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ERIC PAUL SHAFFER

 

 

 

Eric Paul Shaffer is author of six books of poetry, including A Million-Dollar Bill; Lahaina Noon; Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen; and Portable Planet. 450 of his poems appear in nearly 300 local, national and international reviews and in The EcoPoetry Anthology (Trinity UP, 2013); Jack London Is Dead: Contemporary Euro-American Poetry of Hawai‘i (Tinfish, 2013), and 100 Poets Against the War (Salt, 2003). Shaffer received the 2002 Elliot Cades Award for Literature, a 2006 Ka Palapala Po'okela Book Award for Lahaina Noon, and the 2009 James M. Vaughan Award for Poetry. Burn & Learn, his first novel, was published in 2009. He teaches at Honolulu Community College.

 

 

 

 

Instead of Writing Poems Today

 

 

I am washing dishes.  I am making ice cubes, though the freezer

is full.  I am gazing through a window at a mountain and a palm

tree I should be writing about.  I am clearing my desk of junk

 

mail.  I am considering the chaos of the wind chimes outside

my window, which to me make a glorious sense of the breeze.

I am answering correspondence, which is a tiresome parent to me,

 

demanding, unreasonable, inscrutable, and yet one whom I love

and hate even as I open each missive.  I am petting the gray cat,

who mews once with each stroke of my palm.  I am glancing

 

at the face of the clock, which, as I expected, is as blank

as my own face is.  I am reading poems by poets whose work

delivers neither motive nor meaning in long lines of empty ink

 

and turning in fury to poets whose work eases me and shines

with clarity that seems beyond me.  I am contemplating my box

of twenty-four Crayola crayons, particularly the one labeled

 

“dandelion/ diente de leon/ pissenlit,” the first two of which do

indeed mean “tooth of the lion” and the last of which, fortunately,

does not mean “a leak on literature,” but instead and surprisingly,

 

means “pee in bed.”  And now, I am contemplating a crayon

matching the neon childhood humiliation of stained bed sheets.

I am listening to my neighbors argue about something else

 

that annoys them about each other, words loud enough to hear

but too faint to follow.  I am pondering the translation of a poem

by Cold Mountain, which I have framed and hung on the wall

 

nearby to distract me from my work.  I am waiting for the wild

whoop of a car alarm to cease, wishing someone would just steal

the damned thing.  I am watching sunlight spangle the leaves

 

of the mango tree, for which I am sure the exact Crayola color

is “green/ verde/ vert” though no shade matches the brilliance

of the ripening fruit.  I am worrying about that clicking I heard

 

from the car’s left rear wheel.  I am watching my other neighbors

erect a picnic canopy in their yard as the fumigators tent the house

for termites.  I am examining my fingers poised, restless and resting

 

on the keyboard, remembering my mother one long-ago day raising
both of them before our eyes and telling me my hands are beautiful.

 

 

©2017 Eric Paul Shaffer

 

 

Author Links

 

Poems from A Million Dollar Bill at Grayson Books

Poetry in Weber: The Contemporary West

Poetry in Cider Press Review

More work by Eric in Southword

 

 

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