What can I say, Wolf? I’ve never owned any pets. Too much overhead, too much work,
oh, and also because of slavery.
Yes Wolf; I mentioned pet ownership and slavery in the same breath, but it’s not like you’re gonna call me on it; you’re just a dumb dog,
one that’s been dead for nearly thirty years.
But fine, I remember those soulful eyes, so I’ll try to explain it.
There’s something to be said of those unlucky in birth who persevere against all odds to overthrow their oppressors in triumph.
Americans especially love these underdog stories, as our recorded history is full of them.
But what of the other stories?
With Tubman, Douglass, and The Amistad as outliers of four-hundred years of mostly humdrum, garden-variety slavery, with all the standard rape, abuse, and outright murdering of slaves too stupid to mask their intelligence,
how many stories of the voiceless do we know?
It’s weird, Wolf. You were a dog – a beautiful German Shepherd/Doberman Pinscher mix
– but when I think of all the voiceless slaves who were born and died in unconscionable suffering, I think of you.
To be honest, Wolf, I haven’t thought of you in ages, and that’s a shame, but
the less remembered of your tragic life and death, the better for me.
Or perhaps not; after all, I’ve left your memory as it were, untamed, but there it sits upon my return, waiting patiently only for me.
What if my sidestepping your legacy is but one more injustice for you?
Our lives were intertwined for so long, with much of the trauma descendent directly from my ancestors in bondage.
You weren’t even my damn dog, but I was your reluctant caretaker, and there’s nothing poetic about feeding you and cleaning up your shit, but I felt your loyalty and your agony in-kind.
Wolf, you were an idiot of a dog, raised on ignorance and cruelty, and yet you were still sweet and loyal.
I’d given up on hiding grandma’s tools of discipline, as she’d just find herself a sturdier switch to snap on ya,
but I taught you to sit using head-rubs instead of grandma’s rubber hose; you were always a good boy.
I wish I had told you that more.
I remember you having the audacity to demand more head-rubs from me, swatting at my hand with your paw like Bunky the cat taught you, and I happily gave them to you.
I wish I’d given you all the head-rubs.
But I’d graduated the basement and fled to the Navy, making the cut despite the odds.
I heard of your fate secondhand, and I wept real tears over a freaking dog that I didn’t even own
who lived his entire existence chained to a waterpipe in a half-finished basement,
life snuffed-out, most likely, by someone well-known and trusted.
Can you imagine that?
Anyway, yeah, I’ve never cared for any pets.
Too much overhead, too much work, just too much. ***
And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.
If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse. For inspiration, I direct you to a selection from an 18th-century poem by Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno, in which the poet’s praise for his cat ranges from “For he is docile and can learn certain things” all the way up to “For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.” Personally, I’m lucky if my cat doesn’t just sleep the day away, but I find her pretty delightful all the same.
This was painful to write, and I nearly scrapped the whole thing. I kept trying to walk away from it, but it kept calling me back.
It’s unpolished, and I won’t be revisiting it at all, but Wolf deserves to have his story told.
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.
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. ***
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.
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).
There’s a pithy phrase attributed to T.S. Eliot: “Good poets borrow; great poets steal.” (He actually said something a bit different, and phrased it a bit more pompously – after all, this is T.S. Eliot we’re talking about). Nonetheless, our optional prompt for today (developed by Rachel McKibbens, who is well-known for her imaginative and inspiring prompts) plays on the idea of stealing. Today, I challenge you to write a non-apology for the things you’ve stolen. Maybe it’s something as small as your sister’s hairbrush (or maybe it was your sister’s boyfriend!) Regardless, I hope this sly prompt generates some provocative verse for you.
Oh, thank God! I was afraid that this might be one of those Erasure – found poetry prompts that I suck at find so frustrating. Thank goodness it’s just a prompt about good-old stealing! Yay for stealing!
Like petals falling from our view Your loss now added to our snow Compassion bright as any blue Like petals falling from our view Our spring, a timeless deja-vu We wait our turns to fall below Like petals falling from our view Your loss now added to our snow ***
Years ago, I was addicted to writing triolets, so this was a welcome blast from the past.
It was also a good way to honor the passing of a shipmate I served with on the USS Ingraham from 95 until 98. Ronnell “Brooklyn” Warren passed away on March 30. Dude had a photographic memory and knew my full name, date-of-birth, birthplace, and social security number even twenty years later, which should’ve been somewhat alarming, but he was just so damned kind-hearted, and it reflected well upon his character that it never even occurred to him to use his superpowers for nefarious means.
