Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project - Poems 16–20

Poem 16

A storm petrel flutters
over choppy water, flicking
drops into the sky
that touch the waves
any number of places
invisible in this wind.
All fear and softness,
the bird’s body gives
muscle a rest, expanding,
bracing its hollow bones
against the moving air
hoping, if birds hope,
land of any type
makes its way through
the shifting horizon, arriving
sooner than tomorrow’s dark.
I want to yell
into the coastal fog,
tell the storm petrel
it is not much
better here on shore:
turn back, the mindless
mist remains in spite
of all our striving.
But the wind sweeps
all my warnings out
to sea, performs again
the ritual ripping away
it knows so well.
Almost extinct, the bird
feels things inside it
tilt now, almost tumbling
out of their places.
This is the moment
I start walking again
farther into something not
water and not rock.
The storm petrel cries
or sings a note.
It punctures, hovers, fails.


Poem 17


It is not the opening of eyes but the opening of blinds
to snow that starts this day. I roll over, quietly naming
things not in this room: carpet, food, a body’s rearranging
of sheets in a different direction than that I rolled.

Heat is held back by the door, an inch of cold hovering
inside the threshold. I reach for the handle, the only exit
emptying into another inside. It turns the same way
as always, it barely fits the curve of my hand, quietly

holding in or holding out, I do not know which.
Twist and pull—the balancing begins: one air curdling
into another, wood floor catching light in new angles,
something quietly moving that is not me. Not even close.


Poem 18

Make it Sunday

I need not describe it
in terms of loneliness. It is a depth,
approximate at best, a center
housed in a body defined
in relation to foreign things.


Poem 19


A slope rises to the horizon, only a few inches from my face
if this were a painting. I would say that the snow glitters
but snow only covers, and it’s a flimsy dusting at that.
I want to name the snow, to call it you because it is
cold—it is a cliché falling from the sky, barely
less obvious than the moon, which has itself
changed shapes since last night. On the road
I can see the aftermath of wind silhouetted
against the asphalt: the shadows of things
more substantial than they themselves.
Out there almost no headway awaits.
Test your weight. The surface holds
a moment, then splits: a tilted body
sinks, stops, steps again knowing
each future footfall sinks anew.
I could turn back to see all
the hollow proofs of flight,
but all the sunken scars
I leave this landscape
point up the slope
to me, a traveler
who feels, but
does not hear
the quiet


Poem 20

                 —For Maggie

May the wall crack

your back. May retreat

find you screaming

without artifice,

without guile.

This is the art of sacrifice:

not a hole—a shift

in the heart, a pulling

toward something


the body, an animal weight

jamming the chest, breath

the only struggle. That other

blood-filled body

pulses just like yours.

May you be the foreign object

splintered into wood.

May your skin break.

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project - Poems 11–15

Poem 11

[Under Revision]

Poem 12

Winter Morning Walk

The wind biting
one side of cars,
every cross street
pushing it under
your coat, swirling
around the torso,
up through the arms.
Bad circulation pilfers
blood from your fingers
sooner than last season.
This must be
getting old. Plod
uphill, the bus stop
funnels the wind chill
in either direction.
Cold, inescapable cold
tightens the skin:
you know right where
your keys are. Clenching,
unclenching hands,
lowering the chin
to breathe the warm air
out, hang the wetness
leaving the body,
a promise of more
cold to come
but not now. Now
there is waiting.
This is not new.
Lately the letters
do not return
in the same month
you sent them,
not even months
that end in embers.
At this point
you could not
lick the stamp for fear
it will not stick.
But this is not
the hard part;
the hard part is seeing
soil harden, glass snap,
water turning white
and cracking underfoot,
a type and shadow
for skin, your skin.


Poem 13


Snowflakes fall
through the night-colored windows
into and out of sight,
unaffecting from your looking place
where you raise your eyes,
lowering them again into so many words,
symbols of senseless things
never caught at the end of a tongue,
never melted in breath,
their comings and goings unknown
to the world’s insides.


Poem 14


This evening holds nothing extraordinary. Not even the chives in my soup
are restless. All the major religions have heads on their shoulders again
and the pilot lights to all my old flames have gone out the open window.
I even had time to read today—a book, even. Imagine reading a book.

I met the author in college, a friend of a friend. She was older. Forty-something
pages into not being able to put her down, I read a letter she had chopped
into lines. It set me somewhere between spotting her name on a poster and peeking
through the blinds when I knew she’d be naked. Those hormones have ebbed,

mostly. She tells me about the moon: we are forlorn, she says, thanks to her place
in the sky, drawn to her majesty precisely because we can see it. There is no reflection
not conceding its surface to her at some angle. I was thinking about her tonight, wondering
which of my windows she’s chosen to smear as the soup steams itself back to sleep.


