On Being Okay With Dying

The steps for writing a poem are as follows:

1.  Don’t write a poem for a year or so, only use previously written poems when people ask you for one, and wallow for that year in your inability to write anything quality.  Feel crushed.  Consider becoming a stripper to pay the bills. Buy only lettuce to try to channel and bask in that “starving artist” mentality.  Give it up cuz lettuce sucks and eat an entire pizza.  Feel briefly and primally satisfied.

2.  Stay up way too late one night so your brain is a mess of emotions and words and stanzas.  Read Dickens.  Turn out the light and listen to your bird make his way over to his perch in the darkness.

3.  The inspiration comes: it’s often just one line that just makes you want to take your muse by the shoulders and whisper sweetly

you are brilliant you are

 

(because apparently I can’t get through a post without including a Doctor Who gif)

4.  Your heart rate increases dramatically.  Gotta get the adrenaline going in order to make the trek across your room to notebook and pencil.  Much to the annoyance of your bird, you turn on the lamp again.

5.  Then you write.  It’s like how whittlers say the shape of whatever they’re carving is already in the wood, and they’re just coaxing it out–in writing a poem, you want to feel around in the corners for every scrap of imagery and line that’s supposed to be a part of it (I’m very spiritual about this okay) and make sure it all gets there somewhere.

Usually at this stage my mind is 90 miles ahead of my hand and sometimes words get combined or even whole stanzas.  Afterward I have to go back and disentangle them.  The important thing is just getting everything down.

6.  Stay up for another hour or so, heart still racing, unable to sleep because you’ve penned the Great American poem,  you feel it, and won’t your mother be so proud?  (It’s midnight now so you can’t rush to her and brandish it under her nose.)

It’s always much worse when you wake up, but, eh, it’s something.

Without further ado, I guess: the poem I wrote last night.

***************************************************************

On Being Okay With Dying

Maybe, someday, kids everywhere are gonna have to memorize your name

cramming first and last, middle initial, basic life stats

down their throats the night before History finals.

 

Maybe, someday, you’ll be a scorch mark in a family ledger

that obscure branch of the tree your nieces can’t quite remember

because, as far as they can recall,

it bore no fruit.

 

Maybe you’ll crawl into bed with someone some night

and to them your smile will taste like lemonade spritzers, watermelon sangria

and your laugh is like orchard workers tossing apples to each other from the tops of ladders

The way you move to turn off the lamp is peach brush strokes on a gray canvas.

 

Maybe you’ll start spending too much time in cemeteries

swaddling yourself in black and buttons and a scarf thrown over your mouth

walking with the crows and mostly trying to avoid one grave in particular

because you know how you’ll scuff your toe along the empty plot next to it, thinking,

Mine.

And who’s to stop you digging into it now,

folding earth around you like the cloak of a magician

performing his final disappearing act?

 

Instead you waltz, alone

slowly and gimpily

the way they never quite managed to teach you.

You can see your breath suspended in the chill

and you start to laugh

because you’re quite literally dancing on your own grave

and then you stop because you wonder if it’ll still be funny

down on the receiving end.

 

Maybe, someday, they’ll dig up your diaries

and you’ll be a relic, and a legend

a little girl in a checkered dress

imagined in sepia,

scented like yellowing old books and dust and sunbeams in an abandoned house.

Not watermelon sangria.

 

Maybe they’ll dress like you and your friends

at a theme dance at a middle school.

 

Maybe you’ll do extraordinary things with your life.

 

Maybe you won’t.

 

Maybe you’ll go down in textbooks.

 

Maybe you’ll go down quietly in the obituary section of your town newspaper,

circulation 800,

like a late-summer peach no one notices shuddering and bumping to the ground.

 

Maybe someone catches you before you bruise;

maybe something comes along a few days later

and leaves

with sticky whiskers and paws.

**********************************************

So…that’s all, folks.  As always, things are ©The Girl in the Orange, BUT if you luuurve (or hate?) things then any feedback or sharing (via reblogging, Twitter, Tumblr, email, shouting from the rooftop of your school gymnasium, etc) is GREATLY appreciated.  I’m pretty serious about this writing thang; every bit of constructive criticism/exposure helps.  Happy Sunday! 🙂

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Dichromate

i once fell in love with a colorblind boy
who couldn’t distinguish between red and orange

DSCN1880
for this colorblind boy i once felt so sorry
he was missing out on such vibrancy
and then i realized the invalid was me
everyone can see something someone else
can’t see

such vibrancy

just remember this next time you might
just
break
and he’ll rock you so close to try to soften the ache
he’ll raise you on a throne; of his world, you’ll be king
don’t try to understand what you’re missing
i know as i watch you struggle
to see
to be
to free
finally relax and just breathe
it’s there.  believe me.

