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My collage for the month of February, 2015

One of my guilty pleasures is making collages for a calendar at home that I put together for each month. I was low on blank calendar pages and so Matt went to Kinkos and made copies of my blanks (the ones with a calendar grid that I can number and decorate) and so now I’m set for the coming year. Another thing I like to do is to write collage poetry. I find words and hyphenated phrases at random in magazines or old newspapers, the kinds I have stashed by the woodstove, and make a list on graph paper. Then I write a poem, often without knowing the subject of my poem when I start. Some of them end up becoming collage love poems. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d post a few of my collage love poems, which I typically keep to myself. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Night Boys

Night boys
revving and rumbling
‘round the lakes,
curvy back roads
empties tumbling
last lap, another pass by
that curvy ex-girlfriend’s
he used to pull in, cry
flash his high beams
like he was jacking deer
just to see her; he dreams
the shifty rites of coydogs
tilted heads, truck howls
farther from the city,
the louder the engine
mostly for show, mostly
testosterone, bravado
when each is on his own
safe among the familiar,
bearded, the evening air
cloaks them like flannel
the skin of their kin
—but in these rural
open parts, the alpha male
leads his pack of boyhounds
to lay claim to territory,
mark their mates, the females,
defend their hunting grounds
delineated on a mental map
instinctual, his birthright.
Everybody says it:
but they’re good boys.
Hey, they got a permit.

The sexual anthropologist
compares: the urban kind,
who can’t stand itchy fists
confuse boundary lines
blocks, streets, city limits
quell the pseudo-wolfsong
sweaty stench of cowardice
make mischief out of some
dark gut-wrenched wrong
a restless yearning
for hills and fields
streams and ponds
sends them wilding
in sharp back alleys
abandoned buildings
a taste for the tally
tall teetering girls, homeless,
elders, a sally—the night boys
keep score like sports fans,
in athletic pants, too baggy,
they lope through the shadows
a trail behind them that mimics
their every move, the marrow
that gnaws back, a raw sickness,
thick with fur they shave off
to hide their otherness,
even from each other
take turns maiming
after-slaps, fraternal
caresses, a primordial
taming of the running shoe.

The scent of gunsmoke
hangs in the midnight mist
descends on the Mainiacal ones
who know whose buckshot
narrowly missed
deep in the belly
of the forest.

~Leah C. Stetson 

 

This poem is part of a 30-poem series in support of the nonprofit Tupelo Press. Please consider making a charitable donation (tax deductible) to support this wonderful literary press. When you donate, please indicate that the donation is “in honor of” or mention my name in the notes field on the PayPal page for your donation. That way the staff at the Tupelo Press will know that it is from this 30/30 poetry challenge and my fundraising efforts. Thank you!TP Donate

HeartShapedFaceLately I have been waking up with a poem in mind. It’s been months since this happened. Unfortunately, my spacebarisbroken. I hope I don’t become one of those dreadful streamofconsciousness poets in the process, for lackof a workingspacebar. The poem below, while it’s about a stream, is not meant to be a play on stream-of-consciousness poetry. Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for a 30/30 poetry marathon that will be part of a fundraising event for Tupelo Press in California. Along with a few other poets, I will write 30 poems in 30 days. I’m flexing my metaphorical muscles now…

Tonight is the New Moon and I definitely feel like a new chapter, or verse, is about to begin.

New poem I’m working on (full poem not included):

Evolution of a Stream

Red maple leaves spin, skate and skirt
‘Round rocks like bumper cars
Hurdling down a stream
At an amusing rate.

To the casual observer, this water moves fast
Hurries over obstacles toward some indefinite
Destination. At least, this is how you see it
On the surface.

A hydrologist plots the analysis
Upon closer study, sees the millions
Of sediments of silt and sand,
Mica and minerals carried along
Curved and suspended:
They lift and settle;
They shift and settle,
Gradually shaping and
Reshaping this streambed.

{…}

                   For G.

-LCS

I love visiting the Poets & Writers Magazine website. It’s turned me onto many useful Tools for Writers. Even though there is an excellent searchable database for literary agents, I wish there was a better match-making service online for pairing writers and agents, writers with publishers and even writers with editors. It’s like online dating for writers without the romance or personal stuff, unless that is, your genre-of-choice is a bodice-ripping memoir. I belong to an online writers forum called She Writes, which has some fantastic resources for women writers. But it still lacks this kind of match-making system that I’m talking about. The challenge I often face is that my writing is usually a cross-hybrid, e.g. natural history-memoir, or humor/parody/sci-fi/creative nonfiction. It makes it difficult to check off 1 box on a searchable database and find an agent, publisher or editor who works with such mixes of genres. Same goes for the Writer’s Market reference guide, another favorite resource.

