Matters

Sorry for the repeat hiatus, loyal readers (of which I think there may be two or three of you?). I’ve been in a constant state of transition since August: I moved, I traveled (California, New York, Dominican Republic, Orlando), I’ve been working on other forms of writing (mostly lyrics), and I’ve been re-focusing on work and thinking about ways to be better at that, since that’s where I spend most of my time during a given week besides sleeping. So for old time’s sake, here’s an on-the-spot poem about what it means to matter.

Matters

I don’t know who lives above me, but at 11:45PM I hear footsteps, consistent and strong,
or banging on a wall,
or dancing…

no

it is the distinct clatter of a hammer, of multiple paintings being hung in rapid succession—
because this is what people choose to do close to midnight in South Florida
in lieu of sleeping
(I envision a painting of hot air balloons above a Paris street from IKEA)

Tonight I bang back, a hard and quick tap tap just to let them know that I am there,
that I exist,
that it’s not just them and their hammer or their hands against hurried-on paint…
that I matter

They cannot see me,
but I am unequivocally present
in the apartment beneath them

and for the first time
I’ve made them aware
that yes, the world can hear them,
that yes, despite potential thoughts that it is not entirely about me
that I am entirely affected,

and the banging fades into lighter, more thoughtful taps
(or so I imagine),
a length of silence
lighter still, and then a steady harmony of cabinets
opening and shutting,
the running of water,
the softer padding of feet across carpet

My air conditioning unit clangs to life,
drowning whatever sound is left
in the passage of cool air and ceiling dust

and I hope that for even a second that it was my taps that made the difference
and not the completion of the activity upstairs that drove them to stop,
that in a world that doesn’t revolve around me,
that I may receive, if for but a moment, an occasional revolution

The air conditioning ceases its motion

I cling anxiously to every creak or moan of flooring,
the sound of a microwave timer and a rush of footsteps across a living room much like mine

because this is what people in South Florida do in lieu of sleeping.

Wordless

I have words in me that multiply,
verbal bacteria in a Petri dish dividing via binary fission,
biological precision meets linguistic overflow.

So where do the words go?
They bubble out on pages,
make conversations uncomfortably emotional,
because my heart is writing faster
than my eyes can re-read.

But it’s honest, and it’s real,
these words I tend to over-feel,
exponentially increasing inside my gut
and roving outward,
escaping because they release
years worth of linguistic anxiety.

In society, we’re taught to keep our words at bay—
the more you say,
the less the recipient will want to reciprocate,
your words standing solitary,
blushing in the dark in their embarrassment.

But I have words,
so let me speak them:

let me overthink and over-love,
let me over-care and overwhelm,
let me me wish that these words were whispered in an ear
rather than through an earpiece.

These words:

they’re multiplying,
dividing,
colliding,
until I’m wordless,
speechless,
left listening to the words multiplying in you,

or to the silence
of words left suspended in air.

Prompted: The Magician

I feel so lucky to have people in my life who support my writing habit. This next on-the-spot piece is inspired by an impromptu prompt doled out in a burger joint by my coworker Kristina. The iPhone note, quickly written, states the following:

You go to a magician and it turns out the magic is real…He makes somebody disappear, and they’re really gone.

The piece…

The Disappeared Woman’s Lament

When they say never talk to strangers, what they mean—or what they should mean—is never talk to magicians. You see, I’m not here. Well, not in your version of here; the kind of here with conversational awkwardness between two beings, or food of any kind (I considerably miss pizza and garlic bread sticks), or some sort of facility a person usually refers to as a restroom. No, this here is a blank-ish sort of place, a white background that when you stare too long, may appear a cream color; and then after longer consideration, possibly taupe. There are rabbits here, white; golden rings; what looks like the bottom half of a very attractively-legged woman. On the other side of the room there is something that appears much like a door, but may be made of the silk lining of the inside of a driver’s cap or top hat. I do not know where this door leads, nor have I been able to reach it (it seems to move away from me as I step toward it). I am in the not-here, the no-where, the ex-istence. I can’t even recall the journey—I want to say it was moderately painful, but a girl in the not-here can’t concern herself with such not-things. I feel that this is supposed to be true.

