NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 8)

Day 8 prompt: Use a portion of a poem from a twitter bot as seed (inspiration) to write a poem.


Confession: I dislike the words twitter, tweet, and bot. It’s getting late. I need a poem. I’ve read nearly all of Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay” searching. I considered her “Where does unbelief begin?” and discovered her phrase, “That was the night that centered Heaven and Hell,” which I may use later. I pondered Richard Siken’s words, “Let’s admit, without apology, what we do to each other” and “This has nothing to do with faith but is still a good question.” I did the perusal work of reviewing several twitter bots. Nothing worked.

Then, as I was re-reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (1990), I found it. I try to do “optional” prompts. I hope I semi-followed the elective prompt with a twist.

My poem is based on a scene from O’Brien’s book, specifically from the chapter, “On the Rainy River.” Tim writes of sitting in a small boat 20 yards from Canada while facing his inner dilemma of doing what he thinks is morally right and what his family and most people (at the time) thought he should do: to accept his draft notice and fight in the Viet Nam War.


The Embarrassment of Tears

It was a moral freeze,
part hallucination, he supposed,
as paralysis took his heart,
a tightness he wants me to feel.

He could swim but he saw them,
a blind poet scribbling notes, people,
his past and his future, and mine.

His conscience lost the battle in a war
it could not win. He would do it.

He would go to the war –
he would kill, and maybe die
because he was embarrassed
not to. That was the thing.

And so, he sat in the boat,
and he cried, but he did not die.
Not a happy ending, his war,
his book, our war. He went to the war.

He was a coward, he claims,
because he stuffed it for them,
for their love, which he carried then,
and carries today. I disagree.

He asks me, and you,
would you cry? The scene jerks
my tears, not for Tim, or the war,
but for me. I was not in his boat.


Sit in your boat and look both ways, to Canada or to home.
Mind the gaps, there may a book or a poem in them.

NaPoWriMo: 30 Poems in 30 Days (day 5)


Day 5 Prompt: write one poem using or doing the Twenty Little Poetry Projects of Jim Simmerman. You can google it for other examples.


Torn Knights

He yelled into my face,
“Life’s not a bowl of cherries.”

I wanted to rip him to pieces
then and there, feeling his grip on my neck,
smelling the furious anger of alcohol breath,

I heard the silence of witnesses
sulking away, their fear fed my will to fight,
as his words breathed fire into my eyes,
all could see desperate anger quake the Earth
and shake trees as leaves fell like tears of fear.

Bill and Dan at it again on Butler Street,
brotherly love, kin with no wisdom to share
as each could see the envy of one
less favored dragon slayer.

“You da cool fool, hayna, baby-bro?
Ah tells ya, ‘cuz I luvs ya brudder.’

“Well I’ll swanny over such tots,”
tasting sweat mixed with vile spit.

Waltzing a pugilistic polka
inflamed a poison pit of spite,
played to muffled grunts and groans
Dan became the dragon, thus
Bill drew a slayer’s sword
to end of the fiery brand
brother’s battle forever.
Soft liquid steel shattered
the end, an old beginning.

Fata Morgana
reaching fait accompli,
times past without tears,
Earth swallowed Irish blood
into a hell of hate. Two men swearing,
dancing in the dark
to unending songs of never love.


Look both ways as life is not always as we wish.
Mind the gaps and choose wisely.

Poetry: Back in the Day


House lights were off, back in the day.
A tinted eerie black and white glare,
as the boob-tube illuminated
white nicotine-laced clouds,
cigarette smoke from lit ends of
Camels or Pall Malls, unfiltered butts crowded
many ashtrays, back in the day.

Like ghosts sucked into dying lungs
of people I loved,
alive, back in the day.

The smelly, wispy, floating clouds
rolled and twisted or waved
as we passed through,
back in the day.

Forbidden addictions, I then, not yet
old enough to kill myself,
back in the day.

Second hand was for used,
not smoke.
Sickening smokers,
plus all who breathed in,
nicotine laced habits, back in the day.

Born into our rite of passage.
Now sick and dying, smoking goes on.

Never allow science to invade
personal stupidity.
We’ve always done it this way.
Back in the day.


Look both ways but stay away from back in the day.
Discover progress through science but mind the gaps to fill as we learn.

Sammie’s Weekender #148: Somnambulist


Acrostic Sleepwalker

Secrets we’ve never been told
Oceans nature never fully filled
Memories of loving happiness in eyes of laughter
Nights kissing when we’re young together
Amour aplenty to fill our hearts with passion.
Mysteries make us wonder why
Bodies, then so young and strong, a
Universe without chaos, and a cosmos within us
Lasting love that never leaves us
Innocent children who needlessly die, while
Some just pray and wonder why.
Time to take the dance into the street.


