Tuesday, September 17

social services

I wait in the corner
barefoot woman walks in
her hands shake
she sits down next to me
arms crossed
she says, "don't be embarassed
I didn't feel like shoes"
I say, "I'm not,
are you alright?"

"I need to go to the hospital," she mumbles
"do you need any help?" I say
her face startles
like she's not used to people hearing her
"this is fucking bullshit
I hate this place
what number are they on?"
"they skip around
I think they forgot me"
"you should go up to a window and tell them"
"I'm patient"
"I'm not"

tattoo man stomps in
knuckles drag on tile
he sees me
I see him
he kisses her
he says, "I love you"
she says, "I love you too"
like she's convincing someone
he leaves

"why are you here?" she asks
the weight of society in her tone
I say "I watch my two kids
ex-wife wanted a career
then she left because I wasn't successful"
"why aren't you successful?"
"because I watch kids"
our eyes meet
barefoot woman says
"I'll never understand women"
we smile

they call my number
I fill out forms
as I drive away
tattoo man
rides his bicycle around
he sees me
I see him
I wonder if he thinks
that when he's mounted her tonight
she'll think of me


Monday, September 16

living in a treehouse journal

day #1
built a treehouse
seems sensible
since they're the only ones
who seem to get it

day #2
figured out the whole
going to the bathroom thing
that's not pleasant

day #3
snickers running low
what to do

day #4
someone walked underneath
I hid
like I needed to
how often do people look at trees

day #5
woke up with a squirrel on my toe
showed me how to gather acorns
I'm glad
pinecones unappetizing

day #6
think people starting to wonder
where I went

day #7 part 1
yup, they are
they have search dogs
damn dogs
they should be on my side

day #7 part 2
"sir step away from the tree"

day #7 part 3
ex wife says
"what are you doing up there"
I say
"I think this tree cares for me
more than you ever did"

day #7 part 4
kids say
"daddy, come down from there"
I say
you can live up here with me
I don't mind
the more monkeys the merrier"

day #7 part 5
the police have grappling hooks
guess this is the end
of tree houses


Wednesday, September 4

everyone has infinite value

a piece of bread
with the potential energy
of 100 calories
has the value of a few cents

your mind
has the potential energy
of infinite ideas
of infinite words
of infinite power
of infinite value

why do you allow others
to treat you as less than infinite
why do you allow yourself
to treat you as less than infinite

I see your infinite value
it blinds me
this world of billions
of supernova

how different the world looks
when you see everyone’s value
like stars in daytime
as no one is worthless

do not let anyone give you
nothing for you
you are worth infinite value
you are worth living

you say, “how can we be
worth infinite value
we are common
like sand”

I say, “water is infinite value
in a desert
your mind has infinite value
in this universe”

you say, “what of the ones
who treat me as less
than infinite
what of them”

I say, “why believe them
they believe you are worthless
believe my infinity
as I believe in yours”


Thursday, August 29

Thursday Morning

5YO: "You know what, I want a dog that's rainbow."
7YO: "They don't come like that. You'd have to paint it."
"I know but dogs don't like to be painted."
"Then it would be wet."
"I know, dogs don't like to be wet."
"Dogs and cats don't like to be wet. They shake it all off like this."
"You know what? A cat likes to be wet in the bathtub if you put fish in it."
"There's no fish in the bathtub."
"There is at a pet store."
"There's no fish at a pet store."
"Yes, there is, that's where we got Puddles."
"Puddles was a good cat."
"Puddles was a good cat, except he peed on everything."


Wednesday, August 28

Beliefs are Monkey Bars

beliefs are monkey bars
you hang on
everyone hangs on
you look up at the sky
you think
“if I hang on long enough I’ll go there”
you look down
you think
“if I let go I’ll land in the tanbark”
(no one likes tanbark)
(it’s pokey)
you look around
everyone hangs on
you hang on
your hands hurt

you hear a voice
that voice is me
I say
“let go of the monkey bars”
you say
“what an idiot”
I say
“hey, I’m not an idiot, let go of the monkey bars”
you say
“I’ll fall in the tanbark”
(no one likes tanbark)
(it’s pokey)
I say
“no you won’t”
you say
“yes I will”
I say
“no you won’t”
you say
“what about gravity”
I say
“there’s no gravity in your mind”
you think
you look around
everyone hangs on
your hands hurt
you decide

a) you hang on
until you die
and you let go anyway

b) you let go
you let go of the past
you let go of the future
you let go of prejudice
you let go of preconceptions
you let go of power
you let go of control
you let go of words
you let go of identity
you let go of hate
you fall
and fall
and fall
and fall
and never hit the ground
because there’s no tanbark
(no one likes tanbark)
(it’s pokey)
you float around
with me
and the rest of the dreamers
and imagine a world without monkey bars
and falling

Tuesday, August 27

Four Ways to Edit like a Chef

Last time I used the equation:

Thought + Write + Edit =
Ingredients + Cook + Garnish

Since I’m backasswards, I want to talk about editing first.  We have the most control over the last part of the creative process, which is why we fuck it up.  We let our insecurities, frustrations, and expectations get involved, and then throw everything away.

