Day 29: No Pets

Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

No Pets

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.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 29: Today’s prompt:

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.

Day 22: Like the Last Good Day

Image by Nel Botha from Pixabay 

Like the Last Good Day

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.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 22: Today’s prompt:

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: Onetwothree.

Source URL: NaPoWriMo Day 22

What I used:

From Thai translator Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut:

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).”

Source: TED Blog

This was fun! I enjoyed playing with expectations a bit with this one.

Day 18: Nutrient and Toxin

Image by author

Nutrient and Toxin

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.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 18: Today’s prompt:

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.

Day 17: Lost Cause

Photo by Michael Rogers on Unsplash

Lost Cause

NEW GAME?

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

NEW GAME?

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

NEW GAME?

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
***

NaPoWriMo Day 17: Today’s prompt:

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.

Bed Unmade

Bed Unmade

“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
entangled spirits
from rat-nested bedsheets,
shades unfurled,
eclipsing shame.

We have fun.
Yeah we did.

No love misplaced,
like spilled spirits
and tongues.

Yet I return,
haunted spirit,
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.)

Also shared at dVerse Quadrille #93: Spirited Poems, hosted by whimsygizmo. Other poets contributed to this prompt here

On Grudges and Conservation of Energy

On Grudges and Conservation of Energy

Holding grudges is a young man’s game.

Grasp that lightning if you must;
harvest it, gorge yourself upon it,
repurpose it to power your safe haven,
getaway vehicle, or doomsday device,

whichever you choose;
I’m not qualified to judge.

Ask my mother.
She knows. She knew

way back when I was 16 years old
that I wasn’t shit

and my grudge-fueled quest
to prove her wrong succeeded
at proving her both absolutely wrong
and unequivocally right like an
accidental Schrodinger’s cat experiment.

Inability to forgive
converted my potential into kinetic,
driving my momentum
into achievements I never imagined for myself,

and it also left me lifeless,
dead-eyed,
inside an unremarkable box,
waiting to be discovered by wiser forces.

Forgiveness is for old folks
who no longer have the energy for grudges;

many of whom are gathering
their remaining momentum
in a last-ditch effort of
getting into heaven.

Suddenly
the meaning of The Lord’s Prayer
crystallizes before them,
and they’re angling for a slice of salvation pie.

I don’t know much about forgiveness,
but I do know how it feels to run out of steam,
finding myself alone with regret. Nowadays,

I find both grudges and forgiveness
equally inert.

All that matters now lie within
taking accurate readings
and observing what is.
***

Inspired by Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Forgiveness, hosted by Sumana Roy.