Category Archives: Poems

“Gimli’s Lament,” new poem up on Love’s Executive Order.

Love’s Executive Order, the online publication that runs a “weekly poem on the Trump presidency” and edited by the supernal poet/teacher Matthew Lippman, is running “Gimli’s Lament,” a poem of mine, as its feature.

It’s pretty angry, as one may suspect. Check it out here.

Comments Off on “Gimli’s Lament,” new poem up on Love’s Executive Order.

Filed under Poems

Three disaster movie poems on Barrelhouse.

Three–count ’em three–poems are up on the website of the illustrious literary juggernaut that is Barrelhouse today. It’s part of their National Poetry Month celebration, in which they are running poems each day that are movies- or TV-inspired.

The poems, “Rescuing Bobby Brady from a Disaster Movie,” “Jack Lemmon Rewinds His Misanthropic Dialogue from a Disaster Movie,” and “Gleaning Dean Martin’s Chivalric Role in a Disaster Movie,” are inspired by, respectively, The Towering Inferno (1974), Airport ’77 (1977), and Airport (1975).

Thanks to all the Barrelhouse crew, especially Sheila Squillante, who’s one of my favorite people to see each year at AWP (as well as, you know, non-AWP times as well).

The poems were written, truth be told, more than 20 years ago when I was in grad school. I brought them into my workshops from time to time, and Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell had no clue how to even respond to them.

“I have no idea who Dean Martin is,” Sharon Olds said at one point.

Back then, I was all like, “really?” But I think she was just saying that, as if to say, “how would people who have no idea who Dean Martin is respond to this poem?”

Which makes sense.

These three poems are part of a sequence of at least four poems. I worked really hard on these, from what I can recall. I began each poem with the last line of the one preceding it, and used the old William Carlos Williams triadic stanza thing and, what I regarded as my own innovation, staggering the stanzas in cascade fashion so the poems looked like they were falling from the sky. Those were heady times at the writing desk, I said, self-deprecatingly.

(I notice Sheila did what I have to do sometimes publishing poems that work away from the left-side margin: she took a screenshot and published it as a graphic. WordPress and other CMSs can be a cruel mistress sometimes.) (UPDATE: The screenshot formatting was too much of a pain, and it wouldn’t be read by, like, mobile devices and tablets, so after conferring with Sheila, who is a saint, we went with a flush-left margin.)

The poem that comes after this, “Leslie Nielsen Signs Autographs, Comments on His Disaster Movie,” was published in Painted Bride Quarterly a couple years back. (They put the epigraph, The Poseidon Adventure, into the title, which I guess was their editorial prerogative, or perhaps a mistake? I just noticed that.) It’s the last poem in the sequence, and it’s a story I stole from my old friend and now award-winning film director Kevin B. DiNovis.  I think that whole event took place that the B. Dutton store in the Cherry Hill Mall.

When 9/11 happened, you would be accurate in guessing that I took these poems out of submission circulation because duh. In recent years, I’ve turned into my own personal archivist because who else is going to do it, and took another look at some old poems to revise and revisit them. The disaster movie poems didn’t much more work and they still kinda-sorta hold up. It’s nice to see them out into the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on Three disaster movie poems on Barrelhouse.

Filed under Poems, Shameless Self-Promotion

Poem from 1995: “Sign on Trainbridge: Trenton Makes The World Takes.”

080818_trenton2

I suspect the jerk-off
they just threw off the train
doesn’t believe in God, because

if he did, he’d have sat down
like the conductor asked him. Instead,
he did the scofflaw’s walk

down the aisle, a drunk
in a cemetery who pees on the headstone
with the funniest-sounding name.

He slipped into another car,
to chintz on his fare. Nothing,
you see, gets by these railroad

employees, especially freeloaders.
They are acutely aware of this abuse.
God is the same feeling you get, sitting,

waiting on a bench in Trenton,
the empty transfer platform, open-air
cold with glinty metal. No train yet,

but it’s paid for. That’s it.
That’s all. It’s our shared desolation.

Comments Off on Poem from 1995: “Sign on Trainbridge: Trenton Makes The World Takes.”

Filed under Poems

Here’s “Parade,” a Robert Lowell imitation from 1995.

24197_335905967404_253012197404_3550847_2803021_n

I wrote this poem 20 years ago as an exercise in a workshop I took in fall 1995 with the great poet Philip Levine. He didn’t really give out homework assignments so much as tell us things we should do. One of them was to read Robert Lowell; another was to imitate poems you love. I love Lowell’s “Skunk Hour,” and was under the misimpression I could write my own version, with my hometown, Maple Shade, taking the place of Lowell’s Nautilus Island. Although I don’t think this is a good poem, it is a curio for it’s stanza-by-stanza imitation of the original, rhyme scheme and all, as well as swapping out of “Careless Love.” for Journey. It also shows the obsession I’ve had with Maple Shade goes back two decades. It’s much longer than that, but still.

Parade

Frankie, the unhip record store owner,
roughs it out
two miles from the mall.
He closes at 7. His wife’s a nurse.
His father fills the cash register,
accepts gas and phone bills,

cashes checks, folds t-shirts by the cassettes.
There’s a photo album of girlie posters.
County road workers play Lotto there
every Friday, scarred
and rough-tanned by black tar.

Last fall, we had another sidewalk sale.
The governor didn’t come
to wave and speed
past the bingo tables,
past the custard stand, the cone-
strewn sled hill, where kids drink Bud ponies,

smoke butts in the firefly-tall grass. One night
last spring, I borrowed my mom’s Cougar
and drove behind the Acme,
hoping to spot a younger sister
maybe, alone, flat-footed, lanky,
pocketbook-full of hairspray

shuffling to the pizzeria, needing a ride.
The soft rock station played Journey—
“So now I come to you,
with open arms.” As if sacrificed
out there, I stalled in the parking lot,
talking to myself, scarfing a slice,

chafed and thinking, so this was home
Maple Shade, its abrupt streets,
half-full bottles in yellow lights.
Then a trolling monster truck slowed down
with open windows, arms swanning
to girls on the sidewalk. I sat alone,

first in front of the Catholic church,
then by my mom’s TV,
and watched music videos,
late-night deflated on the couch,
and stared at detached sexless bodies
that can’t exist, can’t possibly care.

Comments Off on Here’s “Parade,” a Robert Lowell imitation from 1995.

Filed under Poems, Shader, Shader Outtakes

Just up on VoicemailPoems: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Your Mama.”

VoicemailPoems, a cool new-ish journal, just published a poem of mine called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Your Mama.” I wrote it while I was teaching disabled adults from the Rennselaer Renselaer ARC, and assigned them to write their own “Thirteen Ways of Looking at X”; the exercise is here on my Teaching Blog if you’re curious.

1 Comment

Filed under Poems, Shameless Self-Promotion