OnPoEvMo: A Quick Burst of Fire, July 2007

I was reading through an article about the anniversary (no celebration) of the Hindenburg Tragedy and wrote this poem. The line from the article that stuck out with me was the refrain running through the poem: Those who stayed, survived. Those who jumped, died.

This is part of my OnPoEvMo Project, an ongoing personal saga of writing, podcasting and publishing poems through the course of the year.

 

A Quick Burst of Fire

(considering the Hindenburg tragedy)
July 2007

Listen to the poem

Those who stayed, survived;
Those who jumped, died;

and isn’t it simply tragic that these are the facts that remain with us
seventy years after the giant envelope caught fire
in the skies above Jersey
while families and friends and reporters waited for the miracle,
only to be shown a tragedy in full view, unfolding frame by terrifying frame
above their heads.

Those who stayed, survived.
And yet to stay put with an inferno raging around you
and with fellow passengers descending like bullets towards the ground below —
that must have been like madness in and of itself,
a choice between some distant layers of Dante’s own Hell.

Those who jumped, died.
And yet how could you remain, stationary and collected,
with the heat curling up against your skin
and the smell of panic in your brain
and not take action to live.

Of course, I would jump.
Wouldn’t you?

But when the time came, I didn’t jump.
I stayed
and I survived,
standing so agonizingly close to the flames
— even today, I am always at the edge of this abyss —
that I am the one who still burns with anger at the fire-starter
— the friendly fiend with sulfur on his breath —
and I ignite at my own inability to react to the danger before
it was far too late —
to leap to the ground through the quick burst of fire
and be rid of this scar tissue forever.

Peace (on the ground),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: In-Security, June 2007

The end of the school years allows me to think about my students in different ways and one of my students this year seemed to have so much potential is so many areas and yet could never refrain from tearing down everyone around her with biting words. So here is this student, wrapped up in my own poetic analysis as part of my One Poem Every Month for a Year project.

In-Security
(June 2007)
Listen to the poem

Insecurity rages inside of you
you don’t curl up — you lash out —
words moving like daggers through the air
hitting the mark often
drawing blood in looks of surprise, and hurt,
and sadness,
yet bringing forth so little satisfaction
that you wonder why you do this —
drawing circles in the sand around you —
when all you really want is
someone to care about you.

Peace (with understanding),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Worms, June 2007

It must be the hectic end of the year mindset but my brain has not been working on much poetry lately. This morning, however, this short little one popped up at 4:30 a.m. as my cat woke me up and I was smiling at a phrase our two-year-old son has been saying, completely out of the blue.

 

Worms
(June 2007)

Listen to the Poem

“I like worms,”
he says so matter-of-factly that to doubt the words
would be to doubt his very person,
even though the words come out of nowhere and
roll off his two-year-old tongue like a song
once lost and now found.
Last month, his word was “yesterday.”
Yesterday, his word was “tomorrow.”
Today, it is “worms.”
Who knows what the real tomorrow will hold for him
and he’s not waiting, either, as he dances
on his toes across the room, humming a melody
in an ode to his newfound love of
worms.

Peace (with slippery crawling things),
Kevin

 

OnPoEvMo: Inside My Guitar, May 2007

One morning, I had this line running through my head — “I am inside my guitar” — and fashioned this poem for my OnePoemEveryMonthforaYear Project.

 

Inside My Guitar
(May 2007)

Listen to the Poem

I am going to crawl inside my guitar today
and take refuge with the dust
and broken picks
and whatever gremlins might live inside the house of sounds.
I intend to gaze up at the six strings
as they break the current of air with vibrations
and I’ll marvel at the way they all work together,
seamlessly, it seems, as a rainbow filling my head with wonder.
I’ll twist along with the turning screws,
and come unbound, then rewound,
then brought back into tune by some magnificent ear
that hears only the notes.
This wooden closet will be my home,
a dark place where no one else can go,
just me and me alone,
until I am ready to surf out on a shimmering note
and land in your ear as a whisper that sings to you all day
until your head falls back on the pillow
and I return to this world, once again.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

 

OnPoEvMo: Adrift on a Raft, May 2007

This poem for my One Poem Every Month for a Year project was inspired by a recent conversation I had with a friend about copyright protection and the artistic aesthetics of releasing your work to the world.

 

Adrift on a Raft
(May 2007)
Listen to the Poem

Art should be free,”
I insisted but she didn’t believe me —
she couldn’t believe me — she wouldn’t believe me —
and she insisted on arguing her case for copyright laws
and profit margins
and the theft of ideas through digital handshakes,
advertising along sidebars of poetry and images and music —
after which she drifted into some story about the writer suffering for his art
while his words floated free on someone’s high-tech liquid screen
with no compensation,
no expectation of payback for all that thinking and planning and producing.

