Wednesday, April 26, 2017

crisis pt. ii

dear GI Joe
even with the green of your fatigues
the rainforest refuses to accept you
even though your bullets are shaped
like grains of rice this land is still

dear agent orange
you have cratered the faces of infants
before they are born leaving wounds
on lips that have never been kissed
rotting wombs until all they birth is

dear viet cong
we have been made sandbags in a war
of attrition turned into straw men
in the face of flamethrowers mere
fodder for the machine gun maws that left us

I have watched my brothers raise guns
at one another in the name of ghosts
and our ancestors weep because we have
forsaken their offerings choosing instead
to consume the hollow point hope that both sides
have offered but will never deliver

even they can not tell the difference
between friend and foe as both offer
an open hand as long as we offer an open
bed and a full stomach at the expense of
our hungry children

these houses are just as flammable
as their promises they offer the same
protection from mortar shell raindrops
as the banana leaves offer shade in the
napalm sun

in the city all the men have become
brass casings with the gunpowder of
their souls burnt out by American made
rifle barrels and wiping away their sins
from the skin with American dollars

in the back alleys women trade their
flesh for the security only American
muscle can offer but even American muscle
knows its limits and when to pull out
the women hurt so their children won’t

and the children grow up as bastards
half native half invader never knowing
if they should rebuild what has been
broken or break what has been rebuilt

so America I ask you this
in exchange for the spirit shaped like rubble
in exchange for the ashes of our homes and our families
in exchange for the future of our children

what do we get?

this is all we have to offer

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fuck, I'm Doing "Word Count Wednesday" Before Wednesday.. Monday

The Library

  • When Heaven and Earth Changed Places - Le Ly Hayslip

I've been trying to get more in touch with my heritage, and I guess reading about the Vietnam War is my way of doing that. I finally finished The Sympathizer which really fucked me up, and I've always been a sucker for war literature. "Naming of Parts" by Henry Reed is one of my favorite poems. I have family that survived the war. I'm here because of the war. So it hits home.

The Process

Go to readings. Go to readings. Go to readings. Meet artists. Meet writers. Bounce ideas. I discovered this open mic in DTLA in the back of a warehouse hosted by one of my poet role models, Beau Sia. He's fucking dope. They have a very unique way of running things. The first round consists of readers doing their thing. However, the second round is where the magic is. They have the readers do their thing again, but this time, slightly modified. It's unique for everyone. I had my poem read back to me by Beau Sia, and I was quite honestly very starstruck. Another instance: this girl did a very self deprecating poem that just kinda tore herself apart. They had her go again, with four other people on stage. However, this time, she was doing the poem line by line, to individual people. As in she would speak a line to a person, and the next to the next person and so on and so forth. Each time a person received a line from her, they had to sing it back to her. By the end, she had broken down in tears on stage. It was glorious. Not her pain, but the release of it. Shit was lit. And then everyone went to a bar afterwards and got rekt. It was cool.

The Work in Progress

I'm working on the individual parts of Crisis, a series regarding the refugee crisis, which I'll be turning in for the second narrative assignment. The first part is in the post prior to this. I'm reading When Heaven and Earth Changed Places to learn more about the situations surrounding the Vietnam War. I'm reading into military protocol regarding civilian casualties. Man, America is fucked up. That's not really news to anyone.

crisis pt. i

father cannot unhear the explosion
of hell and earth changing places
he cannot unhold the weight
of his daughter’s body
coated in blood and rubble
he is as empty as the shell casings
that litter the street he lived on

when his walls have been reduced to dust
and his child to a corpse
we are told that God’s will is done
we are told that it is the terrorists
who hurt but it is not always their bones
that our bombs are breaking

I do not know how to tell him
that America still considers
herself humane when his flesh
is considered collateral damage
that the lives of his family
are worth less than that of a
misguided man with a rifle
situated on the roof above
that all of their breaths
must be extinguished to keep
our boys in boots breathing

we are told that this is
liberation by artillery
they forget to tell us the
price of freedom is the
skull of his infant daughter

I do not know how America
considers herself humane when
I do not know if she holds
within her closed white hands
a heart or a grenade

