The Pigeon King




*For A.F.
 
 

You are not the story you are seeking—

not on this calm October morning,

not in this quiet downtown library

where you walk, soft-footed, on the carpet

towards the effulgent fiction section.

Look at me. I am shaking. And you

are a chimera wrapped in smoke and denim.

 

You raise your hands in rumination

of the volumes stretched the length between us.

I put down my pen in apprehension,

but you don’t know I’m here, nor do you care.

It is a story your fingers solicit—

the alchemy of true transformation.

Does such a book exist? For any of us?

 

You were not the story that I wanted—

I craved an anointed queen; I got the pigeon king,

squinting at books and shuffling three languages.

Is it hope that draws us to these holy places

where books and man are the only miracle?

Or is it another cloudland gimmick from a king

in need of a book, by a woman in want of a story?

 
 
 

*This poem is a poetic response to A.F.’s exquisite poem about writing a novel: “What I Asked For.”

This poem was originally posted on October 17, 2012. I’ve since revised it for the tenth time, and I’m considering doing an audiobook version of “The Pigeon King” over the weekend.

Meanwhile, A Poetry Reading

 
 
 
Courtenay Bluebird with Goopy Henna in her Hair on Bluebird Blvd.
 
 
 

Consider this photograph of me a placeholder for later this evening.

My plan is to post an audio clip of me reading poetry (hopefully!) for your pleasure*.

About the photograph: The Husband took this picture this afternoon. I am wearing a full crown of goopy henna.

Why all the fuss with my hair?

I’m reading at a poetry event tonight.

In fact, I am I am getting ready to leave right now.

Thinking of you! —Courtenay Bluebird

*AS PROMISED, THE READING IS RIGHT HERE! After the Poetry Reading

 
 
 

Servante

 
 
 
jaguarsmithsonianmartinagrubercollection
 
 
 

No one watches correctly— the conjurer makes sure

all paying eyes stray to the glint of his large amber ring

before he speaks again:

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

She appears, but she’s not where she’s supposed to be.

The retiree at table seven is astonished to find the Queen bobbing in his gin.

The conjurer loans his grin to the surprised man while the crowd applauds.

Night after night, at home in his pajamas, the conjurer works the flourish,

the drop, the fangy smile in front of the standing mirror in the hall.

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

Not at home with the conjurer, that’s for sure.

He begins again. The flourish, the drop, the fangy smile

while the unseen world turns and snores in its bed.

(Or that’s how he pictures it.)
 
 

No one knows his patter— the story that goes with the cards

and the props and the brassy little band that drops its brassy little cues.

There are

the missing girls and the broken plates; the lost cards and the vanished flowers;

the doves that rise as smooth as white scarves,

from his well-scrubbed palms as he feigns surprise.

And under each story, another story:

the vastness of darkness and the terror of loss.

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

And the band misses its cue. Again.
 
 

In the conjurer’s version of his favorite trick,

the missing girl is a jaguar crouched in a tree, and the broken plates,

three men out to woo her down from her perch

with cards and flowers and white shuddering doves,

which she eats, whole.

(Spoiler: She consumes the men, too.)
 
 

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

She appears in the salad bar, crammed into the olives.

A woman yips, a man jumps.

No one goes back for seconds.
 
 

One night, there is a woman—

a smiling woman, alone at a table,

a beautiful woman, attentive and supple,

who laughs at his jokes and oohs at his tricks.

The conjurer begins his jaguar tale, caressing his cards.

(Under each story, another story snarls.)

It’s a beautiful day and three man go a-wooing

this woman with great big golden eyes.

(Here’s a surprise, she’s bewitched.)
 
 

At this point, the woman

turns her full amber stare on the face of the conjurer—

her eyes see all: the pass he fumbles,

the surprise he conceals, the volta, the drop,

the hidden drawer, and the fine secret pocket

that contains the map every man hides

of himself to himself.
 
 

He glares at the woman, who returns a toothy smile—

Do you see the Queen of Spades?

No. And now she’s gone.
 
 

But he must continue. So the conjurer tries

to enrich those familiar stories—

a woman transformed, a recovered map, a dove

to watch over you when you cannot sleep.

That what is smashed can be mended.

That what is unloved can be endured.

That there’s forgiveness from the unseen world.
 
 

But no one hears correctly— in this version

the jaguar goes at a nightclub

in the guise of a woman, a beautiful woman,

a smiling woman, starved for a meal. And guess

which magical dish

delights her amber eye?
 
 

Do you see the Queen of Spades?

No? Watch closely—

 
 
 

Frank O’Hara, I Hear You

 
 
 
Subway Construction in DC
 
 
 

blooming in my head this morning while the jackhammers

kick the asphalt six feet below the windows next to my bed.
 

