Starlight and Blame

Bright-starlight-background-vector-material-56681He hits the wall
Staccato quick
Like a gunshot
That clears the air
Before morning
A starlight’s instant
Full of sound fury
And avarice
A missed glance
That haunted sigh
Leaving him breathless
Judgment’s glare
Blazing in his eyes

She runs away
Adrenaline rush
Pushing her hard
Regret tinged
In her cool margins
Escape a daring chance
She must take
Like an avalanche
Waiting to fall
Her dreadful mistake
A wicked thorn
That keeps drawing blood
And an unending ire

And time stops
Frozen like ice
Fighting a summer
That’s coming soon
Waiting for love
To make things right
But the wall just shudders
The ground just smokes
Under starlight
And blame.

Sam

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Dear Journal: Photo Time

Dear Journal,

I’ve had this overwhelming need lately to capture moments on camera. I was going to say “on film” but there is no film in either my camera or my phone. There are about a million photographable moments during the course of my day, so many places that merit inclusion in my photo archives, and apparently I’ve just now finally noticed them all. So, I’ve been doing my best to take those pictures when I have even a moment’s time, and posting them to my Instagram account (is it a wall, a board, an account, or something else?), for all to see.

Here are some of those photos…

image
An abandoned building across from Nicky Doodles caught my eye.
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I think maybe this jeep’s owner forgot a few things.
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I pass these mailboxes every single day, and one day I stopped to take this photo.

It always fascinates me when photo opportunities come up, but I certainly don’t fancy myself a photographer, or even a “weekend photographer.” I’m just a guy who likes interesting images and sometimes takes pictures of them. Occasionally I fool around with the filters that Instagram provides, but more often than not I just leave them as they originally are. And there are so many others that I see and don’t take, either because of time constraints or because I can’t seem to get the right angle at the time. Those I store away for later.

There was this old abandoned diner in Poland that I always wanted to photograph. It had just the right touch of old history, with a large window in the front that had DINER painted on its glass, and a little table underneath that sign, with two dusty chairs underneath it, as if its occupants had just stepped out for a moment. But every time I passed I thought, “that was probably forty years since they got up, and they’ll never return.” Then one day the diner was gone, demolished, all that history erased by a bulldozer. And I missed the photo opportunity that had presented itself so many times before.

That’s when I decided not to let other moments pass, and I’m glad I did.

Sam

The Guy Across the Street

thThe guy across the street died four months ago, and I had no idea whatsoever until this past Saturday. I guess it’s a testament to the insular world I live, I guess. But nevertheless I was shocked when I went by his house, didn’t see his car, and my wife told me he had died “some months ago.” Maybe I’m just not in the loop around here, either because I’m not from around here originally or because I just don’t know my neighbors that well. In twelve years of being neighbors, I never even knew his name.

He had one of those boat cars. You know the kind, that is long and wide. When he would pull out of his parking space he never looked to see what other traffic might be around. Which I guess was okay around here because everyone knew he pulled right out regardless and veered clear when they saw him coming. No one ever honked.

Then, when he was home, he would sit out on the stoop (it was really just a slab of ground in front of his house) and smoke his pipe. He would nod when I passed by, and I would always nod in return, but that was pretty much the most communication we ever had over the course of those twelve years. I think he was married but I’m not really sure. The lady I saw at his house could very well have been some other relative because I hardly ever saw them together.

And now his house is going to be for sale. I can tell. No one is living in it right now, but the yard is being maintained, and the house looks suitably humbled. It’s larger than ours. I can tell from the outside. When my wife mentioned that if the price was right maybe we could move in I looked at her like she was crazy, though.

“We can’t move into a house where a guy died,” I told her.

“We don’t know if he died in there,” she replied.

“But still, maybe he did,” I said.

“And so what?” she asked. “People have died in every old house.”

She was right, of course, but maybe it was more the feeling that the house across the street will always be his, even if he only inhabits it in spirit form now. Perhaps in a sense every house is like that, too, that every house has the spirit of its former occupants, that they are as ingrained in its wood as the bottom layer of paint on its wooden slats. Could you imagine? When you walked through the halls you could feel those spirits all around you, either inviting you in or scaring you away.

