i learned to blaspheme

 

at an early age

I learned to blaspheme

of course my God

was money

thru pokemon cards

and plastic cartridges

containing computer chips

crafted by japanese otaku

teaching 6 year old me

my native language

 

to learn english

from my grandfather’s enemies

enemies a half century before

me being born

 

my ancestors fought

what they thought

were monsters

 

to them there was nothing

to justify

a surprise raid

upon a military base

on a colonial occupation

of a pacific island

yet we were just another

empire

 

religion and ideology

looked down upon now

although they survive

in different forms

 

in my prime

I took no part

in battles

I only sat in tents

and occupied

public land

and didn’t strike back

when crushed

by the man

 

I followed a now

forgotten black flag

 

then dropped it

thinking others will pick up the fight

 

the Japanese girl

across from me

on the train crossing

over the river I cross

every day the river

named after an english murderer

of native americans

 

the Japanese girl

across from me

on the rocking train

crossing over a dead murderer

wears a camo jacket

w/ a stars and stripes

patch on her drab sleeve

 

all in the name

of another idol

 

globalization

 

I learned to blaspheme

thru seeping structures

deconstructed

Denying All-Encompassing Meaninglessness

Every day I try to maintain or reconfigure my poetic compass. Although I don’t necessarily write a poem once a day. I like the idea of writing poetry each and every day, like William Stafford did, but I think choosing not to write a poem at a given moment can do as much nurturing as writing one would. I went to a reading where Curtis Bauer mentioned this as an important question that the poet needs to ask, should I write this thought or experience as a poem? I find that if I internalize a subject, a poetic idea in particular, then all different perspectives of it brew in my mind, sometimes subconsciously, and so I’ll get to the point where the poem blooms out of me seemingly spontaneously. Yet how can this be true? Shouldn’t the poet be content with attempting to create something out of nothing at the moment the idea sprouts? That’s true, but there needs to be a reason for searching for reason.

For me, not writing a poem helps me think poetically. Much of my poetry has to do with observation, hence relating external reality to internal semi-reality. I used to think that there was no such thing as objective, external truth. Surprisingly enough poetry has changed that for me. I hear people say that poetry is the most subjective form of expression when it comes to literature, and I couldn’t disagree more. Good poetry should strive to be universal. And no, I don’t claim to believe now that poetry is in the business of telling the truth, not only because that’s cliché, but because it’s insincere when poets exclaim that, and also not humble. Apparently the mindset for many in contemporary poetry is that you’re in one of two camps: the self righteous truth-seekers, or the insincere, excessive irony users. I’m not explicitly in the business of irony because that’s all been said and done before. America’s popular culture and capitalist society are irony-laden enough already, there’s no reason to unnecessarily inject more into the mix.

What’s the point of irony if you’re only unveiling something that’s thinly veiled? I’ll be honest; my poems are often dotted with observations of the ironic. Take On a Corner of “the French Quarter” for example. It’s a poem that at first sight is simply observational, a street scene, one that is stated to be insignificant in the first line. But there’s more to it underneath. “A cameraman from Channel 6 Action News/films insignificance on/the corner of 18th and Walnut./A police car is parked in front/of TD Bank across the street./The trash can named/’Big Belly Solar Compactor’/overflows with debris and graffiti/has been sprayed on the side.”

These first three images belie irony because they allude to larger societal problems that can be seen in the dichotomy between the rich people strutting around and those who come up to me asking for a cigarette or spare change at the end of the poem. The cameraman is filming a supposedly innocuous street scene that in reality portrays the outward signs of income disparity in a section of the city that caters to the upper class. The police aren’t protecting people but banks. The supposedly high tech, “green” trash compactor doesn’t do its intended job and has been reclaimed by the streets with a graffiti tag. These are just two images that are at first only observational but then become ironic given societal implications.

And yet the irony in this poem is not overblown and not meant to be obfuscating. It’s even originally unintentional, as I set out to simply describe what was happening before me. Yet as I revised the poem I arrived at a point where I was able to extract meaning out of the seemingly mundane, the otherwise insignificant. I realized that the poem reflected a nurturing step on my poetic path. My goal is to reconcile truth and irony, and in order to do that I must nurture my writing at times by not writing, but thinking poetically. I try to analyze the world around me because there is meaning in the mundane. And doing so helps me fight against nihilism, which is the reason why I write poetry in the first place.

Kierkegaard wrote about overcoming what he called levelling, which is similar to nihilism. Sketch by Christian Olavius Zeuthen.
Kierkegaard wrote about overcoming what he called levelling, which is similar to nihilism. Sketch by Christian Olavius Zeuthen.

If I Had a Gun

the exit sign has been lit in vain for decades

a founding father has finally been forgotten

scream into the pitch black

a feminist obsessed with Bukowski

an insect on the wall passing up morsels

holding out for a feast

angst and sex on a day of rest

she cannot see the forest for the trees

laws know not necessity, breaking blood and bread

her thoughts are an endangered Bengal

these words are final and accustomed to failure

as we are certain of our graves

Can’t Help Myself

the best feeling

not being there

Quakers holding

rifles across the ice

a slave played by a white actress

how pathetic

never moved on from

prejudices in the past

hook-nose girl, our clothes

are now manufactured by slaves

not harvested,

obvious glances and

the token homosexual friend

laughter can cause murder

instead I’ll vomit blood on her pastel button-up shirt

Leftover Beer and Melting Shadows

Image
by Stephanie Gonzalez

I am not ungrateful

designate a meaning

arbitrarily,

the fake white beard

becomes intolerable

you sound like Elvis

howling plagiarism

to stupid girls

and now old men

you deserved

your end

translucent

face with makeup

shimmering waste

trying to catch

another glimpse

softly petting

your rough hands

it doesn’t get

any worse than this

disgust and apathy

ironically mix

in this microscopic blender

there is no listen,

only hear,

I don’t mind,

I just get the job done

these sores are representations

of humility and disgrace

when did the ground become

so distant