Monday, April 28, 2008



[Read Write Poem suggested we add our everyday jargon to a poem. Here's a glimpse of my workday as a middle-manager in an academic-affiliated Information Technology department. See what other folks did here.]


Jack of all trades, master of none,
though ofttimes better than master of one.

Meeting after meeting,
I'm scheduled everyday.
I trust my team to work
while I am called away.

Landing on my desk is
licensing for software.
"Concurrent" is one choice.
I read until I swear.

Academic pricing
for some site license fees;
with experience this
practice is still no breeze.

I'm asked about the spam,
and upgrades and malware,
and how to copy files
to servers where they share.

While I am at my desk
I supervise and scan
my e-mail that builds up;
I answer as I can.

As middle-management
I only can suggest
behaviors to the folks
who need to know what's best.

Then I shift my focus
to swapping LCDs
for older tube-type screens:
juice-sucking CRTs.

Raise the user quotas
by megabytes or more.
Spec out Core 2 Duos –
a recommending chore.

Test out each new OS,
and applications too.
Help when color does not
match some expected hue.

Soothe frazzled nerves when things
don't go a user's way;
inspect a laptop's files,
if Leopard is OK.

Replace projector bulbs,
pin on a microphone,
explain wi-fi and then
aid connecting from home.

My focus ever pulled
at every single turn.
Still I do like my job,
for every day I learn.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tension and Release


[Read Write Poem prompted us to write about contrasting things.]

Tension and Release

I flew out to be with Mom,

when Daddy was in the hospital.

There was not much I could do

except to be there,

keeping her company,

making sure she ate,

and offering to drive

when she was too tired.

Between trips to the hospital

I helped clean the house

and run errands.

We needed to fix

the large throw rug in the living room

since it would not stay put

on the wall-to-wall carpeting.

One evening found us

in our night clothes,

kneeling in the living room,

affixing a sticky pad

to the back of the rug.

That was the plan.

But our hands stuck to the sticky-pad

and our knees tangled in our nightgowns,

until we were like human flies

struggling in flypaper

or a giant spider web.

We started giggling,

and soon rolled on the floor

weak from laughing

because we couldn't stop,

and thinking it was a good thing

that the neighbors didn't hear us.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Late Spring Color


[So I'm still around and thinking poetry, but I haven't been posting much while I first finished our tax returns, then prepared the house for Passover. Now that I have a weekend before me with no huge project hanging over me, I hope to catch up on a couple of prompts. This poem was inspired by both the Totally Optional Prompt "late spring" and Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch to write about color (though this doesn't go straight at that challenge - rather a bit sideways). I will likely keep playing with this a little - I think I want to add some more interior rhymes to it, but I thought I'd share this at this stage anyway. (I read somewhere that "golden bells" is another name for forsythia, which had too many syllables for my taste today.)]

Late Spring Color

I turn my back
on the pale, pale green
of the maple tree
in spring.
I shun the bright,
white locust blooms
and the cloying scent
they bring.

Mere memories:
the tender, tiny
in snowdrifts.
And yet a dream
the lilac scents
that'll welcome June
with heart lifts.

My late-spring days
are glowing now
with golden cups
of daffodils,
and shining sprays
to greet each morn
a dazzling row
of golden bells.

A brilliant yellow
halo meets
my winter-weary
a hug of mellow
sun-like warmth,
a talisman in

Friday, April 18, 2008

Passover Kyrielle


[Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect put before us a kyrielle as the Monday Poetry Stretch. See the prompt for links on this form. Since Passover preparations are eating up most of my waking hours, here's what I came up with.]

Passover Kyrielle

We ask four questions on this night;
We eat and drink and then recite
the prayers that have come down to me.
We once were slaves, but now we're free.

We eat horseradish and flat bread.
Salt water stands for tears we shed.
Recline but think how we did flee.
We once were slaves and now we're free.

We drink four cups and dip food twice.
We think about the human price
paid by the closing of the Sea.
We once were slaves, though now we're free.

We gather both our kith and kin
and think of how things might have been
if Moses hadn't made his plea.
We once were slaves; we now are free.

