About “Plain Jane”

I know this isn’t the greatest craft poem ever. It’s kind of a cutesy forgettable piece. The woman who originally inspired it is anything but forgettable. I had a rare chance to just hang out with someone whose company I enjoy and noticed she had dyed the ends of her hair blue in such a way that the color was only inside the spirals of her ponytail. I commented on how long it must have taken her to create such a cool effect and her reply was that she was such a plain Jane that she had to do something. I believe said something about her being better off that looking like central-casting’s wet dream for convict #2 in every prison movie ever made. (that is, me), but I was still thinking about her comment later that night. It really bothers me that she thinks of herself that way, she’s this totally amazing person, a beautiful person – “Plain” would never be in any description of her. So I wrote this for her.

Because it’s a personal message, I never planned to share this piece with anyone but her, however two women in the last four months have expressed similar sentiments to me with as little reason. It got me wondering why and while I don’t have a complete answer, I have come to the conclusion that feel good songs by pop stars who don’t know the women who feel this way probably have a minimal impact at best. I decided to share this piece because I don’t know ANY plain Jane’s. I’m not sure such a thing exists. If someone makes you feel like a plain Jane, it probably means they are too shallow and uninteresting a person to get to know who you are. If you feel like a plain Jane because of what society pumps, well, society is at fault for Jerry Springer, the Kardashians, and cops among it’s more egregious offences. Basically, fuck society.

I just wish this poem was better.

Plain Jane

What could be more common
Than that brown hair?Neither dark nor fair     All its gold    Sunk in light styles    Reflects the shine    Of subtleness, of care

What could be more common
Than eyes umber plain?
Such empty clay
No compassion
Nor empathy
They reach out     And give it all away
What could be more commonThan a face so bare?No Flash or flair     Host lips     Which when smiling     Make me forget     Anyone else is there

 

Quetzalcoatl

Incendiary horns

Lead soot-stained tail

Serpents body grips heart

of Jaguar

Combusts in steel-scaled coils

Relentless hunter

Stalks

Takes

Devours

Pilgrims lost as sacrifices

In ceaseless accelerated crawl

Sawed off cries less heard

Under low rumble

Of iron throated roars

Accumulated in bluffs and peaks

And ash-riddled skies

Splash crimson darkness

Against ascendant sun-

Reached steps

Rise north to more nowhere

Wishes betrayed

Like burned out stars

Finessed and left

In wake

Of the Beast.

 

 

About Quetzalcoatl

I began writing this piece after reading, The Beast, I  believe the author’s name is Oscar Martinez, an amazing book about the dangers central American’s face as they cross Mexico, by foot and train (the titular “Beast”) to reach the United States. This book was a revelation for me. I had no idea the danger, exploitation and desperation people face on the journey across Mexico. I knew there was no way for me to capture their experience, but I had to write something. I focused on the train as the embodiment of the Aztec Serpentine God, Quetzalcoatl. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about Aztec culture and I’m not in a position to do much research on the subject so what follows may be completely off base:

I am under the impression that the Aztecs were a powerful empire who often sacrificed conquered peoples to the Aztec Gods. The Aztecs, being in the area of central Mexico, felt like a reasonable stand in for the Mexican gangs, corrupt officials, and coyotes who prey on central American immigrants; however, I eventually decided not to focus on people at fault because there are just so many-and many of them no Mexican at all, but U.S. Citizens and Central Americans too. In short, there is an entire system of inter-related exploiters destroying entire generations, so I tried to represent that system in the symbol of the train as a blood-thirsty God. I utilized the “ess” sound throughout to get the reader to think of snakes, hissing etc.  I also liked the idea of using a lot of hyphenated words as a visual representation of connectedness-the connectedness of us all as humans and Americans and the way a train connects geographic locations with it’s speed and it’s tracks.

I could go on for a long time about this piece. I’ve put a lot of thought into it and it’s been through a half dozen revisions, but I’m still really unhappy with it. I thought I’d share it to see if anyone has any ideas or can correct any misinformed influences.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

Hospitality

It drizzled steady,

Dinner time,

The night she came

Trailing wings of fog

Some two hundred kilometer

Through hill and bog

Across gravel road

By sore foot or crowded bus

Who knew?

It took three days

To reach our cottage

Where her knuckle met wood

Hard-coupled

As lightly as she could.

She stood in a halo

Of grim hearth light

As though a neighbor

Expected to tea.

His mistress.

She come to tell us

He’d died

Sometime during slumber.

Mother clung to that space

Between oak and cotton skirts

Occupied by his mistress,

Both gripped uncertain

In the same fist

We all knew so well.

My mother thanked her

and softly closed the door.

