Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ada's #20


I’m at the age where people talk about houses,
houses and homes, and houses that house
their housewares and homegoods. And maybe it’s here
where I admit that I don’t know how to have a house.
Not sure about the paperwork or what “in escrow”
really means, and isn’t everyone losing their houses?
Even the White House is worried, and no matter how
hard anyone holds on to their house, their households
are shaky, and then there are those shows about housewives
that seem to have enough house to share with everyone,
enough hours in the house to share, and though I love
my houseplants I’m afraid they might be apartment plants,
some of them already want bigger plant-houses because
they’re so happy, and I am happy, and that’s because I do
know how to make a home. It starts here, with this simple
building: I make an O with my arms and hold my household
in my breath, I imagine stingrays and marlins swimming
up my steps and you’re here, and there’s a good dinner
on the ceiling, and a fireplace in my hips, and I lay
down my skin by the door, it reads, Welcome Home.

Jen's for Day 21


Monday, April 20, 2009

Ada's #19

The Best Button

“If I ventured in the slipstream/Between the viaducts of your dream

Where immobile steel rims crack/And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me? /Would you kiss-a my eyes?

To lay me down/In silence easy”  --Astral Weeks, Van Morrison


I’ve been listening to the album, Astral Weeks for weeks now,

so much so that a friend calls and says, It really is turning into

Astral Months. And Bob writes to say that he’s been listening to

the same album for five years so maybe, I’m just getting started.

The way you think this could either go on forever, or stop now,

or how you find a safe place to lay down and before you get really

comfortable, you’re already nostalgic for here, already miss where

you just came to be. I’m just getting started on wanting things

to go on—eating  past hunger, kissing past the point

of no return, swallowing the whole sky when you look up to

see the birds go by, thinking they’re angels, and here’re the clouds

again, and darkness past the point of regular behavioral glooms,

and it’s the spinning that’s so satisfying, though it’s no longer

on a record, it’s the way it asks nothing of me, or the way it

exists in another time, and it keeps giving me something, 

the way most live people can’t keep giving, because it’s exhausting 

and so hard to give all the time. And who am I to ask someone to 

fill my singular, impossible need? Give me a little more here. 

Wait, take it all back. It is the noise we’re making, that tree 

making noise, this voice making a noise in my jeans, up in this 

plane, where for three hours now, I’ve pushed repeat, repeat, repeat 

and it’s become my favorite button, my favorite pet of an item. 

So much so, that I’ll think I’ll use it more. At the end of the 

slipstream’s whoosh of breath, I’m going to push it, push my 

little button so the song comes on, this time louder,

this time, no one will lose their job, or have to go on broke and scared,

and this time, no one will get stuck on the other side of the world

dying and scared, and this time everyone will have button, a button

made out of blood cells that lives on tiny beats, a button that 

looks like a heart, and we can walk around and push each other’s 

buttons and these good buttons will be on the outside, and people 

can see if our button needs pushing, will know just when to touch 

us right here in the chest, to turn us on all over again.





Jen's toofer Monday!

[au revoir]

Jen's for Day #20


Ada's #18

Live Longer, Snake   

I’m talking to my brother on the phone
in the backyard of my parent’s house, blue-belly 
lizard on the picket, two donkeys, Cisco and Garbo, 
guzzle water near the oak tree. I’m sad because 
my stepdad is so sick that he’s not coming to the 
reading, and it’s okay, he’s had a bad day, and 
everyone knew he might not go, and it’s okay. 
And I’m crying a little and my brother understands 
but I feel stupid, the child he’s picked up a million 
times from school and made happy, can’t make him 
happy. Can barely hide her hot tears from the  
bummed-out barn animals. I feel not just stupid, 
but ineffectual, as a drug that does not work gets 
pulled off the market. And just then a snake in the grass, 
not a metaphor, just a real snake, half in the hole, half 
out of the hole. I almost crush his head. I shout and then I 
get close in, he’s not a rattler, he’s a good non-dangerous 
vermin-eating snake, and I love him. I sit for awhile 
by the overgrown swiss chard and the mountainous pile 
of cuttings and weeds and want to make this snake love me 
back, want to make it have a nice life, want to hide it 
from the mowers blades and protect it from hawk’s 
quick-cutting claws, want to make this snake live longer 
than me, or rather, I prefer to die first, want to slip under 
while watching this snake slink beautifully on and on.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jen's for the 19th


Jen's for the 18th


Ada's #17 (I've been traveling, so more to come...)

Practicing Someone Else


She tucks the thick sound into

her pocket and takes it to the street,

she’s going to stay all day in someone

else’s voice. She’s a tremor, a nerve,

a border crossed with a big toe.

Once, she kissed a kid who died

and even his lip-print bristles on

her bouncing skin still, now, here.


