April 29, 2011

Encaustic {Soul Music} [jana]


1 Wood panel board
Oil Paints
Pure Beeswax, tempered with 10% harder wax, like Carnauba or Damar Resin. (The surface would be too soft without this tempering that lends a surface.)
Pottery tools for scraping and engraving

And also, heat is needed, the fire, the crucible.

The palette, an electric griddle, stolen from the kitchen. It holds at a low temperature. Wait. It will take some time for the wax to heat through and become ready to use.

And then there are the tools to fuse the layers together, heat guns and torches, heated knives and spoons for burnishing, all weapons of transformation. Paper, for burying within, to be revealed or not, by choice.

Photocopies, shadows, to be transferred to the surface, leaving ghosts of meaning.

The wax is hot and honey-scent rising, consecrates the studio.


Layers down, clear, then colors. Buried notes and papers. No one will ever see them.

Each layer fused by torch and gun, permanence. The wax tempers and seals, layers built hard and uncompromising, a glassy surface, hiding richness.

Now for the knives. Potter’s tools, Razor blades. Choices, slices, removing the layers built so hard and well. Pull back the surface and find what you left behind, the pain and purpose of it, the promises obscured. And down to the wood.


You could always melt it all off, start over. The battle erased, forfeit.

The surface is battered, but now rich in depth now. Fuse once more with flame.

The transfer design must be rubbed in carefully to the still-warm wax, then saturated with water {baptized?} and washed away, leaving the trace resting like a prayer over the surface.


...continue reading...

April 26, 2011

Unorganized Religion [judd]

I’m ready for some unorganized religion
Any day of the week, prepared for anything
I bring a guitar and you a poem
Together we make a song
He brings a thought
She, an open mind
Together they share an idea
Jesus is there
He’s listening as he sits
On the arm of the sofa
Now lingering with us in the kitchen
Drinking the last cup of coffee
And not making more

So now we need a rule that if you
Drink the last cup,
Even if you’re Jesus,
You must make more coffee
Jesus, you got this started and now
Because of you, we need a rule
Where once we followed you,
Highest prince, loveliest lord,
Now we follow more rules because
Rules are like potato chips
You can’t have just one.

And pretty soon we’re talking about
Buildings, bylaws, and budgets
When we get to that point
I’m getting out
Jesus and me, we’re going
To the Starbucks at the mall
Where I don’t expect Jesus
To make the coffee
The two of us, unorganized

...continue reading...

April 22, 2011

Assisi [jenna]

“Totally give yourself over to the One who gave Himself totally for love of you.”—St. Francis to St. Clare

A city set on a hill, I thought, looking at Assisi for the first time. The train had carried us through miles of open countryside, leaving us at the base of the mound on which Assisi sits like a fortress. We caught a bus and rode to the hilltop.

A breeze met us in the center of the city, sharp with fall’s chill and threatening rain. I wrapped my sweater and rain jacket around me—the warmest clothes I’d brought—and we headed toward the basilica of St. Francis.

After a week in Rome, where the fast-paced modern city hurtles over, around, and through Baroque churches and pagan ruins, it was a relief to walk along quiet streets. Assisi lacked the force of Rome and the fashion of Siena; it was simple, settled, at rest. We peered through the windows of tiny tourist shops and admired softly reddish Italian buildings that seemed on the point of crumbling with age. As we approached the basilica of St. Francis, the quiet began to feel consecrated, as if the town itself were hallowed by the spirits of its two well-beloved saints.

Giovanni Francesco di Bernadone—St. Francis, brother of all creatures, lover of poverty, wholehearted in everything he did, is one of the best-known saints in Christendom. Francis founded the “Lesser Brothers”, a monastic order that wholeheartedly renounced wealth. Their example for that was Francis himself, who stripped off his name and social standing along with the very clothes his father gave him.

When he heard Christ speak from a crucifix in the little church of San Damiano, saying “Rebuild my church”, Francis took the request literally and began rebuilding the run-down structure by hand. The deeper result of Christ’s call came later. As Francis’ faith and works became more widely known, his obedience to that call became known to Pope Innocent III, who had a dream about the passionate young monk. Now, outside St. John Lateran (the Pope’s parish basilica), Innocent’s vision stands: a statue of St. Francis, placed so that when you look at it from the right angle, you can see the little man holding up the big Church.

Back in Assisi, a woman named Chiara (Clare) Offreduccio heard Francis preach and took his messages to heart. Clare’s parents wanted her to marry a wealthy man, but she escaped with Francis’ help, eventually becoming his friend and founding an order of nuns that joined Francis’ brothers in a life of poverty, hard work and prayer.

Both of those saints, neither of whom owned anything that was not given to them, now have basilicas named in their honor. St. Francis’ basilica is dark and lovely, with broken frescoes in the upper level and a simple little chapel around the tomb of Francis himself. St. Clare’s interior is mostly destroyed; its beauty lies in its pink and white marble façade, the splendid view of olive groves and countryside from its courtyard, and in the crucifix from San Damiano church, where you can kneel and try to pray with some of the devout joy and loving surrender that Francis and Clare once did.

Other churches in town contain relics and memories of the friends. The Chiesa Nuova (New Church) hosts the little cupboard-under-the-stairs sort of room where Francis’ father locked him for his disdain of money, and somewhere I remember seeing the coarse, simple garments the saints wore—small things and few, in aged brown and cream colors.

The humility and devotion of Francis and Clare drew attention from popes and put Assisi on the map, at least as a place of pilgrimage. But humility and devotion still linger in the art and air of the town. With less grandeur than Rome boasts, and decay sped by the earthquake that damaged the basilicas, the city isn’t much of a tourist destination compared with the rest of Italy unless you’re interested in the faith.

