gift from a virgo
earth no longer orbits sun.
with heartless tongues your language
burned humiliation into my skin,
leaving me etched with unwanted
with well-built gloves you touched
me naked and your earth formed
me back to dirt.
your earth no longer orbits into my sun
and i finally see the darkness you
warned me of.
I am astonished in my teaching to find how many poets are nearly blind to the physical world. They have ideas, memories, and feelings, but when they write their poems they often see them as similes. To break this habit, I have my students keep a journal in which they must write, very briefly, six things they have seen each day—not beautiful or remarkable things, just things. This seemingly simple task usually is hard for them. At the beginning, they typically “see” things in one of three ways: artistically, deliberately, or not at all. Those who see artistically instantly decorate their descriptions, turning them into something poetic: the winter trees immediately become “old men with snow on their shoulders,” or the lake looks like a “giant eye.” The ones who see deliberately go on and on describing a brass lamp by the bed with painful exactness. And the ones who see only what is forced on their attention: the grandmother in a bikini riding on a skateboard, or a bloody car wreck. But with practice, they begin to see carelessly and learn a kind of active passivity until after a month nearly all of them have learned to be available to seeing—and the physical world pours in. Their journals fill up with lovely things like, “the mirror with nothing reflected in it.” This way of seeing is important, even vital to the poet, since it is crucial that a poet see when she or he is not looking—just as she must write when she is not writing. To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing. The art of finding in poetry is the art of marrying the sacred to the world, the invisible to the human.
Be of service. You are taking your degree into a society dominated by concentrated poverty and a vulnerable middle class, a society where it is harder to pay for education, harder to find a job, harder to buy a house and harder to hold onto those things even if you manage to get them. You are entering adulthood during a period of mass incarceration and near constant war. There is a lot for you to do. Service is the rent you pay for the space you take up on the earth, and as a relatively privileged American you take up a lot of space. We are the most consuming, polluting, wasteful nation on earth. So your rent is steep. Pay it with service.
I have found
home in you
is where it
in the walls—
the only voice
I hear is yours.
falling into place
after drifting on
the whims of
I feel safe here