Poetry: Inevitable

Not like the way lovers waited
for the end of the war
but like the motorcycle brake
waited for the tire,
the way the tire wanted to feel
itself struggling not to get stuck in the sand
and the way the asphalt craved summer’s heat
at the same time as the tire’s compression.

Even the rain desires to be wanted.
Gravity falls short of satisfying its thirst
but the world needs both whether or not either is fulfilled.
The rain makes the road wet in the middle
of the night, but I needn’t open the window
to know the special sounds of the tires compressing it,
for I have spent many sleepless night listening
as the inflated rings failed to engrave it with sonnets.

A girl once said “I guess” when I asked her to date me.

In that moment I knew exactly how the asphalt felt at night.

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Poetry: Elevator Games

We got into separate elevators, her and I.

Two people, in two elevators at 2 a.m.
when nobody else would need either.

Then, we made a game.
We’d jump out of our elevators,
share a quick, passionate kiss between them,
then run into the other elevator before the doors closed.

We got to the bottom. Eight floors, seven kisses,
Laughter, and plans to do it again.

 

#HypotheticalLoveStories

Poetry: Appreciating Sunsets

In the sight’s foreground stood buildings
and power-lines.
But in the background was the sunset,
the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Lava-orange, framed by Earth’s curvature on bottom
and black clouds pasted on the night sky above.

Some people would have called the future ugly:
To-Do lists and routine in the foreground.

Some people would have missed the point.

Poetry: Taylor

A photo of Taylor Swift leans against the wall on top of a cube-organizer.
She sits in a lawn-chair, in a flowered and white dress, surrounded by leaves and vines.
Her hair is beautiful and long, her feet bare.

At her feet sit my half marathon finisher’s medals:
My best efforts lay at the feet of something greater.
Her eyes and expression convey curiosity, peace, but also power and awareness.

She overlooks my living room from the frame, our eyes meeting each time I walk through the door. Her photo isn’t much
but it adds beauty to my living space in a way not yet meant to be otherwise.

Because here there is no company. There are, as of yet, no close friends to be teased by about her photo. Nobody to get coffee with at midnight or run snacks to.
There is simply an unending prison of time, and lots of work to be done while I wait.

Poetry: You Decide Which

I start to write a feature on a place I visited Saturday.

On paper, I see the words I type. They are mine. Indisputably, unequivocally, mine. I see them in my voice.

In my head, when I read them, I imagine hearing Rinaldi.

Perhaps this is a flaw in my creative process.
Perhaps it’s a reflection of some terrifying, mortal vulnerability
You decide which.

That I don’t see myself as fully capable of telling such heartbreaking, inspiring stories.
That I don’t believe an employer will ever truly like me enough to trust me with such things.
That I don’t believe I have much to offer
except a face for radio,
a voice for print,
a tone for silence on a page

and a knack for inventing new synonyms for self-deprecation.

Then again, maybe it’s something else.

Maybe it’s a sign of the vital, youthful swagger
that comes from both expectation and desire
the kind that comes when you believe if you can just work hard enough,
push long enough, seek hard enough,
you’ll find that story and become the best possible version of yourself. You’ll evolve your own voice
Not Rinaldi. You.

Maybe it’s a sign of timid confidence, but confidence.

The kind it takes to think that just because you haven’t risen your voice
doesn’t mean you can’t.
The strongest voices, after all, are the ones that are silent
until they aren’t.
The ones that speak only in a whisper
but whose whisper is loud enough to silence a combusting conference room.

I have railed on, shouting my proclamations for what felt like years,
but for what might have been mere seconds in the development of a writer.
I have desperately preached what I hoped might be wisdom from what I felt were mountains,
but from what might have been merely as high and stable
as sandcastles among the masses.

But maybe what the world
or I… or both,… need more than anything right now,
is for me to be silent.

until I’m not. then

Perhaps not with a proclamation. a whisper.

You decide which.

 

 

 

Poetry: Let Me Show You What I See

Let me show you what it feels like:
Waking up at 5 a.m., semi-groggy
and going for a drive.
Smell the country, Kansas air
mixed with the sounds of
city. A mixture of smells assaulting the nostrils
horse-manure and diesel engines, united
by country music
in a place everyone thinks they want to get the hell out of.

But I know something they never knew,
like Steven Curtis Chapman dancing with his daughter
I know the oft-overlooked energy
of a place 26,000 strong, going on 100K.
I can feel the energy.
It calls to me on my balcony at 6 a.m.,
in sounds of car horns and air-brake discharges. It invigorates,
energizing the soul like a deep-tissue massage
to the heart.

Yet I also understand Cinderella’s youth
is fading, transient, and prone to missing.
I understand perfection is relative,
and this isn’t always relatively-perfect.
All the while, Chapman knows
what I too am old enough to:
Beauty in the eyes is fleeting,
but there’s inherent humanity in choosing.
To look below the surface.
To be wounded by the flaws
Yet still feel blissfully lovestruck.

