Thursday, April 26, 2012

Elegy for a Prom

Elegy for a Prom

In hindsight, it was the peach
schnapps that was the final
spike in the coffin
where my prom
lay rotting. I didn’t see
it, but I felt it, dread
spreading like pitch
in my belly, as KC cracked
the fifth open, swigging
the sweet syrup, sucking
& sucking & sucking
it down until reminded
that the schnapps
was for the whole party.

I smothered my stomach’s
complaints with hope
because that’s all I had left.

You see, KC was a dream—
just this hardcore Shirley
Temple, all whirls of gold
curls & dimply smiles wrapped
in a black Metallica tee.

I was just some geek,
a short one at that.
I lie. I was the King
of Geeks, sovereign
of my very own nerd herd,
capable of fitting in
where my subjects
never dared:

We were lunch friends,
me & KC, bonding over
math & metal,
but when I dared myself
to ask her, I knew
she would say no.

Yes was worse.
The pressure
for the perfect
prom, for a night
full of stars & hands
& tongues &...
well, let’s just say
I was a Vesuvius pimple,
ready to pop pus
all over poor Pompeii.

Perfect’s impossible,
but as I watched her glide
down the stairs drowning
in scarlet, as I nervously tied
the corsage about
her wrist while her parents
snapped pictures,
I allowed myself to believe.

& that’s where perfect died.

Already running late,
my broken stepfather,
with his broken English
got lost, had to stop
for directions
at a station full
of broken white trash
fools for whom
it was more important
to harass & laugh
at the foreign
guy than help.

We finally arrived, are rushed
to have the photographer snap
our pic. Starving, KC & I
explore the buffet, full
of what began life as cold
salads, now picked
over & discolored
with shrimp that were starting
to smell. We ate rice.

Band sadly won out
over DJ, & we were tortured
with songs that my mother
would have danced to
at her prom. We did dance
to one: Celebrate
good times, come on.
But you know how hard
it is to celebrate misery.

Frodo saved us.
Just as KC & I
were commiserating
with our eyes, trying
to find a way out,
Frodo approached
to let us know he & Sammi
were leaving for the Senior
Party, inviting us along.

Here was my last chance.
I ran to the payphone,
called my mother
& lied. A group
of us were heading
to the harbor to find
real food & hang out.
Mother would meet us
at midnight at the Chi-Chi’s
that was once on the corner
of Lombard & Market.

As KC & I slid
into the backseat
of Frodo’s Mustang
I imagined sliding
my hands under
yards of scarlet satin
in some secret, silent
corner somewhere...
& then I watched KC
guzzle a third
of a fifth of peach

We split
at the party. That
was fine, I didn’t
want to blow yet
another shot
due to overbearing
clinginess, a common

I was sipping
beer in the basement,
sharing too many
good times
& goodbyes
when I realized
I’d lost
track of time.

Midnight was coming—
Pumpkin Time—
I scurried, hurrying
to call a cab & find...
Where the fuck is KC?
Someone thinks they saw
her upstairs, maybe
one of the bedrooms?
I raced up, skipping
steps, knocking
on the first door
I find, opening
just in time to see
KC being zipped up
by the star
of the baseball team.
I apologized & closed
the door.

It dawned on me,
sulking back
KC had hit her homer,
I was the one
who’d struck out.

The cab ride
should have been full
of nothing but silence,
space for me to seeth.
I couldn’t even have that!
She was nauseous.
Was it the liquor or the guilt?
I didn’t care. I just begged
her to hold it in
until we got down
town. I didn’t want
to take the chance
that my mother
would beat us
there and beat me
in front of KC.

KC rolled out
of the cab
on the corner
of Lombard &
Market, sprinting
to the hedges
wrapped around Chi-Chi’s.
I paid the driver
& got to KC
in time to rub
her back as she spewed
forth a toxic blend
of rice & peach schnapps.
KC was wiping her mouth
as my mother pulled
around the corner,

“What’s wrong with her?”
mother asked
about the girl moaning
in her backseat.

“Remember the shrimp
I told you smelled bad?
Apparently, it was.”

I led the moaning, groaning
KC to her door. Before
I could finish knocking,
KC’s pulling away,
rushing for the gutter,
spilling her guts, again.

I’d had enough.

I jumped into the car,
yelling at my mom
to go.

“Is KC going to be

“She’ll be fine,”
I said, “Go, just go!”
There was nothing
left to do but go
home, go fetal, go mourn
the death of prom
& hope.

