SINCE WHEN ARE U-TURNS LEGAL?

Last week’s comments about my self-check nightmare were generally sympathetic.  Others hate them as much as I do, but we figure they’re here to stay whether we like them or not, so we had better move into the 21st century.  I’ll be the first to admit, technology is great when it works.  But if you overuse it, it becomes a crutch that could be yanked out from under you at the worst possible moment.  Don’t believe me?

Try using your cell phone to call for help when your car breaks down in Amish country.

Try downloading a Kindle book while vacationing on a remote Lake Erie island.  You’ll end up on the library steps with your fingers crossed, just like every other camper who didn’t bring a paper book.

Try using your flashlight app after the power has been out for two days.

Try missing your exit and letting your GPS lead the way:

THE ADVICE NOT TAKEN*

Two roads diverged on the interstate
the traffic tight and moving fast
Ol’ Tom-Tom warned a bit too late
to queue up left instead of straight;
we missed our exit, blew right past.

“Recalculating,” Tom intoned
as he my waywardness discerned,
then silent went my chaperone
until his mocking monotone
advised an “authorized U-turn.”

I traveled on a mile or two,
past gravel U’s with glaring signs
prohibiting my passage through,
yet Tom-Tom didn’t have a clue,
repeating, twice, his standard line.

I shut him off and heaved a sigh
knowing, from that moment hence,
on map and wits should I rely
‘cause Tom, although a clever guy,
is not equipped with common sense.

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*A parody of Robert Frost’s THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

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THE POWER OF ENOUGH

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the football event known for its multi-million dollar commercials.  In my mind, commercials are best avoided; they are designed to make us want things, to plant seeds of discontent.  If you’re like me, your closets and cupboards and garage shelves are overflowing with items you used once or twice, then wondered what possessed you to buy them.  True liberation lies in freeing yourself from “thneeds.”

ENOUGH

The work-n-spend treadmill
can make it quite tough
to decide for oneself
just how much is enough

Some extra square footage,
a big SUV,
a fancier cell phone,
each touted as key

to a blissful existence,
a short-lived reaction
when this or that thing
doesn’t bring satisfaction

Less really is more,
like freedom from worry
Coffee at sunrise
with no need to hurry

Homegrown tomatoes
red-ripe from the vine
The fresh smell of laundry
dried on the clothesline

Meals made from scratch
Time for reading and play
Communing in silence
with nature each day

The treadmill can’t offer
what money can’t buy;
she’ll tease and she’ll tempt
but you needn’t comply

Turn off her commercials
Stop buying her stuff
Instead, count your blessings;
they’re more than enough

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WELL, KISS MY FACE!

I’m into writing parodies, of late.  I read a classic poem and into the hopper it goes, where the Muses can do what they do best — muse.  Within a day or two, they toss out an idea.  I don’t know if it will work until I try it, thus my Word files are full of false starts.  Sometimes, the Muses fixate on a particular poem.  That’s what happened with Emily Dickinson’s Hope is the Thing with Feathers.  I have already composed three parodies of it; I’m ready to move on.  But another inspiration hit while I was taking a shower.  SOAP.  “Soap is the Thing that Lathers.”  Now, where is a poet supposed to go with that?  The BAR, of course!

Soap is the thing that lathers
into IVORY suds
whose soft CARESS conceals the ZEST
with which it captures crud

The BASIS of this clever trap
is an age-old recipe;
not LEVERS, DIALS or IRISH SPRINGS,
just simple chemistry

LUXurious or LAVA tough,
it reigns from COAST to COAST
Our SAFEGUARD in this dirty world,
the humble bar of soap

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DREAMING OF A GREEN CHRISTMAS

Friday evening, I took a break from my Christmas prep to attend the Solstice poetry reading sponsored by our local Land Trust, an agency dedicated to preserving our little corner of the planet.  Communing
with fellow tree huggers and listening to verse inspired by the natural world was a sharp contrast to our society’s lack of environmentalism, especially during the holiday season.  I’ve put together a short list of “green” ideas.  If each of us did JUST ONE of these things, we would save millions of trees and eliminate tons of trash.

Forego cutting down a tree.  If Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a tree, invest in a high-quality faux tree.  Better yet, purchase a live pine (with the root ball wrapped in burlap) and plant it after the holidays.

Consider sending e-cards instead of paper ones.  Or postcards, which are less expensive to mail and don’t require an envelope.

Patronize secondhand shops.  They keep stuff out of landfills and offer quality books, DVDs, toys, clothing, furniture, and more at a fraction of the retail price.  You might find one of those lighted ceramic tabletop trees, like the one your grandmother used to have… another potential solution to the tree dilemma!

Instead of purchasing a new item, have an old one repaired.  When the zipper in my favorite purse went off its track, I paid the local shoe and leather shop to replace it for me.  My purse is now as good as new.

