Tag Archives: poetry

The Screaming Mound

Do not speak falsely. 

Brutal honesty: 
far better a crime 

than your silence 
denies. 

Your tongue 
presses 

the bottom of your mouth. 

Words wait. 

Tongues are cut out. 

Tongues rise high— 
lash the ground. 

Place your tongue atop 
the screaming mound.

About the poem:

“The Screaming Mound” contains some of the most jarring imagery I’ve ever employed in a lyrical context. The issue at the poem’s core  —  complicity in atrocity through silence — demanded a strident metaphor.

But sadly, I no longer remember what prompted the poem.

I think this is because the poem itself chooses a kind of silence and complicity. By operating exclusively through metaphor — however striking — without so much as an epigraph to clarify the poem’s real-world context and origin, the pain of the particular is silenced.

So, too, is memory.

Forget To Grieve

I still lie on my side of the bed. 
The dog still curls 
in the place she curled 
when she curled behind your legs. 

Her ears stand up at every sound and 
my heart leaps to meet you. 

I am aching for the day 
I forget to grieve. 

The column of moonlight 
from the window over the bed 
illuminates every speck of dust; 
every memory overhead. 

Every moment I think of you 
is a moment I won’t sleep. 

I am aching for the day 
I forget to grieve. 

I still lie on my side of the bed. 
The dog still curls 
in the place she curled 
when she curled behind your legs. 

You were the reason I looked ahead. 
Now the future haunts my dreams. 

I am aching for the day 
I forget to grieve.

About the poem:

I just released a new single, “Forget To Grieve,” via my Cindervoice musical persona.

The poem imagines a nightmare scenario of personal loss — one that, thankfully, I’ve not experienced.

Still, the poem intimidated me, so intimate are its small details. Part of me wanted to shelve the song.

But those small details held me to account. Especially these:

The dog still curls
in the place she curled
when she curled behind your legs.

When a lyric like that graces your pen, you must be stronger than your fear. You must follow where the words lead and hit “record.”

I’m glad I did.

Medusa In the Cistern

How long
can you hold your breath?

Two minutes?
Two thousand years?

The city sits upon your neck:

snakes, so still,
suspended

upside down
in drinking water,

saliva now a nutrient

feeding grand machines;
modern industry

rushing
past your memory.

Quaint, unthreatening
fragment of nostalgia
that you are.

Frozen,
beheaded

as you are.

About the poem:

In early 2007, I saw the pilot episode of a now-cancelled American documentary series, Cities of the Underworld. The series led viewers through the subterranean environments that exist beneath various cities and other locations.

That first episode focused on the world beneath Istanbul, Turkey — including the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı), built during the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. There, in one corner of the cistern, two giant Medusa heads rest, recycled as bases for two columns.

The image of Medusa, submerged in a cistern while time, myth, and civilization passed her by, struck a chord in me. “Medusa In the Cistern” followed.

The poem transformed rhythmically when set to music. The words became a rapid incantation, repeated several times, mirroring the rush of civilization above ground. This is not at all how I would read the text aloud as a poem. But as lyrics in a musical context, I can’t imagine the words any other way.

Pass Not That Way Again

"Where one can no longer love, 
there one should pass by." 
Though memory aches for former shapes, 
pass not that way again. 

Human curves and fingerprints 
should not be cast in corners. 
The huddled form is not for you. 
Pass not that way again. 

Where surprise has fallen mute, 
there no gods will grow. 
Those spirits have all lost their breath. 
Release their spent air from your lungs. 

Fever dreams too tightly held 
deserve only your tears. 
Lay to ground their will to death. 
Pass not that way again. 

Steps ahead, voices resound 
that beckon us to being, 
forgive us our misshapen pasts, 
and welcome us in changing. 

"Where one can no longer love, 
there one should pass by." 
Though memory turns to clasp cold lips, 
pass not that way again.

About the poem:

“Pass Not That Way Again” was used as lyrics on track #9 of Before the Turn, part of my Cindervoice musical project.

The poem is a hymn-like meditation on leaving behind patterns, vices, and relationships that do you harm, and finding better community elsewhere.

I think it’s an honest poem in that it acknowledges:

  • The feeling of loss and the allure of return that accompany any serious attempt to change one’s life for the better; and
  • That forgiveness and redefining one’s life can be achieved only in the company of others.

The quote, which provided the initial spark for the poem, comes from Walter Kaufmann’s English translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra (or Thus Spoke Zarathustra).

Here’s how the poem translated into music:

Walking On Faces

The dim light 

     hangs. 

I punctuate 
silence. 

The dark corner 

     calls. 

I choose 
a careful path. 

The floor is populated: 

     metal faces cry, 

grimace, countenance 
the violence of my gait, 

clanking 
     protests; 
     warnings; 
     death-cries. 

I enter 

     the heart. 

The ceiling is low 
at my head. 

Brutal steps 

     ring sharp 

in my ears. 

Detachment dies in 
     protests; 
     warnings; 
     death-cries. 

I choose 

     a path of return, 

for which I am. 
I remember 

     the dead 

only through force, 
clanks and cries. 

What is my alibi? 
What is my alibi?

About the poem:

“Walking On Faces” was used as lyrics on track #5 of Before the Turn, part of my Cindervoice musical project.

The poem was spurred by Menashe Kadishman’s “Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves)” installation at the Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Jewish Museum, Berlin). The installation is an immersive experience that requires the visitor to walk on metal faces strewn about floor. The sound of your walking cuts deepest; you can get a taste of the experience here.

It took me a long time to process my emotions after experiencing “Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves).” Feelings of sympathy for the lost and complicity in their horror entangle in the act of walking on faces one wishes to honor, their clanks filling the air. The poem “Walking On Faces” was how I made sense of the experience.

Here’s how it translated into music: