Author Archives: Christian Phiffer

Synonyms for Sensitive, after Shira Erlichman.

So I took this class, RAPT Attention, with this amazing woman Shira Erlichman, who had became one of my favorite poets a little over 2 years ago when she read in the berkshires. She signed my book with this message of acknowledging my true self, which had been a hot topic earlier that day for me, and continues to be. On our 5th of 6 classes my homework was to write down synonyms for weight. Long story short, I never finished the writing. In class I wrote 50 synonyms for vulnerability. Together we chose the words that jumped out at us, resonated in some way, or even just looked good next to each other. Before I knew it Shira had restructured me on paper. There I was, fully exposed, honored, feeling seen and met. This time by myself. It’s hard to call this my work, my poem, because it was her process that help me see me on that page. Honestly it will be hard to own my writing from here on out. She has become such a wonderful part of the process, guiding me through motion and self care, in my practice as a writer, and simply as a person. I am grateful to know her and have her voice present, no matter where I go.

All this to say, I submitted “Synonyms for Sensitive, after Shira Erlichman” to Quiet Lightning to be printed in the special National Poetry Slam edition of Sparkle + Blink, and out of however many submissions I am 1 of 11 writers (so it seems) to be selected!! There will be a Literary Mix Tape reading on August 9th at the Courtyard Marriott Oakland.

What a way to start my journey! I feel true joy to have spent this time with Shira, and will be taking more classes in the future. So much love for her!

p.s. – This is not even the testimonial for the class. This is just all my love for one of the most beautiful, and inspirational humans I have ever met. Y’all should take one of her classes.

So here it is.

Synonyms for Sensitive, after Shira Erlichman.

exposed, open,

this-is-me,

raw, tender,

alone, sticky, enormous,

sweaty,

but-this-is-me, over share,

permission, boundaries,

burden,

blessing untamed,

weight,

rain storm lover,

squishy, sore, dirty windows,

willingness, present,

distant, me.

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Voicemailpoems.org

So a while back at the NorthBeast regional up in New Hampshire I read a poem into my phone on stage, and everyone felt like I was experimenting on them, because I was. . .  This is why.

Check out all the other amazing poems at http://www.voicemailpoems.com
It is a dear friend, John Mortara’s project, and I’m super excited to be a part of it as well as among so many amazing poets.


Do I have to wait another week just to see you?

Dear, *sigh*

 

Have I mentioned how big of a fool I am? I’ve already forgotten

your name, and I wish I hadn’t forgotten your name, because I want

to tell you how beautiful you look when you wear your

vulnerability like a sunset, all transparent and toxic, and if I have

to ask your name again, I’ll have to wait to tell you, because I think

things like that are scary, and I don’t want to scare anyone, I just

want to love them. Have I mentioned how much of a mess I am,

how beautiful you look, how grateful I am to reach for this,

because I can’t and don’t have you, and for some reason that means

I’m able to write about it, like ex’s and the long time deceased.

 

I asked you your name then told you to have a nice night, as if to

say thanks but this conversation is over, and I didn’t want it to be

over, I just wanted you to have a good night, you make my heart

beat faster, I think about what your head feels like resting on it, and

whether or not you like holding hands, or if kisses from you taste

like rem sleep?

 

I write old stories like storms, my voice is a warning siren, but my

arms are the prayers for relief. I’m sick of apologizing in advance,

so I won’t. What’s your name again? Has anyone ever told you,

you look like a sunset?


Sending Love

Hey yall, I know this isn’t poetry(there is a poem about her on this blog though), but this is my wonderful friend Adriana and she needs your help achieving a goal.

Naturopaths Without Borders is a way to educate communities about preventative and natural medicines, such as nutrition, noninvasive natural treatments, and garden grown medicines(among other things). Her goal is to go to Haiti, where Naturopathy is a far more affordable option than traditional western medicine, and provide the care and education to care for oneself to its communities. Far too often proper health and nutrition can be traced to the root of problems, and NWB can help to change that. I believe in Adriana and the journey she is on. Her spirit along can change the world.

Every little bit helps, even sharing this post with friends! Thank you for taking the time to listen. I could not figure out how to embed the widget so I have included the link to the site and the video. Take good care.

http://www.gofundme.com/6kf25g


Free Air! + Letting Each Other Safely Pass

I believe in honoring my writing. What ever hits the page, hits the page, and I wear my heart on my sleeve for the whole world to see. However, my heart feels heavy after my last post. What I haven’t been giving you(the writing I have been keeping to myself), now seems to have been the better choice in all of this. It was not right of me to post/read that to anyone. It was beautiful, but painful. I see that clearly. I’ve gone back and forth about taking it down, but for now it’s still there.  I am going to be making a conscious effort to be more present,  and not give so much of my overwhelming sorrow to anyone who will listen. For the record, sorrow and I may be old friends, but I have learned how to be happy, how to move forward, how to finally be a part of my own life. I smile more now, and that’s huge for someone who’s always been internally sad. The sorrow lives deep in my mind, not my heart, and my last post was closer to a subconscious train of thought than conscious.

“Forgiveness is for anyone who needs safe passage through our minds.” – Rev. Dr. Kathianne Lewis.

I’ve had the honor of meeting Buddy Wakefield a few times in my life. The most recent being a feature at Northampton Poetry. Two years ago my life seemed to fall apart; I could do nothing right to hold it together. A friend recommended Buddy’s poetry to me and he quickly became something of a spiritual mentor, or guide. Along with poetry, I soaked up every book and article on human behavior, learning how to help myself through breathing, and learning to be present. Through all of this and a good therapist, I saw my self worth grow to a healthy place for the first time in my life. I encourage everyone to watch, learn Vipassana, or at least remember that stopping, letting go of all thought other than listening and being conscious of your breath, even for just one 3 second in, and 3 second out(average breath), will start to change your life. Your thoughts(even your stress if you choose to let it back in) will still be there 6 seconds later, what could it change. . . except everything!


Train of Thought (edited spring 2014)

Tonight while punk/noise bands played in the room, I free wrote. My train of thought felt broken, disrupted by the erratic nature of the bands, and the harshness of the transitions. I had no idea at the time I was writing anything coherent or that even followed a theme. It is what it is. What I’ve written lately is not ready for the world(or maybe just a pair of eyes), so I owe this blog something. In my teachings I call it the “Junk”, or the words that are in the way. Whatever happens, happens; it’s an exercise. Often it’s the truth that we sugarcoat later in refined poetry, the raw form or thought. So this is me raw, unknowingly.
2/1/14

__

My dreams tell me otherwise. I give thanks
for love and years long embrace, manifesting
our arms to do as designed. Planets working
in alignment with the rhythms of thanks, holy
the absent thought.

G-d damn. What is it about you that makes me
forget all the motions I should be taking? It’s
that smile erasing pain, the attitude in the
looks of playful judgment.

What’s your name, have I seen you before?  Could
I pry through your thoughts non-evasively, the way
this caused in-coherent thoughts? What’s your name?
Can I be your buddy system? Does the fractures
in our pasts cause callused hearts to bleed
the way they’re suppose to? Have you seen
my mind, wind soaked eyes curl the phrases around
the distance between us, is it yours to
manipulate, am I in this room as always
the question outspoken in loud places without
escape? Talking to you is the clot in
my terminally winded wholly hearted, my lungs
filled with tea and words like, forever overwhelming,
vulnerable, absent minded, love and alone.

Holy the random smiles as you walk by, loving me,
I’m confused___ And without judgment.
I wish to snuggle on words and cats, Mamma Jamma rolls
in the dark, lit by the universe rooms, and boxes
of blankets and galoshes, tights you ripped and
forgotten, smiles I still can’t shake, could
you just stop and say ‘I love you’. It’s okay.
I’m adjusting to this connection of disconnected passers
by, in love with the moments in which we
just give these whole stories safe passage to cleansing
sinks, washed with soft soaps and harsh
moments of written verse. My arms miss
hugs, the kind you’d save just for me, where
our days would melt away and this breath out
existed. I’m missing those moments, your loving
legs tangled, ice cream lips sticky with promises
and sleepy sex, moans in motion, hold me in
forevers, and bed hog four legged stinkers
content to watch and hammock the covers
between us, the windows open to
allow your heart to leave, you took
the chance and left. I’m sorry I could
not let you do so gracefully, my heart is healthy around
you, in you, so the apologies mean shit
in email, and the cats save my life daily,
the guilt is overwhelming
my voice no longer comforts, not that I
have your number anymore, anyway.
Where’d you go? My fingertips need the
skin of your hips, curled crease of
your bum at night when I’d go searching through
covers, the soothing life of your ass
in hand, strange, but it’s where my
comfort lived, g-d damn!

 


Sunflower Sutra by Allen Ginsberg

So last night I competed in the Dead Poets Slam in Northampton as Ginsberg. In order to read Sunflower Sutra in a slam format(3:00 minutes, which I still went over), I had to do some serious black out editing(albeit as graceful as I could) and conjunctive word deleting, of one of my favorite poems. So, here is the full version, in all is perfect beautiful sunflower existence! I should mention Anne Sexton still kicked my butt.

Sunflower Sutra

I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and
sat down under the huge shade of a Southern
Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the
box house hills and cry.
Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron
pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts
of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed,
surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of
machinery.
The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun
sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that
stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves
rheumy-eyed and hungover like old bums
on the riverbank, tired and wily.
Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray
shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting
dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust–
–I rushed up enchanted–it was my first sunflower,
memories of Blake–my visions–Harlem
and Hells of the Eastern rivers, bridges clanking Joes
Greasy Sandwiches, dead baby carriages, black
treadless tires forgotten and unretreaded, the
poem of the riverbank, condoms & pots, steel
knives, nothing stainless, only the dank muck
and the razor-sharp artifacts passing into the
past–
and the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset,
crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog
and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye–
corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like
a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face,
soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays
obliterated on its hairy head like a dried
wire spiderweb,
leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures
from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster
fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear,
Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O
my soul, I loved you then!
The grime was no man’s grime but death and human
locomotives,
all that dress of dust, that veil of darkened railroad
skin, that smog of cheek, that eyelid of black
mis’ry, that sooty hand or phallus or protuberance
of artificial worse-than-dirt–industrial–
modern–all that civilization spotting your
crazy golden crown–
and those blear thoughts of death and dusty loveless
eyes and ends and withered roots below, in the
home-pile of sand and sawdust, rubber dollar
bills, skin of machinery, the guts and innards
of the weeping coughing car, the empty lonely
tincans with their rusty tongues alack, what
more could I name, the smoked ashes of some
cock cigar, the cunts of wheelbarrows and the
milky breasts of cars, wornout asses out of chairs
& sphincters of dynamos–all these
entangled in your mummied roots–and you there
standing before me in the sunset, all your glory
in your form!
A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent
lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye
to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited
grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden
monthly breeze!
How many flies buzzed round you innocent of your
grime, while you cursed the heavens of the
railroad and your flower soul?
Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a
flower? when did you look at your skin and
decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive?
the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and
shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive?
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a
sunflower!
And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me
not!
So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck
it at my side like a scepter,
and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul
too, and anyone who’ll listen,
–We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not our dread
bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we’re all
beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we’re blessed
by our own seed & golden hairy naked
accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black
formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our
eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive
riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening
sitdown vision.

Allen Ginsberg

Berkeley, 1955

SONY DSC


UNTITLED – Dream Catcher + Walking Alongside Ada Monroe

I wrote these between Thanksgiving and Christmas, knowing almost immediately that they were meant to be joined. I have not found a title as of yet(other than for the individual parts), but if something comes to mind while you are reading, please feel free to let me know what you think. Thanks for your support.

UNTITLED

1. Dream Catcher
Is my notebook considered ephemera, when its
pages paper thin rip when pressed for information
conclusions in appreciation, though your work
is never done. Next you must rush home to
give thanks, sing praise in lack of punctuation
sitting here waiting, I wish my heart spoke
louder, spoke soft enough to hear yours beating
in run-on sentences and middle school notes.
There’s a smile on my face when I hear cat toys
jingle from rooms in which I am not, so I stalk around corners,
peeking to see my playful children with paws, remembering
the shuffle footed dance you played in our kitchen, MommaGrace
took off like lightning and I light up like the warmest
summer day when I think of you, windows open, I think
of your laughter, that smile that healed me, and the touch
that steadied my heart, along with my breathing.
Willing lines can still bring a smile to your face(I’m sure of it), no matter the distance,
it was you who taught me love and laughter. You were my first smile.