Ask Santa to bring you a reusable coffee mug and carry-out kit (a tote bag with two or three washable leftover-sized containers) and make a New Year’s resolution to use them, instead of throw-away coffee cups and restaurant to-go boxes.

Reuse cardboard shipping boxes and packing materials (like air pockets and bubble wrap) for any packages you need to mail.

Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper.  I’ve wrapped our family’s gifts in the same dozen bags for at least five years.  Our dogs and cats prefer gift bags, paws down, to wrapping paper and Scotch tape.

Gift card holders can be re-used, too.  Leave the inside and envelope blank and write the To: and From: and your message on a slip of paper or a post-it note.

Use a trash bag and a ribbon instead of a sack specially designed for oversized or odd-shaped gifts.  You’ll need one for clean-up anyway.

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ALL WORKED UP OVER NOTHING?

After last week’s post, I googled “funny epitaphs” and found these.

      Uh-oh…

Dozens of fellow hypochondriacs echoed Tippy Gnu’s sentiment:

Two-thirds of my long nursing career was spent in an office, caring for Internal Medicine patients that ranged in age from AARP to elderly.
A lot of that time was devoted to phone calls, including the triage of various symptoms.  It’s a fact that when you hit a certain age, bodies start to go haywire.  Your eyes go wonky; suddenly, your arms aren’t long enough to read a menu.  You forget things.  Your energy flags.  You get dizzy.  Your heart flippy-flops in your chest.  You get winded walking your normal route.  Your knees ache.  Your back aches.  You develop constipation.  You can’t sleep.  Etc.  It could be nothing, or it could be something.  I ended up scheduling a lot of appointments to
let the doctor sort it out.  Many of the patients consulted online sites like symptomchecker.com or diagnoseme.com before they called me.  (Who says older people aren’t computer-savvy?)  They knew what they had, or at least, what tests should be ordered.  When the results came back negative, instead of breathing a sigh of relief, they’d protest and demand a more intensive work-up.  I know from experience the flurry
of testing that one piddling complaint can set in motion.  That said, I
am hesitant to mention every little twinge.  My approach (one I do not advocate for everyone) is as follows:  if it’s minor or can be solved with a trip to the drugstore, I shut up about it.  The hours I have left on this earth are limited and I’d rather not while them away reading outdated magazines in some doctor’s waiting room.  This poem’s for you, Tippy.  Enjoy that Redbook circa 1995; the doctor will be with you shortly.

MID-LIFE HYPOCHONDRIA

Some ailments run in families;
it’s proven they’re genetic.
I’m ripe to have a heart attack
or wind up diabetic.

I found a scary-looking mole;
I’m positive it’s cancer.
But Doc will say it looks benign,
his standard go-to answer.

I’ve put on six or seven pounds,
my hair is falling out.
My thyroid must be out of whack;
too low, without a doubt.

I suffer from exhaustion
and my feet are always freezing.
According to my online search,
anemia’s the reason.

My allergies are flaring up.
I’m riddled with arthritis.
This sharp pain in my abdomen
could be appendicitis.

My check-up turns up nothing
but alas, my mind won’t rest:
I know there’s something wrong with me!
Please, Doc, just one more test?

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PLUNGED INTO A NIGHTMARE

Have you ever felt like you were being trolled after making an online purchase?  The Cosmos knows not only what you bought, but a host of other things you might like, based on that choice.  It suggests items to complement or enhance it.  It pops up helpful messages like “Others who bought this item also bought X, Y, and Z.”  This may be tolerable if you’ve purchased something innocuous, like a socket set or a sleeping bag or a case of dog food.  But if it was something of a more personal nature, look out.  It could trail behind you like an embarrassing ribbon
of toilet paper stuck to your heel.  Read and heed this cautionary tale:


BUYER BEWARE

The Squatty Potty© that I bought
as a gag gift for a friend
unleashed a virtual onslaught
of gear for my rear end

A screen popped up before I had
completed my transaction
suggesting, for my favorite lad,
a kit called Master Crapsman©

The link connected in a snap
to a site for Poo-Pourri©
Just spritz the bowl with Trap-a-Crap©
and drop a deuce, scott-free!

They also thought I might enjoy
a box of quilted Shittens©
an ill-conceived commercial ploy
for wet wipes shaped like mittens

I cleared my cookies straightaway
suspecting double-cross
but onward marched the shit parade
like a wave of chocolate sauce

T-shirts with “I pooped today!”
stamped across the chest,
padded seats and chrome bidets
and fiber supplements

Free shipping on a new commode,
a plumbing tour de force
designed to handle outsize loads
in just one flush, of course

I phoned the website to demand
they cork their brown assault
They claimed it was out of their hands
Alas, the system’s fault


But accept this free Emoji Turd
a download for your phone
in case you’re at loss for words
or texting on the throne

