A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Monday, April 27, 2015

sore score

ugly :: no nothing more than a scab :: a pain(t) job, applied biology, wound-be-gone, but meanwhile :: black-brown patch :: skin-music, band-aid, home-grown :: stuck :: itching to beat the band, itching to disappear, magic foiled, the urge to peek piqued :: picked :: well not enough let alone :: pink the price to pay :: raw news, read meat, rough cut :: edit

Cooking at night

The whole place reeks of beets
Like being buried in sweet earth
Like summer is here early and already in decay
Opening the windows is no relief
From a miasma that will probably give me gothic dreams

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spell for Headaches

hot saltwater cut
with baking powder
forced through
the holes in your face
little blue different
water, wine
sometimes you spend
all day setting up
but the ritual is just

let the weather roll thru

Married Garbage

Where you go to be married
Where you hold court covered in candy
and tissues, all sticky.
Your own place, if it's garbage
Thanks for making me part of your garbage
The swine will love this chaplet of pearls

Notes from a Reading

At 15 my tarot readings weren’t very interesting
But they were nice
I got the shining star
It was bright

At 30 my cards tell me more
I’ve done so many rites for the community
Now, I start to stop
Next, the blue robin’s egg has to break

And there’s fire and flames
Not just light but heat
Not just light but burning
Not just light but clearing

Saturday, April 25, 2015

two roses!

two roses! Blooming! 
on two sides of a fence, and,
climbing, the one leans over to the other,
in sweet sleep beneath the cool Spring night, curling up toward the sky:

Read with me tonight, dream with me its story again,
of how our unseen roots forever entangle as the days pass on
and, with the sunlight's pulling, together save that memory
that saturates the air and washes over the fresh red of our naked hearts with dew

(Fear of) The Mom Without Qualities

I went home today and I brought back a book. 
The Man Without Qualities (volume 1).
It’s one of those big European books my mom liked to read.

Recently I read that if you don’t keep remembering a thing—
Remembering like exercise, like practice—
You will forget it.

Its qualities will become vague.
(My mom’s high school yearbook superlative:
Vague… vaguest….)

That can’t possibly happen to my memories of my mother, I think.
Mother: that distancing word. I worry: I am not exercising them enough.
I am wary of photos, as if they will replace memories.

Especially photos of her in her later sicker days
(Why would you put a frame on that?)
I am wary of memories of memories.

My secret resource is her books
So many she read that I have yet to read
Some she wrote in, one she wrote

Skimming, seeing post-its, dog-ears,
Marginalia. Chapter Four: 
"If there is a sense of reality, there must also be a sense of possibility"

Spell for Protection

I walk down dark streets alone all the time

I don't even know if I'm not supposed to

do that anymore / yet, again, still

protection: oft requested

"I bind you, Nancy," etc.

feels like winter again tonight

from my corner window I see armory turrets

it's a men's shelter, my sister says

for murderers and rapists without families

who got out.  still in.  she runs

a clinic on the other side of town.

what are you afraid of and

what does that say about you?

say about yourself:

I'm not afraid

I'm not afraid

I'm not afraid

all the men surprised to learn

how it is for us

where do they live

where do I

the day cracks in two

you float on your piece

I float away on mine

to take whichever way home

without fear

to have home

to own space like that!

for protection I was given

pink crystals

so far I have not gotten

much more


Friday, April 24, 2015

all I want

I was blinded—she
was the last thing I remember
before I picked up this pen—

the moon waxing anew
sneaks past the horizon late tonight,
and the night chill hurries me home. 

