SIMPLY (IR)RESISTIBLE

The Mister is planning a tail-end-of-the-season RV trip and keeps trying to persuade me to come along.  I almost get swept up in the romance of it, almost.  I know the minute I let my guard down, the RV gods will sock it to me.  One minute, we’ll be rolling along fine, the next, the brakes will overheat, a tire will blow out, or we’ll miss one effing sign and end up on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. Or we’ll hit a pothole and fail to notice that a bicycle bounced off the rack and has been dragging behind us, burning rubber and throwing sparks, for the past five miles. Once we’re settled in the RV camp, the dog will piddle in our bed, the coin-op washing machine will steal my quarters, and the unique mini-lights that were supposed to make our RV easy to find after dark will turn out to be so popular they’re on half the campers in our section.

The following are parodies of The Passionate Shepherd to His Love by Christopher Marlowe and The Nymph’s Reply by Sir Walter Raleigh:

THE PASSIONATE RV-ER TO HIS LOVE

Come away with me, my love,
asphalt below, blue skies above
We’ll roll along in our RV,
off-the-grid and schedule-free

We’ll snub the boring Interstate
and motor where adventure waits
Roads less traveled, scenic paths,
fate our compass, fortune our map

We’ll eat at local Mom and Pops
like breakfast dives and donut shops,
have a second or third coffee
and ask the waitress what to see

Claims to fame, local landmarks
Waterfalls, amusement parks
Town museums, covered bridges
Winding trails up mountain ridges

Evenings, we’ll enjoy sunsets
from lounge chairs on the upper deck
and share a bottle of Chardonnay
as waxing night meets waning day

Then go inside and watch TV
or pull the shades and make whoopee
in the flickering light of a 12V bulb
Come away with me, my love

HER TRAVEL-WEARY REPLY

If traveling in our RV
was comfortable and trouble-free
and as idyllic as you describe
I’d hit the road with you, my love

Clear blue skies are unsurpassed
but sometimes storms are forecast
We’ll have, without a reservation,
no power, water, or dumping station

Country roads are picturesque
but oft confound the GPS
And a breakdown out in Boonie-Ville
is sure to dampen my goodwill

Over time, I’ve grown immune
to the lure of booths at greasy spoons
The trailer door is just so wide;
our asses might get stuck outside

Hauling lounge chairs to the deck
and down again is a pain in the neck
And sunsets pale, however stellar,
in a haze of OFF! and Citronella

If gypsy life possessed the charm
and easiness of Home Sweet Home
my hermit self might then be moved
to hit the road with you, my love

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Below are links to my RV series from 2016:
RV-ING FOR BEGINNERS
INTERMEDIATE RV-ING
ADVANCED RV-ING

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WHEN TWO WRONGS MAKE A RIGHT

A friend of mine recently arranged a reunion for her family.  She is in her 50’s and has not seen some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins since childhood.  My own story is similar.  I went to college, got married, and moved away.  Funerals were the only time we got together, one aunt remarked.  So she took it upon herself to plan a reunion, a cook-out at the state park.  Now, before you read what happened and get all judgy, I’d like to make two statements in my own defense:  At the time, I was slightly nearsighted (20/30, or maybe 20/40) and I was not wearing my glasses.  Also, the pavilion where ‘my people’ were located wasn’t one of the ones readily visible from the parking lot.  So, here goes:

THE BEAN SALAD PEOPLE

We hadn’t gotten together in years
unless funerals count,
so we made plans for a family reunion
at the state park.

Nobody under the picnic pavilions
looked familiar to me,
but we had been away a long time
and people change.

I spotted my mom tending the grill,
her backside anyway—
wispy brown hair, polyester shorts
that came to her knees.

I grabbed the bean salad I’d made
and on the way over,
my husband and I were intercepted
by a fat, jolly lady.

She took the bean salad from me.
“This looks delicious!”
she gushed, setting it on the table.
She pulled us into a hug.

I couldn’t place her… a great-aunt?
One I’d never met?
She said to load up our plates and
make ourselves at home.

I walked toward the grill instead
to say hello to mom,
but it wasn’t mom, just some lady
shooing flies with her spatula.

I knew the answer to my question
before I even asked it.
“Is this the Nieset family reunion?”
She shook her head.

Hubby’s bemused glare said it all:
Jesus H. Christ, Joan,
you don’t even know your own family?
WHAT?  THE?  HELL?

I went back to get the bean salad.
A few scoops were missing.
“Leaving so soon?  You just got here!”
The jolly lady again.

“I goofed,” I said, my cheeks burning.
“Wrong pavilion.”
“Couldn’t you at least stay for a photo?”
She was persistent.

Dumbfounded, we agreed, and they
gathered around us,
everyone smiling and saying “cheese”
as the camera flashed.

After she’s gone, Jolly Lady’s children
will peruse her albums,
wondering who we are and how the heck
we ended up in their photo.

They’ll check the scrawled notation
on the reverse side and
where our names should be, it will say
The Bean Salad People.

