose yourself
in the coming and going, in finding
the joy of godless verse, the sound
when you spread her legs, or some
other sex line that marks you adult,
because penetration is the space
between childhood and modernity,
the answer to your wet dreams.

you tell that to your mother, spit
in her mouth, regurgitate the soap.
still dripping from last night, your
eyes clouded with the ocean.
before you leave, look in her eyes.
they are the ending credits of a film.
they are the same sea, the same salt.
you, the end of pages in a book.
you, the closed off dog-ear.

because you never hear of
hungry children, you
eat yourself whole, give in
to desire, the single moment
when your teeth eat into your lips
when your mouth burrows into your tongue.

this dream that eats away at your tail.

all this, to uncover
the space which your voice hides in:
the gap behind the kitchen cabinet.
that unknown place it goes
when you can’t find it, unwilling
to be coaxed out, like the last drop of wine
like a petulant child, forever, forever.

IN THIS STORY, YOU SAYING HOW YOU FEEL “ALL RIGHT” IS NOT A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

In this dream, you shed your skin
and cast away your leather wings;
from your pockets, spill these things –
antiplatelet medicines,

Clopidogrel, Aspirin.
Warfarin, for battles within.
In another, I hold your chin
and nothing else. Come, unspin

this long dream of safety pins
and other stories, wherein
the might of the might-have-been
becomes the force that underpins

the breath of your life worn thin.
In my dream: we swap our skins
you and I, identical twins,
draped in the light of Kuan Yin,

lost in the mist of has-beens
and has-nots, the lines blurring
like your life – now, a tailspin.
I memorise your next-of-kin,

my final act of discipline.
In this dream, we both begin
realizing: that being
alive’s the holiest sin –

prisoners, of human skin.

Spwm day 14

whose seat, whose table

I.

I was the first, one of the first. But you know
first one’s a fool. Who’s gonna get in line?
First one to go, first one to fight the way.
We lived in the throat of death every day.

Where you’re criminal because of who you are.
“These people ain’t gonna do nothing for us.
You need to start your own army,” he said.
There we bowed our heads. Broke our bread

that night. We shook our hands, then conquer
and divided what used to be home. Hit ‘em
while they watched. I’m tired of explaining,
‘where’d your love go?’ Man, this shit is draining.

This concrete don’t have any love for us,
for nothing, whatever it’s worth. Nothing.
That was my childhood. I was angry for years.
Angry, very angry…

II.

They say you got the right to be mad
but you gotta let it go. Look what remains:
pour your ashes where they claimed my name.
Where I changed. But ‘a pity if I stayed the same?’
That’s my battle cry. Gotta hit ‘em when they watch.
But what you gonna do when they saw all your moves
and practiced ‘em daily? Protect your neck, or give
invitations? People, sitting around pointing fingers.
I tried to drink it away, put one in the air like
cranes in the sky. But I bet on it, you’ll all
still be here when the lights come out,
still looking for temporary nothings.
Still looking for nothing.
They don’t understand
you got the right to be mad.
But when you carry it alone, you find it
only getting in the way. You gotta let it go.
Fall in your ways. Let it crumble. Dance it away.
So I took that anger and put it into my music, hoping
my son will bang this song so loud that he almost makes
his walls fall down, cause momma wants to make him proud –
oh, to be us, facing the world.

III.

The streets say you’re a king;
the world says you’re a failure
and your mother is a queen.
But you know that a king is only a man
with flesh and bones: he bleeds just like you do.
Now, we come here as slaves,
but we going out as royalty, knowing
these people done paved they way.
He asked, “Where does that leave you?
Where’s the peace? Do you belong?”
I said, “in you, in you.” My pride:
don’t touch it. The glory’s all mine.


spwm18 day 2

Solange is the younger sister of Beyonce. She used to be a backup dancer for Destiny’s Child. Even though she is also an accomplished singer, not enough people knew or talked about her until very recently.

This whole poem is comprised of nothing but lines taken ad-verbatim from her album, “A Seat at the Table”. I rearranged them to capture the main themes of the album plus present a narrative. I really loved this album and I hope that if you didn’t like my poem, you’d still give the album a chance.

the lake of second beginnings

first, to visit, you have to be lost. second,
there will be no guide, so open your eyes.
the lake before you is just a diversion.
watch out for the lonely boat, beating
itself against the shore. check below
the seat. there, you shall find an oar and
or a map. it doesn’t matter. row through
the tributaries, the ebbing crowds of silt.
don’t stop to rest. that’s how they get you.
beneath, you feel presences stalk you:
rusalkas that remind you of other yous;
the selkie of questions that end with you.
keep rowing. by now you’ve lost the map,
but your arms know where to go, like you
were always meant to go there. soon you
see it: that mirror of the moon, single plain
of glass. arms flail below, unseen weeds.
you shatter the surface with your oars.
they sink without a trace. turn around.
the path you’ve taken is gone, too. you
don’t need those anymore. look around you.
this is the place where all spilled spirits go.
dive in, into the lake of your mother’s womb.
where the only way the world could hurt would
simply be to be: nothing more, nothing less.


singpowrimo 2018 day 1 – the h2o prompt