Poetry: Dad’s Ways (NaPoWriMo day 15)

For today’s NaPo prompt, I was supposed to think about (as in remember) a small habit I picked up from one of my parents. Then, I was to write, first about remembering my parent engaged in that behavior before writing about me doing the same thing.

I can do none of that. I recall no small habits of Mom or Dad, much less identify any I copied.

This prompt is one of several generative writing prompts created by Juan Martinez for his college-age creative writing students at Northwestern University. I’ve not been a college student for many years and probably completed my undergraduate degree before Professor Martinez was born.

But I wanted to write a poem from this prompt. Since Martinez used the term generative, I felt comfortable using his idea as the genesis for one applicable to my life by adjusting the parental habit concept to my father. Several of my father’s customs so irritated me that I intentionally do the opposite, do not do them, or if I ever did, I stopped copying them many years ago. This is not phyco-babble. I loved my Dad (sort of) but I despised much of what he did.

That way, I can remember and write about him while also writing about me not engaging in the same behavior, a bit of a reverse of the NaPo prompt. The original theme of a poem about my parent’s habits remains.


I loved him and I think
he loved me, but I can’t recall
him saying it. I’m freer with
I love you’s, hugs, and kisses. I don’t think
Mom considered him a good man.

He had only apple butter and cold
processed meat sandwiches as a kid.
I learned about apple butter at Jimmy’s house.
It was not allowed in ours.

Except for some dining-out places,
I hate for people to wait on or to serve me,
he seemed to expect it,
especially from my Mom.

His teeth spent nights in a glass with water,
I am meticulous about dental hygiene.

He smoked himself to death. I quit long ago.
He had religion. I gave that up too.
He often laid on the couch. I never do.

Our bathroom sink was always disgusting
because of his mess. I clean mine several times
each day and never leave it wet. I don’t think
I’m anal, but I pick up my shit and fix cockeyed things.

I learned how to do things and to have the right tools
before I start. He learned as he worked,
never with the right tool for the job.
I watched his frustration and learned
what not to do.

He didn’t drive. I have a motorcycle.
He smelled too much of cologne,
like a French whore house to me.
I never use scented products to smell attractive.

I believe exercise is good medicine,
he didn’t think so. I fight with my temper,
he often lost his without guilt. I tried to keep away
from him and that violent loss of control.

His ethnic epithets seemed normal Archie
Bunker stuff, I avoid them because of him,
not due to today’s PC environment. It was called
All In the Family, if you don’t know.

It seems to me that my Dad’s good influence
on me was letting me see, hear, and smell
that meat-and-potatoes Irishman who
I believe, did the best he could, and I knew
all along Mom wanted better.


Look both ways at their foibles and yours.
Nobody’s perfect, of course,
but mind the gaps to be the best you can.

 

Poetry: Mello Bill (NaPoWriMo day 14)

The NaPo prompt for today was to write a poem that “delves into the meaning” of my first or last name. For me, that’s about family history.


Mom couldn’t remember her mother,
but her father lived much longer. I,
while given his name, never met him
or any grandparent.

Mom’s family propensity
for female progeny meant that I
could have been baptized Wilhelmina.
But the presence of a penis undermined
her best planned pronouncements. I was William,
after my maternal grandfather, yet Mom and Sis
often teased by directing that female alias at me.

For my name, more meaning
requires German or Norman research,
the discovery of which
has nothing to do with me.

Neighbors often called me Danny
after my Dad or older half-brother, but
I told them, “I’m Billy.”
They often seemed confused.
Mom said I was demonstrative (whatever that meant).
Wilhelmina probably would have been histrionic.
Today it’s curmudgeonly snarkastic, but they love me.

I don’t know if so-called meanings of my name
have squat-all to do with who I am, or this William.
It’s Bill that I prefer to go by although our first born
is also named William and goes by Billy
(or Bill when I’m not around).

As for that “strong-willed warrior,
protector, or helmet” stuff from the dictionaries,
regarding the meanings of my first name,
none of it has anything to do with me,
or who I am.

Yet, some who know would call me stubborn.
And there were all those years in uniform
for which people insist on thanking me,
as if I’d been an underpaid volunteer.
Maybe so, maybe not. I guess we’ll never know.


Look both ways and inward.
Does your name define who you are, or is it the other way around?
Mind the gaps in family history, you might not be who you think you are.

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: Not So Far Away (NaPoWriMo Day 2)

Today’s prompt was to write a poem about my own road not taken – about a choice of  that has “made all the difference,” and what might have happened had I made a different choice.


