PLUNGED INTO A NIGHTMARE

Have you ever felt like you were being trolled after making an online purchase?  The Cosmos knows not only what you bought, but a host of other things you might like, based on that choice.  It suggests items to complement or enhance it.  It pops up helpful messages like “Others who bought this item also bought X, Y, and Z.”  This may be tolerable if you’ve purchased something innocuous, like a socket set or a sleeping bag or a case of dog food.  But if it was something of a more personal nature, look out.  It could trail behind you like an embarrassing ribbon
of toilet paper stuck to your heel.  Read and heed this cautionary tale:


BUYER BEWARE

The Squatty Potty© that I bought
as a gag gift for a friend
unleashed a virtual onslaught
of gear for my rear end

A screen popped up before I had
completed my transaction
suggesting, for my favorite lad,
a kit called Master Crapsman©

The link connected in a snap
to a site for Poo-Pourri©
Just spritz the bowl with Trap-a-Crap©
and drop a deuce, scott-free!

They also thought I might enjoy
a box of quilted Shittens©
an ill-conceived commercial ploy
for wet wipes shaped like mittens

I cleared my cookies straightaway
suspecting double-cross
but onward marched the shit parade
like a wave of chocolate sauce

T-shirts with “I pooped today!”
stamped across the chest,
padded seats and chrome bidets
and fiber supplements

Free shipping on a new commode,
a plumbing tour de force
designed to handle outsize loads
in just one flush, of course

I phoned the website to demand
they cork their brown assault
They claimed it was out of their hands
Alas, the system’s fault


But accept this free Emoji Turd
a download for your phone
in case you’re at loss for words
or texting on the throne

I found a clever use for it,
a survey from their end
I awarded them five little shits

and pushed the key to SEND

The last laugh wasn’t mine, I fear
I found myself upstaged,
Joan LIKES the Squatty Potty! smeared
across my FaceBook page

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TINY FLASHES OF HALLELUJAH

Have you ever witnessed a miracle?  You probably have – they happen all the time, but we often chalk them up to serendipity or coincidence. “Flashes of Hallelujah” my friend Julie calls them.  Not flamboyant stuff like winning the Lottery (though that would certainly count), just small everyday miracles like making it to the gas station with the needle on “E,” discovering that your old jeans still fit, being escorted by a pair of dragonflies along a footpath in the woods, finding a handwritten letter among the bills and junk in your mailbox, or getting the laundry down off the line in time to beat the storm.  Last week, I stuck my hand into the pocket of a rain jacket I hadn’t worn since spring and pulled out a twenty dollar bill.  This past Thursday, I harvested a dozen blushing-yellow tomatoes from my garden, more than I’d be able to use, and in short order, the extras were adopted by a most grateful neighbor. On Friday, my dog did his business a minute before we reached the front door, so I didn’t have to carry his reeking poo-sack for the entire walk.  Some are a bit more mysterious, like two Sundays ago when I went out to get the paper.  I glanced around the quiet cul-de-sac, finding myself mesmerized by the colors of sunrise reflected in an RV window.  To the east, the sky it mirrored was still dusky violet.  The sun, though up, had not yet cleared the treeline, leaving me to question how I’d seen what
I saw.  A wise person said, “Let up a little on the wonder why, and give your heart a try.”  So I put pen to paper and let it speak.  It was cool to picture God with His Crayolas.  The 128-pack including “sunrise” is only available in heaven.  No sharpener; up there, crayons never grow dull.

