It must have been about two years ago when I found an old postcard in a book. A sun-glare photograph, and on the back, the note was sprawled: “I’m writing like a chopper and flying low.” It inspired my phase of writing down words, slipping them in borrowed books, and returning them to the library. Hoping they would be found and needed. It was then, too, that I deemed Carl Phillip’s book The Rest of Love some of my favorite poetry pages.

It was about a week ago that I strolled through the library, realized an urgent need for more poetry in my life, spotted Carl Phillip’s poems on the shelf, and gathered them to re-read.

It was tonight as I was reading a poem to myself out-loud that I turned the page and there it was, clicking its toe on the sidewalk with a small smirk, waiting for me: a purple post-it note stuck to the page staunchly declaring in my own handwriting,

Some things fall apart so that other things can fall together.

An unintentional future letter to myself, an unexpected tree-house strung with Christmas lights in the middle of the woods. Found and needed.


It was a stage set with a singer on one side, a poet on the other. I listened to the song that tasted like a strawberry and found myself entranced at the poem that made me freeze and had an aftertaste of swiss cheese.

In the past, I’ve found that when I read two poems in sequence, they are often unexpectedly magnified with the collision of two poem’s words inside my mouth or head. The often unexpected, yet magnificent crash. The way it feels when you put down a book and carry its message into the immediate movement of life.

At the WYEP studio tonight, there was a call-and-response type concert between the singer Joy Ike and the poet CM Burroughs. Both are local Pittsburgh artists and gorgeous women, and both have the capability of filling a room with sounds that echo across ears with the insight of each somehow amplified by the other. I could have kept listening until I was drenched.

You’ve watered them already, he says.
I water them again. I water them
until each leaf is weighed with
water, until each stem drowns from

-CM Burroughs

They sat welldressed and clustered, walled in by a Borders bookshelf, I gazing in at the poet speaking into mic from the side. Beside me sat a disgruntled man clearly not present because of the poetry but willing to give it a chance. He ate a reeses fastbreak and giggled during pauses in her words, discovering some kind of secret humor in the professional mask this woman wore as she read pages from her chapbooks which she had marked earlier in preparation for people to hear.

I hardly heard her over the sound of the thick man in purple suitcoat whose white-haired-head bobbed as each poem reached an end in attempts to convince the room he understood and approved its message. The poet interrupted herself mid-poem to acknowledge the entrance of those who belonged in the circle of people she had come to entitle “poetry,” speaking abstractly of her wonderful acquaintances in attendance.

Earlier that day at the homeless shelter, my coworker started strumming the blues on his guitar. A woman stood and sang in sultry impromptu voice:

one summer night i was walking
i was walking down the road
and well
if you asked which way i was walking
i couldn’t tell you yes or no

And her passion-sound was poetry to the homeless inhabitants of the room, everyone bobbing their heads to the senseless words composed while they watched expectant, somehow thick with meaning.

When the woman sat down, they turned to me, asked me to read a poem of mine. After watching her and understanding what life was, none of my practiced planned poetry survived on pages.

No. I watch from the side, wondering why poetry is segregation and classification in the places and ways it sounds.


Strength, hers was exhausted from holding her composed overweight for too long. So her legs loosened, leaned her forward, hands gripped the cold hard metal outline of the kitchen sink which carried a hum to her head. The words, she was looking for the words, the words to the notes that resounded within now’s melody from no-particular-where on constant repeat from perhaps speakers that grew in her ears like the grass that sprouts in the center of sidewalks, singing something about yonder. A blank-eyed thought moment until she flashed eyes to the small neatly framed window-square of outside, heard words to her song as clear as the stream of water the faucet let flow. And “I’m going up yonder… I’m going up

” the phone rang. He’s no longer with us, its voice said. Inside the window shrankdissolved from her and the sink was cold it was hard it was icy but the yonder was warm.

poetry by obliteration

May 14, 2009

obliterated poems
The Idea:
Cut the bindings off of books found at a used book store. Find poems in the pages by the process of obliteration. Put pages in the mail and send them all around the world. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I like the idea of transforming anything into poetry. Especially if it involves recycling beautifully aged words.

the way she wrote

April 23, 2009

I went to a poetry and fiction reading at Chatham University on Tuesday to hear the products of the chapbooks created by students in the MFA creative writing program. While listening to people read their works, I quickly got lost in the nervousness of the unestablished writers which added an element so bookreal to their poetry.


