Lately, I've been thinking about poetry, which I haven't done in quite some time. Focusing on fiction/prose, I've just not been in the poetry mindset, but I think it's time to revisit that genre. For me, poetry actually helps my prose. I like the succinctness of poetry, the direct talk and the need to say a lot in a view words. Before I started studying and writing poetry, my prose was a bit over-wrought, to say the least. Funnily enough, the act of learning poetry actually de-purpled my prose, stripped it down to its essence, which is the kind of writing I like: writing that doesn't read like writing.
My favorite poetry is the poetry that is daring, strong, and even harsh in its subject matter and execution. I've always been the most raw and honest in my poetry, something that doesn't come through in my prose, but I can't figure out why. I still deal with hard subjects (rape, child molestation, HIV) but there's a timidity to it in my prose that I seem to kick right through when I tackle these subjects in my poetry. For some reason, I can get right to the heart of it in my poetry. It's like poetry is a handgun and prose is a bazooka: I can hold and control a handgun easier than I can a bazooka, which is too heavy and too general in its aim. I've got to learn how to us a handgun when I write prose. So, it's back to poetry to reset my mind, my energy, my honesty, my aggression, my aim.
Here's a couple of my favorite poems:
when you bust your nose on the kitchen table tonight—
drunk and falling asleep as you do in the evenings while we watch
television in the den—
I leave my body, after days and weeks of practicing,
my hand on the back of your head—see how it feels—
just before impact.
for argument sake I liked the things you did and still think of you
at night half-drunk, half-dead, half you, half me, half lonely.
maybe I own up to my loving you—but I don’t want you
to get the wrong idea, whichever one that might be.
I only thought of killing you a few times—knives mostly
because I wanted to see the blood, my blood—but by then you were already dead.
I eat the gun, the one you keep stashed in your sock drawer…eat it
like I did your cock, shove it as far down as it can go, really work
for the bullet this time because I want to feel the heat inside me, the metal
burning in my belly like coal in a stove, glowing in there so everyone can see it,
warm themselves to the idea, not just suspect.
the virus is your love, that’s what’s taking me down,
that’s what’s coursing through my veins altering my genetic make-up, reinventing
my cells to unrecognizable. Let’s say I take this fistful of drugs,
approved on a two-year fast-track by the FDA,
to ward off the death you planted in me. Let’s say, just between you and me,
that sometimes I neglect to swallow them all, just because.
At home, I keep my birth certificate in the top drawer
of my night stand along with other important documents:
passport, apartment rental agreement, car payment booklet,
and my HIV diagnosis, its onion skin paper
thirteen years thinner from too much finger oil,
thin as my skin peeling after a bad sunburn because
I used baby oil instead of tanning lotion.
That’s what we used in Oklahoma, my sister and I
laying out in her backyard, the radio on, her kids playing
in the kiddie pool I helped blow up.
I’d spend the evening in front of the box fan
in my room cooling the heat rising from my skin
red and angry with me. I’d press my forefinger
into the meat of my chest, watch it change from white to pink to burnt.
Later the skin would come off in tears
and sheets complete with the indents of the blemishes I never knew my skin held.
Afterwards I sterilize the knife,
the jack-knife from childhood
I keep in my nightstand drawer
in case of an intruder,
and make eight incisions in my flesh
at eight different sites on my body,
on my arms, my thighs, my chest and back.
I apply a leech to each site. They are looking for you in there.