Second doppler poem! I'm gonna offset the alternating lines in this one so it's easier to see the two distinct poems within the poem. Here the "blueshift" perspective (read alternating lines from beginning to end) is that of a forest absorbing the light of the sun and using that energy to transform itself. The "redshift" perspective is the light of the sun being captured by a forest and finding itself totally consumed as a result of living processes. I finally figured out a regular rhyme pattern that works for a doppler poem. Fiendishly difficult, but it helped a lot when I get stuck, writing it outward from the center, to have a rhyme-word to draw out the next equal but opposite image-concept in the transformation process.

as rock's a molten planet's skin
     so forests are the way life found
to harness all of sunlight's toil
     the sun's rays stripped of every tone
its lush growth captures, winnows thin
     through withered husks heaped up in mounds
strands stick like honey, glide like oil
     gouge trenches out between hard stones
what sky rains down, the earth drinks in
     strip broken rootlets from dry ground
sink fingers into cool wet soil
     earth shrugs off flesh, sky scrapes clean bones
plow furrows where new life begins
     dust, windswept, granulate, unbound
as delicate fresh furls uncoil
     where once white naked light had shone
they give the rainbow back again
     absorb the spectrum up and down
life cools light; brings itself to boil
     to make stars' radiance its own

lonely bones

Doing more pantoums lately. A way of easing myself out of the all-Petrarchan-sonnet rut I was in for so long. Tried to make this one sonically dense. Works okay.

clone's own lonely bones
drawn on thick
red-spread broken stones
concrete, brick

drawn on thick
same name, borrowed clothes
concrete, brick
guilt-built structure flows

same name, borrowed clothes
zipped up tight
guilt-built structure flows
chalked out white

chalked out white
red-spread broken stones
zipped up tight
clone's own lonely bones


New form for this one, inspired by discussions of the Doppler effect in the physics class I'm auditing. I just love cyclical and repetitive structures in poems generally. Like emotional palindromes, they require both the writer and the reader to retread the same experiences from two different perspectives.

One of my favorite forms, the pantoum, has a structure in which not merely rhyme-sounds, but entire lines are repeated from one stanza into the next: abcd / bedf / egfh / gahc. That's in 4 stanzas, the shortest possible version of the pantoum--they can go on as long as you like. 

I decided to make an even more drastic repetitive requirement for this doppler poem. This first one is a 20-line version, but you can do it for any even number. The first 10 lines, or the "blueshift" half of the poem, describes the subject from one perspective, going from beginning to end. The next 10 lines, or the "redshift" half, goes from end to beginning, interweaving with the first half, and repeats the very same lines with slight changes in phrasing to show the same material from a different perspective. Rhymes are totally optional--and a big challenge to incorporate! Here I've used "I" and "you" for the two perspectives, using the image of two asteroids colliding.

we touched each other once - but why?
your bound inertia shapes the dark
it traces out a silent arc
you gave me something like a name
a flame ellipsis cross the sky
broke your established orbit free
I knocked your vector off its skew
your meteoric speed's the same
however much I miss you by
you are the one who misses me
I am the one who misses you
however much you miss me by
my meteoric speed's the same
you knocked my vector off its skew
broke my established orbit free
a flame ellipsis cross the sky
I gave you something like a name
it traces out a silent arc
my bound inertia shapes the dark
we touched each other once - but why?

corn king

This is the first freeverse I've written in a loooong time.
I look at it and sort of have to facepalm. Just look at the stupid images. It's mega obvious. And the title, of course, you know, the hopefully apocryphal pagan tradition of killing a guy and plowing him into the fields as a fertility rite, major hint. Okay, girl, we get it, you wanna get laid.

you yearn
to shuck the blankets from your knees
and finish convalescing
wobble out to glint, glossy,
nude in the golden afternoon
as the pearl-sheened kernels
under the husk.
there is enough, you know there is enough
plump succulence
nestled in the silken strands
to be both planted
and devoured
bitten into, butter-drenched
and folded into cool, dark earth
to come up young again.
I orient myself towards some pain
and look upon it, and its source, with love.
Trace how it's rooted in the forces of
repulsion and adhesion. Feel the strain
of separated things to join once more:
the wrinkled edges of a healing cut.
My answer when you're wrong about me: "but
you're wrong about me" chafes me till I'm sore,
until I stitch the separated sides
together--roughly, bloody. Good enough
to foil the flies that fresh red blood attracts.
What's torn apart is hurt, but pain abides
in distance, searing every edge that's rough
till it fits smooth as evidence fits facts.

