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!)
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.
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.
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.
You are my favorite song
prolonged by our lifelong sing-along;
the seemingly ringing
random sequence of beaconing
notes bringing me in ungainly,
unacquainted, yet infectiously
groovy set melody
that soothes and threatens to
relentlessly bring me
you are this to me
as well as destiny
of warm contemplation;
the un-played keys
that say everything,
the indeterminate rests
among joyful-singing notes,
reaffirming its depths,
gasping for breath between
belly-laughs by the lungful;
your barely half-measured
fills impassioned sensations
with blasphemous pleasures;
ears favor your treble,
bones savor your bass,
and touch yearns for your encore.
“Welcome to Lurlina’s Intimates. My name is Lurlina,” sang Lurlina musically over the soft sound of Muzak being piped in overhead. The store was so empty that every note, every windbreak to breathe between the notes could be clearly heard.
“Can I help you find something- oh! I remember you!” she added, beaming, with a wink. “Vic, isn’t it? Couldn’t stay away from me, could ya?”
Vic smiled. “Actually, I’m here to find a gift for the wifey,” he said.
Lurlina pouted, biting her lip. “Oh boo. I though you came back for me.”
Vic blushed, grinning warmly. “Well you are quite pretty, but…”
“It’s ok honey,” said Lurlina, gently touching his forearm. “I’m old enough to be your mom, so I can get away with it.”
“Yeah?” said Vic with raised eyebrows. “I’m 26, and you don’t look much older than that!” His gaze lasted a half-measure longer than what was needed, and as he became aware of himself scanning her vitality – as if the lie could be seen in the nooks of her hips and the crannies of her cleavage – he forced his eyes toward a rack of unremarkable halter tops.
“Aww… bless your sweet, nearsighted heart,” purred Lurlina. “You’re getting all the discounts when I ring you up.”
Vic laughed, looking around the empty store nervously. Taking a deep breath, he returned Lurlina’s fixated gaze. “Don’t worry,” he said. “My momma raised me right. I know better than to ask-”
“My age?” said Lurlina, cutting him off with an electric smile. “Yeah, you shouldn’t ask me that.” They both laughed as Vic shrugged and then relaxed his shoulders. “OK, so, let’s just say that I’m old enough to be your… older sister.”
“Whatever you say, big sis!” replied Vic with a smirk.
Lurlina lightly slapped at his shoulder. “Oh, don’t mind me, honey,” she said. “I’m just a harmless flirt.” Her eyes lingered on Vic’s chest and arms a few full measures before snapping back to his face. “So, uhm… What can I help you find, sweetie?”
Vic drew a breath as if remembering that oxygen is essential. “Oh! Uhm, I’m looking for some comfy loungewear for the wifey.”
“I might have just the thing over here,” said Lurlina, sauntering over to several racks of lavender lacy tops with matching soft, billowing pants, pulling a top off the rack with a cheeky flourish. “I find this to be the perfect balance between comfort and,” she leaned forward, making a comma with her left index finger, singing teasingly, “‘here kitty, kitty, kitty!’ You know what this is!” she said, straightening with a laugh.
“That looks…” Vic said, with eyes that were definitely not staring at her cleavage on purpose, as the top displayed by Lurlina was within the same eye-frame as her cleavage – so technically speaking, those caramel breasts just happened to be bouncing there – the lavender top, and not the caramel breasts looked, “really good.”
Vic shifted his weight, adjusting his shirt and his pants, with a slight fidget or two.
“So how big are we talkin’?” asked Lurlina softly.
Vic’s smile vanished, and his brow furrowed, knitting together. “I’m sorry… what?” he asked, tilting his head slightly.
Lurlina blushed, laughing nervously. “I’m sad to say it, but I didn’t get a good look at your wife the last time you both came in. Do you know what size she is?”
“I’m sorry,” Vic repeated, closing his eyes, shaking his head as if that’s ever helped to reboot a brain. “what about my wife?”
“Your wife,” Lurlina said slowly through giggles. “How big is she? Is she about my size?” Lurlina pressed the top to her chest, posing to demonstrate as Vic swallowed. “A little bigger? Smaller?”
Vic, finally composed, stared at her as if solving this algebraic problem would win himself a lifetime’s supply of vodka and weed. “She’s about the same size,” was his final answer. “Shit. I should know this, shouldn’t I?
“Probably!” laughed Lurlina. “It’s OK, hun. I’ll include a gift receipt.” Lurlina reassured him with a touch of his forearm. “You can always come back to exchange it. Even if you lose the receipt,” she added with a teasing tone and a slow-jazz grin, “if you come back, I’ll remember you! I’ll always remember you.”
“Is that a perk of being the owner?” laughed Vic, now following her lead to the check-out counter, taking full-measure of her hip-sway.
“I’m not the owner yet,” said Lurlina, between scans and beeps, ringing up unearned discounts. “My mom’s the owner. She’ll be retiring soon though.”
