Monday, November 3, 2014

Fish Tanks in Chinese Restaurants

Fish Tanks in Chinese Restaurants

The waiters say that one of his eyes is blind,
and that the other is already being numbed

by the fatal white. I bend over
his dusty house, watching his silver S-shape

slither through the green fluid, at times nudging
the plastic bridge in the corner.

The crumpled Post-It on the side of the tank
states that his name is Peter,

but it is highly improbable that any of them
have actually tried to ask him to make sure.

His sleepless eye watches for the disembodied evil
that, apparently, lives in the breath of wind whistling

through the crack in the front window, rippling
the water of the fish tank into crumpled silk.

A certain kind of spirit lives in stagnant water,
and a different spirit in running water. Or so they say.

Peter swims over his bed of blue stones,
then back again, a blind monk counting prayer beads

in an 48 inch slab of aquamarine deep sea
screwed into the greasy restaurant floor,

as he watches the mermaids in collared shirts
swim to the kitchen and back, bearing

the remnants of his dead friends surrounded
by strange weeds on bright platters. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Poem: Losing My Six Year Old Brother at Venice Beach, 2003

Losing My Six Year Old Brother at Venice Beach, 2003


He was only lost for an hour
on a lonely impulse-
but that hour marked the many
furrows of braided sand
from my mother’s agitated pacings,
the grumbling of engines
as we called one lifeguard, then another,
then the police. I remember
the live wire of word to mouth
each time we saw a boy running
through the pastel forest of umbrellas-
then silence, when we realized
each time that it wasn’t him.


I remember my mother
as she waited for the police-
how her thick, brown arms clenched me,
her sweat, as our hot skin bled baby oil,
and, through the folds of her sundress,
the skittish syncopation
of mother’s heartbeat waiting for son,
like the uneven cipher
of slippery rosary beads.


An hour later, he would return with tales
of the one-eyed lifeguard at Avenue G,
the curtain of doves that swung
around the mouth of the cove,
the ripe blue swells that burst
over the breakwater’s teeth.


But before that, I remember
tucking myself into a sitting ball
on the shore, chin on bony knees
in the waiting room of worry, as I stared
at the gilded haze that lay beyond
the rocky cross of a distant bar.


NOTES

1. This poem is based on a true story. My family did lose Ethan once at Venice Beach, and there was a substantial communal freak-out over it. That was the first time in my life when I really considered the ideas of mortality and losing people.
2. The last line is a reference to Tennyson's "Crossing The Bar," which is all about mortality and loss and eternity. The phrase "lonely impulse" from the first stanza is a reference to Frost's "The Impulse," which is also about loss and eternity and losing people.
3. This is the first poem I presented in the first poetry workshop I've taken at USC so far! Just thought you'd be interested in that fun fact.
4. So this isn't about the poem at all... but I wrote my first article for the Daily Trojan this past weekend! It will probably be in Monday or Tuesday's issue so... keep an eye out for my writing in print!

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Poem about The Writing in The Margins

Marginalia


It is the fishhook of a question mark,
the heavy lead underline like a firm nod,
the insightful reminder
that “TIME IS EXISTANT EXISTENT.”
It is catching the tide of a stranger’s floral
perfume on the morning subway,
when I see the dreamlike contour of
some drowsy undergraduate
diagonal over Waiting for Godot, plowing
the pages with a pencil scarred by many teeth.
Perhaps it is the grandmother
who walks her terrier around the library,
and during such a daily circuit
made a lavender note
of a particularly perplexing
response, and the single question
mark is left to me
as a reminder that not all questions
will be answered.
Sometimes, while passing by
the flaking tenement walls
behind the library, I think
that the impressive dent
at the top of the spine
must have been some raging husband
throwing the book across the room
while screaming ARE WE HAPPY
at his wilting orchid of a bride.
I am the last stop on the conveyer belt,
a corridor haunted by many voices, as I
wonder if the wrinkled circle on the final page
was cream of celery or a tear.


Notes

1. This was actually inspired by marginalia I found while reading Waiting for Godot.
2. This is also loosely inspired by "Marginalia" by Billy Collins. Also The Halfblood Prince.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Poem about Forgetfulness

Trying to Think of The Right Word


It begins with an “R,” you know that much.
Even after mouthing “ratatouille, rapscallion,
raspberry, rattlesnake,” the elusive “R—”
remains somewhere above
or below the rind of consciousness.
For some reason, the image of a white room
filled with red balloons
haunts your rumination,
but for the life of you,
you can’t remember why.
You think that “introverted” might be a
distant cousin, twice removed,
but you will wake up at 3 A.M. tonight,
profoundly troubled still because you found
the lightning bug, and not the lightning.
Where do they go, those satisfying,
precise adjectives, like basketballs
swishing through a dozen stainless hoops?
I’d like to stumble across that secret room,
where all of the right words
flutter with exactly cut wings, or snap
together into right angles
in perfect 4/4 time.
That host of the words, which were so
much more what I wanted to say
might help me forget
the badlands of the alternative,
which was so much less
than all of what I meant.




"The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." -Mark Twain

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Poem about Plants (and God.)

This is a poem about plants. And about the watchmaker theory and how one might question the existence of a higher power in a time of emotional need. And other existential stuff. But really it's about plants.




Is Anybody Out There

The geranium has begun to stretch
beyond the garden trellis, halted by 
the bald hardness of a patio window.

Small green feelers grip
helplessly at uncharted 
territories of glass.

Sometimes I wonder what it must
have felt like, to discover one day
that the pentagon promises of wire

have run out, to clutch once at the 
oblivious glass above, then at the rod below,
towards the unanswering frame

like a mute, shut-eyed Buddha, still
opening his arms like the slow
fanning-out of a lotus.

