Tag Archives: Poem

Yet Another Final Poem

Floor waterIn a blogging tradition that dates to the early Enlightenment-era philosophers, I post one poem on the last day of April to celebrate the end of Poetry Month. This poetry month, I wrote fourteen poems, a record mediocrity (which is the title of an upcoming collection). In any case, the following poem is dedicated to the Floor Water Collective (or my graduate cohort who shared/trashed an office this past year). They will be missed, by someone, probably.

Dear Future Occupants of Our Office,

A word of caution: the doors are untrustworthy
and you might get locked out, or worse, locked in,
or better, locked in with people you trust.

The coffee is best made from a garbage can
if you don’t want to stain our office (we
did), and the kettle is closest to an outlet
on the floor, which you should lie down on
listening to music when the world boils.

That will happen a lot, in and out of the office.
Our decorative rhetoric has remade it
a pilgrimage site for the curious and passionate,
as a reminder of what we used to be.

The office is exhausted inside and out,
but like us it’s used to being used as a means
of production, a clogged factory,
a closet of disconnected cogs, an easy target,
and inside the doors break, the floors are ant-trodden,
and everything is stained one way or another
with blood, sweat, coffee, tears, pizza sauce,
the list goes on. Whatever bright shine the office had
a year ago is now replaced with a language
that will be scrubbed away over summer.
It will look perfect again for you, but the flaws
are well-hidden in the design.

This office is a good place to go when the world
slams its many doors on you. It’s a good place
to have your heart and idealism broken,
to be comforted alone during your worst thoughts
on an uncomfortable couch under a friend’s blanket,
Future cohort, we dare you to match our worst days, to survive
the way we did, together, while our worlds boiled.

-jk

In the Tradition of Poems for Dogs

IMG_0128

Recently, I read Andre Alexis’s novel Fifteen Dogs. Among the many delightful things in the novel (that it starts with the gods Hermes and Apollo in a bar in modern-day Toronto, that the characters are mostly sentient dogs, that it’s filled with excellent descriptions and dog-drama) is that one of its main dog characters, Prince, becomes a poet who uses a unique poetic form intended to make sense to both humans and dogs.

The French poet Francois Caradec invented this form of poetry for dogs, and Alexis lends him credit for its invention. The form requires the sound of a dog’s name to be embedded in the poem. In this way, dogs will hear their name if the poem is read aloud, and respond in their dogly way by wagging their tails and analyzing the poem from a critical dog studies perspective.

An example from the novel, for the dog named Prince, is as follows:

“Longing to be sprayed (the green snake
writhing in his master’s hand),
back and forth into that stream–
jump, rinse: coat slick with soap” (Alexis 81)

The name Prince can be heard in the words “jump, rinse,” and supposedly a dog named Prince will hear it in the poem. The rest, apparently, will be the usual human nonsense Prince is used to hearing by now.

I wrote a poem in this form for my own dog, Pete, who has seasonal allergies and enjoys scratching his face on various surfaces, including people:

Rough carpet scratches
snatch up every face-itch
on the floor, sensations
to make easy sleep. Eat, sniff, dream
until the next itch, then scratch.

Do you have a dog? A pet? Write them a poem and see what they think.

-jk

Alexis, Andre. Fifteen Dogs. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2015

The Tunnels

Brick wall triptych 1.jpg

The English department at my Alma mater, Northern Arizona University, has released a cool new student literary journal called The Tunnels, and I’m pleased to announce that I have two pieces published in its inaugural issue: a poem, “List of Lists,” and a creative nonfiction essay, “Between Brick Walls.” The first was written after a First Friday Art Walk; the second is about photography, forest fires, and climate change. Both pieces are part of my never-ending love affair with Flagstaff, AZ. However, I mostly want to advertise the journal as a whole.