Monday, April 16, 2012

REALLY Old Poetry

The following poems are two of my oldest, written when I was in my very early 20s, before I took my first college level writing course. Laugh at me if you want, but be kind. Besides, vampires are still vogue, right?

I'd love to be a vampire
& entice you with my grace,
seduce you with my bedroom eyes,
take you in my dark embrace,

Then we could both be vampires
& watch eternities unfold,
witness history come & go,
never growing old.

We'd be creatures of the dark,
free of mortal complications,
free to love a million years,
melting in with each new generation.

The seven wonders of the world
would exist solely for us to admire;
we'd watch them crumble to the earth;
we'd create new wonders to our desire.

I'd show you the land;
you'd show me the sea,
yet our greatest pleasure
would lie 'tween each others knees.

We would live together,
                  run together,
                  love together,
                  hunt together.

Until at a time of our choosing,
once we knew we could no longer be,
You & I would walk hand in hand into the fire,
to join the ashes of eternity.

Under the Whatever Tree

¿Strolling? Yeah, strolling:
Strolling, with an adolescent giddiness
I haven't felt since my days of scholarly pursuit,
(Yeah, right! More like my pursuit of a good time.)
strolling, with her strolling next to me,
& I'm a clumsy little schoolboy again
wanting, trying to hold her hand;
but I don't, not sure if I should,
not sure she wants me to,
not sure she wants me.

So I settle for sly touches
disguised as clumsy little bumps,
& we stroll & bump & sip cheap tequila
trying not to make funny faces,
(¡God that shit tastes terrible!)
until we feel all good & tingly,
& we stroll under a sycamore
(or whatever, I don't know trees)
to relax on a bed of grass & headlines.

Frolic? ¡Yeah, Frolic!
We frolicked just a little bit,
under the Whatever Tree,
pinching, prying, tickle-poking,
a bit of laughter, a bit of joking,
having fun enjoying the bit of numbness
between our ears.
We got each other sticky sweet,
(Or she got me, I can't speak for her)
Until our eyes catch,
(kinda like what always happens in soaps & chick flicks, you know?),
& of course, we kissed,
we kissed,
& we kissed
under the Whatever Tree;
& of course I wanted more,
but it wasn't my place to ask,
& I didn't.

I just start strolling, again
all the way to the subway;
she watches me leave,
leaves me wanting more.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to Read This Poem

Another from the hoard! This one's actually one of my favorites from my UB years.

How to Read This Poem

Get completely naked.

Fill your tub
with water, as hot
as you can handle
it (foams & oils
are optional).

Get in, slowly,
at a time,
yourself down
until you are
entirely immersed,
letting the heat
envelop your body.

Fill your lungs
with a deep, slow
breath. Hold it
for a second,
& ease it out.

Close your eyes.

Let this page
fall away.

Feel the touch
of a lover's finger
along the bridge
of your nose.

Smell the scent
given off
by the tears
of a crying rose.

Let your tongue roll
around candy-colored
rocks flavored

Listen to
Caruso's voice,
with falsetto.

Watch the love
against the walls
of an infant's eyes.

in the feel
of velvet drawn
between your thighs.

some honey
to a bee.

Watch Fellini
on your knee.

a lemming
how to read.

a river
from a seed.

a mansion
with a hair.

a mango
from the air.

not to let your skin


Repeat as necessary.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lost & Found Poetry, Day Three

Okay, two more from The Hoard: These are from a later semester at UB, when I was still either too egotistical, or too lazy to edit my poems. Sorry, Kendra! Anyway, I'm editing them as I go.

Five O'clock Shadows

Mid shave
I notice the small
grey patch
on my head.

I think about growing
old. I wonder,
will I age like the famous
latino men of old—Ricardo
Montalban, Lorenzo Lamas, Omar
Sharif, who isn't latino, but looks
good enough to be?

Then I realize the patch
is the same size it has been
for years: seven wiry silver
strands, marching to a make-
believe beat, refusing to bow

& I think, how typical;
I start things & never finish—
all the schools, novels, scripts, sitcom
concepts, friendships, meals,
lovers, careers, religions—
Start strong, excited,
all four feet: fleet,
until the thrill bays
like a broken breeze...

Well, maybe, I think,
When I finish going grey,
I'll finish all the other things...
Maybe going grey is the only
thing I'll ever finish.

