The Black Flag

She conquers me with her legs,
we sink, under the waves of Agami.
I’ll drown now, under the black flags,
if it means I can watch her.

When we reach the bottom, we find old things,
memories,
a merry-go round,
its two horses rotting,
she wipes away a layer of barnacles,
the way she wipes away homesickness.

And it’s there that I find her,
riding, she’s leading or I’m following,
spinning in circles,
slapping the horses’ backsides – ‘faster and faster!’ –
into a steady blur.

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Burden

At five,
we made ourselves into kings;
the way boys do with their grown-up thoughts.

We’d pull a blank page,
scrawl lines across it like an atlas,
“that’s my kingdom”, “no, that’s my empire”.
And by sunset I’d own half a continent.

The next time,
we set fire to the cities we had covered,
to hide the fact they tempted us,
to hide how we always tried, but we could never be.

We made tents out of our shirts,
the wind blowing against them like a sail,
pushing us one hand by one hand,
until we’d wake up.

Map & Compass

She had a stroke of genius,
when she traced the collarbone to sternum,
that place of muscle and faith.

She kissed the scars I earned as a child –
playing victim in the backyard,
acting daredevil in the front –
and she said they taste just like Alexandria.

At God’s feet are all things,
like this girl embracing me,
this girl blowing into me,
playing her instrument,
and I make the sound of a child.

POETRY UPDATE: 50 done, 50 to go

I’ve somehow completed fifty poems now, twenty more since my last update. I’m glad I decided to continue down this strange road. I’ve regained an ability in the last few days to observe more closely and emotionally the world around me, and a desire to try to squeeze what I can from life.

I’ve decided to continue forward to the next ambitious goal: 100 poems in a 100 days. Wish me luck.

In these next few weeks I will begin a more disciplined reading of the poetry of others – to get inspired, feel part of a community and experience foreign ideas and perspectives for seeing the world.

I’ve also been debating whether or not to do a Kickstarter campaign of my own, like I’ve been recommending to others, to fund a limited edition chapbook printing of my work called ‘Whalebones‘.

I’ve sent out a couple of emails to potential book designers to get an estimate on how much this would cost and how best to present about 30-40 of my poems. So the patrons wouldn’t just be funding the publication of my work but also the work of this other creative individual.

Because my poetry has dealt with my own memories and childhood symbols I think an audience of patrons would be able to identify with the work. I think most of us are on a similar search, digging up moments from our life and trying to make narratives out of them. I think there could be a kind of shared therapy that comes out of reading the poems and then being inspired to write your own.

I’ll keep you updated if I move forward on that.

What Thirty Poems Taught Me

This past April I participated in National Poetry Writing Month where I had to write a new poem everyday for thirty days.

It was an ambitious goal and I was worried if I actually had thirty poems in me. Would I even have time to write everyday? Would my tendencies of being a perfectionist and procrastinator get in the way of the work?

Well, I discovered in the first few days I could consistently write a poem/day if I  ‘lowered my standards‘.

I didn’t think in terms of making a masterpiece everyday, rather the goal was simply to write a poem, good or bad, it didn’t matter. Because of this, ‘success’ was a lot more achievable, all I had to do was consistently show up at my desk.

It also helped that I was posting my daily poems publicly on Facebook & Twitter. The few friends that followed along helped me stay accountable and consistent.  And I think it offered them a window into another side of my creativity.

So, besides accumulating thirty little pieces, I was reminded of some basic writing habits I had somehow been neglecting:

  1. The power of 30 days: I was surprised by how quickly a difficult habit can become commonplace in your routine and the unpredictable side-effects that new addition can have on the rest of your life. This can be a habit that is central to your career goals, like in the case of Jerry Seinfeld and how he used a simple wall calendar to become a better comedian, or it can be an opportunity to try something new and strange as encouraged by Googler Matt Cutts.
  2. Being playfully creative: it was great to have a writing outlet that I didn’t have to take as seriously as my other work.
  3. Daily creative work/exercise: most of my day is routine, very little of it is actually creative and/or challenging. Very little of my days or even weeks are spent on some project that involves my senses and memories. That kind of work is usually reserved for the hours before a deadline or when I’m in the rare creative mood. It was great to do something everyday that exercised my writing muscles. It reminded me that I need to be screenwriting every single day if I’m serious about being a filmmaker.
  4. The power of language: using poetic phrasings to evoke imagery and emotions improved all forms of my communication. I could feel its impact in all my exchanges, from simple email messages to verbal conversations with strangers. I was somehow braver with my ideas and feelings and because of this my words felt a lot more authentic and meaningful.
  5. Save certain creative ideas for more appropriate mediums: I am a visual screenwriter and think because of this I sometimes lean towards using poetic or novelistic language for script exposition. I’ve seen in the past few months that this gets in the way of a new reader or potential producer trying to understand and imagine the film for themselves. Saving that kind of language for my poems made it a lot easier to be less extravagant in my screenplay exposition.

This was such a great experience that I’ve continued past the thirty poem mark and I’m currently headed towards 50 poems in 50 days. Who knows, I might go all the way to 100?! [UPDATE: I actually made it all the way to 100 poems, check out what that journey taught me]

I’ve found that past thirty days I’ve exhausted my brain’s ‘surface’, the imagery and phrases I had sitting in my immediate consciousness. Now, I’m having to really dig into my memories and observations to produce new work.

My daily strolls through Amsterdam have taken on a new purpose, they are now daily scavenger hunts to find new poems.