2020-04-29 Mathematics and Other Tragedies

I could draw myself into a spiral. I could pretend to be a straight line or paint my life as an isosceles triangle in perpetual motion. The faster it spins, the more the points blur into circles that create borders that can’t be penetrated.

If I was reborn as a star, would I have five points or six? Or Seven!?? Would I be a better poet if I was a broken heart, or the zig-zag white space between the two separate halves.

Hearts don’t ever break in half. It’s never an equitable split. Most are fragments shattered like that round dish that was dropped on accident or because it was too hot to touch. And there are never any answers for that. Just possible explanations and plausible deniability and revisionist history. What geometric shapes are those? It must be a chapter I haven’t gotten to yet.

I’ve spent so much time with my face on the the floor because of gravity.

I’ve spent so much time enduring air travel trying to escape gravety.

I’ve spent so much time trying to learn how to finish this geometry so I can finally move on to algebra 2.

I fear there’s a long way to go before gravity will start making sense.

So many apples. So little time.


You’re welcome for that nonsense. You know a lot of the poetry I write is sort of nonsense. Or based on little connections in my brain and sparks of thought where one thing just leads to another. I think the closer I get to finishing this mfa program, the more my brain will feel the freedom of writing what I want to write again for me, and my sanity.

I’ve spent so long studying craft that it’s altered my perception of reality. It’s hijacked my creative instincts in some way. Or perhaps it’s that my life is just good now so I have less to muse about.

Here’s a secret (spoiler alert, some “poor me” might slip in here). Once upon a time I was in love with a guy. And having been previously conditioned to have a fear of commitment, I was unable to go all-in. Right up to the day that I realized that’s all that was left for us. So I tried it.

I convinced myself with this little nugget of logic .. if my heart gets broken, then I’ll just have so much good poetry. Yes, I actually told myself that. That was me bargaining with myself to tip the scales in the favor of the “all-in” option. It worked.

Then, wouldn’t you know it all fell apart after that and my heart got crushed. And then you know what happened? There was no fucking poetry. I just cried all the time and couldn’t write a single line of a single poem. I wrote a lot of journal entries (mostly because I didn’t have close friends to talk to), but the empty space where those poems were supposed to be crushed me even more.

I had trusted myself, and was betrayed. So I said “I’ll never do that again”.

Yeah, so that’s that melodramatic charm of mine coming through again.

Fast forward 4 years and I’ve finally found a few lines and arranged them into a poem and it was such a clinical process that I actually learned something about myself and also about the art of making poetry. That was the point I guess. It passed the JP test and made it into my thesis manuscript.

I’m attached to the idea of it more than the poem itself.

After my heart was broken in 2016 I turned to a guy friend for comfort. I thought I loved him too. Which is a blurry line.

I loved the idea of being in love with him.

I loved the way he spent so much time with me and listened to me and held me when I cried.

He was always clear with me “we” could never be, so it was safe. I didn’t have to worry about the unknown quantity in the air after I said “I love you”. I knew the response and that was in some fucked up way, really comforting.

If you tell someone you love them, the Tough part is in having their response be unexpected.

What have I learned? That I really loved Matt, and that I really loved Josh but for different reasons, and Vis, and of course Brian. Stitch all that together and the picture becomes more complete. It’s a complicated shape. Still a bit above my current geometrical comprehension, but I’m nothing if not a diligent student.

What other option do I have anyway? That’s life.

Thanks for hanging in with what was not intended to be a rehash of my broken heart again. But, I will take all I can get.

XOXOXO 😘
~Miss SugarCookie

2020-04-28 Hidden Tracks, Nostalgia, and Serious Feels

I’m listening to a new playlist I created last week. It’s pretty much the bomb and full of songs I’ve forgotten I loved so much and some new ones I didn’t even know I owned.

Each new selection leads down another road of thought, which is pretty incredible, but it makes me feel sort of ADHD. I can’t focus.

