An Alphabet of Poets – T is for Tamblyn

from Strange

New York City
            couldn’t take its eyes
            off our getting off.
           On the 52nd floor,
           up against the glass,
           Emptying our empty dishes
           into each other.
           You counted ribs,
           beat the concerto out of them,
           again, and against,
           as the rain too
           pounded us
          52 stories into the blue,
          our skeletons countering
          unspoken stacks of hazardous feelings,
          arbitrary calculations.
          Thunder struck and stuck to glass like ponytails
          hanging on long-legged structures
          standing hard around us.
          A maid walked in on us.
         We were so in love we laughed,
         kept going
         wrapped in a white curtain,
         naked and wet as two Mississippi mummies
         burying each other alive

            how you always
            had some place to be
           some  thing to be
           some claim to seize.

           In the Catskills
           your eyes grew seismic at the sight of it: me,
           rolling around on the hardwood
           by your black velcro’s
           knowing you didn’t have a kitten anymore
           but a wolf
           in a woman’s clothing.

            In Japan
           your shoulders began to close like hardcovers.
           I could only read your spine,
           faded and dismissive.

            Walking around your house in my yellow sun dress,
            the final summer you started shifting your weight,
            smoking like a fish,
            finding the enemy in everything I did.
            Your friends watched me,
            ellipses in their eyes,
            heads bowed to honour
            your next bold move

            how you charged me with infidelity
            while in the night your secrets
            spun webs in the corners of your kitchen.
            I could smell her naked
            night swimming in your sweat.
            You always knew how to make
            the best beginnings.

Amber Tamblyn (1983 – ) from Bang Ditto, Manic D Press 2009,

This Amber won’t sit demure, easily around your neck, no simple bijoux strung down from its silver noose. There is a bee inside. It is young and old. It is cased in hardened words. It stings! And watch out for the noose! Amber Tamblyn is word-blown force. A metaphor maven with enough wrenches to unbolt any conventional notion or expression!

I could smell her naked/ night swimming in your sweat.
 What a line. And from another poem: Blue eyes go deep,/ you always loved the cold love of sharks. This woman gives me severe metaphor envy! And at times I sense a whiff of Sexton and Plath in her words.

Here is another poem from her second book:


There may never be a chance like it again
to feel the humps on my hips
and their draw backs, and draw-ins.
The drawstrings
are the curves of my eyes.
Remember how you tugged them when I was shy?

I’m not asking for eternity in the
lunchboxes of future children, but
yeah, face me –

No more imagining,
I deserve to watch your lips stumble.

I want you to remember
every oval on this body;
every tremble into their glory.

Face me, so that I may know the man
who sticks me with goodnight kisses
like a shadowless blade,

like all the silences
in which we were made.

My mouth is an exam
you cannot afford to fail.

Take me.

from Bang Ditto

Tamblyn is some kind of artistic everywoman! An actress and writer by age nine, an accomplished soap opera star, mainstream film actress, nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards, she is most importantly, for this blogger, a kick-mouth spoken word performer and published poet. Her first book won a Border’s Choice Award for Breakout Writing. Breakout isn’t half of it. No white-page prison can incarcerate this word-soaped Houdini!

And go on-line. She is everywhere. Blogging on Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog or on her website explaining her latest escapade. The latest:. in a case of mistaken identity she received an email from rap artist Tyrese Gibson asking her to collaborate on some songs. She send him four demo songs! Here is her take ( so to speak) on it:

Gibson… saw my name cc’d on an email that a mutual friend sent out and thought I was the model ex girlfriend of Kanye West, Amber Rose. (My middle name is Rose and my email adress [sic] is registered as Amber Rose). I’ve never met Tyrese before. He pulled my email addy from that cc list and emailed me wanting to work on an album together. So I recorded my demos on my iPhone and sent them to him. I guess you could call them Awareness Raps? I am the Hilary Clinton of Ghostface Killahs…

Where did this 60 something come across this 20 something whip-master of words? Talk about a father-daughter moment. Browsing the table-eclectic at Book Thug Nation bookstore in Brooklyn last year, a favorite haunt when I came to visit, my 20 something daughter pointed out Bang Ditto. A few pages in, I was a trout on the hook, a new shout out of an old throat! When my own words feel stale, ordinary, I eat some of Tamblyn’s. My own perk up; want to take their old man for a night on the town.


Gin and tonic rests between his buttons on Father’s Day.
He’s nursing someone else’s heart, alone in a Cuban restaurant,

occupying a heavy stare at the empty seat across from him.
Ignored by all but his own thoughts that will someday

outthink him. Alone.
I watch alone.

A waiter tosses him a menu,
a crumb into a coffin.

There are no more quick decisions at his age –
 can’t have steak without one’s teeth,

can’t have pasta without some teenager’s cholesterol level.
The waiter says he will come back. Old man wishes for his wife.

She’d know what to do, what to order.
Give him her lemon, take away  the bread and butter,

say “You’re too fat Charlie,” kiss his earlobe
on the way to the powder room. She’d pluck

the aches from his brow, toast to all
the old, funny things neither could remember.

I approach his table, bloodshot snow settled in my eyes.
I tell him I’m far away from my own papa.

My heart’s been chasing its tail since July 4th, 2006.
I never really knew either of my grandfathers,

except for one of their fists. I shred all
incriminating evidence of confidence.

Bury my hand under my bangs,
eat the last of his olives without asking.

Was his walk home further than mine?
Does he live for her pictures alone?

He looks at the makeup that’s carried my face
for so many years, says, “I’m not as lonely as you think I am.”

from Bang Ditto

Tamblyn runs an annual LA poetry performance event called The Drum Inside Your Chest, gives workshops on performing poetry, and co-founded a non-profit called Write Now Poetry Society. Most recently she was successfully
fund raising for an older poet who has deeply influenced her writing career.

I am glad to have met the words of Amber Tamblyn. I look forward to reading more.