POCKETFUL OF POEMS

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 #12 is “Write 3 haiku.”

I have two journals.  One allots five lines a day, just enough space to jot down the important and unique.  Gas 1.59 today!  Cardinal got trapped in squirrel feeder.  First daffodil.  Eyeglasses arrived by mail.  M-I-L sent Thanksgiving card for Easter — LOL.  You know, that sort of thing.  The other is a black and white composition book for dissecting my feelings.  That’s my “Angst Journal,” unlimited real estate for longhand bitching.  There are stacks of them in a carton in the attic.  I may bequeath them to my sister when I die so she can marvel at how I managed to maintain such a sunny disposition when my whole world was falling apart:  the furnace repair that took seven service calls, the dental visit where Dr. Dingbat drilled my tongue, the painful backlash of having reported a boss to her superiors—it’s all in there.

Haiku is the pocket journal…  full of interesting tidbits, small wonders, and existential questions that lead the writer down a familiar road only to take her somewhere she did not expect.

THE COVID LIFE

Dug out winter gloves
Spent morning cleaning freezer
Found bacon—woo hoo!

BLT for lunch
Spinach in lieu of lettuce
Tasteless tomato

Took long, hot shower
Drank coffee, got on WordPress
Umm, what day is it?

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THE FORM THAT GOBSMACKS

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 #6 is “Write a quatern about new leaves.”

Quaterns are my poetic nemesis.  The first line wends its way through the poem, making an appearance in every stanza.  Hasn’t it heard it’s supposed to stay in its own stanza throughout quarantine and “social distance” from neighboring ones?  When a quatern is done well, the repeating line doesn’t call attention to itself; it blends unobtrusively into the scenery and gobsmacks the reader when he gets to the end.  Like a perp suddenly realizing that an unmarked car has been tailing
him for blocks…  How did he not see it coming?

PETAL TO THE METAL

The speed at which new leaves unfurl
captivates like a magic trick
Sun-warmed branches thin and thick
adorn themselves with nubby pearls

Who else but Nature could predict
the speed at which new leaves unfurl,
caressing careworn bark and burl?
Or grasp their shady arithmetic?

Where yesterday were pregnant sticks
today green hands sport veins and whorls
The speed at which new leaves unfurl!
They wave to the wind like lunatics

In frenzied breeze, they dip and twirl
A fresher place one could not pick
to read or nap or just reflect
on the speed at which new leaves unfurl

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OLD FOLKS AT HOME

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 #3 is “Write a poem about a porch swing.”

This was a hard one, Muri, because I’ve never had a porch swing.  No one I knew had one.  I liked swings as a child, but the porch kind would have seemed too tame.  On the swings at my school, I could go so high it felt like I was flying.  Tire swings were fun, too.  As an adult, I adored porch swings I saw in magazines or on strangers’ porches but I never lived in a place that had a proper porch.  We moved last October into a century-old house with not one, but two screened porches.  Our Amish double swing didn’t work in either of them, so my husband furnished the front porch the way he wanted, with two “old people chairs” he purchased at Goodwill.  I wasn’t crazy about them at first, but they are actually quite comfy and their motion is soothing.  It’s warm enough now to read the newspaper out there, or just sit and watch the world go by.

The poem is a triolet.

ROCKIN’ IS THE NEW SWINGIN’

On my porch, no swing has swung
A rocking chair is more my speed
I loved swing sets when I was young
but on my porch, no swing has swung
An Amish double swing once hung
from a sturdy branch in our ash tree
but on my porch, no swing has swung
A rocking chair is more my speed

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GATHERING WORDS CLOSE

A few days ago, my friend Lori sent out the weekly schedule of poems that would be read on Conrad’s Corner.  She expressed hope that we were all “safe in our homes, gathering words close for comfort and companionship.”  In the middle of the line-up was Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice, a tongue-in-cheek musing on whether fire or ice might more effectively destroy the world.  Considering global warming and glacial meltdown, I also “hold with those who favor fire.”  His words niggled their way into my brain, supplying Satira (my parody-loving muse) with
a framework to build upon.  I allowed her free rein, insisting only that she pick a subject other than COVID-19.  We’ve all had enough of that, haven’t we?  Here’s what she came up with:

TWENTY-FIVE OR FIFTY?

