26 May 2009

New poem - Alarm Clocked

Alarm Clocked


That marauding black cat from across the street must be
gone. The chip-
munks and jays are
again -- tho’ it’s too late now
for me to get back to sleep.

Saturday morning before eight, one prefers not
to be woken by the manic-frantic OhMyGodInHeavenOhMyGodInHeaven
shrieking of bird and miniature rodent parents
telling all the world the neighbor’s beautiful
killing machine is near-
by... on the prowl,
hunkered down
beneath a fallen log, too close!
to all the nests full of freshly birthed hungry striving life, while
bluejays shrilly dive-bomb with unreserved aggression and chippies squeak
ambulance decibel levels. Their nails-
on-the-blackboard calls
drove the predator away -- and with her, my Saturday morning lie-in.
Death is afoot! Death is afoot! Guard your babies!
The alarm is for all
the world to hear, including once-sleeping me, oh deafening
entitlement of survival.

That cat must be gone. All is quiet. But all
is not well.
I am awake
when I shouldn’t be. I did not get
to bed at the pre-arranged hour, the night
before. The movie and the prospect of a long week-
end were too enticingly rebellious -- and so liberating. I could not
take myself to bed
at ten.
I simply couldn’t. And life has refused
to humor my defiance, waking
me early, re-
fusing to fill in the neglectful gaps
I’ve created in my own needful routine.

I have none but myself to blame for being bo-
thered by being woken early.
There ‘tis.
What is
simply is. And today I won’t sleep in.
goes on -- but not by default. Some things,
like keeping chicks and pups safe from feline claws and teeth,
must be
What must be done, must
be done.


Now all is quiet.
I have made peace with being woken by nature’s
eternal dance of life and death.
I have brushed my teeth and put on
my grubbies for the morning, and resigned my-
self to having a sick headache from too
little sleep (staying up
too late last night is the cul-
pable culprit, not the chippies and jays, not
even the neighbor’s cat). I have taken what
responsibility I can for my situation and re-
solved to redeem myself with verse -- and nap
in the early afternoon.

Today, I shall write. And perhaps mow the wild-growing yards
around our house. At
least, walk the lawn to see
how the seed I spread a week ago is
taking, in the bare-ish patches that come
back in the same spots
each year.

But wait -
it looks like rain.
Perhaps I shall not
go out today -- live instead
like a modified Emily Dickinson, roaming my
house, rather
than my attic, but avoiding outside act-
ivities all the same.
There are ticks out there, after all.


Five or six days ago, I was
asked -- “Have you written any poetry recently?”

And, thinking myself honest
and sincere
and 100% correct, I replied, “No,
I haven’t had the time or the inclination.
Not lately.”
I was convinced of it, too.
totally convinced. Utterly,

On a hunch, I thought I should double-check my certainty, and
the following day, upon rifling the top drawer in the filing
cabinet that holds up the left side
of my makeshift desk, I found
tens -- maybe more
than a hundred -- pages of verse penned
in the past three years.

I can be such an idiot at times.
Saying stupid shit like “Oh, no, I haven’t written very much at all
in three years!” makes me
look like a pathological liar. I didn’t mean
to deceive, but
I did a damned good job of it -- myself, not least of all. And
once again, I find evidence
that I am without a doubt truly


Self-flagellation doesn’t become me.
Where mortification runs thin, my pride wins out.
And I turn my mind to more productive,
.... now that I’ve found
these words
I penned in a flurry and tucked away
tidily in a steel-cased desk
now what?

I shall try like hell to figure out why
in heaven’s name I would forget a thing like
having written hundreds
upon hundreds
upon hundreds
of lines
and placed them neatly in labeled manila folios,
suspended in tabbed hanging folders,
tucked in tightly like sleepy children
all organized
in my left
desk drawer,
of sight
of mind...

That question must be answered first.

And next,
I shall work like hell to redeem myself from my in-
explicable neglect, walking deliberately
across the territory I dashed
wildly through
in recent years past,
what’s worth saving (in my estimation), ditching
or pitching
what didn’t work then and won’t work
now ... all along paying mind
to the promising skeletons that may still support
fleshy addition -- making like Dr. Frankenstein
picking choicest pieces
of anatomical additions for his prized
creation, I myself
being cognizant (more than the fic-
tional Swiss doctor was, perhaps)
that I may not end up
creating what I sought to seize
in words and sound and breath -- but yet de-
termined to love
what comes of it
all the same, un-
like the fictional doctor who fled
the crass evidence
of his most human failings.

Then what?
Then what shall I do?


Like Proust biting into that madeleine,
this gradually dawning shock of mine -- that I
have done much much more
than I recorded in my sometimes dim im-
agination -- has unleashed
some sort of torrent.

Panic, perhaps, that I lost sight
of something so vital, so precious, so
And was so quick to dismiss it,
as though I could dis-
pense with breath
or light
or the sea.