I still can’t believe it either, that he’s really dead. My brain can’t quite fathom it because it seems like just yesterday he was sitting out there in front of his boat car, on his little stoop, smoking that old pipe and nodding to me as I passed. But it wasn’t yesterday, and it wasn’t the day before. It was over four months ago, and I hadn’t missed any of that interaction in all that time. It made me realize that if I were to pass, I would probably also be “that guy across the street” to my neighbors. It made me want to do more to embrace my community and have my community embrace me.

Maybe then when I die they’ll call me Sam. Because I was him to them.

Sam

Neglecting Tiger Woods

tigerwoodspgatour10_WII
He looks mad, doesn’t he? Sorry.

I haven’t played Tiger Woods golf in a couple of weeks, which is about an eternity for me, but it has been for very good reasons. First off, I’ve been working on my next novel, which in and of itself is a labor of love. Quite literally. I’m writing a modern love story, a genre I haven’t even remotely wanted to venture into before, and it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point, but I’m quite satisfied with my character development, so that’s a bonus. Secondly, I decided to pause the novel in order to release my second collection of poetry, Subjects, (now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble).

That in addition to working these two jobs simultaneously for six weeks, and you can see why I’ve been fairly busy. These are the days when I wish I could get paid for blogging. Honestly. I do it enough. These two jobs tax two completely different areas of my brain, though, so I can certainly compartmentalize them. Tonight I’m working the glorious 6-10 shift at Target, and tomorrow morning the principal is coming in to observe me at summer school. Oh, and report cards are due. Fun times for all.

Not to mention fantasy football season is right around the corner again and I’m the defending champion in one of my leagues so I have had to do some serious research to give myself the best fighting chance to win the title yet again this year. During the past week I’ve already had two fantasy drafts and approached them both in completely different ways. We’ll see how they shake out over the course of the long season, but just having them in my pocket helps me for the one draft that really counts, at the end of next month.

Oh, and ferrying the kids around. Did I mention that? These girls are doing all sorts of summer activities. Maddie is in summer school, so I pick her up at the end of her school day. Lexi is taking art classes so she comes home with so many interesting stories (and sometimes paint on her clothes — they were “glazing” today). And both girls are taking swimming classes at the local community college, so I drive them out there to meet their mother, and — bless her soul — she swims with Maddie in the parent-and-me class. I get to swim with her tomorrow night. Where is my bathing suit again?

But I’ve neglected Tiger Woods, and for that I’m incredibly sorry. Maybe this weekend. We’ll see.

Sam

Chatting With Lexi: On Enrichment

what-to-do-when-your-bored-at-school_4My wife and I have been talking quite a bit lately about how challenging the school work has been/hasn’t been for Lexi. When she first started school it was a concern for us because she had shown aptitude for advanced processing and we wanted to make sure that school was sufficiently challenging her brain. Then, when we found out that she had ADHD we knew it would take a renewed effort to ensure that school was “tough enough” just to help her keep focus. But we’re still concerned.

When Lexi got her report card at the end of the school year that divide was still quite evident, with all of her strictly academic grades in the wonderful category while her behavioral grades are under the average. Why is that? We had a talk with her about it soon after the school year ended…

Me: So, Lexi, how come your grade in art is so low? You love art.

Lexi: I know, but I keep finishing early.

Me: And what happens when you finish early? Do you work on more art?

Lexi: No. I just go around and tell other kids how to fix theirs.

Me: You think what they’re doing is wrong?

Lexi: No. But I’m bored, and since I’m artist I wanted to help them.

Me: And what does the teacher say about that?

Lexi: She says I’m too loud and distracting others.

And therein lies the issue, in my opinion. Lexi more often than not finishes ahead of the other students, with significant time to spare, and then has to come up with things to do in order to fill her time. Most times, because she craves interaction with others, that means interrupting them while they’re trying to finish and getting in trouble for it. Simply put, she’s bored, and when Lexi’s bored she finds things to occupy herself, not all of which are good ideas.

