WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS

Seems anything can be a sport these days, even things that require little or no physical skill or talent.  Like chess.  Or poker.  Since I suck
at chess and cannot control my “tells,” I need the Olympics to hand
out gold medals in something for which I possess natural aptitude:

THE BEDROOM SPORT  —  Sonnet
(No, not that one!  Geez, get your mind out of the gutter.)

If snoring were to be declared a sport,
a competition all night long would rage
Chuffing Chortle versus Thunder Snort,
contenders on the PosturePedic stage
Pure monotone or wild cacophony?
Scoring-wise, it doesn’t really matter,
but uvulation is compulsory;
the judges gotta hear them tonsils rattle
A deviated septum raises hell,
like a double chin or lying on your back,
all guaranteed to boost your decibels
and jerk the needle on the seismograph
But in the end who wins, you or your mate,
depends on who’s asleep and who’s awake

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

Advertisements

WHEN IN ROME, DO AS THE NEW YORKERS DO

Hubs and I spent a year in Rome.  Rome, New York.  It’s upstate, where winters are long and cold and snowy.  Our rental house was four floors: full basement, first story, second story, and full attic, square footage that costs a fortune to heat.  To save money, we decided we’d tough it out and not turn the furnace on until November 1.  Such an idea might pass for reasonable in Ohio, but up there, it means watching TV in long johns and a sweater.  Under a winter coat.  Wearing mittens.  I became passionate about baking, a good reason to turn on the oven and linger in the kitchen.  Precision tasks like knitting or carving a pumpkin had to be done a bit at a time so I could stuff my hands in my pockets or wrap them around a mug of hot tea to restore flexibility.  Somehow, we did it, and the memories flood back every autumn when I turn the furnace on, wrinkling my nose at the dusty-stagnant air rising from the vents.

Last year, the furnace went wonky on us.  It would run one cycle (five minutes), then quit.  It wasn’t the pilot light, so we did the only other thing we know to do:  turn off the power, wait a couple minutes, and turn it back on.  I’m told it resets the circuit board, similar to rebooting
a balky computer.  When that repeatedly failed, we called “THE GUY.”  Between diagnoses and returning to install parts and troubleshoot, he made seven trips.  We were hopeful at the outset, but soon, each new repair was regarded with wariness.  Would it work for a day?  A week?
A month?  Were we going to freeze to death before Mr. HVAC actually got it fixed?  The VILLANELLE, with its endless loop of repeating lines, seemed the perfect vehicle to drive this story home:

FURNACE VILLANELLE

My furnace has an intermittent glitch
And inexplicably, the heat goes out
I toggle off and on the power switch

the sole maneuver in my bag of tricks
I call the man and say, without a doubt
My furnace has an intermittent glitch

He reassures me HVAC is his niche
and pencils me onto tomorrow’s route
I toggle once again the power switch

Hot air escapes the vent, a little titch
The motor cycles once, then peters out
My furnace has an intermittent glitch

Qualified to sort out what from which,
the man returns with toolbox, skills, and clout
replaces flame inducer, pressure switch

unblocks a drain, addresses every hitch
It runs like new a month or thereabout,
then crashes from an intermittent glitch
I toggle off and on the power switch

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

SPRING FORWARD, AUTUMN BACK?

Is it Autumn or Fall?  My husband and I have debated the name of the season for the past thirty years.  To me, fall has always been fall.  My parents said so; when you’re a kid, they’re the authority on everything.  That hit a snag when I started school.  Apparently, the last two meals
of the day are lunch and dinner, not dinner and supper, as I had always been told.  My lunch box was proof.  My parents disputed this claim.  Back in the day, when they walked ten miles, uphill both ways, to the one-room schoolhouse, they had carried dinner pails.  Ask a teenage Wal-Mart clerk where to find “dinner pails” and you’ll get a blank look, the same one you get if you inquire about canning jars or clothespins.  The 80-year-old greeter will know what you’re after; if he’s a wise-ass, he’ll snicker and direct you to the Olsen’s Mercantile in Walnut Grove.  Fall, however, was validated on the bulletin board in our classroom.
F-A-L-L, spelled out in big, official-looking letters and surrounded by a mélange of red, orange, and yellow construction paper leaves.  If a nun said it was so, it was so.  Nuns were demi-gods, after all.  Fall remained rock-solid, unchallenged until I married a man who insisted “autumn” was the correct word for the season between summer and winter.  If that were true, it would be the dinner/supper dilemma reincarnated, not to mention poor Sister Josetta having to suffer in purgatory, her penance for lying.  The librarian hedged, saying it could go either way; fall was simply vernacular for the “proper” term, autumn.  Not one to lose sleep over being proper, I used fall and autumn interchangeably
for years without really thinking about it.  Then I did think about it:

