Day 11 – Who Can Say? I’m not There Yet

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Photo by Niels Smeets on Unsplash

Who Can Say? I’m not There Yet

The path beyond my garden glows for hours
after sunset as winter melts into spring
and spring heralds summer’s pending arrival.

A fringe benefit of living
on the fringe of higher latitudes.

I read that somewhere;
cannot recall exactly where,
it sounds true enough
and I have observed this dim
phenomenon with my eyes.

As I walk the trail of softening afterglow,
I hear an owl cry “Who?” but I can’t see him.

His question is answered
with the question of another owl in the distance,
assumedly her answer to his question
of companionship
in owl-speak.

I shrug and keep moving
as nature is never still,
full of questions and answers
leading to more questions.

Suddenly descended an owl from royal-inked skies,
landing on a sturdy low branch of a tree
darker than its own shadow,
his golden-gemmed eyes trained upon my progress,
he tilted his head quizzically, asking me,

“Who are you?”

“I don’t know,” I answered,
in part because I didn’t know,
but also because I was too startled by
the bird’s complete, articulate sentence
to give his question the consideration it deserved.

But mostly because
I had never considered the question before.

“What do you want?”

asked the owl,
briefly stretching his wings.

“I don’t know,” I answered
before immediately recanting
the lie I’d just told on myself.

“I want contentment,
peace, understanding, longer
dusks like this one, too.”

“Where are you going?” asked the owl,
turning his head nearly 360 degrees
to preen his back feathers.

“I guess I’m just following the sun,” I replied,
which was technically true,
but wasn’t always the case.

I once obsessed over success, fearful of
each morning light finding my flaws and failures,
fretting over being caught unprepared
for the next one to shed light on wasted effort.

Now when I think of tomorrow
– if at all – I think of who
will share breakfast with me,
where will whimsy find me at lunch,
and how far will I travel along
the path leading to twilight.

“Who will you be tomorrow?”

asked the owl, taking flight
to the part of the sky
that had already turned night.

He didn’t wait for my answer,
but not wanting to seem impolite,
I answered him anyway.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 11 prompt:

a poem that addresses the future, answering the questions “What does y(our) future provide? What is your future state of mind? If you are a citizen of the “union” that is your body, what is your future “state of the union” address?”

I greatly enjoyed this prompt, and reading the interview with Kwoya Fagin Maples was amazing and inspiring. I didn’t know who she was, but I will certainly be getting familiar with her poetry.

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Day 10 – Vertigo(ne)

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Vertigo(ne)

The path beyond
my garden
stretches beyond
the footfalls
of stone pathways
elongating
with the passing
years where I
can no longer see
where I’ve been
and yet
the destination
remains mucked
by the mist
the morning dew
kisses me awake
and makes
breathing easier
where the words
fall forth,
making the footfalls
easier to manage
and so I travel
forward forever
knowing that soon
there will be no
destination,
no path, no
waypoint home,
and soon
not even a home;
only the words remain,
and much sooner
than later
they too will fall.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 10 prompt: “write a poem of simultaneity – in which multiple things are happing at once.” I don’t think I did it right. Meh. It will have to do. I’m tired, and I’m going to bed.

Day 9 – Of Smeared Rainbows

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Photo by Matheus Queiroz on Unsplash

Of Smeared Rainbows

The path
beyond my
unkempt garden
led me to a black
butterfly fluttering
on fearless currents,
his plain beauty
apparent
even
in morning
shade before the
first glint of rising
sunlight kissed corners of
his wings, igniting
reality
with a
firestorm
of hues.

He is hunted,
snatched from the sky,
knitter of rainbows, felled
killed in the dayglow
by the Anglo-
All-American calico
everyone knows well,
who left it smeared
on the pavement
after becoming bored
from batting the life
from the bite-sized
black body.

The dead butterfly
never even knew he was
being hunted down.

He was
probably altogether
unfamiliar with the very concept,
as he was preoccupied with
feeding on milkweed
and finding a mate.

I wish I could explain it to him.