Not So Far Away

After Number One’s birth weeks earlier, I drove with
my wife, then a new mom breast feeding our toothless son,
from A&M to Deep East Texas, where the Big Thicket grows.

Where bigotry and Southern Baptist were basic creeds,
where folks accepted and expected compliance from young Aggies.
But this new college grad dad needed a job for his family.

Seen as white, but a liberal-minded, damn-Yankee, kid-cop, I learned
when the high sheriff told me to break up interracial dating,
and the old District Judge, a most influential man of short stature,

told me when they hung, perhaps lynched, the last victim. He knew
the day because he was there. I needed the job but wanted to leave.
White robes on backs and front doors made it clear. Not here.

A return to military life and flight school loomed large
as I felt the call to return to a career I never expected.
Accepted, I was off to months of training to turn the page.

That was fifty years ago. Bill’s now the eldest of three.
People thank me, something that makes me uncomfortable,
but I comply. I nod and smile, accepting patronizing thanks.

A much better world surrounded the life I chose. That time
has passed. Would I now be me, had I not experienced
the twists and turns, of the life I chose, many years ago?


Look both ways as you choose your path.
Mind the gaps closely.
There is always another road to take.

Sammi’s Weekender #197 (call)

Click for Sammi’s blog.

I wrote two poems because I liked this prompt.


Happy Raspy

The young, talented, beautiful Irish busker’s angelic voice,
unique and indescribable, called to me from Grafton Street.

Her glancing smile and raised brow calls all to pay homage
to the gift that brings me to resonated tears. My raspy old poem.

***

Yo, Billy Boy

When we said, “Call for me,”
we invited a friend, always a boy,
usually Jimmy, to stand outside and yell,
“Hello, Bill (or Billy)” loud enough
to be heard from any part of the house
and responded to, if anyone cared.

***


Look both ways on Grafton in Dublin.
Mind the gaps in such a marvelous voice.

Poetry: Mind Reading


Should you want to read my mind,
and I yours? Do our thoughts matter?

And what of dreams?
Are they in our minds, barely clear,
unseen reverie of thoughts, only real when we sleep?

If you could read my mind, could I then read yours?
Would we share thoughts, and each be of two minds?
I’m often with two minds while claiming one—
more conflicted than confused. Do you see through eyes
that are like windows to a witness,
seeing my thoughts,
or are they mixed with yours in me?

If I could read your mind, would a new universe
be revealed to me? One with background and rationale
to justify your thoughts. Would I understand you better?
Or is it true that you and I are what we do?

If you read my mind, do you see my thoughts
through the lens of yours? If not, are my words and actions
filtered through your mind and thoughts? Is that truth?
Are you able to separate you and understand me alone,
entirely without you, your life, your experience, your own thoughts?

“I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try”

“But that was just a dream
Try, cry, fly, try
That was just a dream
Just a dream
Just a dream, dream” *

Forget my mind. It’s crazy anyway.
Read my heart. Listen for my soul.
Judge me by what I do. Ultimately, that is who I am.
I am not a poet. I’m your poet. And you’re mine.


Look both ways. Believe the real, the truth. We are what we do.
Mind the gaps and the pullbacks, the maybes are filled with deceit.

(* Lyrics from Losing My Religion, R.E.M.)

Sammi’s Weekender #183 (Wrangle)

Click to go to Sammi’s page and words of other’s.

Left, Right, Left

Loudly, we would wrangle well into the wee hours.
Gene and I would worry all but us; uneasy friends, smok-an’ drinkin’ buds
with different ways we saw our world.
Not even—no more.


Look and listen both ways. Lean from friends.
Mind the gaps of age and wisdom, our unforgiving nature.

***

 

Sammi’s Weekender #182 (bequeath/bequest)


I Lied to Me

His first words,
“What will you get?”
With such words our brother
accounted for decades of silence.

“He can’t help it,”
I’d tell myself.
“It’s not his fault.
He was raised like that,”
I told myself.
“Forgive him.
He’s your big brother.
He should be your hero,”
I still tell myself—
Not some pitiful old man
Who’ll never understand why,
I told myself, again.

Our sister’s bequest
was that he suffer
as he caused her, but I couldn’t
let her love lapse, I told myself.


Look both ways with family and friends.
Mind the gaps, but learn to live without them.

Sammi’s Weekender (histrionics)


Demonstrative was what Mom said,
but no one ever called me histrionic.
A sober adult, some said automaton,
a stoic robot.

One who cared,
but cared not to show it.
I wonder now though
about this thing with Carlin.
I’m unsure if I’m that good,
or that bad.


Look both ways into emotions and dispassionate objectivity.
Mind the ever-present gaps for stumbling blocks.