Wednesday, July 31, 2013

thoughts as a result of thinking too much

To work on what I love. It is sometimes more difficult than I could've imagined. Or at least it isn't my instinct to call it work, to be tireless. It is, sometimes, simply this thing I do. As certain as brushing hair out of my eyes or bending my knee when I walk. A reflex. A necessity.

What I love is writing. Whatever it is in me that's all trigger. However that flint might have been formed. I think of a lighter, the kickspin of mechanics, that tiny wheel with thumb kiss and eventual callous. Call it a flame or a fire and if you do, be sure to feed her. It's a part of me I can't work around or bullshit my way past. Just gotta walk through.

To work on what you love. Living is part of the work--living and doing and saying yes to more of the things that petrify me. Another part is reading the works of others--studying those writers that speak to us. I do that as well. I write, definitely. I read my poems and stare at them, shuffle them around and tap the backspace key with slight hesitation. I work and rework the one line that will never fit(until I crack its neck and lop off appendages). I get frustrated--I walk away from some poems and vow to never give them the time of day again.

I worry that my relationship to my work is not always the nicest. But aren't we all a little Jekyll and Hyde about this sort of thing? Nothing angers me like writing, yet there is no joy or amazing to match it. I don't mind. Shit--there's a reason why roller coasters aren't built in straight lines.

With this manuscript of mine...of course I can't be softshelled about any of the work in it. Each piece needs a reason to be there. In the words of Parliament, "If it don't fit, don't force it." If it doesn't belong in the collection, then it's okay to let it go for now. The poem can go back to stretching in the wings. It's going to be what I want it to be if I put in the work.

[Think about what you love to do more than anything. Think about what it pulls out of you, the line it will drive you to then shove you over. Think about all that you've learned by tending to it, all that it's given you(opportunity, freedom, relief&release, perspective, courage, on and on). Feel fortunate; be in awe of it. ]

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Those stupid days when you're pretty tired and all you really want is someone to hold you and smooch you for a while but there isn't anyone to do it so you line your entire body with pillows and the best you can do is close your eyes and imagine it. I'm alright on my own but sometimes I pine for that affection like a ghost limb.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


How does memory assist in survival?
Is the memory an actual surviving thing or not a thing at all?
Is my survival the proof of once-moments?
What does living do to remembering?
Did the turbulence serve to sharpen the images?
How does dimension of memory change once it is written about? There is the memory, the memory of writing, the memory of remembering. How many sides to this object?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Today, when I've been awake, I find myself reading poems almost like prayers. I keep reading them, digging for meaning, taking in the lines slow and speaking them under my breath. When something rings true I burst into tears. It takes me so long to get through one piece. I keep crying and putting the words down to shove my face in my hands.

I fought a migraine for most of today and during all that sleep I kept dreaming. Intense and true dreams, all about Will. I had to keep sleeping to fight the pain but those dreams keep kicking me out of it. The pain broke around 3pm but those dreams are still rattling in my memory. Friends keep posting their stories and condolences on Will's facebook page and I watch the old footage of his bands and tear up when I recognize his voice. News of his death has hit me like a mallet, soaked into all layers of my earth. Crushed and question marked. Just.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Stunned. Just found out that Will passed away.

I first met Will Dalgard when I was 18 years old. I was driving up to Dayton once a month to compete in poetry slams held at Canal Street Tavern. Sunday evenings, without fail. Will was the door guy at Canal Street. The first time I saw him he was wearing a black tshirt. I remember that because I instantly had a crush on him. He exuded that perfect amount of bored/smart/asshole. That's the only way to describe it.

He was 31 years old and I thought he had the coolest job in the world. He kept whatever book he was reading tucked under the register and read it in between checking IDs. He advised me to read Bukowski, was proud to be in recovery, and always had a kind word for my poetry. I developed a habit in the early days of looking for the shadow of his head when I was onstage. Sometimes he was half-lit by the small lamp at his post by the door, and it was nice to know he took the time to listen.

I had a huge stupid crush on him. It was kind of silly. I was a young college student, diving into my first real poetry scene. Canal Street became my home away from home, my most favorite place. I was there every weekend for shows. I would get up from my seat often and talk to Will. Cigarettes and book talk.

We hung out a few times outside of the bar. The first time I went to his apartment on Wayne Ave, this great triangular building on the corner. We sat on his couch and listened to music. He pulled out a copy of one of his published poems, The Junkie and the Italian Princess. He read it to me, filling my head with scenes of a strung out guy on his knees in a store, begging his italian princess to forgive and return to him. He wrote from the heart. I noticed a giant Italian flag hanging on the wall and I asked him where he got it from. The navy, he said. I couldn't believe it, responding with: you were in the navy?! He nodded. I was kicked out. I asked the question cautiously: what for? His answer: Being an asshole, doing drugs.