(pack these words with warmth)

I know it comes
when it comes;
goes when it goes:
I retrace my steps,
look back and she's the first,
the first I see in this sea 
of anchors, gold made looks my way
when I don't know what I want to say
but know I want to it to be said—

she was the one,
she knew just the right word
yet had let me be the one, her poet—
and audience was everything just as fair,
attentive to her every movement and look—

"a woman's heart 
should be so lost in God,
that a man has to seek him 
to find her"–by I always forget who
except that it was written on her profile
and it's truth on my heart—
and so now I sing or write 
my heart out in whys and hows
everywhere and anywhere,

over every honest face—
though I was raised to lower my gaze
by my mother, and my father said:
"the first look is ok", the second
is the devil's I thought then
and think now to make sure
the first one really counts

but there was no giving into
her eyes, I was taken
I was born where I saw,
I saw my self a glow,
I saw a miracle and a blessing walking
I saw home honest to god—

there's a famous song 
from Egypt in the 60's,
Umm Kalthoum's enta 'omri (you are my life),
and I remember hearing the song one day;
"what I saw before my eyes saw you, 
my life at loss—
they'll count that against me—how!"

and I remember it,
the moment, driving, turnpike,
southbound sun in my eyes;
"you are my life whose morning
with your light began",
and I understood how language was,
why it works so much better
than we could ever know
and why she deserved the most of me
and even if I never saw her again deserves

postmodernity would never
have it any other way,
but she wouldn't at all,
us poets, leading the way,
or having something less
poetic to say, or more—
and how could I blame her
when she always got what she said wanted

but it wasn't birth
or a rebirth or worship or worse,
it was the crash of two 
star-crossed ideologies,
but before we ever knew of the names
that tear us apart;
we were made for each other
apart from each other, each our own,
for a purpose I told her vainly;
captured my moon in her track—

in Arabic we say ash-shamsu
wal-qamar (the sun and the moon)
and there's no marker for gender here, but
modern majorities regard them in
what becomes opposite to the Spanish:
el sol y la luna; masculine, then feminine,
default mode of description, then,
essentially inadequate description—
but I was hers and she was mine
and, so unfathomably there

"to not grab at water"
she would teach me,
it doesn't work, and
I remember it, and 
everything I can to help me—
she would remind me
to pray, but didn't, I guess
until she wished it all back

I think I would remember things
too much and she would forget them,
trained to cheat off each other—
or maybe heaven was a memory
and we love to forget 
to each remind the other,
with each touch and breath

I could do anything 
in those moments;
time didn't slow around her
I did it, I wanted it all—
in her eyes and in my mind's
each time I witnessed a world
explode into time and space:

a heart beat true
the sun rising
the moon circling
the tides ebbing
stars everywhere,
everything beating its beat—

until only all of me 
is worth it, worth the wait;
trusting in what must come,
not knowing how at all but certain
to the hollow of your bones,
no matter what else may—

the pale dawn's light 
looks like rain now, maybe not;
and there are green buds of a tree
I want to know the name of

and maybe I do, maybe I can remember 
remember everything

but it won't matter,
it won't matter what I know—
it's what we say, today—
I can stare into the sun still

All Those Babies

Because it's late and because all those babies are sleeping
except for the babies who aren't sleeping, poor babies,
I feel bad about all those babies.
God Caolan they have their whole lives ahead of thembut yeah you know those lives are going to be so sad
and there's nothing at the end of them but death
and also we're ruining the world for them
Cmon Lee there's something to this futurism
or futurity, it's literal, they will see the future
and it will hurt. Emily of New Moon's dad:
She will love deeply--she will suffer terribly
she will have glorious moments to compensateI always thought that was me but it's everyone
On the other hand some of the babies are bound to be jerks
You feel all this tenderness for this group of people
who are just going to be mostly jerks
and some boring people and some nice people
and one or two real firecrackers
Yeah, life's a real downward spiral and we keep having babies
to make it less miserable for us and then they have to have babies
like in Twilight when it's like OK if I get to live forever
does my boyfriend also get to live forever
and then it's like OK but also do we get to have a baby
because that feels important culturally to us
but then can the baby live forever too
and oh will the baby be lonely
oh she gets a semi-immortal boyfriend who is also our friend
great! what a nice son-in-law, my old boyfriend
(says Isabel Archer) and then it's like, well, if they're semi mortal
maybe you'll be tired of living by then anyway
and you can self-immolate in a special vampire furnace
or like when I was a kid and I wrote stories where
the mother said "this is my dying day"
That really freaked my mom out but I just wondered
how could you possibly be at peace with it
maybe you would just decide to pass your crown
on to your babies who had become wise grownups
It's just going to be hard for those babies,
all that living and dying, all that watching us
be so casually mean and racist and sexist and transphobic
and homophobic and classist and unreasonable and
I don't know, wanting hot son-in-laws, wanting no son-in-laws
making those babies call us up every day
when right now they're just sleeping under their million blankets
most of them feeling pretty OK, thinking it's OK,
PJ Bear is here and Dorothy's here and the owl is here
and Mom and Dad have always shown up eventually
not having made the pact with loving deeply/suffering terribly
and glorious moments, not even looking for them

