AFTER JACOB BLAKE After the medical aid After the helicopter After immediately to Milwaukee After lengthening up through the crown After gravel shaped like twilight After tailwinds through the reeds After the pelvic floor After a mother tells her daughter, never say the Lord’s name in vain After, who’s name then am I supposed to say?
Tho hear the full 2 hour sequence, enter here
Word up, yo. I found these poems suffocating in a Google Doc from 2017. I’d sent them all out a million times to a million online journals with no takers (which makes sense).
It turns out I have a connection with the editors of this fine site; I traded 2 canisters of CBD-infused Flonase for them to post these 8 fairly-crappy poems today:
The Candle Throws Tantrums Against the Walls
On Christmas morning
I feel giddy with something simple
like a sunbeam flashing
off a metallic pinwheel.
We give Lois a sweater and help her
pass her arms through. The nurse
hands us a Sharpie to write
her name in the collar.
The bright rope that held her thoughts
is slack. I can’t tell if the punch
has grapefruit juice
or pomegranate sherbet.
There’s a man at the piano
with his back turned, turning
pages in a songbook, searching
for Silent Night.
Highs and Lows
The dementia ward plays Born to Run
from speakers embedded in the ceiling.
Lois is sad today. She can’t say why.
We walk outside to the reflecting pool.
There’s an airplane above us,
only a handful of people
even know where it’s going.
When the Party’s Over
I watched her walk
across the lawn
with the shower curtain
held high, fresh
from the washer,
headed for the line.
Without being asked,
like a giant pine tree,
I stood there,
Like a great darkness it moves
from one leaf to the next
through the thoroughly-washed
50/50 mix. 3 different strains
of lettuce and spinach
succumb to black slime
deep in the unpopular
corner of the crisper drawer.
Armies of manganese
and potassium suffocate
inside the quiet running
of the refrigerator.
Married To My Country
-after Wendell Berry
My country and I
trade fake smiles
There’s no use
to try and seduce
All my country complains
because the sun won’t walk
in the shoes of the moon.
The Cabin Wakes Up
The eyelids of two beagles
and a golden up first with the sun.
A forty-eight-nail tap dance
on the hardwood, their tags
tambourine the water bowl.
Loud cartoons and the empty bellies
of the five and six year old flip on. I rise
because the sun in my face
and a mildew scent on my pillow.
Grandpa starts the coffee quietly.
Grandma against the measuring glass
spazzes eggs with a fork
and the four teenagers begrudge every sound.
Their empty beer bottles, wine bottles
and bottle of rum
stuck to the table on the porch.
Their ping pong balls cornered
and they’re awake but not up
as the adults commit glass-on-glass
atrocities in the trash.
Their worried words
white-hot ping pong balls
from the paddles of their mouths,
and I’ve been that teenager
hearing just enough to know what’s coming
and knowing just enough to stay down.
The dogs–more afraid of stick than bristle–
run and hide as the 5 year old sweeps the walkway
to the cabin and sways to jazz on the radio.
I sweep out the studio that faces the lake
with giant bay windows. Several dead scorpions
cramp the threads of my broom, each in its own
sarcophagus of dog hair, dust and pencil shavings.
The prayer of their tiny claws open and unanswered.
A great drag out the window: wake boarders, skiers
and inner tubers. I wait to see someone swept
from their rope, their bodies skipped like stones
across the waves.
Urgent and Damned on the Rio Grande Under the I10 bridge
In a Bronco with tinted windows two teenagers
are locked in an awkward, equal-opportunity
sexual stickiness. There’s also 4 swastikas
spray-painted red on the turquoise supports.
One can smell a dead duck upwind in the reeds
and overhead one can hear the jagged ripping
of motorcycles, the steady forge of 18-wheelers
and the constant crackling of the desert sun.
The scent of fertilizer runoff from the fields
lifts off the river and one can feel the moment
urgent and damned, like a fly with amputated wings.
