POETRY 4220: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Friends often ask how I became a poet.  Did I write poems as a child?  Was I a promising writer in high school?  Did I major in Literature or Creative Writing?  No, no, and no.  I was an architect of wooden blocks and Tinkertoys as a kid.  My Senior English teacher (and ACT) indicated that language was my weakest subject.  I did not begin my writing life
in earnest until I retired from nursing in autumn 2014.  Due to budget constraints, offerings at the local university were limited.  Poetry was the only writing class available and I grudgingly agreed to give it a try.

The first assignment had me in a dither: “With This Is Just To Say in mind, write a short poem based on something mundane.”  Like what?  Dust?  Chicken noodle soup?  My life?  A mere two feet away, Froggie hung from my pencil jar sending an urgent psychic message, Oh! Oh! Pick me! Pick me!  He’d cost $1.99 at a Maine gift shop called The 45th Parallel.  He’s small, olive green, and has hooked front legs that allow him to hang from things.  A couple weeks after I got Froggie, hubby kidnapped him from my desk and hid him.  I found him hanging on the edge of a bowl in the kitchen cupboard, a fun surprise.  So I hid him for hubby to find, peeking out from a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet.  Moving him around became our little “I love you” game.  On several occasions, Froggie got knocked off his perch and broke a leg, but each time, we mended him with a few drops of Super Glue and the game continued.  Froggie became the subject of my (very mundane) poem, which was returned to me marked “Purely delightful!” I will be forever grateful to my teacher for not writing, “Yikes!  Is Dr. Seuss on the loose?” which would have stopped me in my tracks.

ODE TO SUPER GLUE

My ceramic frog
is a great little token
of our Maine vacation
and that’s no jokin’

He fell a few times
and has two legs broken
but with a bit of Super Glue,
he keeps on croakin’

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NOTES FROM CHEMISTRY 101

Our garden contains an eclectic mix of things.  It started as nine herbal seedlings purchased from someone with a gorgeous plot of herbs and
a hand-lettered sign.  But my husband, the gardening equivalent of Tim the Toolman Taylor, felt the need to expand our potted paradise into a PROJECT involving a wagon wheel design, backbreaking labor, gravel, sand, rustic brick walkways, etc.  Through experimentation, we learned what will thrive here:  weeds, oregano, echinacea, white sage, rhubarb, tomatoes, hot peppers, squashes disguised as melons.  The Kiwis were an impulse buy, I admit, but we’re fond of exotic fruit trees, and Lowe’s garden centers wouldn’t sell them in Ohio if they couldn’t survive here, right?  The Chicago hardy fig from QVC is living proof – it has wintered over well and bears amazing fruit in years when the growing season is long.  So, He-Kiwi and She-Kiwi are healthy and leafy and gorgeous, but their interest in hooking up with each other (or even exchanging phone numbers) is zip, zilch, nada.  The rest of the garden, however, is a Dirty Dancing extravaganza.  And Free Love calls for Free Verse, does it not?

A NON-COUPLE OF KIWIS

Who knew that Kiwi trees
are not self-pollinators
but He-Kiwis and She-Kiwis?
Into the cart, one of each,
a blind date hastily arranged
in the garden center aisle

Seven years of proximity
have resulted in nothing but
a maddening fruitlessness
Across the arbor, we shackle
their magenta-veined palms
in a Bonsai-style romance

A picture-perfect twosome
schooled by birds and bees
yet chaste as brother and sister
until the sparks start flying…
I find her tendril under a fig leaf
fondling its hanging fruit

He is more promiscuous,
feeling up the black currant bush
and caressing a frond of asparagus
while leaning sideways to grope
the ample bosom of a carmine rose
bedecked in tiny pearls of dew

If attraction could be conjured,
I would be cooing over Grand-Kiwis
Instead, I ponder hybrid oddities,
grapples and pluots and tangelos,
picturing how they came to be,
the love children of sly passions

