REM Stage 6: A Poetry Blog || julie niklas

National Poetry Month Days 17-20
04/21/2010, 7:28 PM
Filed under: Poetry, Writing | Tags: , , ,

April 17

Return to the Morning Campgrounds

The dream is reduced to cinders,
soaked with balsamic like rotisserie chicken
skin—the good part, crackles under the
knife, impossible to keep quiet between
the teeth
(blame it on having so many pores and
being on fire once) blame it on gravel and
mother nature and neurological glitches
at age nine, blame it
on always being perfect and
whole. And emotions are
sin and drunkenness, this is remembered
waking up starved of memory,
it wasn’t there the whole time, the night
fed on the white without the yolk, ran off
because it knew reason
had already won. The dream is reduced
to ash and particles in the wind, into the
red corners of eyes, nasal passages,
breathe it.

April 18


I want to create a wormhole in your
arm, in your persimmon skin, through
the fruit and it’s sections, I want to
make a soft spot under the bruise,
rotten-sweet, and watch it
cave in like a sinkhole to the other
end of the universe and stretch
the flesh past space-time and stars pulsing
white and blue with their tentacles ablaze,
pulling at the fabric, I want to throw
a nuclear bomb through that gap, listen
for the ticking to stop
deep in the sky’s gizzard and the
shockwave that can’t happen in space to
turn the night-shift ships over so their keels
pierce through the asteroid belt and
rock dust like paring knives and their
sails flail like cuttlefish whiskers—
it’s always night in space.

April 19

For the Modern-Day Sleeping Beauty in Room 6A

Gelled back with cytoplasm, gaped,
your eyes trace the spindle on the Sears tower into
a miniscule pen dot on the sun’s eyebrow,
you watch from New York as the
earth whips through its orbit, a bareback
rider clamping every pink muscle cell like
a bungee cord around the animal inertia,
strained under a pair of knee-high oil-black
riding boots. Your eyes are swollen
in sunlight

moving but not blinking, rampant like
cancer through the cosmic network
as if the spark in your pupils flared and set
the shells, the atoms inside, on on fire
and gave you irises too and
you sent spores through the blood vessels
of the galaxies, let them fly free and dissolve
through the membranes, gave them your
blessings and your arteries from

your Red-Ridinghood-basket which you
hold to the sun and balance on the spinning
wheel needle, careful not to
prick your finger because last time
it cost you a lifetime.

April 20

They forgot what poetry was when they
stood in the rain and shoved their hands
in pockets for warmth. Because

poetry is cold fingers and solid bone marrow and red knuckles and
poetry is air, not fabric or comfort or zipper pockets
poetry is roughness and calluses and bitten nails
poetry is best frozen like a strawberry.

They forgot what poetry was when the
crumpled the pads of their roes under the
blanket and left them there. Because

poetry is hypothermia and unforgiving and turns you blue after you drown in it.

They forgot home to get back to poetry
after they left and the birds had
eaten their trail of landmarks from the map. Because

poetry is shoved in the wandering man’s knapsack.


National Poetry Month Days 13-16
04/17/2010, 5:17 PM
Filed under: Poetry, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , ,

April 13

Planetary Motion

Sunset birds are shivering silhouettes
flying to the moon in cardboard rockets,
whistling in the vacuum of the space-
time continuum. You know that’s how
they always get there? A powercord
thousands of light years long and they go
past it to lay their eggs somewhere else.
I hear the fuse is a short one this time.
The robins will fly, white-chested with
starlight, burning at the tips of
their tails as they launch into the sky,
dragging the orange extension cord to
a socket back home.

April 14

The Clown

The See-You-Around-Clown walked through
a desert, his flop feet whispering over the sand
like oblong sunsets to see you. Your hair has
gotten long, it covers your earrings now and you
can pull it up into a ponytail.
Last time he brought you a cinnamon
candle—you lit it and let it stay lit
through the night, placed in your window like a
flowerpot. It bloomed into a sea of wax and
flame and one day he came back to
sink his fingerprints in like crop circles, his
clown fingers, his big-as-sin calluses,
his bitten nails. You wait for him now at the
foot of the stairs, looking past terracotta
shingles for the hint of sunrise behind the desert,
the brilliant clown shoes trembling as he takes a
step, his toes curled inside. You wait for
him to lose balance.

