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!

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.

Day 17 – Implicit Non-Disclosure

Implicit Non-Disclosure

The path beyond our truths
is paved by her
vulnerability,

gifted only to me
as promissory note
in exchange for my own
implied promise
of confidence,

an intimate currency
shared between us,

and as proud as I am
as sole recipient
of these treasures,

as beneficiary
of her hopes, fears,
triumphs, and demons,

as tempted as I am
to squander her gifted windfall,
sharing this wondrous woman’s gems
with the rest of the cosmos,

I know enough
to enjoy and appreciate
her gifts
in reverent silence,

for her priceless confessional
can never become
just another
cut-rate anecdote.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 17 prompt: “write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time.”

As someone who dabbles in confessional poetry far too often, I probably default to anecdotes all the time. While I enjoyed this prompt, this was also a perfect opportunity to zig instead of zagging.

 

Day 15 – Hero of His Own Story

Hero of His Own Story

The path beyond my garden
began decades ago
when I was Ivan Drago
to my lil’ brother Phil’s Balboa.

As kids,
we reenacted the classic scene;
the boxing exhibition
that ended the cold war.

In the film, Rocky overcame
insurmountable odds to win;

in my version, he just kept on
getting his tiny ass kicked
until he started crying
and throwing real punches at me

– or Drago, if you will – which led
to an unfortunate escalation,
and perhaps even a few
Queensbury rule violations,

which led to Drago and Balboa’s mom
bursting in to win the match by default.

It was in those formative years
that I learned the greatest truth
about action fiction;
the bad guy may not always win,

but he usually has the most fun.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 15 prompt: “a poem in which a villain faces an unfortunate situation, and is revealed to be human (but still evil).”

Sorry for the delay. It was a loooong drive to Whistler. I’m a day behind and punch-drunk from lack of sleep, but I hope to find my footing soon.

Day 13 – Tastes like Stardust

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Photo by Mike Fox on Unsplash

Tastes like Stardust

The path beyond
our garden
leads
where daylight
won’t tread

where she follows
with eyes that beg
for relief I live
to provide

touching her where
her lean suggests

spinning circles
where her breath
catches and skips
and lingers

her heartbeat
tastes like stardust,
moonbeams and
Venus dimples

I am her
percussionist;
steadily I drum
readily as a duet
is hummed to
an audience
of two

I exist as
both composer and
her instrument to strum
or tease a bar
or two

she is my music
I am her best verse

our groove
not nearly as harsh
as I’m able
or she wants,

but firm enough
to shift firmament
and furniture
where leeway
yields
to leverage,

not leaning into
the strong force or
dark energy,

but as she sheens,
slick from my sweat,
she knows I’m there
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 13 prompt:

…write a poem in which the words or meaning of a familiar phrase get up-ended. For example, if you chose the phrase “A stitch in time saves nine,” you might reverse that into something like: “a broken thread; I’m late, so many lost.” Or “It’s raining cats and dogs” might prompt the phrase “Snakes and lizards evaporate into the sky.” Those are both rather haunting, strange images, and exploring them could provide you with an equally haunting, strange poem (or a funny one!)

In all honesty, this prompt left me a bit lost. When I tried in earnest, I was left writing nonsensical garbage. I didn’t give up though; I shifted focus and tried writing about a known event between consenting adults in a new way. It’s not quite up-ended, but I’m ok with the result.

Day 12 – Town of Green Giants

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Town of Green Giants

The path beyond the garden hidden among evergreen titans rises and falls on gentle sloping hills that seem to roll upon each other like sleepy lovers playfully jostling for their share of the asphalt blanket. The rain, ever present in a fine mist, tamps down much of the troublesome pollen, while simultaneously opening the senses to pine, fir, rhododendrons, and that smell that smells of renewal; the smell that shocks the lungs into expanding to take in as much as possible.

Children play at the end of the cul-de-sac with a sense of oblivious urgency as they sketch in chalk the scaffolding of worlds only they understand, their shrill voices, quaint little bells of amusement amid mild relief that they’re someone else’s problem as long as the squeals don’t turn into sobbing. Kids at play yield to love songs performed by the neighborhood bird choir, who then yield the stage to the sunset, next then a frog symphony, and if you’re extremely lucky, an owl or two might quiz you.

The path curves, rises, winds, and falls, weaving between tree line and homestead, painting unhurried, sleepy tracers from where love lives to where she wanders to prove herself. She need not travel far; all that is needed is within reach. It is a wondrous balance, living inside a temperate rainforest that hosts a town that hopes to remain sleepy; remote enough to be considered a hassle to visit, and yet somehow, at the center of all that matters.

green giants shush me
it’s the wind rousing the trees
yielding their secrets
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 12 prompt: Oh yeah! Stop! Haibun-Time!

