Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BIll Wiley

I remember when BIll Wiley moved into the Raine's place above the Fullick house on Arroyo Road. The Raines were from England—and so, they were exotic. We kept our distance.

Mrs Raines, our stern substitute teacher, who rode her big bay English, choked on a piece of steak at a dinner party—so we all knew the house was haunted. Death was an admiral dressed in jodhpurs, carried a whip but lived a lot farther away than England. Mr. Raines wasn't himself afterwards. Soon, the big bay dressage gelding was sold, the house along with it.

I used to ride bareback up to the cottage and Brenda Fullick and I would peer in the french doors at the long dinner table where it happened. Mrs Raines' cherished delphinium—a touch of Oxford in California—was blooming, tall blue pillars of grief. Campanula and coral bells tolled in the islands and eddies of wind. The abandoned riding crop, a snake in the grass.

I imagined that she wore the black cocktail sheath with pearls. The rustle of taffeta. Their first formal sit-down party in their new home in the New World. Settings for twelve. Was there an uninvited Judas guest? One for each moon? The silent white Os of their mouths as she slid to the floor. Facing east toward home.

In those days no one knew Heimlich. We were too far from town for rescue. Second-hand story. Tragedy travels on swift wings. I gave up red meat. Their fairy tale cottage stood idle, as if in mourning. They had built the house on a rocky knoll and the land and the seasons were taking it back, board by board. No one wanted to buy the house someone had so tragically died in.

When Bill Wiley eventually moved in, the first thing he did was to wedge a foam core dressmaker torso in the crotch of the madrone tree. I was riding back home late at night—I thought it was Mrs. Raines' ghost come to haunt us but the red mare was more sensible.

Bill didn't mind us kids riding by his back door. He'd smile and wave to us, from his stockpile of interesting junk. Stroke his handlebar moushtache and readjust his wide-brimmed leather hat, and get back to work.

Mrs. Raines would roll over in her grave to see her prim yard like that. But now the place fit right in with the rest of the Valley. Abandoned cars and TV sets. Twisted iron and weathered wood. He was an assemblage artist. I was the girl on the red horse. He was a stranger too. An outsider. We kept our distance.

Funny, how decades later, translating an idea into image, Bill etched plates of horses at Crown Point Press. A red and a bay. The whip and the Buddha of compassion. The horse she's riding is blue. The circle complete. I like to think it was in unconscious memory of Mrs. Raines resurrecting itself. I never did know her name.

On his etching, these words were inscribed:

Some horses respond to the shadow of the whip
Others respond to the first light tap
Still others must be flogged
Until they feel it in the marrow of their bones
So which horse are you
For which horse does Buddha have the most compassion?
—William T. Wiley

Monday, April 26, 2010



Monday is the silence of eclipses
Last night the sky was the royal blue heart of twilight
where seven stars hungered for midnight darkness
and then flew toward the thrust of meteors.
The wings of a storm penetrated an old memory at dawn
my car hurtling down the road
toward the clear throat of that vast April sky.

April 26, 2010?
Alexander Valley School
undated, found in my juxtaposition poetry teaching folder
The reference to the Lyrids meteor showers (April 19-25) dates it as April 26, 2010. Which works. There were no eclipses, lunar or solar, that juxtaposed the dates from 2010 to time present 2017 in April.
added 3/17

Saturday, April 17, 2010


     Stories, like whiskey, 
     must be allowed to mature in the cask. 
               —Sean O'Faolain

What I learned today while working
at the whisky-tasting booth with Ray—
is that whisky aged for ten years
in charred oak barrels
loses at least one-sixth of a barrel
due to evaporation
which is called the angels' share.

rev. 4/23/18
Las Vegas

Friday, April 16, 2010

Superbloom, Tehachepes

The desert is in full bloom—a riot of color every which way you look. As if God had painted yellow, orange and purple carpets between the creosote and sage. We went to the Tehachepe train circle at Keene and saw the incredible train grade—the engineer tooted to us as he went round and round two times. Carpets of flowers everywhere.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

King of the Gypsies

When I was a child, the gypsies visited each spring our rural homestead in Forest Knolls, out in West Marin. Each spring, they came unannounced to fix our pots and to buy scrap iron and cotton rags. It was always exciting when the tinkers came to visit. They never stayed long—a half a morning, at most.

When the ancient cattle truck loaded overflowing with scrap iron and bare mattress springs—like something out of the Grapes of Wrath—heaved and grunted its way up the long driveway each spring, my grandmother hauled out her old pots. One favorite cast-aluminum pot was so old, she had worn a hole clean through it with her constant stirring, cooking for a full house of eight children and their friends, and then, later, me.

