Sunday, April 13, 2014

PAD Day 13: The Weird Family's Kid

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) Write an "animal" poem (and as a suggestion from guest judge Daniel Nester, write a sestina), and (2) write a poem with at least one "kenning".  A kenning is a trope of Norse origin which is a marriage of two words that don't usually go together, to metaphorically describe another word or phrase.  Thus "whale road" could mean the ocean.  One of the most common kennings I can think of in English is "rug rat" to describe a young child, specifically a crawling baby. A sestina - well, all you poets probably know what that is.  For those who don't, the short definition is a poem with six six-line stanzas and a seventh three-line stanza. Six words are selected as end-words and one must be used at the end of each line, in a specific rotating order, with all six used in the three lines of the last stanza (the "envoi"). The poem is usually written in blank verse (ten syllables per line), but doesn't have to be. It's one of the most daunting forms, and hard to write without sounding like little more than an exercise in form. I've only written one or two I consider really successful, one of which was published. I don't know if this one is in the same league, but here it is.  It's a bit of a riff, or an exaggeration, on how my youngest son must feel about not having a pet dog in the house. Oh, and my "kenning" appears in line 5:

The Weird Family's Kid

First warm weekend in spring - people walk dogs
with impunity. In my neighborhood
there is a dog in every family
but mine. They all parade past my window-
furry little leash-puffs the size of bees,
hulking hounds as tall as a sunflower.

I know their names. The pug in the flowered
sweater is Bessie. The big police dog
is Bear. He likes to snap at honeybees.
Fred and Ginger trot through my neighborhood,
two Corgis in tandem. Through my window
it's a kennel show - all the families

strut them proudly - all but my family.
My parents are allergic to flowers,
and anything that floats in the window -
dust, pollen, smoke, and especially dog
and cat hair. I stroll through the neighborhood
petting every dog, avoiding the bees.

My folks are even allergic to bees.
Just how I escaped all these family
traits is a mystery. The neighborhood
is a battleground for them. No flowers
in our yard, and obviously, no dogs
or cats. And we always keep the windows

closed.  Our neighbors see our blinded windows
and shake their heads. But I don't want to be
seen as a weirdo. That label won't dog
me to adulthood. When those families
see me on the street smelling the flowers,
speeding on my bike through the neighborhood,

they will say, "Look, there's that nice neighborhood
kid, the one whose parents keep their windows        
shut - he's not so bad." When my life flowers,
when I've learned all about the birds and bees,
I'll move out from this shut-in family,
and maybe even get myself a dog.

People in this neighborhood buzz like bees.
They want families with open windows,
who plant flowers and like to walk their dogs.

1 comment:

Vince Gotera said...

Hey, again, Bruce. Thanks for swinging by my blog. I enjoyed your sestina very much. I like what you do to differentiate the end words, like making "dog" into a verb. Bravo.

If you get a chance, come see my animal sestina ... you might enjoy what I do with end words.