Placebo

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placebo_antidepressants_drug_lancet_review_drjoe

1.

If I offered you a placebo,
would you take it and believe
in yourself, and finally trust
that what you have to write,
is what needs to be read?
You see failures like supreme
rulings, their many judgments
as self-imposed gag orders,
but there’s a pill for that;
it’s sweet, and round,
and goes down easy.

2.

You can open your eyes now,
and when I snap my fingers
you will not remember any of this,
but you will be as the raven
who flies against fog and snow,
the black outline of her body
hurtling toward the need:
truth, authenticity, love
,
forgiveness.

3.

I anoint your head with holy oil
from an olive tree that grows
in Jerusalem, whose roots
extend thousands of feet
beneath the ground,
into hidden aquifers,
tears and blood
of your ancestors:
their unanswered prayers,
their cries from dark nights,
their suffering,
their death.

4.

The Three of Swords;
I see you have suffered,
but it’s time to face what rose
from the ashes.
Everything you said you hated,
what he did to you,
the lies, the infidelity,
the leaving.
Do you see it there,
in the tower?
That’s you,
tearing it down.

5.

So many lines, intersecting other lines,
your life is complicated, intertwined,
your heart, easily broken.
Look at your love line,
how it curves up here,
toward contentment,
then here, toward turmoil.
Your head line, see how long–
all the way to your pinky,
tells of much consideration,
your life line, such caution,
what you’d expect from a palm
of fire, and of earth:
a hand of many deaths,
a hand of many births.

6.

I see your future–
Ah, it is clear;
here is sadness,
and here is celebration,
here is hurt and confusion,
and here is clarity.
Here, a day of silence,
the whole world muted,
void of color, sound,
and the ground hard,
infertile, stubborn.
Yet, here is a day
so vibrant, your fears
are drowned out
from birdsong,
a chittering breeze,
and flowers so eager,
you can hear their spathes
bursting up toward the sun.

What more can I tell you
that you don’t already know,
but refuse to tell yourself:
you are sun and snow,
joy and sorrow,
selfish and fully poured out,
justified and guilty–
what more can I say 

to make you believe
you are all

of what you’ve been
desperate to become,
desperate–
to make go away.

Rwanda: Dead Hands

for Evariste, and his family.

I look at my hands, see

they are alive. I look

at the basket,

and see dead hands.

Hands held, posed

for mercy.

Hands held, posed

to survive.

Our enemies are not always

who we are told;

you see, they are the same–

our hands,

these five fingers,

see how they bend,

see how they weave,

the way they sew the future,

the way they brush the cheeks,

of those whom they love.

Memory In Winter

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Winter returned, unbroken,

and I bought azaleas, hydrangeas

and stems of lilies

to stand against white windows.

How like memories,

these flowers in winter:

smiles, laughter, love,

eyes, cheeks, toes, and fingers.

Mama, mama, mama,

I hear them calling,

as I cut their stems.

Flowers for the Dead

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I said magnolias,

you said, peonies,

how you remember her hands

tending them, day after day.

I imagine a grandmother’s hands

reaching into a profusion of blooms,

wrinkled and wise and tender;

it’s a good place

for the mind to wander.

Memorial Day.

You were so young,

and your brothers, one older,

one younger, even than you,

would cut the luscious stems,

and place them in a wagon

alongside empty pickle jars,

mayonnaise and jelly jars.

The cemetery.

You’d sell your bouquets

for fifty cents,

three big blooms to a jar.

What a memory,

and I imagined families

pulling up in lonely cars.

It’s the sixties,

and there are waves of Chevy sedans

with heavy doors,

hoods, stretched out in lines,

like plots.

We sold them all, you said.

And I’m not surprised:

regret in empty hands,

is no small thing,

as they walk toward their loss,

tombstones, which remind them

of loss,

of lack.

And then, the relief

when they can fill those hands

with the heft and smooth skin

of a glass jar filled with water,

and a few fleshy blooms.

To A Wild Mountain Daisy (modern translation)

robbieburns

In honor of Robert Burns Day, I would like to share his poem “To a Wild Mountain Daisy.” (my own translation) A few years ago, I translated it and set it to music.  Here are the chords: C#, E, F#, C#. Chorus: C#, E, C#, E, C#, E, C#, E, F#

To A Wild Mountain Daisy

Modest flower,
This is the evil hour;
I must crush your slender stem,
Among the stour.

There is a sweet, sweet song,
Bending among the wheat;
With feathery breast,
He flies to meet the purpling east.

____

Chorus:

Soft beneath the stone it rises,
Crushed beneath the clod.
I can find no power to save you,
Still, you arise–
As softly as a feather,
As tender as a song.

____

Cold blew the bitter north,
Still you came forth;
Barely rose amid the storm,
Such a tender form.

The garden flowers yield,
You have only woods to shield;
Beneath the dirt and stone,
You rise alone.
You rise alone.
You rise alone.

____

Chorus

Now, drink some scotch and eat some haggis!  Cheers, ye tender flowers!

