Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reviewing April PAD: Best of the Month?

As I mentioned, I was very pleased to be able to write 54 poems during National Poetry Month. I found that starting my writing time first thing in the morning was the best strategy, before the drudge of chores and the (demanding) blessing of caring for young granddaughters began. There's also a lot to be said for writing while you're still fresh and rested. Most days I had something at least started by 8:30 a.m. (Maybe I should continue that strategy.) I also found that I was leaning heavily toward humorous poetry and light verse throughout the month. I think it's because of the dire political events of the last 6 months or so - I feel a need to laugh to keep from crying.  When I wrote "Trumpericks", a batch of half a dozen satirical limericks about Donald Trump, a Facebook poet friend said, "Didn't that feel therapeutic?" Yes, it did.

I presume Robert Lee Brewer of Poetic Asides will once again ask participants in his PAD challenge to submit up to five of the best poems they wrote in April, so he can announce his picks for the best of the year. (Once again, I regret having so little time to read other poets' work, but there was some really good poetry to be found in connection with both blogs, so maybe i can spend more time now to discover it.)  Last year I made his top 21, and I would love to be a finalist again this year.

So to help you out a little, so you don't have to slog through 30 days of blog posts, here are what I consider my best five poems of this April:


April 11:
Easter Egg Hunt in a Church Graveyard 


The irony of this is lost on three-
and four-year olds, who see this is a yard
with big stones in it. Basket-bearing, free,
they run for multicolored eggs. It's hard
for them, so parents help. Around the stones
they pluck their prizes, scampering above
the long departed, all the dust and bones
of those like Mary Wellington, beloved
wife, 1840-1892,
pneumonia, or some similar disease.
One wonders if she was a person who
had grandkids, and if so, she might be pleased
a little girl named Bella won the race
to find an egg above her resting place.


April 25:
Dewey-eyed

A study cubby back behind the stacks
is where we first locked lips. The shelves between
the main desk and our tryst were filled, the racks
from Poetry to Fiction (811-813)
would camouflage shenanigans, while patrons turning pages
had no idea librarians could be their lusty selves,
by bumping up against the books instead of earning wages,
pulling orders, organizing shelves.
And when we exited that private nook,
returning to the world of Mr. Dewey,
we might  exchange a sideways smile or swap a furtive look,
but always being business-like, no sentimental hooey.
Then after work, like any learned lovers,
we'd read a book and get between the covers. 


April 28:
Ode-iferous

Now what the hell?
What is that smell?
We know it well.
It’s really vile
and gross as bile,
and lasts a while
and spreads a mile.

You stripy ghost,
unwilling host
who reeks the most,
you lift your trunk
and spray your junk
at any punk
who gives you bunk,

then we must dunk
ourselves and sluice
tomato juice,
head to caboose,
to try and loose
the stink that’s in
our hair and skin.

You black-and-white
child of the night,
we will not fight
lest we lose sight
of your foul might,
and your alacrity
with unsatisfactory
things olfactory.

Pepé Le Pew,
we don’t hate you,
but for now, adieu.
You do have spunk –
don’t  be in a funk,
or we’ll be sunk
and get a chunk
of eau de skunk.


April 29:
A Metric Poem

We sometimes run kilometers
(5K is popular here).
We drink our Coke in liters,
and water, but not beer.

We briefly employed Celsius
(also known as Centigrade)
to tell just how hot we were,
but that trend began to fade.

We are a land of miles and feet,
and we're mostly metric-free.
If you're looking for a meter,
you'll still find it in poetry.

And yet, that's not quite true of Frost,
who talked of promises kept,
but not kilometers he must go
before he finally slept.


April 20:
Romance, Anyone? (Formerly titled "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." 

Rounding out my top 10:
War of Words (Apr. 4)
Once in the Middle of a Time (Apr.15)
Marginalia (Apr. 24)
The Agnostic's Sunday (Apr. 30) 
10 Ways of Hearing a Thunderstorm (Apr. 6)

Anyway, those are my picks. As most poets and writers know, your favorites are usually the ones you just wrote, so my opinions of these will undoubtedly change over time. If you wish, you may scan my daily blogs from April to see if there are any you like better,or maybe you already read some you like better. In either case (or even if you just like these), thanks for reading!





PAD Day 30: Finish Line!

Wow, I made it again! This is the 10th year I've followed Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog for the Poem-a-day Challenge, and the fifth year I've followed Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo blog. The two together make for intriguing double prompts, and I want to thank them both for providing inspiration once again throughout the month of April. 

