thrum of humming

post-fever glassy eyes
and unsure knees
first stop:
garden
deadheading bachelors buttons and sunflowers
before bouquet-making
(nasturtiums included)
thrum of hummingbird wings above
_______

william rolling out tortilla dough
on kitchen table
some time after i arrange
tiny bottle window-ledge bouquets

_______

while joking about the phenomenon
of balls hanging off of truck trailer hitches
the four of us imagine some guy who’s just
all about balls
which includes
walking around with meditation balls constantly in his hand
and maybe even
getting a pair of balls tattooed on his actual balls
if you wanna get that meta about it
which we apparently did
we joked about other more tasteful and intelligent things also
but really, it’s not even what we were joking about,
it’s how hard we laughed
and how often
_______

i have to read the following caption outloud
Egypt’s ex-President Hosni Mubarak has been jailed for life over the killing of demonstrators last year. Crowds gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest against the verdicts, and protests were also held in Egypt’s second city Alexandria, Suez and Mansoura.

because it is difficult to believe such grief for a leader/murderer they’ve never met
(in the photo, four figures hold their heads in their hands. grieving like one might grieve a relative they lost in the demonstrations)

_______

day 13 of miner’s wildcat strike in asturias, spain
hold strong and fast
righteous fighters
and all those struggling in alliance with you

_______

one summer i lived in a shed in a backyard
it was close to the train tracks and the engine roar/the whistles howled through my sleep
mornings, the scrub jays dove and caw/screeched into the yard
they had a mean sound and demeanor
(it was common to see them dive-bomb other birds)
on work mornings, i set the alarm on my boombox
in which a patty griffin cd sat
if i laid in bed long enough
i made it to this song
which is difficult to listen to without feeling anything
which is another way of saying
safe/smooth journeys to you

 

far from water

 

 

lunch: mug of miso broth with noodles
late dinner: mug of miso broth with noodles
in between: a slice of watermelon
a half of an orange left sitting on the cutting board
handful of rice chips
temperature: ranging from 98.something to 100.something

______

the fact that scott walker wasn’t recalled
literally made me sick
i say

______

freezer ice pack
wrapped in washcloth
forehead-draped

______

what the light looks like
when one watches it
carve its sky-path
from bed
what the heat feels like
rising from my fingertips
how the mattress/the sheets
are still warm
when i climb back in

______

i could take advil
i say
but want the fever to break itself
wet cotton socks
underneath wool

______

the first sleep i have gotten
in years
room piling up on itself

______

in the film
a phoenix birdwoman
a white piano
black tu-tued ballerinas
deer with heads turned in the forest
the rising
the fire

______

echoing:
since si se puede became yes, we can eliminate brown bodies by the billions without consequence, call it the D word instead of death and casually allow ourselves to forget that this land began with brown skin

______

also echoing:
how you said
sometimes when i feel sick
i think of the people who are crossing the desert right now
who are dying of dehydration
and are alone and far from water
i let myself feel that place for a little
and then come back to the present and appreciate life in illness
where i can just sleep and drink and reach out to those i love
with a simple phone call or email or text
which blew my mind because
i do this
exact same thing
cut from the same cloth

 

 

when the stars appeared

you got lots of ooohs when your postcard started moving
and then gasps when the stars appeared
i hope you will add them to detail collector
wayne says
regarding yesterday’s lecture love letter delivery

_______

how to hold hands
when undocumented parents
are being stolen in the night

_______

you could solicit publishers
rae says
for this anthology
i think it’s very well done
and it’s not like i needed that validation
but it sure did help
made me feel like
after all this struggle
i did at least one thing that works

_______

217 does bike tricks in her
pink and white crossword shoes
as we pedal south
on first avenue

_______

the moon
you text me
and i can’t believe i hadn’t looked up and noticed it yet

_______

in between finals mayhem and preparing house dinner
i call ‘home’
ask for the (64 year old) birthday kid
wishing her the happiest of happies
guess what we’re doing right now
she says
we’re roasting marshmellows!
and even if you’ve never met my mom
i’m sure you might be similarly moved
at the image of mom and dad
on backyard 70’s suburban patio
holding skewered marshmellow
over grill fire

_______

for one of our final projects for workshop, we were asked to compile an anthology of poetry published in the past 20 years. and then we were asked to write an introduction for said anthology. i wish i could include the pdf of the anthology i compiled. i don’t think i can do this on the blog, but i can include the table of contents:

