birthday sonnet smash!

This was an exceedingly good birthday weekend. Open mic at the Theosophical Society was lots of fun (Though Paula did read the entire Dr. Seuss birthday book, which made me cringe but was very kindly meant and I appreciated it as such.) Lovely happy birthday calls, and even presents of the timely and excellent sort!

This sonnet I actually started on the 26th. I finished it on the 29th, though, so it may as well be in honor of my birthday--since like all good sonnets I've written it doesn't seem to have a title. Who knows why that is! The idea for it came together on a day when I'd gotten out early from first-job. I decided to use that extra time to sit around on the sidewalk basking in the sunlight before I got on the train and headed for second job. Started out meaning to read a book, but after awhile I just relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Felt like I was sitting in my own comfy attic chair and not on a busy city sidewalk--except it clearly
was a busy city sidewalk. Just felt that much at home there. Good times. Oh! And the poem quotes one of the pastors from the days when we attended Belmont Assembly of God--his name escapes me, but the saying "it came to pass--it did not come to stay" has stuck in my memory lo, these many years.

The poem doesn't quite work for Memorial Day, which is today. So instead I will hope for a solemn-but-happy, dignified and meaningful Memorial Day for everyone. May you be surrounded by living love and loving memory!

Chicago sun, bake, make my soul concrete,
which, everywhere you set your foot, you find.
Not like these stubbed-out butts which haunt the street
or old receipts with which trash bins are lined.
Here, that which holds up nothing, nothing tends.
A trainless track rusts, crumbles, leaved with grass.
What weight will rumble down me--to what end?
Wring me out. For the time will come--to pass;
it cannot come to stay--that I must hold
one shape against the weight of feet and light.
Now I rest, wet, new-poured into the mold.
Noon sun, stretch out your moving fingers. Write.
Draw out the stone within, which--secret, strong--
will hold me solid as the road is long.

my third decent sestina! ever!

My first two were [Persephone and the spider], which was written for a contest on Gaia, and denizen section L. (That's 50 for you non-Roman numeral lovers. I now wonder if my teenage self was making an unconscious pun there. 'Cause denizen is a long, long poem about the descent into madness, and its section numbers go from I to L. Get it? I to hell? XD Okay, it's a terrible pun. Sartre, however, was exactly wrong. Hell is the absence of even the possibility of other people.) So, typically sestinas don't rhyme. Instead they are characterized by the pattern of repeated end-words. Each sestina has six stanzas of six lines each, plus a short three-line stanza at the end called an envoy. All seven of those stanzas must use only the six chosen words at the end--or, in the case of the envoy, in the middle, according to the following pattern:
2/5, 3/4, 6/1
I make them rhyme because I like to, it's harder that way, and I think a really long form poem is boring without rhymes. Homonyms ARE allowed, so bare/bear and wear/where are totally within the rules. If homonyms weren't allowed I doubt any sestina would ever be written. Oh, and yes, I did do some grammatical fudging--there's a bunch of places where I dropped an "or" or "and" without a semicolon. Still understandable...just not
totally correct. I call poetic license!

As I just now said to Dave on AIM, I wrote this poem out of a combination of grandiosity and spite. Well, not spite exactly. Someone on the Ankhet forums told me sestinas don't exist, because they typed "sestina" into a search engine and came up dry.

My response was: 1) try "poetic form sestina" (link appended), and 2) was that...a

So, of course, I had to write one. :D Originally I meant it to be about the person who, ah, instigated its composition, but it ended up about me. Me-as-I-wish-to-be moreso than me-as-I-am, however. Foolish me!

[the explorer]

She took a pair of scissors to the map
till 'here' was shorn, 'there' was no longer there.
She had no ink to scrawl across the gap,
nor pages with brave emptiness to bare.
For she felt sure such knowledge was a trap,
said to herself, "Well, here I am; that's where

my world begins and ends. Should I beware
of dragons at the edges of a map
made by some fool who never journeyed there?"
And so she flung herself into the gap.
She yearned to see, to learn. She could not bear
to be told which paths led on; which were traps.

So, soon or late, she fell into a trap.
She gathered pride (a heavy thing to wear),
pounded it flat. There bloomed a bare new map:
a hint, a note, a hard way out of there.
In those closed walls she found a narrow gap,
sucked in a breath as deep as she could bear

and squeezed through, inch by inch. Until, scraped bare,
she stood outside that first of many traps,
breathless but whole. All she had left was where
that exit lay: her handmade, hard-won map.
Though more than once she found herself back there,
each time again she found that hidden gap.

And so she flung herself into the gap
time and again. And all that she could bear
out of that first and most familiar trap
was her own legend of the route, of where
her steps had wound--her own, her faithful map.
She cursed at first, then laughed to find it there.

Though she took comfort in its presence there,
each time she flung herself into the gap,
deep in her bones the landscape bloomed, laid bare
by constant travel--each wide path, each trap.
One day she found a fresh explorer there.
She laughed--remembered--gave away her map.

Use scissors there. My scrawling is a trap
till knowledge inks the gap wisdom scrapes bare
within you. Journey, earn; become the map.

inside outside

Sigh. Yet another set of lyrics.
So, I have a job interview tomorrow. If that doesn't work out, I am next in line for a full-time slot on the morning shift. One of the morning ladies is moving back to the old country as soon as her house sells. Either way, my situation is likely to change in the next few weeks.

