I THINK, THEREFORE I HAVE CANCER

At the direction of my endocrinologist, I scheduled a couple tests to make sure my thyroid cancer is still in check.  My labs were OK.  This week, I went to Radiology for an ultrasound, then Nuclear Medicine for a whole body PET scan.  The ultrasound required no special prep.  The instructions for the PET seemed fairly routine until the last few sentences.  I was distressed by the prospect of sitting around for an hour with nothing to read.  Then I was told I musn’t “think too hard.”   After the administration of the fluorosine glucose, I needed to keep
the ol’ gray matter at rest until the scanning process was complete.  PET scans locate cancers by mapping out areas of increased glucose uptake.  Because cancer cells multiply faster than normal cells, they require more glucose.  As do brains when they’re in use, meaning that rumination by the patient could potentially skew the results.  Tell me, how is a person supposed to “not think” while she lies under a scanner waiting for her fate to be decided?  So much the worse if she’s a writer whose mind churns endlessly, chasing metaphors, counting syllables, and wondering why humor rhymes with something as un-funny as a tumor.

The following poem is a VERS BEAUCOUP, French for “many rhymes.” Each four-line stanza adheres to this scheme of internal and enjambed rhyme: a-a-a / a-b-b / b-c-c / c-d-d.

  

NO READING OR THINKING WHILE THE RIDE IS IN MOTION

Nuclear Med Man schedules my PET scan, explains the plan:
OK, ma’am, fast for six hours prior, wear comfortable attire
It also requires avoidance of brain stimulation as cogitation
could be mistaken by the scanner and read as brain cancer.

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BEHIND THE CLOSET DOORS

Welcome to the Land of Unfinished Projects!  Partially strung beads, half-baked Christmas ornaments, mostly empty sketchbooks, scrap books and photo albums.  Two tattered duvet covers waiting to be patchworked into one usable one, a file box of semi-sorted medical papers, the “One-Year Bible” I got five years ago, its bookmark still wedged somewhere in Genesis.  I suspect the Road to Hell passes through this closet, albeit an unpaved section, flanked by stacks of perfectly good intentions the construction workers haven’t gotten around to laying yet.

Years ago, I started crocheting an afghan with “found” skeins of yarn from a failed sweater project.  When the “afghan” reached the size of
a super-long, super-fat scarf, I realized I’d need more yarn in order to finish it.  JoAnn’s had long since discontinued that brand and carried nothing with a similar blend of wool and acrylic.  Not to worry, folks, I found it on E-Bay:  36 brand new skeins at a price I couldn’t pass up.  The package arrived and I dived in with gusto, diligently adding a few rows every night.  Until summer came and it got too hot to work on it.
I bought an XL Tote at Dollar General, put the afghan and remaining yarn in it, and shoved it in the closet.  I unearthed it during my recent decluttering spree.  It was below zero, perfect weather to snuggle up under the wooly beast and get my crochet hook moving again.

The poem below is a LIRA.

STALLED PROJECT

Thirty skeins of bargain yarn
tucked away in a box on a closet shelf
for an afghan, thick and warm
one that won’t crochet itself
tucked away in a box on a closet shelf

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CONFESSIONS OF A MAGPIE

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to declutter my garage and my closets.  Having squirreled it away piece by piece, I was stunned by the sheer volume of stuff I had crammed onto shelves and into cupboards, drawers, cardboard boxes, and plastic totes “in case I might need it.”  There were parts from things I don’t own anymore and others I could not even identify.  Warranty paperwork from three lawnmowers ago.  Parallel printer cords, presumably from a dot matrix printer we had in the 90’s.  Most impressive was my collection of “Other-Ware,” lidded plastic food containers I feel compelled to reuse because they can’t be recycled.  I assume I inherited my magpie tendencies from my grand-mother, who saved and repurposed everything.  Margarine tubs held leftovers.  Paper bags became book covers.  Family-sized boxes from Post Toasties lined the bathroom trash can.  When she passed on, the closets in her upstairs bedrooms were stuffed to the gills with fabric.
I recognized a remnant that had been around for decades.  My mom probably had a dress made out of it, one that got handed down to all five of her sisters before it ended up in a rag rug.  When I was a child, Grandma used a scrap of that same fabric to sew a dress for my doll.
It popped up again in the quilt I received for graduation and I’d bet it plays a supporting role in some of my cousins’ quilts, too.

I took a deep breath.  I chucked glass and paper and cardboard into my recycling bin.  I filled two 35-gallon trash bags with Styrofoam and #4 and #5 plastics.  In the end, I couldn’t resist snatching back a few of the discards.  C’mon… you never know when you might need an ice cream bucket or a manila envelope or some packing peanuts…


The following “list” poem is also a KYRIELLE.  Click HERE for the rules on how to write one.

NATURE OR NURTURE?

My storage spaces overflow
with salvaged things I can’t let go
Be it malady or frugality,
my grandma’s spirit lives in me

Empty shoeboxes, tin pie pans,
mayonnaise jars and coffee cans,
tubs from yogurt and cottage cheese
My grandma’s spirit lives in me

Brittle thread and fabric scraps,
reams of paper grocery sacks,
plastic spoons from the Dairy Queen
My grandma’s spirit lives in me

I’ll brave recession or depression
horsemen, trumpets, Armageddon
armed with bread bags and ingenuity
My grandma’s spirit lives in me

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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

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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