Two wonderful and talented professors, one in creative writing and one in literature, are the journal’s editors and creators, but it is heavily student-run. Last year, I was a reader for its earlier iteration, JURCE. The Tunnels is an academic and literary journal, and features literary criticism as well. One of my friends has a paper on one of Isaac Asimov’s stories; another friend of mine has a paper on Luigi’s Mansion. The whole journal is an excellent collection of literature and criticism, and a lovely reminder of how many people from Flagstaff and NAU have inspired and continue to inspire me. It also makes me excited for future editions.

So feel free to take a gander at this hip new journal, and I hope you enjoy it!

-jk

P.S. I listened to “Paper Moon” by Chic Gamine while writing the poem and “She Got Lost in the Observatory” by Motionless while writing the essay, to get in the right writing mood.

One More Final Poem

In a blogging tradition going back to the early 1840s, every April 30th I post one of the poems I wrote in the preceding thirty days to mark the end of National Poetry Month. Unfortunately, because I’m a grad student, I had to spend most of my time writing research papers (all about Canada), and did not reach my goal of thirty poems. But I don’t want to skip this beloved tradition, so I wrote one more final poem this morning. It’s the first thing I’ve written in two weeks not about Canada.

GalwayAfter Galway Kinnell

“We lie close,
as if having waked
in bodies of glory.” -Galway Kinnell, “The Last River”

I ignore the news of floods and wind this morning
in favor of another kind of news, certainly not gospel
but written with another kind of good news,
this aged copy of Body Rags I haven’t read in years.

A more clinical approach to wandering bodies might be useful today;
I could take on a diagnostic demeanor to dissect
the way bodies fall in motion beyond my control,
spinning down a river with fickle rapids
knocking back and forth, back and forth,
away and towards a rumbling unknowing,
but Galway keeps winking at me from the page
to find the glory in the body. Maybe

that’s all there is to us: we are meandering
collages of bone, blood, stretched tissue

and bird-shy nerves emailing sensations to one another,
quietly demanding more sunlight on skin, more rivers to listen to,
more poetry to see in the clouds, all these furtive microselves

gossiping to each other the full extent of the body’s glories
back and forth, back and forth. How else does good news spread?

I hold onto this dying copy of Body Rags
tracing my fingers down the pages, like deep beaches
with thin blue streaks where a friend underlined her favorite lines.
Maybe there’s enough gloriousness to go on here,
some secret, hushed process of bliss that saturates
when I’m closer to the sunniest people I know,

but even my god-obsessed metaphors go overboard,
so here I stop to underline my own favorite line with blue ink,
adding one more river to the desert-tan pages
rocky with broken sentences.

-jk

Copyright, Keene Short 2016. Photo: I asked Lost Compass Photography for a photo of Galway Kinnell, but those dorks gave me a photo of Galway, Ireland, which is why the senior photographer isn’t getting his twenty bucks.

 

Broken Strings

Today is World Poetry Day, and by tradition on this blog (after having done it once), I’ll celebrate by posting an original poem. But today isn’t just about writing poetry; it’s about reading it. Currently, I’m enjoying Brandon Som’s The Tribute Horse. Let me know in the comments what poetry you’re reading, and I hope you enjoy my own contribution. If not, I have others.

Fiddle

Violins are such distraught instruments,
attention-hungry, stage-front and fraught with stage fright
as they demand burning strings with match-striking speed,
snapping bow hairs. When violinists listen
they can hear the glue dry on the tuning pegs,
can hear the instrument creak under the pressure
of a perfect performance, and still audiences almost never see
the violin at home. The smallest things do the worst damage;
a change in weather alone can pop a string. In silence
they release the pressure; tuning pegs unwind
letting out the strings, freeing them from the chipped bridge.
Violinists anthropomorphized these tools, naming them with anatomy,
the neck and body, not for the romance of it
but to transplant their body’s torment onto an instrument,
to make it suffer with them.
How frail the off-stage violin can be,
letting small things gnaw at it from the inside out,
allowing snowflake-sized details to warp its wood, melt its glue.
But these things are easy to fix. I can tune a violin
but what of the violinist? What of the audience? The streets?
Can we fine tune the weather to make the planet ripe again?
It doesn’t take a petition to tune an instrument
or social media campaigns to rosin a bow.
I can fix a broken string, but there my skills end
in the wake of so many other broken things,
cities, hearts, correspondences, futures. I can mend an instrument
held together and torn apart again by chance,
but for all the brokenness I can only marvel
at musicians with stage presence and their perfect instruments
that never need tweaking, never gather yellow layers of rosin dust,
never slide out of tune with the changing seasons
the way mine always seems to these days.

