HOLY GORGONZOLA!

I have a major weakness for cheese, one
which led to this rich, creamy parody of
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43.

HOW DO I LOVE CHEESE?

How do I love cheese? Let me count the ways
I love it grilled, American on white
Schmeared on an onion bagel, toasted light
In pecan cheeseballs served on holidays

Shingled with fresh fruit on party trays
Swirled in fondue pots by candlelight
I love it hard, aged cheddar with a bite
I love it soft, baked Brie with maple glaze

I love it cheesecaked, lemony and smooth
Blistered on a New York pizza slice
Macaronied into comfort food
Nachoed, patty-melted, batter-fried
If Death disguised himself as crab Rangoon
I’d take the bait and gladly pay the price

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TYGERS AND BOOGERS, OH MY!

I was cleaning out my Word files this week and I found a booger.  Well, not a literal one, but a poem about one I started and never finished.  It was back in the winter when my obsession with a particularly stubborn nasal stowaway apparently crisscrossed with my parody-writing phase.  With my sincerest apologies to William Blake for (again!*) desecrating his masterpiece, Tyger Tyger, I present:

BOOGER, BOOGER

Booger, Booger, hanging tight,
whistling in my nose all night
What mere mortal strategy
could challenge thy tenacity?

Beneath what distant septal shelf
dare thee to affix thyself,
clinging like a stalactite
although I blow with all my might?

In what winding turbinate
dost thou manage to evade
random gusts of high-speed breeze
generated when I sneeze?

In what cranny, high and dry
liest thou in smug safety
above the wet and wild onslaught
of saline from my Neti pot?

When the gauntlet I threw down
and probed my finger all around
How didst thou wriggle or retreat
and deftly outmaneuver it?

Booger, Booger, hanging tight,
to thee I shall concede the fight
for what mere mortal strategy
could challenge thy tenacity?

*My first parody was entitled LEGOS, LEGOS

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LOOPHOLE IN DARWIN’S THEORY

My husband calls these little guys primordial bugs because they look ancient, but how such daft, clumsy creatures could have survived for eons is a mystery to me.  They sneak into the house with the single-mindedness of a deprived dieter attacking a frozen cheesecake, but once inside, they completely lose sight of their agenda, so I’ve never been able to figure out what their end game is.  Far as I can tell, they bumble around aimlessly and crash into things, or plant themselves directly in harm’s way and wait for disaster to strike.  Their mortality rate is 100%, minus the ones I capture and deport back to the Great Outdoors.  (Unless they make it back inside, which they’re probably trying to do at this very moment…)  Survival of the Dim-witted-est?

INVASION OF THE STINK BUGS
(Ghazal)

On autumn’s cusp descend the hated stink bugs
Google calls them brown marmorated stink bugs

Keen to enter, they slink around screens and wait
for windows to be opened, motivated stink bugs

Others breach the threshold in my laundry basket
affixed to socks and towels, calculating stink bugs

and fall victim to heat-finishing; discovered in the
dryer lint screen, corpses of dessicated stink bugs

Most zoom around aimlessly, surviving headfirst
collisions… bumbling, uncoordinated stink bugs

only to perish in the toilet bowl, beneath a shoe,
at the paw of a torturous cat, ill-fated stink bugs

One daring fellow lands on my toast, legs mired in
citrus flypaper, an orange marmaladed stink bug

The lucky ones succumb to old age, lying on their
backs on the tile, pathetic, leg-waving stink bugs

What is the purpose of these pungent Kamikazes?
Explain to me, please, why God created stink bugs

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WHEN YOU’RE HOT, YOU’RE HOT…

Turn on the fan, folks,
here comes a load of:

HOT STUFF

August evenings
Black leather seats
Cremation ovens
Deep-fried treats

Electric fences
Forest fires
Global warming
Hearts’ desires

Incinerators
Jalapeños
Knock-off handbags
Live volcanoes

Morning coffee
Nuclear reactors
Ornery redheads
Pressure cookers

Quilted jackets
Radiators
Scarlet fever
The equator

Undergarments
VapoRub
Witches’ cauldrons
XXX nightclubs

Yankees south of
the Mason-Dixon
Zaftig models
Zydeco rhythms

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HOW MANY LICKS DOES IT TAKE…

In the good old days, when lactose intolerance was yet unknown to me, and local businesses gave things away for free, the mister and I used to hop in the old VW Bus and putter downtown for soft-serve ice cream:

AT THE DAIRY FREEZE

The screen slides open
& out comes our order,
two super-sized cones
& a gratis puppy cone,
which our Lab devours.
Mimicking the sad face
of an emaciated orphan,
he eyes the twisty swirls
in our grip, mine… his…
attempting to discern
which of us is the sucker.
My husband caves first,
tilting his towering treat
toward the eager muzzle.
“Here Buddy, have a lick!”
Earnie’s jaws open wide
and crunch-munch-gulp!
it’s a done deal, leaving
one of us dumbfounded,
one laughing hysterically,
& one with brain freeze.

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BRUSH, ROLLER, TAPE, FORGET IT

Having no choices is devastating, like when there is only one internet service provider in town so you’re stuck with it, no matter how slow it is.  But an overabundance of choice can be devastating in its own way.  Overwhelming.  Paralyzing.  Who wants to spend an hour in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, comparing the nutrition information on fifty different kinds?  Not me.  But that’s nothing compared to what you go through in the paint section of the hardware store. Thought you knew exactly what color you wanted?  Think again.

