* new work at american tanka

Just a quick post to announce the release of American Tanka’s issue 25: “between cries.” The issue starts off with one of my own tanka, which can be read here.

In preparing to share the news, I found myself sketching back into the scene that inspired the tanka. Here is my best rendition of the field near our apartment in Albuquerque circa 2011:

* what he carries *
* what he carries *

The issue, which includes outstanding work by Michael Dylan Welch, Chen-ou Liu, Sanford Goldstein, and Wendy Bourke among others, can be read here.

Special thanks to Laura Maffei, editor of American Tanka, for including me in such a fine issue!

See you Friday!


* discoveries in the disparate & kenneth p. gurney

I remember reading that the semicolon is the most poetic of punctuation marks because of the way it holds two or more disparate things together, things that, under scrutiny, would not be thought of as usually being connected.

Which is what poems do: just replace “it” in the sentence above with “a poem” and finish the sentence: you’ll have a pretty succinct definition of the art.

This week’s poem “Selfish,” by friend and fellow poet Kenneth P. Gurney, charmed me in its ability to bring together so many disparate things – cookies (yum), tea (yum), Civil War figures (hmm), a clock (yum?), etc. – all within the context of a casual moment in a relationship.

What seals the charm for me is how the narrative leads us through various moments of knowing and not knowing, and ends with the speaker at a loss themselves for what the person they’re with finds “so funny.” We are left to wonder alongside the poet, which is how some of my favorite poems end.

* yum *
* yum *

Selfish – Kenneth P. Gurney

We bought Italian wedding cookies,
even though no one we knew
was getting married,
and some fragrant tea
the shop owner admitted he didn’t know
because the container
arrived without a label
and he couldn’t place the flavor.
You, out of politeness I think, asked,
Who was Patrick Cleburne?
And I told stories of the Irishman who served
in the Forty-First Regiment of Foot in the British army,
who emigrated to the United States
to settle in Helena, Arkansas,
then became one of the Confederacy’s
best fighting generals.
And the whole time I spoke,
I watched your eyes shift focus
from my lips, to my eyes,
to the divots on my right ear,
to the napkin that removed
white wedding cookie powder
from your fingers, to the tea,
to a hangnail on your right ring finger,
to the shop owner’s bird clock
that sounded sand hill cranes at eleven.
Before I got to Cleburne’s demise at Franklin
you laughed about something
that resided only in your head
and would not share what was so funny.



Happy not sharing!


* published in Decanto

* the unignorable with Aimee Nezhukumatathil

* unignoring one another *
* unignoring one another *

Some things are unignorable.

For example, moths seem to be unignorable in my writing.  They’ve crept in and out of my poems for years now.  Experiencing moth season in Albuquerque, New Mexico only increased the fascination.

The bumbling after direction and light – yeah, I get that.

They are a symbol of fragility and persistence for me.  In this way, they are all that more human to me.

Human fragility and persistence are also unignorable.  Reading the poem below by Aimee Nezhukumatathil brought this lesson home.  While the world of the poem is a dark one, the lyric never loses sight of the human factor.  Through the final image, the fragility and persistence of the moth is made kindred to human predicament and struggle.  This poem itself was unignorable.


Two Moths – Aimee Nezhukumatathil* 

Some girls        on the other side of this planet

will never know        the loveliness

of   walking      in a crepe silk sari.      Instead,

they will spend        their days                          on their backs

for a parade               of   men           who could be       their uncles

in another life.         These girls memorize

each slight wobble                  of   fan blade as it cuts

through the stale       tea air and auto-rickshaw

exhaust,        thick as egg curry.

Men         shove greasy rupees        at the door

for one hour         in a room

with a twelve-year-old.                One hour —               One hour —

One hour.            And if   she cries afterward,

her older sister       will cover it up.         Will rim

the waterline             of   her eyes                 with kohl pencil

until it looks like                        two silk moths

have stopped      to rest       on her exquisite     face.


Happy mothing!


* published in Poetry November 2013

* special feature: Kenneth P. Gurney

This week The Friday Influence is proud to feature the work of Kenneth P. Gurney!

Ken and I struck up a friendship during my brief time in Albuquerque.  He runs the Adobe Walls Open Mic out of Page 1 Books, the used bookstore where I worked.  Once a month – while helping clean up and close – I would get to overhear the great community of poets he fosters there.

His poetry is marked by his background in art – surrealistic images abound – yet, there is always some of his sense of awe and humor throughout his work, something altogether his own.

Find out more about Ken and his poetry here.

Since moving, we have sent poems on postcards to each other.  I am happy to share some of the poems that have made getting the mail – where bills and rejection letters abound – a bit of a treat.


Missive – Kenneth P. Gurney

I wrote a letter to the earth

on the bottom of my bare feet

then walked five miles

on grassy lanes that ran

adjacent to greening fields

and two wood lots.

While resting

under the broad shade

of a century oak

I checked my soles and determined

the blue ink to be all gone

& I considered my letter delivered.


Catastrophe – Kenneth P. Gurney

Spring fails to create the perfect green

as the cat laps chartreuse spilled

from the dropped shot glass

where a trail of mucky pawprints

scub across the sparkling kitchen tile

like so many clouds

unable to congregate

and expel a healthy Albuquerque rain.


Happy congregating!

* jose