Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Revising Old Poems by Writing them Backwards

Seeking poetry prompts for November, and finding none, I decided to go to NaWriPoMo 2015 webpage and work my way backwards down last April's prompts. The very last prompt (my first prompt) is/was to write an old poem backwards. (I'm not sure if it improves them any...)

 Here's the prompt:
Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning. Another way to go about this might be to take a poem you’ve already written, and flip the order of the lines and from there, edit it so the poem now works with its new order.


Something about the measuring of days
brings me closer to poetry.
I feel the lines surge through me, 
as I wind my way along backroads
to my cousin's house in Nicasio,
and I let every one of them go.

MEASURING THE DAYS (original poem)
23 Sept 1995


Your hard mouth on my body
Sweet breath on my lips
Tell me, how would you play me
If I were a harmonica?

10/11/2015AURAL FIXATION  (original poem)


With the coinage of fish
the river is silvered
and dreams crackle
under the burden of the sky.
Who sobs for untold fortunes
with silver borrowed from the dead?
Who will pay the gypsies fortune
to line the dark side of the moon?

FRAGMENTS OF THE MOON (original poem)


When the price is up,
never plant potatoes,
someone's father said.
All those eyes watching

Did the astronaut's feet
sink deep into the moondust
and did they lose their way
walking on the moon's face like that?

BANTU RHYTHMS: MOONDUST  (original poem)

—from Matisse's Goldfish
—for Roger Kent

Against the barely discernible rise
and fall of sheets, small dark pebbles
reflect a fiery sky along a dark shore.
Oxygen tanks hiss, and fish lazily fan dance
delicate fins, gape open-mouthed,
where a jungle of philodendron vines
climb skyward to a lofty ceiling.

Roger is going down for his afternoon nap.
The small dogs keep a slow 4/4 time
as he shuffles off to the bedroom
and his emphysemic breathing
is like the wheezing lift that belches
decay from the basement

into the black & white tiled hall
of the old colonial mansion,
filled with stories and long blue shadows.
& we stir baskets of dried maile leaves,
mementos of island weddings.

Near the weary rattan chair,
a luminous fog hovers
and settles on pale rocks.
Four bored tangerine-colored fish
in the glass globe, mouth their food
and spit it out again, as they rise
to the surface like birds
and gasp for air.

Philodendron, and red hibiscus,
explode in a tropical sunset
against the coral wall.
The oxygen tanks rhythmically hiss
like waves pounding on the far shore.

DARK SHORE  (original poem)


On La Avenida de Reforma,
tall hotels swayed and sloughed
off their balconies, like beaded dresses
and from those hanging gardens
an abundance of flowers danced 
and jilted to the buckled streets—
terremoto shimmied into
Teotihuacan's quaking bed.

SE ME CAYO   (original poem)
Sept 19, 1985


Mt. Rainier floats, sublime, at dawn.
Yesterday the face of the glacier 
gave way and 11 people were gone.
Evening sky, the color of salmonberries.
House finches nesting in the eaves
rearrange themselves and chatter.
Volkswagen engine valves clatter.
People make long-distance calls.
Slot machines collect change 
at the end of the line.
the Straits blend into fog,
the horizon, indistinct as this morning.
I awaken in a glass house.

Short haiku of sorts  (original poem)
July? 1981


Hunting under cover of darkness
for prehistoric prey in a literate world,
will my eyes reflect phosphor tubes,
or will I pass for a feral night animal?
If I work in total darkness 
with only a limited memory,
Is there total enlightenment 
at the end of the screen
or is the dark worse than the byte?

RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY  (original poem)


To far horizons, distant shores
her eyes wander, dark
shadows drawing her in,
but he interfered with space and time.
Our history lies with God, he said.
But her eyes wander anyway.
When the breath dies, she said,
it leaves a fingerprint on the soul
like a potter's mark in clay.
Don't draw on the windows
he said, it leaves ugly smears.
In this fogged breath, she said,
breathing on the window,
& drawing two hearts entwined,
this whole history is contained.



Tonight there's a thin promise
of rain in the air. More of a veiled threat 
of clouds hovering over parched earth, 
teasing the horizon into submission.
But her eyes gather in the storm.
As he turns to go, her image ripples
in all the ponds of the world, leaving him 
stranded behind those lichen eyes. 
By the green pond, she stands,
impenetrable as the surface, 
& conversation drifts and snags 
amid the reeds. She's still waiting for him
to make a move. One way or another.
But a storm gathers in the direction of her eyes,
& I awoke holding onto this small fragment
like a raft. 

GATHERING STORM  (original poem)
June 29, 1979


a breath of sunshine
liked a snake tasting
a slipstream of thought
carries me to where I wander
and I learn from breathing in.
What is there to conclude
if logic is deduction,
and deduction, logic?
I take my breathing slow
and wake to the dawn.

3 Poems from Michael Dow workshop (original poem)

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