Monthly Archives: April 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 30: Ciao, Adios, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Ciao, Adios, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

To NaPoWriMo we must say
a fond “Goodbye” on this last day.
I‘m able to, for I have found
the strength to say it the whole world round.

When I was young, I traveled far
from Germany to Zanzibar.
Australia, Bali, France and Spain,
to Africa and back again.

And though I mostly loved them all,
from Venice to the Taj Mahal,
as my departure time grew nigh
I had to voice a sad goodbye.

To Ethiopia I strayed.
For eighteen months I stayed and stayed;
and when I had to leave too soon,
I had to say “dehena hun.”

In college days, when I was young,
German was my foreign tongue;
but when to Frankfurt wir mussten gehen
I just remembered, “Auf Wiedersehen.”

The French were rude and cold and snotty.
They mocked my accent and were haughty,
so while I had to bid “adieu,”
I’d have preferred to say, “pee-ew.”

Florence thrilled me from the start.
Their lasagna is a work of art.
When I left, they all said, “Ciao.”
Their kitties, though, all said, “Miao.”

I never went to Israel
but nonetheless, I’m proud to tell,
the rabbi books? Read every tome.
So I know how to say “Shalom.”

Though “Arigato” is bound to do
when you want to say thank you,
Sayonara” is the way to go
to bid farewell in Tokyo.

Bali’s full of dance and art
that treat your eyes and fill your heart.
I must admit, I had a ball
before I said “Selamat tinggal.”

Mexico was saved for last
And now I fear my lot is cast
Since “Adios” I cannot say,
I’ve decided I will stay!

(for the sake of pronunciation, I have taken the liberty of adding an extra “e” to “dehna hun.”)

You might have already guessed that on this last day of the NaPoWriMo challenge, the prompt was to write a farewell poem.

NaPoWriMo Day 29: Chew the Train

Chew the Train

A metaphor is a freight train
that gets us within 30 miles
of our final destination,
but we still have to catch a taxi to get all the way there.
And a simile is just a metaphor whose brakes have failed.
If we know that peanut butter
is like a circus on a tired tongue,
does it bring us any closer to the smell of peanut butter?
Elephants and sawdust
and sequined camisoles flavored
with the sweat of 100 performances?
Is that what peanut butter smells like?
Does it taste like candy apples
and too-bitter mustard
on stale buns
and hot dogs turned too long
upon the rollers of their grill?
Does peanut butter feel
like the unoiled bump of the Ferris wheel?
Does it sound like a calliope
or look like an ice cream cone?
Peanut butter is peanut butter.
I rest my case.

So how am I going to write a poem
without metaphors and similes?
How can I write verse
while telling the pure unadulterated truth?
How can I make you taste a poem
that is only itself?

How can I be Janis Joplin
when I’ve been taught to be Joni Mitchell?
A Rose is a Rose is a Rose,
said Gertrude Stein,
predating my insight
by a generation or two.
But this isn’t Paris,
and folks in Mexico
want a dollop of figurative language
in their poetry.

So let me say
that my mind is a busy beaver,
trying to fulfill this impossible task
of twenty little things.
I’m expected to imagine
how peanut butter sounds.
The sucking gumbo sound
of South Dakota mud
or thick mucus of a cold?
Anything but appetizing.
Ay, Caramba! you might say,
but if you were Australian,
you would say, “Don’t come the raw prawn on me, mate,”
and you would mean
“Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes,”
or “Don’t try to con me, man.”

So let me just say that peanut butter is made
by grinding peanuts so finely
that all the oil comes out
and it acquires the consistency of butter.
It isn’t like butter
nor is it butter.
It acquires the consistency of butter.
This is literal fact.
But to know the taste of peanut butter,
you will need to spread a bit upon a cracker
and have a taste, or grab a finger full.
What you will taste will be peanut butter.
The truth of it. Its reality.

And only then will I tell you
that literal truth doesn’t always tell
the whole truth.

