Day 14: Scent of Roses

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Scent of Roses

Lounging unhurriedly
at the confluence
of Willamette
and Columbia,

Portland is
a confluence
of ordinary
and wondrous
non-sequiturs.

An unofficial jewel
whose unofficial jewel
is probably Obsidian Stout,

a local import.

She is so unpretentious
that she seems extremely pretentious,

but she don’t give a fuck what you think
and she’s too kind to tell you

unless you get pushy.

She will bum a square outside a club,
or lend you one if she can spare it,

listening to your dreams,
sharing her own in-kind

before retreating inside
when her song is played and then

her stage name is called as
you slowly realize that
you’re now kindred spirits
with an exotic dancer

erotically peeling away
her layers, down to where
imagination meets
pale, toned, imperfectly
beautiful reality.

If she ever read this,
she’d laugh and be like,
“Really? Chill, dude.
It’s just stripping.”

Her indomitable spirit flies free,
but she brokers no jackassery or
disrespect of any kind. If you touch

her without permission, security
will escort you out, but after being

kind enough to help find your missing
teeth and stop the bleeding. As a spark-plug,

Portland doesn’t scrape the sky,
but she doesn’t need to;
she gets plenty high enough.

At the peak of her bustle,
she doesn’t impose her will on you,

but if you show an
inkling of interest
or curiosity,

she’ll lean into you
with a wink and sneer that asks,
“well what are you waiting for, old age?”

You won’t recall what street you were on,
or what landmarks you saw, or the wonders
of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

or how the roses smelt
(or if you prefer, smelled,
for they won’t check grammar
off the clock).

You won’t remember many
remarkable physical attributes,
though notable ones are celebrated,
eclectic, and prolific,

but you’ll remember how you felt
while you were in her.

You may have winced or
groaned at that last innuendo,

but she would’ve barely been
bothered to shrug before

either ignoring
or matching your lewdness,
depending on the weather.

Oh, and it rains a lot,
which is clearly a
wondrous kind of
ordinary.
***

Written for Real Toads’ day 14 prompt: The Streets (“Where is your favorite town or city to take a stroll in?”)

Also written for NaPoWriMo’s day 14 prompt: write a poem that incorporates homophones, homographs, and homonyms, or otherwise makes productive use of English’s ridiculously complex spelling rules and opportunities for mis-hearings and mis-readings.

Obviously, I wasn’t really into the NaPoWriMo prompt, as I didn’t do too much with wordplay. Perhaps I was swayed by Portland’s rebellious, counterculture spirit.

Day 13: Sageing

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Sageing

Three in the morning
an abundance of silence and shadows
I feel her absence
as if wholeness was hollowed by specter
sleep eluding her
leaving her fitful, alone with unknown
she left me to dream
unknowing dreams could tap into the black

Unmindful of demons that fill our voids
she left me bereft
earth’s shadow settled in, cascading chills
of losing her warmth
leaving creaks and groans of untended beams
as I tossed and turned
predawn creaks grew near, pressing into me
I felt her return

It was half-past four
her presence banished spirits to their rest
I snuggled her good
foreboding emptiness filled with refrain
I cooed as she snored
the cow jumped over the moon as she set
or was it reversed?
and we slumbered, all seduced by moondust

Predawn passed, a sleepy butterfly-kiss
I awoke at six
to birds serenading our growing light
to an empty bed
our night history told in a pale glare
she had fled again
her demons getting her goat, she got gone
snuck off as I dozed

I whined her awake
feeling unjustly abandoned to night
asked why she left me
to the tyrannical whims of unknown
twice in the same night
though I never felt her leave me again
she gave me a look
leaving us both in puzzled bemusement

Her next words went goose-bumping down my spine
“I never came back”
then who shielded me from wraiths while I slept?
who muted my fears
amassing stillness as I clung to her?
she gave me a shrug
as we took stock of all the empty rooms
“I’m sageing the house.”
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 13 prompt: “write a poem about something mysterious and spooky!”