In the street, look both ways and be aware, or woke, as they say.
Mind the gaps as hidden happiness and sadness.

Poetry: Share the Morn

It’s early
but not dark
and it’s raining,
none too gently

clouds shed rain drops
and hide the sun
for a while. Hear –
feel – smell – taste,

and see the rain
on a mild morning,
to walk and get wet
feels good to be

alive, wishing you
here by me with rain
to share
what is so good.
I guess, in a way
you are here.

Look both ways, morning, noon, and night.
Mind the gaps, puddles, and slippery when wets.

Essay: I Wear Lorry’s Ring

I think my aunt Lorry loved me a lot more than I realized. I remember how each week she’d cut the latest Dennis the Menace gag comic, single-panel cartoon from her newspaper along with a word of the day snippet, and she would mail them to me accompanied by a little note. My behavior reminded her of the cartoon protagonist, or vice versa. While I never saw the connection (the cartoon being more innocently contrived), it was the only mail I recall getting from anyone, particularly from an adult when it was not my birthday or Christmas. Lorry and what she did for me are among many things I failed to adequately appreciate in my childhood. But I do now.

When I graduated from Texas A&M, my mother’s older sister also paid for my class ring. Aggie class rings are a big deal to alumni (aka former students), as they are for grads of many other schools. I still wear the ring today, almost 50 years later.

Her real name was Dolores. My sister and I, along with our cousin, called her Lorry, but I never asked why. For most of my life, Lorry lived and worked in Washington, D.C., about a four-hour drive from Wilks-Barre today with light traffic, but almost twice that by bus in the 1950s. So, I didn’t see her often. She also never married and was considered old fashioned and a very traditional, staunch Catholic, even back in the day. She was not difficult, but would criticize wrongdoing when she saw it, explaining her labored relationship with my father.

I suspect Lorry was quite bright. Had it not been for the negative antifeminist influences of her early 20th Century culture and her family, she would have achieved more, not that she did poorly for one who entered the female workforce early in the Great Depression. But then, I’d not have a famous cartoon character as a childhood alter ego, my vocabulary might be less sufficient, and my word-love less geeky had she been different.

Unlike me and little Jackie Paper, Dennis (the menace) Mitchell is still five-and-a-half years old. The cartoon dates to 1951, and it is still in world-wide syndication. Can you imagine Dennis in his late 60s? (I smiled when I wrote that question.) I can. I imagine him in his early 70s, still with the persona of a five-year-old troublemaker.

For the record, Puff the Magic Dragon and Jackie Paper are in their late fifties. I try not to mentally associate them with AC-47 Spooky gunships through that song, but that’s part of me too. There is a certain sadness to all that 1960s and ‘70s stuff that my Irish nature seems to nostalgically understand, but few others get.

But I wonder. What would the Lorry I knew think of me today? As always, there are some aspects of me with which she would undoubtedly find fault. I’m sure she would explain where I could improve. Fair enough. But would she get my ironic sense of humor? What about my vocabulary? I’d probably get a dictionary or world atlas for my birthday (again). And what of her opinion of my writing? My poems (the clean ones)?

Do you have a troublesome young family member? Do you think he or she will remember you and write about you 40 years after you die? Lorry would not have thought so either. But she’d a been wrong. And she might have corrected my spelling and grammar. And I would change it – for her.

What we see as we look both ways changes with life and times,
but not really who we are.
Mind the gaps, but cherish the memories.

Poetry: Sammie’s Weekender 138, lollygag


Sad how they fooled around
with lollygag, it’s just too bad.
Come with me my sweet,
upon my lap have a seat.
We shan’t dawdle,
but we may well diddle
if you’re up for some
geometric osculation
mixing DNA marks us
a fine pair of
dawdling shillyshalliers
out for a pleasant afternoon poke.
For the best, we both have hope.

Look both ways for that quiet little corner for making memories.
Mind the gaps and camera angles.


“Nowadays, lollygag doesn’t usually carry such naughty connotations, but back in 1946, one Navy captain considered lollygagging enough of a problem to issue this stern warning: ‘Lovemaking and lollygagging are hereby strictly forbidden…. The holding of hands, osculation and constant embracing of WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service], corpsmen or civilians and sailors or any combination of male and female personnel is a violation of naval discipline….’”
(Source: The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lollygag. Accessed 5 January 2020.)
No apologies.