Monday, March 31, 2014

It's time for April Poem a Day!

It's time for April Poem a Day! Are you at the ready? 

April is National Poetry Month. The goal is to write a poem a day—30 Days, 30 Poems. That'll put a poem in your pocket, and keep the doctor away. Or the taxman.

Cruel April
in rolled trousers,
is dressed in death and taxes
it's National Poem Writing Month.
Let the madness begin.

I'm going to repost many prompts here in one place as it makes for too much confusion to post them daily (and I get lazy.) Besides, I don't think anyone actually uses my collective writing prompts. And when I do use them (I've a 50/50 average), then, I can't find my own work embedded within the posts.

Writers' Digest Robert Lee Brewer's 2014 April PAD Challenge: FAQs (and Tips). You can post your poems on his PAD webpage. There's a chapbook contest at the end.

Write a beginning poem. Today is the beginning of this challenge. It’s also the beginning of April. But there are so many other beginnings: Beginning of a relationship, beginning of school, beginning of the rest of your life, and so on. Pick a beginning to write about.

Write an ending poem. Often, though not always, beginnings come as the result of an ending. Sometimes endings are cause for disappointment, heartbreak, or numbness. Other times, endings are celebrated. Capture an ending today.

Write a voyage poem. In my case, we’ll be driving along the Gulf of Mexico, but a voyage can happen in a variety of ways–even on foot, or psychologically. Heck, the process of writing a poem is a sort of voyage all its own.

Write a discovery poem. The narrator could discover an object, a person, an animal, a dishonorable deed, or any number of things. Poets can focus on the discovery, examine the aftermath, or even just mention it in passing.

Take the phrase “Since (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles include: “Since the Last Time I Smoked,” “Since You Said Please,” and “Since When.”

Write a message poem. Messages can be delivered in a variety of ways: postcard, e-mail, text message, letter in a bottle, smoke signals, secret codes, jumbotron proposals, etc. Also, messages themselves can be simple, complicated, nice, mean, happy, sad, and so on. Get at it! write a self-portrait poem. Pretty straightforward, right? That doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of room for creativity. Just look at artists and their self-portraits; there’s a lot of differences in the self-portraits of Kahlo, Schiele, Dali, Van Gogh, and others–and not just because the artists look different themselves.

Write a violent poem. Could be person on person violence, person on animal, animal on animal, nature on person/animal/nature, and so on (insects, erosion, cosmos, etc.).\

Write a peaceful poem. I suppose this might be the opposite of a violent poem. But perhaps not.
write a shelter poem. Shelter might be a structure like a house, apartment, or hotel. Shelter could be a tent or cardboard box. Shelter could be an umbrella, overpass, cave, or car. Shelter could be a state of mind, part of a money laundering scheme, or any number of interpretations.

Write a future poem. The future might mean robots and computer chips. The future might mean apocalyptic catastrophes. The future might mean peace and understanding. The future might mean 1,000 years into the future; it might mean tomorrow (or next month). I forecast several poems in the near future to be shared below.

Make a statement the title of your poem and either respond to or expand upon the title. Some example titles might include: “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy;” “Guns Don’t Kill People, I Do;” “This Is Your Brain on Drugs;” “Smile for the Camera,” and “Be Kind Rewind.” Of course, there’s an incredible number of possible titles; pick one and start poeming!

Write a city poem. The poem can take place in a city, can remember the city (in a general sense), be an ode to a specific city, or well, you should know the drill by now. City poem: Write it!

Molly Fisk's poetry challenge (with Lisa Cihlar) requires a secret handshake to join their Nicenet group. If you're on Facebook, check out and Like Molly Fisk - Writer, Teacher, Speaker. She often posts prompts there on her page, too. PS: Please LIKE her page, she needs 474 more followers to break 2000.
April first prompt: If it hadn’t been for the bones.
Prompt for April 2. Here I am holding ___________
Prompt for April 3. Removed from the troubles of everyday life

NaPoWriMo: National Poem Writing Month is a project where poets write a poem a day during April. NaPoWriMo, founded in 2003, is modeled after NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. See the Wikipedia entry for NaPoWriMo! Apparently, they're champing at the bit over at NaPoWriMo. Early bird worm poem:
The prompt for all you early birds is an ekphrastic poem – a poem inspired by or about a work of art. There’s no rules on the form for an ekphrastic poem, so you could write a sonnet or a haiku or free verse. Some well-known ekphrastic poems include Rilke’s Archaic Torso of Apollo and Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn.
Today, I’d like you to go to Reb Livingston’s Bibliomancy Oracle. Clear your mind, push the button, and then write a poem based on the quotation that the oracle provides. 
write a poem based on a non-Greco-Roman myth. You could write a poem inspired by Norse mythology, or perhaps by one of these creatures from Japanese legend
write a charm – a simple rhyming poem, in the style of a recipe-slash-nursery rhyme. It could be a charm against warts, or against traffic tickets. It could be a charm to bring love, or to bring free pizzas from your local radio station.

See 30-Day Poetry Challenge on Facebook too. You can post your poems there as well. More info here on 30DPC.
Day 1: When One Door Closes: Open a door to the outside world. Step outside and write about it.
Day 2: Making Connections - Incorporate a phrase you encounter digitally (e.g. in an email, a text message, via blog, etc.) into a poem about a topic of your choice.
Day 3: Open to Interpretation - What does the word "shadow" mean to you? Write a poem about it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Figby & Pishkin

Someone dumped a calico cat and her three young ginger kittens in the field below our house—at the end of a country road. Someone else's idea of letting the cat go back to the wild to fend for herself. Someone from town stupid enough to justify that rationalization.

