And what of the difference anyway? All paths lead to this chambered next gasp To deconstruct is to sift away Foundations where we live, love, and play As time’s fleeting grains fall from our grasp
Dare you rule regret as garden path As miserly as man’s own timeline Fill ledgers with dread’s feeble new math Flog missteps with chaste, unbridled wrath Or admire our road’s divine design?
We are not this somber switch-backed trail Our value, more than stone, earth, and bone Our feet dare not scale where we prevail Stardust exhaled, we sail cosmic gale Sown tracks overgrown best left unknown
I toast every knotted twist and turn Woodland, universe, and I are same We learn, unlearn, as winds of fate churn Until the earthen soil I return I care not from which path that I came.
“In the world of well-known poems, maybe there’s no gem quite so hoary as Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken.’ Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about your own road not taken – about a choice of yours that has “made all the difference,” and what might have happened had you made a different choice.”
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.
One afternoon in your next reincarnation, as the crow recognizes your intent and the rainclouds run dry of metaphor; daylight, weakened, outliving its worth you will know the pain of sending me away and I will disappear like the last good day returning only when you swallow the sun chasing the bitter-soaked roots of regret today you will squawk and I will remain returning to roost by your side despite you you can deny the blue sky if you want though you can’t see it, you know it exists but one afternoon in your next lonesome life, the starling will sing; you’ll hear the whispers you’ll feel the last good day, as it lingers but never today, for it lingers for you. ***
Our (optional) prompt for the day asks you to engage with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Many different cultures have proverbs or phrases that have largely the same meaning, but are expressed in different ways. For example, in English we say “his bark is worse than his bite,” but the same idea in Spanish would be stated as “the lion isn’t as fierce as his painting.” Today, I’d like to challenge you to find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem. Here’s are a few lists to help get you started: One, two, three.
The idiom: ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ Literal translation: “One afternoon in your next reincarnation.” What it means: “It’s never gonna happen.” Other languages this idiom exists in: A phrase that means a similar thing in English: “When pigs fly.” In French, the same idea is conveyed by the phrase, “when hens have teeth (quand les poules auront des dents).” In Russian, it’s the intriguing phrase, “When a lobster whistles on top of a mountain (Когда рак на горе свистнет).” And in Dutch, it’s “When the cows are dancing on the ice (Als de koeien op het ijs dansen).”
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.
Not so much a question than an inevitable blank slate new opportunity sitting upon invisible embers that were once entire worlds unto themselves; hexadecimal monuments to finger dexterity pattern recognition and time
Not so much an option than a mockery of time lost oh so much time lost pressing the right buttons at the perfect times with only the finger-blisters to show as testament to almost finishing
NEW GAME? flashing dispassionately as if the old game existed only in my frenetic skull
but for a flicker of light a moment of darkness and the whirring of renewal as electrons fire on command oblivious to their renegade static cousins outside who ended my noble quest so ignobly
NEW GAME? pulsing in-sync with the throb of fury flowing through vessels near my temple
impressively concealing the internal rage rivaling the storm outside stifling the screams that would illicit told you so’s from mom
Nah man not right now but you haven’t seen the last of me soon, very soon vengeance will be mine
mark my words in hexadecimal or binary proton or electron photon, quark, or string
or whatever vile language your forked tongue speaks
I don’t even care how long it takes I will break you ***
Today, I challenge you to write a poem that features forgotten technology. Maybe it’s a VCR, or a rotary phone. A cassette player or even a radio. If you’re looking for a potential example, check out this poem by Adam Clay, which takes its central metaphor from something that used to stoke fear in the hearts of kids typing term papers, or just trying to play a game of Oregon Trail.
Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, NES and SNES introduced rudimentary game saving features. It was far from the robust storage features of modern games like the PS4 or whatever Xbox is out now. This feature was contingent upon a rather volatile battery backup function inside game cartridges. If the internal battery lost its charge, or if you were dumb or arrogant enough to play your game during a thunderstorm as a lightning strike killed power (like, oh I dunno, a teenage version of me), you lost ALL of your data, forcing you to start from scratch. Hours and hours of gameplay lost forever in the blink of an eye. Kids today will never know that struggle, and I’m glad for them.
night skitters across silent rooftops
mad starless gales howl “could have beens”
midnight sleet spittles “what-ifs”
shapeless trees shush regret
things go bump in it
as it settles
“But I couldn’t control my restlessness, an eagerness for violation was growing in me, I wanted to break the rules, as the entire world seemed to be breaking the rules.”
– Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, a novel by Elena Ferrante
We should forget.
It’s better this way.
I won’t divine
from rat-nested bedsheets,
We have fun.
Yeah we did.
No love misplaced,
like spilled spirits
Yet I return,
to the mistake
we never made.
Inspired by Real Toads Words To Live By, hosted for the final time by Rommy. We were asked to reflect on a word or quote that means something special to us.
Ironically, as someone who loves words, I drew a blank here. Ultimately, I settled on a quote from a book I’m currently reading (Book three of a four-book series by Elena Ferrante, collectively titled Neapolitan Novels.)