Day 26 – The Best Part of Spring

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Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

The Best Part of Spring

Aquatic percussion,
natural rhythm
on my roof.

Silvery sheen refracting,
dimming daylight,
bowing grass, flower,
each saturated bough.

Atmospheric condensation
hits green earth, hue deepening
unlocking renewal fragrance;
it smells of joy and tastes of life.

And if you’ve never
felt raindrops on your face, well,
don’t just sit here
waiting for the description;

get up, right now, and
go stand out in the spring rain.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 26 prompt:

write a poem that includes images that engage all five senses. Try to be as concrete and exact as possible with the “feel” of what the poem invites the reader to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.

Day 25 – Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

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Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

You’ve decided
to care for a Barry!

You’ve made a unique
and challenging choice,
for not all Barrys are alike,
and this Barry in particular
has some particularly odd bugs,

or as Barry likes to call them,
“features”.

Here are some helpful guidelines
to keep your Barry operational
while minimizing withering glares,
mopey brooding,

and angry muttering
of rude things
under his breath.

Caution: depressed
and highly flammable.

Do not enjoy around
children or pets.

Or other people.

Do not mix with bourbon,
unless you’re eager to learn
the unvarnished truth about him,
yourself, and
that girl he’s secretly crushing on.

Can be rendered inert,
philosophical,
deeply meta,
and rather giggly
if combined with marijuana.

He may also refer to marijuana
as “jazz cigarettes” because
he just heard that squares
called them that in the 60’s
and he can’t stop giggling about it.

It is highly likely that your Barry
is under the influence of
jazz cigarettes at the moment of
creating this third-person,
self-referential missive.

If your Barry wants to tell you
about the path beyond his garden,
do not interrupt him
or tell him you heard this story before.

This can lead to resentful muttering.

But the most important warning:
just be kind – not just to Barry,
but to everyone you encounter
–  because none of this matters
if I’m right and we only live once,

but if I’m right and we only live once,
nothing could be more important than
leading and leaving with kindness.

Thank you for caring for your Barry
no back-sies!
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 25 prompt: “write a poem that takes the form of a warning label . . . for yourself!”

(Full-disclosure: My new job and surviving on three hours of sleep per night had me shuttering the doors early on NaPoWriMo, but one of my most respected poetry friends kicked me in the butt. She said I have poems to write, and so I guess I have a few back-payments to make.)

Day 24 – Elegy of Beloved Disputes

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View from my livingroom  window. (Ignore the trash bins and the ugly Hooptie. It’s my son’s fault they’re in the picture.) 

Elegy of Beloved Disputes

The path beyond my garden
leads to my favorite tree,
bursting with flowers that
remind me of you and

it occurs to me that
you would’ve marveled at
my sweet-scented tree if you
were still alive to smell it.

The sudden reminder of
your absence steals a breath
or two from me, and then
I laugh at the absurdity.

Asthma took your laugh
from me permanently.
It is an affliction
of the lungs, you see?

Had you lived long enough to
fill your lungs with my
beloved tree,

you’d have sided with Wifey,
demanding its removal.

I don’t like confrontation,
but I’d like to think I would
have enjoyed that argument.
***

Every morning on report card day, from kindergarten to third grade, momma would sing this song to me while I was eating my cereal. It was hilarious. It was terrifying. I fucking loved it. 

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 24 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

I’ve written elegies for both parents, and both of my grandmothers passed away last year, so I wasn’t exactly eager for this prompt. Still, I couldn’t resist the challenge of adding some hopefulness to a poem about loss. Best to keep it short though.

Day 23 – Bowling Green Sixteen

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Photo by Daniel Sandvik on Unsplash

Bowling Green Sixteen

The path beyond my garden
is no place for strangers
heat exchanged; your
clear and presently dangerous
slanderous, your vandal-savage rush
gamblers score scandals, ravenous

the monster you fear is me
stalking through ravines
turn back, I disappear; you see
flocking crows and smoke screens
resolve broke so flee the scene
dissolve, choke, no histamine
can help you breathe or intervene
with shadow’s verbal mescaline

I’m the spark unseen;
your heart pumps gasoline
need a match? I don’t mean
to make routine so Byzantine
but I’ll render you to nothing
like massacring Bowling Green
and I will stay between
harmonic mean of unforeseen

not sending sixteen
from aquamarine to twilight
but I can vent my spleen
with Listerine despite fright
***

R.I.P. Craig Mack

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 23 prompt:

Kate Greenstreet’s poetry is spare, but gives a very palpable sense of being spoken aloud – it reads like spoken language sounds. In our interview with her, she underscores this, stating that “when you hear it, you write it down.” Today, we challenge you to honor this idea with a poem based in sound. The poem, for example, could incorporate overheard language. Perhaps it could incorporate a song lyric in some way, or language from something often heard spoken aloud (a prayer, a pledge, the Girl Scout motto). Or you could use a regional or local phrase from your hometown that you don’t hear elsewhere, e.g. “that boy won’t amount to a pinch.”