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QUATERNALLY YOURS

Hooray!  A new form!  A QUATERN has sixteen lines, divided into four quatrains.  Each line has eight syllables; there are no rhyme or iambic requirements.  The poem’s first line is a refrain.  In the second stanza, the refrain drops down to the second line.  In the third stanza, it drops down to the third line.  In the fourth stanza, it serves as the final line.

Anyone who writes poetry has family, friends, and coworkers who are eager to alert her to potential subjects.  They will point at a blooming dahlia, a birthday boy blowing out his candles, a striking sunset, even a multi-car pile-up on the highway and exclaim, “There’s a poem for you!” as if artistic inspirations were somehow transferable.  I used to pick up the ball and run with it…  I would drag my pen across the page, spend a couple hours thoroughly frustrating myself, and wonder why such a fantastic idea was going nowhere.  Here’s the reason:  if you can’t see the poem, you can’t write it.  And looking is not the same as seeing.

THERE’S A POEM FOR YOU

Someone says, “There’s a poem for you”
while pointing at a butterfly,
writing in cursive in the sky,
verse in need of a translator.

My ego snaps at the bait when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you,”
keen to decipher the insights
in those ephemeral contrails.

But the monarch’s secrets belong
to the seer alone.  So when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you,”
avert your eye, stay your pencil.

You well know the glittering voice
of his muse will turn to pyrite
in your ear so pay no mind when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you.”

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LETTING IT ALL HANG OUT

I’ve always taken a “comfort first” attitude toward clothing.  I supposed I would outgrow my disdain for pantyhose and other constricting items as I moved into adulthood, but just the opposite has happened.  I will contend that bras have their place, but they’re the first garment to be shed when I bust (pun intended!) through the front door.  My maiden voyage on the “SS Foundation” occurred some years ago.  I attended a work function wearing a “body shaper” under my dress.  Like magic, it sculpted the area between my boobs and my knees into an hourglass.
I couldn’t breathe, but that turned out to be the least of my problems.  During the 15-minute intermission, every woman in attendance made
a beeline for the restroom – a veritable throng of ladies clamoring for two measly stalls.  Wrestling oneself in and out of a body shaper takes however long it takes, even if a full-blown mutiny is in progress on the other side of the stall door.  That day, I decided foundations have their place, too.  Like the trash can.  Or the donation bin at Goodwill.  (You’d be surprised what they will accept, as my friend Murisopsis discovered.)  Without further ado, two lingerie parodies:  Bras à la Emily Dickinson and Foundations à la Dorothy Parker:


BRAS

Bras are the things with tethers
stitched to sturdy cups
that work together eighteen hours
to hold our hooters up

Lending them support and form,
defying gravity,
feats they managed for themselves
when we were in our teens

Still, they feel like prison walls
around our lady shapes,
who, yoked in airless Spandex yearn
for evening’s sweet escape

 

FOUNDATIONS

Shapers pinch you;
Corsets can pop;
Girdles cinch you
but make muffin-top.
Comfort waists aren’t;
Spandex snaps;
Fuck undergarments;
I’d rather look fat.

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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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WHAT’S GONE AND WHAT ISN’T

My father passed away on June 24th.  When death strikes somebody near and dear to our hearts, it’s a wake-up call, a siren song urging us
to make the most of the hours we have left.  I’m pushing fifty. What’s done is done. Certain windows of opportunity have closed. The roads not taken are destined to remain so.  What we’ve surrendered might never be recovered.  Yet, all is not lost.  Each of us carries, in a secret pocket deep inside, an insurance policy made of neglected hopes and dreams, waiting to be cashed in.  Desires that, with time and nurture, might enrich our lives, bring us joy, and set us on the path to purpose and fulfillment.  What is it that you long to do?  What are you waiting for?  Life is a limited-time offer!

LOST

Under each public roof
there’s a box or a drawer
of things we’ve misplaced
and return looking for

But childhoods foreshortened
and innocence lost
are among precious items
you won’t come across

No good advice spurned
or time carelessly squandered
inhabit dark corners
where car-less keys wander

No vanished virginity,
old flames, or lost loves
court bohemian scarves
and forlorn single gloves

No obsolete friends
will be spotted consorting
with vagabond wallets
and cellular orphans

No scandalized ethics
or compromised trusts
wear google-eyed sunglasses
covered in dust

No frittered good health
or sharp minds gone astray
jostle musty umbrellas
from past rainy days

But ignored inner selves
and raw talents untamed
and sweet dreams once forsaken
might yet be reclaimed

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SUMMER IN A BIG MASON JAR

Summer is officially here.  And I officially cannot wait for autumn to arrive.  Some people love it when it’s 90 degrees, but not me.  I wilt.  I have zero fondness for sweating, dehydration, heat exhaustion or blinding unsuspecting paramedics with the glare off my shockingly white legs.  Three things make this sweltering season worthwhile:

1.  line-dried laundry

2.  ripe, homegrown tomatoes

3.  SUN TEA
(Monotetra)

With summer rays, I disagree
Their scorching personalities
are fraught with wild intensity
Indoors I flee, indoors I flee

But leave a jar of water first
with four sachets of tea submersed
their amber secrets to disperse
For these I thirst, for these I thirst

No boiling kettle can entice
like long, slow sun served over ice
and wrapped around a lemon slice
Pure paradise, pure paradise

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RORY STRIKES AGAIN!

