I listened to the Frank Sinatra Radio station on Pandora during my walk this morning. Good music that makes me appreciate why so many cringed as the rock and roll era dawned. Enjoyed it, but I’ll be back to Thumbprint tomorrow morning.
So, Friday is my birthday. Question: when you become older than older-‘n-dirt, how old are you? I have arteriosclerosis (crummy circulation), heart disease and an effed-up aortic valve, and now I’m looking at “radical” surgery on my left forearm to ensure all the cancer is gone. Oh, and I drink too much wine (beer, coffee). Every day I’m gladder to be alive than I was the day before. Yer only dead once. That can wait. Right?
In ‘honor’ of the year I will spend transitioning into the mid-seventies (proud baby boomer), I plan to post at least one poem each day this week and two on Friday (B-day). These are quick little ditties done in less than 15 minutes each and tweaked very little. Some are exactly as first written. Here’s why…
I’ve read (in On Writing and others) that all first drafts are shit. I agree when it’s prose. I have written good enough poems then tweaked them to death trying to make them better (perfection?) and ended up letting them ride the hard drive for eternity.
Last year I posted a poem about my frustration with my poetry (click here to read it). I never know about my poems, so I often overwork them (not the first time in my life I worked harder than I needed to). I’m currently working on some that I’ve knocked around for over a year. Sometimes it’s cuz my muse got another call and failed to get back to me. Sometimes, I end up with something I like. Sometimes I’m skeptical, but you like it. Go figure?
So, if you read my poems this week, know that they are sunny-side-up or only tweaked to over-easy. They’re a little raw, but thankfully brief. Happy Sunday. The first poem:
Tanka Poem – A Feather
How life passes by
We see, as we feel the breeze
so like the feather
life moves us from here to there
how we love and how we care.
Bill Reynolds – 7/21/2018
Look both ways, wander often, wonder always. Mind the gaps and respect the abyss.
The day 16 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenges me to write a poem that prominently features the idea of play.
My poem is about my memory of a game we played as children – a game still played today, albeit differently. It has been played for over a hundred years by boys and girls, now also by men and women. Essentially, it is street or vacant lot baseball played with a broomstick for a bat, bases like the manhole cover or the flag pole, and most often a rubber ball.
My gang used all sorts of balls including wiffle balls of various sizes. No one wore gloves or any form of protective gear. Our classic favorite was to use those small plastic practice golf balls with all the holes in them to increase the challenge. They could bounce off any window or person with no damage. No coaches, no adults, highly flexible rules, and we worked out our disagreements without paying lawyers.
My poem is this old fart’s memories of playing the game and living totally for the moment, for the game, to be as good as we could be, and to have fun for the sake of play.
We used handles cut from broom sticks or mops. I do not recall anyone buying a ball, but it would not surprise me to learn that the ones we used were found, or “found” (as in the bottom of dad’s golf bag). The first commercially produced stickball bat came out in the early 1950’s and sold for 89 cents. Today, you can buy a high-tech, Easton T10 Thunderstick stickball bat for $50.00.
One of the problems today is that it has become difficult to find a good wooden broom or mop handle not being used, and games like that have fallen out of favor. However, I have included a photo and video about the game. In both cases, commercial bats are used.
It’s Never Just a Game
I was in the game that day
when it was a hot midsummer afternoon
when we played in the Courtright elementary school yard
when Jimmy Lipinski hit a double off of Joe Mullins’ chest
when time outs were for injury or just to pee.
I was in the game that day
when the fight broke out between Balochi and the new kid
Smitty was new and wanted us to play by New Jersey rules,
Balochi and Smitty became close friends and grew old together
and we learned to play by Jersey rules, East End rules, and league rules,
but mostly we made up the rules based on many things.
I was in the game that day
when Teddy tripped on second base and broke his nose
when the Daniel’s kid at shortstop lit a cigarette in the third
when the school janitor came and ran us all off or he would call the cops,
when we vandalized the school cuz the Janitor was a dick,
when I got my first hit, and when I hit my last.
