Category Archives: Poetry

Bad Bad…

Quick update:  The spider I consented to killing is in fact, alive and well.

To the point, I’ve been reading Bad Bad lately and I’d like to share some.  Chelsey Minnis is my very favorite poet and I hope you’ll see why.  She’s incredible.

She came and spoke to my senior creative writing workshop, and I absolutely fell in love.  She has since become a dental assistant or something along that line. So here’s some of her poetry.

Preface 5

You should not fall in love with your mentor, but you should try to punish him with your poems…

Then he won’t dare to kiss you on the forehead…

Too bad mentors are like dogs but they aren’t as smart as the dogs…

Often they are crying because of the truth…

I want to say in my poem that I am alive! But it is just a triumphant moment…

I loved my mentor…because of his ugliness…

But I wish for my poems to be understood as complete failures… if they have no loving-kindness…

Preface 9

If poetry is dead…then good.

I know what will be fun! I’ll buy your book and ask you to sign it and then throw it in the trash.

Of all the beautiful rip-offs this will be my favorite…

Poetry has to update or I will begin to rip my sleeves down…

Anyway, poor everyone who never went to Harvard…

Preface 14

I can say things that are not going to cheer anyone up…

Like, “most poets don’t have any dick or balls under their skirts…”

But then I start to feel like a #1 Jackass…

I can only write a poem if it has some punishment in it…

But… I have given too many unfulfilled promises of revenge…

Preface 19

I do not think anything is so hard in life until I am denied a treat or a gift…

And then I understand that my life is, in fact, unhappy and meaningless.

How can a person feel so meaningless and yet fail to disappear from the earth?

Every day this is a question.

If you have to ask something, ask why poetry does not exist…

Preface 33

I liked my mentor…

I would try to grab onto his sweaters but it was nothing…

It was like a sumptuous near-moment…

I want someone to kiss the inside of my wrist and then throw it down…

Because that is the hard detachment of a mentor…

Preface 46

It feels like there is a goodliness in suffering…

And that is why I go against so many things in life…

I have gone against many things in life…

And it has always been rewarding…

But none so much as when I have gone against my mentor!

Clown

It seems that I’m growing more and more like a clown.  First of all, I’m always sad.  Secondly, all my knives are made out of rubber.  Thirdly, it’s like my house is on fire.

No, I’m definitely becoming more like a clown.  I have a tendency to want to put on clown clothes.  As soon as I put the clown clothes on I feel faintly happier…

Another sign is that I constantly feel like I’m alone in a dressing room.  Most of the time I feel amused.  Anyway, the only thing good about the circus is the tigers.

I realize that I could get both legs cut off by the circus train or get frightened by an elephant.  But it’s very depressing to sit around in a clown suit and think about death.

Sometimes I don’t feel happy unless I’m in my clown suit.  And I enjoy hitting people on the head with a foam club.  I really do…

When people see me they realize that it looks very sophisticated to wear a clown suit and smoke a cigarette.  This is how I get all the ladies because they think I’m very droll.

People don’t understand how you turn into a clown.  You turn into a clown because you feel more and more like putting on a clown suit.  When You’re around people you sense a kindliness.  It makes you so nervous you can’t stay calm.  Which is why it feels perfectly normal to wear orange pants.

Plus, it’s very subversive to wear bow ties.  You can’t imagine how jolly everything is.  And the fright wigs… I don’t want to be a clown but I’m sure to be one.  My mother was a clown.

P. Chelsey

P. Chelsey doesn’t like parties.  Her state of mind is usually bad.  She tries to eat hors d’oeuvres.  Of course she wants to get drunk and berate everyone.  But P. Chelsey has ahold of herself and things are going to be O.K.

If P. Chelsey likes anyone she follows them around and stands right behind them.  When she pretends to talk to people, she is really just taking more and more sips of wine.  If P. Chelsey doesn’t like someone, she can never forgive them.  P. Chelsey hates people for turning their back to her right after saying something nice.  She also hates them for staring at her too long with haunted looks in their eye.  Sometimes people giver her too many compliments at the beginning of the night.  Then there is nothing to say for the rest of the night.

