OLD FOLKS AT HOME

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 #3 is “Write a poem about a porch swing.”

This was a hard one, Muri, because I’ve never had a porch swing.  No one I knew had one.  I liked swings as a child, but the porch kind would have seemed too tame.  On the swings at my school, I could go so high it felt like I was flying.  Tire swings were fun, too.  As an adult, I adored porch swings I saw in magazines or on strangers’ porches but I never lived in a place that had a proper porch.  We moved last October into a century-old house with not one, but two screened porches.  Our Amish double swing didn’t work in either of them, so my husband furnished the front porch the way he wanted, with two “old people chairs” he purchased at Goodwill.  I wasn’t crazy about them at first, but they are actually quite comfy and their motion is soothing.  It’s warm enough now to read the newspaper out there, or just sit and watch the world go by.

The poem is a triolet.

ROCKIN’ IS THE NEW SWINGIN’

On my porch, no swing has swung
A rocking chair is more my speed
I loved swing sets when I was young
but on my porch, no swing has swung
An Amish double swing once hung
from a sturdy branch in our ash tree
but on my porch, no swing has swung
A rocking chair is more my speed

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

GATHERING WORDS CLOSE

A few days ago, my friend Lori sent out the weekly schedule of poems that would be read on Conrad’s Corner.  She expressed hope that we were all “safe in our homes, gathering words close for comfort and companionship.”  In the middle of the line-up was Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice, a tongue-in-cheek musing on whether fire or ice might more effectively destroy the world.  Considering global warming and glacial meltdown, I also “hold with those who favor fire.”  His words niggled their way into my brain, supplying Satira (my parody-loving muse) with
a framework to build upon.  I allowed her free rein, insisting only that she pick a subject other than COVID-19.  We’ve all had enough of that, haven’t we?  Here’s what she came up with:

TWENTY-FIVE OR FIFTY?

Some say life starts at twenty-five,
Some say at fifty
I felt more bodily alive
at the lissom age of twenty-five
But wisdom did not come so swiftly,
nor easiness in my own skin
Being a smart and confident fifty
and at peace within
is pretty nifty

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

BUBBLE, BUBBLE, TOIL & TROUBLE

In 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 #2 is “Use the following words in a poem – willow, bird, tea.”  On my mind as I wrote my response was an article from last week’s New York Times wherein a nurse complained that the hospital she worked at was out of everything.  Not just ventilators and masks and gloves, but vital medications.  No sedatives for patients on ventilators.  No Tylenol for patients with fevers.  If hospitals cannot get their hands on Tylenol, what hope is there for the rest of us?  I pulled out a book I bought long ago, an encyclopedia of alternative medicine.  Mostly simple, common sense remedies—clove to soothe a toothache, ginger to calm an upset stomach, menthol and camphor to loosen chest congestion, honey and lemon to quiet a cough.  Roll your eyes if you want, but home remedies might be worth a shot when you’re suffering and there are no over-the-counter meds to be had.  Now’s the time to befriend that odd neighbor who knows about stuff like feverfew and St John’s wort.

AMATEUR HERBALIST

Our neighbor, a strange bird is she
grinding bark from a white willow tree
with mortar and pestle
then boiling the kettle
to brew some homemade “headache tea”

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

SHAD HAPPENS

My WordPress buddy Murisopsis has issued another CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like last year’s, it 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 rules for posting.

Prompt #1 is “Use the following words in a poem – fish, hands, lips.”  Luckily for me, I had a Haiku-sized fish story.  We moved in October to a house near Lake Erie, a short jaunt from Nickel Plate Beach.  We often walk our dogs down there.  A few weeks ago, we were met by an eerie sight, one that got me to wondering, in light of the current plague, if the signs from Revelation might be in progress.  Folks who have lived here their whole lives and are intimately familiar with the life cycle and behavior of shad, enjoyed a hearty guffaw at my expense.  I met the prompt’s requirements by slipping in a homophone.  Listen; it’s there.

