Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not in Her Nature

15 comments

[a poem inspired by the Totally Optional Prompt, work.]


Not in Her Nature

It is not in her nature to be still.

As a child she loved to run.
She would run, and run, and run
until her lungs hurt and
only then would she stop.

When she was still a child herself
she was paid to babysit smaller children.
She would go early in the evening,
feed them dinner,
bathe them,
put them to bed.
I think she made a dollar
for the whole night.

When she was twelve
she started working
at the drugstore,
behind the lunch counter
and soda fountain.
She made every kind of
ice cream concoction
with all kinds of flavors
until she got so that
even today
she only likes vanilla
or strawberry.

She got married before she
graduated from high school.
She no longer had to work
at the lunch counter, but
she added the job of
housewife
to her duties as student.

She worked for her family
until
it wouldn't work any more.
Then she worked to make money
to support her two children,
who lived with her mother.

When she married again,
she still had to work,
because the man had given
what he made before
to his ex-wife.

They worked alongside each other
in business,
building a house,
and then another family.
Their children knew
they would be expected to work
one day, and as practice
they had chores to do.

And the woman worked
to make the house clean and beautiful,
to keep the yard healthy and neat,
to teach her children to be responsible,
to help out at the schools,
to help with the scout troops,
to help with the church.

And then,
when the man retired,
partly because he was old,
but more because he was sick,
she worked as his nurse,
because she loved him,
and because
it is not in her nature to be still
and let others "do" for her.

And now that the man is gone,
she works to keep the house clean
and the yard neat, and
her lungs hurt just going up stairs.

But even now,
it is not in her nature to be still.




The Transplant

18 comments

[Inspired by Bone and his 3 Word Wednesday prompt - this week the words were phone, stumbled, windy]



The Transplant


I slipped
and landed on the ground.
I was unprepared
for this show of nature.
Exhausted,
I bent over,
pulled my collar up,
and stumbled again toward
the building's shelter.

When they told me
it would be windy
I pulled out a jacket.
How could I know
that my idea of windy
was a tiny kitten compared
to this saber-toothed storm?

The day was mild
when I set out for my walk,
only a few dark clouds
in the distance
and a teasing breeze
warm against my cheek.

I marveled at how
alone in the world
I seemed to be,
unfamiliar with the land
but knowing that the empty fields here
would not allow me to get lost!

I found a rock
just off the road
where I ate a crisp apple
and disappeared into my book.
The air came faster,
but I only noticed
the dimmed sunlight
when it was too dark to read.

The sky was an angry green,
and gusts pushed
the trees over sideways.
I turned back at once,
wishing for
a taxi to hail.
I didn't even have
a phone with me
because the cell tower
had collapsed
the week before I got here.
I should have asked
about that.

The half-mile out
seemed many times that
as I pushed myself against
the roaring force.
I was a tiny ant
retracing my path
along the dusty road,
each bit of sand
biting my face
to tell me of my
lack of sense.

Lost in time I moved
one footstep at a time.
An eternity later
I saw the dim outline
of the building.
My attention already inside,
I found a hole
lost my footing,
and hurt every body part
I landed on.

My misery turned a corner
and gained anger.
I stubbornly stood
and pushed my slow ox-self
against the yoke of the wind,
aiming for my warm stall.



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Socks

33 comments

[a poem inspired by the Writers Island prompt, Haunted]


Socks

I like to match
my socks to my shirt.
But sometimes
the white ones
are haunted
by the taunting ghosts
of school children
from a time
when white socks
weren't cool.




Monday, October 29, 2007

Airbag

4 comments

[This week's Monday Poetry Stretch at the Miss Rumphius Effect is found poetry. This poem was found among the words printed on the various buttons, dials, knobs, switches, panels, and levers in the front of my car. Let's just think of this as a cartoon.]


Airbag

start
hi, passenger
auto on
brake off
start passenger airbag
cancel logic
scan mirror
lo logic
set control
time x1000
passenger audio airbag hi
logic mode off
passenger audio max
seek control mode
passenger airbag max
control mode lo
passenger hi
control mode off
mist control
deck passenger
pull toyota off
brake on
auto off
passenger airbag off

auto on
start digital passenger
seek compact disc track
seek tape tune
brake off



[And here's a found poem from August.]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall Reading 2007

6 comments

I seem to have quite a pile of books in my "recently read" pile. Here's the recap (for anyone who is interested).

