Newness Saturday #2

Feels like it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned THE SANDMAN. Blame it on trying to get my hands on so much new poetry and even some novels but it doesn’t matter how far I stray, Gaiman’s masterpiece is never far from my head.

Take for example, “Cerements” the pen-ultimate story in the Inn at World’s End series. This one story is actually six stories all put into one and is probably the textbook definition of compartmentalizing stories. And the part where the young apprentice recalls the five ways to properly dispose of a body has never left me from the moment I read it.

This poem is a companion piece to the short story I recently wrote where a young Bronx boy is wondering why there is so much construction on his block. Both the poem and the fiction share the same title and they both come out of a phone call from my father a few weeks back, “Ok, here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to write a poem about how the streets are paved, dug up and repaved. Ok? Get to it.”


“If you read the newspapers the right way, you’ll find people invent new ways to die every day.

The most common one isn’t in the papers: neglect. Most people don’t ever get to see their names in print.

I’m telling you this because you are still young which means you don’t think it will happen to you but I can bring you to a cemetery full of people who never thought it would happen to them.

I’m telling you this because we can’t choose our death any more than we can choose our lives.

All we can really do is work hard enough towards a proper burial.


1. Interment
   Variants are boxed, wrapped or naked; embalmed or otherwise; lying, seated or standing; grave, sepulcher, vault or cairn.

“Before you drink up, always spill a little on the sidewalk first. You never know where someone died.

All concrete is one headstone for the City.


2. Disposal through fire
   Variants: Clothed, boxed, pyre, vessel or ship. Different procedures adopted to dispose of the ashes.

“My sister, your aunt, they say she died in her sleep. I know she died in flames.
They say she went quiet and in dreams. I know she went out cursing the heat.

They say she never felt a thing. I know her skin charred in the blue light.

They say she went straight to heaven. I know she had to swim through hell first.


3. Mummification
   Variants: Salting, mineral baths, dehydration, pitch and bitumen.

“El Gordo Pepe ate himself to death. A steady diet of lazy cash and late bills mixed with bad women he called wife too often and good women he never called at all.


4. Disposal through water
   Variants include feeding to water-animals or fish; disposal in sacred river or sea; boxing, bagging with rocks.

“I can never fix that damn leak. The rust by the drain reminds me of your aunt.


5. Air burial
   Variants include dismemberment and otherwise; ingestion by raptors or scavengers; complete or partial disposal.

“Pigeons don’t leave their young unguarded. They feed their chicks in secret until they grow to adult size. I wish I could protect you in the same way.


“The streets are constantly torn up. From one day to the next, you never know what condition you’ll find the neighborhood in.

Why does the City do that? Why the need to tear away all the layers of pavement?

You should write a poem about that.

* Descriptions of bodily disposal and their variants come from The Sandman #55 “Cerements” by Neil Gaiman

Newness Saturday #1

Originally uploaded by URBAN PHOTOS

Just submitted some new poems to my creative writing teacher as part of my final manuscript for the summer.

This poem was the first one I wrote for class and was originally going to follow the same pattern as the parent poem “hymn to vatos who will never be in a poem” but it’s time to meld attribution with some more distinct flavah and see what we can get out of it.

Sonnet for my B-Boys
After Luis Alberto Urrea’s “hymn to vatos who will never be in a poem”

For my b-boys      Lil O, Ray, Jon Boy
For my b-boys      walk the straight line by day
For my b-boys      know all the street vendors
For my b-boys      crushed ice with sweet syrup
For my b-boys      fueled by sugar and sweat
For my b-boys      swear to always be boys
For my b-boys      Ozzy, Ray-Jay, Tiger
For my b-boys      up way past their bedtime
For my b-boys      stand guard in the hallways
For my b-boys      down by law soldiers
For my b-boys      keep it copasetic
For my b-boys      in coded speak like break beat
For my b-boys      Ozwaldo, Raymond, Jon
For my b-boys      peace out till the next time

