A POEM A DAY

I'm just happy to be here.

Tag: april

13/30: APRIL IN HOUSTON

Let me set the scene. April in Houston. Days after a storm. Blue sky and easy light slips through the blinds, fills the room like a river. A blue-jay lands on the fence outside my window. I’m overcome with the need to exclaim there’s a blue-jay outside! Amazed, at the phenomena of a day. The blue-jay flies away before I think further. Dusk is here now. Going on a walk with Adela, the fresh air anchors me. Across the street, two brothers toss the football in an empty lot. Draw routes on the football for each other. The trees in my neighborhood are as tall as the power lines. The air tonight is too cool for April. I am running at my own pace now. Seeing the world change frame by frame. Faster than the blue-jay that flew away. Over the treetops, the sky is an unbothered indigo. A star shines so bright, Adela thinks it’s a planet. I think it’s a star. We follow it all the way home.

1/30: SO SOME VULTURES HOLD A WAKE IN THE SKY OF MY MIND BUT I DO NOT GET EATEN ALIVE (THIS TIME)

“I wish I could tell you this story without being in it.”
– Michael Rosen, from Gaslighting in Several Parts

In the spirit of honesty, I think I’m finally ready to talk about it. Driving down I-10, the Texas sun writes the constitution of the sky. In my mind, another sky awaits my fate. On the side of the road, the colorless carnival or carcasses steal the bluebonnet joy of Spring as if grief ever had a season where it did not bloom. The song I’m singing is not exactly a prayer. In the air, a Committee of Vultures rise bright above the montage of Oak trees. As for me, I’m trying to raise my voice in this dungeon where I am. I spy a reason for living where death is a sanctuary. Death is a kettle. Death is the horizon above our eyes, where vultures circle the dead like a black Ferris Wheel alight in the sky. Whoever killed the monsters in my head left the meat on my memories. I’m waiting for the Committee to decide my fate. I’m curious if, each time I revisit the past, a vulture takes flight? My friend Michael reminds me there are stories I wish I could tell without being part of them. That I can’t just drown the past in a lavender bath. When the vultures of my mind finally swoop down to the ground, their bodies are furious and free. I’m not so sure I can say the same for myself. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve never buried the memories that kept me suffering and alive. What I’m trying to say is, there are vultures in the sky of my mind. Aren’t my memories a carcass by another name? I have a million stories where I am not the hero nor worth saving. Trauma tells but does not teach. Please don’t tell the vultures I’m here—all alone in my head, rotten and writhing—like I’m waiting for some bird in the sky to eat the idea of me like an elegy waits on the other side of my wake. Every day, I hold a wake for who I was and who I could have been. When the boy inside me lost his innocence, it was a life sentence. Sometimes I thank God I am not him. Why must I be a witness to my horrible history? The Bluebonnets come alive every Spring because it is a ritual. When someone dies, the family displays the body like a shadow everyone can all touch. A goodbye ritual. A wake. Have you ever seen group of vultures feed on a carcass together? A goodbye ritual. A wake. Ever confuse mythology for biology? It is a mistake to think every god-forsaken trauma entrenched memory is something we cannot help but inherit. What I mean is, driving down I-10 and seeing the vultures patrol the sky, I realized it is a blessing to know there is another creature who only survives on suffering alone. But in the spirit of honesty, I only have time for joy. Spring brings so many things back to life, I can’t help but smile at the power of wildflowers. I’m too sensitive not to smile at the sunshine. Even if there are shadows in the sky, I still choose to try. In the spirit of honesty, this song I’m singing is a prayer. I say, raise your voice in this dungeon where I am and a laugh blooms on cue from the woman I love. And I cannot allow myself to be destroyed.

26/30: POEM BEGINNING AND ENDING WITH SONGLYRICS BY SUFJAN STEVENS

I want to save you from your sorrow

But what if I am not ready?
I’m only brave in the stories I tell.
Everything I feel is a familiar spell.
Everything I feel is a navigable hell.
This sorrow I feel is a charming tale.
I like the plot of my pity.
Some days it’s good to be pathetic.
Misery cannot always wait.
I know my friend Vanessa says,
That there is space for joy
That there is space for pain.
And I believe her, but
Isn’t it easier to be empty?
In the mirror I misplace
my dark honey eyes
in the dim corner where
I choose to lose myself
With no one’s help
but my own.
In the violent silence
of my lonely heavy head
I own my mistakes
with a defeating dread.
In my darkest hours,
I carry deadweight
Like a living history
I want to rewrite.
Should I tear my heart out now?

23/30: AMERICAN SONNET ENDING WITH A LOST KEY

I would like to walk in your mind barefoot
Naked, mouth open. Strange glory of the body,
I ask you protect what I neglect. Here,
your soil is asleep with secrets
I softly wake with my lips. Strange glory
of the dirt, what mad joy you keep alive.
The triumph of where did it go all wrong
Fills the vaulted ceilings of your feelings
Like slow water in a dance hall. Last call
Comes like the last straw and I grab your hand
Like quicksand. Hear me with your whole body.
The secret entrance to our secret selves
Once had a key, but where did we leave it?