Day 19, after watching Anne Carson's Orestia, from Jason

[no more poem]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jen's for Day #17

[later, gator]

Jen's day #16


Ada's #16

Sleep’s Undoing


Though I veer in the direction,

of cool bloom, of crater and rise,

dare the past to deepen its pit,

the careful judge of days machining

the mind, and I’m not afraid of animals

nor afraid of lasting, still, I’m afraid of

my teeth in my own mouth, the way

they click and grind in my head,

but always behind my back.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ada's #15

Traveler’s Song

Take your good self with you,
Pack your ticket in your heart.

Begin at your familiar doorway,
For that’s where the world starts.

Let the globe’s spinning song
Come seduce you, soft and low.

Take your good self with you,
The thrumming earth says, Go!

Jen's for the 15th (TAX-I DANCE DAY!)


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Jen's for day 14


#14 for Jason

[no more poem]

Ada's #13 & 14

(For Deborah Digges)

“I thought I could grow old here,
safe among the ghosts”—Deborah Digges


I had a big love who liked to jump
out of airplanes. Did it twenty-three times,
all before he was even twenty-three. Every time
he’d go (sleek body swept up in the slipstream),
I’d give ultimatums to the sky, rack up
agnostic deals to the unfaithful blue.
But the best part was when he’d come home,
wind-burned and vibrating, pull a note, a note
from his pocket and read me what I would have
read if he had died. And I liked it, words
folded into my obstinate palms like I had won
something this time. Then, when he found out
that mainlining cocaine was cheaper than
paying for plane rides and I became a parachute,
I began making my own notes. Notes for him
to come home, demanding notes, loving ones,
and they worked. He flew in through a window
and handed me his head on a platter of notes,
what remained of the altitude’s gifts.


Today, a news notice told me that a woman
whose words I loved, whose sound rung out
like an air-horn in the spine, was found fallen.
And it’s no good. No good at all. Shuffling I go,
and want to bring all these pages. Come, let’s
curse this gloomy going, let’s hold a handful
of her notes like holding hands. Come let her
welcoming sans serif-fingers make a sort of harness,
some magic flying thing, let’s thank some left-over
god for what’s left, these notes, these words,
this inheritance of risk.

Deborah Digges at Pete's Big Salmon, 2004

Top: Deborah and her family at Pete's.
Middle: Reading...
Bottom: ...sans shoes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jason's for the 13th

[no more poem]

Jen's for Day #13


Deborah Digges

In 2004, when Ada and I were hosting the Pete's Big Salmon reading series at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn, Deborah Digges came and read for us with Greg Pardlo. She was one of our Dream Guests—and the prospect of meeting her was a reason we said we'd do the series in the first place. In person, she was gracious, humble, completely down to earth (she was barefoot the entire time, actually), and obviously adored by the family members who accompanied her that night (they seemed as excited as we were to hear her read).

Ada and I are both HUGE fans of her work and have spent many wine filled evenings reading her poems aloud to each other, finishing with, "THAT'S what I'm talking about!" I love the way she risked being so unfashionably emotional and clear. Full of longing and mourning and humor, her expansive yet tightly crafted lines read effortlessly. It's like eating a whole box of See's candy--that easy and that delicious. And there's always a genuine, intelligent surprise in her poems--about why we're here, suffering like we are--that makes me feel better. Especially when it hurts. Deborah Digges didn't just teach us how to write, she taught us what it means to be a human being.

We absolutely loved her.


Ada's #12 (late!)


There is not enough silence in this cavern of telephones.
When do you expect you’ll arrive, this coming you speak of?
The world crawling in your lap.

Years now and we’re still at war,
and what comes back? Who opens the door?

Let them in just a little bit
while you’re making the bed.

The lights go up on his horizon
and all is not forgiven, city blocks full of our undoing.

It’s too much with the world shrinking
and here is Africa between your ribs and full of starch and silver.

So go there—bring a well of help on a cloud of cash
and the highest hope to be beyond human, to save even yourself.

All the trips are not far enough,
Overwhelmed by the world in a dirty dish—the water turned stranger on the run.

Trouble is we’ve grown so fond of our flesh and homes.

Who’s wearing the front page on her naked chest—no one.

Bring back the tricks, the camera man and his bowtie,
I miss the taste of tin and brand-name snacks.

My umbrella’s not big enough for this—
All these angels falling down to pieces.

Enough about the weather, real lives are being lost.
And I’m tempted to throw myself out the picture frame.

But this suit is so nice and her thighs are right here.

I’d make you a card if I thought it would outlast the second we had.