FALL BY THE WAYSIDE

Mankind was damned
by its fall from grace;
we fall off the wagon,
we fall on our face

We fall ill but we never
fall into good health
We fall into ruin,
not winnings or wealth

We fall blindly in love,
a free fall of the heart,
falling out, then away,
‘til it all falls apart

We fall over ourselves
but fall short of success,
falling victim, it seems,
to our own eagerness

Fall down on the job
or fall prey to a scam
and you’ll need to resort
to your fall-back plan

Pleas fall on deaf ears
A joke might fall flat
Fall too far behind and
you’ll fall off the map

We fall on our swords,
take the fall for a friend,
doomed to fall ‘til the big
curtain falls at the end

Connotations of gloom
are surely the reason
that AUTUMN, not FALL,
is my favorite season

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

SHIFTING THROUGH THE SEASONS

Autumn moves in like an inexperienced driver, one who hasn’t quite mastered the gears that make the earth revolve smoothly around the sun.  He’s wary at first, but soon barrels ahead into sweater weather, only to backpedal into summer for two sweltering weeks in October.

Speaking of which, my nephew and niece turned sixteen and started driving this year, stirring up memories of my own early experiences behind the wheel.  I can appreciate why parents aren’t especially eager to ride shotgun while their progeny learn to navigate the open road.  Mine sent me to a two-week driving school.  My first in-car instructor was a very pregnant Hispanic woman.  It terrified me to realize three lives would be at stake if we crashed.  The teacher, blithely unaware
that I was a driving virgin who had never even backed the family Buick out of the garage, told me to “adjust the seat and mirrors” while she popped back inside to use the restroom.  She returned to find me ill-positioned and completely perplexed.  How was I supposed to adjust the seat if I didn’t know what I needed to be able to do or reach?  How could I adjust the mirrors when I didn’t know what I should be able to see?  She sighed; it was gonna be a long two hours for both of us.  We went no faster than 35 mph, circling clockwise, then counterclockwise around the block, me struggling to keep the car between the lines as
I practiced stops and right and lefthand turns.  I must have scared the poor kid right out of her; I arrived the next morning to find she’d been replaced by an easygoing hillbilly with long hair and a scraggly beard.  On the entrance ramp to the highway, he slid one foot out of his man-sandal and pulled it up onto his lap. “Turn your left blinker on,” he said.  He barely glanced up from the callus he was picking as I merged, white-knuckled, into the speeding traffic.  I learned to drive a stick shift in my boyfriend’s Mercury Lynx.  It was surprisingly easy; I can recall only one embarrassing incident.  I was first in line at a traffic light, waiting to make a left turn.  When I got the green arrow, I manipulated the pedals as I had been taught, but somehow, I stalled the car.  I tried again and again, to no avail.  Traffic backed up behind me.  Angry honks filled the air.  Stymied, I fingered the shifter, realizing as the light turned red that the car was in third gear.  More precisely, jammed in third gear.  When the light changed, I punched the gas and held on as the engine caught and the car bucked and jerked around the corner.  I managed to coast safely into a parking lot and use a pay phone to call my boyfriend, who dispatched two of his mechanically-inclined uncles to the scene.  Mark and Rich were kind enough to get me un-jammed without any snickers or snide remarks.  At least, none that I ever knew about.  It was a life lesson in having patience with beginners… both ourselves and others.

AUTUMN DRIVE

Another one of Earth’s boys
must have gotten his learner’s permit
Suddenly, the orbital ride
is downright jerky and unpredictable
Stalling out and stopping,
creeping cautiously through summer,
then punching the gas,
tossing equinox headlong into solstice,
only to jam on the brakes
and throw the spin of the entire planet
into a wobbling reverse
Trees blush in embarrassed empathy
Earth sighs and sets his jaw;
they will tackle parallel parking later