Piano Teacher


[I'm busy preparing for a Passover Seder at our house (Sunday night) but I've been thinking about my first piano teacher for days now. It seemed fitting to write a poem about her, since the Totally Optional Prompt this week was A Person.]

Piano Teacher

Her hair was soft grey but her smile was so kind.
Her manner was tender and steady.
She gave to me music from inside her soul,
though her voice was at times somewhat thready.

The ivories were worn and were yellowed a bit,
and a cushion helped pad the old stool.
I remember each street I would walk to her house
when my lesson was set after school.

While waiting my turn on the green davenport,
with the comic books stacked there so neat,
I would eye the glass dish on the table beside me
with its soft peppermints, oh so sweet!

And as sweet as those treats were upon my tongue
the gift of the music was best,
for it came from her heart and was given with love,
and in my heart it came to a rest.

Just as seeds that so lovingly nurtured will grow,
and will blossom and thrive in the world,
she planted in students a musical vine
that eventually thrived and unfurled.

Friday, April 11, 2008



Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect gave us the photo below for the Monday Poetry Stretch.

This photograph was taken by lijojohnson and is protected under a Creative Commons license. You may include this photo with your poem as long as you include this attribution on your blog.

When I saw this picture, the first thing I thought of was this:
I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin's egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow, but don't let whoever does it go to the other extreme and get it too blue. It should just be a sort of grayish-yellow-green. … Is that clear?

-- from Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
And then I got down to the business of poetry-writing.


Flashy, aren't you, in your high-end armor?
All safe and secure inside, padded and protected,
with articulated joints to cover the soft parts
and even multi-lens goggles to help you see better.

I'm glad you are safe, with this strategic advantage
over your enemies and their outmoded gear.
I've seen them in their basic black and basic brown.
No shine left in them and no way to upgrade.

While you are buzzing away out there,
safe inside your green-gold armor,
watch out for everything. You never know
who is watching you watch them.

Don't forget you stand out now, shiny
against the leaf, no longer invisible
on the wall, in clear sight on that fruit.
A perfect target for a heretofore unimagined foe.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Think Fast for TWW 81


[Three Word Wednesday gives us funny, remember, theatre. Those words evoked this memory.]

I was in the Junior Class Play when I was in high school. We performed George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man, and we did quite well (in spite of the male lead giving us panics that he wouldn't have his lines learned in time). But the next year, we were looking for something much lighter. We chose a play called No More Homework by John Henderson, a fluffy piece set in a high school.

I should say that my high school class of about 125 kids had very few who were interested in theater. We had to recruit. And when we ran out of people to fill the cast, we tapped one or two people from the junior class. And for the crew, we pulled from other classes too. My brother was a sophomore and he was helping to run our sound effects.

The play was quite entertaining and we were having a lot of fun in rehearsals. Our dress rehearsal didn't go smoothly, but we took that as a good omen (you know, "bad dress rehearsal, good performance"). The dress rehearsal wasn't a disaster, so we mixed cautious optimism with our jitters for the opening night.

The room in which most of the action takes place is the "school office" where the officers of the Student Body organization are filling in for the principal, vice principle, and secretary, all of whom have been called away or fallen ill. I played the part of the Student Body President, and so was the Principal-for-the-day.

As I remember it, there was a point where I was supposed to walk to the doorway. On my way out, a phone was supposed to ring and my parting line was, "Answer that, will you, Shalimar?" Then "Shalimar" complains about my being so high-handed and the conversation continues from there. So there we were on opening night, at that scene, and I walk to the doorway. I pause, waiting for the phone to ring. And I wait. No phone. No ring. No reason to say anything.

So I have some choices, but I have to think fast. I can:
1) stand there looking stupid until my brother plays the phone noise;
2) walk out and leave the others with no way to gracefully move into the next conversation;
3) make something up.

I don't remember consciously thinking about those things, but my brain must have been whirring at supersonic speeds. I turned in the doorway and announce, "IF the phone rings, answer it, will you, Shalimar?" I then exited to see the pale face of our faculty advisor beaming at me. Two steps later I heard the phone ring. What a relief!