I wanted to stay there. After touring a few big churches, the wealth and glory starts to blur together. Assisi was a place to stop and breathe, to write, to think, and most of all to pray.

"Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your entire being into the image
of the Godhead Itself through contemplation.
So that you too may feel what His friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
that God Himself has reserved from the beginning
for those who love Him” — St. Clare

...continue reading...

April 19, 2011

Not Enough [liz]

My father hates money spent, left unused
I hate time passed without you
We are missing too much

We wait for you
Each week gain and lose
Unnatural rhythm, but you jump right in
How do we find security in a dynamic climate,
Smooth the lines that leave such an impression?

...continue reading...

April 15, 2011

The Air and the Ground [jake]

Note: This piece is a form that a friend-of-a-friend of mine invented called a tri-ku: three haikus connected by enjambment of the last line of one haiku and first line of the next.

O, pinions connect
tendons to feathers aloft
and aloof. Such a

thin security,
veiled vulnerability.
O, pinions! Clip them

and watch the birds drop.
How impossible: grace was
the air and the ground.

...continue reading...

April 12, 2011

Broken Rib [sean]

Sunk into the sweat-soaked spread of carpet on the floor,
When it’s good, I’m still left here mourning for more, for more.
And how do I explain—it’s the wine, it never tastes quite fine,
And the books don’t seem to hold any interest.
And the people don’t seem to hold any interest.
And the games don’t seem to hold any interest.
And the black dog saunters up again to bite the Hand that feeds,
He wraps his hand around my shoulder and whispers, “you get up off your knees,”
He says “Let’s paint a smile, let’s place a face on that disease.”
And I don’t get off my knees, but he never goes away; he just keeps coming and coming.
And I don’t get off my knees, but I never get a break;
He just kicks me in the gut again, and again, and takes my breath away.
With the smile made through gritted teeth, the ribs still cracked and sore,
It’s the case that when it’s good, I’m still left here mourning for more, for more.
The room fills up again—I wince, take an inoculation, and try to make some conversation.
But it’s the case that when it’s good, I’m still left here mourning for more, for more.
And the food doesn’t seem to hold any interest.
And the candles don’t seem to hold any interest.
And the sun doesn’t seem to hold any interest.
And nothing seems to hold any interest, but I keep pressing on for more, for More.

...continue reading...

April 8, 2011

Untitled [tony]

I've traveled far and wide
from places you can only imagine
of all places for me to choose
i have chosen here to rest

this metal woven wall
is my home for the time being
in a moment i could be gone
not knowing where i'm headed

at least you were here to catch my story

...continue reading...

April 5, 2011

A Giant in Playland [justin]

You have to be careful where you touch the children.

No... let me start earlier than that and give a backgroundal anecdote. My first adult experience was somewhere in New Jersey. I was 20 at the time, and a small gaggle of high school seniors and myself were on our way to a friend’s parents’ beach house for the weekend. It was dark, but not late, when we pulled into the parking lot about an hour out from our destination.

For one reason or another, James, one of the seniors, and I decided to crawl around the subhuman-sized gerbil tubes, a collection of mass proportion in comparison to other golden arches locations. It must have been a full moon or maybe an overdose on orange drink or perhaps all Jersey children struggle with cannibalism, but for whatever reason, a pact of them decided we were a threat and started bombarding us relentlessly, some screaming Roman war phrases.

It’s a scary thing to be suspended in a confined space, far from home, hearing the guffaw of human hyenas, feeling the whole structure shake as they get closer. At the end of the the tube I’m in, I see a little girl slowly turn the corner with blood around her mouth... this is obviously ketchup from her happy meal, but with the florescent lighting casting shadows in weird places, she might as well have been a Zombie. And one thing is for sure, kid zombies (or vampires or disembodied spirits) are always more frightening than the adult version.

I quickly make it out to freedom, but James was stuck in section 4, between the cargo net and the firetruck wheel. The kids attacked from both sides and I remember James’ face peering out through one of of the small windows in the red tube with a look of disbelief, almost like he was thinking, “This is how I’m going to die?” What do you do in such a situation? You can’t hit the kids and saying anything in grown-up speak just kindles more rage (damn Power Rangers) that they’ve been suppressing since lunch time when Dad wouldn't allow seconds on the fruit roll-ups. So you cover your face with one arm, and your groin with the other, and push through to the escape hatch—that is, the slide.

James made it and we laughed about the whole thing with wide eyes. Parents just nodded with big grins about how athletic or imaginative or resourceful their little angels were in the pilage. It’s hard for parents to be objective with their kids in given situations. Typically we either exasperate our offspring with correction in trying to create a better version of ourselves or we get all starry eyed as we stare into Narcissus’ pool and say they can do no wrong.

Anyway, I digress. The invasion of elderly persuasion was 9 years ago and things have changed in my world. Now when this giant enters playland, his 19 month old daughter, a native ambassador, escorts him. This doesn’t make things perfect, but I have yet to be unrighteously ambushed in my travels with her. In fact now I have to be more aware of those without than those within the PVC tubing.

As we pull into the parking lot and my daughter realizes what we are doing, she gets uber excited, with arms flailing, saying “Yeah? Yeah?” in a way that means “Daddy, please don’t break my heart. If this is a tease, let me know now.” I enter in with her like any other onto the shores of playland; the only thing distinguishing me, initally at least, is that I have the cutest girl in the room. After her shoes are off, mine come off (using two cubby holes to my daughter’s one) and that’s where people start noticing me more.

It’s more than likely a Saturday morning so I’m wearing torn pajama pants with Adidas shorts over top of them; my hair, if not under a hat, is unkempt; my facial hair, typically not trimmed. None of these things really matter. But in some way, they do when you know your child is going to be in a confined area with this person.

