My final 2022 NaPoWriMo challenge was to write a cento. This is a poem made up of lines taken from other poems. For my cento, I took lines from various poems in Donkey Gospel and What Narcissism Means to Me, both books of poems by Tony Hoagland.
We were drinking beer with the sound off
Greg said that things were better in the sixties
when I was pale and scrawny
and we soar up into the summer stars
but I admit that in the dark
(where a whole life can be mistaken) cavern of that bar
where men throw harpoons at something
costly, beautiful, but secret
jockstraps flew across the steamy
rickshaws gliding through the palace gates,
an act of cruelty which we both understood
the dreams rising from the sleep of children
far out from the coastline of America
a ten-foot sign says, WE WILL NEVER FORGET.
which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.
Look both ways (forward to May, back at April) and wonder.
Mind the gaps for those chores left undone.
Today’s prompt was to write a concrete poem. I wanted to do all 30 prompts.
What I did instead was intended to be a black out poem in lieu of the prompt, I’ve done concretes before. Not today.
I decided that rather than black out unused text to create the poem, I would extract the lines from the first few paragraphs of a longer story. If I had more time, I might have attempted some art to overlay the blacked-out area.
If I included the entire narrative, it would have been too long with entire paragraphs blacked out. So, I extracted the parts/words/sections that made up the poem.
one story I’ve never told,
it would only cause embarrassment,
makes me squirm,
I’ve had to live with it, feeling the shame,
it’s a hard story to tell.
if evil were evil enough, if good were good enough
I would simply tap a secret reservoir of courage…
Courage, comes in finite quantities,
it offered hope and grace to the repetitive coward.
I was drafted to fight a war I hated.
(You can’t fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can’t make them undead.)
…I assumed that the problems of killing and dying did not fall within my special province…
The draft notice arrived on June 17, 1968.
I was too good for this war.
Too smart, too compassionate, too everything.
I was above it. A mistake, maybe…I was no soldier.
Look both ways for reasons why and why not.
Mind the gaps. That’s where the booby traps hide.
Today, I was to write a duplex poem, a variation on the 14-line sonnet form (also echoes ghazal and blues) developed by Jericho Brown. While I did not make the last line the same as the first, I think it still fits the form near enough.
Look Both Ways
In my seventh decade I can sense
How the shortened horizon stimulates me.
As near horizons power my desire
I feel impatient and curious.
Curious about much, impatient to learn
As my memory seeks its own beginning.
Like flashing movie trailers of memory
I feel a revival of haste when I see
Time is not long, and my need is urgent.
Reality has broken though my dreams
And my dreams bow to stark reality.
From this end I see better my beginning,
My story told from beginning till now.
My seventh decade has finally arrived.
Look both ways regardless of how near or far the horizon is.
Mind the gaps because memory is tricky business.
For my twenty-sixth daily, prompted, voluntary assignment, today I was challenged to write a poem that contains at least one epic simile. These (Homeric) similes extend and develop over multiple lines with decorative elements that emphasize the dramatic nature of the subject. As suggested, I chose to write a complete poem as one long epic simile theme (salted with some metaphor) to carry the poem.
Flying Like Dragons
Like unleashed frightening awesomeness,
like giant thundering flying dragons with
massive wings lifting us skyward, roaring, breathing fire;
my brain blends with this pestilent machine, as if I’m guiding
an iron plague with deafening noise to wreak death,
to pour vengeance down upon their wrongs, a bane
to my enemies, a scourge of fire-for-fire. Flying
at invisible heights, with a sharp stinging tail, breathing
radiation into electrons, as my stealthy flying monster
seeks annihilation of the unjust.
Like a beast, it sees over great distances,
it smells its enemies in total darkness; then skillfully, silently
we approach as offensive defenders with hidden talons;
without emotion or fear, as if by kismet we destroy our prey
with automatic, irreversible, unmerciful curses.
Look both ways to see what is nearby but accept the limits of sensory perception.
Mind the gaps and trust your dragon’s instruments.
Today, my NaPoWriMo assignment is based upon an Irish poetic genre called aisling. An aisling recounts a dream or vision featuring a woman who represents the land or country (typically Ireland) on/in which the poet lives, and who speaks to the poet about it. I had the option to write a poem that recounts a vision of a woman who represents or reflects where I live: Texas.
la dama de texas
I looked, but bright sunlight and a vast blue sky
tempered my curious gaze over her vast wonderment.
She was like a kaleidoscope of diversity,
capricious changes over her sensuous body
constantly looming; inviting, yet hostile.
Her hair was a big thicket of trees:
pecan, oak, palm, cedar, and holly;
her brows were of pine, and elm above
lashes of ash and cherry, anaqua and yaupon.
Her brown skin and dark eyes testify
to her Mexican heritage, her breath was of
sweet orchid, redbud, and magnolia. Temptress,
with a capital T.
Her breasts were like mountain ranges:
Chisos, Guadalupe, Franklin, and Davis;
at her sides and hips Chinati, Boquillas,
Hueco, Christmas, and the lower Palo Pintos.
In her swaying curves the hidden canyons:
Palo Duro, Santo Elena, and Mariscal with
the jewels of caprocks, pinnacles, and hoodoos.
At her back, the Llano Estacado horizon rolled
smoothly into her Balcones Escarpment to
plateaus named for Edwards and Stockdon.
The moist whites of her eyes shown like cotton bolls,
lids like sandy beaches, her fingers like rivers:
the Pedernales, Neches, Trinity, Comal,
Brazos and the majestic and mysterious Rio Grande.
Her arms were like Devils River and the Pecos.
Her desert skin shimmered like moist sand.
I saw her holding an abundance of animals
and insects that staggered me.
The diversity of people standing in her shadow,
waving their ubiquitous flags, while protected by her,
spoke languages mixed with southern or western dialects.
Beneath her beauty, a sweetened but exaggerated history
belied the truth of a dark, slavishly embarrassing past.
An enigma with something for everyone
yet comfort for only a friendly few.
I’ll take Texas over Hell
with my eyes wide open.
She said I may stay,
but only if I see things her way. I try.
Look both ways to see the good and the bad.
Mind the gaps and accept the facts.
Everyone must be somewhere, even if they’re going nowhere.
For the final Sunday and to begin the last week of National Poetry Month, I’ve been egged on to the sunny task of writing a poem that describes using hard-boiled simile. The prompt suggested similes such as those used in detective stories featuring a tough unsentimental protagonist with a matter-of-fact attitude towards violence. I slipped in some horror genre.
The moon that night reflected light outlining everything and everyone with tarnished silver lines and a grayish tint covering, like the lining of an old vampire’s coffin. Our faces were puffed and molted like poisoned mushrooms on stems growing out of our jackets. The tree we hung him from looked like a dragon’s skull with dead, dried bones — fingers and hands protruding in all directions. It was as bleak and hopeless as a baby’s funeral. The smell was as if standing in an old open crypt exuding the musty odors of long dead flesh. Gravediggers’ shovels made rhythmic sounds cutting earth like piercing chunks of lead striking burned ashes of dead bodies. No one made another sound. Each wondered if we had killed him dead enough, or would he rise again like the devil’s undead corruption? It was our common thought, a fear that united our cause but shadowed our minds like a haunting nightmare’s gloom. We were men, but that night we were like the evil undead lamenting a hopeless mantle of some human hell.
Look both ways when identifying good and evil.
Each defines the other by its absence, yet the absence of one makes the other incomparable.
Mind the gaps when laying blame. Nothing is perfect.
Today, I was supposed to write a poem in the style of Kay Ryan, whose poems tend to be short and snappy – with a lot of rhyme and sound play, yet with a deceptive simplicity about them, like proverbs or aphorisms. I missed with the rhyme, but I ran out of time.
Make It Count
Beeves to the
cowboys were like
coal to the miner,
cargo to the trucker,
to the jeweler.
for a price.
Unlike the horse,
rests upon the
tools of the trade,
neither the deal
nor the gift
of the dollar
Look both ways at process and product.
Mind the gaps between important and precious.
Today’s one-thirtieth of NaPo prompts challenged me to write a poem that uses repetition. I may repeat a sound, word, phrase, image, or any combination. I chose a name. (Note: published one day late because someone forgot to click on publish.)
When Nothing Else Can
Maybe Bukowski was right.
We are strange, we of the people.
Is someone’s world better
when we’re not in it?
Bukowski’s is gone.
Bukowski had a point
about hate’s self-sufficiency,
better to not care at all if love
needs so much help. Gratuitous
masturbation of the psyche
is all about Bukowski.
Bukowski was right when he said,
the world is full of boring, identical,
mindless people. They run from the
rain but revel in tubs of bubbles and water.
Where’s the glory here? said Bukowski.
Bukowski didn’t tell me to find what I love
and let it kill me, but I blame it on Bukowski anyway.
There is a loneliness in this world, wrote Bukowski.
Just drink more beer, more and more beer, now
that’s really Bukowski!
I think Bukowski was right when Hank said that
sissies have hard lives. And most important for me,
Bukowski said, nothing can save you except writing,
and equally important, a poem knows when to stop.
I think what Bukowski said is nuts, but also too true,
so it stops, but this is not the end of this Bukowski bit.
Look both ways when sampling the sweet and the sour.
Mind the gaps for clues of generations.
Today’s NaPoWriMo.net four-part prompt was borrowed from poet Betsy Sholl. This assignment tasked me to write a poem within which I recall,
someone I was close to, but I am no longer,
a job I no longer do, and
art that I saw once and that stuck with me.
I was to close the poem with an unanswerable question.
Side by side in many ways
our lives were intwined by profession,
friendship, and meaning. Only now,
looking back do I see that when
you went right, I vectored left,
fast friends now virtual strangers.
Maybe I no longer do those things,
I don’t walk or talk the same,
my goals and purposes are past,
yet my butt is a branded identity.
From that long ago past, my dreams
are still me then, me when I was
part of a thing bigger than myself.
I saw the cowboy of a distant genre
who rode one horse of divergent
color, who ranged and wrangled west.
I’m unlike him; no horse or saddle
sits beneath me. I’m just a deliberate, defiant,
dying breed with a protective attitude.
He sits, and stares. I wonder where.
Why the tie? Is the past part of me?
Am I still part of the past?
How do those people and things
have me in what they are today?
Does any of it matter?
Look both ways, but juxtapose the past with the present,
especially if both are greater than the future.
Mind the gaps because memory is notoriously unreliable.