P. Chelsey hates people who look at her pityingly and have bad breath.  People wonder where her psychiatrist is.  P. Chelsey tries to be patient with her psychiatrist, but a psychiatrist cannot be reasoned with.  As it stands the psychiatrist is usually not at his office.

13

You are dead on the red shag carpet and the fish tank is shattered…

You can feel fine now because you are finally dead.  And that is good enough for you & you don’t even care about the fish…

One of your shoes fell off and your expression became very annoyed after you were dead.

But you don’t have to look good now… And you don’t have to be in love…

You don’t have to feel like a ridiculous person constantly made fun of by a parrot…

All you have to do is continue being dead…

You’re not so lucky but you don’t need to be lucky ever again…

Dung Cart

I like poetry but it is a dung cart.  I like being in love but that is a dung cart too.  I have to be content with things that are dung carts although I really want something that is not a dung cart.  Something that will allow me to live when my frivolousness is like death…

Unfortunately for me, everything is going to be called a dung cart.  Such as: kissing someone and then not listening to what they’re saying.  I don’t care what they’re saying! They’re a businessman! A businessman is not a dung cart…

I am always thinking of a dung cart.  Dung is neatly piled on it! Even if I look around I can still see clearly that everything is a dung cart & I too am a dung cart.

Dung cart after dung cart rolling by……..

Anyway, I like dung carts.  My favorite things are dung carts.  Dung carts with dung falling off them.

SAD-O

My sadness feels like heavy earrings that makes my head ache.

Someday I would like to spend too much money on a shag rug so that I could lie down upon it and not smell one scent from my childhood.

When I’m about to get angry, that’s when I start to feel good…

I stare out the window, unprincipled as a tiger…

If anyone tries to comfort me I will vomit on the balustrade.

If anyone asks me why I’m like this I will say “im gon tu kil u!!!”

As a child I totally squandered my love on my parents and was, as a result, crucified on a cross.

I will spit out my food if anyone tries to imply anything…

Sometimes an arrow starts to come out of my head like I’m bored I’m bored. And then another arrow comes out like I want to read a book I want to read a book

I try to stay bored for a while but then I start to become amused…

I want to put makeup on people’s eyes so they can look like damned darlings…

People keep talking… But it is hard to stop them when I only want to be petted… I can barely listen to what they’re talking about.  They’re talking about someone who wants them…
_______________

Her poetry makes me feel like this:

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Damn, Spike, That Ain’t Right…

Last night I finally got around to watching Do the Right Thing, and I loved it.  Being that I have a vested interest in Sociology, there is almost nothing I love more than a comedy/drama piece on race relations.  Do the Right Thing is considered to be one of the best movies of all time, as well as one of the most controversial.  I realize some of these links don’t work on the blog, but please watch them on YouTube.

Philosophies of both Dr. Martin Luther King as well as Malcolm X are explored throughout the movie.  These themes are especially evident in the climax of the movie where Radio Raheem, a beloved black community member who is constantly blaring “Fight the Power” from his oversized boom box is killed unjustly by the police and Mookie proceeds to throw a trash can through the window of Sal’s Famous, where he worked.  It is questioned whether Mookie took Da Mayor’s advice and “did the right thing” in throwing the trash can, inciting the riot that led to the destruction of Sal’s Famous, an Italian owned pizzeria that had existed in the community for years with almost exclusively black patron-ship.  It was either an act of violence toward Sal, or an act of non-violence meant to direct the mob’s attention to the building, potentially saving Sal’s life.

Interestingly enough, Spike Lee claims that only white people question whether Mookie did the right thing, black people don’t.  This may stem from the valuation of the white man’s property over the life of the black man who died at the hands of a white police officer. Perhaps Mookie did the right thing in expressing his outrage, without inflicting violence on another human being, unlike Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out, who began the confrontation violently as a reaction to Sal’s unwillingness to put up a photo of a black man on his wall of fame.  What do you think?  I highly encourage you to watch this film.

