Why Someone Has To Die

Louis and Johnny Grimes

Louis and Johnny Grimes

It’s really too bad
Someone has to die
Before we can hold a funeral,
That it takes death
To tenderize our hearts,
Unclench our eyes,
Open our arms.

Then again, could we bear
To live in such a constant state

Of  awareness 

(The crooked crease of his jacket lapel
Assumed overwhelming importance.)

Of chaos

(You were laughing. I was crying. He was silent.)

Of love?

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To all non-tanka writing on this blog, click here.

A new chapbook, as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, is available for free reading online and/or download.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Poetry: A Leaky Boat on a Stormy Sea

Chilhuly's Boat

Chiluly at the Monteral Museum of Fine Art.

Endlessly fascinating to me are language and emotions, their connections (Why are descriptions of things falling – rain, leaves, flower petals—inherently sad?) and disconnections (Why is it that the last thing in the world likely to make you angry is the word “anger”?). That some sentences can actually evoke laughter and tears, rage and sorrow in a reader is nothing short of miraculous.

As a poet, my response to emotionally charged situations, images and events is to write, to respond to the chaos of feelings with carefully constructed verbal assemblages, but it is not therapy, not an attempt to assuage the feelings, or cage them, or tame them, or even explain them.

When I feel most satisfied with something I have written is when the poem floats on the emotions like a leaky boat on a stormy sea.

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To read the Catalog of New Emotions, click here.

To see all the writing that is not Tanka, or Tanka-related, click here.

The Treetop Idol Contest

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Dog Day Cicadas—
Despite their name—do not bark
They don’t even eat
Consumed singing lustful songs
They just want to fuck—then die

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Depth Charge: Yesterday I posted a poem about finding a cicada outside my door, and I wondered at its silence. Later that day I posted pictures of it on the ID Request section of Bugguide.net where a discussion ensued and it was agreed that it was a Tibicen Canicularis, also known as a Dog Day Cicada, or Dog Day Harvestfly.  It was also identified as female, which explains its silence, as females do not sing. Looking it up on Wikipedia also said that the adult Tibicen Canicularis does not eat, being fully concentrated on reproduction. This resonates well with Plato’s myth of the cicadas in Phaedrus and Chinese beliefs that the Cicada subsisted only on dew.

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To see all writings about cicadas on this blog, click here.

To see all the tanka on this blog, click here.

A new chapbook, as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, is available for free reading online and/or download.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Silent at my door

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Usually unseen
Today you present yourself
Silent at my door
Latticed wings—jade almond eyes—
Enchant—but where’s your sad song?

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To read the companion poem to this tanka, click here.

Depth Charge:  A disembodied voice, someone you’ve only heard on the radio, talked to on the phone, or heard through thin apartment walls, suddenly takes corporeal form; it is always surprising.

Monday, as I extended my key toward the front door lock, I noticed a cicada clinging to the wall beside the doorbell. I carefully looked him over and then photographed him with my cellphone.  I went inside with my groceries and left him alone, but his presence was too strongly felt.

I thought, if he is going to die I might as well take him in and keep him, so I went downstairs and prodded him a bit. Then I gently plucked him off the wall. There was definitely some resistance.

Taking him upstairs I placed him on the beautiful orange notebook I had received as a Deathday gift and began to photograph him at various angles. I started to feel like a bit of a pervert, someone who had snatched a victim off the street and was now forcing the unlucky object of my interest to pose and perform.

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The cicada seemed to rally and it buzzed its wings a few times, perhaps it was not as close to death as I had thought, so I placed him on the brick wall out back. He gladly fastened onto it.

I checked back every once and awhile. He stayed for about a half-an-hour, but at some point he flew away.

To see all writings about cicadas on this blog, click here.

To see all the tanka on this blog, click here.

A new chapbook, as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, is available for free reading online and/or download.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

If you really want to know

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If you really want to know
What it feels like when he is
Fucking me then go outside

Wait for the warm-wet surprise—
A summer rainfall—stand there
Exposed—just let it soak in

And laugh as the faint-of-heart
Run needlessly for cover

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(For Cutty)

If you’d like to read all the explicitly and implicitly gay writing on this blog, click here.

