Looking at Natural Disasters

I’m trying to complete the House of Mayhem scavenger hunt. So here is a zuihitsu for prompt #5 – A zuihitsu featuring the Midwest, #16 – Incorporate: walrus, typeset, hat pin, gregarious, dentist, foxglove, miniatures, baseball, #17 – Incorporate: pigs, lottery, elbow, glitter, talisman, blood, indifference, #19 – Natural disasters are thematically important, #20 – Incorporate: loneliness, mushrooms, November, Roman candles, rust, sturgeon.

Over six decades of living and I know life is a lottery. One minute there is glitter and exploding Roman candles and the next abject loneliness and oppressive indifference. This world is a series of natural disasters. I’ve experienced tornados, floods, hail, blizzards, even ice storms that are just part of life in Indiana.

A Midwest November holds no joy for me. In that month my mother died. Death is part of life for people and leaves on trees. She slipped away, a sturgeon gliding through icy water. There was no blood, only the sound of her breath, a rusty hinge squeaking as the door opened from this world into the next.

The wheel of fortune spins. The freeze thaw cycle creates black ice, a normal condition in Northern Indiana. This time the chance is a fall on ice resulting in a fractured elbow and chipped front teeth. It is the teeth that prove to be the greater pain. The dentist is gregarious. He asks questions I can’t answer with his fingers in my mouth. He caps my front teeth but they are unnaturally long. I feel like a walrus.

My mother was my talisman. She survived the replacement of 2 heart valves. I have to thank the pigs who donated their valves for her. My favorite flower, the Foxglove, provided the drug that strengthened her heart contractions to keep her going. The pigs and the foxglove were “home grown”. She was lucky and so was I when she was here.

Hoosiers are joiners and collectors. She collected miniature vases no more than 2 inches tall and hat pins to hold her big floppy hats in place. Now I collect them because she is gone. And I’m still lucky in finding them at garage sales for a pittance.

Once during a baseball game we took shelter from a severe thunderstorm, just a normal Indiana summer. The lightning strikes were frightening but not as terrifying as being herded into the storage area under the stadium. The air was dank and smelled of mushrooms. My scratch off and team were not winners that day.

I’ve traveled across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. I’ve hit the jackpot a couple of times. But mostly the house wins. I’m not a big fan of this roll of the dice. Even when you think you win you have to read the fine print and the typeset is in 6 point font.

Looking at a Fork

I have a thing for old stuff. I’ve always gravitated toward the antique and especially the quirky odd bits that seem to have a story buried at their core. I rescued a steamer trunk that my Great-Great-Grandfather used when he made the trip from Ireland to the USA. The trunk was abandoned in my Grandmother’s basement and as she was preparing to toss it, I laid claim at the age of 12. I’m surprised my parents allowed me to put it in the car! Other odd pieces include a book-end that I found covered in grease in the back of a body shop. It was so disgusting that my mother made me pick it up with a piece of newspaper. Under all that ick was a beautifully varnished chunk of a Redwood tree with the bark as an ornamental feature. Over the years I’ve found many strange treasures. I still have the trunk and the book-end thought there are other items that I’ve let go…

So I was rummaging through a bin at the local Goodwill store and found a really cool item. It is a fork. But not just a fork, because it has three prongs in steel with a wooden handle with pewter inlay. I’m pretty sure this was a child’s eating utensil from the Civil War era. It might have been carried by a soldier since it is more compact than a regular adult sized fork and the soldiers had to provide their own utensils up until 1870! I cleaned it up and took a couple photos. I compared it to my carving fork from the same era that has steel prongs and knife guard with wire windings around the wooden handle (which I’m pretty sure has been replaced at least once). And yes, I have used the meat carving fork! BTW these are not to scale as the top one is only as long as the wooden handle for the carving fork.


Looking at a Lament

I decided after a long day and now a sleepless night to go ahead and do the Wea’ve Written Weekly poetry prompt set by Aishwarya of writing a chain verse of at least 3 haiku and incorporating “mother”. It was a tough one especially since today marks one year without my mother. So I leaned into it, had a little pity party, a good cry, and sat down to write out all these emotions.

