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atomic lemon drops #9: blue roses pt. II

07/15/13

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here’s a brand new poem for the atomic lemon drops series.  i’ve been working on this one for a while and recently got it to a spot where it’s worthy of your attention.  check it out + the usual background on the piece below.  share any questions & reactions in the comment section.  

Blue Roses Pt. II

When the quiet comes,
watch me pop-lock into Death’s
old school Caddy. Bloodclot
red, rims lean to the side,
we cruise the city of angels
looking for God. That bum
on the corner said:
“You’ll see Him near Sunset,
draped in everever & grace.
At His heels swoon stars,
burning for true scriptures
and a picture near Perfection.
He signed mine with a rainbow.”
Her sign said:
“BLUE ROSES
4 ♥ALENTINES
10 BUCKS”

 

background:

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atomic lemon drops #8: package for my teacher

03/24/13 3 Comments

this atomic lemon drop isn’t the first poem i wrote, but it’s the one that kept me writing. check it out below along with some background. per usual, feel free to share any questions/criticisms about the poem as well as any other comments.

Package for My Teacher

Teacher, Teacher, remember me?
3rd Grade, front row, Susie B?
Shared my dreams of
flying through space.
Looking for support,
your doubts came in its place.
“But you’re a girl,
and even worse than that,
too short,
too Black,
and way too fat.
Astronaut? Something I cannot see.
How ‘bout assistant manager at Mickey D’s?”
Brokenhearted,
but spirit stayed intact.
Too determined to get off track.
Your vision has improved by now, I hope.
If not, you can still see me
through this telescope.

dr. mae jemison, 1st woman of color in outer space

dr. mae jemison, the 1st woman of color in space

background:

senior year of high school, ms. bodnar gave my ap english class the option to write two poems instead of an essay (one had to be love-related since we were near valentine’s day; also had to recite one in front of the class).  i don’t remember writing any poetry beyond the red rose-blue violet variety before that.  at the time though, churning out a few verses seemed easier better than slaving over some paragraphs so i went for it.

the first poem, simply titled i love youwas about a girl i had a crush on in that class.  reading it aloud introduced me to leg-trembling nervousness (thinking back, the jitters were due to exposing myself and wanting to be accepted, both not just on the love tip but with the poem i birthed).

the second poem was package for my teacher.  i didn’t have the same emotional investment in the story as in i love you (not a girl named susie, didn’t have my dreams stepped on, etc.) but it was cool to ride out the poetic freedom (which was especially good for me since i was missing a creative outlet).  beyond that though, what really kept me writing poetry was what ms. bodnar said when she gave the poem back to me:

you should enter it in a contest.

it was a little comment that i never acted on but still managed to mean a lot.  after that, i began to write poems on my own.  i kept a notebook in my pocket to write lines & topics for potential pieces.  later, i was accepted into poetry workshops that helped me learn more about the craft.  i started performing my poems in different settings and eventually got to the point where my leg doesn’t shake anymore.  i’ve also sent other poems to contests & i’m working on a poetry manuscript.  again, all from a little comment that i never acted on.

part of package touches on the impact parents, teachers & other adults can have on the youth by being willing (or even unwilling) mentors.  the teacher in the poem dropped the ball, but salute ms. bodnar and all others who inspire goodness in people that would’ve been left buried otherwise.

think about someone who had an impact on your progress.  if you were to send the person a package inspired by the role he/she played, what would be in it?  share in the comments.

previously in atomic lemon drops: a confusing two minutes and four seconds | barbershop | grim reaper | dear leader | weekend in jamaica | rehearsal for “when doors slam shut” | a poem called lauryn

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

atomic lemon drops #7: a confusing two minutes and four seconds

02/24/13 3 Comments

i performed this latest atomic lemon drop today at a local black history month event.  read the poem a few times & check out the supplemental info that follows.  if you have any questions/comments/criticisms about the piece, share in the comment section & i’ll respond:

Joe Louis in the Ring

A Confusing Two Minutes and Four Seconds
(Dedicated to Joe Louis, 1938)

This time,
it’s more than
the colored boys
who wanna be me,
or the colorful girls
who wanna be with me.
It’s sixty thousand in
the house that Ruth built,
with millions more in
the house that God built,
all focused on the son
of a cotton picker.
Cause this time,
I fight for your democracy.
I fight for your rights.
I fight for your America.
So I take in your
hollow hugs,
Go get ‘em, Joes,
and just go to war.
When the bell sounds,
bombs start flying,
but they’re only my fists,
exploding with such fury
that a woman screams,
but it’s only a man,
a perfect man,
whose imperfections
are exposed by
right hooks and left jabs
in only two minutes and four seconds.
For some,
those two minutes
were only fifteen,
forgetting time as
they hopped back
over the colored fence.
For others,
those two minutes
were a lifetime,
forgetting race as
they hopped over
to common sense.

