Louisiana

Nothing like a silent house.

A quick note: This was just written in the last hour while a delicious-smelling gumbo is being tended to by my family and not me, which is new and greatly appreciated. My dear friend Debra and I had an exchange on Facebook earlier and one of her responses prompted this poem.

Blessings, Debra. May you have all the words that need to be written by you.

~Clare

 

 

“Nothing like a silent house”

The books unread
outnumber the ones
that enter me like vines
through brick. How the walls
peel and sigh, I will never know.
The floor muddies after storms
that come like final distractions
before death by fire.

There is cigarette smoke
in the house, but no piano.
To all of us, this place is home.
Sometimes rats shiver me
awake with their mating-grind,
and dry cries seep
out of my own sleep.
I construct fungal nests for the rats.
We know there will be
more, more, more
and they may devour us,
but we let them live: night-lit
companions, sticky and full of rotten figs.

We had a dog once, a puppy
I brought home. I was depressed
and it was something to love me,
but it disappeared after chewing
an antique chair. Gone to that place
where stables burn,
the kicking horses
locked-in, kindled with hay—

I cannot always grasp a poem.
I try and they bend
defensively as I reach. I try again
and words beat me with their wings,
leaving me ransacked and bruised.

There is nothing like a silent house,
and nothing, nothing
in this world like want.

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

River Dream

214

 

I slip from the edge of a muddy cane field into the Mississippi River with a baby in my arms.  It is my daughter and she is one or two years old. We glide over the water, my bare feet causing small wakes. Sometimes we move by vaulting with a large limb of a tree that carries us farther and faster than our own energies.  We are like wind over the water. We move far and fast; away, away but always the river hungers.

My little girl keeps falling asleep; limps out of my grip into treacheries of the river. She sinks quickly, or sometimes floats just at the surface. I pull her out by her hair. In one part of the dream, we fly through a deep-green stand of trees along the riverbank. The leaves and branches do not ribbon our skin, but I fear flying into their hardwood bodies. I tighten my grip on my girl. Sometimes she laughs, enjoying herself on this great adventure. I don’t know why we don’t smack right into a trunk. Why don’t the trees kill us?

In open air, we meet a woman who can also fly and knows the river. She promises us safety.  She flies with a baby in a carriage chained to her backside. At one point she slips the baby, much younger, much smaller than my own, into a pocket, and unhooks the chain, dropping the carriage into the mud. We fly great distances. The river grows angrier that it cannot have us. We glide close to the bank, sometimes we change course.  In the very middle of the river, the deepest part, I see a half-sunken iron statue of Evangeline; her rusted breasts emerge from water. The flying woman solemnly, weeping, gives us up. She flies to a silent grove to breastfeed her infant.

A man with a boat that is shaped like a deep gumbo bowl with an outboard motor finds us, or rather we find him via a hand-painted wooden sign offering boat tours.  I ask him where we are, tell him I want to go to Youngsville, and that there is a new sports complex with tall, bright lights that might serve as a landmark. He says we are only three miles away. This gives me hope.

Once we are isolated on the water, with no one watching, wind forces its tongue down my throat. Thrice, my only child falls in, and I have to go deeper each time to get her and bring her back to life. She is exhausted, sick from coughing the Mississippi. I keep telling her to hold me tightly, but she doesn’t comprehend enough language, so I grip her with the one goddamn-willing muscle I have left.

The man with the boat starts to ask questions, says he doesn’t have a woman and I seem to be a good one.  From the belly of the boat where I am seated, I see the longed-for lights of the sports complex, not too far away. The man operating the boat continues on the river swiftly, jamming his wrist with a hard twist to increase the motor’s speed. At some point he abandons us wordlessly, waist-deep in a forgettable tributary.

I wake up wanting home, being home and grab a notebook. Write down the bones.

 

4.21.14

All rights reserved

Blog Tour: Process Talk

 

 

 

What are you working on?

I am working on a second manuscript of poetry with hopes for a second book. When Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) was done and out in the world, I was consumed with promotion of it and became less structured/focused in my writing time. Happily though, Acadiana Wordlab had just formed that same month and regular attendance counted for me getting writing done.  The weekly sessions got me refocused and recharged. I am indebted to Jonathan Penton (Google him) for his vision and work that made this great community/activity thrive. I am the coordinator now, as Jonathan has moved onto other projects. My involvment gives me great pleasure. I give and receive. I am amazed by the wonderful writers who are growing in the Acadiana community and around our state. I have many new poems that have come out of the AW drafting sessions that will hopefully make it into the manuscript.

