Ghazal for Johnny

Excerpt from “A Trail of Crumbs” poetry collection, due in late 2019.

A Ghazal is a Persian poetry form using couplets that share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. The writer must also reference the author’s own name and express longing in the last couplet. Written as the boy became a teen. Baton Rouge, 2008.

For my brother.

My brother, not a small one anymore not a shy boy, 
Little dude hangs loose while days grow into years on the sly, boy

There’s the mean one and the teasing one, with three big sisters
You say “Jo's the fun one” and we’ve had some good times, boy

Do you remember when you were a baby and we’d dance to
“Ob la di Ob la da” - dip low when they’d sing high, boy?

Fresh from high school now you got not much to say
That’s when we drive and play music to describe what’s inside, boy

Not to be seen as young, not to be seen as young, this strong scent
Of Ax masks childhood deeper by the night, boy

Your frame the same since you were a babe now gains mass and size
Big tough guy hugs hard to come by now, boy

Trying to be Perfect

I didn’t know at the time that acting on stage would be so crazy. Be crazy. Crazy.

“Run around the room screaming,” the director told me. I stood there a 16-year old, having just recited a monologue from Romeo & Juliet. I spoke as a mummy, tightly bound, wrapped in the concept of my own perfection as a “good actor.” Whatever that was. But I controlled the experience, and when I was done my auditioners from their seats behind the table across from where I stood at the front of the room, looked at each other. They were silent. Then one said, “run around the room, behind us in a big circle around to the front, screaming. And keep doing that until we tell you to stop.”

I did it. Flushed, humiliated, fully silly and totally out of control. Could they see the wrapping of my mummy cloth streaming behind me as I streaked around losing face, losing my cool? Crazy acting.

I screamed at first like a lost heron had stolen my voice, crowing some wild croaking. Then around the second or third lap I was an angry banshee, and as I grew tired, a keening, wailing mother in grief screamed out of me. The screams I didn’t recognize, yet they were all me. And I stopped. And they were pleased.

Panting, sweaty, hot, feeling not cute and lovely as I had been, but ugly, undone, uncool. I was not me. I was more than me. I was beyond me, beyond what had ever been possible for me before.

I could not know then, now 20 years ago, that his would be a career for me. Who knew this day would lead to a lifelong process of screaming and running in what became my way of learning? Learning what might break me free from safety and ego, would unleash me wild and true to my audience and more significantly, to myself? As perfect as I had tried to be entering the Shakespearean stage, I had no idea what perfection truly was.

I still do not know. No lifelong quest could give me the sense of rightness in my efforts to be good, or good enough. Would I have been able to predict, as I whirled around the room in a blur, sure I had colossally bombed the audition, letting go of “good acting” would be the metaphor for all creativity in my life? It’s true that because I was ultimately cast in the play, some part of me believed I had indeed found my way to perfect after all. As if screaming and running burned off the layers of control, somehow graduating me from trying to be perfect. Humbly I tell you now I seem to still think one day I will.

Being at home in a crowd

She was slower than the others
Pushing her a little cart in the streams of endless people 
With their cones of gelato and running shoes

I heard the old lady humming as I shouldered by 
Her sing-song tune barely rising above the hundreds of footfalls at once stepping on the slabs of stone
A bridge she has walked hundreds of times

Just then, I saw the rippling water
And finally, the girl clutching her mother and whispering into her shoulder with tears in her eyes
I remembered then that this is Venice

Hello Grace

You found your way to me 
On the island of Mezzorbo on that grassy green
Between my daughter, my husband and a pine cone

You were the 4-leaf clover
Like the ones you sent me pressed into the paper cards
    and your script black ink words
“Joanna”

Of anything I may have inherited from you
It was your propensity to discover
Amid the clovers and blades of grass
That Calhoun good luck charm

I saw you today
Hello, Grace
( grandma )

Hello Grace To Joanna, in Venice on vacation with family.

Poems of Longing

I. 

Anger: what do you want me to hear?
I am fuel: use me or I will consume you

How do I use you?
Ask yourself

Why are you here?
I am your essence: Fire
Expand, or like a candle in a box
You will die

II.