click here for video of me performing the poem.

bonus: below, you can watch the fight that inspired this poem, louis v. schmeling II.  also, make sure you check out wiki and npr for more background on this important moment in history:

“There are some events and some broadcasts, some sporting activities, that reach out to millions of people and touch them in a very deep way and express a lot of their deepest cultural, racial, political hopes and aspirations,” historian Lewis Erenberg says. “And this is one of those events.”

previously in atomic lemon drops: barbershop | grim reaper | dear leader | weekend in jamaica | rehearsal for “when doors slam shut” | a poem called lauryn

related: jackie robinson, in his own words | muhammad ali goes to mars: the lost interview

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

atomic lemon drops #6: barbershop

01/01/13 4 Comments

most places that you’ll visit discourage thievery but it’s kinda encouraged in the world of art.  in fact, there’s a saying that goes something like “good artists borrow. great artists steal.”  in this case, stealing isn’t as simple as just taking.  you have to analyze your fellow artist (“the mark”), find out what she/he does well  (“the prize”) and make it your own (“success”).  it’s a great exercise that adds to your repertoire by increasing your knowledge of the craft.

in a writing workshop, i had to write a poem copying the writing style of one of my classmates.  one thing i noticed about her was that she liked to use extended sentences, similes & metaphors that might spill into different lines & thoughts.  in spots, they let her poetry feel alive as ideas/readings would shift constantly.  none of that really flowed with my writing at the time so it was a fun challenge putting the poem below together.  send any questions/comments you have about it and i’ll respond below.  and happy new year:

Barbershop

I know it’s a good day when
the sun shines both sides of the street
with light polish
like a boy buffing shoes for
the first time.  He made my walk so clean
I gave him a tip.
Don’t move your head. Not if you want
your line straight like sidewalks.

Jimmy told me this once.
That promise falls short
sometimes. You see it as
mistakes rush to dead ends
like gray scuffs on fresh Sundays.
He said this, eyes gone dim,
still clipping and snipping away
at growth. Cuts like these run
deeper than baby scars.

                              

previously in atomic lemon drops: grim reaper | dear leader | weekend in jamaica | rehearsal for “when doors slam shut a poem called lauryn

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

atomic lemon drops #5: grim reaper

11/30/12 7 Comments

the inspiration: “write a poem that describes what’s happening in a picture and what might happen after the frozen moment.” check out what i did with it below as well as some background on the piece. per usual, put any questions/critiques related to the poem in the comment section and i’ll get back to you.

Grim Reaper

Here he is, in front of his Mom’s house
on the East Side. Skull shrouded by
baldness. Lips protect a one-tooth smile.
In his lap, a baby boy. To the left,
oldest girl Carlel. Middle kid in
the background.

He looks up into the black-and-white Thursday,
wishing that Mr. Carson would finish that
Tylenol or Jamal would just OD on Pride.
(Bodies go for $14 in Detroit these days).

At night, you can find him on the same
porch. Same white chair, same baby boy.
Sharing work stories with neighbors,
like the one about the old woman
found naked on her toilet—

And I was like “Lady, what happened to you?”
But she ain’t say nothin’. Just stared at the floor
with those blank blue eyes.

background:

grimreapersome years ago, the nytimes did a series of portraits on “off-beat americans.” one that caught my eye focused on detroit’s mike thomas (pictured left). mike was a “body technician.” if you don’t know what a body technician is, it’s the person who picks dead bodies for the county. from the article:

With all the spectacular ways to die in this dying city, the fate of a man named Allan was almost pathetic. There he lay, in a weedy lot on the notorious East Side, next to a liquor bottle, his pockets turned out.

But as it goes with such things, one man’s misery is another man’s money. The body retrievalist for the county morgue had arrived on the scene. He was happy. He sang strange little ditties. Cracked odd little jokes. Said things like: “We got plenty of room in this here van, yes sir.”

Do not judge him. A happy attitude is necessary in his profession. It keeps the mind from shattering, salts one’s sanity. Call the job dirty. Call it 14 bucks the hard way — $14 a human body, $9 an animal. He said he made $14,000 last year. He made most of it at night.

