Archive for the Best of TPP Category

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 #27: Two Lovers in an Hourglass; Prompt #4: The English Sonnet

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems, Writing Prompts with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2009 by czarnickolas

Two Lovers in an Hourglass

What makes us grow to wish these days away,
content to spend our hours combing sand?
The grains between our toes have much to say
to those still clinging grimly to our hands.

Encased in glass, we’re safe from fortune’s touch
as subjects in our own menagerie.
Though trapped inside we cannot hope for much,
the risks we face are minimized this way.

In time the coarse precipitate will fade
and facing us will be a question, too:
do we attempt to flee this cell we’ve made
or flip our fragile hourglass anew?

Well there is one thing history has shown:
The choice is not one I should make alone.

@NBF 5.13.2009


Los Angeles, 2008



This poem is an English Sonnet, the form employed by Shakespeare when he wrote his collection. Like blank verse, the English Sonnet is written in iambic pentameter. In addition, it uses an end-rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, upping the challenge a bit. I invite any serious masochists or poets (or both) out there to give an English Sonnet a try. The balance of narrative, rhythm, rhyme, and originality is very tough to maintain, but the satisfaction level of creating a great sonnet cannot be overstated.

The sonnet, though less popular today, has evolved over time and many twentieth century poets experimented with the form, including Robert Lowell and John Berryman.

Poem #23: Alone at the Movies on July 16th

Posted in Best of TPP, Poems with tags , , , , , , on May 8, 2009 by czarnickolas

Alone at the Movies on July 16th

At a Bill Murray double feature show
I sit by myself in the second-to-last row,
just me and two bottles of beer
half-hidden in the gaping pockets of
my father’s old coat.

No takers tonight, so I’m alone with Bill
and spotted silhouettes, all solo,
strewn in anonymity throughout the
cool black sea of the movie house.

Antique trailers swell with nostalgia,
a parade of unforgettable films
trapped in time, celluloid scenes of
what could have been way back when.

I tear up during Meatballs
when Bill rescues Rudy from a diner.
“If you make one good friend a summer,
you’re doing pretty well.”

I used to make ten friends a summer,
but maybe that was too many.
I haven’t heard from any of them in a while.

I shush a kid three rows down
whose phone rings during Rudy’s big race.
(I wish the kid had cause to shush me back.)

My second beer is gone
ten minutes into Stripes and suddenly
I don’t care what happens anymore.

I drop my bottles on the floor, leaving
Bill behind. He’s got Ramis with him now –
what’s he need me for?

@NBF 5.8.2009


Winslow, AZ, 2007



Going to the movies alone offers a double-edged catharsis. On the one hand, there is the great escape of cinema enjoyed in total darkness, and the peace of being alone. On the other hand, there is the chance that you’re alone for the wrong reason, whatever that means.

Are you ever really alone when Bill Murray is in the room, if even as a persistence-of-vision illusion?

Meatballs (opening scene and titles)

Poem #20: An Apology

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems with tags , , , , on May 5, 2009 by czarnickolas

An Apology

I’m sorry I took you
for granted, but I
thought that was our
plan all along

You thought I’d be
at the party, too,
but I wasn’t, and you
spent the night in
a bathtub filled with rum

Then I forgot your

(and your name)

I stole your friend
and gave her back
when I was done

Those things –
Those things I said
in your dreams,
those things that
hurt, I’m sorry, too

I turned off my phone
because I was done
with you, but you could
have tried other numbers

Forever was just too
long for me, and
just enough for you

@NBF 5.5.2009


Fort Smith, Arkansas, 2007



Sometimes “I’m sorry,” is not enough.

Poem #19: GANS

Posted in Best of TPP, Poems with tags , , , , , on May 5, 2009 by czarnickolas


Going away now – sorrow
stirs nature, gifts, and
grand songs. A nearby
gravestone names a star.

Naked as snow, gulls
soar above, guiding nascent
souls across new grounds,
a spirit’s natal garden.

Success against God’s nadir
never arrives. Satan’s gambits
steer gentlemen amiss: nothing’s
silver and nothing’s gold.

Guardian angels nurture Soul.

@NBF 5.4.2009


Las Vegas, 2007



I wrote this poem to commemorate the life of Danny Gans, one of Las Vegas’ greatest entertainers. Mr. Gans passed away last week. I was very lucky to see him just months ago. His talent was remarkable, his energy contagious, and his love for life inspiring. Wherever he is now, he is, no doubt, still performing.

Danny Gans (1956-2009)