KonMari Our Lives

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We are all, Tidying Up, materialists,

unabashed hoarders, newly abashed,

dwarfed by piles of clothes

we couldn’t sell for fifty cents

from our garages or yards,

yet clinging to them all, and cramming

them into closets and drawers,

because we might get skinny, or fat,

or finally be invited to a party.

Keep what brings you joy, she says,

but we can’t recognize that spark.

What is joy? What is joy?

And, where do we go

to find joy again?

Still Part of this Loud, Hurting World

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Beasts, bigots, build the wall:

the sound of lives

beating like a drum

in our face, a chant,

a cheer we hear

thousands of miles away.

Yet, you sing me a song louder

than the thunder of hate,

breath of bird and caress,

snow sound, breaking of twig,

and I must confess

I need to feel as fresh

as the five inches of snow

we nearly left the world to last night

when the light turned green,

but she couldn’t stop her car

from sliding. The beauty of brake lights

glowing off an infinity of snowflakes,

all seen through a fog-window.

And the sound of twisted metal,

sirens, the spark in my soul

when I realized

I’m still alive,

and still part of this loud,

hurting world.

The dead don’t know anything.

But I know

I walked away from the dead

to the sound of your poems,

songs written from the cries

of your heart,

siren calls begging us all

to look the other way,

for a moment,

look, look, look the other way.

Pinterest Perfect

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Pretty sure
I’ve seen this Reveal Party before,
and yes, it’s perfect, as if
Oh shit, how did this happen
gave way to a better,
more sparkly generation
of men and women
men made pregnant.
Confession.
My living room is now Pinterest Perfect,
and it scares me:
faux-stone fireplace,
barn wood shelves and floors,
leather recliners,
ebay artifacts,
an eerie similarity summed up in pins
and blasted out for our consumption–
imitation is the highest form of flattery–
perfect little imperfect reflections
of some other person’s lie.
(I meant life.)

WMD, and Other Pretend Enemies and Friends

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Digging up some of my oldies about war. My thoughts and feelings have not changed.

O, Beautiful,
January 13, 2007

Does the sand, there,
pile up like snow, here
Do grains of it rise like sun
floating crystals in a fickle breeze
Is its heat as unbearable
as our winter freeze
which makes a trickle stream,
thickens the water in the trough
I ask you, is the desert there
as beautiful as our plains,
as beautiful as winter wheat
snow covered, before amber waves,
as wide-open to life, as willing
when we lay down and die


These poems were based on news clippings from the time.

Sela-hammahlekoth (gorge of divisions)

We stand at the sela-hammahlekoth,
great gorge of division,
and we will not be sacrificed;
It will grow wider and deeper,
we’ll each back from the precipice,
further and further from one another
until, finally, we cannot see,
reach out to, or remember
we loved. My Lord, My Lord:
why have we have forsaken
each other, our sisters, our brothers?

WMD

This morning, over coffee, we argued about the war,
All this after the bed and what happened there,
When he loved me and said so.
Yesterday we worked together
Cleaned ovens, sprayed the deck,
Installed lights and tore down the bedroom wall.
We laughed over a movie and popcorn,
Surveyed our lives together and said,
This is good.
But this morning,
over coffee,
we argued—
We argued about the war and WMD
And now I’m here at my computer
And he’s off
on his own,
Fixing the furnace.

Woman, Uncaged

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A good witch, I think, as her voice rises

in story: their affair, his testosterone levels,

her childhood, and its want of love,

the gratitude for her lover’s love.

She seems about six foot two,

jaw etched of marble,

arms of steel, hands of iron,

and she fills the air around us

with tremor, something ominous,

yet vulnerable, as if she is saying,

I’ll tell you my secrets, like this gift of oil.

I take it, of course, I take it,

unscrew the top of the repurposed

wine bottle, smell deeply the lavender

and the garlic, her special brew.

I will tell you how I made it, she says,

because she holds no detail back.

She is the woman you’ve heard about,

or seen in movies, the one

who doesn’t give two shits,

the one who walks into a room

and steals it, and fills it

with laughter, and warning.

The woman whose tremor speaks

and says two things: come closer,

and I will tell you of love, of loss,

of picking oneself back up,

while at the same time you hear,

if you betray me, I will kill you.

And it all seems perfectly normal,

like the moment you always knew,

now unfolding. How what’s inside of you

was already unloosed in this goddess

of olive oil brewery, truth-teller,

all eyes on her, a wild, dangerous

animal uncaged, everyone nervous,

and eager to see what she will do.

Tambourine Man

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Anointed: his one raised arm, in a throng

of arms, desperate to catch a tambourine

hucked into the body-universe by Ian Astbury,

before singing Big Neon Glitter,

Peace Dog, and Wild-Hearted Son,

and like some freak of fate

carnival game he played as a kid,

it landed like a ring on a bottle’s neck,

and throttled his arm down to his bare,

hairy, super-sweat-soaked pit.

For years, he mashed to the rhythm,

the beat, the swelling under-swell of song,

self-employed, stoned, and fully devoted,

as in, everything for the voice

that prophesized from the burning bush

of heavy metal, Shake it! Shake it!

