Friday, September 21, 2012

Bambi: A 3:00 AM poem

So, you guessed it. I can't sleep.

I wrote this poem for class, and I was going to wait until I work shopped it, but I really like it. So I'm going to post it now anyway, and if it sucks, it sucks.

However, I feel the need to insert a little back story in order for you to get the full meaning of it. But if you don't want to read this little paragraph, feel free to skip on ahead to the poem. It's more for me than you anyway.

Probably most of you reading this already know this, but when I was younger, my step-dad died. He had cancer, and they gave him six months to live.
He lived for two years.

Now, because of many reasons, mainly having to do with how I reacted to his dying (i.e. being in our apartment and dying, being sick and things), when I got the news that he actually had died, I didn't really feel anything.
And I thought there was something seriously wrong with me.

Then time happened, the way it always does. At first, a few painful weeks, then a few months, where the fact that he died was still there, but duller. Then it was years. And I never truly cried over his death. Not once.

Then I met Al. And I can't remember how long we were together (and it's too late to call him to ask, lol), but he was driving me home one night when he hit a deer.
We live in South Jersey, there are deer everywhere. I have been in at least three different car accidents involving deer hitting us or us hitting deer.
The fact still remained: after I made sure Al and I and the kid we were with were okay, I wanted to know how the deer was.

And it was alive. It had run a few good feet away from the car. It was dark, so I couldn't really tell how much damage had been done, but to me at least, it looked just stunned. I thought if we gave it a few minutes, it would get up and be fine.

Then we had to call the cops because of insurance reasons.
And two came, and without any warning, barely giving me enough time to cover my ears and close my eyes, one of them shot it in the head.

It took me a long time to figure out what bothered me so much about this incident.
Was it the officer drawing his gun, when I had never seen one?
Was it him shooting that gun, which I had never experienced?

The thing that bothered me the most, and I haven't really told anyone this, was that after the shot rang out, after we all jumped, hell, even after I went home that night and tried to sleep and failed numerous times, I came to one very disturbing realization:
That immediately after the shotgun noise came this weird scraping sound.
I always thought it was just in my head. That what I heard was some after effect from shock or something.
But that sound was the deer's hoofs against the street.

So what does this have to do with my step-dad?

I'll tell you.

Right after the cops told us that we could leave, we dropped off our friend, and Al took me to the wawa to get something to drink. We were quiet, and he had waited until we pulled into the parking lot at 2am to ask me if I was okay.
And I lost it.

I cried for the deer, and it's little deer family, sure, but what surprised me more was that I was sad and missing my step-dad in that moment. And I cried for him. It was strange, these two seemingly un-connected events connecting, but there it was.
And I said this line that shows up in the poem, which I wrote about three or four years after this event:

"It was still alive, it would have been fine."

And I thought to myself how many times I thought that about my step-dad. About myself. That as long as I was alive, I was okay, and  as long as he was still breathing, he'd be fine too.
But I knew it was a lie. Maybe not then about the deer, and maybe not before that with my step-dad and myself, but I knew it somewhere, deep down.

So After I went home that night, I listened to one of his favorite songs(I mention it in the poem). I always hated it, but I listened to it over and over. And I thought about deer and Jack and Dianne and my step-dad, and how I thought everything was going to be fine. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't, but that deer definitely changed things.

So. That was a longer intro than i planned, but are you really surprised?
Anyway, here's the poem. Tell me what you think. : )


It was the summer, five years after
The Funeral.
We played a game,
Trying to guess
Which song would play next. 

You were always wrong
And holding onto sixteen as tight as I could
Only left permanent marks in my skin. 

You hit a baby deer.
The cops came
Before it could  stand on shaking legs
Shot it between the eyes. 

It was still alive. It would have been fine.

I never saw a gun before,
But I've looked death in the face,
Been closer than
That animal. 

We picked the fur
From your black bumper.
We fixed the dent
Good as new. 

It stared through the darkness,
My head ached,
My knees throbbed.

John Mellencamp was singing
About how life goes on.

But I still wish the deer had gotten up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Island

This poem is about the town I grew up in.
Well, the town I am still growing up in, technically.
I've never written a poem about a town specifically, so. This is new, and scary, and exciting.

I lived in Mystic Islands when I was younger, then moved away when my parents got divorced, then back again when I lived with my dad for that week, then away.
And now I'm back. Two streets over from the street I grew up on.
So. This poem is about all of that. I hope you like it. : ) 

The Island 
My dad used to take me fishing when I was little
On the lagoons in his backyard.
He wold pick a fish from an empty pickle bucket, gut it
In front of me.
Claim it felt no pain.
I couldn't wait to get out.
For most of my life, I skirted aroud the town
Where I grew up.
I'd take e long way home to avoid my old street
Where twelve year olds push heroin.
Bypassed the next one over,
Where everyone knew the old man died,
But no one wanted to admit where the smell
Was coming from.

Maybe they hated this place as much as him.

He didn't tell his daughters either that the heart
Still beats when it slips out,
The scales picked off,
Long after the air has gotten to it.
And when I go home now I still have to look
At rotting stuffed animals
In the place
On the corner
Where the girl was hit by a car.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Little Bird

I have received my first assignment for creative writing.
And it's to write one good poem, and one horrible, awful, disgusting one.

