The [Face]Book of Inspiration, Part I

I’ve asked for ideas for poems before, but this last ask inspired a hell of a lot more responses than usual. I decided, no matter how silly they seem, that I would try to tackle every idea that was given to me over the course of this week (maybe two). So here is Part 1. The title of each poem will be shown as it was written on Facebook. And beneath it the first name and last initial of whoever presented it.

Rhode Island is neither a rhode nor an island
David B.

Rhode Island is not an island at all,
but a place I traveled once,
stopped at a beach
you happened to know
and jumped in the air, with one hand holding
a cowboy hat,
ponytail swinging,
mouth agape at the wonder of jumping.

I had red hair then,
the color of unripened cherries,
a time when I thought
the color of my hair could distract one girl
from the thought of another
hundreds of miles away
who had kissed lips I had kissed
one floor up
from the bed I crawled into
waiting for him to join me.

It started then.
It followed me to Boston,
to Rhode Island,
to anywhere.

And when I finally found out the whole truth:

I dyed my hair back to blonde,
the female equivalent,
of closure.

Why do we park on the driveway and drive on the parkway?
Dave G.

In
Los
Angeles
I’ve
heard
sometimes
you
park
on
the
parkway.

Priorities

Current status: hunkering down in Orlando awaiting the storm
Apartment status, Miami: unknown
Creative status: writing

Hurricane Preparation: A Poem

Acquire Supplies

  • Bottled water
  • Toilet paper
  • Flashlight (multiple)
  • Batteries
  • More bottled water
  • Canned food, but do not forget
    by any means
    a can opener
  • Board/Bored Games
  • Selfishness
  • Bravado
  • A little feeling of fear
  • A desire to face the wind with a cape made out of a bedsheet
  • First Aid Kit

Get to higher ground
the ground
you were supposed to take
that one time you fought with your father
about your life goals
that didn’t quite fit
within the confines
of his expectations.
Constantly in doubt
of your motivations
for more money,
a bigger apartment,
and loftier general aspirations.

Can you blame him?

What have you done with your life?
What have you prioritized?
Emotional happiness over financial gain?
Feeling less stressed, more sane
Finding self over finding something resembling settled
the same thing you did yesterday?
What have you prioritized?

If asked to evacuate, evacuate

You’re stubborn, that’s a given—
a life you currently live in
is all, search for bigger and better

and while the ground gets exponentially wetter
you debate the worth of your home, your jewelry, your pride
decide you’ll be fine if you stay inside,
then only when you see the sheep leave their pens in search of safe farmland,
do you follow

your insides are hollow, making space for things that might be emotions
or instead, oceans of rain
that will fill up like downtown streets, drowning any chance you had
of feeling anything.

Don’t tape up your windows

Shattered glass bullets
that ping through the air
or sharp daggers, different shapes
like snowflakes,
slicing through your brown pull-out couch
like a birthday cake.

Remove large items from outside
like your faults,
your ego,
the loveseat outside,
the fake potted plant
the pile of cigarettes on the ashtray,
the chair with the arm rest
where you held my hand
and the world stopped for minutes.

I can hear you laughing through the wind,
jocund at 100 miles per hour
ha
ha
ha
around and around,
and I can almost see you laughing
from here
your smile a bright beacon through the cloud dark,
the rain dark,
the power-went-out dark,
the inner-heart dark,
the lonely dark,
the dark beneath flood waters.

When it all goes dark, we disappear
except for you.

Close all interior doors
to disperse the pressure
throughout your heart.

Be wary of tornadoes

You can judge a child based on her parents,
but this doesn’t mean
she will be like them,

the warning message,
the alerts,
all lead to eventual silence.

Have you met my Mother [Nature]?

Assurance

“Hold Me” by Kathleen Horner

Arms

I want to feel safe in your arms,
but I don’t want to need you to feel safe:
does that make sense?

I think I want to be my own arms, able to assure myself
that everything is going to be all right
that everything is going to be okay
if you go your way and I go mine,
diverging from each other like Frost-built roads in yellow woods.

I want to feel safe but not too safe,
safe, but not fearful,
to have confidence in my own ability to manage my life,
to handle pain with dignity, to handle strife
and then to keep a chin so high
it touches clouds that look like ships or dragons or faces
from long forgotten places that span the distance from my understanding of love to yours,
a breadth made wider by lack of conversation.

I do not trust you.
I trust me.

I must confess,
I wanted your arms to be my haven within seconds of meeting you:
your words melted into the pages of me like ink,
slick and black and shaped into serifs against the stark white,
volumes of poetry and pretty words and promises
that would be written, but would be proven false,
and I’d be proven right to have never trusted you.

Your arms are straw,
and mine, brick.

My tongue is filled with truth,
your tongue, thick
with molasses words that drip from the corners of your mouth
and when you wipe that mouth
they stick.

You’ll have to try much harder to assure me
you are nothing more
than arms
and tongue
and teeth,

that what lies beneath
is not just another body filled with falsity.

I don’t need you to feel safe,
or assured,
or comforted.

I need you to be this:

to be honest,
to be more heart than arms.

Divided

I’m a person split in half: one half is creative, emotional, artistic, passionate, and all the other adjectives you’d associate with someone who has a penchant for lyric; the other half of me is logical, direct, and in constant need of clarity. The work me, the me who gets it done, who protects and who reasons through everything. Sometimes these two halves meet, shake hands, hug, share a little bit about their lives. Sometimes they keep away from each other, give each other space. Or they crash, head first into one another so that the heart and mind are spinning on a dance floor, music blaring so loudly that neither can distinguish emotion from truth— their ears ringing from the realization that there is no division between how they feel and how they want to be feeling.

