Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quotilla #5

This poem riffs off the first few lines of Louise Gluck's 'The Wild Iris'


At the dark core of the cry, an 'I'. In
the center of the 'I', an Iris. At the
end of its stem, a slash. In the mouth
of the slash, a bead of
my blood. In the blood of the
suffering, a saltiness. From the salt
there rose a sound. The sound
was a hinge, and from
a swinging of the hinge, a
door. Around its edges . . . light.

Quotilla #4

Here the initial riff is from Dylan Thomas' famous villanelle. I wanted to write a piece that worked against its riff.


Do you
not trust the dark? Why else
go raging against
gentle twilight? Ranting
into tantrums
that grow full as a
good beard, wild as untamed
night. As the sun of
rage seethes, feel how
rage siphons, drains
against the body's batteries.
The day may be
dying, and the hum
of peace might need
the melody of moon-

Do you still
not trust the dusk? Refuse to
go in search of a
gentle massage, a dip
into the darkening
that caresses like a
good breeze, forecasting
night? Won't peace, not
rage last, since
rage exhausts, flames
against the serene?
The discord of day is
dying, and the sighs
of solace appear to thrive in
the languor of lowered

For Sodade's Sake

Sodade is the Kriolu word for the Portuguese term 'saudade.' It has no direct English equivalent and is a mix of homesickness and nostalgia.


Her voice is a breeze,
her song washes
like eternal waves,
although sea water
and the salt of sorrow
may be married.
Medleyed with a moving sun,
her tone tracks the heart's arc.
Since all that rises fears
what falling might follow,
she is careful,
sings of descent first,
is cautious with what hope
she allows to be
heard in the harmony.
And I wonder
what price of translation
she pays, as she sings
in a voice that is naked
and slowly utters
every word
by barefoot

Her voice is more searchlight
than song, splashes the dunes
with waves of something
wilder than water.
Her lyrics are an island's sighs
medleyed with moonlight,
a sound like whales exhaling.
Since tears also shine,
what saline struggle
she's tasted illuminates her,
perhaps reflecting
what traces of grace
she may have seen
in the foam swirling
across what beach she walks.
She knows the sea and sorrow
sing in the same key,
but still chooses to lift me
with what the tide
utters in the interim,
word by rising word.

(For Cesaria Evora)

Don't piss me off

I'm having a lot of fun with the 'Red Wheelbarrow' and Conceptual Art. Here's another take. With apologies to William Carlos Williams and Marcel Duchamp


so much depends

a white porcelain

signed by the

beside the pale

Put this in your Museum

Part of an ongoing series of poems celebrating artists from Pittsburgh. The blog posts don't do columns and I don't know enough HTML to make it display correctly, but this poem is meant to be read in columns, not straight across the lines. 

[from Andy's lost manuscript]

so much depends        so much depends      so much depends
upon                upon                upon

a fuschia wheel          an orange wheel    a golden wheel
barrow                       barrow                     barrow

glazed with rain         glazed with rain     glazed with rain
water                   water                water

beside the indigo          beside the aqua        beside the green
chickens.                chickens.             chickens.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Blue in Green

On May 15th, 2007 my cousin LaSon White passed at the age of 46. Although 46 is terribly young, at 45 she had actually lived longer than her mother and grandmother, a fact that was not lost on her.
Of all my cousins, she and I were probably closest, on every trip back to Pittsburgh I called or stopped past her store. Smart, stylish, caring, her smile was often antidote for whatever ailed me. Because I got the first call in April, I set the poem there and took a little poetic license at the end. This piece has a hint of Whitman and a twist of Eliot.

A Solo for LaSon

April sprouts around us,
is the sky as sullen there?
The hour after we talked was
cruelest, most raw. In less than a
month, your doctor says
breeding cells will overwhelm you.
Lilacs bloom here as there, just
out the door. Purple hints
of all the Prince songs we've shared.
The plentiful petals are
dead certain to flutter around,
land and decorate your walkway.

April's sibilant drizzle
is like a cymbal, mocking
the insistence of memories,
cruelest at dusk. What other
month would dream of
breeding, then watering these
lilacs purple as bruises?
Out of the incessant rhythm
of the rain's thin fingers,
the melody of a woman's voice
dead on key, singing 'Adore',
lands on my quivering ears.

