Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poem #30 (!)


For thirty days, you are a poet
sifting through the daily bread
of your life, lifting words
like light from the depths of a mine

You rediscover quiet mornings
filled with sparrows and dew
the hush of trees newly clothed with blooms

You remember the taste
of ink on paper, the sweat
to polish and cut a rough diamond

You remember
this is why you are here.


[Whew! I made it! All 30! Woo-hoo! Of course, out of these raw drafts, I'll probably only have an handful of keepers. Maybe 3 or 4 poems. Maybe. Still, it feels like quite an accomplishment to complete 30 wannabe-poems in 30 days. I can't believe the month is over! Well, for my audience: thanks for reading! And now the big question: will the Show go on? Or will it go on hiatus until next April? We shall see, my friends, we shall see. L.Ho out! :)]

Friday, April 29, 2011

Poem #29

"Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt: February 11, 2011"

My clothes were torn to
pieces. They raped me with hands.
Will no one stop this?


[The first two lines of this haiku are direct quotations from Lara Logan, the CBS journalist, who was sexually assaulted by a mob during the celebrations of Mubarak's fall. Read more here.]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poem #28

"The Naming Ritual"

They arrived at the hospital
all huff and puff--
Lamaze an evaporated memory

Swept into labor and delivery
a room papered with flowers
to create calm: a failed plan

They had forgotten everything:
warm socks, a tennis ball
overnight clothes
the baby's layette
even a name

After hours of labor
a cloud of baby's cries
in the air, tiny lungs working

then cooing

a peace

Someone turns on the tv
"Mission: Impossible" is on
He says, I like that name
She nods, exhausted, on the edge of sleep

Yes they name the baby
after the actress
Lesley Ann Warren


[The writing prompt was to write a poem that explores how one was named & the meaning of the name. I only went with the first part because, as usual, I'm out of time. But there you go. True story. Well, the last two stanzas, anyway. :) And of course, for me, those "true stanzas" feel like the weakest ones of the poem-draft.]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poem #27

"Secret Garden, April 26, 1986"

The sudden bloom
of Chernobyl's flower
shoots up in the air--
a surprise this April spring day
Its seeds falling out
like active radio-
waves over Prypyat

It radiates like an invisible sun
spreading its rays far and wide
over Urkaine, Belarus, Russia
scorching the earth
to an arid char--
the forest blank with shock
the farmland useless and limp

No one whispers a word
No one says anything for two days
They want to keep this flower
to themselves, to keep
this beauty--four hundred times more
potent than Hiroshima--
to keep this beauty
a secret


[I wrote this poem on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which was yesterday. I sense there's more to this poem but as with every unfinished poem this month, I'm out of time. Go here for photos and here for a quick article on the anniversary.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poem #26

"Just One More Snooze"

Reach over and feel
the magic button. Press it
for more dreams of flight.


[I feel like a cop-out when I write these BS haiku, but the goal this month is production, not quality. Right? Right. The practice is what counts for now. The good stuff is coming. I know it is.]

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poem #25

"In the Sauna"

Nice bonnet
she says to the towel-wrapped woman
who walks in, sturdy shower cap on

"My hair is different from yours
I can't get my hair wet"
a beaded braid pokes out 
from beneath the elastic

I'm dying
she wanted to say
but instead offered
I can't get my hair wet either
but that's because of my cancer treatment

fully clothed in exercise gear
she sits on the cedar bench
with two friends

they talk about nothing
dancing around that word
that floats like a balloon
tied to one's wrist:
you want it to fly away
but it won't

nail salons, hair appointments
gym guest passes
anything to forget
the civil war in her body
anything to forget
she can't get her hair wet

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poem #24

"The Old Drunk"

Does too much wine ex-
cuse the razors from your mouth?
Sad woman, hush now.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poem #23

"Manila, May 1973: Immigrate"

She boards the plane
rice still stuck in her hair
turns and tosses the bouquet
to the crowd of family, weeping
even her new mother-in-law
who does not approve

She does not know
when they will return

Martial law tightens its grip
on the country's exit doors

She and her husband sit
in the exit row, poised
for a quick escape

There is crying everywhere
Someone lights a cigarette
Another unwraps a pastilla
A mother hums a lullaby

