THREE BIRDS WITH ONE POEM

On her blog, A Different Perspective, my friend Murisopsis laid down a challenge for National Poetry Month.  Hers is easier than some I’ve seen as it requires the completion of only three prompts per week, which are announced at the beginning and can be completed in any order.

MURI’S NATIONAL POETRY MONTH WRITING CHALLENGE

1. Write a limerick.
2. Write a poem about the changing seasons
3. Write a poem about angels (any kind).
4. Write a concrete (shape) poem.
5. Write a poem about signs of spring.
6. Write a poem about dogs.
7. Write a Quatern.
8. Write 4 haiku about favorite foods.
9. Write an acrostic poem using an emotion.
10. Write a Blitz poem.
11. Channel your inner Doctor (Seuss, Who, Frankenstein, Doolittle, Zhivago, McCoy… your choice)
12. Write a list poem about clothes
13. Write a poem using all of the following words: crow, sparrow, snow, chapeau, below, ginkgo, shallow, and solo.

The rules are simple.  Write 13 poems in 30 days (that comes out to one poem each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the month of April).  You may complete the prompts in any order.  Once written, post your poem on your blog and LEAVE MURI A COMMENT to let her know you have done so.  The point of the exercise is to have fun and stretch your poetic muscles.

OK, Muri, I figured I would start with the most difficult prompt, which I determined to be #13.  After I finished the poem, I realized it also fulfilled the criteria for #3 and #11.  So it may be a bit of a cheat, but here is my poem for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of Week One:

BIRD FEEDER

The spinster next door
a disheveled old crow
pulls on her wool cap
the season’s chapeau

fills her pockets, dons
galoshes, sets off solo
trudging ‘n crunching
over late winter snow

Her size 9 footprints,
cocksure but shallow,
stop short at a bench
by a knobbled ginkgo

Birdseed is scattered
on the ground below,
one angel’s provision
for hungry sparrows

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ORDINARY, YET EXTRAORDINARY

After my dad passed away last summer, my mom consolidated his stuff and let each of us kids choose a few keepsakes.  These items reside in a special box:  an everyday zip cardigan, a necktie, a cloth handkerchief, a Craftsman wristwatch with a leather band, a pair of clip-on sunglasses, a child-sized rosary (perhaps the one he received for First Communion), a copy of the letter I sent him for Father’s Day containing a hodgepodge of childhood memories, and the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral.  Unbeknownst to me, he had been a journaler.  In small notebooks and diaries were records of his daily activities dating back to the late 70’s.  We didn’t fight over them, but we all clamored for our share.  On days
I really missed him, I would read a few pages.  His life, though ordinary, was full of surprises.  Who knew Dad was the garbage man’s favorite customer, a closet romantic who rewired lamps and misspelled words?

One of the diaries I have is from 1986, the year I graduated from high school and went away to college.  It was interesting to read about the months right before and after I left the nest.  The following poem is a mix of summary and insights in the style of Dad’s journal pages:

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ONE LOVE POEM, MANY FORMS

In honor of Valentine’s Day, my poetry group did a writing exercise wherein each person contributed a phrase about the source of love.
A few days after the meeting, our fearless leader Steve arranged
the phrases (verbatim) into a poem which he sent to us via email:

They say that love is never lost, so why can’t I find it?
Love comes from love
Innate, hard-wired unless over-written by Fortune or Fate
a cookie pan
Love–divine–like birds, always there, even in winter
When in the midst of pouring rain, a smile warms the day

He challenged us to re-work it if we wished.  Woo-hoo!  A batch of free verse phrases crying out for structure, a form…  This sounds like a job for JustJoan!  But what form would I use?  Which one would do justice to this wide variety of ideas and images?  Naturally occurring rhymes were scarce, so I began with syllabic forms: eintou, cinquain, haiku, and diminished hexaverse.  I figured I’d hit on the right one sooner or later.
I got lucky on my first try, but kept on going.  Perhaps one of the other forms would work better.  What I found, to my surprise, is that they all worked.  Emboldened, I decided to try a couple forms with rhyme and refrain:  lai and rondelet.  With a few synonyms and a touch of creative license, these also worked.  I added an acrostic for good measure.  You guessed it, it worked.  I’d always believed that words suggested their own poetic form, but maybe verse in search of an outlet finds one in whatever form it is offered.  Without further ado, poems about love:

