Category Archives: Compositions

Hard Drive

The Prompt: Buyers, Beware? The year is 2214, and your computer’s dusty hard drive has just resurfaced at an antique store. Write a note to the curious buyer explaining what he or she will find there.

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My Retablo, “Autobiography”

Hard Drive

If you long for mystery,
poems, facts and history,
long perambulations
and wild exaggerations,
recipes and letters and
episodes of Homeland,
Elementary, Sherlock, Friends,
a blogging site that never ends,

Emails, Youtube, Facebook notes,
starts of novels, copied quotes,
OkCupid pictures of
possibilities for love,
notes from nice guys, threats from creeps,
notes from guys who play for keeps,
friends who only write when drunk,
chain e-mails, jokes and other junk,

two hundred drafts of my third book,
(each one different, have a look),
kids stories and their illustrations,
the Christmas plans of my relations,
photographs of my whole life—
its happiness and pain and strife—
some successes but also follies,
fireworks, insects, gardens, dollies,

travel snaps and friendly faces,
rooms at home or foreign places,
birds and children, beaches, skies,
the camera lens is true and wise
and not as given to fraud and lies
as writings filtered through the eyes
of one who feels the joys or pains
of what she witnesses, then deigns

to try to change her reader’s mind
to accord with the type or kind
of thoughts she carries deep inside:
pride’s cutting edge, love’s waning tide—
things lovely, funny, jarring, rare.
So read this hard drive if you dare,
but if you fear a life laid bare,
I have one word for you. Beware.

College Daze

College Daze

I should have been cramming for English—­reading Macbeth or Candide­
and finishing off all my papers on Shakespeare or Becket or Bede.
But I always put off all assignments until the last possible minute,
lugging around every textbook without really looking within it.

When final week came, I was panicked. I studied all day and all night.
Living on No Doz and coffee, my eyes were a terrible sight.
Bloodshot and ringed with dark circles, they read on and read on nonetheless—
Chaucer and Dickens and Somerset Maugham (and Cliff’s Notes, I have to confess.)

My very worst procrastination was ten papers in just seven days—
my mind racing onward and onward as I searched for each insightful phrase.
Biology, German and history, psychology and all the rest
battled to come to the front and be heard when they came to be put to the test.

By the end I was crazed and exhausted, craving only closed eyes and my bed—
putting authors and symbols and figures and facts right out of my overstuffed head.
I could have avoided this torment, the pressure, exhaustion and dread
If only I’d started three months in advance to prepare for each “big day ahead.”

In college I fear I was guilty. I put all things off just a smidge.
I majored in procrastination and minored in marathon bridge!

( This poem is dedicated to Marti, Yvonne, Patty, Ramjet, Karen Rea and all the house hashers, with whom I wasted many a long college afternoon and evening expanding my mind by playing bridge. I must admit that I haven’t played it since, which is why I have the time to write a poem a day and post it on my blog. Sometimes we learn more after college than during!)

The Prompt: Big Day Ahead—It’s the night before an important event: a big exam, a major presentation, your wedding. How do you calm your nerves in preparation for the big day?

Gather

Today’s prompt: Verbal Confirmation—To be, to have, to think, to move — which of these verbs is the one you feel most connected to? Or is there another verb that characterizes you better?

Gather

We gather a new world
as we collect marks
in straight black lines
on white paper.

And yes, it is a new world
every time
and we have the power
of each world
we pull around us.

I may have called this poem
“Utter Sovereignty,”
but I did not, for rulers are
sad folks, and lonely.

We are the gatherers and so
we draw to us what we need
and are never alone.
There is nothing we lack for
in this storehouse where
the shelves hold words
the bins ideas
and the walls are covered
by imagination.

We gather to set free again.
This is the pattern of the world
that no one has ever broken.

Everything flying apart,
every moment of the day,
and all of us
gathering
it back together
again.

Daily Post: Play Date

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Play Date

 

My sister’s house has sold and they are cleaning out her attic. My niece and I make one trip more and I find my old dollhouse, collapsed, in the garbage can. I take the pieces out—some of them—and stash them in her trunk. I’d thought them gone forty years ago when the tornado took the roof off my parents’ house, but now, here they are like the leaves of memory blown miraculously back to me.

When she sees I’ve taken them, my niece asks what she should do with the dolls she found in the back recesses of her mother’s attic storage room—the one I hadn’t got to on my last visit—perhaps because of the roofing nails sticking through the wood which made reaching back behind the eaves a physical danger.