Evacuate that heart of all its longing and silence beats,
When do I get to become a song, on the valley wind?
Not soon enough. But soon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jen's for Day #10


Ada's #10

Love Letter

To the quaking bird on high, wing-deep
in the wired light, to the quick-stepping
ghost following me, to the camera’s catch,
to the beauty’s bridge-walking demons,
to you, to you, to you.

To the fake heavens stuck in a real wish
for saving, to the valley’s mounting pour
of thick longing, to this vibrating hymn
where we rock, to the carpet’s sly beg
to lie down, lie down, lie down.

To my wanting and my not wanting
and the carousel in between. To the complicated
dream-speaking mouths, to the quiver of truck
tires on Carriger’s gravel, to star-counting in dust,
to the hour, the hour, the hour.

Terrible beauty, I address you. Every live
thing in me is widening its loving fangs, is aimed
at the tenderest skin, but cannot take you on.
What’s left is the feathered acacia teasing
the heart gone mad with blessings.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Jen's # 8 (under the wire)


Ada's #8


Once, when I jumped off the bed
At sixteen, full-force fist at my first love.

Once, in Germany, my seventeen year-old
Shoulder slipped out of its hard new syllables.

Once, in Spain, in a tiny tent heated by two
Slick bodies. (My arm numb for seven days straight.)

Once, in my father’s car, almost driving,
The seatbelt’s reach wrenched it raw.

In Albuquerque, when every part of me
Was unhinged like a worn-out cotton wood,

At a pool table, in a firefly-filled clasp,
Putting on a coat, putting on an attitude.

My shoulder doesn’t want me, or rather
My humerus doesn’t want my scapula.

But I want my shoulder, just how it is,
It’s not broken. Funny, what it does is, it aches.

It wants to go backward, a targeted tug
On one side, a leashed-beast, pulling for release.

The first time it happened, I was twelve
Heard it snap in the middle of a friend’s pool.

I swam one-armed to the lip, quietly cried.
Then, I shook, and it clicked in, my trick.

I never told anyone, cold all day in the sun,
Tiger towel, squeezing my left hand for feeling.

It felt good, as if finally I had my own secret,
A crack in my being, a shiver I could name.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ada's #7


Avocado walls in a district office meeting
have a lot to say, a lot to add about
educating students in the early seventies.
I wasn’t born yet, but I wish I had been part
of that day’s discussion. The one where someone
said, “The only thing Mexicans are good for
is stealing hubcaps.” And my father, a new
principal, stayed silent. The man who said it,
laughing and leaning up against the pale green
room like a plastic figurine in a fake place called,
“Outside.” I don’t know if everyone laughed,
but they might have, let’s face it, they did.
I do know that, the next day my father stole
all the hubcaps off that man’s car
in broad daylight, in the parking lot
of the elementary school. It’s one
of my favorite stories, though what I want
to know the most, is how good each
hubcap felt—a useful thing taken
and made a better-tool, rooted so deep
in a man’s pride that the weight made
the wheels stop spinning, its sole purpose
born into a fierce standing still.

Jen's for Day #7


Jason for Day 7

[no more poem]

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ada's #6


You’re telling me about your cactus
and the orange tree and I’m three
thousand miles away, but not really.
You’re saying something about fires
in the licking wind, in your cringing skin,
and I’m so selfish. I think, get to the part
about me. The part that makes me
feel something, the part where I’m
on fire too, the part where you think
I’m three thousand miles away, but
actually I’m face up on your lawn
watching the cactus catch fire,
its punk-tough spines fighting
a losing battle against all that heat.

Jen's for Day #6


Jason for Day #6

[no more poem]

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Jen's for Day #5


Ada's #5

The Human Skill

That the world has been doing its thing
for a very long time, is a comfort. A pill
in the marmalade of breakfasts since
the beginning of the rotation. Start here.
You’ve done everything. Even the really
really bad stuff. And so have I.
So when we walk into the backyard
and stare out into the dim distance
of our neighbors, we know they’re
watching us. For good reason,
for good reason. But the good too,
we’ve done that. Loved. Opened.
Everyday, I wake up and think,
“Today I will attempt to be
exceptional.” But instead I get tired
and fall asleep. Maybe my
exceptional skill, is waking up.
And again, again. Start here.

Quick Interjection

This is really really very hard.

And the Jason who has joined us is the lovely and talented, Jason Schneiderman.

Ada's #4

What Suits Us

Your good love suits you,
like a suit of good love.
It’s not just that the barking
pierces the skin, but
that you like the skin
a certain shape. Last
night I called you,
“angel head,” instead
of “angel face.” But
it’s because I meant
your whole head,
(which included the brain
not just the face).
In the pictures, your
suit is like someone else’s,
the way I pretend to
wear your good love
sometimes, when no one
is looking. Put it on
in the mirror. Make
kissy faces, and pout.
Then I put it back,
the invisible stitching,
the stiff ache of distance
between clothes
and skin.

