Saturday, April 22, 2017

PAD Day 22: A Fable, and a Poem by Jane Hirshfield

Happy Earth Day! Today is also the March for Science, which is in response to the current regime's anti-science stance. I'm proud to say all four of my children and my daughter-in-law are participating. We get stuck with babysitting duty, but I guess that means we are indirectly doing our part.

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a fable, and (2) write a "georgic" poem, which is a poem that deals with agriculture, particularly the wise use of the land. So here is my "Georgic fable", which may be really more prose with line breaks than an honest-to-goodness poem.

The Farmer Ant and the Corporate Ant

A farmer ant and a corporate ant were arguing
about how to best use the land for their colony.

"I see this land as an opportunity," said the corporate ant,
"to build the tallest, most luxurious anthill
that our species has ever seen."

"No, we need to plan for the future," said the farmer ant.
"We need to grow and gather food for our winter stores.  
And some of us need to herd and milk our aphid cattle."

"But wouldn't you be proud," said the corporate ant,
"to live in a high-rise anthill that was the envy of all antdom?"

"Absolutely not," said the farmer ant, testily.
"We need to look at the big picture and use our land wisely.
We need to use our resources efficiently and plan
for the hard winters ahead. Don't you remember
what happened to the grasshopper?"

"The grasshopper was a fool!" snapped the corporate ant.
"He had no business sense. Tell you what - we'll put it to a vote,
and see what the colony as a whole wants."

So they agreed, and a few weeks later there was a vote.
The majority of the colony agreed that the huge new anthill
was a more exciting plan than continuing to farm the land.
Soon a magnificent anthill rose into the sky, the biggest ever built.
The corporate ant was proud because his name was emblazoned
on the side of the anthill, and happy because the project made him rich.

But the colony didn't last long. They spent so much energy and ant-hours
on construction that they forgot to take care of their land and food supply.
Most of them died of starvation that winter. The farmer ant
and the few survivors limped off to find another colony to join,
and the anthill crumbled to dust within a year because the corporate ant
built it with shoddy non-union workmanship.

The moral of the story:  Do not let hubris and greed ruin your future. 

And here is a bonus poem from my brilliant friend Jane Hirshfield, who will be reading it at the March for Science today. This was recently published in the Washington Post.

On the Fifth Day
by Jane Hirshfield

On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.

The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
were silenced,
and the ones who worked for the bees.

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.

The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.

The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking,
of rivers, of boulders and air.

Bound to gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

They spoke, the fifth day,
of silence.

Friday, April 21, 2017

PAD Day 21: A Lesson in Luck and Consumerism

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) pick any object, make it the title of your poem, and write a poem about it, and (2) write a poem that incorporates something overheard in conversation. I worked all day off and on with this one, and it's still more narrative than I would like it to be, but here it is in its current draft.

Game Card

“No, I don’t play that game,” says the woman
in front of me at the supermarket checkout line.
I tell the cashier that I do, and she hands me
two cards for their sweepstakes, one for me
and one for the woman who declined.
The top prize is a million bucks, but so far
I haven’t won anything, despite bringing dozens
of them home in the last two months.

The first card nets me nothing - no prize,
which is no surprise. I tear the second one open,
folding down the side tabs to make it easier
to rip the perforations, then pulling it apart
so it opens like a booklet. The left side is
a fifty-cent coupon - no big deal. The right side has,
as usual, four little game pieces that I must also
tear apart and paste to a game board that looks like
a Monopoly game, to see if any combination of them
wins a prize. And they do.

I don't know if this is the card that would have gone
to the woman in front of me, but I would like
to thank her for not playing, and thank the store too,
for this wonderful gift.  I'm the proud winner
of a gift certificate to the supermarket.
It's not the grand prize, but it gives me a sense
of accomplishment. After all these weeks of playing,
after all the pieces I’ve collected and glued to the board,
after all those shopping trips and thousands of dollars’
worth of groceries, I have finally, finally, won –
five bucks.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

PAD Day 20: The Sports of Love and Poetry

Today’s prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a "task" poem, and (2) write a poem using the language or jargon of a particular sport. 
The obvious choice for me would be my favorite sport, baseball, but I’ve written a whole chapbook full of baseball poems. So today I’m writing about a different sport: romance.
Tennis, Anyone?
My task is to court you.
I’m serving you compliments
but you just lob them back.
This back-and-forth doesn’t seem
to net me anything so far.
Maybe I need more topspin.
We’re playing singles now,
not mixed doubles.
This game seems to go on
forever. You’re set in your ways,
and I seem no match for you.
What’s your racket?
I’m already past thirty, love,
but I’ll keep smashing away.
Maybe I’ll ace it,
maybe I ‘ll double-fault,
but you are worth the effort.
It should be no surprise
that “volley” is an anagram
for “lovely.”

And speaking of baseball, how about if I throw in a poem from that aforementioned chapbook?
Between Starts

Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments.
The intervals are the tough things.
- Robert Frost

Four days rest is an eternity.
I worry about starting this next poem.
Do I still have my best stuff?
If I do, I can blow readers away
with a fastball-metaphor so clever
that all they can do is watch it
whiz by them and mumble, "Wow."
Other days, I'll struggle to get
anything across the plate.
Confidence is like a pitching arm -
when it's strong, you're unstoppable.
If it stiffens up, you can barely
hold a pen. But I'm not out to win
a Cy Young or a Pulitzer.  I'd be happy
just to win more than I lose.