April winds wane,
is that the phone ringing amid
the backscatter of the evening news?
Cruelest is the quiet after the call.
Month after month will sprout,
breeding a peace soothing as those
lilacs you loved so much. But right now,
out on the horizon, the purple song
of the setting sun is
the last hope I have, of being
dead silent and hearing your voice in the
land of the living.

(For LaSon C. White, 1961-2007)

For Hope (A Little Star)

B-Bop Solo #1, Ars Poetica

The code eludes all but tillers of
text, a secret not simple
for deciphering. Because
today, an undertone
Is dismissed too
early, too easily. Although
miles separate the source of
the river from the sea, hasn't the
Columbia called for
years in undercurrents? And doesn't
that same submerged
tone still guide salmon
pared almost
down to skeleton and skin
to home, with the sparest of
essentials, subtext?

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Nothing brightens up the day like a bit of despair.



A wisp of white against an eternal blue.


A tiny town
in Alaska.


Along twenty occupied bar stools,
the only moving thing
was the hum of the Blues.


Maybe cuts on the wrists,
or a cup of cyanide,
or a fork in the toaster,
or fumes filling the car,
or pills in the hand,
or a bullet in the chamber,
or a rope dangling from a ceiling,
but definitely the dive from a bridge to the river.


An empty set of parentheses.


Always an invitation, never an RSVP.


In a mirror while everyone else is sleeping.


As seed of the unplucked peach.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Variations on a Theme

Just messing around with some new ideas, thought I'd try this and see how it turns out, more of trying to use Jazz ideas, actually Bop ideas, (making a new melody out of old chord changes), analogically with language in poetry. This form is called a 'Quotilla' and they are kind of the opposite of a sestina. We'll see how it turns out.

Four Variations on a Theme
(for Joelito)

I am holding you in one arm,
can't find anything else to pack.
"Stand still, Daddy" you beg,
the words falling faster than
rain rushing down the gutters, racing
against everything that falls,
my reign in this house included. The
window frames the sullen clouds.

I know what the clock says, and
can't solve what still
stands between me and
the woman you call Mommy.
Rain drums its cold fingers
against the heads of houses. Outside,
my parking meter has expired, the
window filled by a bright red flag.

I set your two years down slowly,
can't hold you any longer.
"Stand there by the windowsill,"
the door groans to you as it closes.
Rain rumbles, flashes a dagger
against the dark sky, you,
my only child, want to run past the
window, to my arms bulging with boxes.

I reach the van, turn a last time,
can't believe how you
stand so still as I close
the door. A fine curtain of
rain falls, refusing restrictions
against its wishes, animates your arms,
my hands. From opposite sides of each
window we wave, faces dripping.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Here's an experiment, it's a half-breed idea partly based on the Bop and partly based on a form called the 'Lyric Acrostic' or 'Quotilla' that I first saw used by by Evie Shockley. It's just the first take (so to speak), I'm not sure about a couple of things, like if the underlying structure is too esoteric. Although if the piece works that shouldn't matter. The problem is, I don't know if it works on its own or not, that's probably the main thing I'm unsure of. We'll see, I'll sit on it a couple of days, maybe tinker with it a tad. Anyway;

The Idea of Improvisation at Newport '61
(with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein and John Coltrane)

Butter on biscuits and denim on dresses,
Perfume on pillows and long sassy tresses,
Sweet tea from tumblers in throat soothing swigs,
These are some cool things a cat like me digs.

Raindrops and fingers drum
On the windshield of the car,
Roses lovely up an empty seat
And await your smile, white as
Whiskers curling
On my chin. Curious as
Kittens, they anticipate your
Bright eyes, shiny as
Copper pennies, two
Kettles of kindness.
And what could be
Warm as your hands? Not knitted
Woolen scarves, or those red
Mittens you lost last winter. Long
Brown legs, where are you?
Paper bag brown, twin slender
Packages of promise. Are you
Tied up on the telephone, tied
Up in a meeting
With the boss like
String knotted into fishnet?
These questions vex,
Are six roses sufficient?
A light drizzle falls, a
Few wayward drops
Of rain caress my hand,
My fingers think of your
Favorite spot to be touched, imagine
Things they'll soon coax you to say.

