Wednesday, August 29, 2007

An Open Window Prompt

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[inspired by a prompt at Poetry Thursday]

The Muse's Casement


I spend most days in mundane prose,

deciding on the simplest wording,

stripping text of its nuances, its overtones,

its metaphors.


But every now and then I stop by

an open window to the world of poets

where I drink in the sounds of voices

stringing songs for me to sample.


I smell this one, taste that one,

reach out to touch another

to determine if it feels soft or prickly.

Some catch me up in a dance,

others I set aside for later.

I delight in the varied textures

of voices from around the world.


The refreshed poet in me

returns to the back of my mind,

working patiently, silently,

eventually gifting me with

words spun into gold,

floating toward an open window.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Seuss Books and Me

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[This was written in response to the prompt of "Seuss" at Weekend Wordsmith.]


An I.O.Seuss

I love books, my soul they feed.

My parents taught me how to read

when I was small, on lap I curled

and listened as each tale unfurled.


First nursery rhymes were read to me,

then later I learned "A-B-C".

I learned to read, the words I spoke,

a burning hunger in me woke.


Who fed this hunger? Who gave me more?

'Twas Geisel, first name "Theodore."

Green Eggs and Ham, and Hop on Pop,

once reading had started it never did stop.


"The Cat in the Hat" I did enjoy

and boy! that Cat, he could annoy.

"The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" was next

And Bartholomew Cubbins, a favorite text,


and elephant Horton, with giggling glee,

as he sat on an egg, in a nest, in a tree.

The Sleep Book, a Dictionary writ in French --

The hunger for learning was too much to quench.


I went to school, then to college and work

I take on great tasks, no duties I shirk.

The learning that all of those books did induce

I credit to parents, and to dear Doctor Seuss.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lucky Birthday

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[memories evoked by the Sunday Scribblings prompt "I get that sinking feeling..."]

Someone, I don't remember who, told me that my 15th birthday would be lucky because it fell on the 15th day of the month. I do recall that I wanted to go to the zoo for my birthday. Mom and Daddy and my younger brother and I, we went to the city that day, 70 miles away. Mom drove, as always.


I think I had a pretty good time, but it did rain, and it was a little foggy - definitely unusual for the summer. I don't remember many details from that part of the trip, but I get vague flashes of a rhinoceros, and a building where they were growing mushrooms, but I may be confusing that with something else. I know lunch was a hot dog standing under the eaves of a building because all the seats were out in the rain.


The original plan was to leave the zoo and return home. Note I said "original."


Daddy was going to attend some kind of upcoming meeting in a town about 10 miles outside the city and didn't know how to get there. Mom was very familiar with that area since it had some very large shopping malls, something new to the area back then. So Mom took us on a detour to point out to Daddy how to get where he needed.


I was a little bummed out from the weather, and tired from walking around, and I was fifteen (and probably just generally moody). I don't know if I got "that sinking feeling" but perhaps I should have.


You see, as Mom was driving and pointing something out to Daddy, she turned a little sooner than she had intended and ran the car into the concrete median. Then the car didn't sound right and we pulled over into the nearest parking lot (tons of those around, being in mall-land at the end of a day). We later found out that the impact had pushed the fan back into the radiator, causing the latter to crack. Not good.


The four of us were still 60 miles from home. This was in the days before cell phones, so we located a pay phone. One call to someone to tow the car to the dealer my mom used in the city. Then a couple of calls to folks who lived in our hometown to see if anyone was able to come collect our family of four to take us home. We finally did track down one of my dad's employees, but they weren't able to leave right away (don't remember why). We set a time and a place to meet.


By then the car had been picked up by the tow truck and we headed off on foot in search of dinner. Since the area was geared to keeping people happy through retail, we had our pick of national chain restaurants and we picked one of the nicer ones (a real treat) and had dinner "out." Somehow the charm was a little lost on me, being in a bad mood and all. I guess I was feeling sorry for myself.