(From Hits and Sacrifices, Copyright 2016, Finishing Line Press)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

PAD Day 19: The Creation of Us

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a "memory" poem, and (2) write a "creation myth".  I found these a little hard to reconcile, unless one might write about a memory that's been "mythologized". I went instead with a real memory, though perhaps a little romanticized, and turned it into a creation story, Biblical language and all.
Creation Story
1. In the beginning
there was a young woman
and a young man.
2. And it came to pass
that she came to pass him,
slumped and pensive in a chair
in the student lounge,
wool navy watch cap pulled
over his head, and one day
she paused and came back
and spake with him.
3. And Lo, she found him deep
and dark and he found her
sweet and innocent, with the
birth of Heaven in her blue eyes,
and one day after a long conversation
he said unto her, “Willst thou come
with me to the cinema?”
And she said yea.
4. And it came to pass they did date,
and verily they were smitten by love,
and soon they were wed, and
they begat three handsome sons
and brought another into their home.
5. And one son and his mate
begat two lovely girls, and
they all lived happily as a family,
all created because one evening
she was brave enough to say hello.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

PAD Day 18: In Which I Finally Get a Little Political

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem about life and/or death, and (2) write a poem with neologisms, Today's poem only has a passing connection to the first prompt, and I borrowed a few (unintentional) neologisms from the subject of my poem, as well as sticking in a couple of my own. This the first overtly political poem I've written this month. I have had a hard time digesting the events of the past six months, and my anger and depression have prevented any significant creative output until I got on a roll this month. Interestingly, most of my poems have had an element of humor. I still can't quite express the "dark side" of how I'm feeling about the state of our country and the world. Even this one is humorously satirical. You may not all agree with this one, but I hope you enjoy it.


Though I'm wearing my hair rather wigly,
and acting male-chauvinist-pigly,
I've got a hot wife
and a filthy-rich life,
and I won the election quite “bigly”.

My "yuge" win  is "unpresidented",
a fact "leightweight chockers" resented,
and I "schlonged" Hillary.
Now I "hear by" decree:
get those aliens un-residented.

Christian Right thinks that I am a star,
‘cos I said I’m pro-life, like they are,
even though I’m the man went
and broke each commandment –
Two Corinthians walk into a bar….

That climate change stuff’s just a plot
that China cooked up, so it’s not
getting warmer in here,
it’s just perfectly clear -
coal and oil will still keep burning hot!

So what if I want to bomb Syria?
Just cool it with all your hysteria!
My belligerent patter's
not a life-or-death matter -
well, maybe it's old-age deliria.

Now that mad North Korea dictator
wants to make our great country a crater.
Well, it’s time to get tough,
I know things may get rough –
if the fallout does clear, thank me later.

Monday, April 17, 2017

PAD Day 17 Bonus:Something New (Out of Guilt?) and Something Old (Out of Joy)

Okay, so I may have felt a little "guilty" writing only a few haiku today, which could only marginally be called "nocturnes" or "dance poems".  So here's another - maybe I also wrote it out of guilt for not taking an evening walk. It's only indirectly about dancing, but I hope you like it.

Couch Nocturne

This spring day is drawing its curtain,
and a chilly breeze moves in to replace
the setting sun. Our dogwood is blooming
early this year,  and the neighbor kids
are still playing street hockey. 
You asked me half an hour ago
to take a walk with you, but now
you've nodded in front of Dancing with the Stars,
your head lolling to the left.
The sun has closed up shop, stars
are beginning to poke through the purple,
and you are snoring on the couch.  
Another hard day. Maybe we are walking
through the neighborhood in your dreams,
talking about grandchildren, home renovations,
or how we need to get more exercise.
I don't have the heart to wake you.
We'll get another chance tomorrow.
But for now, they're doing the tango on TV,
and that couch looks so damned comfortable. 

And here is another "bonus" poem I wrote several years ago for the occasion of my son's upcoming wedding. It fits both prompts ("dance" and "nocturne") perfectly.


Of the fifty-eight things I need to do before I die,
number six is to dance at your wedding.
Yes, me - the guy who once asked for the Virginia Reel
at my junior high dance, because I learned it in gym class
and it was the only dance I knew.  I'll stumble and sway
with your mother and your bride through a  slow dance,
but later I'll need at least three beers to lubricate
my creaky joints and my reserve, and a full dervish of guests
on the dance floor, a Brownian movement of bodies,
where I'll slip between Uncle Jack, who lumbers like a grizzly bear,
and Aunt Lois and her date, who have inexplicably slid into a tango,
while the flower girl jumps randomly up and down,
parachuting her petticoats.  I'll be a hoofer for you -
that is, I will dance like an animal without toes.
I won't do that damned Chicken Dance,
but I will bounce and celebrate to Kool and the Gang
or any of those obligatory songs, as this ecstatic mob
thrums along with abandon in a rented hall,
under a clear, rosy evening sky, where somewhere,
your grandmother does the tarantella.

(Previously published in Mad Poets Review)

PAD Day 17: Happy Haiku Day!

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a "dance" poem, and (2) write a "nocturne" (a poem about the night). Today is International Haiku Day, celebrated every April 17, (17th of the month, 17 syllables - get it?) and this year has special significance because it's 2017. I'm surprised that neither blogger (especially Robert at Poetic Asides, who pointed out Haiku Day to us) gave us a haiku prompt. So in the spirit of the day, here are three haiku (one is a "monoku" and may be the first I've ever written). Two of the three fit both of today's prompt themes.

here on this island
the fastest things I can find        
are the hummingbirds

heat lightning
dances through distant clouds –
no sleep tonight

carnival dancers limbo under the stars