Friday, April 8, 2011

PAD #6: Michael


Your poem came today, Michael, on a brisk walk
with Maximus, the spring day wearing a bright
blue dress, stinging my face with her whip of wind.
I saw Styrofoam Dunkin' Donuts cups,  Snickers
wrappers, a child's camp t-shirt, and a McDonald's
cup strewn across the lawn of a synagogue.
Just as I shook my head in shame Earth Song
queued on my iPod, and I could see you. See you
as I saw you at Disney World the summer I graduated
high school, red shirt, black pants, black hat,
black shoes, pale skin, Macaulay Culkin by
your side. I left Mickey for you, to yell your name,
to nearly cry at the sight of you blowing kisses to
the crowd.You make me move, Michael, no matter
where I am. In the grocery store. In the car.
You will stay there, there in the Polaroid
pictures I have tucked away in a shoebox.
Three snapshots of you waving a
hello and goodbye to me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

PAD #5: Home Alone

*I've wanted to write this poem for almost five years after I heard Mary Ellen's story on NPR. This poem is nowhere close to what it could be, but that's not the point. The point is to write every day. I wrote this in a fatigue-induced fog last night. It was fun.

Home Alone

Mary Ellen lived alone in a bunglow with green trim
just outside of LA. Every Friday, Sue, a runner
for the Sav-Right pharmacy, brought her insulin,
testing strips, crestor, Spiriva. Mary Ellen tipped
her two dollars every time. No family pictures
dotted the walls of her house. Instead, she filled
empty spaces with items she bought from QVC
or HSN. Her answering machine, connected to a yellow
rotary phone, told everyone the same thing for
ten years: No name, no number, no nothing.

At the hospital, before surgery, she couldn't think
of anyone but Sue to put down as her emergency
contact. She'd lost contact with her son, Robert,
after losing her address book. During surgery,
she thought she heard the faint cry of a baby,
so she rose to check on him, and never woke up.

Sue received the next-of-kin call that afternoon.
She had trouble placing Mary Ellen's face,
but could see her hands folding two dollar
bills into her own. The next day, the police
met her at Mary Ellen's house. Sue looked
at all the baby dolls lined up along the
dining room walls, their empty faces waiting
for someone to say hello.

Monday, April 4, 2011

PAD #4: Cycles


Chris beat Rihanna on a warm February night.
I heard his new song this gray April day,
and danced in spite of myself.
Now she sings about whips and chains,
her voice all black and blue.
He cried this summer, couldn't sing,
"Man in the Mirror," and I remember
hoping he saw her face every time
he looked in one.

Miles hit Cecily too. That doesn't stop me
from listening to Sketches of Spain,
or Kind of Blue, or letting the downy notes of
Well You Needn't waft softly into my ears.
Marvin choked Jan, but I turn to him
to heal me and all my aches.

Dave hurt Rose on the corner of my bed
one stinging April night.  No man
has hit me, but I used to let one's
words bruise the strength right
out of me. Now, I cook for Dave every day,
try to ease the grief creasing his face.
Just because I stopped the cycle
doesn't mean I stop the love.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

PAD #3: Detour


His name was Todo, Spanish for all.
He saw me tacking down the corner
of the dance floor, bought me 
a coke with light ice.

He said I looked young but acted mature,
like Lolita. He laughed. I didn't get it.
In his car he asked what I liked to do most.
When I said read, he squinted, confused,
skated his fingertips across the brim
of my hat. I gave him my number,
and a kiss on the cheek.

The next morning, I curled the telephone
cord around my finger, told him I
was fifteen. He coughed. Told me he
was twenty-five.  All I could see
was my mother at his age, lugging
my one-year old self around town.
I said it was nice to talk to him,
but I couldn't date him and he

Twenty-five. A car. A job. My fifteen year
old brain all abuzz. What a detour that
would have been. An accelerated course
in love. Or lust. Back seats and beer bottles.
Cigarettes and coffee. I see what could have
been, and wonder how much of myself
I would have lost along the way.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

PAD #2: Sixty and a Half

Sixty and a Half

Dad slips on the carpet, catches himself
against the sheet rock of the wall.
Anthony has school? What day is it, he asks.
Monday, I say. Oh. Shakes his head. Can't keep
up with the days, Leigh.