Taking a final count, I find it has been a pretty productive April. Counting today, I have written:
20 free verse poems
7 clerihews
6 haiku
6 limericks
4 general rhymed verse poems
3 sonnets
3 "elevenies"
1 ghazal
1 "skeltonic" verse
1 blank verse (a "bop")
1 prose poem (a fable)
1 "trijan refrain"
That's a grand total of 54 poems in one month. Granted, about 40% of them were "short form", but still, not too shabby, On the other hand, I have a friend who was on a pace to write about 90 this month.

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo are: (1) write a poem with the title "The _______", and (2) write about something that happens “again and again”, with regularity or predictability. Robert's prompt today was a little disappointing, so for additional inspiration, I used the “Wordle” (a word bank of about a dozen words, graphically presented) from this week’s Sunday Whirl blog. The words this week are: run, itch, lace, spiral, chip, settle, sum, life, sing, saints, list, prayer. I managed to weave them all into this poem.
The Agnostic’s Sunday
Every weekend she flits about,
running late as usual, trying
to decide what dress to wear –
not that one with the itchy lace –
and wolfing down a quick breakfast,
usually a slice of raisin toast
with a spiral of cinnamon baked in.
She will quickly pin up her hair,
not worry about the chipped polish
on that one nail, kiss me goodbye,
and barrel out the door. I’ll settle in
with the paper and coffee, knowing
that she’ll soon be in her pew,
summing up her life this week to God.
She will sing a few hymns, pray
to her favorite saints, go through
her mental list of loved ones
and say prayers for each of them,
and as if she thinks it would help,
save me for last.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mini-bonus: More Clerihews!

In reviewing my poetry files for this month, I found two politically-themed clerihews that I forgot to post. So here you go:

Sean Spicer
could be nicer
and show a bit more tact
when he spews each "alternative fact.".


Steve Bannon,
that loose cannon,
got cut from National Security
and it had nothing to do with racial purity.

Bonus: The Annotated Birthday Poem

As promised, here is the annotated version of the second poem I posted on Day 27, showing references to the celebrities who share my birthday.

For Birth Sakes (April 27)

Mother of Frankenstein! I'm all for women's rights,[1]
but I don't often telegraph [2] my opinions.
God grant me the right to speak generally [3],
and talk of trivial things like my love for three oranges [4].
Don't let my horns be [5] too loud when I blow them -
I'm not in the Hall of Fame [5,6], and I would never go
to the country and slaughter [6] a calf.
I might draw cartoons of woodpeckers [7] though,
and I might be half of an odd couple, but I'm no medical examiner [8],
and I'm certainly not the wife of a king  [9].
I'm a fan of the love of a man and a woman [10],
and like my football coach, I'm from the college of Hard Knox [11].
I listen to the American Top 40 [12] constantly,
but sometimes it distracts me - once I went up the down staircase,
but I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf  [13].
You can sock it to me  [14], you can show me the money  [15],
you can give me piano lessons or build fences [16] around me,
but if you want it, here it is - come and get it [17].
I'll roam if I want to, even to the love shack [18]
or Detroit Rock City, where I can rock and roll all nite [19].
Then I'll take the morning train, and be for your eyes only [20],
I'll look as distinguished as a senator, or a booker [21] of getaways
even if I'm still in my morning jacket [22].

Key to clues:
[1]: Mary Wollstonecraft, early women's rights advocate and mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley
[2]: Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph
[3]: US Civil War general and President Ulysses S. Grant
[4]: Sergei Prokoviev, Russian classical composer (the opera Love for Three  Oranges)
[5]: Rogers Hornsby (Hall of Fame baseball player)
[6]: "Country" Enos Slaughter (another baseball Hall of Famer)
[7]: Walter Lantz (animator, creator of Woody Woodpecker)
[8]: Jack Klugman (star of  the TV series The Odd Couple and Quincy: M.E.)
[9]: Coretta Scott King (wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
[10]: Anouk Aimee (French actress, nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for A Man and a Woman)
[11]: Chuck Knox (former NFL football coach)
[12]: Casey Kasem (announcer, DJ, voice actor, host of American Top 40 radio series)
[13]: Sandy Dennis (actress, Up the Down Staircase and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
[14]: Judy Carne (actress/comedienne, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In; known as the "Sock It to Me!" girl)
[15]: Cuba Gooding Jr. (actor, Jerry Maguire)
[16]: August Wilson (playwright, The Piano Lesson, Fences)
[17]: Pete Ham (member of British pop group Badfinger)
[18]: Kate Pierson (member of The B-52's)
[19]: Ace Frehley (member of KISS)
[20]: Sheena Easton (singer)
[21]: Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)
[22]: Jim James (leader of the alt-rock band My Morning Jacket)]


PAD Day 29: A "Metric Poem" and an Ode to My Wheelbarrow

Before I start, I just want to thank Maureen Thorson for featuring my blog on her NaPoWriMo site. I guess she really enjoyed my silly skeltonic verse about skunks. Thanks, Maureen!

