poems doing things

how many of you actually care about this paper
i ask
two and a half maybe three people
raise their hands
choose a subject you care about
i offer
because the more interesting it is to you
the more likely it will be interesting to your reader


wordless poems causing
a stir at the office of graduate studies

and while the woman with the ruler
(who has a cruel job
but is not cruel
at least not in this case)
says this is more pleasing than looking at a structural engineering thesis
i think of poems being in the places they shouldn’t
or aren’t normally
and doing things like pleasing people
(or upsetting people
or, doing anything really, to people)
and i wonder how to do that more,
how to get poems into unexpected places
and how to get people to have to interact with them
in this case
it is this woman’s job
not to read them
but to make sure they are in the right place on the right page

and then there is the debate
the stir
about the poems without words in them
the woman opposite me at the desk is on my side
but says she must photocopy them and bring them to her boss
the whole issue being
images in a thesis need captions
and i argue that i don’t want additional text on the pages
that the matchbooks, the paperscraps, the dried roses are text
and are to be read as so
poems without a single word in them
is what they are named
i explain
and when the boss of the woman with a cruel job comes in to introduce herself
we shake hands and i feel like it is something i’m supposed to stand up for
but i don’t
i am kind though
and she asks if the poems have a title
and i say yes, it’s right here
pointing to the first matchsticks in the matchstick poem
the first gold paper scrap in the gold paperscrap poem
and she says my committee chair
must sent them a letter
so it can be discussed
in the next big meeting
and i think i am supposed to be threatened
but instead
i am amused
at what happens
when poems make their way onto bureaucracy-enforcing office desks
and in their delightfulness, say
no. your rules don’t fit. and i refuse.

the woman with the ruler who said i’m on your side
well, first of all, i don’t know how many times i get to hear that from someone in a position of power over me

and second of all
when she went to make photocopies of the wordless poems to show her boss she said
i’ll just copy two or three
but then
when she had three and saw the roses she said oh! i have to copy those too because it’s so beautiful!
and then came the musical notes and she said
oh! and this! this one just because!
and there we were passing light back and forth
because how can one not be delighted
at such poems!?
and how can a poet not be delighted
when she sees her poems on a desk
doing things

triumph is one word i feel
walking out of that office
even if we haven’t won the fight yet
triumph that a poem paired with my insistence
made office people
have a conversation about
whether or not those pictures are poems

not a bad way
if you ask me
to close out national poetry month

our art did that

the space of ideas is important
favianna rodriguez says from in front of the podium
stay visionary
think big
we get so used to thinking on their terms, propagate your own

mighty and five feet tall she says don’t think of it as what you are against (thinking on their terms) but what you are for
there is pressure for artists to always be in the streets
but they need to be in their studios so they can get their work out to the streets too
they can do both
but they need to be in their studios too

a few weeks ago, the associated press finally agreed to drop the i-word
our ideas
our art
did that

but they are beautiful

in the dream
lester gifts me with a gigantic box
covered in gummy bears
and sends a photo
of him and joshua
laugh/partying at a community center
around a ping pong table
(paddles in hand)
the letter says good news!
turns out i just have to put in community service hours!
then this whole thing is over.


flowerman selling flowers at the random hightrafficked corner
where the hood and the wealthy suburbs rub
(marked by the difference of above ground and underground powerlines
also marked by the difference of standard streetlights and historic oil-lamp looking streetlights
also marked by the difference of white wrought gates)
man removes one earphone and smiles a hello
which i smile back
says flowers?to which i say no thanks
turning my head over my shoulder back at him
but they are beautiful!
which they are
in a first-glance kind of way
but a desert sparse with wildflowers is better
a portland street of flowers in the spring is better
a half wilted but still bright bird of paradise plucked from the front yard with a side of lantana from the sideyard is better


ting ting jahe ginger chews
with mango
neighborhood favorite
around the corner on min hoa’s shelves
paired with coconut water


217 comes bearing a small box
which i shake and guess:
a piece of the border wall?
a butterfly?
what???? how did you know!?!?!?!?
oh, you know, the border and all that ‘migration is beautiful’ business i say joking
(not joking about migration being beautiful because it is, just joking)
but really i sayi could tell by the paper-against-paper sound of it.
(and have been having backyard visits with
hummingbirds and dark winged (light lined) fluttery creatures)

not only is the butterfly wonderful
(paper cut. hand painted. initialed and dated. hotglue-pinned)
but the gesture of your dad making it
is even more wonderful


wherein 217 saves my life
by sitting calmly on the too-small couch (which is part of its charm)
while clicking headers and footers
inserting numbers
like it ain’t no thing


regarding grad school graduation
217 says that brie says that its like going through a breakup from a bad relationship
where yo wonder why you spent so long twisting around in it before letting it go


the sleepiness on a dinnerguest’s (who overnapped) face
as they arrive
a sort of intimacy
some suggestion of what their lover sees

a mint and frankincense wafting
for desert


the sound of the neighborhood on the 5block walk home
(ethiopian food in styrafoam warm in my hand):
kids/family laughyelling in the concrete patch next to the school
young boy and his soft hello on the other side of his front gate
music out of car windows and doorways


and you are out there
sending and receiving light
like the best of stars

pagination will make everyone

number of hours lost to thesis formatting today / approximation and panic:
4 and a half maybe five possibly six.