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

RE-ENTRY INTO FELINE SERFDOM

Questions arose last week about whether Peaches is my first cat, my first foray into feline serfdom.  Actually, he’s not, but I’m a bit out of practice.  We took a kitten into our apartment in 1989, then another, then another…  For the past 28 years, we’ve had at least one and as many as six cats fleeing the vacuum cleaner and winding themselves around our legs.  Runty Caper set the house record for longevity, 23 years.  When she could no longer outrun our puppy, she began playing dead, proof that an old cat can learn new tricks.  As the cats aged, we moved them into a (baby) gated community in a spare bedroom that slowly devolved into a nursing home and then a hospice.  I thought my cat years were over, but during a brisk end-of-autumn walk, our dog flushed Ginger out of a corn field.  Ginger was a decidedly outdoor cat who roamed the neighborhood in weather so inclement it would stop even the postman.  She played with the local skunks, showed up every morning for breakfast, knocked on windows using her paw when she wanted to come in.  It was a new experience for me, a veteran indoor cat person.  When Peaches moved in next door, he was smitten with Ginger and followed her everywhere.  He was heartbroken when we lost her and moped around for weeks, hanging out in our flowerbed pining for her, and eagerly accepting any affection we would give him.  The neighbors (renters dismayed when the owner put the place on the market) closed on a new house last week, one near a state highway.  Afraid for Peaches’ safety and unable to keep him inside all the time, they asked if we’d be willing to take him.

Peaches was docile and affectionate.  His people said he loved being indoors, probably because it was such a rare treat.  Our new adoptee slept in his basket, basked in the sunny bay window, quickly mastered his litterbox, and licked the gravy off his canned food before finishing the tidbits.  Despite ample opportunities for escape, he never tried to make a break for it.  I figured it would be simple to transition him to a house cat.  WRONG.  On Day 5, he did a runner.  Why would he take off on such a cold, drizzly day?  I can only guess he spied his name on the calendar next to the word vet.  I spent the better part of the morning trying to find and capture the scrappy bastard, completely forgetting that since orange cats possess limited ability to camouflage, Peaches would have spent the last two years honing his feline Ninja skills and familiarizing himself with every nook and cranny in the neighborhood.  Trust me, opposable thumbs are no match for a combination like that.

Below is my account of the experience told in SHADORMA, a Spanish form with six lines and the following syllable count: 3 / 5 / 3 / 3 / 7 / 5.  Any subject is fair game; no final shift or turn is necessary.  Shadorma may be written as a single stanza or a series.

INSIDE A CAT’S HEAD

Keen instincts:
On scheduled vet day,
he slips out
the dog door,
reveling in freedom and
his own cleverness

Detailed maps
of the neighborhood:
every fence,
every tree,
spaces under decks and sheds
where he can lay low

Strategy:
outfox, outrun, hide
until owner
surrenders,
slogs home in muddy rain boots,
cancels appointment

Internal clock:
wait fifteen minutes,
reappear,
purr sweetly,
and insist the whole thing was
just coincidence

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

POETRY 4220: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Friends often ask how I became a poet.  Did I write poems as a child?  Was I a promising writer in high school?  Did I major in Literature or Creative Writing?  No, no, and no.  I was an architect of wooden blocks and Tinkertoys as a kid.  My Senior English teacher (and ACT) indicated that language was my weakest subject.  I did not begin my writing life
in earnest until I retired from nursing in autumn 2014.  Due to budget constraints, offerings at the local university were limited.  Poetry was the only writing class available and I grudgingly agreed to give it a try.

The first assignment had me in a dither: “With This Is Just To Say in mind, write a short poem based on something mundane.”  Like what?  Dust?  Chicken noodle soup?  My life?  A mere two feet away, Froggie hung from my pencil jar sending an urgent psychic message, Oh! Oh! Pick me! Pick me!  He’d cost $1.99 at a Maine gift shop called The 45th Parallel.  He’s small, olive green, and has hooked front legs that allow him to hang from things.  A couple weeks after I got Froggie, hubby kidnapped him from my desk and hid him.  I found him hanging on the edge of a bowl in the kitchen cupboard, a fun surprise.  So I hid him for hubby to find, peeking out from a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet.  Moving him around became our little “I love you” game.  On several occasions, Froggie got knocked off his perch and broke a leg, but each time, we mended him with a few drops of Super Glue and the game continued.  Froggie became the subject of my (very mundane) poem, which was returned to me marked “Purely delightful!” I will be forever grateful to my teacher for not writing, “Yikes!  Is Dr. Seuss on the loose?” which would have stopped me in my tracks.