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF ART*
(Villanelle)

The art of choosing isn’t hard to master,
or so it seems, ‘til you must muddle through
a range of options growing ever vaster

My bedroom walls were faded and lackluster
I pictured in my mind a soothing blue
The art of choosing isn’t hard to master

The counter clerk was helpful and amassed
a stack of azure swatches for review
the range of options growing ever vaster

I stood there, google-eyed and flabbergasted
I hemmed and hawed, perhaps off-white would do?
The art of choosing can be hard to master

“What shade?  There’s picket fence or alabaster
meringue, vanilla, biscuit, pearl, ecru… ”
the range of options growing ever vaster

She jabbered on and on as I wheeled past her
and bid my brush and roller sad adieu
The art of choosing proved too hard to master,
an empty-handed blue and white disaster

*A parody of ONE ART by Elizabeth Bishop

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LIFE: JUST ONE DAMNED PROCESS AFTER ANOTHER

Last year, I was working through a list of poetry prompts.  One of them was “A Process.”  I liked the word itself, with its varied pronunciations and meanings, its ability to function as a noun or a verb, the way it was changed by the addition of a prefix or a suffix and how it captured the whole of life as well as its many individual parts:

LIFE’S NEVER-ENDING PROCESS

Surviving the birth process
Processing language
Processed American cheese
grilled into sandwiches
Film processed into photos
Falling in love and
processing down the aisle
in a gown of ivory lace
Enduring the hiring process
Inprocessing a new job
Learning that my chosen field
follows its own process
Flow charts of our processes,
processed and reprocessed,
Process Improvement
the subject of every meeting
Queues to process
The mortgage process
Endless forms to be processed
Computers processing data
I don’t want processed
selling my information,
a global marketing process
A legal process once or twice
Outprocessing my job,
a daunting process
The retirement process,
and the adjustment process
Processing to the next phase,
a procession of words
in my brain just waiting to be
processed into poetry
A blissful, procreative process
so resolutely unsystematic,
it might not be a process at all
Pure unprocessed freedom
in such an overprocessed world
is, admittedly, a lot to process

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WHEN THE GEARS START SLIPPING…

I’m going to start this post by saying that my mom is fine, as sharp and independent as ever.  Because when I read this poem for people, they approach me afterward and tell me they’re sorry to hear that, or share stories about their own caregiving struggles.  These lines are a patch-work of tales told to me by my patients, family, friends and neighbors about the challenges and heartbreaks of looking after someone with dementia.  This poem (a triolet series) goes out to all the caregivers:

CAREGIVER’S SONG

Mom pulls on a ratty sweater,
the one she will not go without,
even in the hottest weather
Mom pulls on a ratty sweater
I save my breath and don’t upset her
unless her pants are inside-out
Mom pulls on a ratty sweater,
the one she will not go without

Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
She just stares blankly at her plate
Ignoring vegetables and meat
Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
But how her eyes light up for sweets,
a dish of ice cream, piece of cake
Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
She just stares blankly at her plate

Mom makes lively conversation
with an empty kitchen chair
Since her mind went on vacation,
Mom makes lively conversation
with her long-deceased relations
as if they were sitting there
Mom makes lively conversation
with an empty kitchen chair

Mom pores over family pictures,
staring at a toddler’s face
Who is this?  she points and whispers
Mom pores over family pictures
A childhood me with my big sister
Precious memories gone, erased
Mom pores over family pictures
staring at a toddler’s face

Mom can’t follow TV shows,
but ogles actors shamelessly,
certain they are men she knows
Mom can’t follow TV shows,
Bosses, neighbors, high school beaus,
not Hollywood celebrities
Mom can’t follow TV shows,
but ogles actors shamelessly

At night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
and wanders from her cozy bed
Unsure where she is, I think,
at night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
A spectre in pajamas pink
shuffles through the house instead
At night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
and wanders from her cozy bed

I care about Mom’s happiness
and sit with her around-the-clock
Despite exhaustion, tears, and stress
I care about Mom’s happiness
No time to breathe or decompress
or take a walk around the block
I care about Mom’s happiness
and sit with her around-the-clock

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AN ARACHNID AND HER TAJ MAHAL

‘Tis the season for critters.  It’s been unseasonably warm this week and the bugs are back in force.  Big, bumbling “carpenter” bees pollinating things, or maybe building a hive around the corner.  Primordial-looking stink bugs emerging from winter hibernation.  House flies.  Fleas.  And the most dreaded of all creepy-crawlies, ticks—Lyme disease, anyone? Around this time last year, or maybe two years ago, a tiny spider began constructing a home in my potted lime tree.  Is there such a thing as a “carpenter” spider?  Every day, I’d think about moving her outside, but then, I’d see the artistic additions she had made to her web overnight and change my mind.  This cascade poem is for her:

SCHEHERAZADE

An eight-legged Scheherazade
spins a new yarn every night,
slowly building a silken castle
that delights and fascinates me

Early summer, she crossed my
threshold, took up residence in
a potted plant, and pled to stay,
an eight-legged Scheherazade

She sleeps all day, striped legs
folded neatly around her body,
while her industrious alter ego
spins a new yarn every night

On a solid foundation, she adds
an east wing, a towering turret,
and a series of flying buttresses,
slowly building a silken castle

Her keen architectural prowess
is revealed in the morning sun
a shimmering, glittering genius
that delights and fascinates me

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