Eintou Septet
7 lines
Syllables 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2

LOVE IS
constant
like winter birds
warm smiles on rainy days
divine, innate, subject to Fate
never lost, hard to find
on cookie pans
from love

 

Cinquain
5 lines,
Syllables 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2

LOVE
Warm smiles
Birds in winter
Never lost, hard to find
Divine, Innate, on cookie pans
From Love

 

Haiku
3 lines
Syllables 5 / 7 / 5

HAIKU
Love is never lost
Found in smiles, birds, gods, the self
and on cookie pans

 

Diminished Hexaverse
5 stanzas, first stanza has 5 lines, each 5 syllables, second has 4 lines, each 4 syllables, third has 3 lines, each 3 syllables, fourth has 2 lines, each 2 syllables, fifth has 1 line, 1 syllable

LOVE

Around and within
Like birds, always there
even in winter
A smile that warms us
on a rainy day

Innate, and yet
subject to Fate
The divine yield
of cookie pans

Never lost
but sometimes
hard to find

Love is
born of

Love

 

Lai
9 lines with rhyme scheme a / a / b / a / a / b / a / a / b.
a lines have 5 syllables, b lines have 2 syllables

LOVE IS
The Divine revealed
Within us concealed
Innate
A cookie pan’s yield
A pouring-rain-shield
Smile-shaped
A Lost-Found ordeal
A spin of the wheel
of Fate

 

Rondelet
7 lines with rhyme/refrain scheme A / b / A / a / b / b / A.
Refrain (A) is 4 syllables, all other lines are 8 syllables, all lines written in dimeter

SOURCE OF LOVE
Love comes from love
and warming smiles on rainy days
Love comes from love
and cookie pans, and God above
Within us all, subject to Fate
It’s never lost but just misplaced
Love comes from love

 

Acrostic
The first letters of each line spell something related to the poem

LOVE
They say that love is never lost so
How come I can’t find it?
Even in winter it is there, like birds
Smiles that warm us in the midst
Of pouring rain. Divine. Innate.
Unless overwritten by Fortune or Fate
Really, it is borne on cookie pans
Chocolate Chip Love, Oatmeal Love
Ephemeral and yet, everlasting

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IN A MIDWEST MINUTE

Ready for a new and intriguing form?

The EINTOU SEPTET is an African-American poetry form with seven lines adhering to the following syllable count:  2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2.

One recent afternoon, it began to rain.  The air, chilled by a brisk north wind, dropped from just above freezing to just below in less than sixty seconds as the plummeting droplets shimmied in the chaotic current.  The result?

PRESTI-DIGI-PRECIPITATION

With the
deftness of a
magician, the wind waves
a sheet of sparkling sleet over
the rain; when he whisks it
away, ta-daaaa!
Snowflakes!

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PRECIOUS OR PRECOCIOUS?

When I was a child, I loved staying at Grandma’s house.  I packed my suitcase and lugged it up the creaky stairway to the alcove bedroom with the framed print of the alley cat whose huge eyes glowed in the dark.  Crisp morning breezes carried the sweetness of lilacs and bird song through the open window.  Grandma didn’t play with us so much as let us tag along as she did her chores.  We clamored to help gather fallen apples for a pie, knead bread, or feed laundry through her old-fashioned wringer.  She never cut us a break when we played games.
It didn’t matter if you were six or sixteen, if you misspelled a word in Scrabble, she would challenge you and you would lose your turn.  She had the patience of Job, fielding our questions all day without a trace of irritation.  When I pointed to a ceramic jar on the bathroom counter and asked what ‘Chopper Hopper’ meant, she told me choppers were teeth and a hopper was a place to keep them.  “C’mon, Grandma, you can’t put teeth in a jar!” I said, certain she was pulling my leg.  I about flipped when she opened it and showed me Grandpa’s dentures.  At bath time, I told her I didn’t want my hair shampooed; I had sounded out the words on the bottle and was convinced that a product called ‘Hurr-ible Essence’ would smell bad.  Her rosary resided in an elegant plastic box whose lid was a statuette of the Holy Family.  Across the front it said, “The family that prays together, stays together,” which
I solemnly repeated every time I retrieved it for her.  My fascination with reading everything in her house must have driven her bananas.

