Disclaimer: I don’t write poems about how I’m feeling. I write to keep art alive and kicking.
Wide awake with the sound of Sylvia Plath’s journals crowing and ca-cawing in my head
Lost in my lack of sleep, wondering when the train to Bellingham will finally arive
So worried about LORs that I would much rather think that means Lord of the Rings than what I really meant in the first place
The culmination of postmodernists crammed into my left ear, with only literary nonsense left to learn from
Borrowing a form that doesn’t make sense while writing a poem that most certainly does
Wishing I could be like e.e. cummings:
u (sing punctuation) in all the wrong places
at exactly the right times
AND ONLY CAPITALIZING LETTERS ON MY HEADSTONE
The thought someone has when they read mine and suddenly realize they’re standing on my open head
What once was filled with ideas of how to keep defying conventions of the English language
Now just underground with beetles in my eyes, and still (to the man with the x-ray eyes)
To the BART passenger, or someone similar
I once scrawled on the chalkboard walls inside of my head that
I am a poem; I squeeze between the cyan lines of the college-ruled notebook
I dance on the black tip of a ballpoint pen, mad with indifference to the world of no. 2 pencils and fat pink erasers
I am the mistake crossed out with a double line; the first draft is the mad draft after all
I rejoice to the tune of misplaced apostrophes in the key of it’s and mourn the death of the Oxford comma, for it once was my only friend (outside of parentheses)
I am the space between the brain and mouth: usually a collection of utter nonsense filtered out before we speak
I celebrate lost words dripping past the tip of the tongue into panic-stricken sunsets and other such scenes
I am what is meant not to be said, wrapped in patched up blankets of metaphors and littered with the dust of passing truths
I aim low growls in the direction of similes, unimpressed by their moves like Jagger
I am the quote in your wallet kept as a reminder that life happens in the spaces in between words, not in the poem as you read it
Tip: Read again until satisfied with the meaning of existence
20 Projects for Jim Simmerman
Her hair is a block of charred concrete
leading me through maple side streets
Sun glares off the window panes and
my palms burn on its stovetop
sizzling like a pepper hitting oil
The spice burns through my nostrils
and down past the last of my taste buds
Afternoon tastes like dry smoke
or a chiclet dropped by Jaime Novato
on the sand ten miles from Tijuana, Mexico
only we were really in San Ignacio
4,328 kilometers away
We ran from the homeless and toward
farms of money, the blood red sun
staining our arms along the way
Mi madre laughed at the bottoms of
bare feet drenched with sweat
because we had poetry but no tongues to recite it
“Que huevos!” the man screamed after
I threw my half-eaten carambola at him
The spiteful stars of the thing rattled
Jaime was tired as an owl at night
His visions of hawks circling over mountains
of chiclets, of which he was king
The Vega thought this was wonderful
and said it would all be over in a matter of days
because of empty wallets and other such ramblings
We needed the extra protein
¡Huele de muerte!
As the desert opened its motherly arms
and embraced our orphan souls,
we Ran from the girl’s burning brain
My Spine, or Help
I ate dinner naked today
with grapes at my breast
and pork on my plate
I tried the salad too,
but the spines of arugula
were too much for me
and I turned to Safety:
The cool, slow Breeze
shares conversations of
and tells the secret to
as we pull closed
From the Square at City Hall
O gloomy hazy heirs of Oakland, if it weren’t for your less-than
desirable height I might love you
I spilled my Boston absurd imaginations into your night and got
nothing back but muffled vibrations
Your phallic statues aren’t quite a turn-on to the starry-eyed mill-
ions who walk your streets each day
Excess scores of madmen seep out of your unwashed pores
Was it your love that kept me gazing at cloudy skies?
Was it your hands that built the offices of unkempt loneliness?
