Yielding: A Poem

Pulled into your mystery
Captivated by the darkness
Puzzle worth assembling
Sinuous river to navigate:
Danger unheeded.

Ropy, ceaseless tangles
Blunder through the jungle
of shattered pieces, broken shards–
Lash back, retreat. “No more.”
Warning unheeded.

Fighting back–I, as well
The pain gives life, the life hurts
(Anything coming to life hurts.)
Embrace the pain, stumble forward
Whispers unheeded.

Then: the tin box, rusted close
Grasp, gently. Tug. No leeway
No giving up. Struggle. Give in
Give of, give.
You give. I give.
We yield.

An Open Letter to the Patriarchal Paradigm

With the year drawing to a close, I’d like to share my most popular–and, as could probably be expected, arguably the most the controversial–post I made in 2014. Enjoy, good readers.

Less than three,
Josh

Josh the Normal

To the Patriarchal Paradigm:

Throughout the course of history, you’ve lived quite the double-standard life, haven’t you? I’m sure you already know this, but really. What is it with you and your borderline paranoia with the chasteness of women and your insane obsession with “dominating” the female sex? What’s that? Something about asserting your masculinity? Yeah . . . no. I’ve got another word for it: machismo. For goodness’s sakes, you ostensibly achieve masculinity by going around and making so many babies you couldn’t even begin to count, and then you turn around and beat your wives the minute you think they’ve been unfaithful, because heaven help them if they so much as look at another man. Please.

Now, there are many firm believers of the paradigm that I could choose to single out, but let’s stick to one of the epic heroes of Greek literature: Odysseus. Can you say…

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NaNoWriMo 2014 Excerpt

Kristy Williams let out a long sigh, stretching her neck for several seconds to try to get rid of the crick that was tormenting her. Then she got up and walked away from the three guys, who were watching a video on Chad’s phone and laughing. The kids she’d seen earlier were still playing, now having switched their Frisbee for a rubber ball, deriving an almost impossible amount of pleasure from the simple activity of lobbing the spherical object, attempting to catch it, failing, and rushing to retrieve it, only to repeat it all again.
An empty bench seemed to present itself for her to sit on, opposite the kids and overlooking the gentle slopes, the manmade lake with the square stepping stones, and the winding exercise trail that curved out of sight. As if out nowhere, Kristy felt hit by an inundating wave of futility, suddenly so very acutely aware of how the cycle of life was so inherently cyclical in nature from the moment someone came into existence, up until when they lay on their deathbed. Whether it was just at looking at the grand scheme of things—being born and dying, on repeat endlessly—or down at the everyday, mundane level where people ate, got hungry and ate again; did their laundry, then washed the same clothes a week later, it always came down to the same thing: life repeated itself.
“So it goes,” she whispered to herself.
“Indeed,” came Chad’s voice as he bumped shoulders with her. “Vonnegut, huh.”
“Hey, friend,” she replied, turning to look at him. His hands were burrowed deep in his pockets, and he chewed his lower lip, eyes flitting from the romping kids to the general direction where Kristy stood. “How are you?”
“Good. Good. Well, you know, as well as can be expected. You?”
“The usual.”
“The usual?”
“You know, that’s the sort of question I sometimes have to ask myself,” Kristy said. She stopped for a moment, debating whether or not to clarify on that ambiguous sentence and possibly cause a confrontation between the two of them, or to just leave it at that. It was something she had pondered who knew how many times over the last year, always wondering whether or not to bring it up with Chad, always deciding that putting it off was in the best interest of the both of them. And . . .after all, what was her obsession with defining and even deconstructing everything, down to the their . . . casual relationship. Maybe she could bring it up later. Yes. Later. “Anyways, what’s been up?”
“Oh, you know.” His hands dug deeper into his pockets; it looked to Kristy as if he was trying to burrow into the undiscovered nethers of them. “College. Finals. Two weeks away, and then I’m done with my freshman year. Who’d have thought? So much, so soon.”
She nodded. “It’s like being what I used to call the oldsters when I was in like first grade. They were always reminiscing and talking and just being old people, and I figured that I wouldn’t get there, not ever. But then along came Quador and a whole new realm of worlds, and everything changed. Just like that. Now . . . now I don’t know.” She brushed her hand against Chad’s for emphasis, turning to meet his gaze for the briefest of moments. “I don’t know.” It was as much as she could say without saying it.
“I know, Kristy,” he said. For the first time in what felt like ages, any semblance of the façade or simple evasion Chad had kept up when it came to where the hurt and uncertainty was faded, dropped away as if it never was. He turned his gaze to her, his eyes steady and resolute, staring at her with all the honesty that Kristy believed he was capable of. He squeezed her hand lightly, didn’t let go. “I know you don’t. And I’m sorry, because I’m not sure I do either. But I’d like to think that I can fix this.”
He gestured with his other hand around, a broad, sweeping movement that seemed to signify that, just like it was for her, the not-knowing encompassed something so much grander than either of them. “I will fix it. This. Everything. I promise. But right now, right here . . . on this stone bench in the middle of the town park located in the middle of a country that’s part of a continent that belongs to this planet that’s only part of one of the millions and millions of universes out there that spread out beyond us, can we just . . . I dunno. Be? Just be?”
“Sure, Chad,” Kristy said, squeezing his hand back. “I think I’d like that.”
And so he draped an arm around her shoulder, warm and comforting, and they stared out at the cycle of life playing out before them on the sweeping stage of Earth. And they were. They weren’t family, or lovers, or even really friends right then. They just were.
Eventually, almost reluctantly, Kristy said, “I do have one question, Chad.”
“Shoot.”
“Can you fix it?” She nearly said this, but realized—perhaps a little selfishly—that that wasn’t the question that needed to be asked, not only because it was more restrictive and exclusive considering the range of emotional problems they both faced, but also if only because she intuitively felt it would ruin their being. “I’m not asking if it’s possible to be fixed, but if you yourself can. Don’t you think that you need . . . well, you know?”
He made a laughing/sighing hybrid noise. “You think I need God. And I’m really trying, Kristy. I really am.”
“I know,” Kristy said, because there wasn’t anything else to say—not out loud, not now—other than that. Because she knew. And she was grateful.