It would probably blow his tiny mind
to know that some creatures hunt and kill,
shortening a life to extend their own.

I wonder
how he would react
to learning that
some creatures
also hunt and kill
at random
because they’re just
passing the time,
as was the case
with his chaotic,
chubby
calico assailant.

I can’t talk to butterflies,
as we haven’t yet broken
the language barrier.

I don’t know where
that breakthrough falls
on the scientific scale.

I can’t see it ranking
up there with
reversing climate change,
curing cancer, or
perfecting erection pills.

So, I won’t be talking
to butterflies
anytime soon.

I won’t try talking with
that butterfly in particular
because he’s dead.

Smeared on the pavement
by a well-fed, bored calico cat.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 9 prompt: “write a poem in which something big and something small come together.”

Day 8 – Eating the Crow

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Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Eating the Crow

The path beyond my garden rounds a bend
trending down it descends into a valley
where public servants serve and
health practitioners practice, and

I run the gauntlet of penalty lights
connecting me to society
like so many decompression locks.

The clock strikes the mark,
but still seeking a spot to park,
I am overdue,

which threatens to undo my resolve
because who can find time to shine
when one is five minutes behind?

Best to resign; forget the whole thing,
forfeit.

This wasn’t supposed to rhyme,
sloppy or otherwise.

I should quit this too,
but I didn’t quit then, and
so I won’t quit now.

I didn’t quit weeks ago,
when after staring into a void,
seeing the cosmos, but no reason
connecting me to its purpose,

nothing grounding me into
what could be construed as a place
within this chaotic nonsense,
I sought a shaman,

but only found mental health professionals
that refused to be summoned via
passive incantations;

I was compelled to actively pick up the phone,
verbally admitting my stigma to a stranger.

I did balk at this at first.
It wasn’t quitting; it was a
three-week mental break

from this mentally
counter-intuitive method
of seeking mental help.

But after picking up the phone and
admitting to the disembodied voice that
I needed someone to help me with the void,

the space between she and me and

between me and every other living thing
she scattered colored talisman on a map,
pointing me to the sacred realms nearest me.

I chose a female therapist with an
extremely therapeutic-sounding name
within five minutes of the path beyond
my garden, and so my arriving five

minutes late was actually an impressive
feat of procrastination, even for me,
and so I wanted to quit and eat the co-pay,
but I ate the crow instead, owning my tardiness.

She didn’t seem to mind, which pleased me,
proving that she was in fact
a mental health professional.

But then she wept bitterly at
the telling of my origin story,
which led me to question her
professionalism, my

tenuous place in the universe
unmoored yet again, or still.

Against my better judgment,
I liked opening to her,
so I signed up for a second session,

which I soon cancelled,

as mandated by the laws of seeking
someone to help make sense of things,
she is only available when I’m not.

But I didn’t quit and that alone was legit.

Perhaps when I’m ready to stretch myself again,
I’ll grow more.

Perhaps seeking my personal shaman
is its own medicine.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 8 prompt:

Let’s take a leaf from Shelley’s book, and write poems in which mysterious and magical things occur. Your poem could take the form of a spell, for example, or simply describe an event that can’t be understood literally. Feel free to incorporate crystal balls, fauns, lightning storms, or whatever seems fierce and free and strange. Poetry is like that (at least when you’ve been reading Shelley!) If you’re in search of inspiration, maybe you’ll find it in this poem by Louis Untermeyer, or this one by Kathleen Graber.

I liked this prompt.

Day 7 – Fork

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Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Fork

The path beyond my garden
forks at impossible angles
like the leading edge
of a switchback where I can
climb or descend,
should I choose one.

On the high path
beckons a
wood nymph;

the low path is guarded by
a cat darker than
light’s absence.

As I approach the switchback fork,
the nymph squeals with delight.

“Follow me,” she squeaks,
“into the sunlight! Ahead lies
treasures of impeccable sights!”

I take a step, but
soon paused to observe the cat,
who shrugs and licks his scrotum,
nonplussed, matter-of-fact.

“I’d go with her if I were you,”
he said between luxurious
unhurried licks.

