Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Day 30

So, I made 29 out of 30 days for the month, which is pretty damn good, I’d say. I could go back and bang something out for the day I missed, but it’s just not worth it to me. Today’s prompt was to write a letting go poem, and I thought about one of the most important periods of my life, when I left the church I’d been raised in and let go of the beliefs I’d centered my entire life around. That’s a lot to encompass in a single poem, so this doesn’t even try. It shorthands a bit of the details, but I think the images are evocative enough to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

Left Home

Not parents, but church
(and thus parents for there
is no family without church
for them), the eternal, bliss
of the Lotos-Eater, dream
of the concussed. Gave up
on eternity, on marital bliss,
on miracled eyes, vegan lions,
circumnavigating the universe.
Discovered love was conditional,
that even God has limits, that I
did too. That I could disagree
and be content with less than.
That I didn’t need to.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | Leave a comment

Day 29

I don’t want to say I’m mailing it in here at the end of NaPoWriMo, because I’m trying, but the prompts just aren’t sparking much in me. Plus, as this poem illustrates a little, it’s the end of the term, which means I’m burnt from the work and facing a pretty significant workload between final papers and final exams. I’ll be meeting my workshop for the last time this evening, and I’m looking forward to that, in large part because they’ve been a really engaging group of people to work with.

So with that in mind–it was a class on Poetic Forms–a sonnet, based on the prompt “And suddenly” in the title.

And Suddenly

It’s summer, in an academic way.
The days aren’t quite hot yet, but the classes
are nearly over. Once I post my grades,
I’ll be free for a while, sit on my ass
and try to catch up on the things I missed
since January–update my website,
read a book or three, explore the mess
that is my desk (no telling what I’ll find).

And then, as always, autumn will appear
sooner than it should, and bring with it
another batch of students, papers, grades,
responsibilities. I’ll get to hear
the same excuses, pretend to give a shit,
pine for my academic winter break.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | Leave a comment

Day 28

Today is supposed to be an end of the road poem. I’ve written a lot of poems about specific roads, but they’re always about the motion, the travel–the Overseas Highway, US 50 in Nevada, etc. So I reached back into my memory and pulled out the cemetery roads that were everywhere in south Louisiana when I was a kid. We came across them all the time while preaching, and knew there was no point in driving down them because no one lived on the same road as the family plot. But we’d look, every so often. Much of this poem is taken from imagination and hearsay, though not the part about my granddad and uncle. That really happened.

_____ Cemetery Road

At the ends of these roads, branched
from converted family farm driveways,
always a family name, a plot, maybe
a chain link fence, wrought iron gate.
Little else on the highways between
gas station/post offices which claimed
the status of town–Sun, Bush, Tallisheek.
On All Souls’ Day the graves bright
with whitewash; on Easter, generations
picnic outside the fence. The youngest
hunt eggs, pick their names out from
the stones of their ancestors, roll
on the grass between cement caps.
There must be something concrete
about living with your dead. Before
Granddad died, he made his sons
promise to build the coffin by hand,
and they did. Uncle Tinker lay in it
to make sure he’d fit, was in his own
not long after from cancer. But neither
is buried in a family plot–I wouldn’t
know where to go see any of my
dear departed if I cared to try.
Let me be burned and cast to the wind,
or buried at sea, or returned to
enrich the earth. Let me become
ephemeral. No marker, no road.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | 1 Comment

Day 27

No poem yesterday–just couldn’t get into the prompt. Maybe I’ll find something to go with it today, but I can’t say I’m all that worried about it. Today’s options were to write a hopeless or a hopeful poem. This one isn’t really hopeless, but it does look at a discouraging situation that anyone who’s ever taught can certainly relate to.

Grading

Each class is twenty-seven
which on paper day means
I bring an extra bag.
Eighty-one papers slide
off the desk if stacked straight–
even snagging staples can’t
resist gravity, the slick
ski slope of printer paper.
They avalanche me; no
hope of a St. Bernard to dig
me out, no barrel of brandy
to blur commas to semicolons.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | 1 Comment

Day 25

Prompt for today was to write a poem inspired by a song. This is even harder to do well, in my opinion, than an ekphrastic poem, just because music is so ubiquitous and so often repurposed that to do it in a poem seems cliché from the start. And it’s also very easy to come off as a pretentious jackhole, depending on what moves you and why.