Her eyes teemed with fury as she talked and I, well, I just blinked,
and quietly hid my hard drive from her gaze so she would not think me
the pirate that I am, the collector of words.
The point I wanted to prove to her was:
if the art is powerful,
if the art is meaningful,
if the art is transformative,
then let it go by releasing it to the wind,
and pray that it will move someone to tears
or laughter
without us first grabbing a dollar from their wallet or a coin from their pocket.
We suffer enough with pop culture stereotypes not to add
“shakedown artist” to the list and what is money anyway
in a place where ideas are currency?
She laughed at me then, scoffed at such notions, and ended our conversation
with a simple, “You are so naive,” and then left me with my idealism under attack.

So here I am, now, turning her into a poem
and then pushing her out the door of my mind on a raft of words
into your ear, dear reader, dear listener,
hoping only that she finds anchor in some friendly port
on the other side of the world.

Peace ( in some distant port),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: The Creator — a Poem for Three Voices, April 2007

This is an experiment for me — creating a poem for multiple voices and yet, it is only me speaking. Very tricky. I did it by layering my voice in Audacity and I am not sure I quite pulled off how I envisioned it. Once again, this is part of my OnPoEvMo Project.

The Creator: A poem for three voices and one person
(April 2007)

Listen to the poem

I am a I am a I am a
Writer    
  Composer  
    Poet
I crawl within I crawl within I crawl within
  the notes  
    the sounds
the words    
And look for the possibilities    
of creative expression of creative expression of creative expression
  I wonder at the  
I wonder at the colors I hear  
words I find   I wonder at the
    rhythms of the world and sink into my thoughts
dialogue    
  melody and memory and music  
  I bring my thoughts to life on the bars and staff and measures and move your feet to dance  
And make you think of all the chances    
that come with the roll of the dice    
and invention of something new —    
the character   the seam between the words — the space
    where silence exists
    The composition is
rich with nuance rich with nuance rich with nuance
    so that every single word
has meaning has meaning has meaning
I indent    
    I avoid punctuation
  I establish my theme and play with your  
  expectations, and remind you of why you  
are here, inside these words are here, inside these notes are here, inside these sounds
    Start inside me and move outwards
Start inside me and move inward    
  Start inside me and move upward  
Explore yourself through the eyes of others    
  Drift into the air, molecules excited,  
  music is made here as invisibility  
I am I am I am
    a poet
  a composer  
a writer    
Come, follow me on this adventure Come, follow me on this adventure Come, follow me on this adventure
  of notes  
    of sounds
of words    
Magic! Magical! Magnificent!
I am found inside the I am found inside the I am found inside the
mind    
  soul  
    spirit
We are one! The creator! We are one! The creator! We are one! The creator!

Peace (in many voices),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Ornette’s Dance April 2007

I was pleased to learn that free-style saxophonist Ornette Colema won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. I haven’t always following what he was doing but I have always admired his fearlessness to follow his own muse.

So I wrote a poem inspired by him for my OnePoemEveryMonth Project:

Ornette’s Dance
April 2007
Listen to the Poem
I’m tired of stealing words
where words just don’t exist —
this kiss that lives between the dream
and composition of the soul —
man, I wish I could stand, fixed,
within the realm of Ornette Coleman —
and just move around the lines of notes
and blurry borders of sound —
the saxophone, a shadow clown, that dances on the stage;
the horn contains the anguish, the sadness, the rage,
but plays and plays and plays —
fading into black, go ahead, kick back,
relax, sink down into the track,
let the moment be of peace for there,
amid the wreckage of the agitated mind,
is the start of something, moving, shifting, growing,
the beginnings of a line.

Peace (in a freestyle frame of mind),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Beyond the Cloth of Broken Glass April 2007

The past few weeks, this poem has bubbled up slowly. It was no doubt inspired by the rediscovery of my writing notebook from my Summer Institute with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. The words drew me back to that magical summer of writing, teaching and connecting with this network of people and friends.

 

Beyond the Cloth of Broken Glass

April 2007

Listen to the poem

I came upon myself today
and I was trapped inside the page
of an ratty old notebook that had been sitting there
for ages and ages
and I reflected on the hours — oh, those glorious hours —
in which I had been the writer, and nothing more,
just a pure scribbler armed with paper, pen, a locked door and an open mind.