it goes like this:there is an office whose job it is to measure your thesis pages with a ruler and other ridiculous things (no matter which department you are in) to make sure it conforms to the department’s arbitrary uniform standards which are written on and on about in some 65 page document.
this includes the impossible pagination trick!
(intro section begins with numbers on page three in roman numerals
following sections begin with page one of each chapter centered in the footer
with the remaining pages in the top right corner
and each, of course should be .5 inches from their respective tops/bottoms)
thesis pagination will make everyone cry.
and light candles.
and make deals with the universe.

there was no magic today because impossible pagination snuffed out all possibility of it.

ok. there was a little magic.
amy forrest on the other end of the phone offering her unending encouragement and support.
texts from 217 telling me to walk away (which i was finally able to do hours later and should have done hours before. but i WANTED TO GET IT RIGHT. this is similar to my problem of when i lose things. it doesn’t even matter if i don’t need it right then. if it is missing, i will embark upon a searchrampage until it has been recovered or deemed lost forever without hope.)

here’s the shittiest (epitomy of bullshit bureaucracy) part of it:
you go to this appointment where a cruel woman (well, more like a woman with a cruel job) sits in an office all day measuring and marking every detail that is WRONG WRONG WRONG, but she is not allowed to give you any advice or information on how to fix it. i mean, even within the industrial medical complex, the doc/nurse will give you a little photocopied sheet of (sometimes useful) stretches for your repetetive stress injuried arm, or an info sheet on how to take care of yourself when you have the flu, strep, bronchitis, or whatever it is that ails you.
how cruel is that?
your page numbers are fucked
your margins (which are supposed to be this way on this page and this way on another)
your fonts
your table of contents
they’re all fucked
and i’ll tell you exactly where they are fucked
but i will never, ever tell you how to fix them.
all in the name of EVERY SINGLE THESIS LOOKING THE SAME. even when some of those theses (which sounds like feces)refuse to conform by being poetry.

the world is bigger than this.
and i’m pretty sure this is the most uninteresting post i have ever written.

this is a quiet rage.
at the university’s huge offense
of instituting some serious bureaucratic shit.
this is a sizzling quiet rage. sparks. coal-hot gut.
in response to:
a. the bureaucracy itself
b. everything else in the university context that this metaphor stands for

light i would like to

amoré saint ives with a pink shock of hair
leads us through twice then tells us to flow
her hands on my shoulders during savasana
afterwords amber from her wrists emanates off my skin


two bike guests
our backyard, our kitchen table a stopover
guatemala, they tell us about the hills
pedaling past busses and trucks on the way up
they tell us about beer
it seemed like they saw us from miles down the road
and were just waiting to hand us a beer as we passed
they talk about joy and aggression

how in their eight months of biking in central america
only twice did they encounter the kind of car aggression
that daily they encountered here
people cheered for us when they saw us coming
that is the light i would like to pedal towards


i forgot about how that movie
is not just a movie i say
our nim chow plates empty and
the lentil soup bowls spooned clean


you were in my dream the other night
wayne says
you redacted your entire thesis
and i was reading it and thinking
‘damn, this is good
which is weird because how could i really read it if the entire thing was crossed out?
and you were torn about which version to turn in and i said
‘go with your gut, which one feels more honest/true to you?

and i respond
that torn-ness is right on
(and pretty much names the entire struggle of my graduate poemwriting experience.
ask camille about it.)
and i am heartened by the book i have not written
appearing in so many dreams
under this powerful moon
this week
(you are the third to tell me this week
you dreamt of my writing.
one of the others told me she dreamt of my book
said she was holding it in her hand
and i said back ‘do you happen to remember what the title was’?)


we talk typewriters and google glass and names
we know junobi won’t always go by that name
and 217 talks about her chosen name in el salvador
and her birth name with spanish speaking students
and the last name that most people don’t know
is a married name
how institutions recognize only names
that we are no longer
and i say
it makes sense my thesis will be filed under the name no one (here/now) knows me by
because it wasn’t really me who wrote it
me is not the person who shows up on that campus when i get there


the pj harvey wasn’t working
so i just turned the sound off altogether

all the animals i didn’t

in a dialogue of hunting and slaughterhouse towns
ca conrad says this
1/1/13 was my 25th anniversary being vegetarian.
it feels great thinking of all the animals
i didn’t eat.


