[Descriptive title here]

On my way to the bathroom at 2:43 a.m., I paused to jot down some lines that had just popped into my head, carrying my pocket notebook over to the kitchen counter so I could write by the nightlight’s light.

Denied membership
in the exclusive club
of the deceased,

I wrote, then went on in to the bathroom and emptied my bladder. I tried to remember what sort of dream had prompted this, with only partial success. Some anxiety-ridden storyline involving a distant, vaguely threatening government or deity, I think. The usual baseless paranoia. But I think the lines above were more likely influenced by the blogs I had been reading just before bed, which contained much discussion of cliques and in-groups. Someday we’ll all be in the Six Foot Under Club, the original Skull and Bones. Living entities need not apply. Everybody’s just dying to get in.

Yesterday I tried to write a poem, but got no further than a few, fragmentary images.

untrimmed toenails clicking against the sidewalk

caress of a knife

songbirds in August
half-bare from the molt

barn cat in the rain, skinny enough
to fit between the drops

Today, again, I won’t have time to write anything substantial. So if anyone else would like to try and write a poem in my stead, using one or more of the fragments above, feel free.

Another fun activity, if you are a blogger, might be to read this list of rules for good blogging, and see how many you regularly violate. Of the nine rules given, I am usually in violation of at least seven, and unapologetically so. It’s a good list for certain kinds of bloggers, I think, and reflects careful attention to a certain kind of audience. But if you’re not fluent in English; if you’re in too much of a goddamn hurry to focus on the language, and need to be repeatedly snagged with bulleted lists and blockquotes; if you like to be hit over the head with the main point several times in the course of a brief post; or if you crave descriptive titles and precise notification of every change in a post following its original publication, then sorry, this blog’s not for you. If I learned one thing from my mother, it’s this: never pander to your readers. Someone should draw up an alternative list for literary bloggers.


[UPDATE (4:40 p.m.)]

Diet Plan

Denied membership
in the exclusive club
of the deceased, I resolve
to do away with wings,
keeping only the wingbones,
like a songbird in August
half-naked from the molt.
Ditto with hams & hambones,
which are only fit for split
pea soup. Human beings
are the other white meat;
pork is a poor substitute.
I resolve to give up bread
& salt & the speaking of truth
or its reasonable facsimiles.
Too many calories. Bad
for the blood pressure.
I’m through with all caresses,
except for the caress of the knife,
which is so good at making
a mouth that can’t talk back.
I’m swearing off history
with its urgent ticking, like
untrimmed toenails clicking
against the sidewalk. I want
to live in the perpetual present
otherwise known as wartime,
so I need to get lean & mean
as the old barn cat trotting
up the gravel driveway
in the rain, skinny enough
to fit between the drops
of God’s own ordnance.

6 Replies to “[Descriptive title here]”

  1. Cliques and in-groups, sigh. I’ve never been much of a joiner. Can’t stay anywhere for long. Been through a lot of groups, literary, religious, mothers & artist circles, whatever, and I can’t stick anywhere for long enough to hang my hat usually. What works best for me is having a few friends of many years duration towards whom I am fiercely loyal. And none of them particularly know each other, so no group. Don’t know if I can plan a 6 Feet Under world that way, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea…

    :smiley thingy:

  2. Anonymous – Well, what works best for me is being a total self-centered bastard, a loner and a misanthrope. I mean, I get a lot written that way! But is that in fact what’s best for me? I highly doubt it. There are a lot of valuable things to learn from being in communion with others — humility, for example. I could use some of that.

  3. Wouldn’t dream of trying to play with those fragments now, Dave. I think your poem is terrific. I love its wry, somewhat mocking tone with bitterly humorous edges and what I read as pretty positive determination in spite of everything – a perfect response to the emotions I felt after reading the Chris Hedges article yesterday. “…the caress of the knife, which is so good at making a mouth that can’t talk back” — aiii. Yep. Congrats on this one. (And, oh, don’t forget to be humble after all this praise ;)

  4. Never had a desire to be a member of Skull and Bones, and am not in a hurry to join the Six Foot Under Club either. Yes, it’s edgy. Just in time for Friday the Thirteenth?

  5. Beth – Thanks. Actually, I’m in no danger of getting a swelled head about my poems. If anything, I am rather too conscious of their flaws. But yes, sort of a response to Hedges and all that.

    MB – Oh yeah, I forget about that! Well, I’m going to be traveling tomorrow, so it’s a good thing I ain’t superstitious. (Did I mention both our barn cats are black?)

    twitches -I don’t usually work this way either. More often I’ll spin a poem out of one, strong image or idea. But I did once write an entire book-length poem using more or less this method, and I learned a lot from it. I mean that literally: composing in this manner led me to make connections in the historical and anthropological materials I was working with that felt like valid discoveries. So I do recommend trying this kind of stitching as a mind-expanding exercise, although it’s possible it would only really work for people who, like me, have an essentially syncretic imagination.

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