Construction is not symphonic when it keeps the rhythm

of an old headache blistering under your left ear, like this—
 

Why is noise so indiscriminate in its audience? Your poems look

like noise, but they sing quieter than I do, though. In the end, each line
 

is you, whispering the names you love in a plainsong litany.

I think of you, writing, and I see a slip of notepaper unfolded
 

in your clean hand; you, grit-smiling in a bleached undershirt;

you, keening at your typewriter the day Lady Day died.
 

Your poems haunt me, Frank O’Hara. They do!

Your sweet experiments in tabloid tenderness; the way you pause
 

between stanzas to lean back and talk to your friends,

all those poets, all those painters— we know who they are now.
 

But that’s you, isn’t it? You knew how to croon over a name’s

own story, while I sit here, wearing old bed sheets at my desk,
 

fingers slapping the keyboard, kvetching about jackhammers,

carping at the road dust that will coat my words when this poem
 

is over.

 
 
 

This poem is a response to Frank O’Hara’s Personal Poem.

 
 
 

The Hobby Shop

 
 
 
DepartmentStoreDisplay
 
 
 

Today is like a rare curiosity behind a glass case

in the old dusty hobby shop that never looks open.

Still, you try the door this one time after you

get off the bus. The knob creaks, but it turns.
 

Today is like the man behind the dust-etched counter

of that old hobby shop. When you clatter inside,

his whole face lifts and blooms to see you,

a small stranger in a patched jacket.
 

Today is like a glittery shelf of all your wants,

and you’ve got ten dollars twitching in your pocket.

You’ve been saving up; you’ve been daydreaming.

But today, you’re awake and—
 

Today contains a simple event you don’t expect

to recall years later— a man with a combed mustache;

a box with ovoid lettering; your tiny voice, clear,

sure of its need: That one. That one, please.

 
 
 
 
 

Anatomy Lesson

 
 
 
Ruth  Kaufman 1942
 
 
 

Consider the animal nature
of your breath.
 
Consider the humid air that will not rouse
beneath the porch fan, and—
 
consider the paper flowers pinned to the eaves
bleeding cinematic dyes on the wall
 
in this heat. Oh, this heat.
 
Consider the blonde in the open car, careening
down the blacktop that leads to your house.
 
Consider the light, in swags, on the low grey
clouds that crowd the hills.
 
Consider the woman’s determined face,
haloed by the mad roar of her six-piston engine.
 
Consider the bright and uncertain nature
of most Saturday mornings.
 
Consider your hands. Consider the door.
Then consider—quickly, please—
 
bolting the lock, just this once.

 
 
 

Fine Calluses

 
 
 
Entering the Forest
 
 
 


The forest bends on one knee to take us into her arms.
 

 
Are you coming? The snow and wind write cursive

 
words in the frozen air. I wear 
a capelet of ice.
 
You wound your woolen sadness ’round
 your head.
 
 
I’m going back to bed, you tell me.
 
 

 
 
 

I stop to watch you turn back. This is
 

 
the last time we’ll dance together, and I know it.

  

I cannot wait any longer.
 
 
Neither can you. 
 

 
 
 

The wind stops
 its animal howl when I cross the threshold
 
of piñons; the lake drinks the fringe of evergreens,
 
and toys with a darkening sky. I am 
beyond
 
the why of these things; there is no why:
 

 
 
Human nature is only nature, after all.
 
 

 
 
 

The trees complain of the ice. The forest knows
 

 

I keep my humming to myself. I walk deeper
 
 
towards her heart.

 
 
 

In a different year, I would have felt your absence.
 
But that year went. This year built fine calluses
 

 
on my naked hands. In the spring, the thaw comes,

  

and I will rise from a green sleep, garlanded with
 

 
 
a crown of seeds.
 
 

 
 
 

No one mourns in the forest; no one can mourn here—
 

 
life begins in a place like this, and ends in a place
 

 
just like this. And there are songs we sing for each
 
 
wilding moment.
 

 
 
 

Some day the forest will sing those songs for us.
 
But tonight, the lake fills with evening stars,
 
and the wind carries birdsong and the rustle of pine trees
 
and there is silence that is never silent
 
for long.

 
 

A Secret Spring

 
 
 
Walking Barefoot Across the Sky
 
 
 

And some days it comes a little bit easier than others,
 
bubbling up from the loam, a secret spring
 
in a dry and lithesome land. And some days, but not
 
others, I am walking through the drying linens tucked
 
away from the street in Mrs. Kormos’ backyard,
 
where I left you going back and forth on a swing
 
twenty years ago, singing to yourself like some girls do.
 