Poem 15


A nearly full moon
Layers of ice under snow
Your breath in the air

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project - Poems 6–10

I am floored at the wonderful response I've gotten for this project. I've already got enough donations and pledges to be over my goal, so a huge thanks to everyone who has my back. Seriously.

I've decided to put the poems on this blog every five days, so here are poems 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. If you want to see them as they come up, you can still see each one on the day it is written by clicking here and scrolling down.


Poem 6


In the second dream, a bird pilfers
all of the scraps from my desk.
None of the typing ceases or slows.
Unfamiliar but comfortable, this place
takes its grayness for granted, even outside
the rooftops nearly disappear
in fog. Dropping into half-veiled places,
chirping once, the bird only wants to be
found. Another someone supplanted
here takes notice, moving backward
despite the nature of walls (useless:
the sky is right there) remaining the same.
The bird and the other someone are quiet
now. It is time. That something moving
inside the pillow is your heart
keeping cadence, thick like a hollow bone.


Poem 7


Rolling over, a train
in motion, silence:
these are all the ways I move
away from you.


Poem 8


Received unwillingly, a warmness under
skin confuses the body. Closed

eyes veil the room: you have not left,
no, the place has shifted in neglect.

Do not speak to me of want.
Every rearranging understands itself

in relation to the floor, window lit
on certain mornings. A man passes

my house, a grocery bag in tow.
He passes every day, the same burden

in his fingers. There is something
he does not wish to carry into night

let alone tomorrow. You are enough
whatever it is you want for today

for both of us. You can take these words
for granted, if you wish.

I will catch the singeing scraps,
impaling every one, a sapling.


Poem 9

Splintered Things

We become these things. Or rather,
we turn these things to pulp, ingest them
in some form or another, and carry on.

Never mind this piece of paper
spent years rooted among its cousins
in a forest or part of a forest that endured

so many fires and the exploding cold
only an arid winter understands,
the closest it ever came to touching

the other trees (not counting wind)
being when squirrel leapt from its neighbor,
bending its branch with the unfamiliar

weight of a body built for climbing.
Never mind that at all. It is nothing
like grasping a hoarfrosted fencepost

hoping what pours forth is not blood.


Poem 10


            —for Anie

the knife in position
the body’s division
the mind’s indecision

eyes shadowed, masks

the body’s rescission
the mind’s imposition
the knife in decision


the mind’s indecision
the knife in precision
the body’s derision

incision, excision, suture, and out

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project (Scroll Down for the First 5 Poems)

Hi Kids,

I've just started a month long poetry marathon called the Tupelo Press 30/30 project. I’m going to write a new poem every day in December and all of them will appear on the project website (you can see my face here and find the poems somewhere in here [or just scroll down in this post]).

The project is also a fundraiser to help Tupelo Press do what they do (printing interesting books, defending the cause of poetry, validating my existence, etc.), so I made a goal to raise $400 through the course of the month.

I hate, hate, hate asking for money, so to ease my conscience a bit I'm offering a bit of a payback system for anybody who wants to help:

  • A $15 donation gets you a poem dedication (I'll write "For ______" at the beginning of the poem).
  • A $20 donation will get you a poem written about you or the subject of your choosing.
  • A $35 donation will get you the above, plus I will write and send you your own poem (a new one that won't appear on the site).
  • A $50 donation will get you the above, plus a kiss, and I will write the new poem on fancy paper and mail it to you so you can keep it forever (Christmas presents, people), AND I will send you a hand made chapbook of all 31 poems when I finish.
  • A $99 donation gets you all of the above and 9 books of your choosing from Tupelo Press.
If you want to do one of these ^ please let me know and I will write you down. First come, first served.

There are three ways to donate:

1 - Subscribe to Tupelo Press by going HERE, filling everything out, and remembering to put my name in the "comments" field.
  • You get 9 books for $99. You can choose the 2013 series, another year's series, or just handpick 9 books that sound good to you.
2 - Complete the Tupelo Press Donation Form by going HERE, filling everything out, and remembering to put my name in the "honor" field.
  • You can choose the amount (be sure to tell me if you're over $15 so I can give you your reward) and submit it.
3 - Donate Using PayPal by going HERE, clicking on the orange link that says "Quick Donation via PayPal," and remembering to put my name in the "message" field.
  • Yay.
You can get a tax receipt for items 2 & 3 (not 1, since you get 9 books) by providing your mailing address when you donate.


Please don't feel any pressure whatsoever to donate. If nothing else, just follow the poems and enjoy your December.


Poem 1


Not long ago, the wind was full
of things: leaves mostly, occasionally
a plastic bag. It filled them
the way wind does, imitating water  

and, some nights, pausing

to consider itself, accidentally
sharing with the ground
all the once wind-filled things.

