Sunday, April 23, 2017

National Poetry Eh Who Cares, Part 4: The Book of Prayers

There is a small chapel at my place of work where visitors can write their prayer requests, or write prayers for others. I think about it a lot.

 The Book of Prayers


Dear Lord help me not to feel hopeless.
Dear god-that-may-be, angels and saints although I
haven’t seen any evidence, and who
cares for the prayers when the book has been filled? Who
kneels in a circle of candles and incense and  
blesses the pages? Who sets it alight
in a ritual cleansing and scatters
its dust to four corners?  
I just want to tell them all: Wait.

O body O body where
does your Hopelessness live? All over my hands, in little
moles and splotches. I just walk around with it. How
else can it be housed. And the prayers, where
are they supposed to go anyway? Where.
Who’s monitoring.


What you are seeking is freedom, the condition of which is peace in the heart. Do you want to ease pain? Do the prayers compel you? Because it makes you question the alchemy of having put them in writing, which does matter, and also the dilemma: If a prayer is spoken in the woods, does it make a sound? More importantly, does it work as advertised? God would like you to listen more often, meaning, to go fully into the futility. But also to think of your favorite birds:  blue jays, herons, the black-capped chickadee. A prayer is sometimes gratitude, sometimes an ache. Sometimes the flavor of hope which is the flavor of candy. Sometimes a teacup, or a minor death. Or something that rises on the water, great wings dripping, terrible and knowing it. Sometimes: A rosary, a wheelchair, a gondolier, an incision. Or simply the way in which God has written us, oh light divine.


God skids across the floor like a daddy long-legs. Who hears? The telescope
was never removed from its box. There’s nothing to see
anyway, our stars have long been swallowed
whole by a perversion of light. A swathe
of sallow air, two swallows. A whole sky
drained of its angels. All of my thoughts
are soothingly banal. The fish
are climbing the ladder to get home, their
thick backs wagging the infinity symbol.  
The crows have had their heyday, now the leaves.
The gathering decay.
And I would ask of you this: Did you awake in peace?
What if I never.
Then I would ask of you this: Every day, bless one thing. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, April 16, 2017

National Poetry Eh Who Cares, Part 3: Fun with Spacing

Continuing with the trend of publishing what the heck ever odd, orphaned poems I want to for National Poetry Month, here is a poem I wrote a while back that plays with spacing. I’m not usually one for getting fancy with that sort of thing—I like to keep my poetry fairly straightforward--but I wanted to play around with the concept. Here are the results:


Box                             for observational


Box                             to notate,

to deconstruct.

Insert Tab A.             It’s hypnotic the motion

of tuck and fold.

Imagine:                     flaps as wings

I have kept my life
small, the way you asked me to.

Box:                            Imagine it flattened, a throwing star,

how much more hands
are capable of than this.

Box                             upturned carelessly on a slipshod lawn, unwitting

shelter for that which tumbles into it.

Box                             we will not breathe a word
of containment.         Box, a holding place.  In a way, a heart. Miraculous

origami.                     Enjoy, especially the

violent                        surgery

of splitting                 tape with razors

of looking                  and removing.

Then                           the breaking down,

A weakened              structure, lolling

against others           similarly collapsed.

Gone soft,                  we think in our power.

Broken down.           I have always

sagged in your honor.

Refused                     to hold, or

hold up.

In other news, I am getting very frustrated about my eyes. I recently switched optometrists, coincidentally at the same time that the brand of contacts I’ve been wearing for the last fifteen years was discontinued, and none of the new brands I’ve tried are working. The problem with optometrists is that they always want to get clever with the vision hacks. They have this undying faith in the idea that my eyes will “adjust” if they bump down my prescription a bit, or give me one contact for close up and one for far away, expecting somehow that both eyes will meet in the middle and all will be eye nirvana. None of it’s true. My eyes will not adjust. My eyes are very stubborn and stuck in their corneal ways. They’re not putting up with any of this convoluted algorithmic tinkering, no sirree Bob. They want their old contacts back. I’ve been wearing the last one of my old set for far too long now, and they’re about to disintegrate. I have my fourth appointment in six weeks this week to see if they can finally find something that will work. If not, I’m going to give up contacts altogether and just be a lame-o four eyes for the rest of my life. Bleh.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, April 9, 2017

National Poetry Eh Who Cares Part 2: Bus Rules for Myron Milk

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m going to continue in the vein of last week’s post and put out some more poem scraps/unfinished work, in an ongoing effort to demystify the creative writing process and champion imperfection.  

Here’s something I’ve been working on based on a “contract” I stumbled upon a few weeks ago:

Bus Rules for Myron Milk

I, Myron Mitchell Milk, agree to follow these rules on the bus:

I will not stray from the routine.

I will not get off before my stop to buy orange jellies.

I will not miss my stop because I was dreaming of Chloe with hibiscus in her hair.

I will not snatch the honey from the old lady’s purse and eat it with my fingers.

I will not stare out the window and imagine the moon.

I will not make up tales about a monstrous dog.

I will not beg the passengers to read my hand-drawn comics.

I will not get carried away by the sunset.

I will not sing ballads about the travesty of shoes.

Poor Myron’s draconian, boot-on-his-neck bus contract led me to consider other contracts, both written and unwritten, and what I would agree to:

I will not convince myself the well-heeled lady in line in front of me has a charmed and perfect life. I will not buy a plane ticket to Hawaii without due notice. I will not waste time imagining what could have been, given a different time and different circumstances, but rather will scale the walls of grief with quiet dignity. I will not be branded a nature poet. I will not ignore the length of days or the slow decay of summer. I will not deride the daffodils. I will not accept the first diagnosis. I will not hoard roses. I will not startle the delicate. I will always hold a single grain of salt on the surface of my tongue. I will not romanticize genius.

I jotted down a list of other possible contract poems: Contract with America. Contract with my Makeup Bag. Contract with the Television. Contract with My Soul. Etc. But I haven’t gotten anywhere with any of them yet.

And here are a few final scraps to round out the week:


Things that are hollow: reed and cup
palm and chamber, bone socket, eye
and larynx both. Stray lash, rib of boar,
prophecy. Cone and sternum, stem,
star plate, rosy chant, core of
grain, hopsack,
herringbone, claw of spine.  

of sparrows in long descent against the drowning sun


Though Spring this is not  
season of sowing. We will have  
a long spell in forage, root
our hands in ink pulp for worm
onus , globe omen,  worry stone.  
Anything luminous. Anything transmutable.
Anything to imitate passions of the heart.
To hold up to a mirror to
angles and map:
The shape of our emptiness.  

--Kristen McHenry