After dinner our "ride" picked us up. The employee had her husband with her. The two of them picked up the four of us and boy! was that car full on the way back home. I was probably still somewhat grumpy, but as long as no one tried to talk to me, I was probably just silent and well, almost pleasant-enough.


I knew it was nice that my family could spend my birthday with me, and that we could take a trip, and that the weather wasn't a TOTAL washout, and no one got hurt in the accident and we didn't go hungry and we had friends who would spend two hours out of their day off to do us a favor. I KNEW that. But I still considered the day, on the balance, to be awful. It still felt that all that luck of my 15th birthday on the 15th of the month - all that luck was bad luck.


I think I'm somewhat better at rolling with the punches now. But if anyone tells me a day is going to be lucky, I am extra careful.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Last Lines Prompt

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This week's Poetry Thursday prompt is to use the last line of a poem as the first line of a new poem. I selected the last line of Onion Tears that I wrote in July.


Fields Forever

When I eat them,
if they are ripe,
I feel the scratchy straw I sit on
here in the space between the rows
where it keeps down the weeds.
The hot sun beats down on
my straw hat and my bare legs.
Red stains my hands and my brother's mouth, and
the red gems smile from underneath dark green leaves.
With no wind to speak of
I hear the rustle of other pickers
down the rows, and closer
my mom's voice tells us,
"Make sure some make it into the baskets."
Six baskets sit in each flat,
and all of them will go home with us
to become strawberry shortcake, and
my daddy's strawberry jam.



If you care to see the other poems I've posted on this blog, just click on the "poetry" label below.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Traffic Haiku

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I put this together in my head while I was on the way to work this morning. No, I did not write it down while the car was moving.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
[photo from lugnutandhendrix at Photobucket.com]


Traffic Haiku

I can only go
as fast as the car in front;
honk at someone else.




Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dear Diary

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[Inspired by Sunday Scribblings]

I've finally done it. I wrote a sonnet. I will likely play with this a bit before I'm finally done with it, but I share it with you anyway.


Dear Diary


What do you know now, oh journal of mine?

I tell you my secrets, my loves and my rages.

I scribble them down on your simple lined pages.

Have you absorbed each confessional line?

Do you grasp omens, read hints as a sign?

Am I dumb as a stump? Am I wise like the sages?

Will my shadow be long through the subsequent ages?

Or will all my foolishness wilt on the vine?

Or am I bother, a joke or a jest?

Do you resent all my writing in you,

Wishing instead for bright paint, not black ink?

I hope that you like me, and do not detest

That I share with you all that I feel and I do.

Giving you up would sure drive me to drink.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Poetry Jam Session

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First a little background:

I like reading poetry, but sometimes I forget that my brain isn't finished thinking about one poem before my eyes start taking in another. One day my brain hit overload and the lines I had read all mish-mashed in my head until I didn't know lines came from which poem.

And that started me thinking. I started thinking about the lines that are REALLY stuck in my head, many for years and years. Many are famous, others a bit more obscure.

And I started wondering if the lines would work together.

So I started writing down lines as I thought of them. A few I had to look up to make sure I had them right, or to remember the exact title of the poem (and in one case the poet's name). I was on vacation, so I worked on the list for a few days until I had a nice tidy stack, each one jotted on a little post-it note. Then I started to play.

I moved the little sticky notes around a board, changing the order until they appealed to me the most. And I decided I was pleased.

So what follows was not written by me. Lets just say it was "jumbled and titled" by me. I hope you enjoy it.