How far must one travel 
From fearing my journals
Left out in the open
Might become your food?

I have nothing to fear:
Lacking hunger for my thoughts
You will not read them

In an unfair leap
My conclusion lands thus
On both feet
III.

The rocks on which we crash and shatter
Continually refresh themselves 

IV.

I spent a lifetime studying
And for what

I've forgotten and now 
Can't sit still

We all know what happens in the end

Enlightenment

One tree-sitting man, all upright spine sprung into the air as the back of a chair standing at attention to the table, all folded-knees under the generous canvas of robes, all chest spread for the exertion of eternal Motionlessness

One hand a lotus its petals a closed paddle of fingers overlapping leaves layer over layer, lines of fingers cupping the world in his palm

One hand the setting for a single ring, an agreement between thumb and forefinger pointed towards the sun

One ring against his forehead funneling an image trapped in the back chamber of his mind, a thought wandering as a stray child, as a movie playing in an empty theater

One tree shades sitting man, an umbrella, an arena

One tree green speech holding forth of leaves a trumpet to nature, a plethora of no- words filling the man’s ear

One tree seated for man, a throne, a twine of roots keeping the earth steady

One image, one thought of his life, his woman, conjures to his placidity, to his peace the sickening ghost of separation. Vital-full love, his blood Remembers her smile as the birth of bitterest pain

To one image, he prays his body could be greater, that the spinning night would unfold into him like a napkin spilling out its contents, this one man falls into the vision of hips undulating like the movement of water, dancing over a tidal wave kept to her time across the miles of water, water

One man’s heart breaks his vow of silence when it goes wa-bum, wa-bum

One man prays to survive for one year off of the air and sun and the dreams of his Love under this tree, and failing that, prays the human dream of death to catch the glint of metal flashing the sun, to die for a moment in ecstasy, to be lifted from this ragged frame and taken in as a single breath into her graceful form, living there forever as her nourishment and her inspiration

Thus, one man prays to become great and one tree bent as a caretaker of man’s destiny eases its cradle of branches to nurture its lock on man’s long contemplation

One tree, arms and head lowing, shepherds man back in toward the sound of nothing, nothing

Sick (Get Well)

Ever have one of those nights in sickness
A torment of monsters
Dancing their agony to you while you sleep?

You can't really call it sleep so much as a project 
In which you have no choice 
Nowhere else to go
But strapped to this bed with your mind glued open to a 100 cut scenes of
 the movies of your past

This constant highway of undead familiars steal from you
Minute by minute as 10:30 turns into 10:31
And 2:10 feels like when am I going to get some sleep please dear God
Wistful for last nights' pastel rolling scape where the soul rested in
  deep unknowing

And when morning finally comes to greet you
Among the shards of rest
You can feel your senses again
A small hole of reality in the pine against the sky

Writer

From Creative Commons

For over a year, I have sat down to write and this phrase came to mind. I was a faucet with no running water.

I have nothing to say 
That is the fear of a writer
The voice of shame
Convincing me of its darkness

Pleading with me to break into the pain of its secret, which is this:
What is most broken
(The very axis of inaction) 
Is the same as a lost sun aching for its sky

Obey the law of nature
And write because
From within the crack rises
The impossible light of the world

Ode to the Gottmans

Ever since I declared that I will write an anthology of poetry, the poems come to me everyday, anywhere and everywhere

1

In an act of precision my lover makes surgery of me

Babble and foam in tongues encanting some devil I tried to forget

My eye loses true north and I roll away into the dark

Yet I have learned other languages
Beyond my own heart's speech
By tracking the pen of my dearest editor
Whose stroking red marks on the curves of my verse
Makes tension in the economy of words

I see sometimes in the softness of the space within him
That he is bilingual

His touch to me then,
The heat of his hand singing to my skin
Speaks to me in my native tongue
When he decides to put back together as a whole and make of us one

2

If my mind is my home
I live alone
By the shore of your river
Which sometimes floods its banks 
Because I live by the fresh air of my open windows
And because my front door is rarely closed
I walk on wet floors when you storm
Before going up to my study to dry