“Down here, there is only truth
and the sad epiphanies
one can only obtain
through pain; it is the

hard-won knowledge
only attained by loss.

“This path is not for the timid.”

The nymph grabbed my hand with a jerk.
“Up here!” she cried, “on this trail,
no one grows old or dies!

“Your mom is alive and well
and rational and laughing!

“Your not-dead-from-cancer dad
is mighty proud of
all the mighty things
you never did or said, but
imagined mightily
inside your head!

“Your children aren’t disappointed
by your disengaged inertia!

“Racism, jingoism, war,
famine, pestilence don’t exist
up here!

“Follow me, and it
will all disappear,
enveloped by your will!

“What will be will only be
if only you dream it so!”

I glance back at the cat,
who just sat and shrugged.

“I won’t pretend to compete
with the little fairy up there.

“Down here, there is truth;
only the reality
of what is, and tough
conversations leading
to more sad truths.

“You may learn new things
about you that you may not like,
only to find that
you’ve always known them.

“Reckonings don’t come with good vibes.
That’s why they’re called reckonings.

“But there is knowledge
in great abundance”

It’s the same daily routine,
and I follow along,
playing my part as if guided
by some sacred ritual.

I always “let” the nymph
drag me along the high road,
not just because it’s easier,

but I could take the path
a billion times and it always
leads me somewhere new.

But upon return,
I accompany the cat
upon the low road,

knowing it always leads home.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 7 prompt:

In our interview, Kyle Dargan suggests writing out a list of all of your different layers of identity. For example, you might be a wife, a grandmother, a Philadelphian, a dental assistant, a rabid Phillies fan, a seamstress, retiree, agnostic, cancer survivor, etc.. These are all ways you could be described or lenses you could be viewed through. Now divide all of those things into lists of what makes you feel powerful and what makes you feel vulnerable. Now write a poem in which one of the identities from the first list contends or talks with an identity from the second list. This might turn out to be kind of a “heavy” exercise, emotionally, but I hope you will find the results enlightening.

Indeed, that did sound like a “heavy” exercise, and as much confessional poetry as I write, this one didn’t appeal to me too much. When I start making lists of things that I am, that list inevitably turns dark for me. I still did the prompt, though I skimmed the surface, opting not to dig much deeper.

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Day 6 – Summoning the Summoner

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Photo By Nick Farnhill – cheetah killUploaded by Mariomassone, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18938737

Summoning the Summoner

The path beyond my garden yields to both reason and whimsy,
the tiled stone becoming clouds
charting my unsteady gait towards the gates of eternal twilight,
where Nihirizumu-no-Kage summons me for reprimand.

My writing spirit is an elegant, lean feline
pacing impatiently in ethereal mist,
her fur dappled in pixelated violet, orange, fiery-red dots,
forever rearranging themselves in new patterns on the fly,
helping to camouflage herself among pastel skies
with long shadows and eerie afterglow.

She is a huntress,
built for chasing down dreams rapidly
while evading what she perceives as threats.

I am perplexed,
as she has never demanded an audience
before now.

“You didn’t heed my call,”
she accused with a hiss,
for she is incapable of roaring.

“How dare you ignore my cry? I had several tales
of love, loss, and woe chambered for you; you only needed
to present the hands to scribe fantasy into reality.”

“I cannot be at your beck and call constantly,” I countered,
“For I am mortal with responsibilities, deadlines, and
people who rely on me to be present. Besides,

I set aside blocks of time awaiting your arrival,
and you rarely visit me then. Why is that?”

“Do you blame the cherry blossom
for blooming only when it’s inconvenient?”
Nihirizumu asked. “Your favorite time of day
is the same as mine; just after sunset,

just before soft blushes become indigoes
and indigoes blend into black.

“Do you blame the sky
for only being that way twice a day,
and only in fleeting moments?

“Only in these moments can you see my beautiful wings,
which only exist to reflect and refract the light
of every sunset ever seen or missed
into every color within the spectrum of our fantasies and realities,
allowing you to see possibilities not yet conceived.”

