NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 10)

What is a sea shanty?

It’s a poem in the form of a song, strongly rhymed and rhythmic. Two famous sea shanties, in addition to The Wellerman (listen, it’s fun), are What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor? and Blow the Man Down.

My assignment was to write a poem with nautical phrases to keep “the sea in my shanty.” While formerly career Air Force, I’m intrigued by submarines and aircraft carriers and the life sailors live. I decided on a poem about submariners, after knowing some and learning more (for a flyboy/landlubber). I used so much jargon that I decided on extensive glossing.

Blind Man’s Bluff

Shipmate, shipmate, useless thou art
you’ll be chief of the crank
or you’ll be walkin’ the plank
unqualled and unfit to smell a chief’s fart.

Yer like a dog with two peters
so confused in that bubble
a bluenose nub, yer nothin’ but trouble
below-decks with the cooks and the beaters.

The worst we got yet from rottin’ o’Groton
yer too fuckin’ green to sit in the box.
Today yer a FLOB washing my socks.
We’ll rig for red and drop you in Boston.

Shipmate, shipmate, you’re new to the crew.
Bubblehead, bubblehead, give me a clue.
Carry on with target prosecution that’s true,
a fish in the water with the firing solution.

What’s that? A dolphin on your chest?
And the COB now thinks yer one of the best.
Sooner than sonar our service’s a test,
an a-ganger now, yer the best of the rest.

With orders all ahead full cavitate,
it’s hard for the skimmers to fully appreciate
the pukas in our honeycomb tube
remember your days as a dumbass nub-noob.

Shipmate, shipmate, here we go again
bubblehead, bubblehead, give us a clue.
We’re just out of Groton all shiny and new.
We’ll be diving in soon, you tell us all when.

Look both ways, but things can hide behind a submarine.
Mind the gaps on the port and the starboard, but out of the water the rudder is right.

Note: I got the title from Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage by Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, and Annette Lawrence Drew, published in 1998, is a non-fiction book about U.S. Navy submarine operations during the Cold War. I give the book 5 stars.

Gloss: “Shipmate” is pejorative when used sailor to sailor, but not usually otherwise. “Chief” is a senior enlisted rank, but here it is sarcastic. “Crank”s are the shit-jobs on submarines. The “bubble” refers to leveling the sub. A “NUB” is a non-useful body, unqualified without a dolphin badge (like a pilot without wings).

The USN submarine school and museum (I recommend if you like subs and their history) are located near Groton, Connecticut (USA). I’ve heard it called “rotten Groton.”

The “box” is a key location on a sub. “FLOB” is an initialism for freeloading oxygen breather. “Rig for red” is going to red lights to preserve night vision before rising to periscope depth. “Bubblehead” refers to people on submarines. “Fish” in the water refers to a torpedo. US Submariners are awarded a dolphin badge when they become fully qualified. “COB” is the enlisted chief of the boat. “A-gangers” are experienced crewmembers (aka, knuckle-draggers/tough guys). “All ahead full cavitate” is getting away quickly. “Skimmers” are surface ships and sailors. “Pukas” are small hiding places on a sub.


*Click on the NaPo 2023 button to see the challenge and to read more poems (not all are on prompt).

NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 9)

Today I was to write a sonnet. While allowed space regarding traditional sonnets, I was to keep with a general theme of “love.” I did not shoot for iambic pentameter, but I did manage ten syllables per line, except for the final two, which are nine and eleven, thus averaging ten. I made no attempt to rhyme.

I don’t think you understood love like me.
When I told Mom that you were a good man
Walking home after making arrangements
She balked. I understood and we agreed.

You had always been a difficult man.
With a world view no wider than the path
Of a tear rolling down my cheek or hers.
Coalminer tough and Irishman drunk.

Your mother died when you were only eight.
You were raised by a strict Scotsman father.
About him and you, you never told me.
He was your only father role model.

Now I wonder about me as a father,
And my wife as my children’s mother.

Look both ways in love and life.
Nobody is perfect and forgiveness is good.
But forgetting is optional.


*Click on the NaPo 2023 button to see the challenge and to read more poems (not all are on prompt).

NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 8)

On NaPo day eight (yesterday), we were gifted twenty little “projects” from which we were to construct a poem. If you would like to see that list, follow this link, where you can also see how other poets handled this assignment.