Cranberry candles and cognac in crystal,
Flannel pajamas and touches that tickle,
Feeding you chocolate with raisins and figs,
These are some cool things a cat like me digs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bluetooth til the batteries die

If you have a minute and are interested in reading some very good poems, check out the online journal Quest. The current issue is edited by Evie Shockley. I knocked out another Bop, this one is lighthearted and fun and based on a line from a song Prince wrote, although the two female cover versions (Stephanie Mills and Alicia Keys) may be more famous than his. It starts off with a Dr. Seuss riff and gets more bizarre from there.


One phone, two phones, red phone, blue phones,
and still, a watched pot never boils.
I got an antique Bell in the attic,
gotta cordless can in the den,
got a slim cellphone with phat ringtones
that I stole from the T-mobile store, but . . .

How come you don't call me anymore?

You thought a Sub was a sandwich,
Thought Dom was a brand of champagne,
Didn't believe a Tootsie Pop lick
could make you cry out a name.
Was there too much static in my lines,
too much kinkiness in my cord?
I let you play my number,
straight, boxed and even Pick Four, but . . .

How come you don't call me anymore?

Was there something odd in my digits,
too many sixes, not enough nines?
If it's a question of not enough change,
I'll donate a dumpster of dimes.
Maybe I shouldn't have left you
handcuffed and moaning for more, but . . .

How come you don't call me anymore?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Check It out

We sat on different sides of the porch.
The sky was flat and black
as a freshly washed chalkboard,
all the bright equations erased
as if by some giant galactic hand
while fireflies mimicked the missing stars.

Please remember what I told you to forget

What split us? Maybe me having to be right,
maybe you having to be snide,
maybe it was X + Y never really equaling Z.
Maybe it was the way your almost orange cat
scratched at the bottom of the stairs,
or the old issues my white stray found
behind the Recycle can. Maybe it was just
the constant criticism of the crickets.

Please remember what I told you to forget

Take the time to look out your window,
note how the stars have returned.
We agree that neither of us
enjoys Long Division.
If we reduce the fractions,
perhaps we can find a common denominator.

Please remember what I told you to forget

Will it Go Round in Circles?


A rhythm incessant and roiling like rain,
rushing to spill, I realize now,
rolls the rich blackness of your eyes.
Below the thick, rhyming lashes, curving
like question marks, revealing as riddles,
lie random clues to all the things you are.

There will be an answer, Let it be, let it be.

Blue, is the color of your favorite wine,
Since you were born under such a bad sign.
And the Blues is what you gave me,
When I asked you for your hand,
I said, the Blues is what you gave me,
When I asked you for your hand.
Does your rain form a rocky rapids
that capsizes every man?

There will be an answer, Let it be, let it be.

Maybe the question that blazes in your eyes,
Is what makes it so very warm for May.
Still, you soak my heart like a heavy towel,
Til I can't stand the rain, outside my window.
And I wonder, if I run my tongue up your bare spine,
How long will it rain, how hard will it fall?

And, there will be an answer, Let it be, let it be.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Letting Go of My Egrets

My egrets land after the sun goes down,
whirling on the evening wind
wide as the skirt of a winking woman,
whose lipstick is red as a deadly sin
and shinier than an Archangel's conscience.
My egrets are long-beaked,
fish the cloudy marsh of my conscience,
they do not eat like birds,
their hunger will not be sated
by a single multi-finned act of contrition.
My egrets are sacred, but will not sit
pretty on the head like
my grandmother's Sunday hats.
My egrets caw as they claw the water's skin,
caws sharp as the teeth of a tiger shark.
My egrets are not an endangered species,
they rise plumed like geysers in moonlight
and multiply like mathematicians from MIT.
I recall the words that created
many of my smaller egrets,
when they surround my squeaky bed at night
with their rapid knee-high cries.
My biggest egret tosses its head
like a woman I never asked to marry me.
My egrets are Herons, but not heroic,
and almost addictive as heroin.
I sometimes wonder about my egrets
as they strut about in their long-legged gait;
how they fly so far on those thin white wings,
how they maintain such perfect memories,
why I feed them so religiously every night?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bop # Two

Thought I would give it another shot;


When your laughter sparkles and falls
soft as snowflakes, where does it land?
Why does it flitter in a way
I understand easy as my first language?
Still, there’s no manual on how to handle
a smile more musical than a marimba.

Sounds never dissipate, they only recreate in another place.

I pray my tongue will someday taste
the brown vowels of your shoulder,
will learn the pronounciation
of my emotion’s soft consonants.
Everyday, I practice whispering
those seven silver syllables,
trying to say your name
as something other than a prayer.

