RETURNING TO YOURSELF

I fell in love with this meme the minute I saw it on FaceBook.
Psychology-turned-poetry.  For all those who are seeking:

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TALKING TO STRANGERS

Last month, I decided I’d take the bus to Erie, PA to visit my sister.  When I shared this plan with my husband and sister, both offered to ferry me there and back rather than allow me to throw myself to the ‘Hounds.  I shushed them and bought a ticket, determined to have an adventure.  C’mon, how bad could it be?  For a very reasonable price, they do all the driving, and you get a comfy seat, a generous baggage allowance, an electrical outlet, complimentary WiFi, and a restroom.
I had tight connections to make in both Columbus and Cleveland, so things got off to a rocky start when the bus failed to show up at the designated pick-up point in Springfield.  The Greyhound rep checked the online tracker.  The bus was running late.  Like, over an hour late.  Hubby drove me to Columbus, I made my connection, and everything went smoothly from there.  On some legs, the bus was less than half full and every rider got a row to him or herself.  On the more crowded legs, I was quick to offer up the empty seat beside me.  Most people kept to themselves; they read novels, listened to music, or texted on their cell phones.  The nap-takers came prepared with C-shaped neck pillows and eye masks.  Others were eager to strike up a conversation.  If my seatmate wanted to chat, I obliged.  These dialogues were eye-opening.  Humans are complex beings, not always what they seem:

PEOPLE OF GREYHOUND

The bus driver arrives carrying a coffee
in each hand and fills us in on the rules.
“Be considerate of others around you.
No loud music or yakking on the phone.
Hold onto the overhead safety ropes
on your way to and from the restroom.
Weapons and smoking are prohibited.
Sit when you pee.  And there’s no maid
onboard, so pick up after yourselves.”

My first seatmate is a clean-cut dude
carrying nothing but a brown paper sack.
He’s 35 with kids by three “baby mamas.”
After he got out of “the joint,”
he started reading.  All those new ideas
“shifted his paradigm” and changed his life.
He channels Maya Angelou saying,
“When you know better, you gotta do better.”
Young black ex-cons can surprise you.

In line in Cleveland, a chocolate Adonis
with shined shoes and a swank iPhone says
he’s heading back to rehab after a day pass.
“Think that vending machine takes fives?”
“Probably,” I reply.
He returns holding a bottle of lemonade
and I ask how much they ganked him for.
He snorts.  “Did you just say ganked?”
Old white ladies can surprise you, too.

My next seatmate is a pasty redhead
in faded Levis with more holes than denim.
She’ll be riding all night to get to Nashville.
She opens her shiny copper-colored handbag,
withdraws a can of Pringles,
and allows herself one diminutive handful.
I envy her restraint.
When she nods off, her head slumps forward
like a flower on a broken stem.

Within earshot, jagged snores saw through
the feather-light laughter of a guy sporting
Elton John sunglasses and bedazzled jeans.
A Barbie doll-shaped brunette is on her way
to an exam that will determine her worthiness
for a slot in a speech pathology program.
A plain-clothes nun silently prays the rosary.
An afroed teenager bobs his head in time
to the pumping bass overspilling his earbuds.

On the final leg, I meet a dark foreigner
with a gold front tooth and wicked breath.
I offer him a box of wintergreen TicTacs.
He accepts them with a gracious “Merci.”
He asks if I have children.  When I say no,
he nods gravely and replies, “God’s will.”
He teaches me a few French basics:
Bonjour.  Comment vas-tu?  Bien, merci.
“Au revoir, ami,” he grins when we part.

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HALF RHYME, FULL DISCLOSURE

I could make up some lame excuse for falling off the face of the blogo-sphere, like overdoing it during the April poetry challenge, being out of town to take care of an ailing sister, dealing with a fender bender and a leaking toilet upon my return, or having to send a buttload of cards for June birthdays and graduations, but I won’t.  The real reason is LAI‘D out below:


APOLOGY

Five weeks of stasis
in the JustJoan Oasis
on WordPress

Is a lengthy hiatus
and truly outrageous,
I confess

I felt un-loquacious;
forgive my audacious
laziness

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SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE PROMPTS

It’s the closing day of Muri’s Poetry Month Challenge, and I’m down to the final prompt:  10. Write a Blitz poem

