Notes on my Poems
At the bottom of every poem is a link to a note. Although every poem has a link, not every poem has a note. The notes that I have written tell a little more about the person, situation, or context of the poem. Sometimes they tell about revisions I made.
If you clicked on a Notes link and find this at the top of your page, it's because I left a place-holder for a note in the table of contents but did not actually write a note. I'm sorry to disappoint you.
A Quiet Party Fantasy
An earlier version of this poem was titled Richard. But I don't remember the person who inspired this poem any more. Sometimes I find I've erased the memory of someone I was attracted to because I have no other way of coming to closure on the feeling. Perhaps this Richard is one such.
There is a version of this poem in one of my spiral-bound notebooks. Foolishly at that time I wasn't dating the works, so the date for this poem comes from knowing the approximate date I typed it in to my then-new Macintosh 128 (quickly upgraded to a 512). In that notebook there are names of people scribbled about. There is a Richard Holmstrom in there who I can't quite place. I wonder if this poem is about him.
Trying to remember exactly who this poem is about puts me in mind of many others who I've had feelings for but then erased from memory. There is one guy who lived in my old dorm after I'd moved out who I befriended. He was a huge fan of Symphony Pathetique, had a best friend named Udyan. He and Ude liked to hide nonsense words on slips of paper in each other's rooms. He moved away after probably a year. I am VERY sad that I cannot remember his name. And it was long after he left that I got the sense and the skill to be able to tell him my feelings, and to listen to his. If you recognize yourself in this note, write me. I'd like to catch up on where we both have been all this time.
Part of Me From You
Strictly speaking, this is a self-discovery poem. I believe I did write it originally about a specific person, but have since forgotten who. For a long time my attractions were from this viewpoint. I literally felt myself become a whole person when spending time with some special person. One such recipient of my interest in this way turned me on to a helpful book called We, which tells how its commonplace to discover a new aspect of one's self when inspired by another, and how one can then keep that new self without using the other person as a missing piece. Thank you Joel. You are as kind and insightful as you are beautiful, and you ARE beautiful.
You Are a Good Example
This is a poem I wrote about the insights I received from my good friend Pierre. We got to be friends about the time he was beginning the practice of Zen Buddhist rituals. Following his example I was able to calm myself down and break free from a compulsion to answer any technical question I heard. He probably saved my life.
This is the story of a wonderful man I met while on vacation. The poem tells the whole story. I hope one day to persuade him to allow me to photograph him and put it with this poem so others can see what I have seen.
To say where I met David would give away too much of his identity. Let's just say I had a crush on him that was for a while paralyzing. I decided to work through it, and came to see him more objectively. I've not yet shown him this poem. (It is my usual rule to show people the poems that are about them.) I intend to, but we've drifted far enough apart that there is not a graceful way to present it to him. This poem could also be in the Self Discovery section, because I did learn a good bit about myself as I worked through my feelings.
This poem is about a someone I met at a gathering one year previous to the gathering where I met the person who inspired David. I'd been wanting to write about the experience, but for several years, the words wouldn't flow. Finally, returning to the place I'd met both of them, the first draft came out in a burst.
As the poem says, the person who inspired it was non-plussed by my attentions. I think he'd be uncomfortable if ever he saw this poem. But interestingly, after I got the poem down, I happened across him, and he finally did smile at me.
I showed the poem to a mutual friend of mine and the person who is the subject. The friend suggested re-titling the poem would grant more privacy to the subject, and would fit with my ideal of becoming friends with the subject. Perhaps I will one day work up the courage to risk more frowns, and show the poem to the subject.
Extemporaneous Poetry On the subject of Xopher.
Christopher G. (a.k.a. xopher) was very nice to me and helped me feel more secure about myself. This poem is a note I sent him after I'd not seen him for a long while. I was really nervous to tell him how I felt about him, but he was accepting and welcoming of what I was saying. This was an unusual experience for me. Most people in my past did not welcome it when I started telling how I felt about them.
The Story of B.