The Newness: Making a City

Playground Monster
Originally uploaded by Travis Gray

When I was a kid, my favorite playground was the one on the corner of 174th St and Jerome Ave, sandwiched between the #4 train and Grand Concourse, with a busy exit/entrance to the Cross Bronx right along side. It was pretty standard for a city playground: two slides, some swings, a structure we could hang off of, and a padded area to run around in. Hmmm, actually it was kinda crappy. No monkey bars, no water fountain in the summer (there was one but I don’t think it was ever actually on) and no merry-go-round thingy. I know it musta been boring because I would get more thrills running outside it and hanging by the highway entrance, picking a car to chase for a minute down the ramp and then coming back up again to wait for another car. This I know cuz my Dad would warn me not to play by the highway cuz it wasn’t safe and a paliso would come my way if he caught me disobeying him. (Of course, I did catch a couple of beatins.) So that’s the playground of my little years. The one where I caught some of my first head stitches (different story for another day) and where I’ve set this poem in. The poem is a first draft so any commentary is appreciated.

Make Me A City

[Poem was here. Soon to be published in phat’itude Literary Magazine]

Follow up to Writing Assignment #4

Originally uploaded by Andreas Reinhold

But first:

РI should up my rating on D̩rive over at Good Reads. The conversation over this volume has generated sound responses and helped me in a new poem.

Myung Mi Kim. Just got introduced to her work last night, which is criminal considering that the Sexy Loft Library has four of her books. Quick thoughts: Kim’s poetry focuses on the individual word and how that word makes a distinct association to the previous and following word making it different from (what I define as) lyrical poetry which invokes more intuitive associations creating rhythmic patterns that often leave us spellbound by the feel of the poem but hard pressed to locate specific phrases that equally excite us. (Note: While I am a fan of lyric poetry, I am also very aware of the way ignorant, offensive messages can be hidden in a rhythmic poem. More on this later.) While I can’t say I get Kim’s work on one read, I can say I appreciate how she constructs these word bridges – which in my mind are more like a gnarled fallen log helping you traverse a stream in the woods as opposed to a smooth shiny metal toll plaza – and I am going to read more of her work.

– Writing Assignment #3. I’m not gonna get a chance to revise this badboy for a minute. Distance from your poems – not a bad thing.

– Writing Assignment #5. We are to write exhausitevly on a topic for the next few days; then stop; look back on the writing and distill it down to a 50 word poem. Good times.

– The new poem. I like where this is going, it needs more work but if I say anything else it will give you the open door I am not supposed to be writing so there’s that.

This Wednesday

as you enter as you enter with perfume and spice fill the mouth a perfect sacrifice as you fill the ritual in song in praise to the hosanna hosanna in the highest fill your house a weight heavy in the air spoon shaped whisp perfume spice ritual inside filled with a song of sage of sweetgrass of signs of archways open spread open for business closed for business closed gate close the gates for good for now for ever forgive this weakness this willingness this acceptance this prayer this lift this dust this

Follow up to Writing Assignment #2

Originally uploaded by AprilM2107

This is the assignment where we have to create an alter ego and write a poem from that perspective. I won’t tell ya any much more about the alter ego but the more I look at this, the more details I want to add.

On a quick side note: Next week we have to write a poem about an iconic photograph/art work. Whether the poem sets out to reveal or dispel a “truth” about said image is up to the writer.

God Loves A Liar

I see my pops’ face everywhere I go. Every bum, every tecato, every cop, every priest, anybody who looks like they got a scheme in their eye; I think, “That’s my bastard right there.” The only place I never see the old man is in the mirror, no matter how much folks say I look like him.

Then again, I don’t look much like my mom either, but at least my moms is pure. God bless her, she never sees a hustle in progress. She walks through this life like a tourist watching a building drop, and as folks run every which way and that, she would be the one standing there still, tall as her faith, thinking how clear the sky and how strong the wind, while clutching her santa rosario and mumbling a prayer to the Saint of Falling Bricks sure of her path to Heaven.

I ain’t never had that much God in me. If a building came tumbling down, I’d find the first sucker in sight and offer him a loose cigarette, have him stand in my place and promise him I’d be right back. Then, before it all goes to hell, walk away to a nice safe distance and enjoy the show. That’s all the God I have, one who dropped a son into the world and didn’t even bother to walk away, just set up shop right down the street and saw him go through all the shit of life with nothing but a strong moms and a half-loyal crew.

That’s me, minus the crew, and only my moms’ word that she remembers full well my pops’ face and I don’t look nothing like him.