And some days the alarm rings and no one wakes—
 
but the dreams produce sublime green tendrils.
 
So, it’s forgivable.
 
 
 

And some days, we rise up in a barking dog rush
 
mumbling up from sleep, alert, but late.
 
And some days, in fact, most of them.
 
I look up and realize I never finished
 
pushing you on the swing that day. I left; you kicked off
 
with your feet, climbing up that bright blue winter sky.
 

And there are days
 
when I can hear the snapping of ghost laundry on a taut line.
 
And other days still yet, I cannot hear anything but the marshy
 
hum of my own words bubbling up onto the page,
 
crude and wild while the phone is ringing
 
and I miss every little important thing
 
save for the words in front of me. And every day,
 
I remember a little bit more of how to tell this story
 
because it’s happening, it’s happening as I tell it, to you,
 
while you push back and forth on that crummy swing set,
 
climbing that brusque winter sky, singing loudly as you go.

 
 

5-Minute Dance Party [Bluebird— Stunning Short Film]

 
 
 

 
 
 

There’s a bluebird in my heart that
 

wants to get out
 

but I’m too tough for him.

 
 


I am simultaneously posting a different version of this Charles Bukowski poem on the new Bluebird Blvd. Tumblr— where you will find fragments of stories like gestures from a slow hand and slow-thrill photographs I’ve been setting aside in that overstuffed cabinet that is my heart.
 

Also, if you do get a chance, please check out the link to the filmmakers who created this beautiful piece below. The group California Is A Place does the most magnificent work. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.
 
 

Bluebird from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Keepers

 
 
 

 
 
 

I keep my heart tucked down a winding side street
 
of a city where it is dusk or night all the time.
 
Walk in any direction of this place and you might hear
 
tarnished bells rung by the stealth of silent men,
 
typists clacking love letters for a dollar a page,
 
and children thumping a leather ball in an alley
 
while they shout curse words too coarse
 
for adult ears.
 
 
 

I keep my heart behind a door, flaked with paint:
 
The bus will drop you near the market, no farther.
 
The women will turn the conversation to clocks.
 
The men will lead you round in fine ellipses.
 
The children will laugh at your strange accent.
 
The robed priests will dodge your questions
 
with eye rolls, soft murmurs in Cantonese,
 
or broken Basque.
 
 
 

I keep my heart in a city that I made from scratch.
 
The signs that should lead you to this place are broken.
 
The old roads twist the wrong way on purpose.
 
But should you listen to me speak, really listen,
 
you’ll hear this city thrum beneath my voice
 
clear as a route, bright as a bell, close as my heart—
 
metronomic and self-sustained, lit like a bare light
 
in a room both familiar and strange.

 

Boadicea in Darkness

 
 
 

 
 
 


In the night, there is thunder.  I wake in a drowsy sweat.

And there you are, Boadicea, draped in a wet wool wrap,

dyed an ochre ombre from the smoke and heat of war.

Your sandals slap the floor.  You brood towards my open window.

(Lightning grows open the room,  and groans us into darkness.)

The air thickens from the storm;  you stand wordless by my head—

our breath raised in tandem while I row on the sea of sleep.

In these depths, your hand touches my cheek once, and briefly.

I am not a war-torn island;  I am a woman in search of answers.

(Lightning illuminates our arms, turns our faces to darkness.)

Through this damp hour of night, I bathe in fresh fever:  A queen.

A warrior.  Knows a thing about a body.  A body is a country

ghost-governed by a dream.  A body is one idea lashed

to crenellated borders.  A body is a story that runs up against the sea.

(Lightning rises like tides and drops us into depths.)

The rain leaps through my open window;  I swim myself to sleep.

When I wake, you’re gone.  You trailed the night behind you

with your slapping sandals.  Still, your scent loiters: 

wet wool, new blood, a sweat-broken fever, the body, set free.
 
 
 
 
 
 
*A few words about Boadicea available through this link.

Imaginary Witness

 
 
 

[Nina Grieg portrait]

 
 
 


Ah. That’s the one.
 
The beat I’ve been seeking with my fingertips, restless on the table,
 
while the room revolves in fast motion through the dinner rush.
 
I stand. Twenty years fall away.
 
My napkin floats to the floor, and what’s more, I recall
 
the way I once applied lipstick with a practiced flick,
 
how I sat with my back turned to the wall out of habit.
 
With a blink, I am back. Forks clink to knives.
 
The dinner hour is almost over. I walk with purpose to the door.
 
The wars I’ve seen, no one knows what they are called anymore,
 
and I cannot find that silky lipstick in any local shop.
 
Lately, I have become another kind of invisible.
 
So, I wear the mantle of history like a fine wool scarf.
 