Copyright Keene Short, 2016.

 

Reading at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference

In other news, I read some poetry at a big fancy academic conference.

index

This week, scholars, musicians, writers, film critics, professors, fans of The Grateful Dead, zombie fanatics, pop culture critics and lovers (one in the same, here) flocked to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to discuss their ideas, share their theses, their creative works, their analysis of other people’s creative works, and generally enjoy the spirit of popular culture.

In one day alone, I’ve heard scholar/fans discuss the relationship between Rick and Morty in Rick and Morty, compare Jurassic World and the TV series Zoo, analyze countless horror movies (from Poltergeist to The Babadook), explore various media’s fixation with underage serial killers, give two different interpretations of David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, explore the role of nature as a setting in The Walking Dead, critique consumer culture in prepper magazines and the capitalist frenzy to buy things before the coming apocalypse, and read a variety of poetry.

IMG_2210.JPG

Reading my own work for an audience was not entirely new to me; I’ve made use of open-mic nights and poetry slams now and again. This venue certainly was new to me, though, but I don’t want readers to assume that I think a conference is somehow better than a slam. Poetry is meant to be read out loud, and all venues are equally worthy and professional; poetry slams are just as important as big fancy academic conferences. But here, my audience differs, and the tone is more critical, more focused on poetry within popular culture rather than poetry alone. Where else can I backup a poem about the end of the world with information I’d heard half an hour before?

I’m centered in the academic world, and this is an academic pilgrimage that I’m honored to take. Reading in front of a live audience, of course, is terrifying, but also thrilling, and I hope to enjoy that thrill again soon.

There are still plenty of days left in the conference, and there is more to come.

-jk

 

Poem: Litany of Gratitude

Snowsteps

Litany of Gratitude

I failed to look at the weather reports,
and now I’m ankle-deep in snow
staring above me at white sheets of snowfall, like paper
curtaining my memory in the open street.

There are no sad snow moments for me,
even when there should be. I am only grateful
for the alls and everythings I’ve known,
that I have friends who can knit hats
or produce scarves, socks, all cozy chic;

that I was not born to dig for copper,
or in the malarial sectors of our history,
that luck has placed me in a retrospective personality
surrounded by a box of mirrors,
that I am not the kind of person to scorn
such blessings as a given but as icy coincidence
no more deserved than a cracked skull on a freeway
over sleek, glossy, cold-kissing pavement;

that my new tiny watch fits my wrist
an hour ahead of the friend who put it there
so I can send postcards from the future:
a storm is coming, wrap up warm,
this orange slice of time is serene, I hope you’ll enjoy it;

that simple things make me whimsical,
that it is right that we should at all times and in all places
be whimsical, that the possibility of giggling
is as real as the dance of snowflakes on our tongues;

that snow is not stupendous but soft,
not a knighthood adorned in force
but a book whose pages are whitened sidewalk squares
recording the theologians and cops and the homeless,
the students and plumbers and construction workers,
farmers in heavy boots, bankers in leather shoes,
sheet after sheet of snow, and feet making brief prints in time,
like a ferocious typewriter, as we move
in search of someplace else, something soon, out of the snow;

that I have enough ego to record the sainthood of passerby,
all of them leaving a mark that will melt,
just as this poem will dissolve soon enough
into anti-syllabic nonsense. Still,
I am grateful for these blessings
and the tumultuous motion of others
stamping their feet where I stand, numb,
staring at the snow-forlorn sidewalk
giving sidelong glances to the saints.

-jk