Poem-A-Day: Adam Holt

One of my colleagues, another cross-genre writer named Adam Holt, has a new book out. It’s the third in his YA sci-fi series about a boy named Tully Harper who stows away on his dad’s spaceship with his best friend and the girl he has a crush on, and fate-of-the-solar-system level hijinks ensue. It’s a popular series; my daughter is one of his fans. My son scored major brother brownie points by giving her a signed copy of the newest installment, A Cord of Three Strands, for her birthday this month. Admittedly it wasn’t that hard for him to manage it. Adam is his English teacher.

But I mentioned the cross-genre thing. Adam is also a poet, and rather a competent one at that. Enjoy.

***

Hope and Distance Out West

Tired cowboys when the day is done
patch up their flak jackets and then their lives
with calls to their wives, their girlfriends, or both.
To parole officers, pastors, parents,
debt collectors, credit agencies,
or children. Their children. Their sons.

Slack-jawed lines ferry harmonica voices
from Motel Sixes in South Dakota
down the Great Plains
to eager ears in Albuquerque:
“When y’all comin’ home, pop?”
“Soon, son, soon.”
“Did you qualify today? How’d you ride?”
“Almost good enough,” he says.
“What that buzz on the line? What’s that buzz?”
The window unit gurgles.

The cowboy holds a beer to his bruised temple.
“It’s windy on this riverbank. Great sunset.”
“Y’all camped out!” says the boy. “You got a fire going, huh?”
“Soon enough. Get your sleep now, son. Good night.”

An image warms the child in his bed,
of Pop patting his Quarter Horse goodnight
beside a trickle of a stream.
The boy tucks himself under a sheet,
snug like embers in his father’s campfire,
the one he will watch until the smoke subsides.

Back at the Six, the cowboy eases himself
onto a moldy bedspread,
flips through standard cable for a spell
with his good hand,
remembers his own father’s voice
crackling homeward with those same words:
soon, almost good enough, good night.

These words, his father’s words, are now his own,
words that ride many miles but always return home.
They smolder in the ashes of the family they repair.
They make a man a totem a child can bear.

***

Adam Holt is a novelist, singer-songwriter, and poet. He was a featured poet for the

Houston Public Library’s Public Poetry Series, and his work has appeared in publications from Mutabilis Press and SMU’s Liberal Arts Magazine. His debut album — under the name Lone Star Rambler — was released in 2017. The Tully Harper Series, his YA sci-fi series, is a near-future novel meant to inspire young readers’ interest in human space exploration. An avid space advocate, Adam was the crowdfunding consultant on a Kickstarter that raised $500,000 to restore NASA’s Historic Mission Control. He is as an instructor at Writespace and The Kinkaid School. He lives in Houston, Texas. For more info on his work, go to http://adamholtwrites.com.

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National Poetry Month — Day 12

I enjoy traveling, most of the time. Rather, I enjoy being on vacation, most of the time. I enjoy experiencing new places. I love it, actually, and wish I did it a lot more often, and the older I get, the more I realize that I wasted a lot of time in my youth not going to other places.

The problem, of course, has to do with the transportation part of things. It’s a fairly complex problem in that it has many layers. But that’s a story about a dilemma for another day.

One thing I know is that I need to start seeing other places — places which are new to me — soon. For my birthday, I put on my wish list:

  • a passport (because the last time I left the country, when I was in college, all you needed was a birth certificate)
  • a trip to someplace where I could have an adventure
  • an adventure worth taking pictures of

I’m making my summer plans now.

One place I will probably not get to this year — but which I would love love love to see — is France. Paris in particular. Since I was little, the place has always held a fascination for me, perhaps because my mother is part French. Le français was the first foreign language I ever had enough real working knowledge of to be practical and useful. I began learning it in earnest, starting with the ad copy on the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast — on a trip to a village near Montréal when I was twelve. Things bloomed from there, and by eleventh grade I was reading Les Misérables in its original and acting in a short French play for academic competitions.

I am aggrieved to say that after a couple of decade with little practice, I now need help to translate with any quick accuracy. Some days it feels I have wasted whole swaths of my life.

Here is the final installment in the “poems inspired by place” series by Adam Holt. I hope you’ve been enjoying these as much as I have. (You can see the first one and the second one here.)

What places have inspired you? I’d love to know about them. Leave your thoughts — including a short poem about them, if you wish — in the comments below.

 

***

 

Tour Eiffel: Four Images, Six Lines (Paris, 2013)

 

A blackboned skeleton dreams of molten blood.
Demigod of a godless age.
Last great structure before reason’s decline.

Misappropriated alien beacon,
would skin warm your iconic form?
You expose your bones and leave us to conjure flesh.

 

***

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 11

Too often I find myself gliding through my city, not really paying attention to it, too wrapped up in the distraction of whatever it is I’m trying to cross off my to-do list. I don’t travel enough, I know — not nearly enough to satisfy my desire to see more different parts of the world — but then the reasons for that begin solidly with a lack of free time.

I live in one of the largest cities in the US. I know this place fairly well, too, having lived here most of my life. And I have a love-hate relationship with this place, but I’ve come to realize that the other places I’ve spent a lot of time aren’t really places where I can live, not at this point in my life. I don’t want to.

But oh, how I love to visit elsewhere.

Today I’m continuing the theme of poems inspired by place with another one of Adam Holt’s poems, this one somewhat incantatory in nature. (See the one from yesterday here.)