Princess at Sea
by Dawn Cook
fantasy, sequel to The Decoy Princess
The continuing story of the young woman raised to think she was a princess, only to find out that she was a stand-in. In this novel she goes from one desperate situation to another, some sparked by her own emotional impulses. I like the character despite her flaws, though I do wish she were not quite SO flawed. A quick read.

The Wizard of London
by Mercedes Lackey
fantasy, fourth in the Elemental Masters series
Another quick read, this one juggling viewpoints between "the good guys" and "the bad guys." This was much better than the first in The Serpent's Shadow, which was far too preachy for me. This one had flawed but largely believable characters, except for the two children who were nonetheless likable.

The Devil in the White City
Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed the World
by Erik Larson
This is a fascinating read that alternates chapters on the planning and execution of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago with chapters on the story of a real-life serial killer who took advantage of people who were drawn to the fair. Either set of chapters would be an interesting enough read, but set against each other, they are entirely compelling. The serial killer chapters are not for the faint of heart, but it is a story that I think most people don't even know about. And the details of the famous (and would-later-be-famous) people involved in the Chicago World's Fair are terrific. It took me a while to get through this book, because I wasn't always in the mood to read about the devious and deadly, or about even the talented and egotistical (depending which chapter), but I recommend this highly.

Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly
edited by Jane Espenson with Glenn Yeffeth
For someone like me, a lover of the sadly-cancelled TV series Firefly, this is a great book of essays on various aspects of the series. Some discuss the subtle details of the craft of making the series: the music, or the way the visuals helped tell the story. One is a loving mini-memoir by Jewel Staite (Kaylee). Since I'm one of those people who has the series on DVD, I plan to re-watch some episodes to look for (or listen for) the things some of these other fans point out.

Traitor to the Blood
by Barb & J. C. Hendee
fantasy, fourth in the Noble Dead series
While not advancing Magiere's story, this installment gives us a good look into Leesil's history instead and some of the secondary characters get some additional depth as well. If you are interested, don't start with this one. Back up and start with Dhampir.

Definitely Dead
by Charlaine Harris
fantasy, another Southern Vampire Novel
Heroine Sooki Stackhouse goes to New Orleans in this one and picks up a new boyfriend. She also meets up with a wide variety of supernatural creatures including the vampire Queen of New Orleans. I love these stories and they are quick reads. I'd recommend starting at the beginning of this series too, the first was Dead until Dark.

Firestorm
by Rachel Caine
fantasy, Weather Warden book five
I love this series, with smart-ass main character Joanne Baldwin. In this installment she races across the country (more than once) trying to save her family, her co-workers, her own skin, and while she's at it, all of humanity. Never easy and this one ends with yet another surprise, or two.

Childish Things
by Timothy Wright
fantasy
I cannot be completely objective about this one because it was written by my nephew. It is a book about children discovering magic, this one set in America's Midwest. I am tickled that he wrote a novel, something that takes a longer attention span that I'm capable of these days. It was a good story and I enjoyed it very much. I loved the couple of inside-joke things I caught. This is available at Lulu press or through Amazon. It is possible there will be a sequel at some point, but right now my nephew is busy at law school.

Picnic, Lightning
by Billy Collins
poetry
My wife's aunt gave us this for Christmas last year (or was it the year before) and I didn't get around to reading this until this year. I love a lot of the poems in here. I wasn't familiar with Billy Collins, but I'll certainly be seeking out more of his work in the future. I like his conversational style and the knack he has for taking a quick turn at the end of the poem to lead you to a place you didn't see coming. My favorite poems in this book are "Fishing on the Susquehanna in July" and "Lines Lost Among Trees" but there are several others I'll be re-reading a lot.

I haven't picked out my next read yet, but there is always a stack next to the bed, so I'm sure by the end of tomorrow, I'll have my nose in another book.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hospital

11 comments

[memories evoked by the Sunday Scribblings prompt "hospital"]

The hospital in our town served a lot of folks all over the county. It was a 3 or 4 story brick building built in the mid-1950's and it was just a couple of blocks away from my house. Since my dad was a doctor in town, I was no stranger to the hospital, and my view was probably quite different from that of most kids my age.

Some of my earliest memories of the hospital are of the doctors' lounge. If you went in the door closest to the administrative offices, it was the first door on the right. It seemed like a big room to a small kid, and there was a large table in the middle, big enough for all the doctors in town to have meetings. There were shelves on at least 3 of the walls, with tons of books, but there was also a wooden box on a lower shelf. That box contained crayons. Sometimes my dad left me in that room to draw while he did his rounds of the patients upstairs. I'm sure he had someone in the offices look in on me once in a while, but with paper and crayons, I was quite happy to stay put.