My friend says
it is the peyote leached into the soil
the corn grows from
that gives Mexicans
such a remarkable sense of color.
The bright pigments of imagination
flood his canvasses.
His peyote dreams leak out into the real world
and wed it to create one world.
“Peyote dream” becomes its opposite—
a freight train taking us into the universal truth.
A larger reality.
This stalk of corn, this deer,
this head of amaranth,
all beckon, “Climb aboard.”

So when you bite into a taco
or tamale, when the round taste of corn
meets your tongue, and pleasure tries to flow
like a lumpy river down your throat,
look up at the poet standing in the shadows.
She’ll call herself Remi if you ask,
but do not ask. Instead, look deeper
into the shadows she wears around her like a cloak
and see that it is light that creates shadow.
See the many colors that create the black.
Follow where the corn beckons you to go––
into the other world of poetry and paint
and dance and music. Hot jazz with a mariachi beat.
Chew that train that takes you deeper. Hop aboard
the tamale express and you will ride into your
new life. It will be like your old life magnified
and lit by multicolored lights and the songs of merry-go-rounds
and when you bite into your taco, it will taste
like cotton candy and a snow cone
and your whole life afterwards will be a train that takes you nowhere
except back into yourself—a Ferris wheel
spinning you up to your heights and down again, with every turn,
the gears creaking “Que le vaya bien.”
I hope it goes well with you
and that you see the light
within the shadow
and the colors
in the corn.

glass-gem-corn-2-460

Today’s prompt is called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. Here are the twenty little projects themselves — the challenge is to use them all in one poem:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

 

 

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Looking Glass Menagerie

Looking Glass Menagerie

I am trying to escape the menagerie—
all those selves I hold in front of me
as well as the ones I have let escape.
Those that run ahead—
the ones that are my future selves—
are here, hidden in the portrait that you see.
Domineering, perhaps. But seasoned with
an awareness of what might have produced
all of the parts of myself I try to reign in.
This has produced a certain slowness to connect.
The natural is seasoned with a desire to honor dreams
of what I hope to be. When I look in the mirror,
I see them all: my mother and my grandmother
and my sisters. We demand, are stubborn.
Sometime we are martyrs, stifling tears.
Then suddenly, I pass them by like memories
of nightmares: all the anxiety attacks,
illnesses and heartbreak.
We are all wonderful performers,
using bad luck to fuel good.
The belles of our own ball,
we push back the grim news
of what we fear we really are.
Headstrong, we reach for what we can be.
Utterly addicted to change,
Tony or no Tony,
we are the stars of our own lives.

The prompt today was “to find a news article and to write a poem using (mostly, if not only) words from the article! You can repeat them, splice them, and rearrange them however you like. Although the vocabulary may be “just the facts,” your poem doesn’t have to be — it doesn’t even have to be about the subject of the news article itself.”

With massive tornadoes, politician campaign funding fraud, murder and mayhem being the main stories of the day, I was hard-pressed to find any good news to write about. Finally, I chose a very long theater review in the NY Times which I picked at like a foraging chicken, picking a word here, a word there. Above is the resulting poem.

Here is a link to the NY Times article from which  I drew words : NY Times Article

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Lemonade

 

Image

Lemonade

The Crystal Lite, like a marriage of Kool-Aid and crystal meth,
catches the light and glows from inside its plastic gallon container,
becoming its own advertisement for this lemonade stand,
its pre-teen proprietor standing in the scant shade
of a stop light pole
behind his fruit crate counter
with its stacks of styrofoam cups.

He has chosen his clientele—
perhaps thirsty from a long wait
in the doctor’s waiting room in the clinic
or the hospital across the street.
To his back, a retirement community with no house
more than 3 blocks from the hospital—
its inhabitants like products on a shelf waiting to be picked.

When they pass the stand,
memories of generations of such stands
perhaps flood their minds,
and thirsty or not, they stop for a cup.

I am the woman with her foot in a cast,
sitting in the passenger seat
of the car pulled over to the curb.
The woman reaching through the window of the car
is my sister, holding out the white cups
with the too-sweet yellow shining through
as though radioactive.