And when enough of the not-quite-time has passed, in lengths that seem day-like in their tangibility, I continue to scope the rapidly appearing and disappearing objects. I have a thought: Perhaps we are the remnants of failed magic; of tricks gone awry. I feel that this is also supposed to be true. The legs of the half-woman kick in heeled agreement.

But I feel it, both unexpectedly and planned, a hand reaching out from the red silk door, fumbling in the sort-of-white with urgency. I touch it, this hand, and it snatches around my fist, pulling like the furious closing of a portal. And then I am here. Your here. Staring into the stunned faces, jaws agape with astonishment or terror, and I can see the beads of sweat drop from the magician’s face like rivulets from the edges of a waterfall. He looks at me and forces a grin. Too close, I think I hear him say.

“Bow,” he whispers.

Prompted: The Apartment

So I was given a prompt a few days ago…and I should probably prove that sending me prompts doesn’t actually go to waste.

The Moderately Haunted Apartment
FYI this is loosely based on the prompt, realized only after it was written.

Apartment listing states:
2 bedrooms
1 and a half bath
living room with potential for wall library
1 ghost
full kitchen with island
fully furnished, dust webs, residual energy

Let me explain:
Most apartments come with a ghost:
ghosts of love,
of lost relationships;
ghosts of families come and gone,
weeping children, dropped coffee and light curses;
ghosts of sleepless nights;
ghosts both fearful and feared,
the ghosts of nightmares and brighter things.

I am the brighter thing, a dust mote that appears
by window-light.
The apartment is quite lived in

but not haunted,
never haunted;
more spiritual,
living in paranormally correct terms:
all white noise and shimmer,
the respectfully respected dead.

But are you willing
to live with ghosts?
I’ve found that those who cannot live with phantoms,
cannot live—
escaping to other apartments,
escaping ghosts they’ve left behind.

A life so empty of shadows,
that they must live in dark.

Are you willing
to live with ghosts?

Are you willing
to live with me?

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Internet, it’s been too long…I think more than two months. But oh, it’s been good.

So I won’t make promises. I won’t say I’ll write tomorrow or a month from now. My only promise: I will write. An occasional postcard in the form of a poem. Like today, sent from the 90s.

8 7 95

I picked up a photograph—
the already ancient kind—
processed when sharing
meant showing you an album
in the form of a book.

Time stamp: 8 7 95.
One look: amazingly content.

And I stood,
hand up to ear, elbows bent
like teapot handles.

No fear of the future,

only upside down roller coasters
at Disney World.

I was 7.

My arm cocked, model-style
like the older girls in my mom’s magazines
yet to be a teen
or even 8 (there were still 3 months til then).

But I knew more then
than I know now.

I knew I’d be older
I knew I was happy
I knew how to erase words
on a typewriter.

(“What the hell’s a typewriter?”)

And now I’m decked with unsure:

family,
job,
car,
bills,
future.

Forced mature,
and several years
past seven.

But when I turned eleven,
then fifteen
then twenty…

I did learn plenty.

A picture worth more than a thousand words.
More like a zillion minutes
since August 7, 1995.

8795

Damsel in Distress

I miss poetry and singing and rhyme. At work there isn’t much of it, and because I’ve resolved myself to going to the gym every day, watching much too much comedy television, and giving up sugar until mid-February, my mind’s been a little preocupada. But once again, I have identified that I am giving another excuse, when all I really needed was inspiration, found where it always hides: real life.

Damsel in Distress, a poem (with the avoided title, “Liar, Liar, Hearts on Fire.” I think what I ended up with was better)

L-I-A-R: living in altered reality
stepping on the casualty that is my heart
taking baby steps into the dark
on tiptoe

and what you do not know
is how many stabs it took to reach the kill wound
but knowing full well each stab would hurt

knife in, then out,

almost sexual, the blade
the same blade you twirled from one hand to the next
equivocating love, when you meant sex
and that’s what she gave
while you buried my broken heart under a grave,
your knife now duller than a spade,
as you prepare no eulogy.

But if you did, what would you say?
Would you tell them of the way you watched me die?
More court jester, than a princess by your side?
Or would you simply take yourself in arms,
the knife and knave and nymph

Oh

Foolish me for thinking I’d at least get an apology,
some semblance, sentence of guilt,
to make up for the grip still on your hilt
hand readied for more action
with another maid you’ve confused for a dragon
fire in her lungs,
fire in her tongue
her heart soon to be in ashes.