Another early memory is of the emergency room. The doctors in town were always "on call" for their own patients and if someone had an emergency, my dad would meet them at the hospital. The doctors took turns being on call for patients without a regular physician. And if a doctor went out of town, he made arrangements for someone to take his patients in an emergency. So there were plenty of times that our plans were interrupted by a call from the hospital. If my dad suspected that it would not take him long, I was sometimes brought along. I was not exposed to the trauma patients, but instead I went into a small room where the emergency room nurses worked. There was a small desk, with an extra chair or two. On one wall next to the desk was a bank of pagers that the doctors could use as long as they would be in-range (about a mile or maybe two). These are not the little beepers of recent years, but about the size of an adult's shoe. And all it did was beep as an indication to call the hospital -- no messages or two-way communication - this was years before that.

And one more early memory was of the trips we made in December. My mom would make sure that my younger brother and I were dressed up, then she'd take the two of us over to the hospital to deliver boxes of chocolate candies to the people who worked there. She had different sized boxes, depending on how many people worked in the different areas. One was left in the front office, another in the kitchen, one in the emergency room to share with the lab. I think we left one in the basement but I'm a little vague on what was there. It could have been the morgue, and if so that's probably something they kept from me. Then we went upstairs to the floors. One for the OB ward, then one for the other nurses' stations. And back on the first floor we dropped one off in the nursing home (which was originally in a different building, then moved into a new attached wing of the main building). At each stop the nurses or pink ladies (the volunteers) or staff members made noises over us and how much we had grown or how nice we looked.

The pink ladies really did wear pink. One of them sat at a desk in the main lobby and helped people figure out where someone's relative was. The lobby was, at the time, decorated in the latest furnishings -- with straight lines and armless chairs and long cushioned sectionals. I seem to remember a dull orange and a dull yellow as two of the colors. There was a television in one corner.

Skipping forward in time, during the summer between my junior and senior years at college, I took a part-time job at the hospital in an attempt to have a "real job" on my resume before I graduated. I had been a camp counselor and a substitute life guard, but I thought an office job would be better, especially since I was majoring in Computer Science.

My job was to help out in the office area. I think I worked 3 days a week. The first week (maybe two) all I did was file. There were 3 or 4 women who typed up paperwork to submit to "third party billing" (aka insurance companies). When they finished with the billing paperwork, they stacked it under one side of their desk. Each of them had a stack between one foot and two feet tall waiting for someone to have time to file them away. I was just what they had been waiting for. My brain went numb, but I had filing experience at my dad's office, so I was pretty good at it.

Officially, I reported to the comptroller. I don't remember who the comptroller was, but I do know that I finally got to do something with the computer. They were going to let me help reconcile two or three bank statements. I don't know why they had two or three to do, but I guess that person was as far behind in her work as the women with the typewriters. The task entailed watching the computer screen as it presented one check number and dollar amount pair at a time. For each pair of numbers, I had to click either "yes" or "no" to indicate if it had been cleared on the statement in front of me. If I thought my brain had gone numb from filing, this completely put me to sleep. I would fall into a pattern and realize a split-second too late that I had clicked "yes" when I meant "no." I make a note of the error on a piece of paper and asked what I should do - was there a way to correct it. I got a long-suffering look and was told they'd take care of it and took the note from me. When on the 2nd statement I again made errors, they let me finish that one, but then found something else for me to do.

My next task was to again help the billing office. Their back-log of filing done, I next helped them with finding the accurate diagnoses for the paperwork. I would get the patient's name and the time of their stay in the hospital, then would walk next door to the medical library. This room was between the billing office and the doctor's lounge where I spent time many years before. The arrangement was not by accident. On the back wall of the doctors' lounge was a dictation machine. When the doctors dictated their charts, it was convenient to the people who translated the dictation onto paper for filing. The file room was wall to wall shelves with what seemed like millions of folders containing patient records. I had to find the patient record, then usually I had to get help from the medical librarian to decipher what the diagnosis was. I got a few on my own, but it wasn't easy finding it among all the info there. Once I had the diagnosis, I carried it back to the billing office for the person who had asked for it.