AS THE SUNDAY PAPER
LIES ON THE DRIVEWAY,
FORGOTTEN

An early riser thrusts
His sunrise crayon
through a portal
in the copse to the east
coloring the camper’s
rear window
with a gleaming
pink-gold reflection

Framed just so,
it grabs my retinas,
focuses them
on a keyhole miracle,
the Divine Projectionist’s
sleight of beam,
just for me,
just for a moment

His dazzling epiphany
supplants my low purpose
with a higher one:
seeing the unseen,
grasping that these
impeccably aligned rays
offer a mirrored
self-portrait of God

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NOTES FROM CHEMISTRY 101

Our garden contains an eclectic mix of things.  It started as nine herbal seedlings purchased from someone with a gorgeous plot of herbs and
a hand-lettered sign.  But my husband, the gardening equivalent of Tim the Toolman Taylor, felt the need to expand our potted paradise into a PROJECT involving a wagon wheel design, backbreaking labor, gravel, sand, rustic brick walkways, etc.  Through experimentation, we learned what will thrive here:  weeds, oregano, echinacea, white sage, rhubarb, tomatoes, hot peppers, squashes disguised as melons.  The Kiwis were an impulse buy, I admit, but we’re fond of exotic fruit trees, and Lowe’s garden centers wouldn’t sell them in Ohio if they couldn’t survive here, right?  The Chicago hardy fig from QVC is living proof – it has wintered over well and bears amazing fruit in years when the growing season is long.  So, He-Kiwi and She-Kiwi are healthy and leafy and gorgeous, but their interest in hooking up with each other (or even exchanging phone numbers) is zip, zilch, nada.  The rest of the garden, however, is a Dirty Dancing extravaganza.  And Free Love calls for Free Verse, does it not?

A NON-COUPLE OF KIWIS

Who knew that Kiwi trees
are not self-pollinators
but He-Kiwis and She-Kiwis?
Into the cart, one of each,
a blind date hastily arranged
in the garden center aisle

Seven years of proximity
have resulted in nothing but
a maddening fruitlessness
Across the arbor, we shackle
their magenta-veined palms
in a Bonsai-style romance

A picture-perfect twosome
schooled by birds and bees
yet chaste as brother and sister
until the sparks start flying…
I find her tendril under a fig leaf
fondling its hanging fruit

He is more promiscuous,
feeling up the black currant bush
and caressing a frond of asparagus
while leaning sideways to grope
the ample bosom of a carmine rose
bedecked in tiny pearls of dew

If attraction could be conjured,
I would be cooing over Grand-Kiwis
Instead, I ponder hybrid oddities,
grapples and pluots and tangelos,
picturing how they came to be,
the love children of sly passions

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DOUBLE-TALKING WITH THE DEVIL

Yippee!  It’s almost salsa season!  Thanks to a balanced mix of hot sun and plentiful rain, I’ve had homegrown jalapenos for a few weeks now, and my heirloom “watermelon” tomatoes are just beginning to blush.  I bought my seedlings in May from an organic farmer who started them in his greenhouse.  Anxious to get them planted, I spent that morning clearing a space in our raised bed.  Absentmindedly, I grabbed handful after handful of weeds and tossed them toward the compost pile, the dog snapping eagerly at the bundles as they sailed past.  I was having a (sort of) good time until I spied a coiled-up snake where my hands had been, just a second before.  Snakes aren’t common here—this was the first one I’d seen in twenty years.  I donned a pair of work gloves and grabbed a shovel from the garage and we had a chat, the snake and I.
I promised not to chop him in half if he would slither out of my yard
and go elsewhere.  It took some convincing (including a bit of sweet-talk and a wild ride on the shovel) but he left and has not come back.  The next day, after my heart rate had returned to normal, my one-way conversation became a pantoum filled with oblique “garden” rhymes:

NEGOTIATIONS IN EDEN

O, snake in the garden,
my cold-blooded find,
begging your pardon
but this parcel is mine

My cold-blooded find,
your life I won’t shorten
but this parcel is mine;
I offer a bargain

Your life I won’t shorten,
my motives are kind
I offer a bargain;
just leave it behind

My motives are kind
The soil here is spartan;
just leave it behind
for grass like a carpet

The soil here is Spartan;
relax and unwind
on grass like a carpet
Be free, unconfined

Relax and unwind
beyond my yard’s margin
Be free, unconfined,
go on now, get started

Beyond my yard’s margin
you’ve been reassigned
Go on now, get started,
you’re on a deadline

You’ve been reassigned
Begging your pardon,
you’re on a deadline,
O, snake in the garden