DSCN1703

Positive Poetry Project Entry #7

Photo prompt: Write a poem or story inspired by the scenario in this photograph.

Photograph by NASA. Reproduced from Wikimedia Commons.

in science we learn that humans are made of

stardust

which sounds so

magical

fantastic

surreal

that it somehow doesn’t seem pertinent

after a time

once childhood naivety has worn away

and bright eyes become

drooping

weary

 

we say we are doomed as a species

“look at what we’ve done to this planet”

and everything has a ring of truth

but maybe that is all it will ever be

because i look at those seams, veins, capillaries of

stardust

threaded across this place

dreamed by radicals,

fabricated by engineers

photographed by

space-men

and i think that

if we have destroyed this planet

we have surely done so in the most beautiful way

like euthanasia

the human death

the humane death

 

but

are smatterings of

stardust

not so

alive?

 

 

 

Okay, as a little disclaimer about this one–if you choose to read it a certain way (because there is often more than one interpretation of a poem), it brings up some opinions which are not necessarily my own, namely about climate change, which is not THE most controversial issue out there, but is still pretty heated (no pun intended) among some people. I really try to keep this blog as non-political as possible, because I believe that there isn’t a single issue out there that’s completely black-and-white and I respect all viewpoints one may take.  So, no judging here.  Regardless of personal opinions, that’s a beautiful photo and a lot of what humanity has done is really, strikingly beautiful.

This poem is also not very positive, I’m afraid.  I think I piqued with Entry #4.  But tomorrow comes the final poem, THE positive poetry challenge–writing about happiness itself.

Should be interesting.

–The Girl in the Orange

 

Positive Poetry Project Entry #3

In response to the theme:
Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities infamously begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What time in your life does this remind you of? Use this opening in a contemporary setting to describe something you’ve experienced.

A Tale of Two Cities 987 miles apart:

It was the best of times

And the worst.

That crystalline summer sun

smelling of chlorine and cardboard boxes

and black Sharpie marker

pushing its way through elliptical skylights

in what I never thought I would have to call The Old House

made anything seem possible

made everything seem surreal.

 

Two friends gathered in a spidery cement basement

wove tulips out of pipe cleaners

(I still have those, Christy)

wove friendship from embroidery floss

wove laughter and slivers of light into that

cold

silent

basement

cold silent time.

 

Cat’s Cradle by the pool,

prancing through prairie like fools,

both faces plastered with elementary school smiles,

not knowing how it would feel–

how impossibly, utterly, awfully real,

is the difference of nine hundred eighty seven miles.

 

“I’ll call every day–”

“Wish you didn’t have to go away–”

“But we’ll keep in touch, you’ll see.”

No way for either to know

Of the way things would go

Once “me and her” became just…me.

 

Because Life

gets

complicated

 

I whisper her name

and something like shame

on the tip of my tongue, starts to sting

And I know I should call

But can’t work up the gall

For fear that that phone will just

ring

and

ring

and

ring.

 

It’s a good thing I’m so contrary.

 

Dialing anyway now–

so many zeroes–

pity nothing rhymes with zero–

pity it’s the number for nothing,

squandered dreams, squished hopes,

no value, worthlessness, the epitome of emptiness-

No, stop, positivity.

 

Zero-zero-nine

Now at the end of the line

I hear the silence of the buzz of her room

And then that voice known so well–

Again weaving that spell

A friendship two years abandoned can so easily resume.

 

I’m drenched, now, in Pacific Northwest rain

(Cell reception is only outside)

But now I am sure:  Whether they bring us bliss

or a pain of the most needling kind

Once in your heart, people permanently reside.

 

 

 

This poem is not quite positive, but not quite negative, either.  Three poems already brings me to (almost) the halfway point of this weeklong endeavor, and in the latter half I’ll strive even more away from this neutrality–on the last day, I’ll take on the ultimate challenge, and write about happiness itself.  Until then,

-The Girl in the Orange

Positive Poetry Project Entry #2

To the prompt:

Opening Line:
 
“She had the best laugh–loud, sudden–I’d hear it in my sleep.” 
Use this line to begin or end a short story, or somewhere in the middle.
I suppose I’ll write a poem about this She.
No, Really, It’s Hilarious.