The young cat was was literally starving, she didn't know how to hunt, and was unable to care for her babies. Barely more than a kitten herself, we'd watch her flop down on the dry winter grass, as she tried to nurse them, but no milk came.

She was shadow thin. I tried to reel her in with food but no luck. Her trust in humans was nil. We tried to leave leave food out for her, but the bluejays would beat her off the kibble, and she was too skittish to eat if we came near. Raccoons kept a tight night patrol.

Something had to be done, nature was running its inexorable course, but I could no longer bear to watch them starve. As they were sunning themselves in the lower field, I snuck up on them from behind a stump and managed to grab one kitten as the rest scattered to the four winds. I had one chance, and one chance was all I got. I snagged one bedraggled orange kitten and brought him into the house, but not the other. They ran off, forever spooked. I never got another chance.

Figby tamed up easily and he grew into a huge cat in an amazingly short period of time. He lost his pale baby fluff and his sleek adult coat grew in a bright orange with fierce tiger stripes. I realized that the kittens were much older than they looked—which was about 6 weeks. They were more like three or four months old. Because the wild brother didn't get much food, he stayed stunted, and never lost his baby fur.

It was odd to see the twin brothers together, one the size of an adult cat, the other, a dwarfed kitten. Mutt & Jeff. One pale blond, the other a real redhead. They were a perfect example of how nutrition played a large role in the development of young animals.

When my grannie came to America and saw all the sickly children, she said,  They're not feeding the children, in this richest country in the world—she said, horrified. Her ancestors had survived the Potato Famine. So, starvation was always a back-burner story in our family.

I tried everything to lure the wild kitten in. I was winging it. Nothing worked. Then Mamacat and the third kitten died and the little guy was by himself. About as big as a minute. All alone. He'd mew piteously and Figby would amble down the hill to visit him in the lower field, but even his brother couldn't convince him to approach humans. Figby had crossed over to the realm of humans. We were his tribe now. But his brother would have nothing to do with us. 

I tried to lure the remaining wild kitten toward the house on a food ticket. Then he was so lonely, he approached Figby and me, so I sat cross-legged in the dirt, and he tentatively drank from a saucer of milk. Unused to drinking, he did a few faceplants into the saucer, blowing milk bubbles out his nose. He shivered and drank cold milk until his tiny belly was a tight balloon. His pale fur was matted and skimpy and crawling with fleas. Poor fellow didn't even have a decent fur coat.

I tried to tame him. I'd sit for hours behind that saucer of milk, until he got used to my presence. I lured him into the house. It was now or never. I closed the door. He took off and hid under the couch. I bribed him with milk. He'd have none of it.

Ham finally did the trick. So I began trying to pet him...he latched onto my hand and nearly bit through it. I left my hand there in his jaws, and he finally let go, he looked at me uncertainly, then he licked my hand. Went back to his food and shivered. I knew I'd won the battle. (Yes, it got infected.) I scratched his chin and he purred—perhaps for the first time ever.

Runty Pishkin never grew up to be as big as Figby—who, pardon the pun, really was a ham—and he remained skittish to the end. However, with regular meals, his adult coat came in glossy and orange. He too was a handsome cat, but he never grew up to be as big as his brother. Too little nurturing, too late. My grannie said he was a little piscín, a little kitten. That's how he got his name. From the Irish.

Pishkin never grew up. He never tamed up. It really was too late, he was a wild animal. Nature vs. nurture. We fed them inside the house but the kitchen door always had to be left open. Pishkin never learned table manners. He'd growl and yodel as he ate, afraid the food would be taken from him—no matter how much we fed him. He'd hiss and lash out if you approached his dish. Figby was a perfect gentleman, he's sit tall and gaze benignly at his bother, he'd wait until Pishkin had his fill, then he'd eat.

            *               *               *
During my early childhood, I was never allowed to have cats in the house, only outside cats. There was Mamakitty, the founder cat, also a calico stray. But her line eventually died out (with a little help from the pound). We started out with one cat. At one point we had 13, cats; a week later it was a clouder of 26 cats. Dinnertime, they'd come running in thundering herds for table scraps. I'd sing: Here kitty-kitties, here kit-kits, here, kittywits, kittywits, kittywits....

My grannie said That was it, enough was enough. The cats have to go. (During the 1950s, there were no spaying options. Not like now. Ranchers either shot or drowned excess cats. Billy Joe Bianchi's father, Big Joe, drowned a litter in a gunnysack. I was distracted by the ducklings circling the pool. But I knew what had happened. The pound seemed more humane an option.)

I was allowed to keep two toms: Blackie and Winky, brothers from Mamakitty's first and second litters, were my constant companions. I dressed them in doll clothes, and dragged them everywhere.

The cats put up with my childish ministrations for years, never clawing or biting—though they were, by right, feral cats. Except the time I put a collar and leash on Blackie and dragged him down the road. The Rautio's dog came bounding up, gentle Blackie having no place else  to go, ran up to the crown of my head—raking my face and eyelids and spitting for all he was worth. I had scars for years.

I tossed the cats in the creek at the beginning of summer for their yearly bath. It was a tough love—they were stinky cats. They hated water, but they loved being clean afterwards—and they managed to keep up their personal hygiene for several months. Then, being boys, they'd get slovenly.

