Cross My Heart and Hope to Write


Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Glen Cove Patch and Smokey Says...

So recently, I decided to Google my name for shits and giggles, and look what I stumbled upon. I few weeks back, my poetic colleagues J. P. Wagner and Marc Rosen invited me to Page One Restaurant to promote the Bards Annual 2011, an anthology of poetic works by Long Island poets amassed by the Bards Initiative, a local poetry organization I've mentioned elsewhere. At the event was a reporter from the Glen Cove Patch, a news website focused on local events. She apparently went on to publish an article about it: Bards Initiative Holds Lively Poetry Reading. She was kind enough to include an excerpt from the poem I performed at the event, as well as a link to the blog itself. To commemorate that, I have included the poem below. 

The poem is quite obviously about the nature of mankind and our relationship to this planet. The name comes from the very first sign to portray Smokey the Bear, which begins with the lines "Smokey Says..."  Just as he warns against the danger of forest fires, so too does the poem warn against the consequences of humanity's greed. I hope you all enjoy it and the wee article written about it.

Smokey Says…

Mankind is not a lowly flame
Burning in a thicket,
Who abstains and waits for rain
To come along and snuff it.
Instead, it spreads to neighboring brambles
To obliterate and scar, 
Gambles and only minimally ambles
Towards it’s weighted par.
For like a humble, snapping smolder 
Ignited by a wayward bolt
Who dreams of engulfing bough and bolder
To give its forestry home a jolt,
Mankind, compelled to transcend and molt
The queer contingency, piecemeal
Approaches exponential gain 
Wherein the burden to claim and steal
Leaves its existence feign.
Like the gluttony of a blaze
That cannot be quenched,
The scorching grip tightening
And cannot be unclenched,
Mankind consumes and multiplies
Engulfing everything in grasp
Its smoke rising into the skies
Forcing the atmosphere to gasp.
Until, at last,
The fuel is gone
Burned in search of more
And all that’s left
To feed upon
Is mankind heretofore.
Yet, like the char upon the trees
That still stand tall in the smoggy breeze,
When fervent man recedes
The world commences recovery.
For any injury inflicted
By the fiery fists of man
No matter how afflicted
Are not meant to last.
The earth will absorb the blows
And vacate for replacement
Mankind’s claims
Upon the remains,
Destined for defacement.    
For mankind is like a fire
That cannot be contained,
Who accommodates and waits for a reign
Even more aspired. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Purgatory Wing and Farewell to Agápē Bodhisattva

Out with the old, in with the new, as they say. I realized not very long ago that the design of the blog may have been a bit off putting. The color schemes made it a bit hard to read and even the title I think was unwelcoming. My goal was to make the content more accessible; I figured, if people are scouring search engines all over the world, a name that is more familiar and catchy would be more likely to peak their curiosity than something foreign and unfamiliar. So I've redesigned the whole shebang.
Let us take a moment to bid "Agápē Bodhisattva" a solemn farewell and welcome the new title of the blog: Cross My Heart and Hope to Write. I really liked this title (proposed to me by someone very special) because it captures my affinity with writing while incorporating it into an idiom that has connotations of love and promise. It also possesses an air of death, which is something I am fascinated by. I also changed the subtitle to "Fiction of The Sven-Bo!" because I think it better informs the inquirer of the content. Please, let me know of your thoughts on these changes. Hopefully they are for the better. 

Anyhow, let us proceed with the fiction. I have here an excerpt from my novella, "The Purgatory Wing". It was written when I was still in high school and arguably marks my initial interest in psychology. The story is told from the first-person narrative of a man named Theodore whose true identity remains a mystery to both himself and the people around him. He was deposited as a child on the steps of an institution (the time period is implied to be the past, perhaps the 1930's) and is subsequently raised there under the care of the staff. He suffers from blackouts, which as the story progresses manifest into strange delusions and hallucinations. Ultimately, he is forced to face his true identity. 
The section I have included here is later in the story, which I like because it incorporates rhyming dialogue with another patient named Ashley. She is normally mute, but Theodore finds her singing angelically in her hospital room. The dialogue follows his discovery of her sitting Indian style on the floor scribbling formulas and math problems on a piece of paper in her lap. I hope you love it. Let me know your thoughts and please enjoy the new blog. 

