Category Archives: Poems

3 AM

The sheep grazing in the field
across the road from a low-rent taxidermy school
can’t sleep at night, so how can I feel all right
about counting them? A long shower,
the drive to school, coffee from the nearest stand:
every move I make
is killing somebody. My own armoire’s
been giving me the silent treatment
for eighteen years. I like people
whose eyes flash a little darker when I come near;
I think hey, you must be onto something.
In the night, I’m not invisible
but I’m not quite so visible either,
depending on how you focus your eyes.

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“Dark Side of a Natural Gas Boom”

from "They Called Her Styrene"

Friends, a title is a funny animal. On one hand, it defines the piece, gives it an identity. On the other hand, it steers the meaning of the piece perhaps as much as the piece itself does. And that can be problematic. If the the two or four or eight words that comprise the title end up being as meaningful as the several hundred or thousand that follow, then perhaps the title is not just representing the story—perhaps it is eating the story. And we must be wary of having our stories eaten by themselves.

We can escape this by giving titles randomly. A random title may still draw attention in the same way. It is, after all, the first thing we see, and therefore is not initially capable of producing dissonance. It may still give an identity to the piece. But it may avoid outlining simplistic elements of the story: themes, morals, theses. (By way of example, I will mention “Life as a House,” a Kevin Kline film in which the building of a house is used to represent the rebuilding of a family. In other words, the film’s title is also its central metaphor.)
Allow me to offer you some sources of random titles.

Ed Ruscha, from "They Called Her Styrene"

1) Begin typing phrases into a google search bar. The suggested completions often make great titles.

2) This website, which in only seconds of effort provided me with the excellent phrase “Dirt Hospital,” which will almost certainly be a poem by the end of the week. Also, “Nothing Today,” “Tooth Sic,” and “Terminology Mornings.” Notice that in the sidebar there are random word, sentence, and even paragraph generators. Chances are those tools make better poems than I do. (My first try yielded this gem: “Within the war pro, consents an unexplained laughter.” Then this: “The crude girlfriend stalls under the microcomputer.” Sigh.)

3) Ed Ruscha prints. Particularly from a book called “They Called Her Styrene,” which is available online and ought to be owned by everyone.

4) Phrases that you like from everyday life.

5) Things that you read on signs.

I’d like to write a whole book of poems with titles from a restaurant menu. Each poem would be given the title of one dish: “Croque Madame,” “Eggs Benedict,” “String Beans,” etc. The title of the book would be the name of the restaurant.

Ed Ruscha, from "They Called Her Styrene"

Guest Google poet: “Why is the”

Google poem by Maayan Pearl

 

Why is the sky blue

Why is there a dead pakistani on my couch

Why is the ocean salty

Why is the sky blue short answer

Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball

Why is the ocean blue

Why is the world going to end in 2012

Why is there a barcode on google

Why is there a worm in tequila.

Poem (DF): “What happens when”

This poem by Google:

What happens when you die

What happens when you lose your virginity

What happens when you quit smoking

What happens when we die.

 

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object

What happens when you crack your knuckles

What happens when you swallow gum

What happens when you have a miscarriage

What happens when you file bankruptcy

 

What happens when you sneeze.

What Poems Can Be (ST)

They can be as fiery and epic and maddeningly beautiful as Erin Belieu’s “In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral,” available at the wonderful online magazine At Length, or as goofy and touching and confused and sad as Bob Hicok’s “The History of Origami.” There are also any number of other things they can be like, which: thank goodness.

New Poem (ST)

Honey I love you but I’m turning inside out.
I want earthquakes that alter my topography,
fresh-ripped coastlines, volcanoes charging from the sea
like the football player throwing a Hail Mary pass
in one perfect arc in the film I would like to be real life.
I want to meet a dragon. I want change for a dollar.
I want to eat a habanero pepper
stuffed with habanero peppers. I want to drip spleens
and kidneys all over the kitchen floor right now
and say that I will clean it up tomorrow! Continue reading

Landline (ST)

Landline

Phil padded into the living room to ask Evie what she wanted for dinner that night. She had been on hold with the cell phone company for a quarter of an hour, which was really eating into her minutes. “My heart,” she said, sliding from the couch to the floor. “On a slice of buttered brown bread.”

“We’re all out of bread,” Phil said. Evie remembered that she could not live without him.