ODE TO SUPER GLUE

My ceramic frog
is a great little token
of our Maine vacation
and that’s no jokin’

He fell a few times
and has two legs broken
but with a bit of Super Glue,
he keeps on croakin’

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

JUST GRIN AND BARE IT

I have a doctor’s appointment coming up this week, which brought to mind a piece I did a while back for an online writing class.  It ended up on the slush pile because the word count exceeded the limit. Though loosely based on real-life events, this story-with-a-twist is fictional:


When the smiling medical assistant calls my name, I get up and follow her down the hallway to the examination room.  I don’t know about you, but all that smiling gets on my nerves.  Why do they always have to be so damn cheerful as they lead you to the slaughter?  The paper-covered table awaits.  She gestures and says,“You know the drill, everything off from here down.  Dr. Shwarma will be in to see you in a minute.”

I remove no more than absolutely necessary, stack my things neatly on the pink pleather chair in the corner, and sit down on the table to wait.  The doctor will not be in “in a minute.”  That’s just another glib lie they tell you.  The air conditioning is chilly and I wish I had one of those little mini-sheets to cover up with.  I guess modesty isn’t as big a deal where Dr. Shwarma is from, but she’s generally pleasant and competent, so I keep my complaints to myself.

In due time, Dr. Shwarma arrives.  She gives three quick raps on the door, then squeaks it open before I have a chance to holler Come in.  “Gooood morning,” she sings through the entryway, as she grabs my chart and flips it open. “You are here today for check-up…” she says.
I can’t tell if it’s a statement or a question, but I can see clear into the hallway behind her so I answer in the affirmative, hoping she’ll come inside and shut the door before the whole clinic gets a free show.

“Well then, let’s have a look.”  She slides on the half-glasses hanging from a silver chain around her neck and begins her exam.  I stare up at the ceiling and try to escape to my happy place, but her near-constant commentary is distracting.  “The anatomy here is a bit unusual,” she says, touching the weird part with her gloved finger.  “It’s nothing to worry about, just something to be aware of.  If function is affected or
it bothers you,” she prattles, “there is surgery that can be done.  Does
it cause you any problems?  Any pain?”

“Nope,” I say curtly, hoping she’ll get the hint and move things along.

“You have a small lesion here that should come off.  I can remove it for you now, if you like.  That would save you another trip, yes?”

There is nothing I would like less, but I nod.  I don’t want to have to come back.  She fills in a few blanks on a consent form and has me scribble my signature at the bottom.  She roots around in a nearby drawer, grabs a sterile package, and peels it open.  She withdraws a throwaway scalpel and leans toward me.  I scoot back.  “You’re just going to cut it off, just like that?  Shouldn’t you numb it first?”

“There are no nerves here,” she says. “It will not cause any pain.”

My mouth is dry and my heart is racing.  I brace myself as she presses the blade against my flesh but she’s right, I don’t feel a thing.

“This,” she says, holding up a thin slice of tissue, “is a benign thickening caused by overuse and friction.  You do not have much cushion there, between the surface and the bone.”  She rolls her little stool backward and discards her gloves in the trash can.  “As long as there is no pain or bleeding, you may resume your normal activities today.”  Then, almost as an afterthought, she points and says, “You might want to trim those.  Or perhaps treat yourself to a professional job.  Summer fashions can be quite revealing, as you know.”

I am beyond embarrassed.  The minute the door clicks shut, I yank my socks and shoes back on and grab my purse.  On the way out, I stop to schedule my follow-up.  Though the dog days of August are still in full swing, the clerk’s desk sports a Halloween-themed bowl of corn pads next to a crafty wooden sign that says “Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet.”  Podiatry humor.  Ugghhh.

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

PLUNGED INTO A NIGHTMARE

Have you ever felt like you were being trolled after making an online purchase?  The Cosmos knows not only what you bought, but a host of other things you might like, based on that choice.  It suggests items to complement or enhance it.  It pops up helpful messages like “Others who bought this item also bought X, Y, and Z.”  This may be tolerable if you’ve purchased something innocuous, like a socket set or a sleeping bag or a case of dog food.  But if it was something of a more personal nature, look out.  It could trail behind you like an embarrassing ribbon
of toilet paper stuck to your heel.  Read and heed this cautionary tale:


BUYER BEWARE

The Squatty Potty© that I bought
as a gag gift for a friend
unleashed a virtual onslaught
of gear for my rear end

A screen popped up before I had
completed my transaction
suggesting, for my favorite lad,
a kit called Master Crapsman©

The link connected in a snap
to a site for Poo-Pourri©
Just spritz the bowl with Trap-a-Crap©
and drop a deuce, scott-free!