So I tried to dodge that by going way back to when my family moved to Louisiana and experienced Mardi Gras for the first time–experienced is probably the wrong word, since we didn’t actually go to parades. We saw it happening at a distance mostly, though my friends brought beads and doubloons to school and I wanted them to an insane degree. And the music–Professor Longhair, The Funky Meters, Doctor John–I couldn’t get enough of it, especially the whistling. I tried to copy it as closely as I could, in secret, because I’d have gotten in trouble for that as badly as if I’d been whistling Christmas carols. Carnival music is so much better though.

Go to the Mardi Gras

I’ve never hit the high note
or trilled the closing riff
like Professor Longhair did,
though I chapped my lips
and wore my jaw out trying.
Never went to St. Claude
and Dumaire because we
didn’t celebrate–Mardi Gras
wasn’t found in our Bible.
No doubloons, Zulu coconuts,
no sitting on rickety ladders
arms stretched for beads.
The Professor said someone
would tell me what Carnival’s for
but I didn’t need explanation.
I tasted it in the piano, the whistle.

April 25, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | Leave a comment

Day 24

Today’s prompt was for an evening poem, so I went with a metaphor of balanced equations, an evening out as it were. The initial image comes from the park where Amy and I took a walk this afternoon. Some men were sitting under a group of pine trees on a blanket, and a very brave squirrel had approached. It stood on its hind legs facing the group, and while one of them offered food, the rest took pictures with their phones. The rest is just free association, the idea being that I wanted to create equations which didn’t make immediate sense, but which might render up some meaning if you tease them a little. I hope I succeeded.

Evening

To find balance,
feed a squirrel part of your picnic lunch
and take its picture with your phone.

Use ions of rue as a catalyst
in a solution of boric acid and
a hipster’s skinny jeans.

The ratio between velocity and
an automaton is equal to
pi multiplied by available horsepower.

I cannot tell the difference
in cereal hitting the inside of a bowl
and my cat’s cry for affection.

April 24, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | Leave a comment

Day 23

Today’s prompt was to write an exhaustion poem, and given the time of the semester, and the length of my Thursdays, it would have been pretty easy to go with physical exhaustion as a topic. But I also felt like that would come off as self-absorbed whining, especially given that my current job is far from the most physically taxing job out there–it’s not even in the top five of most physically taxing jobs I’ve held in my life.

So instead, I thought of exhaustion in environmental terms, which has been on my mind a lot in the last couple of years. Lots of people gave President Obama grief over his recent decision over coastal drilling for oil. I don’t like his decision, but it wasn’t a surprise to me–we humans are horrible at forcing ourselves to be austere for the short term in order to gain in the long term, after all. So I suspect we will drill holes anywhere and everywhere to extract fossil fuels until there is simply none left to be had, no matter what the cost environmentally or aesthetically. That’s where this poem is coming from.

Drill Baby Drill

1
When you next come to Florida
take photos of the ocean,
of what passes for breakers
lolling up the sand, of the flat
unbroken horizon dotted with
an occasional cruise ship, freighter,
sailboat. Take photos of the sand,
sparkling ecru, or the broken coral
or seaweed that looks like
overgrown cooked spinach.
Take photos of the sandpipers,
of the seagulls, of the pelicans
as they swoop, dive and bob
their lunches. Take photos
before the oil spills come ashore,
because they will come
as certain as the platforms
will appear one day. We will drill
until there is no more oil
to be found, and damn the costs
or the places unlucky enough
to be near it.

2
I am used up, a waste gas,
am drawn off to completion.
But I can replenish myself–
write a poem or drink a beer,
swing in a hammock, pet a cat,
love, read, listen, walk, plant.
I am solar. I am wind.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | 2 Comments

Day 22

Just jammed this out in the break between classes. It’s an earth poem, and that’s really all I think I need to tell you about it. It’s pretty straightforward. I knew that learning the Greek alphabet while in the fraternity would pay off one day.