Lana Turner has collapsed! (Close Reading Analysis)

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

Set against the backdrop of a slushy, gray New York winter day, the quirky, fun-loving speaker shockingly arrests all motion around him with the jarring proclamation in the first line: Lana Turner, famed movie star, has collapsed. She’s such an important, central figure to the speaker that instead of drawing us into the immediate with present tense, we’re drawn back to the past through the use of the past progressive, reliving all the events up to dramatic newsflash.

O’Hara’s engaged in a petty, trivial discussion about the weather. It’s raining and snowing, but the addressee argues that it’s hailing. In one long, grand, sweeping run-on sentence, we’re cleverly drawn into O’Hara’s so-called mundane, pedestrian world, yet another one of the many “I did this, I did that” poems. But, as it so often is, the straightforward lines deliver a breathless momentum that drives it forward, each line never losing its impetus, largely due to the implementation of parataxis. There is no “because this, then that”; no, subordination and a causal, ostensibly logical flow of events are cast aside, leaving us with a dizzying timestream that’s constantly in flux, because things just happen, and then more things happen, and then that happens as well, and then suddenly—

LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED! The only punctuation in this entire poem is an exclamation point, both of which appear after the statement about Lana. In a way, it’s the only sort of respect that’s given to the actress, the fact that the newspaper headline is outrageously campy and even borderline disrespectful if one were to assume this was an elegy of sorts.

Instead of dwelling on Lana, the speaker again returns to the weather, which is the only clear symbol in the entire poem. There is some vague personification when he likens the traffic to the sky, both furious, uncontrollable entities, but he then creates a dramatic hyperbole between East and West Coast weather. There’s no rain or snow out West—how different the two are, how little they have in common! O’Hara then immediately juxtaposes the contrasting weather with the seemingly overwhelming differences between himself and Lana. She is elevated, Olympian, caught up in the fast-paced, mad world of scandals and films; he is a lowly poet who has little hope for being remembered. But he has been to wild parties, just like she has, although he’s never actually done something as ridiculous as have a fainting spell, like Lana has.

Still, what does it matter? For the first and only time in the poem, the speaker turns to the unattainable Lana Turner the Collapsed, reaching out to her through the forever fluctuating time and space, and apostrophizes her, calling out, “oh Lana Turner we love you get up,” and one can almost hear the breathlessness in his voice as he looks to his idol. Perhaps they’re as different as hail and rain, but if she were just rain–well, would LANA TURNER HAVE COLLAPSED?

The Exquisite Liquor: Close Reading Analysis of Emily Dickinson

I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an alcohol!

Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew,
Reeling, through endless summer days,
From inns of molten blue.

When landlords turn the drunken bee
Out of the foxglove’s door,
When butterflies renounce their drams,
I shall but drink the more!

Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,
And saints to windows run,
To see the little tippler
Leaning against the sun!

As Emily Dickinson lurches down the streets through endless summer days, drunk on a “liquor never brewed,” she masterfully uses the power of the written word to create a cleverly extended metaphor in her poem “I taste a liquor never brewed–” She begins by telling the reader that she’s drunk on the most decadent alcoholic beverage known to mankind, served to her in an exquisite pearl-studded tankard. She continues developing the intoxication conceit, painstakingly describing how extraordinary this liquor is, but then suddenly reveals to us, in the next stanza, what exactly she’s been intoxicated with.

An “inebriate of air” and “debauchee of dew,” Dickinson is drunk on the glorious nature she’s surrounded by, dizzied with its magnificent splendor and poignant beauty. It’s forever summer in Emily’s world: the skies are a dazzling azure, the sun refuses to set. All’s right in the world. It’s so grand that even when the so-called landlord–a metaphor for the Creator, it would seem–stops the bees and butterflies from consuming their nectar and drams (their alcohol), Emily decides she “shall but drink the more!”

