Monday, July 21, 2014

Ode on a Trampled Cabbage

Today's entry in my Summer of (Otaku) Persona Poetry stems from Avatar: The Last Airbender's favorite no-luck/no-respect/no-cabbages merchant, Mr. Cabbage Guy. Did the title give it away?

For this poem, I thought it would be fun and strangely appropriate to have the cabbage merchant write an overly passionate and reverential ode to his favorite (and most cursed) vegetable. In doing so, I wrote an ode to cabbage after John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn". Mine is nowhere near as long, but the rhyme scheme is the same, and  I feel there is a similar gravity to the tone too. Of course, the object of said ode makes this poem more than a little ridiculous.


Ode on a Trampled Cabbage
~after John Keats' 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'~ 

Oh! You laureate of leafy wing,
   xylem-lined crown your crispened globe
swathing like walls clothe our dear Ba Sing
   Se, though yours the greener robe.
Blessed, your dressings' velvet and snap,
   praised when placed 'twixt tooth and tongue,
when left unmet, the arrowed storm
   whose bent has seen your glory flung
on mishap after windswept hap,
   left for weather and slug to deform.

Cabbage, the curse your verdant crown
   repeatedly casting from cart to earth,
what divine will trails you town by town
   and spurs disaster toward the worth
enveloped in your glossy folds?-
   now, as ere, a tatter-wrapped king
usurped by element-handed savages.
   Why hates the avatar such a heavenly thing?
And what monstrous author pins your gold
   to the fringe of terror's airbent– MY CABBAGES!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Lie Between Us

Hello and welcome back for another week of nerd-lovin' persona poetry in my ever-renamed Summer of Persona Poetry/Otaku Persona Poems series.

Today's poem comes from 2013's standout PS3 game (and personally the best damn video game I've ever played) The Last of Us. There is so much remarkable authenticity, realism and emotion in the story of Joel and Ellie, I couldn't write this series of poems without turning an eye in their direction. The game, if you haven't played it, is a transforming experience. I know, "it's just a game", but y'all...for real, there is an unprecedented courage and power in The Last of Us, and anyone who loves an immersive gaming experience with as much narrative punch as gaming pleasure owes it to themselves to play this. It's game of the year (or Game of the generation for more than a few) for a reason.

Anyway, all that aside, it's time for a poem, ya think? Here is 'The Lie Between Us'...

The Lie Between Us 

You're not my daughter…
The words hissed against my tongue
more spore than the fungi
I grip pistol and pipe to protect you from.
2,000 miles of unpeopled decay,
of you and me
defending the softest parts of each other
from the teeth sprouting out of these ruins,
and it was me who ended up hurting you.
I'm sorry, Ellie.
I tried to lie a knife over this tether between us,
because I'm not strong enough to face the truth
I've found in yours,
in your eyes, the grey-green spark
that I can't look at without arms remembering
the night they played a bloody cradle, my Sarah
melting from between my fingers like sand.

You're not my daughter…
Truth is,
there's more of my daughter in you than I can bear.
Time is supposed to heal all wounds,
but if there's an amount of time that'll heal this wound,
20 years ain't it.
Every gunshot and clicker-bark is another tragedy,
a promise to steal you from me like Sarah…or like Tess,
the gloss-eyed goodbye my chest still thinks a dagger
when I wake mumbling the syllable to darkness and dust.
My heart is a bear trap,
and I'm afraid of what will happen when I let you in.
We've wound our way through wilderness and quarantine zone,
seen suburban dens empty their fungoid cabals after us,
split-faced and gnashing at our throats.
At your throat.
How many times can I get there quick enough, Ellie?
My dreams unload slow-motion scenes
of the thousand different ways I could fail you,
and I'm terrified of being with you long enough
for one to come true.