I hate it when professors think re-using your poems or stories is hurting you. Sure, if you're just doing it so you never have to write anything new ever again, yeah, you are.
But I wrote this poem for the-creative-writing-class-from-hell, and I had to revise it for my final, and I want feedback on it, so I'm handing it in as the "good" poem.

As for the bad poem, you'll have to use your imagination.
But trust me. It sucks.

Anyway, I thought I'd post it here, because some people saw the earlier stages of it, and some people haven't seen it at all. I'm going to make an effort to update this blog more often, even if juggling school, work, writing books, and getting one ready for the world might kill me. It's worth it.

So here you go.

                                                             Little Bird  

There is a part of you that smiled when it tore out my tongue.
I saw it, underneath the stain.
You tried to cover it with your alcohol soaked pillow,
Your tear streaked blanket.

Trying to hide how proud you were
As your yellowed curtains drowned us.
And solid white teeth slipped over my lips.
A cry got stuck in my throat,
Like a thread pulled too tight.

The muscles contract.
Cramp up.
Go limp.

Some piece of you clings to my ribcage.
I can feel it, under the heavy cloud of sleep.
Trying to claw its way free in the darkness.

I am always so still.

Waiting for that moment
When it all finally collapses.

The canary, fluttering around blind,
Smacking its beak against my chest,
Finds a way out.

And a sigh escapes me
Like it makes any difference.

The bones move, expand before they break.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Everything Deserves To Exist

Sometimes, it feels like nothing is going right.
Sometimes it seems as though you're just floating, trying to grasp onto something in order to just have something to hold on to.

I always deny that I have writer's block. In my opinion, writer's block either happens when you're A) too lazy to push yourself over that hump, or B) Too focused on getting over that hump that you end up trying to jump over it and falling flat on your face.
Writer's block, most of the time (at least for me), is some other emotion, feeling, life event, etc. that gets in the way. Don't get me wrong, it's completely fine to call these things masquerading around writer's block; it's easier to explain that way.

Lately, I've been feeling like I need to switch things up and write something new.
However, it's hard to leave the safety and security of characters and themes I've been so comfortable with and have known so well for so long.
So my writer's block came in the form of fear.
Usually, I just ignore this thing, even if it's glaring at me from the corner of my eye saying, "HEY. WRITE ME. WHAT AM I, YOU SAY? WHO KNOWS!"

And I was doing just that.

Sometimes, pieces fall right into place and resemble a picture you weren't even sure you had in your head until it's there in front of you.

That happened last weekend.

This lady came into my job at Petsmart. She bought three little fish for her tank, said something about how she likes how they stick together in the tank (they were schooling fish), and that was it. End of conversation.

Then she turned to retrieve her fish from me, stopped what she was doing, and stared past me at the bowl we have on the counter, which houses a betta fish.

"He's all by himself?" she asked.
The red betta fish slowly swam up to the surface, blew a tiny bubble, then retreated back into his pink princess house.
"Why?" the lady asked.
"They have to be," I answered. "If you put two males together, they fight to the death."

I've explained this many times to many people, kids and adults alike, and no one has ever had the reaction this woman gave me.

"That's just rediculous," she said, like it was my decision to damn the fish to a life of solitude.
"Not really," I said in the nicest possible way. "They like it better that way, trust me," I attempted a joke.
She wasn't having any of that. "Something so sad shouldn't exist."

That is what she left me with.

It was a seed.
A tiny, little, almost insignificant seed.

But that seed grew into roots of why would someone think something like that?
To leaves and branches of reasons.

In the wild, betta fish live in mud puddles. Mud puddles.
They can survive in a tiny pool of water their whole lives, only mating when they have to, killing the females they don't like, then leaving the ones they impregnate, if they don't decide to stay long enough to eat the young, that is.

It was a human idea to breed these fish in captivity, the way it always is.
We can breed them to be any color, their fins any shape, yet we cannot change their behavior.

Breeders put them in plastic cups and sell them to people who want an easy fish that doesn't require much attention or cleaning, and most of their owners are happy enough to just have something pretty and alive to look at. Something pretty and alive that's different from the way things like flowers are pretty and alive.

And there is something so human in that. These fish can disguise themselves as such good pets, such beautiful, easy fish to own, yet they have this secret they keep from any person who doesn't know about their kind.

That in most situations, it would rather kill to be alone than to be with another of its own kind.

Occasionally you come across one person who is not content to simply have the betta as it is: alone and happy.
Most of the time, when you explain to them that they're happy that way, they shrug and go on their way; they accept it.
But this lady, man.
She just couldn't believe it.
She couldn't believe that something that is so utterly and totally alone will always be totally and utterly alone.

Things will never change for that betta.
He will wake up every morning alone.
He will swim in and out of his plastic princess castle alone.
He will eat his little fishy pellet dinner alone.
And  he will go to sleep every night alone.
That animal is happy this way; he doesn't want or need anything else.

But some animals do, and that lady reminded me of that.

Sometimes you get these seeds, and sometimes they only grow to a certain point; there's only so far they can go. 
But sometimes it never stops growing.
And I think I have myself one of those seeds.