And I listen for the assured beat of forgotten rhythms—
 
my fingers tapping, tapping, in any unfamiliar weather.
 
 
 


 

More Persona Poems (Enjoy, my friends!):
 

*Morning 6 A.M.
 

*The Last Flight of Madame Zabang
 
 

Knuckle Dancing

 
 
 

 
 
 


Don’t be afraid to break things,

or to be broken by them.
 
 

The men at their books.

The men at their papers on this cold morning.

The men frown at their books and their papers on this cold morning

as grey doves lift and shake themselves in the market like a single worn shirt.

(And you, you will stand outside of the books and the marketplace.)

The smoke and steam rises from old grates, ghosts of a former city.

Do not be afraid to break, to be broken, like bread, like silence.
 
 

The women arrive en masse.

The women carry vegetables fresh from the wet earth.

The women hold these vegetal roots far from their silk dresses.

All lift and flow in the mist: the silk, the roots, the women.

(And you, you had better step back into the shadows; this is not your scene.)

The day burns the night fog. The new city is coming. It is made of lights.

Break your yeast-risen heart. Do not be afraid to throw a fist at the shadow
 
 

that flits in the curved tail of your eye. If you do not make,

you do not break, broke, broken. The day burns the night,

fog that is made of lights, a vegetal silence in the new city.

The men, the women, they see you walk out of the mist

and they raise their hands in greeting, all at once.
 
 
 
 


 

Hardcore poems: The List or Thirteen Ways of Looks at a Bluebird.
 

OUR SUNDAY BEST will return to its regularly scheduled slot as of next week. (See here for samples.) Are you excited?

 

Story Fragments

 
 
 

Keulemans common fox

 
 
 


Another morning. Another studio. Daylight winks across the wall.

I shake my pen to get the ink to run. I pick up the dictionary.

Do not be fooled. Language is feral. Words run, still,

as I attempt to drag my finger down the alphabetized list.
 
 

And the years change. And the names change.

And tamed, I sit in a chair, near a table, to a world aligned on axis

where the story claims to be exact. Do not be tricked.

There’s a plurality of stories that shudder awake in this place.
 
 

Each version ripples like muscle under animal flesh.

And the rooms change. Another here. Another pen.

I pick up my eyes to find you standing there: assured,

awake, cradling late season words in your arms, all new.
 
 
 
 

Other tricky poems:
The Trickster’s Daughters,
Equivoque,
Message, 6 a.m.

 

Improvisation

 
 
 
MargaretSeymourRoyalBallet
 
 
 


Forget everything

you’ve learned

as you breathe

into your hands

on this cold morning.

Six angular geese

write their story

across the sky.

A hazel-eyed dog

sighs against your knee.
 
 

Every song is a song

you haven’t heard before.

Yes, you know

this intimate tune

of forgetting

and remembering,

and remembering

and forgetting.
 
 

These falling leaves

caught between winds

allow your eyes

to make and remake

everything you see.

Forget everything

again and again

as you breathe

into your hands

on this cold morning.

 
 

The Mechanic

 
 
 

Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif. (LOC)

 
 
 


When your poem broke, you called the mechanic.

Her car turns into your driveway an hour later.

She stands in your entryway in stained coveralls.

Where’s the broken poem? She says. You point to your office.
 
 

She pulls out her glasses, her penlight, her pencil.

Like all fixers of the unseen world, she can discern

the illusion between there and here. Her face

is solemn. When did it start making a noise?
 
 

You do not know. It was a simple poem you built

in your spare time. Your first one, you think—

the one with the strange metaphor in the middle

that never worked quite right. This part over here—
 
 

She points with her penlight. —the torque is wrong.

The mechanic thinks it through, puts a hand on your arm.

You’ll have to rewrite it. It may take some time.

Here’s an eraser. Do you have a thesaurus?
 
 

She leaves in silence. Her bill will come later:

“One sonnet, broken.” What deceptive simplicity!

What strange stories the mechanic could tell—

but she won’t. Mechanics never do talk much.
 
 
 


 

*Another mechanical poem: Ten Speed

*Another broken story: Changing Lanes in the Middle of the Night
 
 

*ONE QUICK NOTE: I am back from my big Alaskan vacation! The comments section is open! I can’t wait to talk with you all!

 

Ode to a Composition Notebook

 
 
 

On the coast of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands? (LOC)

 
 
 


The marbled surface of your skin

is black and white, and regular.

But this cover protects the fine, thin

pages where the hand and eye and pen

will land, like a small wayward ship

tipped to an island, empty of man,

yet full of life. And I, a passenger,

press my words on the white sand

near to the center of you. I remain

affixed to this place that is not a place.

