Poetry

crowded sidewalk

In Plain Sight

A Curtal Sonnet–I wrote this for a poetry competition with Writer’s Digest.

In Plain Sight

He wakes and works and does all in plain sight,
a simple man in unassuming scenes:
Father, brother, partner, player and friend.
But consider this man who seems alright…
Beyond the smile and amid the routines
lies a great, confusing, complex loose end.
I only know this because he told me.
In plain sight, everything is as it seems.
To a select few we wouldn’t condescend
and act as who we think we ought to be.
Pretend.

Mirror Mountain

Nine to One

Nine to One

I always thought I would change the world
with a Great Novel for my time.
So sure I was meant to be
a Great entrepreneur,
or a Great artist,
Great anything.
But instead,
I’m here.
Small.
Human.
And I live,
and I have love,
and I feel passion,
and I have confidence,
and I let my mind run free,
and I do not dwell on regrets,
and I savor moments of Greatness.

wide rimmed glasses

Having Intellect Versus Being an Intellectual

Anyone who interacts with the creative world surely comes in contact with their fair share of Intellectuals. According to Merriam-Webster, an intellectual is a smart person who enjoys serious study and thought. For me, however, an Intellectual is a snob, a name-dropper, a smug and pretentious child who lives in an alternate reality. I’ve had a handful of Intellectual classmates, encountered a few Intellectuals in social settings, and have read a few books featuring Intellectual characters. It makes me crazy. Probably because I was raised Lutheran in the Midwest, but also because I can’t see the merit of intellect-by-association. These are people who appear to treat every day as a performance. Must be exhausting!

Sonnet for Intellectuals Everywhere: You Know Who You Are

He softly sips his Starbucks Fair Trade blend
swiping slowly across The Atlantic.
Pleased he can call the barista a friend:
His order memorized, his tips gigantic.
Tonight, he cooks. Not “cooking,” too domestic…
He curates flavors to challenge the palette.
A Veal Demi Glace that’s purely majestic!
Coltrane and vintage red strike the balance.
A little Safran Foer just before bed,
then it’s back to the grind at 10 a.m.
Theater professor or federal grant head,
something Necessary, but not layman…
He’s unshaken by a provincial like me,
and the words of a sonnet he’ll never read.

Triolet for Robert Plant

Happy birthday to Robert Plant, who is 68 today. Robert Plant is (should I say was?) the singer and primary lyricist for my favorite band of all time, Led Zeppelin. I was easily sucked into the history of the band and haven’t yet read about Mr. Plant’s life before it, but he is an exceptional writer and singer and I can’t imagine any other voice in his place. It’s hard to read Zeppelin lyrics without the context of the music because they’re so recognizable, but to me his writing is accessible–a next-level understanding of things situated in reality. In that spirit I wrote this poem.

Triolet for Robert Plant

First find your gift; then exhaust its full extent.
These are the ones who live beyond their years.
You can never be too late, too old, too spent—
First, find your gift. Then exhaust its full extent.
Accepting less than best breeds spite and discontent,
and a mediocre life is not a life revered.
First find your gift; then exhaust its full extent.
These are the ones who live beyond their years.

This verse is a triolet, an 8-line repetitive stanza following an ABaAabAB pattern. Most examples I noted were also in iambic pentameter so I went for it, but I deviated quite a bit. I prefer to work with a syllable count and let the meter come naturally. It was a neat little exercise, anyways!

The Worst Fate

The Worst Fate

No one succeeds at a stand-still, waiting…
Waiting for Fate, for their dreams to come true,
for days significant and life-changing.
When life is no more than a scene to view,
it isn’t living, it’s just sustaining.
What another soul might have done with you!
The worst fate is the fate you do not make,
a life bound by chances you did not take.

This is my effort at the Ottava Rima, an 8-line ABABABCC stanza. I choose to go with 10 syllables per line, though the form most often suggests 11. Kind of like an abbreviated sonnet, Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium is a good example of how the brevity and sing-songy-ness of the form in stanzas can contribute a sort of timeless, tale-like quality.

From Russia, With Love

“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”
-Boris Pasternak

I can’t pinpoint the reason, but there are some historical cultures I’ve just always been fascinated by, like Ancient Egypt or 20th century Germany. At any point in it’s timeline, I have a feeling surpassing curiosity about Russia. Though I’m no expert in Russian history, it’s difficult to ignore the impact of the country’s past on it’s artists. While I love the whimzy of The Nutcracker, I’m drawn to the dramatic minor chords of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. I read Atlas, Shrugged by the great Ayn Rand last year, and developed a major girl-crush on assertive Dagny Taggart. I’m recording the War and Peace TV miniseries adapted from Tolstoy’s popular novel, and I’m currently working on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which I’m finding to be a pleasantly surprising page-turner even though I’m a slow reader.

With all of this Russian through my head (!), I thought a lame pun could be excused (?). Really, though, when I found out it was Boris Pasternak’s birthday today (1890-1960), it seemed fitting to pay it forward, and not in rubles.

Pasternak penned the novel that became one of my favorite films, Doctor Zhivago. In the story, Zhivago is both an upper crust doctor and love-torn poet at the mercy of the Russian Civil War. Wrongly labeling Pasternak a novelist, I learned that he only wrote the one, and is well-known in Russia for his poetry. I found the below poem at PoetryFoundation.org and thought first of a woman, then of the White army:

Fresh Paint
I should have seen the sign: “Fresh Paint,”
But useless to advise
The careless soul, and memory’s stained
With cheeks, calves, hands, lips, eyes.

More than all failure, all success,
I loved you, for your skill
In whitening the yellowed world
As white cosmetics will.

Listen, my dark, my friend: by God,
All will grow white somehow,
Whiter than madness or lamp shades
Or bandage on a brow.

Ill-anelle, or, The Hypochondriac

Do I feel warm? Put your hand on my head,
I’m burning up, but my hands are cold.
I think I’m coming down with something bad…

My neck is stiff and my eyes are red,
And look—-I never noticed this weird mole.
What do you think? Put your hand on my head.

I could have forgotten to take my meds,
and I ate some chicken that was getting old.
I may have caught something seriously bad!

Maybe pox? Or measles? Something that spreads?
You could have it, too, something out of our control.
Hold still; let me put my hand on your head…

Honestly, you seem fine… But I feel half-dead!
I read about this in Diseases, Foretold
You should always assume it’s something bad.

Don’t I seem woozy? I should be in bed…
And that incessant humming; it’s taking its toll!
I’ve got to get an ice pack on my head,
I’m in real pain here, and it’s worse than bad!