Which brings me to the opening line. Once an adult enters playland and is cleared by the presence of their ambassador, they simply become a tool for the smaller kids to make it to the next level, usually in order to get to the bigger slide. In the space allotted typically it would be most natural and easiest to help the kids up by pushing on their butt, and while they wouldn’t think twice about it, a parent on the outside might. Instead, I suggest grabbing their chubby little legs, one per hand, and hiking them up that way... it’s surprisingly more awkward logistically, as sometimes they’ll flail in different directions as compared to the centered rumpus, but it is safer in terms of “why is that guy touching my kid?”

Another tip... don’t disappear for a long time. Sometimes my daughter just wants to spin the car wheel around and around and around in the back quadrant, which is fine, but when Johnny 5 comes to check out what’s going on and mom or dad can’t see him directly with the Giant, things could get sketchy in their minds. Also, stick to the corners, being careful not to block the windows to the outsiders for too long... drug deals can happen fast nowadays.

Oh, and for the love of God, watch your elbows. At the time of writing, I count six plastic brush burns from the slides. They are the kind that look sort of wet and white at first and then turn red and scabby later. Beware, my friends—Giants can be hurt, too.

Last note. If you are a young male and you’re going to enter the playland place fully, you are absolutely not allowed to have just a mustache for facial hair. People will automatically assume that the child with you was kidnapped and brainwashed... just avoid any possibility of that debacle and you should then fall under peaceable diplomatic legislation.

...continue reading...

March 25, 2011

Ghost [jana]

I’m living to be invisible,
waking to disappear.
Hoping to be a cloud
a blade of grass
wanting to be lost
or anything but noticed.
Attention means only pain or pity.
What invisible really is
—a kind of suicide—
No one ever says it out loud.
They’re happy to tolerate.
Just as long as I keep quiet and
vacuum my footprints
from the carpet.
I was never here.

...continue reading...

March 22, 2011

At the Hotel Pescille [judd]

Lay your head back my beauty
Let the sun bake if only for
One poisonous moment
You won’t feel this angle of
Solar ray much longer for
In only four days, no three now
We go back, all the way back
(And we do not know at
This sunny juncture
What awaits us,
A nor’easter and a crowded
Newark Airport with people
Acting badly toward other people
Who happen to have wings on their
Lapels but not on their backs)
But now an angel grills
Our lunch over glowing wood
An archangel whose scarred head
Bows over the inferno
He brought us this amber wine
This Vernacia
And my love rises with
Each magnificent sip

...continue reading...

March 18, 2011

Santa Maria Assunta in Siena [jenna]

The train chugged away, taking the backdrop of the twenty-first century with it. Siena stretched ahead of us, small and lovely, contentedly seven hundred years old.

Once a rival to Florence, the little city of Siena was arrested by the plague, cut off before its growth boom could flourish and give it the power Florence later attained. Its architecture survives from the Middle Ages, its modern aspects—shops, cars, hip young Italians and tourists—merely layered on top or corking little holes in the structure. Terrible as the Black Death was, it left a segment of history intact that more powerful later years too often destroyed.

We climbed streets and stairs, wondering at svelte little boutiques tucked into brick walls with iron rings for tying up horses. The tiny, brightly-colored cars that Italians like to drive rattled across the cobblestones, fearless among the pedestrian traffic.

At the Il Campo piazza, a popular stop for both tourists and pigeons, we took pictures against the clock tower before heading onward. Our main goal was Siena's cathedral.

Green and white striped marble walls came into view first, rough at the tops and arches, obviously unfinished. The expansion of the duomo (Italian for cathedral) had been caught half-completed during the Black Death.

The front of the building stood facing away from us as we approached. We crossed the half-enclosed courtyard, rounded the corner, and all of us stopped to stare. Horses, bears, eagles, angels, lions, and myriad other carvings took their form from a high wall of pink marble. Biblical scenes filled in the peaks, brilliant images against gold backgrounds. It was wholly unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and though the high doors waited, it took me awhile to convince myself to look away long enough to enter.

The medieval carved stone floors, worn after centuries of booted tread, are uncovered for viewing only six weeks of the year. We got lucky. Even at the ticket booth, though, I couldn't at first drop my eyes to the floor. The walls and pillars all around me were of the same green and white stripe, with Gothic lines and points. Frescoes appeared regularly along the walls, and stars were painted into midnight blue peaked ceilings. Being American and used to finding age and grandeur in brick churches and concrete courthouses, I’d lost my breath at sight of the huge baroque wonders of Rome—but even Rome could not compete for beauty against the sharp upward focus of the older Goth.

Once through the ticket booth, I walked over to the first roped-off section of floor. There, traced into the marble, was Hermes Trismegistus. He held a book that—in Latin—said something about God the creator of all things and His Son the Holy Word. As a student of the alchemical influence on Christian literature, I nearly broke the solemn quiet with a squeal at finding the author of the Corpus Hermeticum on a cathedral floor. It was contact with the reality of the Middle Ages— when science and faith considered themselves friends, not enemies; when pagan thought was simply sifted and baptized, rather than abhorred as wholly evil.

Hermes was not my last startling discovery upon the floors. The Slaughter of the Innocents, a depiction of the murder of the baby boys in Judaea just after Christ’s birth, was difficult to look at without tears. Elsewhere, King David’s son Absalom hung caught in a tree by his hair. Men rode the philosophical Wheel of Fortune (Pat Sajack and Vanna White not included) from worldly might to poverty and back again; I had never heard of the mythic Wheel, but later learned that Christians used it to remember that the mighty will fall, and that the things of earth are only earthly.