You're not my daughter...
All these months it's been you and me,
            and however flint-edged and desperate, no bluff can mask
what you've already discovered under my callous.
            Baltimore or Boulder, there's no lie in the way
            hands grabbing at you make an angry god of me,
            no mistaking this savage-knuckled wrath
for anything other than fatherhood.
you may not share my flesh, but damned if this heart
doesn't beat and break by yours as if you did.
The pride I try to hide from you, this smirk-betrayed swell
at the spirit coloring your voice with ivy's resilience
and sunup's warmth, this
is a pride fathers reserve for their daughters.
No lie can untwine what's already been bound:
Ellie, my heart is yours.
And whatever this path may hold, whatever
infection-ravaged landscape the coming winter
deems to spring on us, this one thing
will never be more or less true than it is right now:
you are my daughter, the baby girl
need would have me stampede through Hell for,
plunge into every nest of rot and gunshot for
with napalm on my fingertips, bombs croaking
from the mace-strapped pack on my back,
my arms, a waiting cradle needing nothing
but your weight between them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Dante Allegory

Welcome to another entry in what has become my Summer of Persona Poetry (also known as Otaku Persona Poems (but no, not ever again known as OPP...)).

Today's poem continues the nerd-lovin' vibe by riffing on Dante's Inferno, and if you're wondering why that was in italics it's because I'm referring to the video game, not the classical poem (you know, that PS3 game that everyone and their mother likes to dog on for no discernible reason).

I am one of the I assume 2 people in the world who actually not just enjoyed but loved Dante's Inferno. It got railed against for a ton of reasons that I won't go into here, but let's just say, I can think of few gaming figures more deserving of some love than good ol' scythe-swinging, Hell-scouring Dante.

I wanted to give him some time in the spotlight, but also make his struggle about something bigger, something more relatable. Also, I say this poem is a reference to the game and not the poem, but take note of my attempt at terza rima, the style The Divine Comedy was written in. I say attempt, because I'm terrible at meter and didn't even take meter into consideration. But the rhyming form is there! I'm a Bugenhagen with rhymes.

Anyway, all that to say...enjoy 'The Dante Allegory' (see what I did there? *winknudgesaynomore*)...


The Dante Allegory

Beatrice, you luminary caught on the twine of my horizon,
there is a reason our Lord deemed fit to breathe you
a name like the praises which Heaven bedizen.

Life's imprisoning thicket loomed a gloom I could but see through,
and what rush! This ventricled swell of joy
at glimpsing your light, and the path that spanned beneath you.

Your eyes, blue as the virgin's lazuli employ,
shone a Christly love coupled with nard-sweetened curls,
and swore I neither Satan or sin would ever such a beauty destroy,

and yet, the day came when I found mud spattered over your pearls,
began to notice ghosts haunting their rot behind your breath,
Hell's lascivious handprints tracked up sleeve and skirted furls.

It was not in me to build you an Eden in the midst of death,
not even when you were to me that very gardened peace
before infernal circles served you their pleasure-masked Topheth,

made you all insatiable craving and illusory release,
Hell's sandstone-skinned paramour contorting for your fix
from under nine lovers less ecstasy than decease.

Beatrice, none of these descending heaves, nor Styx
nor your abduction's lust-pillared storm, can unstitch the love
our bondage so irrevocably affixed,

so painstakingly sewed over heart and the soul thereof.
I will not leave you to be consumed with the dead.
I will come for you, by cross and by scythe, by fire and glove.

If needed, I will pry you from perdition's very godhead
himself, his wings, a leathern path to Paradise for you and me to tread.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Selected Excerpts from the Journal of Batbutt Henderson

Quick question: did any of you grow up playing that delightful edutainment game Oregon Trail?

I have fond memories of PC class in elementary school, typing practice promptly followed by making the worst decisions possible in Oregon Trail, a game that taught children many things, including how to acquire dysentery and how 800 lbs of bacon used to cost little more than a strawpenny.

Of course, if this pastime doesn't ring any hootenanny-whistles for you, you have my pity. YouTube should be able to fill you in on the nonsense quite well.

Anyway, all that to say, I have another persona poem for you today! This week's comes in the form of journal entries from one childishly-named pioneer as he and his party travel the Oregon Trail, encountering the many terrible consequences of our 9-year-old selves' decisions...

Hitch up and head out!

Selected Excerpts from the Journal of Batbutt Henderson 

Batbutt's Journal – May 10, 1848
Went hunting today.
It has only been two days
since we hitched our bacon-loaded Conestoga
to Independence's cheapest oxen
with Oregon City in our hearts
and sacks of beans under our rumps,
and Ms. Finnegan told me our wagon is full enough,
we have no need for any more meat just yet,
but I'll be danged if some teacher is going to tell me
what not to do with my bullets.
So I went and shot three buffalo.
The party only let me keep a pound.