Though an exclamation point at the end of the third stanza would seem to signify the completion of the sentence, Emily continues the train of thoughts in the final stanza. She draws upon the spiritual, stating that she’ll become even more intoxicated and will let the seraphs and saints watch, as she becomes one with the nature, perhaps in a way transcending to a higher state that’s neither physical nor exactly spiritual, “leaning against the — Sun –”

So what stands out in true Dickinsonian fashion? Emily takes the conventional four-line stanza format and then figuratively flips the table over and defies convention. The haphazard dashes break up the otherwise fairly rhythmic beat of the poem, perhaps a means to let the reader partake of the intoxicated state she’s in as she lurches and reels about, swerving from one train of thoughts to the other. It allows her to bring the reader in more intimately, to become a part of her and let her every condensed thought be one of ours.

But what of content itself? The extended metaphor of drunkenness might be nothing more than an ode to nature, a brief piece where Dickinson revels in the wondrous nature about her. But it might also be more than that: looking closely, the poem seems to almost paradoxical in some respects. Emily describes the physical in near-transcendent, spiritual language, as if she is being elevated to another realm in the last line. On the other hand, she begins the poem with poetic hyperbole as she describes the exquisite liquor, but then deconstructs it to nothing more than air and dew, almost as if she’s torn between the two. Where does she belong? Better yet, where do we belong? Where do we ache to go? Perhaps drinking of this ne’er-brewed liquor can provide the reader with insight.

As Long as You Are

It isnt for want
of something to say–
something to tell you–

something you should know–
but to detain you–
keep you from going–

feeling myself here
as long as you are–
as long as you are.
–Cid Corman

It would seem, at first glance, that it’s impossible to write something without saying anything, without having some sort of content–after all, isn’t even the most prolific, garrulous speaker of inane pab saying something, at the basest level? One could argue yes, but in this case, as we look at Cid Corman’s brief poem “It isnt for want,” it would seem that it is a short piece devoid of all content, existing only for one purpose: for the reader–the Other–to coexist with the author for however short a period of time it might be.

Corman begins the poem, essentially stammering, as he says, “It isnt for want/of something to say–/something to tell you–” as if he’s not sure how to begin, where to go. He tells the reader that it–the “it” of the poem being as abstract and multifaceted as Emily Dickinson’s “this” is “I Dwell in Possibility”–does not exist because it has something specific to say. The poem–if that is what the “it” is–isn’t “for want,” for necessity, for anything. It’s not something we should even know at all: so then, what is the point? What does the poem mean? Why does it exist?

Switching tones, Corman says, “but to detain you–to keep you from going–” because he wants nothing more than for the reader to not go, not just yet, not quite yet, just stay. For as the reader stays, he is “feeling myself here.” And how is that possible?

As long as you are.

As long as you are.

And this is where we see the utter brilliance of Corman revealed. This poem posits that it’s not a subject-object relationship, ergo, a reader-poem relationship, but more of a subject-subject relationship. In other words, Corman exists if you exist. He is if you are. He begins by placing emphasis on the subject: you. As long as you. As long as me. As long as us. As long as we what?

As long as we are.

As long as he can detain us in the poem, as long as we stay–Corman lives on. As long as I am, Corman is. As long as you are, Corman is. His existence is entirely dependent on the Other. That’s both the sadness and beauty of it.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make any sound? Corman, it would seem, argues that it does not.

Does it?

Less than three,
Josh

A poem should not mean
But be.
–Archibald McLeish

Free Writing: Fiction of Relationships

Note: The following brief experiment are my poor attempt at trying to rewrite the jumbled words in my brain and put them to paper–that is, to screen–without deleting or rewriting anything. Take it as stream-of-consciousness, or however you will. 

Relationships are fiction.

Why does that sound negative? Is something that is fictive unreal? Do our relationships not possess a certain verisimilitude to them, making them better than fiction? Does real life transcend that which is not real? 

Fictive relationships? 

Or are they fiction in the sense that they’re constructs? That this reality is a deceptive illusion, like Einsten said, in the way that your reality is not quite the same as my perception of it? 

Sanity/insanity. Sanity is in the eye of the beholder. Who beholds sanity? What sort of dichotomy is that?

What is truth?

I am Truth.

What is relationship?

Family, friends, strangers, God–all relationships, spanning socioeconomic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Overarching, ubiqutious. Fictive. Construct. Intertwined connection, hopelessly tangled together.

What is fiction?

That which is a representation. Not always a lie–surely not, surely it’s more than that. 

Look at a picture of yourself. Is that really you, flesh and blood? No. But it’s still you. It represents you.

Fiction. Voila.

(Are you watching closely?)

The Fiction of Relationship? What paradox is that? 

It is the subjective analysis of the intertwined. I read, I interpret. You read, you interpret. Ethos or addiction? Lust or love? Either/or||both/and? It all runstogetherinonegreatjumbleoftheinherentfitivenessofthatwhichislife. 

End.