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spell for a Hangover

first : friendship

2nd : water, saltines, ginger ale
         eggs, watermelon, bagels
         seltzer, bitters, coconut water

3rd : life obligations
         pressure to "show up"

u poisoned yourself now
u puked yourself

don't play that shame game
blame game

you didn't mean to steal it / say that

sure I'll come over
  with remedies

"hair of the dog"
   cough, cough

dump your bag on the table

    -mancy that

Numbers (Belated Earth Day Poem)

  Remember when you said,
                   "Can you believe that gas is going to be two dollars?"
I had no idea what you meant,
                           you were so excited.
                        I didn't know what gas and                two dollars
                       to you, Pre-teen.
Backseat Driver of your mother's minivan
                        and my mother's minivan. 

All this time I've been over-thinking it.

                            You know
                           I can play number games, too.

If winter + night + ice-skating,

  (Dad's car.)

The important thing was to bring our noses
up to the blinking red number on the dash
and passionately root for a dropping

We'd say things like,
                      "Can you believe it's almost thirteen degrees?"
                                               "Come on, thirteen!"
                                "Thir-teen! Thir-teen! Thir-teen!"

                The point was:
(Saying the number, feeling the chill - )
   passing the time in order to make 
a past-           time.                                      
                     Time when 
temperature and                           gas prices 
had a different kind of purchase.

Spell for Nostalgists

Polaroid/vinyl nostalgia
for nostalgia itself

It’s the instaconjuring of a feeling
fingertips awash

Kids these days

pressin’ a time-machine


                  me too

“Look, I made my day
                          so old”

True, it’s already over

         the projected missing
of the present

you’re not fucked you’re lucky

Does the wish to be “in life”

                     Wanna move to

Detroit?           Milwaukee,


basically just a version of a sentimental facebook post but that's cool, right?

It was 2002 and I came out of the park and it was just Brooklyn, just undifferentiated Brooklyn, and I had that feeling where you have to pee so bad and you're in a desert and no one will help you but they let me pee at the Pavilion and of course the whole world opened up, you could walk anywhere, including to a deli to get a bottle of water, including back to the concert and your friends and then to the bar and then to anywhere

because I was a grownup and I could go to bars, I could go to movies, I could go anywhere

I rented an apartment thirteen blocks from the Pavilion, kind of on purpose, it was a nice walk

I put on my black H&M shirtdress with the lavender polka dots and piping and buttons, and the lavender high heels I bought in Paris, and I walked to the Pavilion on a Wednesday night in June and literally no one knew where I was. I went to see like Intolerable Cruelty or something. Something bad. I went to see Terminal. Apparently I went to see every Catherine Zeta-Jones movie. I  ate popcorn and mixed it with Raisinets. I drank a gallon of Diet Coke. In the dark my pupils dilated, wider, wider, my cheeks flushed, I was so beautiful in that bathroom mirror, nobody knew or cared. I came home to that little room, six feet by nine feet, the bed cozied up to the little window overlooking the street, I glowed to sleep

Sam said girls don't go to movies by themselves. I said I do, so I got to be special, but even though I saw that one movie by myself at Anthology, when it was so cold I could feel the redness of my heart, mostly it was movies at the Pavilion