————

I especially love themes like this when they mix with poetry.  My initial interest in seeing this movie was sparked by the poet Adrian Matejka (Maa-tee-ka), and his book, Mixology.  I had the great pleasure of being present for this great poet’s visit to my poetry workshop.  His book is a mash-up, like he is.  He is a mixed race individual, half white, half black.  He explained that he has the unique ability to look like who ever is most hated at the moment.  He said as a child, there was no question he was black, when everyone began to hate Latinos, he began to hear Latino directed slurs, and after 9/11, he was continuously pulled aside for extra screening.  It was wonderful to hear his perspective.  And even better to hear his poetry.  The following poem nearly ruined Do the Right Thing for me.

Do The Right Thing

Spike Lee is so small I didn’t even
see him at first, surrounded

by Black Expo goers like a gumdrop
in a fist.  When i asked him to sign

my “Free South Africa” t-shirt,
he said, You didn’t buy that at this

booth. Fresh off seeing Do the Right
Thing,
I crowed: “What’s that got

to do with your movies?” His fans
laughed, so he edited me like my name

was Pino: Why you care? You
ain’t even black.
Someone behind

me said, Damn, Spike.  That ain’t
right.
But Spike’s shamed scribble

on my t-shirt didn’t change the missed
free throw feeling in my chest.

—————

This poem is fantastic.  Especially in relation to the film.  Does this poem change the way you felt about the film?  I asked Adrian Matejka about this poem, and he said his editor originally told him to take it out of the book, it was too controversial and he didn’t think it was good enough, but he decided to keep it, and he said it is the poem he is most asked about.  Here’s another one of my favorites from the book:

Pimp Limp
For Flava Flav, circa 1993

On Flavor of Love, you crowed:
Your man Flava Flav’s a pimp.
P-I-M-P!
from the balcony.
A cascade of kiss and tell
on the woman walking in weaved
shame past the pool: head bowed,
bra tucked in armpit, heels clicking
maestro quick as early morning
sunbathers peeped upward
from behind sunglasses wondering
who disguised a lawn jockey
in a silk robe.  It didn’t have
to be this way.  Fifteen years ago,
you took a jet-setting break once
a month to visit one of your girlfriends
in Bloomington.  Me and my boys
hating on you before there was a name
for hateration.  Before a football
player’s overtures finally pried
that woman loose from your clocked
embrace.  The time she cut you loose,
you came to town in a limousine
on a doughnut with a dented back
door.  It was sunny, and you got
out of that limping car
with a matching limp to the applause
of me and my boys laughing.
You put your Gazelles on,
kissed two jeweled peace fingers
and tossed them to the crowd.

————–

Amazing!

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Memorial Day…

It’s not the happiest of days for many people, but this is a day of memory, reflection and a celebration of the lives of fallen service members (fallen in action, or not).  I can’t think of a better way to spend Memorial Day than hanging out with one of my favorite veterans, and that’s just what I did.  It was a fantastic weekend, really, but more on that later.

For now, I’d like to share some poetry in honor of this day.  These are from Brian Turner‘s amazing book, Here, Bullet.  I stumbled on it accidentally one day at the book shop and it has since become one of my favorite works.

A Soldier’s Arabic

This is a strange new kind of war where you learn just as much as you are able to believe. –Ernest Hemingway

The word for love, habib, is written from right
to left, starting where we would end it
and ending where we might begin.

Where we would end a war
another might take as a beginning,
or as an echo of history, recited again.

Speak the word for death, maut,
and you will hear the cursives of the wind
driven into the veil of the unknown.

This is a language made of blood.
It is made of sand, and time.
To be spoken, it must be earned.

———————–

What Every Soldier Should Know 

If you hear gunfire on a Thursday afternoon,
it could be for a wedding, or it could be for you.

Always enter a home with your right foot;
the left is for cemeteries and unclean places.

O-guf! Tera armeek is rarely useful.
It means Stop! Or I’ll shoot.

Sabah el khair is effective.
It means Good Morning.

Inshallah means Allah be willing.
Listen well when it is spoken.

You will hear the RPG coming for you.
Not so the roadside bomb.

There are bombs under the overpasses,
in trashpiles, in bricks, in cars.