Some say life starts at twenty-five,
Some say at fifty
I felt more bodily alive
at the lissom age of twenty-five
But wisdom did not come so swiftly,
nor easiness in my own skin
Being a smart and confident fifty
and at peace within
is pretty nifty

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TALKING TO STRANGERS

Last month, I decided I’d take the bus to Erie, PA to visit my sister.  When I shared this plan with my husband and sister, both offered to ferry me there and back rather than allow me to throw myself to the ‘Hounds.  I shushed them and bought a ticket, determined to have an adventure.  C’mon, how bad could it be?  For a very reasonable price, they do all the driving, and you get a comfy seat, a generous baggage allowance, an electrical outlet, complimentary WiFi, and a restroom.
I had tight connections to make in both Columbus and Cleveland, so things got off to a rocky start when the bus failed to show up at the designated pick-up point in Springfield.  The Greyhound rep checked the online tracker.  The bus was running late.  Like, over an hour late.  Hubby drove me to Columbus, I made my connection, and everything went smoothly from there.  On some legs, the bus was less than half full and every rider got a row to him or herself.  On the more crowded legs, I was quick to offer up the empty seat beside me.  Most people kept to themselves; they read novels, listened to music, or texted on their cell phones.  The nap-takers came prepared with C-shaped neck pillows and eye masks.  Others were eager to strike up a conversation.  If my seatmate wanted to chat, I obliged.  These dialogues were eye-opening.  Humans are complex beings, not always what they seem:

PEOPLE OF GREYHOUND

The bus driver arrives carrying a coffee
in each hand and fills us in on the rules.
“Be considerate of others around you.
No loud music or yakking on the phone.
Hold onto the overhead safety ropes
on your way to and from the restroom.
Weapons and smoking are prohibited.
Sit when you pee.  And there’s no maid
onboard, so pick up after yourselves.”

My first seatmate is a clean-cut dude
carrying nothing but a brown paper sack.
He’s 35 with kids by three “baby mamas.”
After he got out of “the joint,”
he started reading.  All those new ideas
“shifted his paradigm” and changed his life.
He channels Maya Angelou saying,
“When you know better, you gotta do better.”
Young black ex-cons can surprise you.

In line in Cleveland, a chocolate Adonis
with shined shoes and a swank iPhone says
he’s heading back to rehab after a day pass.
“Think that vending machine takes fives?”
“Probably,” I reply.
He returns holding a bottle of lemonade
and I ask how much they ganked him for.
He snorts.  “Did you just say ganked?”
Old white ladies can surprise you, too.

My next seatmate is a pasty redhead
in faded Levis with more holes than denim.
She’ll be riding all night to get to Nashville.
She opens her shiny copper-colored handbag,
withdraws a can of Pringles,
and allows herself one diminutive handful.
I envy her restraint.
When she nods off, her head slumps forward
like a flower on a broken stem.

Within earshot, jagged snores saw through
the feather-light laughter of a guy sporting
Elton John sunglasses and bedazzled jeans.
A Barbie doll-shaped brunette is on her way
to an exam that will determine her worthiness
for a slot in a speech pathology program.
A plain-clothes nun silently prays the rosary.
An afroed teenager bobs his head in time
to the pumping bass overspilling his earbuds.

On the final leg, I meet a dark foreigner
with a gold front tooth and wicked breath.
I offer him a box of wintergreen TicTacs.
He accepts them with a gracious “Merci.”
He asks if I have children.  When I say no,
he nods gravely and replies, “God’s will.”
He teaches me a few French basics:
Bonjour.  Comment vas-tu?  Bien, merci.
“Au revoir, ami,” he grins when we part.

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SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE PROMPTS

It’s the closing day of Muri’s Poetry Month Challenge, and I’m down to the final prompt:  10. Write a Blitz poem

I saved this one for last because it’s my favorite.  Blitzing is quick and easy, with a minimum of rules.  In 2017, I led a poetry seminar at the public library.  I chose this as our class exercise because a Blitz can be completed handily in ten minutes, and it’s a stream of consciousness technique where writers spontaneously reveal a lot about themselves.
I insisted that the participants not erase, but simply go with whatever came to mind.  Reading their poem aloud was optional, but most did.  It’s a getting-to-know-you exercise far superior to the kind where you tell your name, where you’re from, and your occupation.  For the Blitz below, I began with the word spring. You don’t get to choose the title;
it is derived from specific words in the poem:  (the first word of Line 3) (preposition or conjunction) (the first word of line 47).  In this case, it was a very apt sign-off at the end of a super challenge.  Thanks, Muri!

