Confessions of A Teenage Fungus

I just peered into the past today.

In my 20s, my then-partner had ten years of my poems tape-bound into a thick volume.
10 years of poems, ranging from 1982-1993. That covers ages 13-24, prime poem-producing years, to be sure. This volume, entitled Confessions of a Teenage Fungus,  contains around 350 poems.

Looking back over this array of writings, in many different styles, with many different influences (Duran Duran, Richard Brautigan, e.e. cummings, The Cure, Sylvia Plath, et cetera…), I can’t help but having a lot of different reactions. Of course, there are many, many cringeworthy moments within (especially in the early years…ouch!) I am sure I could have a brilliant moment (or ten) in the Mortified spotlight with some of those. However, what surprises me, is that not all of this work is actually that bad.

Young me was experimental. Creative. Passionate. Funny. Sexy/Dirty. A little crazy. Uninibited. Unafraid.

Where did she go?

Where is the girl who wrote:

tonight
is like a perverse
fish
that sucks my
toes
when i am sleeping
before kissing
soft thigh insides.
then the fish
noses its way
upwards to
onion ring heaven.

Sometimes I think she was fooled along the way into thinking her way of seeing things was juvenile (in other words, not good enough.) She was lured into the idea that her writing had to have some sort of sophistication that she could never quite capture. So she generally just stopped writing.

I’m not a sophisticated poet. Like most artists, I’m riddled with anxiety and self doubt. I know my poems don’t all suck, but I can never decide which ones suck less than the others. A poem I love one day will seem hopelessly flawed the next. So I keep them all, a resplendent, somewhat awkward and haphazard bouquet. I throw them to you, and they scatter. Enjoy!

A poem from every year, 1982-1993. You can laugh. You’re welcome.

Ode (1982)

I’m a maid in silk brocade
And you’re a pirate bold
You’ve chanced to meet a Spanish fleet
And have taken all its gold.
*
I’m your kin with ebon skin
And you’re a drumming man
To your beat I move my feet
In the pounding tribal dance.
Oh, I’m the one who’s come undone
And you’re the one above
For you’re the man and I’m the fan
And you’re the one I love.

*  I removed one stanza from this poem (“Ode”) because it is racially insensitive to Native Americans, and includes a term I would not use today. I understand “ebon skin” is also problematic for a white girl,  but I only include this poem at all because it is the best example of my poetic skill at thirteen. It shows a decent command of internal rhyme, and I’m proud of that. My other poems show similar skill, but they are all love poems to Adam Ant (who, over the years, could have basically earned a doctorate in cultural appropriation.)– this one is too, but it’s not as obvious as the others.

Matter of Time (1983)*

It’s so quiet outside
No sound, it’s inane
An abstract vision resides in my mind
An unknown soldier calls out my name
A kiss of a movie whisper
Rides on a full wind
And a warm adoration
Is within my head
It calls to me
Fulfilling conscious fantasy
And the sands swirl seductive
On the grassy plateau
As the oceanic, paradoxic
Tidal winds blow
The verses don’t rhyme
The cracks don’t align
Your being’s not mine
It’s just a matter of time
Until you realize
The look in my eyes
Is only for one
My heart is replete
My eyes, wet, persuade
The soldier draws a breath, life’s complete
Beggars whose starving cries persuade
As a fire glows bright
In a heart all alone
And caresses a stranger
A flower full-blown
Crying “nevermore”
Down upon a storm-wreaked shore
And emotion is forgotten
As you call her to you
The pictures psychedelic
On the wall in my room
The verses don’t rhyme
The cracks don’t align
Your being’s not mine
It’s just a matter of time
Until you finally know
The physical show
Is only for you
It’s just a matter of time
It is
Just a matter of time
Until you’re mine.

*And the obsession turns to Duran Duran, when I channel Simon Le Bon, and cop his sweet, sweet style.  It’s pretty creepy/stalkerish, I know, but I’m 14. And I obviously own a great dictionary/thesaurus.

A lot of times my poems are lyrical.  I have written lots of songs.

Dancing When the Bomb Drops (1984)

Dancing in the deep gray mist of yesterday
My life flashes before my eyes
Surreal pictures, of rural suburbia
Apathy tinged with sympathy’s lies.
Trying to rid myself of yesterday
I cut the pictures on the dotted lines
We’re dancing in the shadow of the
mushroom cloud
We’re closing our ears to the people’s cries
And someone has dropped the bomb on my life
Is there a reason for this blinding light?
It can’t be love — there’s no such thing, you see
It just couldn’t be, it wouldn’t be right
Dancing when the bomb drops.
Happy with our lives so changed by yesterday
In screaming silence, I reach for more
Nothing but a rather obscure sarcasm
That clings to me, dancing outside my door
(Dying outside my door).
So why forget the solemn joys of yesterday
When tomorrow is a time we’ll never see?
Just delve into my life of anti-reality
And love again as one with me.

The beauty of ’80s songs was that they really didn’t need to make sense or have deep meaning. I was pretty good at that. 🙂

In 1985 I had a short lived (likely because I wasn’t sure it was requited) crush on this boy. The crush was basically due to the fact that he had red hair and his mom washed his clothes in Gain. (It’s an aphrodisiac drug, people!)