The Purgatory Wing

   Her song stopped on her command, as now only the wind that cradled us tumbled about as she turned up her plump face and greeted me with charm.
   "A stranger stranger, never odd, a bizarre sight is not this. May I ask, queer stranger, what is it that you wish?"
   I was struck speechless. How could I respond to that?
   "D-do you know anything about the tunnels beneath us?" I requested blankly. 
   She looked out into the meander of her design, pondering.
   "Escape... Haven't we all tried to once or twice? Life is the most captivating of things, wouldn't you suppose? There is no sanctity from the life you lead, when you're as dull as a grain of rice. If life is what you desire to dispose, you'll find the only success you'll have is in destroying your own." 
   I was T-boned by the muss of her terminology. 
   "What does that have to do - "
   "That is what you want with it, don't you?" she spun around and spat, "To flee and find a better place? Wouldn't you agree this is a philosophy shared with death? You don't need to answer me; the question is clearly answered by your face. Isn't that an odd debt? To lose the gift of life is to finally receive and take in its fruits. Now isn't that interesting? Second chances are moot!"
   My forehead fell forward, dubious. What a strange creature! I had been blown away by her vocal prowess and now her seemingly manipulative subjects were casting me even further. I wasn't entirely sure what she was getting at, but I didn't feel very at ease.
   "What is it you're trying to do?" I pronounced, fishy. 
   "Nothing," she said simply and light, innocent with a childish face. Her voice was so small - so Shirley Temple - but her tongue was so harsh - so Abraham Lincoln. "I sing my life away in silence, a songbird shuttered in an iron cage, silk bones and cotton muscles, an opera star on an empty stage. Fate had handed me a gift inside an inoperable box and this is what I'm bound to be. You, Theodore... you are something peculiar; you are someone no one else can see. We all have the ability to remold and recast our life. The choices we make, the paths we take, are as vague as an enclosed room without any lights. Nothing is set in stone, you know - rather, set in clay. You don't have to be a sculptor to nurture your life the right way."
   "I... you've confused me," I said, a bit weak. 
   "My apologies." 
   She returned, disdained, to her paper, picking up a pencil and scribbling across it. 
   I was, for reasons unknown, a bit bashful. 
   "Could you at all help me with this... task?" 
   She turned again to me; her face looked as smooth and sheen as an infant's flesh. A disassociated smile, a little prick of the lips that pulled them back, more on one side than the other, was flashed, proposed for my comfort, I presumed, as it appeared to be something that was not normally shown by her.
   She leaned over to her right and slipped her fingers in under the soil. It was disturbed and pushed aside with little effort, the digits disappearing into the cool ground. Not long after, she uncovered a pristine page, a heavy, flimsy piece of parchment that was neither diseased nor stained with dirt or dander. As she passed it over her lap I saw markings signed on top, diagrams specifically designated to convey the layout of a structure.
   “Here,” she exclaimed, “a map I’m sure will fit your liking. I found it slipped between the pages of a book. I took some time pondering it and carefully biding. I think you’ll find your way if you take a closer look.”
   She held it out and inexplicably I was gripped with this dread. Staring forth onto the map, rather old in texture, knowing I needed it and wanting to take it, I was unsure of what I might unleash. All the others that I had tried to reach out to, rather factually, were now dead. Ashley was too frangible; her figure was too soft. Even though it was quite obvious that she harbored a strength and lenience unique, an aristocratic mind and an artistic soul kept so fruitfully inside a dolly, firkin body, I could, with prominent ease, take advantage and over power her.
   Dawdling too long, I finally reached to pinch the sheet from her, the stress mounting with each measurement that squeezed ever smaller between us. When my fingertips felt the rough, clearly letterhead grain of the map, I snapped it back, pulling to tare the compass from her loose, wholesome hand. The plump skin had a strange, spider web pattern that was lacy underneath the many layers that I only just noticed as she retreated. My recoil thereabouts ceased.
   Looking down at the page, it was an ink-printed copy, delineating every room, floor and study meticulously. There were pencil marks and scars of eraser burns scattered around the picture, where, assumingly and most acceptably, Ashley had scoured over and disputed their claims. Seeking a better understanding and taking much judgement from the way her eyes were moving - the felicity, concentration crux that consumed her as she sat and viewed the crumpled up bibliography lain upon her knees - it was clear to me she was one that indulged greatly in her surroundings. An antagonist, a crucible contender of what she sees. Thus, she marked and evaluated everything, taking great pleasure in picking things apart, and so I began to withhold that which I held against her for pestering me. Her heaven must be a labyrinth! 
   “See there,” she guided, “where the question mark is traced? Of places I have come to torture, here lies one I cannot tame. This dead end hall, a wall among all, misplaces the base of certainty that clarifies and defines the intent of its ambiguity. Here, I suppose, you will find your hallowed place.”
   At the end of a short hallway, caged by mostly closets and coves for custodial affairs, was nothing more then a window. It was clearly out of place and silly. The eye almost sought and expected to see more. Yes… yes, this could be - this indeed could be the very portal I had been looking for. At first I thought it was too simple, but I embraced the idea as I began to respect it more and more.
   “Thank you,” I said sourly, still spilling my clenched eyes over the scrappy deed.
   Quick upon my disjoining, I reached for and proceeded toward the door. 
   “Theodore,” I heard the gentle breath pronounce behind me.
   I turned to her, in a fashion I had no will over, and found I was curious as to why I did.
   “Sometimes what we seek, we never expect to find… Sometimes we are excited over things we are not anticipating… What can be uncovered as we dig can come as a surprise - monsters hibernating in the loins of consecration. Wisdom cannot save the old and chastity not the young. When the veins of long dead dreams run cold, they cannot be revived. Some things are meant to wallow in the hallow of forlorn, to rest unrested in the placidity of the scorn. Tied down by the scar tissue of the wounds they never could induce are demons we often create, but rarely put to use. Take care down there and contemplate much, uncertainty can create prowess, but stubborn skin is much weaker then it is callous…”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Dollar Donation and the Walt Whitman Birthplace

