A LIE BY ANY OTHER NAME…

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

In an “economy of creativity,” I have combined prompts #9 and #10:
“Explore your feelings about deceit in a poem.”
“Write about 2 opposites using an Etheree and a Reverse Etheree.”

There is none so blind as he who will not see.  I find it astonishing that so many people dismiss the difficult truths before them and put their faith in fairy tales.  A lie dressed up in a thousand-dollar suit is still a lie.  Repeating it doesn’t make it true.  Calling it an “alternative fact” or a “spin” doesn’t make it true.  We are all culpable to some degree for the problems plaguing our country and planet.  Rather than accepting our share of the blame and working toward solutions, we bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is fine.  Well, it isn’t, and it isn’t going to get better until we open our eyes (and minds) to the truth.

WILLFUL BLINDNESS

Lies
Fiction
Cover-ups
Fabrications
Alternative facts
Out-and-out bullshit
Misleading information
False promises, propaganda
Contradictions, inconsistencies
So many eager to drink the Kool-aid

Deceit assaults our every sense and yet
we believe what we want to believe
instead of seeking out what’s real
Straightforward information
from credible sources
Trustworthy advice
Transparency
Honesty
The facts
Truth

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RIPENING, OR LACK THEREOF

Today’s response to MURI’S 2020 CHALLENGE FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  Like the 2019 challenge, this consists of 13 prompts, one for each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in April. They can be completed in any order.  If you are interested in participating, click on the above link for the prompts and posting guidelines.

Prompt #5 is “Use the theme of ripening in a poem.”

Ripening is a word I associate with fruit and late summer.  Fat tomatoes from the garden, luscious melons from the farm market, peaches, pears, and apples straight from the orchard.  This time of year, fruit is found at grocery stores.  It’s picked before its prime in some faraway sunny place and cold-shipped to Ohio.  “Cuties” are generally good, and bananas and avocados will ripen reliably on the counter, but I steer clear of the other stuff.  In the pre-COVID-19 world, hubby would sometimes accompany me to the grocery and toss things into the cart when I wasn’t looking—Cocoa Puffs, Oreos, a six-pack of Negro Modela, and occasionally, fruit.  I can abide with kiddie cereal and cookies and beer.  Bad fruit?  No way.

The poem is a parody of This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams.

REJECTION

I have put back
the peaches
that were in
the grocery cart

and which
you were probably
thinking
would ripen

Forgive me
they were hopeless
so green
and so hard

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THEY REAL UN-COOL

Gwendolyn Brooks classic We Real Cool has been sitting in my “to be parodied” file for ages.  I love the cleverness of her poem–the clipped rhymes, the unusual line breaks, the repetition of the pronoun–but it defies satirization.  Is that even a word?  At last, a reasonable facsimile has coalesced.  The “they” falls off the map at the end, but somehow,
it seems fitting… poetically just.  Initially, I was drawn to this colorful COVID-19 map.  Looking at it today, however, I feel compelled to do a thorough Tupperware check before I put out the trash.

STABLE GENIUS & CO

They real tools.  They
damn fools.  They

cried hoax.  They
duped folks.  They

ignored docs.  They
spread pox.  Now

too late.  Up
to Fate.

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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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QUATERNALLY YOURS

Hooray!  A new form!  A QUATERN has sixteen lines, divided into four quatrains.  Each line has eight syllables; there are no rhyme or iambic requirements.  The poem’s first line is a refrain.  In the second stanza, the refrain drops down to the second line.  In the third stanza, it drops down to the third line.  In the fourth stanza, it serves as the final line.

Anyone who writes poetry has family, friends, and coworkers who are eager to alert her to potential subjects.  They will point at a blooming dahlia, a birthday boy blowing out his candles, a striking sunset, even a multi-car pile-up on the highway and exclaim, “There’s a poem for you!” as if artistic inspirations were somehow transferable.  I used to pick up the ball and run with it…  I would drag my pen across the page, spend a couple hours thoroughly frustrating myself, and wonder why such a fantastic idea was going nowhere.  Here’s the reason:  if you can’t see the poem, you can’t write it.  And looking is not the same as seeing.

THERE’S A POEM FOR YOU

Someone says, “There’s a poem for you”
while pointing at a butterfly,
writing in cursive in the sky,
verse in need of a translator.

My ego snaps at the bait when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you,”
keen to decipher the insights
in those ephemeral contrails.

But the monarch’s secrets belong
to the seer alone.  So when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you,”
avert your eye, stay your pencil.

You well know the glittering voice
of his muse will turn to pyrite
in your ear so pay no mind when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you.”

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BRUSH, ROLLER, TAPE, FORGET IT

Having no choices is devastating, like when there is only one internet service provider in town so you’re stuck with it, no matter how slow it is.  But an overabundance of choice can be devastating in its own way.  Overwhelming.  Paralyzing.  Who wants to spend an hour in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, comparing the nutrition information on fifty different kinds?  Not me.  But that’s nothing compared to what you go through in the paint section of the hardware store. Thought you knew exactly what color you wanted?  Think again.

NOT FOR THE FAINT OF ART*
(Villanelle)

The art of choosing isn’t hard to master,
or so it seems, ‘til you must muddle through
a range of options growing ever vaster

My bedroom walls were faded and lackluster
I pictured in my mind a soothing blue
The art of choosing isn’t hard to master

The counter clerk was helpful and amassed a
stack of azure swatches for review
the range of options growing ever vaster

I stood there, google-eyed and flabbergasted
I hemmed and hawed, perhaps off-white would do?
The art of choosing can be hard to master

“What shade?  There’s picket fence or alabaster
meringue, vanilla, biscuit, pearl, ecru… ”
the range of options growing ever vaster

She jabbered on and on as I wheeled past her
and bid my brush and roller sad adieu
The art of choosing proved too hard to master,
an empty-handed blue and white disaster

*A parody of ONE ART by Elizabeth Bishop

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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 right, so we went straight
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

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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