Two-Step … In Double Time

Or some such. I missed all my writing deadlines yesterday. I was mentally exhausted and all I could do all evening was fall asleep over my notebook, then fall asleep over my computer and finally just fall asleep. I didn’t even register until this morning that I hadn’t actually finished the poem I was working on, that I hadn’t posted anything. Clearly, my body needed sleep more than I needed to play at being a poet. I can accept that.

Really, I can … but I also didn’t want to be two poems behind for the month. I still haven’t made up the poem I didn’t write on day one! So tonight I have two poems. Which means I’ve proved to myself that I actually can write two in one day, so I should be able to fully catch up before the end of the month … or, it means that I’ve exhausted my two-poems-in-a-day capability and this will be a 29/30 month. We’ll all just have to wait and see!

All the Difference

Never imagined a future, not a real one.
How do you dream hard enough to reveal one?

Forever choosing the wrong fork in the road –
never the wise path but the safe, even-keel one.

Time and again the heart chooses unwisely,
each lover presented himself the ideal one.

Each than another proved so much less than desired –
wounds and deceipts and a heart cold as a steel one. 

And I, Stacie, tire of being the genteel one.
Bare both teeth and claws when I ought to conceal one.

I won’t go so far as to say I’m crazy about that poem, but I have amused myself by using “genteel” and by using it as a descriptor for myself. And ghazal the second:

Saturated

Even on the calmest day, I'm caught in the storm .
Chaos swirling all the time, caught in the storm.

Try meditation, some soulful deep breathing
Always a hill too high to climb – caught in the storm.

Every moment is fraught, tensions running high.
Not a single day of downtime. Caught in the storm.

But these are lies – sort of lies – it’s all my own making.
Over-scheduling’s the crime, caught in the storm.

I, crazed spinner, dream a day of silent stillness 
from dawn ‘til the last hour’s chime                (sigh)        caught in the storm

National Poetry Month 2022: the Ghazal

As I’ve done for more than ten years (what?!), I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April … and I’m saying that boldly, knowing that I’ve already failed. I couldn’t find my way through to a poem on Day One, but I’m determined to continue.

The “Ghazal” is the form I’ve chosen for this year. Here is the structure and a little backstory (thank you Poetry Foundation):

“Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. Consisting of syntactically and grammatically complete couplets, the form also has an intricate rhyme scheme. Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet). The last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s. In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length, and the subject matter included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.”

Should be interesting!

Make, remake, and make again

I have unraveled and restarted the hat I’m knitting four times now. I made the mistake of trusting the pattern and being led astray as a result. Caston on using dpns. Why? I have perfectly good circulars and prefer them and am more dextrous with them. Okay, start again. Cast on (on circulars) the exact number of stitches the pattern says I need for a head as big as mine. Start working the K2P2 rib … and be pretty certain almost from the start that it’s too many stitches, that I’ll be able to fit my head and a few others besides into that knitted circle. Keep knitting until I can no longer deny the foolishness of continuing. Okay, start again. Cast on a significantly decreased number of stitches, make it through the band and then switch to larger needles and stockinette stitch … only to really hate how the stockinette looks. Okay. Oy. pick up stitches at the top of the band and then unravel the stockinette and continue with the larger needles in the K2P2 rib. It’s finally starting to look like something I’m going to want to put on my head. We’ll see how it goes.

Sometimes patterns are perfect. I don’t need to do any adjusting, I can just follow the instructions that have been written by someone who is much better at pattern-making than I am. Perfect. And then there are times like with this hat pattern. I have no idea why this pattern is so bad. Everything about it reads correctly, sounds likely to create exactly the ha I wanted. And then the actual product is a mess. So then I have to start using things I know — I like circulars better than double-pointed needles for example — and start making adjustments to what’s written in the pattern.