Thunderstruck Dream

I was sleeping deeply and dreaming peacefully. Without warning
thirty meters from my head,

David’s deity-voiced metaphor
of frightening lightening, and roaring thunder were rude,
but effective wake-up calls.
God’s anger jolted me.
I calmly rose and charged outside.
There I inhaled the quiet storms.

The odor of thermite filled the black darkness.
Reduced pressure tugged at my body hair.
I could hear charred silence
dipped in white-hot phosphorescent fire.

I felt my limbs move in voluntary equilibrium with my brain.
Electrified air was warm but slowly cooling.
As time passed, normality moaned.
I felt the slow, shimmering return of colors.

Was Zeus passing through central Texas
early that morning? Did Jupiter ambush my restless night?
Was the storm deistically unsourced?
Must a been my own deep dream that caused the storm.

So hard of hearing am I, that I cannot hear thunder.
But I heard that.
And I felt it rock my body in a not-so-good-way.

I smelt like I wanted to be alone.
I’m old as dirt, but not so common as cornbread. Anyway,
maybe so. Can’t dance, never could sing much,
and that thing’s too wet to plow.

The rolling dark clouds of despair reached out to all of me;
body, mind, and soul, which made me feel good about
the inevitability of death.
The pull of sky lifted me away from gravity,
above the earth I floated, and I could see everyone and everything.

Mister Bill was as intended, above and beyond — away from it all.

Storms do not wake the dead but they will always be
part of nature’s plan for life on Earth until
there is no more planet,
no more sun, no more rain.
Certainly, it will be the loud sound of pungent silence.

In the end it’ll be the end, but no one will know.
C’est la vie.
After thunder has spoken. Petrichor stands in the senses.
It says things are better now,
not just that the storm has passed, but because it was here.

Boom! Awakened or not.
The storm was near: too close.
Now it’s there. It’s not here anymore.
So, sleep well.

Look both ways if you sleep in total darkness.
Mind the gaps—those long spaces between he naps.

NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 7)

Click on the NaPo button to see the challenge and more poems (not all are on prompt).

“Good morning, Mr. Bill. Your mission assignment, should you choose to accept it since all prompts are optional, involves writing a poem that plays with the idea of a list. It may involve a list that isn’t a list, or any on the list of innumerable lists that exist. This assignment will never self-destruct. Nor will your poem.”

A list poem is a type without a required formal form. Sandburg and Whitman both used lists, why can’t I?


Johnny Cash wrote to-do (and not to) lists. On one he wrote to kiss his wife, to not kiss anyone else, and to stop making lists. That’s on my list, too.

Checklists in aviation save lives (best practices and emergencies).
We have music play lists of many kinds,
People to kill lists and shit lists;
A-, B-, C-, and even Z-lister lists,
movie credits and grocery store lists (on or off refrigerators).
Supply lists and tables of contents are lists
as are bibliographies and indexes.

Some have idea lists and lists of
people and things to pray for.
Lists may be random, ordered, numbered, alphabetized, or bulleted.
I eschew Christmas lists (gifts or cards)
and before we die, bucket lists.

Google has movies or books to watch or read,
or lists of banned ones, also wistful
best and worst lists of all kinds.
And within each are lists of credits,
acknowledgments, and thank you lists.
Contact and packing are useful lists.

Menus are food and drink lists,
but not always. We have membership lists
and job listings. Formularies are lists
of oaths, prayers, or medicinal substances.
There are registers, schedules, ballots,
and guest lists. Do you list enemies?
Conscription, by definition, involves
a draft list for armed forces. Santa,
it is said, has lists he double checks.

Look both ways when you make and keep lists,
especially ones about who to and not to kiss.
Mind the gaps because not everything is ever on any single list.

A list from Johnny Cash. Click on Johnny’s list to see Toby Keith sing “My List.”


NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 6)

Today’s assignment: After reading a poem in a language I don’t know (at, I was to think about the sound and shape of the words in the poem and the degree to which they reminded me of words in English. Then, I was to use those correspondences as the basis for the new poem I was to write (in my native language).

Like most patriotic Americans, I am monolingual (he said, sarcastically). I try to enjoy prompts involving other languages. My Mexican friend, Edith Blackbird Fly, uses them often. I did not have time to request use of one of her poems.

My first experience with other languages was Latin (grew up in the Catholic [Latin Mass & some prayers] Church). I heard a lot of Czech and Polish spoken by friend’s grandparents, but not passed down generationally. I did not do well in the French I took in high school. I took German in College (groan) and several Spanish/Tex-Mex less formal adult ed classes.

