Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 21 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

21 is one of those numbers that's invested with everyday magic in our culture, somehow. Blackjack, for example. Or just the whole notion of "lucky 21." The age to vote. And majority in general, though in many places 18 is the majority age. Beyond the teens at any rate. Don't know where I'm going here, but let's hope Day 21 is a lucky day, where adults act like an adult, where we all win, maybe. Rock on.

"For today’s prompt, write a 'back to basics' poem," suggests Robert Lee Brewer (Poetic Asides). Maureen Thorson's prompt today is "to write a 'New York School' poem using the recipe found here [an exercise created by Thom Donovan] . . . many 'New York School' poems display a sort of conversational tone, references to friends and to places in and around New York, humor, inclusion of pop culture, and a sense of the importance of art (visual, poetic, and otherwise)" (NaPoWriMo).

Let's start with Alan. "I'm feeling fractious and facetious today," he says. "By the way, all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

Kemo Sabe

I’m telling you, Joe, since you left Johnson City
has gotten to be one big foul-up. By chance I was spending
some time at Poor Richard’s with members
of different departments throughout the damned campus,
and I was discussing the misery felt by our colleagues. Then Pat
(you remember—he played a bit part as a salesman
on Seinfeld) began echoing my curt comments,
like how the Athletic Department was like a Viagra
commercial put on for alumni, and he started laughing
until he remembered
a story about Henry Winkler, who once
was the Fonz but is now huckstering
reverse mortgages aimed at poor people
as old as my parents, but then in the day
he was featured in magazines as a sex symbol
and met at a plaza in south San Diego a maritime
officer wanting to prove he was
cooler than Fonz, so now I’m most distressed
by the concept of actors’ perspectives
on fame, how it matters for power,
but power dispersed in a way where the actor’s
an object who might not be able to sell
his own face — Clayton Moore, you remember,
was getting injunctions preventing his wearing a domino
mask in appearances as the Lone Ranger because
the production affiliates who own the character
don’t want old men in the suit; now remember that Pat
could draw Social Security, if not already,
and I took a bite of a salad I’m eating
to knock my weight down, while the sandwich
that Pat has is oozing all over, so juicy
my mouth is rejecting the lettuce, and I
am uncertain about why chance meetings occur
when Pat suddenly makes a bizarre observation
about matrimony among some professors
who have long affairs, dump their wives, and then
marry the students whom they’ll cheat on later,
as if infidelity has some expression of faith
in romantic ideals, and we said in agreement
these guys are afraid they are dying and, maybe,
instead of entanglements, getting a brand new
perspective would help, but I laughed
because I know these guys and a woman whose
exploits in amorous proclivities have eclipsed
even those of Fonz Winkler
himself, in the day, if we set aside
faculty emeriti, which I have absolutely
a miniscule chance of becoming,
for reasons you know, that I’m making
myself disappear into woodwork,
but laughing makes Pat think about
a new story involving a middle
administrator and a chair who would scare
a real biker and not a pretender like Fonz.
Come back home, Joe, the joke’s been on me
for so long, I’m believing the future
has gone Balkanized like my job.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Okay, and here's my best shot at a New York School back-to-basics poem.