On Saturday, January 8th, I had the incredible opportunity to perform with over twenty fellow Long Island poets at the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historical Site and Interpretive Center. The event was entitled "Recession, Depression, and Economic Reflection" and dealt with poems that confronted the current economic state of the nation. It was a massive gathering organized to help promote the Bards Annual 2011 publication, an anthology of LI poets put together by the Bards Initiative, a local and active poetry organization. The event included a raffle, a membership booth, and even cameras that were filming for an upcoming DVD of the event (I hope to include my performance here soon). At any rate, it was an absolutely brilliant event and I really appreciated performing my three poems "One Dollar Donation", "Variation On a Theme by Robert Frost: Liars and Price", and "Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu" with so many of my fellow poets on the scene.

Me performing at the Walt Whitman Birthplace

To commemorate this unique event, I have included the poem "One Dollar Donation" below. The poem was written after a strange occurrence that occurred to me some years ago in between classes. I was taking a class in the Honors Cottage at SCCC (it was a poetry class, in fact), which was literally a small house with a room on the ground-floor converted into a classroom. I had to leave in the middle of class to use the men's room. As I entered the vestibule, I turned to find an odd gentleman standing there with his hand outstretched toward me. What followed was the poem you see here. I hope you enjoy it.

One Dollar Donation

“I heard about you on the radio,”
he said, precociously,
in a somewhat matter-of-factly way,
“And I wanted to donate a dollar to your cause,”
he continued,
producing from the pocket of his jeans,
with a smooth motion, as if unsheathing a sword,
a creased, wrinkled, tattered old dollar,
perhaps his last one,
which he unhurriedly held out to me.
The sea foam green backside, 
the letters
pinched between the eagle’s lips
and the piercing Eye of Providence,
enthralled my compassion.
As the bill folded under the lumber of its own weight,
segregating the feet of the N, 
I too was drawn out,
out of my comfortable cage wherein I pondered nothing,
dispensed into a serendipitous gambit of encumbrance.
His black face was gentle,
His smile: big and intimidating.
He stood there presenting that old dollar patiently,
politely awaiting my reply.
I suppose he never saw my perplexity,
never recognized my already juxtaposing intellect
frantically contriving some compassionate rejoinder.
“I’m from the hospital across the street,” he then admitted,
And my compassion then became more resilient.
My hesitation to confiscate the currency dawdled even more. 
I evaluated, considering that proposition,
his admitted mentality,
my intended rebuttal.
I retracted my hand insolently.     
With a calm,
somewhat uncouth apology,
I turned my pinching hand away from his offer,
and instead pointed him in the direction of the administration building across the way,  
using the window at his back as a guide.
He ducked down and gyrated,
still holding that dollar out firmly,
and replied, “Oh…”
“And what’s your name?” he asked, returning. 
I withdrew my sharpened digit,
and retorted cooperatively to his request.     
He introduced himself then,
out of place,
but nonetheless benignly confident,
as he shoved the crimped cash back into his taut pocket,
and offered me,
an empty palm.
I filled it with mine.
His was warm.
And as he pleaded, “Thank you, sir!”
with muddled nodding,
closing the door behind him as he left,
I stood there,
beguiled at the thought that the burden had been bequeathed, 
or perhaps the blessing had been abandoned.           

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cipher of the Tooth Fairy

New poem for the new year, and a few photos to boot!
The poem I have for you is called "The Cipher of the Tooth Fairy". It began as a play on the idea of the Tooth Fairy having a code of conduct that must be abided by rigorously. It's rather cryptic and is meant to invite the reader to ponder. I very much enjoy the idea of questioning things we don't often question, and the very idea of the Tooth Fairy possessing a strict code of ethics is itself worthy of pondering, but many lines in the poem are meant to evoke the same activity. It's a rather old poem, written around the winter of 2008, and is reflective of my older style of writing. I consider it my pure form, one where the general gist of the poem is somewhat ambiguous, but the intended goal is rather a feeling, a sense of experience, a disposition. Here, it is cryptic, pompous, and uncomfortable, an extension of childhood folklore into a realm of matured fascination. I hope you enjoy it and continue to stop in periodically throughout the year.
I raise a toast to the death of 2011 and the birth of 2012. God bless!

Cipher Of The Tooth Fairy

Slide across the banister and lap upon your wrist
I’m searching for an elbow that I could tryst
I’m conniving for a knob which I can twist
What would you think if your God had a lisp?
Slither past the fire and curl beside the cask
Chewing up shell casings to acquire some brass
Chewing on my fingers to avoid the common task
What would you do to make love last?
Cold upon the mattress, clutching a dying rose
I whisper in your ears but you know only culls
I envy the anvil eaters and the bulbs
What would you say if I tore up all the folds?
Fall upon the creases and kiss my murderer’s shoes
Ejaculating slurs that flow like oil off a roof
Ejaculating jokes to smile on the abuse
What would you suppose is the worth of your precious little tooth?