Category Archives: poetry

REBEL WITCH — a poem

Today I took up Colleen Chesebro’s challenge of writing a poem that uses synonyms for the words “color” and “creepy.” I chose the words “hue” and “sinister.”

Writing a poem that included both color and creepiness was quite the mental exercise. Color is fun, and creepy is not fun. When I put those two concepts into a pot and stirred them up, a conflicted character materialized.

Here’s the final brew, which took the shape of a double etheree. An etheree is a 10-line verse with a syllable count of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. A double etheree adds another verse of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

REBEL WITCH

skirts
swirling
in the streets
red and orange
yellow, green, and blue
indigo, violet
now that I have named them all,
which hue is the one you favor?
I am forced to dress in black myself —
for that’s what all the other witches wear

and who am I to go against the grain?
witches must look sinister and plain
no colors in our closets, no!
bright colors are forbidden
prisms warrant prison
what’s a witch to do?
make rainbow robes?
break the rules?
why not?
POOF!

 

tanka-tuesday-fall

 

Heartburn

I’ve written a “senryu” in response to Colleen’s “Weekly Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge.” From Colleen, I’ve learned that a senryu is a poem including elements of love, a personal event, and irony, with a 5/7/5 syllable structure. The tone of a senryu is humorous or sarcastic.

See below* for more about Colleen’s weekly challenge.

And now for my senryu, “Heartburn.”

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

my heart is on fire

I wish I were in love but

it’s indigestion

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

*Colleen’s challenge for this week was to write a tanka, haiku, senryu, haibun, or cinquain poem using any words we choose, rather than the two words she usually prompts us with. Not having word prompts made my task more of a challenge!

Haiku with a Little Help (from my Friends)

The word “BLOG” was written (just like that, in all caps) on my to-do list for last Sunday. How confident of me! I should have known better.

As usual, I ignored the word “BLOG” that day, but, unfortunately, I noticed it again on Monday. (Maybe I shouldn’t have written it in all caps.) On Tuesday, I avoided looking at my list altogether and just read my email instead.

That’s when I saw a post by Ritu (“But I Smile Anyway…”), who shared a lovely haiku she’d written in response to a poetry prompt by Colleen (“Colleen Chesebro – The Fairy Whisperer”).

Colleen’s prompt was to write a haiku, tanka, or other specific type of poem using SYNONYMS for “fall” and “try.”

I like prompts. They give me ideas. So thanks to Colleen and Ritu — what would I ever accomplish without my wordpress friends?

Here’s my haiku using synonyms for “fall” (descend) and “try” (strive).

a chill in the air

I strive to reverse the clock

but leaves will descend.

 

tanka-tuesday-fall

 

 

 

The Night Before the First Day of School

This post is in response to a writing prompt by Lorna at Gin & Lemonade. The prompt is “A Sepia Toned Fall Memory.” I let my mind wander while imagining a sepia-toned fall memory, and found myself thinking about my first day of school. Thanks for the memories, Lorna!

The Night Before the First Day of School

The year is 1954

it’s dark out, and it’s time for bed
the radio plays Autumn Leaves
by Papa’s favorite, Harry James

I’ve had my bath and brushed my teeth
my hair is washed, my nails are trimmed
my saddle shoes are clean and new
my raincoat’s hanging by the door

I’ve knelt beside my little bed
and said my prayers as I’ve been taught
and prayed the Lord my soul to keep
I’ve no idea what that means

I’ve had a bedtime story read
I’ve been tucked in and kissed goodnight
tomorrow I will go to school
but that’s another mystery

I listen to the crickets chirp
while in the living room below
my mother sews the buttons on
the dress that she has made for me

It’s brown plaid, with a pleated skirt
that’s long enough to last at least
‘til June if I don’t grow too fast
or she could just let out the hem

She’s placed a collar at the neck
its crisp white cotton edged with lace
like snowflakes on the autumn leaves
or frosting on my birthday cake

With every button that she adds,
with every stitch so straight and strong
she makes a wish that my first day
of school will be the perfect one

She smooths the wrinkles, ties the knots,
secures her hopes within the seams
prepares the fabric of my life
while upstairs, I am sound asleep.

Yellow

YELLOW

In spring

yellow makes me feel like laughing

the tickle of a lemon breeze

ruffles my hair and

puckers my lips

In summer

it pours from the sun

like hot flat sheets of maple syrup

drenching my body

in liquid sugar

In autumn

yellow turns to orange

and licks my face like a ginger cat

purring

until I try to catch it

In winter

it’s a trickle of iced tea

dropping in to say

stick around

I’ll be back soon.