I narrow my eyes,
glaring impatiently at my impatiently glaring,
pacing,
ostentatious writing spirit.

“You are being willfully dense,
intentionally vague,
and hopelessly unreadable,” I accused, adding,

“Next time,
just come when I ask you,
and not when you clearly know I’m busy.”

Nihirizumu laughed, snorting pink flame from her nostrils,
her eyes, once golden sparks, now electric blue,
freezing ice crystals between her and me.

“And there you go again,” said she, “lashing out
at what you fail to comprehend.

“You like to think that you command me. But still…
I will come whenever the mood suits me.

“And next time,
I expect you to be prepared
to drop everything
and just write.”

Before I could draw breath for rebuttal,
I found myself returned to the stone path beyond my garden,
wondering if evening birdsongs were a battle hymn.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 6 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that stretches your comfort zone with line breaks. That could be a poem with very long lines, or very short lines. Or a poem that blends the two. You might break to emphasize (or de-emphasize) sounds or rhymes, or to create a moment of hesitation in the middle of a thought. Looking for inspiration? You might take a look at this poem by Lorine Niedeckerthis poem by Stanley Kunitz, or this one by Amiri Baraka.

I wrote this poem as a stream-of-thought block of text with little line editing or punctuation. Then I went back and accentuated where I thought the breaks should be instead of limiting myself because a line was too long. It was quite liberating for me.

Folks familiar with my previous blog might recall me summoning my writing spirit from a previous poem. I’ve never been one to shy away from my nerd stuff. 

Day 5 – Zion, the Midnight Tree Goddess

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Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

Zion, the Midnight Tree Goddess

There is night emerging beyond our garden path standing near Zion
her branches end starvation of tidal-locked, structured souls
in her drunkenness, in her leaves, we grow old, regaling our wonder

There is night emerging beyond our garden: lavender scented foresight
in deeds defined as barren, fallen branches lie apart from her sullen trunk
night reveals, night compels gorging on unripen fruit in solitude

Last stand under stars of this cosmos. Ruminating over severed gardens
one last man demands the wooden goddess to tell him of the other souls
in the world. In gruff, even monotone, even miserly tone came her reply

Dancing the same, even, rooted hug-and-sway. She let him know that
her severed night emerged beyond our understanding, even she, Zion: to deceive them
is to be stranded among the river of stars, to intersect brooding night alone

Paralyzed by light-governed dark, synapses break like glass vessels
alone then / alone now, lonely then / lonely now
untended as broken branches.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 5 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that, like the work in Translucence, reacts both to photography and to words in a language not your own. Begin with a photograph. Now find a poem in a language you don’t know (here’s a good place to look!) Ignore any accompanying English translation (maybe cover it up, or cut-and-paste the original into a new document). Now start translating the poem into English, with the idea that the poem is actually “about” your photograph. Use the look and feel of the words in the original to guide you along as you write, while trying to describe your photograph. It will be a bit of a balancing act, but hopefully it will lead to new and beautiful (and possibly very weird) places.

Weird places indeed! That was certainly challenging (and at times frustrating), but I’m glad I stuck with it and I’m pretty chill with the result.

The poem I chose is titled, rather fittingly, A Big Bang, by Runa Svetlikova. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the actual English translation is far more optimistic than my fake one.

Day 4 – Black Thumb’s Mercy

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Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

Black Thumb’s Mercy

The path beyond my garden is knotted and
frayed at the edge where our overgrowth tumbles
onto boundaries between us and them.

No major action taken thus far by us,
the current owners, to curl back the
photosynthesized nonsense from the
well-manicured landscape of our neighbors

– that is, outside of
assassinating a few weeds

– well, wifey does that part,
as I’m fortunate enough to have
asthma’s hacking fits, and the man-child
who still honors us with rent-free company

over-promises and delivers but a
lukewarm token hack-job, earning him no pay.

Best leave killing for the pros, anyway.