I never remembered to ask permission to fuck her before I left
Dark love in public squares isn’t allowed by city ordinance
Your dumb ears refuse to listen to that which is greater than my
Grand Ave. took me to the top of the 80 and I cried and shouted
obscenities of pure joy
“Beautiful! Oh beautiful! People!” “Perfection! You crave perfection!”
“Attention! Help me, you beautiful people!”
The mob swallowed me whole and meaningless flames continued
“There is no way to madness!” I screamed crazy “Madness is the way!”
If I Were A Poet
If I were a poet
I would compose beautiful line
breaks and elegant stanzas.
Similes would be scantily scattered
with alliteration like
stars against a sunset sky.
My tone would be of reason
rather than innocence.
I would refuse to analyze
the meaning of death in literature.
Fortune cookies would be my mantra
and life would be a wiggle
instead of a struggle.
I would pray five times a day
to my journal
most benevolent, ever-merciful.
My poems would not be of peace
or them here Amur’cans.
My form would be indifferent
and probably never earn me awards
or acceptance to grad school.
Fondness of (parentheses)
may get me compared to e.e. cummings
or completely dismissed
if I were a poet.
You’re holding a grenade
made of words and paper.
Do with it what you will.
No one will ever know
if you decide to pull the pin
for if you do, these words
will explode upon impact.
Neon Fruit Supermarket
I was making a sandwich
for the customer with green eyes
when Amanda came in and said,
“look for the printed word.”
I had no idea what it meant
but continued making the man’s
turkey pastrami on rye.
She left without buying her usual
pumpkin cookie and soy chai latte,
extra foam of course.
Was this some sort of riddle
about how a raven
is like a writing desk?
I looked through the produce
hoping to find a scrap of crumpled
paper among the peaches.
Then to the juice bar, even
sifting through the pulp of
discarded apples and kale.
I asked the cooks in the back
if they had seen any odd words
around, but they said no.
The intercom howled “Thank you
for shopping at Jimbooooo’s…Naturally!”
when it hit me. I rushed back
toward the sandwich bar and
inspected the guacamole.
And the seed of the avocado
sitting next to it read,
“Neon fruit supermarkets
attract a lonely Whitman.”
In San Francisco
I had a dream
that no one noticed
when the trolleys
ran the wrong way
and completely missed
the stop at Union Square.
Instead of going to work
people went home and
chose to eat peas for
dessert instead of cake.
At the dinner table
they spoke of the universe
rather than politics and
believed in themselves,
settling for nothing
less than perfect.
I headed south to
Oakland and everything
seemed so alive for once.
The people were the
happiest I’ve ever seen.
I woke up by your side
the next morning and
watched as your hands
shone like silk in the sunlight
coming through the
room’s only window.
The dream resided in those
hands, if only I could
touch them without
waking the dreamer.
There’s a rainbow in the corner of my window
it must be saying something.
The clouds are gay! The lakes are gay!
The trees are gay! The airplane is gay!
The flight attendant is gay!
Houses hidden in the hills below look up
and wonder if I’m gay too.
The sun hiding at the edge of a cloud
tells me the ocean’s gay didn’t we know?
She has a fluid sexuality and loses her
temper sometimes we call it flooding.
The sky declared itself androgynous
and changes genders every twelve hours.
The sunset is proudly bisexual
and displays both pink and blue every evening
as it heads to the club and the sky switches genders.
The city of San Francisco is gay!
and the rainbow disappears.
pill poppers that
can’t make up their mind.
Often get mistaken
for rambling thoughts
and go to trial for
having sex in public
places. Many have
tattoos and are a
bad influence on
your children. The
last one I saw caught
a ride to Greenwich
Village from a trucker
who reeked of booze.
If you ever see a poem
in your neighborhood,
please call the fire
department to put
it out before it
spreads like wildfire.
America (the beautiful)
This heart does not
beat for me or them
for the whiskey or
the American sin
nor the outstretched
hand of greed in
their citizens don’t
even have the basic
right to eat (animals).
