Epistolary Poetry: Some Writer’s Thoughts (NaPoWriMo day 11)

Today’s NaPo’s challenge was to write a two-part poem as an exchange of letters. The first stanza, part, or poem was to be the letter-poem that I wrote to someone. The second part, the letter I received in response. The length, form, and subject matter were to be of my choosing.

I wrote one letter to two men, George Carlin, and Johnny Cash. Each answered separately. Cash used a poem he wrote 18 years ago.


Dear Messrs. Carlin and Cash,

I am sometimes compared to George,
but seldom to Johnny Cash.
I love music and humor, especially
the more cerebral, sarcastic jokes
of George’s accompanied by adult language.
Every day, I listen to Mr. Cash recite the poem,
The Cremation of Sam McGee
as part of my playlist. All three of us spent
time in the Air Force, although the length of time
and conditions of departure differ. I like
to write. I know that both of you considered
yourselves writers. But you were better known
in other professions, which was how I found you.
If this letter gets to you (I’m told you died),
please give me advice about my writing.
You can see it on my blog.

Regards (I miss you both), Bill

***

Dear Bill,

I asked around about you. I learned that, like me, you were raised in the Catholic faith and attended parochial school, but now you’re out of all that. A synonym for parochial is narrow- or closed-minded. Never forget that. You’ll never get over it. You are not like me. So, don’t worry. We have no wifi or computers or cell phones here, but no matter. If you want to write just do it. Fuck what anyone else thinks. Remember, both the man in black and I had our stage personas and our real acts. Recall also that I loved the live performances. I can’t speak for Johnny, but I bet he did too. Holy shit, he did concerts for prisons. Oh, you have a lot goin’ on. Enjoy it all man, for as long as you can.

Best of Luck, Old Man.
George

***

Hey Mister Bill,

Don’t cha just love writing poetry? I did for sure.
Songs too, but it’s all about the same stuff.
I’m gonna give you my answer as a poem
I wrote back in 2003, Called “Forever.”

“You tell me that I must perish
Like the flowers that I cherish
Nothing remaining of my name
Nothing remembered of my fame
But the trees that I planted
Still are young
The songs I sang
Will still be sung”*

Good luck to ya, Sir. And
God bless….Johnny

*Poem “Forever” by Johnny Cash from Forever Words: The Unknown Poems.


Look both ways and try to accept what help you can get.
Mind the gaps and truth behind the masks.

Commentary: Sammi’s Weekender #204 (forage)

Click to go see Sammi

 


When words like shit and fuck are used, it’s often to express emotion. Meanings of excrement and fornication are less often intended. Both can be vulgarities, obscenities, or profanities, depending on context and who sees or hears it: lawyers, religious people, or your mother.

Shit results from forage, which leads to eating, thus pooping. People who study shit (“excrement examined experimentally”) are called scatologists, although scatology also refers to literature, or they’re called scientists who work in fimo, after the Latin fimus.


Look both ways and watch where you step.
Mind the gaps or you may ruin someone’s idea of a scientific experiment.

Not my poem, but an oldie I recall from boyhood days.

Poetry: A junk drawer song (NaPoWriMo day 10)

The day ten NaPo prompt is to write a junk drawer song.

The process was to choose a song, listen to it and make notes. I was not to overthink it (yeah, right), but too late. Next, I was to rifle through a junk drawer and make more notes about the objects therein.

Third, I needed to bring the two pages of notes together by writing a poem. The final step is to name the poem.

I made a list of seven songs, then selected “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel. If I am to connect a song to a poem, that folksy tune is it. If you are familiar with the Bridge Over Troubled Water version, you may not be aware of the verse sometimes left off. Read it and you’ll see me.

The verse not included:

Now the years are rolling by me—
They are rockin’ evenly.
I am older than I once was,
And younger than I’ll be.
That’s not unusual;
No, it isn’t strange:
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same;
After changes we are more or less the same.

I had less control over the junk drawer, but I was able to choose from various depositories for miscellaneous stuff.


Take Comfort Here

I am the boxer. Back then,
I had more future than past.
It could have been worse.
I found buttons and church keys.

How I saw it all then,
Doing wrong making bad,
And sorry I wasted anytime on that bull shit.
There was a domino of Oma,
Among bottle caps of cities,
Near an empty tube of something.

But it was to please them that I wanted.
And promises I’d heard,
Smiley faced measuring tape,
Two hand fans, or was it three?

Is that a hypodermic needle?
When a boy becomes a man,
For a long time, he’s neither.
Looking for something to make his own.
An orange highlighter to ruin a good book.
Dried up glue sticks.

I felt the pain and heard the call,
A temptation was my sin.
A needle and nail polish remover?

I didn’t and still don’t know what I wanted.
In such a coal miner’s lad finds comfort.
Low places. It could be worse. An old iTouch,
A thumb drive. Julie’s roller derby pin.

