Posts Tagged ‘prose poem’

This is a poem about all the books I bought (Nightingale, After-Normal, Holy Moly) and all the potatoes I ate, also let’s mention the oysters, the white wine and the red, the IPA I drank among other Ducks, also Colson Whitehead and Atlas Pinto. There was some rain, numerous transaction involving credit card and grief, sunshine, and also ice cream made of hazelnuts.

What of the man who said, “We’re not worthy of God’s Love”?

Sir, there are so many things I’m not worthy of, but let’s begin here: shoes that cost $289, but there’s no tax in Oregon, so let’s begin here. 

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The History of Cumin


I’m seductive, sublime, redolent of pepper and hot desert wind, but common, like salt. I fill the room, a hot, dense fog. No one ignores me. Not everyone loves me, I get that, I’m an acquired taste, like dry wine that tastes of berries and loam. I’m a smokier sort, the kind of woman who enters a room dangling a cigarette from her fingers, eyes blackened with kohl, her voice a thick Turkish coffee. You imagine the Silk Road, dusty paths with caravans of camels. Actually, I traveled with the Spanish, fertile and amorous, spreading my love to all, taking root in rocks and soot. I’m polymorphous; I’ve gone as far as China. But you’ll find me, in the mole, masala, mutaki. I sneak up on you. I’m sly and overpowering. I’m the overtones of the marketplace, the residue of the hearth, the charred remains of game .

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You went to school in what passed for the inner city with the black kids, and Mexicans and maybe a few Greeks. But you were kids and you chased each other across the dangerous blacktop. The slides were hot metal and the monkey bars seemed to be made from old pipes. Often a child fell from the metal dome or from a ladder. You cried and you laughed. This is where you made best friends. This is where a boy wanted to hold your hand, sweaty from square dancing, and later you cried. Not everything made sense the way that math added up to 10, for ten fingers. The building was old and sometimes, during lunch, you answered the phone in the office.

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We were making sushi. I was fanning the rice with an old copy of the New Yorker. I said, “I’m not doing it right.” I was always saying things like that. I said, “Do it this way.” I was stirring the rice with a paddle, and cutting cucumbers into strips I could see thorough. I was making wasabi to the consistency of a baby’s earlobe. I told me that. I was using crab instead of fake crab made from Cod or Haddock. I only like real crabmeat. I taught me that. I was making my body a smaller and smaller version of myself. I told me that I was not too good for I. I was just normal like the rest of everyone else. I was not going on to better things. I should be happy just standing there in the kitchen making sushi with I. I tried to live in the moment. Like the time I hit me in the eye with a snowball. It could happen to anyone, I said. Sometimes an orange is the most delicious thing, an occasion to be celebrated, like the sunrise or the first cup of coffee. It was time to put a towel over everything. To absorb the steam. C’mon, I said, let’s just sit here. There was never enough space for I and me.

                                                                                                                        Set aside.

                                                                                                                        Allow to cool. 

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The novel I’m not writing can’t be written. The novel I’m not writing can’t be written because it involves certain events in the future I am not yet privy to. The novel I’m not writing necessitates precarious jumps through time, involving flashbacks and use of the subjunctive. The novel I’m not writing takes place in the past, and in the present, in such a way as to seem contemporary and timeless. The novel I’m not writing requires the use of words that have not yet been coined, technology that has not yet been invented, people who have not yet been given life. The novel I’m not writing requires readers to imagine within the confines of their minds an entirely different landscape than the ones they are accustomed to. The novel I’m not writing presupposes the ability to conceive of multi-dimensional morality that is simultaneously visual and tactile. I don’t want to brag, but the novel I’m not writing is epic in scope. It might be the Great American Non-Novel. The novel I’m not writing does not involve whales or rivers or New York City in any way. The novel does not depict gastronomical orgies or erotic love. It does not engage in satirical word play or philosophical musings on the nature of Man. The novel I’m not writing, if you could read it, would blow your mind. The novel I’m not writing exists in an ephemeral dream space where all non-existent artwork dwells. The invisibility of the novel I’m not writing is infinite in the same way that a black hole is infinite: the idea of it negates itself. 