TIME FOR GOOD-BYE

Spring has sprung
Springtime
Time to get up
Timepiece
Piece of cake
Piecemeal
Mealtime
Meal ticket
Ticket taker
Ticket to ride
Ride operator
Ride it out
Outside
Out of the loop
Loophole
Loop around
Around back
Around the bend
Bend me, shape me, any way you want me
Bendable
Able-bodied
Able to reach
Reach out
Reach for the stars
Stars in the sky
Stars in Hollywood
Hollywood couples
Hollywood Squares
Square meal
Square deal
Deal with it
Deal on the table
Table tennis
Tabletop
Top Dog
Top Gun
Gunmetal
Gunpoint
Point a finger
Point taken
Taken away
Taken for a ride
Ride into the sunset
Ride a wave
Wave crashing
Wave good-bye
Good-bye for now
Good-bye forever
Forever
Now

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ANOTHER TRIPLE HEADER, MURI!

On her blog, A Different Perspective, my buddy Murisopsis laid down
a challenge for National Poetry Month: using the supplied prompts, in any order, write thirteen poems in 30 days (one poem each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the month of April).  The first week, I managed to nail three prompts with one poem.  It was so much fun, I decided to choose three more and try it again.

1.  Write a limerick
6.  Write a poem about dogs
9.  Write an acrostic poem using an emotion

Without further ado, here is my blissful acrostic limerick about dogs:

WALKING THE DOGS

Bold-nosed explorers are they
Lollygaggers at the odor buffet
In the grass, on a tree
Smelly poop, pungent pee
So strong I can’t pull them away

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THREE BIRDS WITH ONE POEM

On her blog, A Different Perspective, my friend Murisopsis laid down a challenge for National Poetry Month.  Hers is easier than some I’ve seen as it requires the completion of only three prompts per week, which are announced at the beginning and can be completed in any order.

MURI’S NATIONAL POETRY MONTH WRITING CHALLENGE

1. Write a limerick.
2. Write a poem about the changing seasons
3. Write a poem about angels (any kind).
4. Write a concrete (shape) poem.
5. Write a poem about signs of spring.
6. Write a poem about dogs.
7. Write a Quatern.
8. Write 4 haiku about favorite foods.
9. Write an acrostic poem using an emotion.
10. Write a Blitz poem.
11. Channel your inner Doctor (Seuss, Who, Frankenstein, Doolittle, Zhivago, McCoy… your choice)
12. Write a list poem about clothes
13. Write a poem using all of the following words: crow, sparrow, snow, chapeau, below, ginkgo, shallow, and solo.

The rules are simple.  Write 13 poems in 30 days (that comes out to one poem each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the month of April).  You may complete the prompts in any order.  Once written, post your poem on your blog and LEAVE MURI A COMMENT to let her know you have done so.  The point of the exercise is to have fun and stretch your poetic muscles.

OK, Muri, I figured I would start with the most difficult prompt, which I determined to be #13.  After I finished the poem, I realized it also fulfilled the criteria for #3 and #11.  So it may be a bit of a cheat, but here is my poem for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of Week One:

BIRD FEEDER

The spinster next door
a disheveled old crow
pulls on her wool cap
the season’s chapeau

fills her pockets, dons
galoshes, sets off solo
trudging ‘n crunching
over late winter snow

Her size 9 footprints,
cocksure but shallow,
stop short at a bench
by a knobbled ginkgo

Birdseed is scattered
on the ground below,
one angel’s provision
for hungry sparrows

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ORDINARY, YET EXTRAORDINARY

After my dad passed away last summer, my mom consolidated his stuff and let each of us kids choose a few keepsakes.  These items reside in a special box:  an everyday zip cardigan, a necktie, a cloth handkerchief, a Craftsman wristwatch with a leather band, a pair of clip-on sunglasses, a child-sized rosary (perhaps the one he received for First Communion), a copy of the letter I sent him for Father’s Day containing a hodgepodge of childhood memories, and the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral.  Unbeknownst to me, he had been a journaler.  In small notebooks and diaries were records of his daily activities dating back to the late 70’s.  We didn’t fight over them, but we all clamored for our share.  On days
I really missed him, I would read a few pages.  His life, though ordinary, was full of surprises.  Who knew Dad was the garbage man’s favorite customer, a closet romantic who rewired lamps and misspelled words?

One of the diaries I have is from 1986, the year I graduated from high school and went away to college.  It was interesting to read about the months right before and after I left the nest.  The following poem is a mix of summary and insights in the style of Dad’s journal pages:

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