April 15


I don’t dream anymore. I
think in my sleep and at
6am, the images are still there
like heatstains on the thermograph,
tattooed onto my sheets, It was so
hot last night I woke up in sweat with
Saturn’s rings salted around me, the
arc of a nose was burned into the
air in red, a red palm, a red wash
over the membrane like my
thoughts were watching me slip in
and out of consciousness. Blue borders,
green, yellow, the center red and volatile,
raw as steak, I haven’t dreamt in eight months,
it’s left my neural tube clogged like a
straw with ice, numb, slick, dreamless.
My gray matter has gone putrid taupe,
starved and oxidized, last night I
woke up from a dream that I was
sleeping, on, off, on, off, daytime is overtime,
synapses hurtling charges at
my skull walls and I can hear them
whispering as they pray for something
to stick and send my cerebrum into flames.
I don’t dream anymore because my
nervous system is a city of
sawdust and light.

April 16


He walks, back to the cars,
by the guardrail, slinging his
big moose-ass side to side,
antlers down like a heavy bag
of groceries, I think he has
broken something made
of glass.

An Elegy for Yesterday (National Poetry Month Day 12)
04/12/2010, 8:48 PM
Filed under: Poetry | Tags: , , ,

We used to believe in shooting stars,
in 4am meteor showers thick as down
blankets and clouds that we could
bathe in, rinse the wishes from our
shoulder blades with and stir
into a tub as points of light poured from
the old nickel-coated bath tap.

We used to believe in Mr. Moon,
that when we heard thunder it was
him playing the drums, calling his symphony
to arms in the darkness with
a neon flare and a crash and a loud whooping
song as rain spilled over our lawns.

We used to believe that the sun was
like a cork, a bright plug in the world
that popped open each night and let glassful
after glassful of cranberry wine that
tasted like night fill the bottle, we believed it
was gone by morning because
there was a party.

We used to believe in dragons and superheroes
and the velveteen rabbit, in myth that
once grew sweet and ripe on our
branches but now is plump and
withered, soft like a tomato that was left
in the windowsill overnight.

Allergy Eyes (National Poetry Month Day 11)
04/12/2010, 8:46 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

they blare up red. the light
across the dark shatters. splays into beams.
you squint, maybe this is
where you found it last time, the
familiar echo of laser lights diffracting
behind your retinas.
the smoke. the red dot
smoldering like the tip of
the washington monument. but you’re
unwinding the spool of fiber optics like
there is nothing left in you. i see you
wrapping that string around your finger,
tying the bow pretty like a doll’s.
memory of last
time your eyes swelled shut
and scraped against your eyelids like macadamia
nuts, salted, hard, ridge down the middle.
red light coming through like
the blood of a steak, in pinpoints.
the chambers in your sockets,
under your eyes. fattened purple gray like
cow tongue. the fluid and the crust.
staring at the red
miles away in the dark.
the undulating spokes,
porcupine quills, venom-loaded.
it is here again. you are brewing, softening
in the soup. bready, dense and heavy like
a sponge. a sniffle, grit in your cornea,
your whispers have blurred light halos too.

Sundial -National Poetry Month Day 10 (and one from…day 4?)
04/11/2010, 2:11 PM
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I wrote this for a friend. That’s what I do.
I write poems for people when they need them.

For B.D.