When I left that night he hugged me goodbye in a way that was new to me. He pulled me close to him and rested both hands right at my tailbone, as if considering. A small peck goodbye and I left, confused as to why he didn't try for more(but over time understanding/appreciating that he didn't).

I went to one of his shows, showed up foolishly early to his apartment where he was loading equipment with bandmates. I sat at their table at the bar and a few of them chuckled and gave Will a couple looks over my head. It was obviously that I was way too young to be there, pretending that I belonged and it was totally normal. I don't know--looking back it felt normal, and that's what drove me then...whatever I felt. I cared about Will tremendously. I pinned his show flyers to my mantel in the bedroom and daydreamed about being something more to him. In class I wrote poems about him, terribly smitten. A girl in my class knew him and cautioned me against more hang-outs, reasoning he was "trouble." Other times we got together to watch X-Files or I would just hang around by his post at the bar door, talking literature.

Seeing him fall off the wagon was scary and confusing. I approached him where he sat slumped over and he seemed to stare right through me. To see him go from one extreme to the other was shocking and sad. In sobriety he told stories of scraping together pennies to buy a drink, rattling off the details matter-of-factly but seemingly at peace with it. When he fell he fell hard, disappearing for a while, coming back. He stopped working at Canal Street for a while...came back to leave again. I started waitressing there and I distinctly remember the night he had to body slam an unruly customer. Another night he came in so completely out of it that we were able to serve him water with a straw and convince him it was booze, in effort to appease his demands. Again he sat there, sipping and staring straight through anyone that tried to talk to him. One night he showed up to the Co-Op and played a song called "Too Much Blood in my Alcohol." I remember him strumming that guitar as if trying to catch it on fire, yelling out the chorus. I lost track of him briefly when he quit the bar again and I moved out of state.

Will had an issue with booze, a serious one. He was an addict. I guess I kind of gloss over that in the previous paragraph...I met him sober and always held onto who he was as that. He was still an asshole but he had himself together. When he started drinking again he wasn't that person. That switch left me so confused and hurt. I'm not sure what else to say about it...

We kept in touch on and off over the years. Will headed for the west coast and started playing music out there on the streets. The man loved playing. That's all he wanted to do--play music. And he did. He said fuck off to the system and meant it--becoming a street musician. He was part of a documentary project on street musicians in Portland/San are some clips from that. Will shows up a few times--the first at the 2:00 mark. I'll know that voice forever.

'Artbeat of the City: Select Scenes from Mary Anne Benner Ailgif Studios on Vimeo.

He wasn't perfect. He wasn't always nice--in fact he pissed a lot of people off, and burned a lot of bridges. But he was human, and lived how he wanted to live. He stuck to his values when it came to steering clear of The Man. He lived hard and fast and full of rock n roll. He was a great door guy because he didn't take any shit. He wasn't shy about his mistakes. No matter how many years have passed, I still remember that goodlooking stubborn fella in the black tshirt. Or the guy reading me his poetry on the couch in his efficiency. I feel lucky that I met him when he was sober, that I got to know a bit about his heart. I'll always think of Will as music, the true and tough spirt of it. Presence unmatched. May he rest in noise.

Friday, July 19, 2013

a tale of (two wheel) commuting

Yesterday I rode home from work, sweating from every pore in my body as I came down the final stretch to home. I've been able to commute on two wheels all week despite this wretched heat wave. I don't stop pedaling once I start. The humidity is thick and I rode under many heavy clouds--even caught thunder rumbling in the distance--but only found myself rained out of riding once. If anything, the heat forces me to focus on my pace, one rotation after the other. Yesterday I noticed something felt...odd on my back tire. At the stop light I glanced down and noticed that a rock(too big to be a pebble, not as impossible as a boulder) was stuck on my tire. Ah the culprit, I thought as I tried to brush it off the tread with my foot. She didn't budge.

The light turned green and after passing under it, I pulled to the side to give the wheel a good onceover. The rock wasn't a rock after all. What I thought was a rock ended up being the bent head of a comically large nail. It plunged vertical, directly into the tire and through the tube. I was impressed with the exactness of its stab. Pulling it out was kind of hilarious--more nail kept appearing(how long IS this thing?). Finally she was out and my wheel ssshhhhhhed to flatness. I hoisted the frame over one shoulder and walked the rest of the way home.

I can only assume I hit the nail in the bike lane while flying down Forbes amid a corridor of trees and cars going over the speed limit. There is so much shit that ends up in the bike lane: roadkill, storm debris(so much storm debris--entire limbs of trees and busted bits like shrapnel). Yesterday I noticed a fancy paper lantern straight from Ikea laying on its side. Apple cores, bungee cords, lone tennis shoe. Things one would certainly miss if they were in a car.

