I live in North Carolina, where a state-wide shelter-in-place order for the month of April started yesterday. (Can we talk about that phrase, by the way? Every time someone uses it, it brings up hurricanes and tornadoes for me. Maybe it’s metaphorical? Maybe we’re giving the powers that be less credit for creative thinking than they deserve? Is there a ‘phrase maker’-in-chief? There should be..maybe the poet laureate can do double duty?)
However, my wife and I have already been “sheltering-in-place” for two weeks today due to an overabundance of caution as I have ridiculously bad asthma. So by now, in that middle ground of getting cabin fever when the quarantine has barely started; when the likelihood that it’ll go even longer than the end of April stays ever-present in my mind; when the knowledge that no matter whether they lift it or not I can’t really let myself, in good conscience, go anywhere until there’s a vaccine which might be a year…when all of this is scrambling around in my brain sending me into the most paralyzed, stare-into-space place I’ve been in to-date, I found myself flailing in a wide ocean, coming across a life preserver I have barely looked at in years, having sent it into the corner long ago in favor of other, shinier activities: poetry. (how’s that for a Marquez-length sentence?) Interestingly enough, drawing does little unless it’s ballpoint sketches in middle moments. Poetry, however, is showing up as the lifesaver, both my own and other people’s.
I know we’re all reaching out to each other in the dark across the digital landscape, given both our need to connect and inability to do so in person. So to whomever is out there listening, needing to “hear” someone else’s voice mirroring our own splaying thoughts, here I am.
So a poem. A few days ago my best bud and I, also a poet, swapped a prompt (can find it here, on another site I curate), that in essence is to give each other a random selection of words and rules of repetition. (check out what we came up with here and here). That prompt was actually based on a poem I wrote a while ago, that I found recently while typing everything up, and am kind of in love with. I offer it humbly to you below. Enjoy.
Self Portrait with Archeology: a travel letter
(a study in repetition: fossil, chant, Jupiter, marrow, cinnamon, x3)
(additional words to use: Anteros, crippled, spindles, stairwell, threshold, whirligig)
it’s been cold here, lately.
The wind whips itself around the bones
and cradles them like jacket lining in a storm.
There are fossils of springtime
that litter the ground around its own gravesite,
like someone dug it up,
tried to resurrect it before its scheduled rebirth.
we drink wine in here to keep warm,
let it soak into our marrows
and narrow the space between skin and night,
fight fallow evening skies
of shallow star stories drowned out by
our afraid of the dark
by taking fireflies
placing them in slingshots
and shooting them into the empty slots in constellations.
We don’t worry about preserving our bones
for future fossilization,
we plan on dissolving into dust at the end
to float up into the sky
to form comets that do fly-by wish fulfillment.
we tried digging up the sun’s skeleton
from the marrow-dirt deep fossil-bed
underneath the overused neon streets
and stone walled skeleton closet cellars of the city,
but found only Jupiter
dispersed into gas bubbles
that revolved around an invisible center-point
we supposed to be its fully intact soul.
in the morning we chant holy holy
under our breaths in a windstorm
so that the fossil-bones of our secrets
with their marrow made of wishes
get filed in their pores with some miscellaneous god’s sigh
made of the leftovers of comet tails and Jupiter.
sunlight tastes like cinnamon.
Brushes the mold off winter-crippled bones
fossilized by rainless, frozen clouds, off of
marrow dried into dust
salty from all the high seas and low tides
left in them from dreams about pirates-
off of rusty voices with breath that reeks of Jupiter
and all of its countless morning scented kisses.
spindled thresh-holds from winter to spring,
doorways splintered by waiting,
stairwells with fossil rails and bricks caulked with marrow,
Anteros fights with Jupiter in the night sky
over the love of the cinnamon sun,
whirligig winter ground
dug through to find muscle that dances in wait.