I’d been trying to work myself into enough of a lather to satisfy Muri’s RANT PROSE prompt. Surely there was something in my life worthy of a two-page screed? Silly team building exercises. The word MONETIZE. Paying $4.19 for a gallon of gas. Driving in Cleveland. A cat that can’t decide if he wants to be in or out. Poetry getting celebrated only one month of the year. Unfortunately, the rant part of my brain got short-circuited by a book I read for discussion group, The Story of More by Hope Jahren. In summary, it’s about haves and have-nots and how the First World’s lust for meat and electricity and gas-guzzling SUV’s has pushed global warming almost to the tipping point. Suddenly, every tirade I conjured up sounded petty and whiny. I couldn’t roll out two pages, even just for kicks, without thinking to myself, Put a cork in it, why don’t you, Karen? What right had I to grumble while others went without food and clean water? While they were living in shanties and being buried alive by mudslides? Fleeing with just the clothes on their backs to escape the war over fossil fuels going on in their back yard? I decided to go with Muri’s alternate prompt on this one, beginning my BLITZ with the word BLIND. Blitzes are fun and fast and, if done freely (without censoring), quite telling about the writer. Buried in mine you will find faith and fathers and food. Scammers and skivers and jailbirds. 180’s and superheroes and #2 pencils. Viruses and ferocity and travels à la Gulliver. Old-fashioned things, necessary things, and things found on Buzzword BINGO cards, the whole enchilada sprinkled liberally with homophones. I challenge you to write a blitz and examine the flotsam that emerges from your subconscious. Maybe you’ll get lucky and end up where I did, alone with a slice of key lime pie.
Thank you, Murisopsis, for making National Poetry Month special with yet another marvelous challenge!!!
FAITH IN LOCKSTEP
Blind fury Blind faith Faith healer Faith of our Fathers Fathers and mothers Father’s Day Day of the Dead Day lily Lilliputians Lily pad Pad the bill Pad by the phone Phone call Phonograph Graphic Graphite Fight or flight Fight Club Club soda Club Med Med Mart Medex Ex-con X-men Menopause Menu Universe U-turn Turn for the worse Turnabout About-face A bout of the flu Flu shot Flew off the handle Handel’s Messiah Handle it It’s a bird It’s a plane Plain Jane Plain yogurt Yogurt parfait Yogurt and berries Buries treasure Buries the dead Deadbeat Deadlock Lockstep Lock and key Key players Key lime pie
One thing I looked forward to in retirement was an untainted calendar, rows of empty days to be filled however I wished. Retired folks I knew told me they were “busier than ever,” but how was that even possible? It sounded ridiculous but it has turned out to be true. Age muscles in, bearing its own agenda.
The following poem is an OTTAVA RIMA, which is, for all intents and purposes, a miniature sonnet. In case you are busy (like me) and don’t have time to write a full-length one. Thanks, Muri, for taking it easy on us (a little) as your Poetry Month Challenge winds down.
AS BUSY AS EVER
On Mondays, weekly shots for allergies On Tuesdays, chiropractic for my back On Wednesday mornings, I must do PT because I threw my shoulder out of whack On Thursdays, social worker sees hubby The calendar’s perpetually jam-packed But Fridays stay reserved in all this mess, for therapy to reckon with the stress
I wrested my 2004 Honda Element from the grasp of its first owner in 2008 when his wife gave birth to a third child and they had to upgrade to an Odyssey; his loss, my gain. Element owners are nuts about them; it’s almost like being part of a cult. To our dismay, Honda discontinued the Element in 2012. I have resolved not to let go of Egbert (that’s his name) until I find a compact SUV I like as much as I like him, and in all likelihood, that is never going to happen. Eggie is easy on gas, easy to clean, and his rear seats can be configured three different ways (or removed entirely) which enables him to accommodate a wide (and tall and long) variety of items. During my fourteen years of ownership, he has been remarkably trouble-free. Our new house came with a bonus upgrade–a two-car garage–so he’s got his own space and is thrilled to be spending his twilight years in comfort.
So here I am, Muri, another few days into your National Poetry Month Challenge, trying out another new form. The WALTMARIE is a compact powerhouse: a small poem with an even smaller poem hidden inside. Like the fortune cookie of the poetry world.