Pillar bases, the baldacchino, music stands and gates—everything above the floor appeared to be carved or sculpted or painted. Michelangelo's St. Paul stood in one of the many corners, and at one point I peered through an iron gate into a little bit of paradise—flowers, candles, and a beautiful icon of the Madonna and Child. We lit a candle there, and stopped to pray.

Off to the side, a little library proved another treasury: illuminated chant manuscripts, enormous things meant to be read by a choir of monks all at once. The colors of illumination are like nothing else, I thought. We managed to sound out part of one of the chants together, two half-trained schola singers wrestling with quilismae and heavily flourished calligraphy.

We left the duomo with a long look back at the beautiful facade and met up with modernity long enough to stop for pizza.

...continue reading...

March 15, 2011

Minor Hysterics [liz]

I bled that night. Blood makes us remember we are not invincible, we do not last forever, and hurt when cut. It is our downfall—forgetting. Push it out of the mind and stay alive—survive. But all that life, warm and red, was spilled and left to dry.

A child is a gift, a joy to our tired and broken lives. Their simple need and perfect trust weakens our defenses, opening up doors for love to flood and overrun. But even in all their brilliance, they cannot give us what we need to be better; they shine a light on our good and our bad. That night I saw both.

They got home a few minutes past six with word he didnʼt have a great day, nor did he sleep well the night before. I went out to the car to pull him from his seat—wet tears, but no longer any sobs. We went inside to chase the cat and follow colored balls across the room. Excitement, laughter, and love: I never would have known he had a bad day. I sat on the ground and fed him orange mush, stars, and drink. I changed him fresh and held him on the bed, Daddy beside and bottle in mouth. For a moment, calm and still.

BANG, BANG, BANG on the door.

He got up to get the door. I held back with the child, heart pounding, “I donʼt like the sound of that.”

I couldnʼt hear much but a woman loud and angry.

“Whereʼs your phone?”
“I donʼt know.”
“I called you several times and you didnʼt answer.”
“I must have left it in the car.” He goes to the car, opens the door, pulls from the middle compartment. “See! I forgot it in the car.”
“You knew I would be worried about him. You knew I would call....”

She went on ranting while her ten year old son waited in the car. The drive from house to house familiar but no less tiring, mother righteous and enraged—the place they were supposed to call home. He watches from behind darkened glass as dreams are dimmer and dimmer. A boy, but her man; he tries to fill what she lacks. He waits more than any of us; he longs for more than momentary peace.

“Give me my son.”
“Come on. Donʼt do this.”
“Give me my son.”
He sighs and walks into the house. He goes to the hallway, grabs the boy from my arms and passes him to mom. She grabs the boy, turns and walks toward the car. Big brother takes the boy and straps him in safely while she drives away.

The door shuts, the blood falls, and no one speaks.

...continue reading...

March 11, 2011

With the Sun [jake]

I was walking somewhere else,
to some deadened destination.
Blackened, bloodied feet on gravel; blindfolded,
I sauntered onward in the night.
Then, with the sun, came redirection
from darkened paths
to sunlit streets.
I was walking in the light.

I was sleeping, dead at home,
far from the knock at my door.
In the kingdom of the bed, my throne
was like a coffin, and I
the jolly corpse, fattened on
dark fruit, reinforcing
the shades behind which I hid.
Then, like a syringe, the sun
invaded my tomb with medicine,
shining through the window
like revival,
exposing death to life,
and instantly I was visible,
instantly I was light.

I was someone else, glaring into mirrors
with loving-loathing eyes,
betrothed to my
reflection, unrecognized.
“Who are you?” I begged
and mimicked back at once.
I criticized my shadow, then
dug into its shallow skin—
to exhume the cavernous cadaver from within
my open chest. I explored,
but found no rest, even on my knees.
And then, with aubade hands,
You hung a lantern in my heart, to see.
You took me, touched me warm;
members newly arranged,
I found I’d been replaced, reformed.
I’d been illumined; I’d been known.

For awhile the world burned torches in the night.
Then, with the sun, came light.

...continue reading...

March 8, 2011

In Memoriam [sean]

He hangs on an emaciated frame,
Spreads His arms to take the blame,
Opens His mouth and screams in
Whispered tones and it is fin.
After that, nothing was the same.
And I, I am on my knees.
And I have nothing in my lungs,
And His empty eyes are staring through me.
Does it have to end like this?
I know the cost outweighs the prize.
And even Heaven brings down darkness
Upon the isles.
My head is soaked and in my hands.
I, too, have gone astray just like a lamb
Destined for slaughter.
Like God’s adopted sons and daughters.
He is pierced and all His blood pours down
Right beside where I am, curled up upon the ground.
He limps just like a damned tree left in autumn,
Just like a dead tree left for spring.

...continue reading...

March 4, 2011

Daughter [tony]

tossed upon the ground like garbage
you lay there for days on end
waiting for your prince charming
to come swoop you up into his arms

isn’t that what every woman wants, to be safe
yet this one must lay here severed and broken to pieces

hoping and praying that her day will come
she lays there mindless
afraid of being hurt again
she's taken too much of a beating as it is

stripped naked, embarrassed of her self
just lying there hoping the people passing
would rather think she is dead then alive

lying there motionless with only one thing on her heart
is how she got to this point
all she has left to cherish is her own heart
and yet that is broken into pieces as well

...continue reading...

