30 March 2020

Poem-A-Day #1452 : Cockshut

Civil Twilight in Manhattan
Twilight is my favorite time of the day.

It is so cleanly between two things. So present in its liminal nature. It feels like water starting to tide. This is probably why it has a history of being "magical" or "important".

In Hinduism it is advised not to eat in this time period as the Asuras are most active at this time in their battle with the Devas. To gain power from mutability seems incredibly useful.

There are three kinds of twilight: Civil, Nautical, and Astronomical. Civil twilight is the period after sunset when things are still fully distinguishable by the naked eye, it is also called the blue hour. Nautical twilight is the period after Civil twilight when sailors can still distinguish a horizon to take measurements for position at sea. Astronomical twilight is the last phase, it is when astronomical readings can begin. When the faintest stars begin to show through the skyglow.

Cockshut is a very old English word for twilight. It literally means - the time chickens go to sleep, when they shut up.

---

Cockshut

Everything is the color of things going to sleep

and that one vein in your arm that pulses under the pillow.


In the whitespace between rooms              a filament
                                                     a gap

passes unnoticed — one single silk thread of breath.


Opposite of a rooster call — a moisture

                             sliding down a single finger of grass.


The walls grow pine needles — cooling              cooling
                                                             cooling

gently —              now —              not              so gently.

23 March 2020

Poem-A-Day #1446 : Colour-de-Roy

Bolinus brandarus
Purple has a history of being a royal color.

This is mainly to do with how hard it is to make purple dyes.

It's hard to make purple dye because the first real source for the color was snail mucus.

Mythology tells us that Heracles was walking on the beach when his dog found one of these snails and began to chew on it. The dog's mouth filled with the purple saliva. This color became what is today called Tyrian purple.

The snails were bolinus brandarus. The spiny dye-murex. The snail has a mucus that it uses to paralyze its prey. It is also a defense mechanism. To get the stuff for dye you either crush the snail or you milk it. You milk a snail by poking at it until it secretes the mucus.

Then you make robes for your king or queen.

--

Colour-de-roy

The dog you made us get runs off down the beach
despite being called over over over he refuses to come back

We got him because of his sad face
because of the two small scars across the front of his nose

Little square bites of gray in the blonde
Tyrian purple

I say you made us get because you made us go
to the shelter to the hill the shelter sits on

I like the dog fine I wish he’d come when you called him

The beach has tuned itself into a throb of seaweed
after a storm the sand is raw and untouched

Over the small hill the dog is tearing at the earth
shaking itself in a tug of war

He has eaten a spiked shell has lodged it in his mouth

A hundred arrow-sharp spines piercing its mouth
now stained purple the eyes filled with purple saliva flooding purple

All around him horseshoe crabs line themselves

Their heads inland and scorpion tails out to sea
each and every one of them dead

They wanted something somehow in their blind eyes they knew
it was just over this or that scrub of bleaching grass

They died crawling from one world into another

17 March 2020

Poem-A-Day #1441 : House-lew

A crow eating a shark.
"Safe as houses" is my favorite phrase.

It is Victorian English. It basically means that your investment or business venture or the thing you are about to do is a solid bet. Because what could be more sound than buying property?

Houses are supposed to be "safe". Many of us across the world are social distancing these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many, houses -- home -- that place, is not "safe". And even if it is. Houses feel less and less secure.

COVID is an acronym: COrona VIrus DIsease. Corona in Latin means garland, wreath, laurel. It is for the shape of the virus -- a circle covered in gem-like crown-like embellishments. It is a thing to be placed on your head. An honor. So safe sounding.

In ancient Greece laurels were presented to athletes, gods, or the dead.

COVID is sideways to corvid. Which are ravens, crows, jays, magpies. The most intelligent of birds. Mystic creatures who represent war, death, divination, news tellers. The Haida of western Canada and Southern Alaska believe the raven created the earth, this home.

The Haida wear masks showing animals transforming into other things. Meaning becoming another meaning.

So if this house has ceased being safe. We must evolve to find a new one.

The poem below is about death. It's on my mind.