Though I sit at a desk, I feel as if I stand

on the shores of a new bright haven.
 
 
 

This poem was inspired by a prompt by my friend Kate of Old, New or True— Scribble Scrawl 15 Minute Challenge: Ode to a Trivial Thing that is Making Your Day.
 

*QUICK NOTE: Bluebird Blvd.’s posting schedule has changed from every day, to every other day, for the month of August, and possibly beyond. See the end of this post for information.
 

*SUPER-FAST POSTSCRIPT: It occurs to me that some of y’all might like your poetry a little more classical.

How about a villanelle about tattoos? In Ink, I Dare

Maybe you’d like to read a sonnet with strict meter about time? Accidental Origami
 

*ONE MORE POSTSCRIPT: Usually, I like to be super-prompt about replying to comments— because y’all always say the most interesting, funny and kind things. However, due to my trip, I ran out of time. Can we resume this conversation in a week and a half? (Thank you!)

Ode to a Writer, Immersed

 
 
 

Frances Dwight feeding the fish as a part of the underwater show at Weeki Wachee Springs

 
 
 


You read Virginia Woolf. You read Hermann Hesse.
You swim, word-weighted,
through the aqueous shadows
of a late afternoon.
 
 

You sleep and dream and sweat,
chased by language
that darts beneath the sunburned shadows
that ebb at dusk.
 
 

You laugh, and find your laugh
echoing backwards
in three verb tenses,
teased by tides.
 
 

You open your hand one morning
and find (oh, magic!)
a wavering handful of punctuation marks
that hit the water
and scatter.
 
 

Oh, they scatter—
 

you don’t know what you’ve done.
You wonder. You magician. You darling.
Open the book. Open the page. Open the pen.
 
 

Oh, they gather—
 
 

those words you admire, tucked underneath a rock,
indifferent to tides, subtle as a school of koi,
waiting to nibble the tip of your finger
doubled in ink.
 
 
 
 

A SPECIAL FLAVOR OF FEELING, JUST FOR YOU:
 

*A STORY: In Closets, My Dreams Reside

*A SONG: Stranger in Moscow

*A PHOTOGRAPH: Delicate When We Rise

 

On the Other Side

 
 
 

Ruth St Denis in a Burmese solo dance.

 
 
 


In clouded kimono, shimmied a fine dame—

whose violent chiasmi aggravated a cross tick.

Her lavender-scented bug spray entranced a foolish ant.

Humongous moon, roll over on your dark side.

Darkest matter, swallow errant stars—

And on the other side?

Silvery light, glittering, tickling the earth.

The sun makes the yellow snow—

whilst nitrogenous chickendung provokes the lawn to grow.

 
 
 
 
 


This poem was written by (in order of contribution): Courtenay Bluebird, David Mark Alvírez, Dawn Novak, Donna Essex, Sparks In Shadow, Professor J., Axxman300, Ernest, and Bob R. Bogle.

Thank you so much for writing this poem for Bluebird Blvd. I had the best time doing this with y’all!
 
 

This poem was created right here on Bluebird Blvd.!

*Chiasmi is the plural of chiasmus, which is explained here. (It’s a cool word!)

 
 

An Exquisite Corpse for the Silly Season

 
 
 
Dali3
 


The young Salvador Dalí

 
 
 

You may have noticed that there has been an increasing amount of lighter fare on Bluebird Blvd. in the last couple of weeks.

Although the weather in South Texas has not been nearly as hot as usual for summer, it has been hot enough that I crave lightness and sweetness.

I have noted that you, too, have been seeking out the light and the sweet. (To my friends in Australia— I will do my best to be cheery for you in December, which is your slow news season!)
 
 
 

For the Northern Hemisphere, the summer is traditionally an airy one for newspapers and magazines, who dubbed it the ‘The Silly Season,’ around the turn of the century. Should you type this term into Google right now, you’ll find all manner of Silly Season weirdness going on with major and minor press outlets.

What that means is that Bluebird Blvd.’s daily postings will continue as usual, but I am focusing primarily on keeping the tone especially light for the next month— more humor, more photos, more happy writing— all original, and all homegrown coming your way, daily!
 
 
 

To commemorate the official start of the Bluebird Blvd. Silly Season—which will go through the end of August—I thought we could play a game.

A writing game!

Have you ever heard of an Exquisite Corpse?

You haven’t? My gosh, we need to fix that immediately!
 
 
 

An Exquisite Corpse is a writing game in which one person starts a poem with a single line, then the next person writes a line, and the next. Each line has the same a fixed shape— in this case, Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun. (Articles, prepositions and conjunctions are allowed as well!)

There’s a catch— you can only read the line prior to the one you are about to write.

