IT’S GETTING KINDA DEEP IN HERE…

Yesterday, we celebrated Earth Day and today, I’m due to introduce a new type of poem, so I’m aiming to score two goals with a single tool.  Dig it?  The “GOLDEN SHOVEL” sounds like a gardening award but is actually a contemporary poetic form created by Terrance Hayes.  And
a clever way to pay homage to a favorite poet.  Here are the rules:

1. Borrow a line from a poem you admire.
2. Use the words of the borrowed line as the end words of your lines.
3. Keep the end words in order.
4. Give credit to the poet you borrowed from.

NOTE:  Your poem need not be about the same subject as the original

 

MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH*

He is there for me every
single minute of the day
Even in the bathroom, I
am never alone, you see,
he provides company or
protection or whatever I
require as if he can hear
my thoughts, something
he does with an ease that
mystifies. But he is more;
my soulmate perhaps, or
a shrink who charges less
and really listens. He kills
me with hilarity, slays me
with tricks, fells me with
love, buries me in delight

*A Golden Shovel from Mindful by Mary Oliver

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BRAVING THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER

dog days 5

I am NOT a summer person.  The light is too bright and direct.  The sun is too hot.  During these long stretches of 90-degree days, I stay inside feeling sorry for the crunchy brown lawn and wilted flowers.  One daily outing, however, cannot be avoided.  Both dogs go bananas when it’s time for their walk.  We climb into the car and drive to an unpopulated farm lane where they can frolic for fifteen or twenty minutes.  One has a reflective light brown coat; she could stay out all day bouncing back whatever the sun throws at her.  The other is a Lab mix whose black fur absorbs the heat.  In minutes, he’s feverish and his hide is on the verge of spontaneous combustion.  It takes him a few hours to recover from all that fun, but by the next afternoon, all is forgotten.  He is raring to go again and simply won’t take no for an answer.

BLACK DOG WALKING

A touch of heat exhaustion on a walk is
a minor sacrifice in service of a major treat,
like scorching our thighs on the vinyl seats
of Mom’s Buick on trips for ice cream

At the farm lane, he bounds out of the car
dancing with and dodging the sweltering sun
flitting in and out of the cornfield, wallowing
in the creek, flopping under a shady pine

On the ride back, he claims the armrest,
slyly elbowing toward the dashboard until
his long tongue hangs an inch from the vent
panting and gulping the refrigerated blast

He slurps long and deep at his water bowl
as if he has discovered an oasis in the desert
He withholds the last mouthful in his jowls
and dribbles it across the cool ceramic tile

to his favorite spot, where he collapses
onto his side and remains for a long time
underfoot, motionless, barely breathing
a stiff-legged silhouette waiting for

the canine police to draw a chalk line
around him and question the witnesses
He blinks back to life, shaking off his coma
long enough to relocate to the couch

Tomorrow, if I say there will be no walk,
it is far too hot for a black dog to be out,
he will whine that I am overprotective.
Don’t I know he was only playing dead?

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ANNIVERSARY OF A FREEDOM RIDE

It’s hard to believe we’ve had Callie four years already.  Even harder to believe that the first two families she was placed with returned her.  In a short time, she has grown into a wonderful dog:  sleek and beautiful, alert to every unusual noise in the neighborhood, a well-matched mate for her brother, Tailor.  She had a little slip-up in the beginning and for
a long time afterward, she distanced herself from us, waiting anxiously for the other shoe to drop.  When she finally figured out that this is her “forever home,” she let her guard down and beautiful things started to happen.  She loves belly rubs now, gives spontaneous kisses, lays her head on my lap when we watch TV, and curls up next to me under the covers each night.  I think I could safely say she’d take a bullet for me,
if it ever came to that.  This is Callie’s story, told in her own words:

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM

A shelter’s a shelter
But not really a home
You’re surrounded by dogs
But so very alone

People look, pass you over
It’s so hard to cope
You pray for your “freedom ride”
Your ticket to hope

Maybe so, maybe not
I’ve had two such before
But I didn’t fit in
And they showed me the door

One called me “too timid”
The other, “too bold”
Now I’m eight months and counting
And likely too old

I’ve outgrown puppy features
My bloodline is clear
My “mix” contains pit bull
A breed that they fear

I sit oh so pretty
And plead with sad eyes
But they see what I am
And they pass right on by

Then a dog and his people
Walk up to my cage
He’s a black and white pit mix
They won’t be afraid

For a place in this family
I’d give my right arm
They ask for a meeting
Maybe third time’s a charm?