Jason's #5

[no more poem]

Friday, April 03, 2009

Ada's #3

Unorganized Love

When the lava dome was over, like history,
after Mount St. Helens and Cougar Mountain
were conquered, after there had been streams
and lost in the woods, I got strep throat, like a tool,
had to take the Greyhound bus back
to responsibility and straight up-and-down A’s.
Fever dream in the front seat (“Sit in the front,
next to the driver.”), the woman who asked
if I was okay, touched my forehead, said,
I looked like her family. Her family,
a Pacific Northwest tribe. And I wasn’t.
But she insisted. And hours later she went on,
my body slumped over an old backpack,
my throat blistered with give-up.
The kind of give-up you get when you’re 19
and think it’s still an option. Like, just stopping
is an option. She was saying something about magic
and how sometimes you just get a sense
of things, and I thought that was true.
The first boy I loved; I met him in the back
of a Roundtable Pizza where he was making
things disappear for a whole room of us
twelve year-olds, and he was made of magic
and carried fake roses and real rabbits
and I loved him for real, for real, for real.
She talked about how my tribe, in Mexico,
in Aztlan, was also a part of her tribe,
from the same coast, the same ground, she knew
when I got on the bus that I was her people.
She gave me a grape soda because I couldn’t talk,
and told me to look at the trees and how,
didn’t I feel like I had known them forever, and how
I probably had, and how people had been
here before too. I sipped my grape soda
and for miles of interstate I was so full
of love that for a minute, I forgot who I loved
most, as if I had lost the hierarchy.
It scared me. Made the whole world seem too
unorganized. I needed rank and file, a system of
loving. This person is number one, a fake rose,
a top hat. She put her hand on my forehead again.
My fever was breaking. A soldier got on, and
someone said, “we’d get there faster if we didn’t
keep stopping.” A grove of trees. A grove of homes.
And I couldn’t tell who I was wishing well, or
even if it mattered. So I said, “I'll miss you,”
to the window’s nothing and didn’t care
if it said it back.

Jen's for Day 3


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ada's #2


Because we didn’t want to kill
anything, we covered the baby
scorpions with a mason jar, slipped
a white paper underneath their
segmented metasoma, their twice
moulted ecdysis and left it
on the counter. Eight scorpion
babies (one for each of our years)
twisted up like they were spit
from hell’s white hot mouth
and asked to bear some angry
weight. We stared at them,
human-eyed, and wrote a note:
Their grimaced carapaces
looked into ours, until
we turned our young backs
to the jar of nightmared boos
and quick-footed, we fled
to the mountain’s tall rye grass
to release the live things inside
of us. Our own brood of crawling
young cold-blooded stingers
aching for a chance to remain
jar-less, to live this one life
un-captured, ready to blow
the lid off any atmosphere.

Jen's for Day 2


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ada's #1


Shake it. Like a tree.
Like a blossoming tree,
a young one who's doing
this all for the first time,
whose blooming buds hurt
as much as they shiver,
whose love is so big
it wants to spread it all over
the great state of California,
wants to be every state’s
state tree, wants us all
to be in the state of tree,
the state of tantrum and
buzz, the state of, Take me!,
the state of, C’mon, C’mon,
let’s burst open everywhere,
leave bits of ourselves like
tongues in the world’s ears.

Jen's #2 for Day 1

[Sayonara, baybee]

Jennifer L. Knox: Day 1

[Bye bye!]

NAPOWRIMO Comes But Once a Year!

Hello there, whoever is reading this. I'm Jennifer L. Knox (but please, call me Cherry) and I'm going to be posting a poem every day, along with Ada Limón, on this here blog.

If you don't know anything about NAPOWRIMO, you must not be a poet.

So I'll explain briefly: NAPOWRIMO stands for National Poetry Writhing Iguanas Mojito, which is fairly self explanatory. It was invented by Santa in, like, the 1800s. And Ada and I have been doing this since the dawn of time. You (if you are me or Ada) write a poem every day and share it with the world via the Interschnitzel, or you keep it silently, even greedily, to yourself.

Some people (and 100% of all prairie dogs) say NAPOWRIMO is killing poetry by making it go swimming too soon after eating. To those people I say, "I'm trying to watch JEOPARDY! Isn't there a new Harry Potter DVD you could be dancing to right now or something?!" And that usually does the trick.

Ada and I aren't the only ones who do this, though we may be the only ones who insist on doing it naked. NAPOWRIMO sites are all over the place, like on the blog for Bloof Books, where there are like 1000 poets posting and podcasting. I hear kids love podcasts. I'll probably phone a poem in one night if I'm drunk.

Thanks for having me, Ada, and befouling your blog this way.

Strap on your poetry pants, whoever you are, and let the games begin!