Earth

is not alpha and omega;
more like iota and upsilon,
maybe even rho or sigma–
depends whether black holes
or a neighboring galaxy
get to us first. But for now,
it’s what we have–green and brown,
gray, blue, almost dead in places
with no Miracle Max nearby
to accuse it of cheating at cards.
And unaware of who we are
or what we do to it, which is good
since we’re real fucks mostly.
But if earth is iota and rho
or sigma or upsilon, then we
are the tiniest fraction of a segment
between mu and nu, a distraction,
a margin of error on a cosmic scale.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | 1 Comment

Day 21

The prompt for today is to write a poem with the phrase “According to” in the title. One of my favorite terms is “according to studies” because it has the air of authority while being so vague as to have no meaning at all–perhaps it even offers a negative measure of meaning because of that claim of authority.

So when I started this poem, I decided to play with that notion. Most of what I included in here–the claims about crosswords and multitasking, for example–are actually from studies about brain science, and fairly recent ones. But then the poem just veers off into distraction, which is supposed to illustrate how a lack of context can make even accurate information meaningless.

According to studies

I will die

I may lose my mind first

I may have a genetic marker for obesity which can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight which can lead to sleep apnea or diabetes or high blood pressure all of which can cause deprivation of oxygen to the brain which can lead to early onset of senility in many cases

I will continue to diet and exercise

I may be susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease since it apparently runs on my father’s side of the family

I will continue to do crossword puzzles since keeping the mind sharp is one way of reducing the effects of plaques and tangles

I may become less effective as a thinker because of the effects of information overload and too many distractions multitasking which no one really does anyway though we think we do and we become frustrated and lose our ability to concentrate and remember what we were doing just moments before and did I take my Vitamin B today 11 new tweets who’s online is the mail here the damn ice cream truck is back I’m going to check the mail

I will take a walk in the park this afternoon and enjoy the breeze and the hawks and the ballers and the conversation and burning the calories from the biscuits and gravy I had for breakfast and the lemon cream cake I had for lunch

I will look closely at any scientific breakthrough which involves downloading my brain into a cyborg body at some future point because that would be amazing

I will die some day but I am interested in whatever can put that day off for as long as possible

I do not want to go mad first but if I do, I would like it to happen while my consciousness is housed inside a cyborg body

I do not know if the crossword puzzles are helping much anymore

April 21, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | Leave a comment

Day 20

Today’s poem is cynical, but the prompt asks us to look back, and while I write a lot about my past, I try not to do so with any sense of regret or nostalgia. I hate nostalgia–there’s no greater lie we tell ourselves as humans, I think, than the one in which we imagine a glorious bygone past. The future is measurably better in pretty much every way, unless you’re a white male who feels fatally harmed by losing your position as most privileged demographic group in the history of humankind. I’m kind of glad we’re getting knocked off our perch, frankly.

And alongside the lie of nostalgia, the lie of the self-made man ranks highly among my pet peeves, especially when it comes from people who lay claim to the last three lines of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” as though it defines their lives, as though they took the road “less traveled by” and their willingness to do the unconventional was the difference for them. Maybe they did, and maybe it was, but I suspect their successes had a lot more to do with luck, and that they never actually read the poem carefully, or they’d have seen that Frost was saying essentially the same thing.

So I chose as my starting point a line from earlier in that poem, where the speaker is standing at the fork in the road and trying to decide which branch to take, and discovers he has very limited information at his disposal.

“To where it bent in the undergrowth”

So many paths peered down it seems
mental masturbation to attempt
to reconstruct what-ifs, what-might-
have-beens. In movies, the dissatisfied
petulant lead bemoans his life, believes
that if only he’d made another choice
his life would be better. He learns, of course,
that different isn’t always better, but not
before he’s spent Act 2 in glorious
debauchery, then begs to return
to what he had at first. Truth is, we make
our choices blindly, then lie ourselves
to sleep, heroes of our uninspired lives.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | National Poetry Month, original poetry, Poetic Asides | | Leave a comment