Then away we all go
In their green SUV
On the dash are signed papers
Declaring me free

My new house is perfect
And nothing is barred
Couch and bed are pet-friendly
There’s a big fenced back yard

I try hard to play Beta
I want this to last
And my drive to be Alpha
Has checkered my past

But my tomboy side beckons
And we wrestle and race
My teeth “slip” and cause damage
In a fast game of chase

It’s a big gaping wound
And it looks really bad
But my brother forgives me
He’s not even mad

He nurses it bravely
And tries to keep mum
But our folks see and scold me
My future looks glum

I’m so very sorry
And I cry half the night
Knowing just what will happen
As soon as it’s light

I dream of the cuffs
And the ride back to jail
But I wake and they hug me
While bro wags his tail

I thank God for my family
The kind we all need
Ones who love and accept us
Despite our misdeeds

And I adore every inch
From nose to tail-end
Of the world’s greatest brother
And my very best friend

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ADVANCED RV-ING

Also known as the “stay-cation.”  Many RV’s in town, including our own, appear to be permanently parked in the driveway or on the lawn.  The owners might say otherwise, but according to Winnebago’s Law of RV Inertia, if a camper sits idle for more than one season, there is a 97.5% chance that it will never move again.

It’s an insidious process.  When we bought our motorhome, we figured it would be a perfect hybrid vacation-mobile, a home-away-from-home that would allow us to travel with our pets.  Five years and numerous disasters later, I am forced to admit I have no synchronicity whatsoever with this double-axled house of horrors.  The outside dimensions are huge, constantly banging into tree limbs and garbage dumpsters, while the inner ones are far too small to afford a comfortable living for two adults, two dogs, and a cat.  Here are some of the things I don’t miss:  Packing and unpacking the equivalent of a small house.  Downsizing to a short queen bed, fourteen inches of closet space, and three kitchen cabinets accessible only by step-stool or on hands and knees.  Getting lost.  Blowing tires.  Freezing when the propane furnace futzes on cold nights.  Dealing with a 12-volt battery system that dependably powers the lighting and water pump but won’t extend the retractable stairs– the distance to the ground might be one small step for an overexcited dog with a full bladder, but it’s one giant leap for the klutzy human at the other end of his leash!  Using a toilet that cannot digest Charmin Ultra.  Dumping.  Tripping the breaker if I microwave something while the air conditioner is running.  Making do without a garbage disposal, washer and dryer, fenced-in yard, reliable high-speed internet, and a static address for postal and Amazon.com deliveries.  Then, of course, there is living up to people’s expectations that when we travel, I will actually leave my tiny house-on-wheels to see the sights and do stuff.

Despite all this, I can’t quite bring myself to hang a FOR SALE sign on her.  Within her walls, she holds so many memories–the good, the bad, the completely unexpected.  And even permanently parked, she has proven herself to be quite useful:

Emergency bathroom
Quiet place to sleep if spouse is snoring
Generator during power outages
Extra storage space
Quarters for overnight guests
Possibly a cozy writing studio
Or Air B&B in our touristy village
Without it, I would no longer be “the cool aunt”

So stop by anytime and you can camp out right next door.
Here at Motel 666, we’ll leave the light on for ya!
And watch that first step–it’s a doozie.

