Day 27: Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

This thing is defective.

It fails to connect,
except that when it does,
it will burn itself out.

But it almost never does.

The camouflage is
impregnable to a fault;
if worn for too long,
crisis of identity will occur.

The bubble is beautiful,
if its theory is explained,
which it never is.

It protects by deflection,
gestating its own physics,
lighter than oxygen,
sturdier than steel,

ridicule-resistant,
but nonexistent
once integrity
is compromised.

This could lead to a
cascading failure
and frozen self-reflection.

The external shielding
and internal barriers
can become polarized, and
is susceptible to both

self-aggrandizement
and self-loathing
meeting incidentally,
annihilating everything.

At this critical point,
mixing with alcohol
and cannabis products
is not recommended

but it is most likely
inevitable.

Overall, all it’s really good for
is writing poetry,
cracking mean-spirited jokes,
overanalyzing its passions and joys,
and waiting for death.

Retention recommended,
but only for the jokes.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Today’s prompt:

And now for our (optional) prompt. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)

Well that was easy…

Day 26: Sculpting You

Image by Nadine Doerlé from Pixabay 

Sculpting You

I run my hands across your marble,
molding you into a goddess to worship,
cupping your curves in a familiar pattern;

suddenly, through repetition,
derivation of muscle-memory
we both know the way your lines end,

so I blend charcoal
and the ashes of Nefertari
to color your purity,

but your smile tells me
that the sun has shined for both
the old and new goddesses;
divine birth and rebirth;
unblemished, and golden-kissed.

You whisper the mantra
already breathed into life countless times
before, by you and then I, folded,
and then refolded upon we
and suddenly, I am unfit to carry on.

Your familiarity reaches out
beyond the common monolithic
colorless slab as if to say,

“I know you know. We are
already well-acquainted. But
will you start again, anyway?”

I smile to myself,
molding your rounded flesh,
flexing densely-knotted muscle fibers
into a slightly different direction,
knowing that you already know
that I will.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 26: Today’s prompt:

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). This is one that we’ve used before, but one test of a  good prompt is that you can come back to it! For this prompt, you will need to fill out, in five minutes or less, the following “Almanac Questionnaire.” Then, use your responses as to basis for a poem.

I tinkered with this prompt for about thirty minutes after answering the questionnaire (My answers listed below) before completely abandoning the prompt. The prompt itself is fine, but I began to experience Deja-vu, as if I were just retreading old thoughts, writing the same themes, and feeling rather stagnant and unoriginal.

At that point, I stopped, and gave myself permission to start again, independent of the prompt. The result still feels like themes I’ve covered before, but it also gave me an unbound sense of expression, so I went with it.

Maybe I’ll return another day to tinker with my answers to the Almanac Questionnaire.

Almanac Questionnaire

Weather: overcast, calm
Flora: evergreen, fir, new green, apple blossoms
Architecture: twenty-first century modern residence
Customs: America first, hoard the most nuts
Mammals/reptiles/fish: deer, bunnies, coyotes
Childhood dream: play halfback for the Bears
Found on the Street: nothing substantial
Export: thoughts, prayers, comedy
Graffiti: none
Lover: strong, confident, vulnerable
Conspiracy: only a genius could fake such stupidity
Dress: aggressively casual
Hometown memory: Bulls winning the 91 NBA Championship
Notable person: Kendrick Lamar
Outside your window, you find: air and water
Today’s news headline: tedious and depressing, as usual
Scrap from a letter: “You will not have this day…” (Seriously, Who has written a letter recently? I went with Chancellor Gowron’s last words after Worf, son of Mogh killed him in one-on-one armed combat during the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Yes, I’m a nerd.)
Animal from a myth: Pegasus
Story read to children at night: Go the Fuck to Sleep
You walk three minutes down an alley and you find: the scene of my mugging
You walk to the border and hear: slander, hearsay, and tribalism
What you fear: spiders, exotic insects, tribalism
Picture on your city’s postcard: A curtain being drawn beyond the Magnificent Mile, revealing the quiet suffering of its forgotten citizens. 

Day 25: Starting Back at One

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay 

Starting Back at One

There is a madness, a quickening, a voice
saying things one feels to be true, but
doesn’t want to hear, and so we stop and
shutter the door to beginning, living
in a state of non-living, but waiting for
death as if it were the next bus out of the
slum of existence, and so maybe the voice
should be revisited and heard to see where
it leads, and so we settle into the sound
even though we know it as a figment of
an active ego we’re vying to wrestle
control from, even if for just a moment
and the only sound observed should resonate
from the pulse, the heartbeat, the controlled breathing
of one who is close to oneness, for the voice
is just an awakening of noisy mind
being disciplined into silence as our
eyelids lower and the body sinks into
the chair and then the ground and then the softness
of cosmic fabric, and for the briefest of
moments it is felt, the connection we so
secretly crave has been there all along, for
you and I are now linked to everything
and everyone that has ever lived and who
will come after we are dust, and thusly, the
voice is silenced for a moment as water
becomes what is it shaped to become, just as
you and I have become water and the spring
season beckons a sliver of all seasons,
the pollen that tickles the nose coming from
a breeze that was the dying breath of artic  
jet-streams thousands of miles ago, roused by a
global spin and the sun’s disparate heating
of the sky; it is all connected as we
are unified by the breath of life, so when
I yield to you, I’m yielding to us, and once
bowed and humbled, you will see the good earth
and know that it is both ours and no one’s.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Today’s prompt:

Because it’s a Saturday, I have an (optional) prompt for you that takes a little time to work through — although you can certainly take short-cuts through it, if you like! The prompt, which you can find in its entirety here, was  developed by the poet and teacher Hoa Nguyen, asks you to use a long poem by James Schuyler as a guidepost for your poem. (You may remember James Schuyler from our poetry resource for Day 2.) This is a prompt that allows you to sink deeply into another poet’s work, as well as your own.

I included a bit of a shortcut to this prompt. While I found the poetry of James Schuyler to be amazing and engaging, listening to the speaker read it was a bit grating and took me out of it. Instead, I read it myself while playing a live Tibetan meditation music channel from YouTube. Midway through reading, I broke-off and began crafting my own poem based on how I felt in the moment, paying no heed to the other steps.

I think I did pretty ok. I certainly felt better allowing for a stream of consciousness and getting out of its way a bit before returning to shape it a bit. It was an intriguing experience and helped to center me a bit.

Day 24: Ripened

Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay 

Ripened

Never been one like my first;

scent of a mad bloom
throwing syrupy hints
dying to be eaten

royal dark sheen,
slick like a first kiss,
pristine and unbruised

firm, yet yielding to the touch,
thin skin barely containing
ripened flesh for
my mouth only

gushing at my first nibble,
flowing down hand and face

sticky-sweet in a way
of forgetting decorum

noisily slurping and smacking,
moaning as taste buds are
perfectly triggered

as the natural sugars and dopamine
hit the brain simultaneously
in a way that can only be felt as

so good I didn’t care
who saw the mess it left behind
as I rung-out the last
pulp from the pit between
palette and tongue.

But your first plum
may have been different.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 24: Today’s prompt:

Today’s prompt is a fairly simple one: to write about a particular fruit – your choice. But I’d like you to describe this fruit as closely as possible. Perhaps your poem could attempt to tell the reader some (or all!) of the following about your chosen fruit: What does it look like, how does it feel, how does it smell, what does it taste like, where did you find it, do you need to thump it to know if it’s ripe, how do you get into it (peeling, a knife, your teeth), do you need to spit out the seeds, should you bake it, can you make jam with it, do you have to fight the birds for it, when is it available, do you need a ladder to pick it, what is your favorite memory of eating it, if you threw it at someone’s head would it splatter them or knock them out, is it expensive . . . As you may have realized from this list, there’s honestly an awful lot you can write about a fruit!

Day 23: Zombification

Photo by Manny Fortin on Unsplash

Zombification

All advanced abilities accelerate acuity
building blockbuster bombers bought by beneficiaries
cream character carrying clear champion characteristics
divine dream delivered directly, developing defenses
evermore elevated electronically earning engagement
faith forever feeling for friction, fielding factual figments
guidance giving gold gems, galvanizing governments
households handhold, hating hazardous harassments
intelligence in implementing inspired improvements
justified jabber jolting jackbooted judgements
knowledge kamikazes, kings kneel, kindnesses kneads
leaving lost leviathans leveled, limiting labeled leads
militants move, mourning monumental misdeeds
never needed nanoseconds navigating nouns
optimism; oneness offers occasional ounce
pathologically ponder potential possibilities
quickly questing quippy quirky quantitative qualities
roads rounding reality, reducing reliability
sociolinguistics sold sonically, scaling solidarity
thermodynamics telepathically, tantrically taught
uncertain unstable upheaval underbought
vivacious values ventured, verifying victorious vision
winners without wielding weapons; xenolithic xenon
xeroxed xerophilous yielding yearning zombification
***

NaPoWriMo Day 23: Today’s prompt:

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) asks you to write a poem about a particular letter of the alphabet, or perhaps, the letters that form a short word. Doesn’t “S” look sneaky and snakelike? And “W” clearly doesn’t know where it’s going! Think about the shape of the letter(s), and use that as the take-off point for your poem. Need an example? Here is my down-and-dirty translation of Eduardo Galeano’s “The letters of the word AMOR”:

The A has its legs open.
The M is a seesaw that comes and goes between heaven and hell.
The O is a closed circle, it will choke you.
The R is scandalously pregnant.