I saved this one for last because it’s my favorite.  Blitzing is quick and easy, with a minimum of rules.  In 2017, I led a poetry seminar at the public library.  I chose this as our class exercise because a Blitz can be completed handily in ten minutes, and it’s a stream of consciousness technique where writers spontaneously reveal a lot about themselves.
I insisted that the participants not erase, but simply go with whatever came to mind.  Reading their poem aloud was optional, but most did.  It’s a getting-to-know-you exercise far superior to the kind where you tell your name, where you’re from, and your occupation.  For the Blitz below, I began with the word spring. You don’t get to choose the title;
it is derived from specific words in the poem:  (the first word of Line 3) (preposition or conjunction) (the first word of line 47).  In this case, it was a very apt sign-off at the end of a super challenge.  Thanks, Muri!

TIME FOR GOOD-BYE

Spring has sprung
Springtime
Time to get up
Timepiece
Piece of cake
Piecemeal
Mealtime
Meal ticket
Ticket taker
Ticket to ride
Ride operator
Ride it out
Outside
Out of the loop
Loophole
Loop around
Around back
Around the bend
Bend me, shape me, any way you want me
Bendable
Able-bodied
Able to reach
Reach out
Reach for the stars
Stars in the sky
Stars in Hollywood
Hollywood couples
Hollywood Squares
Square meal
Square deal
Deal with it
Deal on the table
Table tennis
Tabletop
Top Dog
Top Gun
Gunmetal
Gunpoint
Point a finger
Point taken
Taken away
Taken for a ride
Ride into the sunset
Ride a wave
Wave crashing
Wave good-bye
Good-bye for now
Good-bye forever
Forever
Now

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ANYBODY NEED EMPTY HANGERS?

OK, Muri, economy of creativity can be pushed only so far.  We’re down to singlets now.  Because I am not a clothes-horse like you, I was a little distressed by this prompt:

12.  Write a list poem about clothes.

My closet is mostly empty.  I cannot imagine owning 87 jackets.  Heck, I can’t even imagine owning 87 pairs of very sensible underwear.  If I was to write a list poem about clothing I have loved, it would be very short:

Wide t-shirts
Sweatpants
The End

So, how about a list of clothing I have hated?  I’ve been hating clothing for a long time, so that would give me plenty of material to work with. I’m also channeling Dr. Seuss, so maybe that earns me a bonus point…

CLOTHING I HAVE HATED

Any kind of uniform
Shoes that pinch my toes
Slimy polyester tops
Tights and pantyhose

Midriff sweaters, button-flys
Stripes that go sideways
Anything “bedazzled”
Or from my sewing phase

Clingy t-shirts, dowdy skorts
Spandex undergarments
Pants without elastic waists
Jackets with faux pockets

Items knit from itchy wool
Ugly bridesmaid gowns
Things that have to be dry-cleaned
Or add ten extra pounds

With all the clothing I despise,
I wonder, honestly,
if I should chuck it all and join
a nudist colony

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WHAT’S THAT NOISE?

This poem combines just two of Muri’s prompts; it’s the best I can do considering what’s left.

2.  Write a poem about the changing seasons
7.  Write a Quatern

The following piece hums happily along as winter turns to spring.  It is
a “non-traditional” quatern—a few of the syllables are missing and the line that moves through the stanzas is close but not identical.  I have added internal rhymes just for fun.  What can I say?  Creativity doesn’t always stay within the lines.

APRIL ALL ABUZZ

Humming, humming, earth is humming
Soft vibrations wake creation
Dormant grass shoots up en masse
Greening blades in countless shades

Keen homeowners start their motors
Humming, humming, engines humming
Mowers growling, tillers plowing
Jostling beds of sleepyheads

Bulbs awaken, breaking open
From each womb, a brilliant bloom
Humming, humming, flowers humming
Pistils, stamens, sweet libations

Bold prospectors seeking nectar
smell perfume and zoom, zoom, zoom
from their hives in overdrive
Humming, humming, life is humming

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THREE BIRDS WITH ONE POEM

On her blog, A Different Perspective, my friend Murisopsis laid down a challenge for National Poetry Month.  Hers is easier than some I’ve seen as it requires the completion of only three prompts per week, which are announced at the beginning and can be completed in any order.

