It was unthinkable, back when
my without-resumé or bona fide
job was Dad: our father,
leader, wizard, fixer of all
things and people broken,
savior of my tribe; shaman,
vet, and driver out of all demons.
Despite my foibles,
hidden as many were—
we managed to cope.
Burdened with adversity and misguided history
we owned our piece of the world,
we held the keys that controlled the universe,
wherein I was (am?) suddenly
no longer the center to which they would turn.
Call it what is, that’s life, dismissing
whenever shit happens, when I’m forced
to admit I don’t know why. To say
I was wrong about so much.
I think and think again about it all,
the ultimatum. It wasn’t you. It’s me.
Look both ways when seeking the mysterious purpose of life,
or finding of the true self, or taking on the vocation mantle of service.
Mind the gaps for the distractions of relief are dear.
Hurry up! and then wait
might be a cliché to some.
Army’s GI Joes claim it
as their own,
but we’ve all been rushed
and rushed, hurried along,
forced into quick-step like
anthropomorphic white rabbits
through Alice’s wonderland story
(not Arlo’s restaurant one)
and Grace’s slick psyche-song.
Rushed to somewhere
only there to wait,
and wait some more,
and then wait longer.
(‘twas no rarity, either.)
On top of that,
just like the mad hat,
they’d (we) add five minutes,
and then five more,
(if not ten) minutes early.
A military obsession
greater than want of
or crazy-ass war.
Embrace the suck
if it makes it
better how ya feel,
about it all,
was not late,
but had to wait.
We’ll all be early
for our own
(not Tulsa) time,
when late is just fine.
Look both ways if you’ve had “some kind of mushroom.”
Mind the gaps and “remember what the dormouse said, feed your head.”
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.