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem about "metrics" (or, I presume, a poem in metrics), and (2) take a favorite poem, pick out one concrete noun from it, do five minutes of free writing from it, then make a new poem from the result.

For the first time all month, I wasn't able to combine both prompts into one poem. But that means  I have two new poems for today.  Here's the first:

A Metric Poem

We sometimes run kilometers
(5K is popular here).
We drink our Coke in liters,
and water, but not beer.

We briefly employed Celsius
(also known as Centigrade)
to tell just how hot we were,
but that trend began to fade.

We are a land of miles and feet,
and we're mostly metric-free.
If you're looking for a meter,
you'll still find it in poetry.

And yet, that's not quite true of Frost,
who talked of promises kept,
but not kilometers he must go
before he finally slept.


And here's my response to the NaPoWriMo prompt:

No White Chickens

wheelbarrow
you sat inverted, forlorn
in the garage all winter

until now,
hauled out for spring
and you have seen many -

chipped red paint
one screw lost from the frame
a  handle grip gone

when I push you empty
your bed bounces up and down
with a metal clatter

your wheel
slightly bent
has a slight wobble

you are rusting because
like Dr. Bill's wheelbarrow
you were left in the rain

but you still can haul
soil, or mulch, or plants
into the garden

you carry
that musty fresh earth smell
back and forth

unlike your famous cousin
you don't sit beside
the white chickens

but you are more alike
because so much does depend
on you


Friday, April 28, 2017

PAD Day 28: This Poem Stinks!

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem that uses the sense of smell, and (2) write a poem in "skeltonic" verse. (Interesting that yesterday's NaPoWriMo poem prompt was to employ the sense of taste.) Basically, skeltonic verse is written in short lines (usually 3-6 words) with no more than two stressed beats per line. (It doesn't really matter what type of meter you use - iambic, trochaic, etc.) Also, it must be rhymed, but there is no set rhyme scheme, except you make each line rhyme with the previous line until you get tired of that rhyme and want to change it.  This form seems to lend itself very well to light verse, so here is my "stinky skeltonic". (I took a little liberty with the rules on stresses or syllables later in the poem.)


Ode-iferous

Now what the hell?
What is that smell?
We know it well.
It’s really vile
and gross as bile,
and lasts a while
and spreads a mile.

You stripy ghost,
unwilling host
who reeks the most,
you lift your trunk
and spray your junk
at any punk
who gives you bunk,

then we must dunk
ourselves and sluice
tomato juice,
head to caboose,
to try and loose
the stink that’s in
our hair and skin.

You black-and-white
child of the night,
we will not fight
lest we lose sight
of your foul might,
and your alacrity
with unsatisfactory
things olfactory.

Pepé Le Pew,
we don’t hate you,
but for now, adieu.
You do have spunk –
don’t  be in a funk,
or we’ll be sunk
and get a chunk
of eau de skunk.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

PAD Day 27: Happy Birthday, Grumpy Old Man!

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem using as many of the following words as possible: pest, hiccup, wince, festoon, crack, ramble; and (2) write a poem that uses the sense of taste.

Doing a poem a day in April provides me with an opportunity - or excuse - to write a birthday poem every year, and it just so happens that today is my birthday. I have definitely crossed into the "golden years", so birthdays have become less "whoopee!" and more "don't remind me".  Today has been a fairly routine day, other than a few gifts and a fair number of birthday wishes (most from Facebook friends). I wrote this earlier today and just now got a chance to post it. It may exaggerate my opinion of birthdays, but not by all that much.


The Curmudgeon's Birthday

Today I officially declare myself
a "grumpy old man". I'm one digit
away from The Beast. Birthdays are pests,
like gnats or Canadian geese.
They're just a hiccup in the breath of life.
I wince when I think of how much time
has passed, how many missed opportunities.
Don't festoon my home with best wishes,
but if you insist on a cake, I'll acquiesce.
Sing me that old song and I'll blow out
the candles, inhale the smell of burnt wick
and wax, taste the chocolate, slightly bitter
on the tip of the tongue,  and slippery-sweet
butter cream icing. Maybe I'll even crack a smile.
What will I wish for? Just the chance
to ramble on this crazy planet a little longer.