In the summer of 1999 I had a brief but wonderful fling with B. This poem is my memory-book, if you will, of it. The whole experience was transformational to me. I still have strong feelings for B.. He is someone who, just by being himself, made a big difference in my life. In the course of our getting together, being officially boyfriends for a very brief time, and then having a great time as two gay friends after that, I exorcized many personal demons. B. was really the first person who welcomed rather than recoiled from the strong attraction I had for him.
This is one of several poems written about or inspired by B.. I showed them all to him, and asked that he give his blessing to my publishing them. He asked that I obscure his identity, but otherwise has been very supportive. (In my early enthusiasm I mentioned him explicitly by name.) Although he called it "interesting" that I wanted to publish these feelings and events, I suspect he thinks I'm a little nuts for doing so. Perhaps in the fullness of time I will come to agree with him.
This is another of my poems inspired by B. This poem captures some of the qualities I found in him. These are now qualities I look for in my future lovers. Oddly enough, before B., I was looking for different qualities in a man. Boy was I silly.
The last line deserves a bit of explanation. To obscure B.'s identity, I replaced his name with a pet name I have for him. It's not pronounced the way E.T. the Extraterrestrial pronounces it! In calm moments I pronounce it in a cutesy cartoony way. But sometimes I feel very enthusiastic and pronounce it somewhat explosively.
This poem too is inspired by B. One day I was taking inventory of how B. reacted in to me in ways that I did not expect. It was his way of reacting that captivated me, and was instrumental in my exorcizing many personal daemons. Finally getting over rather a large backlog of self doubt, I find myself encouraging and expecting others to react as B. did.
Another poem inspired by a situation involving B. I really do worry that what I'm up to is obsession rather than self-discovery as I work through all the feelings inside unleashed by my reactions to B. But if posterity can forgive what Proust launched from a cookie...
Yes, this one is also addressed "To B. With Love".
This was the first poem I wrote were I allowed myself to speak ill of someone. The poem neatly captures how I felt, but is probably not being entirely fair to the other guy. He is a sweet guy, and perhaps he's so easy going that he would be surprised to discover my perception of the situation. Hey, for all I know it was the only way he could think of to communicate to me that what he wanted and what I wanted were too far apart.
I don't intend to show this poem to the person it is about. He probably won't ever have or make time to visit my poems site. I don't feel inclined to reach out to him any more, or else I'd show him the poem and work through telling him why I wrote it. There is enough in there for him to recognize himself. If he does ever see the poem, I honestly don't know what effect it will have on him. He's welcome to be angry at me for blowing something out of proportion, or to apologize for his having done something wrong.
Well, I did eventually show the poem to him. I'd finally decided I wanted to forgive him, and let him know what he did that upset me. I'd invested more feelings in him than he'd appreciated. He'd been through a few dramatic personal situations since last we talked. We may end up friends after all.
The Top Ten Things
Twinkies Cannot be Trusted With
In the note above on Trifle I said it was the first poem I where allowed myself to speak ill of someone. I'd forgotten about this one. This poem is about someone who managed to get onto my shit list by saying a single wrong sentence to me. I thoroughly enjoyed venting my infatuation-turned-to-dislike in writing this poem. It is taking all my will power not to blurt out who the poem is about. But I shall try and pretend I am a gentleman. I confess that I have revealed the identity of this poem's subject to close friends many of whom are acquainted with this, um, person.
Call Back Soon
I Need Your Help
These two poems go together. They are my impressions of the same person at two different times. (I may add to the series.) The first one is my agitation over waiting for him to call back after a friendly message hoping to get together that meant rather more to me than it ideally should have.
The second is about my feelings as I try to cope with the clash between what is appropriate between us and what my internal needs drive me to desire. Lucky for both him and I, I pride myself on being a gentleman.
I seem to write poems in bursts. Actually there was a draft of Call Back done in April when the event occurred. But today the Muse is active, and I found the words to capture the feeling. Perhaps I'm rushing I Need Your Help out too quickly, but I'm gonna trust my gut on this, that they're both finished enough.
Sometimes, particularly when I'm on a trip, I get to feeling bad. This time I put the feeling into a poem.
The Scent of Distraction
This is my first poem specifically about having a scent hit me and inspire me. I fear I didn't do well. But who could compare with Meryn Cadell's line, And the smell of the sweater hits you like ape scent gloriola....