Blackie was a gorgeous black-tipped longhair, with a smoky undercoat. He worked hard at keeping all that long fur clean. Winky was a tabby striped shorthair, also with a cloudy undercoat. (They must've had the same father.) Blackie was also a bit of a lavender poofter, he had a thing going with the other male cats. Must've been his green eyes that drove them wild. He'd also steal kittens and tried to nurse them.

Not like the Stone's ugly rogue cat Grayboy, from down the road, who ate all of Mamakitty's kittens one night, and left the heads in the crib for me to find. I reached into the nest expecting to find a cuddle of warm kittens. I screamed and screamed when I pulled out a little orange head the size of a tennisball. Mamakitty grieved and grieved.

But sans litter, meant Grayboy's progeny would soon be on its way. I hated Grayboy, I never wanted one cat more dead than him. One time I managed to catch him by the tail, and dropkick him, but like Bill the Cat, he always came back.

Blackie was fearless and stood his turf. A raccoon got Blackie by the scruff of the neck and tore his throat open one time too many, he eventually ran off and died of an abscess. Another cat—probably that psycho-cat Grayboy as he seemed to relish killing our cats—snagged Winky's eye, pulling it from its socket during a brawl. Winky came back to visit, an apparition from a horror story, as if to say goodbye, and then ran off to die. I had nightmares for months.

Then we had no cats for a long while. Until someone dumped that second mamacat and her kittens in our lower field. Another calico. It was divine providence.

            *               *               *
In one fell swoop, Figby broke all the house rules. He moved into the house and slept on my grandmothers couch—she had a shaggy orange car throw that he thought was his. She was partial to redheads and ginger cats. Figby was a lovefest. He knew that we'd saved him. And that was that. We were his people. He was polite, he never had accidents—he waited patiently at the door to be let out. We were his humans who needed bathing and bathroom supervision.

Figby & Ziggy

When Figby moved into the house, then my Siamese-alleycat cat Ziggy (Stardust) moved in too. They were like bookends. I don't remember how Figby got his name, perhaps from sampling my grandmother's figs. He was a strange cat—he'd try anything we ate—but the name fit him. Figby was also a copycat. Anything my grannie ate—he sampled it too. He loved sharing her tea. OK, so there was milk in it.

But when he sampled her old fashioneds, Manhattans, and Irish whiskey, she'd half-heartedly swat him with a newspaper and he'd just sit there staring at her, purring and critching his toes, gazing at her with big yellow eyes. I can understand a cat eating avocados—and bananas are an odd choice—but booze?

Figby was more dog than cat and every morning he'd stroll in the garden behind my grannie, his tail like a mast, cricked over at the tip, never leaving her side. Pishkin slinked along behind, like a scared shadow, muttering to himself all the while. Hanging laundry and composting also needed Figby's close supervision and approval.

Ziggy & Pishkin
Pishkin was the feral cat, and Figby ruled the house. Each morning the brothers would snuggle like bookends and sunbathe on the kitchen window ledge. Sometimes Pishkin would let me scratch under his chin, he wanted petting too, he'd purr, but he was always too skittish for a full petjob, or, come into the house. He and Ziggy never bonded, other than by species.

I was devastated when Figby died of distemper a couple of years later. (Pre shots days.) Pishkin was inconsolable in his grief, Figby was all he had to anchor him to our world, and so he became wilder and wilder, and each visit more infrequent than the last. The law of nature, wild in tooth and claw, had won out in the end.

Pishkin lived to be a venerable age, always circling our house, always keeping tabs on us, always looking for Figby. He'd look at us as if to say: What have you done with my brother? Then he'd slink off into the pale grass muttering to himself.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Flotsam & jetsam
on the kitchen floor again

(Sorry, I couldn't resist that last line—cheap bank shot. A 6th grader actually used it as his own poem in one of Neil's poetry classes and he—new to the wiles of young plagiarists—fell for it.

Haikus are easy,
But sometimes they don't make sense.
Refrigerator. —Rolf Nelson

Between you, me and the fence, I don't think Rolf actually wrote it. But he got first dibs credit for it when he slapped it on a teeshirt design for

Ahem. Tap, tap. Take 2. Where were we?

Flotsam & jetsam
on the kitchen floor again
midnight snack shoreline

Messy kitchen floor:
I sing "Neil has eaten" to
Morning Has Broken

Dental floss—really?
kitchen floor's toothy practice
Late snack cavities

Tooth floss on the floor
Too far to toss, lazy? Or
trashbin lid glued shut?

Dental floss—thin worms
turning trash into soil
Crumbs seeding the floor

Secret late night snacks
a buffet of detritus
rings the kitchen floor

Ants ring last night's crumbs
like cowboys and indians
Snack patrol posse

I herd evidence
to the jaws of the dustpan
devouring crumbs

Broom song sweeps across
a kitchen floor crumb buffet
Dustpan mouth awaits

Late night snacku full
of empty calorie words
thickens the waistline

Counting syllables
playing a piano scale
left-handed solo

I don't like to count
words, but here I am counting
haiku insanity

(yeah, yeah, last line is six syllables.

Haiku are made of
Five syllables then seven
Then end with five more. —Anon

At least Anon's more honest than some.)

Numeric madness
a haiku insanity
unleashed on the page

Kitchen floor round up
riding shotgun with broom locked
& loaded again

A good thing the broom
isn't loaded or there'd be
a feast of carnage

A Rainman moment
counting last night's crumbs like rocks
no frogpond in sight

A good thing the thief
can't hear carnal kitchen thoughts
scribbled on the floor

Crumb calligraphy
commemorates late night snack
for literate ants

Ant literacy
written on counters and floors
erased by a broom

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Largely Unsupervised Childhood

I had a largely unsupervised childhood, and instead of bikes, for wheels, we had donkeys, then we had ponies, and later, when we were teenagers, we graduated to horses. When we were young, we weren't allowed take the donkeys across the highway, but that didn't curtail us—we found many backroads and firetrails to travel far and wide.

