Saturday, April 5, 2014

Poetry Month at Cuyahoga County

Cuyahoga County Public Library is bringing you 30 days of poetry to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here you’ll find poems to write, poems to read, poetry websites to get to know and poetry books to check out from the library. Here’s what makes this site special: our focus is on the poets and poetry of Northeast Ohio. Check out 30 Days of of Poetry HERE.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Iron Alexander, Iron Home

Iron Alexander was a lot like the Marvel superhero Iron Man, except he was poor, did not have a gorgeous assistant, had no weapons on his body and could not fly. But he could smash anything and he was strong and indestructible and he could beat anything in a fist to fist fight. Iron Alexander tried to fall in love with Iron Man once, but it didn’t work. No matter how Iron Alexander displayed his care and affection and was available and considerate and sweet and charming Iron Man could not shake his old habits of bad relationships. This was Iron Man’s fault, not Iron Alexander’s – Iron Alexander knew that, but it still hurt. When Iron Alexander confronted Iron Man about this they fought, and the battle was heard for miles and recorded on TMZ and the internet. Iron Alexander felt ashamed, he was the best he could be, but Iron Man still didn’t love him. Iron Alexander stopped taking vacations to war zones and private parties where he might see Iron Man. Iron Alexander threw himself into his work. He mostly got jobs digging tunnels in mountains, expanding railroads and such. “Oh my my my, my work is so hard, give me water…” always played in his head. Sam Cooke’s fantastic gentle, intense, heart wrenching and heartfelt rhythm and blues song “Chain Gang” moved him along always, except when he had time off to work on building his home. He built it of iron and the song in his head then was the song “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra. He changed the words slightly to make them his own “This is a house built out of IRON/IRON floors, walls and window sills…This is a place I don’t feel alone/This is a place where I feel at home.” In his head was the only place he could escape the sounds of metallic clanging, the sounds of his joints creaking and squeaking, his body banging and clanging. His iron home would be indestructible too, like him. It would live forever, with him. It would always look like the day it was built, just like he always looked the same as the day his iron parents had left him on the doorstep of an orphanage. No other iron kids at the orphanage, no other iron kids anywhere – he looked, all over the world. He was special, unique; he was also alone. He finished his iron home after years, when most of the railroads were made and the mountains were tunneled. Now his sat and waited, on his front porch. He waited for all the wars to end so maybe Iron Man would come to him, although Iron Man was really a man and would never love Iron Alexander, who was really iron. He waited for other iron people, for his iron parents to come home. He waited for someone to truly break his iron heart. He waited for a sweet death he knew would never come.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief." – Franz Kafka

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No Street Lights

I cry out for you in the middle of Ohio. It is lonely, dead, and I'm spilling my guts to a stranger who doesn't care. I wanna see you laugh again, wanna hear your stories, wanna polish off a bottle of wine and fall asleep next you. I close my eyes and fuck the stranger. I say "Stranger, drink your wine, lie next to me, be quiet" but the stranger doesn't breathe like you and I can't fool myself. It's obvious now. If I can't fool myself, the problem must be that I could never fool you and that's why you left Left me alone, in Ohio not - searching for God/trying to be a better person/detecting and helping hopelessness - knowing your secrets