7am and the scorpio full moon force
drawing me up and into the day


direct from the desk of stargazer li with a subject that could not be more appropriate:

subject: let it go

Greetings Keeper of Time,

Today, Thursday April 25th at 1pm Pacific time, comes the whisper of a Partial Lunar Eclipse. Not visible in North America, and maybe not even noticed by most, but in a subtle and deep way we’re being asked to Let It Go…

Whatever tension in our being that comes from what we think we need to know, or do, or say, let it go. Be willing to surrender in humility to what is, in your most human depths. This is a moment in time of resting upon the threshold in the liminal doorway between worlds. What has been is no longer, what’s to be is not yet. And, here we are. It’s time to stop holding our breath, or hanging on until…

This is the time to find and live from our true courage, to meet and want what is from our own deepest authority. With the Full Moon conjunct Saturn in Scorpio, many are saying this will be about our stuff coming up. I say this is a time of our releasing the need for control and opening to the possibility of living our mastery! With the Full Moon opposite the Sun, Mars, and Venus in Taurus, this is also about living well and enjoying life. While some grief may arise as we realize how little we as humanity have been living humanely, let that go too. Let it be a cleansing breath of a moment.

Tonight, step outside to see and greet the Full Moon with Saturn shining nearby. Say hello and wish the universe well, as if you are actually a part of the universe and it’s glad to see and hear from you!

To liberation,

Stargazer Li


i mean, how many times do you get to say it
was so good to reunite with you
about the first time you’ve met

before troy speaks (on a panel of organizers to 200 undergrads who are just learning about how the world around them is made) about the group he works with that fights alongside migrant workers who are promised wages they are never given he says something like

i would like to take a moment for the (number i can’t remember) garment factory workers whose lives were lost or bodies were injured after a building collapsed in bangladesh (where workers were asked to evacuate after a crack appeared in the wall, but were ordered to return by supervisors who insisted that the premises had been checked and was safe). plus the workers before that, also in a garment factory in bangladesh, who died in a garment factory fire because there wasn’t enough access to exit doors that weren’t locked.


In the rubble of Rana Plaza. Photo by Taslima Akhter. (counterpunch.org)


impossible to not be mesmerized i
watch and wonder, if i were
a musical performer would the conventions
of what one is and isn’t supposed to do
(wear all black
look serious
some movement is allowed, but don’t get too wild)
get me just as hard as
the literary conventions (i mostly put on myself) get me now

the best part is the smiles
the we nailed that shit! triumphant looks
on their faces
before they quickbow again

how we have siphoned



Villagers wait with their containers for the government water tanker to arrive at Padan village in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Apr. 23, 2013. – day in photos, voice of america

i cannot look at a photograph like this and not think about representation
(thank you wayne)
i cannot look at this and not consider all the minutes that led up to this moment and all those that followed
as in: perhaps at some point some of these kids were playing
openmouthed laughing
sun-eyed smiling
but that one wouldn’t generate as great of a media rating
as this one

this isn’t to dismiss the weight of waiting
for water (for hours? days?)
here (those of us in privileged positions in the western world), many of us do not know
the kinds of waiting we scroll through
photos of
kneeling in shade waiting
bread cues around the corner waiting
bags of grain that the imf positioned people into inability to provide for themselves
(forever ever this film playing itself back)
my sick child waiting
check in the mail waiting

this also isn’t to dismiss water
and how we have siphoned off
so much of the colorado river that from 1960 on
most years it has run dry before it could reach the sea
(imagine never going home.
some of us don’t)


a sky so gray it breaks
around dinner
slashed and light spill


documentation of a beet concoction
that looks like an animal heart
pulled fresh from chest


all kinds of light
sending it out
and taking it in


this digital langauge of kinship

when water isn’t blue and land can’t be found:


A road is submerged during flooding along the Mississippi River north of Clarksville, Missouri, USA. (Photo courtesy of the Missouri Governor’s Office) – day in photos, voice of america


a lot of things made today:
1.chips and a walk with an advisor who i call the therapist to my thesis [and all its neuroses]
because we’re always getting real about shit
talking about the problem of a ‘poetry by/for the people vs. experimental/conceptual/avant garde’
talking about fighting vs. giving ourselves over and the gifts that lie in that tension
talking about the difference between openness and dismissal
talking about the pushing against in order to make space
which today takes the form of reading this june jordan poem

2. this digital language of kinship including but not limited to: brussels sprouts and scandalous heartbeets