My grandmother kept things until they completely wore out—a hangover from the Great Depression. We kept tinfoil and rubber bands, newspaper and glass bottles. All our tablespoons had an oblique slant to them where she had worn them down. The saucepot was so far gone, I thought it couldn't be fixed. But the tinker stuck a flat bolt into the hole and threaded a nut on the outside if the pot, then he soldered it, and rasped down the nut and bolt. We still have the pot.

The gypsies sold all manner of odd things from kerosene to shoe brushes. One year, they sold us redwood patio furniture, No matter that we had no patio, only the wild hillside for a yard. We couldn't afford the fancy Adirondack arm chairs or the beautiful bent willow setees piled high in the cattle truck. But the redwood stake set was a good investment. My grandmother was living on a pauper's pension of $200 a month— I think they didn't charge her the full price for two chairs and a table.

I was surprised that my grandmother had dealings with these swarthy, dark men with moustaches and gold teeth, who spoke a strange language. But she treated them with respect, saying the Irish had their own tinkers too—she remembered them as a child. They fixed pots in the same way with nuts and bolts.

The gypsies lived up north—in Sonoma County. Sometimes they brought their young boys with them. I remember eyeing one boy my age but we were too shy to play. We were worlds and languages apart. It seemed like they were from the far ends of the earth—and so they were. These men were the real Ladino Gypsies, not Irish tinkers—or travellers, as they're called today. I feared for my horses. My uncle said, "you'd better be careful, or the gypsies will carry you off…" The thought was terrifying and sort of exciting at the same time.

One year, the tinkers stopped coming. They couldn't sell my grandmother another redwood set, the chairs were too well made. She cooked less, there was just the two of us in that bee-loud glade, so the pots held their own battle with entropy. The last of the scrap iron was long gone. Rags were replaced with useless polyester.

I sat a child's half-life in those redwood chairs until they disintegrated around us, and the staves became kindling for the woodstove, as we grew up and my grandmother grew older still. But we carried away with us a lifetime of stories to nourish our hungry minds another half-life away.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cat's up

Hmm, the April poetry prompts haven't been doing it for me lately. They're stacking up like lumber. Not a good sign. My goal is to write 60 poems for Poetry Month. I've got 13 poems.

Blue-green acid test.
Today, instead of finishing my taxes, I did 6 loads of laundry, gathered up my art supplies I'll need for Tartan Day at Ardenwood in Fremont (set up is tomorrow afternoon.) Got lost in a time warp in the garage where I store my art supplies.

Other chores beckoned. Catsitting gig in particular. While on enforced chair time, kittysitting, I played with Picasa, and took some Koolaid colored acid test photos of myself with my laptop for a possible avatar photo for new Twitter account. How very Andy Warhol. Maybe I should take some photos holding a soup can?

Whadda ya mean, a corgi puppy?
Spartan, who has finally settled in for his 15 minutes of scheduled laptime, is fascinated by the laptop's PhotoBooth software countdown: 1, 2, 3—FLASH! He quizzically peers into the laptop screen, pats it gently.

Played with Facebook—made myself a new Fan Page as my students, the kids from Cleveland Elelmentary School have found me out and I'm being deluged by myriad friend requests. Not sure if I want to friend them all. Will have to watch my Ps & Qs.

Played with the cats. Played with a wine cork. Played with a wine glass. Washed the turtles (and their pond). Joined Twitter.

Today, the cats were bad, very bad. I guess they decided to help themselves. Last night, they got into the 25 lb. bag catfood underneath the kitchen sink (even though the door was rubber-banded shut—apparently they're smarter than toddlers) and tore a big hole in the bottom of the bag. There was a huge mountain of catfood on the floor. I shovel it into a dustpan like a miner collecting slag coal.

I should've guessed something was up when I came in through the back door. They still played me as usual but they were acting so guilty. My routine: pick up the mail in the lobby, come up the back stairs and cats usually come to greet me on the bookshelf at the door.

Nellie-cat usually stands on the shelf and wants to kiss noses with me (whisker tickles) and Spartan attempts to trip me with some fancy ankle weaving. The object of their desire is food, I'm merely the bearer of good things. The kissing routine is merely greasing the wheel. Sophistocated cat-begging.

This time, the cats were both on the floor and they were unusually subdued. Pile of catfood in the kitchen explained it all. Don't tell me that they don't know right from wrong. They acted guilty before I found the evidence.

It looks like they both tried to eat as much of the kitty kibble as possible, so needless to say, they didn't get fed. They each drank a bowl of water, so I guess the catfood swelled their little bellies tight. Means I have to stay extra long today to make sure they don't explode.