Let me explain a little more clearly—

I will write a line of a new poem.

The next person reads the first line, writes their follow up line and folds down my line so that no other player can read the first line.

The third person can only read what the second person has written, that writer responds with his/her line, folds down the previous person’s line, and passes it on to the fourth person.

You should only be able to read the last line right before your own.

As I cannot fold the page on a blog, I thought we’d do this on the honor system. Sort of.
 
 
 

Here’s how it works:

I will start off the poem, and after the first person comments, I am going to erase the first line.

The second person to comment will read the first commenter’s line.

The third person (and this is where the honor system part starts!) will need to skim past the first comment and look only at the line before the blank comment block where they will put their own entry.

Understand? No? Okay— read this explanation on Poets.org.
 
 
 

Now, let’s begin!

Remember— Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun. (You can use articles, prepositions and conjunctions too— the, an, a, and, to, or, and so on.)

Comments for this post will be closed at 10 p.m. CST Friday Night so the collective poem we have written can be posted in full on Saturday morning— with links! To your blog, if you have one!
 
 
 

Fun, right?

Hooray for The Silly Season!

Okay, here’s the first line of the poem, which will be erased after the second line is posted by the first commenter.

(Then, it will be reposted on Saturday morning with all of your lines! Are you excited? I am excited!)

 
 


The first line has been removed because the game has begun!

Thanks, David Alvírez! Eeee! Fun! Let’s write a poem!
 
 

FOLLOW UP: Bluebird Blvd.’s first EXQUISITE CORPSE is now closed!

The poem that we wrote, together, will be posted tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. CST!

Thank you for making this one of the most fun days on Bluebird Blvd. to date.

TO THE SILLY SEASON! With joy, honor, respect, and all the silliness we can create!

 
 

How to Take a Portrait (A List)

 
 
 

Mr. Hoover

 
 
 


For K.J. and J.—
 
 

Pick up the camera and loop the strap around your neck.

The camera is an eye, a hand, a heart.

The subject twists his fingers in his lap. His posture seeks your direction.
 
 
 

We’ll begin in a minute. Don’t worry— you’ll look great.

It is not you that will make him look good, nor is it the camera, or some subtle pass of the light, or the might of youth, or that elusive catch-all: a photogenic form.

An elusive characteristic must be present, playing all the parts at once: subject, object, camera, and spirit.
 
 
 

Tuck your overgrown personality into the smallest pocket of your heart.

Throw out your words.

Reduce your gestures.

Hold your camera like a supplicant; approach your subject with wonder.
 
 
 

He doesn’t know what to do.

Hand him an apple. Hand him a pencil. Hand him a book. Hand him his smile.

Can you turn your head a bit please? Ah, that’s perfect. Perfect.
 
 
 

You are there, and not there, at the same time.

The subject is there in full.

And the camera is there.
 
 
 

The camera is always there with its perfect round eye—

The camera looks farther into the future than you will know.
 
 
 

But, you? You aren’t really there.

You are an eye, a heart, a hand, a lens reaching out to ask a question—

that only time can answer.
 
 
 

PLAYING WITH IMAGES:

*A PHOTOGRAPH: First Light

*A STORY: Our Sunday Best: The Crossroads of the Eye and the Heart: Objectivity, Photography, and the FSA (Part 1)

*A SONG: Sally, Go ‘Round the Roses

 
 

The Dreaming Kind (A List)

 
 
 

Slovak Woman Immigrant Taking Nap In Baggage/1905

 
 
 

We will find each other.

At dusk, my car joined a stream of cars— a burlesque display of sound and smog—we were all trying to get back home, yeah. 

At a stoplight, a tall man in a low vehicle pulled up alongside my small grey auto.

His face was haloed in the golden light of a setting, lonely sun.

I had no answer to his non-question.

The light changed.  The light shifted.

I will see you again.
 
 
 

The touch of rain in summer, rain that dissolves as it hits my arms.

The promise of rain, heavy in my head, in summer, troubling slip of a song.

There’s a thin line between you and me and what we see at dusk—

if we are the dreaming kind.

Your face is haloed in my memory.  Your scent— new slice of apple; smoke from a dying sparkler; cold water evaporating on the skin.

There is no sin in memory. 
 
 
 

Summer crouches, tense like a cat on her perch.  I lurch into awareness on these mornings.

I have been traveling again. 

In sleep, my bags remain packed.   I cross borders.  I cross miles.   I cross over continents in a turn of my dreaming shoulder.   

I take a deep, rattling breath, and the contents of grand cities open to me.

In another life.

Because I am the dreaming kind.
 
 
 

We will find each other.

In a sharp sliver of a song on the radio.

I will see you again.

