You borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbors, knowing they will never get it back
not completely, not even if a slice of fresh baked German chocolate cake is shared
in return, in gratitude, and yet if they have it, it’s yours.
Next week they may need two cups of flour and if you have it to give, you give, and still no one is keeping score.
During these unmeasured exchanges, they may toot the horn of their beloved’s achievements as you nod and smile,
never bringing up that someone sounding a lot like them through the walls has taken to midnight sobbing.
They will politely pretend not to notice your puffy, bloodshot eyes as well.
Perhaps you may share a glass or two of red wine and trite cliches as facile lies go unscrutinized, failing to not undress themselves
as somehow no one falls apart in this fleeting reprieve from physics.
When parting, one of you will ask the other – as if it matters – if they have everything they need,
knowing the answer will be a resounding yes, and yes, again, a lie will go unchallenged as both return to respective bubbles to bake
nutrient-deficient treats to be consumed with scarcely a thought of gratitude.
Written for NaPoWriMo: Day 3 – I’m off-prompt today, as today’s prompt felt a bit too much like an Ikea furniture build for me. But go check it out for yourself if you like your prompts to be of the more involved variety.
Imagine a world where property value, tax-paid infrastructure, the rule of law,
justice’s infuriatingly slow machinations,
tact, decorum, gold prices and golden manners,
collective peace-of-mind, tranquility of greater-good, and the easy flow of status-quo traffic
and blissful return to whatever we consider our communal normal
were all more important
than the unconscionable completely avoidable death of your son, or brother, or father, or lover.
Really imagine it though, and feel free to sub-out and imagine your daughter, sister, or mother instead
murdered by the state;
I didn’t recommend it because I’m no monster.
Now sit with that moment, that overcooked despair and rage as your civic institutions tell you with a dismissive shrug
that his death was unavoidable, his assailants, servants of the state are good and normal in completing the task of snuffing-out his light
and your reaction to his completely avoidable death is completely unreasonable and lives as proof of the sole reason why guys who look like him
– and yes, who look like you too –
are routinely slaughtered by the state-sanctioned violence in the first place.
He’s never coming back, his voice forever silenced
and there is no one with leveraged power to champion his cause, to validate your grief,
nowhere to turn to wring meaning from your loss.
What would you do? What is your next move?
Whatever you decide, best be quick about it.
Monday’s coming, and you’d better be on time with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
Wouldn’t want to give anyone within the superstructure the wrong idea that you’re angry or resentful
or one of those malcontents out there disrupting the established order. ***
“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
Ethel’s Club – Black-owned and operated social club offering access to Black therapists and a multitude of creative events for People of Color.
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And last, but not least, our final (optional) prompt! In some past years, I’ve challenged you to write a poem of farewell for our thirtieth day, but this year, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something that returns. For, just as the swallows come back to Capistrano each year, NaPoWriMo and GloPoWriMo will ride again!
Sorry to end NaPoWriMo on such a dismal note. I could’ve gone with some type of spring renewal, but I guess I wasn’t there.
I was just sitting here thinking about how the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely (and rightfully) squash the May Day protests tomorrow, but our US (and nearly global) capitalist economy is just chompin’ at the bit to throw our sick, broken bodies back into the churn, risk-assessment be damned. I hear talk of rushing to get “back to normal”, and it just makes me wonder, normal in relation to what, exactly?
Thanks for hanging with me this month. I’ll see you back here next year, but until then, feel free to hang out and read my infrequent poetry postings.
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!)
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.
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. ***
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.
Rather than encouraging minimalism, today we challenge you to write a poem of over-the-top compliments. Pick a person, place, or thing you love, and praise it in the most effusive way you can. Go for broke with metaphors, similes, and more. Need a little inspiration? Perhaps you’ll find it in the lyrics of Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top.” (Scroll down at the link for the lyrics and an annotated explanation of them).
This is another one I feel like I do way too much, so I went the other way with it, tapping into my emotional flatline (which sadly, can feel all too real at times).
a fly caught dead failing to conceive the clear pane lying ahead lying to him
dreading the lies I’ll conspire constructing in my head
which is a lie subconsciously formed before the first lie coalesced by will my dream lies
like the rug awaiting my shiftless feet and restless legs egging me on
that I missed the alarm by two lying-assed minutes dooming me to what lies in shadow two minutes ago
which was only ego yielding to id as I slid from lying to sitting grasping at evaporating nothing
warning me that nothing is as it seems even within the busted seams of interrupted dreams
that scream fuck everything when asked if I slept well as if I could tell time and reason from rhyme
and sure everything’s fine I guess but I digress let’s pretend we’re not because at least we’ll regress to a partial truth. ***
NaPoWriMo Day 1: “a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life – one that typically isn’t done all that often, or only in specific circumstances. For example, bowling, or shopping for socks, or shoveling snow, or teaching a child to tie its shoes.”