All That Was Needed

All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.
~George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Keep telling yourself
it never happened
wage relentless
assault on all
evidence to
the contrary
vanquish doubt
as you double down
on the message
memorize
then swallow
fix it firmly
like a favorite song
in the jukebox memory
of your hippocampus
play it again and again
as you reimagine the past.

First published In Tipton Poetry Journal Summer 2017 (see page 54)

 

The Stuff of Poetry

Give them circles of Hell
the stench of battlefields
and young lives lost
love’s passionate embrace
a young mother’s grief
at her stillborn child
the vanity and futility
of all endeavor
despair that falls
like acid rain
doubt and faith
the ways we meet death
and off they go
writing verse that matters.

But give them something
like a hangnail
or the place you
always stub your toe
the fit of your new sneakers
that little lift you get
when your favorite tune
plays on the radio
or the cute way
you still pull in your gut
when a young girl passes by
the quiet sigh you make
every morning
for no particular reason …
and their voices go mute
as if there’s nothing
sacred or profound
no truth or beauty
in life’s detritus.

First published in Wilderness House Literary Review Summer 2017. Read this and two other poems here  http://www.whlreview.com/no-12.2/poetry/GeneTwaronite.pdf

After Hearing the Young Black Poet

AFTER HEARING THE YOUNG BLACK POET

speak, my first reactions were
sadness, rage, then wonder
at our different worlds—
he writes of the bullet
he knows has his name on it
while I write—again—of my
imminent decrepitude,
he writes of all the times
he was stopped and frisked
while I write of indignities
suffered at airport security,
he writes of how his
great-great-great grandfather
was sold and branded like cattle
while I write of how my
Lithuanian grandfather’s name
got butchered at Ellis Island
he writes of how it felt
to watch the first Black president
compared to a monkey
while I write of how
my big ears always turned red
whenever kids laughed at them,
he writes of the pain
that won’t go away after
seeing his son killed because
a policeman felt threatened
while I write of the day
a policeman’s wife shot her husband
dead in the bedroom above us
and I felt sad for my poor dad
cleaning bits of brain off the walls,
he writes knowing that for some
he will always be less of a man
while I write whole and secure.
We explore the separate
flows of our lives, holding
them back against time,
diving for words
in quiet pools of reflection,
but it’s a wonder
his dam doesn’t burst.

First published in Ginosko Literary Journal Issue #19 (see page 331). Read this and four other poems here Ginosko Literary Journal Issue 19

Trash Picker on Mars Review

My little book of poems has picked up another review, this time by my local newspaper.

TRASH PICKER ON MARS

By Gene Twaronite (Kelsay Books, $14)

Reviewed by Christine Wald-Hopkins for Arizona Daily Star

This collection of poems, which came out last year, is an expression of the concrete, the contemporary, and—see the title—the imaginative unlikely. Two-thirds of the thirty-two poems previously published elsewhere, “Trash Picker on Mars” is Gene Twaronite’s first book of poems. Covering such subjects as a porn-peddling bus station, a sleeping woman in a subway car, a container store, the death of a mourning dove, the poems reflect upon gritty, working class life in modern American society and the nature of life itself.   AZ daily star/southern arizona authors

An Endless Afternoon of Now

My poem “An Endless Afternoon of Now” was just published in the latest issue of Tipton Poetry Journal. For much of the past year, I have been reading all the novels of John Steinbeck and came across a remarkable line from his last novel The Winter of Our Discontent that seemed to cry out for a poetic response. So here’s my poem.

AN ENDLESS AFTERNOON OF NOW

It wouldn’t be bad to be that way, suspended in time—not bad at all, an endless afternoon of now.
 ~John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

To enter you must first
choose a now—sitting
on a bench with your
first love and the touch
of her knee against yours
or the way you watched
him through the window
as the train pulled slowly
away from the station—
think of Hopper’s
Josephine standing
naked to the dunes,
a cigarette dangling
from her fingers,
and you get the idea.
Make it something for
the ages, something
that looks good on the wall.

First published in Tipton Poetry Journal Issue #33 (see page 30)

 

 

 

 

This is Your Brain on Poetry

When I first read this article, I couldn’t help but think of that old TV public service announcement “This is your brain on drugs.” While poems don’t fry our brains, there’s something peculiar going on inside our heads when we read them, infecting us, in the words of Nabokov, with  “the telltale tingle between the shoulder blades.” 

Wish I could find a picture of what your brain actually looks like on poetry. Meanwhile, read more to see what science tells us. this-is-what-happens-to-your-brain-when-you-read-poetry

Letter from the Grave

Just had a new poem published in the latest Starline, the official journal of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association.

Just like him to wait till now—
always the procrastinator
promising to write but
never getting around to it.
I can barely read the words,
scrawled like drunken
worms across the page.
And look at that stationery,
all crumpled and rotted
like he didn’t give a damn.
But what really ticks me off
is the postage due.

 

 

Latest Review of Trash Picker on Mars

A new review of my book Trash Picker on Mars. Thanks, Susan.

In Trash Picker on Mars, Gene Twaronite ends a poem with “They are the people I carry within. I’d show you their picture if I could.” Yet that is exactly what readers of this small volume of poetry come away with: snapshots of everyday people our society tends to ignore, those lost on the streets, asleep on the subways, or hidden behind plastered smiles as they serve daily lunch crowds. Through detailed imagery, insight, and compassion, Twaronite takes us behind their concealing smiles to the persons within, to their hopes and dreams and frailties, revealing them to be a reflection of ourselves. From the moment that lasts no longer than a handshake where we dare touch one another before stepping back into our “fortified trenches” of safe anonymity, to the eyeless faces of modern day mannequins, Twaronite’s poetry introduces us to trash pickers with their dreams still intact and to strangers on buses who will nod and recognize us as lifelong friends. I urge lovers of everyman American poetry in the vein of Robert Frost or Walt Whitman to pick up a volume of Trash Picker on Mars. Amazon customer review Trash Picker on Mars

–Susan Shell Winston, editor at New Myths, and author of Singer of Norgondy 

Emily Dickinson Puppet Show

There were so many memorable events at the recent Tucson Festival of Books. I wanted to share this delightful performance by my local poet friend Jeanne Missey Osgood, a fellow docent at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. She has now memorized a hundred of Emily Dickinson’s poems – a feat which astounds me. I can’t even memorize one of my own poems. Jeanne seamlessly recites Dickinson’s words through her charming puppet, bringing this beloved poet (and her dog) to life on the stage. Bravo, Jeanne!