I could not find a poem on the Poetry International page, so I found one on another site. Not easy since everyone wants to translate for me. I chose a Spanish poem by Douglas Wright, a famous writer of children’s poetry from Argentina. I didn’t know it was a children’s poem until I had finished mine.

Ok, I did the “sound and shape of the words” part and ended up with a somewhat goofy “poem.” It’s okay to laugh, but please don’t point. Below are first, Wright’s poem in Spanish; second is my poem in English; and finally the English translation of Mr. Wright’s.

Bien tomados de la mano” by Douglas Wright

Qué lindo que es caminar,
bien tomados de la mano,
por el barrio, por la plaza,
¿qué sé yo?, por todos lados.

Qué lindo es mirar los árboles,
bien tomados de la mano,
desde el banco de la plaza,
en el que estamos sentados.

Qué lindo es mirar el Cielo
bien tomados de la mano;
en nuestros ojos, volando,
dos pájaros reflejados.

Qué lindo que es caminar
bien tomados de la mano;
¡qué lindo, andar por la vida
de la mano bien tomados!

What a Mess (by Bill)

Ok, Linda. It’s my Camaro.
It’s been tomatoed by some men
over near the barrio, next
to the plaza. Okay for you
and those toad lads of yours.

K-Lindy, it’s more vegetables
been tossed by young men
into the river at a party
and then, they fell in drunk asleep.

Maybe the Land Rover’s better.
Still, tomatoes and those men;
I’m nervous about Yolonda.
She can see the disaster.

Linda, you can run the Camaro
with tomatoes thrown
and take it to the car wash
and dry it like a Tejas tornado.

Holding Hands Firmly by Douglas Wright

How nice it is to walk,
holding hands firmly,
through the neighborhood, through the plaza,
What do I know?, everywhere.

How nice it is to look at the trees,
holding hands firmly,
from the bench in the plaza,
in which we are sitting.

How nice it is to look at the sky
holding hands firmly;
in our eyes, flying,
two reflected birds.

How nice it is to walk
holding hands firmly;
how nice, to walk through life
with hands held firmly!

Look both ways, America has no official national language
yet very few (especially natives) are bilingual.
Mind the gaps and learn another language.

*Click on the NaPo button to see the challenge and more poems (not all are on prompt).

NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 5)

Today, the NaPo prompt challenged me to write a poem in which laughter comes at an inappropriate time. While George Carlin would be my inspiration for laughing inappropriately, I recalled this story about my first experience with laughing in church.

Measure Up

First grade was—what? —age six?
Twelve months before Pope P. declared
us prepubescent Catholic children
to be at the age of reason: still, that’s seven,
thus eligible for eternity in Hell.

That’s the time when we must confess
our sins to a priest and then to receive
the actual body and blood of Jesus
into our mouths (no touching or chewing).

Too young to jerk off;
couldn’t spell rape or murder,
(but could be a victim of either);
abuse, or extorsion.

On Sundays, at nine o’clock Mass, we had to be there
and sit in the front pews, down range from
second through eighth graders
in ascending class order behind us,
thus we were easily seen by everyone.

Our teacher, Sister Mary Menopause, floated by
just as Jimmy Sauer (also six) dropped his punch line
and we both committed the unreasonable, punishable,
but forgivable sin of laughing in church.
She crucified us both.

After Sister M. played whack-a-mole on our heads
with her ever-present wooden ruler,
she further embarrassed us with after Mass detention
upstairs in our school classroom. Mortification!

Dad said, “I hope you learned your lesson.” I did.
Seventy years later, I examine my conscience
by writing a poem about a churchly childhood experience
and a nun whose real name I’ve long forgotten.

Look both ways as the lady in black floats down the aisle.
She comes for you.
Mind the gaps between us and sit in the center of the pew,
well out of reach when she begins her swing.


Click on the NaPo button to see the challenge and more poems (not all are on prompt).

NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 4)

I write many poems. But I’m a lazy poet. Nowadays, I lean heavily on free verse, simply because it is easier.

My Day 4 NaPo (I pronounce, ‘nay-poe’) assignment was to write a triolet poem. It is a short, but strict form of eight lines, some repeating (verbatim), with a strict meter (iambic tetrameter) and rhyme scheme (ABaAabAB).