In one passing whiff of cologne on a stranger’s coat.

There is no sin in memory. 

In the flash of lightning on a hot summer night.

In another life.
 
 
 

In this life, the light shifts. The song wafts. The scent lifts. My bags are packed.

I am ready.
 
 
 
 
 


 
Craving more dreaminess?

The Passports of Dreamers Filled Page By Page

I Was a Dreamy Child

Fever Interlude

 

Reunion

 
 
 

 
 
 

Quick! Let’s write poetry.

We can use an old recipe from McCall’s.

I’ll bring the pen; you bring a battered notebook.

Find a sad song on the radio— the sadder, the better.

Throw in a clock and a book and a wish. Stir it up,

and wait twenty years.
 
 

Unfold. There. There. See between the lines

where you fell in love with Baudelaire and Poe?

You thought you knew the flavor of regret— you didn’t.

You thought it tasted of cigarettes and bitter tea— it doesn’t.

There are still sad songs on the radio, but they aren’t yours

and the tour inside your own remembrances

will bring no pretty souvenirs back home.
 
 

It’s today. I’m not yet forty.

I think of your flat excitement the afternoon I read your poem

on the side of the school. An orange autumn. We were sixteen.

The poem, printed neatly on the page, was not so good—

there were rains and trains and sweet tears. You meant

every word, but the words did not mean you.

You didn’t know it. I couldn’t say it.

Most great poems are not built

on columns of weeping.
 
 

Quick. I will tell you now

where poems come from—

no recipes, no rain. I owe you this explanation—

though it’s two decades too late. It’s words, my love,

just words that make a poem run circles around me

like half-broke horses. The song of their bodies

is their story. I stand still in their midst, strain

to hear a rhythm and a reason and a right. Oh, love,

I’ve been lined by ink all these wild horse years,

my poems embroidered by dust and sweat, my voice, clear:

Look close, for you’ll find no mystery here.

 
 
 
 

A Blue Afternoon

 
 
 

Street in San Juan, Puerto Rico

 
 
 

Toying around with a piano in the lobby of an old hotel. Picking up the melody, note by note. Remembering the chords as they fit. No one notices in the hustle of orchestrated arrivals and departures. It’s bliss, really, to play a pretty little song and hum to it on a blue afternoon.
 
 

Swinging your foot at the counter of a restaurant during the rush. Pea soup and a newspaper. A slice of buttery peach pie for dessert. The waitresses smile at one another as the dollars pile up on a Friday turn-and-burn. The woman at the counter sings a broken counting tune as she writes your total. The sky waits outside. It’s pretty, really, to leave the restaurant on a blue afternoon.
 
 

Walking the empty alleyways where the sky cuts across the buildings in cloud Cyrillic. A boy comes out of the back of a shop with the trash and he hums a little song while he clangs the dumpster. Your eyes meet for a moment, and then the moment changes. He picks out bits of a song. You sing along. It’s nice, really, to be alone, but in company, on a blue afternoon.
 
 
 
 

More entries from The Bluebird Pillow Book:
 
* What You Cannot Have (A List)
* Eating the Thesaurus (A List)
* Smash. Cut. Swagger. (A List)

 

The Trickster’s Daughters

 
 
 

Bertha Boynton Lum, Fox women, 1908

 
 
 

Never fool with the trickster’s daughters.

We nimble knots with our toes.

We count the exits before we enter.

We know our weaknesses and yours

are bound by fragile human

desires.
 
 
 

Never fall for the trickster’s daughters.

We hide knives in secret drawers.

We hold keys to soldered locks.

We own tickets to strange places

where our names will fall away

like old clothes.
 
 
 

Never trouble the trickster’s daughters.

We foil your dead man’s drop.

We double your blind man’s curve.

We drink the snake oil cure.

We loose the sirens that crash your car

into the sea and we

are rare creatures.
 
 
 

Never you mind the trickster’s daughters.

We cite your foreseen weaknesses.

We see your unknown strengths.

We solve a riddle with a question

you’ve been dying to ask

with the answer you won’t want

to hear—
 
 

We are the trickster’s daughters.

And a trickster’s daughter knows

that any time there is a chance

left to fate, left to man,

left to right, the hand

will pass over chance

and conceal the answer

you seek.
 

The truth.

No, you do not win.

 
 

The City Aquarium

 
 
 

  Exhibit in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey County, California, USA. By Daderot— donated to Wikimedia Commons

 
 
 


Perhaps this is the place I never left at the age of eight—

perhaps I still stand in front of the glass tank—

and the seahorses still converse in the flowing grasses.
 
 

Perhaps I touch the glass with one uncurled fingertip.

Perhaps a single seahorse winds toward me,  slowly,

and we linger together,  in temperate communion.
 
