Archive for the Poems Category

Poem #34: Weekend Haiku, Third Series

Posted in Haiku Series, Poems with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by czarnickolas

Weekend Haiku, Third Series

I arrive at dusk
a picture of a sunset

in the pub’s corner
a klutz waitress flips a tray
E wears our water

four wedding venues,
roast beef on paper plates and
dad, the bridezilla

somber before dawn
our last chance to surrender
our work together

we race through the rain
storms never halted Hermes
give us more to drink

Boston liquor laws
lock down the neighborhood stores
Memorial Day spent dry

@NBF 5.26.2009


Boston, 2009



I spent Memorial Day weekend in Boston for the Run to Remember Half-Marathon and other activities. I apologize for the intermittent posting last week and this week – I am preparing for my move to Chicago this weekend. I will be back in full force next week, with a few posts in the coming days, time permitting.


Poem #33: To Moving

Posted in Best of TPP, Poems with tags , , , on May 20, 2009 by czarnickolas

To Moving

You make me wish for fewer books. Should I
just give them all away? A bald man in a bar
once told me that taking books along
when you move is foolish. He had more money
than I did, and twin step-daughters, too, but I
ignored him all the same. After all, I like the
smell that book-filled cardboard boxes leave in my
hands when I’ve carried them up three
flights of stairs. I cut packing tape with kitchen
knives and revel in the presents I send myself
from the past via UPS, but what’s with all the taco
seasoning? I’ve never made tacos before, let’s
be serious with each other. Moving, is it true
that only death and public speaking cause
more stress than you? Maybe you should lighten
up, come around less often – I don’t know, take
a vacation. You two are related, right? You both
cost money I don’t have. At least a vacation gives
back. No, you’re right – without you, I’d never have
seen a South Dakota sunset, or the Baseball
Hall of Fame. Still, you insist upon yourself.
Have you ever thought of bringing places
to people, instead of… Ah, forget it. We’ve got
a nice thing going, I’d hate to mess it up, lest
you leave me behind for good, and why would I
want to be stuck forever in Los Angles when
you still haven’t shown me Denmark or Paris?

@NBF 5.20.2009


NYC, 2006



I’m moving to Chicago pretty soon and have just about had it with the moving process, so I thought I’d write a Koch Address to “moving” and show it who’s boss.

Poem #32: How to Say Goodbye; Prompt #5: The Villanelle

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems, Writing Prompts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2009 by czarnickolas

How to Say Goodbye

To sever love it’s always worse to lie
and leave your lover with a drop of hope,
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

We started strong, our ceiling seemed so high,
but honesty rebuffed our toxic scope.
To sever love it’s always worse to lie.

She smothered me with ardor gone awry,
a lather built from arid slabs of soap,
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

We sinned apart and failed on the sly.
Mendacious tongues prepared a gentle slope.
(To sever love it’s always worse to lie.)

She slept to dream then woke herself to cry,
and emptied whiskey bottles dry to cope,
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

That night I came too late to ask her why –
she gave her final answer to a rope.
To sever love it’s always worse to lie
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

@NBF 5.19.2009


Boston, 2006



The form I’ve used here is the villanelle. My favorite belongs to Elizabeth Bishop, the famous “One Art” (“The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”). Other popular villanelles include Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” (“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” alluded to here) and Theodore Roethke’sThe Waking” (“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. / I learn by going where I have to go.”).

When writing a villanelle, it’s easiest to start with your refrain lines and work backwards from there. The form adheres to the following rules (from The Making of a Poem – A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms):

  1. It is a poem of nineteen lines.
  2. It has five stanzas, each of three lines, with a final one of four lines.
  3. The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas.
  4. The last line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas.
  5. These two refrain lines follow each other to become the second to last and last lines of the poem.
  6. The rhyme scheme is aba. The rhymes are repeated according to the refrains.

A villanelle is a powerful form for writing about loss and is still relevant today, despite our being in an age “when artifice in poetry has been distrusted.” More on this from from Norton:

“Perhaps the single feature of the villanelle that twentieth-century poets most made their own is the absence of narrative possibility. Figural development is possible in a villanelle. But the form refuses to tell a story. It circles around and around, refusing to go forward in any kind of linear development, and so suggesting at the deepest level, powerful recurrences of mood and emotion and memory.

