Cats are a part of my life—sometimes whether I like it or not, LOL. So I write about them. But a cat isn’t something that can be corralled into a poem, as if I could capture them with words. More probably, cats indifferently wander into my poems because they have nothing better to do, or because I’m not paying attention to them, and if anyone is going to not pay attention to someone, it’s going to be them not paying attention to me. So there.
The following sonnet captures a story familiar to cat owners. I hope readers will find it amusing (my family laughed, and I don’t think they were faking 😉). But I don’t recommend reading it just before you eat 😆
I’ve barely cracked a book of poems when
a lurching, braying, guttural noise erupts—
like a donkey crossed with a sump pump. I jump up
to see what’s up and find my cat has thrown
up. But it’s just a little puddle sooo….
I go for paper towels downstairs. WHOA.
Just three steps down I find another pool,
and every step past has MORE bilious drool.
I minefield-prance past bile piles, lighting on
the basement floor, then to my horror, spy
a slop of hair and spit that makes me wan.
At times like this, I wonder: “Why do I
have pets?” Some people say cats have nine lives.
To me, right now, that’s just nine ways to die.
At one time or another, most of us will feel longing in some way: a road not taken, a friend who moved, disappointment with work, wanting to have children…the list goes on. Sometimes, we can’t put our finger on what we’re longing for; everything is just permeated by a vacuum.
I’ve come to think of longing as hope’s sick cousin. Like hope, longing looks toward something it doesn’t have. But whereas hope fuels optimism and nurtures endurance, longing slowly poisons with despair. Below is a poem I wrote about longing that also helped me process some I was dealing with. This poem appears in my book, Event Horizon, which just came out on Amazon.
is grief’s daydream.
It dances alone,
holding an empty hand,
touching an empty waist.
Longing is a stalker.
Longing folds its hands
to an empty chair.
your eyes climb
a black hole.
I don’t always grasp the full meaning of things I’ve written. That might sound odd. But sometimes, I’ll finish a poem, and it feels right but I don’t understand why. I might only realize later why a verse had to end a certain way or why an odd word choice is nevertheless exactly what’s called for.
My second book of poems, Event Horizon, begins with a poem I didn’t grasp at first. The poem imagines the wind as someone who is lost, distressed, and walking in circles. I end the poem by saying the wind is “unable to find / where it came from.” That part came all in a flash, and I liked it, but I didn’t know why I liked it or if it made sense.
As I re-read the poem days later, I thought of Jesus’s words: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). John’s gospel later says that Jesus knew He had come from God and was returning to God (John 13:3). One born of the Spirit knows where he is coming from and going to, even if observers can’t tell whether he’s coming or going.
It struck me that the lost wind in my poem is one not born of the Spirit, who doesn’t know where it’s coming from or going to. This was an added meaning I hadn’t intended but that (to me) deepened the poem (especially the end).
My second book of poetry, Event Horizon, is now available on Amazon.com! I hope readers will pick up a copy. You can find it by clicking here. Event Horizon is available in paperback and Kindle formats.
Event Horizon truly is a product of the new focus on poetry I began in 2020. The Wind and the Shadows was a collection of poems written anywhere between the early 1990s and 2020. There are a handful of older poems in Event Horizon but 2/3 to 3/4 were written in 2021 and 2022. Because of this, a few of the poems reflect the political and pandemic angst we’ve all felt the last few years. But that’s not all. I also explore writing that is dream-like or based on dreams. Finally, you’ll also find me trying out some poetic forms like luc bat and villanelle—signs that I’ve been exploring poetry more intentionally.
To cap off this post, I will share a poem from Event Horizon called “Snow Tears.” If you would like to read other poems from this book that I’ve posted, find the list of categories at the bottom of the page and click “Event Horizon.” Or, type “Event Horizon” into the search bar near the bottom of the page.
It’s the week after Christmas.
I’m back at work.
I step outside
to turn out
the lighted wreath
by our door.
The street is vacant
with a slow, muffled dripping
as the eaves and trees weep
I’m happy to announce that my second book of poems, Event Horizon, will be available on Amazon in the next week or so. I hope that readers will check it out and pick up a copy. Event Horizon will be available in paperback and Kindle versions.
In anticipation of the book’s release, I thought I’d share the title poem, which captures my experience of driving past a cemetery one evening. When Event Horizon comes out, I’ll be sure to post about it and share the Amazon link. Thank you for reading!
in the night sky
as I drive past
a blank bordered by
the lights of surrounding properties.
In a few seconds
I am past the cemetery,
but my mind has reached
an event horizon
and can’t pull away.