The geranium may begin to wonder why
whoever put the trellis in the garden
suddenly halted the checkerboard of cable—

and, perhaps, why he is not here now.
For now there is no one,
not even the amiable bumblebee,

to save the leafy octopus legs
still infantile, arcing inexorably
into the evanescent summer air.



Notes

1. Yes, I did sneak a haiku into stanza 2. 
2. This is the first poem I've worked on in a few months of poetic starvation (i.e. being too lazy to write anything at all.)So have mercy on these verses.

Monday, March 24, 2014

NEW POEM: "Stars & Moon & Lamp"

This is a poem that I wrote for a script I am collaborating on, hopefully to be turned into a film... it is based on Nycteris from George MacDonald's "The Day Boy And The Night Girl." (If you don't know who George MacDonald is, you're missing out on a profoundly delicious part of life.)

Nycteris is a girl who has never seen daylight before. This is one of her mental wanderings as she looks at a lamp and considers the idea of light.

Stars & Moon & Lamp

Perhaps you are what they mean by “stars,”
Or “epiphany,” or celestial scars
Across the cheek of the sky
Or the pulsating palm of my mind…
Perhaps happiness, swelling up
Like a purple balloon, perhaps this pain
I feel without knowing whence it comes,
This drum causing joy like the curve of a spoon—
Perhaps that is the face of the moon.
Have you ever seen the sea,
Guided him with amber hands,
Or caught his silver ankle
As he raced towards land?
Have you ever thrown a stone
Across his chest,
Counted the beats it took
To reach the reflections
Between the ocean’s opaque bars…

Those mysteries they call the stars?

---------------------------------------------

Note: 

1) Yup, "amber hands" and "silver ankle" are references to poems about the sea by Emily Dickinson
2) On a slightly unrelated note... I will be performing poetry (perhaps even slam poetry) at the open mic held by Adsum, a literary journal at USC, at Cups Coffee this Thursday! It's from 7-8:30 and I would love you forever if you came to support!! :)

Location of Cups: 
3335 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Monday, March 3, 2014

What I Remembered To Say To You The Day I Found The Cat Basket And No Cat

I wrote this poem about my cat, who died a little over a year ago. The poem is actually about how there are different levels of sadness, and how sometimes you're not quite sure whether something ought to make you feel as sad as you do.

But you do- and that is the problem.

Yes, this is a sad poem. Read it if you like sad stuff. Read it if you don't.


What I Remembered To Say To You The Day I Found The Cat Basket And No Cat

When we were in tenth grade,
your cat died the same day
the maple trees began
to shed their shreds
of crumpled brown 
paper bags onto the street.
You ran to the backyard to find
the body sucked of its pulsing,
and we could hear staccato 
sobs behind the shed.

People hate cats.
They kick them to the open mouths
of city sewers, where yesterday’s
leaves congeal like soggy cereal:
they set the dogs onto them
and throw heavy objects
after their receding skeletal shadows.
“People won’t understand,”
you say now, grinding a heel
into the soft piles of earthy tulle
above her grave:
“It’s just a cat. Just a damn cat.”

Sorrow is complicated, isn’t it,
when it comes in layers
of shallow sediment
rather than the ocean.
They will tell you
to get another cat, and no
one will realize that it is
like asking someone
who just lost his mother
to get a new one.

Yet, once in a while,
when you return from a night
of drunken babble like blunt barbs,
you miss the insistence of furry cheek
instead of words.
Sometimes it is easy to believe
that she will come bursting
into the house
from the winter rain.
You slide onto the kitchen floor
in the semi-dark
of Tuesday evenings,
gripping a cold cup of tea…

Keep thinking that she
will follow you on your morning walk,
keep forgetting that canned tuna
is no longer an item
on the grocery list.

Take the long way around
the park, to catch a glimpse
of the shorthair who lives
in the tree on the corner.
Take the extra ten seconds
for an inch of eyes
like orbs of mint ice cream
(like hers,) blinking between
the patterns of pine needles,
and nobody will say
that you’re a fool.

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Poem: "Third Wheel"

This poem really is about that moment we all know... three friends. Twice the awkwardness. Note: The guy in this poem... yeah, his name isn't actually Rob. Enjoy!


Third Wheel in The Cafeteria

You and Rob are talking again,
laughing the saccharine harmony:
your soprano like many
clinking silver bracelets
looped through his succulent bass.

If we were in the apartment,
I would leave to say hello
to the water filter; but I am rooted
to this stool as you’re talking,

laughter glistening above us
like rising cranes
from a lake of soaked tea leaves.

Perhaps I will giggle with that particularly
sharp-looking fork on my napkin,

acquire the strange
and beautiful phone number of
the circle of lamplight
on the table,

He is now looking at you
with his lips slightly parted,
at the mystery of the pyramid
between your curls
and downcast eyes,
the two of you
Johnny and June.

Maybe I will hide in the storage room
and let myself be kissed
by the pepper shaker—
or the salt shaker—
and have both light and dark

in their raw elements rage over me.

-------------------------------------------------


Although I haven't posted anything in a while, I have been writing feverishly for the past month or so... this poem is a part of a larger project I hope to complete... I'm currently working on completing a chapbook (40-ish pages) of poetry, and with any luck, will submit it to some contests and publishers.

And then get wildly rich and famous. Off of poetry. Obviously.

But seriously, I am working on a book. And maybe, in a future post, I'll reveal the theme and cover art I've been toiling over.

Wish me luck!