The inspiration for this one came from a Christmas gift I bought myself. My old pillow had lost a lot of feathers (thanks to Tailor) and was flat as a pancake, flatter than even I like it. I’m mildly allergic to feathers so I bought a synthetic PrimaLoft one from LL Bean; it was too poofy and I had to return it. In December, I wound up with $15 of Kohl’s cash in my wallet. The shelf life on Kohl’s cash is short and if you don’t use it, you lose it. So I puttered around the store looking for something to spend it on. Lo and behold, I found a premium king-sized memory foam pillow that retails for over $100, on sale for $49. With my Kohl’s cash, it would be just $34. I don’t usually care for memory foam—it gets too hot—but this pillow has a “soothing, cool gel cover.” I pressed my hand into the floor model and it was, indeed, cool. It was of a suitable height, about four inches, and could be returned if it didn’t live up to my expectations. What did I have to lose?? Cha-ching went my credit card. I took it home, wrapped it, and slipped it under the Christmas tree. The next morning, I woke up with my neck stiff and sore, as if my old pillow had beaten me during the night. I made a command decision; I unwrapped Mr. Memory Foam, sheathed him in a clean pillow case, and propped him on my bed. I carefully re-wrapped the box he had come in and slid it back under the tree. So it wouldn’t look as though St. Nick had snubbed me, you know? I’ve slept on it every night since and attest that it’s worth every penny I paid for it.
Every night, I rest comfortably and easily, my head warm and heavy on your broad, memory foam shoulder where I release my cares and dream
In 2007 we traveled to Colorado to buy an old VW Bus we saw on The Samba.com. The trip was quite an adventure. Since then, we’ve been fixing her up when we can find extra money and craftsmen willing to work on her at the same time. Presently, she is mechanically sound, sporting white walls and a renovated body with a fresh paint job, new windshield glass, LED headlamps, and those adorable white bumpers that were standard back in 1966. We found an auto upholstery guy in Dayton who recovered her front seats in leather back in 2019 and will be making rear cushions to match as soon as we get the bed installed. When we moved here, we got lucky and found Dave, a guy who works exclusively on old Volkswagens. You might think, with so few old Bugs and Busses still out there, that Dave is a starving artist, sitting around like the Maytag repairman, waiting for the phone to ring. You couldn’t be more wrong. Vintage VW’s in various states of disrepair are parked all over his property, eagerly awaiting their turn in the garage. Last week when Dave texted and said he was ready to do the interior, we wasted nary a minute getting her there. She’s got seatbelts now, the floor is in, and her interior panels are being crafted as we speak. Next, he will install the furniture I built last year (from a kit custom-made in the UK that cost us, like, a bazillion dollars), reframe and seal the pop-out side windows, fabricate new windows for the snow top (Google it), and install a new roof vent. I’m hoping she’ll be show-ready soon, and come October, we’ll be riding across Lake Erie on the ferry for Kombis on Kelleys (Island), sponsored by our local VW league, appropriately named LEAKOIL.
Last summer my husband was in the hospital for three weeks. The grass quickly went from kempt to shaggy to knee-high. Not inclined to mow it myself, I explained my plight to our neighbor, Mike, who mows the lawn next door to ours with his Toro rider. I said I would pay him whatever he thought was fair. He offered to do it for free but I insisted he should be compensated. He thought about it for a few seconds and said, “Hmmm, those chocolate chip cookies you bake are the best I’ve ever had” and a deal was born. He mows the lawn and I deliver a batch of cookies to his house, always chocolate chip. Our deal worked out so well, my hubby’s never had to mow the lawn again. Mike’s three kids now refer to me as The Cookie Lady. People tell me I should “monetize” my baking talents. Lord, I hate that word. As if hobbies that don’t make money (poetry, for instance) aren’t worth doing. Moreover, who wants to fool with W-2s or 1099s and cut the IRS in on their profits?
Successful adulting involves toleration of the mundane. Moving into your first apartment and living on your own is magnificent… until it isn’t. Adult life, to your dismay, turns out to be 5% exciting and 95% taking care of everyday shit. Welcome to the real world. But wait, there’s more! As you get older, the definition of “exciting” changes. Once upon a time, it meant you threw a wild party or went skydiving. Now it means you spotted a robin at the birdfeeder, the dentist was able to re-glue your crown, or there’s a new episode of NCIS in your queue.
The KYRIELLE, with its (tiresome?) refrain, seemed a good fit for my subject matter. The A rhymes push the oblique-est of boundaries but chores are what they are and when they don’t rhyme, you make do. I just noticed the alternate prompt for this one is “write a poem about servitude” so I think I’ve earned a bonus point! (Exciting, am I right??) It’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon if you’d like to join Muri’s NPM Challenge.