like riding a bike

now wrap a chain around two wheels with teeth
watch splayed-out bits of metal learn to fly
down long roads nocked like arrows at the sky
this blur of chrome and paint, these two swift feet
just pause, rock back, recalculating, poised
the hands rest loose, the long cool alloy frame
rider and ridden, destination same
bound by that ready twang, the joyful noise
of rubber pealing over pavement, flesh
pressed in, embracing interfaces tight
to feel the contact coursing through, the song
"rise up, daughter of Zion, rise and thresh"
to human and machine, stood up at right
angles to earth, and no direction wrong
Unlubricated gears and levers scream.
Come, scrape the skin-snug coat of rust aside
until it opens wide. It opens wide
to lap up light and air like cats drink cream.
What scuttles scatters shrapnel in its haste
to carve a deeper crack and crawl inside.
Rust, filth and dust and I lived where they hide.
Fed on my love, they ate and could not taste.
Now here comes sun, to lay their home to waste
to heal my twisted, mechanistic name,
re-forge me, sleek, new, polished till I glow.
They flee who once consumed me now. I chased
the morning star until my hands caught flame
and burned down hell, the only place I know.


It kinda sucks. Yeah, yeah it really does. Cause I've had a long, long spell without writing any poetry at all and my image-maker is rusty. Eventually I will move out of sonnets, but I feel like I want to hide in sonnets for while because they're so easy. Like you know you can make spaghetti with cheese'n'peas and it's easy as hell and good, so you make it like four days in a row. Sonnets are totally my spaghetti. Easy and always at least vaguely edible.

the distance from C

At both the wake and the funeral for my cousin JP, I heard people relate the story that he could hear a note and  recognize instantly where it was on the keyboard, which note and which octave. I knew I wouldn't be able to feel grief right away but I knew it would show up in the form of a song and that this would be the title. Then it showed up today; I was at Amber's house and found out my aunt Rosie, JP's mom, was going to come visit. So the song's in first person but, y'know, it's not supposed to be me talking. I want the song to do the thing it's for; Rosie wasn't up for listening to me play it today, she's been through a lot lately. But I hope it can do the thing it showed up to do, for her, at some point. It's gonna drive me nuts till I get it recorded, but putting the lyrics down here will help some till I get back to my place.

so I fought but the last battle cost me the war
but I never forgot whom I was fighting for
never meant to be cold, I just couldn't be sure
wish that I could have stayed just a little but more
yeah, you love me, but take your words out of my name
I wanted your affection, to hell with my fame
it's in me to give thanks, never once to lay blame
just please say you are different than when I came

well if God wrote my life as a jest
He ain't laughing at me
it's a shout in the dark
that goes echoing endlessly
when I get to the nest where the sun hatched
He'll know it's me
like the bright little ache in my chest
knows the distance from C

the naked eye

Distrust what grasps to give perception shape
to hold and tilt it, cuplike, lip to face
slot every object in its proper place
pedestrian, dark door: danger, escape.
It is a shade drawn over broken glass
thick makeup covering a pockmarked cheek
I wrench my mind from it, call myself weak
for letting expectation gather mass,
but God! the terror of all things made new--
these strangers' fingers sprouted from my hand
this tongue writhes wetly under every note
I sing with joy for rubbish, mountains, dew,
the risen sun, the stone beneath the land,
the spike of hope stuck sideways in my throat.
nice place you got there
all by your lonesome
you'll be surprised what
you'll find if you want some
if you want some

bricked up the chimneys
boarded the windows
plugged all the drainpipes
you still let her in though
let her in though

painted the mirrors
to not let her out
can't say why you fear her
she lives in your mouth
in your mouth


nice place you got there
which do you preserve
the inside or outside
you ain't got the nerve
got the nerve

to touch them together
and find out how small
is everything heaped up
inside of your wall
of your wall

she's just a baby
she drinks till she sleeps
wake up if you want to
to hear how she weeps
how she weeps

Life is very good and I have a lot to be thankful for, and I know it.
This poem, though, does not arise out of that gratitude. I have to be honest with myself and let myself go ahead and feel grumpy about the few things I do have to be grumpy about. My little sister's in jail, my ex won't take me back, my computer died with a lot of cherished stuff on it and my closest friends are all either seriously depressed or really worried about stuff going on in their own lives. And I still haven't got my creative fire stoked hot enough yet to even write a blues song about it. So early this morning I at least managed to put it into a sonnet. I'm grateful for that.