I told you once, over noodles, over
strawberries in Tupperware, over the hum of
the third floor water fountain that whatever
you decided to do would be the
right thing. And when the familiar
buzz of my phone rattled the dresser,
your voice on the other side coming through
in a string of electronic bleeps and static,
I listened and said nothing. I figure
prayers are not for religion, but for
friends, and you do not say them—you
pass them in form of notes and candy boxes and
souvenirs and sideways glances and
prayers are contagious like laughter. We’re
at our best when we’re infected,
ears deaf because our heads have
squeezed so tight in the ache of a laugh and
all we can feel is our lungs getting
smaller and smaller, our bronchioles curling
at the tips overjoyed to not breathe for
once. I beg you, please dear, stay sick with me.
The antidote is time and it will
exterminate the virus like weedkiller,
knock those precious dandelions
dead at the trunk of your aorta, weave its
way to the canopy in your atria and the
leaves will go brown. For once I beg you
not to catalyze it. Stay home, stay sick,
turn your face to the sun and cast your shadow.
Someone will stand in it.

This one I discovered in a different folder. It was the missing poem from April 4. Well, it’s here now.

When You Wake Up

Water in endless ballet, tip-
-toed, synchronized, syncopated, you
breathing in agreement with the tide,
heart beating, flexing under your lungs like
a squid pulling its tentacles
through the blue, dragging the tips curled in
and out through your cardiovascular dreams, try
not to drain yourself, empty your
skin into the water, red curtains for the show. Take the
tassel from the muscle-thick braid on your
neck, pull it apart and soak the vines in your ocean
freshwater, greenwater, lifewater, be
infinite, open your cell membranes to the
pollution, stride out in a scaly sheen and wrap
yourself in a threadbare towel. Water is where you are
going to resurface, brought in like a conch shell,
waves in the dry slick of your ribs forever.

National Poetry Month Days 6-9
04/11/2010, 2:07 PM
Filed under: Poetry | Tags: ,

April 6


Let the little man on the bridge
tell you you’re ugly. Let him stomp in front
of you, caress the ridge of your nose and
inspect the dimples, the sunspots
on your face and call you
ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly, because he is
the little man in your dreams he is
incapable of beautiful so he calls you ugly

when he looks into you
into the crevices and caves you’ve
hidden in your chest, the airways, says you’re the
most hideous creature he has ever seen he
is calling you beautiful because
ugly is all he can talk

and you are ugly ugly, shining
stone, pavement block, you are
a little man with one foot on
either side of hell’s river, welcome to the
place of beautiful.

April 7

How To Listen to the Ocean from a Conch Shell

My ears are not working like you’d like them to.
One has shut. This is that point I was talking about
one day before the sun rose and you said it would
never happen, this is that point, hot and white and knotted in
the base of my throat like a tight, swollen pancreas. That’s
the kind of itch I feel, acidic and thick and bubbling and
my ear canals are teeming with the ships, their sails pressed
in black silhouettes like dried flowers against the sun.
This is the horizon line I pointed out to you once
at the start of the sunrise. I’m being pushed through the water like
a Viking boat, with an angry gnarl of griffin head
cemented to my bow, that’s how I go to the sun, breaking the
water. And my ears aren’t working
like you’d like them to because they can’t hear you.
The drums have busted because too many times over and over
they fell victim to war drums and mallets and dusted palms
and it’s just a skin. It’s just a membrane. So break it, why don’t you,
there is an empty cavern behind it. Even crows know
not to go into caverns because it puts out candles with
a draft, and that’s what happens when you step there.
It’s like I told you once about the line,
how it transversed the sun like a knife over a seldom-used pad
of butter midday and it burned down hot on the dermis,
pulling it into red twists under the braids of sweat on
our backs. That’s why my ears are not working, because they
are filled with sweat and salt and have grown calluses
like pink crustaceans and leaking batteries and limestone.
My ears are not working like you’d like them to.
I submerged them in nets at the ocean floor
and left it that way. It turned my flesh sour and waterlogged
and it was only then that I decided to
swim up and not down and I broke the line of the water
just before sunset and now the ocean is
pouring from my mouth, the salt bitter and grating on
my cheeks. The sputter at the end is worse than the drowning.