Walk the dog, bring in the paper Sweep up crumbs on the kitchen floor Work out what to have for supper Every day, it’s the same old chores
Take out trash, fill medi-planners Shop for food at the grocery store Wash whatever’s in the hamper Every week, it’s the same old chores
Give the rugs a quick once-over Arm the pets for the flea-tick war Rid the fridge of green leftovers Every month, it’s the same old chores
Change the oil and furnace filter Purge the overflowing junk drawer Spring and summer, fall and winter Do-si-do with the same old chores
As part of Muri’s NPM challenge, I have written an IRREGULAR ODE. I recalled an ode I wrote a few years ago, a sonnet entitled How Do I Love Cheese? and considered re-posting it. But it no longer rang true, as the situation in my body is different these days, age having relegated me to the ranks of the lactose intolerant. So rather than venerating cheese, I shall sing the praises of my new bestie:
ODE TO LACTAID
Since the day Dairy turned on me, you have been my rock and salvation She stirred up an intestinal ruckus and you marched straight into the battle zone, neutralizing her weapons and hammering out a peace treaty worthy of a Nobel Prize
You have rescued me from a lifetime of embarrassment and shame: eating pizza, then excusing myself to the john thrice during a single episode of Law and Order, asphyxiating subsequent lavatory users in a lingering cloud of Glade, blaming the dog for crop dusting
You’re cheap enough for average Joes and available over-the counter in every size from the mammoth bottle to the individually-wrapped singlet You’re small and discreet, caplet-shaped and easy to swallow You are virtually free of side effects
You make the impossible possible Half-n-half in my coffee Milk on my cereal Cheese on my burger New England Clam chowder Redi-Whip on my pumpkin pie Even ice cream sandwiches!
Those of you who read my Christmas letter know my beloved fur-baby Tailor passed away last summer. His final chapter began with a lame leg. His left rear leg had always been problematic; he had been born with a luxated patella and undergone knee surgery when he was four, so it made sense for the vet to hitch her wagon to the simplest explanation, a torn ACL. She gave him Rimadyl and referred him to an orthopedic vet. I took him there ten days later. After reviewing his chart and x-ray, the specialist could tell me only three things for sure: his ACL was fine, he had lost thirteen pounds in a month, and there was ‘something’ in his belly that didn’t belong there. The writing was on the wall but the doc was hesitant to drop “the C bomb” and I wasn’t ready to hear it. So he mumbled something about inflammation and sent us off with a short course of Prednisone, the pharmaceutical equivalent of a Hail Mary. It didn’t cure anything, of course, but it blunted Tailor’s pain, boosted his energy, and revved up his appetite. It bought him two joy-filled weeks of rolling in soft spring grass, feasting on prime rib and fried chicken, and watching every dog movie available on Disney Plus. Raging, as it were, against the dying of the light. You can hold the pedal to the metal, but you can get only so far before you run out of gas. He fell in the screen porch on a Saturday night and spent Sunday on the couch, weak and shaking. We found a mobile vet willing to euthanize him at home on Monday. When she arrived, Tailor was curled up on his zebra blanket (the one pictured above) watching his fav movie, Ratatouille. She gave him a sedative and encouraged us to talk to him while it took effect. “He’ll be groggy,” she said, “but he can still hear you.” I couldn’t talk without getting choked up so I just thought the words in my head. He’d always been able to read my mind and I hoped his internal battery still had enough juice to tune in to our shared frequency. When we see each other on the flip side, I’ll ask him what he remembers.
The following poem is both a response to and a GOLDEN SHOVEL of Dylan Thomas’s famous work.
Poets can be wrong; do exactly what he says not to do. When your eyes feel heavy and begin to droop, do not resist. You have fought bravely, earned the right to go to The Rainbow Bridge. I stroke your paw with gentle fingers… Daddy is singing “You are My Sunshine” into your ear; can you hear him? Relax now, and allow that dopey sleepiness to engulf you, whisk you away. Good job. Good boy. Go gentle, Tailor, into that good night.
If you would like to participate in my friend Muri’s Poetry Month Challenge, click HERE for the details.
They say you’ve “gotta pay your dues to sing the blues” and I’ve paid those dues—with sixteen years of calling senior citizens from my desk in Internal Medicine. This poetry form, the BLUES STANZA, might be the most formidable challenge in your Poetry Challenge, Muri. The rules are blurry and the end product seems like it ought to be crooned rather than read, accompanied by the world’s saddest harmonica. But once I got started, it all just came pouring out. I tossed an extra rhyme in each mirror line, just for kicks. To family and friends who wondered why I never answered my home phone, I hope this explains it.
SINGIN’ THE OFFICE NURSE BLUES
I take call after call after call… as an office nurse Gotta be calm and professional… as an office nurse I keep a big bottle of Excedrin… in my purse
My snowbird patients are gone… in Florida until spring No cell phone to reach ‘em on… down in Florida until spring Their voicemail is full… their home phones ring and ring
Some patients live alone… and want to jabber on all day Don’t wanna hang up the phone… just jabber on all day Tell me their socks don’t match… and the mailman’s late
Book the next guy to see the doc… for results of his MRI Poor guy’s in for a shock… looks like bad news on his MRI Guess he’ll find out on Tuesday… if he’s gonna live or die
Lady calls, says she’s only got two… of her little pink pills Needs her prescription renewed… for those little pink pills She don’t know what they’re called… but she’s hopin’ I will
When I return from lunch… it’s overdue mammogram calls Got me a whopping bunch… of overdue mammogram calls By three, I’ll be floatin’ in excuses… up to my eyeballs
My ears and brain ache… after a long day on the phone Had about all I can take… a long, long day on the phone Gonna shut my ringer off… the minute I get home