Looking at Crows and Sparrows in the Snow

As a forward to this massive poem, if you are faint of heart stop reading now. This poem is dark and cold and grim. It is sort of how it sometimes is in life. You go about your life while death and destruction occurs right under your nose. You are not only oblivious but you take the debris from the tragedy and appropriate it for your own benefit. It is not malice. There is no intent to disrespect the survivors or dishonor the dead. The situations just don’t touch your life. You have no knowledge of the events. If someone is unaware don’t berate them or become angry with them. How about instead educate, inform and solicit sympathy. Most folks just need to know what’s going on to be able to care. (well at least in Indiana)

Moonlight silhouette of the crow
While sleeps morning’s sparrow
Blanketed in new fallen snow
Piled on her head an icy chapeau
Moon casts exaggerated shadows below
Huddled cold in the bare ginkgo
While the night breathes shallow
And the dark one flies solo

The wolf howls a long note solo
The cry harsh answers from the crow
Surveying a new grave dug shallow
Unaware sleeps the sparrow
The only marker the old ginkgo
And fading footprints in deepening snow
Temperatures keep dropping zero and below
For the frozen heart there is no warm chapeau

At first light morning doffs her chapeau
Sends pink light to rouse the singer solo
Who drops sweet notes on the ground below
Until the warmth awakens the crow
Who stomps around in the snow
That with the warmth of sun is shallow
And exposes the roots and base of the ginkgo
Chasing away the hungry sparrow

The unconcerned sparrow
Sees only a soiled discarded chapeau
Tossed a pace from the base of the ginkgo
And a black glove on the ground solo
The finger pointing to a new grave shallow
Unmoved by the unknown buried below
But plucks a ribbon from the snow
Flies off pursued by the crow

A nest the sparrow builds shallow
Lined with chapeau remnants scavenged below
From the ginkgo grave covered in snow
Sentry watching solo the only witness the crow

OK. So this is the last poem for National Poetry Month and the last challenge to be completed. This challenge was to write a poem using the words crow, sparrow, snow, chapeau, below, ginkgo, shallow and solo. As a penance during Lent (yes I know Lent is over but this one took me a long time) I decided to wrestle with one of my least favorite forms – the sestina. Now before you go all sideways on me let me explain what has happened in the poem above. First off the sestina is a seemingly easy form where you have 6 words that form the terminus of the lines in each stanza (6 stanzas of 6 lines) followed by an envoi (3 lines) using 2 words of the previous terminal words per line. So far it doesn’t sound too complicated but you are sadly mistaken! The order of the words in each stanza is a special kind of crazy. I’d try to explain but I’m not going to be responsible for anyone’s head exploding. Suffice to say the order is as follows (if you are a math whiz and want to figure it out go right ahead):

Anyway I wanted to torture myself a little. I decided to use the 8 words in the prompt (which happen to all rhyme) to write an eight line sestina (which is unofficially called an octina). Applying the matrix you end up with 4 stanzas of 8 lines which look like this:
There are only 4 stanzas because the next series in the sequence would be 12345678 which has already been done. The envoi is 4 lines instead of 3 and the words are: 2,7/4,5/6,3/8,1. When I was first introduced to the sestina it gave me such aggravation that I developed a literary stutter – that is I couldn’t write the word “sestina” without adding extra letters as in ssssessstina. I’ve gotten over that a little but as you can see I prefer to avoid the traditional form in favor of the octina!

Looking at a Pile of Clothes

White slacks too long in the leg
One cotton sweater the color of egg
Torn pocket on a scrub top
Chenille jacket the run won’t stop
A zipper that’s sticky
A t-shirt that’s icky
Missing buttons and snaps
Ripped Velcro on caps
Leggings to mend
There is never an end
Until into scrap bags
Unmended clothes become rags

This is my offering for National Poetry Month Challenge to fulfill prompt #12 – Write a list poem about clothes. As you are all aware (if you have been reading), I am preparing for a massive garage sale. This epic event is designed to remove some excess from my life. Part of the problem is clothes. I cleaned out several closets. I have now tackled my craft room. The craft room is also my sewing/mending room. I have to admit to being very lackadaisical concerning mending. Going through the mending pile has resulted in some items being culled (slacks that I’ve never worn because I’ve never shortened the legs) or tossed into the Goodwill bag for donation, and even a few things that were recycled as cleaning cloths. My present dilemma is whether to mend some items. If I mend them I could put them in the garage sale. My other options are not to mend and just try to sell them “as is” or just donate them to Goodwill… There is so much to do and so little time!