My voice -- where is my voice? What is my Voice? Has
it changed on my journey through the long
dark gauntlet tunnel
of shifting jobs, medical emergencies, reversals of fortune, and the too-soon
passing of my next-younger sister?
I am com-
pelled to look backwards-forwards-backwards again,
to compare my before-and-after styles,
my pacing and diction and choices
of sounds -- my “maturity”, if any is to be dis-
cerned by my own self, unschooled as I am
in the popular vernacular of poetic/artistic
acceptability. I took enough anthro-
pology to know analysis is not often best done
from the inside. Criticism is an out-
side job.
I think...

But what would I know of these things?
I have not taken the designated coursework and satisfied
sufficient requirements to call myself publicly “a poet.”
I make a shitty student -- and I make no apologies for it -- teachers
of the intentional, professional, certified human sort irri-
tate the shit out of me.
I can never figure out what they want me to say... tho’ I’m pretty
damned sure they don’t mean it
when they say,
“What do you think?” I don’t know their world well enough to tell
when I’m being tricked.
In classrooms I usually feel like
I’m about to be tricked.
Taken for a ride.
For the amusement of the neurotypical.
Or the predatiously dense who hang
on my words long enough to lift them from my distracted possession
and sell them to someone else.

No, I am no use to anyone in a cubical classroom of cinderblock walls.
I am too wary of my fellow students.
Too clueless to give my teachers what they seek.

Too itchy for actual life.
To guru life, in contrast, I am a doting,

The passing years must be
my classroom.

So it has always been.
And I’ve not suffered
for it.

So mote it be.


.... But where was I?
Ah, yes.

I am awake now, even
as his petite madeleine broke him out
of the everyday present and unleashed a sensory avalanche
of What Once Was.
upon volume
of words-words-more-words. All written
by hand...
I sit here at my desk overlooking a back clearing
alive with chipping rodents and pipping birds, sensory cacophony
of life as it is, was, shall always be (provided we don’t wreck
it all with our lust for wasteful conveniences)... also writing
in longhand -- though surely
with less artsy grace than Marcel. The computer I usually
use is not yet turned on,
oh blessed relief.
And in the punctuated silence,
words come.
before coffee.

I know next to nothing
about Proust, aside from
his petite madeleine and that it fired his mind. Or per-
haps that is just hearsay, and it wasn’t
like that at all. I may be taking
liberties again with my memory -- poetic
license I can apply in the privacy of my own
simple study/studio, to fill in
the gaps of what I think I know
but truly do not.


I am awake now
and very much in need
of coffee. Let me take
this notepad and pencil and pencil sharpener down-
stairs with me and keep it handy while I boil
water and watch
for what words come next.

Downstairs is cool, now. Yesterday
was hot. Almost too hot -- making everyone
I encountered nervous, antsy, prone to move
and drive and react
too quickly.
Yesterday was hot. But today -- this
morning, anyway -- it’s cool.

The cat slumbers, paws tucked under chest, atop
the scratching post perch. She loves the heat, lan-
guishes in it each afternoon, but she rests better when
it’s cool.
The kitchen is quiet, dimly lit
by a cloud-covered noncommittal sky.
Even the refrigerator’s mute.

A rush of water from spigot into kettle.
The click of the knob that turns on
the back right burner. The clack of kettle bottom
onto tempered glass cooktop. And the stove starts to hum lowly
with electronic heating work.



And yet
I am still troubled by -- no, perhaps “intrigued” is a
better choice of words -- no, troubled fits --
this lapse of mine, this lost
memory of deeply productive activity.
What the hell?!
Am I losing my mind?
Is my memory going, as my older friends. all
assure/threaten me that it will?
Did I think so little
of my work that I just dis-
missed it, banished it, sent it
without so much as
a good-bye?
Do I value my words so scantily? Imagine
I had better things to do, than
redeem my various, varied experiences
with lilting, healing sound?

What was I thinking, when I told that active listener
I had written nothing of consequence
for years? What
was I thinking?
No --
wait --
“thinking”is not the right word.
“Feeling” fits better. In my case,
at least.
What Was
and Is
and Will Be, I do not retain
in my brain alone.
My body holds it for my brain to ac-
cess later.

Let me

The Sense of
Things -- Events -- Moments in Time
is what I retain. The intellectual details
not so much. At least
not in the way others do.

It is the Sense of the Thing, the
Feel of the Moment, the physical impression
that makes it mark and
stays with me long
after the particulars are past.

An energetic Signature -- sense-able signpost
along the path of my life that marks
where/how/when I have passed my time.
My memory works best when my brain is not
on its own -- at least
the brain in my skull. the brain in my belly
must be engaged, as well.
Or else.
I forget.

In truth, I recall
being very much up in my head
the morning I forgot the last three years of poetic excess.
And when I was asked, “Have you written any-
thing recently?” I did not feel
as though I had. I sought out
a specific type of sense memory -- re-collection of
laboring long and hard over pages, editing, editing, editing--
which of course I hadn’t done. I haven’t done it in years.