I stand before the mirror.
I am still a boy with a fighter’s heart
Crying out,
“I’m leaving, I am leavin’ ‘n want no company,”
But I’m still the same frightened boxer.


I look both ways, at who I was and who I am:
still the same, not wishing I was gone.
The gaps are bleedin’ me, leadin’ me…home.

Poetry: Omar’s Morning (NaPoWriMo day 9)

Today’s NaPo prompt was to write a poem in the form of a to-do list for an unusual person or character. I made a list for Omar Khayyam using some of his poetry as a guide.


“Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.”

Today I shall make math in the morning,
After a bit of love, and some science
To make the wine taste much finer.
Then I will make time to mend this tent.

Today, I must check the new calendar
To see if it works well enough to
Decide if today is the day after
Yesterday and the one before tomorrow.

“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”

And love you I shall, until time for food,
And drink. Let us upset the local
Sufis a bit, they see me as atheist,
But they are wrong as this is heaven.

Then I must write for the art,
A bust of poetry as I lie with thee.
Who will know me in a thousand years?
I must get this damn sandal fixed.

Then I recall I must teach that class.
Oh, how to find the time?
Let us make a Sultan’s list,
As I’ll think of love and wine.

(Quotations are from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, written by Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fitzgerald.)


Look both ways for Epicurean delights.
Mind the gaps with humorous and perverse exalting
gratification of the senses. Tomorrow we can decide what happens then.

Poetry: The Late Train (NaPoWriMo day 8)

Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 book, Spoon River Anthology, consists of poetic monologues, each spoken by a dead person buried in the fictional town of Spoon River.

My day eight NaPo prompt/assignment was to read a few of Masters’ poems, then write a poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead.


“Good morning America how are ya?” *
I’m J. R. Cash but call me Johnny.
I been a singer ‘n writer of songs all my life.
I wrote poems, too. Not no more though.
Paul and John Carter made a book
sometime after I moved out here.
I made lists of do’s and don’ts,
like who to kiss and who not.
Rockabilly, I walked the line in
more than one ring of fire.
Sue was a joke, Jackson was not. Either way,
I was the man in black, or undertaker was okay.
The Hag caught my San Quentin show. He signed up.
I was inside less than him. Now, I’m back with Jack
on the orange blossom special.
How ‘er my pals from Bitter Tears doing?
Ya know, that Lonesome Dove fellow?
He just hopped on this train.
“And often I say, No more I do it/
But I miss the traveling/And I miss the songs.” **

***

*From The City of New Orleans written by Steve Goodman, covered by many.
**Quotation from Cash’s poem, “My Song,” in Forever Words: The Unknown Poems.

Notes: ‘Paul’ Muldoon edited Forever Words. ‘John Cater’ Cash is his son. ‘Jack’ refers to his brother who was killed in an accident at a young age. ‘Hag’ refers to Merle Haggard.


Look both ways when you cross memory lane.
Mind the gaps well, or a song you might miss.

Poetry: The Shadorma and Fibonacci Forms (NaPoWriMo day 7)

My seventh day NaPo adventure is to write at least two poems structured in forms that have a specific number of lines and specific syllable counts per line: the shadorma, and the Fib.

A shadorma is a six-line, 26-syllable poem. Each line’s syllable count is 3/5/3/3/7/5.

A Fib, besides being a white lie, is a six-line form where syllable count is based upon the Fibonacci mathematical sequence of 1/1/2/3/5/8. I may reverse line syllable counts after the first six to 8/5/3/2/1/1.

In both forms, I may use multiple six-line poems to create one multi-stanza poem, provided I use six lines per stanza and the appropriate syllable count per line. Neither form is mentioned in any of my books on poetry, including the Third Edition of Turco’s, The Book of Forms.


Intimacy

dance with me
be my love partner
hold me close
i hold you
step with time to forever
let’s dance into love

forever
i am your lover
music plays
steps we know
we endure as years twirl past
we dance together

(Inspired by the songs “Dance With Me,” by Orleans; and “Dance Me To the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen)


Tree Hugger

All
Life
Is one.
Together
In this challenging
World of delicate us and truth.

Symbiotic mutualism
Will still save us all
Together
We are
One
Life.

(Inspired by this quotation, “It cannot be said too often: all life is one. That is, and I suspect will forever prove to be, the most profound true statement there is.” From A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson)


Look both ways in life and love.
We are not, and wouldn’t survive, alone.
Mind the gaps, plant trees, and be kind to animals.

Poetry: War’s Bitterness (NaPoWriMo day 6)

The irony of today’s prompt is that it comes from Holly Lyn Walrath, who wrote of prompts, “…they all suck.” She poses this one as simple.

“Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.”

I want to finish this assignment today, so I am amending the prompt slightly.

I have lists of lines (quotes) from books I like. Examples I considered from Bukowski’s poetry book, Love is Dog from Hell, (also the title of one of the poems) include:

  1. “Sissies have a hard life.”
  2. “I never quite understood what it all meant and still don’t.”
  3. “Human relationships aren’t durable.”
  4. “Just drink more beer, more and more beer.”
  5. “An early taste of death is not necessarily a bad thing.”
  6. “Hit that thing/hit it hard.”