GRANDMA MARGARET
(Elegy in Ghazal)

Her gentle brown eyes lit up just for me, my grandma
Her hugs were warm and soft and bosomy, my grandma

She stoked the basement woodstove, did her gardening
in a proper dress and hose—always a lady, my grandma

She turned every chore into fun: chopping up vegetables,
making beds or bread, hanging out laundry, my grandma

In card and Scrabble games, she did not pander to us kids;
she played hard, made us beat her honestly, my grandma

She churned out snickerdoodles and homemade noodles
and jars of tiny pickles, as sweet as could be, my grandma

She knew a mourning dove’s cry, made snapdragons talk,
shook down fruit for us from her apple tree, my grandma

When I tossed a Nerf ball in the toilet, talked too much, or
toppled a houseplant, she never grew angry, my grandma

On her Singer, she sewed clothing and puppets and quilts,
and hundreds of pairs of mittens for charity, my grandma

She even made me a black baby doll, hair done up in braids
Provider of my first lesson in racial diversity, my grandma

Each night, she prayed for world peace and those in need,
counting Hail Marys on her worn rosary beads, my grandma

I’m fifty and childless and live in sweatpants and sneakers,
but inside, where it counts, I shall one day be my grandma

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BEAUTY AND THE ARCTIC BEAST

As the Polar Vortex blew through the northern US and Canada, it did lots of ugly things.  Furnaces struggled, unable to keep pace with the chill. Car batteries gave up the ghost. Intrepid outdoorsmen got frost-bite and ass bruises.  But it also delivered the season’s fluffiest snow, air-brushing it into nooks and crannies in impressive drifts, swirls, and arcs.  One screen on our bay window, raised in autumn and forgotten, was hovering at half-mast when the storm hit.

The poem is a VERS BEAUCOUP; click on link for the rules of the form.

POLAR VORTEX SAND ART

By Winter’s hand, sparkling bands of flurries land
in a grand curve between the window and screen,
surreal scene, framed but fleeting, fast-retreating
snow tears greeting the low-slung rays of midday

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WELCOME TO THE 50+ CLUB

Remember all those years you sat at the Kiddie Table,
wishing you were old enough to join the adults?
Well, here’s a list poem of what you were missing.
(Don’t forget to request your 10% AARP discount!)

THE OVER-FIFTY MENU

Whine choices:
My Back Hurts
My Knees Hurt
My Feet Hurt

Complimentary Reading Glasses

Appetizer:  Lactaid or Rolaid

Entrée:  Extra-Virgin Colonoscopy

Side:  Mashed Boobs

Vegetable:  Nighttime Pees

Dessert:  Dental Crumble

After-dinner drink:  Flu Shot

(Is it too late to go back to the Kiddie Table?)

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I THINK, THEREFORE I HAVE CANCER

At the direction of my endocrinologist, I scheduled a couple tests to make sure my thyroid cancer is still in check.  My labs were OK.  This week, I went to Radiology for an ultrasound, then Nuclear Medicine for a whole body PET scan.  The ultrasound required no special prep.  The instructions for the PET seemed fairly routine until the last few sentences.  I was distressed by the prospect of sitting around for an hour with nothing to read.  Then I was told I musn’t “think too hard.”   After the administration of the fluorosine glucose, I needed to keep
the ol’ gray matter at rest until the scanning process was complete.  PET scans locate cancers by mapping out areas of increased glucose uptake.  Because cancer cells multiply faster than normal cells, they require more glucose.  As do brains when they’re in use, meaning that rumination by the patient could potentially skew the results.  Tell me, how is a person supposed to “not think” while she lies under a scanner waiting for her fate to be decided?  So much the worse if she’s a writer whose mind churns endlessly, chasing metaphors, counting syllables, and wondering why humor rhymes with something as un-funny as a tumor.