By a job.
By a place.
By a person.
By an idea.

To feel i from the Spanish
shouts you don’t understand at a high-school
soccer game, or with a camera
on a sideline, under Friday-night lights.

If I am Johnny Cash
this place is my El Paso.
I don’t know that I always love it
But I hope I’m always strong enough
to choose to.

A Close Reading Of Gilbert’s “Trying To Have Something Left Over”

(Editor’s Note: I’ve been wanting to write this for a while. This post has been sitting in my “drafts” for literally months, largely because I’ve been trying to figure out how to start it. Any performer, artist, writer would readily tell you that starting is among the scariest, most difficult parts of any creative endeavor.

For me, that makes it also the most fun part. Enjoy, as I try and struggle my way into elegance.)

A Close Reading of Gilbert’s “Trying To Have Something Left Over”.

If you’re into poetry at all, or even if you’re not and you just like neat, beautiful ideas, one poem you need to read is “Trying to have something left over” by Jack Gilbert.

Plenty has been written about the final lines of this poem, which you can buy as part of Gilbert’s collection “The Great Fires” on Amazon. I’d encourage you to. I’ve read enough poetry at this point in my young life to know that this collection is something special. Not because of how it speaks to me, because Gilbert had a mind and life much different from mine. His life, his views on love all were more realistic, more honest, more complete than mine are.

Maybe that was because he wrote these poems starting when he was 57. Maybe he was just less stubborn than I was, a better steward of a tougher life’s lessons than myself.

But I digress. Whatever the many causes for the beauty of his work, especially this collection, and even more especially this poem, Gilbert wrote something in it I wish to analyze, and imagine with you for just a moment.

The last nine lines go like this, as he talks about playing with the baby of a woman he had an extramarital affair with:

“I would say Pittsburg softly each time before
throwing him up. Whisper Pittsburg with
my mouth against the tiny ear and throw
him higher. Pittsburg and happiness high up.
The only way to leave even the smallest trace.
So that all his life her son would feel gladness
unaccountably when anyone spoke of the ruined
city of steel in America. Each time almost
remembering something maybe important that got lost.”

-from “Trying To Have Something Left Over” by Jack Gilbert.

These lines have been burned in my brain since I read them. I like other poems in the collection more, (or at least, so I’ve always thought). But what strikes me most in this poem is something marvelous that’s happening.

Gilbert, in the events above, is taking care of a child of a woman he can never have a relationship with (per the rest of the poem before these lines) and a child who is not, in my understanding, his. Yet he cares so much about that child and that city that he wants that child to feel happiness forever on the mention of its name.

That in itself is beautiful.

The idea he’d care so much about a place, and an idea behind it, to engrain that in the mind of a small child. Something mattered deeply to Gilbert about Pittsburg. Sure, it was his hometown, but the final lines of the poem suggest more than just nostalgia. They suggest a bigger idea. An idea Gilbert was desperate to pass on, desperate to keep alive in any way possible or necessary because whatever it was, it was something beautiful, good, important.

The boy will never know what it was. He’ll never know why the utterance of the word “Pittsburg” brings him joy, having never been able to remember his infant laughs as Gilbert threw him up each time when he was a baby. All he’ll know is that there’s something wonderful there. But he’ll never know what it was. And the most beautiful part of this concept?

Neither will we as readers.

That’s why I write you today. I read this poem and I see the marvelous, poetic beauty Gilbert has engineered with these lines.

We see Gilbert throwing up the small infant. We hear his laughter, see his smile, maybe we evenimagine his mother standing in the doorway looking with a sad smile at all of this, perhaps seeing Gilbert’s potential as a father and wishing they could have a future, even while knowing that they couldn’t.

But what we never hear Gilbert do is actually explain what he was trying to convey. We never learn what was so vital it needed to be etched in the memory of an infant. Gilbert never tells the baby, and also never tells us as readers.

That’s where the true beauty in these poems comes in: we as readers are the infant to this poet.

Gilbert can never have an individual relationship with any of us any more than he can with the young woman or her son. Gilbert the man has a wife whom he loves, precluding him from staying with her or the boy.

Gilbert the poet has a mortal life, unable to converse with most of those who will read his work. In each case, with the infant as the boy and the infant as the reader, Gilbert can only have a one-way relationship. All he can do is try to teach. Never ask, just tell.

So he does. He tells us about the beauty of trying to convey an idea through emotion because he lacks the ability of just explain it. Gilbert does not tell us why Pittsburg is so important to him. He does not tell us what idea he must pass through even just a partial memory. He does not tell us why he wants the baby, be it the child in the poem or the reader of the poetry, to feel joy every time they think of the “ruined city of steel in America.”

All any of us knows is that there’s some idea there that is worth celebrating, worth cherishing, worth holding a beer up to whenever we think of that place.

Too often, becoming an adult teaches us to ask “why” when invited to celebrate something. Adulthood teaches us not to celebrate unless we understand the whole reason for celebrating.

This poem asks us not to.