I have a working title for the manuscript: Broken Jesus.  That title comes from a line in my poem, “Convergence,” which appeared in Louisiana Literature, but the image itself comes from a black and white photograph of a broken marble statue of Jesus on the cross at an abandoned church. Ralph J Schexnaydre, Jr. took that photo back in the 1980s.  The image appeared on the cover of the first literary magazine in which my work was published, my university’s journal, The Southwestern Review.

I still have that journal issue (it came out in 1989, 25 years ago) but sadly Ralph doesn’t have the image anymore. I would have asked him to allow me to use it. I do have in my house a crucifix that was my grandmother’s and grandfather’s that is broken. A limb is missing from Jesus, and perhaps I can have someone photograph it for me down the road as the manuscript shapes up.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

The work I am drawn to, the poetry that enlivens me is work that is finely crafted, visceral, meaningful, daring, brave, honest, sharp, and lyrical and I hope that my work is these things. I want to be a dauntless writer. I want to be writing new always: pushing myself, going deeper, going harder and reaching more deeply into you, the reader. I don’t know how else to answer this question because if I am not gripped by a poet’s language, attention to craft, willingness to rend hearts and punch guts, with an almost nameless kind of love for you at the same time, I usually put the book down.

Why do you write what you do?

I write to move other human beings with my words.

How does your writing process work?

I used to be strictly tied to typing rather than writing in longhand but since I have been a devotee of Acadiana Wordlab’s mostly pen-to-paper process, I am more attuned to my hands, albeit in a different way than typing letter by letter. This is something new and fun for me, to write out drafts in notebooks. It’s something I had truly not practiced except for note-taking since getting a typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. The words are moving from my brain to my hands but my hands know more than my mouth does.

In my at-home practice, I usually start with a free-write. I don’t wait for inspiration but because I am a constant reader, I am inspired daily.  Also, those ephemeral voices (that may become lines of poetry) are a grace to which I am sharply attuned.  (It can cause problems to live so far up into your head but I manage to be grounded). A word or phrase may come to me while eating buttered grits or taking a bath, and I get up, write it down, and follow where it leads. I have rushed out of the bath naked (they’ve all seen me naked around here) and gotten on the computer to get words down.  My short term memory is weakening I think.  I also might need to get my bathrobe out of the closet.

Sometimes if I am driving and a line comes, I will pull over and voice-record it on my phone.   But the question of writing process beyond the mechanics of actually writing is that I firmly hold that I cannot call myself a writer if I am not writing. I don’t feel I deserve that name if I am not doing it in some way, and I count many ways: letter-writing, journaling, creative writing, and emails—they qualify too, if they are creatively inspired.

For many years my only writing was letter writing and it was necessary for me to have that one person as an audience.  The three friends I wrote to on a regular basis are now deceased but really I owe them deep thanks for enjoying my letters and writing back. Those correspondences saved me and my writing career, whatever that is or will be, because it kept me writing. Those friends kept me writing and encouraged my writing when my days were black pages.

 

 

*Thank you to Margaret Gibson Simon for tagging me in this fun and challenging effort to enlighten others about our ways and whys of writing. She can be read at Reflections on the Teche

 

I am tagging:

Mashael (I am air)

Helen Losse

Mona AlvaradoFrazier

Participate if you like and link back here!  I will link to you, if you are inclined to play along.

Be well, friends.

Clare

New Poem/Prayer

Prayer

 

The figs are not yet ripe but I will leave them
for the blackbirds,
cacophonous angels of soot—

Wind forces its mouth
on mine and I cannot
breathe for a moment.

Thank you for this
breath and the next.

You call me to water; water
burgeoning in bodies.

Holy, holy
How new can I be?

The fullness
of my anger would fit
in a tarnished thimble, and this is a grace.

But my skin will never
forget the sin it committed.

Your mystery traces
intricacies in disquiet.
Your dawn raises
me from the dead.

I have swallowed stillness
to quiet all turmoil.

I pray,
unravel me,
to a single thread.