The following poem is a VERS BEAUCOUP, French for “many rhymes.” Each four-line stanza adheres to this scheme of internal and enjambed rhyme: a-a-a / a-b-b / b-c-c / c-d-d.

  

NO READING OR THINKING WHILE THE RIDE IS IN MOTION

Nuclear Med Man schedules my PET scan, explains the plan:
OK, ma’am, fast for six hours prior, wear comfortable attire
It also requires avoidance of brain stimulation as cogitation
could be mistaken by the scanner and read as brain cancer.

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RUNNING ON EMPTY

Did you ever have one of those days when everything runs out at the same time?  It starts small, say, squeezing the final splurt of shampoo from the upside-down bottle.  (The conditioner will be fine; Universal Law dictates that the conditioner will never run out on the same day
as the shampoo.)  You lather up using a sliver of soap.  Grab the last Q-tip.  Force the final unwilling blob of toothpaste from the anorexic tube.  The depressurized remains of the styling mousse comes out in
a puddle instead of a lump.  You whisk the last kleenex from the box, dump the crummy, bottom-of-the-barrel kibbles into the dog’s dish, and resort to scraping the mayo jar with a spatula.  The spotty brown banana you were saving for lunch has gone missing.  The kitchen light bulb blows out.  You pour your coffee directly into the cream carton and swish it around to get the last little bit.  Your prescription needs
to be refilled.  You have two bills to mail and only one stamp.  As you update your to-do list, your pen runs out of ink…

I’ve condensed this phenomenon into a LIRA.  As you may recall, a Lira is a five-line poem with syllabic rules (7-11-7-7-11) as well as a scheme of rhyme and refrain (a-B-a-b-B).

WHAT’S IT GONNA BE?

Empty toilet paper core
A running-out day is what it’s gonna be
No clean socks in my top drawer
Two-crust sandwich, car on “E”
A running-out day is what it’s gonna be

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BEHIND THE CLOSET DOORS

Welcome to the Land of Unfinished Projects!  Partially strung beads, half-baked Christmas ornaments, mostly empty sketchbooks, scrap books and photo albums.  Two tattered duvet covers waiting to be patchworked into one usable one, a file box of semi-sorted medical papers, the “One-Year Bible” I got five years ago, its bookmark still wedged somewhere in Genesis.  I suspect the Road to Hell passes through this closet, albeit an unpaved section, flanked by stacks of perfectly good intentions the construction workers haven’t gotten around to laying yet.

Years ago, I started crocheting an afghan with “found” skeins of yarn from a failed sweater project.  When the “afghan” reached the size of
a super-long, super-fat scarf, I realized I’d need more yarn in order to finish it.  JoAnn’s had long since discontinued that brand and carried nothing with a similar blend of wool and acrylic.  Not to worry, folks, I found it on E-Bay:  36 brand new skeins at a price I couldn’t pass up.  The package arrived and I dived in with gusto, diligently adding a few rows every night.  Until summer came and it got too hot to work on it.
I bought an XL Tote at Dollar General, put the afghan and remaining yarn in it, and shoved it in the closet.  I unearthed it during my recent decluttering spree.  It was below zero, perfect weather to snuggle up under the wooly beast and get my crochet hook moving again.

The poem below is a LIRA.

STALLED PROJECT

Thirty skeins of bargain yarn
tucked away in a box on a closet shelf
for an afghan, thick and warm
one that won’t crochet itself
tucked away in a box on a closet shelf

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