Not sharing McBoing-boing!
I had a horse like that once, a canny begger, she'd sneak into the barn and take apart a haybale and make a huge nest of it with her nose. I had to put nails through the garbage can lids we used to store the sacks of grain like deadbolts because she was quite dextrous with her lips—she could open garbage can lids up to get to the oats inside.

And the same story: if I caught her in the act, she definitely looked guilty. Then it was walking duty. I had to walk her for hours to make sure she didn't get colic and die. (She eventually did die from overeating—but then, she was 32 years old).

I was often awakened in the middle of the night by my horse flipping over tall aluminum garbage cans and noisily rolling them around in the corral in hopes of shaking loose some oat treats. Some oats did sift out under the lid—so her bad behavior was rewarded.

Surveying the cat kingdom.
I'll be cat/turtle sitting duty for nearly three weeks and I am constantly amazed at their strength of personality and sheer willfulness. Felid manipulation and terrapin tantrums revolve around food. Never a dull moment. This is a job I could grow to like.

I use the opportunity to prep for my poetry classes—read kid poems, comment on them, type up samples for the next day. April is poetry month—and also the busiest month of the year for my teaching gigs. Cat seem to prefer to sit on my lap only when I'm ready to type—uncanny how they choose the most awkward time possible for lap fix. It's all about the object of their affection.

Weirdly, the two red-eared turtles also seem to crave human attention—especially the little one. When I sit in the chair near their tank, he tries to get as close as possible and claws frantically at the glass—even after he's fed. He's either ravenous or rambunctious or both. The other one, who is more reserved, prefers to bask under the sun lamp, with nose pointed skyward.
Did you mention bananas?

Their owner emails from the other side of the world, says: Oh, he always does that. He just wants to be hand fed. I tried that with turtle kibble but he clamped onto my finger instead. I couldn't shake him off. So I resorted to hand-feeding him yuppie lettuce. The white vee of his beak was in stark contrast to the forest green of his skin. He was a little surprised by the texture (of the lettuce, not my finger), and spat it out as if it were poison. Not dried turtle kibble or mealworms. He woefully looked up at me as if to say WTF is that? And then begged some more.

Why yes, I'd love a knuckle sammich.
But when the other turtle slipped into the pond to investigate the lettuce it was suddenly desirable. And then the lettuce wars were on. He attacked with gusto—snorting water out of his little nostrils like a dragon or one of Charles Darwin's imps of darkness—the Galápagos marine iguana. Little green confetti piles of shredded lettuce floating in the pond.

Oops, now I have to clean their pond. What goes in... Must be one of those retrograde days when the animal planets are in mischief mode. Even the turtles were bad today. When I was cleaning their tank, the little one kept trying to sneak out of his loose-lidded tupperware dish. Like a child, he'd push the lid up, check it out to see if the coast was clear and then try to crawl out onto the carpet, first one front leg over the edge of the plastic bin, then the other. He was the epitome of caution stepping out in slo-mo.

But then he'd spot me and drop back down into the dish like a Jack-in-the-box. Then he'd pop his head back up, pushing the lid up slowly. Then down. Up. Down. Up. It was quite comical. The cats keep an eye on him, if he gets out of his Tupperware bowl, they'll gnaw on him. Not a good move.

Spartan runs up the curtain, hangs in space over the turtle tank as they bask under the sunlamp; he's like a furry astronaut contemplating a moonwalk. They ignore him. The wire mesh lid keeps furry intruders out. But a cat can dream of big game conquests.

And I'm still unsatiated, I haven't written today's poem...not for lack of fodder. My mind's a hamster wheel of random thought. But the photo of me holding Spartan peering into the laptop camera looks promisingly obscure for a Twitter avatar. I slip out the door into the last nuance of dusk, stars nibble on the horizon.

MdBoing-boing, my favorite thing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010