And here's a little extra fun: I was inspired to write this one after compiling a list of famous people with whom I share my April 27 birthday. I couldn't find the proper word for this, but I swear at least once I've heard it called a "birth-sake" (like "namesake", only for birthdays). See if you can guess the 22 people who share my birthday from the clues contained in this poem. (Answers in a future blog, or check my Facebook page for a list which includes these people.)


For Birth Sakes

Mother of Frankenstein! I'm all for women's rights,
but I don't often telegraph my opinions.
God grant me the right to speak generally,
and talk of trivial things like my love for three oranges.
Don't let my horns be too loud when I blow them -
I'm not in the Hall of Fame, and I would never go
to the country and slaughter a calf.
I might draw cartoons of woodpeckers though,
and I might be half of an odd couple, but I'm no medical examiner,
and I'm certainly not the wife of a king.
I'm a fan of the love of a man and a woman,
and like my football coach, I'm from the college of Hard Knox.
I listen to the American Top 40 constantly,
but sometimes it distracts me - once I went up the down staircase,
but I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf.
You can sock it to me, you can show me the money,
you can give me piano lessons or build fences around me,
but if you want it, here it is - come and get it.
I'll roam if I want to, even to the love shack
or Detroit Rock City, where I can rock and roll all nite.
Then I'll take the morning train, and be for your eyes only,
I'll look as distinguished as a senator, or a booker of getaways
even if I'm still in my morning jacket. 




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

PAD Day 26: The Old Ways

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a "regret" poem, and (2) write a poem "exploring a particular object or place from the point of view of some far-off, future scientist".


Lost Art

I've been working for years trying to interpret
an obscure style of calligraphy from ancient times,
created with writing implements and ink.
It's quite lovely, when done well.  Its practitioners,
apparently followers of a man named Palmer,
found a way to communicate with slanted swirls and loops,
connecting them into units that must have been words.
We have found evidence in the papers of schoolchildren,
who were taught to practice it early in life,
and we have found documents that may have been a way
of communicating love, or friendly greetings.
These people must have regretted losing the ability
to create such flowing, graceful writing.
I understand that feeling, because I am one of the last
of my kind to employ the form of written language
I am using now, called the "alphabet".
No one else seems to know how to read this anymore.
They all prefer using symbols like faces with emotions
and simple pictographs, a return to hieroglyphics,
or dare I say, cave drawings.
As one of the last of the historians and linguists,
I am trying to keep the old ways alive,
but the flame is starting to flicker out.


This is inspired by the reports I hear, in both the news and personal accounts (from teachers and even my youngest son) that kids are growing up these days with the inability to read and write in cursive. Handwriting itself seems to be a dying art, and even literacy seems to be in danger with all the new, faster and more efficient ways to communicate electronically. Oh well, call me an old fogey - I still know how to use an analog clock, a rotary phone, and a VCR.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

PAD Day 25: Those Lusty Librarians

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a love and/or anti-love poem, and (2) write a poem about a small space, particularly one of significance to you. Well, my poem is pure fiction about the small space of a cubicle (or cubby) in the corner of a library where some hi-jinks might have gone on. I wrote it as a sonnet, but some of the lines seemed to want to be longer than the standard iambic pentameter, so I came up with something I call a "mixed fourteener sonnet". In this case, lines 4-7 and 11-12 are 14 syllables (iambic heptameter). In some lines there is an extra syllable too, due to the unstressed final syllable (known in some quarters as a "feminine" ending). Anyway, you're welcome to try it too - I haven't established any rule on which, or how many, of the lines should be longer, as long as it makes sense to the flow of the poem.

Dewey-eyed

A study cubby back behind the stacks
is where we first locked lips. The shelves between
the main desk and our tryst were filled, the racks
from Poetry to Fiction (811-813)
would camouflage shenanigans, while patrons turning pages
had no idea librarians could be their lusty selves,
by bumping up against the books instead of earning wages,
pulling orders, organizing shelves.
And when we exited that private nook,
returning to the world of Mr. Dewey,
we might  exchange a sideways smile or swap a furtive look,
but always being business-like, no sentimental hooey.
Then after work, like any learned lovers,
we'd read a book and get between the covers. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

PAD Day 24: Monks Just Want to Have Fun

Today's prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a "faith" poem, and (2) write an ekphrastic poem based on marginalia, the little doodles and fanciful illustrations that medieval monks drew on their manuscripts.  These two prompts seemed to mesh almost perfectly today, os here is my result.