I'm sure I gave my brother a hard time (and I vaguely remember him grinning while I did). I'm pretty sure he thought the whole thing was funny. But on our second (and final) night the timing of the phone ringing was absolutely perfect.

Monday, April 07, 2008



[Read Write Poem challenged us this week to write about family - specifically an aunt.]


I don't remember Aunt Lucy,
my great-aunt, sister of my grandma.
The family called her Lucy and Lucile,
though her birth certificate
called her Jessie Lucile.

I heard stories of Aunt Lucy,
how she called my mother "Midge"
when mom was a kid,
when they shared a bedroom
in that house on the hill.

Her sisters spoke of Aunt Lucy,
and how she would have
been tickled by me,
usually when I did something
particularly clever.

They told me about Aunt Lucy,
and I know we would have loved
to share desserts, especially
those with whipped cream.
They teased me that I was like her,
and that she would have eaten
a corn-cob if it had whipped cream on it.

I don't remember Aunt Lucy
though she met me before she died.
My mom made sure of that,
taking the infant me to her hospital,
where I'm told she was charmed.

I never knew Aunt Lucy,
but I wish I had.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Spider Sense


[Mad Kane proposes we write a limerick and/or haiku about a crazy relative, and though my sister is not crazy, there is this one thing... ]

Spider Sense

Of my sister I will be sincere.
She has one, and just one, little fear.
Her path veers much wider
when she sees a spider.
Yes, she wishes they'd all disappear!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Behind Oboe


Earlier this month, I posted a poem called "Oboe" that I wrote in a surreal style. And I promised to write the story behind it sometime. It make take away some of the mystery, but maybe not much. If you haven't read the poem yet, please go do that first. I'll wait right here. Really!

When I was kid I played the oboe in the school band. I read music (thanks to a head-start with piano lessons) and I was passable at sight-reading. I wasn't likely to play after I left high school, except that my high school band teacher recommended me to a program for the summer after my senior year. The United States Collegiate Wind Bands organized groups of young American musicians into groups that would rehearse and play challenging music together while touring Europe for a couple of weeks. It was more expensive than most of my friends could afford, but it for two weeks of chaperoned culture in Europe, my parents though it was well worth it. They signed me up.

I received a folder of music to rehearse, instructions on making or buying a long, black dress for performances, information on foreign currency, getting a passport and what to pack. We also got a list of the other people who would be on the trip, along with their home addresses. We were from all over the continental US, many of us from small towns.

The group of approximately 100 kids (most of us in the summer between high school and college, a few a year older) gathered in New York City for intensive rehearsals and sight-seeing. We played one concert in a small park in NYC, then flew to Europe where we played 10 concerts in 7 countries within two weeks. Quite a whirl-wind tour. It is the kind of schedule that only the young (or highly-caffeinated) can do. As it was we slept in the buses a lot.

Some concerts were in small town halls, some in town squares or parks. We saw big cities and small towns. We had organized tours and free time to get lost on our own. We went up in the Eiffel Tower, toured the champagne cellars at Moet & Chandon, and saw the Rhine Falls. We were serenaded by a town oom-pah band in Bavaria, and saw the fresco of The Last Supper in Milan. One afternoon we listed to the radio to hear the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana.

Somewhere in the middle of the tour our two buses drove us through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and delivered us to Chamonix for a two-night stay. We put on as many clothes as we had and rode trains up Mont Blac to see the glacier called Mer de Glace. Every summer a cave is carved into the glacier, complete with rooms filled with ice furniture and people are allowed to walk inside the glacier. Astroturf on the floor keeps people from slipping. The glaciated ice is so firm that it holds the cold quite well. The cave lasts all summer. All summer and winter the glacier keeps moving, and you can see the remains of the previous year's entrance downhill from the current year's. That glacier is the inspiration for the first line of the poem. The ice wasn't all blue, but it wasn't all clear or white either.

The next day was a concert day so we dressed in our concert outfits. The girls had long black dresses with the big patch of the tour group sewn on the left side. The boys had their tux jackets, some in paisley blue, some in paisley red, each with a patch and each guy wearing a white shirt and black bow tie. The organization never had to worry that someone would want to keep the jackets! Not a look any of us was into. The picture below suggests the pattern (but they weren't double-breasted). I couldn't find anything in the red that some of the guys had to wear.

