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poem a day: nos. 10, 12 & 13

Sick & Tired Moi This poem-a-day stuff is just kicking my ass, but in a good way. I wrote three today, in the space of a couple of hours, including the problematical Friday one (day 10). Day 12 was moderately difficult (start with the phrase "So we decided to") until I went all Zen about it. Then it fell into place. And no. 13 was pretty easy, writing about a hobby. So I wrote about making books.  I have to say I'm amazed at myself, the way I'm just churning stuff out. Not all of it's good, of course, not at the rate it's coming out. But I think a number of them have some potential. It'll be interesting to see how many I get out of this exercise. What's interesting too is the number of voices I find myself using. There's my old elegiac voice, my new austere voice, my Old English voice with all it's alliteration, and some of the transitional ones in between those, that aren't really remarkable or distinguishable. Hmmm.

Anyway, here's the latest batch, and I'm all caught up until tomorrow. Oh the pressure!

No. 10:

The Friday Borges Died

(June 14, 1986)

We left
from southern Michigan,
stopped at my parents’ house
on the northeastern shore of the Lake.
It was the first time
they’d met him.
Dad, one soldier to another,
offered him a beer,
though he’d had too many already
and I didn’t drive.
We didn’t stay long.
We had miles to go yet.

Instead, we headed north
and deep into the woods
to work on his cabin
and sleep in its loft.
I stowed a sleeping bag
and two surplus
Air Force foam mattresses
rolled up
in the back of his truck.
At the cabin, there was a hand pump,
a 5-gallon paint bucket to piss in,
a Coleman lantern,
and the smell of new wood.

Saturday we pounded nails,
filling in the gaps
in the flooring
until it was solid and silent,
then paddled down the river,
into the shallows, almost fetching up
in the mud,
had dinner at the bar, dog tired,
crawled into one big sleeping bag

In the morning, Sunday,
there were bird calls I didn’t know,
a trip to a place I hadn’t been in years
and on home.
By Monday, it was over
and I wished Friday
had never happened.

No 12:

 So we decided to

just stop
stop shouting
stop fighting
stop being angry
being in a hurry
wanting our way
putting ourselves first
telling others what to do
making demands
saying no saying yes
just stop
and take a breath
and another
and another
and smell the rain
spring coming
summer going
fall falling
feel the cold
soak up the sunshine
drink the rain
hold our arms out to the wind

and nothing stopped
no one died
life went

we were
so surprised
we decided to
keep doing it


No. 13:


"I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them - with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself."
-Eudora Welty

I’ve always loved them:
the weight, the heft, the rustle
of pages turning, paper and
its texture,
the smell of ink, glue, leather.
Well, not often leather,
when I make them. As yet,
that’s beyond my skills.
What I do is homey, medieval.

First, the paper for the cover
and the block. That says as much
about a book
as what’s printed inside. Then
sturdy boards, they’re called
though they’re paper too,
grey and velvety, unbendable,
compressed to the stubbornness
of wood. Hence: boards.
What wraps them
should be something like an evening gown,
with color and a subtle comment
on the contents. Glued, smoothed,
pressed like a heretic
beneath the screw.

Choose the face to match the words, too.
Nothing worse
than fine language
in a foul, broken font
on rich sheets, the watermark faint and glossy
like a brand, a scar.
And press it too, if you can, with platen,
chase and quoin,
rollers dabbed with a color
mixed the way artists do it
and never the same twice.
Let the words bite just a little
into the smooth flesh of fibers.

Then a little surgery: crease, fold, pierce, stitch
board to signature, signature to board,
back and forth with linen thread
and a curved needle
in patterns I embroidered
on denim and canvas as a child,
now stitching a case
to hold thoughts
captured like butterflies
pinned to the page.


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