Challenge accepted.

Day 12: You Are Here

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Photo by Yash Raut on Unsplash

You Are Here

on the surface
of an unremarkable rock
hurtling through vast emptiness
in countless relative terms,

one of which –
along with seven rocky
and gassy siblings –
circumnavigates
an unremarkable sphere
of super-heated plasma

– one of countless
sibling-stars clustered
within one of countless galaxies
within numerous
super-clusters of galaxies
within the observable universe.

You lack significance
to even register as dull
as far as the cosmos is concerned,

but you are the cosmos
and you are my cosmos
smelling of lavenders
found only in our corner
of the cosmos

and you taste of honey
made by bees
who defend their queen
nearly as well
as my will
to protect you
and make you laugh,

and upon hearing your laughter,
there probably won’t be
a butterfly effect
that destroys Tokyo,

but as vibrations
of your laugh
met the membrane
of my eardrum,

my heart skipped several beats,
so you shortened my life
by fractions of fractions
of fractions of seconds,

which is far too insignificant
a measurement to fret about.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 12 prompt: “write a poem about a dull thing that you own, and why (and how) you love it. Alternatively, what would it mean to you to give away or destroy a significant object?”

Okay, so I cheated a little bit and shifted the scale ever so slightly, and I didn’t write about a thing I own. Thirty days of poetry is a lot, you know?

I’m already scared enough of boring folks.

I worry about my own words being too dull for me to write about actual dull things. I’m beginning to get sick of my own poetic voice and writing about my favorite pair of holey underwear just wasn’t going to cut it today.  

Day 11: Ordinary Origin

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Photo by Manyu Varma on Unsplash

Ordinary Origin

Want seduced Ignorance,
creating a singular silence,
a deafening heartbeat
that grew stronger,
becoming aware
of the barrier between
internal and external.

Displacement
from the external
yielded wondrous
observational treasures
greedily gobbled up
in cold, detached manner
until external forces
compelled the barrier
to break,
forcing the two entities
separated by
winter moonbeams
to mingle in
direct sunlight.

This new existence,
as frightening as it was fantastic,
compelled the once cocooned
to battle instinctive nature
to hide and protect
perceived vulnerabilities
while simultaneously
striving, straining to
compile and catalogue
countless new
external wonders
rapidly and thoroughly
as if time itself
were the enemy.

His mother
named him
after his father.

A perfectly ordinary name
for such an imperfect
ordinary birth.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 11 prompt: write a poem of origin (not just location, but emotionally, spiritually). I think this covers the essentials. I thought about going big and bombastic, but I felt that keeping it simple would be the more complete approach.

Day 10: Make This Work

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Photo by Zetong Li on Unsplash

Make This Work

Once content with affixing my fate to another’s will,
blissfully ignorant of the destination, gleefully
glib along the journey, suddenly I found myself
cruising along the gash of rainforest between

the Olympics and the Cascades, within a sea of green
and grey and greying, as if awakening from a dream
a persistent, insidious dream born from the mind
of another person, incapable of acting upon it.

We sped by the soggy world on a grey asphalt ribbon
as I became aware of the world spinning right past me

I didn’t choose to be here – not directly, anyway –
but I cheated death in relentless pursuit of someone
else’s dream destination; I’d forfeited my own path.

I was stranger to myself; ignorant of my own power.

There’s a saying around here; if you don’t like the weather,
wait five minutes, and then kill yourself. It was meant to be
darkly amusing, but after waking to my wasting of
my twenties, nestled within unending wet wintery darkness

of the United States’ armpit, waiting to die, the humor
was long lost on me, leading to a glacial resolution

Gradually, one resolute, measured drip at a time,
I began waking, slowly thawing my dreamy ice-prison,
taking full measure, exerting my will upon my own fate

The sunset pierced the clouds to the west,
bathing the left side of my face in warmth,
producing a double-rainbow to the east
as rain continued to pelt our shuttle.