March 1, 2011

Experiment: The Revival of Clerihew [justin]

A few ground rules:

  1. Four relatively short lines
  2. AABB rhyme structure
  3. Feel is neo-whimsical, satirical maybe, possibly making some of that non-sense up, with a touch of “Do you mean that or are you just trying to be clever?”; compiled in a sitting with no long pondering or musing.
  4. All revivals have something new; the “biographical subjects” here are then to be somewhat personified entities though not human.
Hello Hope
I understand why you mope
It’s often hard to be the middle child
All alone when Faith abandoned and Love reviled
Glorious Gluttony
On my lips like honey
You are a virtue that shows us our worth
Against a vice, there’s no need for rebirth
Excellent Enemy
Coals on your head, ebony
True teacher of love which you launder
Your eyes remind me of my Daughter
Listen here Library
Words aren’t your primary?
There is dust on your pages and limbs, amputee
But people still flock for your collection of DVD
Goodbye Grudge
You house guest of sludge
I’d like to get stuck with you on an island in Polynesia
But as you know your death is by my common amnesia
Simulacra say...
Who will we be today?
No senses are needed in this now golden age
Cause our souls are now housed on a profile page
Christmas cause
No time to pause
Knowing not my family is like a rib with a shiv
I wonder if Jesus ever felt forced to give?

...continue reading...

February 25, 2011

Punctuation [jana]

Exclamation Point is a cheat—forcing emotion into words without conviction.
Question Mark is a fake—most of the time, it’s not really a question anymore.

The Comma, filling pauses, filing drama,
promiscuous as dandelion seed, scattered
by whatever breeze it is that drives the inner voice.

Apostrophe—a shortcut for those who can’t afford to wait for the “no”.
But O! Ampersand—herald of connection.

...continue reading...

February 22, 2011

Shovelosophy [judd]

“Shovel,” I say as we
Make our way
Throwing aside
White refuse
That will melt
If shoveled
Or not

“Shovel, among tools
You’re plain, simple
Ancient in origin
Never changing
Just handle and blade
My sweat the

“Shovel, unaltered
You’re a changer
All that you touch
Earth, manure, snow
Your purpose set
By changing

“Shovel, in Spring
We dig the dirt
For bulbs and seeds
In Fall we dig up
The food, fuel to
Shovel white

“Shovel, all is
Folly, said a king
Who never shoved
A shovel to build
His father’s temple
I agree in

...continue reading...

February 18, 2011

Write! [guest]

Can I write?
Can I write?
Please let me write!
It's what I need in my life,
to write, write, write.
I'll write a book if you'd let me.
I'd write poems especially.
I can't write right now, it's depressing.

(Part 2: The next day)

I need to write a poem to say something.
I need to make my poetry right.
Write like American Poetry.
Write like Foreign Poetry.
I can write poetry.
Writing my poetry gives me delight.
I need to make my poetry right tonight.
Write like activist poetry.
Write like parody poetry.
I make this poetry write.
Writing this poetry keeps my insights so tight.
I write this poetry for my LORD above.
I write this poetry to settle the demons that love,
to disrupt my rhyme.
Write like Gospel poetry.
Write like Open Mic/bar room poetry.
I write to get right.
Writing this seems to make some sense.
I have to write.
Write like Cowboy Poetry (yee haw)
Write like centuries-old poetry.
It is my right to write this poetry.
I'm writing this to bring true poetry back in my life.
I make poetry write.
Write like Dramatic poetry.
Write like Spoken Word/Slam Poetry.
Making any form seem right to me.
Because if I can write my poetry,
it makes me my poetry.

I'm currently a GED student that has developed a knack for writing. My writing has always been a joy to me and I have enjoyed it for almost 8 years now. ~ Josiah Koppenhaver

...continue reading...

February 17, 2011

St. Peter's [jenna]

A vast aggregate of humanity thronged the city, more varied than I'd ever seen anywhere: casual Americans like myself, svelte Italians, African nuns in simple white habits, flocks of Asians, Latin-praying French traditionalists, perky Germans, an enormous class of Chilean students in matching suits of dark blue, Hungarians in bright uniforms, the Swiss National Guard in even brighter ones. People speaking languages I couldn't recognize. And as always, the Romanian gypsies with their open containers.

In St. Peter's square, gathered under a sky that threatened rain, people from more countries and cultures than I could count packed themselves into chairs. The young girls in front of me spoke German. One of them had a chunk of her hair dyed pink. She dropped her lipstick, and said "Danke schoen" in a cheery voice when I handed it to her. I just smiled, unsure what the reply would have been in German. Russian or Spanish or French, I could have managed. But not German. The smile seemed to be enough.

Pigeons and gray jays kept a watch on the ground, ready to dive at dropped food. The rain held off. I scribbled in a notebook, whiling away the two-hour wait, pausing occasionally to stare half-seeing at the statues that lined the top of the colonnade, or at the enormous pillars of the basilica. Behind those pillars were doors, and behind the doors was St. Peter's.

I had hardly been able to get enough of the basilica. With my husband and his parents and friends, I'd climbed the five-hundred-and-some steps to the top of the cupola and later toured the excavations below the crypt. We had seen the Vatican museums, which culminate in the Sistine Chapel. We'd been to Mass a few times, where I whispered along with the Latin introit on All Saints' Day and listened in tears when several men sang an Italian hymn—the tune, at least, of which was Nearer, My God, To Thee.

My first entry into that church had been marked with tears. I'd walked through the doors, glanced to my right, and been immediately arrested by the sight of Michelangelo's Pietà. How do you not cry before that beautiful, heartbreaking image? Then I'd gone down the length of the church, stopped under the dome, and read the words written around that massive circle. Tv es Petrvs et svper hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam. Tibi dabo claves regni caelorvm. "...You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." The words blurred over as the end of that splendid verse came to mind: "...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Those memories kept near me as I sat out in the piazza, under the still-threatening, still-withholding sky. The Swiss Guard walked around, stern and quiet, making sure the crowd stayed within the fenced areas. The Hungarian band played something brassy; a soprano sang something pretty. I didn't understand the words.

When the little white car drove out along the colonnade, several thousand people moved as one to stand on their chairs.