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INTERMEDIATE RV-ING

My merit badge apparently got lost in the mail, and no fellow RVer has ever divulged the secret handshake.  These setbacks notwithstanding, we did eventually discover the sweet spot of RV travel:  those fleeting years when you know enough but not too much, you’ve mastered the art of planning ahead without overscheduling, the novelty of your tiny living space still outweighs your desire for the comforts of home, and rather than pushing to cover more miles in a day, you relax your pace and allow yourself to take in all the amazing things around you:

FREEWHEELING

Twenty-seven feet of comfort
Rolling over miles of asphalt ribbon, no destination in mind
No atlas or GPS
Seeking collision with serendipity

Be mindful and pay attention
If something interesting presents itself, stop for a closer look
Let magic happen
Who knows what you will find?

A beach beyond a tunnel of trees
Grilled cheese at twilight amid a rabble of monarch butterflies
New Yorkers let us in
On the George Washington bridge

Wine samples from local vineyards
Pocket parks and green spaces and vast expanses of sunflowers
Camping in driveways
Of surprised and gracious friends

Quaint shops in the middle of nowhere
Friendly conversation with one owner nets a potluck invitation
Another’s secret project
A VW Bus clad in a mosaic of sea glass

Lobster dinner and bonus boat ride
Old Lab paddles proudly in the ocean, completes his Bucket List
Cream cheese melting
On toasty house-made garlic bagels

Twenty-seven feet of comfort
Rolling over miles of asphalt ribbon, no destination in mind
Eyes open, heart open
Who knows what you will find?

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APRIL SHOWERS WITH POWER

horizontal rain

When I was a kid, a weather alert meant grabbing the flashlights and transistor radio and hunkering down together in the basement until it passed.  Nowadays, I love watching storms.  Especially the fast-moving ones whose character changes every time you turn your back.  Skies morphing from eerie yellow-green to smoke and pitch, lightning zig-zagging in random flashes, winds blowing vertical downpours into gravity-defying horizontal ones, cold fronts flash-freezing raindrops into hail or even oversized snowflakes that spin out and splat against the windowpanes.  Below is one of my first published poems, about a real-life, five-minute April rainstorm.  It made its debut in issue 11 of Mock Turtle Zine.

STROBE LIGHT STORM

A gray horizon met my sleepy eyes
as I let the dog out;
smells like rain, I thought.

She was back in a minute…
The sky had grown three shades darker,
angry clouds pushing and shoving in the wind.

The other dog demanded his turn,
the atmosphere now roiling, the air electric.
He hesitated, then made his move,

hovering in mid-squat when it hit.
No warning sprinkles,
a vertical deluge, like a beaded curtain.

He hastily concluded his “business”
ducking my towel and shaking water everywhere
before curling himself back into bed.

I gave him a pat and put the kettle on.
The storm had passed, the day brightened before me
Spring in Ohio, I thought, and smiled.

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BLOWN AWAY… AND GRATEFUL!

blog award
My very first blogging award–an auspicious occasion that deserves its own post!  I’ll chuck the boring, longwinded speech and instead, share
a fun anecdote, some inside info, and links to my favorite stuff.  Enjoy!

I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Aston Kamunde, whose ethereal poems express his unique perspective on life.  If you’re a poetry lover (or even if you’re not) check out Aston’s blog.  Always,
a line or phrase will jump out and speak to me in a very personal way.

I’m excited beyond words (almost) to have been chosen.  “Versatile” is the perfect description of my blog, a true hodge-podge-collage of memoir and poetry.  Per the rules, I am to share seven things about myself, then pass the torch to other deserving blogs.  So here goes:

1.  For me, the only thing better than a writing prompt is a dictation straight from the Muse, who usually finds her voice around 4 AM.

2.  For exercise and inspiration, I walk two miles a day.  Incidentally, that’s exactly the distance to the public library and back.

