Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Day Negative 7 (Mother's Day)

C_llin, since I feel like I shorted you on new material, I decided to post the 1st of the 4 AIDS poems I didn't read at Java last night, "Day Negative 7: Mother's Day."


16 May 2000. He is flying (or falling) – no – lying
to himself. Death traps his breath in a lode-
stone BOX (N.) -->
           corner: a predicament from which
           graceful escape is impossible
Who owns the air? the voice asks. Who,
the Earth?
He
                          fights God with eight
translucent arms. The thick yellow fog
is boiling. Boils
for eyes. Swirling black columns
of smoke rise like stilts as he walks
Who owns the flowers? When he climbs
into the coffin, Venus
flytraps of lightning
open: knock-knock. All bone. Who owns
the sea? Can you? Another black O
on his thigh. A pair, a MOON (N.) -->
           a small body in orbit about a planet
(I am coming back.)
K.S., night sweats, an opera
of coughing. A coffin. Too short. Pulse?
*
Pulse? One hundred
thousand black ants scurry
through the artery. No
escape. Who owns this
body?
Stars
over Miami. Hands
in every crevice. Breath.
Stone. Mother. Who owns
light?
Reach. No flowers but
(I am coming back soon.)
gravestones. First
son. Last
light. First
love. Last
LUST (N.) -->
           one of the seven deadly
           sins.
Future. Face it. A bouquet
of injections. ER.
Stretcher.
Your status, sir, your status?

7 comments:

Collin said...

I've read this about 10 times now, and I've been sitting here thinking of a response. Let me try to break it down into some thoughts. You may not like some of what I'm about to say, but but I'm not here to blow smoke up your ass. Here goes:

I can't read this aloud. This is the definition of "page" poem. I closed the door to my office and tried to read this and it turned to loose, random words flying out of my mouth. Where is the music?????

This poem sounds nothing like Ayo. If you had handed me this and said, "guess who wrote that?" Ayodele would have been last on my list of possibilities. There is nothing wrong with trying out new voices (I do it all the tiime), but at the end of the poem (when I think I've got it to a "final" draft), it still "sounds" like my voice. Even Cherryl and her geechee poems still sounds likes Cherryl. There is a music to your work, and it is missing in this piece. Perhaps this is just experimental, to stretch yourself and see how far you can go in another direction.

I've seen you boil down what could have been prosey-epics into succinct, direct poems. "Conjurewoman" comes to mind...and so does the unflinching directness of "Jim Crow Museum." None of that is here. This is oblique -- it seems -- for the sake of obliqueness.

I hope you can find the middle ground for the "you" and the "new" and marry them. And please remember to keep one ear open and one ear closed when someone is teaching (telling) you how to write "better." And do not let the "performance" side of you be stripped away, no matter what anyone or any program tells you. An MFA is not the end-all, be-all. It should not strip you of your voice. You were brilliant going in, be brilliant coming out, but BE Ayodele!

Told ya I'd be the first bitch...

BLUE said...

holding the poem in question:

Who owns this body?

this is a central question. of the poet; of the poem.

what does this poem want to do?
give me death in images.
make me breathless.
NOT name a voice.
question authority.
disrupt conventional linear constructs of time.
reference a holiday.
invoke a relative/the maternal.
promise a return.

how does the poem do what it does?
inquiry ... a list of questions.
defintion(s) ... lexicon entries to give us its terms.
short lines.
lists of images or actions or nouns.
a date line (is this epistolary? if so, whose letter/diary/correspondence are we reading?).

is there a place where the poem or its intent is not clear?
"venus flytrap of lightening" ... feels like the poem wants me to see something about lightning that i don't already know ... instead of seeing lightning.

time-time-time. is the subject of the poem dead or dying or imagining or anticipating death?

what is the intent of definitions in the poem? what purpose do they serve in their present context? does the poem want me to think about them in way that i normally wouldn't? does the poem want to impose double meaning? does the poem want to anchor meaning in these defined images (the BOX, the MOON, the LUST)?

what is the overall dramatic intent of the poem? does the poem want me to get a rush? be afraid? get a glimpse? get inside the subject's body? be nosey and peek in on a situation? think about AIDS? think about death?

note: the poem was more about who owns death for me than it was about AIDS.

M. Ayodele Heath said...

Collin, Cherryl,

Thank you so much for the feedback. As a matter of fact, I do like what you have to say. I greatly appreciate the time and consideration you gave this piece as I know you could have been doing a zillion other things.

Because I value your feedback so much, I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to post the other 3 poems in the sequence - 1 each day this week and, if you feel so compelled, I would love for you to post your feedback - but only if you feel compelled to do so. I don't take your time for granted.

I love you both for your criticism, your honesty, and mostly for keeping me on my toes!

BLUE said...

I know you could have been doing a zillion other things.

"We are each other's magnitude and bond." ~g. brooks

looking fwd ...

light!

Collin said...

Ayo, I look forward to reading them. I want to see where this series goes and maybe get a better idea of what you're trying to say and how you're trying to say it.

M. Ayodele Heath said...

Collin wrote:

I closed the door to my office and tried to read this and it turned to loose, random words flying out of my mouth. Where is the music?????

This poem sounds nothing like Ayo. If you had handed me this and said, "guess who wrote that?" Ayodele would have been last on my list of possibilities.


This is an interesting comment. Maybe I can shed some light about what's happening composition-wise.

If there has been an "Ayo voice" in the past, it has been driven by a logical, ordered syntactical thought construction. In contrast, this poem was composed intuitively - by image, but also by sound - to give the sensation of HIV rather than a poet's thoughts about it. So, the project of the poem was 1) to convey the disjunction/chaos which HIV wreaks on the body and 2) to balance the disjunction with cohesion through image and sound.

As a result, this poem aspires to be one of the most textured sound compositions I've ever written. It may be that my line breaks are hiding the music, but if you couldn't hear any music after reading it aloud 10 times, then it's possible my ear is out of tune.

Granted, I've never read this poem aloud to an audience, but I'll give it a test run Incognegro at an undisclosed open mic here pretty soon.

Again, the movement in the poem is intuitive rather than logical (similar to the closing section of my space shuttle poem) and while that technique seemed to work well for the shuttle poem, it is possible that my associations simply aren't strong enough to carry the experience here.

You've given me a lot to think about (and work on) on this one. I'll let you know what I come up with. Again, thanks for being so thorough.

M. Ayodele Heath said...

Blue wrote:

note: the poem was more about who owns death for me than it was about AIDS.

Yes, you are correct. It was wrong for me to say that this was a poem about AIDS. It is a series of poems about the experience of AIDS told from various POVs.

This particular poem's intent is to convey the experience of a patient frenetically questioning his status while grasping for definitions of anything that has certainty - BOX, MOON, LUST. Again, this was the intent and it's possible that I just haven't done all of the necessary work to pull it off.

"Who owns this body?" is also a central question here - negative or positive; the mother who has long since released it or the virus which has long since claimed it? I know the project here is ambitious. Perhaps I am biting off too much, but I'll keep chewing...