“Unlike most other rhymed poems, where the sound of single syllables is repeated once or twice, the villanelle repeats on sound thirteen times and another six. And two entire lines are each repeated four times. It is this last feature that sets the form aside from other poems. the villanelle cannot really establish a conversational tone. It leans toward song, toward lyric poetry. and while the subject of most lyric poems is loss, the formal properties of the villanelle address the idea of loss directly.

“Its repeated lines, the circularity of its stanzas, become, as the reader listens, a repudiation of forward motion, of temporality and therefore, finally, of dissolution. Each stanza of a villanelle, with its refrains, becomes a series of retrievals.”

“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop

Poem #31: Simply To You

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by czarnickolas

Simply To You

It was simple to meet you.
Meeting often is –
a collision of mistaken eyes
and accidental love.

You made me for her, a bawling
pile on the bathroom floor,
so curled and insistent.

We could have hopped bars down
18th street, or stayed inside and watched
a fire, wasting time waiting for cinders to burn.

It was simple to kiss you,
but I couldn’t close my eyes,
afraid you’d become the person
I really wanted.

You poured sugar on strawberries
and called it a cake. It was all
you could do with the little I gave you.

You let me lie, and so I ran home
in my bare feet, sure you’d
just want to lie back.

It was simple to leave you.
You were never there
to begin with, and neither,
really, was I.

@NBF 5.18.2009


Muir Beach, 2006



This poem takes its first line from Adrienne Rich’s poem “Origins and History of Consciousness.”

Poem #30: Weekend Haiku, Second Series

Posted in Haiku Series, Poems with tags , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by czarnickolas

Weekend Haiku, Second Series

selfish beach walkers
five abreast on the bike path
there are rules you know

in town for three days
my dad walks the dog alone
she asks for nothing

eleven miles
a cocky runner’s penance
legs like broken wood

Eastern remedies
vogue and unpronounceable
one man’s last resort

I like Chopin best
he got the piano right
don’t tell Beethoven

sports page doom and gloom
will David slay Goliath?
mountains from molehills

@NBF 5.17.2009


Santa Monica, 2004



Some haiku about running on the beach, family, medicine, music, and basketball.

Poem #29: My Mother’s Birthday

Posted in Poems with tags , , on May 15, 2009 by czarnickolas

My Mother’s Birthday

we met when I was born (imagine that)
our bond a branch on history’s great oak

for years you kept me warm and fed and blithe
my rock of hope, unfailing with your praise

you planted trees for Mol and me to climb
and built a garden where we both could dream

we never were afraid to be ourselves
so long as you kept howling at the moon

at times I’m awestruck by your joie de vivre
especially in times as grave as these

in tune with grasping ducks and needy dogs
you make all living creatures feel at peace

a model student, buried in your books
with time to spare for culinary art

though when we watch TV you fall asleep
and nitpick me when I am less than neat

no other mom could bring me half the joy
(though which of them would want me as her boy?)

on this, your birthday, let us celebrate
your past, your present, and what more remains

@NBF 5.15.200


With my Mother, 2007



Today is my mother’s birthday, so I’ve written her some blank verse couplets in celebration. I’m sure she might have preferred a plane ticket to Costa Rica, but a poem isn’t a terrible consolation prize.

Poem #28: Four Brothers

Posted in Poems with tags , , on May 14, 2009 by czarnickolas

Four Brothers

gawking giant doppelganger
hollow but whole
a credulous cherub stretched
to super-size
metabolizing at rapid rates
reporting life
in code
a backdoor witchcraft
cipher built to defy mainstream
culpability (he has the touch!)

a new testament devil
in perfect time with
life’s script
exact entrances and
sentimental wit
getting older
but never taller
(he once played Amadeus
you know)

headfirst risks on credit
and odd jobs held with
hot hands cooked
in conservatory kilns
and competitive
truth breaks through on-
line (in 5/8 time)

displaced in space
past-me pulls the arm
back to the first groove
repeating records already
spun and patterns
taught downstream
to two more fish who long to
walk on land (and walk
in love)

@NBF 5.14.2009


Manhattan Beach, 2008



Four character portraits in mixed media: figurative and literal language.