AU CONTRAIRE, L’ DOCTEUR!

“Sweets are gonna kill you,” my doctor is fond of saying.  Thanks to my friend Darlene, I will go to my next appointment armed with proof to the contrary.  Darlene and her husband had enlisted their son’s help to move stuff from their old house to their new one.  The son stopped on the way over and impulse-bought a fresh strawberry pie, the berries swimming in sugary red goo, smothered beneath a blanket of whipped cream.  They trucked load after load to the new house.  It was late, but Darlene wanted to go back and stay the night; she had to meet with a potential buyer early the next morning.  Her son talked her out of it by tempting her with the pie, which looked too yummy to resist.  Midway through dessert, their cell phones began buzzing with warnings from the National Weather Service.  Had it not been for that strawberry pie, Darlene would have been caught in the eye of the storm.

OWED TO STRAWBERRY PIE
(diminished hexaverse)

They had spent all day
moving heavy loads
from old house to new.
She wanted to go back
but her son stopped her.

“What about the
strawberry pie?”
he said. “Let’s sit
and have a piece.”

While they ate
and talked, a
tornado

flattened
their old

house.

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ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS

This week, a flawless organic California avocado is $2.89 at our local grocery.  They are out of season now, so prices will get worse before they get better.  I buy an avocado every week, regardless of the cost; they are essential to my happiness.  Last year, when Kroger put them
on sale for $1.00 each, I raced over to get some, visions of guacamole dancing in my head:

AVOCADO
a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s Eldorado

I browse a while
In the produce aisles
Wheeling up and down rows
Hot on the trail
Of a massive sale
On my favorite, avocados

Where fleshy fruits
In dark green suits
Should have lain in neat rows
To my chagrin
Is an empty bin:
SOLD OUT of avocados

A stockboy’s near
So I bend his ear
Will there be more tomorrow?
He hurries back,
His handcart stacked
With crates of avocados

Over the mountain,
Over the moon,
I feel like I’ve won the Lotto!
At a buck apiece,
I’ll feast all week
On my stash of avocados

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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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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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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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CODE 88 BROWN

I’ve been a subscriber to The Sun Magazine for several years.  They print honest, moving, socially relevant pieces you won’t find anywhere else.  And it’s ad-free!  One of my goals was to appear in their Reader’s Write column and at long last, I have succeeded.  My short story on WEIGHT was one of about 20 chosen for publication in the March 2019 issue:

CODE 88 BROWN

I worked at an amusement park one summer in college, helping people on and off a small rollercoaster.  The ride’s safety equipment consisted of a seatbelt and a bar that snapped down over riders’ laps.

With heavier riders, securing the safety bar was a challenge; even the loosest setting pressed uncomfortably into their thighs.  Really large people simply couldn’t ride and no matter how tactfully I broke the news, it caused a scene.  Some would plead with me to keep trying; others would yell obscenities or threaten to have me fired.

I had only thirty seconds to get one group of riders out and the next buckled in, so I was always on the lookout for large people.  If a patron had trouble navigating the turnstile due to size, the worker stationed there announced “Code 88” over the PA system, followed by the color of the patron’s shirt.

One busy afternoon, a Code 88 Brown alerted me to an obese man on the platform.  Although I’d warned him about the tight fit, he stuffed himself into the narrow seat and egged us on as two, then three of us, struggled to lock the bar.  When it clicked into place, the man howled in pain, but there was no time to investigate:  a full train was waiting to pull up and unload.

The operator hit the button and the brake released.  While that poor man continued to wail, we pushed the train out of the station, then high-fived each other for a job well done.  When Mr. Code 88 Brown returned at the end of his ride, he was still screaming.  Our efforts to secure that safety bar had broken his leg.

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IN A MIDWEST MINUTE

Ready for a new and intriguing form?

The EINTOU SEPTET is an African-American poetry form with seven lines adhering to the following syllable count:  2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 6 / 4 / 2.

One recent afternoon, it began to rain.  The air, chilled by a brisk north wind, dropped from just above freezing to just below in less than sixty seconds as the plummeting droplets shimmied in the chaotic current.  The result?

PRESTI-DIGI-PRECIPITATION

With the
deftness of a
magician, the wind waves
a sheet of sparkling sleet over
the rain; when he whisks it
away, ta-daaaa!
Snowflakes!

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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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RUNNING ON EMPTY

Did you ever have one of those days when everything runs out at the same time?  It starts small, say, squeezing the final splurt of shampoo from the upside-down bottle.  (The conditioner will be fine; Universal Law dictates that the conditioner will never run out on the same day
as the shampoo.)  You lather up using a sliver of soap.  Grab the last Q-tip.  Force the final unwilling blob of toothpaste from the anorexic tube.  The depressurized remains of the styling mousse comes out in
a puddle instead of a lump.  You whisk the last kleenex from the box, dump the crummy, bottom-of-the-barrel kibbles into the dog’s dish, and resort to scraping the mayo jar with a spatula.  The spotty brown banana you were saving for lunch has gone missing.  The kitchen light bulb blows out.  You pour your coffee directly into the cream carton and swish it around to get the last little bit.  Your prescription needs
to be refilled.  You have two bills to mail and only one stamp.  As you update your to-do list, your pen runs out of ink…

I’ve condensed this phenomenon into a LIRA.  As you may recall, a Lira is a five-line poem with syllabic rules (7-11-7-7-11) as well as a scheme of rhyme and refrain (a-B-a-b-B).

WHAT’S IT GONNA BE?

Empty toilet paper core
A running-out day is what it’s gonna be
No clean socks in my top drawer
Two-crust sandwich, car on “E”
A running-out day is what it’s gonna be

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BEHIND THE CLOSET DOORS

Welcome to the Land of Unfinished Projects!  Partially strung beads, half-baked Christmas ornaments, mostly empty sketchbooks, scrap books and photo albums.  Two tattered duvet covers waiting to be patchworked into one usable one, a file box of semi-sorted medical papers, the “One-Year Bible” I got five years ago, its bookmark still wedged somewhere in Genesis.  I suspect the Road to Hell passes through this closet, albeit an unpaved section, flanked by stacks of perfectly good intentions the construction workers haven’t gotten around to laying yet.

Years ago, I started crocheting an afghan with “found” skeins of yarn from a failed sweater project.  When the “afghan” reached the size of
a super-long, super-fat scarf, I realized I’d need more yarn in order to finish it.  JoAnn’s had long since discontinued that brand and carried nothing with a similar blend of wool and acrylic.  Not to worry, folks, I found it on E-Bay:  36 brand new skeins at a price I couldn’t pass up.  The package arrived and I dived in with gusto, diligently adding a few rows every night.  Until summer came and it got too hot to work on it.
I bought an XL Tote at Dollar General, put the afghan and remaining yarn in it, and shoved it in the closet.  I unearthed it during my recent decluttering spree.  It was below zero, perfect weather to snuggle up under the wooly beast and get my crochet hook moving again.

The poem below is a LIRA.

STALLED PROJECT

Thirty skeins of bargain yarn
tucked away in a box on a closet shelf
for an afghan, thick and warm
one that won’t crochet itself
tucked away in a box on a closet shelf

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