Until each cat has had its scheuled laptime
I can't leave, so I wait in the teddybear chair
alternating between wine and cake
to boost my flagging energy. I'm too knackered to write
after teaching 120 fifth graders the origins of poetry.
I have a headache and coffee grounds between my teeth.
The cupboard is bare so I toss some chocolate chips
ground coffee, butter, an egg & Bisquick into a mug
and zap the mess a minute in the microwave.
I'm elated over my hockeypuck of a cake.
It delivers a payload of chocolate chips and coffee
but until the words come, the cats are properly cuddled
I can't go home. The cats are aloof. Playing hard to get.
The greedy turtles are watching my every move.
Maybe they should be writing the poem.
A mourning dove calls, lonesome in the palm tree.
Sirens in the distance wail like a pack of urban coyotes.
Somewhere, a truck is backing up. Anemically beeping.
Or a mockingbird is practicing his monotone notes.
A neighbor cranks up rap music. I hate listening
to someone else's loud car music—like second-hand smoke.
The cat hangs himself on the screen door for the third time.
I rummage through drawers to find scissors.
Kitty's first toenail trim. He's having none of it,
and turns into a wild animal fighting for his life.
I'm patient, I hold him close, and pet him.
Snip. Growl. He has a wide vocalic palette of sound.
He seems pleased now that he doesn't snag the rug when he walks.
The apartment pool reflects a patch of sky on the ceiling.
I'm desperate for blue-eyed sleep,
I've never been one to nap. Not like the cats.
I distract myself with Twitter, a friend just got back
from taping a segment on the Tonite Show,
bagpipe jokes abound. But it's not yet tonight.
Until then, à bientôt. Until this is not a poem.
I will sit and wait.


take the phrase "Until (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and write the poem. Possibilities include: "Until we meet again," "Until tomorrow," "Until monkeys fly out my butt," or even "Until blank" (why not?). Until we meet again, have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ekphrastic poem: Flight of the Witches

from Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya

The dozing burro at the crest of the cliff
doesn't even bat a splayed ear
when three mitered men are swept off their feet
in an unholy asention, as they carry a corpse
up the ladder of the night sky.
The half-naked one in green with his back to us
is a redhead. His flesh is translucent as the moon.
A bonfire blisters his fair skin, sheds light
on what is both seen and unseen.
A repentant man cowers at the feet
of the dark dancing one shrouded in a cloak of white,
his feet remembering the old patterns.
The cowering man covers his ears too late
against the howling din and the raging light
as the queasy surf ushers in waves
dressed in the salt tang of regret.

Ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)

  1. Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
  2. Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya


from Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz

Running with deer, she leads,
the barefoot girl dressed in deer skins,
races along the cliff's edge,
the doe dutifully follows at a half gallop
scuffing autumn leaves like a child.
Soon it will be time to gather maple sap.
Intent on something at the edge of the woods,
she does not notice a masted ship laying
fallow in the glassy bay, sails pulled in,
or the gathering storm and the nervous flight of birds
Beneath her feet, the sedges weave themselves
into a weir of conquest and entrapment.

Ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)
  1. Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
  2. Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya

Monday, April 5, 2010

NaPoWriMo 5 Personal

Carolyn Forché once told us that as writers
it was our job to show up at work every day,
to sit at our desk and wait for the muse to appear.
If nothing happens, so be it. Sit there and wait.
Her reasoning was that if we sat still long enough
the muse would find us, at the ready
or we'd become insanely bored & take up writing
just to escape the monotony of enforced desk time.
That's fine for those conventional enough
to have both a desk and a writing space.
I have no fixed patterns for art or words.
That work ethic of desk and chair bypassed me.
When Celia gets in the mood, she
pours herself a large glass or red wine
lights a cigarette & waits for the words to find her.
When she stares into the candle flame,
her muses come galloping in on wild ponies
waiting to be tamed. But I prefer the tranquility
of other people's white rooms. I once wanted to
write a series of poems crafted and honed
while visiting other poet's workspaces.
I never got around to it, but I discovered
any new house seems to unleash words.
Whose words, what muse, I'm not exactly sure.
And so each day I sit in Leah's little recliner
that looks like a well-loved potbellied velveteen bear
than a chair, I stare at a blank screen. Waiting.
As her cats angle in for their personal lap time,
I become a contortionist trying to write
in the sitting pretzel lotus lapcat position
while they squabble over who's next.
When it comes to lap, they're selfish.
They don't share. My involuntary angels growl
and swat the muse with bared fang and claw.

Day #5: Make your poetry personal. I mean, it already is, right? It’s thoughts, observations, deep, dark, personal feelings and stories dressed up in pretty words and oblique descriptions. You get it, and some others get it.Still others see it as something else entirely, which is great, honestly. We have our own set of filters our lives go through, and this influences how we interpret things. It is part of what makes reading poetry fun and interesting for me.Today, let’s make poetry really personal. Give poetry, as you write it, a name. Possibly a gender. And a personality. A poet I know has written (and continues to write) a series of poems based on this principle, and I shamelessly ripped it off (with permission, of course) and made a poem I called “Sasha.” Sasha is many things, all at the same time, yet all are Sasha/poetry to me.So it’s your turn. Give poetry — how you view poetry, what poetry means to you, your poetry — a name. Now write a poem suits your view or vision.