I shall try to content myself with having said something of what it was like to be alone, horny, and inspired by a smell. Even though I feel this poem is not very good, I think it's done -- as good as it can be, and that I'll need to wait for a subsequent poem to get better at presenting this class of experience.
I was at a small social gathering and found myself lusting over one of the other guests. This after he and I both thought my feelings for him were in the past. I decided I wanted to get hold of, and cherish feelings I have for certain people who may not approve of my feelings, but for whom my feelings are still strong. I sort of backed into noticing how often I feel something, and how often I feel it's important to keep that feeling secret.
And by way of full disclosure, can you tell which stanza is about B.?
Muse -- Reprise
I seem to be cranking out three or four poems every time I sit down to write one. It's time I mentioned what that feeling is like. Think of wringing out a wash cloth. That's me.
In fact, I lost count of how many I wrote on 12 September 2000. It felt like four but was only three. Maybe one got away.
Often / Often
This poem is built from the foundation laid by a poem originally called "All the Time" that complained about specific ways I felt bad, 'all the time'. It also contained ideas about resolving not to feel certain ways. But the poem never felt right. It went in too many directions and I never felt like I ended it properly.
Now it's about how I feel some ways 'all too often' and other ways 'never often enough'.
This poem is built from the thread in "All the Time" that talked about ways I resolved not to feel. I decided I wanted to break away from expressing a bunch of rigid resolutions of what not to feel. Instead I wanted a poem that captured some kind of open-minded process of working through what I didn't want to feel, and to create an inventory of positive efforts I wanted to work on.
This poem started from something V. (The inspiration for Call Back Soon and I Need Your Help in Love Poems.) said to me. I struggled with the feeling, and how I wanted to resolve it, without quite getting a poem about the feeling sorted out. When I turned "All the Time" into "Often / Often" and "Prayer", I thought I'd sorted through the feeling and gotten it out of my system. But when I went back to "Strength" with intent to delete it, I decided it said things that overlapped with, but also went together with the other two poems.
I found an ending for it, and now consider the three poems as a set, built from scary feelings inside me, and hopes for resolution inspired by V.
I wanted to write a poem about how I feel when I'm with V. I dunno if this will ever get finished, but at least it's started. V. has come into my life and has for the moment, become the focus of my feelings instead of B.
Dreams of Workplace Harassment
I tried out three different endings for this poem. I chose to go with the first of the three because it was most subtle. I showed a second ending to a friend who suggested an amendment that further intensified the ending. My friend described his impressions of the alternate wordings as "the feeling of clamping down on these urges" versus "losing control and acting on those feelings". I decided that the feeling I wanted to convey was a subtle clamping down of urges, leaving it unstated where that feeling ends up.
Solace in a Cup of Tea
The Poem That Got Away
This is the poem that got away!
In August 2001, I was at the GNI Gathering, and remembering how I could recover lost serenety by taking a break with a cup of tea. I was doing some poetry writing, and went in search of the poem under construction on that theme. But there was none. And then it hit me, I'd put the theme away to "cook a little more" and then couldn't remember what I'd been planning to write about. Here it was! The poem that got away recaptured.
I was trying to figure out what to say either on the phone or in email to someone I wanted to get together with. I'd built a bit of anxiety over the situation. The first draft of the email I eventually sent looked more like a poem than something that someone else would feel comfortable receiving. I sent some carefully watered down email and did get together for dinner, but still haven't really hung out with the guy. I saved the poem and this is it.
The Ex That Wouldn't Leave
This is my first attempt to write a poem in the first person about a situation that happened to someone else. I've shared it with the person that was actually in the situation. I offered to burn the poem if he hated it, but he's been quite supportive. I wished I could have helped him escape from the situation.
Words of Love
My favorite TV show is Babylon 5 (and its follow-on Babylon Crusade) created by Joseph Michael Straczynski. (So now I'm out of the closet not only as a gay man, but also as a computer nerd and a B5 fan. Have I any secrets left?) In the episode, "The Geometry of Shadows", a Technomage, Elric mentions a few things of value that Technomages know:
The true secrets, the important things. Fourteen words to make someone fall in love with you forever. Seven words to make them go without pain, or to say goodbye to a friend who is dying. How to be poor, how to be rich, how to rediscover dreams when the world has stolen them from you.