You have a disassembled word cake that just came out of the oven.  Now what?  Here are the pitfalls to editing, and strategies on how to avoid them, all by thinking like a chef:

1) Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen.  Cooking is not a democracy.  There is a definite hierarchy.  Someone is in charge, and anyone who gets in the way is kicked out (sometimes nicely, sometimes not).

In your brain, who’s in charge of your word kitchen?  How many parts of your personality are offering “advice” and telling you how to stir your macaroni and cheese?  Do you let the images of your family and friends and teachers and critics into your kitchen?  Are they hovering over your stove?

If so, politely tell them to get the fuck out of your writing and go wait in the dining room.  Especially your critic needs to get out of the kitchen, and wait until you are done cooking.

I know this doesn’t make any sense, and goes contrary to everything you’ve ever been told about writing, but your critic doesn’t edit.  You edit.  Your critic waits until you are done, then eats your words, then writes a review.  They might send the dish back because it’s cold or needs salt or whatever, but never let your critic into your writing space.

Be your own word dictator.

2)  Leave the Drama in Your Writing.  You are not a five-star restaurant.  You don’t eat on gold plates.  You aren’t bedecked in diamonds.  When a chef cooks a steak, they know it’s just a steak.  

So why do writers act all high and mighty about what they do?  Your words are just words.  Do you freak out about making a sandwich?  No you don’t, so don’t freak out about writing a sentence.  Don’t act like writing is life and death.  Put the melodrama in the story, not in the process of writing the story.

3)  Presentation is Everything.  Here’s an ugly truth: everyone judges books by their cover.  What?  No way!  That’s not fair.  Yup, it isn’t fair, and life is not fair.

If you wrap a sandwich in paper, people will pay less for it than if a dude in a suit brings it on fine china to their table.  That’s life.  Hardback books cost triple what a paperback costs.

So when you edit, think about how you present your words.  It should match the intended audience.  For example, I can be edgy and swear on a tumblr blog, but in a college paper or a job, I would clean up my language.

Accentuate befittingly.  If you bake a chocolate cake, you might not want to decorate it with mushrooms.  Make sure the language you’ve chosen highlights your core idea (or most likely ideas). 

When I write haiku, I format them like haiku, and I frame them with hashtags so everyone knows it’s a haiku.  In a larger philosophical sense, art is anything in a frame, and as an artist, you need to make a conscious decision about your frame.

4)  Know When to Let Go of the Plate.  Imagine that a cook takes forever to bring your food, then as they’re about to drop the plate on your table they stick their finger in your mashed potatoes and say, “Oops, sorry, need to add more salt.  Be right back.”

You would leave that restaurant and never come back.

When you edit, your goal is to finish, then move on.  As I tell my kids, “Stop farting around.”  Fix your writing, and send it to the table.   Chefs are never like, “Oh no, I’ll never bake a cookie like that one again!” 

Here’s your zen moment: you can only grab something new if you’ve let something else go.   So let your old writing go.  Then you can write something new.

Happy writing!

Good Writing is Good Cooking

oftemm: I just love your poetry. I read it and wonder, “How do you even come up with these kind of things you write about?” I’d ask for an answer but I’d rather be kept in curiousity. :)
Don’t you stop your writing!

Thank you!  I’m glad you enjoy my work.  I want to answer your question, even though you begged me not to.  :)

Good Writing is Good Cooking

Think + Write + Edit = Ingredients + Cook + Garnish 

1) Think/Ingredients.  Words are concrete thoughts, so it makes sense to begin with how to think.  The best writing begins with the best thoughts.  No one wants a piece of cake made with month-old eggs and moldy flour.

So spend time thinking.  Exercise your thinking.  Stretch your brain as far in the past as it can go, then imagine being very tiny, then imagine being massive.  Imagine love.  Remember an enemy.  Remember what someone said.  Combine thoughts.  Mix them around, and see what batter forms.  Then when you have a thought that feels roughly like it could exist in reality, stick it in the oven.

2) Write/Cook.  Writing is an oven.  It’s cramped.  It’s hellish.  It seems like it takes forever.

It’s also something you have to do over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.  Anyone who does anything excellent either had luck or had work.  You can’t control the former, but you can definitely influence the latter.

