Poems About Dickinson, Grandpa, and Flannery O'Connor's Peacocks

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Dear Reader,

I've been working on a continuity bible for my fiction this week, trying to compile in one place all of the timelines and character connections that I've made over the years, so that I keep this big old Clarkiverse straight. I'm using an app called Bear to do this, and it's been a lot of fun, but the work has kept me from writing new fiction this week. Instead, I've been plugging away at poems here and there, and I have 3 to share with you.

The first came out of an exercise I did this past weekend with prospective students at the university where I teach. I didn't expect the exercise to result in something so dark and so potent, but I really like the results:


Yellow Swim Trunks on the Lime-Green Grass

Sometimes he smokes in the kiddie pool,
an ashtray to the side of it.
My grandfather soaks.
His skin, loosening on his aging bones
as his muscles diminish, recede —
his skin kills him. He scratches till he bleeds
outside, smokes till
he bleeds inside too,
ridding the world of himself
bit by bit.
He wears nothing.


The other two I have to share with you are further attempts at poetry built out of the card game Papercuts. You may remember my previous attempt at this. I'd like to think I'm getting the hang of it now. So, here they are:


Drunker Than Dickinson (Papercuts Poetry II)

The Lord of emo vampires has convinced
Emily Dickinson to do a keg stand
in exchange for his collected works about
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s foot fetish.

And this is not just
a Facebook post from your grandmother
or Faulkner with a mild case of whiskey dick.
This is The Millions
describing Zadie Smith’s new novel as
“Elizabeth Gilbert’s guru and a
dystopian heroin with an anachronistic skill
having a baby.”

This is true, baby. True.

It’s me telling you that
having a baby is the anachronistic skill.

So, picture it:
Dickinson inverted,
Whittier and Hawthorne holding
her by the legs
while Emerson holds the tap
to her mouth.

And if you squint, you can see
Alcott in the corner
telling her sisters that
she’s got next.

This is real, man. Real.
As real as
Edgar Allan Poe’s mustache.
Maybe more so.


Luck of the Draw (Papercuts Poetry III)

You get a five-star
Goodreads review
from your mom
on the novel whose
form rejection slips are
fanned out on your desk
like the tail feathers of
Flannery O’Connor’s peacocks.

At a bar, with the friends you haven’t seen since
you dropped out of your MFA,
you listen to the guy with the TV show
tell the girl you almost slept with that
the next big literary scandal
will pit Hilary Mantel against
a hipster carrying a vintage typewriter
into an artisanal cafe.

You nod.
You almost sleep with the girl again,
then don’t.
Instead, she goes home to her spouse
and you go home to yours.

The Sorting Hat
put you into
Found Poetry House,
which is where Shelley
would have put Frankenstein’s monster,
you swear. Because that’s where
every horror belongs,
where they begin also.

The late nights you keep,
the words you write
only with the help of this deck of cards —
you feel like a grumpy dwarf
excreted from a giant worm
into Haruki Murakami’s running shoes.

But the words make you laugh
and maybe they will do the same
for another, and maybe
that’s enough.


Thanks, as always, for your support.

Yours, Chris