Poetry Jam Session

Twinkle, twinkle, little star (1)
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (2)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (3)
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches (4)
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe (5)
I didn't know I loved the earth (6)
A suddenness of trees (7)
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, (8)
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul. (9)
I taste it again. The meat of memory. (10)
City of the Big Shoulders
They tell me you are wicked. (11)
Hardly a man is now alive (12)
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. (13)
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright, (14)
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore." (15)
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (16)
I lift my lamp beside the golden door! (17)
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! (18)
for destruction
ice
is also great
and would suffice. (19)
We real cool. We (20)
two socks as soft as rabbits. (21)
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (22)
Because I could not stop for death
He kindly stopped for me. (23)
She walks in beauty, like the night (24)
Do not go gentle into that good night. (25)
by the shining deep-sea waters (26)
my feet were
two fish made
of wool, (27)
fishing on the Susquehanna (28)


(1) The Star, Ann and Jane Taylor
(2) Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

(3) Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

(4) Birches, Robert Frost

(5) Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll

(6) Things I Didn’t Know I Loved, Nazim Hikmet

(7) Night Journey, Theodore Roethke

(8) Mending Wall, Robert Frost

(9) A Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(10) Pot Roast, Mark Strand

(11) Chicago, Carl Sandburg

(12) The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(13) Invictus, William Ernest Henley

(14) Casey at the Bat, Ernest Lawrence Thayer

(15) The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe

(16) Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas

(17) The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus

(18) A Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(19) Fire and Ice, Robert Frost

(20) We Real Cool, Gwendolyn Brooks

(21) Ode to My Socks, Pablo Neruda

(22) The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus

(23) Because I Could Not Stop for Death, Emily Dickinson

(24) She Walks in Beauty, George Gordon, Lord Byron

(25) Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas

(26) The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(27) Ode to My Socks, Pablo Neruda

(28) Fishing on the Susquehanna in July, Billy Collins



I saved the sticky notes in case I care to re-shuffle them later. I am sure that another day would result in a different order. And if I had done this on a different week, I am sure I would have had different lines to play with. What rings in my head varies, after all. I had a lot of fun with this.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cemeteries

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[memories evoked by the Sunday Scribblings prompt, "Goosebumps"]

Do you ever get an unexpected shiver, apparently for no reason? When that happened to me, I remember my grandma telling me "someone must be walking on your grave." I always thought that was creepy. Do graveyards give you goosebumps? I can't say that they do for me, although I know some folks have more trouble with the idea of being around them.

When I was a girl scout, we would do overnight camping at the local girl scout property on the lake. It was next to a cemetery, so inevitably we would sing spooky songs. It was on a girl scout camping trip that I first did rubbings of the art on the old gravestones. I had never done that before and really liked that method of remembering artwork. The charcoal rubbings always came out with so much more detail than the snapshots from our little cheap cameras.


I remember helping my grandma and great aunt get ready for Decoration Day. That was what they used to call Memorial Day. Most years, I was out of school for the summer already, and for days ahead, we'd gather together glass and metal vases. Then we'd sort out and make arrangements of artificial flowers. Then we'd plan which flowers would need to be picked on the morning we would go to the grave sites. Some folks got whatever was in bloom, some got roses. When the bouquets were ready, we'd put them in boxes in the trunk or back seat of the car and head out to the cemeteries. I remember visiting 3 of them.


The closest cemetery was at the edge of town. It was quite large, and backed up to the country club on one side. It was well-manicured and had winding roads through it. Most of the headstones were quite modern.


The next cemetery we visited had a lot of family in it. It was out past the small town where my grandma had been born, kind of stuck in between the fields. You went through the little-bitty town, turn left at the next corner, down and up and right at the next road, then a left turn going sharply uphill into the cemetery. It had a lot of older stones, though nothing was elaborate. The folks buried there were, for the most part, farmers and their families, and there wasn't a lot of extra money to spend on fancy headstones.


I don't remember exactly where the 3rd cemetery was, it is possible I fell asleep on the way. I do remember it was not as well cared-for. It was on a little hilltop in the middle of more fields and there was a little walking uphill to get to the graves we visited.


I do remember that my great aunt took special care to put the fresh-cut roses on the grave of her sister (my great-aunt Lucy who died just after I was born). She told me that Lucy hated artificial flowers. When Lucy was dying she said she'd come back as a ghost and sit on the bed of the anyone who put artificial flowers on her grave. My living relatives didn't want to tempt fate (or Lucy, I guess).