She was my long ago pattern for everything,
including Kool-Aid stands with 5 cent
paper bags of popcorn and ice cube slivers
floating in the Tupperware pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid,
a plate on the top to repel flies
lazy in the July heat, orbiting our sweaty heads
like precognitive sputniks
buzzing in the minds of rocket scientists.

We had not a clue.

 Image

The prompt today was to write a poem based on a picture.

NaPoWriMo Day 26: Pied Beauty II

Pied Beauty II

Thanks be to Sara Lee for appled things—
For pies, for apple fritters and for thin-rolled strudel crust;
For pastries of the fruit of Eve and sauce it swims within;
Fresh-cooked in ovens, how their sweet juice sings;
The sugar clotted and pierced— place it on plate we must;
And all taste, for how can tackling it be such a sin?

All things made of flour and Crisco and of apples sweet;
(How can they by nutritionists be so sorely cussed
With words professing they won’t make us thin?)
With their tart flavor are sure our lips to meet;
And meet again.

—Judy Dykstra-Brown

Our prompt today was to write a curtal sonnet in the style of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ famous poem “Pied Beauty”. This form consists of a first stanza of six lines followed by a second stanza of five, closing with a half-line. The rhyme scheme is abcabc defdf. I chose to make it a parody of Pied Beauty as well.

And now, the original:

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

NaPoWriMo Day 25: She

She

She was fingers drumming lightly on my arm while I fell asleep,
a box of candy that my dad had to hide or it would be gone by morning,
fingerprints of bright coral rouge staining the top of her powder puff.
She was a girl’s rhymed diary that told of filling the church elders’ hats full of Bon Ami powder.
A fatherless girl sleeping with her sisters on a sun porch in Kansas.
A sister of a girl who wore a nightgown to a ball,
the sister of a man who couldn’t stop drinking,
the sister of a girl who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918
and of a father who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918.
She was the sister of a woman who died in childbirth
and the sister-in-law of a man she did not marry to raise her sister’s child.
A woman who liked radish and onion sandwiches
and cornbread and orange Jello with shredded carrots and pineapple.
She was a girl late to marry who lied about her age until in her nineties.
A woman who never told her real name to daughters
until her daughters were women as well.

She was a good friend who never revealed secrets.
A woman who finished her housework quickly to lie on the divan and read.
A woman with a mangle who ironed the body and arms of shirts
while her daughters ironed the collars and cuffs.
A member of the Progressive Study Club who wrote all the plays for State Conference.
The woman who wrote the play, “The Hillbilly Wedding”
that started out, “Ye critters and Ye varmints, we are are gathered here today
to wed this man and woman in hillbilly sorta way.
H’ebenezer, Hannabella, do ye promise to be true and always love each other?”
“We do, We do.”
She was the mother who played silly tricks on her pre-teenage daughter
and hid in the closet to see if they worked.
The woman who had all her teeth pulled on the same day and nearly bled to death.
A town girl who lived in a tiny trailer with my father on the empty prairies of Dakota
and traveled from dam building site to site with him the first year they were married.
The town girl with no bathroom, so they had to park by service stations to use theirs.
The girl who counted to see how long she could hold her hand in the oven
to determine when the heat was right to bake cakes in her wood-burning oven
and who swam with her mother-in-law in a large stock tank.

She was the woman who took her daughter out on summer nights to look for U.F.O.’s.
The woman who never learned how to play the piano
but insisted her daughter take lessons for 8 long years,
and the woman whose daughter never really learned how to play the piano.
She was the trainer of dogs and parakeets and baby bunnies
rescued from the prairie by my dad.
The assembler of Halloween costumes and the decorator of Christmas trees.
She was the woman whose Christmas decorations one year were entirely silver and pink
and who made an elaborate chandelier ornament out of sprayed coat hangers.
The woman who drove her daughters 60 miles to buy saddle shoes
and 150 miles in the opposite direction to see an eye doctor.
She was the woman whose husband loved babies—
the woman who collected spare babies in restaurants
to take them to her husband to hold
while their mothers finished their meals.

