Monday, April 30, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 30: Finish Line!

Whew! Once again, I made it through the Poem-a-Day Challenge for April, and I’m pretty happy in general with the results. Combining two prompts for daily inspiration made them a little less generic and more thought-provoking. Thanks again to Robert Brewer at Poetic Asides and Maureen Thorson at NaPoWriMo for spurring me on through the last thirty days. Thanks also to everyone who commented on my poetry here and elsewhere online – knowing that others are reading and enjoying it is encouraging too.

 I did a little analysis of my production this month: I wrote a total of 46 poems, all but six of which were inspired by the daily prompts. I wrote a total of 707 lines, an average of 23.5 a day. There was a lot of “formal” poetry in there, too: two sonnets, four limericks, two tanka, five hay(na)ku, a triolet, a villanelle, a ghazal, a clerihew, a double dactyl, a blues poem, and a “pan-ku” (my own invention), plus five other rhyming poems. Also among the 46 were a couple of parodies (of Gertrude Stein and W.H. Auden), a cento, an elegy, and a prose poem. No haiku, though, for some reason.

 Today’s final entry in the PAD challenge, from the Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo prompts: (1) Write a poem about fading away, and (2) write a poem that uses the phrase “I remember…” at least three times.Here’s my result:


I remember the day I knew my grandmother’s
mind was going, when she poured hot coffee
over the tea bag in my cup.

I remember the day my uncle went out for milk, then
called his wife five hours later from two hundred miles away,
saying he didn’t know where he was.

I remember my father-in-law, dazed in his chair,
suddenly unable to tell me my name,
or his own, or what day it was.

I remember less these days too, little gaps
and tip-of-the-tongue moments more frequent:
where I put my glasses just a minute ago,

the name of a favorite actor,
whether I took my morning pills.
When we stop remembering, do we fade away?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 29

I can see the finish line from here!  Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Take a favorite line from one of the poems you wrote this month and write another poem based on it, and (2) write a clerihew and/or double dactyl ("higgledy-piggledy" poem).  These are short biographical poems, usually about someone famous.  The NaPoWriMo blog has more details on the rules (although they made a boo-boo on the clerihew's rhyme scheme - they meant to say it's AABB).

I took a line from my Day 17 poem "Dear Desktop Computer") for the clerihew, and one from my Day 21 poem ("Microscopic Hay[na]ku") for the double dactyl:

Tech Cerlihew

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
made computers deskmates.
Those devilish saints,
get our praise and complaints.

Little Parties

Anton van Leeuwenhoek,
focused his lenses and
shouted with glee:

"Look at this creatures, such
invisible parties too
tiny to see!"

Saturday, April 28, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 28

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem about a problem, and (2)write a poem about space or spaces, with a focus on a personal experience. I’ve only had one MRI so far in my life, and while it made me uncomfortable, I didn’t have a panic attack like some people have reported. Still, I put myself in the shoes (or hospital booties, if you will) of someone who had such an experience. This villanelle came out sounding somewhat Poe-like, I think.


We'll find your problem soon, the doctor said,
You'll get an MRI so we can trace
what's wrong with you - it could be in your head.

He told me to lie down upon this bed,
and soon it slid into a tunneled space,
We'll find your problem soon, the doctor said.

Supine, I was enclosed, I felt the dread
creep in on me.  My heart began to race -
What's wrong with me?  It could be in my head.

I was entombed, my lungs felt filled with lead,
my breath was short. You must lie still, in case
we find your problem soon, the doctor said.

A tumor in the brain? My fears were fed -
inside this loud cocoon, they'd find the place
that's wrong with me - it could be in my head.

At last I was exhumed, back from the dead;
Their pictures were the verdict I must face.
We found your problem, son, the doctor said;
There's nothing wrong with you - it's in your head.

Friday, April 27, 2012

PAD Challenger Day 27

Happy Birthday to me!  I had a pretty nice day - took half a day off from work, went out to lunch with my lovely wife, and just for fun we went to see the new animated film from Aardman Studios (creators of Wallace and Gromit), "The Pirates - Band of Misfits" - in 3D, no less. Very good and quite funny. (Imagine an evil Queen Victoria!)  Later we went to our favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant with my sister-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, and our international student, and came back home for a pineapple upside-down birthday cake.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem with the title "The Trouble is _____", and (2) write a nursery rhyme or clapping rhyme style of poem.  I wrote one that was a sort of jump-rope rhyme (or my impression of one, anyway - I was never any good at jumping rope).  And since it was my birthday today, of course the subject was aging:

The Trouble Is Aging (A Jump-Rope Rhyme)

The trouble is, aging's not great for the old,
the "golden years" aren't always, if truth be told.
But if you feel younger, then maybe there's hope,
if you say this rhyme with us while you skip rope:

A is for AARP - yes, I've got my card,
B is for Bingo, a game that's not hard.
C is for Cholesterol, mine's way too high,
D is for Depends. we wear to stay dry.
E is for Ensure, to help with nutrition,
F is for False teeth, an unwelcome addition.
G is for Grandkids, who make it worthwhile,
H is for High Blood Pressure – too high by a mile.
I is for IHOP discount, for breakfast some day,
J is for Joints – stiffness won't go away.
K is for "Kids move in", sign of lean times,
L is for Laxatives - constipation's a crime!
M  is for Medicare, to pay doctor bills,
N is for Nursing homes, when you're old as the hills.
O is for Orthotic shoes, they fit to a T,
P is for Prescriptions, too many for me.
Q is for Quilting bees - do old ladies do that?
R is for Retirement - hang up your work hat.
S is for Social Security - that once-a-month check,
T is for tired, all the time - what the heck!
U is Urinary - up all night to pee,
V is for Viagra, if you still make whoopee.
W is for Wrinkles - give you character? A crock!
X is for X-rays, good or bad news from doc.
Y is for Young at heart, which helps you live longer,
Z is for Zesty - skipping rope makes you stronger!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 26

Today is "Poem in Your Pocket Day", and my online friend and haiku poet extraordinaire Cara Holman has a special blog post today featuring a variety of poems, including my Fibonacci poem "Big Picture".  Check it out here.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write an animal poem, and (2) write an elegy.  I'm glad to have a relatively easy challenge after some tough ones the last couple of days, but I recently wrote a poem called "Elegy for Two Finches", which came in second a few months ago in Robert Brewer's  Tritina Challenge on the Poetic Asides blog.  So it took a little while to come up with another idea in that vein, but here it is:

Elegy for Roadkill

To the several squirrels
I’ve seen in the street this spring
not quite quick enough
to dodge deadly tires;

to the Canada goose
near the shopping mall
a riot of black and gray feathers;

to the large mammal I couldn’t identify
on the center line of the highway,
brown fur matted by the rain,
the size of a dog, but not a dog
(perhaps a groundhog or beaver –
I couldn’t see your face)
lying on your side as though sleeping;

to the poor box turtle
who never stood a chance,
shell smashed like an oversized walnut:

I am sorry for my small part in this –
I drive the roads you cross,
I’ve sped as quickly as your killers,
and, God help me, in my lifetime
I’ve taken out a few of you myself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 25

Late again!  Today's challenge took me a while - I worked on it most of the day.  Poetic Asides' prompt was to write a sports poem.  NaPoWriMo invited us to write a cento: a poem composed entirely of lines lifted from other poems.  This is my first crack at one, and I spent the day reading and re-reading several baseball-themed poems, including a great one by my poet friend BJ Ward, and agonizing over what lines to use and in what sensible order. Like yesterday's lipogram, it's harder than it sounds, but here is the result:

Baseball Cento

A night game, the silver potion of the lights –
white the chalked-off lines in the grass,
white the immaculate uniform,
the white-knickered players
tense, seize and attend
against the bright grass.

The pitcher walks back of the hill,
establishes his cap and returns –
left-hander curlicues called strike threes
around the outside corner.

into the slice of percentage,
that possibility of heaven
that is a swing range –

the bleached horsehide white:
the color of nothing,
caught like a cheek before it ducks
by shivery hickory,

and the crack is like a starter gun.

The ball, a scintilla
high in the black backdrop of the sky,
is like a prayer,
and you are the team’s only angel
to catch it, snare what is speeding
toward its treetop nest.
Your glove turns into a blossom, the ball
a bee-line from the sky
into the sweet nectar of out.

Even our thieveries, well done, are blessed
with a certain luminousness,
the fierce legitimacy of the neatly stolen,
as the moon passes over the pitcher’s mound
like the slowed stride of an aging shortstop.

The stars hover like old umpires
over the diamond,
the emerald theater of the night.

Source poems: 
Robert Pinsky, "The Night Game"
BJ Ward, "Upon Hearing that Baseball is Boring to Today's Youth"
Michael Blumenthal, "Night Baseball"
Donald Hall, "The Baseball Players"
Robert Fitzgerald, "Cobb Would Have Caught It"
Marianne Moore, "Baseball and Writing"
Rob Vogt, "The Path to the Dugout"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 24

Today's prompt from Poetic Asides is the weekly "Two for Tuesday" prompt, and a theme that Robert Brewer brings up once every month that there's a poem-a-day challange: Write a love poem and/or an anti-love poem. NaPoWriMo's prompt is to write a "lipogram" poem - that is, write a poem that doesn't use a certain letter, or letters, of the alphabet.  Variations on this include the "Beautiful Outlaw" (write about someone but don't use any of the letters of their name), and the "Beautiful In-law" (use only the letters of the person's name - the longer the name, the better, obvously).  I took up this challange by writing a love poem that doesn't use the letters L, O, V or E. This was much harder than it sounds, and a lot of common words (like "the", "of", "for", "you", etc.) had to be excluded.  Since I couldn't end any words with "e" or "ed", either, I found myself relying on a lot of participles.  I consider this more a semi-successful writing exercise than a good poem, and the meter could certainly use more work, but here it is for what it's worth:

L-O-V-E-less Poem

A strict dictum binds my writing
and it’s hard, I can’t say much,
but I admit, my bright hyacinth,
with that parfum wafting such,

I am dizzy in my mix-up;
it can mystify guys in May,
infatuating us with whiffs
in air this stunning spring day,

attracting us with juicy buds,
disarming us with charms,
making us thirst with anguish -
I’m pining for hugging arms.

