HOW MANY LICKS DOES IT TAKE…

In the good old days, when lactose intolerance was yet unknown to me, and local businesses gave things away for free, the mister and I used to hop in the old VW Bus and putter downtown for soft-serve ice cream:

AT THE DAIRY FREEZE

The screen slides open
& out comes our order,
two super-sized cones
& a gratis puppy cone,
which our Lab devours.
Mimicking the sad face
of an emaciated orphan,
he eyes the twisty swirls
in our grip, mine… his…
attempting to discern
which of us is the sucker.
My husband caves first,
tilting his towering treat
toward the eager muzzle.
“Here Buddy, have a lick!”
Earnie’s jaws open wide
and crunch-munch-gulp!
it’s a done deal, leaving
one of us dumbfounded,
one laughing hysterically,
& one with brain freeze.

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

Advertisements

WHAT’S GONE AND WHAT ISN’T

My father passed away on June 24th.  When death strikes somebody near and dear to our hearts, it’s a wake-up call, a siren song urging us
to make the most of the hours we have left.  I’m pushing fifty. What’s done is done. Certain windows of opportunity have closed. The roads not taken are destined to remain so.  What we’ve surrendered might never be recovered.  Yet, all is not lost.  Each of us carries, in a secret pocket deep inside, an insurance policy made of neglected hopes and dreams, waiting to be cashed in.  Desires that, with time and nurture, might enrich our lives, bring us joy, and set us on the path to purpose and fulfillment.  What is it that you long to do?  What are you waiting for?  Life is a limited-time offer!

LOST

Under each public roof
there’s a box or a drawer
of things we’ve misplaced
and return looking for

But childhoods foreshortened
and innocence lost
are among precious items
you won’t come across

No good advice spurned
or time carelessly squandered
inhabit dark corners
where car-less keys wander

No vanished virginity,
old flames, or lost loves
court bohemian scarves
and forlorn single gloves

No obsolete friends
will be spotted consorting
with vagabond wallets
and cellular orphans

No scandalized ethics
or compromised trusts
wear google-eyed sunglasses
covered in dust

No frittered good health
or sharp minds gone astray
jostle musty umbrellas
from past rainy days

But ignored inner selves
and raw talents untamed
and sweet dreams once forsaken
might yet be reclaimed

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

SUMMER IN A BIG MASON JAR

Summer is officially here.  And I officially cannot wait for autumn to arrive.  Some people love it when it’s 90 degrees, but not me.  I wilt.  I have zero fondness for sweating, dehydration, heat exhaustion or blinding unsuspecting paramedics with the glare off my shockingly white legs.  Three things make this sweltering season worthwhile:

1.  line-dried laundry

2.  ripe, homegrown tomatoes

3.  SUN TEA
(Monotetra)

With summer rays, I disagree
Their scorching personalities
are fraught with wild intensity
Indoors I flee, indoors I flee

But leave a jar of water first
with four sachets of tea submersed
their amber secrets to disperse
For these I thirst, for these I thirst

No boiling kettle can entice
like long, slow sun served over ice
and wrapped around a lemon slice
Pure paradise, pure paradise

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

RORY STRIKES AGAIN!

Definitely a more challenging roll this time:
Pyramid
Water under the bridge
Footprint
Daisy
House
High rise
Lightning
Evil shadow
Frown

Juliana frowned and wrapped herself tighter in the afghan.  There was nothing good on TV – reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, NCIS, This Old House, a documentary about the pyramids, something about reducing your carbon footprint.  She wasn’t sick exactly, but it was easier to fib about having the flu than explain the real problem to her boss.  Some days she just couldn’t go out.  Six months of therapy hadn’t turned her phobias into water under the bridge.  No, they still nipped at her heels, following her like a sinister shadow.  The remains of last night’s dinner sat on the coffee table, stray bits of rice, wooden chopsticks, and two soggy cartons from China Moon.  Their sesame chicken was only so-so, but they delivered.  Next to the mess was an orange gerbera daisy in a green ceramic pot, a present from her little sister, Kate. Juliana envied Kate; she was so fearless.  She didn’t freak out during lightning storms.  She rode public busses and never worried about germs.  She lived in a high-rise—an efficiency apartment on the 17th floor!—and rode in the elevator every day.  Kate sat on her balcony, for God’s sake, sipping on Chardonnay and enjoying the view from a height that would have made Juliana break out in hives.  Dr. Sillman kept suggesting medication, and Juliana kept coming up with excuses not to take it.  But was this the way she wanted to spend her life?  Lying to her boss, flipping through the channels, eating bad sesame chicken, and staring at that annoying daisy?