What else could he do

except shake the damn thing

for twenty years, the entire downtown,

as kids made out, drank beer, and danced,

and someone in the crowd shouted,

Hey, everyone, the Tambourine Man is here!–

Sometimes, You Just Need a Happy Ending

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Forgive me for wishing

life was more like a fairytale,

a place where once upon a time

we all struggled, our hearts

torn apart, put together again,

as we desperately journeyed

toward our happiest moments.

When we finally reached them,

and got a taste of what we knew

was out there for a few rare lucky souls,

some benevolent hand would write:

they lived happily ever after:

On my son’s twenty-ninth birthday,

He spun the big wheel at Fast Eddies,

it tink-tink-tinked past the free beer,

five dollars, and hamburgers,

to stop at the fifty dollar jackpot.

He danced with his hands in the air,

he smiled, that rare smile,

his lover kissed his cheek.

Nurture the Muse: Thoughts On Success

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I was the best flutist in my elementary school for two and a half years–4th grade through 6th. Sadly, in the 7th grade, my reign came to an end; I was challenged, and lost, and sent packing to second chair.

At first, I thought it was because the girl who beat me was more talented–gifted–and I was deficient. But in truth, it was because I never, ever practiced–and she did.

It took me many years to understand that simple truth about those who excel and those who are left behind. Those who keep going, who keep writing, who keep practicing their instruments, who keep making foul shots or whatever it is they love doing–they’re the ones who succeed. Those who stop, don’t.

I started Bits of Poetry in 2014 to write to the poem.

Bad poem. Good poem. It didn’t matter.

I didn’t enjoy playing the flute, even though I continued playing to the 12th grade, but it wasn’t a total loss. Through it, the opening of a musical door, I learned enough to find my real love, the piano. And then, the guitar. Playing either one of them isn’t a chore, like the flute was. Playing them is a gift, and the real gift is the love of them. I knew I loved music, started an imperfect journey toward music, and found my musical soulmates.

And it’s not about playing perfectly. Far, far from it. Rather, it’s the enjoyment I get from one note, two notes, one chord, one measure. The same goes for writing. I love the written word and, eventually found my way to the poem. I love the poem. Every imperfect part of it.

If I can write towards a poem and find one good line, it feels so good. Just one line, like one solid measure of a song. Eventually, maybe two lines, and so on.

All of this is to say, in 2019 I’m re-dedicating myself to the original idea: write, write, write. It’s not about perfection, it’s about continuing on with what I love. Resist the temptation to be discouraged, but more importantly resist the temptation to be a helicopter mom to my baby poems. They will survive and grow up as long as I keep nurturing them with an open floodgate of words, honesty, observation, respect, and love.

I hope you all continue to do the same.

The Secret Song of the Dead

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Looking back, I see you

looking back, smiling,

I say your name,

as if to summon

the dead to life,

and it works,

for a moment.

It’s winter,

and the earth feels

like your absence,

the once living things,

here, but not here.

How many times

did you sit

next to me looking

out at the aspen?

And now, here it is

bare again, waving

its naked branches again.

Today, it looks like

it’s doing The Twist,

and, I think, it hears

a song I don’t, no,

a song I can’t, hear.

Looking back, I see you

looking back, smiling,

your secrets, a dance,

a song that plays

while the world listens,

and twists to a secret melody,

it cannot hear.

Are You On Twitter?

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Are you on Twitter, if so, comment with your Twitter handle, and thoughts, below.

I’ve found Twitter to be a great resource for writers. Hashtags like #AmWriting #WritersCommunity #PoetryCommunity, and many others, help you find people like yourself.

You can also link your WordPress account to Twitter in your settings, and it will automatically publish your posts.

You can find me at @LindaDavisPoet on Twitter.

Word to the wise–don’t get sucked into the negative stuff. There’s plenty of that. But there’s also great writing, supportive people, and various journals.

The Plan of the Unplanned

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“It isn’t the experience of today that drives men mad. It is the remorse for something that happened yesterday.” Bob Burdette

The tape that plays

is not always a good tape,

or an accurate replay

of what happened.

What you said,

what I said,

over thirteen years,

a million things.

No, an infinity

of words and actions

that speak louder

than words, truer

than our memories

of one another.

I told you,

when I finally leave,

it will be forever,

and I think you believed me.

If I could do over

I would do the same,

and wish you would.

No part changed.

No person gone.

No person, gone,

brought back.

Remorse? I want to say,

No. I want to say

this unplanned chaos

is part of a plan.

I want to look back,

someday, and say,

This is what I wanted,

where I wanted to be.

Self, Be Kind, Self, Be Strong

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He said, Tell yourself who you are,

or others will make you a minor character

in a play where they are the stars.

So, I gave myself permission to be

a poet, a musician,

a good all-of-the-above:

wife, mother, sister, friend—

the many roles I inhabited,

but always felt deficient.

I have rarely known love

in the way I need love,

yet, I am surrounded with love.

Tell me, self, where have you been?

Why haven’t you defended me

against the dark thoughts?

Why haven’t you picked me up

and protected me,

held me in your arms,

and told me I am worthy

of these simple things?