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BEYOND PING-PONG-PANTOOKAS

When we think of poetry, we think of rhyme.  Of course, poems need not rhyme, but it’s a connection our brains have been programmed to make, starting with Jack and Jill, Patty Cakes, and The Wheels on the Bus, and continuing through the classic poetry we read in high school.  That said, it seems strange that today’s editors rebuff rhymed poetry, regarding it as juvenile or unsophisticated; some magazines explicitly request that rhymed verse not be submitted.  Because serious poets shouldn’t sound like Dr. Seuss or the inside of a Hallmark card, right?  But skillfully executed rhyme shows mastery of both the art and craft of poetry.  Think Shakespeare, whose sonnets would not be nearly as compelling if they did not rhyme.  (Nor would they be sonnets, for that matter.)  Free verse may allow you to say precisely what you wish, but using words already in your lexicon to express yourself doesn’t force you to stretch, learn, grow.  Throw in a rhyme scheme, however, and a poem becomes a puzzle, one that compels the writer to seek out new words or reconstruct his lines.  All I am saying, is give rhyme a chance.

RHYME: JAM IT OR SLAM IT?

It seems, at this time, that a new paradigm
regards free verse as the height of sublime
a and b past their prime, worth nary a dime
Editors snub, wash their hands of the crime

Pained, drained by a scheme’s ball-n-chain
how well can a writer’s voice be retained?
He’ll soon ascertain if he retrains his brain,
he could gain one insane lexiconic domain

Rhyme may prove hairier, thornier, scarier
but get off your derriere, break the barrier
Consult a thesaurus, your synonym carrier
harvest fresh words, the more the merrier

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HOW DO YOU SPELL RELIEF?

After a week or two of sweltering heat, we look forward to the mid-summer rains that thunder down so hard and heavy that the parched ground can’t begin to soak it all up.  The runoff swells the placid creek, which rushes and foams through the narrows, then relaxes into a wide pool near the footbridge.  Our black Lab used to jump headlong into this opportunity every time it presented itself.  Just something in his DNA, I guess.  I would look on, petrified, as he fought to stay upright and keep his nose above water, and wonder if his heart was pounding
as hard as mine.  At the end of the ride, he would emerge on wobbly legs with this LOOK on his face… a look I could not fully identify with until I finished my first public poetry reading; as I headed back to my seat, the expression on my face felt strikingly similar.  This poem is a monotetra, by the way, a form I featured in a prior post on donuts.

WATERSLIDE CREEK

As buckets tumble from the sky
and supersaturate July
the lazy creek runs fast and high,
a water slide, a water slide

Our Labrador cannot resist
a thrill so serendipitous
One daring leap and he’s adrift
the current swift, the current swift

Pumped with pure adrenaline
he rolls and bobbles as it wends
hanging tight ’round curves and bends
until it ends, until it ends

Then up the muddy bank he climbs
all lolly-tongued and starry-eyed
Delight and terror, when combined
can be sublime, can be sublime

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KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, FOR REAL

A LIST poem is one comprised of a list of things–names, places, items, actions, thoughts, images, etc.  These are a favorite of mine because they’re flexible and fun, and can be written in any form you wish.  The following sonnet is the product of a story:  a year ago, our fridge went kaput.  I chose the new one based solely on the size and versatility of the shelving system in the door.  Why?  Because I am a foodie with an obsession for condiments.  One can never have too many, am I right?

CONDI-MENTALITY

My new refrigerator has a door
with roomy bins like gifts from Heaven sent
designed for jugs of milk and juice and more
but perfect for my hoard of condiments

Ketchup, mayo, salsa, barbecue,
a cache of salad dressings quite absurd,
ginger root and lemongrass in tubes,
Sri Racha, onion jam, and lemon curd

Wasabi, maple mustard, and Dijon
Molé sauce and hoisin, tangy-sweet
Tubs of curry paste and marscarpone,
Capers, kalamatas, pickled beets

The other shelves are barren, I confess
My budget garnished into nothingness

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To see other List Poems on Just Joan 42, click the TAG below:

DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU!

