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Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Today is a day off from the A to Z Challenge. Too bad, as I’m chock full of “T” things to pile into this day: Tardy, Time, Tired, Training, Testing, Truth-telling …

Instead, today I’ll reflect on another challenge, the #52essays2017 challenge. I’m still determined to write 52 essays this year, despite being well off the essay-a-week goal. I have several sizable drafts waiting for completion, but my brain just can’t quite seem to get there. Yes, part of that is the fact that I haven’t given myself much time to sit with any of those drafts and work. Part of it is also that I wonder if their moments have passed, if they are too specific to events that are no longer current.

On my way home from a workshop today, I thought about a couple of those unfinished essays in particular. The one I started to write in response to some of the casually violent and oppressive comments I heard and read from people after the women’s march in January. The one about what I really mean when I keep telling white folks they need to come get their people. Thinking about these and the other unfinished pieces, I could feel the stubborn, obnoxious me fussing, saying I should just finish and publish them, even if their subjects feel out of date. I did throw the Dolezal piece up, after all, why not these. And I kind of, maybe, sorta agree?

I need to think about it a bit more. I had some good anger in there. I hate to see it wasted, cast off to the Island of Misfit Blogposts.

__________

Meanwhile, today’s chōka — inspired by a moment on the A train this afternoon, a moment I have had so many times in my life, but especially since I started wearing my hair natural … which was in 1989, so we’re talking a ridiculously long time and people should know better by now.

What My Hair Says

Did you see me? I
look like a goddess today
… at least, my hair does.
Today I have hair
that makes strangers’ hands reach out
as their eyes light up
and they ask, “Can I touch it?”
Today my hair says,
“Get the fuck away from me,”
as I duck my head,
bob and weave, avoid contact.
Woman on the A
looked offended when I moved,
reached her arm again
as if I’d made a mistake.
“Do not touch my hair,”
I said it calmly, clearly —
nary a stutter.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said,
her hand in mid air.
I took a step back, said … “Yes.”
Nothing more to say.
My hair is quite beautiful.
But this is the A —
subway car, not petting zoo.
Do not touch my hair.
You can ask … but you
ask while already reaching,
already so sure
you can of course have your way.
You can ask … but I
don’t have to agree. And won’t.
Today my hair says,
“Get the fuck away from me.”
Tomorrow, that’ll be me.

My first long chōka … and of course it’s angry. Of course.

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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Because it’s one year already, one year since one of the most prolific, gifted, fascinating creatives transitioned. It’s hard to believe it’s already a year,

One year, it’s so short
three hundred sixty-five days,
not yet long enough
to fully accept this loss.

He gave us so much,
again and still yet again —
Starfish and Coffee,
Play in the Sunshine, Gett Off,
Erotic City,
When Doves Cry and Purple Rain,
Peach, Diamonds and Pearls,
New Power Generation,
We Can Funk, The Cross,
Ballad of Dorothy Parker …

So much pure pleasure,
songs I used to blush to sing.
So many stories,
one talented, stunning man,
a spirit bright, breathtaking.

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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Tonight was the second Chapters reading for Girls Write Now mentees, and Sophia was on the bill! She was so nervous, but she was great! All the girls were great. I’m always so amazed by the writing I hear at Chapters, by the power and beauty and honesty and vulnerability and humor. These girls are fire. 100%

A favorite moment came from the mentee who was co-emcee of the evening. When it was time for her to read out the name of the raffle winner, she took the paper and looked at it quizzically then leaned into the mic and said, “The winner is … Moonlight!”

The mentee/mentor emcee pair will be a hard act to follow. And that’s exactly what Sophia and I will have to do in two months when we emcee the June Chapters! I’m already stressing about what to wear and what I’ll do with my hair.

I’m so honored and proud to get to work with Sophia, to get to know the other mentees and mentors that are part of GWN. Such a great evening. Can’t wait to get back to work with Sophia on Tuesday!

Fire

Fierce, beautiful words
these young writers are power.
Their energy shines
reminding me: stay open,
keep trusting my voice
keep welcoming my muses
there is treasure here.
There is music and magic
all of this is free —
free … in exchange for the work
in exchange for faith
and yes: the blood, sweat, and tears,
the torture of the blank page.

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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Of course! Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day is coming, and I’ve started getting ready. For years now, I’ve gone around giving out poems — mostly at work, but not only at work¹ — so that people will actually have a poem in their pocket. Yes. Because no one ever actually has a poem in their pocket except me. It’s a shame, really. At my old job, people got used to this annual poem distribution behavior. And I realized the other day that some folks at my new job are already looking forward to it. Two people have mentioned that PIYP Day is coming, have asked if I’ll have more poems to give out.