They also thought I might enjoy
a box of quilted Shittens©
an ill-conceived commercial ploy
for wet wipes shaped like mittens

I cleared my cookies straightaway
suspecting double-cross
but onward marched the shit parade
like a wave of chocolate sauce

T-shirts with “I pooped today!”
stamped across the chest,
padded seats and chrome bidets
and fiber supplements

Free shipping on a new commode,
a plumbing tour de force
designed to handle outsize loads
in just one flush, of course

I phoned the website to demand
they cork their brown assault
They claimed it was out of their hands
Alas, the system’s fault


But accept this free Emoji Turd
a download for your phone
in case you’re at loss for words
or texting on the throne

I found a clever use for it,
a survey from their end
I awarded them five little shits

and pushed the key to SEND

The last laugh wasn’t mine, I fear
I found myself upstaged,
Joan LIKES the Squatty Potty! smeared
across my FaceBook page

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

NOTES FROM CHEMISTRY 101

Our garden contains an eclectic mix of things.  It started as nine herbal seedlings purchased from someone with a gorgeous plot of herbs and
a hand-lettered sign.  But my husband, the gardening equivalent of Tim the Toolman Taylor, felt the need to expand our potted paradise into a PROJECT involving a wagon wheel design, backbreaking labor, gravel, sand, rustic brick walkways, etc.  Through experimentation, we learned what will thrive here:  weeds, oregano, echinacea, white sage, rhubarb, tomatoes, hot peppers, squashes disguised as melons.  The Kiwis were an impulse buy, I admit, but we’re fond of exotic fruit trees, and Lowe’s garden centers wouldn’t sell them in Ohio if they couldn’t survive here, right?  The Chicago hardy fig from QVC is living proof – it has wintered over well and bears amazing fruit in years when the growing season is long.  So, He-Kiwi and She-Kiwi are healthy and leafy and gorgeous, but their interest in hooking up with each other (or even exchanging phone numbers) is zip, zilch, nada.  The rest of the garden, however, is a Dirty Dancing extravaganza.  And Free Love calls for Free Verse, does it not?

A NON-COUPLE OF KIWIS

Who knew that Kiwi trees
are not self-pollinators
but He-Kiwis and She-Kiwis?
Into the cart, one of each,
a blind date hastily arranged
in the garden center aisle

Seven years of proximity
have resulted in nothing but
a maddening fruitlessness
Across the arbor, we shackle
their magenta-veined palms
in a Bonsai-style romance

A picture-perfect twosome
schooled by birds and bees
yet chaste as brother and sister
until the sparks start flying…
I find her tendril under a fig leaf
fondling its hanging fruit

He is more promiscuous,
feeling up the black currant bush
and caressing a frond of asparagus
while leaning sideways to grope
the ample bosom of a carmine rose
bedecked in tiny pearls of dew

If attraction could be conjured,
I would be cooing over Grand-Kiwis
Instead, I ponder hybrid oddities,
grapples and pluots and tangelos,
picturing how they came to be,
the love children of sly passions

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!

BEYOND PING-PONG-PANTOOKAS

When we think of poetry, we think of rhyme.  Of course, poems need not rhyme, but it’s a connection our brains have been programmed to make, starting with Jack and Jill, Patty Cakes, and The Wheels on the Bus, and continuing through the classic poetry we read in high school.  That said, it seems strange that today’s editors rebuff rhymed poetry, regarding it as juvenile or unsophisticated; some magazines explicitly request that rhymed verse not be submitted.  Because serious poets shouldn’t sound like Dr. Seuss or the inside of a Hallmark card, right?  But skillfully executed rhyme shows mastery of both the art and craft of poetry.  Think Shakespeare, whose sonnets would not be nearly as compelling if they did not rhyme.  (Nor would they be sonnets, for that matter.)  Free verse may allow you to say precisely what you wish, but using words already in your lexicon to express yourself doesn’t force you to stretch, learn, grow.  Throw in a rhyme scheme, however, and a poem becomes a puzzle, one that compels the writer to seek out new words or reconstruct his lines.  All I am saying, is give rhyme a chance.

RHYME: JAM IT OR SLAM IT?

It seems, at this time, that a new paradigm
regards free verse as the height of sublime
a and b past their prime, worth nary a dime
Editors snub, wash their hands of the crime

Pained, drained by a scheme’s ball-n-chain
how well can a writer’s voice be retained?
He’ll soon ascertain if he retrains his brain,
he could gain one insane lexiconic domain

Rhyme may prove hairier, thornier, scarier
but get off your derriere, break the barrier
Consult a thesaurus, your synonym carrier
harvest fresh words, the more the merrier

Have a comment?  Click HERE to share it!