December 18, 2014

Rondeau At The Train Stop By Erin Belieu

Rondeau At The Train Stop

It bothers me: the genital smell of the bay
drifting toward me on the T stop, the train
circling the city like a dingy, year-round
Christmas display. The Puritans were right! Sin
is everywhere in Massachusetts, hell-bound

in the population. it bothers me
because it’s summer now and sticky – no rain
to cool things down; heat like a wound
that will not close. Too hot, these shameful
percolations of the body that bloom
between strangers on a train. It bothers me

now that I’m alone and singles foam
around the city, bothered by the lather, the rings
of sweat. Know this bay’s a watery animal, hind-end
perpetually raised: a wanting posture, pain
so apparent, wanting so much that it bothers me.

Rondeau At The Train Stop By Erin Belieu.

 

 

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December 13, 2014

Secret Colors, 1830—a poem for Esmee

Secret Colors, 1830

As I walk towards the gray porch
of my father’s house, I want to cry.

After an afternoon with Esmee’s lips,
I see how ignorant is my happiness.
To learn it, my skin must turn black
and whip cuts on my back must bleed.
I love the
words unalienable rights,
but life in a gray Latin school and
life in a gray Sunday school is a
curse
without the living colors in
songs of my African girlfriend.

During my afternoon in a library
a history book tattles on America:
how a Revolutionary War teased
America free from King George.
It was an un-castled chess game
because the real war was against
the black folks who made us rich.
Tom Jefferson complained against
England importing African slaves,
but they gave him great wealth.

I spend afternoons with Esmee only
if I accept the hatred of every white
boy in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
If love is blind, seeing eyes are sad.
How can I open the door and live
again in my father’s gray world
while I hold her colors in secret?

December 3, 2014

New poem by Walt Whitman

New poem by that upstart poet, Walt Whitman:
“To Bryant, the Poet of Nature”

 

 

October 1, 2014

Cut No Lilies, a gospel song by an imaginary writer

(This is a gospel song by Esmee,
a character in the novel-in-progress,
Finding Color. She’s borrowed a lyrical
theme from a spiritual that originates
in the Carolinas of 1820s. It’s written
for piano, choir, and congregation.)

Cut No Lilies

I run down the valley while I pray:
Jesus is dead and God’s gone away.
This I heard a man in a gray hat say.
He lies ’cause I need my God today.
He lies ’cause I need my God today.

We sing for the mothers and the children, too.
We sing for the mountains and the ocean blue.
There’s spirit in the lakes and the rocks and trees,
there’s the spirit every time I fall on my knees.

I fall on my knees because I need you so—
Please, son of Jesus, don’t let me go.
Don’t let me go. Don’t let me go.
Please, son of Jesus, don’t let me go.

Cut no lilies for me today:
this is not my cryin’ day.
Cut no lilies for me today:
this is not my cryin’ day.

(Art by Anne Abrams)

September 28, 2014

Position Needed, a poem for peace

Position Needed

United States Secretary of Peace:
an Executive Cabinet position to
be appointed by enlightenment
itself. This Secretary may not be
removed by any president ever.
Secretary of Defense answers to
Secretary of Peace who has veto
power over anything it says or does.
The United States Secretary of Peace
answers to no one but to peace itself. 

  (Photo by Anne Abrams)

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January 10, 2013

From Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stephenson

Painting by N. C. Wyeth

Painting by N. C. Wyeth

The fire lit in me when I first read the novel as a boy, was
extinguished when I finished my own novel, Tesora.
Reading it now, however, allows me to sail again,
back to my own boyhood days—to find the treasures
of adventure and good writing.

From Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stephenson:

“Livesey,” said the squire, “you will give up this wretched practice at once. Tomorrow I start for Bristol. In three weeks’ time—three weeks!—two weeks—ten days—we’ll have the best ship, sir, and the choicest crew in England. Hawkins shall come as cabin-boy. You’ll make a famous cabin-boy, Hawkins. You, Livesey, are ship’s doctor; I am admiral. We’ll take Redruth, Joyce, and Hunter. We’ll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat, to roll in, to play duck and drake with ever after.”