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Dear whoever is reading this at an indeterminate time in the future,

The past is not as distant as you might think. If you row your tiny craft a little further and just over the far wave, it is there. Fragile as a blown glass skeleton with shark’s teeth and a raccoon claws, the past is waiting to buoy you up and then gnaw your face off.

In the past that’s what would be called exaggeration, but in the future, you know such language is passé. There is no way to exaggerate now, the present being what it is: in your face like a blow dryer. Please forgive me these metaphors, I am adrift on the perils of my mind which are triangular and dry. Only the intercession of dolphins and squid might assist me.

Let me now tell you the secrets of my skin: at midnight, adrift on the ocean, the moon is as far away as it ever was. It is as far away as I am from you. Do you understand? When people say that distance is relative, they imagine two fixed points in a fixed system. What I pose to you now is to understand chaos in relation to another chaos. Two starfish caught in two different storms.

I will say it another way: I will never be as far from you as I am today, nor as far from myself. I will continue to cast about for ways to reach you. No doubt my language is as illegible to you as you yourself are to me. Your face is a distant galaxy, luminous and calm, fiery and glacial, in motion and still.

Do not look for me, for no doubt by your inscrutable now I am nothing more than one more escaped atom of oxygen, lost in the universe, looking for home. 

(From NPR)

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(didn’t I say it probably wouldn’t be a poem? My students had to write a prose poem today, so here’s this!)


She wanted to spin, be spun out, her skirt flaring like indecency. She wanted the eyes to see her there, only her, not as if she were just one of many. Her problem was escaping the house, the day, the hour, the explaining. She had the money in her pocket, ones rolled up in little straws, their edges pressing into her thigh. It was easy enough. Down the back stairs while Mom was in the living room reciting times tables with the twins, Dad flat out on the couch like a bear. Sandy on the phone, brothers in the front yard with Frisbees. When the door clicked behind her it was like the world was her prison. She could go back. She would. The gym shone and smelled of old sweat. Raylene was there and they held hands like kindergarteners. When the music started and the teacher showed them the steps, one followed by two and three, then four. When the teacher’s  poodle skirt flared in a way that Mom would disapprove of, she felt her heart lift in her chest like a rocket. Even the mixed couples around them could not tether her. She knew there would be trouble.

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The British Museum

Collected in one place, the history of Britain’s plunders: Elgin marbles, Egyptian mummies, Darwin’s finches, and maps of unknown territories. Here, my skin qualifies as the cartographer’s terra incognita. I pay two pounds for a cup of tea and cry quietly as I imagine the topography of your palm, rivulets, valleys, plains.  When I see the Mayan skeleton encrusted with turquoise, I surrender wordlessly to the dreams of the dead. What we know of the past we ignore and what we cannot know, we invent. I call you from a payphone wedged beneath the stairs and the crackle of air burns up all the oxygen between us. At such a distance, what can you know of the beauty of cold stone? Nothing.

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Prose Poem #1

Tate Modern:  Roni Horn (Dark Water Series)

The photographs of the Thames hang silently, though their footnotes speak to me. Today, my eyes tire of reading and I want the world to be revealed instantaneously and without effort. I walk the stairs, up, and then down, among the families and the loved. I know that, like the Thames, the world is murky and deep, cold and toothless. I thirst, like a child, for comfort, which is found, here and there, in small nooks and dark corners. The repeated face of a child in photographs reminds me of skin that I have shed, the snake of former selves that reveal the hollowness of who we are, just faces to each other, bottomless depths that do not speak but continuously cover ourselves over in dark water, murmuring truths that others cannot decipher.

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Open on my gray couch and there I am: sitting. I hold my head in my hands in a poetic way (meaning: shadowy)(meaning: my eyes are full of thought) and I sit. The camera sees me from above and in this way sees everything (meaning: my face displays my faults like jewels). My life swirls around me in the form of a child, a dog, a spouse. Montage: me with each of them. In all of the shots, at least one of us smiles. Quick cut to: exterior day. I’m running. Quick cut to: interior night. My head on the pillow. The camera sees the thoughts in my head, the deep, known circuit they run from worry to obsession and back, a quick lap. Now the camera is inside me, is my eyes and sees what I see: how the suffering of aliveness pulses like a missing limb, how the air thickens with regret and hope, how when you see through my eyes you might as well be me. Fade to black.

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