---

House-lew

In the burntout crumbles of bunker — sounds of fluting — veil cathedral hand to eyes —

If you peek — you will see in glory in fire amen — the thing we all hide
from — locked doors and all that — a ghost in the pantry of the stomach —

It rumbles about with unrolled gem wings — finds north but turns west because
it wants to be the setting sun — we — safe as houses — we — are fine — yes —

In the moment when the heart collapses
perception becomes a slip
falling to the ground
in a bedroom somewhere in Kansas

The ribs release their long-caught bird
cold hungry everything safe then unsafe

It’s a rattle — curling of the body as wood sheets over flame —

In the aftermath — sound a lily makes when opening in the morning — the tube
a missile leaves behind — when going off — to finish what was started —

15 March 2020

Poem-A-Day #1438 : Train Scent


train-scent is the scent left behind when you drag something on the ground to train a dog to follow the scent trail.

This is a poem about rough sex and apps and cruising in a bodega late at night.

Not that I know anything about that.

---

Train Scent

*
Those gray sweatpants — pink crop top sweatshirt
perfect rubber ball — your ass
is an orange to peel

You drop small gifts on the internet — a leaking
plastic bag on a walk from the bodega to your apartment
*
You send me a video you took with your phone underwater
the rippling — the hands outreached

Choking me — when you remember my name
I choke — swarm of dark olive green — pouring
bile into the floorboards
*
At the edge of the lake — after running for miles
over the endless curtain wall of dry leaves — yellow
a burning zoetrope you move across

There you become a man in sweats on a jog
you turn into the 1980s
*
There — you know the spot to hit
after being followed from store to door

A spot to drop clothes — pretenses — care
place to become roiling water in a pot on the stove
steam resting the itch in the back of the throat
*
On the tongue — scent of black pepper and body
sour within — wrapping — a shell of pinkness
sniffing around a penthouse for ass

You drop small gifts — across my clavicle
there an obvious scent an obvious color

07 March 2020

Poem-A-Day #1432 : Historicist

Photo of Sif taken by Julia Smith Wellner
Historicist has two meanings.

In one -- theology says that it is about how the prophecies of religious texts apply to our current times. Symbols are attached to events and people. They become sigils of proof.

In the other -- it is about how specific times in history are "important". They signify something. They mean.

Both are saying the same thing. That specific things hold more weight than others.

Out in the Antarctic a research vessel "found" a new island as the ice sheets melt away. They named this island for the Norse goddess Sif. Sif represents the earth. She is mother of all, wife to Thor. She is symbolically the root of everything. Her hair is wheat.

One could argue that an old god arriving at this moment, in this way, is a sign. A sigil. A warning.

One could call it bullshit.

Either way, Sif is there.

---

Historicist

A new island in the Antarctic — Sif — mother — holder of things like wheat

But of course — it is not new — it has been there forever — waiting
      glacier’s patience — patience that is violent

That she has come now — according to the prophecy of various religions —
      sleeping giants awake at the sound of the warning claxon — the glaciers — which
            until now — chose to be still — now bleed with speed — with iron

Slide into the water — clear with the lack of things — become
      the waiting ragnarok beneath a receding history

Violent because it is so slow you cannot see it — but of course it can be measured
      in the acts of kindness — the small gifts of vapor that
            become the fields of wheat tomorrow

Your belly Sif — let it become red in the sun — stare until you blind
      until you un-hunger —
            full with whatever world is next

29 February 2020

Poem-A-Day #1425 : Resiliating

Risiliating basically means when something resumes its shape after being deformed. Think of pressing your hand into foam. Or those stress balls.
A week ago my grandfather died. He was 90. His funeral was yesterday.

I hate funerals. They are unnatural. You sit on little chairs or pews, too close to each other, you say a few things about the dead person. You shake a lot of hands and hung a lot of people who barely know. You move on.

The funeral home in my parent's home town has been run by the same family for 125 years. They advertise with a sign that says they are a "Victorian crematory". They have a sign with a little horse drawn hearse on it.

The inside of the funeral home is decorated in shades of emerald and amethyst. Floral wallpaper. It smells of perfume. It is an old house, the rooms are oddly shaped. There are fireplaces.

The flowers around the urn, which was actually a box, were too shiny. Like they had been polished. Peace lilies have unnaturally shiny leaves already and the one by the urn glossed like the uncanny valley.

Funerals are definitely the uncanny valley.