 

***

 

The Sound of Awareness in an East Village Coffee Shop

 

white people white cups reusable cup sleeves
earbuds and silver Apples
tick tick tick
on a high-top countertop
a thousand miles long
awareness happening all around me
tick tick tick
jazz on spotify
moleskine
what’s the wifi?
seated all around me
tick tick tick
hemp around the hottest pipes
steam whistle espresso –
americano in the paper cup,
to the mouth,
through the veins
for the mind
with tinsel on the tabletops and
tick tick tick
#ericgarner #chokehold #ferguson
tick tick tick
retweet repost refill jon stewart
tick tick tick
four dollar americanos + chocolate croissants and
what the hell is that all about anyway
#icantbreathe #blacklivesmatter
tick tick tick
they’re seated in long rows
tick tick tick
white people white cups reusable cup sleeves
earbuds and silver Apples
awareness is an echo chamber
and
hashtags just might save us all and
one more cup before I’m gone and
tick tick tick
tick tick tick
what’s the boy carrying?
tick tick tick
tick tick boom

 

***

 

Adam Holt
Adam Holt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 10

It’s a wonderful skill to be inspired by the places around you, to weave your environment into your writing.

Poet and fiction writer Adam Holt has used his experiences traveling to inspire his work, and this week I’ll be featuring three of his poems which are each rooted in a particular place. This is the first of them.

 

***

 

Hope and Distance Out West (Taos, 2008)

 

Tired cowboys when the day is done
patch up their flak jackets and then their lives
with calls to their wives, their girlfriends, or both.
To parole officers, pastors, parents,
and agencies, either credit or escort,
or to children. Their children. Their sons.

Slack-jawed lines ferry harmonica voices
from Motel Sixes in South Dakota
down the Great Plains
to eager ears in Albuquerque.
Hear mom hand the phone to his son:
“When y’all comin’ home, pop?”
“Soon, son, soon.”
“Did you qualify today? How’d you ride?”
“Almost good enough. Better than last time.”
“What that buzz on the line? What’s that buzz?”
The window unit gurgles outside.
The cowboy holds a beer to his bruised temple.
“It’s windy on this riverbank. Great sunset.”
“Y’all camped out!” says the boy. “You got a fire going, huh?”
“Soon enough. Get your sleep now, son. Good night.”

An image warms the child in his bed,
of Pop patting his Quarter Horse goodnight
beside a trickle of a stream.
The boy tucks himself under a sheet,
snug like embers in his father’s campfire,
the one he will watch until the smoke subsides.

Back at the Six, the cowboy eases himself
onto a threadbare bedspread,
puts the ice bag back on his arm.
He flips through standard cable for a spell
with his good hand,
remembers his own father’s voice
crackling homeward over those same lines.
Same lines. Same lines:
soon, almost good enough, good night.

These words, his father’s words, are now his own,
words that ride many miles but always return home.
They smolder in the ashes of the family they repair.
They make a man a totem a child can bear.

 

***

 

As I said before, Adam writes both poetry and fiction. He and I will be sharing a table at the Gulf Coast Indie Book Fest in Houston on May 7th, if you want to stop by and chat with either of us or, you know, buy our books. He’ll have the first two novels in his YA sci-fi series, The Conspiracy Game and The Rathmore Chaos, available. (And if you want a recommendation on those, my daughter and her best friend, voracious and advanced readers both, have read them three times.)

Featured Poet: Adam Holt

Tonight’s poem is by a cross-genre writer, Adam Holt. He writes poetry and also YA sci-fi novels. His second book in a trilogy about the teenage son of an astronaut is launching this month (pardon the pun).

In fact, there’s a book launch party this Saturday, in case you’re in the Houston area and want to come to it, at Space Center Houston. Let me know if you want more details.

 

***

 

not even nothing exists

 

I. Zerolessness

 

not even nothing exists

the existence of nothing itself is

unfathomable

let me develop this idea

that was never thought

 

the ink in the pen used by this hand

that wrote these words

that contained these ideas

not only never existed

but never will, never could

 

a nothing is at least a thing

against which something can exist

the mind can grasp this

 

but not even nothing?

the idea is not an idea at all

but a lack of an idea

or a lack of a lack

and now we are back

to trying to develop an idea

that the mind cannot grasp:

not even nothing exists.

 

II. And

 

a man walks into a bar

and orders

nothing

but there are no glasses to put it in

(if nothing is an it which it is not nor never will be)

….did i say there was a bar?

he walked in but never sat down

on that stool that never existed

He

Walked

Bar

Nothing

i tell you i spoke none of this

this world that contains this city

where your apartments holds this

you

never came to exist

never had a never to exist against

 

III. Yet

 

here is the pen the ink the you

the will that runs these rhymes

what then can we say about their existence?

a man walks into a bar

and there he finds

nothing

to order. he has found at last….

he

walked

bar

loneliness, maybe

he knows there is something

existing against nothing

 

IV. Then

 

three million light year away

from the nothing bar

where people discuss the absence of the numinescence

three million light years away

which in the design of things may not be far at all

from the nothing bar

three million light years away

there is an immense swirling eyeless colorless hole

that swallows whole stars

as a boyscout eats kettle corn

three million miles away

there is an immense swirling eyeless colorless hole

in the fabric of the universe

that ate an entire nebula

without even the slightest belch

turning what was into what will never again be

every nothing has a nothing to exist against.

 

V. Infinite

 

take this force

immense swirling eyeless colorless hole

multiply it by an unfathomable number

and you cannot equal the force of

the spirit that moved over the thoughtless waters

and in one word achieved

unthinkable

unmistakable

knowable

existence:

BE.

every nothing has a something 

to exist against. 

what jokes must he tell

perched on his stool 

sipping from a cup full of anti-matter? 

 

***

 

Adam Holt taught English for a decade before devoting himself to writing as a profession. He is an independent writer who funded two YA novels through Kickstarter. His Tully Harper Series explores the intrinsic hope of human space travel. His poetry has similar, more spiritual intent. Victor Hugo, CS Lewis, Seamus Heaney, and Rick Riordan are among his favorite authors.