And so, I removed all of my clothes
and danced naked among ruins of the long-forgotten poetry
of rhythm and rhyme that had been long lost to time’s fickle ways.
I squeezed in among the half-finished chords littered with abandoned notes
just yearning for a special place somewhere farther up the staff
but now rendered immobile with forgetfulness.
I inched forward onto the stage, into the plays, an actor composed of thoughts,
and inhabited the characters who moved inside my singular spotlight of mind,
and then vanished behind the curtain call of the closed notebook cover.

It was then that I found the letter,
the note that I wrote on a day when I had nothing better to do
but muse upon the future, the “me” that now reads the “me,”
and I uncorked this bottle
and sank down into the words that I created for only my eyes to see:

Write with your heart, search with your soul,
hold tight to the love,
so that you don’t fall back into the weariness
and uncertainty that seems to shove up against you at every turn,
and, for God’s sake,
don’t wrap yourself up again in that cloth of broken glass —
the shards will surely cut anyone
who comes in close and you — me, we — we may not last
if you have to go it alone in this world.

Bits of glass stung my tongue as the memory crawled back
and I remembered, finally, what this was,
this pad of paper filled with words from some other time
that had been squirreled away.
It had been a lifeline holding me together
when everything else was coming undone
and I feared the loosening of the threads above all else.

I closed the past and tucked it back where it belonged
and let the words of that letter settle in and live with me again as a friend
as I pulled up my blanket of silk and cotton threads and connectiveness and comfort
and silently slipped into a safe sleep.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Nerf Ball Boys — March 2007

Our young boys have been playing Nerf Basketball in their room almost constantly since the holidays. It’s amazing to listen to as they crash the boards, shoot free throws and come up with imaginary teams and players. To us, down below, it sounds as if the house is coming apart at the seams as they jump and play.

So, for another installment of my One Poem Every Month for a Year project, I present a tribute to the March Madness in my house.

 

Nerf Ball Boys

(March 2007)

Listen to the poem

Slamming, Jamming, Quiet!
It’s like a riot up there
as feet take to air
and come crashing back down to the ground —
the house shaking with the fury
of the nerf ball boys in constant, ever-active motion.
They drive to the basket as Yao Ming ducks his head,
Shaq elbows his way into the action,
Kobe shows amazing reaction
to the defenders and dives over Bird for the dunk.
Not like Mike, but close.
The nerf ball boys are at it again
When will this ever end?
The game is on the line and then
the fake — left, then right, a turn of the screw,
and he’s gone right past you, the crowd roars —
I can’t take this anymore
The basket breaks into pieces like plastic confetti,
and tumbles to the ground as the buzzer sounds
and the nerf ball boys collapse into a heap of glory
and that’s when they begin to tell the story
of the last minute heroics that brought the crowd to its feet.

Peace (with teamwork),
Kevin

 

OnPoEvMo: Standing Inside this Strange Loop — March 2007

Bear with me on this one: I was reading an article about the author Douglas Hofstadter (who wrote Gödel, Escher, Bach that I used to like to look at but never really could understand it all) and he now has a new book out called I Am A Strange Loop, and the concept of the paradox took hold in my mind.

Thus, another installment of my One Poem Every Month for a Year project.

 

Standing Inside this Strange Loop
(March 2007)

Listen to the Poem

 

I am standing here inside this strange loop
of sentences — no, wait —
I am lying.
That can’t be true. I am not standing inside of this loop
but I am on the outside, looking in, on top of this tangled hierarchy,
and wondering where the path will take me if I were to surf
the contours of this geometry and skate along the horizon.

I am inside of Bach’s canon, scattershot with no way out,
as the melody folds in on itself —
can you hearhearhearhear me
or is that just another harmonic echo
embedded in the air, shaking the molecules as tremors in the drum?
Creating something that becomes itself is the gift of the magician
and with music, it’s not even there —
only your ears can see the notes landing like snowflakes,
melting, and moving through the cyclical journey
to become ice once again sometime in the distant future,
drawing you back to this memory of the music
in Bach’s own mind.

Up the down staircase, indeed,
as MC Escher — not of some rap-busting rhymes in time
but the artist of the brush and the pen —
visually sends me downstairs while my eyes go up
and my mind is sent spinning in exhausting circles
aroundroundroundround
until one hand writes the other hand’s words
as I, me, the artist, the composer, completely disappears into myself.
Isn’t that just like the poet, too, tossing images into the world
and sounds flutterflutterflutter that coalesce into a theme
only when you stop looking for it?

Or maybe what I am saying here is completely untrue
because, really, I always speak the truth.
Like then, and then, and thenthenthenthenthen.
Logic is missing in this mayhem
and my world is precariously balanced
on the paradoxical threads of yet another
strange loop.

Peace (peacepeacepeacepeace),
Kevin