We found novel ways around the restrictions placed by my best friend Stephanie Stone's parents—who otherwise left us all alone. We played until dark, no one was ever watching us, or asking where we were going—as we rarely knew where we were going until we got there and back again. Oh but the adventures we had.

We used creek culverts as byways to cross the highway. That meant we had to leave the donks tied up as they couldn't fit into them. The one at Arroyo Road/Creek was spidery. Luckily they were daddylonglegs.

We'd take the fire lane past Dougie Jarret's places to Bellefuelle's (woodlady) and tie them up, then break the rules—crossing over at Tamal Road. We interpreted in shades of gray. We slant-rhymed parental negotiations with childish logic. Steph's parents said we couldn't take the donkeys across the highway—not ourselves.

Or we'd dink down to Yerian's Garage as it was technically on the same side of the road, so we weren't technically crossing the road. It was probably more dangerous than crossing the road as there was no shoulder. The lure? We could get a huge RC Cola for 15 cents—we'd hunt for coke bottles along the road (3 cents each), until we had enough to buy one.

By the time we were mounted on horseback, the world was our oyster—or it was about as far as we could ride there and back by nightfall. Only real rule: we couldn't bring the horses home wet. Even riding into nightfall wasn't a huge deterrent. However, missing dinner was.

Full moons, we'd ride up Mt. Barnabe—magical. Surreal. A few times we bit off more than we could chew. That buggy ride to Mt. Tam became epic trying to get home when the gates were locked on the Pine Ridge fireroad above the San Geronimo Ridge. We could lift the buggy over the fence, but searching for a portogee gate under a full moon, to squeeze Christian's horse, Brandy through, was a challenge. 

We played with fire too. Frozen orange juice can rockets powered with firecrackers, matchhead torpedoes. Roasting raw oatmeal, or corn-chips in a coffee can. We liked that burnt taste. We knew better than to light a fire in the barn—we were careful. We knew the consequences.

Not so, for my little brother whose match experiment resulted in a grassfire backside the house. Luckily my grannie was able to put it out before it raced up the hill—and there was enough water in the tank. He was very careful afterwards. 

Fort-making was another important unsupervised activity where we learned to repurpose found objects and recycle wood. Elaborate treeforts, hobo camps—we were always creating structures.

Christian Burkhart's treefort was like a real house with windows—and a telescope trained on the Stone's bedroom window. Hay forts were the best. They didn't require smuggling tools and stealing nails. We were engineers and doctors (um, think I'll leave that one unexplored), rocket pilots and architects.

We built the scaffolding of our playtime to the sky and back. For that freedom, I am ever grateful. For it sustains me even now. There was a wild freedom, limitless imagination, and daydreaming were our closest companions. 

I feel sorry for the kids of today who have every playtime minute structured. It creates a paucity of imagination.

This piece was inspired by The Atlantic feature article, The Overprotected Kid

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cat bite

My hand was the victim of jealous kitty turf wars, and sustained collateral damage, but it looks like I was bitten by a cobra. Nellie was probably overstimulated after a good ear and headrub—and then Spartan walked into the room. I wasn't even scratching her, my hand was resting on the white bolster as she blissfully snoozed. Spartan was using the cat tree. She leapt straight up in the air and chomped me hard on the hand. He took off, skidding down the corridor. It woul'd've been hysterically funny any other time. She clearly didn't take offense to my swat, or to me, no grudge was held—and she was back for more pets within a few minutes, or is she schizophrenic, Alzheimer's? All this happened right before the automatic catfeeder timer went off... Wonder if that was also a factor? Since Nellie & Spartan are housecats I know there's no danger of outside disease. I wish she had brushed her teeth, or at least gargled before she bit me. Owww. How to sensibly treat it? That Mayo Clinic info is a lot of hysteria.

Soaking it now. Feels good. Seems like swelling is abating. it's a puncture—two punctures. I’m too late for hydrogen peroxide; so I doused with triple antibiotic cream. I get the toxic part, but not the hysteria. If all that is posted about catbites were true across the board, none of us would've survived childhood. I've been bitten many times. The wounds didn’t bleed a lot but I did squeeze it. Top of in a bit of a dilemma in that I can’t have a Tetanus shot w/o violent side affects. These cats NEVER go out. Ever. Hydrogen peroxicde doesn't fizzle so at least the wound surface is clean. Im soaking it—no Epson Salts—so I used baking soda.

My grannie always bathed our infected wounds in potassium permanganate, or boric acid. Localized swelling—each puncture is about nickel-to-quarter sized, but it's combined to about silver dollar size. yikes! Jane the NP  I called up said 80% of all catbites become infected. Cellulitis (not thunder thighs!) is the problem. Localized swelling, no fever. Been making little baking soda poultices too. Nothing like a little kitty jealousy to stoke the fire. Soaked it all day long on the hour in Epson salt/baking soda water (from my baking soda poultice)—swelling's almost all gone. Punctures are open. Nothing to drain. I also have the cleanest whitest nails ever. A UK site said to wait 24 hours  before panicing—24 hours later, it's almost back to normal. Slightly warm, not hot like this AM.