MURI’S NATIONAL POETRY MONTH WRITING CHALLENGE

1. Write a limerick.
2. Write a poem about the changing seasons
3. Write a poem about angels (any kind).
4. Write a concrete (shape) poem.
5. Write a poem about signs of spring.
6. Write a poem about dogs.
7. Write a Quatern.
8. Write 4 haiku about favorite foods.
9. Write an acrostic poem using an emotion.
10. Write a Blitz poem.
11. Channel your inner Doctor (Seuss, Who, Frankenstein, Doolittle, Zhivago, McCoy… your choice)
12. Write a list poem about clothes
13. Write a poem using all of the following words: crow, sparrow, snow, chapeau, below, ginkgo, shallow, and solo.

The rules are simple.  Write 13 poems in 30 days (that comes out to one poem each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the month of April).  You may complete the prompts in any order.  Once written, post your poem on your blog and LEAVE MURI A COMMENT to let her know you have done so.  The point of the exercise is to have fun and stretch your poetic muscles.

OK, Muri, I figured I would start with the most difficult prompt, which I determined to be #13.  After I finished the poem, I realized it also fulfilled the criteria for #3 and #11.  So it may be a bit of a cheat, but here is my poem for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of Week One:

BIRD FEEDER

The spinster next door
a disheveled old crow
pulls on her wool cap
the season’s chapeau

fills her pockets, dons
galoshes, sets off solo
trudging ‘n crunching
over late winter snow

Her size 9 footprints,
cocksure but shallow,
stop short at a bench
by a knobbled ginkgo

Birdseed is scattered
on the ground below,
one angel’s provision
for hungry sparrows

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ORDINARY, YET EXTRAORDINARY

After my dad passed away last summer, my mom consolidated his stuff and let each of us kids choose a few keepsakes.  These items reside in a special box:  an everyday zip cardigan, a necktie, a cloth handkerchief, a Craftsman wristwatch with a leather band, a pair of clip-on sunglasses, a child-sized rosary (perhaps the one he received for First Communion), a copy of the letter I sent him for Father’s Day containing a hodgepodge of childhood memories, and the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral.  Unbeknownst to me, he had been a journaler.  In small notebooks and diaries were records of his daily activities dating back to the late 70’s.  We didn’t fight over them, but we all clamored for our share.  On days
I really missed him, I would read a few pages.  His life, though ordinary, was full of surprises.  Who knew Dad was the garbage man’s favorite customer, a closet romantic who rewired lamps and misspelled words?

One of the diaries I have is from 1986, the year I graduated from high school and went away to college.  It was interesting to read about the months right before and after I left the nest.  The following poem is a mix of summary and insights in the style of Dad’s journal pages:

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ONE LOVE POEM, MANY FORMS

In honor of Valentine’s Day, my poetry group did a writing exercise wherein each person contributed a phrase about the source of love.
A few days after the meeting, our fearless leader Steve arranged
the phrases (verbatim) into a poem which he sent to us via email:

They say that love is never lost, so why can’t I find it?
Love comes from love
Innate, hard-wired unless over-written by Fortune or Fate
a cookie pan
Love–divine–like birds, always there, even in winter
When in the midst of pouring rain, a smile warms the day

He challenged us to re-work it if we wished.  Woo-hoo!  A batch of free verse phrases crying out for structure, a form…  This sounds like a job for JustJoan!  But what form would I use?  Which one would do justice to this wide variety of ideas and images?  Naturally occurring rhymes were scarce, so I began with syllabic forms: eintou, cinquain, haiku, and diminished hexaverse.  I figured I’d hit on the right one sooner or later.
I got lucky on my first try, but kept on going.  Perhaps one of the other forms would work better.  What I found, to my surprise, is that they all worked.  Emboldened, I decided to try a couple forms with rhyme and refrain:  lai and rondelet.  With a few synonyms and a touch of creative license, these also worked.  I added an acrostic for good measure.  You guessed it, it worked.  I’d always believed that words suggested their own poetic form, but maybe verse in search of an outlet finds one in whatever form it is offered.  Without further ado, poems about love:

Eintou Septet
7 lines
Syllables 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2

LOVE IS
constant
like winter birds
warm smiles on rainy days
divine, innate, subject to Fate
never lost, hard to find
on cookie pans
from love

 

Cinquain
5 lines,
Syllables 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2

LOVE
Warm smiles
Birds in winter
Never lost, hard to find
Divine, Innate, on cookie pans
From Love

 

Haiku
3 lines
Syllables 5 / 7 / 5

HAIKU
Love is never lost
Found in smiles, birds, gods, the self
and on cookie pans

