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Monday, January 30, 2017

Cab Driver for the Apocalypse



 
Cab Driver for the Apocalypse

She’s not a big tipper.  Still, I come when she calls, pick her up all hours of the night and day; corner of Flood and Ark, under the crumbling Four Horsemen Bypass, outside a fall-out shelter with glowing cement walls.  Sometimes she looks like death warmed over: a ragged, stunning specter who holds out her next destination scrawled on a scrap of paper, ink still smoking.  Other times, her blood-red lipstick matches sharpened stilettos and a spangled dress stitched together with jewels mined from the marrow of Sodom and Gomorra. That’s when she tells me, “Keep the engine running, Luce,” in her throaty, plague-soaked whisper, swivels her legs out the door I hold open, brushes my cheek with hers.  My skin sizzles for hours afterwards, like fat over coals. 

No, it’s not about the money – really.  I like knowing she can depend on me to get her from one event to the next.  I make sure my cab is gassed up, back seat vacuumed, tinted windows closed against intrusions by paparazzi and popes.  Once I had this Archangel go all gangsta on me. Asshole tried to slit my tires with his sword! One toss of that pitchfork I keep between the front seats and he’s over in Bumfuck, Idaho getting crucified by that band of Evangelical Survivalists.  Don’t mess with my Apocalypse, you know?

Anyway, it’s been a while since any trouble like that.  Now my job is mostly trying to avoid brimstone pot holes and those zombie rats on I-666.  Jesus but those suckers are hard to scrub off, and the fleas … Between rides, I hang out at The Antichrist, sip whatever brew is on tap, watch Beast show off his latest tattoo.  For an abomination, he’s surprisingly innovative; that scene he calls “Armageddon” covers his whole chest without once repeating itself.  “Not into motifs,” he says, “got enough of that from my undergrad comp course to last a lifetime.”  The guys laugh, even if we have heard that joke before. 

When my phone rings, my day – or night – really begins.  This time it’s a text.  Just three words:   “Sixth and Trump.” 

No idea where that is, but I’ve got a helluva good GPS.  Can’t keep the Apocalypse waiting.

Deborah A. Miranda

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Acorn

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Acorn



That sound inside you is a sacred sound:
heartbeat of a seed, eager to emerge.

That sound inside you is an urgent sound:
life’s sharp, percussive pulse.

That sound inside you is the future,
rattling a polished brown shell

shaped like a goddess, or a breast.
You are what Jesus meant when he said

the meek shall inherit the Earth.  You
are what Hillel had in mind when he said,

this is the whole Torah.  You are the secret
that begs to be told, a treasure whispering

find me.  You are the fingerprint of the Creator
left behind in soft red clay, hardening in sun. 

You are the sleek amulet snug in the palm
of my hand; you are the ripe mother of nations.

From your flesh comes invention of all words
for holiness, sacrament, celebration, awe.

Palatsa, little rattle, you hold time in your belly –
round and full and kicking its way into life.


I'm teaching a beginning poetry course this term - lots of excited students, many free writes, and plenty of prompts for assignments.  

Today I started the group on Praise and Prayer Poems.  I like Al Zolynas' poem "Sacrament of the Mundane," and use it as a course theme.  So the assignment for next week is to pick some thing, someone, some place, that is typically under-praised and overlooked.  I gave them some sample poems, both praise and prayer, and a few that blur the line.  And then I passed around a beautiful little box that I acquired years ago at an AWP book fair.  It's covered on the outside with beautiful paper.  Originally, it housed a small chapbook and a few lovely odd bits and pieces of ephemera - star anise seeds, some old ceramic carvings.  The handmade, letter-press print section of the AWP book fair is always my favorite, and this piece is one of the reasons why.  It is an experience to open the box and explore its mysterious contents.  I've since added other small items as they come my way - a key, a pencil made out of a branch, a compact, an old penny.  Today, I passed the box around and everyone made a choice; a small item to hold and write about. 

When the box returned to me, the only thing left in it was one of the jewel-like acorns that I'd brought back with me from California on one of my visits in 2013, during the book tour for Bad Indians.  

