Works In Progress – Spanish Poetry: La Pregunta

I’ve been writing poems in Spanish lately, then translating them back into English.

Here’s an attempt – a work in progress – a rough draft of a recent poem:

La Pregunta

Eres como un eclipse,

oscuridad del sol, día

muerte un poco

una sepultura, yo camino

y veo el cielo,

giró violeta, se sombra.

Un cuervo talla los cosmos,

confesor negro, pajaro

sacerdotal, y yo pregunto

mi consulta.


And in English:


The Question

You are an eclipse,

obscurity of the sun, day

dying a little

a tomb, I walk

and see the sky

twist violet, shadow itself.

A crow carves the cosmos,

black confessor,

sacerdotal bird, and I ask

my question.


A Few Good Book Recs

I was asked for a few book recs in an email yesterday, and I realized that I should probably share my response since I love it so much when people tell me about books they’ve enjoyed. Here’s what I wrote:
“This year, I loved The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (National Book Award), Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (National Book Critic’s Circle Award for Poetry – although it reads more like essays), James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird (National Book Award), Kevin Barry’s short story collection Dark Lies The Island, and Welch’s The Death Of Jim Loney (which felt eerily close to my current mental state with a brain injury).
Bryn Greenwood’s All The Ugly And Wonderful Things was DISTURBING but she wrote it beautifully.
Also, I’ve read ten of the Best American Short Stories collections.
Girl In Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow was hard but good as well.
In the last few years…I loved all three Patrick deWitt novels + Lean On Pete & The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin.”

On Writing?

The Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik wrote this in the middle of one of her poems in 1965 (when she was 29) and it made me think of the writing process:

“And there is, in this waiting,

a rumor of breaking lilac.

And there is, when the day arrives,

a division of the sun into smaller black suns.

And at night, always,

a tribe of mutilated words

looks for refuge in my throat…”

In Spanish, it’s a little different, but the same idea (for example, “espera” could mean “waiting” or “hoping” in this context, etc.):

“Hay, en la espera,
un rumor a lila rompiéndose.
Y hay, cuando viene el día,
una partición del sol en pequeños soles negros.
Y cuando es de noche, siempre,
una tribu de palabras mutiladas
busca asilo en mi garganta…”

A Found Poem From The Book “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People”

The seven habits.jpg

I pulled four-word phrases from Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, and found this amazing poem hidden inside the self-help guide:

Maneuvers in heavy weather

the next new pleasure has to be bigger,

better, deep,

lasting satisfaction or cries for

more, and more.

Last too long? Too…most significant and seductive

up and down in it,

like Satan,

what Pascal called licking,

going to and fro,

more exciting, with a bigger…

quietly, slowly, imperceptibly expanding

circle of influence

with a ground-swell of magnificent

emotional strength.

How he worked on the inner circle.

“Love her,” I replied. “Love is a verb.”

Love – the feeling – is a fruit of love.

So love her. Serve her a greater

longer-lasting experience.

You just can’t imagine the ability

to subordinate.

Live like animals, out, this map

doesn’t describe the territory.

Rats, monkeys, pigeons, dogs,

to use a computer metaphor

the egg is pure gold, tremendous

gravity, pull, the lunar voyage

of Apollo 11, superlatives such as “fantastic”

and “incredible”

I know they can be broken.

It’s sometimes a painful process.

My New Poem Of Resistance

The Resistance Racoon.jpg

I have a new poem out with Writers Resist.

In English:

When Our Culture Is Los Angeles Instead of Joshua Tree, This Is How We Elect a President

And it was just translated into German today (In this scenario, I’m the resistance racoon):

Wenn unsere kulturelle Heimat Los Angeles heißt statt Joshua Tree, wählen wir so einen Präsidenten

Paddling North Five Days On The River – Day One


Plate-glass morning water with fish shatters. A hummingbird drops over the tent and hangs in the space created by the rain.

I read a Carol Shields novel and the daylight sneaks through the leaves of the cottonwood, white and green.

It rained steady all evening, and starting a fire was like baking without sugar or flour. But now the sky is striped by blue between clouds, and I think, “How many people in history have tried to write about clouds?”

Nubes como las olas…

Nubes sin mala intención…

Drifting thoughts of clouds…

Or some other cliché…

Better ideas waiting that I’ve never had…

It would be easy to steal. To Thomas Edison. To feed an image of greatness. “Look at me, a worker, a brilliant mind.”

But I am not brilliant. My mind is not a rare jewel. I only observe what is around me. Seeing the green grasshoppers collecting on my legs at the river’s edge. The blue heron shushing across to the other side. The osprey sitting sentinel on the fence-post above the cutbank. Flipping my spinner under the branch in four feet of water and the rainbow trout hitting the Rooster Tail in the first rotation of the reel.

We use two rocks as a plate and eat the fish with our fingers. Skin salted with Johnny’s, MSG, meat blackened over a stick-fire. Hot Tang and Folgers from boiled river water.

These are no proverbs.

These are no parables.

This is only the first day. How it is. How it was.

Poetry Illuminated – Whitman & Neruda

Reading the poetry of Walt Whitman, Song Of Myself Illuminated, by Allen Crawford (Tin House Books):


Neruda’s Love Sonnet #17 on my arm. Feeling poetic today. Inspired.

Whitman: “Electrical, I and this mystery here we stand.”

Neruda: “te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras…”