That was certainly a more interesting job, although I wasn't very fast at it. As it turned out, it was not the best summer for me to be working there. The hospital laid off quite a few people. None from the offices I worked in were let go, but at least a dozen other people were. They weren't going to be able to pay me any more. I suppose I could have kept working there for free - if what I really wanted was the experience. But I had had enough and called it quits.

These days I think most doctors are expected to type their diagnoses directly into the computer. That means that the billing people don't need a lackey to go look up those diagnoses - they just link to it through their computer screens. But I bet there is still someone who has to do endless filing - we don't have paperless offices yet!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Fill-In

8 comments

[This is my contribution to Janet's Friday Fill-In for this week.]

1. The last good thing that came in the mail was the title to my car.

2. This week I'm grateful for the week being over.

3. Anything made with sugar is the most delicious thing ever. (Until I want something else!)

4. Nature inspires me.

5. I'm most happy when I make time to read and write for fun.

6. And all the roads we have to walk along are full of bumps, but it is about the journey not the destination.

7. As for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to not being at work, tomorrow my plans include singing at homeless families benefit concert, and Sunday, I want to goof off!



Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sales Pitch

8 comments

[Inspired by Bone and his 3 Word Wednesday prompt - this week the words were care, unexpected, weekend]


Sales Pitch


"We do not care to buy from you,"
I say again into the phone.
The sales calls never seem to end,
I never feel that I'm alone.

There are but two sole weekend days
in which to do what must be done.
The unexpected phone calls mean
there's much less time left to have fun.


Making Mistakes

0 comments

[Composed for the Monday Poetry Stretch (First Lines) at the Miss Rumphius Effect.]


Making Mistakes


Yesterday is history.
I look toward tomorrow.
To spend today just looking back

would lead me right to sorrow.

I know the past has happened,

for I was there at the time,

but I can't change what I did then,

not with millions nor a dime.


I can only say I'm sorry,

and I'll not do that again.

It was a simple blunder

not a grievous mortal sin.


I look toward the future

and I don't brood on the past.

By learning from my errors

I know my fate is not yet cast.




[The first line "Yesterday is History" is from Emily Dickinson]

One Hundred Years

17 comments

[Inspired by the prompt at Totally Optional Prompts. I'm glad to be back in the land of high-speed Internet.]


One Hundred Years


My great-aunt saw
the turn of the century --
the last one, that is.

They said she learned
to walk holding onto
a wagon tongue
as it rolled out to
Oklahoma
to homestead.

I saw the recent
turn of the century.
My days were busy
chasing the Y2K bug.




Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rationality in a 3 Ring Circus

4 comments

[a poem written for the October Project at Cafe Writing]


Rationality in a 3 Ring Circus

I.
Rational thought cannot combat
the flutter in my stomach,
the sure knowledge that I am
helpless in the face of it,
dread tensing every muscle
and stifled screams stopping my voice
from calling for help.

II.
Rational thought plays no part
in the giddy dance of my twinkling eyes
a smile enfolding me in warmth,
comfort cuddling me
as I willingly give myself over
to the one I trust unconditionally.

III.
Rational thought cannot soothe
the ache in my heart
nor stop the tears tracking down
my vacant face,
their salt stinging my memories.



[The prompt was to write a poem about fear, love, and loss.]

A Moving Viewpoint

2 comments

[a poem inspired by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt, View]


A Moving Viewpoint


The view from below is gray,
damp and drizzly,
the atmosphere telling us
to go back to the house,
stoke the fire,
and snuggle in until the weather is better.

The view from inside is plastic,
well-lit and unchanging,
the loudspeakers telling us
that dog teams are on duty today,
and that liquids and gels
are restricted in our carry-on bags.

The view from above is bright,
the unhindered sun shining,
the brilliance telling us
to keep sailing
over the billows of
the white cotton horizon.


Monday, October 22, 2007

The Flatlander

2 comments

[a poem inspired by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt, Mountains]


The Flatlander


Someone told me the midwest made her feel

as though she were on a map,

with its towns laid out

on grids aligned with the compass points.


I grew up on that great flatness,

giving directions by north and west

and knowing that the weather 3 states west

would be ours in 24 to 36 hours

with nothing in between to slow it down

or stop it.


Where you could see for miles

on a clear day from the top of a tractor.

Where you could see forever

from the top of a big city building.


Where farms were measured in

hundreds of acres,

and where you could interchange

the minutes and miles to things

because 60-mile-an-hour driving

wasn't slowed by traffic or curvy roads.


So when I look up at a mountain

it is not with an off-hand,

taken-for-granted glance.

