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.

HOLIDAY DECORATING DILEMMA

Live pines and spruces come with baggage.
Add a few pets and you’ve got pandemonium.
The REAL question, dearest Shakespeare, is this:

TO TREE OR NOT TO TREE?

Tradition calls for a live pine tree,
even one that’s severely crooked
or harboring dormant spider eggs
or shoved through your front door
by a charitable neighbor who refuses
to let the Grinch steal Christmas

The firry beast is more wide than tall,
flatly refuses to stand up straight,
and sucks down drinks by the pitcher
Pyromaniac can turn two dry needles
and a half-watt bulb into a house fire
if you leave him alone for an hour

The mesmerized cat toys with shiny
low-hanging baubles and freaks out
at his own reflection, entangling himself
in the tree skirt as he flees the scene
Then he turns a footlong strand of tinsel
into sparkle-poo he cannot quite shake

The dog is eager to come to his aid
in a canine sugarplum fantasy-come-true
He sniffs and pursues the trailing treat,
sending the cat scurrying up the trunk,
bending the Star of the East due west
The tree leans past the point of no return

And… over… she… goes… TIMBER!
The cat escapes before the crash landing
The guilty-faced dog hangs his head,
enduring a scolding as the tree is righted
When the coast is clear, he helps himself
to half the fresh water in the tree stand

The vacuum cleaner arrives on scene
The dog’s eyeballs float in their sockets
but his desperate pleas cannot be heard
over the clatter and hum of the machine
After it departs, the tree’s alluring trunk
becomes the target of his lifted leg

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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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BROTHER, CAN WE HITCH A RIDE?

Hubby and I patronize various ethnic eateries in our area.  Many are hole-in-the-wall joints located in the shadiest parts of town.  One is a Mexican food truck set up in a Laundromat parking lot.  The lady can throw together an awesome Cubana torta in about twenty minutes.  Sometimes we call ahead; other times we just sit in the car and wait.  The houses are rundown — peeling paint, missing shingles, broken windows repaired with plywood.  Nearby businesses offer beer and wine, lottery tickets, payday loans, burner cells, and vaping supplies.  Lucky people drive rusted-out Chevys with loud mufflers and stereos; unlucky ones plod to the bus stop in dilapidated shoes, or push carts containing all their worldly possessions. Cardboard signs are rampant but no one gives them a second look unless they’re creative or funny.
Is this what “Making America Great Again” is supposed to look like?

RUST BELT CITY*

Shame-faced
Homeless
Addicts
Trade sex
Out by Fast-Cash, shame-faced homeless folks
beg, while jonesing addicts trade sex for dope

*This poem is a Try-burn; an earnest attempt at a Tyburn.  The extra syllables and oblique-ish rhymes make it imperfect, yet an accurate reflection of the flawed world we live in.

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ODE TO THE ROOT CANAL (JK!)

Last week, a commenter said my dental post made her “squirm” and asked that I not give the blow-by-blow of my recent root canal (which was, admittedly, pretty grisly).  So OK, let’s dish about mammograms instead.  I’ll be doing mine soon.  Last year, I chose the closest facility and totally lucked out.  Their mammography tech had worked hard to create a spa-like atmosphere:  a Keurig machine with assorted herbal teas, soft terrycloth robes, current issues of women’s magazines and the pièce de résistance, a revolutionary “variable-pressure” mammo-gram machine.  Your boobs still get flattened, but gently, as if they were sofa cushions being sat upon by the world’s politest elephant.
If they added complimentary mani-pedis, women would be beating down the door.

I’ve condensed the mammogram experience into a new-to-me poetry form.  A TYBURN is a six-line poem, four rhyming lines of two syllables each, followed by two rhyming lines of nine syllables each.  Lines 1 and 2 reappear as syllables 5, 6, 7, and 8 in line 5.  Lines 3 and 4 reappear as syllables 5, 6, 7, and 8 in line 6.  You’ll get it when you see it in action:


(Whoever thought these up is a genius!)

MAMMOGRAM IN A NUTSHELL

Undressed
Compressed
Flattest
Breathless
Left breast, right breast, undressed, compressed, trapped
squashed flat…  flatter…  flattest…  breathless…  SNAP!

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A CAVITY AND NOTHING MORE

Those with dental-phobia know exactly what I’m talking about
in this parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy classic, The Raven.

THE DENTIST

Once upon a Monday dreary, half-awake with eyes still bleary,
I grab my keys and purse and check my watch and hurry out the door
To the dentist I am heading, an appointment I’ve been dreading,
through my body, fear is spreading, knowing what she has in store
On display on a metal tray, the wicked things she has in store
Just instruments, and nothing more

Ah, distinctly, I remember Novocaine needles, long and slender
plunging deep, this way and that, injecting more and more and more
The serum slowly penetrates while anxiously my jaw awaits
the numbness I both love and hate, as my poor molar she explores
Steel probe picking, sometimes sticking, in the molar she explores
A cavity, and nothing more

Lying there fat-lipped and fretting, every pore profusely sweating,
I watch her scrutinize her weapons, choosing which will win the war
She re-checks x-rays, preps the filling, then leans in and starts her drilling,
prolonged squeals I find bone-chilling; in their wake, tooth dust and gore
Left to languish, in mute anguish, choking on tooth dust and gore
I dare not swallow anymore

Presently my will grows stronger; hesitating then no longer,
I mmmph! and yank the sleeve of the assistant who’d forgot her chore
Noticing my apprehension, she snaps quickly to attention,
suctioning with great intention all around the hole they bored
I pray, God willing, soon that filling will be in the hole they bored
Please, I cannot take much more

As measured blasts of arctic air connect with the exposed repair,
I almost fly out of the chair; Sweet Jesus, mercy, I implore!
Once the filling’s firm in place, she gently files and smoothes and scrapes
until the tooth’s the proper shape, my bite just as it was before
Grinding, fussing, re-adjusting, everything just as before
Not quite… she grinds a little more

Upon completing her inspection, she declares her work perfection
Relieved, I stretch and rub my waking jaw, where it’s already sore
Then she announces without warning, she has time this very morning
for my other tooth that needs restoring, but I’m already out the door
Car keys jingling, handbag swinging, I’m already out the door
Back next week… or nevermore

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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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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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