The German girls prattled, excited, peering around. I stepped carefully onto my seat, hoping I wouldn't fall and make dominoes of my row-mates, and turned to follow the car's progress. I am not much of a celebrity watcher—I might read tabloid covers in a checkout line, but mostly out of boredom or admiration for the beautiful faces. This was different.

Cameras were everywhere around me, flashing, probably catching a blurry head of thick brown hair in one corner as Pope Benedict XVI came near. The old man in the white robe stood holding to his safety rail, waving, dark circles under his eyes. The car carried him within a few yards of us and rolled slowly on around the piazza. At last it drove halfway up the terrace and stopped.

Once settled under the canopy, he prayed. He gave a little homily in Italian, and a short version in English—then French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and last, a Polish speaker read out a translated copy. The pope blessed a number of couples who had been married in the last year, and then the audience was over and the crowd began to thin, the jays still hoping for a little free food, the Chilean students standing about in clusters.

Lou and I went down the Borgo Pio—far enough down to escape the overpriced shops at the front—and ordered cappucini. We drank them slowly, talking over the trip and everything we'd loved.

We would leave St. Peter's for good a day later. My final thought, while trying to keep the tears back one last time, would be it helps to know it's there. Art and the sacred, working together. An image of unity amid diversity, greater than any I've ever found. And on the altars, the same beloved sacrifice found in the farthest and the poorest corners of the world—and in my own church, back at home.

And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

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February 15, 2011

Deep Soil [liz]

Deep below the ground
Rock turned hot, swims and stirs
It moves, and so do I

A row of roses, planted, watered
Fed by what once was,
Uprooted, forgotten, waiting for the outcome
No water, no soil—neglected

Picked back up, not yet dead
Set down in new earth
Watered, but the shock takes time
Watered and still waiting
Green appears and soon a bud,
The flower blooms, a rose

It is our story
Planted in good soil
Uprooted and waiting
Replanted, watered

Sun brings forth a rose.

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February 11, 2011

Nostalgia from Across the Room [jacob]

My grandpa lived in a one-story house on a quiet street in Florissant, Missouri—part of North County, St. Louis, and closer to the city than where I grew up. Still, his house, his street were just that: quiet. I think my Grandpa Block, my mom’s dad, prefers to keep things that way. He tries not to impose. We didn’t visit him at his house too often—not as often as Grandma and Grandpa Alagna (Mom’s mom and stepdad) or Grandma and Grandpa Feld (my dad’s parents)—but I remember his house, in flashes, senses, and colors. I remember his house in feelings.

His lawn was well-kept, stiff blades of bright green grass like a giant crew cut, with a paper birch tree, shining white, planted in the center of the front yard. The first tree I’d ever climbed. I can recall visits with my brothers and cousins, playing tag, chasing each other around the yard: racing around the pale concrete bench, hopping on the footpath of circular stones placed around the bushes, and shimmying up the great white tree, accidentally scraping off shavings of bark. It peeled off so easily I had always thought the tree was ancient.

Around back there was a beige shed next to a concrete birdhouse and a small, modest garden in the back left corner, near the fence. After his heart surgery, my brothers and I took turns pulling Grandpa’s old bag-mower out of that shed and trimming his tidy yard. There was a large wooden porch with a grill. In high school I helped sand and stain it, after Grandpa had moved out and my parents had bought the house to rent out for supplementary income.

His house had a distinct smell, not malodorous, but distinct, recognizable. It was the same scent of his car, of his clothes; it was the scent of Grandpa Block. As a kid I had subconsciously attributed the smell to my great grandma, who used to live there before she died when I was in fourth grade. Although I remember her, I do not remember her well: she was kind, restricted in movement, and I felt a little uneasy around her, but I was obliged to greet her and bid her goodbye each time we visited. After she bid us goodbye, the scent remained, and I knew it did not belong to her.

Inside, the house was small, simple. Through the front door was an L-shaped grouping of rooms: the dining-room-turned-office at the base of the L and the living room to the left, stemming toward the back of the house. The dim, little office to the right—a room I scarcely remember being in—had a desk and lamp, probably a bookshelf. A sort of half wall (decorated with family pictures and porcelain figures of Catholicism: saints and Marys and angels) separated it from the kitchen—a room which removed any doubt that the house was not built in the ‘70s. In a “Partridge Family” yellow, orange, and brown motif, the phony linoleum tile floor matched perfectly the floral pattern of the wallpaper—all which coordinated with the faded yellow appliances and brown counters and cupboards. A round, wood table sat in the center of the tiny room with thick, brown-upholstered, rolling chairs around it. Grandpa always had a gallon jug of lemon Gatorade in his refrigerator. I recall drinking it sometimes, out of brightly colored, thick-plastic cups. The first time I ever tried Gatorade was at his house; it didn’t taste as much like Kool-Aid as I’d hoped.

At the right of the kitchen were two doors (one to the garage and one to the basement) placed so close together that opening the door from the garage had the potential to knock a hapless grandchild down the stairs—a design flaw to be sure, but a manageable one. Our parents and aunts constantly monitored the space, yelling for us to slow down and be careful and watch out. Still six grandchildren sprinted down the stairs like maniacs, inventing games and playing with the ping pong table or the miniature basketball hoop—like the type found in arcades: fully equipped with a safety net, a scoreboard, sound effects, and ten tiny basketballs just waiting to be shot (or hurled at one another). I remember disassembling the net, when Grandpa moved out, and giving it away.

