Poetry Thursday: Circling


If you've never hung out at Tumblr, you're missing quite a lot.

Not my Tumblr, but Tumblr, period. Tumblr is a blog engine or CMS or community site or all of these things, rolled up in one. It's a long-form Twitter or a cool Facebook stream. It's blogs minus the b.s. It's a ton of people you don't know (but most of whom you want to, after spending a little time there) throwing out all kinds of random items. Which means it's a crazy patchwork quilt of ideas, notions, nonsense and genius, served up in words, pictures and video, all embedded in a crazy, ever-flowing stream of awesome. Really. It's the tits.


Last week, in the sleepy, post-eating haze that was Thanksgiving weekend, Merlin, who is very back into poetry these days, unlike those of us who (sadly, shamefacedly, never were), has been dwelving into Richard Hugo of late. In the course of his travels, he turned up a nifty (and terrifying) exercise that another poet, Ted Roethke, used to give his students, to keep them on their toes. A hateful, vexing, difficult exercise which Hugo twisted to make more difficult, and which Merlin then put his own spin on, dubbing it the Roethke-Hugo Exercise (and, to be fair, threw down himself).

I do not consider myself a real poet, but I am highly competitive and love puzzles of a certain stripe. So of course, I immediately sat down and applied myself to the task. I took over an hour, and broke many other rules. But boy, howdy, does an exercise like this ever get the blood moving after the tryptophan. It's enough to make a gal apply to grad school.



Tough eye, cool and blue,
unwavering, insensate,
cuts to the red part of my heart,
names the rock in my throat
with swift, soft precision
that surprises me awake.

Am I ruined? No more than
the sky a cloud curves across
or the tamarack a hawk circles
and, with a kiss goodbye,
laughing in that haunting way,
fades into what is left of the days.

I hug to me your soft nonsense,
lugging it and all the mud you
sling at my indifference,
letting you bruise the truth
of what I thought I knew
against the rock of recognition.

Image by tommy the pariah via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.