Redaction Paintings, Jenny Holzer p. 1-10
This Connection of Everyone With Lungs (excerpt), Juliana Spahr p. 11-13
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (excerpt)., Claudia Rankine p. 14-18
River and That We Have Become Numbers, Max Regan p. 19-21
The People Database (excerpt), Kristin Prevallet p. 22-24
SOAPS, Nonhuman Animal Memoir (excerpt), Heather Fuller p. 25-27
Found Dope, Candy Jernigan p. 28-31
Executive Order No. 10178 Oct. 30, 1950, 15 F.R. 7313, and ginen sourcings, Craig Santos Perez p. 32-35
Trench Town Rock (excerpt), Kamau Brathwaite p. 36-38
Dictee (excerpt), Theresa Hak Kyung Cha p. 39-43
Looking Back at Camp, Lawson Fusao Inada p. 44-46
From Sheds 12 and 13, Raul Zurita p. 47-48
The Bluegrass State, Brenda Coultas p. 49-50
Bilingual Instructions, Harriet Mullen p. 51
Nox (excerpt), Anne Carson  p. 52-56
The Doctors from Book of the Dead, Muriel Rukeyser p. 57-60
Coal Mountain Elementary excerpt, Mark Nowak p. 61-68
Ghettos (Holocaust excerpt), Charles Reznikoff p. 69-71
i was super excited about this assignment. and when i turned in my kazillion page anthology, it glowed like a pile of gold. or i was glowing, pile of gold in my hands. there was something about  putting all this work that i look up to, (all these poets doing things i aspire to do in their work, all those poems in one place) that made me hum… the marrow humming in my bones humming bound by ligaments humming wrapped in muscle humming blood moving through humming skin hugging it all together hugging. putting all this work in one place told/showed me things. mostly it was poetry doing things. the kinds of things i think poetry is here for doing. rather than try to go on like this, i’m including my imperfect introduction below… still a draft. but man, how good it felt to arrive at those last lines.

Dear reader,

What does it mean for an internet resource many of us rely on for information on any range of topics from art/literary movements to chemical elements (AKA: Wikipedia) to not contain an entry for the term documentary poetry or documentary poetics?

I imagine the answer taking two forms: 1. It gives us the freedom to define the term/category for ourselves. 2. It perhaps reveals the underfamiliarity the reading public has with this category? Or, perhaps it reveals one of the things that’s most appealing to me about documentary poetics: that this category of work is not a movement and therefore not tied to a specific time period or  geography.

Both this lack of Wikipedia defining and this lack of ties to a specific movement create a sense of openness, of possibility, which allows us to continue to interpret and define what the world of documentary poetry encompasses. In my interest in continuing to keep this definition open, I prefer to tell you what draws me to the poems I chose for this collection rather than tell you what documentary poetry is.

In this collection, you will find that, thematically, much of this work touches on death and violence in relation to colonialisms and systems of power. Many of these pieces operate from places of social and political critique and activism.

You will also find the essence of the document itself. In Jenny Holzer’s Redacted Paintings, she showcases American government documents regarding Guantanamo Bay (acquired through a process made possible through the freedom of information act) While Reznikoff.s Holocaust Poems consist solely of testimony lifted from the Nuremberg trials.

While some of the poets in this anthology work with acquired documents, others rely on their own practice of creating documenting and archiving as their artistic/poetic practice. For instance, in Candy Jernigan’s Found Dope, she works to map out the places and times where she discovered dope vials/containers while walking in her neighborhood.

One of the questions that comes into view while looking at / creating different forms of documentary poetry is how present or absent the lyrical I becomes in the work. In other forms of document (photojournalism, documentary film), it seems the more professional approach is to not include a sense of the photographer or film-maker, but to let the events, the places, the people bring the story/a truth to the viewer/reader. In this collection, you will find varying levels of presence of the poet in their work. But we can not deny, regardless of whether or not we use the word I or actually speak in our poems, we are always bringing ourselves into our work. (The photojournalist still holds the camera. The photojournalist still makes choices about whether to choose an image of their subject laughing or grimacing. The photojournalist still chooses which truth to reveal.)

My own interest in documentary poetics comes from a place of attempting to recontextualize information. A printmaker and collaborator of mine, Corinne Teed, might have said it best when she said talked about the compartmentalization response to news/information (you see it. you name it. you move on.) and how documentary poetry often interrupts that compartmentalization so that readers become witness and are given the space to emotively respond rather than shut down.

This is not to say that each of these poets/visual artists are coming from the same place I am, but it is one way of contextualizing this collection of work. Another lens from which view this work through might be a though that colleague K. Wayne Yang offered in a lecture on colonialisms recently: to refuse historical amnesia is to refuse to forget. It is to make the ghosts come back. It is to decide to live with them because we refuse to forget how (our) people died. This articulation is all too appropriate to this body of work, since documentation feels largely about not allowing ourselves to forget, or not allowing the world to forget us.

the most important thing

loveletter/postcard written for k. wayne yang’s worldmaking (cat 3) class completed last night at 3am and delivered to lecture today at 6pm:

i’d like to start by asking ya’ll to make some noise for yourselves for showing up. for being here now. i know it’s not always easy. but you’re still here.

when wayne proposed to us that we write these postcards, i had an overwhelming sense that, amongst the hundreds of poems and handful of research papers, this is the most important thing i’ve been asked to write in my two years at ucsd. i’m not sure how to explain why, except to say: because i’m writing it for you.
not a random professor or an anonymous panel of contest judges or a nameless face in the blog-o-sphere, but for you, who i’ve been sitting in this room with twice a week for the past two and a half months.