I’m a quantity over quality type of person.  You think every day, so write down what you think every day.  No good chef is like, “Sorry, I have the ingredients, but I’m not going to cook today.  I’m waiting until I figure out the Next Great Recipe.”  Get in the word kitchen and write.  Don’t set out to write lobster and caviar words: write cookies and ice cream and salad and french fries.  Write what sustains you.

3)  Edit/Garnish.  This is the place where a lot of people get stuck.  If you only have the first two steps, then all you have is writing, the majority of which is garbage.  Most of your word muffins are burnt or lumpy or gooey or dry or clearly inedible.  If you pass off your writing to other people without editing it is trash.  (Unless you won the word lottery, congratulations! You can retire to your own private literary island!)

"Oh no! My precious words! Everything I write is the best thing ever!  That’s how I feel!"  Nope.  It isn’t.  Other people will take one bite of your pastry, and if it tastes like shit, they will not take bite number two.

So how do you edit?  Same way you prepare a cake: let it cool, decorate it, and serve it on your best porcelain.  Think about what you wrote.  Take time with each sentence, every word.  Say it out loud.  Cut off the burnt pieces, the cliches, the clunky word flow, the lapses in grammar.  Frost your writing with a thesaurus. 

(At some point you will be able to edit AS you write, but this takes practice or else you might end up throwing everything you write away.  Writer’s block is overzealous editing, which is a topic for another post.)

I like the haiku format because it forces me to slow down and edit.  Unless I’m lucky and the words taste divine, I’m probably going to have to garnish my work before its tasty.

4) An Example.  I start with the thought:

"Good writing is something that is a good thought that you write down, and you do that a bunch and then you read what other people write and you figure out what is good then you edit it and then it has to echo through people like a drum."

Which is absolute drivel.  So I edit out the garbage:

"Good writing is something that is a good thought that you write down, and you do that a bunch and then you read what other people write and you figure out what is good then you edit it and then it has to echo through people like a drum.”

I check a thesaurus, and I find that “reverberate” is a stronger word than “echo”.  It also means I can get rid of “drum”.

"Good writing reverberates through people."

I look for words better than “people”.  I like the alliteration of “being”.  Also, this applies not just to writing, but to art in general.  A little bit of reformatting and I have:

good art /
reverberates /
in your being

#haiku #sixwords #poetry

Tuesday, June 11

Matthew the Monkey

matthew the monkey kept food on the moon
his favorite grub strewn over the dunes
who'd build a rocket to steal his burgers
or piles of tortillas filled with cheddar
red, yellow, and green curries sloshing down
gulleys of naan and rice where moon-mice drown
if you reckon you've seen a UFO
it might have been a gyro or taco
he planted six different types of pasta
next to the flower bed of lasagna
we cannot forget the ice cream and cake
afloat the middle of the coffee lake
did I forget the pizza and grilled cheese
the french toast perfectly still with no breeze
he likes omelets and bacon and biscuits
and pulled pork sandwiches served with brisket
is there anything matthew will not eat
his gluttony is extremely complete
though be careful if you visit him too
you might also end up in matthew's stew


Saturday, June 8

Why Humans Never Want To Contact Aliens

Imagine sometime in the far future we pick up some type of signal from an alien civilization.  Since we mastered harnessing an infinite amount of energy using our perpetual motion engines, it’s pretty easy for us to hop in our spaceships and break the speed of light.

Once there we scan for life and find none.  Puzzled, we instead find that the entire planet is in a constant state of creation and destruction due to out of control chemical chain reactions.  In addition, the harmful radiation from the nearby star, and the corrosive gases in the atmosphere would make life as we know it impossible.  And yet, we are still receiving crude repetitive transmissions from this planet.

The captain orders a team sent to the surface to ascertain the planet from the ground.  Our anti-matter suits should be effective at reflecting any sort of hostile matter or radiation that would kill us outright.  We beam down to the planet, and what we find is horrendous:

Everything on the planet is hostile.  From the tiniest groups of molecules to the largest object, anything that moves on the planet will chemically assimilate anything else.  Though we are repulsed, we are vaguely curious.  From razor sharp blades, to pointed objects, to poisons, to lethal traps and exothermic reactions, everything has a way to consume energy. 

Fearing for our lives, we beam back to our ship, carefully decontaminate the team, then place a warning force field around the entire solar system.  We build a science station with a nova bomb on a nearby planet in case the contagion spreads, and then hastily head back home.

What would have happened had this planet been exposed to infinite energy?  It’s only logical that the chain reaction would have spread infinitely, consuming the entire universe.  Photosynthesis and cellular respiration must be quarantined for the safety of the universe.

That’s why this is called, oh wait, I wrote the wrong title.  This should be: “Why Aliens Never Want to Contact Humans.”

Thursday, June 6

meek poor crowds sake of /
shall comforted under god /
opened blessed heart


Words from the Bible.  Written for dVerse Poets Pub.