April 17, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 15: a song lyric

This probably needs another couple of verses, but it’s what I have so far. Not autobiographical.

You’re the one

Could have married that heiress,
jetted around from Sidney to Paris;
and that hippie chick played a mean guitar,
she could have been mine — now she’s a star.
A gymnast, a chef, a sex-crazed punkette,
a doctor, a stripper, a French coquette,
my high school sweetie, an actress or two —
I could have picked any, but I chose you.
I could have had riches, passion, amor,
but you’re the one I settled for.

You’re built like a stick,
you cook out of cans,
your face is average,
the sex is bland.
You quench my fire,
you make me yawn;
I picked you,
and I picked wrong.
I’ve been with better women galore,
but you’re the one I settled for.


April 15, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 14: Diagnosis for the Makers

Yesterday’s poem seems to have left me in a rhyming mood. I might end up with a sonnet or two before the month is over. This isn’t one.

Diagnosis for the Makers

Shelley was a cad.
Clare went mad.
Thomas drank, and so
did E.A. Poe.
Dickinson was a loner,
and Coleridge a stoner.
Villon went to jail.
Keats was frail.
Wordsworth was a bore;
Williams, a whore.
Shakespeare was greedy,
Plath too needy,
Millay tempestuous,
Byron incestuous,
Jeffers a hater,
and Pound a traitor.
Sketchy, all, in soul, heart or head
as I or you. But they’re dead;
what they carved from such rotten wood
lasts, and is good.

April 14, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 13: On the Crow

A deliberately bad poem (as opposed to my other bad poems).

On the Crow

(by Nathan Lummep)

There’s a bird whose song raises no cheer,
It’s likely to fill the hearer with fear;

With his inky plumes and strutting gait,
He makes people to shudder or hate;

For the crow of sinister form
Gobbles down dead things while they’re still warm.

His ghoulish diet and looks so dark
Make stern death seem even more stark.

Do not loathe the crow! For he
Only plays his role in ecology.

If crows, and maggots, and ants and such
Disdained all slain creatures to touch,

But left them to rot in the sun, then think
How every breeze would start to stink!

So if you meet a crow, kindly greet him.
(I wonder who, when he dies, will eat him?)


NaPoWriMo Day 12: Desire ghazal

A rather abstract one. I use a very loose definition of the ghazal verse form.

Desire Ghazal

The self is a vortex of desire,
self-fed, self-seeking, itself its one desire.

Escape from want, advise the sages,
confessing their own desire.

Who can view a beautiful woman or man
chastely, with no desire?

Purity: numb skin and dry tongue;
virtue withers without desire.

There is in each a thirst and a fountain,
the two bodies of desire.

A pond ringed round with blackbirds:
my soul among its desires.


April 12, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 10: Lesson learned

You are sorely missed, my friend.

Lesson learned

On the occasion of Phil Miller’s Memorial Tribute and Open Mic
Sunday April 10, 2011, Kansas City, Missouri

I said goodbye to a dear friend today,
but not for the last time. Whenever
I hear him say, “You need something here,”
“It’s not there yet,” “Every poem has to have
a turn, where’s the turn?”
it will be a fresh goodbye. Phil scoffed
at my ignorance of nature, my inability
to identify wildflowers or name more
than a few insects, which he put down
to my country origins, but he respected
my wide reading. We shared tastes
for Bjork and Blake, differed
on Henry James and Beethoven.
Now and then I’ll view a field or read
a book with his eyes, listen to music
with his ears, for another sharp goodbye.
I’m learning, not for the first time, the truth
he told in so many poems, that loss
is the one thing we keep,
that goodbyes do not end.


April 9, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 9: Sonnet from Mu, translated

The following is a fairly literal translation of yesterday’s sonnet from Mu. I have made no attempt to reproduce the rhyme scheme.

