Day 30/30 of the Tupelo 30/30 Project (20170830)

My final poem is one stanza of a renga that all the Tupelo 30/30 Project poets participated in. This marks the official end to my participation in the challenge for the month of August.

I had a good time.

I’ve said elsewhere (and to anyone kind enough to listen) that participating in the project was harder than I thought it would be. I’m used to writing every day. I’m not afraid to write a bad poem; I’m pretty sure I’ve written a lot of it. You can’t avoid it if you write every day, and I’ve been doing it for a couple of years no. I can usually manage to peck something out on the keyboard. Some days it comes more easily than others, and this was true for the challenge as well, but overall, the challenge was just plain harder. It seemed that I had to call on different wellsprings of energy or inspiration.

It’s possible that committing to raising money for Tupelo added some kind of pressure to the old wavy matter sitting thick and still in my skull. But, no one stood behind me cracking a whip. It was very much, “We’re just happy with what ever you can contribute.”

And maybe that’s it. The idea of being a contributor. Sitting alone at my computer, I can write something I like, or hate, or think is funny, and hit the publish button. Some of you are kind enough to let me know if you like it or think it is funny; some of you will even call me out for taking the easy way out in a poem. no one has said they’ve hated one of my poems, or that I’ve ruined their life. Yet. And I enjoy being part of the community, interacting in the comments and sometimes in email.

But that still seems to be fundamentally different, that being a contributor. Contributing implies you believe that you have something to offer. Contributing means that others, who are on the receiving end of your beneficence, expect that what you are submitting has value. I don’t usually think of what I do as a valuable thing. It’s just something I do because I need to do it.

So, for all of you who have willingly or otherwise treated me as a contributor, I thank you.

The renga is available to read at the Tupelo 30/30 project page.

peach (20170624)

the peaches ripen now
the beginning of summer

we work fast

to protect what we can of this small
crop from a single tree
trimming back

the branches
where they encroach
on the neighbor’s roof
covering it with a net
in an attempt

to keep birds and
rats and squirrels
[all the same genus as far
as i am concerned when
it comes to this tree]
from making short work of
the fruit

picking a handful
that are ripe
or almost there

eating a single
peach while on the ladder
holding it in my work gloves
and biting into the soft flesh
not caring how the juice runs down
my chin or glistens on my leather fingers
tossing the pit into the open can
and thinking that i’ve never
tasted a peach that good
and knowing it may be

the sun [browning my neck]
doing the talking

gratus sum (20160525)

by the train tracks

i am grateful for the rocks
i can feel through my soles
crunching under my feet
and the graffiti proclaiming
perry ruled, not rules
i wonder what happened to perry

i am grateful for the abundance
of trailer home parks here
in the middle of this
industrial zone
and remember that my
grandmother lived in one
not far from here
until alzheimer’s drove her
into a hospital bed
where she forgot how to live
while she waited to die

i am grateful for the cry
of the hunting hawk
as he soars over the drainage channel
and i know today he will eat
because there’s plenty of vermin

and i am grateful for the breeze
a latecomer to my walk
and to the clouds
that finally cover the sun
and prevent it from burning through my shirt
beating down on my back
like an accusation

Post 20151220


So this is prose and rambly, and won’t be very skillfully put down.

Tonight my wife and I went to a local mall. If you live or have been to Southern California (or have ever watched one those news programs about malls and how much money they make at Christmas), you may have heard of South Coast Plaza. It’s been around for years and years, and has evolved apace with the unending passionate consumption South Orange County. When I was a kid, the had a Woolworth’s and my dad would take me to the lunch counter after church for lunch, usually greasy deep fried burritos.

I have no idea how or why Woolworth’s was selling these fake-a-ritos. I’m sure they were the Mexican analogue that Chun King chow mein in a can is to Chinese food. But to a kid, they were good.

That was over forty years ago. Woolworths is long gone. Many stores appeared and disappeared like capitalist fever dreams over the years. Sears has remained, maybe the one and only store to not change. That and the carousel.

Tonight though, my wife and I went to get her an early Christmas present. Spur of the moment thing, something she’s been wanting, but not really asking for. We are weird when it comes to presents for each other. We avoid waiting for birthdays and holidays, and if one of us really wants something, we just buy it and the gift is presented with a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Birthday” even if those events a half a year away. So this was a little unusual, this trip so close to Christmas to buy a present. (Though to be be true to our own natures, there was no wrapping or waiting. She opened the gift when she got home.)

After buying her present, there was no need to rush home, so we walked around. And I discovered, that, without the pressure of having to be there, of needing to find the perfect present or toy without which Christmas would be ruined and our children would have to seek therapy later in life, without that hanging over my head, it was really kind of wonderful to walk around. To see people.

Yes, there were some, rushing, pinched, panicked faces, and I could relate because I have been where they were. But I wasn’t tonight. I enjoyed the happy people who were just enjoying themselves, the kids excited to see Santa, the kids screaming because they wanted to be anywhere else, the couples clinging to each in the crowds, the music, the bells, the lights, the lights, the lights.

The press of people, for once, didn’t bother me.

And for that, for being able to enjoy that time with my wife, I am grateful. And I wanted to say it.

Well, write it.