Poem #25: “Life in Paradise”

It’s been a little while since I posted a writing update, so here it is:

  • I wrote several poems this month, which brought my total up to about 100. Since my goal is to write 5 a week, I still need 160 more, but there’s still plenty of time to get it done.
  • I’m still plugging away on I Will Be King, but it’s still slow going. I’m over 30k with the revised scenes, and I probably have another 10-15k of first drafts that need revisions. I’ve also mapped out a number of new scenes, but they will probably change quite a bit as the characters take over when I write them. At least I’m far enough into it that I sent what I had to my mom and talked to her about it today.

So, here’s one of my recent poems:

Life in Paradise

I remember
the Garden of
Eden and its
perfect weather

—day after day—

the infinite
bounty of fruits
it provided

—day after day—

the naked,
ever-present
truths

—day after day—

all made
meaningless
by the repetitive
tedium

—day after day after day—

until the
blessed snake
showed me
the way.

© 2017, all rights reserved.

Poem #24: “First Grade Notebook”

First Grade Notebook

Do you remember the blank page?
The open white space and inviting blue lines
layered like the slats of a Persian blind,
wordless but full of imagination?

Or the pencil, sharp as a bee sting,
slowly eroding to a dull, flat point
until its wooden frame scratches
the paper with streaky, leaden words?

Or the sound of the pencil sharpener
grinding away at random intervals
as one by one our thoughts ran
faster than our pencils?

Or the feel of the cardboard cover,
stiff but flexible, a palace guard
keeping the valuables safe and making
time with the dog-eared corners?

Or the thin spiral wire spine
binding together the beloved words
and holding them firmly in place like
a stagnant river sated with deep thoughts?

Ah, that word stagnant! Did you think
of something foul, a stench so repulsive
that you almost tossed the poem away?
Or of eternal truths long immobilized?

There’s something to be said about
the smudges—the spoor of the eraser
blotting out misbegotten words
to make room for new insights.

Have you forgotten the feel
of the cigar-sized pencil gripped
by tiny hands and pressed
too firmly against the paper?

There was a banner on the wall,
high above us like God watching
to make sure we traced each letter
the way it was meant to be:

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

I didn’t either until my mother
brought out the old shoebox
full of lost memories written
with such painstaking care.

© 2017, all rights reserved.

Poem #23: “Lost in Love”

Lost in Love

I love you.
What does it mean?
Three little words.
I, I understand,
and you, too. We
use them quite frequently.
I want this.
You want that.
I want you—
that one, I understand,
and the other one, too:
You want me.
But what is that
pesky little word
that falls so often
between you and I,
pulling us so
close together?
What is this
love?

© 2017, all rights reserved.

Poem #21: “The Scar”

My Summer class started this week, so I spent time getting it ready and did a little grading. It’s my only class, so it isn’t going to be too demanding.

I wrote 18 poems the other day, so I’ll have some to post for awhile. I started “The Scar” about a month ago and finally finished it that day. Hopefully it was worth it.

I have revised and written some more scenes for I Will Be King, but I’ll hold off on an update until next week. I still feel like I’m in the beginning, but it’s already over 30k words. It feels a lot like Please Don’t Eat the Penguins and Installments. Both of those were slow-going, but I was quite happy with how both of them unfolded. I Will Be King is shaping up that way, but I’m still a long way from the end. We’ll see where the characters take me.

Anyway, here’s the poem:

The Scar

The crescent moon smiles
like an end parenthesis
tilted sideways, its smooth
white ridge framed by beige
skin and a sparse forest
of thin brown hairs.

Even after all these years,
it hasn’t eroded away, but
I remember when it rose
above the bald plains like
a mountain range poking
fun at the crimson clouds.

I was a boy then, seeking
adventure over the next hill,
along the riverbank, hidden
among the neighbor’s trees.

I had climbed that fence
a thousand times before,
but his time I was clumsy:
I slipped, and a barb slashed
a two-inch gash in my side.

