Calluses

I cut my calluses

slice through them with
clippers, knives, scissors

sometimes down to the meat
past the dead unfeeling part
to the part that bleeds

It bubbles right up
like crude,
pressurized

It’s surprising every time
when it hurts
when it bleeds and won’t stop

I wrap tissue after tissue
paper towels if that’s all I’ve got
and pull them away to gauge the flow

Once it’s down to a red dot

I dig deeper

‘This is it’

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“What the Living Do” by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

‘My instinct, a poor Polaris’

I heard Jennifer Chang read her poem “Again A Solstice” on the radio this morning. It’s wonderful. Listen here. Read here.

Madness in the spring

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A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!

“1333,” Emily Dickinson

An overused quote, but one I think of often

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Risk

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

— Anaïs Nin

There is nothing original in this world

That’s something we know. And yet when we create we do our best to try for something new anyway, against the damned odds.

I’m always slightly amused/horrified when I belch up something (that’s always how it feels when I write, really: Like a force of nature, something to be gotten out of me and once it’s out, I feel better and lighter) and then later find something in this world that already existed for some time, something shiny and succinct in its own right that I might as well have pointed to as an obvious influence. An homage, on good days. There are things around me that I absorb and internalize to a degree that I don’t realize. When I unwittingly retrace my steps and stumble upon those things every now and again, I get quite a start. I feel confident that this isn’t just my problem; everyone who tries to make things has to run into this fact occasionally, right?

I’m rambling. It’s 4 a.m., so that’s expected. The point is this:

I wrote a poem-ish thing. The Great and Secret Thing was kind enough to publish it. I wrote it months and months ago. September. Maybe October. I sat on it for a while, as I sometimes do with intensely personal things. Had to psych myself up to put it out there in the ether a few weeks ago.

And then it just happened that this past Thursday night, as I was combing through my bookshelves in hunt of a (bacon-themed!) book for Agitatrix, I happened upon a Sharon Olds collection I hadn’t picked up in a couple of years. I plucked it out and set it aside. And then, after I had found the bacon book and stuck it in my bag to take to work the following day, I leafed through Blood, Tin, Straw. And I lost words as I read “The Factors.”

Sharon Olds planted a seed in me the first time I read that poem years ago, and I didn’t realize it until just now. “Humbling” isn’t even an adequate word.

On The Clock
(Mine)

That last half of August
the part of me I don’t admit to
the tyrant I didn’t even know was in there
set up shop
(I worked on commission)
and I think it’s fair to call it a shop
of sweat
and tears
and blood
eventually
after I had put my handprints in the dust
everywhere
and spent you
again and again
at ridiculous hours
ferocious
without shame
the clang of metal echoing
my brain sure of bad ideas
my body ready for science experiments

those stifling August days
we just shut out the sun
and worked in the dark

The Factors
(Sharon Olds)

Sometimes we seem almost to be working,
as if making something, wrapped tight
around my body from either side as it is
pouring off our gleaming pieces of work, which could be
nearly seen, for a moment, in the air, and we can
hear them, the clear note of their molecular
structure stuck—
sometimes you and I are like a factory
minting invisible artifacts,
hot shuddering that floats in air,
more of it is continuously needed,
and more, and more, sometimes we wring
the whole factory like a shimmering rag,
harder each time, the cloth-cries go higher and
higher, from within comes pulsing a lambent
wobbling vessel, off the wheel it
whirls, indented with the muscles’ bright thumbs,
transparent with kiln-fire; another is needed,
and another, we don’t know who orders it, we are
workers in a doting frenzy of making.
And where is love? This is its room,
where this is done; it is the bed,
the air; and the glowing not-things
wrenched from the body, rushing from it
as though they are being born, those
are acts of love. One could not call it
patience, the hour you kneel, turn,
rise, drawing the, pressing the, made
love out; inside each one
a half-god, calling to the other
half-one, in the other one,
come, come, yes, my darling, my
sweetheart, come.

‘My Time’

by Leonard Cohen (from the Book of Longing)

My time is running out
and still
I have not sung
the true song
the great song

I admit
that I seem
to have lost my courage

a glance at the mirror
a glimpse into my heart
makes me want
to shut up forever

so why do you lean me here
Lord of my life
lean me at this table
in the middle of the night
wondering
how to be beautiful