I didn’t really know what to do with this one, as I’m almost always aware of how my poems sound. With that in mind, I went back to my roots and tried penning a sixteen-bar hip-hop-esque freestyle, referencing the fictional Bowling Green Massacre.

I’m not entirely happy with the results, but I’m finally caught-up with the prompts, so I call it a net-win.

Day 22 – Myth of Stillness

Myth of Stillness

The path beyond my garden
belies the lies unlearned in time

as if the stars cannot
rearrange themselves in the sky
for us; as if

they, you and I,
all known things
aren’t in constant states of motion,
learning and unlearning.

Stars coalesce, are born,
then die and scatter,
its matter mingling with matter
from other dead stars,
coalescing into newer,
denser stars,

the cycle renewed in timelines
beyond our real-time observation.

Our sun is at least
a second-generation star
in this manner,
and the world of me and you
thrives on its energy.

This is how you and I came to be,

and yes, we are
but sentient star remnants
in constant motion.

That’s how you and I
came to coalesce.

It takes four years
for the light of the next
nearest star to reach
the solar system of
me and you.

The twinkle we shared when we first met
began its journey way back when
you and I were still clinging to
dying systems separately, orbiting
resentment and dysfunctionality
until implosion.

And yet for that random twinkle to mingle
with the twinkle in our locked eyes that night

as we danced to Earth, Wind & Fire,
the elements conspiring us to groove together,
shifting constellations of past lives,

don’t you dare tell me that me and you
didn’t move the stars themselves to
make this fusion happen.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 22 prompt:

I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

Happy writing!

I feel like I cheated a bit, as the stars are in constant motion, but this motion is mostly beyond our limited powers of perception, but hey, it counts.

Day 21 – Nemesis Shrugged

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By Alfred Rethel – 1. The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.2. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=158201

Nemesis Shrugged

The path beyond my garden exists,
even now, effortlessly balanced,
but carefully curated in a manner
most pleasing to me, Nemesis,
goddess of what mortals believe
to be divine retribution.

I know not where they came up with
this idea of my being
righteous and wrathful,
but I saw no reason to correct this
erroneous persona.

I am only concerned with
my garden’s natural equilibrium.

And nothing more than that.

But lo came a haughty disruption
in the form of a man called Narcissus
by the wind’s echo;
a man so enraptured by his own beauty
that his self-indulgent joy caused
both mortal and immortal suffering.

Another mortal, mortally wounded
by vain, callous, unrequited love,
prayed to me to teach the man a lesson
for all the pain he caused,
and I was inclined to grant this wish,

not as retribution,
for man’s suffering
is of no concern of mine,

but to restore the effortless balance
lost by one man contemplating
his exquisiteness at expense
of other’s souls.

I came across this princely man
at the heights of his self-enrapture,
gazing upon his own reflection
in one of my garden pools.

Indeed, he was the most beautiful man
I’d ever encountered,
but I am immortal, and immune
to his superficial, secular charms.

As I positioned myself,
readied to deliver My Judgement,
the vain fool lost his footing,
fell into the pond,
and drowned.

Word spread among mortals
that I caused him to fall in love
with his own reflection,
but that is beyond my powers.

His own nature was the source
of many of nature’s problems,
and verily, it provided
its own solution.

Nature is self-sufficient in that way.

As my garden’s balance righted itself,
and humanity also learned
a timeless lesson,

I saw no reason
to correct this erroneous tale.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 21 prompt:

And now for our (optional) prompt. In her interview, Brim provides us with several suggestions for generative writing exercises, and we’d like to challenge to today to tackle her third one, which is based in the myth of Narcissus. After reading the myth, try writing a poem that plays with the myth in some way. For example, you could imagine that imagine the water is speaking to you, the narcissus flower. Or you could write a poem in which the narcissus berates the Kardashians for stealing their neurosis. Or a poem that comments on the narcissism of our time, i.e. beauty and body obsession, etc.