Acacia Flower

The Language of Living Things

How do birds chirp? This is a question I asked myself yesterday while taking a walk and listening to a songbird.

Do they have vocal cords? Do they blow air through their nostrils? Or is it something I can’t even fathom, like maybe a hum that starts in their bellies? I’d like to know the answer.

Somehow, the universe must have heard my question, because last night my husband turned on the TV to watch NOVA, and the episode was about how animals communicate. And although it didn’t specifically answer my question about how birds sing, it did have some fascinating things to say about the language of animals.

Did you know, for example, that male spiders have a vocal language when they mate, and that whales have certain hit songs that spread from ocean to ocean like the British Invasion of 1964?

We humans have much in common with other animals when it comes to language, and I’m not just talking about our mating behavior. Take Zipf’s Law, for example, which I learned about for the first time last night on NOVA. According to Zipf (by the way, I’m not sure how to pronounce Zipf, but he probably could tell me if he were still alive, since he was a linguist), there’s a universal rule when it comes to language.

Using computers, linguists have analyzed large texts in several languages and have found that if you rank the words in order according to how often they appear, there’s a mathematical relationship (Zipf’s Law):

  • The frequency of word #1 is two times that of word #2,
  • the frequency of word #1 is three times that of word #3,
  • and so on.

If you plot it on a graph, it makes a straight line (slope) from upper left to lower right. And the same graph happens no matter what language you use. It even works with vocalizations of dolphins, elephants, and birds!

I don’t pretend to know much about animal language, but it’s already changed how I react when I listen to the birds sing.

I wonder if they write poetry, too?

Hanging Out with Bats

Tucson has a large bat population. In 2008, there were about 200,000 bats living here. Who knows how many more there are now. Most of them migrate north from Mexico in April and stay until October.

By day, the bats hang out under bridges, emerging en masse at sunset for their nightly feeding frenzy. People gather near the bridges to watch the bats take off. Bat-watching is excellent and cheap entertainment.

Several years ago, a small group of folks in Tucson came up with the slogan, “Keep Tucson Shitty,” in response to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird.” They did it as a joke, and it was embraced by another faction who were upset about the sudden gentrification of the scrappier parts of downtown. But “Keep Tucson Shitty” never caught on. Too many people were appalled and resented anything resembling a put-down of their beloved “Old Pueblo.”

I can understand why they would be appalled. I love Tucson’s beauty, its character, its blending of cultures, its mountains and sunsets and desert flowers. The last thing we want people to think of when they think of Tucson is excrement.

However, I think I’ve come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. How about the slogan, “Keep Tucson Batty”? It might just be the compromise this town needs. On the one hand, it lets others know that Tucson’s a nature-loving town that values its bats and supports sustainable lifestyles, while on the other hand it recognizes the scruffiness that sets us apart from Phoenix.

I’ve even written a song (well, the lyrics, anyway) to go with the slogan. It’s sung to the melody of that Cuban classic, “Guantanamera,” with apologies to Jose Martí (Cuba’s national poet who wrote the lyrics originally used in the song).

I call my version “Guano-tanamera.”

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 1:

I am a bat on a mission

For tasty bugs I am wishin’

Rather eat flies than go fishin’

Can’t drive, I don’t have ignition

Can’t fry an egg in the kitchen

But I have perfect night vision

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 2:

We bats cannot go out shopping

For tasty tacos and toppings

That’s why each night without stopping

Out from the bridge we come popping

Over our guano you’ll be hopping

Or all your floors you’ll be mopping

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 3:

Although I look kinda scary

I’m just a little bit hairy

My name’s not Tom, Dick, or Larry

But I can fly like a fairy

Over the town and the dairy

And City Hall where folks marry!

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera.

 

Hovering

Yesterday, while walking with a friend along the Rillito River, we stopped to admire a small wall that had been decorated with tiles. It depicted a desert scene, complete with cactuses, bees, flowers, and bats. There was a poem written in smaller tiles along the length of the wall. I’d seen the wall before and had read the poem, which is by Wendell Berry and is titled, The Peace of Wild Things.

I decided to snap a quick photo with my phone. Not wanting to hold up our walk, I gave the design a cursory glance and then decided to zoom in on just one cactus. My choice was almost random; there were many other images that I could have chosen, but this one seemed particularly colorful and I thought it would look good on Instagram.

After I got home and edited the photo, I noticed something almost miraculous. Right underneath the section that I had shot were the words, “Peace of Wild Things.” I thought it was a fitting photo for the day before Earth Day.