Problem is that Spartan is skittish, so Nellie takes advantage of it. You can't quite pet him. Always out of reach. Clearly Nellie didn't even want to share that ephemeral petting space.Yikes! when I was a chile I decided I would put Blackie the cat on a leash and take him for a walk like a dog. Neighbor's dogs came bounding down to say hello. Blackie ran up to the crown of my head and proceeded to hiss and spit and rake my face. I had scars on my eyelids and cheeks for ages. They eventually faded. NO antibiotics, no doctor...I've been chomped and scratched many times.

This bite. Definitely a deep bone bruise. Hurts when I use it too much. Soaked it all day yesterday and today. No fever, or swelling now, just a teentsy 1/8" redness around thumb joint wound, but not the other.  Peroxide between soaks. I am keeping an eagle eye out. I saw my knee doctor, he said my hand was fine—and that if it swelled, then it was infected. Still hurts a bit. He verified that cat bites were bad—but it’s the body's job is to fight off infection—which mine did, swimmingly. Sans antibiotics, TG. See, I took so many in my early 20s that I had an immuno-meltdown, and became sensitized to everything. Took ages to undo the damage. So I tend to avoid antibiotics, if I can.

Someone once dumped a calico mother and three ginger kittens at our house—end of Barranca Road. Someone else's idea of letting the new mother cat go back to the wild. She was literally starving, unable to care for them—so I snaggged one kitten and raise him, but not the other. Figby grew huge while his wild brother stayed stunted. Mama and third kitten died and the little guy was by himself. He was about as big as a minute. I tried everything to lure him into the house on a starvation ticket. Then I tried to tame him. I'd sit for hours behind a saucers of milk, until he got used to my presence. Ham did the trick. So I began trying to pet him...he latched onto my hand and nearly bit right through it. I left my hand there, and he let go, then licked my hand. I knew I'd won the battle. (Yes, it got infected.) Runty Pishkin never grew as big as Figby—who, pardon the pun, really was a ham—and remained skittish to the end. FIgby loved sharing tea, old fashioneds and whiskey neat with my grannie. Anything she ate—so did he. He loved her that much. Bananas and avocados I can see, but booze? He was more dog than cat and strolled with her in the garden, never leaving her side. He was a lovefest. He knew we'd saved him. I was devastated when he died of distemper. (Pre shots days.) Pishkin was inconsolable, Figby was all he had to anchor him to our world, and so he became wilder and wilder with each visit.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mango ice for the knee

I’m icing the knee with TJs' frozen mango chunks. Very fruity. Should I get little umbrellas and make frou-from drinking-poos?

Did anyone see the sundog this morning at dawn? A rainbow arm pointing east.

Petting the pussies....I’m kittysitting. Nellie sits on the bolster for a chin kitcheecoo and visiously swats Spartan if he comes too near. She's gotten so fat she can barely fit. Nothing like a cat  hanging over a bolster looking at you upside down beeseechingly. And ten minutes later, Nellie chomped me. I got an infected cat bite for my troubles.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Green peas and gams

Go to sleep early she said to herself, you have to get up early... (why I don't know). Waking up at midnight wasn't quite what I had in mind. Agh! Must be the mushy peas. I don't recommend falling asleep with a frozen pea icepack on your knee. Soggy. I guess it's now officially St. Patrick's Day, she said, slugging her pillow  Back to the drawing board, er sleep...walked too far today, I am paying for it now. Not only does my knee hurt, but so do my gams. No Advil for me these days. Upsets my stomach. I need to pee and another pea ice pack. At least it's green! But I don't like mushy peas even if they do stick to the knife better.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

bad hair day

Yeah, I found that Motrin and wine don't mix. Been off all pain meds about a month, and now—finally— wine tastes good again! Praise the Lawdy! Oh, and I'm running away from my hair—I'm out of my shampoo and allergic + frizzy doesn't even begin to cover the hitchee-jeebies. Even Neil complained that I was wearing perfume at 30 yards. I need a nother drink. Asparagus was real, risotto was faux. I don't think I can live 24 hours with my hair. I'm 4 hours into it and I itch itch itch. I'm no Breck girl. I cannot use commercial shampool L'anza it is. But where to find it? All the Beauty supply stores have gone belly up! Knee still hurts like blazes. But I managed to walk on the RR trail from Ross Lane to Green Valley Road in Graton. Hair hitchee-jeebies is the real problem. Not ants in your pants but that lice in your hair kind of feeling. Never could use off-the-shelf shampoo. I rinsed and rinsed. Oh, WHERE can I buy some L'Anza Remedy shampoo? Where's the friggin' wine bottle? I'll bypass the vinegar rinse and just take it internally, thankyouverymuch! So, should I climb in the tub and rinse with white vinegar, or should I stand in the courtyard and chug the chardonnay neck first? Please advise. My head itches.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Π Haiku   5.7.5

Repeat. This number
is irrational—perfect
infinite numbers.

Perfect circumference
is highly overrated.
Pi is randomness.

Squaring the circle:
Never within this lifetime.
Transcending the spheres.

Mathematic constant?
Transcendental squared circle
never repeating.

What's irrational?
Pi: infinite by design
circle ratio.

No common fraction
Π rolls to its own rhythm
never to repeat.

Decimal pattern
never ends, never repeats
itself—like others.

Randomness? Prove it.
Impossible transcendence
too, is rational.

Transcendence of Pi
impossible to challenge
or solve with numbers.

To square the circle
space / time: a continuum
an aglow rhythm.

Compas or straightedge:
what would Archimides do
to square the circle?

Wheels of the bus go
round and round and round
never to be squared.

Infinite series
10 trillion digits later
still no end in sight.