If you’d like to view the poetry and writing that is not tanka, or tanka related, please click here. 

A new chapbook, as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, is available for free reading online and/or download.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

What makes a poem great?

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“A great poem will, paradoxically, take your breath away at the same time as it gives you a voice.”

A lot of ink has been spilled and, of late, bandwidth dedicated to answering the question, What makes a poem great?

I have  noted a fairly common experience that, for me as a poet, at least partially answers the question, most recently, while I was browsing in one of my local bookstores. I pick up a slim but attractive volume of poetry, City of Rivers by Zubair Ahmed. I randomly opened the book and read his poem You Are Gone, Brother, which ends with the lines: We float like eyes stitched to the sky,/Looking for each other/In all the wrong places.

I immediately took out my notebook and wrote some lines that would eventually form themselves into my poem Facebook Photo.

Therefore, I would say that a distinguishing feature of a great poem is that reading it causes you to write a poem of your own. It is inspirational. A great poem will, paradoxically, take your breath away at the same time as it gives you a voice.

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Earthlings

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Your eyes summertime sky blue
Your hair falls autumn leaf red
Your skin shines fresh snowfall white
Your laugh rings a springtime green

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Your tears a warm summer rain
Your eyes a dark autumn moon
Your skin feels winter ice smooth
Your hair spring fern fronds curled tight

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Your skin ripe summer hay gold
Your sigh a rustling fall wind
Your hair winter night sky black
Your eyes rich spring soil promise

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If you’d like to view the poetry and writing that is not tanka, or tanka related, please click here. 

A new chapbook, as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, is available for free reading online and/or download.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

Facebook Photo

Chris Cockrill and Colin McKay 1984 Montreal Bud's protest

Chris Cockrill and Colin McKay 1984 Montreal protest against the raid of Bud’s Bar. Photo Courtesy of Jose Arroyo.

We float like eyes stitched to the sky,
Looking for each other
In all the wrong places.
from You Are Gone, Brother by Zubair Ahmed

A photo posted
From some thirty years ago
This was our beauty—
All smiles and a cigarette
At the corner of your mouth

Permanently pinned in place
Now—only ashes remain
And their phoenix memories
Flicker—just as quickly fade

As for sweet Colin
Proudly riding on your back
In protest of police
Brutality—his wide smile
Invited time’s cruel kisses

Only those who lived through war
Lost as many young men as
Did we in those years of love—
Fear—heroic caresses

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(for Chris Cockrill  and Colin McKay)

Depth Charge: This is a chimeric beast of a poem—half-tanka, half-quatrain.

I had previously written about the role Facebook, and social networking in general, is assuming in the creation of collective and social memory. The posting of this picture of a protest against a police raid of Bud’s bar in Montreal in 1984 is another example of memory synapses activated by shared digital information. Thanks, Jose Arroyo, for this.

Nothing could have prepared us for what was to follow in the years after this photo was taken, the onset of the AIDS epidemic that would rage completely unchecked for more than a decade, and while treatment now offers a degree of security for some, HIV continues to claim lives and loves to this day. For a glimpse at the tenor of those times, watch How to Survive a Plague.

To see all the tanka on this blog, click here.
To all non-tanka writing on this blog, click here.

A new chapbook, as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, is available for free reading online and/or download.

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

As close as the clouds chapbook for download

As close as the clouds (for Cutty) by Andrew Grimes Griffin

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

No Chinese choruses here

Cicada

I can’t help thinking
Our cicadas sound lonely
Singing their solos
Solitary in their lust
No Chinese choruses here

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Depth Charge: While I had been fascinated by cicadas before my time in China, it was there—listening to their deafening choruses—that I really fell in love with these ungainly creatures. Now, back in Canada, the cicadas seem so isolated and I am reminded of a comment by a young man I met in China. He had spent a couple of years studying in Canada. I asked him what he thought of it, and he replied: “It’s too boring. There are no people.” This in turn brought to mind something the British synth-band OMD said in the 1980’s when asked what they thought of Canada: “It’s a lot like the States, except empty.”