I only know
that her bones are forged
in the flames of the twin towers
that trauma has entered her
crude oi nitroglycerin bloodstream
she has closed her gates because
she is afraid of the hurt

the immigration officer
remembers his years
in the army and the shrapnel
still nestled in between
his vertebrae like the grains
of sand that will forever remain
in between his toes

he still remembers the ambush
where he inherited that shard of shrapnel
how it left his brother so holy 
and bloodless and closer to God

he cannot unhear the sobs of his widow
how it sounded like hell and
earth had changed places
he cannot unhold the weight of the casket
draped in that blood-red flag
that they had sworn to defend

when the shell-shocked immigration officer
stares into the eyes of the childless father
without a home he struggles to see a soul
he only sees the brown skin
of the bullets that had rained upon him

he looks over his shoulder at America
so pristine and virtuous

she shakes her head solemnly

I do not know what he is defending anymore

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fuck, I Almost Forgot "Word Count Wednesday" Wednesday

The Library

The slush pile of the Moorpark Review. 

The Process

I'm horrible at committing to things but I've been trying to write in the mornings before my routine of waking up and so on and so forth. That hasn't led to much writing of any worth, however.

I also got a new job.

The Work in Progress

Nothing as of late.

Monday, March 6, 2017

another dead dad poem

rosewood guitar in a stolen case
on the back of a boy on a bicycle
riding through the shell shocked
streets of Saigon, Vietnam
coated with Agent Orange
soaked in tears that come with
a brother of the Boat People
I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be a refugee
stories you never told
simply mentioned
how you went to Cambodia
when you were seven
and the fighting was getting bad
Da Lat was
a rainforest that wept blood
clouds that cried the tears of widows
dreams executed by the Viet Cong
and villages torn apart by soldiers
friendly or foe, you’re still not so sure
I’ve always wondered how you came out so calm
your steady grip on reality, held onto
with the finesse of a guitarist
I know the arts saved you from the war
and I am searching for my salvation in
the flawed beauty of humanity
but my youthful hands are still tender
and not yet calloused by the years of change
the seconds fall through the cracks like
sand through clenched fists
there are times where it gets in my eyes
and all I can see is the past
it is so difficult to look up when
the rungs on the ladder break
and the panic kicks in
and we are no closer to heaven
I have been searching for a god
I have been searching for a savior
to fill the space you left behind
there is only whiskey and disappointment
would you have understood?
how did you deal with the loss of the sister
we don’t ever mention?
there are stories I will never hear
there are days I will never get back
the ones marked by the hospital badges
still sticking to my wall
to remind me of the last weeks I sat by your side
we don’t go there anymore
too painful, too fluorescent, too loud
white coats with clipboards
blue scrubs with bedpans
medication and good news
test results and bad news
orange vials peppering the kitchen countertop
like stars burning through cloud cover
your blank face on morphine
it burns so much to remember the day
when I pressed the button that would reduce you to ash
stepped in front of your brothers to assume the responsibility
I felt my knees snap with the weight of the cement
needed to build that hospital
I would have given anything for you
to see your garden one last time
the night you died I left every light
in the house on with the hope
that would you find your way home
the week you died
the roses had wilted
petals shriveled next
to decaying leaves
I had not watered them since the news
the month you died
my bed was a prison
and I had no desire for freedom
and if I lit a candle in
every cathedral I passed
the flames would still not be enough
off the dark that was settling in after you left

Fuck, I Forgot "Word Count Wednesday" for Two Weeks... Monday

The Process

I bought a typewriter this week. Sort of. I donated $100 to a Veteran's Fund, and they gave me a Smith Corona Skywriter that is fully functioning. I had to buy ribbon and clean it, but for the most part it works well. I'm still figuring out the nuances. Her name is Francesca Lucille. Frances for short.

Also, I've gotten in touch with one of my original inspirations- she was the girl that essentially got me to start writing back in high school. It's been an interesting few nights.

The Library

I haven't read anything of interest as of late. Someone gave me a collection of TS Elliot poems, but I haven't gotten around to it.

