"dazzle gradually"

"Dazzle Gradually" 2016 poems, paintings, new art & photography--a diary, a discipline, a delight. Read over my shoulder as I post my unedited poetry ---you can see it in the raw. Check out my other blog "Letters from Polly" to read my letters to friends-- incredible and routine; into the past and the still living.


Polly Alice McCann

Sunday, May 29, 2016

What's in the Burrito?

I'm always trying to recreate that burrito
the one I ate at the poets house
the house with a basket of sea shells
nesting on the sun porch.

that moment when I
promised myself that
someday I'd have a home
with a sun porch and
and most likley
burritos
whenever I wanted

I'm always trying to recreate that
moment at the poets house
with the basket of sea shells
like the shells I placed outside
my new yellow house
under the red maple
stunted like a perpetual
storm blew
invisible to the rest of us--

it had been planted poorly.
in a shallow bed. The sea
shells looked out of place.

I have one shell left,
scalloped. That measures
it's palm open to the sun
in the prayer garden with
angels, bunny's
and small tree stump.

The shell tells me
how stupid I am
for a shell
is only a home that is
discarded for being to small.
And lies in a shallow bed
abandoned.

In my burrito
is a tea pot that dances in heels
bunnies that fly
ketchup with wings
a cottonwood fairy
books about fried chicken
a heavenly piano
dark chocolate
papayas
tamborines
birds that sing
a new pair of glasses
and a million
dancing stars
each with
their own
name.

Add in salsa with olives
moon dust
and a few more wings
and you've got
something too
big for the front porch.

I don't have to recreate no
day, no chair but my
own, and when I don't
have a chair, I'll just
fly.

Advice to Poets from Juan Felipe Herrara

Juan Felipe Herrera took an extra day in Kansas City and spoke to poets at the Diostole Scholar Center off 25th and Holmes. Diostole means rest for the heart. It is truly a restful building and reminds me of the intorior of the ecumenical institute, Tantur outside Jerusalem because of it's modern design, the sunlit white walls and the many, many artworks from around the world.

Juan Felipe spoke for over two hours.  Here are some of the grains of advice he gave to poets. I've tried many of these already and the ones I haven't you can bet I will be. Some of the best advice I've ever heard really. Let's write:


  • How do you know the poem is done? The poem is like a pool: "Did you get down to the bottom of the pool and get back up....Did we hit it?"
  • Is the poem finished? A poem maybe needs have three states of emotional comittmment... Kind of like what a Taxi driver said to him once about what she looks for in a relationship: "Can you dance? Can you laugh? Can you curse?"
  • How do you know when your poem is done being worked on? "See that poem snap."
  • "Speak up and tell the truth."
  • Give your poem room. "Every word is a marimba and it has room." So shake it.
  • Try to "double and triple" your adjectives just for fun.
  • Then double and triple the adjectives that don't go together. Have more fun.
  • Don't forget to use "Day to Day words." Maybe try adjectives as nouns and nouns as adjectives.
  • Don't forget you are an artist. If Matisse can make a face green. What can you do? Poetry is about... "appreciating something. Let go and see that person for the first time."
  • Pick a new adjective and get to know it like, "puffy" or "blue-cheesy."
  • The adjectives are zip lines. Use them. Create sequences and patterns. Make up fun rules for yourself. Switch words around.
  • Poems are like Salsa.  "Kick up your word play temperature guage all the way to 100!"
  • Enjoy the "curiosity of language"  Bring those words up to a curiosity level from a 1 to a 10.
  • Use fragments. Or use ornamentation. (Get a little crazy.) Try a paradox. Take big leaps.
  • Give yourself more freedom. Keep your poems warm the way artists look at their art. They walk by and they walk by again. So read your poem all week to keep it warm. Don't revise it. Just enjoy it. Maybe tweak here or there ---and on the weekend you are ready to finish your poem. It's kept warm for you.
  • Treat yourself to a nice pencil bag, nice writerly pens. Have fun. Be a "visual word-ist."
  • Listen to people. Read books. Tinker with other people's poems and take them apart. Learn the Tiajana way. If you an take it apart you can put it back together.
  • "Be an adventurer." Be a poetry gypsy. It's a beautiful world. and a crazy world. Have fun. Use your imagination. Think abstract thoughts. Einstein did and look where it got him.
  • How to sweep away the worries? Stay positive. Take naps. Eat yogurt, fruit, spinach. Take walks. Keep moving. You can do it. Keep journals, scribble. Write terrible. Draw. Draw a cartoon. Make a joke. Get up and go somewhere. Keep a rhythm.
  • Stuck? Don't write, just improvise. "Writing is more like improvising than writing."
  • Listen to other people. Give their words room to breathe.
  • "Be the freedom poet!"
  • Let your words be abrupt sometimes. Let them knock against each other. Or let them have warmth and coziness. Keep your poems warm, visit them often.
  • Remember, grammar is one of your instruments.
  • Revise is too serious a term. Seriousness can be an extra concern. Instead look for the feeling you want to express.  That's helpful. Come back to your poem instead to enjoy it! Look at it like a flower. Keep a tight but fun relationship with your poems, going back to them like you would visit your garden.
  • Write a poem in any language you want. Switch back and forth. Pick one to start in, one to finish in, and in the middle do confetti style!
  • "Light the fuse!"
  • Remember. "You are virtuosos, and you have many instruments."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Poet Laureate comes to KC

