green robot

poetrrrry update:

Pablo Lorenzo

*note, the speaker in this poem is not me (but i find it more effective to write it from first person)

was all hair and teeth
untied shoelaces
and he had a kindergarten crush
on kindergarten me
he spoke grandly
of how he won playground races
of the puppies he had
tiny brown black spots
he offered me the cutest
but my mother declined for me,
saying, “she’s allergic,”
which was code for
“she’s allergic to you”
because even then
at tender age 6
I was learning the value of holding
a cute but awkward boy
at arms’ length
for reasons culminating
in the excess of hair gel
globbed in his
shiny Hispanic hair:
            half Mexican,
            half Spanish
            but all wrong

//

Fear of Heights

My sister used to climb trees
when we were little
and the smallest branches
were the size of our arms
I would watch from down below
making sure that our parents
didn’t catch us –
            her, reaching for the birds’ nest
            me, doing nothing to stop her

Her favorite tree had smooth, flat leaves
and little black berry-seeds
that fell in droves, bouncing off of my head
as Lindsey shook the branches, giggling
I crushed them, one by one,
under the toes of my sneakers
spreading the pulp and skin
over the concrete
until that corner of the driveway
was more purple than gray
until my mother came out
and yelled at me for ruining my shoes

and Lindsey giggled more
pelting me with tree berries
still perched, like some bird,
high above my head

 

//

Heritage (wt)

silence is beautiful, my grandmother told me
in defense of the tight lipped ladies
in the murals of the temple

the commotion outside was deafening
it was a celebration day – lunar new year
firecracker strings burst
children screamed in fright, then laughed
at the drums and dragon dance

and I said I didn’t understand
but she didn’t hear me,
only nodded and smiled kindly
showing no teeth

on the drive home, I tried
to assume the beauty of silence
no radio, no conversation –
but my family,
            removed from notions of tradition,
only thought I was in a bad mood

haze

revision of "Sunday Mornings at my Grandmother's House"

basically, i cut the first half of the poem, and that will be its own poem, to be revised soon. this poem is the second half of the original poem with some new material to clarify the issue of the pennies. does it work? i really need help on the end; the last line isn't working right now.

Pennies

 My grandmother,
            in English that’s still broken after 30 years of speaking it,
            tells me and my cousins to eat in the family room,
and we go, sitting on the chairs and sofas covered in plastic.
The radio blares Vietnamese news,
and there is ornate mahogany wood everywhere–
            dragons and lions carved into the legs of tables,
            a Buddha statue in the corner –
there is one in every room,
            tiny shrines with red incense sticks
            and bowls of oranges that always smell so sweet.
This Buddha is young, thin
            with eyes that follow,
            watching our every move.

And in every room, pennies lie on the floor, tempting me:
            discarded from pockets and purses
            adding to the mystique of my traditional grandparents.
I always wonder about the coins:
            “Don’t touch! They’ll burn holes in you hands!”
            my cousins – wiser, older – warn
I ask my grandmother, but she’s too busy
            making sure everyone eats
So while the adults converse –
            in Vietnamese, sounding like shouting in garbled English –
I go from room to room under Buddha’s vigilant eyes
looking, counting, but never taking –
because I like my hands whole.

But once – just once
            my curiosity, greed
            get the best of me –
                        and my fingers pocket the shiniest penny
                        from the living room floor –
            I avoid meeting young Buddha’s eyes that day
Holding it in my pocket
I wait for it to burn a hole in my hand,
            marking me a thief –
                        I wait for the wrath of Buddha,
                        so young and patient in my eyes,
            his sharp eyes betraying that soft smile
I wait,
            all the while thinking
            that maybe this Buddha guy isn’t so mean
I stare – and the penny winks at me in the light,
            confirming my suspicion

haze

i need help! on my poetry! bah

i've been in such a prose-state-of-mind lately that my poems are coming out like prose.  (maybe i should just write a prose poem....) i wrote this for last week, but i'm going to workshop it this week. boo. my revelation (in diane's terminology, the revelation is the ending) doesn't really reveal much most of the time. and i need to fix it.