One minute I’m sad because I’m reminded of Matt and how our relationship ended (“Poetry by Dead Men” by Sara Bareilles) and the next one leaves me dancing where I stand (“In Your Room” by the Bangles) or laughing out loud (Sweet As Whole by Sara Bareilles). Then there’s “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette.

That came on just as I was finishing up on the treadmill and though I like that song, it doesn’t really do anything for me. I listen all the way through though, because I know what comes after… a song that was “hidden” on the CD on the same track as “You Oughta Know”, but you have to wait through a minute or so of silence to hear it.

That’s right. Some of my music comes from CDs I ripped and imported into my music library years ago and the “Jagged Little Pill” CD was one of those I’ve had since I was 20. My first thought when I knew what was coming was how kids today will never understand hidden tracks or secret songs. They get their music streaming from some service and so those golden nuggets died off with the CD.

I wonder if CDs nowadays still have those things? Hmmmm.

My second thought? Well… I gotta listen to the song but it always makes me cry. She sings about going to her lovers house and enjoying spending time there alone, thinking of him and musing about their love. Then she finds a letter on his desk from another woman and it takes a turn. She’s instantly heartbroken and leaving salt in the bed. It’s an incredibly moving song for me and, well, the tears always come.

But then the song ends, you know, and then it’s Lily Allen singing “The Fear” in my ear and it just makes me bouncy again. That song s from a very different era of my life and hearing it takes me back.

35 years old and getting a divorce and as challenging as that was, my nostalgia about it is the color of freedom. I finally felt like I was in charge of my own life for the first time of my life. I was 35 and had never lived alone. Never picked out my own dishes or paint colors without someone else’s ok. Just listen to the song “I Could Say” by Lily and that’s the essence of my life back then.

I mean, I’ve tried to capture this in a poem, but it’s one of those elusive things. And frankly, since that was years ago, I’m not inclined to try anymore. I’ve got plenty of content from the present. I thought the other day that I could write a bunch of poems about that time in my life, but I ask myself “do you want to spend your precious time in the past, or do you wanna focus on now?”

The answer (right now) is now.

And right now, I’m just enjoying these tunes and the feels and whatever will be will be. Poetry or no poetry.

That’s all I’ve got time for on this taco Tuesday.

Peace and Love and Music, 🎶
~Miss SugarCookie

2020-04-17 I’ve Got Too Much “Poor Me” in My Poetry

To be fair, I’m really referring to just the one poem I’ve reworked a hundred different ways and each time I try to sneak it into my manuscript, my mentor says “nope”.

To be fair, he’s only seen two versions of it and not the fifteen I wrote before or the 30 I thought about writing but didn’t or the hundred times I cried about the central subject matter when I was living it in 2016.

I’ve got a handful of poems that he’s tagged as “too melodramatic” and I get it. He says it turns the reader off if there is too much “poor me”. I get it. I really do. I read Natalie Diaz and Rachel Mckibbens and Robert Creeley and even good ole Emily and there isn’t a drop of “poor me” one can squeeze from any of it. So I have to figure out how to lament about my poor broken heart very “matter of fact” like. Either that or just give up. Sometimes I wonder about that option.

Take the last 24 hours for example. I met with the Poetry crew for the new lit mag last night and we had a good chat. In the sprit of getting to know each other better, we shared out a sampling of our own stuff. I only needed to read as far as the first persons poems and I already felt like I didn’t belong. Pile on poems from the other two and I end up feeling like I have no business in this business.

I have to remind myself that everyone has a different style and voice but it is hard not to compare AND not to feel a little like “poor me” is the best I can do. My poems are boring. The subject matters are very “so what” and once I start down that road, all shapes of doubt start to follow.

What’s a girl to do?

I haven’t written anything worth while this semester at all because I’ve been too busy revising and the world has been too busy with its pandemic and aint nobody got time for first draft nonsense (well, lots of folks do actually, just not me).

So how do I take my stupid unrequited love broken heart poem and make it matter of fact? I mean, the section of the manuscript is called “In Cataclysm” so what do you expect?? How about something like this….