Batbutt's Journal – August 6, 1848
Went hunting today.
It felt good to wrap my hands around a rifle again,
feel the resistant trigger and hold
its grainy butt cheek-to-cheek.
After what happened to Sally, the party thought it best
if Boogerman did the hunting for a while,
sticking me on foraging duty while that greenhorn
wasted bullets on squirrels and bushes.
It was only his stomach being all a-tumble
that drove everyone to give me my gun back,
looking at me weird just waiting for another
hunting accident.
But look at them now! Faces full of fresh-killed deer,
barrels replenished with bear steaks, and rabbit
flayed and hanging from the wagon-top like proud flags.
So happy for the renewed swell in their bellies,
they probably forgot all about Sally.
Hunting solves everything.

Batbutt's Journal – October 20, 1848
The party is still having a hard time getting over Boogerman.
Not sure which it is that has our morale in the mud:
the fact that he died, or the way he died.
I was never fond of the man,
but I certainly would not wish him
the double-ended geyser he became a month back.
None of the women were ever able to get those tar-foul stains
out of the blankets and canvas
that had sandwiched him before he went.
So maybe it was a good thing that Johnny lied
about knowing how to ford a river, the Snake
whisking through our wagon like the rapid-white hand of God.
I mean, we lost everything but a pocketful of beans and two bullets,
and Johnny looks to have caught hypothermia,
but at least our wagon is clean.
Ms. Finnegan, the snakebite in a bonnet,
says Johnny can recover if we stop for a day and rest,
but I think we are nearing a trading post.
If we push, we should be able to get there
before the weathered tempers turn black.
One last hard drive to beat the winter.
One last push.

Batbutt's Journal – October 23, 1848
Should not have pushed.
The jostle-heavy trek toward the Columbia seemed fine
for the oxen, but a snapped axel
pitched the three of us into a ditch like old laundry.
I fared well enough, and Ms. Finnegan is fine
if you disregard the venom making a map of her left side,
but Johnny followed our Conestoga's example
and cracked pallid shrapnel from his shins,
shawling the trail with a scream as much a bother as an alarm.
Even now his yelps are disturbing our oxen,
and I tremble to think at what mohawked band of savages
might be lured to our location by the cries of that wet-eared pup.
I am close enough to Oregon City to taste it,
but every second spent stuck between these two festering wounds
is another portion lopped off my claim.
How far can three people go
when one attracts hounds and another, the reaper?
Johnny is only getting louder.
Ms. Finnegan is now painting the dirt with her contents.
Two bullets…
Hunting solves everything.

Monday, June 23, 2014

This Bitter Distance

Hello and happy Monday!

I've got another poem for you on this, the first New Poem Monday of Summer. Today's poem is a brief departure from the ongoing Otaku Persona Poem series I've been working through, but I can promise it is no less an outpouring of my "guts and black stuff" as a certain yellow-skinned bully so poetically put it.

Enjoy, and a great week to you all!

 Photo courtesy of Adam Kusmierz

This Bitter Distance 

Despite the stars that number beyond number,
the moon hangs its craters lonesomely.
Drifts a distant mother and thinks of us,
slips us an earthward smile but shades
her heartbroken eyes in darkness.
Space fizzes its awe with bodies,
but no alabaster pantheon of gas and glow
can dull the constant ache of shining
for a people who insist on arm's length,
content to keep you at the tips of their fingers.
The moon wants to be more to us
than a satellite, some pallid outlier
we can only love when bent into reflective metaphor,
and I wonder,
did you mean to leave so much of yourself in these stones
when you spun them from each other?
There is an unspoken lament between these spheres,
and you've already proven yourself a God
who smirks as He sculpts, divulges Himself
into the strength of the sea
and the sun's necromantic aubade.
If there is sadness in the moon, it is one
you dripped into it when we were still just a dream
destined for Eden and the agonied aeons needed
for us to love its husbandry.
This distance shawls the moon something bitter,
but how much more you?– our luminary groom
conceded only outskirt and afterthought.
how have you not tired of us?
You are the hand beneath our bellies,
lifting us above flood after flood even as we grasp
at lapping doom for the sheen we see on its surface,
all wax-wing and millstone-necktie.
Our mouths whisper their intimacies into the dirt,
while you we would rather consider
with cobwebbed ritual if not the outright neglect
of a hand eclipsing your glory, that hill
where Love converged on death and we
miss your Christ in our passion for the latter,
our wrists so fond of flirting with razors.
What parent can watch their child's suicide
and not shatter like stained glass?
you are stained glass, a rubicund heart
at which we pitch ourselves like cobblestones
again and again and again and again and yet you remain,
no crack effacing the love maintained in your embrace.
Thank you.
If only we had seen the way our faces
streamed a Gethsemane-red love-song from yours, the love
that filled your flesh with everything keeping you away from us
but us,
took it to the grave
and returned to an audience of stars.
If only we had felt how our absence
trembled fractures through your chest, we'd want nothing
so much as the nearness of your scars.

