Tag Archives: NaPoWriMo

Once More Unto the Final Poem


Since 2014, I’ve posted one poem that I’ve written in the past month on the last day of April, to celebrate National Poetry Month. This April, I’ve been unusually busy, and managed to write only one poem. But that still counts, so I’m going to post it, because this minor tradition in my life is more important than first publication rights.

After Wendell Berry

“Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”

-Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

Is there even a right direction?
I get lost on the simplest trails
in the deep green forehead
of a someone else’s paradigms.

In the cemetery at sunset: a fox,
dissolving into the daylight’s gravel
between statues over strangers,
zigzagging like a Rube Goldberg machine.

The moment came without instruction,
so without a cue I chased the animal
across the grass and between the grief,
getting lost above the strangers.

Or maybe the fox was never there,
another trick of the rusty dusk.
This moment also came without instruction,
so I learned to chase myself,
but learning is a generous word.


Juggling Poetry and Prose


April is National Poetry Month, and by tradition I dedicate this month to writing thirty poems, one each day. I may never have reached that goal, but it’s still an opportunity to write forward. Poetry is a nearly religious part of my life, but I treat every other form of writing the same way.

As long as I’ve written I’ve juggled poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, but in grad school I’m unofficially designated a fiction student. My master’s thesis will (probably, maybe, don’t ask me) be a collection of short stories,  but I’ve never thought of myself as a specialist. Most writers do specialize, though, and as April begins, I can understand why writers might want to dedicate themselves to mastering only one form.

During March, I pushed myself to the writerly limits. I churned out four short story drafts and seven poems, and started a nonfiction essay. While planning my Fall schedule, I schemed ways to take both a poetry tutorial and a creative nonfiction class. The few publications I can claim have ranged from poetry to prose to drama. As a result, my overall portfolio increases steadily, but my skill as a writer continues to be scattered across genres, and while all forms have some things in common, they each require different kinds of effort.

I probably should focus on just one form. I could master fiction, inhabiting characters and pushing plots, or poetry, and improve how I carve roads out of language. Mastering nonfiction would force me into my own head, and theater would confine my characters to the concrete realm of the stage. Or I could shock the world by submitting a series of interconnected Foucauldian pizzas to my committee for cooking competition-style judgment.

The truth is that I simply don’t want to specialize. I started writing because I loved reading and wanted to make others feel what I feel. If my prose suffers for my poetry, or the other way around, so be it. I know the consequences of being scattered, and I’ll write forward in spite of them.


One Final Poem Again

By tradition, I try to write a poem every day during April, and by tradition, I always fail but nevertheless end up with a stack of pretty good poems. Last year, though, my final poem for the month accompanied a stinging cloud of rejections; this April is different. Tonight, a ten-minute play I wrote will receive a staged reading at Firecreek Coffee in downtown Flagstaff;  two days later, a short story I wrote will be published in Garbanzo Literary Journal. At the beginning of this month, I attempted a poetry slam, though my poetry simply cannot be slammed. So to conclude National Poetry Month, by tradition, here is one final poem.

Tray of Flowers

In Which the Love Poem Deconstructs Itself

This is only a love poem
no different from the ones that grow every Spring
along the spindly fingers of trees pointing in all directions.

This is only a love poem
that wishes to drop the word “only” from its rank.

This is a love poem longing to separate itself
from all the other love poems,
green with confident cliches.
This is an autumn love poem, blushing red
at the realization that it has slipped
from the branch in deliverance.

This is a love poem
that wants to be more than everything
love poems are expected to be,
wanting to be a knotty hurricane of flowers
pulled from the oven when its recipient
expected only a mediocre cake.

This is a love poem that wants to evolve
and move the genre entirely
from its obsession with nature imagery
and comparison of love to concrete things,
usually in long, organized lists,
moving swiftly from leaves in Spring
to leaves in Autumn to flowers in the oven;
it wants to subvert itself, come out of its cocoon,
but keeps falling into the trap of its own patterns.

This love poem wants to be a nightlight
that keeps its recipient warm at night,
or cold if its recipient so desires,
but this love poem is going places,
it’s creating a makeshift bed of compassion,
but is still dissatisfied with its direction.

This love poem wants to be a nightlight
but one that only glows laughter,
because this love poem is on the cusp of an epiphany,
realizing that no matter how deeply a love poem plunges
into a spiraling pantheon of epiphanies,
no matter how many times it reinvents itself,
this love poem will only be able to convey
its own simplicity, its deep green reduction
of twelve quasars of emotion to a single four-letter word;
its stanzas, like bricks atop one another,
will eventually fall into a pile,
making love poems a fleeting matchstick,
but the love inside this love poem,
the poem slowly begins to realize,

will st ill b e there

af ter

lan               gua                  ge

in     evi         tab       l      y

f           a               i                  l                       s


Poem: Cantata for the End

It’s National Poetry Month, and by tradition I endeavor to write one poem every day during April. I won’t specify how many days I’ve missed, but I’ve written more poetry than usual this month. Here is an example of the kind of thing I write when I have ten thousand final projects due plus graduation in only a few weeks.

Lovely Sunset


This is it.
The curtain is falling, the fruit is molding,
the milk is curdling, the kidneys are failing.
This is the last sunset before we dive into a bomb shelter.
This is Dr. Nietzsche standing over God’s hospital bed,
looking at his watch and preparing his declaration.

All the unresolved chords are clamoring in ecstasy,
and the caps are falling on graduates like rain.

This is the last-minute cancellation of the Resurrection.
This is a black hole on its way to work.
This is Eternity hanging up the phone.

The end is near enough to kiss
but time has not accommodated
all that is still left to accomplish,
the everythings still on the shelf,
how many alltogethernows are waiting on the rim,
the countless curiosities that are yet unraveled.

There is still the Pope looking into the fridge,
there is Steinbeck sitting at a bus stop,
there is Elie Wiesel shaking his head,
there are neverminds to bury
and sleepwells to evaluate,
a whole patchwork quilt of deadline half-life.

So this is it, a cacophony of goodbyes
and the past stuffed into a sarcophagus.
This is wiping the lipstick off the collar
even with so much desire left.
This is us mapping the final frontier,
buttoning up our coats,
and walking out the door into the wind
for the last time.


Photo (La Jolla, California) generously donated by the marvelous travelers at Keene Short Photography. Poem copyrighted work of Keene Short, 2015.