Me: Did you stop going around and trying to help others?

Lexi: Well, yeah. I did, but then I got bored again so I started playing with the paints.

Me: Is that why you have a big spot of paint on your pants?

Lexi: Yeah. And the teacher said I wasn’t supposed to be doing that either.

Me: Did she tell you what you could do when you finished early?

Lexi: No. She just told me what I couldn’t do. Continue reading “Chatting With Lexi: On Enrichment”

Crafting Poetry

apple2c2I never had one of those old typewriters, but I sure wanted one, with its cartridge and ribbon, and its ability to make mistakes that couldn’t easily be erased. Instead I learned to type on an old school version of the Apple computer where the letters were huge and shaped like computer bytes, or what I felt computer bytes would have looked like if they were letters. There wasn’t even a word processing program, just an ambiguous “notes” area that didn’t automatically move an entire word to the next line, chopping it into untidy sections that would have to be cleaned up later.

It was in this rudimentary way that I crafted my first piece of poetry when I was twelve years old. It was a treacly sort of writing endeavor, with sixteen lines of more prose than anything else, chopped up into sections that I thought resembled stanzas. Back then I was married to the rhyme, like a quasi Dr. Seuss in younger form. I often forced the form because of this self-imposed restriction, and it’s one of the first things I tell prospective poets. Don’t get so hung up on form that you lose content and meaning, because a poem is all about that content, that meaning, and a certain depth that can be lost when form takes over.

I had a simple 4x4x2 structure to each of my poems back then. Every poem I wrote for that first year was four stanzas long, with four lines per stanza, and lines two and four in each stanza rhymed. Those were really the only guidelines I set for myself. My dad wrote poetry, but in that vague sense that I knew he did but I rarely saw any of it, so it wasn’t like I had a real mentor. Instead, I made all the stumbles a young writer makes in the process of understanding a certain craft. That being said, I wouldn’t trade any of those missteps in for a quicker route to my own poetic voice. Each mistake was one brick in the path that got me here.

It’s funny, looking back, on all the ways I tried to stretch and grow as a poet during those first few years. I had definitive stages, not unlike Picasso’s phases, where for pockets of time every poem I wrote seemed to keep the same forms, to carry the same themes, and to stagger the rhyme schemes in the same exact ways. For what seemed like an eternity, but what was really just five to seven years, I was stuck in that pattern and my poetry suffered for it. In fact, I look back at some of the poems I wrote during those stages and I laugh at them. I wouldn’t share most of them with anyone now, but as any other art form, some of them did shine through like jewels among swine.

e8ea51cbabad42a20578c90ef90ac9edNow when I am in the mood to write in the poetic form I take out my Dell laptop, open up a blank Word document, and just let it flow, for better or for worse. But it usually takes a fluid shape while I’m writing it, and before I’m done I know where it’s heading and where I need to be before I’m finished with it, or before it’s finished with me, because a poem is an organic form. It lives and breathes on its own, and sometimes I honestly do feel like simply its translator, so that you the reader can understand what has come through me in the telling. It’s these poems that I feel closest to. They are my children, and I live and breathe them every single time I read one of them.

That’s why when I’m at a poetry slam, or a more traditional poetry reading, where I’m sharing some of my work, I never read a poem aloud more than once. There’s just something about reading it one time through for ears to hear and to process that exhausts me emotionally and physically. For these words are more than words. They are experiences, emotions, feelings, deep and filled with a soul that is both my own and not mine at the same time. It’s what I love most about poetry.

Sometimes I pretend I’m back in our old dining room in Southwest Philadelphia, with that green screen vivid in front of me, waiting for inspiration and getting clumsy baby steps instead. But those baby steps helped me get to where I am now. They helped to get me in touch with a side of me that may have indeed lain dormant for the rest of my life if I hadn’t opened up myself to it, way back then, on a computer that has long since died. I still have one of those floppy disks around here that I saved them on, but there is no program that will allow me to open it. Maybe that’s for the best. There are so many new poems to be written.

Sam

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