Twenty-four hours
to the other side of the world
twenty-four hours of night

No friends, no family
Only a hospital and an apartment
in Akron, Ohio

What will she do
in a place known to her
as jeans and Diana Ross
What awaits her

She fingers the rosary
given by her mother
wondering if she should pray

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poem #22

"Judas, After"

shiny silver suns burn in my palms
their brightness beckons me
I cannot turn away

the crack of whips snap
me awake, moans
and laughter mock me like crows

I see him fallen as a tree
cloaked in purple thorns
what have I done

the suns bleed in my hands
and I throw them on the temple floor
try to wash in the river, useless

the highest tree then
the strongest rope
the tightest noose

no one can bring me to life
no one can save me
I have come undone

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Poem #21

"Morning Ritual"

race against the sun
whose slow and steady birth finds
you hiding in prayer


[A BS haiku because I woke up a little late this morning. I don't even know if I know what this is about! :p But hey, it's one to log in the 30/30, right? :) Better poems will come, I hope!]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poem #20


They're taking him
from me
You're taking him
from me

They bind him with rope
strip away his clothes
whip him whip him whip him
like a criminal
like a murderer
like Barabas a year ago

For loving you--
some God that no one
has seen, all this blindness
rampant like a disease
Watch your disciples
scatter like mice
into the shadows
No one claims him
No one will defend him

This was your will
This was your word
but must there be so much suffering
Must I watch him crumple
like an olive tree without water
Watch him stumble
under the weight of so much wood
Watch him get nailed
like a sign, hanging
in the sun
What mother can bear this?

There is nothing good
about this day.

[A hurried poem. I'm running late. There is more to this poem...]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poem #19

"It Hurts to be Awake"

Teary sting of eyes
Fatigue: an ache, like anchors
Oh, Sleep, don't run. Please.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Poem #18

"November 2004"

The Raritan moves slow in its silt
a gray sheen to its surface--
On Hoes Lane, in the cold sun
we bury him next to burning bushes
bright with their flaming leaves
Who knew he'd stay here in Piscataway?
The immigrant who saw war
survived Bataan
then came here
to deliver mail

We left oranges for him
so that he'd rest in sweetness--


[a totally unfinished poem. unfinished and incomplete in every sense of the word. ah, the madness of the 30/30 challenge.]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Poem #17

"How to Win the School Talent Show"

Call your four best friends
Say you'll be the black Pussycat Dolls
or the next Destiny's Child
    --but with five--
                            there haven't been any black girl groups in a while
Decide to sing "Say My Name"
because you want everyone to know yours

Practice in your room:
break out harmonies like puzzle pieces
build choreography like lego houses
design costumes like Beyonce
                                                             you will win this contest

Until you hear the rumor mill churning its words
their clatter echoing on hallway floors:
that girl Shacara
had a lock
on the win

There's no way this is true, you think
but don't want to risk losing to that loser
that poor excuse for a girl
that second-rate singer

So you call your girls, gather
in front of her voice coach's house
like paparazzi, waiting to pounce

Soon, she emerges and you spring
with a lock in a sock
whip her like a slave who's been bad
            (the repetition of hate lost on you)
aiming for her head
while your girls, like anchors, pull her down
to concrete
their newfound soccer ball

This is how you win
This is how you lose
This is how you find


[I'm reluctant to post this because it's so rough, in dire need of revisions. I think I've done almost everything I tell my students *not* to do, but that's what rough drafts are, right? Just the getting-down-on-paper. The real writing is in the revison.]

[Also, this was inspired by an incident that happened last week. Go here for more details.]

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Poem #16


He shot his mouth off--
don't he know who I am? Gun-
totin' silencer


[A man was shot on College Ave at Rutgers-NB around 2am this morning after he and the shooter exchanged heated words. The shooter is still at large. The man has been treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

A message from the police:
Anyone with information related to this incident or who may have been in the area at the time is asked to contact the New Brunswick Police Department’s Investigations Division at 732.745.5217 or the Rutgers Police Department at 732.932.8025 or 732.932.7211.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poem #15

"Her Ten-Year-Old Son Speaks"

Because of me they are dead because I was too busy to show them how to scoop with their hands too busy to show how to kick with their legs how to blow bubbles to keep the water out how to float on their backs because I had to do my homework because I had to wash the dishes because I wanted to shut out the fighting because I hid in my room because I didn't teach you how to swim because of me you are dead

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poem #14

“The River’s Secret”

A white teddy bear at the edge
of a boat ramp, the water still as glass
The sparrows are not yet singing
their morning concerto, the trees silent
in sleep—
No one knows the river’s secret

How a mother –all rage and sadness
                          blind with fear and darkness—
clasped her four children into their seats
drove away from the cramped apartment
                    littered with broken toys and unwashed dishes
away from that man

How she stopped for a brief moment—
                    perhaps a moment of light—
to let her oldest, her ten-year-old son, out
of the worn light blue minivan—
before driving on, driving away

How she kept driving
until there was no more road
no more asphalt
only water
How her foot kept the gas pedal down
even after the water
after the van began to float —an instant boat—
before sinking, before filling
with the mouth of the Hudson
                              the light melody of a children’s song
drowning out the cries of her own children
the fiery blindness driving her foot
against the gas, fierce against water

and then

the swallow of the Hudson

and then


the teddy bear remains
keeping the river’s secret
until the boy—forced to age at light speed—
finds a firehouse
and whispers into the night


[This needs a lot of work. For example, more details about the incident have surfaced after I wrote this. There's more but I've run out of time. Keep a lookout for the revisions.]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Poem #13

"Ode to Advil"

Tiny brown pills, coated with candy:
how you fit into my cupped palm--
the miracles that lie within!