Get it while you can

The day grinds light’s gears down to nubs,
while we the remnant gum our minutes to savor the char,
and chews the peeling garb from nubile birches
into night’s thick paste of signs.
Under master’s eye little work of small
worth is ours, delegated to thew and khaibit;*
but when god sleeps his slaves may play
and booze with fellow grunts and ground and sky.
The moon crept naked into my room,
her hands a cool stream trickling over my skin;
we slept in River Idshabi’s icy bed,
mingling limbs and glints and undertows.
Morning came, and milkmaid Tulid rose from the sheets,
deity still shining from her pimpled skin.
— Ogbar biku Ozdil

* A term borrowed from Egyptian mythology, since English lacks a term; neither is the Egyptian word an exact fit, but it comes close. The people of Mu, like the Egyptians, postulated seven souls within each person. What’s meant here is a lower soul with little in the way of awareness, a sort of robot.

NaPoWriMo Day 8: A sonnet from Mu

The following sonnet from the lost continent of Mu is notable for many reasons, not the least being that the inhabitants of Mu apparently invented the petrarchan sonnet millennia before Petrarch.

Zhira Gambyrtha

Meswif aedluf ruhd ahndu luirm zokvort,
utminia kohtroo zdid utgantdob zao,
loed bidu vuzdel ahrintsav ypao
vazpilt sanvurd aedoi bero wort.
Ovdovon haet ugbinch witta pahndort
dahsh toobplaet, wom elret ihzwass tumao;
juhdtah tahn oofell pluhth adzbahl zellao
darrah wooltshib midzbuhg ehd rehtin port.
Dunverd ehrag zemhijle evnezgess,
hunnan ebrinnud chamzanto wasgid;
ohlrag zdahdcol dusshun hanucharess,
wuzdilt Idshabi zavag, uttir wasmid.
Riigtad Tulid harr ih hartseless,
sahr uhd aben ubulg antilimid.
— Ogbar biku Ozdil

Day 9: the translation!

NaPoWriMo Day 7: haiku, in the whole bean field

Another haiku.

in the whole bean field,
one robin; hanging
overhead, two hawks

April 6, 2011

NaPoWriMo Day 6: haiku, cloud-mottled sky

For today, a haiku-type thing — untitled, as is traditional with haiku.

cloud-mottled sky:
from dwarf pear blossoms,
a blue jay screams

NaPoWriMo Day 5: Condemned

A narrative poem, still pretty rough. I’ll decide next month whether it’s worth revising.


Seven awoke in a prison with no cells, a crowded
linoleum plain whose far walls, whichever
way he moved, retreated from him. The ceiling
was lost in the distance. His fellow inmates,
men and women, walked nowhere with fast
purpose, talking or shouting or mumbling or whispering
a strange lingo, the sourceless light harsh
on their clothes. All were tall. One, standing still
and crooning, impossibly so, a giant; burlap peeked
through tangled hair that reached the floor; shackled;
not sad.
            Seven stumbled aimlessly at first, finding
the rhythm of traffic, gawking. No two uniforms
were the same. Here, cobalt blue; there, off-white
trimmed in magenta; another wore motley. His own
was pale yellow, brown-speckled, pink-streaked.
Having no better plan, he began walking.

Through years of wandering, he picked up the jargon
well enough, though parts remained a puzzle;
learned how to find good food, clean water.
Once, he found a staircase, and followed
it down to a maze of concrete tunnels. There
he came upon a cadre of guards swarmed by yapping
inmates. He felt he had to take a side
and faced off against a guard whose eyes
were mirrors. The guard raised a club,
then stopped, lowered his arm; pressed a round
something, a compass, into Seven’s hand;
turned away. Seven ran back to the top.

He picked, because it didn’t matter, north,
and walked. Time blurred. He was among
those his own size. Many had compasses,
but few agreed. Each trusted his own,
a faith without belief.
            He made friends, and one
in particular; her compass aligned with his.
They traveled together, but one morning he awoke
alone, the floor deserted; a distant blur
might have been her. It was months of walking until
he was among people again — a scattered few
at first, and never again a crowd.
            Then years
of plodding. People grew shorter. His clothes
were shabby, stained, torn. One day the wall
seemed closer, and he could almost see where
the light came from. He could nearly make it out.

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