Tell them you ate three kinds of dark
Chocolate. Tell them your favorite contained
Sea salt and toffee and cost you $16 dollars
To snatch from the snack basket at the hotel.
Tell them how you let the squares melt on your tongue
While sitting next to a heavy set man breathing
Heavy on a train after 1a.m. while two sisters drank
Pepsi and made small talk so quiet and easy
You couldn’t begrudge them for keeping you
Awake. Tell them you took the subway at 2am
Then walked home alone at the skunk hour
And that you realized all the drunks
Were more afraid of you and that the grinding wheels
Of your pink suitcase may as well have been tanks
Rolling through. Tell them how you went to a wedding
Alone and that your whole family was there.
Tell them how the bride cried through the ceremony,
How she cried right through her silk gown
And that she washed the hall with her tears,
And tell them that she was the most honest bride
You have ever seen, ruining her makeup as sail boats
Lazed by in the harbor. When they ask about your work,
How it’s going, tell them a person needs to lie
Around a lot in order to remain sane. Tell them this,
And then ask them a question or two that will slip
Through the worm hole in their gut and poke
A pinky through to see if the answer is true.
5. Why do you write poetry?
On my way to a friend’s backyard BBQ party in Bed-Stuy, I saw a stoop sale. About five or six people sat or stood around the shady street, drinking and chatting. The Yo! MTV Raps™ trading cards caught my eye, and I picked out several: Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, Public Enemy, and two variations of Vanilla Ice.
Then I saw the KISS Pez dispenser.
I cannot hum a single KISS song. Still, I was mesmerized by the small, face-painted plastic man. What is it about his face? Why can’t I place this particular mix of desire and dread? Just then, the proprietor of the stoop sale, a young man who was either a banker, an actor, or a lawyer, directed my attention to a giant Pez dispenser in the front garden. It was Yoda. His pointed ears spanned about twenty inches, and his army green body matched the grass. The Yoda Pez dispenser transcended my nostalgia. There was no story, no meaning, just the feeling of a door creaking open.
But I didn’t have time for Yoda. I was headed to a BBQ. I bought all four members of KISS Pez. They now sit on a small side table. Eventually, I’ll get tired on them and then I’ll have to write the poem. I’m disappointed that they only date back to 2012 and that people are selling them on eBay for seven dollars. I paid two.
Still, I do love the quiet, sad expressions worn by the “variable,” non-Gene Simmons band members.
Ten people have played in the band over the years. I wonder, were the other band members ever jealous of Gene Simmons’ special make-up? Or that he could stick out his tongue that far?
When I left that stoop sale, I passed by some old folks sitting on lawn chairs a few doors down. They were a part of the original neighborhood, pre-gentrification, and had been watching the stoop sale unfold. A woman called out to me as I passed: “Did you see the Yoda?”
I felt annoyed, and didn’t want to think about Yoda. The giant Yoda PEZ was outside of nostalgia, in some unknown, explored place. “Yes,” I said, and hurried away.
@SerenaWLin — Thanks for your interest in my writing process! I enjoyed your generous, candid post at http://drunkenwhispers.wordpress.com as I’m sure my readers will! Looking forward to my fellow Blog Tour pilgrims’ responses — follow @TananariveDue and @tayari
Respectably submitted on 5/19/14
1. What are you working on?
For the first time in my adult life, I recently purchased a product known as “sugar cubes.” To my surprise, they were called “dots,” which seems absurd. Dots are typically round, no? As you can see from the picture, these are clearly square. Somehow, I felt convinced that placing these in my tea would have a positive effect on my creativity. Sure enough, I began planning an art installation for a deconstructed-“dot” pyramid, made out of sugar cubes, each 1’x1’ wide. I was going to submit my proposal to the MoMa, yet I am not convinced they will be able to accommodate my request for a gallery climate of 117 degrees F. One lump or two?
2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
Yesterday I was sitting on a bench when I came across this ladybug. She was showing a bit of wing, and was a bit skittish. She wore a tattered red coat with numerous dots, and so I understood her to be quite old. Clearly, we both were working within the same genre—that of sitting on a bench near the Hudson River—yet our work differed vastly. Perhaps that is why she refused to crawl onto my hand despite numerous attempts. In the end, I let her be, and tried not to take it too personally.
3. Why do you write what you do?
Paper is my life. I enjoy a wealth of documents. The possibilities for manila folders is endless, and I once constructed about twelve teenagers out of such materials. All that’s needed is a bit of glue, safety scissors, and you can make just about anything. Heck, nations have been erected with less. Am I right? Anyway, it gives me something to do with myself, which is helpful. I like immaculately color-coded files made of rice paper that double as flypaper. I arrange my taxidermies by genus, starting with origami spiders. Even an avid paper-enthusiast like myself will occasionally wonder whether there is some other purpose. During those times, I read my mother’s old Sears patterns, and search the puddles in Tribeca for the odd lemon.
4. How does your writing process work?
I waited for the 7 train this morning, and a pink glow began to manifest itself by a pigeon beyond the chain-link fence. I don’t usually spy, yet I had just missed my train. Boy, what a sight. He was all Japanese fan and totally unlike his brethren doing humiliating chicken imitations. Twice a year, the front of my brain tingles. I try to show appreciation. The rest of the time, I am sitting on the couch, not watching the tv. The glow is seldom green–it depends on whether or not I remember what the word “seldom” means. Such a slippery word. Anyhow, the important thing at such times is to grab a pen, and resist the temptation to search for just the right pen. Unless of course it’s a ghost. In which case, the thing needs to be typed on the computer, since ghosts regard computers with a kind of bemusement. Why not humor them?
Kind Reader, I have passed the Writing Process Blog Tour challenge onto my friend, fellow poet and active literary citizen, Cynthia Manick. Cynthia is a Cave Canem fellow and a graduate of The New School’s MFA program in poetry. Her poems are widely published. Cynthia recently launched a new poetry reading series called The Soul Sister Revue. She is also the East Coast editor of Jamii Publishing. Join me in reading Cynthia Manick’s Writing Process Blog Tour post on May 26th, 2014, this coming Memorial Day, at http://www.cynthiamanick.com/.
Thanks again, Serena, for the invitation to blog about writing. After the initial panic phase, it was fun. –SJ
Don’t our demons look cute
In the daylight?
A plastic tiger, hippo, bear–
Each no bigger than a fingernail.
Someone else swallowed them.
Now they bobble in our blood,
A grandchild will cough up
A tiny panda,
Remnant of a forgotten war.