My thoughts seep below ground
into cavities where
bones feel no chill
and skulls lie,
through black holes.
Luc Bat is a Vietnamese form of poetry I blogged about earlier this year. The name means, “six, eight” and refers to the alternating lines of six and eight syllables. There’s also a fun rhyme scheme, which I diagram in my other post.
“Coloring Outside the Lines” was my first attempt at a Luc Bat poem; it will appear in my second book, Event Horizon, which I plan to self-publish in June. This poem celebrates the space arts provide for us to be children again. This is more important than we realize since we remain children of God no matter how grown up we are.
Coloring Outside the Lines
It’s A-OK to pound
a piano (for sound) when you
can’t beat the floor and fume.
Screaming is fine in music at
times but not on a street
corner. Splattering paint on the
wall will often earn a
whoopin’. But paint thrown against plane
engines, speckling runways,
is met with great acclaim as art.
Statues can run round stark
naked but live nudes startle men.
Sword fights are risky when
they’re not confined to pen and page.
Sobbing or fits of rage
are quite at home on stage but not
in other public spots.
Clearly, we’re not robots. Maybe
arts create space to be
kids again, to make believe, to
wail without caring who
hears. We can strip down to our bare
souls and run (if we dare),
and play with all God shares, dreaming
in crayon, coloring
outside the lines of things defined.
“Imagination is funny
It makes a cloudy day sunny
It makes a bee think of honey
Just as I think of you.”
So goes the song popularized by Frank Sinatra. But imagination works the other way too. Pathological imagination often presents as fear and anxiety. This is what inspired “Cobwebs,” which appeared in my first book The Wind and the Shadows.
One of the ironies about imagination gone wrong is that there’s absolutely no reality to the fear. It’s just a cobweb without a spider. Even so, we can get all tangled up in it, paralyzed by our diseased belief that we’re prey. That being so, I hope you don’t read this poem right before bed 😉
I flip on the basement light.
draw dark legs
holes in the walls,
and blind corners,
where imagination whimpers
and squirms against
Life is full of routines. Some routines (like work or school) we don’t have much choice about. We attend church every Sunday because knowing God within a community is deeply important to us. Other routines evolve around fun: popcorn on Wednesdays, Family Pizza Movie Night on Fridays, etc.
However routines start, they can become automated, mechanical. Now and then, I step back and think about the many routines in my life. Are they still meaningful? Do they still bring enjoyment? Often the answer is yes but if it isn’t, should I stop or modify a routine? Whatever the answer, reflection is always a valuable exercise.
“Habit” is a poem that explores unexamined routines. It will appear in my next book, Event Horizon, which I hope to self-publish in the next month.
I don’t know why
I do it anymore.
the same path,
retracing desire’s steps:
turn here, turn there;
this is the way to go;
that’s a dead end…
This is just what I do now.
I am a rat in a maze
I hope you also take a minute to read my poem, “The Vineyard.” It is a meditation on God’s kingdom; I use imagery from scripture to imagine the kingdom as a vineyard that flourishes and is fruitful because it grows from the death of Jesus.
I am grateful each time one of my poems is published. I pray readers are touched by the Lord and by whatever measure of artistry I’ve been given. My goal in writing poetry, besides creating something aesthetic, is to continue responding as the Lord stirs within.
My daughter, Kate, attends high school at Wilson Hill Academy. Recently, her biology class had two projects: 1) do something artistic about genetics; 2) create a related meme. Kate opted to write six haiku about DNA and create a meme about writing poetry.
We have writers on both sides of the family, so Kate comes by her writing skills honestly, as they say. I was most impressed with her haiku. Besides each haiku being about DNA, the last letter of any given line ends in the letters used to represent the four nucleotides that form DNA: A, T, G, C. These four combine to form base pairs: A with T, G with C.
When you look at the three haiku on the left, each line ends with one of these nucleotide letters. On the right, each line begins with the nucleotide letter that would form a base pair with the last letter of the line across from it. So if the first line of a haiku on the left ends in A or T, the first line of the haiku to its right would begin with A or T. Or if a line ends with G or C, the line across begins with G or C.
Maybe I’m just a proud papa, but my mind was blown! To go with the blown mind, Kate’s meme about poetry made me laugh out loud because it’s so true. Anyone who has had a blush with writing poetry will relate:
Thanks to my readers for bearing with me as my buttons burst burst 😊 Kate, I’m sure, has a long life of writing ahead of her, whether poetry, fiction, or some other way of putting pen to page. However that skill manifests, one thing’s for sure—it’s in the genes 😉