Poem #46: “I Am — Are You?”

Here is my last poem for the year. It seems fitting to post it on New Year’s Eve, a time of reflection. I wrote it earlier this Fall when I was discussing Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy with my philosophy students. If you’re not familiar with that work, you may still have heard his famous saying: “I think, therefore, I am.” (Cogito ergo sum.)

I Am — Are You?

As long as
I am
thinking
I am
must it not be
true?

But what
of you?

Do you
exist
apart from me
when
I am
not thinking
of you?

Or
are you
a part of me
that exists
only
when I am
thinking
of you
and me?

© 2016, all rights reserved.

As for my New Year’s resolution, I intend to write and publish at least 2 more books for my Aftermath series and to play less Slotomania.

Poem #45: “Ought-ism”

Ought-ism

What ought I to do?

A paralyzing question.
The good in me is adamant.
The bad says no one’s watching.
They are the same voice speaking.
No devil sits on my shoulder.
No angel whispers in my ear.

Just me

lost in conflict
staring at the candy bar
with my stomach
growling.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #44: “Claim Jumper”

Claim Jumper

The little thieves
have made a well-worn path
from their den in the creek bank
and through the copse of trees.

The trail ends under the barbed-wire fence,
and their tiny paw prints disperse,
spreading outward like the footprints
of forty-niners scrambling up the slopes
to stake a claim before the gold runs out.

The outermost rows—
so full of tiny golden nuggets!
—are theirs.

Or so they think. The box
traps in my hand say
otherwise.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #43: “The Paperclip Experiment”

I’ve written a few more poems over the past few days, and I just finished revising this one. It seems appropriate to post it, considering that the Fall semester is entering finals week….

The Paperclip Experiment*

Paperclips

A pristine
strip of steel
wire, untouched by
human hands, coiled
into redundant patterns
by robotic arms repeating
the same motion over and over
and over again without
growing tired. They
are all the same.

Kindergarten

A box
of paperclips
distributed—one
to a child—followed
by a simple question: “How
many uses can you think of for
a paperclip?” Laughter. Excitement.
Imagination springs to life as they begin
exploring the possibilities and find
hundreds of answers. The
researchers proclaim
98% of them are
geniuses.

Middle School

It is a
longitudinal
study, and the
researchers return
to test the children again.
This time, half the students
have forgotten how to use
a paperclip, half have
left their genius
behind.

Adulthood

The research ends
with the dismal realization
that most subjects have become
paperclips, molded by the robotic
arms of education into the same dull,
repetitive patterns, fungible units
that have little use for
creativity.

*In the YouTube video “Ken Robinson Paperclip” <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzBa-frc2JA&gt; (accessed 12/8, 2016), Ken Robinson summarizes the study on divergent thinking reported in Land and Jarmin’s Breakpoint & Beyond: Mastering the Future Today. As a philosophy professor, I have encountered many students who have misplaced their ability to “think outside the box,” and I do my best to pop the lids off those boxes to help students rediscover the possibilities. Perhaps some of them will find a use for a paperclip that will change the world.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #40: “Sisyphus”

The semester is winding down and I’m thinking about getting back into writing again. I’m not quite ready to resume work on Book 2 of Aftermath yet, though; I still have a week of instruction and another week or two of exams before I can shift my focus away from teaching and toward writing. So I decided to write a few poems to get the creative juices going. “Sisyphus” is one of those poems, and I’ll probably post a few others in December to close out the year. Next year, I think I’ll resume my goal of posting a poem a week (even if it is one from a prior year), but I’m not going to commit to that yet. We’ll see.

Sisyphus

The trail ahead of me
was behind me
yesterday.

Each step I take
retraces the same steps
I took to get here.

Up the mountain.
Down the mountain.
Always the same view.

The boulder—
.     my constant companion,
.     my only friend—
never complains.

Yesterday, I counted
the steps. Today?
I won’t bother.

Tomorrow…

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #39: “A Cry for Independents”

Okay, it’s the eve of the election and, rightly or wrongly, here’s a poem reflecting on my impression of it….

A Cry for Independents

Once again
our choice is limited
to two unworthy candidates
chosen by others—

one apparently corrupt
the other seemingly insane
(or so they say
about each other)—

and none of the rest
have a chance of winning
because only two parties
have the power and money
to buy the votes they need
to win.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poems #37 and 38: “Omen” and “Marriage Counselor”

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, mainly because of midterms and having nothing much to update on my writing. My white board is accumulating a cluster of post-it notes, though. I’ve developed a bit more of the plot outline for my next book and jotted down a few story ideas, but that’s about it.

I’m still toying with the possibility of writing a good vs. evil fantasy series, but I haven’t talked myself into it yet. I have a few ideas for characters and setting, but not much more than that. If I set it in the same world as my other fantasy novels, I’ll need to work up a better historical timeline than I have at the moment and decide whether it precedes these novels / series or follows after them. I’ll also need to decide on a name for the world, and I’m leaning toward calling it Skein. (The other option is Knittingham, but that’s a bit of a cheesy pun. It would work for The Drunken Wizards but not the other books.)

Anyway, here are a couple of short poems I wrote earlier this year.

Omen

Flower
after flower
the petals fall,
always ending
on she loves me

not.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Marriage Counselor

The Kama Sutra
lies open to
page 3.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

(Non-)Writing Update and Poems #35 and 36: “ASL 101” and “Barometric Pressure”

I spent the last week and a half dealing with allergies and sinus issues, and then preparing for midterms. This week and next, my students will be taking those midterms and I’ll be reporting midterm grades. If it goes normally for the Fall semester, there will be quite a few students in the 50-65% range on the exams, but I’m always hopeful students will use the review to help them do better than that. I’ll find out soon enough….

Needless to say, I haven’t written anything of note during this time. However, you may remember that I read the Harry Potter series earlier this year to find out why it has such widespread appeal. I’ve been thinking about it and may take a stab at writing something similar after I have finished my Aftermath series. I might be able to work a world-shaking battle between good and evil into the history of the world where my Angus the Mage and Aftermath series are set, but I think it may be better to build a new world for it. Either way, I’ve jotted down some notes for characters and potential ways to link it to my other series. We’ll see how it germinates over the next year or so.

In the meantime, here are a couple of short poems that I wrote earlier this year:

ASL 101

Her fingers flutter
softly spelling her name
over and over again—

but all I can see
is what lies hidden
behind the words.

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Barometric Pressure

the deeper

the silence

the deeper

the wound

© 2016, all rights reserved.

Poem #34: “mo[u]rning”

Well, it looks like my writing is on hold this semester. I simply don’t feel like doing it, and the note I put on my whiteboard isn’t making me feel guilty like I thought it would. It says in bold caps:  WRITE SOMETHING! (I suppose this post constitutes writing something, but that’s not what I intended….) Anyway, I have a rough outline for a couple of the characters in I Will Be King, but I still have quite a bit of thinking to do for the other three. Unfortunately, I just don’t feel like thinking about writing right now. Maybe after the midterm I’ll get something done, but no promises.

I haven’t written very many poems this year, either, but here’s one of them:

mo[U]rning

dawn
sun
shimmering

crisp air
fluffy white clouds

handful
of
cold dirt

light rain
mingling
with silent tears

© 2016, all rights reserved.