The Thai curry that a friend made for us the other night
was so Scoville hot we literally couldn't eat it.
I went cross-eyed, I was willing to grab my tongue
to pull it out from the roots if I thought that would help.
Leah says, Here eat the cucumbers. That will cool your mouth.
I eat all mine, and bolt down her bowlful too.
Neil's already finished his, so I swig the dressing.
I'm choking on the heat, tearing up, gasping for breath,
and then Neil begins discussing the effects
of burn a deux: exiting hotsauce & curry on his asshole
at the dinner table and I'm truly mortified
by the thought of flaming "O"s. Besides,
the 'roids are acting up again and that makes for heat.
I used to laugh with the doughnut pillow folks
until I joined the dubious pillow league. I stand up a lot.
It's not something that you discuss in intimate, or polite circles.
They really ought to sell Preparation H in plain wrappers.
I mean, you get up to the checkstand and the clerk
asks for a price check over the loudspeaker—
Heads swivel and soon the entire store is privvy to the fact
that you're having an intimate relationship with your rear end.
Reminds me of the story of big time Hollywood actors
who used Big H creme to reduce the bags under their eyes
from too much alcohol abuse the night before.
Like Norma's famous line in Sunset Bulevard:
All right, I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.
Neil says, You really don't know someone well
until you've seen their asshole. TMI, I shout. TMI!
Besides, there are children present. At that moment.
as if on cue, the cats perched on the couch
hoist their hind legs daintily into the air
and give their bottoms a thorough going over.
Urg. Though I admire their poise and dexterity
and the way they have of leveling the field
by making all intimate acts ordinary and public,
dogs are even worse, the way they noisily get down to it
making themselves into crude Rodinesque sculptures on the rug,
licking their balls when the conversations settles down.
Everybody ignores them, averts their eyes,
and pretends to be preoccupied with something else
far more interesting than elephants in the living room
when his little pink lipstick happily swizzles out of its sheath.
But you really don't want them to lick you afterwards.
Then there's the hound who noisily plants his nose
deep into your crotch when you're at your most vulnerable.
Someone helps with introductions: I'd like you to meet so-and-so…
and the damned dog is snuffling at you like a prize trufflehound.
You try and bat his head away, but he's persistent
and the owner casts a blind eye, saying something trite
like: Aww, he really likes you. And you try pinching his ears
to deter him, since lifting a quick leg to his chest
will only serve as an enticement for deeper rotor-rooter work.
He yelps like a tattletale playground fink,
the owner frowns and clocks you suspiciously
wondering of you're some kind of pervert or worse, a dog-hater,
and wonders whether or not he can trust you with the job.
And all you can think of is: Thank God there's no puppy
having a go at your ankles.

write a TMI poem (or too much information poem). As with all prompts, there are a number of ways to come at this one. You can make it about gossip or revealing too much personal information. You could write an information overload poem. Or...well, I'm interested to see what everyone produces.

Sunday, April 4, 2010



I've never been much of a morning person.

If I have get up early to teach,
I prepare everything the night before:
from clothes to lunch,
leaving nothing to chance.
I also don't like noise or bright light—
it's as distressing as an alarm clock.
A fifth grader once pointed out to me
in the middle of poetry class
that I had my top on inside out.
And so I did. Oops! Tattle-tale label.
I was backtracking as fast as I could.
Should I pull a quick metaphor out of my hat?
I thought, Aw, fuck it. I'm a night-owl
and I get up far too early.
There are bound to be crossover moments
of complete confusion and wardrobe malfunction.
I have no fixed schedule or place to be
like the way those in the workforce hamstering forth
to snug gray cubicles each and every morning.
I harbor angst about not waking up on time.
Alarm clocks are too jangly so I use my cellphone
and computer screen for ambient lighting.
Every so often, the system periodically goes haywire.
I arrive at a school oddly dressed,
or a day early, or not at all.
They never remember all the days
I am spot on time
dressed to kill,
and ready to roll.


napowrimo #4: inside out writing inside-out or outside-in. She says I watch too much HGTV, so I have learned (very well) about bringing the outdoors inside and also turning outside spaces into rooms (which is, apparently, more than putting the old sofa out on the front porch).In our case, writing inside out (or outside in) means setting your physical or metaphorical inner bits out of doors, to be walked around and looked at from odd angles, as if they were monuments or mailboxes (as an example). Or it could be transforming your internal organs into flowers or letting a pack of four-year-olds (human or otherwise) loose in your attic. Write a poem today that illustrates your idea of what is inside-out.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