His tax forms officially read “body technician.” Unofficially, Mike Thomas calls himself body snatcher, grim reaper, night stalker, bag man. Whatever you call it, it is one man’s life.

it’s one of those jobs i took for granted. you know somebody has to do it, but you don’t always think about the people actually doing it and what they might be going through in the process. like just imagine having to wait for people to die so you could support your family. crazy. oh and please read the full article on mike here:

Body Collector in Detroit Answers When Death Calls – New York Times

click here for more atomic lemon drops.

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

atomic lemon drops #4: dear leader

10/29/12 6 Comments

so a few weeks ago, i saw this national poetry day competition on twitter.  the challenge was to “submit a free write Haiku on any topic” where “the most creative and intriguing Haiku will win.”  i typically don’t write haiku but i decided to give the contest a shot anyway.  lo and behold, i won.  

below is the winning poem + the usual background for this series.  to show how much thought that can go into the smallest of poetic packages, i went a bit more in-depth with breaking it down.  feel free to share any comments or questions.

Dear Leader

“How does war make peace?”
“Kill noise and you sip bloody
silence. Winter bliss.”

background:

this poem started out as something i wrote a few years called “conversation on war and peace”:

How does
war make peace?  Well,
if one side kills all the noise, all
you’ll have left is
silence.

looking back on it, it’s not that great of a poem.  still, it touched on something that i was still interested in so i decided to flush it out for the contest.

– the title:  i was thinking about going with something like “ask your favorite dictator!” (direct but silly) before settling on “dear leader.”  reading it as a letter/question intro sets up the poem’s dialogue between an inquirer and the political leader.  “dear leader” was also a name for the former north korean dictator kim jong-il.

– “how does war make peace?”:  i wanted to keep this from the original since it inspired me writing the poem.  luckily, it fit the five-syllable requirement for the first line.  within the poem, the question is asked of the political leader while extending to anybody else who might miss (or ignore) the clear conflict in using violence to produce peace.

– “kill noise”:  the leader’s response plays on the different connotations of the word “peace.”  using “noise” speaks to the sonic quality of peace.  closer to the question’s political intentions, noise here represents any people/ideas that are a disturbance the leader’s notion of social serenity.  equating war to simply “killing noise” shows how the leader downplays the costly casualties of strife.

– “sip bloody silence”:  the enjambment in the middle of the phrase helped with the syllable count for the 2nd and 3rd lines while adding some sinister imagery to the first clause’s violence.  as you see, the noise killing isn’t just something that the leader does out of the necessity.  this leader enjoys it.  focusing on “bloody silence,” there’s the direct link that the silence comes from bloodshed.  moreover, applying the more vulgar form of “bloody” says that peace resulting from violence isn’t as pure or simple as the leader might want you to believe.

– “winter bliss”:  i read somewhere that classic haiku often refer to the seasons and winter’s my favorite (rather be cold than hot, snow!, the feeling after bundling up, seeing your breath, etc.).  more related to the poem though, with winter there’s an absence of life due to death, migration and hibernation.  similarly, the leader finds bliss in killing off his/her opposition (death), which may force/scare others to flee (migration) or stay in suppressed silence (hibernation).

click here for more atomic lemon drops.

update: you can also find this poem in wordjar’s “haiku” anthology.

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to  Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

atomic lemon drops #3: weekend in jamaica

09/23/12 5 Comments

the next atomic lemon drops poem is based on a true story.  read it over a few times and send me your comments and questions.  i’ll collect everything including my responses in the poem’s background page (link below).  a big part of this series is discussing the poem and reading/writing poetry in general so share anything that comes to mind.

Weekend in Jamaica

Last night I attended my wake, up
at the old church by the train tracks.
She said I was so…
He remembered when…
Mom crept to where I lay, begging me to wake up,
for the sun has risen.  Aquafresh and little Zest,
we left for the church near Chance.
Medley of memories, precious
dimples shaded by her holy hats,
grape juice chilling Montego’s rays,
until the pastor cried Wake up!
and join the Easter parade.
A gang of clouds challenged the bereaved
to a grieving contest. With Haste drove six
‘round concrete name tags
splattered over blood-stained clay
to Zip Code 4326One by one,
the days, the moments fleeting,
‘Til I reach the blessed, promised land.
There we left St. Catherine,
to rest.
And when I woke up, I tucked in my weariness because
it’s Monday.

Background on Weekend in Jamaica

click here for more atomic lemon drops.

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to  Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

atomic lemon drops #2: rehearsal for “when doors slam shut”

08/12/12 4 Comments

the next poem up in atomic lemon drops has a place in my heart unlike anything else i’ve written.  read it over a few times and send me your comments and questions.  i’ll collect everything including my responses in the poem’s background page (link below).  i also have a question for you in the background page so make sure to check it out.  again, a big part of this series is discussing the poem and reading/writing poetry in general so share what comes to your mind.