I rejected them for a sentence from Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried. The protagonist is referring to his decision to be drafted and go to Viet Nam, rather than flee to Canada.

“I would go to the war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to.”

I used each of these three independent clauses as the title for a quatrain. Then, I wrote the overall title of the combined poem, but I left the original lines.


War’s Bitterness

I would go to the war*—

Not to defend my country
or the Constitution, or our freedom,
or our way of life, to a war
I did not believe in.

I would kill and maybe die*—

Even my own countrymen would
condemn me and others who did
see themselves as defenders, many heroes
who would be wasted in a war they hated.

I was embarrassed not to*—

I cried. I didn’t want to go. I felt
that I had no choice. Could I kill?
Would I be killed or maimed?
Would I ever understand why?


(*Taken from the boat scene while fishing on the Rainy River in the book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.)

Look both ways. Feel the pressure. Decide.
Mind the gaps, especially those in your mind.
You’re only a living, fallible human.

Poetry: Me in Drawing Class (NaPoWriMo day 5)

For this prompt, I was to select an existing poem and write my poem using the shape (form, style, beat) of the original. Each of my lines must begin with the same first letter of the corresponding line in the original poem.

For this assignment, I selected two Billy Collins poems. For shape, I chose “Class Picture 1954” (click to read it). I picked “Drawing Class” for subject and musings. Mr. Collins enjoyed his drawing class much more than I did. But we both like to draw.


Me in Drawing Class

I took the art class
for my drawing to improve.

To the instructor I was not
special nor obedient because
to me, she was retentive and inflexible.

The first day she belittled tardy.
I was early. Most were on time.
Is she too good to teach me?

At the front and center
in my surgical mask,
was I to be her basic class problem?

Because I claim my work
instead of me making art her way;
oh, how we entertained the others.

What’s so bad about using graphite?
And why is it carbon or charcoal
you think superior to what tool I use?

And now we’re done.
So class is over,
another moody artist goes his way.


Look both ways in dealing with the artsy types.
Mind the gaps, but graphite works equally well.

Poetry: Cardiology: Third Floor (NaPoWriMo Day 4)

The NaPo fourth daily prompt is to select a photograph from @SpaceLiminalBot. Then, inspired by one of these odd, in-transition spaces, write a poem.

The idea is that “poetry often takes us to strange places – to feelings and actions that are hard to express except through the medium of a poem.”

From Liminal Spaces @SpaceLiminalBot

In similar cold, impersonal rooms I’ve waited.
In walked one of those transitional, liminal,
“call me doctor” med school grads
titled “resident,” which really means
student-doctor, not to be trusted (yet).

The tall, dark, young, stranger wearing a white coat
over green medical scrubs
and bright-orange plastic slip-on shoes,
said, “I’m Doctor Confident
working with Doctor Supervisor.”

I answered his questions and laughed too often
at his overconfident naivety (couldn’t help it).
I instructed him. I explained.
His pride got in the way, so I stopped.
I smiled. He wanted to argue.

While I didn’t take the bait, I said things
like, “good luck with that” (giggling),
“that’s not gunna happen,” and “we shall see.”
I did not call him doctor, only technically is he.
They need name tags, “Liminal Doctor Botch”
with a footnote that says,
“must be monitored closely.”

Someday soon he will be relied upon
to cure illnesses, to save or extend lives,
to teach other residents the ways of medical science,
to develop rapport with his patients. But first,
he must learn. No longer a student, not yet a doctor.

He may remember a cantankerous old man,
who was not, technically, his teacher or patient.
He will learn. He must. Nothin’s easy.


Look both ways in ever relationship.
Mind the gaps. Maybe fill them in.

Poetry: Winning (NaPoWriMo Day 3)

For today’s prompt, or assignment, I was to make a “Personal Universe Deck,” and then write a poem using it. My deck needed 50 index cards with 100 words of my choosing but I had to follow 17 rules.

I was to have fun making the deck, which should also be revealing. After I had my deck assembled, I was to shuffle it a few times, then select a card or two for words to use as the basis for a poem. I was not to agonize over my word choices.

I did all that. I blindly selected two cards at random, each with two words. The words were thirst, light, song, and mystic. I admit to liking these words.


***

My Mystical Song #75

I’m quite average in many ways.
Excellence is not common to me,
as neither stage nor spotlight quench
my introverted comfort zone.

I sing poorly, but I love music.
I’m not spiritual, but I love mystery,
and I drink a bit of the adult life,
which I try not to take too seriously.

When I do well, or simply succeed
to cross the marathon’s finish,
to survive addiction or disease,
I bow my Irish head and take a smile.


Look both ways to find the real you and the real me.
Mind the gaps with special care. That’s where our secrets are.