Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I ride my shopping cart like a parade float
at the supermarket circus
Where the ringmaster at the meat counter
shout tonight’s attraction with a flourish
and acrobat shelf-stackers prance from lane to lane, paper price stickers like streamers and confetti in the air
I am surrounded by LOUD, BUY ME, cacophony of color
Patterns and oversized portions of spectacular
I dance everywhere
I’ll buy everything
I’ll believe anything
But it falters at the finale
Tinny music overhead
Sterile lighting at the checkout
Plastic bars to separate my revelry from her newspaper, yogurt, and chewing gum.
Beep. Beep. Paper or plastic?

January 20, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010


Off to MAC for the weekend to spend some time with God and learn about how to develop more authentic relationships, how to minister and interact genuinely when cross-culturally (and otherwise). Praying that we don't get stuck in the snow.

Here are two poems - true stories - and verses I read last night that are very beautiful and encouraging.

I missed the exit I was supposed to take
Someone rented this car for me and I am so close to crashing it
Thank God for satellites and my raceway commentator announcing, “[You idiot] . . . Recalculating”

I drove once into the change-only toll lane
I swear I can read English. I just can’t command a steering wheel. I wish there was time for more than a one-word apology
And dollar bills seized through the passenger-seat window, wilting in the glare of an attendant who cannot believe this dimwit congesting traffic right before her afternoon shift is over.

I’ve been awake since 4 o’clock in the morning.
I was late for my interview because I drove on backroads instead of the interstate
(see, I was nervous about driving in a city I didn’t know; I was trying to be safe).

And it’s Christmastime, so Fords and Volkswagens and Hondas line up outside shopping centers, which by some curse or miracle were all built on this road. They bypass patience, encroach upon bumper space, flare their headlights and mumble threats – to do what? – through their mufflers.
I don’t register this display of goodwill because my nerves are steeping in adrenaline
Come on, green light.

And now I wish that rental cars navigated like homing pigeons and the airplane I need to catch would know that I’m not on it,
That I would be the one in the right place, waiting. So much of life is spent waiting.

Everything looks the same size in Texas, actually.
I am lost somewhere in Houston.
Later, I get a phonecall from my friend in Maryland
“Did I just pass you on the highway?”

January 27, 2010

I wish that with this heartbeat, all would
vanish from the room, and that the sound
of cymbals falling crashed like gritty
hourglass seconds. Nobody would notice

where your tongue collides with teeth and cheeks or
symbols on a page. You can’t decode this English, and I
sense the dents of your frustration. Should it start like a “tsunami,” or
unravel after other approximate consonants?

Barnum elephants are more graceful
when they stampede in the dark
over tents cushioned with dirt. Painless.
Perhaps you’re supposed to know what to do,

how to speak correctly, you’re a teacher,
not a bumpkin, so you’re sorry
but you don’t stop yourself, you forget
that somewhere, someone else might be embarrassed

even if you aren’t. You articulate with a butcher knife
much like women in marketplaces of
places where my parents walked as kids.
My name can vanish there in a maelstrom of sounds, similar

to needles, real and whole
and to boxes and to thinking
and to the implications of intonations
infinite, immense.

I am immobile beneath your roster
my mortification is louder than your juveniles
whispering jokes about a word that they don’t know
I can’t repeat two syllables enough to dilute your non-native speech.

My parents should have hidden ancestry in the middle
mystery of an initial to be revealed in a late-night
conversation or the next step in a relationship
but no, it’s spelled out here

slouching naked through a courtroom in a dream
Though now in daylight, in a classroom.
I know that pause at the end of the alphabet.
Stale humiliation, repackaged every year.

I know all the words to the Beegees
And ABBA and John Denver
It’s Tsen-Shan. Sunshine?
Call me Sharon

February 1, 2010

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:1-4, 27 (NLT)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I'm taking a poetry class

I so thoroughly convinced myself that I'd hate creative writing (the process, not the final product; the way I write . . . I take forever, it drives me crazy) that I decided not leave it alone in college, until now.

It's making me remember all these funny incidents that I want to write about. Or come up with silly ideas for poems. Our next assignment is to write a sentence but to slice it with creative line breaks like a Stanley Kunitz poem we read today. It made me remember a homework assignment from kindergarten or first grade when we were learning how to count money, and my mom took me to Giant (grocery store) and we picked out a 60c ruler (like 8" or 6"), clear blue, and then took it to the register. I proceeded to count out 60 pennies while people waited in line behind us with actual groceries . . .

Anyhow, I'm loving creative freedom, assignments so different from engineering, and writing on puzzling and fun prompts, mixing up words and trying new forms and different things. It's pretty cathartic, too, which isn't bad.

Sleeping with the dictionary

I like this poem a lot. This is called "Illuminate".

My mind differentiates with
sound. See, never has there been a
light nor dark – my lexicon holds
footsteps, sighs of boredom, zippers
sealing shut in wintertime, cold
doorknobs turning, pages turning,
cam’ra shutters staring, blinking.
My eyes wonder, wander; I de-
sire Truth as much as you, through
auditory fashion brought to
beat on drums and hang on lobes, pre-
ferred to sight, to tricks of light.
Illuminate. Illuminate.
Sounds blur, as do faces when in
crowded places (metro stations),
so I’ve heard before. But yours, your
voice is bold and new, and parses
rhythms like a lisp wound round a
tongue depressor, ice pop gone. If
only I could see that smile – you
say your fav’rite color’s yellow,
like I’m wearing, accidental.

(Prompt: Write a poem in which you revise, revisit, expand, or challenge the definition of a word. See A. Van Jordan, "from".)