3.  I have a cat and two pound pups.  The cat can camouflage anywhere.  One dog loves to lick the exhaust pipe of my Honda more than he likes to lick himself (for the record, a lot).  The other dog shifted our motor-home into gear and drove it into a ditch at a rest area.  No, not kidding.  Bonus:  Hubby was inside the RV at the time.  Double Bonus:  He was in the bathroom, terrified that Armageddon had caught him with his pants down.  Fortunately, the motorhome and all involved parties escaped serious injury and went on to live happily ever after.

rv tow

4.  I love every kind of ethnic food, own a wok, and can cook Thai.

5.  I almost threw up from nerves at my first open mike night.

6.  I cannot play practical jokes or poker; my face is a dead giveaway.

7.  My writing heroes are Erma Bombeck and Weird Al Yankovic.  They recently joined forces on a new book:  At Wit’s End Over Word Crimes(JK!  Erma is deceased and Weird Al is probably hunkered down in his basement working out the rhymes for his next parody masterpiece.)

For additional bio, see my introductory post, Just Joan in a Nutshell.

* * * * * * *

And now, for my nominees.  I have hand-picked a JJ42 post for each of you and ask that, in addition to sharing seven fun facts and passing on the torch, you respond in the comment area with a link to a post from your own archives that you think I will enjoy.  Without further ado:

1.  Elan Mudrow of http://tricksterchase.com is a true wordsmith.  His blog features intriguing vintage photos paired with thought-provoking poetry.  He treats every subject with care, from the light and humorous to the serious and melancholy.  For you, Elan, an assortment of seasonal tree poems, A Year of Sap and Branches.

2.  Bitter Ben of http://bensbitterblog.com.  Who knew bitterness could be so delicious?  Ben recently celebrated a huge milestone — 700 blog posts!  So he has a massive archive of bitter selections to sample.  For you, Ben, I have chosen The Twelve Banes of Christmas, a short list of the Super-Villains that fill my holiday season with bitterness.

3.  Marissa of https://rockandrollsupermom.wordpress.com.  This Queen of Rhythm and Rhyme gives ol’ Dr. Seuss a run for his money!  And her wry humor and surprise endings are the icing on the cake.
If you like rhymes, come take a peek.
Some here are common, some unique.
And of course, my favorite kind: oblique!
Marissa rocks some fine technique
on her WordPress site; that’s my critique.
For you, Marissa, backstage pass to the Secret Universe of the Purse.

4.  Professor Julez of https://professorjulez.wordpress.com.  Zany, offbeat, and full of energy, this stand-up-comedian-trapped-inside-of-a-math-teacher is a class act.  For you, Julez, Things Worth a Double Take, a collection of life equations that don’t quite add up.

5.  Trek of https://circumstance227.wordpress.com.  Infused with subtle humor and unfailing honesty, her blog is nothing short of addictive.  As I scrolled through the archives, I was amazed that two totally unrelated brains could think so much alike.  For you Trek, and your elderly Dog #3, I have selected a bittersweet canine tale, Earnest and True to the End.

Honorable Mention:  TippyGnu of https://unicorniks.wordpress.com, a fellow introvert whose wit and imagination flow effortlessly through his stories, both fiction and non-fiction.  He proclaims his blog to be an “Award-Free Zone” but I want to recognize him anyway.  TippyGnu, meet King Kong-Cinderella, the hapless heroine of Halloween 1977.

Thank you again, Aston, and congratulations to all.  Happy blogging!

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU MUD…

pink polka dots

It’s mid-March and puddle season is off to a running start.  Which always reminds me of my years in Catholic grade school.  After one morning of non-stop drizzle, the principal cancelled lunch recess on the playground because too many students “could not tell the difference between dry land and puddles.”  Au contraire, Sister Josetta!  We were actually quite discerning.  Our squeaky, wet shoes did not get that way by accident!

During my college years, I and other “auto-challenged” students carried our umbrellas in our backpacks from February to June.  They not only sheltered us from Ohio’s random spring rain showers, but also shielded us from those evil drivers who would gleefully swerve into deep road puddles, then laugh as the resulting spray power-washed our pant legs.