NaPoWriMo #3 Scary poem

Scary, trying to play catch up
when I haven't written anything in so long
I'm dreaming of ex-lovers ignoring me on the streets.
I woke this morning and wondered why
he didn't see me, or why he shunned me.
After all, I was the one who was wronged.
And the Catholic guilt dressed me in skins
because I had abandoned my writing
the way he had abandoned me,
the way we abandoned the child
at the altar of the sacrificial surgeon.
Perhaps I should have held up my bloodied hands
and beseeched an older god.
But he was deaf and mute as well as blind
his current woman, old an haggard as he,
followed ten paces behind.
I begged her to tell him hello
but she was loyal, I was the enemy.
What was I to her? I wanted to say:
What does it matter? We all grow old
and lose our way at the end of the camino.

napowrimo #3: scared yet?

Write about something that scares you. It could be tarantulas or your significant other cheating on you or an existential fear of the unknown so long as it unsettles you. Describe it in the most vivid language possible!

Sometimes by articulating our fears, we strip them of their power. (But don’t go too far! A little fear is good to have.)


Partly because the cats refuse to settle in for a nap
partly because there's cat fur on the keyboards
(am I ever glad that I bought that keyboard condom)
& partly because a fruit fly, in love with my laptop screensaver
is crawling over my every word, I'm partly at a loss for words.
Ok, I admit, so I didn't strike when the iron was hot
& that afternoon chocolate partly clouded my judgement
& the kitchen faucet is singing a sleepy water song
& cat # 2 is on my lap
but the laptop battery is heading into the red,
still no poem, partly because ...

APRIL PAD—Partly...
OK, I'm resisting, here...

Cat sitting the turtles

Time to go pet the pussies—I'm CATsitting! They each get an hour of special lap time a day. The turtles, no. They stay in their scummy little tupperware pond. But they will get fed today. Yes. Nice, freeze-dried red worms. Yum. With pond scum for green leafy veggies. Cats are eying turtles as potential kitty treats. Talk about a movable feast. They're quite the head bangers against the glass wall when it comes to the mere thought of food. Turtles are both out of the pond craning their necks watching my every move as I surf, they KNOW I shortchanged them on the mealworms. Extra bits of turtle food didn't fool them. Sort of like drooling corgies begging at the dinner table. Think I'll go tickle some slow loris. More exciting. Kitties are too jacked up on catnip to settle in for laptime. Turtles are restless too. Who knew they liked catnip? Well, I got my lap back, after Spartan gave himself a good going over, even washing my cashmere sweater in the process. Wow, talk about prime real estate! Spartan no sooner leaves when Nellie settles in for her nap. Makes it hell to hold the laptop as said lap is already occupied. I need an iPad. OMG! Spartan jumped up on the window sill but lost traction & Nellie jumped about a foot straight up off my lap I was laughing so hard. Now he’s sulking because I laughed at him. She’s not too happy either.

Unanswerable questions

The important thing is never to stop questioning. —Albert Einstein. Is 2+2 really 4? Did I forget my socks again? Color of socks relative to feet. Where did I leave my violin? In the fridge? Why did E want to be equal to the square? Was the square getting more energy? And where do laps go when you stand up?

Friday, April 2, 2010

NaPoWriMo #2 RWP

The rhythmic wave process
slapping against the hull
of consciousness
lulled me to sleep
the way a lullaby lingers
in the crenellations of the ear
that fuzzy divide between waking and REM.
I remember my aunt Toddy
one sticky summer afternoon
sitting in the cool basement doorjamb
rocking me to Brahm's Lullaby
as I read Allingham's Up the Airy Mountain
Down the rushy glen, we daren't go a hunting…
I divided my attention between
the unaccustomed luxury of lap,
and the rhythmic realm of fairyfolk
amid the sonorous drone of flies
and yellowjackets dangling a striped benediction.
In my small world there was still no division
between time present and its mythic counterpart;
there were no rigid wave patterns between
the world of make believe
and the real world problems.

napowrimo #2: the ol’ acronym switcheroo

If you love acronyms as I do, your mind has already shortened “Read Write Poem” into “RWP.” But the three letters RWP form known acronyms for at least 31 other phrases, including “Random Weird Person” and “Right Wing Pundits.”

Today’s writing prompt is to type the letters RWP into the abbreviation search field at Acronym Attic and write a poem inspired in any way by one or more of the resulting phrases. You don’t have to use the words from the phrase in your poem, but you can if they fit. GLWI (Good Luck With It)!