 

Diminished Hexaverse
5 stanzas, first stanza has 5 lines, each 5 syllables, second has 4 lines, each 4 syllables, third has 3 lines, each 3 syllables, fourth has 2 lines, each 2 syllables, fifth has 1 line, 1 syllable

LOVE

Around and within
Like birds, always there
even in winter
A smile that warms us
on a rainy day

Innate, and yet
subject to Fate
The divine yield
of cookie pans

Never lost
but sometimes
hard to find

Love is
born of

Love

 

Lai
9 lines with rhyme scheme a / a / b / a / a / b / a / a / b.
a lines have 5 syllables, b lines have 2 syllables

LOVE IS
The Divine revealed
Within us concealed
Innate
A cookie pan’s yield
A pouring-rain-shield
Smile-shaped
A Lost-Found ordeal
A spin of the wheel
of Fate

 

Rondelet
7 lines with rhyme/refrain scheme A / b / A / a / b / b / A.
Refrain (A) is 4 syllables, all other lines are 8 syllables, all lines written in dimeter

SOURCE OF LOVE
Love comes from love
and warming smiles on rainy days
Love comes from love
and cookie pans, and God above
Within us all, subject to Fate
It’s never lost but just misplaced
Love comes from love

 

Acrostic
The first letters of each line spell something related to the poem

LOVE
They say that love is never lost so
How come I can’t find it?
Even in winter it is there, like birds
Smiles that warm us in the midst
Of pouring rain. Divine. Innate.
Unless overwritten by Fortune or Fate
Really, it is borne on cookie pans
Chocolate Chip Love, Oatmeal Love
Ephemeral and yet, everlasting

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PRECIOUS OR PRECOCIOUS?

When I was a child, I loved staying at Grandma’s house.  I packed my suitcase and lugged it up the creaky stairway to the alcove bedroom with the framed print of the alley cat whose huge eyes glowed in the dark.  Crisp morning breezes carried the sweetness of lilacs and bird song through the open window.  Grandma didn’t play with us so much as let us tag along as she did her chores.  We clamored to help gather fallen apples for a pie, knead bread, or feed laundry through her old-fashioned wringer.  She never cut us a break when we played games.
It didn’t matter if you were six or sixteen, if you misspelled a word in Scrabble, she would challenge you and you would lose your turn.  She had the patience of Job, fielding our questions all day without a trace of irritation.  When I pointed to a ceramic jar on the bathroom counter and asked what ‘Chopper Hopper’ meant, she told me choppers were teeth and a hopper was a place to keep them.  “C’mon, Grandma, you can’t put teeth in a jar!” I said, certain she was pulling my leg.  I about flipped when she opened it and showed me Grandpa’s dentures.  At bath time, I told her I didn’t want my hair shampooed; I had sounded out the words on the bottle and was convinced that a product called ‘Hurr-ible Essence’ would smell bad.  Her rosary resided in an elegant plastic box whose lid was a statuette of the Holy Family.  Across the front it said, “The family that prays together, stays together,” which
I solemnly repeated every time I retrieved it for her.  My fascination with reading everything in her house must have driven her bananas.

GRANDMA MARGARET
(Elegy in Ghazal)

Her gentle brown eyes lit up just for me, my grandma
Her hugs were warm and soft and bosomy, my grandma

She stoked the basement woodstove, did her gardening
in a proper dress and hose—always a lady, my grandma

She turned every chore into fun: chopping up vegetables,
making beds or bread, hanging out laundry, my grandma

In card and Scrabble games, she did not pander to us kids;
she played hard, made us beat her honestly, my grandma

She churned out snickerdoodles and homemade noodles
and jars of tiny pickles, as sweet as could be, my grandma

She knew a mourning dove’s cry, made snapdragons talk,
shook down fruit for us from her apple tree, my grandma

When I tossed a Nerf ball in the toilet, talked too much, or
toppled a houseplant, she never grew angry, my grandma

On her Singer, she sewed clothing and puppets and quilts,
and hundreds of pairs of mittens for charity, my grandma

She even made me a black baby doll, hair done up in braids
Provider of my first lesson in racial diversity, my grandma

Each night, she prayed for world peace and those in need,
counting Hail Marys on her worn rosary beads, my grandma

I’m fifty and childless and live in sweatpants and sneakers,
but inside, where it counts, I shall one day be my grandma

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