Mother don’t leave me
Meet me where love perseveres
Veer from there to here

Hear cries pitiful
Fulfill parental duty
Teach me to survive

I’ve forgotten love
Of all things even your voice
Voicing sorrows cry

I try to persuade
Wade through the depths of my soul
Old memories seize

Ease the pain recall
All memories foul and fair
Air fill with laughter

Turn the tears away
Weigh sadness and joy measure
Sure that heaven gained

Looking at Spiders

Life is a cycle of self deception
We play god spinning webs of truth and lies
We pick and choose the depth of affection
Though still idiots we call ourselves wise
Life is an illusion of permanence
Defy fate take risks see the spider’s trap
Slide from one phase and another commence
Until the silken threads completely wrap
Spider’s web innately impermanent
Caught therein resistance is futile
Delusion of control is transient
When death comes dancing on eight legs brutal
We cannot escape the all-seeing eyes
Cannot evade destiny as hope dies

The above is a sonnet (of sorts) in that it is 14 lines with a rhyme scheme of ababcdcdefefgg but I fudged on the iambic pentameter because I was feeling rebellious.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I have been trying not to dwell on the feelings of loss and instead think about all the happy times and the funny moments. As you can probably tell by the above poem, I’m not too successful in that endeavor. In bed after a very busy Thanksgiving, sleep evaded me and my mind continued to spin. I mused on the transience of life and the way we try to convince ourselves that we have a modicum of control. That uncertainty that is inherent in living has made me sleepless.  What I do know is that I’m less and less certain on many levels.

Looking Like a Servant

You Weren’t Born To Serve Another’s Agenda

You demand ice cream pounding
On the table as if driving roofing nails
You complain of too tight trousers
I become your tailor, thimble on thumb
Your anger spills over seeing a dog hair
Randomly shed by your mangy mutt
Keep this place clean you shout
Declutter the kitchen, fold the laundry
Make my coffee, do it all now
These and other conversations play on a loop
And I cannot mourn sitting next to your coffin

The first scavenger hunt I ever participated in was on Xanga way back in the day. It was devised by a Xangan called MoonCatBlue. Well, she has issued another Scavenger Hunt – “MoonCatBlue’s House of Mayhem’s Revival Scavenger Hunt of the Mind”. I was invited to join this private little group so you will all be subjected to the Mayhem that may occur. The above Free Verse is based on prompt #1 – Check your daily horoscope. Select one sentence and use it as a title. I also included prompt #2 – Incorporate: thimble, coffin, tailor, ice cream, dog hair, roofing nails.

Looking at Inheritance

Here is a sestina that is part of the MoonCatBlue’s House of Mayhem Scavenger Hunt using prompt #10 (Write a sestina where all six end words begin with the same consonant blend of your choice) and prompt #7 (Incorporate: fossils, peach, jilted lovers, penguins, hazelnut, and fog)

Nothing stays the same, change
Happens like age turning a cheek
From peach to prune un – chosen
Spilled tears drip off the chin
To pool on the good china
Break the jilted lovers chain

The past and future chain
Together amid this fog to change
What we think of fragile china
Feeling cool against fevered cheek
Rest my chin
In cupped hand, a path chosen

A name, a vocation, a life chosen
To become another link in the chain
Gnawing on fossils, up and down the chin
Moves in rhythm to the seasonal change
Hot breath of summer on the cheek
Frozen blueberries in bowls of china

My grandmother’s best china
Handed down, I was chosen
To receive the kiss on my cheek
Receive the locket and the tangled chain
Spring forward and fall back a change
Snowflakes land on nose and chin

I have my mother’s chin
And her complexion smooth as china
These gifts I cannot change
And were not by me chosen
A broken chain
Repaired by a kiss on the cheek

Life is a dance cheek to cheek
Fate tilts up my chin
Breaks the locket and removes the chain
Breaks the china
Hazelnut or Vanilla coffee chosen
Toss money down – keep the change

The cheek is kissed and the china
Passed down like the strong chin un-chosen
I’m a penguin chained I blink but never change

Looking Well Read

The book reading is coming along nicely and interspersed with a little more self control. I’ve avoided staying up all night to read. I’m not sure if that is because of my steely self restraint or the quality of the reading material.

I read two Sci-Fi books. The first one was a slog. I kept expecting something to happen, chapter after chapter. It reminded me of a French movie where nothing happens but you learn the inner motivations of the highly developed characters. It took me almost 2 weeks to finish and it wasn’t that thick of a book. The second was so much better – told in alternating chapters of present and past of the 2 main characters. I don’t think I’ll search out any more books by this author.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

I finished the second, third and fourth books in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. These old friends have aged well and I enjoyed savoring them. I was able to pick them up and put them down limiting myself to no more than 3 chapters a day. I also watched the movies again. It was good to be able to note the differences and to more clearly see the reasons for changing things in the screen play. If there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t read these books, then they are missing out on some excellent escapism!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter an the Order of the Phoenix

I had a couple of books in the bookcase that had been languishing. Sparky has a habit of picking up books at Goodwill, the Friends of the Library fundraisers, and garage sales and then just stacking them in the basement on the bookcase. So I wandered down and read a couple that had been gathering dust.
Life with Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Night by Elie Wiesel
Room by Emma Donoghue
All were very different but all three were excellent. I’m a big fan of the Wooster and Jeeves TV series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie but the book is better (even though the actors’ faces still swam through my imagination). The horror of “Night” made me regret starting to read this book. Still I couldn’t put it down. Lastly the book “Room” was haunting and terrifying. I almost stopped reading. It was just too much after reading about the Holocaust. Just when I couldn’t take any more the story became hopeful. If I could do it all over I’d have read “Night” first followed by “Life with Jeeves” and then “Room”. Hindsight is 20/20!