The red-eared pond turtles strain their necks
and bang into the glass with voracious desperation
harboring an unassuageable hunger;
do they know I'm not their owner
but their keeper for the next two weeks?
They try to reach me,
telling me in their turtle ways
that it's time to eat. But I tell them
they must wait two more days
before I slip dried worms and fish tidbits
into their murky pond.
The cats watch, plot their next move,
stretch and yawn, as if indifferent.
But the turtles don't seem to notice them—
fast moving mammals.
They have eyes only the tall upright ones,
the shadowy feeders.
They watch me intently with their striped reptile eyes
swiveling and turning
as if to comprehend my nonsense speech.
Press their nostrils
to the side of the tank closest to me.
Or maybe it's my ham sandwich
or the cat treats they're eyeing.
I turn on their heat lamp
and they get as close as they can
to bask in the warmth.
Noses pointing skyward like stargazers,
they settle in.
I marvel at their vermillion cranial ear markings,
the intricate camouflage patterns
of yellow and olive stripes,
as they splay their webbed feet,
and thrash over boulders,
long slender toenails,
translucent as new moons—
thinking maybe distance
between reptile and human
is not so very far, after all.


April PAD—Water


Yesterday's bright billowing clouds gave way to grey flannel skies.
A perfect Watteau or Frangonard canvas of the pastoral pursuits
looking up the skirts of the beribboned middle class—
morphing into the stark industrial duende of deChirico or Miro.
No chance of rainbows, or atmospheric haze.
A young hood practices dragstripping up the street,
that peculiar hissing waltz of rain and tire and iron road
chases the revving engine, boombox pounding back
a lush tropical rhythm of drums and cannibal instincts.
Weeping cherry trees in antebellum skirts sway in the breeze.
An airplane howls a doppleganger of loneliness in overcast skies.
An alarm jangles like an old school telephone. No one home.
The fan palm clatters and waves to the sky,
whether in greeting or farewell, I can't tell,
but the cat on my lap has tucked himself in for the duration.


April PAD—Water

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NaPoWriMo #1 Shuffle

It's no secret love is a stranger with open arms
the sound of loneliness
is like phantom lovers at the corner house.
All I care about is the peace within.
Let's wrap it up. I'm nobody's moggy now.
Meet me in the morning by the streams of Doonah
where two island swans spoke with the angels
on the snowy path, dark and deep.
Thousands are sailing down on the moon.

napowrimo #1: shuffle a poem
# Put your iPod or iTunes (or other mp3 player) on shuffle. (If you don’t have a music player that shuffles, you can choose CD or album titles at random from your collection by writing several titles down on little slips of paper … works the same way.)
# Write down the first five titles that come up. No cheating allowed!
# Use all five titles to draft a new poem. They have to be used intact — you can interrupt them with punctuation, but you may not remove or change words. Shuffle away — the more eclectic your music collection, the better!


Spartan meows lonely as the rain on the horizon.
My job is to cuddle him an hour a day
while his owners visit Paris in springtime
but he'll have none of it. I try holding him,
rolling the ball, offer cat treats, speak in silly kissy voices
you wouldn't want to be caught dead uttering in public,
all I get for my efforts is ribboned flesh.
I try sitting in different couches to entice him.
Nothing works. He won't stop circling the kitchen
meowing piteously for all things lost.
He tries different languages, translations of lost meows
but nothing works. They're inexplicably gone.
And I can't tell him, this many days on the calendar of hope.
Living up to his name, he eschews affection and toys.
Keeps a spartan existence. I think:
what if he dies of loneliness while they're gone?
Only on my watch. I've grown accustomed to the idea
having lived much of my life alone, and now
living with a man who demands a wide satellite orbit
that I've created artificial islands of loneliness
in order to survive. I find solace in the starkness.
Only when I sit down at the table to write this poem
does the cat come unbidden to my lap and tuck himself in
the crook of my arm for a long desolate purr.

April Poem A Day Challenge—Lonely

NaPoWriMo Prompts 2010 (not used)

4/6 Pictures Rhiannon’s prompt gives you something else on which to focus these conversations: pictures. Many people collect favourite images, whether as memories or posters, sketches or computer files. Pick one such collection of yours – a stamp collection, a postcard book, a file of photos – and rifle through it until something catches your eye. (If you don’t have such a collection, try putting a word – any word – into Google image search or flick through the website of an art gallery.)Once you have an image, begin to interrogate it for poems. Ask: Who or what in this picture could speak? What would they say? Why is this image meaningful to me? When I look at it, what am I remembering? How does this image make me feel? Which of my moods is easiest to find in it? Where would I want to display picture? Who do I want to see it?Collect the answers to your questions as a hoard of words or phrases. Scatter them across a blank sheet of paper, then check for patterns. What rhymes? Where is there alliteration? Is any rhythm apparent? Patterns might suggest a form for the poem.If there aren’t enough patterns, you have two choices: either write your poem as free verse or go back to the images and generate more words. Have fun

