Poetry: Selections from April Ridge

The Sky Doesn’t Even Look Real Today
The sky doesn't even look real today.
There's a giant line down the middle of the mid-horizon
the color of powder blue fading into a periwinkle, almost white, 
with cotton ball clouds pressed with Elmer's glue onto the sheet.
I gaze up, probably for too long, as I race down the highway home.
I pass trees that have exploded in vivid green in the last two weeks.
Mother Nature has spread her seed widely this year.
A successful crop of leafy variance: lime, chartreuse, hunter, grass. 
All the greens of the season dance together.
The pollen finally starting to subside its bitter song enough 
that we that suffer from allergies can breathe a little deeper in the night.
The second round of flowers beginning to bloom.
The forest and wood bespeckled with wildflowers and 
the critters are finally coming out of their winter holes.
The donkeys at the horse ranch are out more often each morning, 
as it is warmer, so they can chew on the bailed hay earlier in the day a
s I drive past on my way into work. 
I see them as I pass by on my way home from work, 
the sun yellow and beating on their brown and white backs 
as they graze on the grass in the horse dung-filled ranch.
The shades of green all varying against each other, 
reminding me of how soon fall will come with its different shades on the trees. 
It all happens so quickly.
Summer vacation goes just as fast as it did when I was a kid and
the blur of June and July went by so hastily. 
But now there is no three month recess 
highlighted by days of climbing trees and
riding bikes waaaay further away than I was allowed to.
Sneaking kisses in abandoned baseball diamond dugouts.
Sneaking smokes in the woods with friends who would later tattle on me.
So happy I was in these summer time moments of childhood: 
I didn't feel that horrific ostracizing like I did at school.
I painted clouds on skies that did not look real and 
dreamed of the day when I would look up: free and easy, as an adult.
Oh, how we didn't know in youth 
that being an adult isn't all glory and 
being in charge of who gets to open the cookie jar.
It's more about who has to knead the dough to make the fucking cookies.

What Makes A Poet?
I keep seeing 
all of these poets 
criticizing one another,
saying things like: 
‘Slam poetry is dead and 
only assholes compete for money.’
‘If you take a poet home and 
all of their chapbooks 
are full of poems 
that rhyme, 
don't fuck them.’
‘If you 
cut a poet down 
in the forest 
will anyone hear them cry and 
will their sobs have an end rhyme?’
‘If you use the words 
'I' or 'you' in a poem, 
you are a navel-gazing poet 
who is self-centered and
hasn’t read enough of other poets’ work.’
‘If you work a 9 to 5 job and 
don't spend all of your time 
on poetry and being in the scene, 
then you're not a poet. 
You're merely a dreamer 
gazing into the abyss, 
slowly biding your time, 
hoping to get your little chapbook out and
perhaps make some acquaintances.’
All of this 
opinionated drivel about 
what poetry should be....
seems to me 
that it is a type of 
literary bigotry.
Poetry should be free. 
Rhyme it,
or don't,
or talk about yourself, 
or how your dad is an asshole,
or that you love cats,
or the weather, 
or some abstract idea 
about the way things should be, 
or should have been...
or whatever the fuck you want. 
You don't have to fit 
into some tiny prescribed box of 
what one person or 
a small group says 
you should be 
to be a poet.
We should all join forces, 
not maintain 
these ridiculously limitating ideas:
these standards 
that merely show 
immaturity, elitism, snobbery.
Sure, some of it is joking, 
but a lot of it seems 
to be true opinion, 
which of course is not fact, 
but it still makes people listen, 
especially when 
coming out of a popular mouth, 
or at least the loudest mouth 
in the room at the time.
What's good is subjective, 
but what a poet is...
that's universal, babies.

We’re All Mad Here
Every once in a great while 
I have this feeling 
of being led through 
a modeled existence, 
a simulation.
Those faint whiffs of skunk 
I catch scent of 
on the drive into work,
the Tom Waits piped 
into my right ear 
while I am working,
is it really that I am in a coma 
in some musty-smelling facility, 
the attendant on break 
in my room 
catching a quick high 
before patient medicine and 
bottom cleanup time?
Are there loved ones
sitting beside me,
playing my old strange 
playlists and mixtapes, 
trying to awaken my mind
by musical revival?
Or is it all the acid I had 
when I was a teen 
echoing back 
that scared kid paranoia 
yet again? 
Certainly it could be 
a tinge of acid flashback.
Or is it inherited psychosis? 
A little from column A, 
a little from column B?
Or am I caught up in a gear 
in this monster machinery?

Just Enough

-for Jim Simmerman, who created Twenty Little Poetry Projects, an exercise that was used to craft this poem.
She splashes in the cold sea, as fish starved of water, 
arms flopping in time with swollen gills.
I raised my face to peer out the window, 
checking our skins drying on the line, 
our nakedness underlined by the chilled breeze against bare muscle and tendon. 
Your cheeks flush with blood as you smile at me.
The warm saltiness of his hand causes me to hiss, shriek in surprise. 
I smell lemon thyme in the air, a memory of mother’s bread cooling on the windowpane.
The scent a harsh yellow I could never get myself to wear until adulthood. 
That yellow slaps hard at the eyes, stabs at the heart.
The recalling of little Stephanie and I in Greenwood Manor on the teeter totter.
The sweet yellow of my dress.
It rubs my skin raw to think of it.
The slide raunchy with Eric Generic’s piss. 
He should have never played with matches, his face distorted, his brother dead.
The trees let out their screams quietly, 
flushing the forest of any need for the soft bark’s shed upon the grassy beds.
The woman shouts 
“I could have spared you the agony of knowing me” in the gas station parking lot, 
her hair bright green and disheveled, she slams the car door.
The queen of the highway puts it in reverse and accidentally hits a gas pump, 
it bursts as she pulls out onto the street.
The flames blue and purple rising like ice to lap at the cool ceiling of the carport.
She splashes so hard in the sea it puts the flames to bed, 
from across the shore, 
the roar of the tide harmonizes with her shrill shrieks, the fire subsides.
April rushes in, too late again.
She has seen this all roll out before, 
the credits show the stars aligned with the birth of the turtle by her side.
Tortured tortoise.
He holds her breath until the paint is completely oxygenated, 
starved of hydrogen, she sleeps.
Que cera, cera.
The shells on the shore say goodnight, wave goodbye to the outgoing tide.
Her splashes die out as her arms rest quietly at her sides, 
her fingers pruny in the light of a darkened moon. 
Her mouth mostly submerged in the water, 
but turned upward just enough to survive another night.

April Ridge lives in the expansive hopes and dreams of melancholy rescue cats. She thrives on strong coffee, and lives for danger. In the midst of Indiana pines, she follows her heart out to the horizon of reality and hopes never to return to the misty sands of the nightmarish 9 to 5. April aspires to beat seasonal depression with a well-carved stick, and to one day experience the splendor of the Cucumber Magnolia tree in bloom.