22/30: EARTH DAY

Out of my own wilderness I return.
After gathering the shade scattered in the garden,
I want to thank God for the Earth,
Rejoice in the sprawling worth, remembering
Spring as the time I swam and did not sink
Remembering my flintstone feet as a sundial
While I try to see the tops of the redwoods
This earth never once betrayed me
I want to thank God for this

But stop myself

Cause God allegedly gave us earthlings too
And what this earthling does in the dark of night
Underneath the marauding magnolia trees
Maneuvering between the wind as the bayou breathes
Can spring a loathsome wrath against the space we share.
Not enough of us care, even though there are more of us now
Than ever before, and the earth is smaller now than it was,
I can see it in how we look at one another.
But today, I reach for the light.
Out of my own wilderness I return from a hungry loneliness.
Even in loneliness, I have yet to love the light less.
Were it not for the pictures of my grandma’s backyard garden
All over her Facebook wall, it’s possible I’d never forgive myself
for staying inside the house.

19/30: little things

When my dad would lose in backgammon, he grumbled
About luck, about both my brothers and my failure to adhere
to the updated rules of the game. I mean, the man justified defeat
Like a dying king in battle
And I believed in his brave wounds
Even when I did not see the foreshadow,
in how he salvaged small sorrow into a ship
like a sailor stuck in the sea of himself.
My father carves a life boat from each lesson
From each lesson, he rescues himself.

When I would cuss growing up, my mother would
admonish me, Zachary Fredrick! Do not cuss!
To which I reply, but my father is a sailor!
And she’d laugh where she stood, her eyes heavy with
the past,
and my tongue was a sail in the wind of an ocean I’ve
never been in

2/30: LESSONS FROM THE SAGA OF LIGHT

God bless my bluebonnet heart opening Sunday morning
Like the last laugh of wildflowers in my grandmother’s garden—
God bless the by-lines of beauty multiplying in the dark, growing
overnight, springing from everlasting ash like a blunt wrapped
in phoenix feathers. I found I do not fear what I cannot learn
and I cannot learn what I do not witness. The lesson is this:
We’re still learning to love the lessons, no matter the teacher.
I once wrote, if you lose hope, try forgiveness. But I did not
Trust the teacher, so I chose neither. In the interest of justice,
I ask that the universe reverse the grid-lock of my grief.
Though, I know this is not possible. My brother taught
me how to box-out. This was the first time I learned
to put a perimeter around the pain. As a creature who craves
the hunt of the heart, I ask for hands to hold the slippery
silver fish of suffering. Remember the rebound. In the interests of joy,
I ask the voice of vulnerability to self-govern. In every poem,
a crossing collapses and another bridge begins. Please,
despite the dark doom of destruction, accept this invitation.
Wander into the wilderness. Witness what work it is to stay.
Though, I know this is not possible. In the interest of Self-
Preservation, I ask the secretkeeper to switch to bees.
Why does what I keep never feel like honey?
The lesson is this: I cannot define what is unfinished.
“If I lead you through the fury, will you call to me?”
I sing fleet foxes in red boxers when no one is watching.
Last spring, I spent all my love making time, just like
The Eagles taught me. But what happens when I run out?
Imagine the eye of the storm. Now imagine your eyes.
Whose eyes are lying? If I want the answer to my question,
I’d give it. The lesson is this: the wood in me is not for building.
I used to borrow the best parts of my boyhood to understand
the misunderstandings, wishing, I did not know what I know now.
I used to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. Though, I know,
This was not possible. After offering my body into the wrong church’s
collection plates, my lover tells me, I am no longer a safe-space.
The teacher taught me: whatever I gave, I took away. Like a carousel
of untold truths, I spun my tongue away from the end. In the interests
of time, I ask that the clock restart. I ask for one hand to join my hand
and hold whatever part of my heart is most bruised. Though, I know,
this was not possible. The lesson is this: even pain has limits.
For years, all I wanted as a boy was to be loved. The world gave
me many things, but I still wanted more. First, desire, then lust,
Then greed. At twenty-five, I ask each dark seed to leave. Though,
this is not possible. The earth is strong and I am not ready yet.
For a while, I forget most terrible things I’ve done or did.
Then I remember the wild foe of my woe, guilty as green grass.
I try to mow the misery growing into a sanctuary city.
Do not pity the fool forever failing to find the spark in the dark.
Though, I know this is not possible, I still bless my bluebonnet
heart opening up, like a faucet I fixed in the dark. God bless
The lessons I am still alive to live through. At twenty-five,
I have lived through one-hundred seasons. Through every season,
I have left what I cannot forgive in the fury of the past. Is anyone
Left to call to me? Though, I may not always answer.

