But you gotta have something; or, On Writer’s Block and Reading

I discovered the cure to writer’s block. Decide finally your rattly old car needs to be replaced so you can stop worrying about it. Do some dreadful car shopping, including endless reading of articles in Car and Driver or other magazines you would not otherwise frequent. While you’re in the middle of a reaction from your second Covid shot, buy a car you can live with for a price that gives you only partial dyspepsia. Sell the old car for far less than you had thought you could get. Boom: Start writing again.

Or was it springtime.

Or finally boredom.

Well. I guess I’m not sure. Anyway, I have several pages of scrawl, so that’s good. But I’ve also got a pile of really good reads (hm…could that have been what got me going…?), so I thought I’d share some.

When John Murillo’s poems pack a punch, be prepared to fall down. Not all of his newest book, Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, made me fall down, but enough to have made it worthwhile to enter the ring. Here’s an excerpt from “On Negative Capability,” in which the speaker and his friend Jojo and two girls in the back are racing down a dark road, headlights off:

                        Come road

  come night   come blackness

and the cold  Come havoc

  come mayhem     Come down

God  and see us    Come

  bloodshot moon running

alongside the ride  as if

  to warn us away from   as if

to run us straight into  some

  jagged tooth and jackal-throated

roadside ditch


Here’s a sparkler from Erica Bodwell, from Up Liberty Street (Finishing Line Press)

“Ode to the Yellow Sparkle Snare Drum”

Power sparkler, noise maker,

Percussive silencer of sisters. I’ll stand on tiptoes

To pound you, slam you, slap you, tighten

Your tension rods, snap your snare head.

I’ll carry sticks hard and long

For you. You saved me

From the flute and its case like a doll’s casket,

From tiny boxes of thin reeds that splinter like envy,

From white plastic chairs in the wind section.

Silver-circled dazzler, I’ll snap my sticks into the clip

Screwe into your hoop, slide you into the plush red

Of your slick hard case, keep you

From dust and snaes. O yellow sparke snare drum

Thank you for giving me a reason to walk with weapons.


And one from the terrific Dialogues with Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon:

“Magpies Recognize Themselves in the Mirror”

The evening sounds like a murder

of magpies and we’re replacing our cabinet knobs

because we can’t change the world but we can

change our hardware. America breaks my heart

some days and some days it breaks itself in two.

I watched a woman having a breakdown

in the mall today, and when the security guard

tried to help her, what I felt was all of us

peeking from her purse as she threw it

across the floor into Forever 21. And yes,

the walls felt like another way to hold us

and when she finally stopped crying

I heard her say to the fluorescent lighting,

Some days the sky is too bright. And like that

we were her flock in our black coats

and white sweaters, some of us reaching

our wings to her and some of us flying away.

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