An online writing profile might offer these things:

Name: Leah S.
Years Actively Writing: 30+ (started with a tape-recorder when I was 5)
First publication: Short piece in Wiscasset newspaper, circa 1983 (on wanting to be a journalist)
Genre(s): (List predominant genres as well as those tossing around in the back of the dryer) Creative nonfiction, poetry, environmental science & nature writing, technical, children’s fiction, short fiction, novelette, screenwriting, blogging

Describe writing: My fiction is a hot mess with a chip on her shoulder and a fascination with the absurd, e.g. surfers and the sharks who become them; sexual predators devoured by invasive fish. Creative nonfiction is my practical side. Keepin’ it real. Poetry–Mainiacal. Yes, spelled with two Is and a capital M. That means “from Maine” and “of or related to mania, or a maniac.” 

My writing has been compared to: Kerouac, Millay.
No Regrets: Don’t mention Muppets.
Current obsession: hybrid genres
Editors say: Leashless energy, arresting imagery – essentially stop-go-stop-go traffic patterns
Biggest Hurdles: Dysfunctional computer and printer; oppressively red walls in writing room
Favorite writers: Shirley Jackson, Terry Tempest Williams*, Annie Dillard and other chain-smokers
(Note: *Williams is not a chain-smoker to my knowledge)

Every now and then I catch a NATURE special featuring the weird mating rituals of some animal, like the koala in “Cracking the Koala Code” or mountain lions or prairie voles. I’ve already written plenty (far too much) about prairie voles, and that whole chemistry topic is nothing new. What I’m interested in is this topic of “dating down” that I keep seeing in blogs, or *gasp* crappy dating advice from over-eager dating coaches, who even encourage this twirpy and negative spin on dating. We all know what “dating down” means…in the usual context, it makes me think of some line from “Dirty Dancing” when the arrogant waiter tells Baby it’s okay if she’s “slummin’ it. We all do that sometimes, Baby.” (She was in love, dammit! And Johnny Castle aka Patrick Swayze was a stand-up guy.)

Osprey at Wolf’s Neck Farm. Terry Chick photo.

But I got thinking of another way to read the “dating down” concept:  what if it’s down to the bones of the dating rituals, or more accurately, the mating rituals. What it’s really about is dating down to the animal within us. When I was a kid, I was pretty sure that I was part fish and part otter, full of fur and snout and salt water. (My mother affectionately referred to me as her little raccoon, or otter, because I washed my seafood before eating it.) My dad’s a Grizzly Adams-Dirty Harry cross, and in my dreams, he sometimes appeared beside a bear, or AS a bear himself. I realized I was raised by some kind of bear-man, who identified himself as a lone wolf, and now I see him as part-wolf, part-bear, and still part Dirty Harry. My mother always said that the osprey was her totem animal, and she was always a bird-mom, in the best and worst possible ways, feeding us hors d’oeuvres and making nests for us, wherever we moved, which was often, circling in the same general territory, never straying too far from the Sheepscot River in midcoast Maine.  Our family land, now a Chewonki Preserve, has had an eagle’s nest for many years, along with osprey nests, and I grew up with a strong sense of responsibility in protecting our heritage and the wild things that depended on our land ethic.

One day when I was a teen-ager, a mountain lion showed up in our backyard, close to the Sheepscot River. I made sure that my cat was inside the house and together, my cat and I watched the mountain lion creep over the stone wall terraces like a duchess descending a grand staircase. She was well-camouflaged against a meadow of lilies, a strong tawny blonde, and purposeful in her movements. I never forgot her. Over the years, I have grown to accept that I transformed, at puberty, from part-otter part-fish girl into a part-otter part-mountain-lioness and as daughter of an osprey-woman and a wolf-man, I have those animal traits, too. (If you’ve seen “LadyHawke,” then you can picture what I’m talking about.) I am protective and territorial of the land that I nurture and call home; I move through each day with purpose but I don’t show off, surrounded by the lakes and natural beauty. Yet I am still playful and never lose my sense of wonder, or love for the water.  

A female mountain lioness stakes out her territory, and then allows some males to approach. Most of the males are chased away, mauled and intimidated into submission, but a couple will remain, to tough it out. They compete for her affections, but it’s really more about chemistry—as she picks the mate no matter who wins the battle for dominance between the toms. It’s up to her, ultimately. Then after she mates with the tom, he’s allowed to stick around. This is a pretty big deal since mountain lions are not like lions in Africa—with a whole pride. And dare I mention kinky otter sex? That’s probably better left up to the imagination. Otter sex is not for the faint-of-heart, lemme tell you. Only Scorpios could really even imagine going there as it’s worse than shark BDSM. Ask a marine biologist. I’m not at liberty to say.

So what’s the take-away from this post? Date down, you might be disappointed. Date down to the animal, you might find the right mate, someone who echoes your instincts and brand of wildness. Or you might get mauled.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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