Dead Deer

If someone from my town
accidentally hit a deer
while driving down the road
they would pull over,
inspect the damage to the car
then drag the dead deer
into the trunk and go home –
and that deer meat would probably
be served for dinner
the following night

I told my roommate this
She was disgusted, and said,
“Poor deer! Why couldn't it
just die in peace!
That’s why the rest of the country
thinks Texas is ass-backwards.”
But she’d never been to Texas
and she didn’t know anything about Texas
so I changed the subject
I asked her how her Ag class was going
and she told me
that she had killed 28 chickens that week
(not by accident)
to study their insides
and that it was her favorite class of the semester
 

 

haze

oldish but revised.

9. Black

My hair blends into the night
showing up my face,
bright from the flash of a camera:
olive? tawny? just tanned?
I can’t tell

The eyes my mother gave me
and my father
and my grandparents –
almost almond shaped
black, just barely
like my hair –
my eyes resist red-eye
in all my pictures.
I’m just
lucky, I guess.

(Not raven
Not black as night
Not coal
Not even black, really)

My hair shows up charred in some lights
sometimes miscellaneous shades of red –
changing, always
as if my hair naturally reflects somehow
my changing perception
of where I fit in these generations
of black-haired, almond-eyed relatives

 

haze

thinking

i think that poetic revenge is only effective if the person against whom the revenge is sought actually reads the poems and makes comments. crazy. LOL. anyway. i'm having fun writing poems and fearing the wrath of the Great Diane. so, its all okay.

//
#8.  (no title yet)

My mother is a woman of routines
cornflakes with skim milk
a toasted bagel with cream cheese
three and a half miles on the treadmill
and if I call her from Michigan at 2:30 pm
            she will think it’s my sister
            asking if she can go to some cheap café after school with her friends
                        even though she doesn’t drink coffee or tea
                        and thinks her friends act too much like the seventeen year olds they are

While I was a fetus,
a stomach bulge inflating
my mother’s 5-foot-two, 90 pound frame
she drank apple juice every day
and I am convinced that’s why I can’t stomach the stuff
She watched “Another World” at 11 am
named me after a character
who only lasted two weeks
and listened to George Michael on the radio
holding her stomach, holding me
dancing slowly to “Careless Whisper”

Some mornings I get strange cravings for
corn flakes and skim milk
and the thought crosses my mind
that I might be pregnant
and the rest of the time
I think I am my mother

haze

btw, ali, this is poem number 7

My Last Name Is Hard to Pronounce

N-G-U-Y-E-N—
don’t worry, it confuses me, too,
how that set of letters
in that order,
can form such a simple-sounding name:

Nguyen
(a paradox of letters,
a potential identity gone astray)

my mother cringes every time
someone mispronounces our last name,
offering the correct pronunciation
as many times, and as often as necessary
and as her daughter,
I used to do the same
until I realized that I was making a fool of myself,
            my simplistic glossing of the letters
            a reflection of my own lack of touch
            with my heritage

contextual evidence – ethnic origin –
tell me
that there should be
accent marks and squiggles
above some of the letters
but those marks don’t mean anything to me,
and I can’t imagine
how people would then mispronounce it,
attempting to make all the letters heard
and accented in the right way – all at once

anticipating mispronunciation,
I occasionally tell people:
            “the N-G-U forms a W sound,”
but an English-speaker can’t resist
that blasted N, the out-of-place G –
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard
my name pronounced the way I tell people,
that is,
when I do correct people –
            which, after nearly 20 years
            of living with the name
            and the sometimes-humorous variations,
            is very seldom
            because though it grates on my ears
            when I hear all six letters enunciated individually,
            I can only repeat the correct way so many times
            and invariably, mustering a laugh at a botched attempt
            and saying “close enough”
            is much less taxing than trying to make someone
            get it right

 

ALI THE MOOOOOOOSE

four things

poem #6:

Women’s Bathroom, Second Floor, BPS

I was walking to the bathroom
this afternoon,
when I heard two ladies conversing
rather enthusiastically –
in the doorway of the women’s bathroom,
second floor, BPS 

I walked in, and entered a stall,
and as I did my business,
they did theirs –
“You taught 152 at LCC? Me too!
Anatomy should really be taught
the way we taught it at LCC –
none of this nonsense about function
before getting to the parts!”
The other woman responded
so quietly I couldn’t hear,
but I get the feeling she agreed.
And then I finished,
and found that they hadn’t:
they both still stood in the doorway
the louder one, with a wet paper towel
still in her hand,
and I wondered
whether the other lady had been
on her way in, or on her way out
when she became engaged in this conversation.

