For those lost to the cliffs

The following is a poem I wrote about an experience I had during my travels to Ireland. I’d shared a glimpse on my Instagram, but a fellow traveler whom I’d met on the trip requested to see the full poem, so here it is. Enjoy!

“For those lost to the cliffs.”

Is what the sign at the bottom of the trail read.
Yes, many a tourist stood too close to the edge
and with a gust of wind was blown over the tall
green and muddy rocks to the unforgiving waves.
Knowing this, and even in the chill gray rainy day
I set my boots to the slick brown mud, squelching
beneath my feet as every step created suction between
myself and the earth.

Up and up we trekked, staying safe behind the stone
barricade and sticking to the trail until it stopped and
opened up. We’d made it to the top…
Of the first cliff, at least, and that’s where my asthma
let me go. We walked no further, being on a time crunch
but, oh, what. A. Sight.

I ventured toward a sloped edge, my boots sliding, precarious
but I needed to see. Cold, frothy waves beat against the jagged
rocks, blue-grey over brown curtained with mossy green. My lungs
ached deliciously and the wind numbed my cheeks as I stared
down the long drop and spread my arms in praise. I breathed
in the clear air for the few short minutes we had and closed
my eyes, like praying.

The journey back down was slick, but I made it.
I made it back, but, oh, I was lost to the cliffs.

Ron Swanson Listens to Flo

This was a silly poem I wrote for our Floetry writing challenge last year, but I liked how it turned out. Enjoy!

Ron Swanson Listens to Flo

I’ve never been a man into the hippie dippy subculture of America.
I think they’re lunatics, soft and turning children into inept adults,
but what the heck, my stepdaughter asked me to listen to this
Florence and some machine she’s a part of? I don’t know.

This Florence woman, her music may not by my tastes,
but damn, can she sing. Not my usual fare, but I can
appreciate and recognize a true artist dedicated to her craft.
If my little girl is going to listen to any singer, I’d rather it be “Flo”
as she calls her, rather than those pretty boy bands who sing some
nonsense about not knowing she’s beautiful makes a girl beautiful?
Please. I’d set my good friend Leslie on them in a heartbeat if I got the chance.

Ah, now this song, this is some good subject matter.
Miss Flo, you minx, trying to butter me up with a good piece of poetry
about a wood carver. I respect that.

Yes, yes this is true. Building not just for work and not just for play.
Wow, she really gets it. I must say I’m impressed.
Coffins are a bit macabre for my taste, but I suppose someone has to build them.
Death is an inevitability; no use in denying its existence.
I dare say, I could sit and carve one of my own chairs
listening to this song all day.
Miss Flo, you’re alright.

Review: Card of Fate by Duke of Quails

I was asked by a Goodreads author to review their book of poetry honestly, so here are my thoughts on Card of Fate by Duke of Quails.

This collection of poetry deals with the subject of gambling addiction, mostly from the perspective of the addict. Each poem reiterates the vicious cycle of one more hit, one more time, just one more try, portraying how easy it is to fall into a self-destructive pattern.

That being said, I did want more poems from other perspectives, like the piece called “What Me and Dad Did On Spring Break.” This poem is told from the perspective of a son who is watching his dad make bad decisions, but due to his innocence, he doesn’t recognize what his father was doing as wrong. I think the collection could have had a stronger impact with more poems of this variety, showing how addiction affects those around the addict as well as the addicts themselves. However, it can be argued that the point of such repetition in the poems conveys the nature of addiction, in that it’s a person making the same choices over and over again, never recognizing the consequences of his or her actions.

Duke includes a heavy use of punctuation throughout the poems, and that sometimes works well as it creates a manic feeling emanating from the lines, like someone breathing fast and talking to themselves desperately, such as in the opening poem “Gambling Temptation.” In some cases though, like in “Innocent Ticket,” the use of so many commas, periods and semi-colons is overwhelming and becomes a distraction.

The concept of innocence is threaded throughout the collection, with the use of the word often attributed by the speaker of each poem giving themselves excuses or reasons for the gambling addiction. I think it’s interesting especially as with the previously-mentioned poem about the father and son, how a little boy can be innocent to what his father is doing but that same man can also see himself as an innocent victim fallen prey to the predator that is addiction. Many of the speakers see themselves this way, arguing with the reader that if only the slot machines didn’t entice them, if only the cards had been dealt differently, if only, if only, if only. The consistent diction choice with this idea establishes a strong voice throughout the poems.

Duke’s poems don’t rely heavily on imagery and flowery language as one would expect with poetry, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. While there are occasional lines like, “My little mouse I used to call him,/Now a scared rat before my eyes he’s grown to be,” (“How Did We End Up Hiding?”) to portray the corruption of innocence, the poems mostly use plain, simple language more in the form of conversation. This choice makes it clear that a constant inner monologue is going on in the addicts’ heads as they struggle to break free from the dangerous cycle.

I’m going to wrap up with this final observation. The collection utilizes rhyme schemes through every piece, some of which are successful, and some of which fall flat. In “Mommy Can I Have a Dollar?” the rhyming feels forced and detracts from the poem as a whole. However, in “A Gamble’s Story,” Duke employs slant rhyme beautifully with the lines, “It’s a graduation,/A sure step up from an inauguration./Scratch-Offs no longer valid;/Lottery ticket can’t kick the habit,/But the place itself, the casino’s buzz./The smell of the table is a sick drug.” The mix of short, punchy lines and rhyme scheme here creates a feeling of anxiety and urgency that comes with addiction.

Overall, a fair collection of poems that may resonate strongly with those who have undergone addiction struggle themselves or for readers looking to broaden their minds.

Weft & Weave

The following is a poem I wrote for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge back in February. Here’s a link to the original page and image that inspired this work:

This is just a single piece. A fragment of imagination as a childish
version remembers it. Patchwork puzzle piece across America where all
highways and blue skies with clouds look suspiciously the same.

Put it together with its brothers and sisters in a grid system of soft
cotton squares, up and down, side to side, neverending lines flowing
into each other can’t tell where one piece starts and the other part ends.

Brown and tan strips of land that is your land. Black asphalt roads from
tattered flaps of fabric mimicking broken infrastructure whose rough edges
can be seen as far as the eye can see but whose dangerous potholes hide in its
inky nature.Yellow threads pushed to the side just barely register as vague
fields of corn and wheat we hardly notice under our feet.

America the beautiful, so wide and spanning the color spectrum
but we only see a piece.

No, Thank You. Not Today, Sir

I went to a poetry workshop a couple of months ago for cabaret poetry. It was a new and fun experience. Here’s the work that resulted from that workshop with pictures of me reading.

You saw me sitting from across the bar through the smoky curtain of your Cuban cigar.
“Mami, pero you’re too pretty to be alone,” you slur. To which I smile and respond, “No, thank you, not today sir.”
Glass slams on the table. “Pero, mami, you haven’t even heard me out.”
Your sweaty brow furrows and lips start to pout.
I lean away for safety, just to be sure. Again, “No, thank you. Not today, sir.”
Your hand comes down on my shoulder that’s bare. “C’mon, mami. Why don’t you play fair?”
I push your hand off, muscles tensed, lips pursed. Through gritted teeth say, “No, thank you. Not today, sir.”

I get up walk past clinking glasses and you grab my wrist. I force you off
with an unexpected twist. Slack-jawed and dumb, you begin to sputter.
I hold myself tall and shout, “No, thank you. Not today, sir!”