All of the letters of the word AMOR are dangerous.

Full-disclosure: I know how fortunate I am under the circumstances, but I let my livelihood take more from me than I wanted today. My day-job fried my brain and wrecked my whole vibe. That’s why today’s prompt is so late and devoid of emotion. At least I wrote something. Tomorrow’s a new day.

Day 22: Like the Last Good Day

Image by Nel Botha from Pixabay 

Like the Last Good Day

One afternoon in your next reincarnation,
as the crow recognizes your intent
and the rainclouds run dry of metaphor;
daylight, weakened, outliving its worth
you will know the pain of sending me away
and I will disappear like the last good day
returning only when you swallow the sun
chasing the bitter-soaked roots of regret
today you will squawk and I will remain
returning to roost by your side despite you
you can deny the blue sky if you want
though you can’t see it, you know it exists
but one afternoon in your next lonesome life,
the starling will sing; you’ll hear the whispers
you’ll feel the last good day, as it lingers
but never today, for it lingers for you.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 22: Today’s prompt:

Our (optional) prompt for the day asks you to engage with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Many different cultures have proverbs or phrases that have largely the same meaning, but are expressed in different ways. For example, in English we say “his bark is worse than his bite,” but the same idea in Spanish would be stated as “the lion isn’t as fierce as his painting.” Today, I’d like to challenge you to find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem. Here’s are a few lists to help get you started: Onetwothree.

Source URL: NaPoWriMo Day 22

What I used:

From Thai translator Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut:

The idiom: ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ
Literal translation: “One afternoon in your next reincarnation.”
What it means: “It’s never gonna happen.”
Other languages this idiom exists in: A phrase that means a similar thing in English: “When pigs fly.” In French, the same idea is conveyed by the phrase, “when hens have teeth (quand les poules auront des dents).” In Russian, it’s the intriguing phrase, “When a lobster whistles on top of a mountain (Когда рак на горе свистнет).” And in Dutch, it’s “When the cows are dancing on the ice (Als de koeien op het ijs dansen).”

Source: TED Blog

This was fun! I enjoyed playing with expectations a bit with this one.

Day 21: Confounded Twilight

Photo by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash

Confounded Twilight

Afternoon sun poured into rung-out cloud-tops
allowing only enough light
to confound twilight
when it comes

The green beneath it blossomed into harmony
buds that would later burst into foreign tongue
reflecting moonlight poorly
as moonlight poorly stands in
for the sun

April taps patiently on panes, and I am unmoved
Everything in its own time,
even me

She was an unscalable mess, indifferent to fate,
even as night falls
and I no different from her
or even you

I cannot subsist on a diet of breadcrumbs
nor will I entwine my vines
to be nourished by yours

There’s no known scarcity compelling me
to rebreathe your air

On-tempo or asynchronous,
we may both live

As you become a tree,
I shall admire your knotted timbre

But I’m no mockingbird; I’ll sing beneath you,
announcing our quarry
to the other coyotes

Or I’ll shine above you, as your limbs reach
for my moonlight
***

NaPoWriMo Day 21: Today’s Prompt:

Find a poem in a language that you don’t know, and perform a “homophonic translation” on it. What does that mean? Well, it means to try to translate the poem simply based on how it sounds. You may not wind up with a credible poem at the end, but this can be a fun way to step outside of your own mind for a bit, and develop a poem that speaks in a distinctive voice. 

Yeah, nah. I went off-prompt today, as much as hated to do so. I’ve done homophonic translations many times before, but it just didn’t do anything for me this time. I couldn’t turn off my rational brain long enough to create a word palette with which to experiment.

I gave it a go, but bending the foreign words into something else that made sense in English felt weird to me this time. I used to do this a lot with J-Pop, K-Pop, and anime theme music, but twisting the words of a foreign poet felt wrong to me on some level. I’m not sure how I’d feel if someone twisted a poem of mine about some heavy topic like racism or injustice into some kind of child’s nursery rhyme.

Meh, I’m probably reading too much into it. I couldn’t get out of my own head this time. Oh well.

Day 20: The Smiling Lady

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

The Smiling Lady

She crafted me a
lopsided chocolate cake
from a box with
a picture-perfect cake
and a smiling lady on it,
having just enough frosting
to scrawl HAPPY B-DAY SON
on it;

settled next to cousin’s
store-bought, soulless
gourmet masterpiece,
my “homemade” confection
stood out like a lumpy shrug,
and I was embarrassed
for it,

not for the obvious optics
and subtle jabs from relatives,
but I was undone at the seams
because deep down, I could feel
momma’s humiliation
at her best effort.

Knowing where her heart was,
and needing her to know mine,
months later, during a spring bloom,
I plucked the finest, loveliest
weeds I could find,
careful to select only the
prettiest undesirables
for the grandest dandelion bouquet
known to mankind.

