Her identity has been stolen
by the shadow of death—
that oily cloud of slithering suffocation
loitering nearby Final Breaths,
Pathetic parasite desperate for the demise of some poor soul
so it can prey not on death’s victim, but its own,
Melancholy mucus that suffocates the mourner
overtaking her like a cloak of phlegm,
a lecherous, filmy sadness that she cannot medicate away
(try as she might)
Tainting her spirit forever, a warning stench creating fear in her acquaintances
for it makes them face their immortality and
their awkward inadequacies as they blurt out trite comforts,
Grief goggles she can never remove, dooming her to view life
It has seeped into her skin slowly,
it’s who she is.
My mind is a half-empty glass of whiskey about to be drained to the rocks.
My mind is a fulcrum for sappy sentiments of lace, satin, and paper hearts.
My mind breathes upon his breath, the breath that heats my face in the night and reminds me I’m alive.
My mind is survived by words on paper.
My mind likes to sleep and dream that death and crushing guilt don’t exist.
My mind relishes the sights of narrow Yorkshire streets and the sounds of the Minster.
My mind is saved by confession and the promise of redemption.
My mind is motion for memories that keep mothers alive.
My mind quivers like Aunt Imogene’s jello from the mold, full of banana pieces and cottage cheese.
My mind needs respite from chatter and traffic and plaid pants.
My mind is harmony and swiss cheese and throbbing Irish punches.
My mind squeezes images of my wedding day
and sings trite love songs.
My mind leaves academia in pursuit of the truth of beauty.
He’s not new, but he’s new to me. Here is a taste of his work. Enjoy!
poem I wrote sitting across the table from you
by Kevin Varrone
if I had two nickels to rub together
I would rub them together
like a kid rubs sticks together
until friction made combustion
and they burned
a hole in my pocket
into which I would put my hand
and then my arm
and eventually my whole self–
I would fold myself
into the hole in my pocket and disappear
into the pocket of myself, or at least my pants
but before I did
like some ancient star
I’d grab your hand
I have mentioned that I am a feminist critic when it comes to literature; that is the school of criticism that most resonated with me as an undergrad. I did an independent study with my favorite professor in which we researched early children’s lit and approached it from a feminist perspective for a class she taught the next semester. In graduate school, I continued my research; however, for my English elective courses, I took creative writing classes. And instead of doing a research paper for my graduate thesis, I did a creative thesis instead, at the encouragement of my poetry professor.
Poetry has a special place in my heart, and while I consider myself a poet, I do not consider myself a profound poet or even a good one. But I can steer you in the direction of good, profound poets, one of my favorites being Mark Strand. Here is an old interview of his in which he explains the purpose of poetry and what he considers good poetry.
“…you have to be willing to read poetry; you have to be willing to meet it halfway—because it won’t go any further than that if it’s any good. A poem has its dignity, after all. I mean, a poem shouldn’t beg you to read it; it’s pathetic, if that’s the case. Some poets fear that they won’t be heard unless they flatter the reader, go ninety percent of the way, do it all for the reader. But that’s pathetic.”
was long out
by the time
I was born
and yet I
for a mask
of his face.
his face was
to me, my
up in peace
know what that
So I saved
since my mom
he was in-
bad. With his
face on mine
ty, I felt
take the heat
of the man.
to peel his
face off mine
and breathe air
by his mis-
to pass as
the real deal.
How sweet to
that I am
When I was a little girl, I was intrigued by presidential masks, especially the one of Richard Nixon. This poem is a metaphor of the masks we choose to wear instead of risking being known for who we really are. It is a celebration of God convincing me I don’t need a mask–that I am lovable to him just as I am.
I wrote this while contemplating how shocking it is in the midst of grief to realize the world continues spinning even though it feels like it should stop with the passing of someone you love so much. The first time I experienced this was when my parents died and I stopped to get gas on my drive home–I almost couldn’t believe that the gas attendant didn’t know what had happened.
The mundane continues despite death,
like having to get gas at three o’clock in the morning after
your rotary phone rings to deliver
the message that your parents have died. You wonder
what the gas attendant thinks about you
and your puffy eyes. You wonder
if you should tell him: I have reason for crying—
my parents are dead. DEAD. But you realize
the wonder of the world continuing—phones
still ringing, gas still pumping, money
still exchanging—distracts you as you inhale
second-hand smoke, wishing you were high
and this were all a dream.