It was a shallow wound,
barely a mark at all, but
it stung like hell and left
behind that smiling scar.

What I remember most is
the canary yellow shirt with
buttons up the front and a
stiff collar–the right side
shredded by the sharp barbs–
being tossed in the rag pile.

It was my favorite.

© 2017, all rights reserved.

Poem #20: “Double-O Swango”

I’ve written some more scenes for I Will Be King and revised some others. It’s close to 30k words long, and I’m still in the first section. Based on my other fantasy novels, it should be about 25% of the way toward the end, but it doesn’t really feel like I’m that far into it yet. Maybe some of the other sections will go more quickly, though.

I haven’t written any poetry since my last post, but that isn’t surprising. I still have enough poems to post for a few more weeks, so I’m not feeling any pressure to write any. Still, I’ll have to write some new ones soon. I wrote “Double-O Swango” after watching a documentary on Michael Swango (I think it was an episode of Unsolved Mysteries), and there are some disturbing components to the case. It’s not exactly surprising that he wasn’t stopped earlier, but there was ample opportunity for doing so. There were some moral failures along the way, and the investigative strategies of the day were less sophisticated than they are now. He probably would have been caught sooner if he was active now.

Double-O Swango

He got away with murder for years.
The suspicion was there, but not
the evidence. There was no proof.
His behavior was distinctly odd

and it troubled his coworkers at
the hospital. His patients started
dying. Strange, inexplicable deaths.
After they investigated—

nothing. They moved him to a different
wing—and the mysterious deaths
moved with him. They knew but could not
prove. He was too smart to get caught.

Or was he? The pieces were all there.
All the patients died on his watch.
He talked about his admiration
of serial killers. Witnesses saw

him enter or leave patients’ rooms
just before they died—one nurse saw
him inject a patient with something
but it wasn’t enough for the law

or the hospital. They needed proof,
not circumstantial evidence,
and had an image to uphold.
If they had done their due diligence

would he have been caught sooner? Could
he have been stopped? Hindsight says yes—
but it always does, doesn’t it?
They passed him on to someone else.

This time he was caught—but not for
murder, since his victims didn’t die.
He poisoned his coworkers with
arsenic-laced donuts and coffee.

This time he was stupid: he kept
the poison in his locker. He went
to prison, served his time, and was
released. He needed work. He sent

out résumés with forged credentials.
During the interviews, he lied
about why he had gone to prison.
They hired him, and then he got married.

More mysterious deaths. He was fired.
More forged documents. He was hired
again. His wife left. He remarried—
and this one committed suicide.

His past went unnoticed, hidden
behind all the lies, or they would have
thought to investigate her death
more vigorously. They might have

found the poison in her system
if they had. The hospitals might
have found his past if they had checked
his credentials. How many died

because they didn’t? How many
died because they passed him on to
someone else because they knew what
he had done but could not prove it?

In the end he was arrested
and found guilty of fraud. Another
prison term. Just before his release,
he was finally charged with murder.

He denied the charges. He pleaded
not guilty. Time passed. Zimbabwe
threatened extradition. The dreaded
death sentence was on the table

in New York. What else could he do?
He changed his plea to guilty. He must
have thought his life was worth keeping—
unlike the lives of his victims.

© 2017, all rights reserved.

Poem #19: “War Orphan”

I’ve made some progress on I Will Be King this week. I revised some scenes and wrote a couple new ones. I expect to get more done this week. The revised portion is up to ~25,000 words, and I’ve got another 15 or 20k of scenes to rework as I continue developing it. Since it’s still in the “beginning” phase, I suspect that it will end up being longer than my other books. We’ll see.

I’m starting to run low on poems to post, so I’ll have to write some more soon. In the meantime, here’s a short one from my last binge session:

War Orphan

Daddy said not to
eat the yellow snow,
but what about
the red?

© 2017, all rights reserved.