Undertow

Here’s the second of the poems I wrote while on my way to Homer. I had a L-O-N-G layover in Anchorage, more than seven hours (!!), which gave me a lot of time to do something to keep myself awake. I was ridiculously tired, up for almost 24 hours by the time I got in from Seattle, but I knew I couldn’t curl up and take a nap as I saw so many other people doing. I’d have slept right past my departure time! So I listened to music, listened to The Read, walked around … and wrote some sleepy-brained poetry.

Undertow 

The ocean decides: swim or drown? Water carries you.
She can wave you to safety or suck you down. Water carries you. 

You trust her with your breath, your fragile, breakable bones.
Your body is both lost and found. Water carries you.

In my heart, fear and love are coupled for the sea.
She smiles, swirling her gown – water carries you.

I could live in her, tell stories of her beauty –
cajole her out of her frown, water carries you.

And I, Stacie, hold my fascination for her --
stand ready to polish her crown. Water carries you.

This might be the last of the ghazals that I post. I have one more that was written during that layover in Anchorage, but it’s sooo rough, so clearly written with the most exhausted part of my brain. We’ll see.

Choices, Decisions … Defiance

I didn’t write 30 poems in April. Trying to get ready to leave my job for two weeks and then spending the last two days of the month traveling added to the fact that the ghazal was driving me crazy meant not hitting my mark. I did write more poems than I posted, however. I had over nine hours of layover time between my stops in Seattle and Anchorage, and I wrote a little. So here’s the first poem. I started this one in the Seattle airport and finished it on the flight to Anchorage.

Oscillation 

Indecision is my middle name, up in the air.
The road not taken calls my name, up in the air.

What's the secret to choosing a path, staying the course?
Choices delayed are a losing game, up in the air.

Today I felt my mind drain, blanked of every thought:
abject panic, time I can't reclaim. Up in the air.

Everything I'm doing feels wrong, leaves me rootless, at sea.
I need some kind of structure, a frame. Up in the air.

If I, Stacie, could break this code, find clarity, peace.
I'd be changed, never again the same up in the air 

Even after letting it marinate for a few days, I’m no closer to being enamored. The ghazal is really, really and truly, not the form for me. I was so sure we would click because I love a form with built-in repetition … but no. Running head-long into a form I can’t take in is when I feel it’s most evident that I’m not a poet. Which is silly, of course, because there’s no generally-accepted idea that all poets must be able to write all forms. I mean … of course. But there’s something about hitting that wall that feels like being told to stay in my lane.

But I like not doing what I’m told, so … I guess I’ll keep writing these bad poems. See if I don’t.

Right Down the Line

Uh-oh. Slipping, slipping, slipping … when I fall behind, I fall. I do have a crazy-long set of stopovers on my way to the residency, and I could (in theory) fill those hours writing poetry to catch up with my 30/30, but will I? Oy.

I was two poems behind, and then it was three, and right now … it’s four! That’s too many. I wrote last night … and then was too tired to actually post.

Here’s last night’s poem:

Excavation

Holding steady, keeping hopes aligned ... just in case.
Searching my past -- unsure what I'll find -- just in case.

Hiding in all the dark corners of memory,
stories and secrets fully entwined just in case.

This sort of digging opens too many doors,
like a river flowing through my mind. Just in case.

If the answers aren't here, there are no answers.
Stop hunting fruit in a dried-up rind, just in case.

I, Stacie, keep mining -- my stories, my missteps --
I lose the drift then start again, grind. Just in case.

But the title of this post is borrowed from the song that’s been playing in my head for weeks at this point, Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line.” I think I liked that song when I was a kid. I certainly haven’t given it much thought since then. But suddenly it was back in my brain, floating up from somewhere deep. And it hasn’t left. Other earworms have cycled through, but this one just stays in rotation. So I made a poem out of it.

Right Down the Line

A steady backbeat I can't ignore, an earworm.
Bubbling up from deep in my core, an earworm.

Your Northern Star was so much kinder than Joni's,
ripe with connection, with hope to explore, an earworm.

You said "I love you" in a song, just like Croce
gratitude and respect sung gently for an earworm.

I don't recall -- did I love this song as a child?
Maybe ... not? But now I hear so much more. An earworm.

So I, Stacie, sing along with Mr. Rafferty.
Sing commitment, sing love. It's you. You're an earworm.

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!

I want …

Friday I had tickets to see James McAvoy in Cyrano. Way back before we could have imagined two+ years of lockdowns and mask mandates, the National Theater offered up a live simulcast from London of a performance of Cyrano. I saw it in a giant, sold-out movie house in lower Manhattan — all of us sitting so close to one another, maskless, talking to strangers, laughing in each other’s faces. A whole other world.

