The Double Loss

Originally posted on Melancholy Hyperbole:

He tried to churn my grief into sex,
my still form, so much as butter,
hardly mobile, his lips and tongue
whipped fast -

What am I now? A sleepless waste
gone sour. I cannot touch
I cannot trust
I cannot

get past the sudden arrest
of wrongness, the moment stolen
when close to worn-out peace,

the rancid of a salted stick -
My mouth I cannot taste. I cannot
not shake, I cannot bed
any longer

that safe space curdling
a harder grief.

Rhiannon Thorne’s work has appeared/is forthcoming in Vox Poetica, Your Daily Poem, Third Wednesday, and The Foundling Review. She also co-edits the publication Cahoodaloodaling with poet-in-arms Kate Hammerich.

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January 2014 Book Discussion: Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire


warsanTeaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Amazon: Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer who is based in London. Born in 1988, she is an artist and activist who uses her work to document narratives of journey and trauma. Warsan has read her work internationally, including recent readings in South Africa, Italy and Germany, and her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Additional Biography: This is Shire’s only book and is the final chapbook of the Mouthmark series published in the UK by flipped eye publishing. The full series can be purchased here. She has been published in Wasafiri, Magma, and Poetry Review, and in the anthology The Salt Book of Younger Poets.  Shire was the poetry editor at SPOOK magazine (they don’t appear to publish poetry any longer) and represented Somalia at the Poetry Parnassus. Shire can be found here.

Discussion Questions:
*This is very short collection compared to our previous reads. How did that work for you? How does her work compare to the previous books we’ve read?

*As the description mentions above, Shire is an “activist” – how do you feel about her book as it pertains to documenting “narratives of journey and trauma”? Here she is performing “Conversations About Home” from Teaching My Mother to Give Birth in which she discusses the experience of going through a deportation center:

*Any thoughts about how she compares to other female “activist” poets? How do you think Shire feels about being an activist herself (specifically “Questions for Miriam”)?

*In her final poem, Shire writes:
                        To my daughter I will say,
‘when the men come, set yourself on fire’.
Why do you think she says this and how do you feel about the way men are portrayed in Teaching My Mother to Give Birth?

For those who were unable to read this month’s book, here are two additional videos by Shire:

*What do you like/dislike? For those who read, how do these compare to Teaching My Mother to Give Birth?

Next Book Up: February 2014 Another Creature by Pamela Gemin


The Creative Process

You sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and decide:
you will be brilliant today.

You will write about your crazy ex-lover, your vengeful mother,
the teacher you had in 2nd grade you barely remember
but who called you by the wrong name during your awkward encounter
in the supermarket last week
and it pissed you off.

Ten minutes later
your paper is full
of doodles of your dog
and you decide to check your email,

Find that your spam filter is as productive as you are.
A fine outstanding, yet cruelly mistreated, gentleman in Nigeria needs you to wire him money,
but his father with three doctorates treating AIDS across the border will pay you back,
ASAP and surely you understand.
An 18-year-old shy girl wants to get to know the real you,
the deep you, the one you’ve hidden from the society who can’t appreciate you.
The picture she’s attached is a testament to her outstanding tits.
And if you hurry, dildos resembling Jagger’s dick are buy one,
get one free.
Your friend still
hasn’t written you back.

You line up another sheet of paper
to write about the war.
You don’t know which one yet,
something gory, something sad, you figure: someone will have to die.
You make a list: 99% vs 1%.  America vs the world. And then you are perplexed,
Googling Wars brings up Star Wars.
Search refined: Burma, Sudan, ETA in Basque Country, Spain.
Your list becomes long.  You get depressed,
decide to check Facebook for cat memes.

Two hours later when you score 53 points in Words With Friends
playing “zygotes,” you realize you’re starving.

You write “ravished” next to your list of wars
and head to the fridge.

Crap.  You’re down to your last cup of milk, two sticks of butter, some questionable leftovers, three beers and an apple.
You raid the cabinet for chips and your poem becomes a shopping list.

With all those salts and trans-fats,
war becomes too heavy for your stomach, anyways.

You shuffle through your iPod for mood music.  Bob Dylan,
Third Eye Blind, Trivium.  You think, Oh, what a genius,
get jealous, convinced you’ll never be published,
or famous or paid.  You will be married to the man
the rest of your life,

wander to your porch to chain-smoke cigarettes

and write this poem.



Is it Friday yet? This poem was originally published at Zygote in My Coffee.


Why has a man never told me I have a neck
like a crane? I have spider appendages, Daddy Long Legs,
am an Amazon in the right skirt, sure-

They’ve mentioned heart lips and the round
of my hind. Rename me like a perfume,
like sex on two feet,
like walking meat.

No one says: you move
like a breeze. No one says:
your eyes are a swimming peace. Instead,

I am nice ass. I am sufficient tits. I am constructed
into some poster wish, and oh yes, Baby, won’t you wear
those higher heels? That shorter dress?
Bend over, sweetie, like a supple tree,
reach right over.
Just like that, Ma.

A man’s never told me: I love your lips
for the words they spill, for the nouns
they round, for how they puff air out pressed
like little irons.

