It’s Day 10 of National Poetry Month, guys. I’m feeling good about it in that this is the most that I have ever stuck to writing in all of my life. I usually write notes or sentences, maybe even just a single word in the moments between moments, or just hold on to a though all day, then piece those thoughts together into one poem, but this challenge has forced me to be consistent and committed to seeing a poem through.
Today’s prompts are to write an abecedarian poem (NaPoWriMo) and to also write a poem about how blank (Writer’s Digest). I have again combined the two prompts into one poem about something that plagues me almost weekly and how I deal with it. The dreaded headache…
It can feel quite disorienting and (sound) thoughts don’t come easily. In fact, I was in the grips of the headache today as I wrote this. The process of attempting to concentrate on my wording and keeping to the prompts while also dealing with the piercing pain was a task, but I made it through.
Well, enough of that. On with the poem.
all memory is sifted through an obsessive algorithm
beginnings on a black screen, all binary
commands await, a blinking cursor, all aglow
delineating the city below
eyes are the blinking cursors, each street, veins of light, cars for blood cells, swimming
fluoresced wires are full of frantic data
ghosts in the machine congest the gateway to the material world
highways are rife with pings
instantly, the machine emits a null response
jostle, as i may, commands fail
kernel layers malfunction
lost in the haunted motherboard of thought
memories are corrupting
nameless, i become, the filling of synapses down to a trickle
opaquely, the borders of the sky are colored in code
pinpricks rouse me & the sky diverts her legs, from here to there, brushing away the dot pitch
questions arise as to whether it is all live
return of any answer is hazed
syntax may soon resume
tenderness replaces where my temples are situated
unable to open my eyes, i ponder if still in dream or waking life
x amount of analgesia
years strangely age the taste of it well
zero hour, zero sum
Poet and editor Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver but moved often as her father, an academic physician, taught at many different medical schools across the country. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Dungy’s full-length poetry publications include Smith Blue (2011), a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America; Suck on the Marrow (2010), winner of an American Book Award, a California Book Award silver medal, and the Northern California book award; and the sonnet collection What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (2006), a finalist for both the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Library of Virginia Literary Award.
In order to address the scarcity of African American poets in the genre of nature poetry, she decided to compile an anthology of works by poets spanning four centuries called, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009), which won a Northern California Book Award and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. She was also co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (2009), and assistant editor forGathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (2006).
What To Eat, And What To Drink, And What To Leave For Poison
Only now, in spring, can the place be named:
tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple,
dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow
on my knowing. All winter I was lost.
Fall, I found myself here, with no texture
my fingers know. Then, worse, the white longing
that downed us deep three months. No flower heat.
That was winter. But now, in spring, the buds
flock our trees. Ten million exquisite buds,
tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings,
bellowing from ashen branches vibrant
keys, the chords of spring’s triumph: fisted heart,
dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple.
The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste.
The song is drink, is color. Come now, taste
what the world has to offer. When you eat
you will know that music comes in guises —
bold of crape myrtle, sweet of daffodil —
beyond sound, guises they never told you
could be true. And they aren’t. Except they are
so real now, this spring, you know them, taste them.
Green as kale, the songs of spring, bright as wine,
the music. Faces of this season grin
with clobbering wantonness — see the smiles
open on each branch? — until you, too, smile.
Wide carnival of color, carnival
of scent. We’re all lurching down streets, drunk now
from the poplar’s grail. Wine spray: crab apple.
From the poplar’s grail, wine spray. Crab apple
brightens jealousy to compete. But by
the crab apple’s deep stain, the tulip tree
learns modesty. Only blush, poplar learns,
lightly. Never burn such a dark-hued fire
to the core. Tulip poplar wants herself
light under leaf, never, like crab apple,
heavy under tart fruit. Never laden.
So the poplar pours just a hint of wine
in her cup, while the crab apple, wild one,
acts as if her body were a fountain.
She would pour wine onto you, just let her.
Shameless, she plants herself, and delivers,
down anyone’s street, bright invitations.
Down anyone’s street-bright invitations.
Suck ’em. Swallow ’em. Eat them whole. That’s right,
be greedy about it. The brightness calls
and you follow because you want to taste,
because you want to be welcomed inside
the code of that color: red for thirst; green
for hunger; pink, a kiss; and white, stain me
now. Soil me with touching. Is that right?
No? That’s not, you say, what you meant. Not what
you meant at all? Pardon. Excuse me, please.
Your hand was reaching, tugging at this shirt
of flowers and I thought, I guess I thought
you were hungry for something beautiful.
Come now. The brightness here might fill you up.
Come. Now the brightness here might fill you up,
but tomorrow? Who can know what the next
day will bring. It is like that, here, in spring.
Four days ago, the dogwood was a fist
in protest. Now look. Even she unfurls
to the pleasure of the season. Don’t be
ashamed of yourself. Don’t be. This happens
to us all. We have thrown back the blanket.
We’re naked and we’ve grown to love ourselves.
I tell you, do not be ashamed. Who is
more wanton than the dancing crape myrtle?
Is she ashamed? Why even the dogwood,
that righteous tree of God’s, is full of lust
exploding into brightness every spring.
Exploding into brightness every spring,
I draw you close. I wonder, do you know
how long I’ve wanted to be here? Each year
you grasp me, lift me, carry me inside.
Glee is the body of the daffodill
reaching tubed fngers through the day, feeling
her own trumpeted passion choiring air
with hot, colored song. This is a texture
I love. This is life. And, too, you love me,
inhale my whole being every spring. Gone
winter, heavy clod whose icy body
fell into my bed. I must leave you, but
I”ll wait through heat, fall, freeze to hear you cry:
Daffodils are up. My God, what beauty!
Daffodils are up, my God! What beauty
concerted down on us last night. And if
I sleep again, I’ll wake to a louder
blossoming, the symphony smashing down
hothouse walls, and into the world: music.
Something like the birds’ return, each morning’s
crescendo rising toward its brightest pitch,
colors unfurling, petals alluring.
The song, the color, the rising ecstasy
of spring. My God. This beauty. This, this
is what I’ve hoped for. All my life is here
in the unnamed core — dogwood, daffodil,
tulip poplar, crab apple, crape myrtle —
only now, in spring, can the place be named.