Marginalia

After transcribing scripture all day,
interrupted only by frequent prayer
or a Spartan meal,  one would think
that those  medieval monks would be anxious
to break out a little, to think outside the box,
or margins as the case may be. And they did.
After hours of drudgery copying Luke or Revelations,
after the day-in, day-out regimen of faith and devotion,
they strayed onto the edges of the parchment
and created something fanciful, a little divertissement
to make them smile - a snail with a cat's head,
an elephant imagined with a wolf's body,
a guy blowing a trumpet from his buttocks.
Then their pens would return to the country
of rote and reason, as if nothing had ever happened,
as if imagination had never opened the borders,
but their smiles might last a little while longer.


And here's a few weird little haiku based on some of the illustrations I saw:

cat-snail, you are slow -
you love milk and hate salt but
you're never homeless




wolphant, you are huge -
every full moon we hear you
trumpet at the moon



fish, you're so angry
you've sprouted two human arms
to go catch a man



Sunday, April 23, 2017

PAD Day 23: Three "Elevenies"

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem with the title "Last _____", and (2) write an "elevenie". What's an elevenie, you may ask? Well, here's the explanation, per NaPoWriMo's Maureen Thorson:

"An elevenie is an eleven-word poem of five lines, with each line performing a specific task in the poem. The first line is one word, a noun. The second line is two words that explain what the noun in the first line does, the third line explains where the noun is in three words, the fourth line provides further explanation in four words, and the fifth line concludes with one word that sums up the feeling or result of the first line’s noun being what it is and where it is. "

So here are three "elevenie" poems for you - two that have two stanzas and one with one stanza. (Does that make a "fifty-five-ie"?)



Last Flight

departure
lifting off
twenty thousand feet
above fields of broken-hearted
goodbyes

arrival
touching down
clearing the gate
while outstretched arms await
hellos


Last of the Ninth

batter
cleanup hitter
stands at home
his team's last hope
swings

CRACK
fly ball
deep center field
it's got a chance-
pandemonium!



Last Season

zombies
shuffling, slack-jawed
enter my room
attracted by TV light -
binge-watchers




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.

Trumpericks

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.

Hoofing

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.

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

II.
heat lightning
dances through distant clouds –
no sleep tonight

III. 
carnival dancers limbo under the stars




Sunday, April 16, 2017

PAD Day 16: Happy Easter! Save the Earth!


Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a poem inspired by letter-writing, and (2) write a poem with the title "________ System". The title practically suggested itself, so consider this an early Earth Day poem:

Letter from the Solar System

Dear Earth,

What is going on?
You used to be so blue and green and full of life.
Now you're browning, and you're losing
that distinguished white pate.
You're running a fever that's only getting worse.
You'd think you had an infection.
Is it those billions of organisms on your surface?
Can't you do something about them?
A few cataclysms, perhaps, or natural disasters?
Do you need some help?
We could send a comet or an asteroid your way -
but that might be too drastic.
Aren't those tiny creatures smart enough
to know how to make you better?
Or do they think you'll live forever,
no matter how badly they treat you?
Something must be done, Earth, and soon.
Even the Sun is worried.
We used to be so proud of you.
Don't end up a dead, desolate waste
like the rest of us.
Get well soon.

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Planets


And here's a "bonus" poem, which I wrote for the 2015 Poem-a-day Challenge. This is the one that was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Rattle (#55), a very well-known and respected journal.  (And the icing on the cake is that it's a paying market, something rare in poetry.)

The Man Peeling Sweet Potatoes on Easter Morning

(after Galway Kinnell)

The man peeling sweet potatoes on Easter morning
looks frustrated, as though this is a task best passed
to others who really know what they are doing.
His wife is away on other errands and has deemed
him the stripper of skins, with nothing but a dull
vegetable peeler. Perhaps if he should microwave
them for five minutes, the dirt-brown husks
would pull away cleanly, even by tool-less hand.
The ends are hot and soft and peel more easily
but they burn his fingers, while the middle
is still too hard and resists a metal blade.
He is making a mess of this chore, and wonders
why his wife would entrust it to him, when he
could be watching baseball or writing poetry.
Perhaps today of all days he should have faith
that he will accomplish this goal of five pounds
of naked tubers, their bright orange souls
unprotected from the cruelties of the April air.
Sometimes it is easy to peel away defenses,
he thinks, and sometimes a toughness prevails.
Later, his wife will bake them in a casserole,
with cinnamon, brown sugar and marshmallow,
for a dinner that has taken three days to prepare,
and their aroma will rise from a hot square tomb
into the very reaches of heaven.