Vic gave her a puzzled look. “Is her name Lurlina too?”
“Her name is Fritzi,” Lurlina said plainly. “I think she used my name because someone trademarked her name or something.” Lurlina grinned and her eyes narrowed. “But I really think she used my name because it sounds more enticing.”
Vic stroked his fuzzy chin. “Hmmm… Both names are unique,” he said, pausing with a crooked grin, “but I like yours more.”
“Now who’s the flirt!” exclaimed Lurlina with a light tap on Vic’s chest. “It’s ok with me, honey. Flirting will get you all the discounts up in here!” Their eyes and glazed grins synched over several bars of the piped-in jazzy sax Muzak. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell.”
“But won’t you husband mind?” Vic asked, briefly breaking their eye-contact.
“Husband?!?” Lurlina laughed, ringing up his total. “Real smooth, young fella.”
“What you mean?” Vic pulled back, shrugging his shoulders while fumbling in his wallet for his debit card. “You got me curious, is all.”
“Oh, I got you curious, huh?” Lurlina stifled another laugh while queuing-up the keypad for Vic to enter his PIN.
“I’m just sayin’,” said Vic, shaking his head and gesturing for emphasis, “you gotta have a lucky-ass-hell man waiting for you at home, right?”
Lurlina stopped laughing and her smile faded. “Oh, that ship sailed two U.S. Presidents ago, honey. He long gone.”
“Oh,” said Vic, turning his gaze to the floor as Lurlina seemed to look right through him, towards something only she could see, her eyes fading, becoming dull and unfocused, her lips pursed pensively. Their financial transaction was completed within the momentarily awkward silence.
“I messed up a real good gumbo we had back then,” she admitted, shaking her head.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Vic offered somberly.
Lurlina pressed her face into smiling again. “Oh, don’t be, child! Lessons learned. We build and grow and move on. Hell, his own mama even forgave me! She and I still have dinner together sometimes!”
Vic laughed nervously. “That’s… pretty cool and nice and…”
He winced, continuing with, “…and totally not weird at all, right?”
Lurlina laughed a genuine, bubbly laugh. “Boy, you silly! Too bad you’re off the market! But it’s just as well. When you’re sure you’re vibin’ with the right one, make sure you pay attention! Don’t wait for something better or pass it by because you don’t wanna be tied down!” She shook her head, smacking her lips disapprovingly.
“Cause when that person’s gone, when you let them leave the store, sometimes they don’t come back, ya know?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Vic said, nodding thoughtfully. “But sometimes someone else comes along when you least expect it…”
Lurlina broke their eye-contact after a few more musical measures. “Yeah, but I’m not lookin’ for any of that these days,” she said with a finger-wag. “My kids are not quite your age, but they’re off to college, and I’m just out here having as much fun as I can while I can, ya know?”
Vic’s brow furrowed skeptically. “You don’t look like you have kids old enough for college,” he said.
“I already rang up your discount, Mr. Smooth,” Lurlina said with a smirk and faux-exasperated eyeroll. “What more can I possibly give you?”
Vic reached across the counter, resting his hand on Lurlina’s forearm. “I don’t know,” he said, “but I get the impression that you might have more to offer…”
Both took in a shallow breath when they remembered to breathe.
“…in here,” Vic finally finished his thought.
“I… I don’t know,” Lurlina stammered, tensing up, pulling away slightly, but not completely. “Maybe I… uhm… I dunno, baby, maybe I already showed you too much?”
Vic gently squeezed her forearm. “Perhaps something I haven’t seen yet, then,” he said.
Lurlina swallowed hard, biting her lip, her carefree smile yielding to an earnest urgency. “You sure this is what you want, Victor?” she asked carefully, in a husky, almost chilled low growl. “Cause I don’t do half-measures, boy.”
Victor nodded. “I think we both already know the answer to that,” he said with a blunted, lustful authority, his smile also fading to a soft, somewhat faux neutrality.
Lurlina placed her off-hand on top of the one Vic used to hold her in place, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. “Well then…” The door-chime signaled another customer’s entrance into the store, compelling the two to quickly disengage, standing across from each other stiffly.
“You should come back tomorrow evening after we restock, just before closing,” said Lurlina through a practiced professional smile. “We’ll have a new line of more risqué designs that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. I’ll be alone, but it’s usually dead here. You’d have me all to yourself, ya know?”
“I’d like that very much,” smiled Vic “Tomorrow it is, then.”
Vic gathered his purchased items and left the store.
I decided to try this prompt after reading Violet Lentz’s intriguing contribution to this prompt, Mrs. Oswald.
I sketched-out the dialogue in about 25-30 minutes, but afterwards, I kept coming back to shape and frame it, a nip here, a tuck there, until two hours later I had… well… whatever the hell this little thing turned out to be. I feel like there’s a bigger story here. Perhaps I’ll chase it someday.