New Poem: “Privilege”

I do not usually post poems on this site, but as a white person living in the times of the Black Lives Matter movement I’m having feelings that just want to get out. I wrote this about what it’s like to be suffering and still be achingly conscious of white privilege.

Privilege

I got troubles, I got poison in my head
wanting to kill me and that’s fucked up it’s true
But if I open these pale ears of mine
I got other voices that talk at me too

and the voices they say, listen white girl
listen to us black and dying out here
dying while we’re trying to live
dying when we’re trying harder than you

Hear us howl, not afraid of a traffic stop girl
no stinkeye when you go in a shop girl
get some attention in the ER girl
not labeled druggie even if you are girl

Listen white girl, if it’s all you can do
just twist that razor blade in your hand
the one with a silver edge at a right angle
to the fishbelly skin inside your arm

Tilt it enough to catch the light
once and again just like the light
revolving on a black and white
shining on blood in this time of war.

Loneliness

Does a poet have to be lonely?

I look at today’s picture and think about how much I’d like to have friends with whom I could share my poetry.

I tell myself it’s lack of money that keeps me from entering the world of workshops and writer’s circles, and there’s some truth to that–but there do exist alternatives, and I haven’t explored them very extensively.

I feel as if my poems are the equivalent of sex toys–kept in a box, never talked about and shared only with very intimate companions.

Masturbation, to continue the metaphor, is safer for the psyche than sex with others. You get no feedback, don’t need to deal with self-consciousness and don’t have to consider others’ needs.

But it can get lonely, and it’s missing a special energy that intimacy with another can create.

I’ve been working on getting my first submissions done, and I am eager to take the next step. I’m eager to take steps in getting more involved with my local scene, or find a course I can afford next year.

But I’m also afraid, and a part of me would rather stay lonely than risk ending up with companions who might be toxic.

The Empty Chair

How many metaphors do we creative types have for those times of feeling blocked, repressed, empty or otherwise unable or unwilling to create?

I chose no picture for several days, and the one I drew from the box today seems quite fitting: a humble wooden chair in a small room, red desk, messy papers and bookshelves. Even what I think might be a crumpled white paper on the floor.

Ill in body and mind, I have not been present in that chair. Grey of thought, I have not looked through that window. Sick with shame and inertia, I have not even climbed the steps to that room.

Today chance brought out this photo (as, it must be admitted, my sole creative effort for the day since I am still not doing too well) and I am taking a moment to look at it.

No poem appears, nor am I feeling a jolt of energy that I will use for another essay or poem.

I am not transported into the room. I am not yet able to reach it–but the room is still there.

The chair is empty, but it is waiting for me.

The Poet of Wickedness

“I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also.”

—–Walt Whitman

Today’s picture prompt made me think of the Shadow.

The jagged, irregular boundary of it in the picture reminds me of how I live inside my head.

Now, I know what Jung says about the Shadow, and how important and valid it is. But right now, I’m just thinking in child’s fairytale terms of light/dark, life/death. Indulge me.

Part of me would like to believe that I am 99% a child of Light (whatever I define that to be) but that is not even close to true.

Suicide prevention is a cause dear to my heart, and the creative pursuit of one more day is part of what my other site is about. I believe I write as a force on the side of life–but when it comes to poetry, it may not seem so clear in my words.

The poet I am is not a nice person.

Even when I write about nice subjects, dark stuff can creep in. When I write about something that’s already not so nice–look out. I’m usually not happy until the result gives me a creepy feeling on the back of my neck and a vague disturbance in the region of my belly button.

So, when I let the darkness run rampant on my page, am I still fighting on the side I believe in? The side I need to pour energy into if I want to stick around here?

Yes.

If “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—then yes.

What is the Ocean Thinking?

Here is today’s picture prompt. Do you know the most important lesson we learn from prompts? That anything can be an inspiration for a poem. Anything. A poet in touch with his or her creativity need never fear boredom.

Even with an abstract image, I can access a multitude of angles for poem seeds. For an image like the above, there are so many ways to go.

There are the most straightforward ones: A journey. Loneliness. Nature. A character: what is the walker thinking? Where is he or she going? Why?

Oh, but there is so much more. Gestalt theories of dreamwork postulate that everything we see in a dream is a part of our own consciousness. When I look at a picture, I sort of reverse this idea and imagine that anything in it can have a consciousness and a story.

What is the ocean thinking? Or the sand? Or the walking stick? Or the walker’s shoes?

Who or what is seeing this scene from above? What’s the story there?

Is this whole scene happening in someone else’s thoughts? Do they miss the walker or try to imagine what he or she is doing?

Do we want to delve shamelessly into archetypes? We’ve got symbolism from water, mud, traveler/seeker, the rod…have fun.

It may all sound cheesy. One hundred flights of thought may lead to one promising seed–or less.

But contemplating a picture–or any image we see, as long as we do it with conscious intention–invites our creativity in for tea; helps it feel welcome.

And when it feels welcome, it’s more likely to drop by with gifts.

I Took Out a Comma

“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.”  — Oscar Wilde

I have done this. I have done this actual act, as well as many other “trivial” changes to a poem.

I have altered a line break by one word, and returned it to the first break.

I have changed a word, changed it back, come up with a third and fourth word, juggled the choices, and come to the conclusion that the first word was fine: it’s the following word that needs to be changed.

Why?

There is no logical reason. This is poetry, not geometry, and no two poets would make the same set of revisions. It’s not supposed to make sense to anyone but me. Half the time it doesn’t even make sense to me.

For instance, one of my poems uses the word gray several times. Now, in the US, either gray or grey is considered an acceptable spelling for this word. But in this poem of mine, grey looks and feels wrong, wrong, wrong. It would ruin the whole work in my eyes. It has to be gray with an A.

No logical reason.

I read somewhere that Elizabeth Bishop would tack up poems with one blank space for months until she had just the right word. I’m not sure I have that much patience, but I can understand.

Today, embrace your illogical microtinkering, and I will try to embrace mine.

Here is today’s picture prompt:

 

Picture This

Today's prompt

Today’s prompt.

For about ten days last year, I drew a new picture from a bag as a poem prompt every day. It was meant to be an improv exercise as well as a meditative one; if something I wrote led to the seeds of a more developed poem that was fine.

I gave it up when I found myself missing days. Perfectionism is truly the bane of creativity.

It was a mistake to stop doing it—maybe I would have been inconsistent about it at times, but even the brief foray into daily pictures yielded several poems I am glad to have in my body of work.

The most interesting thing about picture prompts is the space between picture and poem. A shot of a snarling badger becomes a poem about repression of the Self. A shot of a laughing chimpanzee becomes a poem about meeting God. A barren desert landscape turns into a poem that makes people laugh out loud.

Most of the pictures in my stash come from old National Geographic magazines. I obtained about 200 old issues, and find the cutting out of pictures to be therapeutic in times of anxiety. Nature scenes, people, animals…and abstracts. I’ll cut a picture at places that are not the obvious ones if it creates an interesting image. Some of them, on the other hand, are quite dull…it’s up to my imagination to get an idea from them more interesting than “Fuck, that’s a lot of sand.”

I’m thinking I will start to pick a picture every day again–but with some new rules:

1) I am not obligated to write anything inspired by it, but I must leave the picture somewhere in plain sight all day so that random thoughts can percolate.

2) Then I glue it into a binder, so that I can go back to it if I wish.

3) The most important rule: If I forget, blow off or otherwise ignore my picture stash for one or more days (as is not unlikely because hello, imperfect human being) I am allowed to come back to doing it as soon as possible.