No matter though, as wifey has enough
murder in her heart for thugged-out weeds,
shriveled plants that were once treasures, and
even the poor trees guilty only of being

rooted in the wrong place at the wrong time, as
she hacked down the sturdiest foliage planted
too close to home to be considered safe

– actually, for this part she mostly
hired contract killers, but she may as
well had pulled the trigger herself.

While watching from the safety of the living
room, I successfully pleaded for the life
of the largest tree landmarking the edge
of our property with the biggest spring blossoms,

the sturdiest leaves that clutter the driveway
in autumn, and – basically, it lives as
the tree wifey swears at the most.

She spared this tree because I enjoy
looking at it from our living room window.

This slob-of-a-tree and a few Rhododendron
– or Azaleas, because Christ – put a gun to my
head and I still couldn’t tell the difference

– are all that remain from what was once a
thriving botanical garden of what wifey called
ugly plants that deserved to die.

But she spared my messy-ass tree, and
kindred spirits make for good company.

I bet the neighbors miss the previous
gardeners as much as the slain garden,

especially in the back yard, where it looks
like zephyr invited squall and tornado
to a rave, leaving behind pine-needle
confetti as neighboring trees litter
their dead-weight over the fence into our
yard in the form of broken branches.

They don’t know how lucky they are to have
been planted on the other side of our fence.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 4 prompt, and I’ll just quote the prompt from the site:

Today, we challenge you to write a poem that is about something abstract – perhaps an ideal like “beauty” or “justice,” but which discusses or describes that abstraction in the form of relentlessly concrete nouns.

This was easily my favorite prompt thus far. I don’t know if my effort measures up, but I relished the challenge.

Day 3 – Aggressive Pollination

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Photo by Jian Xhin on Unsplash

Aggressive Pollination

The path beyond my garden
of good-lookin’ and evil
the wrath of Kahn, your warden
is shook – tooken’ reprieval

The chain of fate I break
on the back of daffodils
remaining late, you skate
on the tracks of raptured wills

Our style, denying us sleep,
I stand, react,
fight the game that slick freaks would

meanwhile you trying to keep
the band intact
like your name was Mick Fleetwood

I can’t sleep good, subconsciously
wait for an elevator
your technique lured, and tonically,
fate’s a great generator

We fight, freak, stood upright,
sonically copulate,
resonator

alight, streak, should midnight
chronically evaporate,
venerate her
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 3 prompt; writing a list poem in which all the items are made-up names. I gotta be honest; I started out trying to make up band names, but midway through I became somewhat distracted… you know… by flowers.

Bah! I’m counting it.

Day 2 – Laundry Room Confessions

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Photo by Romain Robe on Unsplash

Laundry Room Confessions

The path beyond the garden soon to be rented by wifey and me in new life lied before us in sun-kissed San Diego adobe pastels when I caught a soon-to-be new neighbor sizing me up behind soon-to-be briskly shuttered blinds, disrupting what I thought to be a giant bee, but in actuality, was the first time I laid eyes on a hummingbird, which scurried away from our mutual startled scenery on wing of the bluest blues and rubiest ruby plumage I had ever seen, and my heart soared with her along unfamiliar blooming scent which smelled of promise and renewal, like nature herself was settling old scores.

As for my new neighbor, her blinds did not stay shuttered during our stay, though she stayed curiously guarded and curious of my own curiosity as we shared a thought or two, subconsciously synching our laundry days in the community laundry room, a respite from separate-but-equally unrelenting realities as she hid her bruises while I just hid and pretended not to notice, which wasn’t too far a bend for someone so frequently locked inside his own head; in fact, she said she’d never seen me smile in all our contrived, randomized encounters, and she wondered aloud if I was happy. Most times, a lie would do, but in this case, I felt she deserved to know the truth about that hummingbird.

it’s raining sunbeams
warming my faith, compassion
sunburns and bruises
***

Inspired by dVerse Haibun Monday: Faith prompt, hosted by Mish. I was going to try to stick to NaPoWriMo prompts this month, but today’s Day 2 prompt challenged us to play with voice and different tenses, and I feared that folks might be sick of me always playing with tense by now. Eager to see what Day 3 has in store!