April 8

Bus 32

Bus 32 to downtown is filled
with faces, filled with air and space and
breath, and someone has propped their
umbrella up against the
back window like a walking cane,
spindled in its red wraps, dew drops.
I watch it carry its burden toward
the city, distant and synchronized
under gray sky fluorescents,
it lets off a puff of steam and

April 9


I’m going to take care of you, I say, but
only this time
. They don’t put much ink
in hotel pens, so if you leave them
uncapped, the ink clots around the tip in
half a heartbeat, stops the
life from getting through. I say I’m going
to take care of you and I mean it. I’ll
dig this pen cap into your skin like a
scalpel, find what’s bothering
you inside—I said I’d take care of
you with this pen, so I’ll let the cartridge
drip into the bulging blue vein in your
inner elbow like an IV. You say the
ink is gone from your bones, here,
I will give you some of mine and take
care of you with this hotel
pen because it’s all I know how to do.

National Poetry Month Days 2-5
04/11/2010, 2:04 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

April 2

Easy Chair

I could sink here, deep like a
tumor into the skin, dent the cushion with my spine
make clay imprints
cast mold after mold of my body,
my toes curled on the footrest like a
pasty fungus creeping into the moss print, I could sink
into the stomach of this thing like it was quicksand, swampguts
bubbling around be, I would let it get to
my ears, then I would leave.

April 3


The pelican is fluent in heresy with his anchovy
breath inking out in front of him like
a cloud of train smoke. He broods on
the lightpost cutting traffic bustle with
saltwater-hoarse calls (he would
be a gospel singer if it weren’t for his
fisherman’s scoop).
We play an interlude of car horns
over the radio and point at the
fat marsh-specimen perched on an ocean bridge
feathers splayed as if the
passing cars and their gusts of air have
offended his wise-bird sensibilities. Thrusting
my feet into the sunlit stitch on the dashboard,
I point and laugh at the pelican, the gruff old man
glaring at me through his neon corona
spectacles. I laugh at him because I have miles to go
and he has a fish.
The disparities fit together like a supervirus after
we cross paths blinking seawater and wind from our eyes,
jaded in the infectious instant-long slumber
and the strain could be lethal in our blood, bird or beast,
shared by a full beak and an empty mouth.
I am content until I pass, looking back in
time to see his balloon-bill tuck in under
his chin like a collapsed ship-toy in a bottle, and I
realize the bastard was only
pretending to have a fish.

April 4


Once I discovered a valve at the
opening of this place. I held my thumb across
the top and waited for my fingerprint
to choke on the vacuum. I played

a symphony of gasps and sputters
from the ring. It splintered the Bradford pears
down their trunks, white, because I came

back to this place when they bloomed and
not before and I slept in an aisle of blossoms
with my plane ticket. I pressed the valve down
and changed the pitch.

Once I followed the sound of
the whirl back a thousand miles over ocean and
pleaded with the tide. I peered into the
vacuum and saw through to squat, dumpy little

Blue Grass Airport with a kaleidoscope so I
turned it and the mirror flashed to
the arrival gate where I stormed in almost
breaking the building in two
because I was home.

Once I discovered a secret pasted
into the reflection of blue windows and I called
it a sunset, a promise,

a photograph and it stretched over
the circuit board, past exit 19 on New Circle,
past the farm two miles out on
Old Todds Road, past Hamburg Pavilion and its

bad drivers. Every time I am
forced into the area of low pressure
just beyond the valve, and once,

a state away, I decided to come home
to sleep—they say that’s where it began.

April 5

Guess it’s spider season. The place
is swarming with them. They nest in our kitchen
and I found two the other day
scampering to a dark spot behind the thermostat.

The one this morning blended in taupe with
the wall, looked like the shadow of
a moth until the light over the sink hit him right and
he stunned the world with his legs. I find that
the world doesn’t

react well to exposure. He turned to
jelly and exoskeleton on a scrap of napkin.
Look, another one.
We chased him midair and caught him by
the silked line as he leapt for the microwave, and
he was tangled, suspended
(more, another one) at our ankles, we were
scooting back, shuffling
sockfeet against hardwood, separating the
sea of spiders like a wave of water.
They’re all over here.

Someone grab a net. We put them into the
net, splay them over one another like translucent
brown sardines. They leak from its pores. The
kitchen hemorrhages and a flood of them squirm
over one another, pulling at their
legs to find us.

Good morning.