 

©2014 CLM

There are angels among us and some of them are human beings. I am lucky to have one as my niece.

From my niece Morgan Landry just now in reply to my plea for cheering up:

“You’re a creative genius, and in my personal opinion, the most genius of those in the arts have to pay a price. That price is awareness. You’re inclined to be hyper-aware, and when you wish you weren’t is when you are the most. Sometimes it’s bad, and all you can sense is its pain and misfortune — the world is so unfair. But other times, your psyche points towards the opposite pole of your internal spectrum. You can see so much beauty everywhere around you. You envelop yourself in the warm ancient afghan of our culture and bloodline and heritage. You feel your family’s love fill you up until you no longer know quite how to express it. You see a Monet in every leaf in a puddle on the old shitty sidewalks. And when you’re in the darkness, you just have to remember that all of these things are there still. You’ve done a stupendous job transforming your pain into a sturdy foundation for your soul and your work. You benefit from all that’s around you. Anyone who talks with you can’t help but feel happy and cared for; I can see it when I’m there. I love you forever!”

 

God bless you all and goodnight. XOXOX

Delusion

blackbird

Delusion

 

She slips out unnoticed by disguising herself as a shadow and moving slow as shadow; a lengthening mark against decreasing light.

Beyond the open field, where the patients do calisthenics each morning, there is a hedgerow and beyond that a gate used for truck deliveries. Beyond the field before someone notices. Beyond the field to the gate before they know she is missing. She slips darkly into a green abyss.

Her bare feet skim the mud; she drips dark mud as each foot rises in step. A decrepit thought enters her mind. She turns back, just momentarily; to see the brick-bone building almost in ruin. She cries seed after seed into slim furrows her toes created.

She must punch in a code to enter or exit. She does not know if she is entering or exiting. She climbs the gate. Someone shouts. She climbs down the gate. She runs. She runs until it is night. The North Star is obscured and she wouldn’t know it anyway. She wishes for a river to follow a down-flow. She knows people in the South. But, perhaps, they don’t love her anymore?

All of her imaginings, innumerable, sorrowful, soul-stealing sinister, become sheer, so that she can almost see through them (but unfortunately cannot).

It begins to rain. For every raindrop a black feather falls. Blackbird-eyes are upon her. She hunches from heaviness of the scattered wings; swallows a mouthful of naked moon.

Her days and nights culminate into the fullest sun. She murmurs: Is it or is it not, and why?

Somehow, impossibly, the world softens around her. Her idea of God softens, too. The one and only voice she possesses constellates with discorporate multitudes in harmonic undulations of holy praise.

©2014 CLM

Woman in Prayer

A reflection on an experience this afternoon.
Peace.

~CLM
Woman in Prayer

I am penitent; pour myself out
onto the hard rail of the pew
somber Mary alit, red-glassed candles
no smoke, but a hint of myrrh
the cleaning woman shakes her mop
a woman comes in, blesses
herself at the font of holy water
and more women fill in like light
to pray
at the stations of the cross
they speak to me and I
decline their invitation
their prayers become
my own                the sun exhales
color,   the breath
focus
on the breath
fill the lungs feel the fullness
release let go let go
of the tension in my body,
the bones of my neck click
my hanging God the Christ
that I need to believe in
that I am begging to take
a lifetime’s desperation
to deliver me
right my path
crown of thorns
my own heart
brambles and thorns
jag the aorta
what if there were wings
the blackheart caws
I want to fly, to flee
this earth yet I cannot
so willfully I come here to pray
I come for mercysilence
and today as supplicant

These women,
in devotion, full of grace
could not possibly be
as contrite, as sinful as me.

 

© 2014 CLM

Out of sorrow beautiful things may come.

In June, I will lead a poetry project through the Recovery Academy* with women clients of Acadiana Outreach. What I hope to achieve in the nine sessions is to give participants, through  structured, weekly creative writing workshops, tools to strengthen their ability to name thoughts and emotions and convey them artistically, and poem-making skills which may lead to positive breakthroughs and life-happenings by tapping into the resilience of the creative mind.

By offering skill-building creative writing exercises and prompts, sharing empowering literary works, and allowing for free-writing time, I hope to inspire participants to be able to create something beautiful, honest and uniquely their own through the craft of poetry. By creating a safe and nurturing atmosphere in our group sessions, I hope the participants will have the assurance to reach into their creative minds to find deeper self-awareness, keys to success, and possibly true healing.