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GWAWDODYN: IT IS WHAT IT IS

The GWAWDODYN (gwow-dahd-in) is a Welsh poetry form.  The name is about as awkward as a flamingo wearing a kilt, but the rules made it sound like a limerick in disguise.  It is not.  Each quatrain contains two rhymes; the A rhyme occurs at the ends of lines 1, 2, and 4, and the B rhyme is all in line 3, at the end and embedded somewhere (anywhere!) in the middle.  The strict syllabic requirement (9-9-10-9) defies the use of triads, which keeps the lines from waltzing along the way a limerick does.  A morning spent attempting to hammer it into my preconceived mold led to nothing but frustration.  Grouchily, I tossed it aside.

At noontime, as I lifted a ripening avocado off the counter, the first
line came to me.  Avocados, as you know, are the crown jewels of the produce department and I buy one every week regardless of the price.  When it blackens a bit and yields to a gentle press, I pile some Garden of Eatin’ blue corn tortilla chips on a plate and turn that bad boy into the most sublime lunch known to (wo)man:


GREEN GODDESS

Avocado, soft beneath my thumb
mashed with lime and salt you shall become
a heavenly dip for earth’s corniest chips
Guacamole, to you, I succumb

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IF YOU SEE THIS BUS A-ROCKIN’

VW BUS

Our Sundial camper is a rare beauty, a vintage ’66 VW Bus sporting an aftermarket Freedom America bubble-top.  Her fold-down Z-bed, which serves as sofa, dinette seating, and full-size sleeping quarters, came to us with a new mechanism, cushion, and cover, attesting to the action it has seen over the years.  In the “up” position, the Z-bed is the back seat. Our dogs curl up on it when we travel and occasionally share space with a hitchhiker, if we are inclined to pick one up.  At dinnertime, we cozy up beside the little Formica table for grilled cheese and tomato soup, hot off the camp stove.  In the evenings, we add a few throw pillows, kick back, and listen to some tunes, play Scrabble, or stargaze through the skylight.  People always want to know if it’s a magically delicious setting for romantic action.  The short answer is yes.  Well, sometimes.

I’ll never forget our first foray in that Sundial.  We picked her up in late summer and towed her cross-country on a U-Haul dolly that threatened to self-destruct if we dared exceed 52 exact miles per hour.  Creeping through flat, boring Kansas in the far right-hand lane of the interstate was near-hypnotic, and became fully so after darkness fell.  We made a plan:  when the driver got tired, the passenger would take over.  As the night wore on, our shifts behind the wheel grew shorter and shorter.
At 3 am, eyelids drooping, we spotted a gift from God–an open parking lane at a roadside rest area.  Breathing a sigh of relief, we sandwiched our tiny rig between a FedEx truck and another eighteen-wheeler.  As I made my way to the restroom, the FedEx driver zipped past me with a spring in his step that ought to be illegal at that hour.  When I returned, both he and his truck were gone.

I folded down the Z-bed and spread out our sleeping bags.  With the camper’s rear wheels jacked up on the trailer, the mattress was far from level, but it would do for the night.  I opened the side windows, praying for a brisk cross-breeze to relieve the pent-up heat and humidity.  The light scent of the mister’s aftershave wafted through the screen as he approached.  He flipped off the dome light and we snuggled between the puffy layers of nylon.  He had just slipped his hand into a magically delicious location and whispered something about “christening” the new Bus when the growl of a diesel engine announced the arrival of a newcomer.  The driver rattled his cargo into the space vacated by the FedEx truck and within seconds, an overpowering stench muscled its way into our nostrils.  We sat bolt upright, nearly knocking ourselves out on the low ceiling.  We frantically cranked the windows shut, but it was no use.  The unforgivable odor of that truckload of hogs hung in the air, suffocating any notion of romance or shut-eye.  Hot ideas and heavy eyelids be damned, we needed to relocate, and pronto.  Sadly, our dreamy rendezvous with the Z-bed would have to be postponed.

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