I was in the game that day
when Lipinski made his behind the back flyball catch
when the worst player on the team hit a grand slam
when cuts and scrapes and twisted ankles were part of growing up,
when it started to rain that day and we played on anyway,
when the game was just the game, and both sides always won.
I left the game that day
when we walked away cuz it was getting dark
when we were thinking of what in life came next
when we thought there were better things to do,
when we walked away one last time
from the game we all so loved.
Let’s go play some stickball.
(Bill Reynolds 4/16/2018)
Look both ways as you play the game.
When at bat, mind you, hit the gaps.
The day 14 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenges me to write entries for an imaginary dream dictionary. I was to pick one or more of the following words and write about what it means to dream of these things: Teacup, Hammer, Seagull, Ballet, slipper, Shark, Wobbly table, Dentist, Rowboat.
I really don’t get today’s assignment, but my goal is to write to the prompts. I decided to write what a hammer means in my dream, and then a little poetic ditty using hammer metaphorically within the dream. I’ve written too much about dreams lately not to at least attempt this.
When I had the hammer
The hammer is control in my dream
My dreams are always challenges
Problems to be solved, difficulties
My hammer is my courage and power to manage.
In my dream, I walked through four rooms.
In the childhood room, I could not lift my hammer
It was too big and too heavy and too confusing
All adults in the room had hammers, no child did
Some people had several. Someone carried my hammer.
In the young adult room, I struggled to move my hammer
Some days I could drag it, on other days I needed someone to help me
I tried to lift my hammer and to carry it as others seemed to
Several others were burdened as they carried many hammers.
In the middle age room, I carried my hammer with pride
I had a bag full of hammers because I carried hammers of others
…this I did with shameful pride,
…never admitting to the fear and burden of so many hammers
Confused, I wanted to give others their hammers to carry,
…yet, I wanted to continue to carry them.
In the room of seniors, I understood the hammers
I carried mine, yet asked for help when my hammer was too heavy
Some days I helped others carry theirs, some days I carried none
But with each passing day, my hammer got heavier,
…and I knew that soon
…I would have to give my hammer away.
(Bill Reynolds, 4/14/2018)
Look both ways to find your hammer.
Use it carefully as you mind the gaps.
The day 13 poem prompt of the 2018 National Poetry Writing Month challenges me to write a poem in which the words or meaning of a familiar phrase are up-ended.
I chose the phrase whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. My upending is in the poem’s title. Besides the prompt, my inspiration for this poem stems from reading Christopher Hitchens’ Vanity Fair article regarding the maxim, and the entire series he wrote during his tribulation with cancer.
Indeed, successful resistance often strengthens. That is the principle of inoculations against disease, doing regular exercise, preserving through addictions, or recovery from mental setbacks such as depression. The problem arises from the universal application of the maxim, no matter who first said it.
First, it may kill you (and someday something indeed will). Secondly, things (like whatever) can and do leave you weaker, not always stronger. In my opinion, despite having taken the shot against shingles, I contracted the illness because I had been ill repeatedly over months and my immune system had been severely weakened. And there is the age thing (it’s not just a number). Being ill did not kill me, but it did make me weaker, more vulnerable, and not a bit stronger. Shingles does not make you any stronger either.
Here is a good article about Hitch’s Vanity Fair piece. And the poem…
First Weakened Then Dead
I am my body and my mind
‘tis me nature to be friendly and kind.
Then you entered me, quite uninvited
You’re a vile corruption of cells divided.
You took my strength, my pride, my hair
Weakened what I am, if you ever care.
We both suffer, but it’s you we must kill
In my losing battle to save my will.
Die I must, that’s what they say
But I hope to find some other way.
(Bill Reynolds, 4/13/2018)
I’m a Kelly Clarkson fan, especially since watching her coach on the TV show, The Voice. I’ve included her 2012 hit in the interest of leaving you, literally, on a positive note.
From birth to death, look both ways. Mind the gaps and the cleaver maxims.