the empty envelope

“ENVELOPE (noun)
The coffin of a document; the scabbard of a bill; the husk of a remittance; the bed-gown of a love-letter.”
-Ambrose Bierce

In poetry, the number of beginnings so far exceeds the number of endings that we cannot even conceive it. Not every poem is finished — one poem is abandoned, another catches fire and is carried away by the wind, which may be an ending, but it is the ending of a poem without an end.

Paul Valéry, the French poet and thinker, once said that no poem is ever ended, that every poem is merely abandoned. This saying is also attributed to Stéphane Mallarmé, for where quotations begin is in a cloud.

Paul Valéry also described his perception of first lines so vividly, and to my mind so accurately, that I have never forgotten it: the opening line of a poem, he said, is like finding a fruit on the ground, a piece of fallen fruit you have never seen before, and the poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.

—Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey (via commovente)
Write beautifully what people don’t want to hear.
—Frederick Seidel, on his disagreeable poetry (via stxxz)
I’ve never believed that what attracts us to poems is knowing what’s going on in them. As a matter of fact, I think just the opposite. Maybe that’s the problem people have with poetry.
—Jericho Brown, Poetry, February 2012

Ex-Lovers At 4 a.m.

breathing heavy
in bed next to me,
creating a crevice
in the sheets.
wide awake
and unmoving,
trying not to sink
any further
towards you,
hoping that if
I do, you won’t
notice as I attempt
to inch myself
away. Morning,
must you make
this harder? Alarm
clock, you are
going to sound
so sweet.

For Nick A. Clark

I couldn’t write about it then—

the way the streetlights 


towards the cement as if

they were hardly alive,

the way the railroad tracks

gleamed: two narrow straight

lines. Funny, how you and I,

we never could stay on course.

We chose late nights

and wild sex,

fat lines

and cigarettes.

Everyone said we were killing ourselves,

but maybe we just liked being reborn. 

I still remember the way

your voice sounded when you

confessed October was the last month

that had seen you clean. Don’t tell

my mother, but I still thought

you were the most beautiful boy 

I had ever seen. Has it really been

two months since the two of us have

been sober? I guess life carves us 


before it grants us any favors.

The streetlights still flick

on by five each night,

hunch their backs,

hardly alive.

I still look back at us

and believe we were living;

perhaps the streetlights too,

maybe their backs are just aching. 

I find myself reading more poetry than I am writing, but perhaps that is okay.

Some words build houses in your throat. And they live there, content and on fire.
—Nayyirah Waheed (via luxology)
Rage doesn’t make poetry.
Nikky Finney

Read an interview with National Book Award winning poet Nikky Finney in which she discusses Condoleezza Rice, Strom Thurmond, and the civil rights movement. Join us for her reading next Wednesday, October 30. (via poetrysince1912)

semi-finalist in the National Amateur Poetry Contest. Pretty sure like 70% of the applicants make it to the semi-finals….but still…

Pulaski, Wisconsin

My grandparent’s porch
sags from the weight of
five children,
seven divorces,
and eighteen mouthfuls
of resentment.
Even the leaves
don’t lay down
to rest here.
My grandfather is asleep
upstairs, and my grandmother,
all seventy-five pounds of her
drunk off the morphine,
sits in her rocker and waits
for the cancer to take her.
Soon, or not,
depending on the traffic
of County Highway C,
my uncle will return
with supper. A turkey,
or a deer if we are lucky.
The four of us will sit
around the old oak table,
chew our meal in silence,
avoid the elephant
that joins us for dinner.
After dessert—a frozen
pie my grandmother
baked when she was
well—I will go back
to the porch, add to its
sagging weight, count
the number of days
it’s been.
Nine months, four days,
and too many hours.
I can see the trees
changing colors
in the distance,
and perhaps it is better
this way, that no leaves
will lay down to rest here.

davidbdouglas asks: Do you go to UPS?

I did. I graduated in may of this year. Wonderful school.

Sorry for lack of posting the past couples of days. sick.

People run from rain but sit in bathtubs full of water.
—Charles Bukowski (via ponceau)

(Source: cachaemic)

Lies I Tell My Mother (Submission)

Because I woke up lying backwards

in the bed, tangled in his heavy

rapaciousness due to last night’s

three bottles of Freixenet Brut,

because I really only wanted

his touch and not his lust—

impatient ex-lover, don’t you know

you can’t trust me when I tell you

that I’m over the last four months—

once again, I am here. Precious mother,

this poem won’t make you proud. But

then again, this poem isn’t about you.


It’s about him and I, our drunkenness

last night, when the idea of me lying

next to him seemed nothing short

of tantalizing, but now, with the on-set

of a hangover that cost only 8.95, there’s

nowhere I’d rather be but out there, outside.


From the crevice in his bed, I breathe in,

still half asleep. My tongue already feels

fat from the lies I will keep:

Mother, this poem is not about you.

Mother, last night I got some sleep.