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

BRUSH, ROLLER, TAPE, FORGET IT

Having no choices is devastating, like when there is only one internet service provider in town so you’re stuck with it, no matter how slow it is.  But an overabundance of choice can be devastating in its own way.  Overwhelming.  Paralyzing.  Who wants to spend an hour in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, comparing the nutrition information on fifty different kinds?  Not me.  But that’s nothing compared to what you go through in the paint section of the hardware store. Thought you knew exactly what color you wanted?  Think again.

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF ART*
(Villanelle)

The art of choosing isn’t hard to master,
or so it seems, ‘til you must muddle through
a range of options growing ever vaster

My bedroom walls were faded and lackluster
I pictured in my mind a soothing blue
The art of choosing isn’t hard to master

The counter clerk was helpful and amassed
a stack of azure swatches for review
the range of options growing ever vaster

I stood there, google-eyed and flabbergasted
I hemmed and hawed, perhaps off-white would do?
The art of choosing can be hard to master

“What shade?  There’s picket fence or alabaster
meringue, vanilla, biscuit, pearl, ecru… ”
the range of options growing ever vaster

She jabbered on and on as I wheeled past her
and bid my brush and roller sad adieu
The art of choosing proved too hard to master,
an empty-handed blue and white disaster

*A parody of ONE ART by Elizabeth Bishop

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

DUMP ‘EM INTO THE ZEN BLENDER

Remember the old Reese’s commercial where the guy with the peanut butter slams into the guy with the chocolate and something brilliant is born?  A while back, I selected two favorite books from my bookshelf, Maybe, Maybe Not  by Robert Fulghum and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls  by David Sedaris.  I collected five random phrases from each and arranged them into a ‘found’ poem, alternating their distinct voices in what became an intriguing, almost philosophical discourse.

THE SOUND OF
TWO MASTERS YAPPING

Ten minutes later,
I was back and we picked up
where we had left off

I did not intend
to lose him to promotion

“Gentlemen, you will remember
that you sent us to the great king,”
I told them,

but I felt uncomfortable
and sidelined by what I knew
of left-wing politics

and a fog of anxious dread
began rising
out of my spiritual swamp

Was he the bravest of them all
or wasn’t he?

A displaced person literally
does not know which way is up,
because there is no true north

I remembered experiencing
the same disquieting sensation,

however, I couldn’t give up;
too much was on the line

“It’s your loss,” I called,
and a great cloud of steam
issued from my mouth

(The regular type is Fulghum, and the italics are Sedaris.)

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

 

POETRY IN 10 NOT-SO-EASY STEPS

On the heels of last week’s poem about processes, I have to wonder who first came up with the idea of mapping them out.  Like, writing down a recipe or the rules for playing a game or basic instructions for assembling furniture from IKEA.  All of these are good, helpful things, but once we got going, we couldn’t seem to stop.  Like toddlers who can’t resist sticking things in electrical outlets, scientists (and middle managers) can’t resist sticking things into equations and flowcharts, where they’re boiled down, logically explained, objectively measured, improved upon, and turned into a boring PowerPoint presentation.

One of our poetry class assignments was to define our poesy process (the method we use to create poems).  I wrote a paragraph every week on this topic.  In it, I offered specifics about each piece, where the idea had come from and how I’d developed it, but no general rule or magic formula ever emerged.  Years later, the “explanation” of my process became its own poem, a Ghazal:

HOW A POEM HAPPENS

A memory or feeling or notion strikes me, igniting the words.
Muses storm inside my head; a bolt of lightning, The Words!

I take down dictation as from a faucet splurting and gushing,
pen racing to keep up; in my slapdash handwriting, the words

I look at them, climb inside of them—seeing, hearing, feeling;
searching for a common theme underlying, uniting the words

I type, cut and paste, rearrange phrases, shuffle them around,
restoring order to the chaos and somehow, righting the words

They choose a form—sestina or sonnet, limerick or free verse
I guide and slide them into it, finessing, not fighting the words

They coalesce into a poem, a fragile but complete work of art
I read it aloud, ears alert for glitches while reciting the words

Revision, my relentless quest for the perfect among the good,
is well-meaning but a bit overzealous, often smiting the words

I stop myself tossing them into the trash, where they belong.
After a walk or a nap, they’re brilliant and exciting, the words

I wield my thesaurus, more gently this time, until fit and flow
merge into music; I chant it to myself, delighting in the words

Instruments of the Great Creator, my hands, my pen, my voice
God’s Gracious Gift gives back to Him, wellspring of the words