The Work in Progress

Currently, I've got a few ideas for pieces in the works. I just need to sit down and word vomit them out. Ideas:
  • What's the problem with poets?
  • What have I learned from owning a typewriter?
  • How the fuck am I gonna get through this week?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

landmines in a living room

the ashtrays make their presence known

a hand clutches the neck of a wine bottle

a man screams as he makes love to a broken-string guitar

balance is lost after one glass too many

bones settle into their place, complete

with their aches and pains

and rain slams into glass with

the guilt of a hurricane

that has torn apart towns

we remember the drought

we remember when the roots

of the grapevine broke free

they were so strangled by the soil

that they forgot how to breathe

old ground was broken here

in the way that relics are unearthed

where least expected

but always, there are holes

Fuck, I Forgot "Word Count Wednesday" Saturday

The Process

I don't place much stock in writer's workshops because it tends to be a room full of people jerking each other off over their writing. There are so many moments where I want to say, "That poem isn't as great as you think it is!" but I won't because I have no idea how I would improve that piece and my own work probably sucks too, so me saying that just wouldn't be constructive. 

With that being considered, I did take a workshop from poet Brendan Constantine, a writer who I very much admire and have seen perform multiple times. He had us do a few exercises: create a list of unmentionable things (not necessarily because they were offensive or taboo, just things that were difficult to put words to), a list of sensory experiences within the last 24 hours, and 2 imagined sensory experiences.

With these, I wrote "Landmines in a Living Room".

The Library

"Part of Eve's Discussion" - Marie Howe

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem t still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.

The Work in Progress

  1. Narrative piece
  2. Alyssa's poem
  3. Detoxing

Monday, February 13, 2017

the facebook

I don’t like seeing you on my news feed
it feels a dart in the heart
tipped with a little bit of nostalgia
enough to make it hurt
but not enough to leave a wound
I don’t like remembering
drowning in you
as if your arms were waves
and I lost the life jacket
as if your eyes were rings
around Saturn

I had never felt like I had any gravity
until I attracted you
oh, beautiful
with a heart like
the dark side of the moon

I had never felt so centered,
not until you decided
“fuck the bed”
this couch is good enough
and we put the love
in love seat

and now that you’re not here

now that the fire has left the furnace
run out of fuel
vacant of your heartbeat
hotter than molten iron
against my chest

I can only miss the burn
not kiss the back of your neck
with the tenderness of settling butterflies
of leaves falling in autumn
with the careless abandon of cigarette butts
flying out windows

I unfollow
and not unfriend
because sometimes
I am a creature of regret
and maybe
sometime later
when your name
and what you’re doing
or who you’re seeing
doesn’t create the pressure
of far beneath the ocean
sometime later
I can stomach statuses
about your goddamn cat.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fuck, I Almost Forgot "Word Count Wednesday" Wednesday

The Process

This has been a difficult week with not much writing done, as I've spent most of the time adulting. I did, however, get after all, the poem in the previous post done. For me, a decent way to stimulate the inkflow is writing with people. The way I go about it is to have one person, the other or I, start off the piece with a stanza. Then we go back and forth at it, varying stanza length and building off one another. That was how after all was completed. Over coffee and cigarettes.

The Library

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
A book so beautifully written, it makes you emphasize with a pedophile. Humbert Humbert, protagonist, is the most unreliable narrator I've ever read but is also so magnificently crafted as a character. Nabokov has an excellent control of the English language and the entire story is one long moral dilemma and you finish it with a pit in your stomach but a sweet aftertaste on your tongue.

The Work in Progress

Lit Mag. Poems. Waiting tables. Making drinks. Selling my soul for tip money, only to be spent on wine the same night.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

after all

(ft. S. Rozan)
His were speeches that ended without message
Or beginning
And troubled were the steps of each
New challenge to the victors
They trembled as leaves in a hurricane
Wet with the memories of yesteryear
Roots growing into the soil
Still unsure of their future
No fragment of a notion of attraction
In a dive bar of no-shows
Subdued by the charge, or lack thereof
A battery’s one resting percentage.
Here, bolt-cutters to strip the wires
of their copper.
Here, gasoline to pour on the fire
of our discontent.
Break the bones and rob of their marrow
so with it, we can flood new ground.
Then the pipes that were supposed to
Hold back the future rusted
And all the reset bricks buckled
That devil never agreed
To meet here, I sank, on no
Ouija board would fate exceed that grip
An angel fallen victim to the hand
of gravity, no longer winged,
just melting.
Light trapped a thin veneer
of apathy and a loss of conviction.
“Dear G-“ he whispered, unable to wrap
his tongue about the sound.
From heaven, he fell.