This flatlander looks up with delight.

7 October Things

2 comments

[This list was written for the Cafe Writing site's October Project.]


  1. Crisp apples picked in the orchard on a bright sunny day

  2. Extra blankets on the bed at night

  3. Sweaters come out of hiding

  4. Remembering my dad on his birthday

  5. Columbus Day holiday from work

  6. Last month of overnight on-street parking until spring

  7. The lawn gets a coat of fallen leaves

American Loire Song

7 comments

[inspired by the prompt at Totally Optional Prompts. The short poem offered as the prompt inspired me to write this poem about a memory. I wanted to post it much sooner, but I've been out of Internet range since early Thursday morning.]



American Loire Song


Young musicians far from home,

we explored the streets of Orleans

that mild summer evening.


Our wanderings took us

along a city-caged river in a small stone canyon,

past shops closed for the day,

roads nearly empty at the end of the day.


In the neighborhood of our hotel

floated the silk voice of a saxophone,

singing above and through the dusk.


It sang smooth and slow,

mellow and warm, with nothing to prove,

and it sang a smile into my heart.

Play Ball

0 comments

[Inspired by Bone and his 3 Word Wednesday prompt - this week the words were field, hide, second. I'm late this week due to spending time in an unfortunately Internet-free zone.]



Play Ball!



Strong players go field;

weak player take second base.

Now's no time to hide.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bodies of Water

8 comments

[These Haiku were penned at the request of my wife this summer. I am posting them now as a response to the Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect.]


Bodies of Water


Northern Lake

Icy water lies
still and waiting for the first
swimmer of the day.

Nova Scotia Afternoon

Gulf stream and shallow
ocean surprise my feet with
North Atlantic warmth.

Boat Trip

Right whale to starboard
a pod of pilots to port ,
how lucky are we!

North to South

From crystal blue creek
to roiling muddy mammoth -
the Mississippi.

No Comfort

The lake basks all day
turning the water into
a giant hot tub.

The Living Water

The ocean breaths in
our garbage - how soon before
it exhales on us?



Sunday, October 14, 2007

Marriage

7 comments

The prompt on the most recent Weekend Wordsmith is "Love."

The following snippet is from the celebration of our wedding in 2004:


Performing the rite of marriage does nothing to create love. The words in the ceremony only create a wedding when two people in love give them meaning over time, maintaining their commitment to each other through all the hardship and heartache unimagined when first falling in love.




The Nightmare

11 comments

[This sonnet was written for the Cafe Writing site's October Project.]



The Nightmare

When late October air grows chill

I dream of spirits, old and cold.

The weeds are wet upon the hill

as ghosts begin their flight so bold.

I listen even with my eyes

to pinpoint each benighted wisp,

for I've no mind to hear their cries

that float upon the wind so crisp.

The road to home is far this night

I fear I may not make it back.

With none to aid me in my plight

I brace myself against the black

and hope that as the shadows play

they let me reach All Hallows Day.



Saturday, October 13, 2007

Whatever

0 comments

[inspired by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "Whatever"]

Expressions seem to come and go with the times. I remember in early high school the expression "how bad!" but I can't seem to remember what we meant by it. We even translated it into Spanish (the only language my high school offered) and for one summer, a lot of us were saying, "que mal!"

A friend of mine in high school turned "whatever floats your boat" (something we would never say) into "whatever flicks your Bic" (we obviously watched too many TV commercials), and then into "whatever flicks your beezer." Since that last one sent us into fits of giggles, we kept it around for a long time. It still sneaks out once in a while, to which my current coworkers say, "what!?"


The ones that come from "inside jokes" seem to last longer. Otherwise we would pick up phrases from TV, or from movies, use them a while, then discard them.


We never had the courage (or stupidity) to tell our parents, "The devil made me do it!" the way we heard Flip Wilson (as Geraldine) say.


We did tell each other, "Never mind!" compliments of Gilda Radner's Emily Litella and we we tempted to call someone a "wild and crazy guy" thanks to Steve Martin.


And there are so many regional expressions. Using "wicked" to mean "very" was new to me when I arrived in New England in the 1980's.


There is currently an upswing in the use of the word "dude" by folks I know who never set one bare foot on a surfboard. And I find that I've picked it up. I am happy, though, in the knowledge that this expression, too, is temporary.