Irrational no.
No integers need apply,
nor common fractions.

No number repeats.
What is Pi's musical score?
Random color notes.

statistical randomness
Pi r square, are round.

A vulgar fraction?
Only infinite nested
fractions dressed to the T.

Giza pyramid
squared circles, did they eat Pi
cornerstone cubits?

King Solomon's pool
was 10x30 cubits
sacred reflection.

Did Pi birth control
use algorithm methods
or polygonal?

Or did Pi use the
approximation method
fertile math sequence.

Give a polygon
infinite corners, will it
ever absolve Pi?

Even infinite
sums can't find enlightenment
in Pi's equation.

Π KU  3.1.4

This number


Who called you
common fraction?


sweet circumference.

Squared circle
spheric thought.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two glass wine night

I had TWO glasses of wine tonight: will I go to hell in a hand basket? Can I choose the type of basket? The wine?  Whether Hell is warm, cold, or frozen over? Ah, but the faux asparagus risotto was so fine. The wine was like a bouquet of slender green snakes slithering down the throat of memory.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

8 Fun Facts About the Irish Language

Donna Champion posted 8 Fun Facts About the Irish Language from MentalFloss on my Facebook wall. Which got me on a roll, despite my deep exhaustion from the weekend. Donna said, "I think Yoda uses the same syntax (VSO) #3."

Irish sentences have Verb Subject Object word order. So "I saw a bird" would be "Saw I a bird." And "I always speak Irish" would be "Speak I Irish always." This particular word order is relatively rare in any language family tree—only a few of the world's languages use it. Welsh is constructed as VSO.  no P. Personally, I like VSOP brandy.

Actually Irish kicks it up a notch, it is a VSOP (preposition) language. You cannot construct sentences without conjugating the prepositions too.  It's left an imprint on the Hiberno-English spoken in Ireland. Sometimes Hiberno-English sentences are are direct translations, with fossilized Irish word order and all. That's the conjugated prepositions talking at you. Go raib maith agat — ag + at is —at you (singular). "I'm after eating my breakfast" becomes a kind of slanguage.

The name of the Irish language is "Irish." This is true today, but it was NOT always called Irish 100 years ago. It was simply called Erse, or Gaelic. It started being called Irish in the 1960s.

Irish had five dialects. Scottish Gaelic is technically a dialect, not a separate language. (But don't tell the Scots that.) And it was called Scots Gaelic (but pronounced garlic/Gallic vs Gae-lic to differentiate, but there was still too much confusion. So Irish Gaelic became Oyrish). Scots-Gaelic is basically Donegal Irish, with a slightly different spelling/orthography. Some Scottish spellings retain the same spelling as 17th c. Donegal Irish.

There's no one word for "yes" or "no" in Irish. It's true, you answer with a negative of the verb form, or copula. Is hea. Ni hea. It may only have eleven irregular verbs, but they are most irregular. My personal favorite is the "does be" form. "He does be drinking every day." Speaking of verbs, there is no intransitive verb: no verb "to eat." Just "eat." Which requires specific conjugation.

Counting is a bitch in Irish. Cardinals, ordinals, past, present. Not only what you're counting, but whether or not you're counting in 20s vs 10s. Animals tend to be counted in 20s. Also telling time is a bitch of another color entirely.

Irish is a very precise language. Going up or down stairs requires a Vulcan mind meld to correctly conjugate (relative to the speaker's and listener's positions whether or not you're at the foot, or the top of the stairs, and whether or not you're coming or going.) I would just avoid stairs entirely. Jump out the window instead. Easier than to construct a sentence with someone ascending or descending the stairs. Duchamp almost got it right in his painting, Nude Descending the Staircase.

And then there are the genitives...

added, rev. 3/2017

BBCs Beaf air Beag Learn a Scots-Gaelic song: 
Tha mi sgìth 's mi leam fhìn,
Buain na rainich, buain na rainich,
Tha mi sgìth 's mi leam fhìn,
Buain na rainich daonnan 

How the Welsh language was really invented  (meme)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Recovery day after the concert

Recovery day after the concerts.We partied like rockstars and then we feasted like kings. Knackered. With Katie Ketchum, Neil O'Neill, Maureen Hurley, Kirk Whipple and Marilyn Morales at Willow Wood Market Cafe in Graton. Kirk took this great selfie.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bird in hand

This bird crashed into the window in a puff of feathers. Bird in hand! She was stunned, passed out in my hand for about 10 minutes, heart racing—so I covered her with my hands until the shock wore off). Then she sat there another 10 minutes tracking us (so I knew her neck wasn't broken). I had to goose her to get him to fly off. With a little nudging, the little finchster flew off to live another day! Kirk Whipple took the first photo, and I took the second one. We were staying at a friend of theirs cottage in an orchard in Forestville, recovering after the concerts.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Elemental Portraits Reading, Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Maureen Hurley, Kirk Whipple, Marilyn Morales 3/7/2014

Elemental Portraits Performance and Reading, Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and Unitarian Church, Santa Rosa, CA, Maureen Hurley reading her poems from Elemental Portraits, with Pianistas Duo, Kirk Whipple, Marilyn Morales 3/7/2014

Kirk Whipple, Marilyn Morales, with special guests Bob Afifi & Maureen Hurley perform Elemental Portraits at Sebastopol Center for the Arts

We had a blast performing Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.
Kirk Whipple & Marilyn Morales Duo Pianists & Compsoers in Concert
Kirk Whipple Marilyn Morales, Duo Pianists Composers (Press Democrat)

Facebook Events

We also performed at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, but there were no programs, just a poster. I wasn't listed on it. It was also poorly advertised (other than on Facebook), so we had a small turnout. But it was there, where I got my groove back—after being so long away from those poems.
Hangtime: Whipple & Morales, Duo Pianists & Composers in Concert
Facebook: Whipple & Morales, Duo Pianists & Composers in Concert

In the mid 1990s, Kirk and I did a collaboration where I wrote poetry while he composed musical portraits of Sonoma County musicians. As he composed, I freewrote to the music, then I interviewed him (also his dream journal), then I interviewed the people the portraits were composed for. I put it all together.