Looking at Mice

Mice Are Here

Little lives
Little mice
Mice that squeak
Mice that run
Run away
Run from fear
Fear the cat
Fear the teeth
Teeth that tear
Teeth that grind
Grind up chance
Grind up bones
Bones disconnected
Bones are dried
Dried like grain
Dried like tears
Tears of sorrow
Tears fall away
Away they go
Away with you
You have big eyes
You have whiskers
Whiskers sleek
Whiskers twitch
Twitch and sniff
Twitch increases
Increases risks
Increases chances
Chances for love
Chances to run
Run on tiny feet
Run and skitter
Skitter under cabinets
Skitter inside walls
Walls with nests
Walls that hide
Hide the home
Hide seeds and cheese
Cheese that baits
Cheese in traps
Traps that snap
Traps that catch
Catch the neck
Catch and hold
Hold the heart
Hold them here
Here the limp tail
Here the bloody fur

This is a Blitz Poem for the Wea’ve Written Weekly Poetry Prompt on The Skeptic’s Kaddish. I thought that since I set the prompt I should do it. Mostly because I never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself!

Looking Squashed

We have a winner! I finally found a recipe that made Sparky say the words I have been longing to hear, “You need to put this one in the rotation!”

They had squash on sale at the grocery. The choices were Acorn squash, Butternut squash, or Spaghetti squash. I don’t know about you, but I find Spaghetti squash to be very watery and somewhat tasteless. My favorite is Acorn as it has a sweet and a little nutty flavor. But they were completely sold out of the Acorn squash. So I chose the Butternut squash. Since there are just the 2 of us, I picked out a smaller squash. I now regret that as there are zero leftovers!

Autumn Butternut Bake
1 butternut squash (~ 2 to 4 pounds)
1 apple peeled, cored, and diced
2 T. dried cranberries
1/4 c. pecans
2 pats butter

Wash the outside of the squash with soap and water. Halve the squash and remove the seeds. Prick the inner flesh with a fork being careful not to puncture the skin. Place the halves in a microwave and cook for 8 minutes. Mix the apples and cranberries. Rotate the halves and add the apple mixture to the hollow of each squash. Microwave an additional 4 minutes. Place half of one pat of butter on top the apple mixture and and the other half on the flat part of the squash. Microwave an additional 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the squash with the pecans divided evenly between the the halves.
I have to confess that pecans were Fisher candied pecan pieces which were so very good and worth the extra cost since I only use them for special occasions.  And yes those are barbecued ribs – my special melt in your mouth recipe but that’s old news… So I will be making this squash again. Possibly at Thanksgiving because it was so very very tasty!

Looking at Blood Soaked Soil

Still we live to die
And die while living at war
We lack bandages
For broken minds, fractured souls
We turn away from carnage

Blood pools and lives pass
When life pools and blood passes
War rages, men die
Wounds ooze when the scab’s knocked off
Gathering lives is easy

The above double Tanka is my attempt at the Wea’ve Written Weekly poetry prompt at The Skeptics Kaddish and proposed by this week’s Poet of the Week, Larry Trasciatti. The prompt was to write a poem that incorporates chiasmus. That is a literary device where the grammatical structure of a previous phrase or clause is reversed or flipped. Easier said than done but I gave this my best effort.

Today is a special day that was born from blood shed on the battlefields in Europe in WWI. Supposedly it was “the war to end all wars” and nearly every country was involved in one way or another. It was marked by the use of innovations that allowed for greater killing – the airplane, chemical warfare agents, submarines and tanks. At first it was called Armistice Day because it marked the end of hostilities – a cease fire “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”. Then the unimaginable came to pass, WWII where death stalked this world. The war was bigger and more deadly. The armies added even more terrible weapons: the flamethrower, the submachine gun, anti-tank mines, a variety of bigger more powerful versions of grenades, mortars, bombs, airplanes that flew higher and dropped increasingly larger bombs and finally the Atomic bomb. After WWII Armistice Day was renamed Veterans’ Day to honor all who served in the military.

And here we are poised at the brink. A madman invaded Ukraine and is being repelled. But he has ratcheted up the rhetoric and the propaganda to justify his actions. Many in his country believe what the tightly controlled media is reporting. And now the nuclear option has been slammed down on the table. A “double dog dare” in effect. This is a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation. All it takes is one twitch and we are back in what could be WWIII.

At 11:00 AM today I will be pausing. I will stop and pray. My prayer will be for reason to overrule insanity, for peace to quell war, and for healing to come to this broken world.