She was the woman who showed her daughters how to make
Philippine lanterns to use as May baskets.
The woman who dressed up as a witch for Halloween and was so good in her role
that she sent children screaming down the sidewalk.
The woman who took off her mask for the rest of the night.
She was the woman who made up long rhyming poems about what pieces of the body
were being handed around the circle in a darkened room on Halloween:
a peeled grape, a bowl of spaghetti, a piece of liver.
She was the woman who covered lamps with sheets and pinned on
paper ghost eyes, nose,mouth.
and who collected corn stalks for decorations.
She was the woman who loved Halloween
but loved Christmas even more.
The woman who hid grass nests full of jelly beans and sugar eggs
all over the house every Easter.
The woman who found one of her own nests when decorating for Christmas.

She was the woman who loved to read who could read her daughters like a book.
The woman who could sometimes read her husband like a book—
the woman who said, “What did you do? You brought home another animal, didn’t you?”
the day my dad entered the living room with a sheepish look,
even though he’d left the rubber boot with the tiny puppy inside in the mud room.
She was the woman who had said the same thing
when he brought home the bunnies, the kittens, the tiny mole, the raccoon and the magpie.
She was the woman with the quilted satin robe with the long train
that the baby bunny hopped up on for a ride around the house.
The woman who taught Chipper, the parakeet, to say,
“Hello, Betty Jo. Judy Kay. Judy Kay. Patti Adair. Gee you’re cute!
Gimmee a kiss (kissing sounds). Baaaaaaad Benny!”
She was the woman named Pat whose husband was named Ben.
They were the couple whom later we later learned were really
Eunice Lydia and Gerben Sylvanus.
She was the wife of a rancher but gave him three girls.
They were the ones to insist all three girls go to college.
She was the mother whose travels had extended from Kansas to South Dakota to Iowa
who gave permission for her daughter
to set out to travel around the world
when she was still in her teens.
She was the woman who convinced her husband to move to Arizona
the year her youngest went off to college.
The woman who sold her mangle and became a fashion plate again in her 50’s.
She was a woman with four swimsuits
who did 1,000 exercises in her Arizona pool every day.
A woman who went dancing every Friday night,
who tried to take up golf and failed,
who lay on her chaise on her patio and read books
while her husband went to the corner café to regale his new audience with old stories.
She was the woman who flew to Australia to visit her daughter.
The woman who traded houses every few years
for the fun of buying and decorating a new one.
She was the grieving wife who said, “Ben always hated that clock!”
and watched it fall off the wall.
She was a girl and woman and old woman who believed in ghosts
and who slept near Hadrian’s Wall in the haunted room
of an eleventh century Abbey in Scotland.
She was a woman who played with a cat on Dylan Thomas’s sea wall
and who slept in a room over a pub as well as the Grosvenor House in London,
where she saw Garfunkel walk across the hotel lobby.

She was a woman who liked to sit and look at the decorations in her living room.
An old woman who drank aloe vera and vinegar
and did leg exercises in her bed each morning.
An old woman who got a machine to help her read.
An old woman who listened to the news all day when her eyesight failed.
A woman who bought a breathing machine when her breath failed
and walked around her condo trailing a long rubber oxygen tube.
An old woman who lived to be 91
and who lived alone till the day she died.
A woman who put on makeup and jewelry and who dressed up
every day until the day she died.

I was her collaborator in writing silly rhyming poems to send to my sisters in college.
I was her collaborator the day she dressed like an old woman
and sat in my dad’s chair,
setting him up by saying, “Dad, there’s an old woman here,
and I can’t get her to say anything.”
When she sat hunched over in her white wig,
her shoulders shaking with suppressed laugher,
he said, “We’d better call the sheriff. I think she’s having a fit.”
She was the one who actually never grew old in my father’s eyes.
The one who lived alone for nearly 30 years after he died.
She was the one who wanted a boyfriend to take her dancing whom she didn’t have to kiss.
The one who wore the Evening in Paris perfume
I bought her every mother’s day
until I was in my teens.
The one who fed the baby coon with a doll bottle
and bathed and baby powdered it every day
and put it underneath my covers when I had the measles.
The one who went from matronly house dresses
to wearing my castoff college clothes.
The one who created a whole new life
when her children left and pulled my father after her.