My daisy, my pansy, my zinnia,
attracting my mind with a kiss,
I am asking: impart sympathy
with my quandary, intriguing miss.

My dawn starts with bright sunrays,
my night wraps up dusky dark,
I’d say thanks if I was with a maid
watching stars in tall grass in a park.

Monday, April 23, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 23

I just wanted to mention three new chapbooks from Maverick Duck Press:

Ordering the Hours, a new collection by my friend, Chicago poet Donna Vorreyer,

Taking Turns, a collection of winners of Eratosphere's "Sonnet Bake-off" contest (edited by Anna Evans), and

Still Quick, Always Dirty, a collection of poetry by the Quick and Dirty Poets of Burlington County NJ, of which I am a member.  Each of us (Kendall Bell, Anna Evans, Don Kloss, Bronwyn Haynes and yours truly) has four poems in the chapbook anthology.

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1)Write a poem about morning, and (2) write an ekphrastic poem (poem inspired by a work of art).  So here are two:

September Morn

“There’s too little morn and too much maid….”
Anthony Comstock

A water nymph, or just a young girl
with no inhibitions, or clothes,
skinny-dipping in a chilly, misty lake?
Chabas worked three years on it,
won a medal, and sent it to America
where it caused a major stir.
Indecent, cried the prudes of the day.
That only made her more popular –
postcards and parodies were everywhere.
Critics declaimed it as “kitsch”,
but almost as a last laugh,
she still hangs in New York’s Met,
where the mist still hangs on the mountain,
she still crouches demurely,
and the water in the lake is still cold.

Self-portrait with Clouds

“The sun poured in like butterscotch
and stuck to all my senses….”
                                                Joni Mitchell

The young woman from Saskatoon
with long, shiny blonde hair,
solemnly holds a red lily

in her left hand,
while the Saskatchewan River  
flows behind her, past the old hotel.

The sky, fiery reds, oranges, yellows –
butterscotch, if you will –
reflects in the waters.

For so many of us, she was the sunrise
on our musical journey –
“Chelsea Morning”, “Both Sides Now” –

and she still enthralls us with songs
on love, the world and its foibles,
proud as her provincial red flower.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 22

Happy Earth Day!  It's a rainy one in my neighborhood today, but I'm not complaining because it's been a very dry spring.  Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a "judgment" poem (i.e., a poem about judging or being judged), and (2) in honor of Earth Day, write a poem about a plant.  I was inspired to write two today - both subjects have probably been done to death in poetry, but what the heck:

Open Letter from a Dandelion

Why do you judge me so harshly,
you gardeners and weekend lawn warriors
who attack me with sharp-edged tools
and toxic chemicals?  When did I acquire
the stigma of “weed”?  All I want to do
is brighten your yard, a burst of sunshine
in a sea of boring, uniform green. I bring joy
to your children when I go to seed – they make
a wish and blow on my fuzzy head, scattering
my seeds to the wind,  to perpetuate the species.
Some of you even like my saw-toothed leaves
in your salads.  So what is my crime?
Who are you to pass this sentence?
Just know that even as you root me out,
my children already grow somewhere else.


I chased the frightened deer into my net,
while Echo longed for me from in the glade.
When she professed her love I laughed, “Forget
this foolish crush – your girlish looks will fade
while mine will burn bright as Apollo’s wheel!”
I broke her heart, she wasted to a shade;
her voice is all that’s left, a plaintive peal.
When Nemesis caught wind of this, she made
me find my own reflection in a pool.
I thought, “My, what perfection!” and I fell
in love with this young man – oh, what a fool –
and frozen there, I’d waste away as well.
Cruel judgment? Well, perhaps, but here’s the thing:
my name is yellow flowers every spring.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 21

A rather sad day today, after attending the memorial service of poet friend John Bourne, who passed away earlier this month after a long illness. It was a Friends meeting (Quaker ceremony, in case you didn't know), and it was very moving and even funny at times.  John was a curmudgeon with an often biting sense of humor, but a good guy beneath the gruff exterior.  A number of us were poet friends, and many in attendance read one of his poems, including me. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, especially his wife and fellow poet Adele.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem about something "under the microscope" (literally or figuratively), and (2) write a hay(na)ku, which, if you aren't aware, is a short, six-word poem, consisting of one word on the first line, two on the second, and three on the third.  That's it - syllables don't matter, like they do in haiku.  I wrote a series of these a few months ago called "Six-word Spoilers" that appeared in the January issue of Writer's Digest.  I had a hard time today shaking the literal image of the microscope, but here a few for your consideration:

focuses lenses,
discovers invisible parties

microscope: Hubble
for tiny galaxies

a bond
between two molecules

a virus
media: the microscope

words make 
a poem microscopic

Friday, April 20, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 20

Tdoay's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem with the title, "Let's ________", and (2) take some notes, mental or otherwise, while you travel today (by car, bus, foot, etc.) and write a poem of your impressions.  Since it was foggy this morning on my short drive to work, this is the poem I came up with:

Let’s Be Careful in the Fog

our morning washed of details
we move through a gray blanket

our cars glide more quietly
our morning washed of details

traffic lights come from nowhere
our cars glide more quietly

caution is our best defense
traffic lights come from nowhere

at the last minute, we see
caution is our best defense

on this whitewashed workday
at the last minute, we see

someone who wasn’t careful
on this whitewashed workday

police strobe lights pierce the haze
someone who wasn’t careful

respectfully, we slow down
police strobe lights pierce the haze

we move through a gray blanket
respectfully, we slow down

This is in a form I created that I call the "pan-ku".  I was inspired by my friend Anna Evans, who created a similar form called the "haikoum". (An example of her form can be found here.)  Like hers, mine is a kind of cross between a haiku and a pantoum, but mine is different in the pattern of the repeated lines and their length.  The poem consists of unrhymed couplets of seven syllables each,  and a line pattern of AB, CA, DC, ED, FE... YX, BY.  The poem can be any length, but it seems the shorter ones - say, 14 lines or less - tend to be better. (The one above is the longest I've written so far.) The last couplet must consist of the second line of the first stanza and the first line of the next-to-last stanza.  I like these because they have the structure and repetition of a pantoum, plus the fourteen-syllable couplets have the sound and feel of haiku. Try writing one!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 19

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem about a life event (birth, wedding, funeral, graduation, etc.), and (2) take an existing poem and rewrite its "opposite". I used W.H. Auden's "Funeral Blues" to describe a funeral that might actually make folks happy (think Wizard of Oz):

The Wicked Witch’s Funeral

Rewind the clocks, turn on the phone,
Make the dog bark by removing his bone,
Pound the pianos and bang on the drum,
Hang decorations, let the partyers come.

Let the jet planes scream and streak overhead,
Spreading the message, “Thank God she is dead.”
Put bright red bows round the necks of the doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear sparkly white gloves.

She was our cracked compass, our famines and wars,
Our workplace layoffs and our hard Sunday chores,
Our dark noon, bright midnight, dead silence and noise,
We’d hate her forever, but now sorrows are joys.

We want the stars back, put them up in the sky,
Unpack the moon and hang the sun high,
Refill the ocean and replant the wood,
Everything in the world now just looks so darned good.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 18

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem about a favorite local cuisine (with the food name as the title), and (2) write a lullaby. It's not easy to write a lullaby about food, but it made for kind of a fun light verse:

Philly Cheesesteak Lullaby

Hush, little Phillies fan, now don’t you cry;
they’ll make the World Series again, by and by.
So sit back and enjoy the game, just relax,
and have some of your favorite local snacks:
soft pretzels and hoagies, a Philly cheesesteak,
and for dessert, water ice, Tastykake.
Wash it down with some beer, if that is your wish:
Dock Street or Yuengling, perhaps Flying Fish.
With your belly full, and your head a-spinning,
you’ll probably doze off before the eighth inning.

And for a bonus, here's a tanka about a local cuisine that I left out of the previous poem:


no misspelled word game
but pork product, square slab sliced
and pan-fried with eggs
don’t ask what’s in it – the whole’s
more than the sum of the parts

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 17

Catching up now! Today's Poetic Asides prompt is to write a science fiction and/or fantasy poem. NaPoWriMo's prompt is more complex: Write an epistolery (letter) poem to an inanimate object and include at least four of the following in your poem:
1. a song lyric
2. a historical fact
3. an oddball adjective-noun combination (like "red grass" or "loud silence")
4. a fruit
5. the name of a street in your neighborhood
6. a measure of distance

So here's my science fiction poem, with those other elements included:

Dear Desktop Computer

What a rush to see you again.
I remember when I was a little kid,
you took up half of my desk,
and rumbled, whined and clicked when
I slipped a disk into your lipless mouth.
It took seconds, even minutes,
to download the most basic data.
Still, you’d come a long way from when
those devilish saints, Gates and Jobs,
trucked out their first prototypes.
My dad used to recall how he was
the first one on Media Road with a PC.
What would he think of us all now?

As I got bigger, you got smaller – a pad,
a palm-sized phone, soon no bigger
than a raisin, and after that, nanobots
the size of red blood cells. We no longer
needed desks to put you on top of.
As we worked more closely together,
the lines began to blur. Kurzweil
was right, only things moved faster
than even he could have dreamed.

We’ve come light years since then,
and as I regard you, desktop, in
the antique store window, my irises
contract and click to save the image.
I tap my temple to access my data bank
and Googleplex you to see when you
were made. It’s hard to believe it’s been
just thirty years. You can hardly tell us
apart any more. Pink Floyd used to sing,
“Welcome to the Machine.”
Well, Machine, welcome to Us.

Note I used all six elements of the NaPoWriMo prompt: (1) song lyric: "Welcome to the Machine" - actually a song title; (2) historical fact (more or less): Gates and Jobs introducing Apple and PC; (3) oddball adjective-noun: "devilish saints"; (4) fruit: raisin; (5) name of a street in my neighborhood: Media Road (how appropriate!); and (6) measure of distance: light year. Whew!