These are things I too, would very much like to know. So I've begun my own search for these secrets, and Words of Love is my beginning.
Autobiography -- A Work in Progress
I started writing this at the same time that I started The Story of B.. I finished the latter, and put this one aside. I couldn't really look at it for a year. Then, when I produced a page that linked to all the poems in alphabetical order, this one came up very near the top. I'd noticed I'd not worked on it in a while.
Reading it over, I surprised myself with how much I liked the way I'd captured certain events. I decided to polish it up and push it out of Works in Progress. I added a couple stanzas, and added a revised date. Only then did I notice it was almost exactly a year after I'd started it.
I'm calling it a work in progress. I plan to look it over in a year and see if I feel like adding or changing anything.
A Walk on the Beach
I went several months without copying down any poems. I suspect poems have been writing themselves in the back of my head during the period. Work and house maintenance had sucked up all my resources. There was nothing left for poetry. Finally I took some vacation.
My first night away from it all, I walked on the beach and the sight and sound was a little unexpected and a little profound. I decided to write a poem of my sensory impressions instead following of my usual story-poem style. A new poem and a different style to break my silence.
How Do They Do That?
I think we all have friends and acquaintances with certain skills... We look at them and ask, "How do they do that?". For me I sometimes feel a deep lack in certain very basic social skills. This poem is a mini-inventory of abilities I crave.
When I Dance
This feels like a sequel to When I Sing, one of my earliest poems. Perhaps it's because I do more dancing than singing these days that the newer poem feels so much more real to me. I also think the earlier poem is a little too caught up in overstatement.
After I wrote this poem, I felt I needed to show it to those who were on the receiving end of my enthusiasm but felt differently themselves. It's to let them know I've now been on both sides of the situation.
This is a poem about what attracts me to certain people. Unlike nearly all my other love poems, this poem is inspired by a LOT of people. Very few of you know who you are.
At the Disco
This poem was inspired by feelings I was having after a couple drinks at the London gay Disco, Heaven. There is a reference to "I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus" by the Firesign Theater. There is also an oblique reference to Ed Wasserman's character, Morden from J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5 TV series.
In December 2001, I made the first revision to the poem since transcribing it onto the Computer from it's 1994 draft: I added a transition line, "Only vacant stares", and an intro line, "Alone at the disco". These changes were a consequence of a first attempt to put the poem to music. My friend Myke Weiskopf, who is a synth-pop musician, had some unused music, and a piece fit this poem frighteningly well! Listen to the result at At the Disco.
This poem is a multi-way collaboration. My friend V. helped write the poem. My friend Myke Weiskopf put it to music.
Many of my poems are about a single all-encompassing feeling happening in a moment frozen in time. This is poem is about a particularly intense feeling/moment. Also like many other poems, I feel that this one will take several rewrites before I capture the moment. The first draft gets the basics down. (I wonder if this one will take a year like My 1986 Pet Shop Boy to present to my satisfaction.)
Sometimes the most obvious truths about ourselves take the longest to register. When I'd had a poem of mine published in my school literary magazine, I'd assumed it was because anything submitted got published. It's taken me forever to fully appreciate my identity as a poet.
I've been publishing poems on the web for years, now. When I started, I felt some explanation or justification was warranted. My intro initially (7 February 2000) was,
I don't know what a poet really is, but I don't think I'm a poet. I write poems -- ever since high school. I like writing poems. It helps me come to a little bit of reconciliation with feelings that would otherwise buzz endlessly around in my head.
Eight months later on 13 August 2000, I changed the intro to:
Previously I said, that I don't know what a poet really is -- that I think I'm not a poet. Lately I'm coming to reluctant acceptance that I may, indeed be a poet. I've written poems ever since high school. I like writing them. They help me come to a little bit of reconciliation with feelings that would otherwise buzz endlessly around inside. More and more I'm getting in touch with my identity as a romantic: my idealism, and my belief in special people, and special actions at special times.
Today (24 February 2002) I wrote Duh! and changed the intro to:
Welcome to my web-published poetry portfolio.
And put a pointer to that poem at the bottom of the index page.