I think tonight at the opulent central branch of the KC public library, we could call the theme: pure love.
Jose Faus introduced the current US Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, saying about him,

"Everything that that man does is about weaving that tapestry together that is America.... Juan Filipe is everything I know we can be... The man has a pulse that is our beat. He is what America is."

Juan Filipe read his own poetry and one poem handed to him earlier that day from a local poet titled, Brown eyes in Blues." The local poet received a standing ovation.

Juan Filipe responded to 'Brown Eyes in blues' with "our hearts get healed...." when we write poetry like this. He began with, "Everyone here is a poet....This is good....We have amazing beautiful creative poets in Kansas City." After two standing ovations and applause for the president, love, and all that is holy-- I'd say that American poets when they get together are rather patriotic. Everyone in the room felt the love.

What does a poet laureate do? That is a good question. Juan Felipe Herrera listens to people, visits communities. Reads his work and starts amazing projects. He is creating a video program about our cultural heritage at the Library of Congress. And he has created a poem anyone is invited to write in any language called Casa De Colores. He is working on a huge poetry installation with children in Chicago. And another project to translate women's literature into English from other languages.

His well-known story of his third grade teacher telling him, "You have a beautiful voice" was told again at the request of the audience. That is Juan Felipe Herrera's message to everyone. That we have beautiful voices to share in this world. I went home ready to write.

What kind of writing. Juan Felipe writes like a painter paints. He has an entire book written in the style of Picasso's paintings, like making "salsa" he described the process.  The whole audience repeat lines and phrases with him showing created syncopated rhythms.

Reading his poem 'Papaya' in English and Spanish so we could "learn a new rhythm."  Obviously to anyone who meets him, Juan Felipe teaches a new rhythm of joy, life, love and playing with language.  He had never visited Kansas City before until today.  Thank you Juan Felipe Herrara for visiting Kansas City. Thank you for tellings us we all have beautiful voices.


The teacher said
"you have a beautiful voice."
and one voice
can lead an ocean of people
in a new song.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gas LIght

The little blue bathroom
had an oil lamp
with a wick
You said sorry
when it broke
your mother said
--These things happen--

You went years
without breaking
anything. You carefully
fixed everything,
the vacuum, the dresser,
the wall, bruises,
your dress
sewed
everything shut even
your eyes
so the seems wouldn't show.

It seemed the light was dimming each day.
One day You woke up
and forgot how to see
with your eyes closed
--The sky used to be blue--
you said, you said
everyone pretended
not to hear but what you
couldn't see that we were
signaling you with our
upcast eyes, reflecting
the blue of the sky
off our very souls.

The trouble with a part time
sociopath-- there is no relief--
is that you can
never prove the lamp
existed, any more than
someone dimmed it and
most likely it's all your fault
for believing a lamp
existed in the first place.
The dimness was because
the lamp was never there.

 One day you woke up
and you tried to say
--I used to be able to dance,
drive a car, sing, even
solve for x in a problem
as long as my arm--
but you'd forgotten
how to speak aloud.
The light kept dimming.
You couldn't see
the numbers on the phone,
your shoes,
the gas pedal on the car.

So you solved for x,
then ripped each number
out into little feathery bits.
they stuck to your head,
your face
your arms. The numbers
filed down your arms
into long white rows
until they made wings
and you flew away.

When you brushed
them off your lashes
you could see again.
The trouble is with a part time
sociopath-- once you run away
you can never prove there
was any equation at all, except
you can see
plain as day
there on your
arms are wings
made of numbers
and the numbers
don't lie, they
spell out freedom.

