Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lost Tomorrow

The following poem began as a composite exercise. When started it, I had every intention of it being a villanelle; however, I ran into a bit of trouble primarily because the lines were so long. (I have another villanelle with significantly shorter lines under the post entitled Attempting a Villanelle which seems to work much better as a villanelle in my opinion.) The first line of the poem was begot from a writing exercise in The Poet's Companion. In the chapter, Addonizio and Laux produce interesting sentences, and then ask the reader to makeover the sentences by adding their own appositives. Their sentence went: "All that I love tonight -- your body curled beside mine, the vase of white lilies, the one bird calling from the yard -- might be lost tomorrow." The appositive phrase obviously being within the dashes. So I redid the sentence to produce the first line of this poem.

"February 14th" is also a byproduct of this excercise. In their sample sentence, Addonizio and Laux wrote, "I wanted to return to that place, the tiny village in Mexico." In my poem, I wrote about wanting to return to an ex-boyfriend's shithole apartment. You can see that from Addonizio and Laux to my own sentences that anything can be expounded on well beyond a generic phrase or sentence. Once you add the personal into a sentence or poem it makes for a unique piece. As for the following piece, it took on a life of it's own after I got the first sentence down. Although it is a bad example of a villanelle despite the amount of times I've tried to revise it to be so, I will admit that I am truly fond of it. Poems, of course, are what they are; the poet is merely their polisher, not their craftsman.

All that I love tonight -- your whole body lowered before me, like a mendicant in need of want -- may be lost tomorrow.

I fall in love with the dim light riding your furled back, your head in my lap, I find this love like knowing peace.

I hang on your soiled shirt, smooth your wet hair, press up against you; give the work of body suffering to see you go.

(it's muscle memory i suppose the way my fingers know the count of the bony ridge of your back)

I grip and thrash at those things I can have forever, the memories like marred or faded photographs. How do I know

that your love lasts? Your underwear strewn on the floor, the unmade bed, the chatter of television seeming to cease?

All that I love tonight -- your own body lowered before me, like a mendicant in need of want --may be lost tomorrow.

So I waste no time stealing away the smallness of your eyes, the flatness of your nose, the birthmark in the shadow

of the upper neck. But most of all I want to pocket your lips, charming the pores of my chest as if they were a feast.

I hang on your soiled shirt, smooth your wet hair, press up against you: give the work of body suffering to see you go.

I often mistake love for fly-by-night trysts but keeping you on me, piece-by-piece, is lovelier than remaining hollow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Somi's Prayer to the Saints of the Brokenhearted

I've been listening to Somi for a few years now ever since hearing her sing "Ingele." The manner in which I found out about her and her music is interesting. It all began with, believe it or not, a writing excercise. I took a Fiction Technique course and one of our first excercises was to write a short piece based on very specific information.The excercise goes as follows:The first time (name of character, or if in first person, I) heard SPECIFIC SONG TITLE by SPECIFIC ARTIST OR GROUP, (I or name of character) was down/up/over at PLACE and we (or they, or state who) were doing ACTION.

At the time I was in this Fiction course I had a night job, no -- not the red-light special sort of night job, but the boring receptionist/Resident Assistant of the dormitories sort of night job. So this particular night (or almost every night really), I was bored out of my mind and on the verge of falling alseep so I gave up trying to do the writing excercise and decided to do my Bilingualism homework instead. (I bet people can tell tons about me by the courses I take.) Anyway, for Bilingualism homework that night, I had to read an article about Swahili and some other African language codeswitching, which was particularly interesting. After the reading I decided to look on Youtube for any videos where Swahili and this other language, let's say Bantu for filler's sake, codeswitched just to see if I could detect the difference between the two languages. I went through so many videos that I got sidetracked looking at African music videos in many different languages Tigrinya, Twi, Bambara, you name it, which is where I ultimately came upon Somi's video for "Ingele." I'll include my writing excercise here since I think it was pretty good though I didn't get full points for it, though as a consellation the instructor did choose it to display to the class as an exemplar for what she expected to see developing via the excercise. I was very proud.

The first time I heard "Ingele" by Somi was two something in the morning. The only company I had were the few residents trickling in from outside. The cold air whipped across my face, stirring me away from my linguistics reading. It was a weekday so perhaps they had been studying too? No unlikely, freshmen don’t study and then some had no books or bags. The door bludgeoned against the steel frame five seconds after they’d left.

In all the defining languages the speakers regard H as superior to L in a number of respects. The office computer gasps for air. I don’t rely on it for anything. They often restarted at their own leisure, didn’t save work, and all the good sites were blocked. Besides they were covered in a layer of gray dust, after typing on them, the whirls of my fingertips would color with soot.

My coke is flat. Rummage through my bag for lotion. I twist the small white mound into and over my palms, polishing the skin there. When was the last time I did rounds? The log tells me it’s not time, so my legs jitter lightly instead. My shoulders and sides depress with the heat from the fleece-lining of my jacket. The cushion hardens. My laptop screen blackens...In all the defining languages the speakers regard H as superior to L in a number of respects.

One, two, three, four, five. Pages before the end of the chapter. Swahili bobbed up from the mass of texts. I awoke my computer and searched Swahili music. LEARN TO SING IN SWAHILI. LEARN SWAHILI WITH ROSETTA STONE. INDIANA UNIVERSITY AFRICAN LANGUAGES PROGRAM – SWAHILI. Most of the search results are like these. On the fifth page, there was a music video by a Rwandan jazz singer, Somi posted on Youtube. Thin black tendrils drape about her sides and back, as she stretches her arms out beyond her and draws them smoothly back into her, mostly though she rocks melodic to her sounds. IN–ghel-AY resonates all about the office space, drawn out, laborious, barbaric, sad -- as a mother wailing for her absent young.


Did you like that amatuer non-fiction writing? Ehh. I did say it was amatuer, a good amatuer attempt though. When I heard "Prayer to the Saints of the Brokenhearted," I immediately thought how poetic the lyrics were, which Somi's lyrics are notable for and normally are. My favorite lines are:

I was lost and fire within
I've slipped with my heart and hand wide open
...tastes just like yesterday

come down and sweep over my bed
sweet saint of the brokenhearted
so i might be still

Feet on the ground
beautiful and burned
my heart seems fast
fatigue seems faster

With that, I hope you enjoy the video and Somi, if this is your first meeting with her, perhaps this blog and Somi may find their way into some undergrad's writing excercise. Full circle. That's what writing's all about, right? That was a stretch, but I think you get the picture.

This video can also be found at