One Hundred Degrees of Plum

Two Poems for My Veins

Infusion

If I had to choose
between snakes’ fangs
and tigers’ claws
to name the needle
piercing my flesh
I select the cat
whose stripes burrow
all the way to skin
because this hunt—
dangerous as an open wound—
leads the seeker
to my blood
and the venom
is already present.

from Mouthbrooders, Homebound Publication, 2019

Generous Bruises

At the bank the teller catches me
counting on my fingers—the same feeling
I had chasing my sister’s bike down
the unpaved road. She would fall before
I could catch her. As the road curved
I was thinking how little I have
to rely on; I should run faster.


Caught in the act of failing, used up again
dwelling in those Hopper paintings
where nothing vacillates, nothing
is weak, and all the women wear black pumps.
Their isolation—so original, it makes them
efficient, but keeps them separate.


But consider this: a crystal’s structure
appears only when cracked. We experience
the same self when the I cracks
and our breath runs out. We earn
the favor of being by breaking
revealing a symmetry so generous it bleeds.
Watching a bruise heal from the inside out
it’s the color that matters:
never black nor blue, but shades of yellow
and one hundred degrees of plum.

from Four Blue Eggs, Homebound Publications, 2017

Hotel Window, 1955 by Edward Hopper, courtesy of http://www.EdwardHopper.net

Scars and How We Wear Them

 

“I’m looking for a soap dish. . . . ” This is how I begin “Giving up the Chokehold,” an essay about searching and about finding. What I find first is a necklace, actually a bunch of them, “chokers I haven’t worn in years.”  One, is woven into a braid, “a thin zig-zag, like trim binding from an old sewing kit. I try this one on. As it’s supposed to, it chokes me.”

Scars, no matter where they lie on our bodies or if we can see them, have a way of silencing us with their visibility. At the very least, they shape who we are. Sometimes we wear them as badges of pain; sometimes we wear them as badges of victory. How to get from one endpoint to another is what that found necklace helped me discover.

When I think back on it, most of the time spent on cover-ups and self-consciousness is rooted in a worldview that I’m not ashamed to hold. There are others in the world whose scar stories are much more heroic. I don’t think my story is heroic because everyone has scars . . .

Hear the full account, here

“Giving up the Chokehold” picks up about 28 minutes into the third part of the Episode One of The Vanguard Podcast.

animal animal photography avian beak

Photo by Ibrahim Nasouf on Pexels.com

Invitation to Stillness

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It’s been over twenty-five years since I wrote these lines:

The doctors invited me to be still.
Then the X-ray revealed
one of van Gogh’s sunflowers
dying inside me, just beneath my ribs.
Not enough sun, they said,
prescribed antibiotics and suggested
lemon juice to ease the pain.

A few of the remedies worked; stillness came, then awakening. Just beneath my ribs, the sunflower lives, and so does the everpresent need to be still, to suggest bright petals and brave possibilities. Thanks, Vincent for this yellow.

Still, ever-spiraling.

Find the complete poem in Reconnaissance and more about doctors and prescriptions and journeys of other sorts in The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memoir.

 

“un-memories”

 

In my latest book, The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, I ponder the nature of memory–what we remember, what we forget, how our identities are built by and shaped by memories.  While I can’t recreate any single memory into a perfect film of the past, I can stare at the open sky of existence, trace the collective particles, and sculpt them into meaningful shapes.

A review of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory is just out from New Pages. Here’s an excerpt. Please click the link below to read more.

“. . . memories and un-memories push against each other throughout the text, the tension between them driving the narrative and forming some of the book’s most vital and memorable moments.”

New Pages

Nawrocki Broadside 2 (2)

The Sky’s Version of Truth
So what about the laziness
of light, taking its sweet old time
getting to the eye. The sky
having no reason to be false
teaches memory, a peek
of what old people must have seen:
Cassiopeia learning to dance, Orion
earning his bow, Taurus deciding
to charge. A navigator’s dream.
What the eye catches is an old light.

What we rely on most is thriftiness.
Whatever speed it takes,
the open road is just dotted lines
a tree’s last goodbye to summer,
just lament. It’s a different kind
of blindness—seeing too much
seeing with the heart, light alone
or a blade of grass.
Loving the blindness, the eye sees a pattern:
the round dome of sky,
the traffic of night, ad infinitum.
Connect the dots the sky is saying.

I see a banjo, the spokes of a wheel,
the claw of a crow catching me. Maybe
a duck-billed platypus playing the trumpet.
I can almost hear a star’s last sigh.
Perhaps legacy is spelled out
the way memory returns to you
so many years later: you remember
the leaves, the rain, the sound
of a breath stopping three rooms away.

This poem appears in Nomad’s End, published by Finishing Line Press, 2010. Order your signed and personalized copy here.

The Energy of a Tidal Wave

Nawrocki Broadside 3

I am not a delicate flower. I am not
the likeness of a leopardess, I am the energy
of a tidal wave. I am the catastrophe of a raindrop.
I am an orchid, I am a lily. I am a life and
death without a mask. I am a fork and a forklift.
I am rubbish of apple seeds. I am mother, I am
earth, and when I speak, I call up windlessness
and ask its name.

~Journal excerpt from March 1992, featured in The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, an exploration of my journey into an out of an encephalitic coma.

Comets Tail Cover Final

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Broadsides

Minus the town square and the tavern, (or rather in honor of virtual squares and literary ephemera) here is The Comet’s Tail’s first offering.

Nawrocki Broadside 2 (2)

Homebound Publications and Little Bound Books will release the Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory and ship pre-orders on Tuesday, April 10th.

Please support independent publishers like Homebound Publications and writers who want to share the tiny particles of our lives. Join the conversation.

We’re up to day 24 of this month’s 30/30 Project. Donate to my campaign. I need just $5 to reach $500.