Checklist

is a poetry form I was introduce to by poets Fork Burke & Jillian Brall on Facebook. I loved the results of the ones they both were posting.

This form created by Brian Moran. The Rules  are simple 1) write a checklist – but it 2) must be 33 lines in length. Oh, and 3) line 33 is only the word “degrees.

It can be an an actual checklist, random phrases you’ve heard throughout the day, found phrases from newspaper or books. It can be a list of spine titles, a list of names you would have given your unborn children.It can be free-verse. Your imagination is the limit. Write it down, fill in the ines, and then, like David Bowie, play around with the order.

I tend to start with writing an actual checklist and then let the poem take the direction from there. I never know where I’m going to end up! Except at “degrees”. of course.

Here are some examples below

Checklist: Things That Enter By Way Of Silence

  1. The New Year slides in for a widow;
  2. an older cat slinking home through an open window,
  3. junk drawer of souvenirs pulled open from underneath –
  4. Remember how that slip of paper ,
  5. numerals written excitedly and sloppy,
  6. folded and fit in the curve of the hip;
  7. paper that lived under the phone
  8. like a gray stepping stone across a stream.
  9. You slid into the bamboo seat at the Lum Yuen’s quietly;
  10. it did not yet belong to you
  11. but you felt he did.
  12. Even now, he did.
  13. There was the twining of fingers,
  14. the sharing of stories
  15. along with bites of sweet and sour chicken.
  16. A key slid across a kitchen table,
  17. boxes closed and rooms labeled,
  18. a slide of paint over old wallpaper
  19. soft blue slicked with a tang in the air.
  20. You watched the children’s eyelids as they slept;
  21. their dreams a silent journey
  22. as you sat as anchor,
  23. their breaths a steamy jungle in the night
  24. his hand, their path through the trees –
  25. and Time, that constant watcher –
  26. it was easy to discount his presence;
  27. the chair was more solid, more dependable
  28. but then it moved under you;
  29. a mute avalanche from a mountain that shaded you.
  30. Snow transfigured bedrooms into storage spaces
  31. and solitude develops its dusty voice.
  32. two hand move forward from midnight, the seconds advancing
  33. degrees

Checklist: How We Fall In Love

  1. We fall, stumble, cower, rush, sigh
  2. hesitate at the gate
  3. it is the pop of a can lid on a summer day
  4. ice-cold flow that hits the bowl of the tongue
  5. superman sugar rush of dark caffeine
  6. horses coming in for water after a dusty ride
  7. 7 supplicants kneeling before Christ
  8. taking the wafer in, letting it melt on the tongue
  9. we touch our forehead to ground
  10. grateful there is ground to touch
  11. eyes rise heavenward, our hands reach up
  12. pull back afraid, trembling to be burned
  13. walk in a bookstore in December
  14. snow begins to fall, drift in the dusk
  15. our hair covered with knitwear
  16. we follow environmental wars, delaying disaster
  17. turn around and find what wasn’t lost
  18. find what was waiting for us to turn around
  19. clock’s hands returning to the time they were purposed for
  20. after an eternity of ticking off endured seconds
  21. arms that were folded making hesitant requests
  22. clothes discarded slowly in the dark
  23. we sample each other
  24. wade into the water by degrees
  25. our ankles, our knees, our hips, our bellies
  26. acclimating, taking its temperature inside us
  27. reaching home through the sheets of rain
  28. sliding into familiar arms you no longer need to deny
  29. sitting on the couch it is accepting your need
  30. it is whispering your need under a gemini beard
  31. chemical reaction of neon, car leather and black quirks
  32. your hot skin, the cool sheets pull back, slide deeper in
  33. degrees