The last time we performed Elemental Portraits was in in Onset, Ma., in 2008: 
Cranberry Coast Concerts Sun Chronicle. ArtsBoston

More on Cranberry Coast Concerts at MySpace
More on the poems at the Unconservatory website:
Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos (the poetry)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Whipple & Morales, Duo Pianists & Composers in Concert—with special guests Maureen Hurley

This Friday and Saturday evening, I will be reading several poems I wrote while Kirk Whipple was composing his "Elemental Portraits."

That's two chances to catch the piano concerts of the fab Pianistas duo Kirk Whipple and Marilyn Morales in Sonoma County this weekend—with special guests Maureen Hurley and Bob Afifi!
This Friday, March 7th at 7:30 PM at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St., Sebastopol, 95472

Saturday, March 8th at 7:30 PM at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino, Santa Rosa, 95401. Please come and join us.

Kirk Whipple & Marilyn Morales will perform a concert of their original works and arrangements for two pianos. The internationally touring husband and wife duo will perform a retrospective of works, spanning their career of over a quarter century.

The duo’s program will be selected from works available on several of their recordings: Elemental Portraits ~ Nocturnes for Two Pianos, Latin Lovers, The White Season, Danzas Para Dos Pianos (Dances for Two Pianos) and Celebrating Americans.

Special guest artists will join Whipple & Morales on stage. Maureen Hurley will read her original poems inspired by Elemental Portraits and Bob Afifi will be the featured flute soloist in selections from Danzas Para Dos Pianos.

To hear selections performed by Whipple & Morales, please visit:

Friday, March 7th at 7:30 PM at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St., Sebastopol, 95472  Tickets: $20 general, $15 for seniors and Youth (18-25), 17 and under free when accompanied by adult with paid admission. Child care is available with advance reservation.

Info: (707) 568-5381


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Caught my electronic solitaire game cheating

Caught my electronic solitaire game cheating red-handed (er, red-carded)—again. It was bogarting—it had a 7 of spades up its sleeve. And the app designer wants me to review it? It CHEATS! Should I shoot it, or the screen?

While waiting for slow pages to load on my browser, instead of staring at the spinning beachball, I play a rousing hand of cards. Yes, ATT DSL is that slow... It caused my browser to hang and go white as I was writing a post on Blogger, I lost an entire post. So much for auto-save.

I had loaded all photos, made hotlinks, etc. It should've been auto-saving. The only thing that was saved was the photo. Writing ofline, yes, I used to do it— but the immediacy and lining up the HTML, readying it, are all part of the process. I'm not dong simple word-processing. If I suspect it'll crash, then I tend to copy to clipboard before I upload. This was a weird blanking of all fields. Never stood a chance. 

Google fail. ATT fail. App fail. But hey, it's raining! My laundry is getting an extra special soft rain rinse.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How the Welsh language was really invented

 Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd—or how the Welsh language was really invented: whiskered kittens on keyboards wearing white woolen mittens.

These are a few of my favorite things. And now I don't feel so bad...but you might if you ever wish someone a Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd, or visit Wales and have to pronounce some of the downright eyeteeth challenging placenames. Why yes, I have been to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, now that you mention it, but why do you ask? 

Llanfair PG for short—is not the byproduct of a cat walking on keyboards, but it is a real village on the isle of Anglesey in Wales. One of the longest place names in the world, it was an 1860s gimmick for the longest railway station name in Britain prize—only no one can pronounce it. The railway sign is so long we could barely fit it all in the photo frame.

Barbarella's secret password is pronounced Llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-chwurn-drob-ooll-llantus-ilio-gogo-goch, which means [St.] Mary's Church (Llanfair) [in] the hollow (pwll) of the white hazel (gwyngyll) near (goger) the rapid whirlpool (y chwyrndrobwll) [and] the church of [St.] Tysilio (llantysilio) with a red cave ([a]g ogo goch). Got that? Good.

I double-dare you to Google these phrases I've compiled for your next Welsh lesson: 
Wnewch chi ysgrifennu hynna, os gwelwch yn dda? 
Helpa fi! Helpwch fi! 
Galw'r heddlu! 
Dw i ddim yn deall 
Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod. (Omniglot).

Aside from the pesky eels in the hovercraft (a linguist's inside joke), a friend of mine said Welsh looks like it is suffering from a severe case of irritable vowel syndrome. But it's really just a case of bad orthography. OK, so there are a lot of ds in a row too.

You know that Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd is a Welsh national holiday, today, right?

Eight of those letter combos (digraphs) are really one-letter sounds written in the English alphabet with two Latin letters: 
ch—èch, dd—èdd, ff—èff, ng— ll—èll, ph—ffi/yff, rh—rhi, th—èth. 
Speaking of those irritable vowels: the usual complement: a, e, i, o, u—but, hold on—w and y are also vowels. 