She is the one who has been gone for 13 years.
The one who very rarely passes through my thoughts.
The mother who did what the best mothers always do.
Who released her children into the world and let them go.

 

Today’s prompt was to write a poem using Anaphora–a literary term for the practice of repeating certain words or phrases at the beginning of multiple clauses or, in the case of a poem, multiple lines.

NaPoWriMo Day 24: Building Walls

 

Our prompt today was to write a poem that features walls, bricks, stones, arches, or the like.

Building Walls

The new neighbors are not friendly.
From their side of my wall,
they have severed the vines
that have covered my tall palms
that abut the wall
that has separated our properties
for thirteen years—
those maroon bougainvillea vines,
stretched ten feet wide
by covering layers of blue thunbergia,
formed a community that housed families
of birds and possums and possibly
a very large but harmless snake.
I saw it cross my patio once,
the dog and I turning our heads toward each other,
exchanging looks of surprise
like characters from a stage play or a comic book,
her so startled and curious that she followed,
nose to the ground, to the brush beside the
wall the snake had vanished into,
but never issued a bark.

At night the palm trees
and their surrounding cloaks
would give mysterious rustlings that
aroused the barking of the dogs
and I’d let them in—the pup to sleep
in the cage that was his security
and my security as well—against chewed
Birkenstocks and ruined Oaxacan rugs
and treats purloined from the little silver
garbage can that held the kitchen scraps
saved for Yolanda’s pigs.

Along with the vines,
the new neighbors cut the bougainvillea
that grew to fifteen feet above my wall
and furnished privacy from the eyes
of those standing on their patio,
ten feet above mine,
so that now their patio looks directly down
on my pool and hot tub and into my bedroom,
their new bright patio light shining all night long
into my world formerly filled
with stars and moonlight and tree rustlings.

The old wall has revealed its cracks and colors
from several past paintings
that were later made unnecessary by its cloak of vines.
It is an ugly wall that  separates  neighbors,
echoing the now-dead vines that stretch 80 feet up
to the fronds of the palms.
It takes three men three days to cut the refuse of
the dry vines down from the trees,
two truckloads to bear the cuttings away.

The dogs still bark, but the possum and the birds
have gone to some other haven,
and the men come to erect the metal trellis,
12 feet high, above the top of my low wall.
I hope the bougainvillea will grow
to cover it this rainy season,
building a lovelier wall
between neighbors who still have not met
by their preference, not mine,
causing me to wonder
if I really am as welcome in this country
as I have felt for all these years.
“My neighbors are the same,” my friend tells me.
“They do not really want us here,
and if you think they do,
you are deluding yourself.”

Thirteen years in Mexico. I miss my old neighbors,
best friends who would come to play Mexican Train at 5 minutes notice.
I miss their little yipping dog and the splash of their fountain
that the new neighbors ripped out and threw away
and the bougainvillea that drooped over my wall into their world.
“Scorpions!” the new neighbors decreed, and lopped it off wall-high.
It was a wall more than doubled in its height
by a vine as old as my life in Mexico
that can now be peered over
even from their basement casita.

With old walls gone,
higher walls of misunderstanding
have been constructed.
Each weekend their family streams in from Guadalajara.
Children laugh, adults descend the stairs
to their hot tub down below.
When I greet them, they do not smile.
I have painted the old wall,
now so clearly presented to view,
and I have taken to wearing a swimsuit in my hot tub,
waiting for my new wall to grow higher.

Before detail of tree vine

“Before” detail of tree vine and hedge.

"After" detail of tree vine.

“After” detail of tree vine.

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