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

LIFE: JUST ONE DAMNED PROCESS AFTER ANOTHER

Last year, I was working through a list of poetry prompts.  One of them was “A Process.”  I liked the word itself, with its varied pronunciations and meanings, its ability to function as a noun or a verb, the way it was changed by the addition of a prefix or a suffix and how it captured the whole of life as well as its many individual parts:

LIFE’S NEVER-ENDING PROCESS

Surviving the birth process
Processing language
Processed American cheese
grilled into sandwiches
Film processed into photos
Falling in love and
processing down the aisle
in a gown of ivory lace
Enduring the hiring process
Inprocessing a new job
Learning that my chosen field
follows its own process
Flow charts of our processes,
processed and reprocessed,
Process Improvement
the subject of every meeting
Queues to process
The mortgage process
Endless forms to be processed
Computers processing data
I don’t want processed
selling my information,
a global marketing process
A legal process once or twice
Outprocessing my job,
a daunting process
The retirement process,
and the adjustment process
Processing to the next phase,
a procession of words
in my brain just waiting to be
processed into poetry
A blissful, procreative process
so resolutely unsystematic,
it might not be a process at all
Pure unprocessed freedom
in such an overprocessed world
is, admittedly, a lot to process

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

WHEN THE GEARS START SLIPPING…

I’m going to start this post by saying that my mom is fine, as sharp and independent as ever.  Because when I read this poem for people, they approach me afterward and tell me they’re sorry to hear that, or share stories about their own caregiving struggles.  These lines are a patch-work of tales told to me by my patients, family, friends and neighbors about the challenges and heartbreaks of looking after someone with dementia.  This poem (a triolet series) goes out to all the caregivers:

CAREGIVER’S SONG

Mom pulls on a ratty sweater,
the one she will not go without,
even in the hottest weather
Mom pulls on a ratty sweater
I save my breath and don’t upset her
unless her pants are inside-out
Mom pulls on a ratty sweater,
the one she will not go without

Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
She just stares blankly at her plate
Ignoring vegetables and meat
Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
But how her eyes light up for sweets,
a dish of ice cream, piece of cake
Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
She just stares blankly at her plate

Mom makes lively conversation
with an empty kitchen chair
Since her mind went on vacation,
Mom makes lively conversation
with her long-deceased relations
as if they were sitting there
Mom makes lively conversation
with an empty kitchen chair

Mom pores over family pictures,
staring at a toddler’s face
Who is this?  she points and whispers
Mom pores over family pictures
A childhood me with my big sister
Precious memories gone, erased
Mom pores over family pictures
staring at a toddler’s face

Mom can’t follow TV shows,
but ogles actors shamelessly,
certain they are men she knows
Mom can’t follow TV shows,
Bosses, neighbors, high school beaus,
not Hollywood celebrities
Mom can’t follow TV shows,
but ogles actors shamelessly

At night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
and wanders from her cozy bed
Unsure where she is, I think,
at night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
A spectre in pajamas pink
shuffles through the house instead
At night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
and wanders from her cozy bed

I care about Mom’s happiness
and sit with her around-the-clock
Despite exhaustion, tears, and stress
I care about Mom’s happiness
No time to breathe or decompress
or take a walk around the block
I care about Mom’s happiness
and sit with her around-the-clock

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

AN ARACHNID AND HER TAJ MAHAL

‘Tis the season for critters.  It’s been unseasonably warm this week and the bugs are back in force.  Big, bumbling “carpenter” bees pollinating things, or maybe building a hive around the corner.  Primordial-looking stink bugs emerging from winter hibernation.  House flies.  Fleas.  And the most dreaded of all creepy-crawlies, ticks—Lyme disease, anyone? Around this time last year, or maybe two years ago, a tiny spider began constructing a home in my potted lime tree.  Is there such a thing as a “carpenter” spider?  Every day, I’d think about moving her outside, but then, I’d see the artistic additions she had made to her web overnight and change my mind.  This cascade poem is for her:

SCHEHERAZADE

An eight-legged Scheherazade
spins a new yarn every night,
slowly building a silken castle
that delights and fascinates me

Early summer, she crossed my
threshold, took up residence in
a potted plant, and pled to stay,
an eight-legged Scheherazade

She sleeps all day, striped legs
folded neatly around her body,
while her industrious alter ego
spins a new yarn every night

On a solid foundation, she adds
an east wing, a towering turret,
and a series of flying buttresses,
slowly building a silken castle

Her keen architectural prowess
is revealed in the morning sun
a shimmering, glittering genius
that delights and fascinates me

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!