Monday, June 29, 2015

In the Rain

I love to cry in the rain
Not that I love to cry
Though I do not mind it
Or do it often
And not that I find the grayness of a storm
Suiting to my mood
When I feel lachrymose

It seems to me
That it is just more fitting
To cry in the rain
Than to shed tears on a day
When the sky is blue
The clouds white
And the sun shines
Though likely not
For the reasons you assume

It is not that I feel 
That my tears aren't beautiful
They are, in their own way
I just simply prefer to cry
In a time and place
Where my tears are lost
Amongst the deluge of their cloud-born comrades
And my sad, salted tears 
Are not lonely at all

For there are a thousand sad grey eyes
Staring down
Loosing their deluge upon the world
And if even the skies
Must bleed their sorrows
Upon the parched ground
Then why should I mind
My tired eyes doing the same?

I can remember
That even as the rain nourishes the soil
So too may my tears
Nourish new growth
Inside of me

A veritable spring of hope
Coming from the dreariest days
And so I don't really mind crying
But if I have to cry
I love to cry in the rain

Where Monsters Dwell

It is coming
I hear the heavy weight
Of the monster
Settling onto the roof
Beginning its nightly prowl
And I shudder, withdrawing
Deeper, into the darkness
I know only fear
As the beast begins its maddening routine
Of cries and calls
A threnody for hope and sleep
Which I fear may drive me to madness
Long before I find death

I struggle to remember the times, before
When I had dared to tread
When I felt the beast leave
So long ago, it seemed
Before the monster's presence
Made me a slave to fear
And there were nights it was joined
By the thunder of larger monsters
Soothing, cajoling with more gentle snarls
The feral tones of their meetings
Sinking my hopes
Like heavy rocks

And I shudder
At the long waking nightmare
As the weight of the creature shifts
As if it can smell me
As if it is catching a whiff of my fear
Or can hear the feral pounding of my heart
The creak of its weight pressing down from above
I can feel it crushing my chest
And my breath stops

I find myself grateful
For small favors
That it is often gone during the day
As if afraid of the light
But not always
So I rarely find the courage to leave
For I know it is above me, waiting
So I go hungry
And tired
Some days I can hear it
Circling outside the edges
Casting long shadows near me
Until not even the light brings comfort
And so my courage fails
And I seek only to go undiscovered

As the creature rages overhead
I feel the shock
Of another great beast
Resting upon my home
Its own guttural vocalizations
Straining my ears 
The faint light blocked out
By titanic limbs
And I hear the low growls
Of their imperfect tongue
A sharp cry piercing, as shadows deepen
"Daddy, check under my bed"
And with fear, I see the shadow fall upon me
A pale limb pulling at the edges of my domain
They have found me
And I am lost

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Drink, Alone, With Friends

Happiness and I?
We are simply acquaintances
Who see each other often
She greets me with a smile
And occasionally we flirt
With shy glances
Or a subtle touch
But we both know
That it is a trivial thing
Fun to imagine
But without future
And she always leaves early
But never with me

But loneliness and I
Are dear old friends
With inside jokes
And long history
But no new stories
I know her well
And look back on our time fondly
But she knows me as I was
Not as I am
And she always sits too close
And her touch lingers
Just a bit too long on my arm

Now and then
I sit with sadness
And we share a drink
And reminisce
Waxing nostalgic for times
When we made memories together
And we’ve been known to share a short embrace
More for comfort than from passion
And she knows the words
To all my favorite songs

Pain and I, though
We dance together
Like lovers pretending at friendship
Whispering intimate words
Between kisses
And when she’s gone
I struggle
To remember a life
Without her
And how I long for her embrace
When I’m staring into the eyes
Of anyone else

And so you’ll forgive me
If I don’t ask your name
Or offer to buy you a drink
For we are simply strangers
And I’m already here, alone
With many old friends    

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On Poetry

I never really liked poetry much. In high school, I was in a band, and we often worked together on lyrics, and that was the extent of my interest. From time to time an assignment would call for it, but it always seemed to me to be too open: I prefer my reading (and writing) to be about understanding and giving knowledge. I don't struggle with abstract concepts. I understand symbolism and metaphor, and their usefulness. I just find it very tedious to read. So for the longest time, I barely gave poetry a passing thought. In my undergrad, I took two required literature courses which just so happened to both be classes which either were entirely about poetry, or strongly emphasized. This wasn't intentional, honestly. The first of these was called "Reading literature" and was basically professor's choice as to what was covered. I just so happened to get a professor who was really interested in surrealism, Dada, and other forms of avant garde writing, with a strong emphasis on poetry and short stories. The second of these classes was "Literary form, theme, and mode" and just so happened to be all about so called "poetry of witness" which basically means it was a discussion of poetry written as first hand accounts of terrible things. The Armenian Massacre, both world wars, concentration camps, the communist atrocities of China and Russia, and myriad major natural disasters were all topics covered, and it was a very dark and moving course. It was fascinating, sure, but ultimately didn't do much to alleviate my disdain for poetic language. There are some things in poetry I don't care for much, and it feels like snobbery. For example, poems that rhyme always seem so childish. They're the poetic equivalent of modern pop music. I also prefer free-form poetry to more structured methods like limericks or waka poetry (which I dabbled in extensively, in the form of tanka and other variants). On some level, I feel like structure can force you to be more creative with your words, but on the other hand, I want to write what I want to write... so damn the critical torpedoes, and full speed ahead!