The American Legion in my hometown did something that had a great impact on Memorial Day (and Independence Day). When a military person dies, a flag is draped on their casket. The flag is folded and given to the family. Some families put these flags in cases for display, but many of them are tucked away and never taken out. The American Legion in my town offered to care for these flags in return for getting to use them. Each military flag was mounted on a wooden pole and the name, rank, and war of the deceased went on a metal plate affixed to that pole.

The American Legion put out the flags for special events and then would gather them up and make sure they were cleaned and properly cared for. The result of this is that the main streets, and the roads leading to and through the town cemetery are lined for Memorial Day with these flags. I remember walking along and looking at the name plates on the flags. Being a small town, if someone in the family didn't know the person whose name was on the flag, odds were that we knew a relative of that person. To see all those flags, each representing a real person from my small town over generations, was definitely enough to give me goosebumps.

Poems from Junior High School

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When I was a kid, the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades were in the Junior High School. I was 12, 13, and 14 years old when I went there. I believe these two poems date from those days.


Bumblebees
(dedicated to Joyce Kilmer)

I think that I shall never see
A stranger sight than a bumblebee.

An insect, that's an arthropod,
With too-small wings and a too-big "bod."

By law, the bumblebee can't sail
And pelts the countryside like hail.

How, then, does he stay afloat?
He does not sneer, or cry, or gloat.

Instead, he gives his wings a flit
And lives each day without thinking of it.


[The poem above was written after I read that Physics could not fully explain how a bumblebee could fly. I have since read that they figured it out. This poem was published in my high school "lit" class "magazine."]



Chocolate-Lover's Lament

My mind is made up.
I won't let it waver.
I'll go off my diet
For a treat that I'll savor.

My brain, it says, "No."
My stomach says, "Yes."
My mother won't like it
I have to confess.

But like it or not,
My waistline will pay.
You can't miss the call
Of a chocolate souffle.


[This was also published in the high school "lit magazine." I played around a lot with the last line (which eventually yielded the title) but some of the things that worked in terms of meter were, at best unexpected, and at worst, well, disgusting - but I was in junior high school. This tastiest version is the one that survived.]

Friday, August 10, 2007

Poem from 6th Grade

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In 6th grade I was 11 years old. For an English class project, I put together a little book of poems that I had written. I uncovered that little book this summer and I typed them into my computer. Here is the first poem of what might be called my first "published" work:


Friends

Everyone should have a friend.
To him you may have things to lend.
His dog may have the name of Rover.
He may ask you to come over.



I think my poetry has come a long way since then (and I think that is a good thing).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Summer Air

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[Check out more at Poetry Thursday.]

I have known air like this, and I am glad this summer has not had much of it...



Summer Air


Summer air.
Not spring air.
Not warm-your-winter-chill air.
Not "ooh! I'll sit outside today" air.

No.

This is summer air.
Sauna air.
A blast furnace-powered sauna.

Summer air that
scorches the sidewalk and street
sending shimmering infrared waves
to smack me in the face.

Air with so much liquid that
I think the air itself
is sweating.

The air with weight,
heavy with all the humidity it hauls,
presses down on me
encumbering every step.

Wet air that catches and carries
the smells it meets,
but it doesn't move far.
This is air too substantial to be pushed
by anything so blithe
as a breeze.

Humid air that makes everything soggy,
too soaked to evaporate.
People shining and lethargic
open refrigerator doors
and pull out glass containers
instantly wrapped with dew.

I debate if the energy needed
to move the fan
is worth it
when the effort produces more heat
than it removes.

Is it a walk up the block?
or is it a swim?
With air too dense to breathe,
which way can I turn my head
to bring dry air
into my laboring lungs?

Sizzling, sultry air
forces me to strip
until I have removed
all the clothing
I can
without being arrested.