Looking for a Doctor

National Poetry Month Challenge #11 is to “Channel your inner Doctor (Seuss, Who, Frankenstein, Doolittle, Zhivago, McCoy… your choice)”.

He had the wanderlust
Trod through African dust
Muddy swamp he tromped
East to West he stomped
To convert with missionary zeal
Baptizing for Christ to seal
All the dark tribes in Zambia
All the while sick with malaria
Rivers Congo, Orange and Zambezi
He mapped which wasn’t easy
Found the smoke that thunders
One of nature’s seven wonders
Thought to stem the slave trade
If he could in the Nile’s source wade
He traveled far and wide
In Chief Chitambo’s village died
He from London to Botswana roam
Servants Chuma and Suzi carried home
There remembered, a hero entomb
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume”

The life of Dr. David Livingstone is fascinating. He was a rags to riches man who worked in a mill from the age of 10 (14 hour days) and still found time to go to school. His thirst for knowledge drove him to enter medical school and also to become a missionary. He deplored the African slave trade. He believed that if he could find the source of the Nile River he could stop the enslavement of African peoples. He was not so much a hero as a tragic figure. He made bad decisions. He was an inept leader. He had 6 children (3 died) who didn’t know him because he was off exploring Africa. His wife died of malaria shortly after following him to Africa. He was unfunded and ended up relying on Arab slave traders to save him. Eventually he died in a remote village in the Kingdom of Kazembe (which is in the modern Northern Province of Zambia) of malaria and internal hemorrhage due to dysentery. But to his country of Britain he epitomized the bravery of the intrepid explorer blazing new trails across uncharted territories, the strength of character to speak out against a morally bankrupt practice of slavery, and the fearlessness of the Christian Missionary taking the Gospel to those he considered heathens and pagans in Africa.

I hope this was educational and maybe a little interesting…

Looking at the Last Day

Back to Work

Looking ahead
Looking back
Back to the beginning
Back to the first day
Day one of slavery
Day of indentured service
Service to science
Service to men
Men give the orders
Men dictate the plan
Plan for the work week
Plan for the future
Future far away
Future so distant
Distant dreams
Distant goals
Goals for savings
Goals to independence
Independence from time clocks
Independence from a schedule
Schedule my day
Schedule my duties
Duties as burdens
Duties as priorities
Priorities at work
Priorities for sanity
Sanity buried
Sanity sacrificed
Sacrificed time
Sacrificed years
Years not my own
Years wasted
Wasted away
Wasted efforts
Efforts uncompensated
Efforts unrecognized
Unrecognized loyalty
Unrecognized dedication
Dedication to coworkers
Dedication to the job
Job well done
Job no one wants
Wants suppressed
Wants denied
Denied promotion
Denied meaningful work
Work while you cry
Work Defeated

This is a Blitz Poem for Challenge #10 – Write a blitz poem for National Poetry Month. A blitz poem is a 50 line poetry form created by Robert Keim. It starts with a short phrase or verbal image as line 1. Line 2 starts with the same word as line 1. Lines 3 & 4 start with the last word on line 2, lines 5 & 6 start with the last word from line 4, and so on until line 48. Line 49 is a single word – the last one on line 48. Line 50 is a single word – the last one on line 47. The title is the first word on line 3 followed by a conjunction/preposition and the first word on line 47. Sounds a little confusing but it isn’t really that difficult.

The inspiration for this one is the announcement that as of today I am filing the papers with Human Resources to take advantage of the “golden handshake” the university was offering. My last day will be June 30th. I’ve worked long and hard and saved and been frugal so that my retirement will be comfortable. And by golly I want to have the freedom to do the things that bring me joy. I want to spend time with friends and family. I want to do art and write my book and publish my poetry. This is the first step in making those dreams come true! By the time you read this I will have filed the forms (in triplicate and signed all the important waivers etc.) and made the announcement to the boss. It will be bittersweet in some ways and liberating in others. But I am nevertheless ready to embark on this new adventure!