Listening to poetry is quite different from reading it. Differently just as good.


I hate to admit it, but at every reading I’m immediately biased by the voice and the character of the reader. If they speak with a hard-edged sound or fail to project the poetic clarity that I hear in my head when I scan their words, I might end up getting better acquainted with the space of wall in front of me than their poem.


I’m working to get past this.


I ran into a writer who graduated with me from college last year. Both of us were in the writing program and we had been in classes together that involved us reading and critiquing each other’s creative essays very carefully.


It’s off-throwing to encounter a familiar face in an unexpected setting, but as her face came into focus, I realized that I knew her mostly by the way she wrote. I envisioned some vague stories about time she spent in Europe, but mostly I envisioned her writing style. She wrote in clipped sentences and phrases with humorous quips that led up to neatly boxed ending.


I decided this is a nice way to know someone.


I dreamt in poetry last night.

Before I went to sleep, I carefully selected e.e.cummings and Anne Sexton to cover the contents of my evening. Without noticing it, the clock they were swinging rhythmically before my eyes read 2:00 a.m. and I was still staring at it, hypnotized by curiosity of what shapes their lips made when they wrote, how frequently they looked up from the page to stare blankly into full space. I believed everything they said, was lost and found in a tock.

But it didn’t stop when I closed my eyes to their tangible words.

I fell softly into a possibly favorite part of life: that dangling into a fresh bite of sleep moment. And the poetry continued. I could see images that were words and hear the sights before my eyes breathe and move. Vision/noise/meaning was one thing.

I knew I was dreaming, knew that I had never encountered poetry so full, had the pressing need to wake myself up and scribble everything across pages in the still dark night.

But I woke up only the next morning having retained just a memory of the word “festering” and a vision of that word unfolding. It had something to do with greens outlined by browns and levitating ovals and the slightest sense of growth.

bathing in light
and i. what dreams had i suspended
above our short order lives
when death showered you with bells.
        call her back for me
        bells. call back this memory
        still fresh with cactus pain.

-sonia sanchez
from “kwa mama zetu waliotuzaa”

I’m finding that I have distinct and specific attatchments to some certain images. Like the effects of sunlight captured well in a photograph. Or the image of a bell ringing  through the words of a poem. Or anything that looks or sounds like peace. And I only noticed these motifs because they stare at me through the picture and word images I save so I can return to them later.

I’ve jotted down my thoughts with little consistency and some organization for most of my life. I return to read the books I’ve filled with my words occasionally, and in them I discover motifs to my life that I never would have discovered had I not written them down. It’s a secret value of words that can only be found when pieces of life become a book or poem.

so how do we judge a man

most of us love from our need to love not
because we find someone deserving

most of us forgive because we have trespassed not
because we are magnanimous

most of us comfort because we need comforting
our ancient rituals demand that we give
what we hope to receive

and how do we judge a man

-nikki giovanni/ “the women gather”

i floated in those words

January 13, 2009


I found it dwelling in the response I received when I needed someone to assure me that my poetry would be an acceptable gift to give someone:

“But what can you do with poetry? Maybe if you write it on something useful…”

There it was. The uninvestigated truth that poetry is too impractical, too tossed aside, too improperly separated from the practicality of life and even from other forms of art.

But poetry is so valuable within itself.

You can know poetry like you know your daily breakfast, the familiar taste of soggy cheerios as you read the morning paper while still shaking off the sensation of nesting inside darkness and sleep.

You can walk through poetry like a walk through the woods on a sunny day with endless questions breathing in the branches and strips of sun painting strokes across your skin that disappear as you move.

You can feel poetry like a child feels a summer afternoon, hearing inaudible delight in a lazy day without having yet discovered what work is, without finding any need for concern with overbearing details of life.

Poetry houses something. It’s something you might find elsewhere like in a circumstance that naturally offers accidental sweetness, or in a perfectly taken photo, or in a just-rightly created piece of art, or resounding from the voice of a favorite person, or within the frame of an ideal moment.

It resides in poetry to alert you that life and everything in it has the perfect potential to be right and unspoken silences might be said.

for a moment, all bells ring true.