So here’s a poem about that divide:

Lay lady lay

Pigeons

Sometimes I think I imagined it,
the whirlwind of feeling so quick
that the whirl portion of that word doesn’t seem fast enough to adequately describe
how I felt,
a hand that was dealt,
and then picked away like pigeons with crumbs:
rapid, but in such small grabs
that it made it last longer,
those little bits of bread memory still falling to the floor
and that pigeon cooing for more,
like I have so much more to give.

I just want to live.
I want to expand moments with more moments,
to feel chaos mixed into the predictable fold
before I start to act like I’m too old for this or that.
I need to feel life happen.
I need to stop waiting for responses that’ll never come,
for plans that are undone before they’re even made,
for promises that are never kept,
to stop blaming my personality for being so inept,
when really it was never me to begin with.

My heart and mind have started to agree,
to realize that they shouldn’t change to fit the mold
of someone else’s expectations,
to feel happy with their motivations,
to know that emotion and logic can walk hand in hand,
and just because you misunderstand
who you think I am as a person,
you just need to know I’m split.
That what you think you get, that that’s not it.
I’m not predictable, but I’m not complicated.

I am human, though; I’ll make mistakes
I’ll try to keep a calm demeanor, a stoic face,
even when the world feels like it’s closing in,

and I can’t even begin to tell you how little control I have
of how my body reacts.
I try to say, “hey, heart and gut and mind, can you just relax?”
But even logic comes in and tells me, you can’t un-feel,
that you can’t backtrack on what you know is real
just because you want to make it so.

I just think it’s important for you to know,
that who I am,
is not who I will always be:
it’ll be a part of me,
a piece of an expanding deck of cards,
a new constellation of stars,
a me that is ever-changing,
ever re-arranging itself into tessellations
of moments had and moments yet to come.

And if this me is too much for some,
who cares?
As long as I am well aware,
I cannot be divided from myself;
I’ll always know that my mind and heart will
keep each other company,
that the part of me that needs closure and clarity
drags my emotional side by the ear
to say, “we need to be clear how we’re being treated.”
That you don’t need to feel defeated,
only sad for the person who couldn’t get to meet
the person you’re going to be tomorrow,
a personality you could never borrow,
moments non-existent,
so much so we’ve starved the pigeons.

This is all too much

I try to imagine how you feel—
if it’s real
or if it’s fleeting…
your heart beating so fast
it might fly from
the caverns of your chest.

It’s exhilaration meets sadness:
you can’t stop going going going.

Freedom meets madness:
you can’t stop knowing knowing knowing
that what’s good for you
doesn’t seem so good for you.

To rest for a while,
to pause,
to break
both literally and figuratively,
simultaneous destruction and reprieve,
without a chance to grieve
a world
without semicolons.

You often find yourself
at the edges of you,
all fringe
no fixture,
always alone, but never lonely.

But you need to stop,
you need to feel the absence
of everything
so you know how to better
fill the void,
to fill the empty that burrows
within em dashes
or ellipses
or blank spaces.

I try to imagine how you feel,
but for everyone it differs…
the diversity of suffering,
but the commonality of tears,
the nightmares, the fears,
the intense feeling
of no feeling at all.

And then there’s numb,
then there’s nothing,
your heart beating so slowly,
it sounds more whisper
than thump

thump thump
thump thump

until you just sort of know,
because the numb passes,
the heart beats louder

thump thump
thump thump

as I imagine it would when you realize
how good it feels to be alive.

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?

Beautiful Dreamer

I found an old book project from 2003. Thought I would share it; and as always, rewrite it in the form of a shorter poem:

“Beautiful Dreamer” by ~15-year-old Alexa

I knew a boy who loved to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream.

But sometimes he dreamed he could soar through the air
and go to the places that no one would dare.

He wanted to fly with the birds in a V,
over the ocean and past the great sea.

But the problem with this is he didn’t have wings.
So he couldn’t do any, any such things.

He decided to try and make wings of his own.
So he worked day and night, worked his hands to the bone.

When he was finally finished he smiled with glee.
“It is time for me to fly,” he said happily.

He decided to show his mother the wings he had made,
but all she did was talk about being afraid

and about what she would do if he were to get hurt,
bruised on the knees and ripping his shirt.

But the little boy would never give in
because his dreams meant that he always would win.

So he sneaked to the roof when the house was asleep
and off he would jump in a large, long leap.

He took off in the air where he planned to stay,
but nothing that night went just his way.

He crashed to the ground with a thundering thump
and he slowly got up with a black and blue bump.

He went to his mother and cried many tears.
She had warned him of what had been part of her fears.

Dreams may come true, but this little boy found out
that dreams are what magic and love is about.

Twelve Years Later…Written today, about Twelve Years Later

I knew a boy who used to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream:

and like the moon, he phased;
like the stars, he shone too bright;
and like the ice cream,
he melted,
a puddle of rocky road in the shape of a heart.

But melting was an art:

He came back from the ground one time, then two…hundred—
fall after fall,
year after year,
roof child to grounded adult,
his ice cream heart wrapped up in bits of cone.

And when left on his own, he guided:
Polaris rising in the evening sky,
wings so big he couldn’t fly,
but he could jump
to heights so great the moon would envy,
shadows dancing in delight.

And there he went into the night:
the image of dreams in cosmic shadow puppets:
a boy transformed into a great bird,
a phoenix,
a gryphon,
casting shadows over his childhood.

Of this, he never stopped dreaming.