There’s A Great Silence Down Here

I planned to go to Mars.
My enthusiasms set to eleven
years old, I engaged in scrapbooking
and a Face looked back.
It’s a trick of mind,
this wanting bigger
alien monuments than human
artifacts, a willingness
to disbelieve disbelievers
disbelieving everything
not set in stone.

I planned to go to Mars,
but the Moon was a promise kept
too many. We choose to go
to the ends of the Earth instead,
by fire and heat, melt and parching
confines of one sphere too few
to contain so many squares.

I planned to go to Mars,
but devils detail Death divining
skin holding one cubic person
of water, flesh, and contempt,
three dimensions of depth,
a fourth without time.

I planned to go to Mars,
but I’m afraid of falling up.
Falling down isn’t any easier.
Following everyone, who must fall,
implies a nonzero chance for pits.
There’s a Great Silence down here.
I plan to pack light.

#NaPoWriMo 2017 Day 30

Discussion:

That’s it! The last poem of Camp NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo 2017! It’s a bit of a downer; the long drive home after a fun weekend Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure led to lots of thinking, alone, in the dark.)

Keep Moving Backward

The trick is not to stop, but to keep moving backward, to the next incident, to the next beating, all the bad times you’re heading back in time to prevent. Your father threw your mom up against the hallway wall and threatened to beat her if she stood in the way again of him beating you. You were thirteen. It must have been a weekend, at the beginning of the school year, because, oh right, you had that black eye in your school pictures.

You set the date. You push the button. It works.

You take care of it.

You show up at the door and knock. You do what you need to do. You say what you planned to say. Your mom screamed at you, your father found his gun, little you cried in terror, but your skin-tight modern body armor and your memories were a bubble of protection to keep you, current you, future you to them, black-eye free.

Back in the woods, you wonder if the future has changed. You could return forward and check: did he heed the warning you gave him as he quivered on the floor, did he become nicer, is your father now your dad? Or did your mom leave him and become a single mom? Did you grow up to write comic books instead?

But you won’t find out. You don’t know much about the multiverse, or time travel, or the ramification of cheap devices dropped on an unsuspecting market by anarchists mass-producing access to the dreadful past. You don’t stop to learn. You pick up your time travel device, learn how to enter the desired date, and push the button. Maybe everything will be different now, then, whatever you call the future time you feel from. Or maybe everything stays, stayed, will stay exactly the same. Instead of a ripple of effects racing forward through time, a second universe split off from that pivotal moment, inaccessible container for new consequences you’ll never get to feel in your guts because that wasn’t your past. You remember, so does that mean you are stuck with the old one?

The only way is further back. Your first stop was good practice. Ice breaker. How many times did he hit you? You can narrow some of them down. You have enough time. The one time you went to the hospital for stitches, when you were twelve. The one time when you were ten you told your grandma when you stayed with her during the summer and she talked about the price of war for returning soldiers and their families instead. Christmas when you were nine and received everything you wanted and it made him seething mad. That time he caught you at six with the six-year-old neighbor boy, both of you with your pants down. The first memory you have, from when you were four, and how startling it was to be alive and aware mid-flight between his punch and the wall. You jot down your memories, in wonder of the shining past spidering back into your brain after revisiting just one specific event abruptly provided you with more details about what happened before then.

You remember the bullies, and approximately when they happened to you. You march right onto the campus of the middle school at just the right time to grab Steve’s fist before it pounds out of eleven-year-old you an earlier black eye, an earlier ruined school picture. You visit your father again. And again. And then Nate after soccer practice behind the gym in the fall when you are ten, and again a few hours earlier before he hits your arm with his locker door and you get mad and agree to meet him later, behind the gym. You remember more and more of these events and always there are people around you shouting in fear and you simply brush past them and to you, before you can be abused again.

You feel very Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. You’re glad little John isn’t around to stop you.

Did Steve and Nate respect you more after your shocking interventions? Did you become good friends with reformed Steve and Nate? Did you learn in high school Steve, for example, was gay, and did you have your first relationship then, with him? Is there a different future where a different you heads back in time to stop Steve from outing you to everyone in school, because he was afraid to come out to anyone else, and it was easiest to sacrifice you instead?

You wonder after days of this, after years, if you shouldn’t just prevent your mom from marrying your father. You remember where they said they were and you estimate the year, and then you go back and watch them meet. Instead you follow him home to your grandparents house where he’s been staying after he came back home for overseas. You observe him fall apart, continue to fall apart.

You’re a detective now and you uncover new dates to stalk. You’re a traveler to pasts you know little about. You’re a historian, an expert at finding time and place. You’re a soldier in the jungle, on base, arriving to destroy the events that destroyed him. You’re a philosopher analyst special teams, attempting to prevent battles and wars. You’ve forgotten to be a genealogist. Bad guys unrelated to you are on your list now. You’re a killer. It takes a lot of time. You’re a professor, a historian, a collector of experience and experiences. It’s all forward when you get to your latest past, but you’re creeping back through time, tweaking and changing things as you go. You still exist. You haven’t done anything to remove yourself. Or maybe you are entirely removed now and no longer exist as anything other than a writer of new futures, a muse, a deity.

