This poem was a birthday present for Biljana, one of the ladies who works at the Starbucks in my store. Last week I'd read "composition" to her right after I wrote it. She really liked it, and since her birthday was this week she asked me to write one for and about her. I accepted with glee! She just turned either 19 or 20 (I forget XD) but this sort of touches on most of the things she's shared with me about her life. I made several attempts at a poem for her, none of which really seemed right. On the way to work on the bus yesterday, I finally hammered this out. It ended up being from an emotional place pretty close to things I feel now too, but it's written as though she's the speaker. And she liked it! Win!

Perhaps one day I'll have enough poems by or about people or written by request to have a "poems for people" collection. That would rule.

expectations lie. I've given up
my vision of the time
when the respect I earn is truly mine
when you see what I work so hard to show
when you know what I know. I know
it's too much to expect
the same consideration
I bend over to extend. so I reject
my expectations.
maybe now we can be friends.

since everything you break, you buy,
now that I'm done expecting, I
can only hope, and try to see
in you what you won't view in me.

I'm young, but I still have the power
to fight for every working hour
to reach for love like every flower
turns its face to the sun.
don't bother getting in my face
I doubt you have the time to waste
it's my--and no one else's--place
to tell me when I'm done.

and I am done with expectations--
yours or mine, small or great.
I'll overcome my situation.
just you wait.

cherubim of the lord

Seriously, this never happens.

I wrote a song about a current event. I didn't
mean to write a song about the oil spill. It really is about Deep Horizon--that news makes me angry and sad whenever I think about it. But it uses that horrific disaster as a way of describing any preventable disaster, anything I in my own foolishness could have stopped from happening but chose to ignore until it was too late. In fact it was my doubleplusungood times at my new day job the week before last that got this one started. And not so coincidentally gave me the right mental state for it. Mentally, I took solace in saying to Mandy in a fantasized exit interview, "well, you did help me to realize that 'cherubim of the lord' rhymes with 'omnidirectional sword.' "

After that, though, the single line (on a single note) "cherubim of the lord" was all I had for a couple of weeks. Somewhere in there I got the "we're on the inside of Eden" couplet--yet still the song refused to gel. To crystallize, if you will. I started to worry this would be another one like "teeth of the storm", which is still my record-holder for longest time between the arrival of the central line and the rest of the song, at slightly over two years.

So I was giddily relieved yesterday morning, and indeed spent some time jumping up and down going "whee! ha ha ha!". A little three-note triplet started to sound in my head as I brushed my teeth, and five seconds into it I knew exactly what it was for. A flat, B flat, C, over and over and over. The triplet holds steady but the way the song's rhythm phases around it tranforms with every line. And not just the first four lines but all the final repetitions of "cherubim..." are all sung on G natural, so the triplet itself as well as the thundering chord changes going on behind it are totally necessary to keep it interesting. Sort of a musical representation of something the song only hints at.

Orders of angels are something I have learned about variously and sundrily, so the concept of a cherubim is a pretty robust one in my mind. (Later I will look up my previous post on the subject for more info.) Cherubim are neither chubby happy babies nor angels who appear shouting "Fear not!" Angels shout "fear not" when they want you to stay where you are and listen. When a cherubim arrives it is there to DO something, and even as the fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, one of the subsidiary lessons is that when a cherubim shows up, it is wise to haul ass out of its way. The other title of this order of angels is "the strong". Not the sort of strength that comes from bulging muscles or massive metal beams, but the strong nuclear force that binds quarks together into elementary particles, the weight of the moon's mass which tugs the ocean up away from its resting place in the deeps of the earth, the forces of gravity and potential energy that pull a tree crashing over onto the forest floor even when no one is around to hear it.

This is going to be a massively difficult song to sing, play, and--unless I do it
exactly right--even tough on the ear. There are momentum changes almost every line, and most of the rising action happens in a lengthy instrumental bridge between "...fruit of the forbidden tree" and "if we have no home...." I'll need either lots and lots of layered tracks or a really good piano player to make that part work. However, if I DO manage to get it exactly right and it can sound in real life the way it does in my mind, it will be amazing.
(edit 5/20/12: Updated the lyrics slightly to match the version I recorded last week. W00t!)

oil under the water, poison under the words
oil under the water, poison under the words
we beg forgiveness, but never alter
we beg forgiveness and are ignored
she holds and never wavers, falters
holds and never wavers, falters
holds and never wavers, falters
an omnidirectional sword

you drilled down, down to where cold blood bled black
you built a cage for fire and turned your back
it rusted through
because of you
it gushes through
it trusted you
you know you knew
you know you knew
what would you have her do
what would you have her do

this ain't some story you're readin'
it's your breath and your flesh and your sea
we're on the inside of Eden
we're the fruit of the forbidden tree

if we have no home left to return to
it's cause we've been hacking away the foundation
god's messenger comes with no vengeance
she comes with only mass times acceleration

if I brought on the tempest
throw me overboard
to my earned consequences

the cherubim of the lord
the cherubim of the lord
the cherubim of the lord

the cherubim of the lord


Whenever I do a one-word title, the poem is meant as both a definition and a demonstration in text.