1/30: IT IS WHAT IT IS

This line is late. Weeks overdue. None of my thoughts are new. It is what it is.
The laws of loneliness are fixed stars in my constitutional constellation.
I am most free in a dream where I outdo death. Sleeping, the dreamy version of me drags his feet across the tops of the peculiar pine trees pissing off the power lines. When I say I am most free, I hope you hear how little I hold. I was told to put a pot on the past, Wait, then laugh at the steam. Levitate, levitate, levitate. This earthbound body comes dressed in stubborn smoke. In this song of hope, every lyric is moonbound. Name a scar the sky cannot solve. Spring has sprung on schedule but no one is here to smell the jasmine breeze with me. The moral of this moment missed its deadline.
Whether or not my faith blossoms, the season to show up has arrived. April can be the cruelest of dance floors, but today I abandon the rules of gravity-disguised-grief. For the sake of my ankles, do not ask me about anchors. Give me balloon bravery. Can I be a kite the sky keeps? I wish I had more to give than just my body. To date, Ask any woman I loved if I’m down to earth. They’ll tell you how I write poems for, to, or about the sky, but never for, to, or about them. I wish I had more than hurt to hem for them, but to tailor the terror of my affection is a lesson I left behind in the grinds of midnight. Reading Robert Bly aloud, I say, is there enough left of me to be honest now?
I’m afraid the answer lies, inside my body, scraping the paint off my walls.
Nobody but me can fix the hollow frames of the rooms I groom my shame in.
Hesitate. Hesitate. Hesitate. I place the sky back inside myself. Like a Magritte brush stroke, I am most free when I break all the rules of my body. In a dream, I raise my arms like wings though I do not move them. What happens if I never wake? The word I’m looking for is transcend. Yes, watch me transcend into some moonbound mystic meant to illuminate the intricate energy of the universe with every poem I visit. If love asked me to say her name, I’d say I am not ready. No, I haven’t failed at love. I haven’t succeeded either. If love asked me to let go, I’d hesitate. Inside my head, Ghosts of lovers leave their names in my throat like an anchor I didn’t ask for.
It is what it is.

30/30: ODE TO JOY

In this episode, my mother and I
watch Lucy pretend she is someone
she is not, again.

In this episode, Lucy and Ethel
work at a chocolate factory
to prove
their worth to the men
in their hearts
and they work,
until

every bone in their body
is called defiance

the two women
braver
because
they are together

And together,
they are failing

Life
happening
faster than
the pieces of chocolate,
passing
through their hands,
one
by
one

until at once,
there is too much
for them to hold,
and

In this episode,
hope
is the only
delicacy

In this episode
my mother and I hide
behind
our laughter,
in the black and white
half-light,
me and her,
unbothered
by Lucy’s helplessness,
which, to some extent,
is our own,
me and her,
astonished
at the
the control she lost
which,
does not stop
her

it is a moment
where everything
depends
on the next moment

where
the space
she found
inside
her mouth
taught her
and me
to doubt
the chaos
neither of us
created
but in this episode
all of us
learn to escape
one way or another
and is this not
the definition
of a miracle?

the television became
our invitation
to pretend
together,
where I’d sit still
in the afterglow
of my mother’s
favorite show
and
every night
we’d chase
re-runs
until we
memorized
the sounds
in our head
line by line
the laugh track
cracked our
hearts open
just like our
lips, and
then and now

I learn,
in the low light,
the mouth
is no place for defeat

and joy is this—
realizing,
I am a mystery
even to me
that
everything I wish
to say has always
begun
in silence
before
it ever
became a script,
and again,
I refuse
to give
in.

In this season
of my life,
I would laugh
my vulnerability
into white noise
I would destroy
the darkness
just by
smiling —
& to this day,
I am
performing
for joy

The curtain call
of my body
falls
and I am a boy,
again,
and I love everyone,
again, just like
I Love Lucy,
just like I love
the love inside
my heart,
part
chocolate
part
factory, and
in this episode—
Joy is my only
choice, and everyone
I love
is watching me
disassemble
all of me,
until
nothing
is left to tremble.

24/30: HAIBUN FOR SUNDAY

Sunday morning, light pours through the open blinds. Birds with no names play their song for me. The ball of my body unraveling. Still small, but growing. the soft white sheets my mother bought me hold my warm morning skin. Soft feet. Soft light. soft blades spinning above my head, cool air moving. 8am stillness. No sound interrupts the silence. Alarm goes off, but no need to hurry. Changing positions, I pick up my body. The first thing I do is walk through a door, a hallway, another hallway, another door. Outside. The first big breath I take happens slow. Slow enough, I am only focusing on my breath. Invisible movements. From where I stand, green pine trees overshadow the magnolia next to my house. A spider spins a web from a tree to a roof. The web is a line designed with other lines in mind. The alive lines holding onto dead things. Green journal, black pen. I grab both with my hands. A poet spins a poem from his mind. The poem is a web of lines. I write, I write, I write. The language of the living praising the dead. Walking around making sounds in my head. Wind moving the leaves. My blood moving through me. Bells designed to ring at once. Yes, I am a vessel. The depth of what I carry, less scary than before.

The world is a con-
founding web of lines I try
but never avoid.