How you come in other forms
      liquigels / PM / cold & sinus / allergy sinus / migraine
The relief possibilities are endless!

You possess the power
to crush menstrual cramps
to chokehold toothaches
to suffocate any ache: muscle, bone, head
but above all, you wipe away
the remnants of excessive drinking
leaving a cloud to rest upon

If only you could remedy
that mother’s grating voice
pleasantly scolding a child
Impatience stuffed down
into the tiny coin pocket of her jeans
Please, dear Advil, cast her out
into the sun and expose her
for the fraud she is:
she is no Supermom.

Oh, candy of my eye!
Small tabs of delight!

I toss you in
to the back of my throat
gulp down some water
to chase you down
relish in knowing
you will

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poem #12

"First Hot Day"

Temperature rises
breaks eighty A runner peels
off his shirt like skin
                                       unwanted prisons of cloth
shedding his hibernation

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poem #11

"Jesus Tries Not to Serve Aces"

I toss the green ball in the air 
with my left hand
raise the racket behind my head 
with the right
elbow bent like a catapult
ready to spring

the ball begins to descend
I release the coil of my arm
and serve across the net
into the shadows

I wait for the return


I toss another ball into the air
retract the racket
and launch another serve


maybe I have the wrong sport

I palm a white ball with my left hand
my right, loose in a fist, bumps it
from beneath, fires the shot 
over a higher, larger net
again into the darkness

my legs wide, knees bent
a stance ready for a return

still nothing

I try everything to start a rally
to engage in a volley
but they do not hear
the sound of the ball coming

they are too preoccupied
with fumbling in the dark
looking for a place to stand
to see that my ball is filled
with light, that my voice
is their salvation


[This poem took a turn that surprised me. I started thinking the poem was about A but then it turned out to be about B, something completely out of left field. I love when that happens. And for the record, I'm not a religious person but I think the season of Lent and Easter has me occupied with Christian figures, like Jesus and Mary (see Poem #8).]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poem #10

"Girl Talk"

I want raisin toast with butter
I want pink juice
I want Froot Loops
I want my penguin slippers
I want my sheep
I want the panda bear with the giant eyes
I want the little monkey with the giant eyes
I want a princess crown
I want footie pajamas
I want a pretty dress
I want sparkly sandals
I want the bubble wand
        no-- I want the bubble wand
I want it! It's mine. That's not nice.
I want a Band-Aid
               a fairy Band-Aid
I want you to kiss it
I want a hug
I don't want to nap
I want to read
I want to watch tv
I want to color
                      me too
I don't want to eat my chicken
I want dessert
I want raisins for dessert
I want mochi for dessert
            I want mochi for dessert, not raisins
I cry because I don't have words yet
I want words
I want you to carry me
I don't want to use the potty
I want to use the potty -- I'm a big girl now
I don't want to share
I want to share
I want to build a tower with blocks
I want to knock it down
I want to cry
I want to scream --she ruined it
I build it again
I laugh
I laugh
I laugh
I want you to hold me
I want to give hugs
I want you to hold me
I want to give kisses
I want you to hold me
I want you

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Poem #9

"How to Love a Disappointed Parent"

I want to swing a bat
at your mouth, watch the knives
of your teeth fall like hail
on the broken sidewalk
I want to smash the glass
of your face to hear the scatter
on pavement. But I don't.
I can only clench my jaw and hold
the table's edge, white-knuckled
breath held, waiting for release--

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poem #8

"The Virgin Mary, After"

will be
done, my Lord

my life--
host for yours

my love
for your Son

my son
off the cross

my grief
away like rain

my body
my faith unshaken

it whole
consumed by heaven

me for
I am yours


[This follows the form of the hay(na)ku. I've always been interested in giving the Virgin Mary a voice --people write *about* her, there are movies about the birth of Jesus (as well as his death) where she has speaking parts, but has she really ever had a voice of her own? I haven't found anything that gives her an individual voice, anything that shows she was a person just like the rest of us. This particular poem is only the beginning -- it's not exactly the voice I imagine her to have, but I have to start somewhere.]

