Category Archives: The Writer’s Room

Invented by Kids {Brad Jordahl}

You turn on all the lamps
as soon as we enter; this place is still new
enough to be frightened in.
We took this weekend to buy our bed
and find the cracked, endearing corners
of the new apartment. A bed for just the two of us,
no hand-me-downs
from family homes.

Walking that morning
we tried to tell each other secrets in the street,
but talk turns to jokes. In the April snow
I pointed out a razor-clipped Frisbee, its edges
cut ragged by safety scissors. I carried it and twirled it
like a circular saw between my fingertips, the melting
snow flicking in all directions on our clothes. A relic
from last week’s sun, I said. Probably invented by kids. I hope
they don’t use it on a dog.

The mattress salesman had a fingernail like a fish scale—
it stood out broad and gleaming at me, yellowed at the tip,
whenever he rubbed his temples. He used the one finger for both,
prodding at his head like a child dipping into a pudding,
his shirt sleeve crossing his face. When he went for paperwork,
you whispered loudly:
he shouldn’t sit on the bed with us. His arm propped him up
like a flying buttress. Too familiar, as if he takes his breaks
on this spot. I’m glad your whisper was loud—it came out
in circles, shaped by your mouth, and I hope he heard.

By agreement I sit apart as you sign,
reading the book we brought to speak aloud from
while we walked the splashing curbs. We watched
for each other, careful as parents in an airport
clutching their child’s hand. I read biographies
of lonely people
to see how well they manage. We couldn’t afford
to give the cribs a cursory look—not yet.

The night smells smoky and the clouds
are prescription bottle orange—more snow.
In bed amid overlarge old sheets
I pry my fingers
into your belly button. I love the birth mark
hidden there, dull and brown like a cigarette burn. The stretch marks
are translucent blue, faded crayon below your ribs. My skull
is distinct and hard in your fingers as you rummage and curl, promising never
to cut my hair again. But I like it, uneven and wild
like a fistful of straws. Only one is truly stubbly, waiting
to be chosen and dictate fate. We have odd rituals
that we shouldn’t pay attention to anymore, the ones
of rudimentary courtship, but I persist. We had to throw
that Frisbee back into its same slot in the snow.

Move your mouth to make miracles for me, keep talking
while I brush and spit color into the sink. I promise
I can hear you over the water.
I don’t want to learn to read your mind. I’d just repeat you
like a man singing along and off-key. I lay my hand on the heat
and the heartbeat
between your shoulder blades. You thumb
the light-switch and I see your eyes,
two degenerate children, flashing in the shudder
and the sudden black. We’ll learn together what sleep is good for.

[So, if you made it this far, what do you think? Any harsh suggestions?]

I was a teenage writer…

So run away now if you have any idea what that entails.

I thought I’d share this poem I wrote when I was 13ish. I share not only because it’s funny on its own (not in a haha way), but because I want to reveal that I was conned. By promises of vanity publishing, no less. At the time I thought it was a legitimate publishing house and my parents sent away all sorts of cash for commemorative copies of my poem. This wondrous work is even on a plaque that has haunted me for years. It is hoisted to my eye level right at the entrance to my bedroom. That plaque is my gritty reminder of the fact that, no matter how bad things get, I can at least write better than this poem.

So here it is, one ugly wart that rips off “Row, row, row your boat” and still got “published” in a very limited edition.

Falling Leaves

Leaves are falling in a rippling stream,
Passing below like a short-lived dream.
They drift on by as quickly as a life,
Neglecting all the ever-earnest strife.

I look below me on the wooden landing,
Just as God is surely always standing,
But I can’t seem to see the meaning,
As if all creation was under screening.

What am I to do in this black abyss?
Looking down while seeming to miss,
Everything leading me to oh blessed Him,
As if my existence just brushes the brim.

There is no essence to my somber self,
My whole world dwelt upon a shelf,
But if I were to wander into the emptiness,
Perhaps my soul would find proverbial bliss?

But oh, why not?
Better than to sit and rot
Upon a bridge down by the stream
Where whole lives are but a dream.

Kind of collapses at the end, eh? So, do you have any bad bits of writing you’d like to share? Or would you like to convince me that this is a work of brilliance?