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shifting, Moving, Dying

Shifting, Moving, Dying by Mike Hammer I have found a way to inhabit this sun, for the first time. In the past I have spent time as pottery or a pool or a piece of clothing, perhaps a moon rock, never something so massive and intense as this. I have to be careful. I don’t want to get caught in the wrong place and be sent out and down to the closest planet or out to space as a sunbeam. I want to stay in the burning rock. I want to watch the sunbeams assemble and assimilate, watch the inner function of this hot planet, watch it eat itself from inside out and touch it all, be a part of the destruction. This is the best shell I have had in a long time. I am a small piece in this enormous endeavor - floating throughout it, inside it, observing and participating. A sun is an incredible machine, a rock that burns with such power that it cannot be stopped. A sun destroys itself, but nothing can destroy it while it is at its apex, breathing, flexing, engulfing, demolishing, reforming, it’s a beautiful ballet. I float in the sun nimble and taking part in split second moves, pointing the way to reveal or destroy. I guide sometimes but mostly I just enjoy the process, enjoy the rush of strength and greatness. This goes on for centuries. I travel around the star, like a circuit speeds throughout a computer processing board. I consider myself the secret to the sun, the hidden component that flavors it and make it function superbly. I touch every part of the star, never interfering but leaving my presence, but each time I contact it I feel it dying. My days are filled with powerful heat and brilliant light. There are flashes of extreme pleasantness, then extreme pain. I can’t quite tell if it’s me or the sun feeling it. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. A sun will only live so long, however, and the hot star rattled worse and worse as the decades went on, so I allowed myself to be sucked into a sunbeam. There was only minimal pain, but I dreaded the day. It seemed forever away, but it crept up on me, appeared on my calendar without any pomp or circumstance and no fair warning. I know tomorrow I will have to let myself be sucked out, squeezed up and hurtled out and through space. If I stay here I will eventually explode with this sun and be scattered across the universe, parts of me throttled deep into space, parts latching onto rings around planets, parts disappearing into Black Holes and reappearing God knows where. Maybe parts of me would end up with God. I’m ready to go to God yet. I thought I was but I am not. I shall become a sun beam and ride through space and land on the planet below in some form, trying to depart before I get smashed. The speed and distance are not things I worry about, I’ll be inside the light, but I am worried about where I land, and how. I know if I stay in the sun how it will end, it’s easier to digest – the unknown, possible, ending of the sun beam ride is what keeps my mind racing. Staying on the star will only lead to one thing however, death, riding the sun beam will lead to death also if I ride it wrong. But, if I can move to a new surface, a new object I will keep living. There is a possibility. When I am sucked out of the sun it’s the fastest and hardest thing that has ever happened. I am sucked up, like in a straw, from some god slurping at an incalculable rate. There isn’t much gravity but what there is tears at me, I feel exposed, like I could be rattled or destroyed as if I were any number of tiny molecular gnats on the ass of the universe. The real pain comes from the switch from the coziness of an oven to the bitter chill of the black, space. The heat is clawed from me. I gasp and twinge with pain as I begin to pick up speed. I’ve heard it takes around 8 minutes for light to travel from the sun to the earth. I’ve spent 10 seconds waiting for an answer and it felt like forever. So I know traveling in a sun beam will be over, before it begins, but I will remember it as taking a century. I try to concentrate on everything, on the blackness, the cold, the small circular pattern I keep making as I tremble. They use temperature as torture in some worlds, but it shouldn’t really affect me, I just have to adjust. Adjust. Adjust. Become part of space, join it in all its endless expanding expanse. Join it. But don’t get attached. I am leaving in 7 minutes. 6 minutes now, and I’m shaking. It’s pleasant. I am in the middle of space, hurdling toward a planet, encased in a sun beam. The view is marvelous. The planet is coming into focus, mostly blue, some white and some large land masses. Hopefully there is a soft slow atmosphere surround ding the planet earth, then I might be able to cling onto something, inhabit a piece of the sky, float over it all. That would be a safe transition, if my wits haven’t scrambled too much at that point I am gonna try it. 5 minutes now. The atmosphere is looking more like a hard shield at this point, but my eyeballs are ice balls and not reliable. Earth should bring me some heat soon. I can start functioning normally maybe, not just imagining I am fine. I need to be fine to transfer out into the earth atmosphere successfully. 4 minutes. The sun beam is about to hit the atmosphere. I think I am bracing for impact, but I’m not quite sure what I am doing. This trip is very scenic but very long. I need to make use of this time. I need to prepare. Get in the right state. Reach the Zen-like readiness of a champion fitness expert and martial artists, a fighter ready to react in milliseconds to any environmental change, to turn disadvantage to advantage, surprise to calculated plan, heartache to success. I role play in my head, I envision success, If I can picture It I can achieve it and avoid the slow death I would have had on the star, and avoid the quick death I’ll have if this sun beam strikes a solid object. 3 minutes now and the objects on earth are coming into focus, showing some distinctive shapes. I know smells and heat are coming soon, and I will spot tiny individuals below. How will they look from a sun beam, these humans. It has been so long since I have seen humans, and never on this planet. 