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: 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.

Sammi’s weekender #203 (absurd)

Click for link to Sammi’s Blog.

Today Yolonda declined
a rejoin invite from ladies of the day,
because the absurd notice said,
“and no damn masks” is as close
to a dis as she is willing to concede.

My writer’s guild also discussed
timing and protocols for safe rejoins
at face-to-face meetings after
we’ve all had our shots. It’s complicated.
But no one even mentioned wearing masks.


Look both ways for both wise choices and illogical tropes.
Mind the gaps as the CDC warns of yet to come.

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.

Poetry: See No Evil (NaPoWriMo Day 1)

The day one prompt challenged me to write a poem inspired by watching “Seductive Fantasy” by Sun Ra and his Arkestra.

Click link to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX_xh2do3eM


See No Evil

She asked permission to paint her room.
We agreed without knowing anything.
The nineties were pointless trips to nowhere
without boring rhythmic sounds of psychedelia,
like coos of Mexican doves
invading my ears, dulling my brain.

As with straight lines and square corners in nature,
nothing made sense without the age and drugs and booze
opening accepted altered states understood only
by artists who painted strange images upon
home wall canvases in rooms to sleep, to dream.
Unaware of, but fearing, impending nightmarish doom.

Why did monochrome pointlessness happen?
I want to cry. Sometimes die. Because life is a lie.
None of that is possible for the imprisoned people,
unable to see whatever reality there is or isn’t,
when certainty is a soundless death
after a meaningless life of pitiful existence.


Look both ways, but never look back.
Mind the gaps where the music stays.

Sammi’s Weekender #202 (yonder)

Click for Sammi’s blog

Book Up

Perhaps the most prolific
“Minor Regional Novelist,”
memoirist, and
cowboy de-mythologist
has told his final truth
and attended his last picture show,
over yonder,
in Archer City, Texas.

Two days ago, that
gringo who told the
truth about
drug-store cowboys,
closed up shop.


Look both ways as you measure success,
especially of vanishing breeds.
Mind the gaps wherein hidden depression lasts for years.


Larry McMurtry, a prolific novelist and screenwriter who demythologized the American West with his unromantic depictions of life on the 19th-century frontier and in contemporary small-town Texas, died on Thursday at home in Archer City, Texas. He was 84.

Read more about this by clicking here.

 

Poetry: A Pantoum


Morning Cat

Sometimes, in the morning I stretch like a cat.
It feels good to expand my arms into the air,
to feel my body push against itself,
to feel my life physically trigger another day.

It feels good to stretch my arms into the air,
quietly announcing my arrival before dawn upstages me.
I want to physically trigger another day in my life.
before dawn steals my self-awareness, that “I’m alive” feeling.

I enjoy quietly announcing my arrival while
admiring the cobalt blue and sunny pink sky colors,
as sunrise steals my awareness, an “I’m alive” feeling
that makes me want to make the best of the day to come.

I admire the cobalt blue and sunny pink morning skies
and I want to feel my body push against itself,
as I hope to make the best of the day to come.
Sometimes, in the morning I stretch like a cat.


Look both ways when you’re feeling a bit catty.
Mind the gaps. Especially the ones behind the eyes.