when i thought about what i wanted to say, i knew i wanted to honor one of my teaching beliefs that’s about how all of us are always learning and teaching regardless of whether or not we’re in school.
(and as a grad student who is in school, i literally inhabit both a student and teacher role. it’s a strange space to be in and i’ll give you extra credit if you can draw a diagram that honors the complexity of that structural location overlap). so i want to share some of the things things i’ve learned from you in the past 10 weeks.

i’ve learned that some of you listen better in lecture than i do when you have the answers to your discussion-mates questions that i don’t.
i’ve learned who’s going to be sitting in the room when i walk in and who’s going to cruise in five minutes after section has begun.
i’ve learned that when each of you have a different answer to the same question, you’re all usually right. (except for that one guy).
i’ve learned how good it feels to laugh with you, and how laughing together in a windowless room can make it a softer place to be.
i’ve learned the sound of your voices, so that when you talk in lecture, i don’t have to turn my head to know who’s asking a brilliant question or offering insightful (or smartass) answers.
i’ve learned how to ask you to stand with me. which is part of my lifelong learning about how i never have to do this work alone.

i’ve also learned your names. and i know there will be a moment when i cross paths with one of you in the future and won’t be able to pull your name from my memory quick enough… a situation i’ve already encountered on campus. a situation which has helped me learn my answer to that ‘if you could have any super power, what would it be’ question. if i could have any super power, it would be to remember the names of every person i’ve ever met. so i could always offer them that level of intention, intimacy and respect. i want to remember your name so that the next time we run into each other, i can offer you those things (intention, intimacy, respect) along with my gratitude for your allowing me to learn from you and my gratitude for your willingness to be led by me. so, if we do cross paths and i don’t call your name out, will you promise to remind me of it?)

i have not only learned that teaching/studenting is a form of love, but that one can actually stand up here in a 200-student lecture and say that word.
love.
and still somehow be taken seriously. (though i suspect, due to the nature of the white supremacist heteropatriarchal society we live in, it’s more effective if you happen to be a guy up here saying that word.)

which leads me to this:
(in this time of change/moving on, i just want to offer to you the idea that we were connected before we met and we’ll be connected long after we leave this classroom / this institution)
and i’d like to leave you with a small poem that came from looking up while biking home under a night sky during a time of intense grief/loss.

sky a blanket
stars as stitches
and because the sky is a blanket
it means you have never slept alone
and because you have never slept alone
it means you are
star-stitched
still you
still connected to
anyone you have ever loved

our students by name

in the dream
we (3 or 4 of us)
gathered for dinner at the polish culture house
that i never knew existed
how we needed a car to get there and
how i could hear the squeezebox music
and see the green-skirt white-apron costume
how i stood back for perspective
how i appreciated the empty rooms and
the delight at the polish toy store
similar to the german toy store in pdx
only with cooler stuff
something like cement lions guarding the entrance
_______
lined up outside calabria cafe
10am scooter party
riders continue to roll up and park in packs
parrot man perched in wicker chair while
parrot perches on parrot man’s shoulder

_______

f talks about
choosing between education studies
and professorly/academic endeavors
americano in his hands
why not both
i ask
and then we talk about the importance
of knowing our students by name

_______

overheard on the sidewalk
drifting through open front door
and up entryway stairs
in what i assume to be a cis-male voice
just glad that we met each other that
no matter what, we’ll be friends
no matter what

_______

i diagram on my left hand
the non-linear line between
revitalization and gentrification
and later offer you my right
to tag
_______

outside el camino
under flight path roars
we take turns pointing/lecturing on the
wall-size menu
and then taking photos
of aforementioned spectacle

_______

inside el camino:
virgin of guadalupe candles lit and lining windows
wheatpasted grafitti walls
the double-starch combo of nachos + mac and cheese
hot pink ruffled aprons that match one of the walls in the highceilinged bathroom
sweet potato flautas
a pile of mini gums brought to our table with the checks including eucalyptus and rum flavors

_______

it’s not until CRG gets to the names/dates/cities
that her throat constricts
that she must breathe
through the tears
before continuing to read
and afterwords i tell her about
the kind of poet i want to be
is one who tears up/cries
at the podium

_______

i have a hard time understanding
why people make weird faces and ask increduloulsy
about a residency in nebraska
but don’t raise a question
about a residency in finland
they have obviously never fallen in love
with the quiet 10 layers deeper than any other quiet
under star-pricked sky
they have obviously never fallen in love
with the quiet 10 layers deeper than any other quiet
accompanied by the dust that rises
as cars pass along the dirt road which is the only road in
they have obviously never fallen in love
with the quiet 1o layers deeper than any other quiet
that accompanies the lightening bugs hovering silent flicking on and off
in the humid night
whose heat only breaks into cool air
in the wake of thunder/lightening cleaving apart sky
which means you climb into bed
shirtless
a thin sheet pulled up against your saltsweat skin

_______

one of the best things
about this tiny couch
is how it brings people close

_______

hair in knuckled hands
and the rest is about teeth
and edges