I have a large supply of poems to share around that day — this is definitely not my first time at the PIYP rodeo — but my poem selection needs an update. I’ve been adding a new poem or two every year, but I think it’s time for a more significant overhaul. I’ve been grabbing some new things from poets I’ve recently come to love, but I want more. I haven’t lost any of my love for the poems that have lived in my PIYP grab bag for years — Langston Hughes and Dylan Thomas, Nikki Giovanni and Lucille Clifton will all stay in rotation — but I need more.

And I’m open to suggestions. Whose poems would you suggest? What should I add to the basket? Maybe you want to add something you’ve written to the group? That would be wonderful. So today, P is also for: Please share! Send me poems to look up, links to your faves, links to your work that you’d like to add to the selection.

Criteria for suggested poems:

  1. Must be something you absolutely love.
  2. Must be short-ish. I’ve noticed that people look daunted when they get a super-long poem. I’m not trying to trigger bad memories of the ways we were made to work with poetry with when we were in school, and long poems seem to do that to people, make them feel pressured in some way.
  3. Must include author’s full name — and that includes you if you decide to send me some of your work.

(It’s a short list. I really would just love to read whatever you suggest!)

__________

Guess Again

I am not the one
the girl you can pass over
the woman who waits —
still, doll-like, in the corner.
No. I am hungry
and I will eat everything,
every everything
until I decide I’m done.
I will take handfuls
armloads of the finest bits
and they will be mine
not for sharing, not for you,
not for anyone
but me, myself, I, I, I.
Punto. Can you hear me now?

I have a surprising number of poems that have the same feel as today’s chōka, that have this same “I am not the one” thing going on. I should spend some time with that, thinking about what that is, where it’s coming from, who I’m talking to when I write it. Hmm … it’s an investigation for another time. Yes, because “P” is also for “Procrastination,” but more because I’m too tired to think clearly about much of anything at this moment. But definitely some exploration required. There are maybe as many as three other poems — maybe more? — that I’ve written in the last few years that run on this same path. Time to do some free writing, figure out what I’m thinking.

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.

__________
¹ When I had my first knee surgery back in 2013, I knew I’d be in the hospital on PIYP Day, so I packed an envelope of poems in my hospital bag and offered up poems to everyone who came to my room that day and everyone I saw on my PT strolls around the floor. (And don’t think my coworkers missed out because I as in the hospital. I left a basket of poems behind for them to choose from. Because I am nothing if not obsessive!) When I was back in the hospital for surgery #2 in 2015, there were folks who remembered getting poems from me, including one nurse who had hers tacked up at the nurses’ station!



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Ode to My Hair

Every kinky curl,
every twist and bantu knot,
every minute of
co-washing or detangling,
every hour tucked
in heat cap or satin wrap,
every braid-out and up-do,
every afro-puff,
every pack of Marley hair,
every wide-tooth comb,
every faux tortoise shell pin,
every bad hair day
that looked good on the outside,
every long, long night
with a head of curlformers,
every month’s length check,
discovering cleansing clay,
that first successful
twist and curl — HALLELUJAH! —
first henna treatment,
and YouTube tutorial.

My excellent mane,
most glorious crown of curls,
gives me daily strength,
earns smiles, nods, compliments —
wraps tight coils ’round my heart.

(Obviously, I pronounce “every” like “ev’ry” … I don’t know if that’s actually standard or just “Stacie standard,” but there it is. Hmm … and “coil” is a 2-syllable word in my head. Funny the things you notice about how you say things when you have to pay attention to syllable counts!)

Not an “ode” exactly, but maybe “ode-adjacent.” And silly.

Last night’s bad news has already been turned upside down, so I’m glad I didn’t spend over-long fussing and fuming about it. On to the next!

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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Tonight I am cranky. Tired and cranky. The day started mostly well. But bad news has a way of forcing any glimmer of hope and happiness to gutter and fade. This will pass. I know it will. But for now, all I want to say is, No.

No. No. No. No. No.

And also: Damn it.

__________

Mixing of cultures
dipping toes in the water
Learning who we are,
learning how we are alike
past the differences
that poke at us, cloud our view
We have now, just now
to listen with eyes open.
We have only now —
this half-spent moment, this breath.
to listen, finally hear.

I keep trying to poke at different things with these chōka . I’m too fussy right now to have a real opinion about this one. It doesn’t do what I wanted it to, but it’s done, and that’s got to be enough of a point for tonight.

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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The miles between us
all the things we never say.
Already miss you
though we’ve just now said goodbye.
Forty-eight hours
could never be enough time
never enough time.
We are too few and too far —
my heart sits alone, longing.

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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