2 minutes. The light beam is breaking into the atmosphere now. There is a burner turned on, and its getting turned up fast. The smells of chemicals and burning and speed batter me, I scan the surface, but I’m rotating now, I’m spinning, I’m losing grip – I could fall out of this beam into the atmosphere now. I prepare to switch mediums, to sneak into the atmosphere, but far below I see a huge ocean, and it captivates me. I pause and I lose my chance. So not it is an ocean. It is water but hitting it with a sunbeam might still be hard and unpleasant, maybe bad. I am almost home the. 1 minute left. I can see sailors, brown bodies glistening in the bright day, moving in rhythm as they work aboard a sailing vessel. Closer and closer we get, I influence the sunbeam toward the large soft back of a dark man straining to pull a rope. The muscles are large and meaty, I should be able to absorb into that, I should. I’ll have a chance anyway. It’s better than the prospects I had on that dying sun. The sun beam reached the dark man with a shock. My whole self rattled, and there was a momentary wetness. I was passing through a drop of water that was fresh and soft, streaming across the man’s back. I was almost home I just had to move between the water to the man’s skin. I could spread out in there. The skin was the largest organ in a human and it let me see everything and travel the whole human body. Inside this skin I roamed, feeling what the man felt, tasting what the man tasted, as he worked on the seafaring vessel. Most often he was setting sail early, as then sun rose, then going inside the boat and rowing. Seeing the sun from the view of the planet I missed it. It was a bright ball, hanging over the little people who inhabited this boat. The boat was getting closer to a land mass and the man often laughed. His skin and body shook, his chest heaved and he produced a short loud deep song. I was comfortable, and easy. There were no dangers, except uncertainty. I wasn’t sure how long I could last with the man. His days seemed all the same until the day the boat stopped. The boat stopped in a sunny spot, with lots of other boats. The man took only a small silvery metallic disk with him, in his pocket, and joined a group of other men and laughed and drank and went into a small building with loud music playing. There was a moist excitement in the air, and women were dancing, and the man drank more. He was approached from behind by a woman who told him she wanted to make his last night spectacular. I was not sure what this meant. She took his hand and led him through the inside place and up some steps in the back of it, to a quiet, secluded room, with a bed in it and a chair in it. Inside the woman began undressing, the man’s heart beat faster and his blood burned. I didn’t know if it was good or bad. I do know she said it was his last night and that is definitely not good. So I began to formulate a plan, and play out in my mind, transferring from him to her when they touched. But the man turned around and put his hand on the door knob. “Don’t,” she said. He paused with his hand on the doorknob and his heart was beating faster than before. I surged through his skin trying to calm his body, but it was no use. I had to get out. “Why do you want to do this Denise,” the man said. “I’m just a down on his luck sailor.” “You are a down on his luck sailor who is quiet a gentleman,” Denise said, slow and seductive, approaching the man from behind. He walked over to the chair and sat down as she tried to touch him. I needed her to touch him, so that I could transfer. I had transferred between beings before, many times, and without touch, a path to follow, I just have to hurl myself into the air where I could be scattered by a gust of wind or a sneeze and die without a shell around me. I needed a shell. For 737,000 years I have needed a shell. I have searched for a shell, and then searched for another for 737,000 years. Maybe I should have stayed on that sun like I planned. The woman, stopped, sighed heavily, then sat daintily on the bed. “Why did you even come back here then,” she asked him. “I’m not gonna let my brother die, you know that,” was his response. “It was his debt, not yours Keith. You aren’t responsible,” Denise said. “When we were together you never gave a damn about family. You didn’t give a damn about most things.” “Yeah, see where it got me. I meet The General in a hour and I will pay him the money to spare my brother.” “But he won’t spare you,” Denise whispered. “No,” Keith chuckled. “Probably not.” “He will have your head on a spike in his rose garden by tomorrow, Keith. You know that.” “A rose garden is not such a bad place.” His heart rate was falling, his muscles were relaxing. He seemed ready to hibernate. She stood and paced in front of the door, then began taking off her jewelry. She extended her long dark neck, thrust out her breasts slightly and licked her lips. “Well. We have at least 30 minutes for you to make love to me one last time,” she said. “I always liked making love to you,” he said. With their bodies connected I would easily move into her. I began to focus on transferring, fighting off the catches in the shell and finding a hold in the new one. The woman took off her dress and crawled onto the bed, on her hands and knees, with a sorrowful but determined smile. Now was the time I could move into her, and not worry about any death of this shell, any quick escapes, any being blown apart. I have always known it is best to get while the getting is good. He rose slowly from his chair and walked over to her on the bed. She looked like a cat, bathed in a dusty yellow light, ready to pounce. He stood over her, looking down as she moved, slowly stretching out her body, showing and tempting him. She placed his hands on the belt of his pants and he grabbed her by the hair, pulled back her hair gently, then leaned down and kissed her. The kiss was long and deep, their mouths sharing air and juices, I slipped quick into her lips. “I’m not going to stay with you and you better not be fucking around on my brother. Please, Denise, clean up your act and get ready to do something useful in this world for once.” As he straightened up and away she started to undo his belt. “Just let me do it baby, you know you’ll like. Once last smile for you. One last good memory for me.” Her words came out in sexy clumps. They were visible. I have never seen another creature do that. He language was robust enough for me to inhabit. How many people used language like this? How would it be to get into different words. What would it feel like to become Beautiful, Fuck or Lasagna. 737,000 years and something new? This is amazing, I thought. I’m gonna be a word. I will be language. I will last forever, shaped differently as different people and animals and gods use me. The man turned toward the door. “Where are you going?” Denise asked, in a sad disappointed shock. The words pulsed as they came out of her, and I slipped into the end of the question. This shell was filled with colors and pictures and it felt intense and almost as hot as a mini sun. I gasped. I traveled through the space between her lips and his. I moved toward the beginning of the sentence and felt a bit lost. I stopped at you and I felt like it was a comfortable reunion, and I smiled. I wondered. “I’m going to my rose garden,” Keith said. Now that I was language, I could see his language, and I transferred into it when it bumped into her words. It was melancholy in his sentence, but firmly resigned. As I hung in the air, in my word shelter, the man opened the door and stepped through it and it swung shut. He was gone. “Goodbye,” Denise said. I slipped into her word. It was blue, sad, and ready for a long journey. I wondered. What would I do. There was nobody to answer her.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