I found a clever use for it,
a survey from their end
I awarded them five little shits

and pushed the key to SEND

The last laugh wasn’t mine, I fear
I found myself upstaged,
Joan LIKES the Squatty Potty! smeared
across my FaceBook page

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BEYOND PING-PONG-PANTOOKAS

When we think of poetry, we think of rhyme.  Of course, poems need not rhyme, but it’s a connection our brains have been programmed to make, starting with Jack and Jill, Patty Cakes, and The Wheels on the Bus, and continuing through the classic poetry we read in high school.  That said, it seems strange that today’s editors rebuff rhymed poetry, regarding it as juvenile or unsophisticated; some magazines explicitly request that rhymed verse not be submitted.  Because serious poets shouldn’t sound like Dr. Seuss or the inside of a Hallmark card, right?  But skillfully executed rhyme shows mastery of both the art and craft of poetry.  Think Shakespeare, whose sonnets would not be nearly as compelling if they did not rhyme.  (Nor would they be sonnets, for that matter.)  Free verse may allow you to say precisely what you wish, but using words already in your lexicon to express yourself doesn’t force you to stretch, learn, grow.  Throw in a rhyme scheme, however, and a poem becomes a puzzle, one that compels the writer to seek out new words or reconstruct his lines.  All I am saying, is give rhyme a chance.

RHYME: JAM IT OR SLAM IT?

It seems, at this time, that a new paradigm
regards free verse as the height of sublime
a and b past their prime, worth nary a dime
Editors snub, wash their hands of the crime

Pained, drained by a scheme’s ball-n-chain
how well can a writer’s voice be retained?
He’ll soon ascertain if he retrains his brain,
he could gain one insane lexiconic domain

Rhyme may prove hairier, thornier, scarier
but get off your derriere, break the barrier
Consult a thesaurus, your synonym carrier
harvest fresh words, the more the merrier

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CAN-NOODLING WITH PARODY

A PARODY is a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.  In the following parody of Charles Kingsley’s famous poem Young and Old, I have made every effort to mimic the flavor of the original piece:  the discourse on opposites, the finished length, the galloping cadence, the unusual rhyme scheme.  “Don” is,
of course, a narcissistic president more concerned about his dessert than the plight of the refugees in…  uh… whichever country he just bombed.  Don’t be a Don, folks.  If you have food on your table, give thanks.  If you have extra, graciously share it with your neighbor.

THE TOP AND THE BOTTOM

When every meal is fine, Don
all lobster tails and steak
Paired with the perfect wine, Don
and gorgeous chocolate cake
Then raise your glass to wealth, Don
A toast to billionaires!
Indulge your precious self, Don
Reach for your silverware

But don’t forget the ones, Don
whose budgets barely stretch
They make their grocery runs, Don
the day they get their checks
All beans and rice and staple foods
for soups and casseroles
Yet bow their heads in gratitude
to He who fills their bowls

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COLLATERAL DAMAGE

This week’s form is the LAI (lay).  French in origin, a Lai has nine lines and two rhymes that follow this pattern:  aab aab aab.  Lines with an “a” rhyme have five syllables and those with a “b” rhyme have two.  Mine (below) is also an elegy, mourning the loss of a beloved friend.

For decades, we’ve walked our dogs down a long lane between tracts
of farmland, enjoying the seasonal beauty of an iconic oak on the path.  This year, it emerged from spring rickety and leafless, likely a victim of agricultural pesticides.  It puzzles me that farmers, men who depend on the soil for their livelihood, are so flippant about their use of chemicals.  Without wildflowers and weeds for food, populations of bees and other pollinators continue to wane.  Stately trees are written off as collateral damage.  What do you suppose eating tainted crops does to humans?  Clue:  a hundred years ago, your chance of getting cancer was 1 in 33; today, it’s nearly 1 in 3!  Please, please, please, THINK about what you put in your mouth.  Choose ORGANIC and support farmers who care.

CASUAL-TREE

Lifeless old oak
your shriveled roots poke,
forlorn,
between farm fields soaked
with poisons to choke
weed and thorn
What foolhardy folk
would trade this grand bloke
for corn?

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NINE… EIGHT… SEVEN… SIX…

The NONET is a poetic form based on nines.  There are nine lines.  The first line has nine syllables.  Each successive line has one fewer, a sort
of “countdown” to the finish.  I chose to repeat the Earth Day theme because, well, it bears repeating.  Scientists know global warming has put our planet in a precarious position.  She is teetering on the brink of a meltdown and when she goes, we all go.  That seems reason enough to get your head out of Uranus, educate yourself on the many simple, Earth-friendly habits in your power, and start putting them in practice.

EARTH’S ULTIMATUM: LIVE “GREEN” OR DIE
Stripped of fossil fuels and rainforests,
feverish with greenhouse gasses,
knee-deep in melting ice caps,
rocked by violent storms,
choked on pollutants,
Earth draws a line
and dares us
to cross
it

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