A FAMILIAR ROUTINE?

Cats are an effective deterrent for all kinds of evil spirits:
demons, spooks, hobgoblins, ghouls, phantasms, specters,
wraiths, hellions, banshees, revenants, even those dreaded
Fahrvergremlins.  They haint afraid of no ghosts!

WATCH CAT 
(sevenling)

In corners
In the pantry
On the basement stairs

She hisses
She hackles
She claws the empty air

Performing her daily exorcize

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SPOTLIGHT ON BODILY FUNCTIONS

A call of nature occurred as I was driving on the small state highway between my folks’ house and the interstate. It’s mostly farm country, but you pass through one or two towns large enough to have a gas station.  Back then, the bathrooms were locked up and you had to go inside to get the key.  And everything closed at 10 pm; if it was later than that, you were out of luck.  That was my situation, one growing ever more dire.  Fearing the untimely appearance of a state trooper,
I turned off on a smaller road to take a quick whiz.  It was pitch dark
and I figured if I was careful, no one would be the wiser:

STOPPING TO PEE
ON A MOONLESS NIGHT

Whose fields these are I do not know
It doesn’t really matter though
My bladder has begun to twitch;
without relief, it might explode

On a county road as dark as pitch,
I brake just inches from the ditch
Hop out and feel my way around
then slide my jeans below my hips

Against the chrome, I hunker down
A sizzling jet-stream hits the ground
and thunders on non-stop until…
Is that a snake? That hissing sound?

Astonished by my speed and skill,
I launch myself right off the grille
and activate a motion light
whose million watts upon me spill

As jeans and bum I re-unite,
I wonder if some farmer might
have seen the moon that moonless night
have seen the moon that moonless night

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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

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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TYGERS AND BOOGERS, OH MY!

I was cleaning out my Word files this week and I found a booger.  Well, not a literal one, but a poem about one I started and never finished.  It was back in the winter when my obsession with a particularly stubborn nasal stowaway apparently crisscrossed with my parody-writing phase.  With my sincerest apologies to William Blake for (again!*) desecrating his masterpiece, Tyger Tyger, I present:

BOOGER, BOOGER

Booger, Booger, hanging tight,
whistling in my nose all night
What mere mortal strategy
could challenge thy tenacity?

Beneath what distant septal shelf
dare thee to affix thyself,
clinging like a stalactite
although I blow with all my might?

In what winding turbinate
dost thou manage to evade
random gusts of high-speed breeze
generated when I sneeze?

In what cranny, high and dry
liest thou in smug safety
above the wet and wild onslaught
of saline from my Neti pot?

When the gauntlet I threw down
and probed my finger all around
How didst thou wriggle or retreat
and deftly outmaneuver it?

Booger, Booger, hanging tight,
to thee I shall concede the fight
for what mere mortal strategy
could challenge thy tenacity?

*My first parody was entitled LEGOS, LEGOS

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LOOPHOLE IN DARWIN’S THEORY

My husband calls these little guys primordial bugs because they look ancient, but how such daft, clumsy creatures could have survived for eons is a mystery to me.  They sneak into the house with the single-mindedness of a deprived dieter attacking a frozen cheesecake, but once inside, they completely lose sight of their agenda, so I’ve never been able to figure out what their end game is.  Far as I can tell, they bumble around aimlessly and crash into things, or plant themselves directly in harm’s way and wait for disaster to strike.  Their mortality rate is 100%, minus the ones I capture and deport back to the Great Outdoors.  (Unless they make it back inside, which they’re probably trying to do at this very moment…)  Survival of the Dim-witted-est?

