Departure – New Videopoem

This is partly in response to the weekly prompt at We Write Poems, but I’d been toying with it for at least a month already. The poem text is below the video, as well as process notes.

Departure

When the nurses wheeled you away
on the shuddering gurney, your simple body
steering down the corridor, your toes
pointing back at me like a little constellation

of stars, you gestured a goodbye
I didn’t recognize until later, and it was like
you’d already died, and I’d missed my chance
to honor that soft instant of your disappearance,

like a pilgrim slipping over a dark border.
And I realized I’d spent my life in avoidance
of such moments, never traveled with you
to the airport, or stood on a porchfront waving,

or looked in the rearview mirror while you stood
on a porchfront, waving. And that now
I’m more than halfway through my life,
and perhaps have done the most I can

of sweeping aside the crawling hours
forward towards conclusion, the end
not what I expected – no black bag of bones,
no hissing river spitting on an empty shore –

just a dusty shelf where your photographs
are stored, a dog-eared ottoman where I rest
my feet when I get home alone at the ebb
of another gentle, merciless afternoon.

Notes: My limitations – no decent video camera with which to film my own footage, my lack of decent video editing software, my iPhone Voice Changer app as my only source of recording audio – are starting to effect my level of satisfaction with the final product. Perhaps it’s time to get down to business and commit to learning new things, but for now, please forgive the highly pixielated spots in the video and go with the concept of it.

Finding the footage for this one was a bit of a bear, as it always is at the Internet Archives because their method of categorizing and organizing material doesn’t work with my brain. I found the video of Saunders dancing first, and “Romance Sentimentale” came along a few days later. Once I had those two pieces it was just a matter of splicing them together. Music was another matter, as I changed my mind twice when putting the visuals together, then two more times when I layered the poem audio over that.

Recording the audio was time-consuming, because this is a longer poem than I normally take on; as always I created the video first then fit the poem to the footage, and then recorded my reading in one take while watching the visuals to fit the poem into them. That doesn’t sound too hard until you screw up ten or fifteen times, or read the whole poem before realizing you forgot to hit ‘record.’ I’ve found that splicing together different readings or sections sounds uneven, so I always start completely over when I screw up. EVEN SO – I realized this morning I left out an entire line. It’s in the text, but I tried to splice it into the audio and it sounded out of place, so that line is just gone for now. It works without it anyway, even though I’d prefer it stay in there – I just wasn’t up to recording the whole poem again.

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Self Portrait – New Poem

This is in response to Joseph Harker’s prompt at We Write Poems. The prompt was to try and capture a moment in a poem, and I thought immediately of my self-portraiture, as it is literally a captured moment on (digital) film. The poem went waaay out there, but I think it still speaks to the prompt.

Self Portrait

I am convicted
in what I do
and pleading
for conceit I want

to tell you
about it. It’s easier
to show. You don’t know
I am blind
to the mirror. I like
what I see. So begins

this poem. When faced
with story, editing
is necessary. Entire lines
to be removed. To know what
leaves out. To choose.

What is necessary but
the beautiful. Reflect
what is separate yet.

Single dimension. Denomination.
Domination of one
over other. Why can’t I be
an image always?

I lay them out like a count
of damaged furniture after the flood.
Wrung to dry, like laundry
on a wire –

intimates exposed. Indelicates out
where they should. A teacher

once told me a poem should end
with a moment of surprise
followed by of course.

I want to end
like that. A row of expressions
in a line of story. Every one
an exclamation.

Over the Tracks – New Videopoem

Over the Tracks

In summer we’d pitch our wishes to the tracks,
toss pennies between the ties and wait for trains
to come and lift them off like bells snagged
to the bumpers of wedding cars, engineers waving
like lonely grooms. Fenced behind chain-link and weeds
they trumbled past, the faded words SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES
and carman markings, fat chalk letters that crawled
over metal like hungry slugs. They didn’t stop
when you were sleeping, they kept coming, the hooking
and unhooking, the banging together, the scraping apart,
the coupling and uncoupling like desperate lovers.
They shook us awake, pronounced arrivals into air,
departures etched like fading smoke against sad sky.
Some days we’d climb the fence, find pennies splayed out
among the blades or tucked into gravel, knicked from the force
of their journey, melted from heat. It would happen
to our souls, too – once we were old enough
to know it just kept coming, old enough to understand
the trip to a line’s end on a Texas summer night.

Notes: The footage in the video is spliced together from various sources from the Prelinger Archives – promotional videos about rail lines, newsreels, and home movies. This started out with over three hours of possible footage to use, so the most daunting part of the task was sifting through it and deciding what to use. Once that was done I ran it through Movie Maker, downloaded the train sounds from iTunes, recorded my voice into my iPhone, and transferred it to my computer. I’m curious if other people record the poem first, or create the visuals before recording the reading. I’ve found it works better for me to create the video first, with the poem in mind of course, and with me playing the video back and reading the poem to myself for timing’s sake. But when it comes to putting it all together, I like to record my voice while viewing the actual, completed video. So for this one, I just played the video while I read the poem and timed myself accordingly.

Consumed – New VideoPoem

consumed

I am a sweater
in the head
a sock
in the jaw
my torso

a narrow corridor
of clothes,
stuffed from either side
somewhat unorganized

& slightly musty
from the hung-up
promises
of perfection,
my chest

compressed
by costume jewelry
mangled in a mass
& faintly tarnished,

my arms wooden rods
bowed and over-
extended with the want
they prop,

my legs shallow
skins that drag
against the boxtops
storing the means

of my protection
from ever connecting
with the earth
that gave birth

to me, this glutting
needing thing
stuffing its gut
& pitching the bones,

the scraps of plastic
& styrofoam,
into a gaping bin
consigned to the corner.

Notes: The first phrase in this poem (“I am a sweater in the head”) originally came from a woman I overheard describing to her friend why she never wears hats. The video was run through Movie Maker, and I recorded my voice using Voice Changer Plus on my iPhone. Told you I was bargain-basement over here. The primary video appears to have been test shots for a dollar store commercial – I did not copy and repeat those zoom-out shots of the fishing lures, they were actually all filmed and strung together one after another in the original film, as were the numerous shots of the woman looking at – and this part made me fantastically happy – the exact same dress over & over. The party shots were worked in mostly to utilize the transitions provided by the movie clapboards, quite honestly; the incredibly phallic balloon-blowing contest was a bonus. But maybe that’s sharing too much.