November 25, 2012

Anaïs Nin on the Unfamiliar in Books

Anaïs Nin on Embracing the Unfamiliar

It’s the personal insecurities of leadership which lead to paranoia, the need to control the freedom of individual and social personalities, and finally to mass violence. It’s been true throughout history from Atilla The Hun to Obama. It’s the responsibility of each artist to sieze his or her own piece of space, whether it’s geographic or psychic, and to produce art within his or her own chaos of freedom. “A room of one’s own,” yes?

Nin says:

The men who built America were the genuine physical adventurers in a physical world. This world once built, we need adventurers in the realm of art and science. If we suppress the adventure of the spirit, we will have the anarchist and the rebel, who will burst out from too narrow confines in the form of violence and crime.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/08/anais-nin-unfamiliar/

September 11, 2012

A Short Review of Canada, a novel by Richard Ford

The first novel I ever read on an e-reader (the Nook with a Glo-light) is Canada by Richard Ford. Here’s my review of the novel, not the e-reader.

A Short Review of Canada, a novel by Richard Ford
New York : Ecco Press, 2012

Ford forces a personality onto his main character that is as contemplative as a sixty year old. I’m not saying he’s trying to fool us with that fact, because he intentionally has the older man telling the story of his own young life as a fifteen-year-old. Ford’s prose is indeed excellent, but all through the book I craved the experience and voice of the fifteen year. So much of the story seems untold. I wanted the younger main character to have emotions and actions not explained away by his mature self of forty years later.

If an author has so pushed his own psyche so far from inner reality, how can we believe his story is true? It’s as if Ford has delivered a good idea about a story, but not the story itself. It’s a steak dinner without the meat or the sizzle, leaving us only a plate, a fork, and a knife laid out in perfect order. It is certainly an order that does not offend, but it also does not tell us the whole truth.

Are we expected to believe that his parents robbed a bank, split him from his twin sister, and sent him to Canada, and he had no anger about that? He could have become a short-fused boy like The Unibomber—or he could have become an enraged genius like Kurt Cobain—or channeled his anger like Van Gogh, perhaps. He only seems to passively accept his exile and one extremely violent act as if he was stunned silent by it. This is not the kind of character I hoped to read—it’s as if the character was there at the scene, but somehow missed the story. Readers are left with the face of the opacity of the surface of it, so we are left to admire the dinnerware and suck on an empty fork.

September 5, 2012

Kimberly Elkins’ story, “The Awful Wondering” is published.

 

I’m pleased to announce that my friend, Kimberly Elkins’ story: “The Awful Wondering” is now published in the Iowa Review. It’s not available online—you have to subscribe. But you can read some things in the issue here:
Iowa Review

Here’s her bio:
KIMBERLY ELKINS’s work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Best New American Voices, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. A finalist for the National Magazine Award, she received a fellowship from the Houghton Library at Harvard for research on her novel, What Is Visible, forthcoming from Grand Central. A visiting lecturer for the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Hong Kong, she has an MFA from BU and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

September 1, 2012

Query Letter for Tardy Son, a novel

In TARDY SON, Pid, a fourteen-year-old boy, torn from his Mexican roots and adopted into a white California family, stows away in a boxcar hoping to get to San Francisco. He’s desperate to escape his adoptive father, Danno, and to find his real mother. The abuse from Danno alienates Pid’s mind into two personalities. Pid’s copy of Treasure Island, his journal writing, and his sense of adventure help him escape. Pid doesn’t find his real mother in San Francisco but he does find Japanese and African boys who accept his baseball playing despite his limp and a Mexican woman who loves him like a mother. This gives him a sense of himself enough to reunite his personality, though he is still angry at Danno. This anger brings Pid to steal a motor scooter and return to his hometown to face Danno again. Pid vows to kill him, though he risks arrest and injury. A bloody fight occurs and in the battle he discovers why the lies of Danno hide the truth in the mystery of his heritage. Finally, he must choose whether to stay or return to San Francisco.

TARDY SON, is a semi-finalist for the Faulkner Novel-in-Progress Award. It’s a 76,000-word literary YA novel.

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