reader response theory

he dreamed he could read
her like a difficult text
could part the oblique veils
draped about her words
slowly and with care run his
fingers along the edge of her
lines beneath the skin of her
story opening her tale teasing
fine points hidden from others
massaging the tips of her phrases
until she would unfold her meaning
meant for him alone to mouth
rolling each syllable like grapes
succulent and ripe with love
(June 30, 2013)

Tell Me a Story

because reading declines
because pages are lost
because people talk
(stories remain simple
loss love honor truth
the enemy always evil
inside outside
the enemy always evil
hearts are campfire sparks
minds flow towards stars
the moon’s lost in clouds
devoured by darker wolves  
the circle pulls tighter
a drum taps song into dance 
its skin tight like consonants
chromosomes blaze Van Gogh’s eye
as stickmen chant innate rhymes
a line forms like dust on air)
touch hands and speak


(circa 1990-1994, from If This is a Comedy, They Why Aren’t We Laughing)

Cloudless Day in May

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.
                        –William Wordsworth
Sorry Bill but a bourbon
in the backyard amidst
the Chocolate flowers now
in bloom before memory
creates more peace than any
reflection later by the fire
in dead winter could provide
so much romanticism is self
conceit—oh, I am unique
among all the uniqueness
of the world! Please! I
beg – look at the light
on the flower before you
there is only a now.

“love is not love. . .”

I don’t know, Willy:
unless a tailor
adjusts a seam
the suit does not fit.
Many ships are fixed
on silent sea floors;
stars whirl above them
lost and unconcerned.
Youth and beauty change
as love changes too;
love alters as life
alters with us all.
If this be error?
Our loves will tell.
(April 26, 2013)

like a flurry of wind in the corner

he knows as well as she in novels
that deflection onto other’s tales
never masks the true protagonist
and a melodramatic dénouement
to an over-complicated plot
will only fall eventually into farce
all the misunderstood narratives
because misunderstood remain
broken threads beneath a loom
yet still the tale he tells so clearly
differs enough from her by degrees
to cause his clichéd story to collapse
he wants to offer more than infidelity
yet knows how these stories unfold
so withholds his true exegesis
(April 2013)

Read Me

                      “When looking for a book, you may discover
                         that you were in fact looking for the book next to it.”
                                                        —Roberto Calasso

I am the book,
always nearby,
you are not looking for:
I wait to be opened,
my pages turned
beneath your hand;
wait to offer you
my words, my story,
the better part of me;
wait to become a part
of you, as your lips mouth
these syllables I write to you.
Take me from this shelf;
I am a simple text.
(March 2013)

Reflections on a Month of Writing Everyday (almost)

At the beginning of February, I set the arbitrary goal to post something on Subtext each day. I have found over time that if I set goals, or establish a project around which I am writing, I will write more than if I just go through my life writing willy-nilly. Writing is difficult; so it is something that most rational people would not choose to do, because it causes anxiety by the sheer amount of honesty it requires. (or the equally difficult amount of dishonesty, if one is the type of writer who hides even from himself). I am compelled to write by whatever urges drive my life. Writing allows me to explain the world and myself to myself and the world.
When I go through periods of more sporadic writing, it is as if there is some loss in my life. Normally, these periods don’t last long, because I either read an incredible poem, or book, which makes me want to write, to try to create such beauty on my own. Reading inspires me to write, or I hear some phrase, either from someone else, or from my own thoughts, and that drives me to the page. Writing is cheaper than therapy, and as an introvert, writing is more comfortable as well. The year my mother was dying, my doctor prescribed an anti-depressant to me; I did not write much that year, didn’t feel much either.
It was interesting to try to write a poem a day. I knew I would probably fail at this imposed quota simply because the requirements of my life would get in the way. I figured I could just use poems I have written in the past, and had not posted yet, on days when my resolve faltered. And I did that a few times, posting a poem I wrote Lisa for Valentine’s Day in 1993 when we had no money, and a couple of others from a series I wrote in 2005-2006.  For the most part, the 29 posts in February were all new, which was cool. I was fascinated and almost disturbed by my obsessive drive each day to write something, anything; just so I could get something out to post. I wrote a fairly eclectic range of styles/types of poems, even if I still orbited my usual themes and obsessions. But that is to be expected, I write about what I think about, and they are only about me in as much as my thoughts are a part of me.
I have for the last several years wondered if poetry was fiction or non-fiction. According to an old acquaintance, the American Library Association classifies poetry as non-fiction. But I can’t see that when I think about poems like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or The Changing Light at Sandover. Poetry crosses back and forth between the two categorizations, being simultaneously fiction and non-fiction. Living, like werewolves, on the border line of both countries, between the living and the dead, the real and the imaginary, or perhaps as Wallace Stevens said about everything: poems are always moving toward the real, creating and changing the real as they are read and absorbed into the current (the confluence of great rivers?) and ever-changing location of culture. (Had to put in a Bhabha reference).
(February 2013)

1977

read seventh heaven
at sixteen in south texas
“the word .. passed through me”
(June 2012)

I am a Poet.

I have made 138 (counting this one) posts this year, 15 in December, on this blog, mostly all poetry.  Recently a friend wrote that she had a hard time calling herself a writer, even though I know she writes and writes well. A few years ago a woman at the first meeting of a poetry group said she did not feel as if she could call herself a poet. I had just said as part of my introduction of myself that I had considered myself a poet since I was fifteen.  She seemed shocked that I would have the audacity to call myself a poet.  This inability to call oneself what one does came up again in another conversation between teachers. One man said that it felt somehow pretentious to call oneself a poet or a writer.  I asked the group how was it any more pretentious to say you were a poet than to say you were a teacher. To me it seemed more pretentious to lay claim to that title, to say,  “I am a teacher.” But I have over time become used to being called arrogant, so I guess that is why I have an easy time saying:  I am both: a teacher and a poet.  I don’t claim to be very good at either one, but I am both. Charles Bernstein said that if one says it is a poem, then it is a poem. No claims to quality, but it is a poem.  I am a poet.  I sit down with the intention of writing a poem.  I think about each line, the rhythm, the sounds of the words in relation to the other words, the phrasing, where I can cut and reduce, where something else needs to be added. I use poetry as a way of making sense of myself and the world I find myself in. As I have said elsewhere, poetry (both reading and writing it) helps keep the horrors of the world away and a way to find beauty everywhere and in everyone. I have consciously written poetry since I was fifteen; with luck, I will continue to do so the rest of my life. I am a poet.