And I say all of that to say that the same is likely true with the ghazal. I know what the rules are. I’ve got them written out at the bottom of this and every other post for April in case I forget. I know the rules, and I’ve been making every effort to follow them. But in this past week I’ve found that I have an easier entree into the poem when I let myself muss up the rules a little, at least at first. Each time I’ve pushed through with an assonance or a near rhyme, I’ve been able to keep moving … and then I’ve come back and found a word that says what I want and fits with the rules. I need to remember that I don’t have to rigidly follow what’s written down. Sometimes, the way forward requires a detour, requires that I follow my own path.

Red Sky in Morning

A neon sign forever blaring: “DON’T TRUST ME!”
You’re warned at every turn, despairing. Don’t trust me.

There’s nothing to see here, just keep it moving.
Worry for yourself, how you’re faring. Don’t trust me.

Why do you insist on attempting connection?
You won’t be rewarded for your caring. Don’t trust me.

I call myself out, wave you away from my trouble.
Look in the mirror, confidence tearing. Don’t trust me.

I, Stacie, am the warning hue the sailors watch.
Rusted and angry, there’s no comparing. Don't trust me.

When I was at Saltonstall for my 2019 residency, I opened my desk drawer one day and found a message that I would do well to remember daily.


National Poetry Month 2022: the Ghazal

As I’ve done for more than ten years (what?!), I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April … and I’m saying that boldly, knowing that I’ve already failed. I couldn’t find my way through to a poem on Day One, but I’m determined to continue.

The “Ghazal” is the form I’ve chosen for this year. Here is the structure and a little backstory (thank you Poetry Foundation):

“Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. Consisting of syntactically and grammatically complete couplets, the form also has an intricate rhyme scheme. Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet). The last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s. In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length, and the subject matter included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.”

Should be interesting!

Here Be Monsters

Here, there, everywhere. We can pretend not to see, not to know, but our refusal to see erases nothing. That’s not how violence works. That’s not how war works. That’s not how genocidal rape works.

Everywhere, Every Time

I was waiting, my stress increased, who are we now?
Inevitable to say the least, who are we now?

Unspoken but known, breath held metaphorically,
It’s always been, never surceased. Who are we now?

When the Chibok girls were taken, we always knew --
lambs sacrified for an evil feast. Who are we now?

We always know because the truth always comes out.
Looking away, nothing's eased. Who are we now?

The stories stayed hidden week after week, untold.
Silence, and still the facts we pieced. Who are we now?

It’s always women, girls, boys. The cruelty’s the point.
Pretend not know, but the wheel’s been greased. Who are we now?


I, Stacie, grind my teeth, unsure how much I can hold.
It’s far from over, we’ve unleashed the beast. Who are we now?

National Poetry Month 2022: the Ghazal

As I’ve done for more than ten years (what?!), I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April … and I’m saying that boldly, knowing that I’ve already failed. I couldn’t find my way through to a poem on Day One, but I’m determined to continue.

The “Ghazal” is the form I’ve chosen for this year. Here is the structure and a little backstory (thank you Poetry Foundation):

“Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. Consisting of syntactically and grammatically complete couplets, the form also has an intricate rhyme scheme. Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet). The last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s. In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length, and the subject matter included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.”

Should be interesting!

Getting Back on the Horse

… or something. This morning I walked down to the train and rode to work. Yes, I did tell my mother last night that I’d probably take cabs today, but the fares were all crazy elevated today, so it was the MTA for me. Which was better in the long run. Better to get right back on the train and not let myself get nervous about riding because I’m always going to need to be on the subway. This isn’t the time to let fear take me out.

So I took the train to work this morning. And, of course, it was fine. And it was also awkward. The tension — mine and that of the riders around me — was practically a solid thing, prickling on my skin. But we were all okay. There were some knowing and understanding smiles exchanged here and there, and everything went smoothly.

A strange day. Every meeting started with a recounting: your proximity to 36th Street and 4th Avenue, people you know who live in Sunset and where they were yesterday at 8:30, shouldn’t it still be called terrorism no matter who did it and why, did you ride the subway this morning, did you get the alert on your phone at 10:30 telling you to be on the lookout for Frank James? (Because somehow not everyone got the alert, even though it’s supposed to go to everyone, like an Amber Alert.) Did you sleep last night? How are you feeling now?