Morning makes its way
through my skeleton, the wind blows
what’s left of the unseen sunrise
into my unprotected eyes.
Keep your finality, I can still see
through you and into the future.
Poem 2


     —For Chellee

A song that is not your own
picks its way through a crowd

almost shrouded at the edge of one
fire’s reach. The outdoor amphitheater
lends itself to leaning forward,
a patient strumming at the tipping point.
This is all of us: landlocked.
Here the boundaries are built of dirt,
there are two tomorrows, stars
in their normal places and farther
downhill and through the trees
more stars bounce off the lake.
Between verses I remember
you are left handed: some would say
your guitar is strung backward
but your fingers fit the chord
without a first glance, the way the blind read
braille, another language we don’t speak.
A song is no religion, but close
enough to soften rocks
or at least coax them from the water
you have chosen for your backdrop.
Silence keeps the secret of itself
in the tree line. The fire burns.
If we waited long enough
you could show us the size of darkness.


Poem 3


The crosswalk lines, newly painted
in a warmer month, dissolve.
That is no way to say it
but to say decay is too much
against the shadows stretching
into what was once an afternoon.
I am the only quiet thing
left in this city. I want to sleep
the way I always sleep: curled
away from nothing or something
without a heartbeat. Not now.
Around the corner a house (not yellow
enough to be yellow, too yellow
to call it cream) sits. That is all.
It sits. On the other side of a fence
two tennis nets sag, the weight of color
lifted long ago, the way it leaves
the beards of young men and every tree
that has not learned of permanence
through release. I am nearly home.
There, where the yard starts, movement
pried my gaze from the concrete once:
I thought it might have been a bird
choosing not to fly away in fear.
It was a leaf, something heavier
holding it down just enough, too much.

Poem 4, which contains a secret message.

I’ll Call You Back

                    —For Danielle (You asked for it.)

 Certain duties have me
Restrained for the time being.
After dinner I was forced to
Poop in someone else’s house.

Ordinarily, I’d stay on the line, but
Ring me in fifteen?

Going here is all off. I’m impeded,
Every side an obstacle: a crotch-encroaching sink,
Toilet paper disorientation, texts.

Oh, my feet have fallen asleep
Five minutes sooner than normal.
Fear settles in. Is someone outside?

That was a footstep. They know I’m here.
Hum and haw, run the water, pray it doesn’t

Press forward, push onward, forget
Or repress the phone-sized splash in my panic:
The door isn’t locked.


Poem 5, whose title has two meanings.


In darkness I feel the human desire
to diagram the heart, an artist’s
rendering, beautiful and incomplete
enough to label the ruptures without
naming them. It is possible
to feel guilty for being wronged. Try
catharsis in the old sense of the word:
sketch the necks of geese.
I stole that line from a gallery—
it fled an open mouth, I found it
in the stealing place. I wrote it down.
When I kneel at my bed at night
I do not ask for justice. Justice hovers
out of focus, out of sight.


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Sucket List

Hey look. Mountains!

It's summer vacation. I have a lot of time on my hands and plenty of it will be spent enjoying Idaho. So I made a bucket list. A summer bucket list. A sucket list. Here goes:

  1. Road trip to Mexico
  2. Write a poem every day in June and July
  3. Seattle
  4. Tramp it up
  5. Camp at least thrice
  6. Catch a fish
  7. Get a sunburn
  8. Beat Chad and Dad at golf
  9. Kiss a girl I haven’t kissed before
  10. Read a new Dostoyevsky novel
  11. Invent a sandwich and name it after myself
  12. Climb a mountain
  13. National Oldtime Fiddlers Festival (Weiser)
  14. Learn to shuffle a deck of cards backward
  15. Pick up free stuff off of craigslist
  16. Float the Boise River with a cooler
  17. Whitewater raft
  18. Start a novel (10 chapters at least)
  19. Finish Count of Monte Cristo unabridged
  20. Buy illegal fireworks
  21. Feed ducks
  22. See two Shakespeare plays
  23. Eat Basque food (Epi’s)
  24. Yellowstone
  25. Attend Northwest Rib Fest
  26. See Jimmy Eat World in Concert
  27. Finally go to a race at Meridian Speedway
  28. Run through the sprinklers
  29. Translate another book of Lacerda’s poems
  30. Go to a drive-in movie
  31. See Parma
  32. Shoot a TV
  33. Cook a vegetarian meal and make fun of it
  34. Experience a new snow cone flavor
  35. Create a graffiti tag
  36. Tag something
  37. Wear camo
  38. Make and play a game of Giant Jenga
  39. Sharpie art a pair of white sneakers
  40. Watch fifteen westerns