We carried our instruments (or pushed them, if they were on wheels) from the buses to the tram cars. We really did ride up the mountain in tram cars that in the winter were used to carry skiers. At the top there, we really did walk over to the bottom of a skiing chair lift which would take us even higher up the mountain.

I have skied since I was very little, but on this summer day, I shared a 2-person seat with a trombone player who was afraid of heights. Personally, I was enjoying the view, and glad that the lift went slowly because unloading in a long skirt was not something I was familiar with.

It took a while to get all 100 of us (and the large instruments such as baritones, tubas, and drums, up the mountain. While we waited, we watched the clouds roll by in the valley below us, and we wandered around the green, green grass under the blue, blue sky.

Eventually we set up to play on a large wooden platform (covered with folding chairs). We really did play for 30 or 40 hikers and a herd of cows. I'm pretty sure the hikers were more appreciative. After we played, we filed through the catering line inside the little warm-up hut nearby. I don't remember much about that meal except for the exquisite fruit tarts with pastry cream that were for dessert.

All in all, the whole event seems a bit surreal, even at the time. So when the poetry prompt asked us to explore "surreal" it isn't surprising to me that this came to mind.

Where Lincoln Walked


[Totally Optional Prompts asked us to think regionally and the place in my poem is imprinted in my DNA. You can see other regional works here.]

Where Lincoln Walked

Put that bacon back!
We don't need no crawdads
and you'll get filthy down by the branch.

Warsh your hands, now!
We'll go downtown to Cain's Drugstore
for Mrs. Cain's chili.

Don't dawdle and make us late!
You know she only makes chili once a week
and it sells out early.

She never gives out the recipe to no one.
I know there's meat and kidney beans
and elbows, but the rest is a secret.

After dinner lets drive down to
see the folks at Farmer's Cemetery,
and then we can stop and see Leila.

I don't know why she don't fix up her plumbing.
The pump on the kitchen sideboard is alright,
but the outhouse is hard on my old behind.

While we're there we'll drive past our
forty acres. There ain't much to see yet,
but if it stays dry the beans will go in soon.

When we get back I'll make sausage and biscuits for supper.
I'll make cream gravy and I already baked angel
cake this morning. It's resting upside down on the porch.

I'm so glad it's spring. The nekkid ladies are up
in the side yard. The pink is so pretty!
You know after they die down, the greens come up.

Soon the lilacs'll bloom and after that
the piney bushes. Hey! Are you listening?
Climb down out of that redbud tree!

[I played fast and loose with the time line, drawing from what I remember & also from stories I was told so many times. Here's a glossary, for those who need it:
= crawdads are crayfish, a freshwater crustacean that kids were fond of trying to catch
= branch is the "town branch" of a small river, a creek
= warsh is how "wash" was pronounced when I was growing up
= Cain's Drugstore had a lunch counter in it
= Mrs. Cain was famous for her chili that really was a secret recipe for many, many years
= elbows are elbow macaroni
= dinner is the mid-day meal
= "the folks" at the cemetery were all buried
= I think Leila was my grandmother's cousin
= 40 acres is nothing down there, but it was farmland
= the beans to be planed were soybeans
= angel cake is angel food cake. It cooled upside down on a wooden rest someone had knocked together
= nekkid ladies were "naked ladies" a kind of flower with a pale stem and pale pink flowers and the greens really did come up later, as if it was a separate plant
= piney bushes are peony shrubs
= redbud trees are weed trees, but there was one giant one that was great for climbing!]

Wednesday, April 02, 2008



[Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect gives us the clerihew for this week's Monday Poetry Stretch. I tried a few. I fear I must try harder for the desired "quip" at the end, but these will have to do this week.]

David Letterman
made a better man
than the average Midwest boy
whose crops are beans of soy.

TV's Mr. Rogers (Fred)
passed away (he's dead).
No host dresses better
than he did in his cardigan sweater.