Nowadays, my canine children seek out every rain-filled pothole in the long gravel lane where we take our midday walk.  For years, I recoiled, keeping my distance from their antics.  Then my sister gave me a pair of Wellies — girlie pink ones sprinkled with polka-dots.  These thick-soled rain boots weigh a ton but strangely, when I slide them on, my feet feel light and happy, like I could skip for a mile, strategically stomping and splashing in every puddle along the way.  When life gives you mud, you can wallow in it or you can dance.  I’m gonna dance.  Welcome, Spring!

ROMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

Life yawns and stirs as the sun waxes
Birds twitter and chirp from budding branches
Bulbs push up their green leaves
Early crocus cheer on daffodil and tulip

Bracing breezes sail through open windows
Freshening the stagnant breath of hibernation
Furnace in the morning, AC by afternoon
Or simply embrace spring’s chills and fever

The cat plaintively meows for liberation
To canvass our neighborhood and others
Reacquaint herself with the woods and fields
Equinox renders her curfew irrelevant

Morning air is smoky gray and electric
Transporting the promise of rain
Soft, steady, comforting, hypnotic drops
That melt away Jack Frost’s icy sting

The snow vanishes without a trace
Percolating into the thawing ground
Leaving mud, glorious mud
For me and my Wellies to romp in

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IF YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT…

42.42

After a recent dinner out, the waiter dropped off our check.  The total?  $42.42.  I know, right?  What a bizarre coincidence!  In addition to our wondrous Mediterranean meal, we had each consumed the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  If you are what you eat, I’d rather be a Guru than a Shawarma or a Fried Kibbi.  The kicker?  If my dog were to chew up this receipt, as he does so many other things, he too could be all-knowing.  What kind of dog eats receipts?  This one, a four-legged mobile landfill with an iron stomach and a penchant for crop-dusting:

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

If you are what you eat
Then it logically follows
My dog is, in part,
Everything that he swallows

His kibble is organic
High-quality, the best
To balance out the “junk food”
I know he’ll ingest

Tidbits from our plates
Coffee sloshed from our cups
Water slurped from the toilet
When he finds the lid up

Bites of garbage and compost
Panties filched from the laundry
Used Q-tip or Kleenex?
His morning snack quandary

Green fuzz peeled from tennis balls
Bits of rawhide and toys
Tons of small plastic squeakers
That no longer make noise

A piece of a seatbelt
Chomp-chomped from my Honda
And a turn signal knob
I was also quite fond of

Weeds, grasses, and dirt
Maybe snowballs, in season
Nips of charcoal and applewood
With their flavors so pleasing

Couch cushions and afghans
Pillows and blankets
All so toothsome and comforting
When he’s sleepy or anxious

His tummy churns as it mixes
Meals and “treats” al a carte
Forming gas he will pass
With each SBD fart

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MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER…

valentine 3

On Valentine’s Day, I find myself thinking about couples who have been married for fifty, sixty, even seventy years; folks who have lived through every conceivable hardship and somehow managed to make things work.  When I ask what their secret is, most say they “just knew” their spouse was “the one” the moment they met.  These amazingly spot-on judgments would have occurred decades before dating websites and compatibility surveys became the norm.  In today’s world, we vet out potential candidates online and dismiss anyone who doesn’t meet our criteria or possess a large overlap of common interests.  Despite all the electronic fuss, computerized matches often lack the “spark” necessary to kindle a romance or fail to reveal some fatal flaw.  Like this vivacious vixen, who is almost everything a guy could want:

NEARLY PERFECT

Her gaze melts my heart,
those deep butterscotch eyes!
Just one look and I’m hers;
we go back to my place.

Content to ride shotgun,
she leans out the window,
her honey hair rippling,
carefree, in the breeze.

She’s eager to please
and jumps into my bed.
Her kisses mean business;
her body warms mine.

The stuff of dreams, she
loves camping and fishing,
and Monday night football,
while sharing a beer.

But her steadfast devotion
surpasses impassioned;
the possessive bitch growls
at my human girlfriends.

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