Friday, February 3, 2017

in lieu of dessert

match strikes surface
explodes, dies out
leaves a drifting ghost

she ignites
thunder meeting driftwood
leaves the taste of menthols
on the tongue
familiar, chemical
goes well with coffee

ember fights darkness
until flame withers out
leaves a corpse of ash
no friend to the wind

some days
smoke drifts from her mouth downwards
carried by the weight of letters

some days
she just wants fresh air
some days
it is easier to breathe than others
some days
there is a river beneath her skin

and she reminds me of glacier water
so very cold
but still liquid, cleansing

smells like the first candle
I ever lit, sits comfortably
in the back of my head
like fingertips on the
nape of my neck
or a thought hiding behind loose lips

a storm is borne at the bottom
of my stomach, air rushes out
the path of least resistance
refuses to come back in

and I am going
blue in the face
with yearning

unsure if it is for
the way freckles decorate her cheeks
the same way that snow sits on church
steeples in Zurich

unsure if it is for
the way her hair falls
the same way
scent rises from incense
she is a slow burner

simmers under a glance
with a smirk like an icicle in
March, melting
but still sharp
still tough enough to leave holes
in my papier-mache chest

and some days
I am not so sure
what this frame is
supposed to form
not sure if it can dam
the reservoir of consonants
and vowels waiting to fall
from my mouth into her tender hands
like wilting rose petals
or oak leaves in autumn

meet me at the path
that ends in the cemetery
remember that there are separate
tombstones for the head and the heart
remind me that worse things
have happened to better people
and that matches
can still start wildfires

Fuck, I Forgot "Word Count Wednesday" Friday

The Process

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone but they've always worked for me."
-Hunter S. Thompson

While I plead the fifth considering the specifics of Mr. Thompson's quote, I think he does have a very good point. While artists and authors tend to have vivid imaginations, I believe the best writing and the best art are rooted in truth. It is one thing for a person to sit at a desk and create worlds in the form of poetry and prose, but, in my humble opinion, the best work comes out of experiences that deeply impact us as human beings. The best pieces I've ever penned have been a result of fractured relationships, unrequited love, soul-crushing grief, etc. I've always found it difficult to write about happiness (or anything positive, really) because happiness is so subjective. Despair, on the other hand, is universal. We can see a situation and see how it would traumatize a person, how it would shake them to their very core. However, events or people that bring joy... tend to be relative. 

The Library

  •  The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Fictional memoir written from the viewpoint of a Communist spy rooted within the South Vietnamese Army during the time of the Vietnam War and the years following. Relevant to my life especially, considering my grandpa served for the South Vietnamese during the war, and it is due to his service that my family and I were able to immigrate here. SPOILER: There is a scene where Nguyen describes their escape from Saigon that brought me to tears. This is the only book that has ever done that.

  • Los Angeles Stories by Ry Cooder
Anthology of period pieces set in the decades of the 20th century, in Los Angeles. Cooder captures the emotion and the social strife of each decade quite well, from pre-Great War, the civil rights movement, up until the 90s. Incredibly immersive.

  • "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats
Romantic-era poem written by a titan of poetry with many interpretations, mine being that art is eternal. I'm taking Jeffrey Baker's Intro to Poetry M14 class, and have a four page paper on this due. Also: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty-- that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." *snaps violently*

The Work in Progress

All my interpersonal relationships are really just breeding grounds for poems. I like writing about people. They fascinate me. I have two poems fermenting in the back of my head. One is about a coworker, who I now consider one of my best friends, and about how committed he is to his principles and his vision. The other is about a girl I'm not sure if I'm interested in necessarily, but we had dinner and I like the way she chain smokes and giggles.

Also, running Moorpark's literary magazine is an incredibly frustrating experience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

bones (a duet)

(This poem is meant to be read by two voices. Bold indicated both voices simultaneously, unaltered is one voice, italics is the other.)

This conversation is coded.

I learned how to fight fire with a lie detector.
I learned how to spit in bubbles.