 

Perhaps I stayed there.  Perhaps I left.  Does it matter?

My finger rests on the glass.  The seahorse dips his head.

In the aquarium,  all of the echoes make echoes to break
 
 

the lonely hours.

 
 

Interregnum

 
 
 

 
 
 

The day is coming when I will see myself on the street.
 

I emerge from a bookshop to the chiming doorbells,
 

while that other me, the one I’ve been expecting,
 

sits at an outdoor cafe with an old pen and a new notebook.
 

That me claims the light of a late afternoon sun.
 
 
 

I can see it— the young me, the older me, the moment
 

of recognition from the one who has been where the other
 

is going. My older face will be filled with the scrollwork
 

of the story I’ve been telling, with emphasis, for years,
 

while the young me wears empty parentheses on her skin
 
 
 

and hidden endnotes underneath her clothes. Don’t fret.
 

There is a third woman, also me, smiling benevolently
 

from this page. I am dressed in white space. I am neither
 

a parenthesis, nor an emphasis. I mark the time. I mark
 

the page with a light dot. I am elliptical, and I am here.

 
 
 

Run Deep and Rise

 
 
 
Zweefduik / Swallow dive
 
 
 


It rained, today, for ten minutes, downtown.

Heat and humidity conspired for an afternoon to create a veil of dense, warm air around our heads.

We walked in murky clouds.

The pressure built and built, like the crescendo of a piece of music without break, or release, or refrain.

And when it finally rained, I, and every other pedestrian walking downtown, looked up in wonder at the sky, and then at each other, sheepishly.

It’s just rain, right?
 
 
 
In my notebook, without annotation, this quote from Alexander McCall Smith— Your actions will be returned to you, faithfully, one by one.
 
 
 

I was downtown today because I was finally going to the metropolitan library with my list. The list that you, my friends, helped me to make.

The list my friends made for each other.

I asked for your help.

And you arrived, cheerfully, with a list.

It turned out many of us were looking for a new book. The book we cannot find anywhere.

Underneath need is an opportunity for bounty, shared.
 
 
 

It’s just rain, we said to ourselves. Ten minutes of light staccato on the arms and neck.
 
 
 

The books in libraries are small revelations with spines.

The people in libraries are epiphanies with soft voices.
 
 
 

A librarian at the end of her shift gave me much more than I originally thought I needed. She is a reader of contemporary science fiction.

It was the end of her day. She could have pointed me to YA and sent me happily off on my way.

Shifting from foot to foot, the librarian ran through a whole selection from the playbook of current science fiction.

I thanked her and staggered off with a notebook stuffed with brilliant titles and scrabbled notations.

She took extra time with me today because I mentioned that I hoped to share some of these titles with you.
 
 
 

In my notebook, today: Interconnectivity and words. Butterfly Effect. How do bats navigate in the dark? Do they help one another?
 
 
 

I fought through a book drought for months and months.

Finally, I asked you about your favorite books.

You shared your bounty with me, and with each other.

You were in a book drought too, as it turned out.
 
 
 

But, then, it rained.

It rained for ten minutes this afternoon.

And for ten minutes, we became synchronized swimmers in dappled light.

We lifted one another up, one by one, to crest the surface.

No more pressure. No more drought.

Just rain.
 
 
 
 
 

TOMORROW, we begin our DUNE in JUNE read-a-long for the month of June! Are you excited? I am seriously excited. I am going to have a hard time sleeping on Friday night! YEE! Excited!
 
 
What you will need to do: Read a little bit of the first part of Dune to get a feel for the story, then show up at your leisure any time from Saturday onward to chat. I’ll bring questions and links. Consider me your literary tech support. You just bring your wonderful self, okay?

 
 
 

What I Said the Night You Wanted to Go and Catch a Movie—

 
 
 

 
 
 


Wait.  Right here at the center of the square at five o’clock
 

a gent shall arrives with his dog and his accordion case.  Wait.
 

Behind him now clips a tall woman,  twitching the hem
 

of her skirt.  Wait.  Across the way, a grey haired fellow
 

in a patched jacket is sliding his hand over his heart like so
 

at the sight of the tall woman.  And the woman flicks
 

her hem at him in mock annoyance.  They are in love.  Wait.
 

The accordionist’s dog lays down by the fountain, slaps his tail.
 

Wait!  The man sits on the stone wall by the fountain;
 

and opens his accordion case across his knees like a book.
 

Wait.  A violinist ambles down the alley to meet the man
 

with the accordion, who now opens the bellows of his instrument
 

as if unfolding a surprise,  as if releasing something wild—
 

Wait.  All the world conspires to play with you.  Just wait.