Full-disclosure: Recently, I already wrote a Narcissus-themed poem, called Echo’s Lament. I almost skipped this prompt, when I thought of this other angle from the perspective of the goddess Nemesis. After writing this one, I’m glad I didn’t skip this prompt. 🙂

Day 20 – Two-Part Harmony

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Photo by yousef alfuhigi on Unsplash

Two-Part Harmony

The path beyond my garden leads
to worlds beneath blanket of sky
a verse of footfall’s lullaby
I walk the mist where breeze recedes

Her breath lifts wings of butterfly
the path beyond my garden leads
to shores where she heeds by her deeds
I add my verse as battle cry

Our voices foil and amplify
a duet on the winds and reeds
the path beyond my garden leads
to where our songs reunify

Melody sparks the Pleiades
starlight won’t sing a sad goodbye
she croons with me as we pass by
the path beyond my garden leads
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 20 prompt:

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) takes its cue from Notley’s rebelliousness, and asks you to write a poem that involves rebellion in some way. The speaker or subject of the poem could defy a rule or stricture that’s been placed on them, or the poem could begin by obeying a rule and then proceed to break it (for example, a poem that starts out in iambic pentameter, and then breaks into sprawling, unmetered lines). Or if you tend to write funny poems, you could rebel against yourself, and write something serious (or vice versa). Whatever approach you take, your poem hopefully will open a path beyond the standard, hum-drum ruts that every poet sometimes falls into.

Ironically, I’ve done so much free-verse in the past month that the most rebellious thing I could do right now is to actually stick with a form verbatim, and perhaps incorporate a rhyme scheme too. I used the quatern form and added an “abba-baab” rhyme scheme to enhance my little “rebellion”.

I first saw the quatern on Shannon’s blog post, located here. I told you I’d give it a shot, Shannon!

Day 19 – Untitled (Or, Why I Hate Erasure Poems)

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Untitled

The path beyond my garden
cinderblock, asphalt, dirt
once meant to be green
dirt fields Kill the Man
one kid with football goal
keep off the grass signs
tackled by two-dozen kids

Reward privilege of trying
score winner reputation
defend your place by word

I, The Professor, called teachers
asking more for free

Stripes on dirt field
bone-crushing tackles
they cheered when others would
call me hyperbolic, but
I was so big

Derisive friends
crush emboldened love
I plagiarize, reconstruct my point
with jazz, funk, and soul

Her name was safe
thirty-five years ago
her fate foreign, I loved her
with whole heart
she blushed,
Judy Blume befuddled

Older brother, throwing
with crooked smirk
Cheshire Cat pretending
almost comfortable enough

Upended by something terrible.
***

Alright… that’s enough of that shit. Here’s an appropriate palette-cleanser:

I wrote this for NaPoWriMo Day 19 prompt, which is an erasure prompt, but I just gave up midway, as I absolutely despise making erasure poems. Writing erasure poems is literally my least favorite style. It makes me irrationally angry that the words don’t fit exactly the way I want them to. I don’t even know why I stuck at this for so long, but I’ve had enough. Let’s just pretend like this one didn’t happen, OK?

If you’re curious about the text I pulled this erasure poem from, just go to this essay.

I know I’m technically still a day behind (I’m not counting the previous haibun), but I gotta go get this bad taste out of my mouth. I’ll try to catch up tomorrow.

I’m so mad at this poem I wanna fight somebody. 

 

The Tough Terrain

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Image source: urban.org

The Tough Terrain

The path beyond my garden was once concrete, cinderblock, brick, asphalt, and dirt fields that were once meant to be green. On those dirt fields, we played a game called “Kill the Man”, where one kid would try to run with the football from one goal – marked by the faded “keep off the grass” signs – to the other without being tackled by the two-dozen other kids clamoring to clobber him. If the kid got tackled, he’d throw the ball up in the air, and we’d scratch, claw, and elbow each other for the right to possess the ball and be the next runner to be clobbered.

If you scored a goal, your reward was the privilege of trying to make it back through the masses to the other goal. We didn’t keep score. There was no winner. There was only your reputation to defend; your place etched in cinderblock by word of mouth.

I started out as The Professor. That’s what they called me because of my coke-bottle glasses, my nose usually being in a book, and my uncanny math-solving skills that had teachers asking me to participate in the academic Olympics – a request I declined, as I know when adults were gaming kids with more homework, and I wasn’t working overtime for free.

