The Writing Disorder



More Poetry


by Steve Abee

           I’m at the Echo Park Indoor Swimming Pool,
thinking about sonnets, watching my daughter, Penelope, swim.
She’s learning how to do the free style.
She lifts her arm up out of the water. Then the other one. She lifts
her head out of the water to breath. She stops and stands and starts
again. It’s a lot to do.

There are a bunch of kids splashing in the pool, all around her.
She swims around them.
A woman in blue swims in the deep part of the pool.
She comes to the wall, flips around and glides the other way.
The life guard is a cute girl, small, with dark hair, and soft smile.

The pool is blue. The water looks blue
but I know it is not. It is water, clear and the color
of your hand.

My daughter makes fun of other kids.
What can I say.
I am sitting on cement steps, looking at the pool
and I am sad because I am reading poetry
and that’s what poetry does to me and I like it.

Poetry is all about having people talk about you
when you’re not there.

Penelope, Penelope
the name is like jewels and balloons to me.
She is like that to me.
Maya is like the ocean, glassy waves rolling
In to shore like the back of a whale
and she is like that to me.

A little girl runs up to her mom,
asks her to fix something on her suit.
She’s got that look on her face, where you
can tell what she’ll look like when she’s a teenager,
but right now she doesn’t know how to fix her suit
and she needs help so she’s got that I need help look,
the I don’t know how to do this look and it’s okay,
I was always freaked out to need help.
It’s a great look, very wise, very open.

The thing is we need each other,
but I suspect people of plotting to destroy me with
their help. I realize this is a problem.

I think of holding my wife in bed, spoons, I feel golden,
like gold is shining through me. I am golden at the swimming pool.

So Penelope is learning to swim
And it strikes me that God must be
like a bunch of parents sitting there,
watching their kids learn to swim,
letting them learn, looking up from their conversations,
or books to see if everything is cool,
walking over to the side of the pool if there is a problem,
but mostly letting the life-guard deal with it,
and the kids, splash around,
float, get freaked, stand up, float again.


My kids come to me, shirts filled with Jenga blocks,
Standing with legs spread on the kitchen floor, they
Start dropping them out, onto the linoleum, pretending
They are shitting the blocks of wood, laughing, I smile,
I love them, shit jenga blocks, it doesn’t matter, am I a good
Dad? Girls, am I supporting your genius properly? Other families,
friends of ours, have their kids in ballet class, accordian class, piano class
At the Silverlake Conservancy, and my children, not in
Any class, currently, shit jenga blocks
On linoleum.


It’s July 31, 2003
It’s after 11pm, just.
I’m in Berkeley California, slightly
obsessed with Ted Berrigan. His
wife, the only female poet I am
enthusiastic about. That’s bad,
I know. I know. I should be
enthusiastic about Louise Gluck,
Adrienne Rich, but Alice Notely
moves me. She’s secret.

We are about honesty, here, filling the page with finger print words.

In the car, right now, I was brilliant, words and lines like meditations, presence,
vision, hanging from my eyes and the bodies and the lights and the shadows
of Shattuck Avenue. Now, I can’t remember a thing.

What I want to say, honestly, with poetry, vision, inspiration and art
sputtering all around me like sand crabs digging holes in the newly gone tide,
is that I am an asshole and I am sorry for snapping at my wife today in San Francisco on
the J train.

I had a good day, today, with the family in San Francisco,
saw the Chagall retrospective, and saw a show, a retrospective of a man named
Phillip Guston. A discovery for me, like discovering sunlight. Chagall was cool,
lovely, Chagall, of course, but Guston was there. I mean the man was
present in his work. I mean his spirit, his ghost was there, angel of paint brush vapor,
essence of rust, nails, cigar smoke crucifixion halo. What mossy headdress did
yon apparition wear? He was there directing us all to the pain and moment in each canvas.
Chagall, I think, has returned to life, as a cat, or a verse of poetry,
but Guston was there weeping on the floor, joy tears, blood water.
I was breathing out poems when I walked through his canvases.