PAD Challenge Day 16

Late again - yes, taxes and computers again, but at least now the former issue is behind me. April 16's dual prompt from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a "mixed-up" poem, and (2) write a poem based on one of three photos on NaPoWriMo's blog (or a photo of your own choice). I used the third one they provided, which you can see here.

Tanka: Aimless

four empty rowboats
drift together on the lake
four captains wander the shore
unaware of who they are

I've also returned to Madeline Kane's Limerick-Off contest on her humor blog, after several weeks' hiatus. As you may know, she provides the first line and you have to finish the limerick, and at the end of the week she selects the winners. I've won first place a couple of times, so here's hoping these will do well. (Note: the second limerick was also inspired by one of the NaPoWriMo photos.)

A gal was recounting her woes:
"The singles bar scene really blows!
It is quite alarming
to look for Prince Charming,
and find Curlys, Larrys and Moes!"

A snail was recounting his woes:
"The gardeners try to dispose
of my body with salt -
being here's not my fault -
and my friends have become escargots!"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 15

Late again, for the same reasons: taxes and computers. In the middle of preparing my last-minute return on my wife's laptop (because my desktop is still busted) I got an e-mail from Comcast Xfinity that they identified a possible bot or virus in the laptop. What perfect timing. The tech guy scanned everything remotely and cleaned up the hard drive - took about an hour - but everything seems fine now. That's what i get for having an unsecured network.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo are (1) write a poem using the words slash, button, mask, strap and balloon, and (2) write a parody poem, preferably of a poet you don't like. Well, I don't which I love more: word prompt poems or parody poems, so I had a ball with this one. My inspiration for the parody is Francis Heaney's hilarious Holy Tango of Literature, in which he anagrams a famous poet or writer's name, makes a title out of the anagram, and writes a poem or prose piece in the writer's style, usually parodying one of that writer's famous works. Thus, T.S. Eliot becomes "Toilets". ("Let us go to the john, you and I...") So I decided to parody Gertrude Stein, whom I never really liked or "got". As a bonus, she wrote a series of prose poems called "Tender Buttons", a perfect tie-in with one of the words in the prompt. Finally, to my mind, at least, the anagram is perfect:

Registered Nut

by Gertrude Stein

Tender buttons, but on tender, tender your buttons, butter your tendons. Strap on your mask to mask the strap. Button the strap on your mask and strap your mask with buttons. Button your yap and yap yap with a strap on your tender buttons. The moon’s a balloon and the balloon’s a moon balloon too soon in June. The moon’s a tender button with a mask or a mask with a moon. Slash the strap and stash the slap and button your yap. Prices slashed on masks with buttons, balloon straps and moons that yap. Tender, tender button-strapped masks and slashed balloons under the yappy moon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 14

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1)Write a Doomsday poem, and (2) write a sonnet. Hence, my Doomsday sonnet (I have to give props to my teenage son for inspiring the opening line):

Sonnet 2012
(after Shakespeare)

Shall I compare you to the End of Days?
You are much safer and predictable
than cataclysm that the Mayans say
will come December of this year. I will
not buy this, can’t believe your grace would die
in conflagration, earthquake, hurricane,
your smile erased by some tsunami’s tide,
your spirit melted in monsoon-like rain.
But still, there is that chance they got it right,
and this may be our last year on this earth,
so let’s abandon hope and dance all night,
and if there’s sunrise, watch for all it’s worth.
So long as I can breathe and I can see,
I’ll thank the world for your good company.

Friday, April 13, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 13

Happy Friday the 13th! Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem about luck, and (2) write a ghazal. Joseph Harker's blog Naming Constellations has a good primer on the ghazal, and I tried, more or less, to follow his guidelines. So here's a short ghazal about luck:


Why should the date and day of the week dictate

whether or not our day will be full of poor luck?

So many talismans – the broken mirror, the ladder,

the crossing black cat, the rabbit’s foot we rub for luck.

Being in the right place at the right time – or

the wrong place at the wrong time –makes your luck.

Not getting on the Titanic or Buddy Holly’s plane;

Being the one millionth customer – that is sure luck.

Meeting you the way I did – in the dorm lounge

that September day – I couldn’t have asked for more luck.

PAD Challenge Day 12

Still having computer issues, so I'm about a day behind in my posts, but still doing a lot better with this blog than before I started this poem-a-day project. I hope to make this a weekly blog after April blows over, instead of a once-a-month-if-I-don't-forget blog.

The Day 12 prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1)Write a poem that with a title that begins with the word "Something", and (2) take a poem in a foreign language that you don't know, transcribe it phonetically into English based on the appearance and/or sound of the words, and try to rewrite it as a poem that makes sense, even if it bears little or no relation to the intent of the original poem. The word for this is a "translitic" poem, and I had some success doing one from the French a few years ago, but I struggled mightily with it yesterday. So here is the one I thought was the more successful of the two I wrote, even though it's full of abstractions. It's based on a French poem by Michéle Métail:

Something Coming Down

You arrive on a convoy of importance,
crossing streets, as luminaries line
the entire course through the town
that repeats your name, the proper term
for a voyager who advances our imagination.
At the premiere, you plan an entry dance for two.
You pass strangers, produce indecision
in your advance with your retinue of franchise,
yet you are hesitant in the long run,
where the definite looms disheveled,
and that precise inventor, the soul,
announces your income as a ruse,
and a litany of memories is caught astray.