Looking Emotional

Stay quiet while the microaggressions bounce
Ego bruised, feelings hurt, soul aggrieved
No tears shed lest it provokes additional attacks
Stay strong and grim faced, be a man
Introverts don’t survive unless they develop
Thick skins and calloused psyches
In private they can shed the snake skin becoming
Vulnerable and soft and emotionally available
Enjoying chick flicks, cartoons and poetry

This is my NPM challenge #9 – Write an acrostic poem using an emotion. I had a conversation with a friend at work. She was distraught. There were a couple situations she found herself in that were uncomfortable. She was feeling attacked and disrespected. We talked about it and I suggested that possibly the other parties were not aware that they had made her feel that way. We talked about women in positions of power. She is just young enough to not have seen the first wave of women who broke the glass ceiling. Those pioneers had to be more manly than men. They had to play the game better than the men to get half the respect and half the pay and half the authority. They were able to do so by developing tough exteriors and denying their emotions. They couldn’t show any signs of weakness. I suggested that perhaps there was a little of that going on. And also that having a little thicker skin might be beneficial as she moves into a leadership role. It took me awhile to realize that approval from my superiors didn’t (or shouldn’t) define my worth as a human being. I told her that. The happy ending is she got 2 sincere apologies and had conversations that have changed the dynamic between her and these other women. I’m a big proponent of the separation of work life and social life. What I do for a living does not define me. Granted it has impacted who I am but it hasn’t taken over my core, changed my moral compass, or damaged my soul…

Looking at Potatoes

Usually I post the poem first and explain or comment afterwards. I’m reversing it today. The National Poetry Month Challenge #8 Write 4 haiku about favorite foods, is a fun one for me. First I love the haiku. It forces the verbose to pare down the poem to the core and express it with a paucity of syllables. At the same time it demands a vivid and emotional poem be crafted. The haiku is deceptively hard yet it is the one poetry form taught in all English classes. The English version is three unrhymed lines with a syllable count of 5-7-5 for a total of 17 syllables. As for my topic, I am an All-American mixed breed. I have a goodly percentage of Germanic ancestors, along with the Irish and Jewish contingency, a smattering of English, Welsh, Russian, Eastern European, and a bit of those pesky Vikings, and a sprinkling of nearly every other nationality. That said there is a deep appreciation of the potato in my genes. Thus my topic is the potato in all its glorious forms.

Wet potato washed
Recall farmland petrichor
Earth apple boiled whole

Special occasion
Main attraction with gravy
Mashed to perfection

Yellow, russet, red
Agonizing selection
All of them taste good

Hashed, boiled, fried, or baked
Kugel is my favorite
Potato comfort

Looking at Van Life

My husband wants to buy a bus
Live like hippies go off the grid
Says travel light is good for us
My response is heaven forbid

He wants to travel far and wide
My husband wants to buy a bus
Adventure beckons but he lied
This decision we’d soon discuss

In his plan I’m superfluous
He is enamored with van life
My husband wants to buy a bus
And roam this country sans his wife

He’s seen You-Tube videos
Infected with the wanderlust
I am married and so it goes
My husband wants to buy a bus

Some men go through a mid-life crises and want to buy a red Corvette, or grow a ponytail, or find a mistress… My husband wants to live in a van. The internet is filled with all these videos and stories of people (mostly very young with no responsibilities or money) living out of a van and traveling where ever the wind blows them. My husband has become obsessed with what is called “Van Life”. I watched the videos. Van life makes living in a tiny house look like luxury. Although I’m pretty spry for my age, I need or rather my back needs my mattress. There is no way I could be happy physically, sleeping on a 4″ foam pad on a plywood platform. I’m old enough that I need to get up at least once per night. Imagine climbing up a ladder to shimmy into a bed suspended a scant 12 inches from the bumped up ceiling of the van. Then in the middle of the night trying to slide out of bed, find the ladder, back down said ladder, crawl under the bed and locate the bucket and then relieve oneself. His response to that scenario is that we’d park at a campground or a rest stop and I could use their facilities. In my pajamas? I think if I had to do that I’d require a bodyguard and he would be pressed into that role. Psychologically I think I’d become homicidal being is a van all day every day with my only human interactions being with the Van Life guy and any random strangers I’d see at the sink in public restrooms. Most of these Van Lifers had a wardrobe that consisted of 2 pairs of jeans, 5 t-shirts, and maybe a bra and a couple pairs of underwear. Which is fine if you are 21. I’m not 21. Anyway I suggested that he could do the Van Life with his new wife after I’m dead. He said he’d take that under advisement. Pray for me!

The poem is for National Poetry Month for Challenge #7. Write a Quatern. A quatern is a French poetry form consisting of 4 quatrains (4 line stanzas). Each line has 8 syllables. The 1st line repeats in each stanza as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th line of successive quatrains. There is no required meter or rhyme scheme. Generally the lines are written with Abab, cAca, adAd, eaeA.