Definitely a more challenging roll this time:
Pyramid
Water under the bridge
Footprint
Daisy
House
High rise
Lightning
Evil shadow
Frown

Juliana frowned and wrapped herself tighter in the afghan.  There was nothing good on TV – reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, NCIS, This Old House, a documentary about the pyramids, something about reducing your carbon footprint.  She wasn’t sick exactly, but it was easier to fib about having the flu than explain the real problem to her boss.  Some days she just couldn’t go out.  Six months of therapy hadn’t turned her phobias into water under the bridge.  No, they still nipped at her heels, following her like a sinister shadow.  The remains of last night’s dinner sat on the coffee table, stray bits of rice, wooden chopsticks, and two soggy cartons from China Moon.  Their sesame chicken was only so-so, but they delivered.  Next to the mess was an orange gerbera daisy in a green ceramic pot, a present from her little sister, Kate. Juliana envied Kate; she was so fearless.  She didn’t freak out during lightning storms.  She rode public busses and never worried about germs.  She lived in a high-rise—an efficiency apartment on the 17th floor!—and rode in the elevator every day.  Kate sat on her balcony, for God’s sake, sipping on Chardonnay and enjoying the view from a height that would have made Juliana break out in hives.  Dr. Sillman kept suggesting medication, and Juliana kept coming up with excuses not to take it.  But was this the way she wanted to spend her life?  Lying to her boss, flipping through the channels, eating bad sesame chicken, and staring at that annoying daisy?

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DUMP ‘EM INTO THE ZEN BLENDER

Remember the old Reese’s commercial where the guy with the peanut butter slams into the guy with the chocolate and something brilliant is born?  A while back, I selected two favorite books from my bookshelf, Maybe, Maybe Not  by Robert Fulghum and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls  by David Sedaris.  I collected five random phrases from each and arranged them into a ‘found’ poem, alternating their distinct voices in what became an intriguing, almost philosophical discourse.

THE SOUND OF
TWO MASTERS YAPPING

Ten minutes later,
I was back and we picked up
where we had left off

I did not intend
to lose him to promotion

“Gentlemen, you will remember
that you sent us to the great king,”
I told them,

but I felt uncomfortable
and sidelined by what I knew
of left-wing politics

and a fog of anxious dread
began rising
out of my spiritual swamp

Was he the bravest of them all
or wasn’t he?

A displaced person literally
does not know which way is up,
because there is no true north

I remembered experiencing
the same disquieting sensation,

however, I couldn’t give up;
too much was on the line

“It’s your loss,” I called,
and a great cloud of steam
issued from my mouth

(The regular type is Fulghum, and the italics are Sedaris.)

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POETRY IN 10 NOT-SO-EASY STEPS

On the heels of last week’s poem about processes, I have to wonder who first came up with the idea of mapping them out.  Like, writing down a recipe or the rules for playing a game or basic instructions for assembling furniture from IKEA.  All of these are good, helpful things, but once we got going, we couldn’t seem to stop.  Like toddlers who can’t resist sticking things in electrical outlets, scientists (and middle managers) can’t resist sticking things into equations and flowcharts, where they’re boiled down, logically explained, objectively measured, improved upon, and turned into a boring PowerPoint presentation.

One of our poetry class assignments was to define our poesy process (the method we use to create poems).  I wrote a paragraph every week on this topic.  In it, I offered specifics about each piece, where the idea had come from and how I’d developed it, but no general rule or magic formula ever emerged.  Years later, the “explanation” of my process became its own poem, a Ghazal:

HOW A POEM HAPPENS

A memory or feeling or notion strikes me, igniting the words.
Muses storm inside my head; a bolt of lightning, The Words!

I take down dictation as from a faucet splurting and gushing,
pen racing to keep up; in my slapdash handwriting, the words

I look at them, climb inside of them—seeing, hearing, feeling;
searching for a common theme underlying, uniting the words

I type, cut and paste, rearrange phrases, shuffle them around,
restoring order to the chaos and somehow, righting the words

They choose a form—sestina or sonnet, limerick or free verse
I guide and slide them into it, finessing, not fighting the words

They coalesce into a poem, a fragile but complete work of art
I read it aloud, ears alert for glitches while reciting the words

Revision, my relentless quest for the perfect among the good,
is well-meaning but a bit overzealous, often smiting the words

I stop myself tossing them into the trash, where they belong.
After a walk or a nap, they’re brilliant and exciting, the words

I wield my thesaurus, more gently this time, until fit and flow
merge into music; I chant it to myself, delighting in the words

Instruments of the Great Creator, my hands, my pen, my voice
God’s Gracious Gift gives back to Him, wellspring of the words

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