Hence, another one of those songs about making tough changes. I think it really, really, really loses a lot as just a set of lyrics. However, till I get a mic that hooks up to my compy somehow, this is what I've got. Even if it is time to leave, at least I got something substantial from all my time working with slicers and knives!

the blade is the intimate thing
nothing made is made till it gets into it,
gets into it, gets into it
the blade is the intimate thing
everything it touches is surfaces,
surfaces naked

I know you, I know you
inside, I bring your
inside outside
I know you, I know you
inside, outside

the hand feels what it's touching's touching
underneath the surfaces another layer
listens, glistens, whispers like a prayer
however hard I pound and scratch
or soft, caress it I can't catch
a glimpse of it, no splinter of it
pierces through and I can't make it

I feel you, I feel you
inside, please bring what's
inside outside
I feel you, I feel you
inside, outside

throw me in the flames
pump the bellows hard
let my every surface burn to ash
and melt a puddle from the shards
pour me in the mold
draw me out with tongs
hammer, hammer, hammer, fold
hammer, hammer, hammer, fold
hammer, hammer, hammer, fold
hammer, hammer, hammer, fold

however long, however long, however long
it takes to bring

my inside outside
inside outside
inside outside

till when struck I sing
I'm the intimate thing
the intimate thing

pop music at my store: doing it wrong and doing it right

This is a post I've been meaning to do for awhile. Given that I'm starting it at about midnight (by the way--my new power cord works! my compy is back! huzzah!), it counts as both Monday and Tuesday.

At work, there is a computer upstairs which has a large playlist of songs on permanent shuffle. Most of these songs are pleasant enough. There are just a few, however, which stick in my craw. The one I have mentioned most often is a song by the band Simple Plan called "Welcome to My Life." For those of you not curious enough, or too wise, to follow the link to the full lyrics, here's the first verse and chorus:

Do you ever feel like breaking down?
Do you ever feel out of place?
Like somehow you just don't belong
And no one understands you
Do you ever wanna runaway?
Do you lock yourself in your room?
With the radio on turned up so loud
That no one hears you screaming

No you don't know what it's like
When nothing feels all right
You don't know what it's like
To be like me

To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked when you're down
To feel like you've been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one's there to save you
No you don't know what it's like
Welcome to my life

Awhile ago Amber explained to me the true definition of "scandal". In Catholic parlance, a scandal is something which encourages others to sin.

This particular set of lyrics is scandalous, to me, in the extreme. It encourages people to feel self-pity and resentment, and to cut themselves off from others. It promotes a bitter state of mind in which a person makes the whole world their enemy because they are feeling lonely and depressed.

It asserts that when you're feeling lonely and depressed, the solution is to isolate yourself from others and sulk among your many possessions. Also, the best way to make others like and respect you more is to angrily inform them they cannot possibly relate to the emotional pain you are experiencing. Oh, without leaving any room for the possibility that others might also experience emotional pain.

For goodness' sake, the speaker in this song has a room of his own with a door that locks. He has a radio which he can turn up to scream-drowning-out volume, presumably without adverse consequences. How many of the listeners who hear--and we may assume, empathize with--these selfish assertions lack those same comforts?

That's really the irony, though. That this song whose main message is, "wah, wah, you don't understand me and I'm all alone and will wallow in my misery" is popular because people empathize with it. In other words, many, many people can understand precisely "what it's like" because they share the same feelings of isolation and loneliness. Thus the fact that the song is popular enough to make it onto my store's iTunes refutes its main premise.

Here is another song, also on the playlist at work, which approaches almost the same set of feelings but does so in a way which is much more positive. It is "Story of my Life" by Smashmouth.

I get to the party, but I'm too late
And I got stood up on my very first date
I listen to country and everybody goes rock
I get to the dance floor, that's when the music stops

It doesn't matter what I do, I just can't seem to win
But here I go again

And I say
Hey that's the story of my life
I had a good plan but it didn't go right
Oh no I'm overdrawn
I check my account and the money's all gone
Why me I don't know what to think
I finally get aboard and the whole boat sinks
Seems to be the story of my life

Here the speaker takes an almost amused attitude towards his misfortunes. He doesn't accuse others of not being able to understand his misfortunes; rather, he describes them and implicitly invites others to share in his frustration. This is reinforced by the fact that multiple voices chime in to sing the chorus, mimicking the internal voices of listeners who see their own stories reflected in the words to the song.

There's really not much in the way of instruction or even encouragement in this song--not in so many words. Instead it comforts those who are experiencing frustration and loneliness with the message that they are not alone, that their frustration is universal. Also, I like to think there's a certain amount of self-aware irony here. "Sure, I've got troubles just like these," the listener is meant to think. "Yet the guy who wrote this is a famous musician who probably has lots of money and a hot girlfriend, so maybe things won't stay this bad!"

Which is what pop music is supposed to be all about. It doesn't make you think very hard, doesn't shake up your mind or wring out your deepest emotions. It just makes you feel a little better and a little more able to face the frustrations of the day.