Today, we’d like to challenge you specifically to write a haibun that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live. It may be the high sierra, dusty plains, lush rainforest, or a suburbia of tiny, identical houses – but wherever you live, here’s your chance to bring it to life through the charming mix-and-match methodology of haibun.

Anyone who’s been sniffing around this blog from the beginning knows how much I love writing haibun. Still, I’m glad there are no haibun police, as I’m a habitual haibun rule-breaker. I think I did ok with this 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 1 – Coyote

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Photo by Joshua Wilking on Unsplash

Coyote

The path beyond my garden
slick with rain, heavy falling,
weighing all down with greying
fur of a coyote blocking my way,
challenging my journey.

His fur, saturated by rainfall,
hangs in greying tendrils,
his soaked shadow bolstering
his foreboding visage.

His yellow eyes lock onto mine,
knowing them with a
disdainful familiarity.

“You fear me,” he said,
almost wearily,
“even now, even still,
fearful they’ll know it all,

not just all the sobbing
– you’ve been a crybaby all your life,
yet you hide in plain sight – but you’re
fearful of revealing deeper shame.

“I was an uncooked shrimp
held by your father to
menace you at age five,
remember?

“You cowered from your unprepared dinner,
flummoxing and enraging your dad into
giving you something real to cry about.

“Your chest-piece was forged that day.

“Remember many years and
several armored fittings later when
I pushed you down with no one around to see?

“I recall your relief
at not having to look into
mother and brother’s eyes.

“You were glad you didn’t have to fight back.

“I don’t know how long
you’d have let me pummel you
before a child half your size
rushed in to defend your meekness.

“That’s when you rose and
gave me everything you had left,
knowing it wouldn’t be enough,
I guess it didn’t matter.

“I know your secret shame,”
said the weary coyote.

“Even now,
you would surrender
if there were no one around
to witness you quit.”

“You are a fool to think you know me,” I laughed.
“You are but a ratio of a shadow;
a trick of light and absence of color.

“It’s true I’ve always been soft and meek in a
world that’s too hard and brutal for my liking.

“But what you see in my loved one’s eyes as
pity and shame, I see as compassion and love.

“I don’t shy away from it;
I draw strength from it.

“And though my impenetrable exterior
may be a well-crafted illusion,
what lies beneath my meekness is
a ferocity I fear most.

“Yes, I would rather run away
or curl-up and take the hits,
but if they need me, then
I see things differently.”

“One day you’ll grow weary of
hiding your true self,”
snarled the coyote,
closing in on me.

“I already am, fool,” I retort.
“But this is who we are.
And now I am cold and wet.
End this foolishness,
and return to me.”

With that, the coyote leapt at me,
draping himself around my chest,
back, and shoulders.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 1 prompt: write a poem that is based on a secret shame, or a secret pleasure. Obviously, I chose the former. 

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Day 0 – Ode to my Dearest Portal

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Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

Ode to my Dearest Portal

The path beyond my garden leads
to where asphalt kisses the sea.

I sit near the transition
and blow kisses effortlessly
to she who swims in
antipodean ocean
and backpacks in autumn outback,

shake hands with a man standing
in Swedish snow where winter
won’t yield easily to spring,

offer support and
love vicariously at
Vancouver seaport,

embrace a hug
in London fog,

swoon on Singapore island,
exchange dreams where eastern Europe
merges with Asia,

sharing tea, death poems,
and sunrises in the Land
of the Rising Sun.

Here within my cherished portal,
the sun always rises,
shedding light on new poetry
from brave, sharing souls
around the globe.

I’ve lived countless lives and loved in
ever increasing abundance,

touching without touch
via normal and long-touch,
swiping hearts and being swiped
while swiping-right and all directions.

Signals sent from points abroad
careen toward antenna,
out above atmosphere,
from satellite to satellite,

down through the thin blue into
receiver, decoded, delivered
to me via you; a device
designated both smart and phone,
but is actually neither.

Still, I’d never begrudge your
ostentatious designation,
as you have done well by me

in opening me to new poetry,
ideas, friends, and lovers
– platonic and fantastic.

And that you do all this astoundingly
half a decade past warranty,
makes me love you even more deeply.
** *

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 0 prompt, write a poem in the form of a love letter, to an object. Obviously, the object I chose is my phone, which takes me everywhere I want to be.

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