I said “I love you”
And he just turned and walked away.
Echo of silence.

I cried after parent teacher conferences
And every day and night after that.
Echo of silence.

The election came and went
And I couldn’t even care.
Echo of silence.

I became a hollow bone white husk
and no-one seemed to notice.
Echo of silence.

I hosted a New Years Eve Party
and drank myself down the drain.
No more echoes. Just silence.


(I left out the part where I wanted to die. Cuz that crosses the line into “poor me” territory). Perhaps the answer is to kill myself in the poem. Just matter of fact like. Dead, done.

I hosted a New Years Eve Party
and drank myself to death.
No more echoes. Just silence.

That’s attempt 221 folks. Put another talley on the board.
Now switch all the abstractions to images and waa-laa!

I swear, if it is the last thing I do for this damn thesis it will be to figure out some way to get this stupid poem into a format that is acceptable.

I little part of me (OK a big part), is just so sick of revising poems. I’m starting to have all sorts of ideas for other projects and just want THIS project to be done. Yes, I want it to kick-ass, but I’m over it.

There I said it. Maybe if I get all the “poor me” out of me in this blog, I can just go edit those poems like a boss and be done. That’s enough pondering for now.

Time to Make the Donuts,
~Miss SugarCookie

2020-03-31 Crisis, Evolution, Kaczynski, and Poetry.. Oh My!

If you’re into drama and the sob-story of a broken cookie, I’m all about that today. If you’re here for the poetry, skip to the end…

Yesterday I was hoping to send my thesis preface and manuscript revisions off early in the day. You know, release myself from the hold it had on me. But it did not happen until much later in the day and once I did pull the trigger on that communication, I was not released. I could not let it go. I was still toiling in my head over certain sentences and the end and the worry that I had repeated myself too much somehow in my explanations. I need to let it go.

Even as I tried to sleep, I was plagued with ideas and little bits I want to change. It’s a good thing it was just a draft and not the final. The preface is 17 pages of elaboration about my personal journey and the internal and external influences that were important to the development of the manuscript contained within the thesis.

On one hand, 17 pages is a lot of words to string together in a succinct and organized fashion. On the other hand, it’s very difficult to condense so much into that space. It’s like saying, there’s so much more, but here’s the highlight reel. It’s not easy.

Making the cuts for the manuscript was very much like that too. Of all the hundreds of poems I’ve written, these are the very best and also the most relevant to the story I want the reader to experience.

See how I just can’t stop thinking about it or writing about it?! Insanity. I had intended to pivot this morning and write about something completely different but my brain hijacked itself. Good grief.

I was going to write about the document-drama Jim and I finished watching last night, Manhunt. It’s the story of Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) as seen mostly from the perspective of the profiler and linguistic analyst who put the puzzle pieces together in order to solve the case. It’s such a well made show— I highly recommend it.

The last episode was so moving, I was on the edge of my emotional seat and teary-eyed through the last 15 minutes of the show. Some of that was the way the writers and directors set up those final scenes, but more than that it was the thought provoking nature of the entire story. Did I say I recommend it?? Yeah, put it on the list.

Thinking about it right now is giving me chills. It’s so tragic. And I’m not talking about the bombing victims (which is of course horrific). I’m talking about Ted and his life—his ideals and his misused intellect, the disturbing psychological experiments he was subjected to as an adolescent, and his subsequent lack of empathy and compassion. That a person can be so broken is hard to wrap your head around.

For me, the ideas he believes in hit pretty close to home. And he didn’t just believe them, he lived them and maimed and killed compete strangers to make a point and get his message, his manifesto out into the minds of millions of people. I know only the sliver of it that was portrayed in the two shows I’ve now watched on the subject but it makes me want to read the manifesto.

From the shows, the essence of the message is that technology is the root of evil causing a downfall of society. And that if we turned our back on it and pursued a simpler way of life, we would all be better off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this same thought.

And who am I? Just some girl sitting on her couch watching a show. I’m so afraid of the destruction humans are causing to this planet. I’m afraid for my children and future generations that will certainly see the polar ice caps completely melted, the rainforests reduced to flatland, creature extinct, and not enough clean drinking water.