Life and Death and Art

So, Kathy, you’re the closest person to a New Yorker
I know — well, of course you are a New Yorker, but
upstate or central or Finger Lakes or whatever,
and you know I’m talking about NYC, no offense —
and now I’ve forgotten where I’m going with this.
Oh yeah, it’s 4:06 in the PM, on the 21st of April,
2014, and I’m sitting in my office trying to imagine
myself in Grand Central Station or at the freakin’ top
of the Empire State Building or in Times Square but
I can’t make it work, though I can kinda get the smell,
you know that mix of BO and street exhaust, like
humanity every-stinkin-where: “Oh, the humanity!”
Wait, that was crass, sorry, I wanna take that quote back.
This is starting to sound like a Denise Duhamel poem —
is she New York School, well she lived in NYC for a while,
I think — but that would be quite a feather in my hat
if I did succeed in doing Denise Duhamel. Well, not like
that, sorry Denise. So I’m getting the humanity smell
right but then instead it turns into a smell like death.
You know, if I’m gonna do Denise (sorry Denise),
I’ve gotta be all about life and all the cool funny things
that go on everyday. But no, I’m just getting death.
D-E-A-T-H in capital letters. Fuck. So I’ll try to think about
Valerie Bertinelli and Jenny Craig. Did I tell you I’ve had
a longstanding crush on Valerie Bertinelli? But Jenny Craig
makes me think about bodies wasting away, oh shit.
My writing buddy Alan Holmes is losing weight right now
and he’s eating a lot of salad, but he’ll be all right.
Yeah, fuckin’-A, he’ll be golden. Am I dreaming? No, I’m
in Iowa. Though if I was dreaming, I’d still be in Iowa
although in the dream, I could be in New York. I know
you wish I was in New York. But upstate, not in the city.
Though we could both go to the city. And eat an apple.
A big one. Sorry. But anyway, it’s death death death.
Okay, let’s think about somewhere in middle America,
in the wide open spaces. Like Tennessee, which is where
Alan is. Johnson City. But I’m really thinking Knoxville.
Oh damn, that’s where the Body Farm is, the original one.
You know about that? At UT they have a research facility
where they leave corpses outdoors in all sorts of different
environments — well, as many different ones as you can have
while still staying in Knoxville — to study how humans rot.
Decomp, I think they say. You ever watch CSI? You know
how they can tell how long someone’s been dead by what
larvae have hatched out? They learned that at the Body Farm.
Fun, huh? We almost had a body farm here at my university,
it was going to be an indoor one, but the legislature wouldn’t
fork out the funding. Crazy. I mean, it couldn’t smell any worse
than a hog confinement facility. Wouldn’t it be a blast to see
Jessica Simpson and Kate Perry visiting a hog confinement
facility? They’d both be good troopers and tough it out. But
Lady Gaga, if she did it, I wonder what weird ideas she’d get.
Anyway, I guess the topic for the day, lucky 21, is the body farm.
We all gotta decomp, right? So let’s learn all about it. That would
be the ultimate back-to-basics journey, huh? Your skin starting
to slough off, like you’re a snake molting. My flesh composting
into good dark soil. I imagine my soil would be darker than yours,
and your soil would have freckles. And eventually, there’d be
a vine growing out of your soil, and another vine growing out
of my soil, and they’d entwine together and make great grapes
in a warm clearing in the sun, like in a Van Gogh painting
with purple and blue and tawny yellow brushstrokes all over.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan, I gotta thank you, bud. I was pretty blocked except for the Body Farm back-to-basics thing until I read your poem. And then I knew what to do. Just had to let it flow. Channel Frank Freakin' O'Hara.

Here's a YouTube video on the Body Farm. Watch out: it's pretty graphic. The title of this video is quite sensationalistic . . . pay no attention to the title. The Body Farm — or as it's officially called, the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center — is an internationally respected and renowned research lab.

Here's another video: "Secrets of the Body Farm" — an hour-long documentary from National Geographic. Enjoy!

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, find the word comments, and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.  

POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Vince, Knoxville has so much going on that it's hard to think about it. The football stadium at the University of Tennessee fills with more people five weekends a year than the great majority of towns here claim as a population--like the Bristol Motor Speedway--a population of over 100,000. Then, there's the Sunsphere, remnant of the World's Fair, and legendary in an episode of The Simpsons where we learn it's full of wigs. Practically every other Tarantino movie refers to Knoxville. Hank Williams got an injection of morphine there immediately before his death. Cormac McCarthy's Suttree takes place there, and his The Road, starts there. Let's just say that the body farm fits in with the rest of the place. It has a pretty cool zoo, though.

Vince Gotera said...

Alan, this comment is like a New York School poem too! Thanks for commenting.

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Vince, I screwed up. Regarding my poem, I should have included (again) this caveat: "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental." The last thing I need is for people to start attempting to figure whether I'm writing about specific people instead of types. Oh, and I am writing for the purposes of satire, too. I don't even know Henry Winkler.

Vince Gotera said...

Roger. Wilco. Out.

You want that as an epigraph to the poem itself? Or in your "intro"?

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Maybe the intro would be nice, if you don't mind. Thank you.

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