Most of my time spent there as a kid was in the living room (the vertical portion of the L). I remember the brown carpet and the burgundy recliner in the corner by the window, eventually replaced by a faded blue one to match the couch against the far left wall, which faced the tiny television set. Toward the back of room was a closet near the hallway that had toys in it; my brothers and I would bring them out into the room and play while the grownups talked. I remember a toy aircraft carrier and handful of planes—all of which ended up at our house—and Lincoln Logs. Grandpa Block’s house was the only place I’d ever played with Lincoln Logs. It wasn’t until after years of playing with them that I first read the container and realized that they were not called “Linkin’ Logs.” That may have been my first recognition of a pun.

Down the hallway, past the closet, was a bathroom on the left, bedecked in various shades of pink: pink tile floor, pink wallpaper, pink shower, pink shower curtain, pink toilet, pink sink, and so on. It wasn’t bright, blinding pink, but something softer, and inviting. Though it always struck me as slightly funny that my grandpa would have an all pink bathroom, now I think that it was probably my great grandma’s idea. Anyway, I had always liked that bathroom.

Further back at the end of the hall was Grandpa’s bedroom to the left and an additional bedroom to the right, which had been converted into many other things over the years—the most recent of which was essentially a combined office and storage room, but I have little memory of either the bedroom or the “multipurpose” room, as a kid. When Grandpa moved the first time, into an apartment to live closer to his then girlfriend, Dee, I was in high school; my brothers and I helped my parents take apart his bed, remove the mirror from his dresser, march the furniture out of my grandpa’s house. Stacks of boxes filled the room across the hall, each weighted with Grandpa’s belongings; one-by-one, we marched them out of the house.

Grandpa lives in my parents’ house now, with my mom and dad and two of my brothers. He has the entire basement to himself and doesn’t come up all that often, usually to do the chores my brothers should be doing: washing the dishes or walking the dog. It seems he only leaves the house to ride his bike or go to early morning Mass. He greets me warmly when I come home from college, tells me I look healthy, and then retreats back down the stairs. Usually praying or watching old movies on TV. Still trying not to impose.

In the two years that he’s lived with my parents, I’ve found myself curious about him, more than I ever was as a kid, discovering little details in every interaction and regretting that I hadn’t been so interested before. I might have known that he never attended college, or that he used to play baseball as a kid—and that he was apparently quite good—that he is incredibly kind and prays often, devoted to God out of a love I now admire. I’ve seen firsthand that he cries openly, though silently, during emotional parts of sappy movies, and I’ve screamed with laughter at his comicality, playing games around the dining room table with our family.

And he laughed, too.

He laughs heartily.

He laughs silently.

In Grandpa’s old house, in the living room, on the wall just above the couch, hung a painting of which, although it was always present, I only have one distinct memory. My parents had bought the house by this time, so it was mostly empty. My mom was around somewhere cleaning, but I was in the living room standing about where the TV had been, staring at this painting: a rainy day in Paris, France, early 20th Century. A dreary street sparsely populated by umbrella-toting passersby, casually strolling about the Arc de Triomphe. A vivid image, clear from my position. As I approached the painting, however, the streetlights and umbrellas and little, Parisian pedestrians became thick blobs and ridges and rough brushstrokes, wholly indistinguishable from what they had been from across the room.

“That’s amazing,” I said to my mom, passing through the room.

“What?” she replied, halting in transit, gripping a sponge with one latex-gloved hand and some spray bottle of cleaning agent in the other.

“This painting: when you look at it from a distance, it looks so perfect and true-to-life, like it could be a photograph, but the closer you get, the details become blurry and you can’t tell what they are anymore. But,” I mused, “in a sense, it sort of becomes a painting again. You can see all the technique, dots, and mixtures. You know what you’re really looking at from close up.”

Mom nodded and smiled, “Pretty neat, huh?” and continued to the back of the house.

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February 8, 2011

This Is the End of a Beautiful Relationship [sean]

Someday, the sun will start to go down
And then another winter will begin to set in;
And the Autumn leaves will fall down assisted
By the smell of lightning as the dawn grows dim.
In that day, I will look down at your shoes,
As you look across and rest your knowing stare on mine,

Knowing that the rain of last fall is growing older,
Of course, with time, the memories are growing colder.

A part inside of me is crushed and crumpled up like paper,
The awkward sentences make everything strangely beautiful.
There is a feeling that comes in Autumn, but a little later
Changes colour, and then is carried away with the leaves.

On the patio, two lovers are dancing, encircled by lanterns and spice;
As he pulls away, she follows him in, and he follows her in, and it's reversal again.
There is, here, the lightest kiss on the forehead and on the neck,
But the record stops and the hands stumble, and then fall down again.

The heat on my face; it bleeds away in exchange for something cool.
Light dancing on my glasses-frames goes red and falls into the night.
What the car ride fails to soothe is a quiet ache that gives a whisper,
Tucks in its chin, and pulls up every word from every single fight.
Now that Summer's gone, it's Autumn, beckoning to Winter "come on."
Spring is just a forgotten memory of some hopeful misty morning,
Now replaced with a chill and a warning (a chill and a warning).

Some years ago I ran with the wind and climbed the apple trees;
But today I discovered that something had changed, and I hate poetry.

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February 4, 2011

Childhood [tony]

If childhood had a voice she would scream
screaming so loud that she was silent to the ones nearby
hidden by the walls of this hell hole of a home
where the walls crumble and the windows shatter
because of all the hatred buried in the plaster
and fake facial expressions stained within the glass
a childhood so heartless,
wandering in circles trying to find something you're blind to is impossible
feet blistering, they themselves know that Journey has made his mark
but her mind is clueless to the pain, she's putting herself through
with the slightest hope that she might find this abandoning love
to never know what love is, to find something you know nothing about

as Journey does best stripping her down to her core
wondering where it is, his mind becomes in cloud with smoke of confusion
I've stripped you bare, it is not here, where are you hiding it
hiding what... The Love that I have not found, why do you want this Love so bad
because, I am Journey my name itself has searched far and wide
I've stripped millions bare and have not found it yet

here I stand dismantled in despair stripped to my core
trusting you of all things
letting you place my feet on this path you so call the way
shame on you

something has changed
I feel... joy,love and truth
I've found it, it's been here all along
having to confront you on my own
childhood had a heart, and it was found

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February 1, 2011

Frozen Hallowed Ground [justin]

6am. Morning coffee. Apple butter on rye toast.