Can tech solve? Or will humans have to change? Can we invent our way out of this fix or do we need to really heed Ted’s warning and change our way of life? Will we evolve or will we die?

And just like that, I look up and see myself in the mirror. I cut my own hair yesterday and could not help thinking about how good it looks this morning. How in the world can that be? I wrote about a year ago about the same exact experience and here I am, and it’s happening again. I’m reliving that moment. That’s unnerving.

It’s an anchor poem in the final section of my manuscript. The evolution of self and the poetic voice is one of my central themes and my manuscript preface gets pretty far into describing that theme and the aesthetic aim of this particular body of work.

See, just like that, I’m back thinking about that damn preface. I’m stuck in a viscous cycle. I want to go with the flow, but when your flow seems to be circling back on itself, it’s tough.

This damn pandemic is not helping. People need people. But sometimes those people also need to be alone. For real. This morning I listened to the news on Alexa and when they started talking about what is happening in New York, I just stood there and cried. And other major cities are not far behind. Soon New Orleans will be at the same point that New York is now, the healthcare system taxed beyond its capabilities. I can’t even think about it without becoming emotional. Here I am worried about my thesis and my hair and whether or not I will actually get to go outside today and people are suffering and dying in mass. My God!

I have to stop there, you know, I’ve already gone on way to long again. I’m ending with that poem “What’s in the Mirror” which was originally written May 31st 2019 and is now a 6th draft. It certainly does not adhere to some of the “rules” that govern this craft, but it is an accurate reflection of my experience.

With Much Love and Virtual Hugs,

~Miss SugarCookie

***

What’s in the Mirror

It’s morning again and I’m looking in the mirror.

Natural curls cling to each other in fluffy waves

on top and tight, smooth spirals underneath.

I flip it forward,

check the length,

and flip it back.

I admire how it looks better after waking up

but something’s not quite right.

Something inside is throbbing

and aching—winding up and unwinding.

Could it be my heart—too heavy?

Or my mind stretching

to get around some grief

like the sky being too big

or the possibility of a world without a sky—

existence where the words “blue”

and “rain” and “clouds” have slid

away from lips

into oblivion.

What if it’s not me at all

but a different girl, Sarah,

who I barely know.

She was raped on a date last week

and wrote a poem about it

and posted it on Twitter.

I’ve laughed with her

over giving the finger to the moon.

I want to reach out to her

and stand next to her in solidarity.

Or just hug her.

But what if it’s that other girl, Kala,

who I used to know.

She died of the cancer

that crept through her body

and sank its teeth into her bones.

When she died she left

two babies behind.

They will only remember

their mom as a person fighting

for her life. They will never know

the bright, fiery strawberry blond

who hung out at Billy Frogs on Fridays

after work drinking cheap vodka crans.

We laughed at our co-workers

and split nachos. I can’t reach out

to her or hug her

because she’s gone.

It could be that it’s that other girl, Z,

who I know so well

because I gave birth to her

and she’s getting ready to fly

and the sky is impossibly vast

and could collapse in on itself at any moment—

strands of air clinging together as they spiral down

and crash into the earth

and leave her drowning in a dirty brown sea

with nothing blue or green to hang on to.

My mind flinches and stops

on that ominous dead end street.

I can’t stop time

or un-melt the polar ice caps.

I can’t save anything or anyone

from the certain doom that happens naturally

when human beings are involved

because they are inherently selfish

and sometimes only think about

how their hair looks

when they wake up.