There are shopping carts with clothes soaked
in foogas, a sticky gel of homemade napalm.

Parachute bombs and artillery shells
sewn into the carcasses of dead farm animals.

Graffiti sprayed onto the overpasses:
I will kell you, American.

Men wearing vests rigged with explosives
walk up, raise their arms and say Inshallah.

There are men who earn eighty dollars
to attack you, five thousand to kill.

Small children who will play with you,
old men with their talk, women who offer chai–

and any one of them
may dance over your body tomorrow.

————————

Kirkuk Oilfield, 1927

We live on the roof of Hell, he says,
and Ahmed believes it, he’s watched the gas flares
rise from holes in the earth, he’s seen the black river
wash through the village in a flood of oil
as if the drillers had struck a vein
deep in the skull of God, and the old man says
Boy, you must learn how to live here–
where the dead are buried deep in the mind
of God, manifest in man and woman,
given to earth in dark blood,
given to earth in fire.

————————-

Sadiq

It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more. – Sa’di

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.

————————-

Really beautiful, huh?

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Swishiness… Origins and Meanings

Why Swishiness, you ask?  Well, let me just tell you.

As some of you may know, during college, I was a creative writing major.  This major required many things of me, primarily writing, but mostly reading quietly, attending public readings, and listening to excessive blather from some of the most pedantic members of the academic community.  It was a very peculiar experience that I loved very much, looking back.  Anyway, it was also occasionally required of me to read aloud, publicly.  This fact never bothered me too much, having had much workshop experience and also a strong proclivity for speaking aloud (I’ve been known to spew pedantic myself).  And so, during my poetry workshop second semester senior year, I was called upon to fulfill my duty as a creative writing major and read aloud a poem for a presentation from my most beloved poetry book, Poemland, by Chelsey Minnis.  And so I read:

The swishiness of others is legendary…

But I must live under the swishiness of my own self…

There is swishiness in the future…

But I don’t know about it yet.

Death will come to end swishiness

But my swishiness will continue in my poems…!

Yes, it is a beautiful, strange little poem.  And as I proudly lifted my head from the book to begin speaking on the bizarre and brilliant use of the word “swishiness“, one classmate cut in loudly with “Maybe that’s because it’s swiNishness, not SWISHINESS! (You moron)”  Well, yeah, it is swinishness.  Oh well?  I really screwed the pooch on that one.

My face was red, but I laughed along with the rest of my classmates and did what any good loud-mouth would do: owned it.  Yeah, I said swishiness, so what??  I saved face, but secretly I was very embarrassed. When you embarrass yourself as much as I do, you get pretty good at masking your humiliation.

The scene continued two days later, when our class was graced with the presence of Chelsey Minnis herself.  Side note, I think she is a genius.  She is hands down my favorite poet and a great presence in the classroom as well.  Anyhow, she had chosen a few poems to read aloud and talk about.  I was hoping, begging, PRAYing that she wouldn’t turn to page 39.  But you can guess what happened. And as the word “swinishness” so flawlessly rolled off her tongue, I bit my lip, and smiled as my classmates’ eyes unanimously shot in my direction.  Yikes.

It became a dominating theme for me in this classroom, I went so far in my attempt to neutralize my gaffe by naming my chapbook “swishiness” and even further by giving my blog the name.  But in truth, I think this concept is very representative of who I am. I love to laugh, and it’s a good thing too, because I give myself reason to quite frequently.  Life is swishy.  Period.  I say dumb, inappropriate things all the time, every day of my life.  You should hear me order at an unfamiliar burrito shop or restaurant, really, can’t take me anywhere.  Some say they find it enduring, but I find it like reality.  I’m a swishy person. I’d rather be swishy than swinish, wouldn’t you?  I am taken back to this quote from Feste, the clown of Twelfth Night:

“Wit, and ‘t be thy will, put me into good fooling! Those wits
that think they have thee do very oft prove fools; and I, that am
sure I lack thee, may pass for a wise man: for what says
Quinapalus? ‘Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.'”

In conclusion, I said it before, and I’ll say it again: swishiness sounds better anyway.

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