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
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.
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!
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
I’m a sucker for word games. I love playing Scrabble and doing the mini crosswords and puzzles in the NY Times. It must be hereditary. A couple weeks ago on Zoom, I asked my sisters if they had joined the latest word craze. We spent the next ten minutes sharing strategies. For the record, I’ve played 63 times and struck out only twice. If any of you play Wordle, I’d love to hear your approach. The poem below, an ALOUETTE, is in response to my WP friend Muri’s annual poetry challenge. If you’d like to participate, click HERE for the details and join in the fun.
TO EACH HER OWN
The first words I play are PIOUS and TRADE, see what turns orange and lime Sis One does the same but she starts the game with STORM and ADIEU each time
Sis Two drags her net through the whole alphabet, POUND, LIGHT, BRIMS, WAVEY, and FRACK taking a gamble that she can unscramble the answer in only one crack
Sis Three plays it loose, like WACKY or JUICE Weird letters a help or a hurdle You know, without doubt, what I’m talking about if you are addicted to WORDLE
A few days ago, heavy wind caused the power to go out 6:00 am. No biggie, right? But our house is like Motel 6, where they leave the light on for you. An illuminated clock face, a nightlight in the bathroom, a soft table lamp in the living room. It felt eerie to close my eyes in the total darkness and I didn’t sleep a wink. At 7:00, I got my fidgety self out of bed to phone Ohio Edison and report it. That turned out to be unnecessary as the lights came back on while I was brushing my teeth, but it brought to mind an outage that occurred a few years ago. We were sitting at the dining room table, hubby and I, playing Scrabble, I think, when the house went dark. I waited to see if the power would come back on quickly, as it usually does. Hubby, however, grew antsy. Ninety seconds in, he said, “Are you going to sit there all day? Or help me find an extension cord and get the generator going?” Before we could locate a working flashlight and the key to the generator, power was restored. If you wait patiently, many problems solve themselves. Like this BOB AND WHEEL poem, which practically wrote itself once I figured out the subject. If you would like to participate in my buddy Muri’s NPM Challenge and want the details, click HERE.
No power! Lake wind in its sharpness has downed pole or tower. We squirm in full darkness, the minutes like hours.
CALLING IT IN
I dial, hold for operator. Eager husband, meanwhile, fires up generator. Waiting isn’t his style.
My friend Muri hosts a poetry challenge every April. If you’d like to participate and want the details, click HERE. I didn’t recognize most of the poetic forms on her list, so it’s going to be a steep learning curve for me this year. This first poem is a DECIMA. Years ago, I had a coworker who was a real practical joker. She lived for April Fool’s Day and got one over on just about everyone. No matter how determined I was not to bite, she would reel me in. My determination may have made me an easier target. Pranking isn’t complicated, but it requires two essential things: a poker face and a plausible lie. I got her once, almost by accident. I took a message for her from the school principal, asking her to call in about her son. She agonized about it all day. Had he picked a fight or gotten himself suspended? It turns out he had been selected for induction into the National Honor Society. Without further ado…
I’m feeling like an April Fool, sitting here hoodwinked and bumming, too naïve to see it coming. A plausible lie, her only tool, told straight-faced, her manner cool. “There’s a policeman on the phone, a stoplight camera thing, he said…” My heart speeds up… I ran a red? With shaky hands and a sickly groan, I say hello to Sergeant Dial Tone.
The deadline for entries to the 2022 Erma Bombeck Humor Essay Contest was yesterday. They’ll accept only one essay per person, so I had to choose between two of my favorite pandemic-related pieces. Below is the one I didn’t submit:
How do I love our hometown grocery? Let me count the ways! Local produce. Freshly roasted coffee beans. Housemade tortilla chips. Twenty-piece buckets of fried chicken for $11.99. Real, live cashiers. Paper bags. It has only two drawbacks. One is the international aisle, sponsored by La Choy and Old El Paso, which lacks key ingredients for every ethnic recipe I’ve ever clipped from the New York Times. Ask the stock boy where to find umami paste and he’ll say, “Um… on Amazon?” The other is having to dodge horny widowers who think “Senior Hour” means “Tinder for the Elderly.”
A few days before Halloween, I pop in first thing in the morning to grab some necessities. I’ve forgotten 7-8 am is Senior Hour. I’m not technically old enough to shop then, but I quit coloring my hair years ago, so no one is the wiser.
In canned goods, a player in a buttoned-up cardigan pushes a cart with a marked-down grapefruit in the front that is already attracting fruit flies. “Excuse me, pretty lady,” he winks. “Are these the beans that are on sale?” He points to a tall pyramid of store-brand baked beans next to a fluorescent yellow sign that reads SALE—59¢. I nod and watch him load eight, ten, twelve cans into his cart. He clears his throat as if to continue the conversation and I skedaddle, as would any sensible woman who finds herself too close to a cheapskate who might spontaneously combust.
In the snack aisle, I’m approached by a casanova with bird legs and a low-hanging belly not fully covered by his shirt. He appears to be cheating on Lorna Doone. With Little Debbie. He leans in close and stage-whispers, “Are you gonna eat all that candy corn by yourself?”
Two more are prowling in Frozen Foods. The one wearing a flannel shirt has a stack of Hungry Man fried chicken dinners in his basket and says, for no apparent reason, “I’m a breast man.” Not to be outdone, the other one squints through his bifocals in the direction of my cart and says, “I sure would like to get a closer look at those pot pies.”
Me and my pot pies sprint to the end of the aisle and squeal around the corner so fast we almost bump into the stock boy, who’s arranging tortilla chips and jars of salsa on an endcap.
“Hey, ma’am!” he says brightly. “Did you ever find that tsunami paste you were looking for?”
I can’t tell if he’s clueless or a comedian-in-training, but it’s the best line I’ve heard all day. Hey, I might even share my candy corn.
One of the high points of my life was receiving a reply to my letter to the Car Talk Guys. It was published in the Dayton Daily News, allowing anyone who could identify me (how many Joans could there be with a 1966 VW Bus?) to have a laugh at my expense.