I find them where she has stashed them In a suitcase in her garage, and when I open the case and see the first doll staring up at me, I think it is a “find” from some antique store, like the dishes in my sister’s China cabinet or the tiny figures on her shelves. One rubber arm, sticky with age, has burst open and streams kapok like a froth of bleached and fermented blood. Other limbs have decayed to nothing but empty puddles of congealed rubber. Only the torso, held in place by a sagging pink fancy gown; and the face, stained red in places from some surface it’s been pressed against for too long, are still intact. As I lift the first doll from the suitcase, the other doll—the size of a toddler—stares up at me, one eye unhinged, her hair in pigtails sealed with rubber bands. When I lift her by one arm, her head turns, her legs pump and I realize this is my Ideal walking doll. When you raise her arms, one at a time, she walks toward you and her head swings, side-to-side. Hard and beautiful, she was not a doll to cuddle and she would not sit. She stood propped up against one corner of my room, rarely played with. What, I wonder, has happened to the bright blue dress she wore? Then I look closer and see that she’s still wearing it—faded to paleness even in the dark. What is here is original—her hair, her limbs, her dress, her petticoat—but her shoes and socks have been lost to another little girl, perhaps, or have jiggled off in some trunk and been left behind.

I’m 1500 miles away from home, yet I load the child-sized dollies into my boyfriend’s trunk: my sister’s doll in it’s fancy pink floor-length formal, my doll with her eye gone wild in its socket. They won’t make it home to Mexico in my suitcase this time, but it is impossible to leave them there in the suitcase to be thrown away by someone who has no memory of them. They are not collector’s items. They have been too neglected in their lives since they stood propped up in the corners of our rooms, then in the corners of our closets, the basement, my sister’s trunk and then her attic 800 miles from where they called us their owners and stimulated our imaginations to the extent they were able.

They’ll now reside in my boyfriend’s garage in Missouri until the time comes when I can carry them back in an extra suitcase or he can mule them down for me. If they were miniatures, I could include them in a retablo or a memory box, but each head is larger than the largest assemblage I’ve ever made. The closets of my house are full and overflowing, as are the wall-to-ceiling cabinets in my garage and studio and every area of my house where I’ve had room to build a closet. But I must use them. Give them some purpose for still existing other than to fill up room in some box on some cupboard shelf.

I imagine a memory box of gigantic proportions and suddenly, I have to make it, even if it takes up all the work room of my studio, and I start to plan how I could take my own doll back with me and what I’ll have to leave: the case of books that I’ve just had printed or my clothes or all the cartridges for my laser printer? If I wear a baby carrier, will they believe it is my baby, sound asleep? And what sensation will I cause when I try to stuff her into the overhead rack?

When I start to plan what else will go in the memory box with her, I remember the metal dollhouse sides and suddenly, I’m planning another trip back to Missouri, where I will make the mother of memory boxes—four feet square—and I wonder how my boyfriend will react to this and what I’ll do with it when it is finished. But somehow all these practicalities do not matter, because this dolly, relegated to corners for its whole life, is finally going to get played with!!!

 

The Prompt: Antique Antics: What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.

 

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Poetry by Prescription: A Single English Teacher’s Lament

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Today’s prompt was suggested by Ann Garcia, another “reformed” English teacher.  Her prompt:  Write a poem about grading homework.

A Single English Teacher’s Lament

Two periods of composition
have put me in a bad position.
With class size swelled to 38,
no longer have I time to date,
for teaching all to write a thesis
means my workload never ceases.

Each weekend I take home a pile
to check and grade and reconcile.
To try to sort them out is hard—
each sentence shuffled card by card.
Each comment must be made with tact,
their logic looked at fact by fact.

Each student had to write just one.
Now handed in, their toils are done.
While I have 76 to grade,
and now regret assignments made.
How many more? I have to ask,
imprisoned by this grading task.

I have created my own repentance.
I gave myself the thesis sentence!

Thesis: noun: thesis; plural noun: theses

  1. 1. a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved.”his central thesis is that psychological life is not part of the material world”
  2. 2. a long essay or dissertation involving personal research, written by a candidate for a college degree.”a doctoral thesis”

 NOTE TO READERS:  I HAVE RUN OUT OF PROMPTS!  IF YOU WANT TO SUGGEST A PROMPT FOR TOMORROW’S POEM, PLEASE SEND IT AS A COMMENT.