Sigh. I am happy to know that James has been found and arrested. Why was I surprised to know he was found in the East Village? My surprise amused me because it was so odd. Maybe I assumed he’d find it easier to disappear in any number of other neighborhoods.

Now we all try to settle back into something like normalcy. I guess? Yes, I guess. For me, that means turning my attention back to the ghazals.

Yesterday’s poem came surprisingly (not surprisingly?) easily. Writing the post took much longer, a total reversal from the norm.

My little system — sampling different refrains and rhymes before I start writing — is helping, but it by no means guarantees ease or success. Having a theme in mind is, of course, the critical thing. And those have proven elusive. Tonight I had nothing. Total blank. I think my brain is tired.

But then I met a friend for dinner, an amazing, dynamic, beautiful Black woman friend, someone I met at my old job. We have taken a very surface, in-the-office friendship and begun to turn it into something real, and I’m so glad. There are always people I am so close with at work but then they fall away when one or the other of us moves on. I know that’s natural, but I hate it. Happily, that isn’t the case with every person I love at work. That would be awful. Some of my dearest friends are people I met through jobs.

So I thought about my lovely friend and how we’ve made a concerted effort to see each other regularly, now that we’re feeling safe to be out and about again. It made me remember an incredibly irksome motivational speaker I had to endure at a training years ago. Mixed in with the annoying jokes and BMOC energy, he talked about how we build and maintain important contacts, how we can’t just meet someone and expect the connection to stay strong with no work on our part. He said we should think of those relationships as empty barrels we’re trying to fill … using an eyedropper, told us to imagine how many eyedroppers of water we’d have to use to fill such a big container and how we’d have to be committed to staying on top of it if we hoped to fill that barrel … and each drip, drip, drip of liquid from the eyedropper was the effort we were committed to making to build a real relationship.

And, while I do have some friendships where our interactions are few and far between but the love we have for one another doesn’t waiver, of course that irksome man was right. Relationships are work, and we have to actually be willing to put in the time if we want them to continue. And of course I know this and knew it before hearing him say it, but at one point tonight my friend was filling our water glasses, and I thought of that eyedropper and thought yes, she and I were committed to doing the work to make sure we stayed friends.

And then I had a theme for my poem.

Reward

Each time we meet, we weave a thread -- connection.
Our laughter loud, our heartbeats deep, seal connection.

What makes the different, makes our friendship stay true?
There's work we put in, layers we peel -- connection.

We do and don't know each other's stories, secrets.
The denser the weaving, the more idea connection.

You see me well. I hope you feel my vision, too.
Being seen sets us on an even keel, connection.

And I, Stacie, am buoyed by warm, soft gratitude,
clink glasses lightly, cherishing real connection.

National Poetry Month 2022: the Ghazal

As I’ve done for more than ten years (what?!), I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April … and I’m saying that boldly, knowing that I’ve already failed. I couldn’t find my way through to a poem on Day One, but I’m determined to continue.

The “Ghazal” is the form I’ve chosen for this year. Here is the structure and a little backstory (thank you Poetry Foundation):

“Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. Consisting of syntactically and grammatically complete couplets, the form also has an intricate rhyme scheme. Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet). The last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s. In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length, and the subject matter included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.”

Should be interesting!

Upended

You may know that I live in Brooklyn, that I live in south Brooklyn. My neighborhood has probably been in your news today because I live in Sunset Park, the neighborhood that was the site of the subway shooting during this morning’s rush hour.

I wasn’t there, and I’m totally fine. My train stop is one away from the stop that is captured in all the videos and photos. I am in that station all the time, of course, because it’s on my way to work, on my way home. Sometimes I transfer trains there.

This morning I went to work late. I often try to avoid the height of rush hour if I can. Too many people, and too many of them without masks these days. So I was behind the violence this morning, got stuck not being able to move forward and no idea why. Transit staff told us there was a “smoke condition” at 36th Street, which was true as far as it went. When I got back to the street, I contemplated the bus, but a brief chat with a woman at the bus stop told me that no trains were running at 36th Street, and the only buses in the opposite direction were out of service.