The Substitute

19 comments

[memories evoked by the Sunday Scribblings prompt "First Job, Worst Job, Dream Job"]

I'm trying to remember my first job(s). I got a little money to babysit my niece (I think it was while she took her nap so it was easy). And I once was paid by our across-the-street neighbors to water their plants while they were on vacation. I felt pretty proud of myself, that they trusted me with the key to their house.


When I was in high school I took a lifesaving class at the public pool and I earned my Red Cross certification. Most of the kids who earned theirs at the same time lined up jobs that would use them - being a lifeguard at either the pool in town, or at the public beach at the lake a few miles away from town. I had no interest (or need) to take on a regular job, but when they asked if I would ever consider being a substitute lifeguard I let them put me on the list.


Sure enough, one day I got a call from someone a year ahead of me in school. She had some family thing to do and needed to take 3 days off from work at the pool - could I fill in for her. I said yes. I showed up at the appointed time and said "hi" to the other teenagers who ran the place. Since it was a small town, I already knew them all. It was the teenagers who ran the day-in/day-out business.


Everyone rotated through shifts (I think we switched every 45 minutes):

(a) inside duty in either the basket room or the admission counter & concession

(b) poolside guarding duty either in one of the chairs or standing by the shallow end

(c) time off to recover from "a" and "b" - could be spent in the water or inside, but don't be late getting back for the switch


The pool was open for business from about 10am until 5pm. It was closed for an hour and then reopened from 6pm until probably 8pm. The summers were hot and humid (this was the midwest) and lots of families didn't have air conditioning. There were a lot of parents who would drop the kids off every day as they went to work, trusting the kids for the hour before the pool opened, then would pick them up after dinner. The oldest kid of the family would handle the pool pass and money for lunch and supper. The price of a family pool pass was a cheap child-care solution. At least the kids were getting exercise, even if they didn't eat well for lunch.


The pool building was painted concrete block. It was scrubbed and hosed down each night and it stayed cool and damp, even on the hottest days - like a cave. The first morning shift in the basket room was hard work, as was the shift leading up to the dinner close. If you pulled those shifts you spent nearly every minute swapping fully baskets for a tag, or retrieving baskets for those trying to "just get something out" or "put something back" or collecting their belongings to leave. And if we ran out of baskets, we had to wind through the dressing areas and shower areas to collect the ones people forgot to bring back to the counter. I never did ask if the boys side was as busy as the girls side.


If you worked the admission and concession counter, that was an easier "gig." Most of the kids coming to the pool had a pass, so getting people in went pretty fast. The concession wasn't too hard either. There was lots of candy and some frozen treats of some sort, and probably corn & potato chips. I don't remember selling sodas, but there were soda machines in the lobby. Mountain Dew was quite popular that summer, if I recall correctly. We didn't have anything that needed heating up or mixing, so it was pretty simple. We did spent a good amount of time making change for people who wanted sodas. We gabbed a lot while we worked the counter, trying out phrases of poor-syntax Spanish out of the few words we remembered from first-year Spanish class, and visiting with the shift of folks who were "off."


After being in the dark, cool inside, it always felt good for the baking sun to hit you at the start of the next shift. I liked sitting up in the lifeguard chair, with a whistle in one hand. It didn't take long to perfect that thing lifeguards do with a whistle on a lanyard -- you know, swinging it to wrap all the way around your fingers one way, then reversing directions and doing that over and over and over. We didn't do much talking while on duty. There were too many kids to watch. Mostly we watched people, making sure those who went under came up, and occasionally yelling at kids to "stop running" or "quit splashing." By the time that shift was over, your brain was buzzing with the constant alert-state and you were ready for a rest. When your relief came, your first stop was usually to get wet first, then head inside for the cool-and-usually-quiet, then a little time chatting on the bench outside the office.


I was so tickled at the end of that first week to get a real, honest-to-goodness paycheck. I was a bit disappointed at how much came out in taxes, but it was still pretty cool. And you know, I still love to open my paycheck and take a minute to be proud that I earn my own living. And I'm still a bit disappointed at how much comes out in taxes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Summer's Elegy

6 comments


[photo from stshores24 at flickr]



Summer's Elegy

Drizzly autumn rain gives a nod
and windshield wipers start a slow
intermittent rhythm:
wipe - wipe - rest, rest, rest, rest

The annual requiem,
a dirge punctuated
by loud pings as
falling acorns bounce off
the roof of the car.

The sky wears funereal darkness,
cold and somber in gray,
and drought-weary maple leaves
have faded to damp, dull brown.