Checklist: The Making of Beds

  1. The air has a slight chill to its touch;
  2. the sheet a still crack as it’s tossed,
  3. carpet catches the fallen gray hair.
  4. She sat cross legged in the car,
  5. buttons opened doors, set locks.
  6. The was the comfort of news articles during the day,
  7. a semblance of being in the world
  8. while the parking lot asphalt grew dark with rain.
  9. Dry nap of carpet beneath her, she sighed
  10. leaned against the unfolded seat;
  11. the quiet of parked cars
  12. left her feeling like a seagull on a deserted beach,
  13. sand washed clear by the storm –
  14. Somewhere there is a man handling fish
  15. preparing it to sell.
  16. She thinks of him in his white apron –
  17. sad he did not get to watch the patterns of the fallen rain,
  18. will think of him again tonight as she pulls blankets up.
  19. She draws scribbles into seashells on small paper squares
  20. draws on blank pages, fills them with ink;
  21. they will become pillows, tables, writing desks.
  22. There was a time, filled with lust
  23. she made beds, kept sheets fresh, comforters soft;
  24. now sheets get brushed out, last night’s wrinkles pulled,
  25. another blanket added.
  26. Her mattress remembers how she curled,
  27. leaves a carved out hollow on what she still
  28. considers her side – she avoids it ,
  29. trying to reshape a truth.
  30. She will envy fish tonight
  31. knowing his hands lifted them, laid them down;
  32. the night air chills more
  33. degrees

checklist: how to forget him

  1. don’t listen to gotye or getz or coltrane or anybody really…
  2. listen, just don’t listen to improvizational jazz, symphonic ballads, a tenor voice
  3. especially at a stormy three am while the earth cries
  4. don’t drink burning cinnamon whisky and watch the wind rip the trees
  5. sliding it on top of mango and dirty oil and watch the rain elongate
  6. don’t numb the pain, there’s a lesson here
  7. don’t slide into animation with perversion donning human faces
  8. avoid classic seventies rock, don’t slide it on like too-skinny jeans
  9. it just makes your ass look bigger – an obtuse mirror that enlarges features,
  10. stretches them into silly putty caricatures. in fact, just don’t listen to that muddy music
  11. and you know the danger of books, their imprint on your naked skin. don’t read
  12. verghese or lawrence or silverman or wright or hitchens. or anybody really …
  13. don’t read! you know who you are, the rich red clay in the garden …
  14. don’t think of food, it never was your hedonistic pleasure
  15. don’t think of cooking with a companion, eating is purely a selfish act
  16. an act of entering, taking in, consuming, merging
  17. too many sexual images there, don’t think of the salty tang
  18. heck, just don’t eat. think instead of falling, the unexpected impact
  19. fallen leaves strewn on concrete decaying
  20. sitting in empty parking lots, hard curbs, empty waiting spaces
  21. avoid parking lots, walk around them. do men feel like this?
  22. if they want to put you in a grave, they have to find all the pieces;
  23. wanting to text but resisting; it’s not your place anymore
  24. in a blaze of glory keep your colours in the tree, hang on to the branch
  25. because with love the why is the what:
  26. remember you are a thing of nature, you are not over
  27. a moral animal. it is your nature to care; a breath of rebellion against sprung jade
  28. the empty air is unhealthy to breathe, no water, no oxygen, a vacuum flinging giants
  29. light years across from each other, dark matter damping each others’ glow;
  30. no symbiosis, no gravity generated, no sharing of primitive matter, particles
  31. minerals and quirks and flight patterns., it’s not much to remember
  32. when you find yourself in a vacuum of space, don’t breathe in
  33. degrees

And of course, where’s there’s rules – there’s rule-breakers!

checklist without degrees

1) i put out street lights, unintentionally
2) i paralyze watches
3) phones develop a case of “word salad”
4) or worse … tourette’s
5) if you’re not careful, i’ll have you feeling
6) emotions not your own
7) a need to live in water
8) desire to hide away in developed caves
9) an appetite for salt
10) my doctors have labeled me a hypochondriac
11)  a case study, a phenomenon, a quirk
12) a cell tower, not radio though –
13) my frequency is not at an audible level –
14) the empirical data is in though
15) i am deemed chaotic but not dangerous
16) perhaps the cause is a body too small
17) inadequate wiring for my wattage or a wrong plug
18) smoldering
19) a battery leaking fluid
20) corrosive
21) two chemicals coming into contact with each other
22) there will be an uncontrollable reaction
23) unseen hands rushing across my keyboard
24) embedded links will have new identities
25) phones will sprout limbs
26) i am more than half tempted to make a new satellite
27) except i can’t throw
28) much less my communication devices
29) so unless it is poetry
30) ignore what i send
31) when it comes to electronics
32) it’s always a game of “telephone” or “hide and go seek”;
33) the empirical data is in

 

Sources: Fork Burke, Jillian Brall
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