Nor have I heard a word about my ears,
how well they listen to this body-slander,
how they gape themselves like sick synonyms
with sex appeal.

Please tell me, there’s more than smooth skin,
more than a useful tongue and teeth, more than
open legs like open caskets.
Tell me: your collar bone looks like an ark, your hands
like a safe keeping, your hair smells like home
and safe spring passing.

Tell me: your fingers
are for more than pianos
or my penis.

Originally published at The Rampallian

I Took to Howling with You


I was shy at first, timid in my dealings,
I laced the trap against my throat,
sang sparing, tip-toed
around your poems.

The tone, the slow vibrating
from the shoots of my shoulders
to the gleam of polished talons,
it purred around inside me.

Oh the song, Coyote,
the same resigned call, it
paled before you, swallowed down its insides,

I took your little hand in my big hand,
flew out towards Crow, and for a while
My Love, there were poems
and the world was enough.

I took to howling with you,
down from the branches, safe
womb of the tree, I spread
dirt between my toes, sang happy,

sang the song of free,
your wild howl, your musk,
I lost the language for
the pain of bird calling.

Do you remember when we realized
Crow would no longer sing
her crooning songs beside us, trill
through a night among us?

She had gone, no longer writing
poems for coyotes or exlovers,
no longer touching out for a girl
beyond the mountain,

and we were suddenly alone, Love,
you and I, alone to sing, to warble, to fall,
but, nevermore, you said, nevermore,
things matter not

when I love you, the howl-
I sang with you the howl of leaving,
never leaving, loving, always loving
the bitter sweet notes,

I’ll never quiet for you.

Originally published at vox poetica.  “I Took to Howling with You” is the second part of a three-part poem.

Before you Howled


I had forgotten for so long why I sang,
so many, my song turned into tumbled
bedsheets, bodies strewn,
nectar of a kiss overdone.

The lonely hoot low and languished,
I loved, My Love, I loved strong
and solid, the hollow notes,
the lonesome bones.

Crow, she came and whispered in my ear,
said your song is lovely dear,
take a feather from my wing, we beat
somewhat the same

But the song, it was the same,
beneath the shadow of the bat, as
the love of a man
I nearly slew.

When she would call, month’s later
the chiming at my ear, o’ my heart
my little heart,
I heard her and she was me,

and I, without us, her little
black wings, my greedy perch, months
I’d call back, filter through the poems
I hear your notes in me.

Some nights she whispered love stories
of a girl, small-handed
across the mountains, a candid song
of love and loss

and loving loss, that which learns
to rumble after. She wrote of you,
far across, the distance
a somber color.

O, I listened to her song and did not believe,
the days yet unbroken in
the singing, love marching

on. The plow, the grain,
the rainmaker’s songs, You
yet a thing of myth,
the trickster, great lover.

Coyote, I confess, I pressed my ear
to your poems and quieted,
the raven drawn by a curious
gleaming in the dark,

I decided to taste the water of your pool
learned what would rip
Moon from Sun, asunder-
the cry,

the depth of the heart-howl,
the handsome song of seeking,
the fieriest love, the

your song, the ever changing ballad.

Before you: the mimicked hoot,
the sweet finch trill, no-
I could not sing the truest notes
before I heard you howl.

Originally published at Yorick Magazine. “Before you Howled” is the first part of a three-part poem.

The Plot Wheel

I consider myself a poet, an editor, and (fingers crossed) soon-to-be homebrewer. Rarely do I think of myself as a writer, making it rather unsurprising that this is my first legitimate blog post, although I’ve now had my WordPress for months.

So I suspect that Kate Hammerich, my co-editor over at cahoodaloodaling, included a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing in the last batch of books she sent me more as a sneaky ploy to make me a Stephen King fan than as a means to give me tips on dialogue or make a case against adverbs. (Should I address that elephant? I am not a Stephen King fan. I don’t dislike his writing, in fact, I think he’s a fine writer, but his books have never done it for me. I’m just not that kind of girl. Out of the four or five Stephen King books I have now read, this is my favorite.)

Kate certainly didn’t send it to me for King’s section on plot development – which he’s more or less against. King’s attitude towards plotting actually surprised me; I, I suppose naively, assumed most major writers spend time on plot development, instead of organically letting the characters develop the story.

And then King introduced me to the Edgar Wallace Plot Wheel.

I had never seen one of these, but sure enough, type Plot Wheel into the grand old googlemeister and up pops several different Plot Wheels.



Apparently these were extremely popular in the 1920s for aspiring (and some successful) writers. Stuck in the middle of your story and don’t know where to take it? Spin the wheel, and perhaps your “Hero declares his love” or you “High-tail-it” out of there.

History lesson aside, several of the Plot Wheels I found have obviously been updated since the 1920s. I doubt, for example, that “Raped by hero” would have been included, even in the roaring twenties. How frightfully uncouth! Also, with options like those, it’s obvious that the Plot Wheel is not only being used in primary and secondary creative writing classes. Somebody has to be using these. Who?

If you’re out there, please, come defend the Plot Wheel. I am truly curious how this translates from the 1920s murder mystery to today’s fiction.