For each day of National Poetry Month one of our fellows will explore the breadth of poetry in three ways: through a question from another fellow, through a poem and through a writing prompt, #writetoday.
Michelle Penaloza asks, I have my pop icon obsessions:
Who are yours? Have you ever written about them? (I have tried various poems about all of these people, but have yet to be pleased with any). Please answer with pictures of your celebrity artists obsessions, elaborating upon your obsessions as you like!
Eugenia Leigh answers,
This question exposes my humiliating secret: I have little to no knowledge about celebrity culture. It’s true. I feel both ashamed and irrelevant, and I considered purchasing a box of old People magazines (is that what I’m supposed to read?!) to answer this question. I was raised in a hyper-strict religious environment & listened to only church songs (or the Beatles or Air Supply because my parents had their weaknesses) until I was 12 and discovered my alarm clock was also a fancy radio. Yes, I’m making excuses.
One of the only poems I’ve written with a direct reference to a contemporary artist is “Every Hair on Your Head” (posted below), which was written on March 6, 2010, the day Mark Linkous, the musician behind Sparklehorse, took his life. I looped the song “Hundreds of Sparrows” over and over again at El Beit, a coffee shop in Williamsburg, and wrote this poem.
Every Hair on Your Head
Every hair on your head is counted.
You are worth hundreds of sparrows.
— Sparklehorse, “Hundreds of Sparrows”
The day you pushed a bullet through your heart,
the length of a day on earth shortened by a millionth of a second.
That same day, a NASA satellite captured an image of a dust storm,
Chile withstood its one hundred thirtieth aftershock in a week, and I
glimpsed a bird, twitching
on the floor of a Brooklyn metro station. Its eyeballs
bulged as if to literally absorb the ocular world
and I shuddered away. For hours, I saw that flinching
creature in my mind. I saw hundreds of similar birds
shimmering into the station to lie
next to it—a quilt of silvery bodies tiled wing to wing. On good days,
I want to be saved. Most days, I want
every savior in our hell—so they’ll know
torment in the bloodstream—death’s whistling, ceaseless,
blurring the cleanest heartbeats. My first time, I was thirteen.
I tested five pills. My stomach barely ached, I ate ramen, lived, solved
math problems. But for days before that, I envisioned my body
smeared. Inside out. A swarthy, dazzling canvas.
What I wouldn’t give to graze that silence.
Did you do it standing up
or crouching? Which was the bigger surprise— the gun punching or the angel catching you?
Previously published in Best New Poets 2010.
Eugenia Leigh is the author of Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows (Four Way Books, 2014).