Atlantic Braids Ltd.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Got a job
as a splicing technician
at Atlantic Braids Ltd.,
a global manufacturer
of quality cordage.
They told me
the first few days
they would show me
the ropes.

• • •
 


Letter to my Seoul Students

Saturday, March 24, 2018

           24 January 2017

Yongsan International School of Seoul
285 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Students,

First, thank you so much for your hospitality and kindness to me last week. I made a joke at our first session that I’d heard you were disrespectful and irresponsible students, and you proved how much of a joke that comment really was.

Second, I want to say something about being creative. I think creative people—artists, musicians, fiction writers and poets, even actors and screenwriters—end up in a separate class in our society. Sometimes they’re thought of as prophets or magicians, doing work the rest of us don’t quite understand but have been told is deeply important. Sometimes they’re looked down upon, because they don’t contribute in obvious ways to social progress, the way inventors and scientists and engineers do. The way people making business deals in corporate conference rooms do.

I want you to know that I’m GLAD creative class people are viewed as different from “the rest of us.” It’s true that what we do when we make a poem or a song isn’t productive. It doesn’t add anything concrete to this world, like a highway or a skyscraper. It doesn’t hammer out the terms of a trade deal between neighboring countries. In my opinion we have A LOT of highways and skyscrapers and trade deals and not enough good poems.

We have a lot of poems, but so much art these days seems self-serving for its maker and not so much intended for its audience to love and remember. I write poetry that I hope people will love and remember. I want people to go to a weird place in their brain they don’t normally go, and for that experience to wake them up a little bit.

What would it be like if we were all a little bit more awake? What if we didn’t instinctively pull out our iPhones right at 3:10 and check Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook? What if we were more aware of what was happening when we boarded a bus or got in a car to go home? The engine beneath the hood, the velocity of the vehicle, the kinds of birds that were chirping in the trees around us as we sped toward our homes? What if we knew the species of trees and flowers around us? Wouldn’t all that knowledge cause us to stop – to take a break and be silent – in the midst of it all?

That’s what I want art to do. I want a place where everything stops and then goes in reverse for a second. You look, you wonder, you see something you hadn’t seen before. Or in the case of poetry, you hear something you hadn’t thought of before – or hadn’t thought of in that particular way. And it makes you laugh, maybe because something is jarred loose in your mind, maybe because you recognize the thing in the poem or work of art.

Creative work is as important as sleep and dreaming. It puts us in a place where we aren’t outwardly productive, but in the darkness we are growing, becoming wiser, confronting demons and angels, fear and beauty.

What would it be like if we were all a little bit more quiet? If we looked and listened more than we walked around and talked. In my experience, that part of our lives is vital to sustained growth as a human race. Our imaginations and dream worlds help us decide what’s really important in life.

By way of conclusion, let me give you a heads up. You’re young, you haven’t lived too much of this life yet. Let me give you a spoiler. In the end, the one thing that matters is that you love each other. All the noise and traffic and money and plans and business, all the sports and war and politics, all the news, all the social media, all the comments on each other posts or pics – all of it is nothing without true love. I mean the kind of heart-melting, face-melting, faint from happiness kind of love you are supposed to offer each other every day, in real life, in real time.

And you can’t do that if you aren’t awake. You can’t do it if you aren’t quiet, or quieted. You can become quiet if you sit on the beach looking out at the sea. You can become quiet by sitting near a window while rain is pouring down, and you listen. It can also happen in the space of a work of art – or a weird poem. You wake up just a bit. You stop, you are pushed backward into quietness. You become the kind of person who’s open to actually loving others and valuing what is best in life.

I’ve said enough. I wanted to write you a thank-you letter and tell you how shocking and cool it was to be in Seoul and especially on your beautiful campus, full of surprises and wonder. I wanted to help you see, from the outside, that you’re in a very special place. You have a lot of talented and caring adults around you on all sides. You have classrooms and facilities most people in the world can only hope for. I hope – I pray – you don’t take any of that for granted. I hope you know how beautiful it all is to a middle aged man who’d never even been in Asia before last week, and I hope you will learn, through quietness and reflection, what a blessing it is for you. And then turn that sense of blessing outward to the people around you.

Art is a very private and personal thing. It is experienced privately, loved inwardly, and remembered in a way matures you and builds character. May it be so for each of you. It was truly a delight for me to meet you, and I hope we can meet again.

Dr. Belz

• • •


The Rock Ptarmigan

Monday, March 19, 2018

   The rock ptarmigan
breeds across arctic
and subarctic Eurasia
and North America
and commonly has
up to six chicks.
   The rock ptarmigan
doesn’t need carpeting,
locking door, or
cardigan to feel at
home. Doesn’t even
need a house. I mean,
it’s just a grouse.

• • •


Getting the Job Done

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The one area of scalp
still producing hair
on Donald Trump’s head
is working awfully hard
but getting the job done,
so there’s that.

Call it viability.
Call it what you want;
it’s what we hope for
for ourselves, isn’t it?
There aren’t many of us,
but we make a difference.

The head? We’ve got that
covered, so to speak—
even if in a floppy,
wig-like way. We get
the job done. Hair we are,
we might say; comb join us.

trump-hair


Enclosures

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The bad poetry people write
is either overly grammatical
or overly conscious of the world
of other poems into which
it hopes to speak—to be speaking—
of the “conversation,” that is—
and therefore is craven.

I’d like to build a smaller poetics
that works on its own terms,
several miniature monuments
marking only themselves
and according to themselves—
like children’s gravestones
set in Victorian flowerbeds!

• • •
 


Apology

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I’m sorry I’m such a difficult husband,
that I’m gross and lard-caked, that I smell
so often of ketchup. I love ketchup.
And I’m sorry that I leave things places,
that I never finish eating things, and
that they sometimes hang from my mouth.
Honestly it’s partly because I’m gross.

But it’s also partly because I live
in an environment of greasy spoons,
ramshackle tire shops, half-burned-down
clock repair places, wounded indigents
wandering and speaking gruffly to their
would-be children. Speaking woodenly.
Coarsely. Or I guess you’d say grouchily.

• • •


Ambition

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Your parents told you
Someday you’ll change the world
They weren’t wrong
They just didn’t tell you
By how much

• • •
 


Pink Floyd Jokes

Monday, February 19, 2018

Son: What’s a carpenter’s favorite Pink Floyd song?

Dad: I don’t know… “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond Bit”?

Son: “Comfortably Plumb”

Dad: Nice

Son (an hour later): What’s the fav Pink Floyd song of someone successfully coping with depression?

Dad: “Shine On, You Crazy Person”?

Son: “Comfortably Bummed”

Dad: That works

• • •
 


Nobody Is Doing Anything

Friday, February 16, 2018

Nobody is doing anything,
and it isn’t anybody’s fault
but all of ours. We’ve found
that by waiting we develop
new strategies for not only
holding everything at arm’s
length but having no real
conversation about changes
we’d all need to make to
emerge from this morass.

• • •


The Square Well

Thursday, February 15, 2018

So we had a meeting to discuss our meeting format.
Fair enough, but then we had a debrief to discuss
how that meeting went. Fair enough, but then
we had a fourth powwow. By the fifth confab
I was penciling in a sixth session on the calendar.
It was far enough in the future that, for enough of us,
“fair enough” didn’t fire enough of our imaginations
measurably. Immeasurably, time loped not onward
but inward—and it looped. My schedule became
a circular well. Strike that. It was a square well.
Well, it was a square. Easy enough to delete
the invitation everybody sent to everybody else.

• • •