Small wonder, I had no memory
of writing. I did not do it that way.
Not at all.
I was looking for the wrong kind of memory.

So, you see
I actually told a specific truth about that vague por-
tion of my experience. And my in-
accuracy was less related to de-
ception than thoroughgoing single-
mindedness... an out-
of-sight-out-of-mind focus I de-
pend upon to do well in the world... to do
anything at all, really -- well
or not. My rapt devotion to specific,
pragmatic priorities
betrayed my memory again, blotted my poetry’s presence
from my fickle recollection.

It wasn’t an intent to deceive that drove my tongue, just
some acquired fragmentation of the vessel
that contains
what came before
which I carry with me into
my present
in hopes of making future.

The vessel cracked, pieces
of what makes me
dropped through without my notice.

How cracked am I, anyway?


It’s terrifying, isn’t it -- the prospect
of losing one’s mind to in-
herited dementia, Alzheimer’s, head trauma,
brain virus, stroke, miscellaneous unpronounceable degenerative conditions, un-
treated mental illness, neurological insult of various kinds, or the un-
avoidable march of time.
And in many minds, un-
On my more darkly resolute days, the prospect of progressing madness
impels me to plan
a later life of extreme sports -- parachuting, base jumping, rock climbing without
ropes, leading police on the cross-country high-speed chase
I’ve always craved, or plain
and simple
telling the truth to cranky people in power
out loud and
for all the world to hear.

If I must exit this delicious world, let it be decisively,
with a sugar shot of adrenaline-glucose-endorphin-laced
biochemistry cascading through my pumping veins.
Let the end be worth it.
Let it taste good.
Let it be by choice, rather than by accidental, irreversibly progressive tragedy.

But I am getting ahead of myself. All I’ve done
is forgotten writing poetry -- but one aspect
of countless occasions over three
Very Busy Years.
The fact that I’m still standing tells me
I don’t need to learn to skydive anytime soon.

So there.


~ Sigh ~
I must learn
to let myself be.
Learn to see myself -- again -- for what
I truly am, and do more
than organize swiftly penned verses in proper-
ly labeled manila folders in the left-
hand side of my desk drawers. Learn
to do more than react to what
descends upon me, and Answer
with my gut
as well as my head, when asked some-
thing as significant as
“Have you written any poetry recently?”

I must also learn to slow myself down. I fear
too keenly
I haven’t got all year to sort this shit out.
I’m accustomed to being swept along by artificial time’s hurried pace,
adept at grabbing its coat-
tails and swinging myself up
behind it, like a bandit fleeing the scene
with a mounted compatriot, well-practiced at hauling
myself onto the back of a galloping steed, like some
circus performer who does it every night
and day for paying, cheering crowds.
a bandit. And a thief. And a practiced
performer. All the best-
living artists are. And the world never misses what we
steal, repackage, and sell back to it, pro-
mising enhanced powers
from its ingestion.

All the world, it seems, longs to be tricked.
Our species is like a flock of magpies who crave and collect
magick sparkles and bold promises of the most
unlikely miracles.
We as a species are addicted
to faith.
Heaven help us.


So, where is mine? My
faith, I mean. Me-
thinks I buckled too quickly when I found those files
of captured words, gave in
to the idea that my mind was going, diving memory-
first into the suspending brine of prospective dementia.
planning my own funeral, just
in case.
Foolish. I can be all too capricious and cut
myself too few breaks. And for
what? To feel I’m on top of things
That I have a plan?

What things should I be on top of?
What plan should -- can -- I have?

My point...
is my point?
I’ve lost it while roaming the room
around my being. Come
Why am I here in the first

Because I forgot? No -- I just
didn’t remember properly.
Memory was not lost to me completely. Only


Track it back.
to the chase.
Get on with the day. The cat is calling
from downstairs for another course
of wet food before noon


I woke up too early... No, I was woken earlier
than I wanted to be
by the protective natures of threatened creatures
who wanted nothing more than
to live to see another day and to see their babies
do the same.

Their shrieking,
screaming, piping, chipping at the tops
of their tiny lungs kindled
a kindred impulse in me -- to throw reserved propriety
to the wind and make loud loud
sounds of cacophonic cadence
to claim my place on this spinning orb,
no matter what dark
shadowy beast(s)
may stalk me.

My memory may have its own mind
at times, but that is of no great con-
if I can just remember what I am really trying
to access.
Sure as
bluejays dive-bombed the neighbor’s cat
at the crack of my dawning day,
I too shall fly
at what threatens to pounce...
and then trounce me -- those inner-
most misgivings that must flee -- like black kitty --
when exposed, full-throated,
by the unabashed drive to do more than

But live.

And write.

And be what
I simply am
as best
I simply can.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Kay Stoner

All Rights Reserved