JUST BOPPIN’ ALONG

Last week, my friend Muri introduced me to a poetry form called The Bop.  A Bop consists of three mono-rhymed stanzas.  Each is followed by a single-line refrain.  The first stanza is six lines and presents a problem. The second stanza is eight lines and expands on the problem.  The third stanza is six lines and documents the resolution (or failed attempt/s at resolution).

That said, The Bop is an ideal form to address daily life in 2020.  There are huge problems all around us.  But it’s the pesky little problems that seem to demand most of our attention—dead batteries, overdue books, mosquito bites, etc.  When COVID-19 became a threat, I made it a habit to flush, then wash my hands until the toilet stops running, which takes about 20 seconds.  This approach works well as long as the flapper valve closes properly.  I dread when it doesn’t because I might have to put my hand into the tank.  And even if I don’t, I’ll have to touch something that warrants another 20 seconds of handwashing.

COMMODIUS BOP

I wipe my mucky tush,
toss paper in and flush,
and hear the water rush,
a robust cleansing gush
Down goes all the mush
but trickling, unhushed

whooshes in my ears

I wait a minute more
Quit running, I implore
A hit-the-flush encore
is weaker than before
and still the filler roars
Jig-jiggles are ignored
A loud and clear call for
internal maneuvers

whooshes in my ears

Let the games begin!
With clank of porcelain,
lid lifted, hand plunged in
dodging chains and pins
reseats valve seal again
A sweet but fleeting win

whooshes in my ears

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SHIT STORM SESTINA

The sestina is a complicated poetry form, one that gives my bud Muri hives.  I don’t blame her.  A sestina has six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoi.  The same six words are the end words of the lines in each stanza, but they appear in a different order each time, as set forth by the rules of the form.  They show up in a prescribed order in the envoi as well.  I wrote my first sestina during a poetry workshop.  The words (witch, field, guide, fire, violet, and shit-storm) were contributed by the students in the class.  How does a person use “shit-storm” seven times in one poem?  You’re about to find out.  That workshop was five years ago.  I’ve kept in touch with the instructor, Dr. Woodward Martin, and recently had the pleasure of hearing him read at a Zoom poetry event.

MEDICS IN TRAINING  

Instructing new recruits was a sergeant everyone called The Witch.
She was ill-tempered but would teach us how to survive in the field.
She handed each of us a spiral-bound combat readiness guide.
Being prepared would prevent unfortunate trials by fire.
For instance, CPR was best learned BEFORE your buddy turned violet
and you found yourself in the middle of a shit-storm.

And eventually it was going to happen, the shit-storm.
It was inevitable in the world of combat, said The Witch.
I may have begun hyperventilating, my fingers were turning violet.
She pointed this out, asked what remedy we’d use in the field.
Every pair of eyes looked down, flipping through pages rapid-fire,
searching for redemption in the little spiral-bound guide

Breathing into a paper bag will help, advised the guide.
Rebreathing CO2 should calm the anxious and dizzy shit-storm.
Commit it to memory, she said, many hyperventilate under fire,
and if you don’t have a paper bag, any kind will do.  The Witch
reminded us that medical supplies are often lacking in the field.
One has to make do when fingers begin to tingle and turn violet.

I had never before thought of it as an ugly color, violet,
but it usually meant something ominous, according to the guide.
Not like the pretty patches of wildflowers that dotted our field,
but mottling and cyanosis and bruises and dead tissue, a shit-storm
of potentially life-threatening ailments.  Just as The Witch
opened her mouth to speak, an alarm rang out – Fire!  Fire!  Fire!

We made an orderly exit and stood watching as the fire
trucks pulled up, sirens screaming, to investigate the gray-violet
smoke rising from the building.  We realized The Witch
had begun to hyperventilate.  No one needed to consult the guide.
Armed with our new knowledge, we were ready for the shit-storm.
A recruit pulled a paper lunch bag from the pocket of his field

jacket, delighted that he was properly equipped to field
the emergency.  He had her breathe into the bag as the fire
raged on, the flames consuming the roof and sending a shit storm
of ashes swirling through the air.  He took her arm to guide
her to a bench, where normal color returned to her once-violet
fingertips.  Once she recovered her composure, The Witch

seemed not so much a witch as a human like us, a field
medic and leader and guide.  I heard she married one of the fire-
men, named her daughter Violet, and still loves a good shit storm.

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HAVEN’T A SQUARE TO SPARE?

My favorite toilet paper meme so far is this one:

I used to spin that baby like I was on Wheel of Fortune.
Now I do it like I’m cracking a safe.

While everyone else is freaking about the TP shortage, I’m coming up with solutions.  My alternatives are normal, everyday things you’ll find around the house.  They range from flushable and washable to cosmo-politan and unconventional, even S&M if you don’t mind it a bit rough.  You’re welcome.  Now stay in, stay safe, and stay clean and dry.

PS:  I learned a new trick – how to do footnotes!

