Tessa, A Soul’s Quest

He was in a stagnant abyss.
At least that’s what he described.
Insipid, I think he said that, and
thinking all’s inconsequential.
Wrapped in a solitude, it’s strange
not to think like that.

Then he took on a lover.
Quivering in desire, the darkness
cascaded away even if it’s momentary.
Soul’s fragmented and needed to
be made whole. That’s its quest,
nothing else matters.

Prompt: Hey guys, I’ve started reading Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The title’s quite a mouthful. The last book of his I read was IQ84 and that one’s quite phenomenal. I remember there were two moons in the story. His stories are pretty surreal. But if you, like me, question reality, then you might just develop a taste for the surreal. Souls are surreal, aren’t they? However you frame reality, that’s your reality. Anyway this last novel from Murakami struck me as pretty dull–well I guess it’s the protagonist’s perspective. Aaargh. Write a poem that gives us the perspective of a protagonist. Hope yours will be sunnier.

Tessa, An Obscure Dream

I swam in the sun. In the capacious sea
inside. Against insinuating waves. Jostling.
There’s nothing preposterous in the depths.
I was not shame-faced–a hippie-wanna-be skinny
dipped with a peace sign in her heart.
If I half-believed she would be an alter ego
sitting on a rock draped in a garish shawl.
In telepathy, being relaxed, keeping it smooth
and intact. This is holy communion. Then coming
up for air, drawing in deep, ragged breaths.

Prompt: We spent our nights dreaming. Do you remember your dreams? In my dreams of late, I seemed to be making a series of entrances and exits. In a recent dream, I was exiting into water and then shooting up as if in a dive to break surface. The water was crystal blue as in a swimming pool. I remember feeling surprised that I was in water. If dreams are stories, who is telling them? Who is directing? Isn’t that a mysterious process, dreaming? Write about a dream/dreaming.

Tessa, A Light-hearted Prayer

Once there was a cavalcade of poets
donning jackets in fancy curlicues.
Some smeared on war paint flashing dark
green. It was most photogenic, like
a picture from National Geographic,
alive, profane but discolored now.

From there she sat in brocade
chanting hymns through the night.
She with downy skin, then slightly
plumper, holding a steady grudge,
petulant, greasy with prayer.
The time for that was over.

She made a collage of orange lilies
having a taste for decoupage.
So to the bin went the hoopla of
abysmal self-destruction. She’s into
interpretative dance, felt resolute
and braided into sacred music,
all expansive, light-hearted.

Prompt: Heidi-ho! This piece of blues music was from 1958. Do you remember it? Guessing lots of you are old enough, yes, no? Haha. Do you listen to vintage music? Are you into vintage stuff? Are you yourself vintage? Haha. Remember “The House of the Rising Sun”? Another piece of vintage music. The other day, on Mother’s Day, the golden oldies channel on radio was playing “M.O.T.H.E.R.”. An acronym–I googled it. I’ve never even heard it. It’s that old. 1916..oh wow. Anyway you get the idea. Write about a vintage song or vintage anything, even vintage you!

Tessa, What’s It All About?

Some days are out of focus. Like today.
I’d been some place else then came back.
Where, you asked? Well, it’s like, abstract.
I’d been distracted that’s all, smiling
as if at some esoteric knowledge that
was at the back of mind. I had been,
you know, mind-blown.

Then when I laid back, I thought about
sleeping a lot, when my mother had wiped
my forehead, glistening brow, and how
I could not open my eyes. Maybe a fortune-teller
could’ve foretold what had come to pass
had passed. I’d passed it all, sailing
through blood, sweat and tears.

Prompt: Hope things have been pretty placid for you. If you have passed through a storm you’d know what placid means. There’s the noise of children playing just outside my window. White noise. I had just heard news that someone’s dog, a 9 year old German Shepherd, had died. Was fine yesterday. Laid down in its usual spot. But this morning died. Perhaps a heart attack. It drove its owner, apocalypse-like, to tears. For someone like me, nothing unusual like that happened today. I don’t have a dog. Not now. But I know that when mine died, no other dog will take its place. I guess life is personal like that. Some woman drove her car to a ditch. A man, a stranger, came to help her out. They became lovers. You know, things happen and it’s all personal. Everyone’s life is different. Now that I’d led you on, on some kind of mind trip maybe, write about whatever personal thing that was for you. Think back.

Tessa, About Annie Leibovitz’s Portraits


So why go to an art gallery?
Sat in a foldable chair and watched
a slideshow on portraits–Annie Leibovitz’s,
no less–well, truth-telling for one,
for that’s the function of art,
isn’t it–each queenly woman
helping to define what is, each
cuts an imposing figure.
Some svelte, some corpulent ones.
All tender, brash beauty: unprisoned,
each in her own story.