I was working through many themes around the question of what to devote myself to. It's a pretty complex set of issues I'd like to work out for myself. I suspect there are several poems there. Anyway, I looked at myself struggling with the fact that no obvious resolution was in hand, and oddly, accepted calmly that I was struggling.
A little while later, this poem popped out. I have indeed spent a lot of energy in the struggle of whether or not to work on something. It was about time that I took the advice to spend my energy on the work itself.
At the moment I like how each sentence is spoken as if it were a truth being handed down from a wise and distant source. I hope it echos in the mind of the reader as a gentle direction like the advice of a Zen master, rather than pretentious catechism that so much of that sort of thing too often degenerates into.
In October 2000 I attended my first East Coast a Cappella Summit, and afterwards wrote a few poems about the great time I had at the Afterglow party. I wrote some impressions about how affirming the event was compared to other places I went looking for affirmation.
But I didn't feel like the poems were ready to publish. (This was before I'd cooked up the "unfinished" labeling system.) I completely forgot about the poems until I tripped over them scanning the whole directory looking for a particular grammar error that crept into multiple poems.
Looking at the poems again in March 2002, I see that they're worth finishing up. So here goes...
Design for Loving
I noticed my propensity to fall in love with people who were able to understand what I said without my having to go to extra effort to be understandable. I wanted to explore that attraction in a poem.
Although I say "you" in the poem, this one is to many different people who, over time stole my heart by being good listeners. Some of you know who you are.
Naming the poem proved challenging. I finally settled on a play on words from the title of a Daffy Duck cartoon about a push-button lifestyle of the future, "Design for Leaving", which was itself a play on words for "Design for Living", the title of a play by Noel Coward, and a popular name for forward looking engineering and architectural documentaries, for example, by Frank Lloyd Wright, and by the IBM Corporation.
I don't rememeber who suggested it, but I submitted this poem to my high school literary magazine. It was published in The Choate Literary Magazine May 1976 Third and Fourth Form Supplementary Issue. (At Choate, they use the British public school nomenclature, so people of my year were called "Fourth Formers" instead of "sophmores".)
I noticed a couple typographical errors and punctuation mistakes which I have corrected in transcribing the work. The themes of overwork, or at least an uncomfortable relationship to obligations, and the redemptive power of sitting with nature persist into my much later works. My habitual sentence structure, cadence, and tone have not changed much since this poem was written.
This is the earliest poem of mine of which I have any memory. I think it was in fourth grade (but I'm really taking a wild guess as to a month, a year, or an epoch) when we studied haiku. I wrote this one. Calling a turtle clumsy seems embarassingly inaccurate to me now.
An apparent obsession with historical accuracy compells me to include this poem in my collection. Perhaps at some point I'll find a word to replace "clumsy". The fact of the matter is, for its scientific inaccuracy, it paints an effective picture of a turtle in motion with 17 syllables so I guess I will accept that it's a not an unreasonable haiku.
The events of this poem actually happened in the Someday Cafe in Somerville Massachusetts. Someday is a very interesting place. It could rightly be called 'the Anti-Starbucks'. I am sure that if the owner has witnessed the events of the poem he would have kicked the guy with the phone right outta there!
The events of this poem happened the night after the events in Cell Free Cafe across the street at the Diesel Cafe. Orthogonal in atmosphere both to Starbucks and Someday, I find myself often in Diesel writing poetry, or reading. I'm there now writing this.
A Question of Hope
In one my many times of trying to cope with a relationship not going as far as I wanted, I started a bunch of poems about different aspects of closeness, and boundries. This seemed at the time like the beginning of a poem. I put the fragments aside and forgot about them for a year and a half. I tripped over the fragments one day, and put into my TODO list the task of reviewing them. I left that task for another several months. Finally, today, I looked at this particular fragment and decided that the ambiguity pointed in so many rich directions that I'd ship the poem out as is.
Small, and terse, but inspiring, I think.
That Demon Desperation
The Morning After
These three poems go together. In fact, though they were written a couple weeks later, they go with A Question of Hope as well.