THE A-Z GUIDE TO
TP ALTERNATIVES

All types of wipes[1]
Brown grocery bags
Catalogs
Dust cloths
Euro-style bidet
Feminine products
Garden hose bidet
Handkerchiefs
Incontinence pads
Junk mail
Kleenex
Lone socks
Magazines
Napkins
Old newspapers
Paper towels
Quasi-TP[2]
Rags
Shop towels
Tissue paper
Unwashed undies
Vagabond items[3]
Washcloths
X-mas wrap
Yellow Pages
Zero waste methods[4]

[1] Baby, personal, flushable, hygienic, moist towelettes, Shittens
[2] Perforated paper on a roll that is 1-ply, recycled, or RV-safe
[3] Listed items that have wandered into your garage, car, treehouse, greenhouse, she-shed, storm cellar, camper, boat, summer cabin, etc.
[4] Shake-shake and Drip-dry (pee only)

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IS CHEWING REALLY NECESSARY?

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

Prompt #13 is “Get extra points and bragging rights by writing a poem using the following words – basil, candle, ink, tub, bread, lace.”

A strange grouping of words, no doubt… They painted a picture in my mind of a long soak in a clawfoot tub with a few tealights burning, the window open, lace curtains fluttering in the breeze.  On the vanity lies
a longhand letter half-tucked into a matching envelope.  But the bread did not materialize.  Neither did the basil.  Even if they had, how would
I write a poem about a scenario I know zilch about?  I can’t sit still long enough to enjoy a bath and neither of my bathrooms have a window, not to mention nobody in their right mind brings a treasured piece of correspondence into a space full of puddles and poo molecules.

Writer’s rule #1 is “Write what you know.”  When one of my crowns fell out, I had a story to tell.  But how would I get all the compulsory words to fit?  Poets are masterful at finding ways to break the rules while still operating within them.  They might even throw in a rhyme scheme just for shits and grins.

Yuge thanks to Muri for hosting this NPM challenge and providing the prompts.  I don’t know which was more fun, writing my own poems or reading the other submissions.

UH-OH

An upper crown
fell out of place
and left behind
an empty space

A jack-o-lantern
sans the candle
chewing things
it cannot handle

A trap for dough
and basil shreds
from Italian subs
on crusty bread

Off to Drug Mart
I boldly went
for a jar of DIY
tooth cement

The fix felt weird
My bite was off
It proved no match
for dental floss

The options suck
A vexing wobble?
Or a tender stub
to mollycoddle?

I’m on the brink
Should I endure it?
Or have an expert
resecure it?

Despite the risks
of COVID’s scare,
I guess I’ll brave
the dental chair

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POCKETFUL OF POEMS

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

Prompt #12 is “Write 3 haiku.”

I have two journals.  One allots five lines a day, just enough space to jot down the important and unique.  Gas 1.59 today!  Cardinal got trapped in squirrel feeder.  First daffodil.  Eyeglasses arrived by mail.  M-I-L sent Thanksgiving card for Easter — LOL.  You know, that sort of thing.  The other is a black and white composition book for dissecting my feelings.  That’s my “Angst Journal,” unlimited real estate for longhand bitching.  There are stacks of them in a carton in the attic.  I may bequeath them to my sister when I die so she can marvel at how I managed to maintain such a sunny disposition when my whole world was falling apart:  the furnace repair that took seven service calls, the dental visit where Dr. Dingbat drilled my tongue, the painful backlash of having reported a boss to her superiors—it’s all in there.

Haiku is the pocket journal…  full of interesting tidbits, small wonders, and existential questions that lead the writer down a familiar road only to take her somewhere she did not expect.

THE COVID LIFE

Dug out winter gloves
Spent morning cleaning freezer
Found bacon—woo hoo!

BLT for lunch
Spinach in lieu of lettuce
Tasteless tomato

Took long, hot shower
Drank coffee, got on WordPress
Umm, what day is it?

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YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO HOME BUT YOU CAN’T STAY HERE

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

Prompt #11 is “Write an acrostic poem using a word to describe your worst enemy.”

Menopause hit me like a ton of bricks.  Fat cells gathered for a family reunion in the space between my armpits and knees.  When the party was over, I couldn’t get them to leave so I let them hang around.  I fed them cheese manicotti and Pringles.  I encouraged them to be fruitful and multiply.  “Size doesn’t matter” became my mantra, along with its pants tag cousin “16 is the new 14.”  But those extra pounds caused a lot of old friends to turn on me.  Suddenly, everything felt tighter—elastic waistbands, t-shirts, armchairs, the space between my car and the garage wall, my chest when I walked a couple blocks with the dog.  There were more and more things to avoid—fitting rooms, swimsuits, photos that showed my chins, high school reunions, rickety lawn chairs, Spanx garments capable of suffocation or entrapment.