Quite frankly, Ronnie was the kindest, sweetest man I have even known. He was also a poet with an optimistic voice.
He always had a kind word for everyone. He was one of the few people in my life whose positive attitude made me want to step-up and just be better to get on his level. Hell, I think he loved the 90’s Chicago Bulls more than I did! I heard that he went quickly and unexpectedly, from a heart attack, but I don’t know the details.
It made me think about how we will all soon be parting from one another.
I’ve never dealt with this type of loss well; I tend to stuff it down where the feelings can’t hurt me anymore. And though we hadn’t spoken or kept in touch since our ship’s decommissioning ceremony, this is a most unkind cut that will take some time to stuff down.
Ron, your passing over was most unwelcome news. I’ll drink one for you. We have the watch, shipmate.
Our optional prompt for the day is based on the concept of the language of flowers. Have you ever heard, for example, that yellow roses stand for friendship, white roses for innocence, and red roses for love? Well, there are as many potential meanings for flowers as there are flowers. The Victorians were particularly ga-ga for giving each other bouquets that were essentially decoder-rings of meaning. For today, I challenge you to write a poem in which one or more flowers take on specific meanings. And if you’re having trouble getting started, why not take a gander at this glossary of flower meanings? (You can find a plain-text version here). Feel free to make use of these existing meanings, or make up your own.
I found out retroactively that the white lily is associated with purity and is often used as a funeral flower. Also, in Buddhism, tiger lilies represent the virtues of mercy and compassion. Make of that what you will.
Stargazers symbolize lots of stuff. Google it for yourself. This blog poem about flowers is over!
Musky as a lovebed the morning after. As blue a sky vintage toxins could allow. Remnants of when playing it cool was disrobed. Careful not to drop breadcrumbs, out slipped the tongue, afraid of what could be left unexplored, lost. What was said, now muddled; tangled, dangled sheets. Secrets spilled upon linen, taunts veiled in smiles. Favors returned in earth-suckles and shudders. Reflections! How urgent! Come through! Come, midnight! Fat and black, moonless regrets are swallowed whole. At sunrise, only faint aroma lingers, pushed aside by a faint whiff of breakfast as only briefly, hunger displaces hunger. It all makes sense when thinking of that first kiss. Still don’t know of the why, but glad of the how. ***
NaPoWriMo Day 8: “…peruse the work of one or more of these twitter bots, and use a line or two, or a phrase or even a word that stands out to you, as the seed for your own poem. Need an example? Well, there’s actually quite a respectable lineage of poems that start with a line by another poet, such as this poem by Robert Duncan, or this one by Lisa Robertson.”
NaPoWriMo nailed it with this one. They even provided me with a Sylvia Plath Twitter Bot, and anyone who reads me probably had an inkling that it was either going to be Plath or Poe.
over time, trauma is a thief of joy two fingers of bourbon mug the mugger spring oozed into her room nonchalantly embracing us with equanimity her voice cooing we shouldn’t do this now her lips tasting of why haven’t we yet the fire in her almond eyes read mine we chose the same musk-knotted adventure music was jealous of our harmony you introduced me to Martin Gore and I didn’t get him, but through you, I did I’m jealous I missed your London punk scene and all the parts that broke you apart we were both trauma and broken things we been runnin’, done ran, till we bumped heads finding joy in tending each other’s shards I lived to cut myself open on you seducing you into seducing me say I won’t rise to meet your velvet taunt your tongue had already run us through I marked you as mine when your teeth pierced me by the thinnest skin of goddess sinew we loved, clear-eyed in the blackest of night as the box-springs sang je t’aime, je t’aime you took my life each time I surrendered only to find your dear Eeyore renewed I’ll re-steal this joy, returning to us delightful, bottled beautiful struggle thus was the elixir of our short spring ***
NaPoWriMo Day 5: “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,”developed by Jim Simmerman.The challenge is to use/do all of the list below in the same poem, or as many as possible. This was extremely challenging, but also super engaging. I kicked off my shoes, threw out the punctuation, meditated on a topic that frequents my thoughts, (I was born a dirty old man. Sorry/not sorry) and started tinkering. I fudged some of the criteria, but I honored the spirit of all twenty requirements.
Here they are:
Begin the poem with a metaphor.
Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
Use a phrase from a language other than English.
Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.