The rhythmic thwap,
thwap, thwap is not
for the rushing rivers
in Colorado, nor for
the glowing canyons
of Utah or the grassy
hills in Amherst, not
even for the grandest
of all canyons (ever)!
Because I have an
angry heart filled with
cancers and pesticides
and processed sugars,
I’m sure of [my health].
No one ever told me
the American dream
was to die of McDonald-
ization or Burger King
Nation or a slew of other
equally horrid diseases.
My congested arteries
thank you, capitalism.
My oil-coated cells want
to shake hands with the
one and only Donald
Trump. My rotting lungs
and intestines can’t wait
to meet the President.
My heart beats for you,
America (the beautiful).
Demand the climate obeys orders.
seek vengeance on the scientists if it declines.
turn over the redwoods to the firing squad
for taking a stand.
shake a fist at the sky till it blushes.
request the clams to clam up till you’re done talking.
hide the fish in the sea
because everyone needs one.
Expect the mule to make up its mind.
tempt the desert with some water.
torture the water with some desert.
attack the salt flats for being too dry.
file a complaint against the rattlesnakes
for causing such a ruckus.
question the cactus till they give up their values.
Force the leaves to show their true colors.
slaughter the weeds ‘cause they don’t belong here.
silence the wind till it agrees to stop singing.
moon the moon for serving moonshine.
sentence squirrels to a life without acorns.
terrorize the trees to do your dirty work.
Infringe on the kumquat’s rights.
bury the berries, uproot the roots,
ravage the cabbage, spoil the soil.
arrange the oranges to reflect the sun.
lecture the watermelons on how
you scalped more natives than anyone.
declare war on the avocados to prove your point.
Nag the children to bear the weight on their shoulders.
rifle through the planets to find what you want.
crack open a book and read a poem
that defines this all as the
I said love, but the world said hatred.
I said comfort, but America charged and cried “money!”
I said health, but the doctors told me sickness.
Never had I spoken upon such deaf ears.
I whispered everything, but the wind said nothing.
I told the sky my secrets, but it didn’t keep them quiet.
I loved a cloud once, but it rained on my parade.
Now I can’t even trust myself.
I babbled mama, but she said shhh.
I mumbled peace, but the director spoke “oil.”
I screamed Honesty, but no one heard me.
Angles, My Angels
Angels are the messenger
This is fundamental to your understanding
But are they above or below man?
“The creation tells the story,” said the Lord
Angels, you don’t have any power
Angels, justice will be served when the apocalypse comes
Angels, do you go to heaven or hell?
Angels, you have led me into error
The angels tricked me into believing
No one believed me when I said I was better than them
Man is below me, you are below me
Since you led me here, I’ll trick you too
Angels, I want to take advantage of you
Angels, you are the craftiest of creatures
Angels, may I lead you astray?
Angels, you will follow me too
Angles, I like your circular logic
I can choose any door I want
I’m always well-intentioned, and I’m never wrong
God is all-powerful and all-knowing, but he’s really a prick
Angles, you gave me free will
Angles, angels do absolutely exist
Angles, do you think like I do?
Angles, there’s a flaw in your consistency
The angles gave me a job to do
Everyone thinks they’re going to heaven
I can make them lose their morals
If you don’t have morals, you’re going to hell
Angles, you’re oh so important to me
Angles, you’re a practice in rhetoric
Angles, have you lost your faith?
Angles, you’ve let your prophets suffer
Ey to Zie
pulled the rainbow out of the closet
taken its scarf, shoes, and shirt
and handed it a mask to hide behind
Guy Fawkes mixed with Lady Gaga
peers out of the interrogation room
wondering why zirs children
have suicidal tendencies,
Hir boards SFO to ARN
greeted by hungry stares
at the multi-colored flag
covering eirs lower half
Sie loses zirs mind in the
lavatory and watches
as its ripped to shreds
by the engine outside hirs window
Zir sees nothing but
a whirlwind of pronouns
crash into the clouds below