She had the best laugh–

loud, sudden–

I’d hear it in my sleep.

Ringing out over the cemetery

the one we could not avoid on our homeward walks together

managing to slice sharply through even that long-still air

the blade of a fan made of light and love.

The way it burst from her throat

At the oddest moments

with our fleece-mittened hands a swinging pendulum between us

was the one thing

that could remind me

that all this

life

is surely so

wonderfully

funny.

 

 

(Sigh) Still, with the cemetery reference.  And the past-tense.  But I blame the given-to-me opening line for the past tense, and the poem is “positive” overall.

–The Girl in the Orange

Positive Poetry Project

So I have this problem.

It’s not necessarily a problem, depending on who you ask, but if you ask me, it’s a problem.

I write such depressing poetry.

I like to consider myself a good poet, but for whatever reason whenever I go to pen something I can’t help but morph the whole thing into several stanzas of despair and twisted agony, and I can’t keep from throwing in a reference to suicide or death or cutting or giant metropolises engulfed in flame…

Yeah.  I need to work on it.

I think part of my problem is that I’m not pushing myself hard enough.  Sure, I’m pretty proud of the desolate poems I do churn out, but if there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of my writing “career”, it’s that it is MUCH easier and MUCH more fun to instill an emotion like sorrow or terror in your reader than it is to describe happy, peaceful things.  It’s usually more powerful and haunting, too.  In example, have you ever heard of Edgar Allan Poe?  Who wrote such poems as “The Raven”, “Farewell Leanor”, and “Annabel Lee”?

What about Kay I. Kramer, who wrote a poem called “The Beauty of Nature”?

I rest my case.

Nonetheless, for one full week, I’m going to challenge myself here and post a POSITIVE poem daily–inspired by the daily Figment writing themes delivered to my email inbox–not quite daily, but I have at least seven unread ones stored up.

Oh, and this project is going to be followed through, you hear me?  With the amount of shtuff going on in my life right now, I realize that it is fully ridiculous to be investing in a week-long poetry project as well, but this is something I care about; I promise it will not be fated as the Savory October Challenge (fail), or the December Photo Project (didn’t happen).

So…first poem, inspired by the prompt: 

Create an emotion using only concrete nouns and phrases that depict concrete images and sensations (nouns that represent tangible things, like “dirt on a new white shirt,” “the smell of bacon,” and “air” instead of “dirtiness,” “hunger,” or “love”). List these things; use the images you create in order to provoke your desired emotion.
Oh, man, that’s annoyingly hard.  Okay, so, I’m “creating”…”hope”, mmmkay?
The Human Clot
  • rubble
  • pillars of ash, where once stood a kitchen table, a plush sofa
  • the color black, around the edges of all things
  • the puckering of the floorboards, the curling, the furling inwards
  • the darkened banners of surrender, telling of a life of sugar
  • rolled in salt, and soot
  • a clot of humanity
  • the would-be scab on the wound
  • pressing in, congealing
  • no more blood escaping
  • this clot
  • hosts benefit concerts
  • where men paint their faces black
  • and white
  • and scream into
  • black microphones
  • and turn their wailing into money
  • and this clot
  • gives all they have
  • to build something new
  • a house
  • not so black
  • the white walls and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling
  • putty pinning that two-dimensional universe into place
  • just to bring a smile to the face of that girl in the white bed
  • (hospital beds are always white)
  • (want to make you forget blackness)
  • the girl in the white bed
  • with oxygen whistling into her
  • the smell of maple syrup
  • (sometimes oxygen is not enough to breathe)
  • (and even oxygen has to be taken away sometime
  • but when the tubes are removed
  • and the only concrete phrases are
  • the new house
  • the sweaty construction workers
  • the men with black and white faces
  • and the thin little girl off oxygen
  • and all of them smiling
  • [not the house]
  • breathing feels right again
  • and the smile bounces
  • to the faces of newscasters
  • and newswatchers
  • and dissolves
  • alka-seltzer smile
  • and the human clot flakes away
  • leaves a scar
  • but scars mean that wounds healed)

Okay, I realize that even that had quite a dark tinge to it.  But it ended happy, I’m getting better, and I wrote it in about twenty minutes total (reading the prompt to finishing the poem)…thoughts? 🙂

–The Girl in the Orange