Pay all your bills, disable the router,
Shut down the software on your laptop computer,
Draw all the curtains and shut off the lights
And wait for the first of the silent nights.
Toss out the flow’rs; they were already dead,
Let the mole-snakes return to inhabit your shed.
Pack up your mother’s furniture, out of the sun,
Let the postbox be gorged with letters to no one.
This was my heart, my hell, my pain, my rest,
For too long, for far too long, my nest,
For years I tossed in my childhood sheets;
While dreams drifted slowly away, in silent fleets
Throw out the milk, set free the birds,
Give somebody else your windowsill herbs,
Dismantle your easel, pack up your sails,
Unsubscribe from ten years of promotional mail.
My flower stems are dying now; throw out every one,
Fold up the mountains and snuff out the sun,
Cash in the coupons and turn out the yard,
Recycle your childhood birthday cards.
Swallow your pills and hang up your clothes,
For nothing now resembles the life that you chose.
[Inspired by the form and meter of W.H. Auden’s Funeral Blues]
what are these sentinels in front of my words?
what truth do they protect?
Author’s Note: This Sonnet was inspired by the list made by painter Agnes Martin, whose own menial, often oddball jobs provided her with the boredom she needed to be creative.
I have worked:
- As a salesperson at a crystals shop in a bird park.
- As a waitron just once.
- As a volunteer dog-walker.
- In a cat hospital, at an animal shelter.
- Teaching someone the International Phonetic Alphabet.
- As an au pair.
- As a freelance writer for a doomsday prepper website.
- As a volunteer facilitator for special needs kids.
- As an on-and-off writer for a local travel company.
- In a witch’s costume, promoting a Disney Channel movie.
- As kidtrepreneur, selling shitty microwaved candles to my neighbors.
- As a gift wrapper in a children’s toy shop.
- As a user experience designer.
- As a summer intern at the national museum, putting labels on taxidermied animals.
I do not claim to write poems
I raise them.
Sometimes, I haul poems from rocky places,
like stubborn tubers from the dirt
until I see the glistening flesh.
If poems are seeded,
I need only water them
and hope they don’t turn out poisonous.
(I have already raised
a sprawling poison garden of poems.
that I lost control of years ago.)
Some poems are bricks that I lay, one by one
until a wall is built
And then I try to climb it.
There are poems that I rip like old paper
from walls I thought were strong
to expose other poems underneath.
Sometimes I want to paint over these.
Other poems I pull at, like feral threads
unraveling my imitations and the lies I tell myself
unraveling the comfort-truths I weave.
Some poems I raise from wells.
Dipping my bucket into depths I cannot measure,
giving and taking and giving,
until it gets at something
It plunges into water that I cannot see,
but I draw it anyway,
Bringing it up to daylight
that I can drink what’s there,
that it quenches me.
A poem is the divining rod that directs me
to bewitch it.
A poem is the germ that leavens the bread of my discontent
so that it may swell and become something I can cut open
I raise poems.
Each poem that I raise, in turn