2. Walking Alongside Ada Monroe
I found comfort in knowing that these
lines don’t mean shit, or at least
they are not meant to. We see each
other through train of thought,
there was a poem about a train I hopped
but I can’t remember which one;
I wish I could. I miss you. You’re
the kind of beautiful I see when
I look out into the ocean, vast
and only fractionally understood, it’s
not for lack of effort, I get it.
I know the covers over your
eyes exist to tell me “It’s hard,
I want you to understand, be
PG13” on top of the sheets, waiting
whenever you need a laugh,
or cry, or strip naked all day tangle,
dream catchers I swore
I left in Hogwarts. Did you hear,
they’re tearing it down? My beard
as long as wizards, though I am
only this cold mountain, rooted and young.
This is going nowhere, or precisely where
it should, where the plot demands, and I’ve lost my script.


On Mental Health, A Reflection

When you spend 30 years fucking off for a living, loving with all your heart, and you wake up one morning to realize you neglected the things that mattered, the you that never healed, it’s hard not to look ahead, be overwhelmed, and see the struggle you now face to put your life back on whatever track it’s suppose to be on. All I ever wanted was love. Nothing else mattered. I found the most amazing life tucked into my self-avoidance, someone who saw past all that shit, and loved me, for me(even the dark areas). You can only avoid yourself for so long. Some people go their entire lives without a fraction of the work I’ve put in this past year, just to stay living. It’s different for everyone. There is no right answer. I look ahead now while doing my best to live in the now; to not overwhelm myself. I don’t know what happens, or if I will ever shake the weight of the burdens I carry. I know that if you can’t visualize where you are going, you will never get there. I knew exactly where I was going once, for the first time, and I wound up lost. I still feel lost. I don’t get what it’s all for, where I will end up, or if there is another side. Reflecting on the negligence I have lived my life with is breath stealing. Moments quickly turned to years before I knew it. I’m healthier than I have ever been. I have worked so hard to heal the old pain in me. It often feels like that’s what’s left, like it’s going to take the rest of my life, as it should. I was never career oriented, so the things I have achieved over this time don’t always keep the positive, positive. Sorrow is such a derailing thing to live with. It exists in happiness, in sadness, within your greatest moments, and in love, and as if all those things were the ocean, your sorrow is an undertow to drown you, even in love.

If you are raising a child(or if you are struggling), teach them(or yourself) self love. Teach them to be proactive in mental health. That mental health is just as important, if not more than physical health. No matter how stressful or chaotic things get, let them know your support is there for them, no matter what they choose to do, and especially if they fail. Teach them that it’s okay. What you do, how you act, what you say, will find a way to affect them. Your mental health is important. Seek your own help, so that you can be healthy for them. Living with mental illness is crippling. In most cases it starts with the home, the “village”, but you end up living with it alone, as if everything, everyone didn’t play their part. Maybe this is why I have found such a love for positive community. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not my fault, but it can be prevented.

11/22/13


BEAUTIFULLY OUT OF TUNE PIANO

You are a BEAUTIFULLY OUT OF TUNE PIANO
And I wish I knew you__
Where your heart goes when
love whispers, if you pull at
the bed sheets when if I loved
between your thoughts, if I
exist in this room?

Your smiles aren’t mine. They
tire of my ever belly aching
silence that steals the
air between us, I’m suffocating.
Holy the hours with which I would spend
within your kiss, the Sage Francis
lyric supporting the razor,
I’m in love with the thought of
falling in love, with all of your
neglected places, your hands tremble
as my lack of ligaments shoulder
shutter the pressed smiles
I will from your lips, and
the salted oceans that would inevitably fall
down your cheek when I break
your heart, someday. The apologies in
advance mean shit; my warnings
def on broken rec, on broken
records, on the shelf where I’d keep the
fractions of your heart left behind,
the slivers I’ll pull from my skin,
the hair pins sucked up by the vacuum
remind me, to keep my mouth shut.

I left a YES[ ], NO[ ], Maybe[ ],
and you checked the box I
forgot to pencil in.
Your silence is heard.
I appreciate the eyes you left,
or maybe just for the moments
where I felt like a boy again.