I wipe the blood
from my face,
shame exuding
in tiny red polka
dots, & walk away
tired of mirrors
for today.

smacking birdies from the foul line 
in the bed that eats tired men

It's Saturday afternoon at the edge
of the world, I'm dreaming
of basketballs: there's a game
on the tube. I spread
my eyes to catch
the scorein my dream
there is no score
but my eyes are not done
sleeping. It's sixty degrees
outside, the heat
strokes a dusty patch
of white across my chest,
& I tell myself, "You should be out

Myself rolls over to tell I,
"Shut the hell up!"
I'm mad at myself, but I have
to sympathize
I've worked long weeks before
with the desire to abandon
my post
fought off futility

Did I
suck enough?

Sleep becomes me
I become sleep

It's Saturday afternoon at the edge
of the world Tiger's shot
an eagle off the tee
There are things I want
to do. 

I only had one
meal, a taco: cold & soggy
before I took the first 
bite—& frustration
didn't let me finish.
Drink—my tongue
is dry, fills my mouth,
a bloated beaver whose dam
is bigger than the river.
Finish—I promised
I would clean the room,
install the light,
fix the hard
drive, empty
the dishwasher,
lick the toilet
until it shined.
Write—I have to make
it sound like I really did read
The Odyssey in three to five
pages, & I have to find the poem
in my depths. But the game
in my head is so thrilling:

It's tied
in overtime
sudden death
only a few seconds
left on the clock
everyone has the ball
& there's absolutely
no pressure
to succeed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

These Lips (Both Versions)

Here's another from the "archives." The original was written in 1994 as an homage, of sorts, inspired by Lucille Clifton's Homage to My Hips. The "sequel" was part of an assignment to write a form poem. I don't really enjoy writing form poems. I took my lip poem and created a rhyme scheme for it.

These Lips

O, how I hated these lips,
these obese pieces of meat
that hang under my nose:
thick bits of pork fat

These lips stopped me
from talking to girls
because I knew
they secretly laughed
at these lips

I did all I could
to hide them,
posed in front of the mirror
for hours, sucking
them over my teeth,
looking like some amateur
Humphrey Bogart

I dreamt of the day
my face would sprout hair,
some down, at least,
to camouflage their unsightly mass

Until I found someone
who loved these lips
& licked these lips
& sang to their lusciousness

Now, these lips are lover's lips:
bearers of deep, titillating kisses
to which even the most resistant
must succumb

These lips are liquid lips,
flowing swiftly, clearly
over every hill & valley
in their wake

These lips are liquor,
take a sip

These Lips (a sequel)

O, how 
I hated these lips
These hulking beef tips
Thick port fat strips
big pink buffalo chips

I thought, "These are some god's slips
or some wicked cantrips
'cause I surely could eclipse
half the world with these lips."

Then a goddess worshiped
the breadth of these lips
her tongue forming ellipses
her mouth taking sips

Now these redeemed lips
are proud sailing ships
taking extended trips
from head to hips
bringing pleasure
in long,


Yeah, so on World Poetry Day, nearly a month ago,  (March 21, to be exact) I posted a link to my favorite poem about being a poet, Constantly Risking Absurdity by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I also promised to post one of my own poems, an exercise from my UB days where we were supposed to imitate a poem by a Master we liked. It seemed like the natural thing to do considering that my poem was directly inspired by Ferlinghetti's, except for one little thing: I couldn't find it.

It then became perfectly apparent that the time had finally come to stop putting it off. The time had come to A): Help Val free our basement from being held hostage by years of stuff long abandoned by ex-roommates/boarders/squatters, etc. that kept perfectly usable space looking like a bad episode of Hoarders; and B): find all my writing and organize it well enough so that I can easily access it and, eventually, transfer it all into electronic form so that I might one day become... wait for it... PAPER FREE!!!

Plus, in my attempt to be a more organized, effective writer I've put together (with Val's helpshe's the closest I have to a personal assistant!) a spreadsheet with contests, grants, etc., know, all that stuff I should be submitting for if I want my writing to start making me money. Submitting enough poetry for a manuscript was just something I've never been organized enough to do, until now.

Anyhow, now that I finally know where everything is, generally, you may not have to wait three weeks before I post an old poem I promise you. Hurrah!?

Yeah, okay... Without further ado, here's the poem I wish I'd found back then. The formatting's WAY off. Thanks Blogger! I would say better late than never, but I'm not sure it's even that good. Hey, at least it's still in time for National Poetry Month, right?

After Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s [CONSTANTLY RISKING ABSURDITY]

Like a diamond trapped in lode
the poem resides
deep within
the mountain of our hearts

Always mining
we poets are compelled
to dig them out
lest they erupt:
the grieving
for a mother’s death
the tasting
of a lover’s breath

& perpetually we polish them

from raw emotion
we are left
with nothing
but the gem
we cannot keep
but feel compelled to give
to the first person
willing & able

to take it