You don’t plan to stop and you hope no one else stops either.

#NaPoWriMo 2017 Day 27

Discussion:

This is a long one. I wanted this to be prose poem, and it kept getting bigger. Maybe it’s more flash fiction than poetry. It’s very rough. Tense is all over the place, much of it on purpose, but probably in error in a lot of places. In revision, I would make it more surreal, add more poetic language and lyricism, search for stranger associations and bolder, odder descriptions, make sure any given tense makes sense at that moment, unpack the last line, etc.

Good Posture

Alcor-Dewar2

The curse of life is death and the curse of death is also death,
but my skeleton will outlast both.
My skeleton will stand for eons.
He is a spongy mountain, an iron mine.
Stoned with mellow marrow, my skeleton prefers to climb instead of recline.
My skeleton won’t be buried. My skeleton won’t be burned.
My skeleton will be left vertical, packed in vitrified remnants of me,
upside down in a dewar filled with liquid time and nitrogen.
My skeleton isn’t a mummy under glass but glassy inside stainless steel.
My skeleton is key. My skeleton is my library.
My skeleton is the permanence I seek; I’m the clothes he wears.
My skeleton in the tailor shop, thirty years from now or three thousand,
requests a change of wardrobe to match the thaw,
based on the measurements he brought.
My skeleton all new, from the inside out.

#NaPoWriMo 2017 Day 26

Discussion:

This week for craft class and workshop at The Writers Studio, we read and discussed the first few poems in The Best American Poetry 2016 anthology. I was inspired by these wonderful poems to try out a few of the techniques on display. “O Esperanza!” by Catherine Barnett makes use of a fun character—an inner clown—to discuss in a unique way the lofty abstraction of hope. “Turns out my inner clown is full of hope,” the persona narrator begins. The persona narrator has a lot of fun with this clown, including the brilliant line “Clowns are clichés and they aren’t afraid of clichés,” though I actually didn’t get the full joke until someone pointed it out at workshop this evening (hint: fear of clowns.) The poem lets hope reside in this inner clown character, has fun with it, and then follows additional associations to unexpected new places and a radical turn into some heavy thoughts about knowledge and philosophy, all of it made possible because the poet doesn’t approach hope in the usual clichéd, sentimental ways.

A skeleton was the first image that popped into my head when I thought about using some of these techniques in my own poem. In the first draft, I tried to emulate Barnett’s poem fairly closely and I tried to follow unexpected associations for my imagery. The poem was mildly interesting, but when I returned to it this evening, I saw that there were ways to use these techniques to talk about other ideas I’m interested in.

So this is my poem about cryonics and my choice for interment when I die. It’s made possible by a combinations of techniques that let me explore cryonics in new and hopefully unexpected ways.

Post-Party Social Alarm

Perfect night to game, lay down cards,
room to room ventured by thrown dice,
board game bildungsroman.

Failed protection spells, loads of laughs,
egging on clockwise conception, new personas
gender fluid, pregnant narrative
breaking water river rapid.

Winner takes caul.

Wipe the cord. Plates in sink,
Napkins in trash. Measure heart beat.
Poke feat.
Goodnight. Thank you.

Outside alone
in the sticky air:

born or boring
I had fun; did they?
Passage clear, I had lungs.
Did they cough, drown
to fill balloons?
Did I chew with my mouth
open, eat all the chips
and salsa, say or do anything
wrong? It’s hard to get
out the door without worrying
goodbye means circumcised
and I haven’t said thank you
enough times. I’d love to come back
but we made no plans.
Are we waiting for a later time,
or did I overstay my premature
starting over, my learning how
to make friends again the old-fashioned way?

#NaPoWriMo 2017 Day 25

Discussion:

I have a lot of social anxiety going into any event, even game night with friends and coworkers. I decompress at the end of any event the same way, even if I was able to relax and have a good time during it. I travel home full of doubts, interrogating my memories, trying to decide if they really wanted me there or if they were just being nice. It’s a kind of imposter syndrome, where I think I’m not deserving of friends, so these must be accidental nice people who abide my presence until I’m gone, and then breathe an exhausted sigh of relief.

The conception, pregnancy, birth extended metaphor? I tried to use it for both the creation and birth of a narrative when a group of people play a game together and for the creation and birth of anxiety. I’m not sure this metaphor really works. The poem starts to get weird and go to weird places because this metaphor might be adding associations that don’t really make sense, or are kind of disturbing.

I feel a little less anxious, though.

Morning at the Mirror

every mask
I expect
the same
face worn
before me
swore he
threw it
shattered
on tile
where cartoon
faces pits
and pigments
stare back
at hands
of putty

#NaPoWriMo 2017 Day 24

Discussion:

Using as few words as possible, two per line, while providing a few vivid images, and hints at meaning.