Looking for Dogs

The National Poetry Month Challenge #6 Write a poem about dogs was a little difficult for me. I was all set to do a fun poem about a favorite dog but I was abruptly reminded of the not so positive aspects of the less than domesticated or socialized canine…

There are two sides to every coin
What’s good and bad conjoin
The cattle dog nips at the heel
Good for cows but makes kids squeal
A Rottweiler can pull a cannon’s weight
But on the leash is an undesirable trait
Border collies have a quick mind
That leaves a slow owner far behind
A working breed is hard pressed as a pet
With no mission from the owner set
A shredded cushion or ravaged rug
Boredom’s symptom from Poodle to Pug
Left alone for hours on end
Dogs into bad behavior descend
Incessant barking or the prolonged howl
Poor socialization and at all persons growl
Digging holes or jumping the fence
Running amok at the owner’s expense
Who is to blame for canine villains?
What the cost – thousands or millions?
For every good trait in dogs we praise
There are equal bad ones we can appraise
Consider wisely when selecting a dog
Avoid an Animal Control dialogue!

I’ve seen many good dogs. The good ones far outweigh the rotten ones. But the bad dogs are the ones that make a lasting impression. Working in the Veterinary field I’ve been on the receiving end of some nasty behavior. Many dogs do not enjoy the veterinary setting and they are quick to let you know. Others are on their best behavior. The dogs that earn a place on the “naughty list” are the ones that do not tell you where you stand in their opinion or they deceive you. Case in point, a cocker spaniel would wag his little stump of a tail and act excited to see you. As soon as you were within striking distance the dog would lunge and try to take a chunk of flesh from your body. Some others had a hair trigger. They would be fine one minute and as soon as some stimulus (unknown/unseen) was sensed by the dog they would go into a rage and attack whatever or whoever was handy. Sadly this behavior is so very dangerous and these dogs can never be trusted. Some dogs are just plain untrained. It is usually a tiny dog. The owners think that a 5 pound dog doesn’t need to be trained to sit or stay. They are not taught manners and will jump up and scratch and claw at people, growl and bite at ankles or hands. The owners laugh it off – until the dog injures someone. Even then they announce “How bad can it be? She is only 5 (10, 15) pounds. She was just playing a little rough. You scared her…”

Looking for Blue Jays

Spring’s first harbinger
Robins arrive too early
Jays chase snow away

Here is a simple little haiku to complete National Poetry Month Challenge #5 Write a poem about signs of spring. Everyone gets excited when the Robins come back. Seems they are the first migratory birds to burst onto the scene. The robins are a little premature. Several times the robins were fluffed up and enduring a snow storm. A sure sign that Spring hasn’t really been ushered regardless of the robins. The blue jays on the other hand are sure signs that Spring is at hand. I was standing outside at saintvi’s house when a blue jay flew into a tree. I pulled out my camera to take a photo. I was able to capture the blue sky but alas, not the jay. I spotted him in another tree. I got the camera out with the same result!

I really don’t know how others photographers are able to capture birds in their photographs!

Looking Jaded

There was a young woman I met who, having known me for only 3 hours, felt compelled to admit that she was considering leaving her relationship because she was afraid that if she stayed he would get tired of her. She was falling in love. She could see herself having his children, making a home, and foregoing her career. She thought that even if she did all that, he would still leave her. She told me that she feared abandonment. She felt that even though he was all the things she desired in a mate, devoted, considerate, attentive, gentle, industrious, funny, and romantic, she didn’t want to end up poor, alone, and raising his children. I just sat there and listened. This is the same generation of women willing to take great financial risks, toss their personal safety to the wind, and live like there is no tomorrow. Yet they cradle their emotions as if they were blown glass and are unwilling to take a chance on love. I’m dumbfounded. They are willing to live with a man but unwilling to make the commitment of marriage. They don’t want children as too much of a responsibility but adopt multiple dogs or cats. They don’t want to own homes instead rent expensive apartments all because being a home owner limits their mobility.
For National Poetry Month I offer this one to complete Challenge #4. Write a concrete poem. A Concrete poem is one where the words on the page take the form of an object that directly relates to the topic of the poem. This differs from a Shape poem where the shape does not relate to the topic of the poem. I also made it rhyme. Because it is in the shape of a ring it is read starting from the top clockwise but if you really want to it can be read counter-clockwise… Try it both ways. As a note WP does not like to create specially spaced lines and decides randomly to shift them willy-nilly. My only recourse after fussing with it for close to an hour was to copy and paste into Paint and then save as a jpeg. Note to self: never do this kind of poem again! Bwhahaha!