Gone are beach days
and wearing sandals and sundresses
time has come to pack away gauze and linen,
don scarves and gloves,
and await the bright, crisp snap of winter.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Work Limerick

4 comments

[This was hastily composed for The Monday Poetry Stretch (limercks) at The Miss Rumphius Effect.]


This week at my job was not great

with all of these things on my slate.

Here I mostly compose

not in poems but in prose,

but I'm here even though I am late.

The Kitchen Touch

27 comments

[inspired by the prompt at Totally Optional Prompts. The short poem offered as the prompt inspired me to write something about the sense of touch.]



The Kitchen Touch


You can use a spoon

to toss two kinds of potatoes with oil

and with salt, pepper, and oregano

but it is faster

to turn the slices and smear them around

with your hands

although then you will have to wash them.


You can use a fork

to mix meatloaf,

mixing together the meat and egg

with the onions and seasoning

and matzo meal

but it is much faster

to mash it together evenly

with your hands

although then you will have to wash them.


You can use tongs

to toss a green salad

jumbling together the fragile leaves

with the chunky bits,

but it is just as fast

to gently mix it together

with your hands

although then you will have to wash them.


You can use a rubber spatula

to push cookies off a spoon

dropping them onto the cookie sheet

but there is nothing wrong

with using your hands

although then you will have to wash them.





Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Tanka Plus Two More

9 comments

[inspired by Bone and his 3 Word Wednesday prompt - this week the words were initial, knock, weather. These words led me to try a tanka for the first time. But the form of the tanka led me to something that was not quite right, so I wrote a second poem, still using the exact form of the given words. Finally, I wrote a 3rd version changing the words to fit the exact feeling I wanted. - Enjoy!]


This is my first tanka



yesterday's weather
a warm summery pleasure
a tree announces
with a knock on the window
initial blast of winter




Poem #2



The tree's knock on the window

scratches an initial in the frost --

a winter weather calling card.





Poem #3



The tree knocks on the window

scratching an initial in the frost --

a winter calling card.




Movie Quotes

4 comments

Whenever challenged to quote something from a movie, these are my stand-bys:


  1. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!
    - Princess Bride

  2. There's no crying in baseball!
    - A League of Their Own

  3. Whatever you do, don't touch the red button.
    - Men in Black

  4. I'm a mog: half-man, half-dog. I'm my own best friend.
    - Spaceballs

  5. Pretend I'm a girl.
    - Some Kind of Wonderful

Do you have a favorite quote from a movie?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Exploring Under

4 comments

[a poem inspired by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "Under"]


Under


I undertook some research so that I would understand

how "under" plays a part in so much language in our land.


A spy works undercover, doing work that's underhanded.

Underprivileged folks may have to do the work that they're commanded.


I fly under the radar and they underestimate --

even underclassmen know that is a fatal trait.


I've worked with underfunded groups, with not one underwriter

to make the underpinnings of the club a whole lot brighter.


I'll be under the weather if my food is underdone.

To undercook the poultry is a risk for more than some.


The underage might underdress for a black-tie affair,

undermining the decorum showing peeks of underwear.


The dangers underwater pose an undersea-type fate.

A beach's deadly undertow is hard to understate.


The role of understudies was one often underrated,

underlining all the entrances while every show they waited.


An underpass is underneath the busy road or street.

Some underlings are overlooked by co-workers they meet.


They plot and plan to make it big, a "mover and a shaker,"

how many of the undergrads become an undertaker?


You pay under-the-table to avoid incurring tax.

You undergo a deep massage in order to relax.


You crawl beneath a car to see its undercarriage there,

but you hope you never see the underbelly of a bear.


I wear clean underclothes the way my mom told me I should

I wrote this poem to underscore how under's understood.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Turkish Delight

7 comments

[picture from abdullahnisan at flickr]



Turkish Delight


"Come in and try them our Ottoman Trays."

Now that's not an ad that you hear every week,

from a restaurant typically offering praise

for their local food offerings, all much more meek.


An Ottoman Tray! How exotic it sounded!

An unusual teaser, this ad - quite a stopper.

Is the tray polished silver? the thought just astounded.

Or a star-motif etched in the surface of copper?


Is the waiter who brings it well-dressed for the scripts,

with white-feathered turban and jeweled short-sword,

as he glides in gold shoes that turn up at the tips

and an attitude saying that he is on board


for extravagant mezza of fine roasted eggplant,

hummus and yoghurt and olives and cheese,

with simit and shish kebabs, food to enchant,

all tempting my palate, all hoping to please.