INVASION OF THE STINK BUGS
(Ghazal)

On autumn’s cusp descend the hated stink bugs
Google calls them brown marmorated stink bugs

Keen to enter, they slink around screens and wait
for windows to be opened, motivated stink bugs

Others breach the threshold in my laundry basket
affixed to socks and towels, calculating stink bugs

and fall victim to heat-finishing; discovered in the
dryer lint screen, corpses of dessicated stink bugs

Most zoom around aimlessly, surviving headfirst
collisions… bumbling, uncoordinated stink bugs

only to perish in the toilet bowl, beneath a shoe,
at the paw of a torturous cat, ill-fated stink bugs

One daring fellow lands on my toast, legs mired in
citrus flypaper, an orange marmaladed stink bug

The lucky ones succumb to old age, lying on their
backs on the tile, pathetic, leg-waving stink bugs

What is the purpose of these pungent Kamikazes?
Explain to me, please, why God created stink bugs

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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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WHEN THE GEARS START SLIPPING…

I’m going to start this post by saying that my mom is fine, as sharp and independent as ever.  Because when I read this poem for people, they approach me afterward and tell me they’re sorry to hear that, or share stories about their own caregiving struggles.  These lines are a patch-work of tales told to me by my patients, family, friends and neighbors about the challenges and heartbreaks of looking after someone with dementia.  This poem (a triolet series) goes out to all the caregivers:

CAREGIVER’S SONG

Mom pulls on a ratty sweater,
the one she will not go without,
even in the hottest weather
Mom pulls on a ratty sweater
I save my breath and don’t upset her
unless her pants are inside-out
Mom pulls on a ratty sweater,
the one she will not go without

Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
She just stares blankly at her plate
Ignoring vegetables and meat
Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
But how her eyes light up for sweets,
a dish of ice cream, piece of cake
Oftentimes, Mom will not eat
She just stares blankly at her plate

Mom makes lively conversation
with an empty kitchen chair
Since her mind went on vacation,
Mom makes lively conversation
with her long-deceased relations
as if they were sitting there
Mom makes lively conversation
with an empty kitchen chair

Mom pores over family pictures,
staring at a toddler’s face
Who is this?  she points and whispers
Mom pores over family pictures
A childhood me with my big sister
Precious memories gone, erased
Mom pores over family pictures
staring at a toddler’s face

Mom can’t follow TV shows,
but ogles actors shamelessly,
certain they are men she knows
Mom can’t follow TV shows,
Bosses, neighbors, high school beaus,
not Hollywood celebrities
Mom can’t follow TV shows,
but ogles actors shamelessly

At night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
and wanders from her cozy bed
Unsure where she is, I think,
at night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
A spectre in pajamas pink
shuffles through the house instead
At night, Mom barely sleeps a wink
and wanders from her cozy bed

I care about Mom’s happiness
and sit with her around-the-clock
Despite exhaustion, tears, and stress
I care about Mom’s happiness
No time to breathe or decompress
or take a walk around the block
I care about Mom’s happiness
and sit with her around-the-clock

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AN ARACHNID AND HER TAJ MAHAL

‘Tis the season for critters.  It’s been unseasonably warm this week and the bugs are back in force.  Big, bumbling “carpenter” bees pollinating things, or maybe building a hive around the corner.  Primordial-looking stink bugs emerging from winter hibernation.  House flies.  Fleas.  And the most dreaded of all creepy-crawlies, ticks—Lyme disease, anyone? Around this time last year, or maybe two years ago, a tiny spider began constructing a home in my potted lime tree.  Is there such a thing as a “carpenter” spider?  Every day, I’d think about moving her outside, but then, I’d see the artistic additions she had made to her web overnight and change my mind.  This cascade poem is for her:

SCHEHERAZADE

An eight-legged Scheherazade
spins a new yarn every night,
slowly building a silken castle
that delights and fascinates me

Early summer, she crossed my
threshold, took up residence in
a potted plant, and pled to stay,
an eight-legged Scheherazade

She sleeps all day, striped legs
folded neatly around her body,
while her industrious alter ego
spins a new yarn every night

On a solid foundation, she adds
an east wing, a towering turret,
and a series of flying buttresses,
slowly building a silken castle

Her keen architectural prowess
is revealed in the morning sun
a shimmering, glittering genius
that delights and fascinates me

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