Seamus Heaney: Had I Not Been Awake

(credit: John Minihan)

Seamus Heaney: April 13, 1939-August 30, 2013
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

“Had I Not Been Awake”

Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore

And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,

It came and went so unexpectedly
And almost it seemed dangerously,
Returning like an animal to the house,

A courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever
After. And not now.

–Seamus Heaney, from Human Chain

The Skeptic

The Skeptic
this poem wanted
to be written
l   o   n   g   h   a   n   d
do you see what i did there
making my poem self-aware
as if things become
more believable
by little tricks
of consciousness
i don’t believe
my own tricks
no i’m not truly skeptical
since i have an inflexible
belief in doubt
dVerse MeetingtheBar night, hosted by poet Brian Miller. Brian has us paring down to essentials, crafting stories of 55 words, no more, no less. I suppose mine might be more anti-story than story, but it goes that way sometimes. Check out all the great poets posting tonight, and maybe write a poem of your own to share. Happy Birthday, Brian!


She wrote him scented sentences that curled from page to page,
like circling smoke from burning beds—like passion, fiery rage:
You know, my husband never guessed a thing until the end.
You know yourself I can’t be blamed; I don’t think that I sinned.
I left my heart behind with you and miss your searching gaze,
and why, my love, don’t you come by on Visitation Days?


Tonight at dVerse FormForAll, host Gay Reiser Cannon is reminding us of the traditional structures of prosody, namely line and meter. I strongly recommend reading her post; it is informative, especially since most poets today favor free verse and  ignore traditional lines. Even if you aren’t fond of formal poetry lines, you can use them for practice in the same way a musician practices scales–before you become a good improviser, it helps to have practiced your scales enough to have a developed ear for what works sonically. 
The above dark little piece–birthed from watching too many 48 Hours special reports, I suppose–uses an iambic heptameter line (that is, seven baBUMPS). I also used rhyming couplets. Both of these were stylistic choices, hopefully adding to the feeling I wanted to create. Below is the original draft of the free verse poem I started working with. 
She wrote him letters,
long scented sentences
curling off the page
and into the margins.
They said nothing,
they said everything:
how she left
her heart behind
with him, how she
missed his inquiring
touch, and how
her husband never
suspected a thing.

The Last Meal

as you sit
in the soft lampglow
i notice
careful shoulders
              sloped away
no telling word
hurdles the pearls
pulled tight
on dimpled neck

I know, this is very late. I’ve been slack about writing new poetry. Laziness plays a big role. Not felt well the last few weeks, some kind of tummy virus, which did give me poopertunity to make some new doo-doo jokes but otherwise left me uninspired. Anyway, last night Sam Peralta hosted the dVerse FormForAll, prompting us to try our hand at writing Twitter poetry–that is, poetry that fits within the character limits imposed by Twitter. I thought, Surely I can write a poem of 140 characters despite illness and laziness and lack of inspiration and all the other enemies of creativity. So here it is, exactly 140 characters (using creative spacing for a few characters). I also tried to channel my inner Wallace Stevens, in memory of the anniversary of his death today. The title is not actually part of the 140 character limit. If that troubles you, just pretend it’s not there.

Wallace Stevens: Banal Sojourn

Today is the anniversary of the death of the American poet Wallace Stevens. His work, especially his earlier work, displays a remarkable command of descriptive language. Stevens is never ordinary in his descriptions, perhaps due to his belief that the Self is, in some real sense, a creator of reality—that is, the human observer, as a perceiver, defines the world for him or her self. Well, enough of that. Here is one of my favorite Stevens poems.
Banal Sojourn
Two wooden tubs of blue hydrangeas stand at the foot of the stone steps.
The sky is a blue gum streaked with rose. The trees are black.
The grackles crack their throats of bone in the smooth air.
Moisture and heat have swollen the garden into a slum of bloom.
Pardie! Summer is like a fat beast, sleepy in mildew,
Our old bane, green and bloated, serene, who cries,
“That bliss of stars, that princox of evening heaven!” reminding me of the seasons,
When radiance came running down, slim through the bareness.
And so it is one damns that green shade at the bottom of the land.
For who can care at the wigs despoiling the Satan ear?
And who does not seek the sky unfuzzed, soaring to the princox?

One has a malady, here, a malady. One feels a malady.