poem

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I confess that while I’m spending a lot less time playing computer solitaire, I’m spending a lot more time (too much) reading news headlines. And I’ve been writing a poem a day (or a draft of a poem), starting on January 20. I’m still at it, and yesterday was day 50. What? Only halfway through? It wasn’t my best effort–but driving out of the parking lot after work I got the line “Billy Collins says it’s like / The Yellow Rose of Texas” and I went with it.

Earlier in the week, this poem was gifted to me–yes, at 2:30 in the morning.

Waking at 2:30 a.m. I Think of Her

Say what you want, pat platitudes
about a better business climate,
fat cats padding pockets.
Tick. Tick. Feel
the pendulum swing,
tick, take it back
to trust lost at Love Canal,
back to the Cuyahoga burning,
moth wings mutating,
matching soot-darkened bark.
Tick. Steamroller in reverse.
The plants are factories—
what will grow from that?

The catch of the day floats,
silver bellies slack on the surface,
dead eyes skyward.
Tock. I wake in this night
and think of Erin Brokovich,
the movie and the real one
sleuthing stacks of evidence,
the real water a poison then
long before a spark struck in Flint.
Tick. Tock. Tell us
to punch a clock. Say what you want
about the state of the state,
but don’t drink the water,
don’t drink the rain.

 

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coat hanger with red circle and slashAnd not in a good way.

When I was younger, I had a pin, a coat hanger with a red slash through it.

The possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act is bad enough, but Speaker Paul Ryan’s strategy to defund Planned Parenthood took me back to those not-good-old days.

And then I thought about the women in Aristophanes’ play—not a ploy I would usually recommend, but I it made me think again about power and how we use it. Being a poet, I wrote.

Consider All the Consequences

Dear Rep Ryan, when you speak
from your arctic heart you do not
talk for me, your plan to ice pick apart
our care, start your war on women,
war on the poor, defund and leave
undone the work begun, skate back
to the past’s shadow alleys, option
often a dead end. I love kids, but keep
your laws off their bodies or we could go
all Lysistrata on you, seize
the day and freeze you out, not
an empty threat, it’s sensible—
sex makes babies and abstinence
will not grow the heart fonder
(ponder men of America marching
to your door) and if you slash
the right to choose before or after,
I can send you my wire hangers.

It gets more complicated—in a good way—because two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, as of Thursday had not committed to supporting the bill if it included that provision, which could be great news for people who don’t want a repeal (or who don’t want a repeal without a replacement already in place).

I’m taking no chances, though, and I’m going to send my wire hangers to Speaker Ryan and cabinet nominee Price. Are you in?

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An American E.R.

That was the first title that I wrote for this poem, submitted yesterday to Rattle’s Poet’s Respond.

In this NPR story, Zeke Emanuel, one architect of the ACA, talks about Donald Trump reconciling his pre-election promises to provide health coverage to all Americans and his post-election agenda. When Emanuel said “threading that needle,” I thought about how the way we care for others represents the essence of our compassion and equality—our humanity. In that moment, the current threat to health care served as a symbol for all the other risks.

Threading the Needle

After sewing up the election,
the seven thousand cuts begin.
A stitch in time saves nine,
but new wounds appear on the hour,
sharp knives in the cabinet
whetting their appetites.
In the body’s lobby, scarlet
fountains burble and spew, spray
the stains we can’t scrub out—
no spatters for Park Avenue suits,
just the holes growing wider,
just enough tiny sutures
to keep the patient coming back.
The needle makes a blunt instrument.
The eye sees what it wants to see,
not owning what the hands know.

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Juxtapositions

It’s been a week of contrasts–Wednesday a luminous, inspiring poetry reading by Ada Limón at Seattle Arts and Lectures, and Friday’s news of Donald Trump’s remarks about women. This morning, my daughter and I were talking about his comments and rape culture (and many other things), and later I was left with this:

For Our Daughters

It is not an accident
days after the poetry reading,
when I hear that man brag
of unrequested grabs and kisses,
that Ada Limón’s poem
about fillies and triumph
still rings my head like a starting bell,
and my ears are up,
but pounding down the backstretch
today I don’t want the horse’s heart,
not even the lion’s. No, give me
the heart of the spotted hyena
or the wolverine’s, all teeth and fury,
where the Past can’t hide in tall grass,
and my jaws are dripping with it.

 

(The poem referenced is the amazing How to Triumph Like a Girl, from her book Bright Dead Things.)

 

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I’m grateful that today my poem Sketch in Blue with Darker Water appeared online at Glass: A Poetry Journal.

It began as a color study, and became something else. It began as a way to thread color through a manuscript, and I ended up (so far) with five colors—red and yellow forthcoming; green and purple still seeking homes.

It went through many drafts in April 2015, when I decided to work on an exercise a day.

The lesson for me? Keep working. Keep exploring.

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