Rehearsal for “When Doors Slam Shut”

(Grocery store)  Aisle 5,
between the fiber and diapers,
a cashier-turned-“Sample Specialist”
with cracker-and-cheese sandwiches:
There’s Cheddar,
White American,
Gouda,
Yellow American,
Swiss, Brie, and my personal favorite,
Provolone.
Feel free and take one.

(Action!)

SAMPLE SPECIALIST:

begins with a

pow…no, a bang!

Dorms slam shut

by gunshots.  Then…

(Cut!)

(back from Spring Break)  Summer
warms up frigid Aisle 12
dressed in polyester sunshine.
Her boyfriend, between the
chicken and eggs,
toasts pigs in blankets
while making $5.35/hour.
Now that’s five-thirty-five
plus perks:
15% off baby formula
and 20 off sliced ham
and You know what? 
Cause I love you,
you can take two.

(Action!)

BOYFRIEND:

begins with a bang!

Doors slammed shut

by gunshots.  When Life

flies away and leaves you

walking alone…Only,

only then there’s a short-

(Cut!)

(to the apartment)  A cashier-turned-father,
sandwiched between the bed and kitchen.
His little girl in a blanket cries
hungry, but nobody likes stewed carrots.
Just take one for Mommy
+ one for Daddy
+ one for you.

(Action!)

DADDY:

Action begins with a bang.

When doors slam shut like gunshots,

Life flies away.

Leaves you walking lonely.

There’s no shortcut.

No easy way out.

So you gotta start moving,

faster than before.

Or else…

(That’s a wrap.)

Background: Rehearsal for “When Doors Slam Shut”

click here for more atomic lemon drops.

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to  Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

atomic lemon drops #1: a poem called lauryn

07/22/12 13 Comments

kicking off atomic lemon drops with the winner of the facebook vote, “a poem called lauryn.”  read the poem over a few times and send me your comments and questions.  i’ll collect everything (including my responses) in the poem’s background page (link below).  again, a big part of this series is discussing the poem and reading/writing poetry in general so share what comes to your mind.

A Poem Called Lauryn

She said her picture cost a thousand words
and I was broke.

Scrounged around
found two copper heads
slinking through seat cushions.
For my sense, high heels revealed
a couple feet.

I tunes to a muse,
hands groove thelonious
miles over Lauryn’s hills.
Peaks and valleys,
cheap thrills.

But we wanted more.
Don’t just trace the surface.
Get at the core.
The issues with Our Fathers,
orphaned emotions needing a home,
fears of commitment and
When you see me naked,
will you still think I’m pretty?

It weighed on my mind,
really weighed on my mind
and we couldn’t find peace
’til I gave her a piece of mine

like Adam waking to Eve the very first time,
finally seeing her on my sheets,
I felt complete.

Background on “A Poem Called Lauryn”

click here for more atomic lemon drops.

© Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this poem without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carlton Williams Jr. and atolemdro with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

introducing “atomic lemon drops”

07/16/12 2 Comments

if you ever visited the about page, you probably know that the name atolemdro was inspired by my poetry manuscript atomic lemon drops.  but where did atomic lemon drops from?

well, once when asked “what is poetry?” langston hughes said:

What is poetry?  It is the human soul entire, squeezed like a lemon or a lime, drop by drop, into atomic words.

the quote speaks to a lot of what i strive for in my writing.  poetry allows you to give deep attention to the different bits of life in fresh ways.  in squeezing this essence into “atomic words,” poets have the opportunity to hit their audience (and sometimes themselves) with thoughts and emotions that impact people’s perspectives.

with this in mind, i want to announce the start of a new series, atomic lemon drops.  i will post one of my own poems along with some background on the piece.  the goal is to not only let you in on something that i love, but to also discuss the art of reading and writing poetry.

to help drive our convo, send your questions/comments on the poem via twitteremailfacebookcarrier pigeon or the comment box.  know that whether you see yourself as a “novice” or an “expert” when it comes to poetry, your feedback will be equally welcome here.  so for example, if you like or hate the poem, tell me why.  if something doesn’t make sense or if you’re just curious about the meaning/purpose of a certain reference, feel free to ask “what does this mean?” (that question might be taboo to some writers and readers but it benefits both parties.)   i’ll place what you have to say and my responses in a faq page that will accompany the poem.

the first poem in the series will be up on sunday, july 22nd.  see ya then.

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