40 Poems in 40 Days!

At the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in February I went to a poetry workshop where two poet-professors from Davis, Brad Henderson and Andy Jones described their semi-annual ritual/challenge of doing 40 poems in 40 days. The idea is, regardless of quality of result, to write a poem a day every day for forty days as a way of kicking your poetic muse into gear. They do this a couple times a year, although typically only a handful of the resulting poems go on to be used elsewhere. They even provided a list of daily prompts to guide your efforts if you need direction.

This whole venture sounded like fun, and fit nicely with my own intention for the year to re-connect with my muse. I knew I would be busy in March and April with my film project, so I decided I’d give it a try starting in May. And here we are! Being a confessionalist in my writing, I’ve decided to share the process with you, my hapless victims. The first ten day’s worth are below, more to follow…

Warning: These are meant to be exercises, and some of the prompts that inspired them are intentionally nonsensical. Proceed at your own risk…

Hot Water
(for Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice”)

Some said fire, some said ice
but Frost (great seer)
got it right on both counts:
the lineaments
of our slaughter
are even now
being traced
by the drip, drip, drip
of hot water

A Truth Beyond All Truths
(owing something to Wallace Stevens’ “Landscape with Boat”)

Anti-matter, florid, eccentric

Meets its opposite and wipes out all things
Leaving behind the scintillating blue array
Of particle trails
Rushing out from a point that is no point
Primeval blank vacuum field

In the Night before all nights
Something erupted there,
Or nothing,
Whichever, kept expanding
Into all the things that now are

The truth, even now,
Is that these things are still the nothing
They once were,
Even we are that nothing
Which is to say something

We, all, the empty space
From which pours infinite creation

I would lie there
twelve years old
on the sand
between the dusty spread legs
of two oak covered hills
yearning for something
that stirred
like the slit-eyed leopard sharks
in the crusted salt
brackish tang
and sinuous twist
of the slough before me

Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
All 200 patients
of the Denton Regional Medical Center
in Denton, Texas
have custom headphones
built into their beds
that play every Aerosmith song
ever recorded
on demand

Since most of the patients are older
classics are popular
In Cardiology, Radiation Oncology and
Geriatric Neurology
it’s strictly
“Sweet Emotion”, “Dream On”
and “Mama Kin”

Even down in Progressive Care
and the Adolescent Unit
they still have the good sense
to pick it up with the Run-DMC remix
of “Walk This Way”
and cut it off circa 1994
with “Cryin’”

Only in the Psych Ward
in the basement
does anybody have the
bad taste, or derangement
to listen to
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”

Nightmare of myself given childhood encouragement and high school confidence
He feels nothing but satisfaction,
a kind of ownership,
as he slaps the behind
of the lithe young blonde
lounging in satin
on his way to the shower.
More of the same
in the streamlined gleam
of his sports utility vehicle
gliding down LA freeways.
The feeling reaches a peak
in the glass-walled office
where all eyes at the trading desk
behold him with nervous regard
while his view
sweeps the city
that the electronic millions
he commands
courses through
as he confidently ignores
their expected reverence.

Of all the…
I have ever…
the one
that endures is…
Even now… rises
at the memory of… …
lying… on the…
as we… the width
and breadth
ran its course
took its weary toll

It’s Surprising to Me Too
Legions of menstruating grandmothers for Obama
Will have their final battle
With the spider monkeys of doom
On the caldera of an Icelandic volcano
On July 4, 1876
For reasons that are yet obscure
But will one day be the subject
Of Applied Chronametrics term papers
Flashed through cerebral upload academies
By eight year olds

600 Montgomery
It squats at the bottom
like a giant marble bullfrog
The functionless top scratches heaven
with its ornamental cement pylons
stack upon stack
of white stone, black window
options narrow

Question to the Taiwanese birders I met at the Explorer’s Inn, Tambomachay, Peru
Do grebes float
In the Rio Tambobo?
through a fluidic space
whose muddy bottom
is as bone-littered
as the Chauchilla Cemetery,
do they brave caiman,
giant river otters
and threats whose taxonomy
I can’t even name
and then emerge
to build nests
in green jungles
abutting sandy riverbanks?

I began to seek the way out long before
We lived in Salinas, I was only six or seven. I was not allowed to go to the 7-11 by myself. I snuck there anyway with my next-door neighbor. On the way back we cut through an abandoned lot. We got away with it! Home, no evidence, parents never even knew—“What happened to your foot?” I looked down to find my right foot covered in blood. I must have cut it on broken glass in the lot. I didn’t feel it before, but as soon as I saw it, I screamed and cried. Pain? Yes. But almost as bad— Caught! Lying, guilt, doing what I wasn’t supposed to. My foot throbbed and pumped out crimson. The blood shooting up the dropper’s neck, in my system even then. It left behind a triangular scar that remains to this day.

1 thought on “40 Poems in 40 Days!

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