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poem #7

"What She Cannot Say"

sista-girl look here
hair nappy in the kitchen
you are not angry
I always assume you are
black skin is nothing but---

                                                           white teeth, picket fence
                                             I want to open your mouth
                                             climb in, look around
                                             wave my flashlight beam on words
                                             buried under PC's cover

no one wants to talk
about this word that lies still
on our tongues' edges
we dance a waltz around it
pretend its fire-breath quenched

what will happen when
we trip on our own feet and
fall into its lap
this word we believe is dead
but no, it's not, sista-girl


[This is a tough one. I'm working within the poetic form of tonka --a sister to the Japanese haiku-- which is 5 lines long and follows the syllabic pattern of 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7 but I'm also trying to write about things people don't talk about --how to write about the unsaid? to say the unsaid?-- without being esoteric, though I feel that this draft is just that: a big code for something vague --and I hate that! So I need more time to work on this... time I unfortunately don't have right now. So yeah, I don't like this poem. Not this draft, anyway.]

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Poem #6

"On Eagle's Wings"

was your favorite hymn as a child
outfitted in a light blue blouse, a navy jumper
sitting with other children dressed the same

You would sing, mouth open wide
imagining being borne on the breath of dawn
and fitting in the palm of His hand

You even learned sign language
and performed at the choral concert
             palms turned toward your heart
             thumbs interlocked
             fingers fluttering as wings
                                                     rising to the heavens

You dwelt in the shelter of the Lord
feeling safe from harm in His shadow
your Rock in whom you trusted

Then she died.

Your grandmother, your second mother
whose voice you cannot remember
even as she lay there listening to you speak--

Her funeral was at the very church
where you sang as a child
and even now, you cannot remember her voice--
if she sang with you, if she prayed aloud

You only remember hands
your hand holding hers
the cold metal bar of a gurney between them
wondering if this was what trust looked like

wondering if God has raised her up
on eagle's wings and now holds her
in the palm of His hand


[still working on this one. not crazy about the ending.]
[Note: some lyrics from the hymn appear in this poem]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Poem #5

"My Eldest Daughter, Age 5, the Philosopher Makes a Declaration"

From the back seat, she
searches the sky for answers
Clouds are followers

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poem #4

"Paradise (Lost)"

An explosion of fire, smoke
swells from an oil rig:
this artificial island suspended
over water, its fractured legs
bent like a heron's
its head tilted away from heaven
a fall from (dis)grace

Oil spreads like the devil's hands
reaching out for sinners unrepentant
and greedy for sunken treasure
swallowing wahoo and yellowfin
along the way Brown pelicans
bearing the weight
of man's transgressions

The horizons of this deepwater hell
have broken into pieces of a nightmare
that no one can sweep up
not even God

And the sinners who ask for mercy
suffer from amnesia, their memories
evaporate like smoke
vanish into water

They begin to build
another island

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Poem #3

Today's writing prompt: write a postcard poem.

"Greetings from the Garden State!"

Sturdy daffodil stems poke
though the cold ground
It's April and the snow has not stopped
The pollutant sheen of sunsets is lovely
and traffic moves like angry bees
looking for honey that isn't there
We don't wish you here
We dream of warmer gardens

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Poem #2

"Still Life"

a bowl of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds smile
in pastels of lavender, orange, yellow, pink
mug of tepid half-drunk coffee
toast crumbs on a plate, drips of butter

pre-dawn sky vanishes
morning sun fills the kitchen
--it's later than I thought

then suddenly a cry
muted and distant
cuts the soft light
into pieces

my day has begun

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy National Poetry Month!

Okay, so I'm starting a new Season of the Show, but leaving up last Season's failed attempt at blog-as-educational-tool... just in case someone finds it useful.

As you may or may not know, April is national poetry month (happens to be my birthday month, too --so it's smiles all around). With this month comes the 30 day/30 poem challenge. And here we are, April 1st. April Fool's Day.

My first poem of the month comes from an in-class exercise I did with my students this morning. They seemed to like it (though I think it's ridiculous) so I'm posting it here as my first poem of the month. Enjoy! (or not - hah!)

[The exercise was to write a love poem using scientific language we came up with during class & wrote on the board.]


Light my Bunsen burner, baby
and I will show you a galaxy
beyond your wildest dreams of fusion

The viscosity between us is undeniable
as red stars explode in celebration
of our molecular binding

The teslas of our love can withstand
the collision of planets, the pull of other hearts
together, we are a supernova

We are the quarks within the atom
the fire within the spark
the constellation in the night sky