…but I just love the expletive outta this:
So I finished some edits to the poems in “American Method”—it’s now available here, for $1.99.
New Poetic Brew doesn’t happen again until September 18th; I’ll probably have printed, signed versions of my chapbook available for free there. So, if you live in San Diego, you can check that out.
I’m still considering doing a “Spoken Word Album” of the chapbook, and making that available on iTunes. I’m looking into online audio publishing services now…
At first, the new chapbook was to have thirteen poems in it. I love the number thirteen—it has gotten a bad rap, much like black cats. Two poems were not really “chapbook-quality” for me, though (as noted in this post). Today, I realized that I really don’t have any Earth-shaking edits that will make “Zero” a better poem; it was a fun tribute to Sylvia Plath, but that’s all it was.
I’ll just have to explore the profound relationship I have with my chihuahua in another, later, poem I guess. Profound relationship? Well, we got him just after Adrian’s cancer surgery. Also, I think my chihuahua is the only being on Earth who understands—unhindered by assumption or complication—what I am going through with my Lupus. So, yes, profound…
Anyway, I feel the ten poems I’ve collected for “American Method” make for a really solid chapbook. Also, I think I might record the poems on mp3 and put them up on iTunes. For money, of course—especially since the printed chapbook is free (as is this very website), I need some kind of a publishing “model” or whatever.
Imagine my grandmother dancing…
Alice Chambers, daughter of a mother tough and so severe,
my grandmother, my mother’s mother,
born 1917—her 25 would be 1942; also imagine
“A.J. Sylvester,” the name my mom only vaguely recounts to me.
Imagine “Moonlight Serenade” straining through a vacuum tube radio…
Somehow I think of him as Sylvester,
maybe Mr. Sylvester; I’ve never seen him.
I’ve seen his handwriting.
He died in Pearl Harbor; the navy named a ship after him.
Imagine the swell and sway of the clarinets as he held her…
After she married—Garnel Poppleton, a nice boy from church—
Sylvester kept writing, but that mother so severe
hid every letter until after he was dead
and it was too late, and that broke Alice apart.
Imagine the white on a mountain, framed by a kitchen window…
I remember her from her garden’s raspberries
frozen, fresh, and crisp; I remember the bite
of sweet and ice (she’d often pour milk over);
Alice Poppleton, my co-conspirator to decadence.
Imagine my grandmother folding laundry alone in the kitchen, in front of the fridge with only a radio playing…
I remember her from her letters;
she’d always tuck a dollar bill stiff from the bank,
and I didn’t mind when mom made me write back
because that meant yet another letter would come.
Imagine my grandmother’s face, deadpan, calling out for me as
Brian David Thedell Luke Skywalker throughout my fifth Summer…
I remember her—in the house down from the mountain
with her own private garden of berries
as she smoulders through life with that
nice boy from church, the radio, and
the pile of letters in the back of the guest closet.
Imagine hands, soft with Rose Milk lotion and a lifetime of work,
finally at rest on a quilt…
I can’t help but feel a kinship with Sylvester,
and I wonder what I’d call myself today
if a certain Japanese pilot had failed his mission,
had left someone alive to write back to.
Imagine “Moonlight Serenade” remastered on CD, ringing through
the nursing home bedroom…
By 2001 I was 25; I called her sometimes, in spite
of all the awkward, confused pauses, the mumbling of aging.
Then I learned that the nurses read my emails aloud
for her; it hurt me less to write than to talk.
Imagine my grandmother, dancing across all those decades…
I didn’t visit my grandmother’s death bed;
I’d grown unforgiving at her and her daughter so severe.
Now as I sit with my regret, I wonder if hers tasted as frozen and crisp
that day she changed from Alice Chambers to Alice Poppleton.
Update: the Kindle-formatted draft is ready; I just need to workshop one last poem and it will be done!
Tentatively, the title is “American Method” and there will be either eleven or twelve poems in it, depending if I ultimately decide to include something I just wrote this morning.
I’m omitting Generation and What I Learned From Rilke And Lao Tzu because I don’t quite feel that those poems represent my best work. My chapbooks are supposed to be something more “edited” and final than the free-flowing approach I have with this site.
No Kindle link yet—I can’t really publish to Kindle until the chapbook is totally finalized, and since I’m still mulling over some things… and maybe I should take advantage of my writing group this coming Monday, as it’s my “turn” for review.
I said I didn’t understand
so God told me again—
growing old happens instantly.
But it felt so much longer,
like forever, I begged.
Of course it did to you, my boy,
he chuckled, sneered,
of course it did to you…
I am at the beach again
despite the doctor’s warnings
to stay out of sun
because of my condition.
I was here near this water
—this salty world-womb—
the last time something in life couldn’t fit,
when nothing but waves and sand
made any sense.