You see, my education lies entirely in the sciences, and so my writing style has been strongly influenced by the type of writing you have to do for that course of study. It was drilled into my head that when you write, you write for clarity and understanding. You write so that what was done and said and accomplished is very clear to the reader. Flowery language was for creative writing, and we were in the business of learning technical writing. Cut your unnecessary adjectives, write in the passive voice, create a clear sequence of events and make sure the numbers are all there and your math is correct. I wrote lab reports and scientific research papers. All of my writing became focused on this style of "just the acts" and I felt like it really hindered my creative writing, and it took some wonderful interactions with my absolute favorite poet (and best friend!) Jessy for me to really start writing again... mostly poetry, because she's a huge fan.

Now here is where poetry and I conflict, and it's something that still frustrates me: poetry is never about the author. On one hand, I want to be written to be understood. I want to convey my thoughts in a manner that makes it very clear what I meant to the reader. I've been trained to do this. On the other hand, though, poetry is inherently artistic. Interpretation and emotion count for more than precise, accurate language. I feel like most poems could be summed up in very few words by the author, but that isn't the point of poetry. You see, a poem is more about interpretation than about information. No matter what I write, or why I write it, the person reading it will always apply it to their experiences, and so their reading may evoke feelings that were absent from my intent. Poetry seems to me to be more about sharing some form of emotional energy than it is about creating understanding. Often, we say that a good poem is one that evokes a response, and often that doesn't mean it really gave us anything except for a more visceral, illogical response, because there is a lack of direct translation. It's my words, my thoughts, but your interpretations as a reader. As someone so used to writing for understanding, it is frustrating that easily dissected poetry is often considered so banal. More frustrating for me, is that intent and interpretation can be so far apart from each other.

I'm always tempted to try to explain my poetry when I write it; to leave these tiny little blurbs about what was going through my head. I think, however, that taking away the mystery of intent makes bad poetry, because that's not simply upsetting expectations, it's spitting in the face of poetic language. We can't be moved by a piece of art unless we connect to it on some level, and poetry allows us to do that without heavy-handed facts. If I write a poem about the fleeting nature of life, you as a reader don't give a shit if I wrote it about a family pet dying, or about seeing roadkill on a drive, or about something terrible I saw on the news: you only care that it fits somewhere within your personal emotional paradigm. You create the bridge between my work and your emotions and mindset. I find that kind of beautiful too, even if it's frustrating. I have written poems as jokes, and as bets, and with no inspiration past a line that sounded kind of interesting to me, and I feel that, on some level, telling you that a poem of mine that you love was written as a joke would cheapen it. It's like listening to song lyrics (which are a form of poetry, get over it): you take from the song exactly what you're willing to put into it, mentally and emotionally. You fill in the actual gaps in poetry with your own experiences and prejudices and biases. You may only take small pieces: a line that resonates with you, or a stanza that reminds you of the place you grew up, or the "one that got away," or about how terribly lonely and sad and amazingly beautiful life is. What I meant doesn't matter, and I hate to say this, it doesn't need to matter. The only important thing is that someone, somewhere, takes something away from it. I don't care if you're like me and you just spit out poetic cliches like some kind of cliche machine gun, or if you're writing shitty teenage love poems or angst-ridden poetic manifestos. What matters is that someone can read it, and get a sense of you, but more importantly a sense of themselves. It creates this kind of tenuous connection between you and everyone who reads your work and has a response. 

At the end of the day, I write poetry for me, and I share it because it's a safer way to share myself with a small part of the world. I write terrible poems, and the occasional diamond in the rough, and I even mostly enjoy it, despite my seeming contempt for it. I complain about poetry. I complain about writing poetry. I don't really read poetry because it mostly bores me, and even when I do, it's always a toss up as to whether or not I find it enjoyable.I think that's part of poetry, though: some write poetry for beauty, some write it for discord. Maybe you're not meant to enjoy it all. Sometimes, the point is to upset expectations and challenge current notions. Sometimes, it's just about something you heard someone say, or saw on your drive home from work. It can be a way to release the pressure in your head, or the best way you have of just expressing you. Sometimes, we write (not just poetry) to bleed, a kind of cathartic leeching of the brain, because words are better to loose upon the world than blood or tears or rage. You don't need other people to enjoy it to write it, and they don't have to enjoy a poem for it to be good or meaningful. Enjoy it or not, the only failed poetry is poetry that evokes nothing in anyone.