Okay, need a new word for spirit, one not bleached by the new age.
One that speaks of the invisible present/presence of holy anger and love
bodies, breaking open the fruit within, personal trees between us all.
What is that?

The point is the day was good but
I was just an asshole, for about 3 minutes, a minute, 90 seconds, and that
Really fucks with the other 1437.

I’m not trying to be funny here. I’m just trying to get up front about everything.
I told my wife she was retarded.
She looked retarded on the F train carrying
the kids bottles of Gatorade in her purse. We all got on the crowded F in San Francisco.
The driver saying kindly the kids are only 35 cents and me not having
thirty five cents,just dollars. Cathy do you have 35 cents? She digs through her purse.
It was so sad watching her dig through her purse. What is it about her purse?
Her and her purse? Why is it so sad here digging through her purse? I was wacked out on Ghiradelli’s
chocolate Sundae and she was the universe searching for itself inside
A dark and Q-tip Market Receipt filled purse in San Francisco.
The noise, the people, no seats, Maya sitting on the floor,
tired legs, defenseless tourists in The City,
and she, so humble and earnest, looking for 35 cents. And me waiting with
all this sadness. Sorrow is always the body beneath angers horrible face. Why so sad? Why angry at sadness?
She found it, but I was already heart broken. I couldn’t just fall apart there. No, so
I got mean and said bitterly, with poison, trying to mask the heart break
of her pureness, or the world’s silliness, the cruelty of 35 cents, a great day with
the family, really, no shit, no irony, a great day, but it’s cruel just the same,
because they end, like everything, and you want to pound the floor, stay, no stay, and I looked at the
Gatorade’s sticking out of her purse, ridiculous and awkward paraphernalia of motherhood, children’s
drinks bought because the kids cry and whine and it’s not the worst thing they could want but of course they
only drink a mouthful and then you are carrying them in your purse or jacket pocket, a smart
looking bag meant for discreet items, keys, a compact, a hidden mess perhaps,
but not the tops of Gatorade bottles, Lemon Lime and Fruit Punch flavor,
no that is too naked, too on the run. I can’t live like that. Not with eternity
coming down all around us, the German tourists and the train man watching,
down here at Fisherman’s Wharf.

I’m tired. Tired of myself. Tired of my attempts to make art out of neurosis, rage, addiction, disease.
But my throat is twinkling, little men inside of me are laughing. I am funny
to them. Who are they? I think they are responsible. And I
am sorry for saying “You really look retarded, here let me take those and put them in my bag.” (I hide them
in my newly purchased City Lights 50th anniversary book bag, which marks me as a different kind of tourist).

My wife looks at me. She wants to cry. She is vulnerable. She is as open hearted as the
sky. She wants to kill me, too, of course. Like life. Love is so thin and fragile, like breath
and just as enduring. She just stands there
and says nothing. Looks at me “What? It’s true. Let me take those, they look retarded.”
Someone on the trolley stinks of Alcohol. The driver I think. His copy of the New
Testament propped up in the window. His kindness, frantic, pleading. “Please, please, step
up the stairs. We can count the money on the trolley.”

Steve Abee is the author of “Great Balls of Flowers” and the novel “The Bus: Cosmic Ejaculations of the
Daily Mind in Transit.” He’s also written a collection of short stories and poems, plus numerous
chapbooks, notably “Die for Love and Vision to Los Angeles.” Born in Santa Monica, CA, Steve began
writing after high school when he held a job as orderly at St. John's Hospital. He holds an MFA from
Antioch University in Los Angeles, and has taught for 15 years.



by Aimee Brooks

Click here to read


Great Balls of Flowers
by Steve Abee



By accessing this site, you accept these Terms and Conditions.
Copyright © 2010-2011 ™ — All rights reserved