Rex pulls back the canvas from the door frame and heads out ahead of the others. Pete turns off the kerosene heater and prepares the pull-wagon while Tom gathers the tools.

6 foot ladder, measuring rope. Gasoline. Wooden matches. Shovels and a pickax.

The sun is up but hasn’t crested over the mountains yet. The valley is still and radiant with the virgin snow reflecting any ambient light it can gather. The hamlet smells of cedar and cypress smoke which pours out from the chimneys of the thirty or so houses.

Brick and mortar, outside. Dim glow, inside.

Rex passes St. Jude’s Church of the Resurrection where he and Maggie were married about 5 years prior. The building tries to make eye contact with him, but Rex continues with his vision elsewhere and burrows his thick, worn hands deeper into his pockets. The snow has a thin layer of ice on it that breaks as treaded upon. Rex thinks to himself how it sounds as though the land is exhaling with each step, and wonders why it would hold its breath for so long.

Overwhelmed. Stubbornness. Horror.

Tom and Peter find Rex by the hillside, in the lonely part of a cemetery, staring at a poor man’s tombstone. Pete carefully and methodically measures out the plot and Tom pours gasoline first around its borders and then in its hub. Rex strikes a match on the side of the box and the flames quickly consume the snow and dead grass and for a brief moment flare up some green as the minerals in the dirt burn. The tundra is still frozen; if anything, the fire was memorial, something likened to a sacrament. “Guess we best get to work,” Pete mumbles.

1 meter wide, 2.4 long, 1.8 deep. 4.32 cubic meters. Concentration matters.

Folks tend to think it’s impossible to dig up a frozen grave site, when in reality it just takes 3 men who don’t mind sweating and being numb at the same time.

“May I ask what you boys are doing up here,” asks the would-be Sheriff who appears from nowhere.

Drunks. Lunatics. Grave robbers. Necrophiliacs.

“If you didn’t want anyone to notice you, you shouldn’t have set off that fire. My guess is that you’re looking for some gold or silver rings, maybe some heirlooms or such in the coffin below.”

“There’s no coffin below,” Rex said brashly.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. We all fall. Down.

Rex reached inside his pocket and handed the Sheriff a tattered piece of paper.

“I own this plot, sir. This is my land. I will do with it what I want.” Tom continued piercing the earth while Pete shoveled it away.

“What are you planning on doing here then, son,” the Sheriff said while handing back the deed, “bury yourself?”

“That’s already been done. This is my wife’s plot. She died 3 years ago.”

“Sorry to hear that, but I thought you said there was no coffin in that ground?”

Tom was getting annoyed by the law man’s “listening” skills.

“I did, sir. This is her place, her head stone. But when she and a few others all got sick and died around the same time, folks panicked and thought it was pestilence and would spread if they didn’t do something. So they burned the bodies… it wasn’t even a ceremony… no prayers, no order… just, just a pile of fear set ablaze. That’s when I left, and, I assume, shortly before you came into town.”

“That’d be about right. So where’d you go?”

“Two mountains over, three counties removed in coal country… to stay with her family. These are her brothers, Peter and Thomas. I’m Rex and, if you don’t mind, we have a lot of digging to do before sunset.”

“Pleasure, I’m sure. Still doesn’t answer what exactly you’re doing this morning.”

Rex took a moment.

“Maggie used to grow flowers and I was able to take a few with me when I left and keep some semblance of them over the past few years. But this year was rough and they didn’t re-grow for some reason. All I have left is a red one that’s been holding on for some reason. We’ve come to dig up Maggie’s plot, displace the dirt and plant the last one in the heart of the earth. I think she’d like that.”

“So you traveled three days, in the middle of winter, to spend countless hours digging in order to plant a flower in a hole and then fill it back up? Excuse me son, but that’s stupid… downright pointless and dangerous if you ask me.”

Peter and Tom looked at each other and then Rex.

Indignation. Exasperation. Pity.

Rex’s lips moved while his teeth stayed locked together. “Life is never pointless amongst death, only misunderstood.”

The Sheriff squinted his eyes, bit the inside of his cheek, spit and said, “I’d best be on my way, boys. Stay out of trouble, you hear?”

Rex, Pete, and Tom worked the rest of the day, not stopping to eat or even talk. They all thought about Maggie and what she meant to them in different ways. She was a gem even when she was pissing them off. The labor together uncovered memories of her that they had once forgotten and though they would never say anything, they all knew that day that there were tears mixed with their sweat.

Once they were finished, all three stood at the edge of the open grave, watching their breath escape them, and stared at their emphatic toil. The white snow clothed the brown mud which gave way visually to the red heart at the core. If nothing else, at least for a few minutes, it was a work of art. But the brothers and husband knew it was more than that as well.

Tom opened his mouth like a false start to a conversation, licked his lips, cleared his throat and then spoke. “She was always like that, you know… it didn’t matter if she was around the crude or the pure, she stuck out and shined differently than everyone around her.”

They shoveled the dirt back into the fissure of the earth, with no remorse or even thought of futility, knowing they loved and honored Maggie the best they knew how. Patting one another on the back, they packed up their tools and went back to their tent, resting and warming up and plotting their course for the morrow.

6pm. Evening coffee. Apple butter on rye toast. Maggie’s favorite.

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