And as a bonus, here's one I wrote based just on the Poetic Asides prompt:

Something to Talk About

It was one of your biggest hits, Bonnie,
but long before that you’d paid your dues.
When most of your peers formed garage bands,
you hung out with old blues men and women,
and learned your chops on bottleneck guitar.
You played dinky clubs and coffee houses
and formed a following, but mainstream fame
eluded you, and you endured rough patches.

Then one night you brought home
an armful of Grammys, and really gave them
something to talk about. Who is this chick?
most of the world wondered, but those of us
who already knew were proud of you.

Life is more comfortable now, but you’re still
out there recording and touring with your band,
leading them with your whiskey-honey voice,
your sharp, slim features,
your red mane with the shock of white,
and the sexy glissando of your slide guitar.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 11

I'm late - should have posted yesterday, but other matters intervened, namely tax return preparation, which isn't yet completed, and hampered by the fact that my desktop computer has been on the fritz for a few weeks. It's been serviced over the last couple of months, with new parts to the point that it may be a whole new computer before long. No one seems to be able to put their finger on the problem. What a lemon this machine has become, and it's only 15 months old.
Anyway, here's my dual prompt from yesterday, from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem with a season in the title, and (2) write a poem that uses the five senses. They seem to fit together pretty well, and my result is a nostalgia/memoir poem that's mostly fictional.

Mercurochrome Summer

The third time I skinned both my knees

the summer I was eight, my mother

just shook her head. You’ll have scabs

on top of your scabs, she sighed,

as she painted them both with Mercurochrome,

that vile red liquid antiseptic that stung

worse than the scrapes themselves.

She eased my pain with a cherry Popsicle,

the sweet and cold in my mouth offsetting

the hot throbbing in my knees. Afterward,

I went outside and showed Danny next door

my war-painted battle scars, then stuck out

my cherry-stained tongue, and told him

I drank some of the Mercurochrome.

Yuck! he cried.

It was a day full of red: Danny’s big sister Julie

sashayed by to show off her new red sundress

and flip hairdo. I told her she looked like Sandra Dee,

but Danny said she smelled like onions. Later,

a fire engine screamed through the neighborhood

when Mr. Berry knocked over his barbecue grill

and set his lawn on fire. Fresh cut grass and charcoal

smell good, but not when they’re put together.

I read in my science class that when the sun

goes down, the reds are the first colors to fade.

By dusk, my knees were no longer bright red,

and evening sounds took over for the colors –

the ice cream man on a late run, mosquitoes

teasing my ears, the Fisker brothers setting off

firecrackers in the woods, my parents watching

Jackie Gleason in the living room. I got ready for bed,

pulling my pajama pants over my tender knees,

which were already beginning to heal.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PAD Challange Day 10

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem about a forest and/or trees, (2) Steal a first line from a favorite poem (or a random line from any poem) and write a poem based on it. I "stole" from "The Joy of Writing" by Wislawa Szymborska (just read that poem this morning and loved the opening line), and the blooming trees in my yard this week just had to make it into the poem.


(after Wislawa Szymborska)

“Why does this written doe bound

through these written woods?”

Because she is Joy, and Spring,

and Innocence, and all the metaphors

we can attach to her graceful form.

Because my yard is filled with trees

early this year in their glory –

pink dogwood, weeping cherry,

a blooming apple like a snowstorm.

Because words are her woods,

protecting and nourishing her,

describing her from wet black nose

to impertinent white tail.

Because she feeds on images –

blossoms or bark or tender new leaves.

Because I found her in my yard

early one morning, and interrupted

her grazing, so she loped back into

the meadow mist and waited

for me to write of her again.

Monday, April 9, 2012

PAD Challengs Day 9

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem about something or someone shady, and (2) Write a persona poem. Persona poems are one of my favorite modes to work with, and I actually wrote one not long ago about a "shady" character (i.e. a used car salesman), but here's another shady character:

Identity Thief

I slip from shadow to shadow,
just beyond the corner of your eye
and when the moment presents,
I slip into your virtual pocket
and pick it of numbers,
the digits that make you you –
social security, credit card, phone.

I am havoc, I am paranoia,
I am the beast of deceit ,
and you are my prey.
You’ll sink in credit quicksand
while I use your persona
for a taste of the high life.

Sooner or later, you’ll sort it out,
perhaps with some damage done,
but by the time you catch up,
I will have moved on, a trail of receipts,
overdrafts, and past due bills in my wake,
as I slither into the shadows
of anonymity, and begin again.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 8

I got a very late start today because of our Easter celebration, but better later than never. Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo were (1) Write a poem about being rejected and (2) Take a walk outside and write about your observations. Since I didn't read the second prompt till this evening, it was a bit too late to act properly on it - the closest to a "walk" that I took today was an Easter-related activity around my yard. I also found it hard to reconcile the two prompts today, and the "rejection" reference I made is perfunctory at best. But here it is, for what it's worth:

Easter Morning

At first I’d rejected my wife’s idea

of an Easter egg hunt in our yard for the kids,

the youngest of whom is sixteen.