I could tell
by the smile on her face
that I’d made my point.

She even went
and made another lumpy cake
with the lady smiling on the box.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 20: Today’s prompt:

Today, in gratitude for making it to Day 20, our (optional) prompt asks you to write a poem about a handmade or homemade gift that you have received. It could be a friendship bracelet made for you by a grade-school classmate, an itchy sweater from your Aunt Louisa, a plateful of cinnamon toast from your grandmother, a mix-tape from an old girlfriend. And whatever gift you choose, we wish you happy writing!

Yeah, I wasn’t really into this prompt, but I did it anyway because I couldn’t think of an alternative. What more can I say? Have some lumpy cake.

Day 19: Manicured Path

Photo by Avi Waxman on Unsplash

Manicured Path

We made it halfway up before yielding
to father time and self-imposed inertia.

Bending onto a level manicured path,
a young tree bloomed in watercolor reds;
a beautiful alien among
puffy white sapling blossoms.

Along a strip of conformity where
anything out-of-place is hammered, snipped,
or sprayed into one of the approved labels,
the tree of rubies grabs the eye for all
the reasons, right, wrong, or otherwise.

Towering firs in the distance command focus,
even as humanity carved condos,
two-car garages, and rickety steps
into where their cousins were felled years ago.

They stretch and slowly sway stoically
against the light breeze, reminding all
to stand as tall as their posture allows
and inhale deeply, accepting their
regifted oxygen, exhaling in
mutual respiration.

The opposite side of the valley,
across the Sammamish river,
teams with every shade of green,
blending seamlessly into each other,
accepting the uncolored order
before bowing to man’s rectangular
boxy factories and warehouses, each
aligned to and more unremarkable
than the last beige, bland nothing.

Between the bland boxes and us
lies another greenbelt with an overgrown
abandoned rail line cutting through it;
a boundary noted and ignored by most.

Near the bottom of the rickety stair landing,
two teens social-distance together
with their tiny dog, who silently,
but rightfully eyes me suspiciously.

I doubt he’s ever seen the likes
of me in his territory before.

But he shrugs it off, finding a
far more intriguing scent, oblivious
to the nearby blackberries at war
with a similarly invasive species.

The shrub battle is waged on its own time
and would’ve gone unnoticed by my eyes
had my beloved not been beside me to
pull me out of our moment,
drawing attention to it.

She often helps me see things
with new colors and angles,
bending our halfway-uphill trips
into an unyielding odyssey.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 19: Today’s prompt:

Today, our optional prompt challenges you to write a poem based on a “walking archive.” What’s that? Well, it’s when you go on a walk and gather up interesting things – a flower, a strange piece of bark, a rock. This then becomes your “walking archive” – the physical instantiation of your walk. If you’re unable to get out of the house (as many of us now are), you can create a “walking archive” by wandering around your own home and gathering knick-knacks, family photos, maybe a strange spice or kitchen gadget you never use. One you’ve finished your gathering, lay all your materials out on  a tray table, like museum specimens. Now, let your group of materials inspire your poem! You can write about just one of the things you’ve gathered, or how all of them are all linked, or even what they say about you, who chose them and brought them together.

Of course, upon hearing that in order to stay on prompt, I’d have to leave the house, my wife was thrilled. Me, not so much, but hey, I did it.

Day 18: Nutrient and Toxin

Image by author

Nutrient and Toxin

The world burns
with the worst
humanity has to offer
along with a contagion
coldly vying to
finish the job.

The country where I was born
continues its fine tradition
of ignoring its festering
generational wounds,
allowing a con man
to bankrupt its already
decaying conscience.

The new neighborhood
is full of facile smiles
too perfectly affixed
upon the only books
I’d rather not open.

The sky is heavy,
densely burdened by
the shade of sorrow
that spittles rain in mists
too fine to be noticeable
until it beads upon
fresh spring leaves
and slickens the path
enough to reflect
dreary clouds
back into us.

The tears fall from her face,
mingling internal precipitation
with external condensation;
a reflection of both
my subconscious betrayal,
and the nature of nature.

The sugary-tart sunshine
emanates from my glass of
vodka-spiked orange juice,
rendered pale by soaked,
anemic daylight spilling
into my window.

The long swig I take,
soaking in nutrient and toxin,
reminds me that I still draw breath,
and therefore there’s
always a chance to
set things right.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 18: Today’s prompt:

Our optional prompt for the day also honors the idea of Saturday (the Saturdays of the soul, perhaps?), by challenging you to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. Perhaps it’s the first sip of your morning coffee. Or finding some money in the pockets of an old jacket. Discovering a bird’s nest in a lilac bush or just looking up at the sky and watching the clouds go by.