The Welsh—Cymraeg (aka Cambrian, Cambric, Cymric)—alphabet has 28 letters 
(but no j, k, q, v, x, or z), and it is related to Cornish, Breton(Brezhoneg); Cumbric, and Pictish—are both extinct. Probably because nobody could spell them either.

Welsh is a P-Celtic language. Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx are Q-Celtic—as were almost all the Atlantic Celtic languages of Iberia—which is different than Gaulish.

TRANSLATE: I live in Wales
Welsh - Dw i'n byw yng Nghymru 
Cornish - Trigys ov yn Kembra 
Breton - E Kembre emaon o chom 
Irish - Tá mé i mo chónaí sa Bhreatain Bheag 
Scottish Gaelic - Tha mi a' fuireach anns a' Chuimrigh 
Manx - Ta mee cummal 'sy Vretyn (Omniglot).

Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod
Leun gant sili eo ma dourruzer
Tá m'árthach foluaineach lán d'eascanna.
Leun a sylli yw ow skath bargesi
Ta my haagh crowal lane dy astan.
Ma hoovercraft's full o eyls
Ma hoovercraft's breemin' ower wi eyls

Welsh emerged from Common Brittonic, or another down in the 'eels Brittonic dialect, ca. 6th c.AD. The Britons were all pushed to the west of what is now England/Scotland, and eventually the Brittonic-speaking west, was divided near modern-day Manchester/Liverpool, and the boundaries of modern Wales were founded.

Before the 6th c., Brittonic kingdoms extended from The River Clyde (Cumbria), to Cornwall & the Isle of Wight.

The earliest Welsh literature dates back to 600 AD. Wales' first Welsh bard was Taliesin of the 'shining/radiant brow' (or Tal-iesin, Taliessin; c. 534 – c. 599). He composed the story of Urien of Rheged, a 6th c. king—in what is now southern Scotland.

Another Welsh bard, was Aneirina Cumbric poet from Dumbarton (also modern Scotland), aka the "prince of bards, of flowing verse." Aneirin's epic Y Gododdin, records a pitched battle between the Britons and Angles at the Battle of Catraeth ca, 600 AD, in remembrance of his fallen patrons and lords of Hen Ogledd.

So, I guess we could say that the roots of written Welsh is really Scottish! Of course, there was no Scotland yet. Detail, I know. Also understanding the Brittonic language map during the post Classical era, and the early middle ages gives some linguistic credence to the next Mad March Celtic holiday on deck—that St. Patrick was actually from what is later known as Scotland.

Welsh was much easier to learn than Old Irish (also VSO and sometimes P*, but less tenses to fuss with). However, I was a mental disaster in my Medieval Welsh class at Berkeley—it was also post-9/11. I had the post-acopolytic mind of a squirrel. I did, however, manage to get through the first story of the Mabinogi, and another tale in Medieval Welsh. All I can say is, I'm glad I already knew how the stories were going to end. 

*Verb, Subject, Object, Preposition that conjugates with personal pronoun. 

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus
Anyway, all this to say to you: Happy Dewi Sant! Or Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus! Do you have a bouquet of daffodils in hand, and a lucky leek stuck behind your left ear? Then, let the March madness begin.

White rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Note Bene: David, the patron saint of Wales and doves, whose feast/death day is March 1st (ca. 569-601 AD), would've been a contemporary of Taliesin and Aneirin.

During the height of Welsh resistance against the Normans, Saint David was recognized as the national patron saint. On his deathbed Dewi Sant was said to have uttered: "Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil."

An 8th c. poem prophesied that when all might seem lost, the Cymry would unite under the banner of David to defeat the English; "A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant" (And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi)."

Dewi was son of Sandde, the Prince of Powys— the Ceredigion clan, and Non of Menevia. He founded a Celtic monastery at Glyn Rhosin (Vale of Roses) at Sir Benfro. He was buried at St David's Cathedral at Pembrokeshire; his shrine was a pilgrimage hot spot during the Middle Ages. Saint David is also associated with corpse candles, a flame, or blue fireball (bog-fire, will-o-the-wisp, ignis fatuus) that foretold death.

The Welsh wear a daffodil (symbol of spring) or the leek (secret sign) on their lapel to celebrate the feast of St. David. The words are similar in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, "Peter's leek").The leek was used as a symbol to distinguish Welsh troops from the pagan Saxon enemy. Friend or foe.

The word Cymry dates back to the post-Classical Roman Era, meaning the peoples of "Yr Hen Ogledd", or the Men of the North. In Old Welsh combrog means "compatriot, or Welshman"; from cymryubrogi —country, or territory.

The word Wales, or Welsh, is not from within the culture. It's from the Germanic root (Walh, Walha) foreigner, which ironically was derived from the name of a fierce Gaulish tribe, the Volcae Tectosages—who gave Rome some real grief. The Volcae fought alongside Alexander the Great, and feared nothing.  

Britain 500 AD: Pink: Celtic Britons, or Welsh. Blue: Germanic tribes Angles, Saxons. Green: Gaels & Picts.

There was a lot of prehistoric travel back and forth from southern Ireland to Wales. During the 5th c., Gwynned was an Irish settlement, as was Anglesey. The word Gwynedd is an early borrowing from the Irish, related to the  Old Irish name Féni. Finn/Gwyn are cognates—fair/white.

My family name, Walsh (the Welshmen), is Breathnach in Irish. This does not mean our family were supplanted Normans, they might have come over to Bantry from Wales with Strongbow, they may have been descendants from the kingdom of Gwynned, or they may simply have been Brittonic-speakers in Ireland. 

My grannie's Irish Grammar book: Sinead Breatnac (Jane Walsh).