 :::::: :::::::


mock-magazine created for WRA 360: VIsual Rhetoric. My analysis is not wonderful, but that's because I got caught in the throes of page design (and the never-ending search for the perfect font)

:::::: :::::::

cover designs for FUCKING AIRPORTS: one and two (the only difference is in the color of the letters; there are more -- different --  designs in progress, but for now, this is all I have)

:::::: :::::::
the end
ee cummings

five, four

comments/title suggestions, anyone?


#5

Sometimes, in conversation
I hear a strange semblance of an accent
floating between my teeth,
lingering on my tongue –
mid-west, or what I think it sounds like
and I want to wash it away
in the shower, or when I brush my teeth

These days, I’d rather
have a Texas accent
than anything else –
and I still laugh
about the fact that I had to travel to Italy
to get one in the first place

//

#4

My father grew up with a machine gun in hand
patrolling the nighttime streets
with the other neighborhood boys
in his provincial town in Southern Vietnam,
protecting everyone from communism

My father is a nonviolent man
and has told that story but once –
it was more of an offhand remembrance
than one of his usual detailed, full-blown tales –
            thrown in haphazardly
            probably in defense of some characteristic
“Of course I’ve held a gun before
all of us did – machine guns, at night, in the streets –
            a protective measure”
But he shrinks from interrogation – “Did you ever fire it?”

I take after my father,
in the sense that we don’t share much with anyone
He and I both harbor a small arsenal of reliable stories
and stick to them loyally
but every once in a while, I catch him saying things
that I’ve never heard before,
and no matter how stealthily I try to bring it out,
            I never get to hear those things twice

//
haze

3 of 100

[written in class, not edited yet. will edit later, possibly]

#3 On Reading Middlesex

Strolling through the aisles of Half Price Books
the paperback spines reach out to my fingers,
which reach back and stroke the titles
looking for one to strike my interest
No New York Times bestsellers
never, ever Oprah's Book Club
Yellow with red letters, ORCB font
plain, no pictures, large, large words
One word titles are intriguing,
I usually look at the first few pages.
I often don't like titles that begin with "The".
I always judge a book by its cover,
though now, with re-releases and anniversary editions,
the covers mean less and less --
but I'd still rather hold in my hand
the sterile white and loopy handwriting
of Kundera in a British printing
than the obnoxious block letters
of the American one.

But the details, the plot are what I'm reading for;
a terrible title and awful cover can be redeemed
by insight, eloquence, or humor
It seems, though, that I have the uncanny ability
to find out the strange characters on the bookshelves:
hermaphrodites, transsexuals, transvestites,
serial killers, alcoholics, journalists,
terrorists --
leaving me shocked and appalled every time -- not delightfully so,
at least not at the initial discovery.
Am I engaged in a subconscious search for my true identity,
that I can only read about the identity searches of others?
Perhaps I am mistaken,
but books serve to deliver us from reality --
why then, are the pages all filled with "true" stories,
dramatized versions of "real life"?
The stories, more often than not, turn out on the upper end of mediocre --
predictable, pedestrian, prefabricated --
and I think, with the next book I read,
I want a more traditional character,
one hailing from the old standards, the classics --
one with some semblance of stereotypical normalcy.
haze

100 poems for ali. !!!

ali. here is the second of the one hundred poems i promised that i'd give you to read/edit. or did I say 50? i can't remember. anyway, consider "sundays at my grandmother's house" the first. ha! (and i think my theme for the semester is being asian/coming to terms with asian culture, and the like. or at least that's my theme for the week).

(Two) Beef and Broccoli

I feel fake walking into Chinese restaurants
when the ladies, in their Oriental print outfits
look at me expectantly
            with my blackish hair and olive skin
            and almost-almond eyes
and then they look so jaded, disinterested
when I say in perfect English,
            “Table for two, please” –
as if I should, instead, have my father’s accent
            or my grandmother’s,
to sustain their friendliness—
that lisp and stutter, the inability to
distinctly pronounce j’s and z’s –
            and in my father’s case,
            the tendency to say “moo!” instead of “move!”
            when in a great hurry –
and all this despite the fact
that they’ve each spoken English
for over thirty years

And when those ladies in their outfits
lead me silently to a table in the corner,
I want to tell them to blame my father
for wanting to leave his home country behind
            at least for his daughters,
            because for him, that accent will never let him go