Mamma told me when I was a child
that sunshowers meant that the Devil
was fighting with his wife. That visual
filled me with fear, but I dismissed it
as I got older. Now I’m not so sure.

“I already love it here!” my wife said,
beaming ear-to-ear. I remained silent.

“I love the rain! Isn’t it amazing?”

“No,” I said, “it’s not. But give me some time
to adjust. I think I can make this work for me.”
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 10 prompt: write a poem that starts from a regional phrase describing a weather phenomenon. I took some license with this one. I didn’t start the poem with the phrase, but I included two of them in my poem, so hopefully that makes up for my deviation.

Day 9: Things that Fulfill the Senses, Leaving Lasting Emptiness in their Wake

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Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Things that Fulfill the Senses, Leaving Lasting Emptiness in their Wake

1.
Singular flames
roosting, dancing atop candles,

especially collectively
as birthday cake toppers,

especially when singularly
illuminating rooms
where lovers begin loving
in earnest,

especially within places
of worship and vigil
and mourning

2.
The round, full sound of bells
singularly, as a bicycle warns stragglers
to make way

or when affixed upon a cat’s collar
to mitigate hiding and stalking,

or from the needs of a beloved
on their sickbed
requesting soup
or cuddles,

or the one tolling
for their sudden departure

3.
The round,
full sound of bells
in plural, as in church
bells after weddings, or a bright
rapid

sleigh bell
cacophony or incessant
rapid ringing of a
land line, leading
edge of

a next-of-kin notification

4.
Laughter of infants
discovering their toes for
the first time, followed

by squeals of discovery
that toes can be quite ticklish

5.
Laughter of my father,
which sounded like a warbling
singular bell when it hit him
deeply and unexpectedly,

informing my insecure childhood
that regardless of any
dire circumstances,

everything
was going to be alright
in the end

6.
My dad’s laugh,
despite himself,

accompanied by his
subtle rebuke and
halfhearted admonishment

as I made him laugh
repeatedly

by quietly mocking
my freshman health teacher
during parent-teacher
conference night

7.
My dad’s laugh, accompanied by
his circular dance on an invisible candle,

as his wide, astonished eyes
observed for the first time,

his adult son, fitted in service dress blues
as a newly-minted Navy boot camp graduate;

I scarcely believe his swelling pride
let his feet touch the ground once

8.
Two decades later,
with a raspy hiss
replacing his resounding laugh,

dad’s eyes,
laughingly admiring me
even as his raspy voice
admonished me

against making him laugh
as it aggravated his cancer
as I continued instigating

because cancer deserves to be
agitated, unseated
whenever possible

9.
Those rare moments when
hilarity takes me by surprise,
causing me to break out
in giggle-fits, only to hear

the warbled-bell of dad’s laugh
ringing from deep within me,

or when I catch him
peeking at me
from my own reflection

as I wipe tears
of laughter
from my eyes

10.
Toes.
I mean, what can I say?
Babies are right; toes are both
hilarious and mostly worthless.
***

Happy Birthday, Dad. You would’ve been 67 today.

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 9 prompt: write your own Sei Shonagon-style list of “things.”

 

Day 8: Two Factors of Access

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Image by author

Two Factors of Access

Trust-association
with me requires
two-factor authentication.

First respect the space
– all space – between you
and me,

boundaries – all types
– especially life
and death.

Secondly – and this
is of paramount importance
– I cannot tell you

out loud
or in print.

With a whisper,
you’ll know.
***

Written for dVerse Quadrille #77 – Ace of Poems, and for NaPoWriMo’s day 8 prompt: using business jargon a metaphor for a poem.

