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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BEAUTY AND THE ARCTIC BEAST

As the Polar Vortex blew through the northern US and Canada, it did lots of ugly things.  Furnaces struggled, unable to keep pace with the chill. Car batteries gave up the ghost. Intrepid outdoorsmen got frost-bite and ass bruises.  But it also delivered the season’s fluffiest snow, air-brushing it into nooks and crannies in impressive drifts, swirls, and arcs.  One screen on our bay window, raised in autumn and forgotten, was hovering at half-mast when the storm hit.

The poem is a VERS BEAUCOUP; click on link for the rules of the form.

POLAR VORTEX SAND ART

By Winter’s hand, sparkling bands of flurries land
in a grand curve between the window and screen,
surreal scene, framed but fleeting, fast-retreating
snow tears greeting the low-slung rays of midday

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WELCOME TO THE 50+ CLUB

Remember all those years you sat at the Kiddie Table,
wishing you were old enough to join the adults?
Well, here’s a list poem of what you were missing.
(Don’t forget to request your 10% AARP discount!)

THE OVER-FIFTY MENU

Whine choices:
My Back Hurts
My Knees Hurt
My Feet Hurt

Complimentary Reading Glasses

Appetizer:  Lactaid or Rolaid

Entrée:  Extra-Virgin Colonoscopy

Side:  Mashed Boobs

Vegetable:  Nighttime Pees

Dessert:  Dental Crumble

After-dinner drink:  Flu Shot

(Is it too late to go back to the Kiddie Table?)

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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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RAI SNG THE POE TRY BAR SKY HGH!

Poets think differently than other people.  They see possibilities everywhere.  I have used as the basis of my own pieces:  80 common clichés, idioms, lists, random phrases from books, lines from rejection letters I’ve received, even a page from Consumer Reports magazine with the non-poem words blacked out.  I’ve done a poem shaped like a bathing suit.  A poem in the style of a Psalm.  A recipe poem.  Acrostic, Anagrammatic, Epitaphic, Palindromic, ABCDarian and more.  But this guy blew me away.  The following clip from New York Times Magazine contains samples from Nasser Hussain’s new book, SKY WRI TEI NGS, poetry comprised entirely of airport codes.  You know, those three-letter designation codes (LAX, JFK, etc) they fasten to your checked luggage so it ends up (hopefully) at the same destination you do.  The author compares a poem made from airport codes to “a model of the human genome built out of Legos.”

Last week, crapping Christmas logs and caganers in Nativity scenes in Catalonia, this week, airport code poetry.  Every week, a new beehive puzzle to share with my sister.  Alas, my NYT’s subscription has come
to an end — the price quadruples after 12 weeks at the “teaser” rate.

SOL ONG NYK TMS
TEN BKS FOR THE
SUN DAY PAP RIS
TOO FKN XPN SVE

(Any resemblance of these letter groups to actual airport codes is completely coincidental.)

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HOW ABOUT SOME TUTTI FRUTTI, CUTIE?

How do you spell Tutti Frutti, anyway?  The Internet was of no help, it just added six more possibilities to the three I was already grappling with.  If anyone knows for sure, I’m all ears.

Did you ever wonder about the origins of Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo?  Me either, but thanks to a recent article in The New York Times Sunday magazine, I’m going to guess he is a direct descendant of a Catalonian Tió de Nadal.  I’ve summarized this Old World Christmas ritual in a Vers Beaucoup, a poetry form whose name means “many rhymes.”  A Vers Beaucoup is made up of one or more quatrains that adhere to the rhyme scheme below:

Line 1:  a – a – a
Line 2:  a – b – b
Line 3:  b – c – c
Line 4:  c – d – d

TIO DE NADAL

Blows my mind, odd traditions I find outlined
in the NY Times.  Kids abroad feed a “pet log”
then flog it with sticks until it magically shits
nougats.  Scatological sugarplums, yum yum!

As if this custom was not weird enough, the article went on to report that Catalonian Nativity scenes often include a “caganer,” a defecator inconspicuously squatting somewhere in the vicinity of the crèche.  He is believed to bring good luck by fertilizing the earth.  As if the ox, ass, sheep, and camels don’t produce enough manure!  If you know of any other bizarre holiday traditions, please leave me a comment.  I would love to hear about them.

ALL IS CALM, ALL IS BRIGHT

For most of the year, I’m perfectly happy with shadows and darkness.  But the approach of winter solstice awakens in me an almost primal need for illumination, as evidenced by my recent household projects.

Setting up our life-sized crèche, powered by six extension cords:

Installing the Lego lighting kit in my little VW Bus.
Oooooh!  Ahhhhh!
Headlights, tail lights, signal lights, and overhead cabin lights:

Decorating my lime tree with a garland of twinkling stars:

Writing another Lanturne:

NOEL
Light
Shining
Luminous
In the Manger
Christ

 

But light can be metaphorical as well as literal.  I drove out to Dollar General yesterday to buy some non-perishable items for our Little Free Pantry.  I had already shopped there three times during the week and accumulated three coupons for $5 off a $25 order, all redeemable 22 Dec 18, not to be combined with any other coupon or offer.  I pushed my cart through the grocery aisles tossing in beans, vegetables, fruits, canned meats, pastas, sauce, macaroni and cheese, and jars of peanut butter.  Then some holiday items: cinnamon, ginger and vanilla, poultry seasoning, Stove Top stuffing, cranberry sauce, cookie mixes, frosting and sprinkles, hot chocolate and marshmallows.  I knew I had gone way over budget and briefly considered putting all the frivolous items back, but a voice inside assured me that I would be able to afford everything.

Just one register was open.  The clerk was hesitant to let me divide my order into three piles and use all three coupons, but she relented when I explained the food would be donated to charity.  Checking out took a while.  The line grew longer and the customers behind me grew antsy.  As the clerk scanned the final pile of groceries, a man in the line leaned toward me, held out his credit card and said, “This is the card you’ll want to use for that, Miss.”  It was the most expensive of the three piles, well over $50.  I asked if he was sure.  “Positive,” he smiled.  He’d overheard enough to figure out what I was doing and wanted to help.  The rest of the customers nodded approvingly, their irritation forgotten.  Greetings and blessings were exchanged and afterward, we parted ways, each of us touched by the glow of goodwill, carrying it like a torch into the cold, gray afternoon.

Merry Christmas!  May you all be bearers of the light.

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DAHL-LA-LA-LA-LA, LA-LA-LA-LA!

After a modest investment of time this morning—chopping onions, peeling and dicing fresh ginger, measuring spices—a pot of red lentil soup bubbles on the stove and the kitchen smells amazing.  So there will be something hot, healthy, and delicious to dig into when I finish frosting my cookies.

SING A SONG OF SOUP

Lentils, onions, ginger, spice
make a hearty soup in winter
Raid the pantry, peel and dice
Lentils, onions, ginger, spice
Let it simmer, steam some rice
Grab a bowl and call it dinner
Lentils, onions, ginger, spice
make a hearty soup in winter

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POEMS FOR WINTER SOLSTICE

LANTURNE seems the right form for this week; lantern-shaped verse to feed our longing for light as the days grow ever shorter.  A Lanturne has five lines, with a syllable count of 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 1.  Line 1 is a noun; line 5 is a synonym or metaphor of the noun.  According to some sources, the middle lines should describe the noun; others allow more carefree use of the syllables.

 

 

PICK ONE

Dime
smaller
than nickel
in Grandpa’s hand
Trick

 

THERAPY

Dog
Nosey
Attentive
Empathetic
Shrink

 

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