The Poem Electric

Since my first set of childhood photos went over so well, I’ve decided to use another photo from the batch as a source of poetic inspiration. I’ve also included an on-the-spot poem about the tornado that hit Massachusetts today. I was driving home watching the lightning—scared me a quarter to death. That the sky can open up like that, so angry and bright, proves that nature, in any fight, will kick our asses (excuse the language).

An on-the-spot poem inspired by the above photo

Mom,

I’m really not sure
what you were thinking
when you bought
this outfit.

Love,
the little girl
with cornflower pigtails
that darkened
when she hit middle school;
too dark so that she stopped
looking like her mother;
dark enough to make
her dye it,
to feel
just close enough
to the past,
to snapsuits and rompers,
to you.

An on-the-spot poem on lightning-laden skies

I do not like horizontal lightning
that snaps across pink skies
better than Disney fireworks.

I do not like lightning,
or pink skies,
or fireworks.

Zap.
Pink.
Bang.

(I experimented with this poem. Just ignore it if you hate it.)

Hearts at Play

Some of my older poetry—the poetry before I ever became an undergrad then a grad—is often inspired by songs or stories I became semi-obsessed with during my high school years of over-sized sweaters and softball. Below is an example of that sort of inspiration, plus an on-the-spot rewrite inspired by the poem that was inspired by the song.

Meta.

Woah.

A Simple Game
written November 3, 2003 and inspired by Sting’s “Shape of my Heart

With spades and clovers
As their weapons
Armies fight on open ground.

With hearts and diamonds
For deception
The soldiers fight without a sound.

And as they lay their deck of cards
Each takes a turn
With weapon’s choice.

And as each army falls
They learn
That cheating takes away your voice.

But then the cards are handed in
The armies fall
And others stand.

To win the fight
Or win it all
You’ll have to have the better hand.


The 2011 Rewrite:

Spade
written May 5, 2011

Remove me as you would
the earth,
as you would
your enemies,
armed with their hearts
on their sleeves.

Weapons, as red
as cherries
or cartoon blood,
glinting
under screen glow
as you pierce the
pump,
pump,
pump, pump,
diamond-rough
and cutting—

soundless as you lay them,
nay,
strike them down
shuffling to pull the upper hand,
the better hand,
the winnings.

Pass the Salt

I think that a person can find inspiration in near-anything. Let me show you.

a pepper shaker from Sorella’s in Jamaica Plain

An on-the-spot ode to a literal salt-and-pepper shaker
by Alexa L.

I think you were confused
when you poured yourself
unluckily
into my glass kaleidoscope bottle,
labeled with a P
cut from tiny holes, big enough for
you,
but not for
both of us,

you,
dressed in white,
almost clear 
so that you fade,
like shells
into thick sand

and me—
now stolen from—
all dressed up in browns
and blacks the color
of tree bark.

All dressed up,
with no place to go,
but to squat,
peppered with anger,
in a leftover bottle.

Despite the fact that the restaurant mistakenly used the pepper shaker for the salt (or maybe they did it on purpose? sneaky), they did have quite a delicious selection of breakfasts. Please envy below.

French Bread French Toast with Apricot, Kiwi and Strawberries

  No salt shakers were injured in the writing of this post.

A Picture’s Worth a Word or Two

I’m not going to lie; lately my creative gas tank is running on empty (see what I mean?). I can come up with ideas for other people, but when it comes to my artistic needs I am Romeo sans Juliet, bread without a toaster. So, in true Alexa fashion, I decided to choose a photograph and write an on-the-spot poem. Let’s hope it doesn’t, well, suck. I shot the photo below at a beach on Staten Island.

  
Gull by Alexa L., written today, at this exact moment

Water,
blue like bruises,
watches me.

Perched and patient
I feel the stare,
point my beak downward
then up to the sky,
blue like cotton candy
sticking, then covering
cloud fingers.

Water, jealous,
calms quiet.
Poles jut to
ugly thrones
and I sit,
king.

Note: I started classes this week and I adore them. I’m taking three, which is considered a lot for a graduate semester, but I feel comfortable with my choices, all focused on magazine publishing and writing. Wish me luck!