On Reading

I’ve been reading submissions for several different places & projects & workshops & friends & life. This poem is a stilted map of my process for reading poetry if anybody finds themselves wanting to traipse through process with me.

“On Reading”

Read for impression. Lines
that pop. A floating quotation, a question, or what has been
spoken, and in what tense?
How touchable?                    A you. An I.

The Title (Any author)
And context of a situation in time. A date. Then, look

to the form. Does she bleed into the creases of the page, or resolve
after six iambs? Does she finish after fourteen lines or given time, does she digress?

Would she repeat herself for your love? A pantoum; a ghazal
or a spell?

Look right. Each phrase. Each word. Each syllable.
Make a new poem along the edge. Look left.

Does each phrase start with the same careful plea? Make
another new poem from the words living along the spine.

Look inside. What do you see? Organs are repeated things. Displace the bones.
Dig between rhyme and reason. Put this stanza with that. Pair line three

with line seven. Touch line thirteen and remove
five words with your finger. Read

around the words you have removed. Fit
new words inside her mouth. Avoid all

theme until you have investigated soft folds
clearly. Join and destroy. Highlight

the unknown. Excavate. Each
lover is hidden in blank spaces. Find them

from the last word up. Look to this aperture. How
open has this illumination been?

What darkness does she hide from you? What beginning
is set in motion and who is resolved by a last, pleading and pointed phrase?

I Wandered into a Beehive

I Wandered into a Beehive

I wandered into a beehive
in manzanita. Ten-year-old in red
sweater to the neck, like a specific
children’s-book cat on her first
day of school. The stinging mass
attached. Vicious. But, today

I wish I had more scarf to cover
neck and mouth. Stay the breath. Stay
inside keep the air from expulsion. Not
the droning. I would give you more

explanation. See, sometimes you pulse
in and out and I am falling back
in love with myself. It’s not good enough
to excuse the effort expended; especially
when love has built hive mind and a mess
is how our honey fastens. I didn’t think

because I’d heard
even after centuries, in a cask mouldering
in a pyramid, honey will still
flow. Honey, but I know you, can add
the right bugs to make an alcoholic.
Under this thin skin, I’m gutted by bees
flying back through time.

How do I tell you I’m still that stung
child, wandering lost in a puzzle maze of manzanita.

Cassandra Opens the Jar of Peanut Butter and Drops in the Only Clean Spoon

Here’s a newish poem which you can listen to me read here!

Cassandra Opens the Jar of Peanut Butter and Drops in the Only Clean Spoon

Shaking today. I stood up
too long. There are so many objects
in the way when I move. I can
barely move. Even writing is upturning
the centripetal. Hands
shouldn’t. I worry
this will never go away
when it returns. Everything
undoes itself. Trembles. Roars.

But, if I died right now, I could
die near some soup
looking out at trees
with my cat and that seems like the best
way to go.

I could die near some soup. The canned kind.
Minestrone. Low
sodium. Glaring
out the small window. at the giant
light that looks
like a head. Or a moon in orbit. The taller
taller leaves. climb
ing the tree. the kind tree
that reaches down. to my wind
ow. the cat. staring out
at the squirrel. and chittering.
ch ch ch ch ch ch. this
seems like the best way.

If I died right now, I could
die here in this quiet
kitchen. No video
games. No one to badger me
with their determination
for my life or their track
for how I should have seen
signs, symbols
the setting, or steps
for what
they think
are earned amends.

The moon.
The moon out staring
glare at night. a pot of tea.
the carrots i route from the soup.
the cat, fluttering mildly
near his window top of the
tree this is the way I go

branches. roots.

the wind just lifted the branches outside my sliver of window. my heart is broken. the most brilliant beautiful woman i have ever known just died. 

branches. roots.

bloom-filled kitchen
enfolds, says

you’re lucky

when I tell her I am
studying what she is

living. Bulbs

crinkle at the ends. She
flips from bluebright

surprise. Feathers near
translucent in her delicate
lap rest, inactive.

Her chin yields a fine
crop of protective hairs

I want to reach out

to trace along this
furry slope I have

memorized since
opening my first

book. Reaching pulp.
Scrabble board. Soft
boiled egg. Two

porcelain pigs
on this kitchen
shelf above her boughs.

These wounds used to
thrive, discover, fingerpaint.

I crumble to stars as she pats
my knee. Stops.
Stares at the wall

behind me. Art
has flown; her instructive
smile is replaced by

a lack. Her spark

no longer aflame; the chill
has come and she has fallen
from her branch.