Blood Work

"Music is God"



Like in the Chinese restaurant, it is

the perfect forethought and timing with which
the slices of orange arrive
on a small plate with the bill.

So, while you are paying what is owed,
The sweet juice fills your mouth for free.

And the fortune cookie too
which offers you the pleasure of Breakage
and then the other pleasure of Discovery,

extracting and reading the little slip of paper
with a happiness that you maybe conceal,
the way the child you once were
is even now concealed inside you.

Maybe you will marry a red-haired woman.
Maybe you are going to take a long journey.
Maybe a red-haired woman will steal your car and take a long journey.
Maybe you will be buried next to your mother.

And when the people you are dining with
smile and read their fortunes out loud,
and ask you to tell them your own,
you smile and tell them a lie,

and they laugh and think you are weird and funny and sad
and you know that you
are all of those things,

but you don’t tell them the truth
because you don’t trust anyone,
and you never have:
that is your fortune.

tony hoagland

The World Has Need of You 
Ellen Bass

"everything here seems to need us…"

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.

Those Of Us Who Think We Know

Those of us who think we know
the same secrets
are silent together most of the time,
for us there is eloquence
in desire, and for a while
when in love and exhausted
it’s enough to nod like shy horses
and come together
in a quiet ceremony of tongues

it’s in disappointment we look for words
to convince us
the spaces between stars are nothing
to worry about,
it’s when those secrets burst
in that emptiness between our hearts
and the lumps in our throats.
And the words we find
are always insufficient, like love,
though they are often lovely
and all we have

- Stephen Dunn

The Revered Poet Instructs Her Students on the Importance of Revision
by Kim Addonizio

Listen.  I’m trying to tell you
how easily the poem you thought
was a beautiful woman becomes
cronelike by a kind of witchery.

How easy, you thought, to write a poem:
you scrawled last night in your journal
and in the morning, by a kind of witchery,
the poem was born, perfect, immortal.

But soon, too soon, what you scrawled in your journal
begins moaning, pitches forward and wails, hating
itself, the fact that it was ever born—imperfect, mortal
and suffering the way everything suffers,

every moaning lover, every wailing child,
each creature destined to be isolate and alone
and suffering the way everything suffers,
but I said that, didn’t I, explained already about suffering

and about each one of you, destined to be isolate and alone
because writing is lonely work, is what I’m trying to say,
did I say that, did I explain already?  I’m suffering 
through your poems, and my own, oh God I feel

so desperately lonely is what I’m trying to say,
look at you you’re so young all of you,
I don’t care about your poems, or my own,
do you know how fast it goes, all I want is to be

as young as all of you, look at you
you’re so fucking clueless, oh I want
my life back, where did it go, I want it all to be
different but I’m standing here, lecturing again—

on what, on what?  Oh fuck it,
listen, I was a beautiful woman,
you think I want to be standing here, lecturing?  Look again.
Listen.  I’m trying to tell you.

Response to a student

 [student name redacted],

Sounds like you could use a good walk. Do something completely mindless for a little while, maybe fifteen minutes. It will be good for you. To respond to your comments:
1. My mentor in college referred to this voice as “the crow.” “The crow” is far worse than the simple “inner critic.” The crow is effing relentless and represents every single authority figure and power structure that has ever made you feel small. You need to obliterate that crow because it is completely full of shit and is out to undermine your work. It is always, *always* wrong and exists only to frighten you away from your emotional material. The crow doesn’t come from a terrible place. It comes from the place that wants you to be socially safe, and thus tells you “you better not go there. That place is dangerous.” 
2. You don’t have to go anywhere you don’t want to. Just keep your eye on the prize, which  *is* going there. Sometimes it takes awhile to get there. Do not put pressure on yourself or judge your progress. Just do the best you can. If you can bring yourself to *try to want* to go there, you’ll really be in business. Once you want to, you can do anything you want. I mean that. *Anything* What power!
3. If you’re trying to write something perfect you’re going to fail every single time. Just write to write. You have to permit yourself to write badly. For every 10 attempts if you get one solid, polished poem, you’re doing well. Here’s an essay on shitty first drafts by Anne Lammott. If the link doesn’t work just google “shitty first drafts anne lamott” you’ll find it. Look back to Osho in week 1. Perfectionism is an express route to silence. 
4a. Writing can be fragmentary. If you need to write in fragments, write in fragments. 
4b. It takes one spark to light a fire.
4c. If the kindling is wet you use lighter fluid. If you have no lighter fluid, see if you can dry out one twig with your hands and clothes. Then two.
The best thing you can do for yourself right now is be kind. Be kind to you. Be kind to the writer inside you who *needs* to do this work. Don’t ever compare your work to others. Keep in mind that you, me, we are all students of this craft. We don’t just magically make good poems. This is work. Good, necesary work, but work. Talent is cheap. Maybe 10%. If you want to write great poems, you just need to love poetry with all your heart and work your butt off. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 
Stay strong. This is an important time for you and your work. Let me know if I can elaborate on any of these points.

Roxane Gay is Spelled With One "N": How to Be a Contemporary Writer

all <3 for roxanegay:

1. Read diversely.

2. Write.

3. See items 1 and 2.

4. Accept that there is no one way to make it as a writer and that the definition of making it is fluid and tiered.

5. Accept that sometimes literary success is political and/or about who you know and that’s not likely to change. Yes,…