In my own personal experience, creative writing has led me out of despair, allowed me to express joy and love in sensory, beautiful language, and come to a place where I feel honored to be me. It is my hope that participants will find their “true voices” via new creative skills that may give rise to creative problem-solving in circumstances they face in their everyday lives.

Art is vital and necessary, and creative acts are transformative. We can transform. We can rise above and live in hope. The positive effects of writing our very lives can lead one out of places of darkness. I believe that through creative writing, through the process of discovery and poetic documentation, we can find our way, recover and thrive.

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” —Anais Nin

I am committing to this project enthusiastically to be able to interact with these women, lead them to new awareness and appreciation for poetry as a vital tool of self-expression. I am committed to the work, and have great hope for this project.

*Recovery Academy 2014 will present local poet Clare L. Martin in a series of workshops focusing on poetry as a transformative process culminating in a reading at Theatre 810, the site of “Off the Streets.” The workshops will be from 7 to 9 pm, at the Outreach facility June 2; June 9; June 16; June 23; June 30 and July 7; July 14; and July 21, all in 2014. The project will conclude with a public reading by the client-poets at Theatre 810 on July 28, 2014 hosted by Clare herself at 7 pm concluding at 9 pm.

The Chiaro and the Scuro: Clare L. Martin’s “Eating the Heart First”

I am deeply grateful for this generous review by Mariann Grantham D’Arcangelis at Gloom Cupboard.

 

The Chiaro and the Scuro: Clare L. Martin’s “Eating the Heart First”
“Eating the Heart First (Press 53) by Clare L. Martin is a haunting, lyrical collection that cannot be read in a rush, or in a single sitting.” [READ MORE] 

 

 

See you in Seattle!

Events at AWP at which Clare will appear.  See you in Seattle!

 

AWP 1

 

MadHat & Plume Present: an off-site reading at the AWP

Friday, February 28th, 2014 @ 6 pm to 9 pm
Taphouse Bar & Grill Seattle
1506 6th ave, Seattle, Washington 98101

Featured poets:

Robin Behn
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Jim Daniels
Mark Irwin
Katia Kapovich
Amy King
Clare L. Martin
Philip Nikolayev
Nava Renek
David Rivard
Jill Rosser
Bernd Sauermann
Tod Thilleman
Yuriy Tarnawsky
Rosanna Warren

and appearances by your hosts, Marc Vincenz, Jonathan Penton, and Daniel Lawless

Book-signings by Clare L. Martin

Eating_the_Heart_First_Cover FB

On Thursday, February 27th and Friday, February 28th from 3-4:00 pm (both days) poet Clare L. Martin will sign copies of Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) at the Press 53/Prime Number Magazine table (CC 35-36). Copies of Eating the Heart First will be available at the Press 53 table in limited quantity.

And on Saturday, March 1st from 11 am – 12:00 pm, Clare will sign copies of Eating the Heart First and Vision/Verse 2009-2013: An Anthology of Poetry (Yellow Flag Press) at the Yellow Flag Press table (K 21) Copies of Eating the Heart First will be available at the Yellow Flag Press table in limited quantity.

VV

Vision/Verse 2009-2013: An Anthology of Poetry

Featured poets:

Lou Amyx
Maya Beerbower
Jacob Blevins
Darrell Bourque
Steven Brown
Elizabeth Burk
Kolleen Carney
William Lusk Coppage
Rita D. Costello
Kevin Dwyer
S. B. Ferguson
Amy Fleury
J. Bruce Fuller
Trèe George
Rodney Gomez
Ashley Mace Havird
David Havird
Ava Leavell Haymon
Mary Hughes
Hillary Joubert
Julie Kane
Clare L. Martin
Erica McCreedy
Andrew McSorley
Patrice Melnick
Stella Ann Nesanovich
Jan Rider Newman
Angelina Oberdan
Philana Omorotionmwan
M. Rather, Jr.
Michael Shewmaker
M. E. Silverman
Kevin Thomason

 

The 2014 AWP Bookfair is located on Level 4 of the Washington State Convention Center, 800 Convention Place in Seattle.