I go to the kitchen to start breakfast.
Two eggs, grits and sausage for him.
A bowl of chex and Greek yogurt for me.
He throws a braided brow my way,
Is that all you're gonna eat?
He can't stop being Dad.
I won't stop being his daughter,
or give up the fight.

A will sits unsigned on the table,
waiting for the drip of an ink pen,
his final wishes flashing above his head
as he scraps a fork across his plate.
Wooden casket. American flag. Music.
No tears, Leigh. No tears.
Each bite draws me closer
to this.

He brings a napkin to his face.
Anthony's games will be fun this fall.
Can't wait to see my grandson play.
I smile. Neither can he, Dad.

He steadies himself with his hands to rise
from the table, the same ones that
hoisted me on his shoulders, and
held tight to the back of my bike
when I learned to ride .
He glances up at the ceiling,
peeling and cracked from a leak.
Nothing ever lasts long, he says. 

I know, I sigh, and I miss him already.

Friday, April 1, 2011

PAD #1: Stained Glass

From Robert Lee Brewer's blog on Writer's Digest. If you need writing prompts (ahem, Victor), visit his blog here:

For today's prompt, write a "what got you here" poem. For instance, write a poem about a mode of transportation like your car, bike, horse, etc. Or write a poem about what "got you here" as a human being or writer (like what got you started writing, perhaps). Or write a poem about what brought you to this blog. Or whatever other interpretation you might have.

Stained Glass

In the conference room at City Hall Mayor DiLieto
greets our third grade class with lollipops, cookies
and juice. We sit quitely, listen to him tell us
about a work day filled with meetings, budgets and
bills. Darryl asks him about his favorite meal.
Tracy asks if he wears a suit every day, even
on the weekends. I want to ask him about the
broken elevator in Annette's building on Ashmun Street,
or tell him about the needle I found walking home
from school and ask what he was going to do about it.
The crystal words in my head feel like broken glass
in my throat. I keep choking on them and it hurts
too much to spit them out. If I can't sound smart,
I won't talk, so I don't. I stick a lollipop in my mouth,
and the edge of the blow pop cuts just as much
as the words I want to say. On the bus ride home
my eyes catch the glimmer of a stained glass window, 
and I stare at it long enough to see Jesus smiling
at me. I ask Him my words sound so ugly, and
tell Him I want to be the glass blower,
the one who makes art of the broken with
heat and light.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again..

...and this year I will not be in the midst of a move back east. I am settled back home in New Haven and ready to write. I've also decided to combine the two selves of my poetry life into one. I used to write to help me process whatever I was feeling or going through. I wrote emotions with an unbridled pen. It was like I was using poetry as a diary. So much intense and personal stuff.

Then, I got to college, majored in English, and saw a completely different side of writing. One where the surface of the water was calm, but underneath, you knew there was a shark hunting its food. You could feel the danger of a poem without seeing it on the surface. And I began to write about less personal stuff, but subjects that meant a lot to me, and made me feel a lot, without being so damn whiny. I found that in exploring the other people's lives, imaginary or not, I found my own poetic voice. I started using writing as a vehicle to help other people feel something powerful, and stopped using it as my therapy. And, in doing that, I found  a balance that is so, well, I don't have the words for it. I feel like I am in the best place in my writing life, that I know what I want to say, and I say it well, most of the time.

I've decided that I can now write about the "personal" without getting so overwhelmed by the emotions I feel when I think about situations. I feel like I can finally write about my father, like I can finally fit what I'm feeling on an 8 1/2" x 11" page, and those of you who know me know what's going on with him. I can write about him and not be blinded by what I feel. This marriage of my two selves will be turblent, but necessary. It's time I stop filtering what I write about, and let the words just come to me, no matter who or what they are about.

So, I'm ready to write. I hope you all enjoy the ride.