napowrimo #7: love, funny side upApril 7th, 2010by the Read Write Poem StaffToday, Alan Summers wants us to write poems about “humor in love,” and he has a specific form in mind!Write and capture humorous incidents related to love in a 5-line love poem called a tanka. (You may even decide to create your own tanka journal for love poems!) Here’s how to write one:Describe in concrete terms one or two simple images (two or three lines) from your humorous love encounter, not just what you saw but also what you tasted, touched, smelled or heard.What were you were thinking at the time this love encounter happened? Write that down, too, as two or three lines, so you have five lines in total for the poem.Think about making the third line of your poem into a pivot line, so that it links to both the previous two lines and to the final two lines.Test the tanka by dividing it into two parts so the third line acts both as the last line of the first part and as the first line of the second part. Does each section make sense separately, and then together?Think about reducing — and even avoiding — capitalization and punctuation because a tanka needn’t be like a sentence or merely a flat statement.

4/8 NaPoWriMo 8 Unusual Love ConnectionsToday, think of your current love, your current obsession or the one who got away. Now come up with five or more unusual metaphors for the object of your affection/obsession: wool scarf, cough drop, puddle, half-empty bottle of red wine… Choose your favorite of the bunch and write a poem celebrating (or trashing) your love.

NaPoWriMo #9 Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to:
Use at least twelve words from this list: flap, winter, torch, pail, jug, strum, lever, massage, octopus, marionette, stow, pumice, rug, jam, limp, campfire, startle, wattle, bruise, chimney, tome, talon, fringe, walker;
Include something that tastes terrible;
Include some part (from a few words to several lines) of a previous poem that didn’t quite pan out; and
Include a sound that makes you happy.

4/10 write a horror poem. Make it scary. Make it cheesy. Make it funny. Whatever you do, link it somehow to horror. Who knows? Maybe someone will write the next great raven poem.

Here's my attempt:

"The People Outside"

We wait outside your windows for a chance
to peek inside, to see what you do when
the lights go out without warning. We don't
understand, so we scratch at your walls and
shake your door handles. If we could, we would
reach out for you and try to pull you close.

4/11 take the phrase "The Last (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "The Last Train," "The Last Kiss," "The Last Time I'll Give Directions to a Complete Stranger," "The Last Dance," etc.

Here is my attempt:

"The Last Thing I Said"

Let me begin by explaining:
I am not an astronaut; my
body is not a capsule. When
I was fired into outer space,
I had no idea I'd return.

4/11 write about the choice we didn’t make:

Everyday we make choices. Some are small: English breakfast or Lipton? the highway or back roads? Some are more significant: convertible or mini-van? farmhouse or condo?

Some choices lead us straight into the life we’re living, but for this poem, think about one of the things in your life you didn’t choose.

Be concrete. Pick an object — something tangible* — and write your poem directly to it, as if you were writing it a personal letter. Explain why you didn’t choose it. What could things have been like if you had? Talk about what your life has become without it. See where the “confession” takes you.

*As an alternative, dig a little deeper and write your poem to a person you left behind

4/12 pick a city, make that the title of your poem, and write a poem. Your poem can praise or belittle the city. Your poem could be about the city or about the people of the city. Your poem could even have seemingly nothing to do with the city. But the simple act of picking a city will set the mood (to a certain degree), so choose wisely.

Here's my attempt:


Oaks hover over us as we walk
toward River Street. We stop to read
a sign. A man holding a trumpet
asks Will if he can take his stroller,
but Will just points at a bird hopping
along the brick sidewalk. Tammy laughs,
and I lean in to kiss her. We don't
have any plans today, so we turn
away from River Street to see if
we can get lost and find our way back.

4/12 Found poem: 6-word autobiography:

For sale: Baby shoes. Never used.

To see more six-word autobiography poems:

write a self-portrait poem. Other artists study themselves to create compositions (not all of them exactly flattering either), so it is only natural that poets, who are word artists, write self-portrait poems from time to time. In fact, some poets make self-portrait poetry "their main thing." For at least today, make it yours.
Here's my attempt:


Look at me and cry wolf; say hands
and shoulders; say legs; my eyes burn
bright through walls and clothing; I turn
mistakes into miracles and

push harder when pushed; look at these
arms; they absorb the fine knuckles
of this world; my back won't buckle;
my heart reaches for the trapeze.