Today was my second day in a row of working both the jobs i have right now, and since I made the mistake of staying up past my bedtime last night to play Civ (silly girl!), I woke up dead tired. First job let me out a little early, so I had time to go sit in the library across the street from the grocery store before my shift there began. I've been reading a lovely book called "The Rest Is Noise" about classical composers of the 20th century, but I didn't feel like taking it out and reading it. And checking out another book seemed like overkill when I've got one with which I'm almost finished. Tired both emotionally and physically, the only thing I could think of to do is write. Start with stream of consciousness and hammer it into a coherent thoughtspace as it goes along. In college I would have just snuck off to the woods and sung "Time" by Phil Ochs (Tori version); the best I could do here was quote it, towards the end. Homage, baby; it's a form of currency!

This time, this brief moment in my life, is a time I've been calling "everything happens at once time." Where many strands of development, growth and work all rise into manifestation together--where I find out what I'm really made of and whether the work I've been doing is substantive or foolish. What things are made of is their composition.

So I know poems shouldn't need introductions; they should be able to speak for themselves. And the weirder, the less formally structured the poem, the
more that applies. This is because when you step outside conventional forms, by that act of abnegation you declare the thing you are trying to express to be greater than the form. To be worth abandoning form in order to get across. If the work itself fails to reach anyone, then you have failed as a maker. You have made something which is self-indulgence and only qualifies as art because intention counts.

All this to say, if this introduction is artistically superfluous, let's just consider it a hidden part of the poem that doesn't get read when I read it aloud. Or when you do, cause it sounds much, much better that way. Trust me on this.

before my engine starves, I'll carve,
I'll carve mind out of time
make it mine, make it fun, get it done.
like some mumbling turtlenecked composer
loops a tape of tables falling over and over
and wriggles between the cascading layers
of noise, noise, blankets himself, buries
the world in the sound
of the sound of the world buried
under its own secret structure.
let me roll over and fold a warm
coverlet over myself.

sleep is food and food is sleep
and fuel is fuel is fuel to keep
the engines in my ribs and head
primed, churning, turning out of bed

now this machine I've been seems natural
now all the regulations I ingest
seem, not assumptions, but chaste, factual
a cat which purrs, claws kneading at my chest

but some of it is lies! I spy surprise
disguised as expectation, meter bleeding into freeverse,
false assumptions buried
in true memory, unremembered things
mute, tugging at cut strings.
where is our engine now, they howl.
where is our engine now.

I said I lived to find the door
that opens, pouring out gold light
it may be true, but more, but more
true is that I must live to write

must build me a machine
build a machine in me
or one will grow soon as I turn my back
clickety clack
for I know and I know and I know
I go too slow, too slow, too slow
if I let speed, vibrations shake me,
rattle me apart, I'll have to start
over again, pink, naked in a mountain
of switches and levers and cold blunt
angled metal shapes wound through
with vine, live mice in bent wheels, tangles
of wire that wave their twisted little ends
like worm-heads probing for soft
cool earth or the roots of plants in
hyperfast stop-motion. this machine lives.
even the dead parts live; it thirsts, I thirst
I am hungry and tired and I crave
every element
tungsten and water, hydrogen and sunlight,
plasma and iron and the sound of a violin
played on a subway platform in a dream.

sleep is food and dreams fuel the machine
that manufactures dreams
that I ratchet together with wet spare parts,
screwdrivers and twine, bloody calluses
and time, time, time that you love
and it's time, time, time
to pour into the ground and lay down

till it blooms

it blooms

harvest of grace

My Grandma Jule sent me an awesome birthday card with a cool poem in it. I say cool because usually poems in cards are dreck, but this one was very much not dreck. It was a really thoughtful thing for her to do. All the more so because a) the pick-me-up was extremely welcome in this crazy everything-happens-at-once time, and b) she just survived a "small" heart attack and is adjusting to lifestyle changes, meds--all the stuff we all dislike medical issues for. Therefore I wrote her a poem. She'll get the original in the mail in a few days, but here for your (and perhaps her, if she gets online time) viewing pleasure is the e-text version.

Cause everyone needs a pick-me-up. Especially awesome grandmothers one doesn't get to see nearly often enough.

come on, give me a shove
so I'll do what I must
I'm one bright spark of love
gently breathed into dust

songbirds perched out of sight
and wet dew on the lawn
sing and wink in the light
and beckon me, "Come on,

don't be discouraged! Not
when the worm wriggles loose,
or the sun burns too hot
for the rain on your roots.

"There are seeds in the fields;
water deep in the soil.
We are nourished, and yield
without labor or toil."

so as I face this day
in my own little place
let me yield, and make way
for a harvest of grace.