---

Resiliating

At the funeral
lilies were glossy reflection

Light diffusing
around the edges
of the eye of a swan

They were the shape that lilies always form

Pristine loon necks
rising lowering
from a fountain of leaves

A school of boats
lolling on a calm water



Rooms breathe

Burn themselves
images on a television
left on too long



The old television
in the old room
filled with green

Is where the old man died

Where he breathed long
like a room
his ribcage became solid
then permanent

His heart leaving a imprint
a notch in space

We all burn an echo



Press hand to
mushroom soft mat of soil

Leave an imprint

Funerary green
on the retina
the rod and cone of it
a bobbing sound
over a mid-morning lake

22 February 2020

Poem-A-Day #1418 : Bloody Caesar

Bloody Caesar (The Theatre of Pompey)

Side streets mirror the edge of the theatre’s stage

Fragments of the old building jut out of basement walls
have become columns in buildings
old but half as old

On the spot where Caesar was killed
a cat sunbathes

17 February 2020

Poem-A-Day #1413 : How to Make Gribiche

Picture from Bon Appétit
In one of my many jobs I was briefly a food reporter for a local weekly. It was one of my favorite side hustles I've ever had and it was over really fast. I would sometimes write about making a recipe I'd never tried just to describe the process of making something. I'd then modify the recipe a bit and take some process photos. It was the best part of the job.

I often think about making a cookbook. I don't actually cook all that much, but it seems like a process that I want to engage with. The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook is one of my favorite books ever, so this shouldn't be a surprise.

I used the Bon Appétit recipe for Gribiche written by Ted Cavanaugh for this poem.

---

How to Make Gribiche

Is there space? :
: on the counter
: move the mail the bills the ever present keys to the various things


: in your heart
: in the crawlspace behind it
: not dark there that is a wrong impression it is luminescent a cathedral of ribs and fascia
: think about the kinds of calories in eggs then ignore

Tools :
: knife
: a gift from an ex's mother when moving in together a housewarming it is sharp
: it has tasted blood once when slicing a leek it took a finger to the bone
: pot bowl water large wooden spoon

Ingredients :
: whole grain mustard with seeds that pop on the tongue olive oil slightly unfiltered the color of ale white wine vinegar sitting deeply in acid sweetness

: eggs speckled white brown shining in their softness cradled in the palm of the hand until slightly just laid warm
: hard boil then chop into quarters or some other desired percentage this is about aesthetics about what goes in a bite

: tarragon parsley salt black pepper
: fresh old from a garden or found in a store safe in tins that don’t feel expensive or frightening in their closeness to nature
: whichever

: cornichons capers could be there it depends on the type of person the type of cupboard the type of refrigerator
: unlockable thing that refrigerator a doorway like an eye a brain outside the body

Method :
: mix pour over vegetables meat fish

: who just has capers lying around?
: the French

15 February 2020

Poem-A-Day #1411: Home Along (Under the Greenwood Tree)

Under the Greenwood Tree (1929)
Since January 1st I've been secretly doing a poem-a-day again.

I figured it was a good way to mark 2020. The year I turn 39. The start of my 40th year. The times. The celebration and elegy to the 20 years of my work vanished by computer.

Same rules as always. OED word of the day. Write it that day. See what happens.

This is technically #46 of a new series. But if attached to the old Poem-A-Day and Poem-A-Day 2.0 projects it is poem #1411 overall in my OED word-a-day poems. I'm going with the legacy numbering because I see this as the third part of a thing I started 13 years ago. I won't promise a poem every day on here. But some a week for sure.

Today's word is "home-along". It means to be pointed or oriented homeward. It's first use was in a lesser Thomas Hardy novel called "Under the Greenwood Tree". It involves a woman who promises herself to two men (one is a priest!). She has to choose which to marry. Despite a happy tone, the book ends with a strange lingering question as to the main character's true motivations and feelings on her own choices. The novel was made into a movie in 1929, and again 2005.

---

Home Along (Under the Greenwood Tree)

The broken buildup of vapor over grass presses against the column of a church where stories have unspooled for centuries —

Pile of fibre unbleached wool roving handled enough to remove the shit of sheep and fields —

These things combine into a diagram of a wedding day favors falling from the sky as rain as tin clippings from the edge of soda cans left on the field after a tailgate —

In the photos — 
even if there are no photos but let’s pretend there are photos —
in the photos the face of the bride happens to catch fully the camera lens to negotiate time with it as she dances wildly with her new husband —

They are spinning under the lights of the tent in the center of the town green under the largest oak tree in history —

His face is away from the camera but the suit is pressed clean is crisp his hair is tousled in the dance hands about her waist her skirt pulled up in one hand —

The crowd seems massive the depth of focus insane the music is here with us —
Her eyes are staring out of the frame lines form in the molecules siphoning interpretation balancing act the stare becomes the moment it is focused on us on the who that is behind the camera —

And a question arises there like smoke before the fire takes hold.