Enough of them
in a small grate
make a nice fire
better than any lamp.
your mother said
--These things happen--
and you remembered
how to say the alphabet

only you forgot the last
letter and ended
with
Y?

ADD Poem 497

I lost my cup but
There are 497 cups on the counter
that's what it looks like to me
like everyone who lives here
got thirsty four or five times
today. Each time, a new cup.
I don't care to do the math
4, 9, 7 whatever.

So to get to my fresh glass
of water I will
clean up this coffee spill-
hang up the old rags
get a clean one
wipe off the handle of the fridge
that's important, keeps germs
from spreading.
How is the fridge organized?
fix that.
Cheese goes in the cheese drawer
don't people know that?
Raw meat shouldn't be
next to the lettuce.
Dairy on top.
condiments in the second
to top shelf in the door
butter in the butter spot
what's that called anyway?

Wipe out the fridge-- gross crumbs
get a new rag.
wipe down the counters
put dishes in dishwasher
oh no it's full
unload,
unload,
unload
silverware is the worst
yes you know it!
Load,
load,
load,
while rinsing
faster not to waste water
wipe some more.
clean out sink.
ahh no one did the pots 'n
pans.
Wash them, clean out
the sink again.
Oh look another one.
Wash it.
clean out sink again.
wipe off counters for real
clean rags,
hang to dry.
put away pencils
what is on this table
fix table,
put salt 'n
pepper back in the stand.
raise window shade
look out, it's a nice day
Go outside
those bushes need trimmed
Has anyone fed this dog.
Quiet!
three scoops.
He needs water too.
clean the bowl.
Clean the sink again.
Fill the bowl.
give water to the dog.
Ohh I was so thirsty.
I'll go get a cup...
wait...what's that?
the crock pot
is still dirty.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Four Red Tears

I planted forget me nots
but they were not blue

They are white
with four red tears
in each flower's face

I planted Holy Basil
but it withered away
ten years in a row.

So I fed the birds
and thousands of
thistle things sprung
up where I didn't want them.

Today I drove up
Broadway to the bridge
in Miss Parker
with the top down.
She's a silver
convertible roly
poly shaped.

Getting stuck in
traffic was never
more glorious.
Men on motorcycles's
winked. Traffic cops
nodded. The sun
shone gold off
the steaple of Our
Lady of Perpetual help.

Don't I need help?
Before I crossed the bridge,
an empty strawberry
container blew across the
road in front of Miss Parker.

Clearly empty
of stawberries-- though my
garden is full of them.
They spring among
the herbs and profusion
of Penny Royal.

I wonder why gardeners
think they have any say
about what grows. Whatever
will grow, grows, with no
say -- no true power
from the sower.

So I have forgetful
for-get-me nots-- So I'm
forgotten. I will eat
strawberries and wait
for something new
to spring up

something wholly
unexpected, I never
intended like
four red tears
on white
forget-me-nots.

Or maybe
they are carnations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

End it all

Where can I go? I asked
my face in the mirror
for the hundredth time?

Follow the rules to stay safe
make yourself small
say only nice things
throw away your dreams
decide love must not exist
Sorry, God, you are then-- a maybe

Like you,
I closed my eyes
admitting pain
would hurt others
ruin their innocence
burst their bubble
leave a scar
where beauty
could be

Like you,
I covered my mouth
sharing past abuses
could hurt the abusers
ruin their good intentions
crush their self regard
leave a wound
where healing
could begin

Like you,
I treaded guilt
like water--
telling the truth
could hurt God
ruin his good reputation
dash his plans
leave a tear
faith couldn't
mend.


One day I had to chose
to carry that heavy load
of unsaid words until I
drowned in them -- or
ink them into a tattoo
and limp back to shore.

You know what I decided
because here is my ink--

Let no one tell you who you are,
and what your destiny is not to be.

God
is love- and so he exists.

Open your mouth and tell the world
who and what you have escaped. Taste what
is good. Tell your story-- the ink
running down your arm, and carved
on the back on each of your fingers. That
is what will guide your heart, and
your hands. Your imprint. Your
testimony is what tested you-- not
what bested you. The question is not
who you are, but what have you overcome?

Open your eyes and cry out your sorrows
until that salt runs to the sea--for we are all
brothers and sisters. Our sails are the truth
and in on them we will come. No it was never
true. The truth does not ruin our innocence,
it builds a wall of protection. We will be
your stones, your towers, your flags flying.

Open your eyes. You were never
alone. God sent the wind
that carried us here.