Monday, June 16, 2014

What Jecht Couldn't Say (a Final Fantasy X persona poem)

Back for another entry in the Otaku Persona Poem series. This week's poem delves into the troubled relationship between Tidus and Jecht, his estranged and (lately) whale-bodied pa...

What Jecht Couldn't Say 

You're crying again,
with this beetle of anger
fitting pincers into your throat.
I may have had Spira's sin
smeared around my own, made
all undulant calamity and fin,
but I can still hear you, hear the acid
that won't stop burning your mouth
no matter how many times you express it, like
I hate you.
I can still see how you wish your tongue were an axe
at the knot of the family tree
where you grew from the scabrous bark in me.

in some dead dream of a city,
there are still posters that make a god of me,
a zodiac of spotlights under Blitz-bronzed feet
too heavy to tread your snow without leaving scars.
The way your mother draped herself across my chest
after every game, like a medal rewarding this thing in me
that understands tackle and superiority and violence
more than the needs of tenderer flesh…
After a while of being praised for knuckle and fist,
it's easy to forget the importance of a palm
rubbed gently through chocobo-golden scruff.
There's no apology strong enough to unmake this neglect,
this 17-year-old wound that gives
the flavor of sulfur-stony wine when you say it,
but if you can believe there's a heart inside this monster,
know that it beats with pride for who you've become.

When Braska's girl danced for Kilika, veiled herself
in those rainbowed ghosts you and I know so well,
you thought finally everyone else would see
the old man you remember, didn't you?-
the leviathan more drink than dad
who could only show up long enough to leave bruises
before retreating to the water.
Is there any room for coincidence in this shell
of scale and carnage?
My body, at last stretched into the aptly-named ugliness
you always knew me as anyway:
Sin, my inescapable shame
for the way every tirade fades to the face
I knew I could do better by than with insult and abuse,
yet never did.
How can I blame you for the daggers you loose with each
I hate you,
with every descending scalpel
aimed at the tumor entwined with your heart?
I am a sliver engulfed by consequence…
but, son, I love you. I love you, and I hope
one day you might hear these words
and have reason to believe them.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I Live... (a Final Fantasy IX persona poem)

Another week, another contribution to this ongoing series of 'Otaku Persona Poems' I've found myself delightfully stuck in. What that name means is poems written from the perspective of characters in anime, manga or Japanese video games. This poem comes from Final Fantasy IX, giving voice to everyone's favorite little black mage...Vivi.


I Live...

I've tried to rid myself of this ghost,
but I'm afraid.
The same curl of stitched brim and gil-eyed pitch
that tore Lindblum to pieces
is the face I see when I think I'm brave enough
to encounter my reflection.
What's a black mage? Please, tell me
I don't look like them.
I'm different, right? I'm human.
I have to be.

I saw the way those toothed gears chewed the mist,
spit out something too familiar for my stomach to digest,
a knot rising its steepled hat through my insides.
When their hands exploded into fireworks,
I wanted to pull the gloves from my bones
for the similarity warming their leather.
Why do I look like them? I can't be…
I'm alive, I breathe.
I dream.
Tell me my face is my own.

I've felt joy beat its wings in my chest.
I've felt spiders dance fear's footsteps all over my body,
and the wet ache of sadness
when I knew my grandfather wasn't waking up.
I have a name.
So, maybe I'm more mist than most.
Maybe these gold tokens will sputter out one day,
and this buckled skin will crumple into the dust
while all of my friends go on living.
Maybe there isn't any difference between those mages and me
but a name, but a name is a promise on every tongue
and mine is so easy to say.
I have a name; a birthright no origin or fate
can take from me…Vivi,
and it's on me to live up to it.