6 Minute Hooker

She was wearing a Bikini Kill tshirt. I thought a feminist hooker was a bit strange and I asked her to take off her shirt, but she refused. She said she would take off everything else but she always left the Bikini Kill shirt on while she banged her customers, it was a bit of a slap in the man’s face to make him fuck a girl wearing a feminist shirt. She was older than most hookers I had been with, she grew up in riot grrrl bands and was still a punk at heart. She played Le Tigre while we fucked, and gave me orders. It was the first time I got fucked in the ass. Luckily she only spent 6 minutes a time having sex with her customers, so she wasn’t reaming me that long. 6 minutes was all the time she could stand being naked in the presence of a horny, pervy, chauvinist asshole like me. She took off her strap on, got dressed and then played some Joan Baez after she fucked me. I lay, exhausted, in a mix of pain and pleasure with Joan Baez comforting me. The hooker said I was good and next time she might let me penetrate her. I told her I might not return. And I might not.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BILLY COLLINS, poet: "The Names," for the victims of September 11th and their survivors. from PBS Neweshour

BILLY COLLINS, poet: "The Names," for the victims of September 11th and their survivors. Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night. A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze, And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows, I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened, Then Baxter and Calabro, Davis and Eberling, names falling into place As droplets fell through the dark. Names printed on the ceiling of the night. Names slipping around a watery bend. Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream. In the morning, I walked out barefoot Among thousands of flowers Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears, And each had a name -- Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins. Names written in the air And stitched into the cloth of the day. A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox. Monogram on a torn shirt, I see you spelled out on storefront windows And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city. I say the syllables as I turn a corner -- Kelly and Lee, Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor. When I peer into the woods, I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden As in a puzzle concocted for children. Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash, Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton, Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple. Names written in the pale sky. Names rising in the updraft amid buildings. Names silent in stone Or cried out behind a door. Names blown over the earth and out to sea. In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows. A boy on a lake lifts his oars. A woman by a window puts a match to a candle, And the names are outlined on the rose clouds -- Vanacore and Wallace, (let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound) Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z. Names etched on the head of a pin. One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel. A blue name needled into the skin. Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers, The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son. Alphabet of names in a green field. Names in the small tracks of birds. Names lifted from a hat Or balanced on the tip of the tongue. Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory. So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.