Day 7: Of Nothing and Everything

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Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Of Nothing and Everything

I.
We are born with no expectations
needs are another matter
connections are made and broken
attachment chains us to fallacy
nostalgia affixes our affections
regret is an illusory gift

II.
I knew you had another
saw you kiss him, looked away
saw through your lazy lies
embraced an empty peach pit
knowing that I deserved it
and perhaps, even less

III.
Told you I’d walk my “friend” home
you saw us flirting, looked away
ignored my brittle excuse
you waited in our empty bed
as I fumbled her darkness for light
leveraging for fullness

IV.
Briefly escaping her fiancé’s warmth
she incinerated herself upon a stranger
telling herself it doesn’t count
thighs crush demands for clarity
trading vows on embers of virtue
fading blissfully into warm sunset

V.
No one deserves anything
ready yourself to release infinity
embrace, learn our broken landscape
most hymns sung are incomplete
from revival to wake; no joy without sorrow
we own nothing, for we are everything
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 7 prompt: write a poem of gifts and joy. At first glance, my poem may appear to be a subversion of the prompt, but that wasn’t my intent.

Day 6: Resting Near the River

Resting Near the River

What if Hades’ waiting room
were a McDonald’s
at 9:30am
on a weekday?

With white collar and working class
having already reported to work,

leaving only retirees
regrouping transients
and the unhurried condemned,

resigned to inevitable fate,
hastened by McGrizzled breakfasts
of dubious origin.

Youthful anachronisms
among innumerable ancient ones
include a young Asian couple

finishing their coffees and mutual flirtations,
as hand in hand, they exit the side-door,
crossing the parking lot towards the river Styx.

An even younger mother
is herding a set of toddler-twins,
awakened earlier than they prefer

as they now crankily demand
identical sausage patties
and cheap toys destined for landfills.

What if life is as
bland and purposeless as the
hashbrown I just ate?

One common element of McHades –
aside from the young lovers – it seems that
none here seems pleased with their present
or eager to embrace their futures;

it is a collective rumination,
a group-think procrastination.

What if none of this matters?

But each of us must face what comes next,
and one by one, we do,
slipping through the side-door,

first the flirting couple,
next the mother of sleepy twins,

with the countless octogenarians
each taking as much time as they wish
in gathering their past achievements
and unspoken unfilled ambitions.

What if it’s all just a game,
and I’ve been chasing the wrong things?

My phone vibrates, warning me
that I must soon return to my role
supporting the white-collar,
working-class worlds.

I finish my Sausage McBluffen with Egg
and exit through the side-door. The river

seems much closer these days, but still
I still have a ways to go.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 6 prompt: write a poem that emphasizes the power of “if”.

Day 5: Tethered

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Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

Tethered

I ain’t much on Casanova
Languishing in purgatory on kite strings
I would love you anyway

My world, ignited by your display
Never meant to fixate on pleasure’s lite stings
I ain’t much on Casanova

Just fly your kite; I’ll soar right over
And if you demur from what pleasure might bring
I would love you anyway

Your spark within me will never decay
Though passion-bound, no fancy flights do I cling
I ain’t much on Casanova

Our kite strings are tangled, interwoven
Should you cut the line, fleeing on thermal upswing
I would love you anyway

Tethered in disheveled, joyful disarray
Memories and fantasies carry me over
I ain’t much on Casanova
But I would love you anyway
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s day 5 prompt: “write a poem that incorporates at least one of the following: (1) the villanelle form, (2) lines taken from an outside text, and/or (3) phrases that oppose each other in some way. If you can use two elements, great – and if you can do all three, wow!”

I gotta be honest, though I’m pleased with the outcome, I wasn’t a fan of this prompt. I found it a bit restrictive, like trying to box a kangaroo inside a telephone booth. (If you’re wondering why anyone would ever do that, well that’s kind of my point, isn’t it?)

I know the prompts are obviously optional, but I’m a sequential thinker and not one to bail on an artistic challenge. Well, not today, apparently, as I managed to box all three elements inside this telephone booth.

Showing my work:

“I ain’t much on Casanova” is from Casanova, by Levert.

“I would love you anyway” is from Sweet Thing, by Rufus and Chaka Kahn