Your Hair (1985)

your hair glows like copper wire
like fire, like precious red hair
which it is to me
your eyes are a beautiful golden brown
(like mine)
and long-lashed
and I love your face
because it’s so knowing and
nonchalant
and accepting (well, sort of)
and I love your mouth because
whenever I see it I think of you kissing me
in the men’s bathroom at
OMSI
and I love your freckles, every single one
(especially the one on your lip)
and I love your hands
and the way your ears taste
and the way you hug me and
the way you look at me, smile, and say
“you’re full of shit.”*

* “You’re full of shit” was his standard response to any compliment.

Ironic (1986)*

my tongue is like
a monkey dick
in your ear
(or so you say)
but you
work in a
pickle factory
so, if i were
you,
i wouldn’t talk.

*no real irony was expressed in this poem, but, unlike Alanis Morissette, that was intentional.

Eight Steps (1987)

1. take him
gently
by marionette strings
that pull at
yearing loins
2. look through his
eyes like portholes
3. draw him
angular
to your body
in quiet blue chalk
4. feel every moment:
pounding internal drumbeats
hard against soft
close but not
close enough
5. taste the silent question
then answer in kind
6. let 2 limbs become
one
like slender birch trunks
7. guide hands to dark
hidden
soul corners
8. open the door

Samsara (1988)

dark
a wild Taoma night
nervous
we walked side by side
I slipped my hand into
the pocket of
your Daddycoat.
easy
calm
we moved
past streetlamps
and American Luxurycars.
sitting quiet
I held you and we
talked.
funny, I didn’t realize
we were so
alike.
We live many lives.

Lioness (1989)

for such a vicious fuck
you have a sweet kiss
barely a whisper
then the plunge
you tickle my skin
ten bruise my womb
breathe on my breast
then tear at my hair
if you were a female
you could be a lioness
for all the fire
and tenderness in there.

Barbara Sophia (1990)*

When Barb talks on the phone
she paces the floor
her nylon-clad thighs
whisper secrets.
She laughs into her salad
when I make obscene
gestures with a fork.
She does the
orgasm
and I do
the bedsprings
to get
the neighbors
back
for screwing all night.
Sometimes we go driving
the wheels caress the Tacoma
dark backroads.
music licks our eardrums
and Barb’s red-nailed hands
tap at Simon’s steering wheel.
But tonight
baking muffins
(imitation flavor
with
falsified
blueberries)
I hug her in the kitchen.
“Sadie,” she says,
“I wish you were a man.”

“Barbara Sophia” was the first poem I had published, in the Crosscurrents Review.

I can’t seem to find a poem specifically dated 1991, so here are two poems from 1992.

Anniversary (1992)

was it five?
five years since
they met in the supermarket
over fresh fruit
before it became
the fashion
for thirteen weeks they met this way
same time each week
pretending it was a coincidence
inspecting the peaches
choosing frozen entrees
reaching for the same head
of lettuce
thirteen weeks
before he kissed her in aisle four:
Campbell’s soup
her eyes locked on Tomato
they began to shop three times a week
and to buy exotic items
they noticed things
he bought eight grain bread
she preferred the cheap stuff
they both liked chunky
they both ate meat
she liked the smooth, square
planes of his face
his strong hands
he liked the way she
filled her clothes
the way her smile worked
-just a second delayed
five years
the wheels of their carts
growing squeaky the bag boys
growing into managers
they changed stores
but she comes back sometimes
remembering
his scratchysoft cheeks
the electricity in his kiwifruit eyes
his laughter like the mane of a lion
heading for the checkout
she detours down aisle four
to pick up some Tomato.

Race Memory (1992)

Deep
In my soul
I carry the memories of my people
The harsh rasp of knuckles on washboard
The clang clang of hammer on spike
The slow roll of earth beneath plow
The easy rocking of mother and child
I feel white skin, burnt under hot sun
Stained with rusty kisses
A race of redheaded Celtic warriors
Of black-haired fairies, moon worshippers,
and saints
In my father’s eyes I see peasants and kings
I hear my great-great
great grandfather’s voice
In the sweet ringing of fiddle and dulcimer
In the rumbling of trains.

Clio (1993)

There are
somewhere in your greenbrown eyes
faint images, wisps of Clio
scents of Egypt and menstrual blood.
Time floats from your hands over my skin,
rough from the Irish sea;
smashed on the rocks
the muse dances,
dances
dances through history into the stories you tell me.
Late at night our skin moves
you over me you inside me and I’m
grasping for you again.
The lights dance over us like the golden eyes
of Egypt
and I’m making love with Pharaoh’s queen.
Somewhere in the distance lies the woman,
under the rough cheek, undr the firm hands
under the amber voice
the muse calls
the anima awakens.
An incarnation ago the animus stood,
bold and dark on the cliffs of the Irish sea.
Then I took my lovers with unleashed fury.
then I dashed them against my body
with the force of a howling gale
with the knowledge of gods.
Now we are trapped by years and distortions
calling out to us from the past;
our bodies free us, together we are whole.
The man the woman what does it matter
within whom the aspects lie…
All that matters is that when I kiss you I
feel the sands of Egypt slide over my skin
I taste your blood on my lips
I feel history devouring me
I love you with the force of the sea.

 

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