Honestly, my free write on the acorn wasn't much.  I was distracted, thinking ahead about a video I wanted to get up on the screen to show; but I try to do the freewrites with new students, especially, to model for them the spirit of the act: to dive in, to blunder around, to not stop, to let language take over.  So I got a few decent images and a lot of worthless junk down in my notebook, and left it there.

But after class, I sat down at my computer and decided, there's something there in that freewrite.  Something I hadn't been able to get at before, although I've tried writing about acorns many times.  So I transcribed the more palatable images, phrases and lines from my freewrite, and the next thing I knew, I was pulled out of my reverie by a colleague coming in with a question.  I don't know how long I'd sat there, coaxing this poem out.  Maybe 45 minutes.

The last line evaded me.  I tried a few more minutes, decided I was too hungry, and went home.  After devouring an apple and some cheese, my brain kicked back in.  I finished the draft.

I like it.  I'm not sure at all how Jesus and Hillel snuck into a poem about a California acorn, but I like the poem, and, well, there it is.  

It might evolve.  It might change.  For now, though, as I slog through this bizarre and disheartening month, writing a little poem about an acorn seems comforting, even triumphant.  I'll take it. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 2017



January 2017



Walked home late tonight
right down the center of the road,
head tipped way back, body open
to blazing stars as if someone
had unzipped my skin
from head to toe,
exposed a naked captive
who’d only dreamt
of seeing the sky.


For one clean moment
I was molten silver, pure
gratitude; I was light
calling to light, I was
light answering light. 
For one moment
I had no name,
no past, no future,
no need.  Then Preston Street
rose up to greet me;
I stumbled, found
the sidewalk,
hobbled home
with eyes dazzled,
stars seared into my retinas
like the after-image
of hope.


Deborah A. Miranda

Sunday, January 1, 2017

FIFTEEN THINGS





Fifteen Things I Knew for Sure as a Child


    1.     Everyone leaves me; people disappear; loss is normal.
2.     Nothing and nowhere is safe
3.     but somehow kind people exist and I cherish them forever.
4.     Approval of me by those with power is essential to my sense of self-worth.
5.     Love is real but I have trouble figuring out what it looks like or how to hold onto it or why it hurts so much.
6.     I must be doing something wrong; I am wrong,
7.     but I know the taste of compassion and can share it with others.
8.     I cannot protect myself except by isolation; it is not safe to let people into my world; I do not want to depend on anyone, but I do,
9.     so then my pain must be buried alive.
10. Injustice is wrong and I resist giving in to it, silently rooting for underdogs.
11. Scars are shameful reminders of my failure.
12. Never ask for help.  It reveals weakness and vulnerability.
13. God is real and I pray to Him a lot but he never answers. 
14. Anger is bad.  Bad to receive, bad to express.  Avoid anger.
15. Beauty exists; I can recognize it in many forms.  This is a gift.

Fifteen Things I Think I Know for Sure Now

    1.     First, try not to hurt anyone. 
2.     Hold each life in the light of reverence.  Including my own.
3.     When in doubt, apply compassion in the six sacred directions.  And the seventh (inward).
4.     I can’t help anyone unless I put on my own mask first.  Exceptions: actual emergencies involving my beloved, children or grandchildren.
5.     Corollary: Sacrifice mindfully.
6.     It’s important to search for what brings me joy, and practice it;
7.     this includes letting in people who bring me joy.
8.     I often operate out of fear.  Before engaging in any major action, I need to run a fear diagnostic.  Am I doing this out of love, or fear of loss?
9.     Anger is different from violence: “Anger is full of information and energy.” Thank you, Audre Lorde.
10. It’s okay to ask for help.  Choose mentors carefully, though.
11. Scars are beautiful witnesses that testify to my strength and ability to heal, if I let them.
12. Non-negotiable human responsibilities: call out injustice and violence.  Loudly, and repeatedly. Remember,
13. just because I love someone doesn’t mean they get to hurt me. 
14. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “My actions are my only true belongings.”  Change happens;
15. the Universe is a mysterious place.  I can’t know or control much of anything. Sometimes surprise is a good thing.