They’ll think it’s childish, I said.

But she prevailed, so here I am creeping

around my yard at ten a.m. trying to hide

three dozen plastic eggs with prizes inside,

and I discover that the hot pink and orange ones

are the hardest to camouflage. I carry a notebook

and mark the location of each egg,

because at my age it gets harder to remember

details without a list. It’s not such a bad day

to be out here, sunny with a cool breeze.

I plant a blue egg under the boxwood,

a green one inside the rain gutter spout.

I come across my neighbors in the side yard

under my blooming dogwood tree,

dressed to their Easter nines for a family photo.

I send my holiday wishes and make a joke about

my notebook, then continue on my secret mission.

Later, when our guests have arrived, my wife

sends them out to the yard – two teenagers

and four young adults, one in spiked heels –

to hunt for eggs. They have a ball. She was right

after all. As they chatter excitedly about their finds

and the goodies inside them, I look back

at my dogwood, and notice how much it’s grown.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 7

I really like both today's prompts from NaPoWriMo and Poetic Asides: (1) Write a poem in which everything is the same color, and (2) Write a poem in which two (or more) people interact without speaking. Here's my result:

Red Smile

He is riding the Red Line to work,

despite the morning urge to call in sick –

not under the weather, just tired

of the day-to-day grind, and not that far

from retirement. He lowers his newspaper

and finds a striking young Latin woman

opposite him. Her dress is as red as her lipstick,

her hair is a dark waterfall. Their eyes connect

and she flashes a warm smile. He smiles back.

He can feel his face flush red. He knows she’s

not flirting, because he’s not much to look at.

It was just a “good morning” smile,

a “have a nice day” smile that seems to come

naturally to her. Maybe she uses it all day

at her job as a receptionist or concierge,

or even a model. Their eyes don’t meet again;

she gets off two stops later, and he gets off

the stop after that. When he hits the street,

everything red speaks to him: sporty cars

whizzing through intersections, neon signs

on storefronts, some umbrellas that glide

through this drizzly morning. He carries

that red smile with him throughout the day,

and once in a while at his dreary desk,

he smiles back.

Friday, April 6, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 6

Today's dual prompt from NaPoWriMo and Poetic Asides: (1) write a poem about an animal (in the style of one of Marianne Moore's animal poems if you wish), and (2) write a poem about something hiding or hidden. That shouldn't be hard since so many animals have some method of "hiding" for defense or to lie in wait for prey. I used Moore's "The Fish" as a model for today's poem (perhaps more for form than content), and the trap door spider, one of nature's masters of camouflage and hiding (of which there are several species, by the way) as my subject.

Trap Door Spider


deep inside

a long tunnel that you dug

and lined with silk, a deadly rug

the better for slipping up and down to


from your hatch

camouflaged door, no welcome mat

D-shaped, silk-hinged, false floor that

dooms the unsuspecting creature


crawled or flew

oblivious to your pinching maw

to be cracked open by your jaw

some leftovers mixed with spit


for your brood

of spiderlings, crawling blind

while you, one of a single mind

lie in wait for the next meal to


in your trap,

eight-legged deadly jack-in-the-box

a brutal denizen who mocks

our placid life, our naïve trust


walk through

our surroundings and not suspect

there’s any reason to protect

ourselves from such a hungry world.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 5

First of all, thanks to Maureen Thorson and NaPoWriMo for the shout-out and selecting me as blog for "Blog of the Day"! I'm glad you all liked my Day 4 blues poem.

Today is Opening Day of the baseball season, a holiday for any avid baseball fan. My Phillies opened the season today by beating the Pirates 1-0, thanks to another pitching gem from Roy Halladay (8 innings of 2-hit shutout ball), who has now been the starter for ten consecutive Opening Days. In honor of the day, NaPoWriMo's prompt is to write a baseball poem. Needless to say, I've written several (one of which was published last year in the literary baseball magazine Spitball), so this prompt is a piece of cake for me. But as usual, I'm adding the prompt from Poetic Asides, which is to write about something "before your time." That begs a historical baseball poem, and the topic I chose seems a bit "dark" for such a celebratory day, but here it is for what it's worth.

Polo Grounds, August 16, 1920

As you lay on the ground, Ray,

on that terrible afternoon,

blood oozed from your ear.

Mays had delivered his submarine pitch,

hurling the muddy, stained baseball

through the twilight from mound to plate.

They say you didn’t even see the ball,

which is why you didn’t move as the pitch

cut in on you. When Mays heard the crack,

and the ball squibbed back to him,

he thought he’d heard the bat, not your skull,

and he threw to first for the putout.

You managed to stumble to your feet,

then collapsed again, and they rushed you

to the hospital, where you died hours later.

They all took off their caps for you,

Ray Chapman, as you passed through

this game into the next.

Before you left for the road trip from Cleveland

to New York, you and your young wife took a look

at the new house being built for you.

She was expecting your first child,

and you told her you would retire soon

to raise your family, and join the family business.