I was trying to sort out my feelings for V. and I found myself called to learn how to survive on my own instead of depending on another to prop up my weak self esteem. Not knowing how I'd end up, and not feeling comfortable publishing the feelings as works in progress, I wrote the first drafts, didn't link to them, and forgot I'd written them.
As with A Question of Hope, I came back to them nearly two years later, took stock of who I'd become emotionally, and what the poems were trying to say. I revised them and published them as you see them now.
Actually, my biggest worry was that they were all one idea that I was saying repeatedly and imperfectly. I currently see them as different views on the issue of possibly over-depending on another.
Dear Roseanne Roseannadanna,
I am employed in a sweat shop as a psychic, tryin' to help this guy Bill get inside of the head of somebody he is chasin' after so he can talk that person into some kind of romantic inter-lude. Can you help me?
Signed, Richard Fader, Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Mr. Fader, You ask an awful lot of questions for someone from New Jersey, but what you wanna know is something near and dear to the heart of Roseanne Roseannadanna.
I was wandering around the NBC Studios just last week, when who should I see but Mr. Sexy-Pants himself, Rock Hudson. I immediately began to pray for help in the way my sister, who is a REAL sister, Sister Mary Magdalena Roseannadanna, taught me.
And as I was a hopin' and a prayin' and a thinkin' about all the wunnerful things Rock Hudson and me would be doin', I passed by the newstand in front of the NBC Commisary, and there it was on the front page of the Weekly World News: Rock Hudson tell all: My Life as a Gay Man.
Well, I was just so dissappointed, because I realized that Rock Hudson and I really had nuthin in common. But it just goes to prove... It's always something.
If it's not one thing, it's another. It's gettin stuck in a sweat shop in Fort Lee New Jersey, or findin out that you're not gonna get none from the man of your dreams.
I wrote this poem in Toronto, as I was processing some small disappointments about the trip. I'd been unable to rendez-vous with some people who I didn't really know all that well anyway. I sat in a cafe and thought about how my non-relationship to those people had grown complex, and how much in my life had been complexity I'd created from lack of acceptance of a simpler reality.
The poem remained labeled unfinished for half a year. In the intervening time, I'd studied some different approaches to breaking up lines. I made another pass through the poem, and salted it with ambiguities. To make best use of this poem, let your mind wander at what I might have written to end a thought, and then look at what ending I put on the next line. Then think about what might have come before instead.
The Poems of Mark Doty
I had again gone several months without writing any poems. I'd managed a couple poems while on my scheduled vacation the month following my father's death. In the emotional aftermath of facing my first-ever brush with recommending a layoff at work, following close on the heels of his death, I'd been poetically barren for months.
Finally at my annual Gay Naturists retreat, I sat down, to poetry, first reading a book of Mark Doty's poems, and this one, in response to my reading was the first thing to come out.
A bit of explanation of the poem iself may be in order.
When you read the poem I have written none of the visual things I put into my poem imply a gay love poem. The thing that struck me about Mark Doty's work was that he could put those same things into a poem and it would obvously be such a poem.
Tai Chi Driving
It took a long while for driving in Boston to be anything other than stressful. My favorite way to step out of stress is the practice of Tai Chi. One day I discovered that if I was mindful of the different movements of the Tai Chi form I practiced, driving became less stressful, even pleasant at times.
Emperor carries the ball,are all names we used in Tai Chi class for different movements within the Yang style 24 movement form we practice.
Part the wild horse's mane,
Brush knee and push,
Wave hands like clouds,
Fair maiden works the shuttle,
Grasp the swallow's tail and
Paint the fence
As the poem moves on, it's as if new movements are being created from a synthesis of the act of driving and the traditional form.
Ecology Viewed From Afar
Special thanks to my friend Joey for the better word choice, "Ecology". I'd originally said "Evolution". But the word "Ecology" fits my intent so much better on many levels.
Bottom of the page but no note
Not every poem has a note. But every poem has a POINTER to a note. Being a nerd in addition to being a Poet, I use scripts to convert my poems, written as plain text files, into pretty HTML. So all the HTML files refer to a note that could exist.
I'm sorry you were inconvenienced by looking for a note that does not exist. Send me email and ask me about the poem you're curious about. It will probably nudge me into producing a note.
Last updated: 31 March 2010