Poem Walks are focused prose accounts of an experience of walking (or moving through) a familiar place. These observation poems can be of any length, though the 250 word limit is observed for contest poems. For more on #poemwalk2012, see this post!
- Poem walk 07 | in the Wild
- Poem walk 06 | Day Three
- Poem walk 05 | The Door
- Poem walk 04 | The Game
- Poem walk 03 | Empty Day
- Poem walk 02 | At the curb
- Poem Walk 01 | Sunday Walk
Poem walk 07 | in the Wild
The plane overhead sounds like a clearing throat. Ahem-ahem-ahoo. The sound lapses into reticence. The canyon tightens into a puckered frown. The flies are hard up for flesh, crawling up, and crawling out.
A faint knocking–tat-tch-tch-tschrissa–knocking echoed–a great big gap for the sparrows to fill. As they pull their wings close, it looks like they’re falling, falling. So they do. And dart, upward, above me. Their little feet rustle in the sycamore trees. Popping in and out of the scrub brush where my head won’t turn.
On the hillside, a sharp eye angles towards me unblinking. White / black strokes on the power box. The eye isn’t the mystery. The green box humming. In the middle of the forest scrub. Who draws the breath of electric longing in the puckered canyon where the swallows fall?
The eye tells me a different story. It is dripping in handfuls by a clearing in the sun. I crack to. The flies swarm thick, and the carrion things come in and out, in and out.
Poem walk 06 | Day Three
The air in the room is stale. It hangs like a pall on the uneven spring-bed that groans with displeasure to see the sleeper stand. The blinds are shut tight against the monsoon heat. Throbs in my skull like a day-three hangover. The room is a coffin, its color sapped into monochrome statues. The clock has run down to an impossible hour. Dull, muddled, I slice the thick air with fumbling need. I must–must–be out.
On the threshold, silent hands catch & hold me, razor-still on my shoulder. Suddenly, the room takes on a sideway hue (the slanted light of high-beams through the blinds shut tight against the monsoon heat). Against the tight, bright walls, I see the shredded tissue on the bodies of the dead–held there against the light, like a hundred gauzy cubes stacked against a corkboard. Grimly, I see a tiny obituary clipped for inspiration; these hands cradling my face like a saucer, invited to inspire; the single impression in my mind… yes, the dead still hold tea.
Poem walk 05 | The Door
The door is solid oak, and opens like a feather. The sun is in the West, and long shadows lay on the ground. My screen is notched. The lattice jaundiced in the silent breeze. The scene aches with familiar notes; the chill in my throat. I want to close it. The antique handle catches.
That is when I see a shadow, deep & purple on the ground, passing to the east. It eats the light. My hands are slick. Legs become concrete pillars. I can’t mask myself with walls.
It sees me.
A tremor, pulling through the vapors of dying thoughts.
The lattice will keep it out. Slick teeth writhing in its mouth. A maw, a maw. It will gnaw the bars, but not break through, this shadow in the shape and weight of–wrong.
(I know the speed of these frozen bones; I will not reach it; I will not reach…)
I don’t, and the handle slips from me like hope.
Poem walk 04 | The Game
A hollow voice in the yard wakes me from a half-lidded slumber. The sky dazzles, and blue birds tumble down on their way to nests.
The game is to find the seeker. We are in sun-dresses. I cover my face, call out, and go.
Evergreen clippings on the wall. My hand prickles on the pebbled brick. Hot clay. The sweat beads down my neck. Broken grass in drying clumps. My feet quicken. I am breathing hard, and I strengthen with every beat.
In the corner, I feel it cradled in the damp moss. No sun touches here. My fingers hunt through the cracked earth, searching, searching. Where the green breaks in a still wave against the dirt. There! A yellowed triangle is sunk into the ground, sunk and stopped, rotten bones of games older than memory.
The seeker is here. Mine! A blast of wind, a cry, and we sink into it together.
Poem walk 03 | Empty Day
The trail arcs adjacent to my youth. Her features are open but I put on a show with the ranger map. At first, there is highway, marked with gravel compresses on its jagged lanes. Switchbacks coil the mountainside. Hot oaks preside here, in their fingers of shade. A half-hollow live oak marks the trailhead.
Bricks next. Not professional ones: mised lumps, hard in the dirt like stepping stones. Ripe clay sizzles beneath the brick islands, reeking of scrub thistle and feet. Sandy dirt, then reeds, then a dent like a giant handprint. Pebbles and detritus. The dryness aches like a scab. A cry!
A falcon plunges like an apricot flung at concrete–a stochastic impossibility that bounces higher, up and up, with heavier shape, into the sky. We can pretend our ways are strange to each other, though her eye knows my skull like a storybook.
Poem walk 02 | At the curb
Los Angeles International Airport. Twelve-foot concrete pillars. A snarl of arrows. The trappings of modern importance. The buses run terminals, yellow-spotted, blue-green halfsies flashing through traffic like parrots. White concourse springs up into mazes.
I am my own beast of burden. I pull an overnight bag in my harness. I pull through queues, and stairs, and the latest security gizmo (this year’s model all the rage with the young people). I haul across the polished floors and their thirty-year stains. Privacy screens with printed clouds mark where the old girl has put in for a face-lift.
The transit lounge is already in the air, the fluorescent lights & stratosphere candy, the circling glass tile pillars, circling, and weightless. EXIT. EXIT. EXIT. The rotunda and I dance until we board. Sssh, but we haven’t boarded yet.
Poem Walk 01 | Sunday Walk
Locals go for a drive. No one walks these stucco-fence haunts. Iron gates on iron windows. Barbed wire on the backside of car lots. The landlord’s son, Angelo, guns his Harley up the street. My legs skitter down the steps like a nervous colt. They want air. So we drive. It’s a Sunday. Swapmeeters cobweb the street. Only the one side. The other is a separate country, billboards, restaurants, cafe clubs in a language mash that goes down hot at the corner panadería. Folks in red and purple shawls line up next to carts. A man and his son sell bonsai on a car hood. Human billboards shill movie quotes. Forget it darling, it’s Koreatown. Hollymount Cleaners flicks by in an old Deco font, face scraped up with half-century dirt, but gleaming. Pert trees bend on the sidewalks. The Santa Anas agitate last night’s cast-aways: crushed cans, fry boxes, wrappers in six scripts. We creep along, swapping winter stories instead of cigarettes. Our voices are light. We’re tangled up in our anything but. Into the heart of Metro. In front of us, Hanmi Bank is a gleaming spire. But we’re at a distance. Not actual size. It smiles. The city looks like teeth.