Independence Day!  Woo hoo!  A paid day off for picnics, parades, and fireworks to celebrate our freedom.  Well, the scraps of it we haven’t traded away in the name of our “safety and security.”  Big Brother’s presence seems kind of comforting, right?  That’s exactly how he gets his foot in the door.  Remember, if he’s looking out for you, he must also have his eye on you.  You and everyone else.  Watch enough cop shows and you will learn what’s possible; they don’t just make all that stuff up, you know.  You could dismiss this whole post, write me off as
a crackpot conspiracy theorist.  It’s your prerogative.  But as they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

THE EYE IN THE SKY

The spy next door that peeks
around her curtain night and day
is not just “being neighborly.”
More likely, CIA.

You know that crackling static
while you wait for the dial tone?
It could be someone listening in,
a wire tap on your phone.

The camera on your monitor
that transmits while you Skype
sees every keystroke that you make,
each password that you type.

Cells and hard drives can’t delete
your comms or browsing history.
The back-up files are always there;
just how remains a mystery.

Tabs are kept on bank accounts
with each transaction logged.
Credit cards know where you shop
and stay alert for fraud.

The black box hiding in your car
stores constant data readings.
It knows if you don’t buckle up
and how fast you were speeding.

ATMs and traffic cams
have facial recognition.
The GPS inside your phone
can ping without permission.

We’re slowly being poisoned
by Big Pharma and Big Ag,
your death marked “undetermined”
as they zip the body bag.

My buddies say I’m paranoid,
and are they right?  You betcha.
These days you gotta watch your back;
this world is out to getcha.

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CAN-NOODLING WITH PARODY

A PARODY is a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.  In the following parody of Charles Kingsley’s famous poem Young and Old, I have made every effort to mimic the flavor of the original piece:  the discourse on opposites, the finished length, the galloping cadence, the unusual rhyme scheme.  “Don” is,
of course, a narcissistic president more concerned about his dessert than the plight of the refugees in…  uh… whichever country he just bombed.  Don’t be a Don, folks.  If you have food on your table, give thanks.  If you have extra, graciously share it with your neighbor.

THE TOP AND THE BOTTOM

When every meal is fine, Don
all lobster tails and steak
Paired with the perfect wine, Don
and gorgeous chocolate cake
Then raise your glass to wealth, Don
A toast to billionaires!
Indulge your precious self, Don
Reach for your silverware

But don’t forget the ones, Don
whose budgets barely stretch
They make their grocery runs, Don
the day they get their checks
All beans and rice and staple foods
for soups and casseroles
Yet bow their heads in gratitude
to He who fills their bowls

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THROWING TOGETHER A PANTOUM

After chewing and digesting last week’s pantoum, one of my faithful readers commented, “I suspect this form is deceivingly simple.”  I had put a lot of work into it and was taken aback, but her words hummed
in my subconscious…  Perhaps she had intuitively grasped something
I hadn’t.  I wanted to test her theory by creating a “found” pantoum.  Currently in the throes of a summer reading frenzy, I borrowed two random phrases from each of the three books parked on my desktop
(The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron), and two more from my
go-to cookbook, a dog-eared copy of Real Thai by Nancie McDermott.
I typed and copied the phrases and went to work cutting and pasting, arranging and rearranging them according to the Pantoum Rule Book until they clicked in place.  The resulting poem is a bizarrely accurate picture of my writing life, the intersection of a soul and a notebook, a story told in the words of others but a wholly unique voice:  my own.

SUBMERGED

I’m mad for the smell of paper,
a habit I fell into of necessity
Without worry for things left undone,
I communicate only with glances

A habit I fell into of necessity,
connecting the dots into a mandala
I communicate only with glances
balancing sweet, sour, salty and spicy

Connecting the dots into a mandala
I must turn to face my own life
balancing sweet, sour, salty and spicy
alone with no one to guide me

I must turn to face my own life
without worry for things left undone
Alone with no one to guide me
I’m mad for the smell of paper

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