3. orange peel on concrete, fingers dripping

4. the fates allowing wordlessness, this morning


there is more, like, how badass CA Conrad is.
(CA Conrad who says poetry doesn’t apologize
CA Conrad who says An old boyfriend of mine was tortured and murdered by homophobes in Tennessee, and that was very real and terrifying. And then there are gays who demand their right to join the military, put a rainbow sticker on a machine gun, I guess.
CA Conrad, whose poems do things (What does it take to get a faggot’s execution investigated? POEMS!!)
(more here)
and how there are too many coincedences (not the obvious kind) between us

i said i was a sequinned scalpel queen

monday wishes
orange blossoms floating in bowls of water placed in a house i’ve never been to
naming the colors of flowers passing outside the shuttle windowa photo of a beach for a photo of a prairie in an unknown state
reports of fresh squeezed orange juice and crushed tomato leaves


the salted caramel biscotti
is so american
i mean
who else does this to biscotti?
bakes chunks of cheap caramel into it?dips it in a coating called chocolate
sells it in a plastic tub with a red round cap


siousxie and banshees version


i draft a response regarding sentimentality
perhaps it is time for another manifesto
i say

a : marked or governed by feeling, sensibility, or emotional idealism

b : resulting from feeling rather than reason or thought <a sentimental attachment> <a sentimental favorite>
: having an excess of sentiment or sensibility
chocolate-box, cloying, drippy, fruity, gooey, lovey-dovey, maudlin, mawkish, mushy, novelettish, saccharine, sappy, schmaltzy, corny, sloppy, slushy, soppy, soupy, spoony (or spooney), sticky, sugarcoated, sugary, wet
Related Words
dreamy, misty-eyed, moonstruck, moony, nostalgic, starry-eyed; feel-good, fuzzy; melodramatic, soap-operatic, soapy, sudsy; flat, insipid, soft-boiled, tasteless, vapid, watery; cutesy, twee [chiefly British]

i mean
i said i was a sequinned scalpel queen
but not in a clinic or a hospital or an emergency room
not under flourescent light
not coldsteel and all the other adjectives that go with it. more
like in the middle of a nebraskan prairie dipped
in gold light. more
like in the Y some tree makes where two branches meet. more
like in a saltwater sprayed sea cave or along a desert canyon creek
where the pulse is impossible
but persists

that springstorm light

thought about neil diamond the other morning while brushing my teeth. the bathroom walls are yellow. the room,  not much bigger than an airplane bathroom, offers the only window that opens to direct the sunlight in.

i thought about  the story someone told me once about how neil diamond attended a prestigious music school and much to his professors’ dismay, he became what he is. a commercial pop star.

while there is no proof of this on the internet (where there is proof of everything) i still think consider story (regardless of true or falseness) as an anthem for a conflicted poet about to push off from the edges of an mfa program in writing nestled within a research institution. in research institution mfa writing programs, we do things like scoff at mainstreamish poets like mary oliver for not being experimental enough or theory-based enough or languagey enough. but what if i am a neil diamond (based on potentially false story) of the poetry world? a poet trained in the ways of experiemental/conceptual writing under the tutelage of a pulitzer-prize winning language and goes on to write poems that do nothing to challenge the nature of poetryness. (like choosing to be bruce springsteen instead of steve reich. although, i kindof want to be both and neither.)


lifted from an email sent out at 10:46pm
coyote canyon related:
i just tried to write an entire paragraph about doing the things my body/heart/brain wants. it was too complicated. but it’s often like this: i use this scale to evaluate my life: if i died today, would i be happy with the current state of my life or would i be disappointed? i know that’s not a fair scale, because sometimes there is the fallow-field period between adventures or amazing things, or even things that are quietly amazing (like writing in a hut in the middle of a nebraska cornfield). but still, i think it’s a useful measuring stick. and if i woulda died after returning to san diego from the desert with ya’ll, i woulda been ferociously content.


in the dream:
someone said something about a divorce. delivered with a kind of humility/vulnerability that history won’t permit.
there was a 3 mile run. through campus. a bunch of us said we were going  (people i ran into along the way) including me. but when it got to the end of the day and the start of the race, i was tired. rolling solo. and couldn’t find the starting line but there were signs directing vehicles and people through the eucalyptus grove.
pinkpainted walls. or something frilly. something denoting money. perhaps your parents were nearby. and we didn’t plan this.
urban. brickwalled chicago. vehicles. queers i had never met before.
a lollipop tree. tootsie pops and their racist wrappers poking out like branches. this is how some people decorate for valentines day and other galas. the room looks like a cake. and no one notices whether you (as in anyone) are there or not. no one notices who ducks out and who stays behind. most people must have stepped out onto the patio. something like the hush of when you leave a room filled with chatter.
a valiant prince in the corner cannot make eye contact when admitting defeat, but tries to.
i consider giving in.
a grocery store. samples. something sweet. about to close. arms full.


a post from the waterworld
(thank you sledge)
land of pierogies (chicago)
i recognize that green and that springstorm light




images from huffington post