Before that, and before I left home,
I came to this beach when I was
still young, if being young is the inability
to comprehend the end of a Summer,
the inability to doubt that a throw of the dice
will always win an invite to a party,
a weed connect, or an easy lay…
And here time is water and water time
as it carves and traces its ridges in
beach rock like the lines around my eyes;
it clumps and dents the smooth sand
like the wrinkles that mottle the back of my hand…
I have seen the seaside tribes approach, recede:
young military men, college co-eds, young
college men, middle aged barflies
munching tacos from that hole-in-the-wall
just two blocks down from the boardwalk;
even the old woman who walks her
two pugs each morning at seven
remains somehow mysterious
against the horizon of ocean…
So I drifted down the pier
until the gulls in the air
and the bite of salt on my tongue
muted the humming waves beneath my feet.
I saw a gull with just one leg
and wondered what desperate adventure
had claimed his wholeness; yet
the image I caught on my cellphone
has no pity, just pride—
as if he knows he can still stand in the wind,
still dive into the same ocean, intrepid,
as if a throw of the dice could never
cost him the rest of his body.
But I myself grow more timid
over just the high sun at noon
again because of my condition;
it could be any condition, I guess
it doesn’t matter, as often
being old is just being able to remember
a Summer where I couldn’t imagine being
too sick to do a simple thing.
The doctor told me that my body
is attacking itself; I should be very ill,
according to my blood-work, but apparently
I am lucky, only wounded just-barely;
so anyway it couldn’t hurt
to lose a little weight,
to go the gym sometimes, and above all
to stay out of the sunlight—UV—
as that somehow roils
the demon in my blood.
And after the fit of nervous laughter
in the clinic parking lot,
after I realize the algebra of my illness
equals two or three toxic little pills,
poisons that choke off my blood’s royal guard
and soothe the screams beneath my skin,
after all that I feel
a bit of pity, but mostly pride—
because I know I can still dive
deep into waves sliding beneath me,
because I can still feel
dice, hard and warm, in my hand…
[NOTE: This is a new edit of the poem found here.]
…so, if I do a minor edit to one poem, and a major edit to another poem, I’ll have about 13 good poems I can put into a new chapbook. The last chapbook only had 11, so hey why not? Of course, I realize that there’s a poem or two that should just fade into the forgotten memories of the never-visited “Older Posts” link…
Last chapbook, I was over-stuffed with ideas for a title. Now, not so much… I genuinely feel so absorbed in the material that I don’t really have a macro “meta” point of view. There’s a bit of smug hipster-ish “yay me!” in that… but just as it’s possible to get too caught up in the trappings of self-publishing, it’s equally easy to devote too little attention to it all—these days especially, with so much competing for a reader’s interest, it’s important to telegraph a message/brand/identity with a title. Which begs the question: what most defines my work in the past three months?
I’m still of two minds over “What I Learned From Rilke And Lao Tzu” . . . But 13 is one of my favorite numbers, and I don’t know if I want to include any of the nascent poems I’ve got stewing in my skull in this chapbook.
I’ll be giving out the physical chapbook free, again. On the one hand, it’s not really a “profitable” publishing model, but then again I’m not really doing the poetry with the expectation of making any kind of a living from it. From what I understand, there are only like two or three traditionally successful (i.e. dead-tree “published”) poets that support themselves without the aid of academia, an editorial job, etc.
I do think these poems are more focused than my previous chapbook. I have noticed that I’ve grown less generally observational, and more heavily symbolic; I used to just describe things, and let the connotations do their work for me… now I force meanings and connections more directly. The poet of my first chapbook would never be so bold as to claim, “and I saw God in a circuit” for example.
“…you cannot give a body to something that moves beyond the senses, unless your words are as subtle, as complex, as full of mysterious life, as the body of a flower or of a woman. The form of sincere poetry…must have the perfections that escape analysis, the subtleties that have a new meaning every day, and it must have all this whether it be but a little song made out of a moment of dreamy indolence, or some great epic made out of the dreams of one poet and of a hundred generations whose hands were never weary of the sword.”
—Ideas Of Good And Evil, W. B. Yeats
…I’ve always felt it was kind of tacky. And now I just am not convinced that a random “Donate” button is the appropriate “publishing model” or whatever. I’ll move it to the “About” page as a concession to my boyfriend, I guess…
Also… I dunno, I like how this page looks, the theme I chose, etc. Visually, the PayPal button itself wasn’t so bad, but all the gaudy little credit card icons they put beneath it really detracted from the visual flow. My eyes literally jumped to them every time I read down the page…
…I am not happy with the new edit of “What I Learned From Rilke And Lao Tzu” . . . but I feel it’s much better than the original draft. And again, this website is supposed to be about my “process” as well as my finished work. And also again, I wanted to see the poem through, for many different reasons. Even if I leave it now, at least I came close to saying what I wanted to say.
Still, part of me wishes I had just left up the first poem I posted today,”Sine Wave“, by itself, as it’s a much better poem anyway….