 

 

About “Hospitality”

I woke up at 2 a.m. with an image of a fog-shrouded cottage somewhere in the hinterlands and began writing in the dark. That was the fist draft of “Hospitality” and I still have no idea where it came from.

Line 5 of the first few drafts read, “Some two hundred mile”, but I eventually changed mile to kilometer because I’ve always imagined the scene as happening in mid-twentieth century rural Ireland. Like I said, I have no idea where this came from.

The narrators voice is that of an adolescent girl, living alone with her mother in the country side and abandoned by an abusive father. She never tells us explicitly what she thinks of her father, his mistress or the situation but her descriptions do give us a sense of her resentment; I guess this is the “show, don’t tell” aspect which is supposed to be a hallmark of all good  writing-I only mention it in this case because this is one of those that feels less like something I wrote and more like something written through me.

I love the ambiguity of the mistress’s motives for traveling to tell the abandoned family of her  of her lover’s death. Is it a sense of duty which drivers her? Guilt? A need for comfort in shared loss? I included imagery which depicts the mistress as an angel (of death), which wasn’t there in the initial draft, because her arrival, before the piece begins, brought about the death of this family and her return kills “mother’s” role as an abandoned wife-as she is now a widow. I wanted this to speak to the idea that the husband/father/lover’s actual life/death is less important than the effects they have on the people around him. However, aside from on the narrator, we have no real sense of what those effects are. It’s like trying to determine the shape of a rock from the ripples created after it’s been thrown in the pond. That’s all we ever really do when we hear of read of the death of someone we didn’t know-construct some rough picture from the narration we’re given.

Someday I might sit down and write this same scene from the Mother’s perspective and again through the mistress’s. I’d like to explore this idea that someday the measure of all our lives will be a matter of interpreting the ripples we leave behind.

 

 

 

 

to the girl I love

A raging storm-geeky, punk rock, pin-up style breed

Joystick in hand, she ravages Assassin’s Creed

Relentless as typhoon driven tides, twice as free

Here’s to the girl I love, who ever she be!

An artistic, intelligent, fierce Valkyrie.

At home battling orcs on land or sea.

Bookish, hawkish, and totally in to me!

Here’s to the girl I love, who ever she be!

Knowledgeable in movies, comics and the world’s woes.

Holds her own in debate, keeps me on my toes.

Looks great in a black dress, or plain white t.

Here’s to the girl I love, who ever she be!

Mother of our children, partner, confident, wife.

Pillar when I collapse, heroine who levels-up my life

Willing to read my crap poems or dress as a sexy fairy

Here’s to the girl I love, who ever she be!

It matters not if she likes crowds or evenings alone

not if she can cook, clean or is deaf to all tone

It’s the cool factor I long for, a real woman I need

Here’s to the girl I love, where ever could she be?

As constant and strong as these solid cell bars

who won’t leave or cheat because of these walls,

who won’t flee, but keep me on a string ’til I’m free

Here’s to the girl I love, I wish she’d hurry to me!

About, “To the Girl I love”

Someone lent me a collection of poetry from Ireland, much of it going back far enough that it could only be attributed to “Anonymous.” I came across one such poem in which the narrator pines for his perfect love. The original “To the girl I love” was concerned chiefly with physical beauty and I began to imagine the narrator marrying the ideal he described only to discover he and his new wife had nothing in common. Not even in my day dream did such a marriage end happily. I  wrote ” To the Girl I love” (the “I” is emphasized in my version as a response, as my longing call for my dream woman.

I wanted to rebel against the spirit of the original while maintaining it’s idea. Initially I planned to avoid using any physical descriptors. Eventually, I decided that a complete absence of the physical would be dishonest; I do care about physical attraction in a potential partner. I’m fortunate in that physical beauty is low on my list of priorities, I’m attracted to multiple body types and the more I get to like someone as a person the more physically attractive I find them, so I was able to give an abstract “looks great” while remaining honest about my desires. The original is sort of a tavern ballad, mine takes a more serious turn at the fifth stanza-which is where I play directly against the originals catalog of non-physical ideal traits (cooking, cleaning, beautiful singing voice) so, a tonal shift also seemed an appropriate way of rebelling against the original. This piece was intended for fun, mostly. Unless you actually know this girl.

 

Rules of Society

I meet many college students torn between what their parents plan and what those students feel is right for themselves. This is not something I can ever remember worrying about. I’ve never had much use for what anyone thinks about my subjective right, but I began to wonder if this child/parent struggle for who an emerging person is to become-what their place in society will be-is really all that different from the struggle we all share against the roles society attempts to force us into. Those limited identities based on race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. our particular time and place allow us. The title is my way of representing that society’s idea of who a person is “supposed” to become is always a result of who they were born to be, as if any agency on our part is an act of deviance and rebellion; The paradox being that society often punishes as much for our conformities as our rebellions.