I entered the field as The Professor, but after a few weeks of earning my stripes on that dirt field, they started calling me something else. They marveled at my elusiveness as “The Man”, oooed and ahhed at my prowess in delivering bone-crushing tackles for someone so comically undersized, and they cheered me on as I never quit on a play, even when all others would. They began to call me Superman, which was rather hyperbolic, but I was only Superman on the field, so no big.

Off the field, I was still The Professor, but it was no longer a derisive term. I had friends, I had a best friend, and I even had a crush who I was emboldened enough to write love notes. I knew little of emoting in writing, but I knew enough to plagiarize and reconstruct whole sections of Judy Blume novels to get my point across; chopping and screwing words the way hip-hop DJ’s worked their magic with jazz, funk, and soul.

Her name was Charise Parker. I’m probably safe revealing her name, as this was some thirty-five years and 1,732.91 miles ago, and her fate and familiarity are now foreign to me. But I loved her as much as a ten-year-old could love a girl with his whole heart. She liked me as a friend, but she still blushed at reading my Judy Blume samples, and she let me play jump-rope with her homegirls, which befuddled the boys who played “Kill the Man”.

Her older brother would play catch with me, always throwing the ball much harder than I could catch, always with a wry, crooked smirk on his face. I imagine that if his smile ever showed teeth, he’d disappear like the Cheshire Cat. It was like he knew I was just pretending to be hard, but he didn’t care. As long as his sister liked me, he treated me like a pesky kid brother. And with her, I was almost comfortable enough to show her the parts of me I hid from brick viewpoints.

Almost.

(Aside: My hard-fought place in the universe would eventually be upended by something terrible and completely unrelated to those kids who had given me a seat in the dirt, but that’s another story I won’t get into here.)

I would school hard and play hard, and then come home to momma and Phil and our afternoon/evening routine. In addition to watching cartoons, doing my homework, and helping Phil with his, I was keeping tabs on Baby Fae, the infant with a heart defect, who had her heart replaced with that of a baboon’s. It was supposed to be a miracle of modern medicine.

Medical stuff made me queasy, both then and now, but I voraciously ingested this story. I don’t know why it resonated so deeply with me, but someone so vulnerable and innocent just had to have a happy ending. We were poor and lucky enough to have the lights turned back on recently while Reagan hosted state dinners with the choicest cuts of meat, and J.R. Ewing got away with being a wealthy tyrant every Friday, but I just knew that fate wouldn’t be cruel enough to take away Baby Fae so young.

Obviously, I had a lot to learn about the cosmos not giving a damn about our pain and suffering.

When the news reported her death, I remember curling up in momma’s lap, just a ten-year-old crybaby. I don’t know how long I cried, nor how long momma tried to convince me that the infant was in heaven now, but I what I appreciate most was that eventually, she held me in absolute silence, allowing me my time to grieve for the child I never knew, allowing my vulnerability.

Tomorrow, I would again don the mask that earned my dusty seat at the neighborhood table, but that night, momma held me as I sobbed, and she just let me be me.

snowfall seasoned dirt
the earth beneath me hardened
it will melt in spring

Day 18 – She Still Sees

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Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

She Still Sees

You are the Truth
locked tight in my pocket;
promise kept by my fortuity.

You linger patiently,
meeting my frailties with loyalty
pouring into my cracks.
You stay,
voice soothing my raspy song,
facing, leaning into my calm.

Your will
driving intent to fill my silent plea.
I feel this,
your tacit strain
as you heal my wounds.

You’re afraid to leave
without securing my trust
where I live on abyss’s edge.
You steadily shatter delusions
trumpeting your presence
crossing my boundaries.

But I am not here
can’t be found in the light;
cocooned twilight.
You join our hips
expanding as I contract,
filling void with familiar
you still see me where I live.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 18 prompt:

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

I wasn’t too keen on this prompt, so I tweaked it a bit. Instead of finding an unfamiliar poem/poet, I found an extremely familiar one to me. I chose a poet I admire, a frequent collaborator, and a good friend, Tre. The poem I used as a reference is titled The One I Spared. I encourage you to head over and read her exquisite work.

Yesterday, me and Wifey traveled from Whistler back home, and today I had a talk therapy session, so I’m a day behind in my poetry. Perhaps I can squeeze out another one later.