The show was great. Better than great. I will distress many a James McAvoy fan by saying that it wasn’t until I saw that performance that I realized James McAvoy was attractive. He was so stunningly compelling in that role, I had a whole scales-falling-from-my-eyes moment in the movie theater. (This is a repeating issue with me. Ask my sister about the heartthrob men I’ve never noticed until, suddenly, I see them. She still teases me about Keanu Reeves. No, really.)

I am a lover of set design, and this production has a fabulous set that is both barely there and insanely flexible. Seeing the ways the cast moved around and over the set was fascinating.

So, when I heard that the production was coming to Brooklyn, I knew I wanted tickets. All that fabulousness live in front of me rather than on a movie screen! I had to go.

And I’m so glad I did. Live theater is so amazing. My friend and I weren’t in love with our seats. I asked an usher if we could be moved. I suggested some chairs at the back up the upper orchestra … she found us excellent seats in the front row of the upper orchestra! (More evidence of what a good idea it is to ask for things you need.)

McAvoy was amazing. Despite my inability to see him clearly before Cyrano, I had been fully aware that he was a good actor. He smashes the dial and turns it up to 20 in this performance.

Oh dear. Just noticed that it’s already midnight! Now I’ve officially missed two days in a row! I gave myself a pass last night because I was so late coming home from the theater … but I definitely wasn’t feeling inspired to fight my way through two ghazals today. Sigh. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe.

Into the Darkness

Tired of bumping up against what I can't see,
unable to avoid things unsensed, what I can't see

All the fears and catastrophes run in my head,
every uncertainty condensed. What I can't see.

There's a reason to be here, a reason to stay.
The work and the new worlds it presents. What I can't see.

My steps are small, hesitant, almost creeping.
The invisible path keeps me tensed -- what I can't see.

I, Stacie, want to take full strides, stretch my gait,
push myself further, all fears dispensed. What, I can't see.

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!

Let’s start at the very beginning …

(… a very good place to start. When you read you begin with a, b, c. When you sing you begin with do, re, mi. Do, re, mi. The first three notes just happen to be do, re, mi …)

And here we are with another day at the end of which I fell asleep without hitting “publish.” And I didn’t realize it until I logged on to write something for tonight. (insert exhausted eye-roll here). So tonight is another double-up night. I just can’t bear to fall two poems behind. I’ve still got April 1st looming over me, I don’t need to add to that count! Here’s the post and poem I wrote yesterday:

Trying to wrap m head around the ghazal. Still. Something I thought about last night is that the description of the form very specifically states that subjects for these poems “included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.”

Um … am I supposed to keep that in mind along with all the rules of the form? Am I supposed to be writing a month’s worth of poems about erotic longing (ha! as if!) or religious beliefs and mysticism? I mean really. One is just as unlikely as the other.

Yeah, I can’t take that on. Religion and eroticism might slip into my writing every once in a while, but every single day? On purpose? No, ma’am. Not this griot girl. Not hardly.

But I still wonder if my completely forgetting that note is in any way connected to the difficulty I’ve had all month trying to get these poems written. And I think about the couple of poems that came more easily than the others. The knitting poem on the fourth and the hyacinths back on the eighth. The poems on the twelfth (subway attack) and the second knitting poem on the fifteen … and maybe yesterday’s poem as I daydreamed about my upcoming writing residency …

Okay, that’s actually many more poems than I’d have guessed before going back to look through the last two weeks. How did that happen? For real. How?

So what was true on those days? What was different from the other days? Or maybe it’s just normal that only a quarter of the poems would feel easier to write than the rest? Maybe there’s no secret to this other than that note I found in my desk drawer at my 2019 residency: Begin Again / Keep Going.

Always Prologue

Empty spaces hard to fill so deep in the past.
Moving, not moving, haunted still, so deep in the past.

Try to push on, but caught up in old stories –
grist running through my mind’s mill, so deep in the past

Prospecting for a future I have to create,
possibilities to fulfill – so deep in the past

I, too, have tried, found ways to write my way out
such pressure placed on ink and quill so deep in the past

And I, Stacie, keep turning the soil, dropping seeds
stubborn hope that pain can’t kill, so deep in the past

And here’s tonight’s poem. I’m definitely not in love with it, but I’ll take it.

Circular Breathing

I stand ready, arms wide, both my hands open
Impatient, but patient, waiting, I try – hands open.

Should I pause or keep searching, no answers here.
All actions are hollow, fruitless, dry – hands open.

Optimism feeds fools, paints pictures, tells tales.
When the shine rubs off, we see the lie. Hands open.

Can you hold truth on your tongue, keep it safe, silent?
Always needed and in short supply, hands open.

I, Stacie, struggle to find balance, trust mercy
lead with gratitude and peace, retry, hands open.

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!