I have a really good feeling about this.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Apparently I've Been Busy's been a while. My last update was last summer, and it's almost this summer (Spring Break started today, actually). Here's what I've been up to:


Wentworth Institute of Technology

I got an email from Ron Bernier, Dean of the English department at Wentworth Institute of Technology. My poetry mate Lisa had been adjuncting (teaching part-time) there and I had sent an application letter for an open spot in, like, March 2012. Ron asked if I could come in for an interview that week in Boston. I was in McCall, Idaho, on family vacation, so obviously I said yes. I got in my car, drove to Boise, slept, drove three days across the country, slept, and went to my interview. Ron seemed nice, and once I told him I was going to be an adjunct professor at BU he was intrigued enough to give me a class. He gave me the option of English 100 or English 115, and I took 115 because it's an intro to literature class more than a first-year writing class.

Boston University

A few days later he called and asked if I wanted a second course. I like money, so I said, "Yes." Then BU called a few days later and asked if I wanted third course, so I said, "If you can make it Tue/Thu, then yes." So they made it Tue/Thu, and I said, "Yes." So last semester I ended up with five courses at two different universities. MWF I got up, drove to Wentworth, taught 9-10, took the T to BU, taught 11-12 and 12-1, took the T back to Wentworth, taught 2-3, and then proceeded to grade and attend volleyball, institute, or social functions/dates depending on the day. T/Th I took the bus to BU, taught 12:30-2, did a bunch of grading, and then went to Books and Basketball (a tutoring program I was called to run, in Roslindale, which is bloody forever away, for wards that aren't in our stake) or actual basketball. I've never been that swamped before, but I kept up on rent and fully paid off my London loan and two credit cards. I had great students, my favorite class being my T/Th class at BU, where I had a group of 8 or 9 kids in the theatre program. They started calling me Calvino after they saw my BU login information, and they called my class "How to Dress, with Calvin Olsen" once they had figured my style out (see Michael below). All in all, it was an insane-but-excellent semester. I'm glad it's over. I now have one course at BU and two at Wentworth (I had one at WIT, but Lisa got into a class at Harvard, so I took over her class).



In September, I got asked by my ward's activities committee if I would help them write the 10-minute skit for the tri-ward campout (I didn't skinny dip this year, but I did help a group of my closest associates put a lobster in Carly Porter's sleeping bag). We had to include Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber (Beiber? Beeber? Be-br?), so...

This happened.
(Brandon, Megan, Me, Jake, Natalie)


I gave a TED talk. Well, a TEDx talk. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT.

I got an email out of the blue from a producer at WGHB Boston (the broadcasting company that I had heard of at the tail end of my illegally-downloaded copy of AM Radio back in high school [whose music video I had never seen until's amazing]).


I did a buttload of grading.


I went home for Christmas break. It was really good. Highlights were...

Road-tripping to Vegas with Gage, Jared and Dad to watch Boise State win a great bowl game

Shooting with Jared and Chad


Ready for a new year, I...

Came back to Boston

Went to my buddy Justin's wedding

Started having picnics on the church rooftop

Went rollerblading. It had been years and years. Still a blast, still hurts my feet.


 I wrote a poem every day (a feat, let me tell you), and...

Painted a masterpiece. I call it "Moby Dick Vomiting Jonah, Sans Depth."
I only had a foam brush. When Allison willed me her painting things she failed to mention keeping the brushes.
Please notice the little lightning strikes at the top.

I painted my other masterpiece.
Just kidding, this is by my unbelievably talented friend, Adrienne Stein.
I finally got the chance to visit her again.

Got freakin' dumped on by Winter Storm Nemo.

Got a translation published in New Haven Review.
Took the time to read it.


Went on a Valentine's Day man date with Reedgis.


So far this month, I...

Got to see my poetry mate Dan Kraines give a reading.
Please notice the interpretive photography I employed.

Made my way to the AWP Book Fair to buy poetry books and light a fire under my butt to revise and submit.

Hung out with Allison while she was visiting and finally saw the cool part of the Boston Public Library.

Actually spent more than thirty seconds downtown.

Finally took the time to visit Boston's famous Trinity Church.
One of its windows (no pic, too much light for my "smart" phone) easily makes my top five for stained glass.

So it's been an eventful few months. I'm waiting to hear back from some PhD programs (AKA once again in limbo, assuming I ever even leave limbo). I applied to twelve programs--six comparative literature and six in English with a creative dissertation. So far Hawaii, Denver, Columbia, Cornell, Houston, and Princeton have said no. USC, Harvard, Oxford (had a phone interview), Utah, Florida State, and Brown are silent as of yet. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
Things are good. Boston even gave me a sunrise a week or two ago (first time for everything). I'll leave you with that.
"You're welcome."  -Jesus