Untitled

And then I went for another walk, today, actual Earth Day, and I was lucky to spot a number of wild things, including the Anna’s hummingbird pictured at the top of this post. I also spotted several other birds, lizards, and flowers — all before arriving at my destination, a coffee shop where I enjoyed an Americano and a blueberry scone.

I felt lucky to be alive on this peaceful Earth Day morning, able to take a walk along a trail where wild things abound. I let my mind hover over that thought while sipping my coffee, much like that little hummingbird with her bright red flower.

Happy Earth Day Everyday.

 

 

Rapping It Up

Day 30 of the Nano Poblano (a.k.a. NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month) challenge is finally here! Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and thanks to the “cheer peppers” who made it all happen and cheered us on by “liking” our posts. I read the posts of my fellow bloggers religiously and learned so much from all of you.

I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, even though some days were a little rough. Somehow, I managed to eke out 30 different pieces, including:

  • two posts made within 15 minutes of midnight
  • one post consisting of only one sentence
  • two posts that were nothing but questions
  • one that included a video of me singing and playing guitar
  • a poem made up of 14 shorter haiku poems
  • many other posts, some with a bit of history, some just plain silly
  • no cat photos, and only one post with pictures of what I had for lunch

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed NanoPoblano, I’m looking forward to a little down time in December. (Did I just say down time in December?) This year, for the first time since I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for December to get here. I mean, I literally couldn’t wait. As soon as I returned home from New York yesterday, I changed both of my wall calendars to December without realizing that I was two days early.

There’s one thing I meant to post this month and didn’t. It’s a little embarrassing, but here goes: I don’t know how to rap. I don’t know much about it and I think I might be terrible at it. I’d like to learn, though, so that maybe I can use it in my songwriting projects. But how do you learn to rap? The same way you can learn almost anything these days: YouTube! I watched a few videos and I learned that some rappers (I think it’s called freestyle?) compose on the spot by thinking ahead to the end of the phrase before mentally writing the first line. I decided to try it, so I looked around the room for inspiration. I was in the kitchen. On the table was a glass, some cheese and crackers on a plate, and a vase of flowers. I grabbed my pad and pencil, and here’s the result. I may not win a Grammy, but if I make you smile it’s all worth it.

I had no support, I had no backers,
all I had going were these tasty crackers

I needed a genie to grant me three wishes
instead of all these glasses and dirty dishes

I wanted to be strong, I wanted magic powers
or maybe just a bunch of beautiful flowers

I had me some treble, I had me some bass
but I needed something else, like a flower vase

I asked that genie, pretty pretty please
can you bring me some money, or maybe just some cheese?

And on that note, I’m rapping up this edition of loristory. Happy December!

Featured image photo by Anita Peeples

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I Brake for Poetry

Can you think of a more boring and uncomfortable place to spend a couple of hours than an auto repair shop waiting room? The room smells like rubber and fumes. The coffee tastes like rubber and fumes. The television, usually set to the news channel I love to hate, makes me fume. To my mind, there’s nothing pleasant about an auto repair shop waiting room … but wait. Could it be an opportunity for creativity?

I wondered that one Saturday afternoon in 2011, while sitting on a hard plastic chair in a Brake Master’s waiting room, sandwiched between the coffee pot and a rubber tire display. Desperate to escape this situation but unable to do so, since my only method of transportation was currently up on a lift, I did something rarely done in an auto repair shop waiting room: I wrote poetry.

Specifically, I challenged myself to write three-line poems about random objects that I saw while sitting there. Here’s what I came up with. They might not be very good, but they passed the time. You might want to try this method of escape next time you’re in an uncomfortable situation. (Brake) drum roll, please!

FLOOR
I walk through life as if there is a floor
and a ceiling
and something of substance in between.

TELEVISION
The woman in the box prattles on, oblivious
thinking she's all that matters in this room
I accept this, knowing it is true.

FAN
Fans are useful in the tropics
where orchids spring from steamy earth
and bodies cling to gauzy shirts.

SANDALS
She slipped off her sandals and left them by the door
hoping they'd still be there when it was time to leave the cage.
You never knew about a hungry lion.

COFFEE POT
If a kitchen had a double agent, it would be the coffee pot
keeping things lively
while watching your every morning move.

BATHROOM
Bathrooms should be outrageous spaces.
A woman I know has the best one.
It's purple and is decorated with boobs.

MAGAZINE
The glossy magazine calls to me
with parted lips and false eyelashes
but I resist and choose reality, reluctantly.

CHAIR
I sit here and await the verdict
when all I asked for was an oil change
and some honesty.

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