2020-01-01 MFA Res Day 4 – Sisters of the Star Blossoms

This is the day I’ve been waiting for All My Life

All My Life, Life

My All, I give you my all, all my alll

And everything I have acquired. All

That has been imprinted upon me by this

Cruel and magnificent life. My

Brilliant insignificance and you, your

Unanswerable questions and unknowable elusive answers and endless abstractions. Yes, I noticed it. Thank you. For your gift of the tools and desire to unwrap them. A thirst for Christmas morning. So giddy with anticipation and wonder. Laying awake wondering if it’s time yet. The silhouetted shadow cracking light into the door saying it’s time. Pulse quickening, eyes jumping out of bed and rushing still in a nightgown. Unprepared and as prepared as I have ever been as I was born with all of the essence I had before I met you. Down the stairs, rushing hand on the wooden banister, skipping every other step and picking up speed, Seeing the lights of the tree, twinkling in the dark morning. A bounty spread under the branches, spilling out on the living room floor. Pausing to bask in the wonder for an impossible moment and rushing in. Reckless abandon, fingers sliding under the seam and tearing, ripping, turning over. more tearing revealing. Wild joy as I hold my treasure up, beaming, for the camera to capture the moment. The gift and i In our inaugural moment. Together at last, never to be separated again.

So many gifts to open. This

is what I have been waiting for.

All my life.

***

Yesterday was the last day of 2019, the last day of December, the last day of the decade. The end of the SugarCookie that was and the beginning of the SugarCookie that will be.

We sipped and talked in the lobby of the lodge. We wandered into the library lounge and congregated at the bar and then out again. We settled into overstuffed couches and chairs and put our energy into oracle cards, Kuantans Yin, each choosing one and reading in the book what it meant for us right now, on the precipice of a new day, month, year, and decade. I received Sisters of the Star Blossoms which was impossibly appropriate for my situation right now in life, down to the details only the universe knows.

We wrote wishes for 2020 on paper and then ventured out into the cold Nebraska night to stand in a circle and burn them, sending our wish to the universe. Ritualistically Placing our trust and faith in a higher energy. I believe that if I believe it, the magic will happen.

(Just watch the polar express and try to prove me wrong).

We milled about a little longer, then hugged and exchanged well wishes and wandered down the hallways, some going up and down stairs leading to our separate rooms to sleep and wake up new and changed.

That was four hours ago. I’m not necessarily refreshed of course as four hours is just a long nap but I’m jazzed and ready to roll. Today is my workshop and that’s exciting cuz I love it and also nice as I don’t have to prepare, just show up and listen.

I have two back to back lectures starting at 9am first. Before that I have to get dressed for the day and eat something. Before that I have to finish this walk.

In order to do that I have to finish my current thought. I have so many swirling it’s hard to cut it but I need to do that. I’d probably stay here in the basement for another hour if I had the time. I don’t have that luxury though so I’m going to have to just end it.

With gratitude and love,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-25 Writers Workshop Whammy

Where are we at today? Ah yes, in writers workshop where my poetry is being critiqued by an eclectic group of undergrad students. Most of whom, might I add, have had more exposure and experience than I in studies about literature, poetry, and writing in general. I got my undergrad in computer science, so what do I know anyway?!

One answer to that is that I know some things which only life experience can teach (and I have about 20 years on all these kids). I digress.

I submitted a poem to workshop which was a tribute to Terrance Hayes. Mr. Hayes is a poet whose most recent book, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, is (in my opinion) a masterpiece. If the words “tribute” and “masterpiece” do not make it abundantly clear what my position is, then I’m truly lost. Anyway, so I wrote this poem – a double sonnet, which I worked for quite a while on to get the sound and sense of just right. And might I add that I am proud of the way it turned out and would be honored if it ever reached the eyes and mind of the person who it was written for. I mean, I truly did toil over each line and phrase and combination of words.

To the critics who made me well up inside and out with angst over hearing their impressions and criticisms, I will concede a few points. There are word choices I did not realize would be offensive. Mind you, it’s a group of all white students save for one gal who remained silent the entire session (except for saying she was staying out of it). A couple of ill-placed line breaks which made the interpretation of my “white” poem seem racist. There I said it. That was the main tension in the room, that my poem was taking on a subject in a way that was offensive and inappropriate.