I drink cold water from a cup,
and hot water from the air.
The swelter
roasting
more water
from my flesh
than I can put in.

Air with more moisture content
than humans,
threatening to become sentient itself,
is a malignant presence
that keeps me awake at night
turning over and over,
trying to find a
cool
dry
spot on my pillow,
a place that my head,
drenched with sweat,
can lose enough fever
to bring sleep
and dreams
that are not filled
with steam.

Vacation Reading 2007

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I fell far short of the dozen books I hoped to read on vacation, but I did finish these:

Powers of Detection: Stories of Mystery & Fantasy

edited by Dana Stabenow

This was a nice collection of easy-read short stories of murder and/or mayhem in a variety of settings. The authors in this collection are: Donna Andrews, Simon R. Green, John Straley, Anne Bishop, Charlaine Harris, Anne Perry, Sharon Shinn, Michael Armstrong, Laura Anne Gilman, Mike Doogan, Jay Caselberg, and Dana Stabenow. Nothing earth-shattering, but who needs that for summer reading?



The Serpent's Shadow

by Mercedes Lackey

First in the Elemental Masters series.

The story was cute enough and the main characters were likable but I had a lot of trouble getting through the book. The novel is semi-historical, and instead of letting the story naturally give a flavor to the time and place, the author forced it. She spent pages of great detail lecturing about the suffragette movement and its implications, about early medicine, and about how unfair and even dangerous life was for those with little or no money. I picked this book because I had another and thought I would start at the beginning of the series. I will now jump to the book I have and will hope that it is more about the story and less about trying to "educate" me.



Blood Bound

by Patricia Briggs

sequel to Moon Called

The continuing story of Mercy Thompson, a single woman with her own auto mechanic shop. Oh, and she can become a coyote at will. She's a walker. She was raised by wolves - werewolves. Her next door neighbor and her roommate are werewolves. Not to mention that she has a friend who is a vampire. As much as she tries to stay out of werewolf and vampire business, she nonetheless gets drawn in (again) when her vampire friend asks her for a favor. She tries to juggle helping her friends, staying alive, staying solvent, and figuring out where her heart lies. She's smart and tough and this was another fun read. I'll definitely read more by this author.



Voice of the Gods

by Trudi Canavan

Age of the Five: Book Three

A satisfying end to this trilogy, wrapping up a number of various plot-lines and character development. All three books in the series are long, but they don't drag. This book really doesn't stand alone, I strongly recommend reading them in order. (Priestess of the White is 1st, Last of the Wilds is 2nd.)



Windfall

by Rachel Caine

Weather Warden: Book Four

Joanne Baldwin's crazy life (or this version of it) continues in this fast read. I enjoyed this entry as Jo copes with loss and with unexpected family, not to mention a life without the salary (and information and protections) that come with being a Weather Warden. Her horrible low-paying job crashes headlong into her desires for designer shoes and her sister doesn't understand the meaning of the word budget. And with 3 or 4 different entities out to kill her, she's got a lot on her plate this time.



I'm still working through the vacation stack, and I'm part-way through a book of poetry that my wife's aunt gave us at Christmas (though I can't remember if it was in 2006 or 2005, but I am enjoying it now). I'll let you know what I think about those later.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Teaser

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I'm back from vacation, most of the laundry is done and I'm plowing through the work that stacked up while I was away - and the junk mail.

But just before I went on vacation, I discovered a bunch of old poetry and decided to transcribe it. I not only found some stuff from college, but I had also completely forgotten some things I wrote in high school - some was even "published" in the annual mimeographed (remember that?) art "magazine." What's more, I even discovered a booklet of poetry I put together for a 6th grade class. I was 11 years old. I'm not sure if I'll share any of the 6th-grade stuff, but I will post some of the high school works.

I didn't remember that my love for poetry started so early!

And I've been polling (ok, pestering) people at work, asking them, "Did you ever have to memorize a poem for school? If so, do you remember what it was and do you still remember any of it?" If you want to share, feel free...