If only they had helmets back then,

you would have had the chance.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 4

Today's dual prompt from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write a poem with the title "100% _____", and (2) write a "blues" poem.

100% Poet Blues

Well, I’m a 100% poet, baby,

I write verses all the time,

Yes, I’m a 100% poet, darlin’,

I’m writin’ verses all the time.

You ask me why I do it –

well, there ain’t no reason or rhyme.

Well, I can write you a sonnet,

haiku, pantoum or villanelle,

Yeah, I’d love to write you a sonnet,

haiku, pantoum or villanelle,

but don’t ask me for a sestina,

‘cos I can’t write them so well.

I love to write about love, y’know,

like Shakespeare and all them guys.

Yes, I love to write about love, babe,

like Browning and all them guys.

So let me write a poem ‘bout you, baby,

an’ I’ll start by describin’ your eyes.

Well, your eyes are a constellation, baby –

that’s what they call a metaphor.

Yeah, your eyes are a constellation,

that’s what they call a metaphor.

I could write a thousand of ‘em for ya,

‘cos that’s what poetry is for.

Well, I’m a 100% poet, baby,

I don’t know if you give a damn,

yes, I’m a 100% poet, baby,

I don’t know if you give a damn,

but if you’re gonna get to know me

you’ll have to take me as iamb.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

PAD Challenge Day 3

Today's dual prompt from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (a) write an apologetic and/or an unapologetic poem, (b) write an epithalamium (a poem to a bride, or more gernerally about a wedding). Here's my result:

A Day in July

I won’t apologize for the weather,
one of the hottest days of the summer.
I won’t apologize for the venue either,
a little chapel on campus, not some
cavernous cathedral. I won’t apologize
for our shoestring budget - the lack of a limo,
how we went to the reception in her dad’s
old Pontiac, with her friend from next door
as chauffeur. I have no regrets for the music
I stayed up all night to tape, despite a lack
of tunes you could dance to. I’m not sorry
for the snafus – forgetting the marriage license,
her reciting my vows in her nervousness.
I won’t even make excuses for the fact that
my fly was open through half of the reception.
All I know is the ends justify the means,
and looking back from a perspective
of thirty-eight years, the day couldn’t
have been more perfect.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Poem-a-Day Challenge Day 2

My dual prompts for today from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo 2012: (a) write a poem based on the song that was #1 the week your were born, and (b) write a poem about a visitor. The #1 song the week of my birth was "How High the Moon" by Les Paul and Mary Ford. (Paul was also known as an innovator of the electric guitar and recording techniques.)

How High the Moon

“Somewhere there’s music,
How faint the tune…”
Nancy Hamilton and Morgan Lewis,
as performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford

After I left you,
no one followed me home
but the moon, which now beams
full through my dark window
like a mocking visitor.

I want to play you
a song I wrote, and bounce it off
the surface of that haughty satellite,
reflecting waves to where you are.
It might ease the sting.

Thinking it’s worth a try,
I pull my Les Paul Gibson from its case,
plug in, pick and strum,
aiming toward the moon,
asking it to carry the tune.

I almost forgot about the other reason I maintain this blog: for personal updates and self-aggrandizement. So in that spirit:

I was very pleased to learn that my poetry will be appearing again in Robert Brewer's Poetic Asides column in an upcoming issue of Writer's Digest magazine (July/August, I think). I won a contest on his blog for my quatern entitled "Purple Heart".

On April 1, I attended the launch party for Volume 57 of US 1 Worksheets, an excellent poetry journal out of Princeton NJ. It's always a well-attended event with great poetry, camaraderie and goodies, and my poem from the journal, "Postcard to the Ex" was a big hit.

One more thing to cross off my bucket list: I went to see the Phillies in spring training in Florida during St. Patrick's Day weekend. My buddy Bill and I stayed at a hotel that is right on Tampa Bay (gorgeous view) and conveniently located about 15 minutes from the Phils' stadium in Clearwater. We saw three games (the Phillies won 2 of the 3) and had a swell time.

NaPoWriMo 2012

Happy National Poetry Month! Once again, I'm going to take up the poem-a-day challenge, but this year with a twist: I will be posting my daily poems right here. I thought it would be a good way to force this dusty old blog into action again. As always, I'll be following Robert Brewer's blog, Poetic Asides, but I will also be following Maureen Thorson's blog, NaPoWriMo 2012. This means I will have two writing prompts to work with each day, and my intent is - crazy as it sounds - to create one poem from both of them. Here, for example, is my first poem of the month, based on the dual prompts to write a triolet and to write a poem about communication. Submitted for your approval (as Rod Serling used to say), my communication triolet:


I do not have a Facebook page.
My friends think I live in a cave.
I know we’re in the Info Age
but I don’t have a Facebook page.
Why do I spurn this social gauge?
Well, I think that I’m rather brave.
I do not have a Facebook page.
My friends think I live in a cave.

I'm already a day behind here, so God willing and the creek don't rise, I will try to post my April 2nd poem later today - after I write it, that is. Stay tuned!

(P.S. Actually, I really do have a Facebook page.)