What I thought I was, was shot down.
Bullet holes.

To be truthful, I never learned to fly…
But I loved the lessons that it taught me.

God damn, it seems like it took forever.

I watched for halos covered in plain clothes.
I listened to the sound of taut heartstrings and un-tuned pianos.

I defined insanity with a quick two-step rhythm.
Limits have their limits too, they’ll give up when beaten black and blue.

I looked for an oasis in lucid eyes.
There’s a drought in my chest.

I looked for solace in the sunset.

I poured my sorrow out the same way
I break finished bottles
I identified the cause of my pity
and it was panic stricken under
the fa├žade of moonlight vigils.
Questions remain unanswered but truthfully
enough is said.
The “where’s” and “why’s” prove that
 I can’t commit to love-drunk fairytales.

The past doesn’t repeat; its patterns echo, but 
I can’t listen when the volume’s down. 
Ears strained but it’s just a whisper,
 a passed note, a hidden message. 
My secrets are kept in vaults in museums. 
For a price, you can see what I’ve chosen to show, but for you…

I would have flipped the universe. If only I knew…

… the definition of transparency.
… the slash marks on canvas.

I would sew the fabric of what kept us together with your angel hair.
I would sit back and read what you had written.

I would ask myself “What’s there to lose?”
I would ask myself “What did she lose?”

I would have flipped the universe for you to love me.

I would have flipped the universe for you to forget me.

… to love you.
to forget you.

Today, I learned how to rethink my history.

I wrote a list of memories with the point of a blunted edge.
I let it in the world and watched my lungs fill up while I curled my fists.

I am slow walking jazz with suicidal tendencies.
I am a cracked two way mirror…

My monsters are breaking through.

I write my name with calloused hands on rice paper.
I am delicate but wrecked, holding onto water not under the bridge.

I watched as you gave a reason for my existence…
… but cut me out of yours.

I watched as you pulled harp strings from your hair lines.
I overheard your silent symphonies.

I felt your footsteps into hypocrisy.
I smelled your putrid dishonesty.

I heard your deceitful dissonance.
You ripped my vocal chords.

You broke the skin.

I learned.

I watched…
I listened…

I am.


And I am his good friend, Broken.

fuel for a riot

concrete jungle
with your asphalt foliage
and your shouting wildlife
waving signs made with white pickets
torn from the “American” dream
that they were promised
but the banks denied them.
their credit
wasn’t good enough
because the company cut hours
and Father wasn’t making enough to
pay for Mother’s new car
nor Child’s new cellphone
and they are living paycheck
to paycheck with a backlog of debts
longer than Brother’s rap sheet
heroin does funny things to a person
widens the gap between sanity and insanity
like Goldman Sachs widens the gap
between rich and poor
wider than the legs of rape survivors
during the fact
they are living in a country
where sexual assault is allowed in the Oval Office
but love is not always accepted
especially not in the Bible Belt
what happened, America?
you had such momentum
but now it seems like the progress
is slammed stock still
then shifted into reverse
the railroad tracks that held you back
seemed to finally rust away
but your mindset is still stuck in the times
before motor cars, when coal lit the furnaces of
homes in your cities and countrysides
you are choking me, America
with the pollution of
your injustice and it is as if your
bullets can not differentiate between
citizens and criminals
you are making me weep, America
sorrow falls from my eyes
and lands like empty cartridges
in the blood soaked streets of Iraq
soaked with the sins of executive orders
and military action meant to secure crude oil
America, you bully
putting your hands where they don’t belong
to fill the greed of the bacteria in
your intestines
America, you think your shit don’t stink
but it soils the atmosphere and
it smells like crack houses in Detroit
because you assert your dominance
by declaring democracy in lands
that are not yours
but have what you want
and after all that
you have the gall to scoff at veterans,
who did not come home
the way they went out,
when they ask for spare change
you have the fucking BALLS
to turn them down when they ask for help
with the voices they hear
after being ordered to store
four corpses in one body bag
America, you are a melting pot
of rejects searching for success
but now you want to build walls
around the desert left over.
America, with one hand on your rifle
and the other on your prejudices.

AMERICA, how many times
do I have to say your name
until you listen?

You have a heart rotten with worry
and a pit in your stomach.