Sounds never dissipate, they only recreate in another place.

If I hand you my glistening heart,
Would you dance to its beat in the open air?
Some questions radiate like ripples across a pond.
Some splash and collect
like rainwater in a Mason jar
on the windowsill of the heart.

Sounds never dissipate, they only recreate in another place.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bopping in the Key of Me

The piece i wrote for Sekou was my first Bop ever, and it didn't turn out half bad. I enjoyed discovering the form from the inside and think I want to write eleven more, and call them a 'circle of Bops.' One of the key lines to a Bop is the repeating refrain which comes from a song. If anone out there has any lines from lyrics to suggest, I'm open. Van Jordan was here this weekend to read and he said he thinks picking the right song line is the key to writing a successful Bop and I agree. Since the line repeats after every section, it has to be open-ended enough to allow the poem some room to develop. I'll start by harvesting eleven lines and then work from there. Right now I'm thinking about this line from Sara Smile "If you want to be free, you know you can go, all you have to do, is say so" And this one from EWF's 'I Write a Song' "Sounds never dissipate, they only recreate in another place." or Ann Peebles "I can't stand the rain, against my window" or Tavares "Please remember what I told you to forget." or Elton John's "I guess that's why they call it the Blues."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Elegy Indigo

The poet Sekou Sundiata has passed away after suffering two heart attacks. His poem 'Open Heart' from the CD 'Blue Oneness of Dreams' has long been a favorite of mine, both the epigraph and the line 'Finally, finally . . .' are from that piece. We have lost one of our most beautiful voices. Here is a small prayer (in the form of a Bop)


The text for today is early Miles, the Columbia years . . .
That tone pared down to essentials.

Sekou Sundiata

"Did Miles mute his horn, because
a breeze might carry kites a gust could mutilate?"
Call him poet, professor. Call me shaky grasper of the chisel,
caught up in a run-on rush to hammer it all, loudly, now.
The memory rushes in, white-capped and frothing like a wave
but recedes slowly as a blue crab on freshly wet sand,
bright bits of one's life clasped tight in its claws.

Finally, finally, I come to believe in loss as a way of knowing.

How long does it take to hear what the silence is saying?
I stand at a stoplight, waiting for the colors to change.
At forty-five one has to deal with muscles and eyesight fading.
Not just fading like blue from the knees of your favorite jeans
or lights on a stage holding only a now silent microphone,
but fading like a goateed poet in a stingy brim hat
covering the bets of a hooded man with unholy holes for eyes
and the curved blades of scythes where his fingernails should be.

Finally, finally, I come to believe in loss as a way of knowing.

If the Blues is a river, doesn't it both carry in and wash away?
LEDs are replacing halogen and incandescent lamps
and now the headlights of some approaching cars are slightly blue
as his velvet tone joins the voices of all my fallen fathers,
and I tremble, ever so slightly, like a kite in a breeze
or the reed in a Harmon mute during a note's last linger.

Finally, finally . . . I come to believe in loss as a way of knowing.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Honfleur reading

Hey kids, I'll be reading with Patrick AKA Black Picasso this Wed. June 6th at 7:30PM @ the Honfleur Gallery in Anacostia. Should be fun, I've revised 'How I became a Poet' and 'A New Note on Tone' and look forward to reading both of those. I'm also considering doing a new chapbook, although I doubt I'll have it ready for the reading.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Hey all, long time no post. I'll be reading at the Kennedy Center this Mon. (14th) at 6PM at the Millenium Stage. Actually I'll be slamming with some older poets;Regie Kabico, Silvana Straw, Chris August against some younger poets. For those of you who didn't make it, there is a live stream available on the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage website The 'Artist' is DC WritersCorps and the year is 2007, my first poem is about 14 minutes in.

Also, one of my poems seems to have taken on a life of its own. The poem "48 Hours After You Left" was recently re-published in "Love Poetry Out Loud" edited by Robert Alden Rubin on Algonquin Books, after being published in "Spoken Word Revolution". If you click on the link provided on the sidebar however, you will notice that the current posting of the poem is on someone else's MySpace page. It isn't clear if the girl who posted this is trying to claim credit for it, or just posting it because it expreses how she feels. It is however posted without proper attribution, and this is the third time I have found this particular poem posted this way on the web on someone else's webpage. I am very happy that people found some sort of connection to my work, I do however wish that they would credit me. All in all it's probably a good problem to have.