The poems used to pull me out of bed,
but now I need the motherfucking sleep.
Cause cash is king and poetry is cheap,
I'll take the extra half an hour instead.
Too soon I'll just be ashes in an urn
and you'll be withered, impotent and frail.
Who'll know if all your bold ambitions failed
or care I perished with so much to learn?
It makes me sick to look at my guitar
when every line I've written sounds so trite,
square, overclocked with words that won't burst through
to where I sit, not knowing where you are
or why the hell it matters what I do
or how the fuck I'm managing to write.

it's enough

Wrote most of this back on the 6th, got the rest today. Twenty days is a little above average for how long it takes for a song to germinate; "teeth of the storm" is still my record-holder at a little over two years.
Mychal, you'll perhaps be happy to know this one took most of its inspiration from you. You've been wanting me to write a song about you for years! XD Of course it's as much about my own experience as anything, wouldn't have been able to write it otherwise. And as always hopefully lots of people can find something in it that says "oh yeah, that feeling. I know that one."
Guitar chords on the left, in case I should happen to lose the hard copy.

D] it isn't enough
Am G] to know how it feels and be able to say
D] you have to be anchored outside of it, grateful
Am G] that what came to pass did not stay
D] it isn't enough
Am G] to love without limit, forsaking all pride
D] no one has to let you
Am G] even be on their side, even be on their side

Em Bm A] but you hear the prayer
D A] in the song of the wheels
Em Bm A] travel there along
G A] something stronger than steel

D] and you roll out of bed into shelter and comfort
Am G] and calm and it isn't enough
D] and you roll right through walls that stood tall against sieges
Am G] and storms and it isn't enough
D] and you roll back the sky and the skin of the globe
Am G] and stand naked and cold in the night
D] and it isn't enough
Am G] and there's nothing to fight

Em Bm A] but you hear the voice
D A] that it breaks you to hear
Em Bm A] cause it's not your choice
D A] that can beckon you near

G Bm A Em] slide your tongue inside till you cannot pull it out
G Bm A Em] open red eyes wide on what you used to dream about
G Bm A Em] pull your hand from the hand that ain't your lover's anymore
G Bm A Em] when the void gapes wide where there used to be a floor
G Bm A Em] spend your sweat and blood till every heartbeat is a crime
G Bm A Em] the torrent rips it from you till there's nothing left but time

G D G] only gravity never gives up
Bm A] so it must be love
G Bm G A] tell me, who can tell you who can tell you
G Bm G A] who can tell you who can tell you
G D A] who can tell you
D] it's enough
I can't convince my foolish friends to leave
the Hollywood casino on the Fox.
Lights, camera, action! -- crafted to deceive,
stretch out a losing streak and dull the shocks.
"Good Luck" they say, "Top Spin" and "What A Play!"
as though my skill or knowledge touched the reels
as though tomorrow's substance, spent today,
could buy more than bounced rent checks and missed meals.
The dream unfolds: bright fairies, lions, proud
young women garbed in nothing very much,
gold coins that sting my eyes like wreaths of smoke.
Lights chase themselves across as drums thud, loud
as my poor hopeful heart, command my touch
till I'm slack-jawed with longing -- and flat broke.

the right thing

Yeah, a lot of times when a person does what they know is right they get shafted. That doesn't mean stop doing it. Following your conscience just means you end up with the least bad option in a situation where all the choices lead to suffering.

she does the right thing
she takes the hit for
an innocent one
they're keeping indoors
it doesn't matter who you call the patient
if the doctor's a fraud
a hero gets retaliation
from the people who should applaud
applaud, when you do the right thing

I do the right thing
I turn the beer down
I let the man talk
he's moving downtown
tells me how he wants to make me
comfy in his passenger seat
won't believe I have the will to tell him no
the right to retreat
retreat, to do the right thing

you do the right thing
you let your heart ache
prepared to live with
a loving mistake
cause if she never comes around again
you know you'll mourn for her soul
to be her lover and to be her friend
you'd even give up control
control, to do the right thing

we do the right thing
we get the short stick
we take a gutshot
like it's a pinprick
we know we got to look into the mirror
at the end of the day
cause only God is worthy of our fear
and honey, he will repay
repay, we do the right thing