NOT THE END

Thousands of beached fish!
Apocalypse?  Old hands laugh,
happens every spring

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

THEY REAL UN-COOL

Gwendolyn Brooks classic We Real Cool has been sitting in my “to be parodied” file for ages.  I love the cleverness of her poem–the clipped rhymes, the unusual line breaks, the repetition of the pronoun–but it defies satirization.  Is that even a word?  At last, a reasonable facsimile has coalesced.  The “they” falls off the map at the end, but somehow,
it seems fitting… poetically just.  Initially, I was drawn to this colorful COVID-19 map.  Looking at it today, however, I feel compelled to do a thorough Tupperware check before I put out the trash.

STABLE GENIUS & CO

They real tools.  They
damn fools.  They

cried hoax.  They
duped folks.  They

ignored docs.  They
spread pox.  Now

too late.  Up
to Fate.

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

NOTHING BETTER TO DO

Hello out there!  I’ve been in a bubble since we put our house on the market last summer.  It sold and we moved.  To northern Ohio, to be closer to our families.  (A bit ironic considering the current situation, huh?)  We survived the “unpacking cardboard boxes” stage and were just starting to venture out–meet the neighbors, join the gym, find my niche in the local poetry scene–and BOOM!  Now, like people all over the country, we are ‘social distancing.’  Rather than spending my days obsessing over Coronavirus graphs in the NY Times or watching idiots on Facebook lick shopping cart handles, I summoned the Muses and wrote a poem.

NEW NORMAL

No cure, no vaccine
means self-quarantine
Awkward new routines
Like elbow bump – ing
Six feet in between
Coughing into your sleeve
Doing good “hand hygiene”
Home-brewed caffeine
Home-cooked cuisine
School on a screen
Sermons live-streamed
More masks than Halloween
Morons hoarding TP
while others use leaves
or old magazines
Meanwhile, on TV
Trump pours gasoline
on the fire, more worried
‘bout the damned economy
than keeping you and me
safe from COVID-19

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

AU CONTRAIRE, L’ DOCTEUR!

“Sweets are gonna kill you,” my doctor is fond of saying.  Thanks to my friend Darlene, I will go to my next appointment armed with proof to the contrary.  Darlene and her husband had enlisted their son’s help to move stuff from their old house to their new one.  The son stopped on the way over and impulse-bought a fresh strawberry pie, the berries swimming in sugary red goo, smothered beneath a blanket of whipped cream.  They trucked load after load to the new house.  It was late, but Darlene wanted to go back and stay the night; she had to meet with a potential buyer early the next morning.  Her son talked her out of it by tempting her with the pie, which looked too yummy to resist.  Midway through dessert, their cell phones began buzzing with warnings from the National Weather Service.  Had it not been for that strawberry pie, Darlene would have been caught in the eye of the storm.

OWED TO STRAWBERRY PIE
(diminished hexaverse)

They had spent all day
moving heavy loads
from old house to new.
She wanted to go back
but her son stopped her.

“What about the
strawberry pie?”
he said. “Let’s sit
and have a piece.”

While they ate
and talked, a
tornado

flattened
their old

house.

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS

This week, a flawless organic California avocado is $2.89 at our local grocery.  They are out of season now, so prices will get worse before they get better.  I buy an avocado every week, regardless of the cost; they are essential to my happiness.  Last year, when Kroger put them
on sale for $1.00 each, I raced over to get some, visions of guacamole dancing in my head:

AVOCADO
a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s Eldorado

I browse a while
In the produce aisles
Wheeling up and down rows
Hot on the trail
Of a massive sale
On my favorite, avocados

Where fleshy fruits
In dark green suits
Should have lain in neat rows
To my chagrin
Is an empty bin:
SOLD OUT of avocados

A stockboy’s near
So I bend his ear
Will there be more tomorrow?
He hurries back,
His handcart stacked
With crates of avocados

Over the mountain,
Over the moon,
I feel like I’ve won the Lotto!
At a buck apiece,
I’ll feast all week
On my stash of avocados