We watched all those bad movies in a group, like The Butterfly Effect and those zombie movies, we were drinking and yelling at the screen but so was everyone else, I don't know what we did afterwards, probably went to a bar, but we did things in groups and it was understood and everyone went

I went on a school visit in deep Brooklyn with Janice and Laine and it ended at 3 PM but we didn't go back to work, we went to see Mean Girls at the Pavilion and it felt wicked but also they were my bosses, and they lived in Brooklyn, and Janice was 33 and Laine was 29 and I was 23 and we were just hanging out, like when we'd go to a sale at Anthropologie during lunch or something. After the movie was over I just walked home, nbd, the sun was still out

It was OK being in my twenties, I think I liked it. It went on for years. I'm panicking about time passing so fast but it went on for years, just living in apartments and going to movies, just hanging around in the park and deciding to go to a movie, just going to a movie and deciding to go to a bar, or to walk home, or to get some ice cream. Just ducking in from the rain. Just ducking in from the heat. When you didn't have air conditioning. I loved you, I was happy, I liked not being in school, I liked not really doing much of anything, not really writing, it went on for years. High heels briefcase metrocard sushi. All that stuff sounds horrible but it was transformed. Those trash years when we were starting to grow up together.

Paul and I went to see I, Robot the day of my twenty-fourth birthday party, when Kate and Leigh threw me a not-surprise party with a surprise theme. The theme was "Kings County Fair," there was a kissing booth. We weren't really that kind of crowd but two of our friends ended up sort of falling in love. Paul and I went to see everything I could think of. We found an apartment at last, four long blocks away, or maybe five, there was a terrace, I grew tomatoes. I wrote a poem with the line "I have been happy in this way before." It also said "For now, the world is still beyond this house." We had band practice a block away from the movie theater, we all got dinner around there, we all walked around in the park, we'd walk by Joanna's house and yell up to see if she was there, you'd call people and say "I'm walking by your house, do you want to get brunch." We moved to Baltimore, we moved back. We went to see The Dark Knight and I worried about getting into grad school. We went to see The Dark Knight Rises and I worried about my dissertation. Bain's silly voice. It was our birthday. We worried about bedbugs. That was the last time. We walked home and it was too hot to walk that far but we couldn't find a cab.


This is a tribute to
the poem I started
in Blogger yesterday
in the morning while
I was still in bed
I thought it would save
automatically but
you know. Ass [of] u
[and] me

That poem was better
than this tribute but
only slightly
RIKAD, or 15 points

Poor Thisbe [the] goth
[By] foot [and not] limo [she]
Toggle[d] [through the] dark

[On the] road [in the] mirk
[She] spot[ted] [a] fork
[Then] gored [the] mire

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I sought a calmer wind,
a breeze that would blow me by,
comb through my hair;
leave me to linger through 
whirling leaf-buds passing;
complete my sentences

-he can't say what he's saying-
modernity - empiricism & empires
history - text & blood
conflict - if exists is one-sided

though this has only always
been the case, been
that we are the early spring's
leaf-buds around us in the breeze
easy chasing in gracious flight
the height of the day,
only until the squall settles,
and the dirt falls
and we tremble from inside

Tragedy and Comedy

In seventh grade we had to write a book of poems,
Each one in a different style, or using a different device.

One of mine was a shape poem, a tragedy mask,
Because I liked to act. I sketched the outlines

And started writing, about masks, and hidden identities,
And actors hiding their true selves. It was all

Very dark. I kept writing until I filled the mask,
Even its ribbons. Shape was more important than sense.

When I got the book back, on that page, my teacher
Had written something like, Very thoughtful.

And to this day I have been embarrassed for myself
That she read the shaped words for their sense,

And thought those thoughts were my thoughts.
(Even then I knew they were overwrought.)

And just now I remembered all this. How hilarious
That she took the words shaped as a mask for my voice.