I stood in the rain a while, then decided my best option was to declare today a work-from-home day. And I fully acknowledged and appreciated that I have the privilege to do that when many many people do not.

So I walked home, and that’s when I found out what had caused the “smoke condition” that frustrated my commute.

*

I’m devastated by the shooting on the subway. How could I not be? Violence like this is always horrifying and devastating. And being trapped in a subway car with someone bent on killing you … I mean, it’s the worst iteration of a fish-in-a-barrel scenario.

I am heartened by the news that none of the injuries are life-threatening. I’m also heartened by the news that there is at least a “person of interest” in the case. But that comes along with the awful awareness that the shooter is still at large.

When I was washing dishes tonight, I realized something that this incident has to mean for me. I’ve written about disturbing and frightening encounters I’ve had with strangers. And each time I’ve thought not only about my own feelings, my own safety. I’ve tried to have empathy for the other person in the story.

So isn’t today the real test? Can I have empathy for the man who attacked the people on the N train today? I think I’m failing here … and I’m not feeling inclined to try not to fail. I can have empathy for people with untreated mental illness, but I’m not ready to paint today’s shooter with that brush. We don’t know anything about him. Yes, I can decide that anyone who would commit such a heinous act must be mentally ill … but I don’t actually believe that. I think mental illness gets a bad rap, gets blamed for all sorts of things for which it’s not responsible.

But this is still the test, isn’t it? Tonight, I re-watched the “Empathic Civilization” video that I first saw 10 years ago that got me thinking in a very intentional way about empathy. I can acknowledge that man’s humanity. I can acknowledge his anger, his pain. But empathize with him? Why would I want to?

The purpose of empathy is to help us understand how other people feel. Having that ability to understand others’ feelings is supposed to trigger generous or helping behavior in us … “generous” in the sense that we want to give of ourselves to other people. Empathy helps us build social connections.

So why have been telling myself all evening that I need to empathize with the man who carried out that attack? I’m not interested in working toward a world where we welcome in the people who want to kill indiscriminately, people who are comfortable striking at the peace of mind of millions of people, destabilizing a city’s equilibrium.

Maybe what I want is something else. It probably is good if people can understand the feelings of someone who would carry out an attack like the one in the subway (or any other mass shooting). If we understood the feelings of those people (I am struggling not to say “those killers,” but really, that’s what they are), maybe we could figure out how to help them so that they never reach the point of terrorism. So someone needs to be striving for empathy, but I’m not sure it’s me.

So where am I left? I don’t only want to have anger and horror as my responses to this man. My compassion is for his victims, and for everyone who has been traumatized (and re-traumatized) by his actions. I have anger. I have horror. I have disgust. I’m trying to find some room for something more, something more overtly constructive, something that lets me feel hopeful for change, let’s me feel hopeful, leaves me with hope.

Upended

Chilled, rainy morning. Nature fussing, showing now.
She twists your plans, could have it be snowing now.

But this isn’t about nature, it’s about anger,
about violence and the wind that’s blowing now.

When did we get here, this disregard for others?
But it’s not new. Our disdain is flowing now.

On days like today, that flow breaches the levees,
knocks us back from the line we should be toeing now.

I, Stacie, watch my neighbors wander – cold, confused.
what we thought we knew, understood, all going now.

National Poetry Month 2022: the Ghazal

As I’ve done for more than ten years (what?!), I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April … and I’m saying that boldly, knowing that I’ve already failed. I couldn’t find my way through to a poem on Day One, but I’m determined to continue.

The “Ghazal” is the form I’ve chosen for this year. Here is the structure and a little backstory (thank you Poetry Foundation):

“Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. Consisting of syntactically and grammatically complete couplets, the form also has an intricate rhyme scheme. Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet). The last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s. In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length, and the subject matter included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.”

Should be interesting!