Poetry: Dark Moon Rising (NaPoWriMo day 17)

For better or worse, the moon seems to exert a powerful hold on poets. Today, I was challenged to stop fighting the moon. I didn’t know I was, but I was to lean in and accept the moon. I was to know that the moon wants what’s best for me. I was to write a poem that is about, or that involves, the moon.


Dark Moon Rising

Today it is waxing crescent,
can be called the drinking moon,
because it wouldn’t spill a drop.

The full moon rising
this month and year,
should be April twenty-sixth,
it’s Spring’s Pink Super-moon,
not pink in color, but calls to a flower.

Tonight, the moon’s brightness
at twenty-four percent,
flying four point eight-two days
of its twenty-nine point five-three
days to orbit the earth
and to do its thing.

Writers love our moon
it anchors our latest story,
choosing when the moon is full
or when it’s gone
and making moon anew.

For the moon of the night
it’s not the sun’s reflection
that makes our moon so bright,
it’s the honest truth of darkness,
the darkness of the night.


Find your way in the darkness, use the moon for light.
But mind the gaps for there are dangers in the night.

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: Stupid People (NaPoWriMo day 12)

Today’s NaPo prompt is to write a poem using at least one word, concept, or idea from each of two specific dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.

The online classical dictionary was too difficult to use, so I used one of my own. The sci-fi one was easier, but I couldn’t find “galactically stupid.” I got “fugginheadness” from it and piled on “gormless and vacuous” for the poem. I reached out to youtube for some help from George Carlin and a scene from the movie, A Few Good Men.


Like Average, Man!

If someone lacks intelligence, it’s not their fault.
No one arrives at birth, or from another planet
(the ones we used to call space cadets), and decides
they will join the fugginheaded, gormlessly English gang.

We couldn’t take it if seemingly vacuous souls made
such choices, like ordering an IQ from a menu.
But there are some out there in the world, whose
behavior is ordered right out of willful ignorance.

And I’m not sure that every Mensa member is sane.
I try to understand. I really do. But please tell me.
What is with those who join the fan club of the
Galactically Stupid? Super-stupid on purpose?


Look both ways from dead center under the bell curve.
Mind the gaps and disregard outliers.

Epistolary Poetry: Some Writer’s Thoughts (NaPoWriMo day 11)

Today’s NaPo’s challenge was to write a two-part poem as an exchange of letters. The first stanza, part, or poem was to be the letter-poem that I wrote to someone. The second part, the letter I received in response. The length, form, and subject matter were to be of my choosing.

I wrote one letter to two men, George Carlin, and Johnny Cash. Each answered separately. Cash used a poem he wrote 18 years ago.


Dear Messrs. Carlin and Cash,

I am sometimes compared to George,
but seldom to Johnny Cash.
I love music and humor, especially
the more cerebral, sarcastic jokes
of George’s accompanied by adult language.
Every day, I listen to Mr. Cash recite the poem,
The Cremation of Sam McGee
as part of my playlist. All three of us spent
time in the Air Force, although the length of time
and conditions of departure differ. I like
to write. I know that both of you considered
yourselves writers. But you were better known
in other professions, which was how I found you.
If this letter gets to you (I’m told you died),
please give me advice about my writing.
You can see it on my blog.

Regards (I miss you both), Bill

***

Dear Bill,

I asked around about you. I learned that, like me, you were raised in the Catholic faith and attended parochial school, but now you’re out of all that. A synonym for parochial is narrow- or closed-minded. Never forget that. You’ll never get over it. You are not like me. So, don’t worry. We have no wifi or computers or cell phones here, but no matter. If you want to write just do it. Fuck what anyone else thinks. Remember, both the man in black and I had our stage personas and our real acts. Recall also that I loved the live performances. I can’t speak for Johnny, but I bet he did too. Holy shit, he did concerts for prisons. Oh, you have a lot goin’ on. Enjoy it all man, for as long as you can.

Best of Luck, Old Man.
George

***

Hey Mister Bill,

Don’t cha just love writing poetry? I did for sure.
Songs too, but it’s all about the same stuff.
I’m gonna give you my answer as a poem
I wrote back in 2003, Called “Forever.”

“You tell me that I must perish
Like the flowers that I cherish
Nothing remaining of my name
Nothing remembered of my fame
But the trees that I planted
Still are young
The songs I sang
Will still be sung”*

Good luck to ya, Sir. And
God bless….Johnny

*Poem “Forever” by Johnny Cash from Forever Words: The Unknown Poems.


Look both ways and try to accept what help you can get.
Mind the gaps and truth behind the masks.

Commentary: Sammi’s Weekender #204 (forage)

Click to go see Sammi

 


When words like shit and fuck are used, it’s often to express emotion. Meanings of excrement and fornication are less often intended. Both can be vulgarities, obscenities, or profanities, depending on context and who sees or hears it: lawyers, religious people, or your mother.

Shit results from forage, which leads to eating, thus pooping. People who study shit (“excrement examined experimentally”) are called scatologists, although scatology also refers to literature, or they’re called scientists who work in fimo, after the Latin fimus.


Look both ways and watch where you step.
Mind the gaps or you may ruin someone’s idea of a scientific experiment.

Not my poem, but an oldie I recall from boyhood days.

Poetry: A junk drawer song (NaPoWriMo day 10)

The day ten NaPo prompt is to write a junk drawer song.

The process was to choose a song, listen to it and make notes. I was not to overthink it (yeah, right), but too late. Next, I was to rifle through a junk drawer and make more notes about the objects therein.

Third, I needed to bring the two pages of notes together by writing a poem. The final step is to name the poem.

I made a list of seven songs, then selected “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel. If I am to connect a song to a poem, that folksy tune is it. If you are familiar with the Bridge Over Troubled Water version, you may not be aware of the verse sometimes left off. Read it and you’ll see me.

The verse not included:

Now the years are rolling by me—
They are rockin’ evenly.
I am older than I once was,
And younger than I’ll be.
That’s not unusual;
No, it isn’t strange:
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same;
After changes we are more or less the same.

I had less control over the junk drawer, but I was able to choose from various depositories for miscellaneous stuff.


Take Comfort Here

I am the boxer. Back then,
I had more future than past.
It could have been worse.
I found buttons and church keys.

How I saw it all then,
Doing wrong making bad,
And sorry I wasted anytime on that bull shit.
There was a domino of Oma,
Among bottle caps of cities,
Near an empty tube of something.

But it was to please them that I wanted.
And promises I’d heard,
Smiley faced measuring tape,
Two hand fans, or was it three?

Is that a hypodermic needle?
When a boy becomes a man,
For a long time, he’s neither.
Looking for something to make his own.
An orange highlighter to ruin a good book.
Dried up glue sticks.

I felt the pain and heard the call,
A temptation was my sin.
A needle and nail polish remover?

I didn’t and still don’t know what I wanted.
In such a coal miner’s lad finds comfort.
Low places. It could be worse. An old iTouch,
A thumb drive. Julie’s roller derby pin.

I stand before the mirror.
I am still a boy with a fighter’s heart
Crying out,
“I’m leaving, I am leavin’ ‘n want no company,”
But I’m still the same frightened boxer.


I look both ways, at who I was and who I am:
still the same, not wishing I was gone.
The gaps are bleedin’ me, leadin’ me…home.

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.

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.