Are there gold-plated sugar bowls? carved wooden doors,

and hand-knotted prayer rugs of silk and of wool?

Kaleidoscope patterns from the ceiling to floors

are the backdrop for cushions all stuffed 'til they're full.


And after some fruit, served with Turkish delight,

Turkish coffee is poured, thick with grounds and with foam.

At the end of the meal that lasts into the night

We leave the tiled fountain and head back toward home.


But...


My mind had run off, like a fast-speeding train,

tasting tempting delights in an Ottoman craze.

Then the end of the ad worked its way through my brain

and I realized too late they'd said "autumn entrees."





Seriously. I was minding my own business, driving to work with the radio on for traffic reports. A commercial came on and I heard "Ottoman trays" and it took more than a minute for me to realize they had said "autumn entrees." And there you have the seeds for this poem.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

random meme

6 comments

Stacy from Sassafras Mama tagged me for a meme. I decided that I was game, so here goes:

1) What I was doing ten years ago:
In 1997
  • I was on the steering committee of a gay & lesbian social club/potluck group in a town I had not lived in for 7 years.
  • friends of ours had new carpet put in and had a "slipper party" where we all though up the wildest slippers we could think of in order to win prizes and fame.
  • We saw the Leonardo exhibit at the Museum of Science.
  • Vacation was at the Casino in Long Lake, NY
2.) Five years ago:
  • I started wearing contact lenses again
  • We celebrated our anniversary in New York City and saw The Lion King
  • We started working with an architect to draw up house renovation plans
  • I was on the steering committee of my chorus
  • My dad went into a nursing home
3) One year ago:
  • We visited the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA
  • I started blogging
  • Attended a surprise anniversary party for my wife's parents
  • We drove from Massachusetts to Arkansas and back to visit my Mom at Thanksgiving
4.) Yesterday:
  • Enjoyed apple muffins (baked by my wife) for breakfast
  • Went to meetings at work (like nearly every workday)
  • Stayed late at work
  • Send messages to my fellow chorus members (I'm President now)
  • Gathered garbage and recycling for curbside pickup
5.) 5 snacks I enjoy:
  • chocolate
  • halvah
  • popcorn with butter
  • almonds
  • cookies
6.) 5 Things I would do if I suddenly had $100 million:
  • change the locks and the phone numbers
  • pay off the mortgage
  • quit my job & travel 1st class
  • give generously to the charities I've always supported
  • write & cook more
7.) 5 locations I would like to run away to:
  • mountains for skiing
  • tropics for sitting on the beach
  • New Zealand and Australia 'cause I've never been there and I have distant relatives there
  • Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island 'cause I've had great vacations there
  • Banff 'cause it looks gorgeous
8.) 5 bad habits I have:
  • I'm stubborn
  • I stay up too late too often
  • I'm really stubborn
  • I am not spontaneous
  • I have trouble letting go of books
9.) 5 things I like doing:
  • reading
  • cooking & feeding people
  • singing
  • writing
  • soaking in a tub
10.) 5 TV shows I like:
  • Firefly
  • Farscape
    (oh! you mean shows that are STILL on?)
  • Dirty Jobs
  • Mythbusters
  • Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?
  • Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
  • NUMB3RS
11.) 5 things I hate doing:
  • cleaning the toilet
  • raking leaves
  • vacuuming the swimming pool (ok - I haven't done that since I was a teenager, and I don't have a pool, still...)
  • sitting in meetings
  • packing (to move - packing for a vacation is OK)
12.) 5 Biggest joys of the moment:
  • I own my car (last payment was last Friday)
  • My wife and I are still a solid couple
  • I still work in academia
  • I've re-discovered poetry
  • There are cookies in the house
Finally, I tag:
Well, I don't play tag any more so if you want to do this, tag yourself and leave me a comment to let me know you've done it. I promise to come read it (and comment!) if you do.


Monday, October 01, 2007

My First Fibs

6 comments

[poems inspired by the Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect]

This week's challenge is to write Fibs -- poems based on the classic Fibonacci mathematical series. I came up with these two, each based (more-or-less) on my day at work.



sniff,

sigh,

tickle.

fall pollen

invades my poor nose.

i could not stop sneezing today.

why didn't i remember to fill my prescription?




and the following one, a lot less itchy:



ring,

ring,

hello?

I cannot

get work done until

my co-workers stop calling me.