Prompt: Annie Leibovitz’s portraits let you breathe into the real woman. I don’t know much about photography but am more interested in how a portrait should convey a person and her context. So her posture, how she dresses, what kind of setting–that kind of conveys her personality. It’s fascinating to watch how she chooses to frame each one of her subject. Like this one showing Elizabeth Taylor. Yet the most memorable photo exhibit is of a naked John Lennon locked in embrace with Yoko Ono, taken just five hours before he was assassinated. Which only goes to show how important a photograph can be. We are all ephemera. Write about  a photograph/ a portrait.

Tessa, A Song About Bathers

She wanted to purge the artificial air,
feeling quite ill-disposed. After all,
she’s paid an arm and a leg.


Henri Edmond Cross, Bathers III


So onward to the sea. Ritualised
therapy, she tore off her clothes, into
a bathing suit. Tessa, look,
a bowl of purple sea!

We floated into the champagne sky.
Something picturesque had grazed
our skins, skimming, indolent,
and blissful now.

Prompt: The weather was kind yesterday. It was kind of balmy. The best day to take to the sea. I know I’m only imagining. But sometimes imagining is good enough. It really is. Try to imagine pleasant scenery and you’ll feel kind of blissful. Try it in your poem.

Tessa, One Heart

Look at the birds, he said.
And I looked. What is the sky within,
I asked. The spaciousness we, imagining,
feel. The first sky, must it, it must
belong to God? When you say flying’s
born out of nothing, I thought about the
vagina as orifice–

to open at either end of day

and my baby fastening on as a sermon,
threadbare, mysterious as sky–
glowering mother glazed,
strenuous, open
so this be the work of wings, this be
the most showy thing about
you, O God, falling into me.

Prompt: So I didn’t mean to write about birth. But there it is. Birth is pretty amazing. In fact I rate it as the.most.amazing.thing. Unless you’ve experienced it personally for yourself you don’t know how amazing. And I also got thinking about holes. They are, in fact, portals. Holey=holy in my book. Anyway, we’re full of holes, aren’t we? (Metaphorically too. :)) I don’t have to specify, right? Eyes, nose, ears, mouth and the ass and then the vagina. That has got to be the most amazing hole. It is where a human being is minted. So I guess, the prompt is to write about holes/holiness. You can be mystical about it. Oh, please do. What can you say about a baby falling out of you?

The referent for my poem is of course, Li-Young Lee’s poem, “One Heart”.

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, friend, open

at either end of day.
The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

~ Li-Young Lee ~

Tessa, She Took Me For A Ride

Once I oogled her LV scarf.
She only ever wears crusty matt black
Ferragamo ballet shoes.
And a branded tote bag–I forgot the name.
And her false lash extensions
would leave you feeling–what?
Less than beautiful?

So she kept fending off
lecherous men on Facebook.
Her almond eyes and skin belied
that she’s nearing sixty.
I skittered around her in
my yellow and mauve drawstring blouse
and a puffy skirt.

If beguilement is a game,
she aced it. Lost in her little judgmental
taste in refinement. So you felt
pulled into the heft of her argument
as if she had always loved you.
Oh the deceit of it! Oh the lack!
Oh flattery with a cobra bite!

Prompt: You know how people hold you hostage. They do. Their discourse kind of shapes your viewpoint if you hung out with them often enough. That is why you should be ever discerning about who you let into your circle. Your circle is your world. If you have a person in your circle who talks plenty, in a persuasive, intimate-like way, a sort of osmosis takes place so their view starts to blend into your own. Then you wake up one day and realize that hey, I have my own point of view and it’s different. A friend who doesn’t admit and respect another viewpoint is not worth having in your circle. Why do I talk about this stuff? Well, perhaps I do have an axe to grind. But more than that, you need to know how to choose a friend. Or why you’re the chosen one. And your choice has to be based on something more solid than liking the same fashion style, for instance, or liking someone’s make-up. That’s just one level of friendship. We all need to know who our real soul mates are.

…I need a mark, a tattoo,
etched on the arch of my foot, telling me
what to hold, clutch only what is mine.
–Aimee Nezhukumatathil, “Bee Wolf”

Write about friendship.

Tessa, Let Us Begin Again

I look for miracles.
Because I am suffering, we are,
each of us, orphaned.
So these hieroglyphics hopefully helped,
are helping and will.

My self, your self, ourselves.
What trivializes any of us.
May we carve out a leaf-shaped heart.
So in my ethical loneliness,
my outreach is poetry. It is.

Prompt: It’s been a while. Well, because each of us need silence too. It’s been noisy in other ways. Too noisy. I read a bit of poetry today. And it taught me about protection. And burial. It’s about how robins would cover a corpse with leaves and twigs. The heart maybe, too. Here’s how it ends:

Even cats shied away from it, as if they
too knew not to harm that winged heart.
I wonder if it had just finished another

sad business–if someone once exposed
and alone is now wrapped–stitched neatly
into this ground with beak, wing, air.
–Aimee Nezhukumatathil, “How the Robin’s Chest Became Red”

Write about protection and burial.