Today I brought my bike to work so that I could venture to the bike shop and have the wheel replaced. I put her in the bike rack on the front of the public bus and hopped on board. The bus driver grinned at me, winked and said, "If you keep hoisting that bike up like that you're gonna get muscles!" I kind of nodded and took a seat, immediately wishing I had responded with "I HAVE muscles, thanks." I'm sure he was just making small talk but there was a cutesy bite to his words. How older males do sometimes when they see a woman who is totally capable of doing something badass that requires strength. As if to caution me against growing biceps. Or something. It threw me off a little.

My wheel was replaced in no time at the shop--the new one is a bit larger than the old one, adding a surprising weight to my light-as-a-feather darling. It's going to take a little bit more grit to haul myself up the hill but I'm looking forward to it. Even better: it's Friday. Happy ridin'.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


You told me that when you were born
all fists halted their travels to curtsey.
When you screamed the lights flickered,
the windows looked away feigning interest in garden.
No one wanted. You took all of it--body a
paperweight starfished on top of so much craving.
The want stuck to you, seeped in
filling each stitch of your skin until
you were towel in swimming pool,
grieving handkerchief,
soaked follicles and foam.

You told me about your first love,
the mermaid unrequited--
how her thick waist plummeted when
you threw a diamond into curls of salt.
She liked the shining, popped the stone
into empty socket. When she bit into you
the gift tore muscle from bone, left
you precious from the inside out.

You told me your lungs were their own
sort of jewelry--a collage of mold and moss and pearls.
A breath sworn to be both rotten and sweet--
with one sigh I see you mend a fence, kill a dog.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


If You Really Love a Writer
by: Megan Falley

"How vain it is to sit down to write
when you have not stood up to live.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Everyone wants to give a writer the perfect notebook. Over the years
I’ve acquired stacks: one is leather, a rope of Rapunzel’s hair braids its
spine. Another is tree-friendly, its paper reincarnated from diaries of
poets now graying in cubicles. One is small and black as a funeral dress,
its pages lined like the hands of a widow. There’s even a furry blue one
that looks like a shag rug or a monster that would hide beneath it—and
I wonder why? For every blown-out candle, every Mazel Tov, every
turn of the tassel, we are handed what a writer dreads most: blank
pages. It’s never a notebook we need. If we have a story to tell, an idea
carbonating past the brim of us, we will write it on our arms, thighs,
any bare meadow of skin. In the absence of pens, we repeat our lines
deliriously like the telephone number of a parting stranger until we
become the craziest one on the subway. If you really love a writer, fuck
her on a coffee table. Find a gravestone of someone who shares her
name and take her to it. When her door is plastered with an eviction
notice, do not offer your home. Say I Love You, then call her the wrong
name. If you really love a writer, bury her in all your awful and watch
as she scrawls her way out.

poem draft

Maybe it was the lock
an opened mouth,
permanent O.
Or Mikey
falling backwards
into the empty box,
beer aloft
not spilling a drop.
The blender,
the pile of clothes,
decayed love still gasping
in the sheets.
The marigold
on my doorstep,
the torn picture,
the clicking in my middle
when you run back
to serpent me
in the street.
Starburst of forearm
admissions on crossed legs
the funk of your shoes,
tear in the suitcase.
Or that Sunday
when Leonard Cohen came on
and you outwept the speakers;
you turned my chest
into lake
and my heart couldn't swim
so bloated she drifted
dark on bottom
and nobody
for her body.

Friday, July 12, 2013

When I can see what I couldn't see before,
through the glass of my most battered dream, I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.
--Andrea Gibson

Thursday, July 11, 2013


This is a poem I wrote at the Pink Door Retreat. Here is how it came to be:

We all took turns busting a pinata and in the pinata were squares of pages--fairy tales cut up. We each gathered a stack and took time circling words that stood out to us(at least 20). Then we were instructed to write a fairy tale using a ghost line(a ghost line is using a line/statement to kick off the poem, but it doesn't appear in the actual work...kind of like a title). The ghost line was "Of course you had to survive." We were encouraged to make 20 lines, 8 syllables each in length. Rachel McKibbens is always awesome about letting her writing exercises be whatever they are meant to be in the end, but I wanted to challenge myself with these perameters. This is what I came up with:

The oranges would not eat themselves.
You, the neighborhoods miracle,
devoured them as if nature
herself promised riots in the tongue--
half-penny monster with pockets
brought a cake baked in bonfire.
All the loves were dead around
his neck, brief jostle of sockets
that bumped your mouth blood when he lunged,
who cried when you crawled in his drum
and there a heart shoved in thick moss
and to it rose a mountain of
citrus, beyond that stray segments
like glistened boats sailing curses.
After this risky feast the seams
of your stomach grinned big and split--
the tailor loved your loveliness;
mending your broken strands with her
fingerprints, so head over spool
she stitched to your lining a moon.