Except for NaPo, I would not have written this today. I seldom post on Tuesday. I confess to being inspired and influenced by the Bard’s Julius Caesar (3.1. 273), at least thematically. And yes, it did happen on a Tuesday. I changed my lines so as not to use exact lines from Shakespeare.

Love’s Rath

He said, “Let loose the dogs of war.”

Let Hell be sent for you, dear friend.

Caesar lies there! Dead on the floor!

He said, “Let lose the dog of war.”

Let gods avenge my angry scorn.

Unsheathe my sword, my soul to mend.

He said, “Let lose the dogs of war.”

Let Hell be sent for you, dear friend.

Look both ways.
Forgive some, not all.
Mind the gaps and pitfalls along the road to vengeance.


Click on the NaPo button to see the challenge and more poems (not all are on prompt).

Monday’s Rune: NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 3)

Today’s Napo assignment was for me to find a short(ish) poem I like and to rewrite each line. I was to replace as many words as possible with words of opposite meaning (antonyms, perhaps). Then, polish and publish. Done! Right? (Sure.)

Since I’m caught up, I’ve made this Monday’s Rune (likewise the next three Mondays), so only one post per day for the remainder of April (except Saturdays, maybe, I hope). I may try to add other touches, like voiceover or videos, but I prefer my blog page relatively clean.

I chose two very short poems from Favorite Inspirational Poems (A Revell Inspirational Classic). My rewrites are italicized following the originals. I took the additional step of using a poetic theme opposite of the original poem. My voiceover is all four poems.


I Never Saw a Moor
by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I never saw a Moor —
I never saw the Sea —
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven —
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given —

you always knew his name
by bill

you’ve seen many deserts
you’ve seen the wilderness
never will you know how sand feels
nor how the wood-gnomes dress.

we’ve spoken to dark angels
and had our time in Hell
then still we don’t know shit
clearly, I’ve lost my fucking will.


The Steps of Faith
by – John Greenleaf Whittier

Nothing before, nothing behind, the steps of Faith.
Fall on the seeming void and find the Rock beneath.
Nothing before, nothing behind,
Fall on the void and find the Rock beneath.
Nothing before, nothing behind.

ambles of atheism
by bill

everything behind, everything before, the ambles of atheism.
rise from below in clarity and lose the slip above
everything behind, everything before
climb to the valid and forget the void above
everything behind, everything before.


Look both ways to see what the poet says.
Mind the gaps in both the literal and ironic.
It’s Monday.


Click here for the napowrimo dot net and more poems.

Sammi’s Weekender #305 (unrepentant)

With this, I am caught up with my weekend writing. I live in Texas and it’s not yet midnight, thus, technically, still the weekend.

Click the graphic for Sammi’s page and more unrepentant writes.


A long time ago
on this very planet
we call Earth, I learnt that
when I’m wrong
the sooner I know it
and admit it,
the better
for everyone.

If I do unintended harm,
I make some amends
(with insurance company guidance).

But for protecting me and mine,
there is no “sorry.”
No “excuse me” for this or that.
I wear my unrepentance like
a soldier wears his weapon.

Look both ways to see both sides.
Mind the gaps and know the land, but don’t get lost in nice.


NaPoWriMo 2023 (Day 2)

This is why I refer to these (optional) “prompts” as assignments. But I do them and I learn from that—sometimes about poetry, often I learn about me. I’m realist to the core, but I tried. This poem is a weak-bunt attempt and might be more weird than surreal.

I was supposed to pick words from a list and write questions. I did. Then, for each question, I was to write a one-line (image/surreal) answer. Finally, I was to place all the answers, without the questions, on a new page and make a poem of just the answers. I did that, too.

Words I picked: thunder, generator, river, artillery, cowbird, quahog, and song. I did not use every word, directly or explicitly, in the poem.

Click on the napo button to link up with the page and read about features, resources, prompts, and to read poems by other participants.

The Question to the Answer

When he saw her, he was thunderstruck.
She wasn’t. Thus, rain.

Generators take over worlds
by growing resentments in simple expectations.

Rivers replenish, carry, produce, flood, and feed.
Women, too. So yeah.

Heavy birds with bullets and blivits

White members of the blackbird family watch
as catbirds sit and
the shitbirds go –
somewhere leaves are falling.

If you’re hungry
do that sort of thing
when nobody’s watching.
Just clam up.

Old is forever but
not young time,
so sleep well.
That’s the way I’ve always heard it looked to be.

Look both ways when searching for answers.
Find your tribe but mind the gaps as you live into the questions.