When I resolved to lose weight, the cosmos used every trick in the book to try and stop me.  NOOM proved too technologically challenging.  The local gym was pricey and required an extra pair of shoes, ones that had never set foot in the outside world.  Nine days after I joined, they shut down due to Coronavirus.  The same week, the nurse called with my lab results; I was to decrease my thyroid medication, which would make my mission even more difficult.  The grocery store ran out of low-fat mayo and multi-grain flatbread.  But the more the universe thwarted me, the more determined I became.  I counted calories, swore off snacking, and upped the daily dog walk to a mile.  I crocheted to keep my hands busy.  Over a period of six weeks, my afghan grew and I shrank.  Not so much that I’d blow away in a strong wind, but my enemy is not as formidable as he once was.  I’m on the road to victory!

IN THE REARVIEW

Worrying about BP, diabetes, heart attacks
Every year, buying new jeans in a larger size
Insecurity, avoiding mirrors, dodging selfies
Going toe-to-toe with the fridge and losing
Hating the scale with its big black numbers
Trying to squeeeeze into a shrinking world

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A LIE BY ANY OTHER NAME…

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

In an “economy of creativity,” I have combined prompts #9 and #10:
“Explore your feelings about deceit in a poem.”
“Write about 2 opposites using an Etheree and a Reverse Etheree.”

There is none so blind as he who will not see.  I find it astonishing that so many people dismiss the difficult truths before them and put their faith in fairy tales.  A lie dressed up in a thousand-dollar suit is still a lie.  Repeating it doesn’t make it true.  Calling it an “alternative fact” or a “spin” doesn’t make it true.  We are all culpable to some degree for the problems plaguing our country and planet.  Rather than accepting our share of the blame and working toward solutions, we bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is fine.  Well, it isn’t, and it isn’t going to get better until we open our eyes (and minds) to the truth.

WILLFUL BLINDNESS

Lies
Fiction
Cover-ups
Fabrications
Alternative facts
Out-and-out bullshit
Misleading information
False promises, propaganda
Contradictions, inconsistencies
So many eager to drink the Kool-aid

Deceit assaults our every sense and yet
we believe what we want to believe
instead of seeking out what’s real
Straightforward information
from credible sources
Trustworthy advice
Transparency
Honesty
The facts
Truth

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PARDON MY FRENCH

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

Prompt #8 is “Use these words in a poem – rice, mice, nice.”

Three rhyming words, perfect for a Vers Beaucoup.  Very French.  Which sparked a memory of a passage in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris.  The author, an American who resides in France part-time, tells of an appointment with his French dentist.  The TV is always tuned to the French travel channel.  This day, a family in Africa has discovered a burrow of mice.  David turns away to answer the assistant’s question and turns back to find the family eating mouse-kebabs they’ve grilled over a campfire.  Unable to keep it to himself, he interrupts the dental proceedings, struggling with his limited vocabulary to convey what he has just seen, “Ils ont mange des souris en brochette!” (“They ate mice on skewers!”)  Without blinking an eye, the dentist replies, “Ah, oui?”  (“Oh yeah?”)

I’m not that cosmopolitan.  I have never eaten mice or any other kind of vermin, and thanks to the association of Coronavirus with “alternative meats” in the press, I probably never will.  So don’t get all grossed out, the poem is 100% make-believe.  The photo is from Google Images but the paper plate looks oddly familiar.  I think I may have the same ones.

WHO’S UP FOR TAKE-OUT?

When I’m in the mood for street food, I know a dude
who peddles barbecued mice with a side of fried rice
for a nice price.  No more bat, his sales fell flat when
WHO’s Fat Cats found them liable for the viral spiral

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BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES!

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

Prompt #7 is “Write a poem using the words – stars, pine, sky, wind, chill.”

I tried to use these words in a less straightforward way, in a poem that wasn’t about nature, but they twisted around like a ornery tornado and rearranged themselves into a morningtime scene I’ve experienced a few times while dashing out to get the paper.  No Weather Channel forecast is necessary.  Every sense is on alert, urging me to do what I came to do and hightail it back inside.

The poem is a Shadorma.

FOREBODING

Pine trembles
Stars have turned their backs
Wind quiets
Sudden chill
creeps up the sleeves of my coat
Sky glows yellow-green

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THE FORM THAT GOBSMACKS

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

Prompt #6 is “Write a quatern about new leaves.”

Quaterns are my poetic nemesis.  The first line wends its way through the poem, making an appearance in every stanza.  Hasn’t it heard it’s supposed to stay in its own stanza throughout quarantine and “social distance” from neighboring ones?  When a quatern is done well, the repeating line doesn’t call attention to itself; it blends unobtrusively into the scenery and gobsmacks the reader when he gets to the end.  Like a perp suddenly realizing that an unmarked car has been tailing
him for blocks…  How did he not see it coming?

PETAL TO THE METAL

The speed at which new leaves unfurl
captivates like a magic trick
Sun-warmed branches thin and thick
adorn themselves with nubby pearls

Who else but Nature could predict
the speed at which new leaves unfurl,
caressing careworn bark and burl?
Or grasp their shady arithmetic?

Where yesterday were pregnant sticks
today green hands sport veins and whorls
The speed at which new leaves unfurl!
They wave to the wind like lunatics

In frenzied breeze, they dip and twirl
A fresher place one could not pick
to read or nap or just reflect
on the speed at which new leaves unfurl

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