That somehow, in my attempt to praise Mr. Hayes for his skill and mastery of the poem and of language, I came across as crossing some line that shouldn’t be crossed. To me, hearing these comments was most disturbing because I was not trying to play a race card at all. I was not trying to use his blackness or my whiteness to any end. I used (sparingly) a little of his language and that was taken as appropriation. In the poem I was basically saying that he has done something I could never do and that I can never truly understand his words because his history and experience are so different from my own, but I can try. That I want to try and understand.

Right. In the poem I’m literally saying I want to try, I have to try, for my sake to make something more, to try and learn from what he has to offer and empathize with his plight. It is a poem about love of language and bowing down to the skill of another.. and if anything, the need in this hour of human kind for a little understanding across boundaries. Good gawd.

To be fair, there were a few comments that were counter to all the negative and one person said it was “the best poem they have ever read in workshop”. I think it was this differing of opinion that made people want to keep talking about the subject. In any case, The discussion ran long and the class was due for a break so the prof said to cut it there and take 5. I took my 5 to the bathroom on the 3rd floor of the fine arts building and arrived back after I had regained my composure (which took longer than the 5 minutes allotted).

I’ve never cried during workshop before and I’ve been in workshop with Kate Gale for god sakes. What on earth am I doing letting these comments get to me. I didn’t have the time or space to put together final comments so I basically just said something about my intentions. That It was meant as a tribute and high praise and was not at all meant to be offensive. I will probably change those line breaks and maybe another word or two here or there, but as for the rest? I’ll stand by it.

It kind of makes me think about that Robert Frost poem, Road Not Taken, which was written as a lighthearted jest to his friend who often lamented taking the wrong path. That poems true interpretation and intention has been argued countless times in the last 100 years (originally published in 1916), and at the heart of that, lies the secret of poetry – which is that it has layers of meaning and is always subject to interpretation in the mind of the reader. The meaning can be opaque and perhaps, in some cases, it’s better that way.

Now I’m not comparing myself to Robert Frost (ha!), but I would say that if my poem stirs that much discussion and controversy, then I might be on to something. If one measure of a good poem is that it makes a person remember and elicits a conversation long after it is over and done, then look how this poem might be a huge hit.

My only counter to that is that I don’t actually think it’s that edgy. I really don’t. In a way, I think these workshop mates of mine are just looking for something to be critical about. Still (as I said) I will revisit the poem again to make a few adjustments. I suppose the only true fix to this predicament is for me to have it accepted for publication. I should start doing more of that anyway.

Perhaps one day I will be posting a “conclusion” to this post in which I’m announcing my success. A girl can dream anyway right.

Ok.. that’s it for today. I’m over it.. and out!

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-22 A Love Letter for Today

A Love Letter for Today

 

My words are a love letter.
To love is a verb which doesn’t always mean
the same thing as it did the day before.
The bible says that it is patient and kind but i find
more often than not, it can also be lonely and wanting
and hopeful and full and sometimes stomping it’s foot
in defiance, not wanting whatever meaning is given that day.
What do the men that wrote the bible know
about anything really? How can you trust an ancient mirage
someone might have seen or heard
and language so new in the mouth
not everything had been named yet?
We can only know of love what we experience
in brief existence. And we can only know our thresholds
according to what came the day before.
And we can only learn the capacity of our cup
if we dare to let it run over once or twice
and can never know when or why it’s bigger
or smaller than the day before.
My words are a love letter to all who might listen
for a moment, in the morning to the birds
or gaze out a window, steam rising from a warm cup in their hand.
Those who allow themselves to be mesmerized by the dryer vent
pushing heat into the cold
or their breath as they wander out to get the mail in December
and also those who hold the importance of a moment up, in wonder.
Or a lifetime. Or a life.
Or each other. For all things fragile are a wonder.
I thought once that pain made me feel alive
and believed that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
Now I believe only that what doesn’t kill me, leaves me alive
to try again tomorrow.
My words are a love letter to myself. To my future self
who will never read them, just as so many others who love me
and will never read them.
This love letter is just words.
Some of which don’t know the meaning of themselves yet
Or might mean something different
tomorrow.