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

TALKING TO STRANGERS

Last month, I decided I’d take the bus to Erie, PA to visit my sister.  When I shared this plan with my husband and sister, both offered to ferry me there and back rather than allow me to throw myself to the ‘Hounds.  I shushed them and bought a ticket, determined to have an adventure.  C’mon, how bad could it be?  For a very reasonable price, they do all the driving, and you get a comfy seat, a generous baggage allowance, an electrical outlet, complimentary WiFi, and a restroom.
I had tight connections to make in both Columbus and Cleveland, so things got off to a rocky start when the bus failed to show up at the designated pick-up point in Springfield.  The Greyhound rep checked the online tracker.  The bus was running late.  Like, over an hour late.  Hubby drove me to Columbus, I made my connection, and everything went smoothly from there.  On some legs, the bus was less than half full and every rider got a row to him or herself.  On the more crowded legs, I was quick to offer up the empty seat beside me.  Most people kept to themselves; they read novels, listened to music, or texted on their cell phones.  The nap-takers came prepared with C-shaped neck pillows and eye masks.  Others were eager to strike up a conversation.  If my seatmate wanted to chat, I obliged.  These dialogues were eye-opening.  Humans are complex beings, not always what they seem:

PEOPLE OF GREYHOUND

The bus driver arrives carrying a coffee
in each hand and fills us in on the rules.
“Be considerate of others around you.
No loud music or yakking on the phone.
Hold onto the overhead safety ropes
on your way to and from the restroom.
Weapons and smoking are prohibited.
Sit when you pee.  And there’s no maid
onboard, so pick up after yourselves.”

My first seatmate is a clean-cut dude
carrying nothing but a brown paper sack.
He’s 35 with kids by three “baby mamas.”
After he got out of “the joint,”
he started reading.  All those new ideas
“shifted his paradigm” and changed his life.
He channels Maya Angelou saying,
“When you know better, you gotta do better.”
Young black ex-cons can surprise you.

In line in Cleveland, a chocolate Adonis
with shined shoes and a swank iPhone says
he’s heading back to rehab after a day pass.
“Think that vending machine takes fives?”
“Probably,” I reply.
He returns holding a bottle of lemonade
and I ask how much they ganked him for.
He snorts.  “Did you just say ganked?”
Old white ladies can surprise you, too.

My next seatmate is a pasty redhead
in faded Levis with more holes than denim.
She’ll be riding all night to get to Nashville.
She opens her shiny copper-colored handbag,
withdraws a can of Pringles,
and allows herself one diminutive handful.
I envy her restraint.
When she nods off, her head slumps forward
like a flower on a broken stem.

Within earshot, jagged snores saw through
the feather-light laughter of a guy sporting
Elton John sunglasses and bedazzled jeans.
A Barbie doll-shaped brunette is on her way
to an exam that will determine her worthiness
for a slot in a speech pathology program.
A plain-clothes nun silently prays the rosary.
An afroed teenager bobs his head in time
to the pumping bass overspilling his earbuds.

On the final leg, I meet a dark foreigner
with a gold front tooth and wicked breath.
I offer him a box of wintergreen TicTacs.
He accepts them with a gracious “Merci.”
He asks if I have children.  When I say no,
he nods gravely and replies, “God’s will.”
He teaches me a few French basics:
Bonjour.  Comment vas-tu?  Bien, merci.
“Au revoir, ami,” he grins when we part.

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

A VOICE FROM THE GREAT BEYOND

Earlier this week, a reminder popped up on my FaceBook:  “Conrad Balliet has a birthday today. Let him know you’re thinking about him!”  Had he not passed away last August, he would have turned 92.  I miss him a lot.  He hosted Tower Group meetings in his home and recited poetry on WYSO’s Conrad’s Corner for decades.  Local poets stepped
up to fill the gap.  Steve Broidy now hosts our monthly meetings; Lori Gravley and David Garrison have kept the Corner going.  Conrad’s old recordings are interspersed throughout the schedule, and it is always uplifting to tune in and hear his voice.

Conrad was a WB Yeats aficionado so I wrote this parody of “Where My Books Go” to read at his memorial service.  I think of it every time I hear him reciting Yeats on the radio:

LEGACY

All the verse he has uttered
on the radio each night
preserved for all eternity
through the magic of sound bytes
Our sad, sad hearts shall perk their ears
as his lilting voice recites
the works of Yeats and all the greats,
a comfort and a delight

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!