Have you ever done time in a New Mexico public school? if so, these bars are for you. Hear MC FLASHCARD preach over a beat made by Dr. SWA, one of his finest students. Flashcard delves into the New Mexico Public Education system from both sides of the dais.
New Mexico C
(verse 1 MC FLASHCARD)
Crusty, musty our budget’s real low
Trust me, in the LC that’s how it goes
Grease up the grades like a mechanic
cars broke down, I feel kinda manic
All through high school the microscope’s on you
The adults round here got no follow through
And what exactly are you graduating to
Suicide hotline’s got a waiting room
Which one of ya’ll ever thinks about me?
I think I’ll grade ya’ll a New Mexico C
(verse 2 MC FLASHCARD)
I sling the hammock up between your ears
Focus on your breath, now, never fear
All the trash card haters writin’ a diss track
I best ghost write it so it’s worth a crap
Now listen to me once, never to me twice
I’m not gonna ride you like a little tighty white
Now I never meant to do ya’ll a disservice
Half the time I feel my lessons are worthless
Which one of ya’ll ever thinks about me?
I think I’ll grade ya’ll New Mexico C
(verse 3 MC FLASHCARD)
Some say I should shave, get a haircut
Buzz cut my B-Ballz, that won’t shut me up
Caramelized onions and chile relleno
Sure my life’s all wrapped up like a burrito
Don’t quit your cell phone cause i tell you to
My clothes get faded grading you
If only I was casually observing you
If only I was casually observing you
songwriters: MC FLASHCARD, DR. SWA
Thanks to Jim Thompson over at Cacti Fur for publishing these 13 new haiku. Cacti Fur is the only poetry journal in America that would accept these. These 13 haiku got rejected 72 times. Here’s a brief retelling of those rejections:
For rejections 0-10 I remained giddy.
For rejections 11-26 I ate corn dogs or thought that maybe I should find some corn dogs to eat.
For rejections 27-32, which came in the winter, I felt cold on the inside and the out.
For rejection 33, this one never came, I’m guessing the editors were so knocked out by my haiku they just tossed in the towel completely and turned to stone like that one soldier in Clash of the Titans.
For rejections 34-58 I thought maybe all the publishers of poetry in America must clearly be idiots who only publish their white friends. This feelings lasted 46 days and 26 minutes.
For rejections 59-62 I thought maybe I would have better luck being published if my name was Suzy Hiro or Hilario Bustamontes or Mads Kellaway.
For rejections 63-70 I thought maybe I’m a terrible poet and then I told myself that writing is like therapy and then I washed my mouth out with Ivory soap.
Rejection 71 came from the New Yorker, oh Kevin Young, what good are you? You’re a better color than the last dude, but c’mon.
Rejection 72 never came. Rejection 72 was an acceptance letter from Jim Thompson of Cacti Fur. I love you for loving me! But I hate myself for being this needy. Jim, if you are reading this, when can I submit more poems to you, and only you, for rest of my life?
Here is a picture of me pretending to talk about my 13 new haiku to Kevin Young from the New Yorker:
A special thank you to Independent Noise for publishing a new poem of mine. Click here for the poem.
Independent Noise is a online literary journal with its headquarters in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Tim Staley’s newest chapbook, The Most Honest Syllable is Shhh, is now available from Amazon.
This 32 page collection was originally released in June, 2017, by NightBallet Press out of Cleveland, Ohio.
Here is a poem from this chapbook:
My Life and Your Life
My life almost feels
like your life.
Your life might be
I turn over your life
like a ceiling fan:
fast/ medium fast/
In winter I turn
the other way.
Or is it your life
turning over mine?
September 25, 2016 Anasazi Winery Placitas, NM
September 30, 2016 New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM
October 8, 2016 Wild Fig Books Lexington, KY
October 10, 2016 Sandra Small Gallery Covington, KY
October 12, 2016 Mac’s Backs Cleveland, OH
October 14, 2016 Art Obscura Las Cruces, NM