Looking into the Concrete Jungle

This is my Tanka for the W3 poetry prompt set by the poet of the week, Jaideep Khanduja. We were asked to write a Tanka and include the phrase “concrete jungle” and use personification as a poetic device.

I grew from the ground
Formed from want, need and thought
A concrete jungle
I fascinate and confuse
I trap and then devour

The big city is a descriptor that means different things to different people. To the residents of Osceola the big city is Mishawaka. The people of Mishawaka often say that South Bend is the big city. Then the citizens of South Bend talk about Chicago being the big city…It is all perspective. As far as it goes the designation of Big City has the connotation of being exciting, offering more job opportunities, and having better entertainment and dining options. It also means having more crime, more poverty, more anonymity and being more likely to become lost (both physically and morally). The big city can be a seductive alternative to small town life. Just be careful what you wish for…

Looking AI Generated

Here is my offering for the W3 poetry prompt set by Denise DeVries. I really had trouble coming to grips with this prompt. On the one hand my muse looks at it and shudders in revulsion on the other my mind argues that it is nothing more than a tool. My internal argument went something like this:
Muse: Using artificial intelligence to assist in writing a poem is cheating.
Mind: AI is just a tool.
Muse: A tool for lazy people and the unimaginative.
Mind: More like a prompt to kick start the creative process.
Muse: I am the creative process!!
Mind: You are unreliable. The AI doesn’t take sabbaticals for months on end.
Muse: I’m NOT unreliable!
Mind: You are egotistical and a fragile flower. You need to get over yourself!
Muse: If you do this thing with AI, I’m out of here – forever!
Mind: Can we compromise? Maybe just have the AI come up with a couple random words to incorporate into a poem?
Muse: Hmmm. I suppose that would be alright. Just this once.
https://randomwordgenerator.com/ gave me the following 3 words:
miserable, premature, idea

I struggled. I sweated. And I nearly rolled on the ground like a horse with colic. After I had a little chocolate and calmed down, I thought about what I wanted to say. Then I considered which form would be the most expeditious to convey those ideas. I settled on the Tanka. It offers a little more freedom than the Haiku but still requires a conciseness.

I’m miserable
Poetic ideas gone
Premature panic
My muse ran away from home
Muscle memory writing

Looking at the Tryst

Here’s another massive effort to complete MoonCatBlue’s House of Mayhem scavenger hunt before time runs out. I combined prompts #9 – Telescope as object and metaphor, #13 – Microscope as object and metaphor, #22 – Incorporate: human skeleton, lemon pudding, snow, Prometheus, Christmas music, #23 – Write an aubade incorporating: raccoon, tornado, tennis ball, #24 – Something set in an orchard.

Watch the morning sky
Turn lemon pudding yellow
My tears fall like snow
Winter orchard tryst must end
When Prometheus brings fire

Christmas music plays
As your alarm and I weep
Tennis ball lump in my throat
Naked human skeleton
I am stripped bare by your love

Tornado desire
Stolen forbidden apples
Ravenously eaten
The raccoon must wash his food
Not as sweet with marriage banns

I return to work
Microscope focus on cells
Examine my life
Search for signs of disease
Is our love true or just lust

His telescope calls
He scans our vast universe
Hoping to find life
Unaware he has found me
Hyperopic I’m ignored

These prompts are really kicking my butt. I’ve done some of the more difficult ones interspersed with the easiest. I’ve got 18 of 35 prompts left to complete so I’m half way done. Wish me luck.

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.

Looking for Calm

There is a tendency to dwell in the eye of the storm. I seek that oasis while chaos swirls. I’m not alone in that desire to escape. Right now I feel that life is tilting and sliding me away from comfort. The way I deal with upheaval must reveal some sort character strength or flaw that will bring down judgement on my head. Being mindful of the consequences of my actions, I have evaluated my response to unpleasantness.

1. I have an overly developed flight response. I prefer to avoid confrontation if at all possible.
2. I try to use my words. I believe in détente and compromise to avoid conflict.
3. Physical confrontation is not in my repertoire. I outgrew that by the time I reached middle school. That said I will defend myself. And I will fight “dirty”.
4. My belief in the goodness of mankind is not often shaken in my day to day interactions. That said, I cringe and my soul writhes when I view the turmoil in this world.

Thus I am conflicted. I don’t like seeing the hurt or knowing the details of the torment but I am compelled by conscience to be informed. My instinct is to turn away. A little Tanka to close out this post:

I question my God
When justice isn’t enough
For the scarred and scared
Will the wounded ever heal
Can love mend the divided

Looking for Socks

I am guilty of holding onto stray socks. I never want to toss that lone sock just in case the other one miraculously turns up, or in a more likely scenario, one of a different pair is gone creating a need for a new mate. This last Christmas I asked for socks. I got one pair from my friend saintvi and 2 pair from my fashionista friend. Although they are wonderful and soft and a delight, they aren’t the usual everyday kind of socks. Maybe I’ve trained the men in the family too well. I can only imagine them contemplating the Christmas list.
#1: Mmm, it says socks. Why are there socks on the list?
#2: Really? Socks? Let me see that!
#1: I think it is a trap. Do you remember when Dad got her a bathrobe?
#2: Yeah. That was a disaster.
#1: I think I’ll get one of the other things. Socks aren’t very expensive and I’ll leave those for Dad to get.
#2: Me too. Dad is braver than I am!
Sparky: Socks. Nope. Not touching that one with a 10 foot pole. I’d rather get her another bathrobe. At least the bathrobe costs more than some ugly black crew socks…

So I’ve not had any new socks since 2018 when I bought some to give myself, from Santa of course. I’m down to 3 pair that aren’t threadbare. I had been saving and making new pairs from the single sock drawer for so long that I don’t have anymore lone socks in the drawer. Well, no more black women’s socks are languishing as solo footwear. I do have a couple men’s crew and tube socks of a variety of brands and styles but that doesn’t do me any good. On the bright side, I just might take the time to go buy some socks (besides I have a 30% off coupon for Kohl’s)!

Skin as pale as ice
My feet get cold when snow falls
Thick socks cannot warm
Fire fails to thaw my feet
My toes are waiting for Spring

This is a Tanka, a Japanese form consisting of 5 lines with a syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7. As with most Japanese poetry rhyming does not occur.

Looking Mythical

There are quite a few people who do not believe that true love exists. They are very vocal in saying that a faithful man is a mythological creature akin to a dragon, griffin, mermaid or a phoenix. Perhaps they have lost the capacity to dream into existence those things that the heart aches for. Yet they pursue the equally unobtainable in the form of a recording contract, making it in professional sports, Olympic dreams, finding the cure for cancer, winning a Nobel Prize, or learning 5 languages. True these dreams can become reality but there is more involved than talent, more effort than a casual afternoon once a month, and more luck than we want to acknowledge. I’m willing to believe that there is such a thing as true love, a true heart, a true man.

All my friends mock me
You believe in fairy tales
Smiling I agree
I have seen him in my dreams
Love awaits a single kiss

Prince Charming exists
The man more real than a myth
They chase unicorns
While they grasp for fame and wealth
I bait my trap for true love

This fulfills the NPM21 prompt #13 – Write a poem about a mythical creature. In addition the form I used was a pair of Tanka. The Tanka is a 5 line Japanese poem with a syllable count as follows: 5/7/5/7/7. As in most Japanese poems there is no rhyme.

Looking at Calligraphy

Chinese characters
Life story calligraphy
Tar to asphalt writ
Scrawled along small town main street
Sealing his fate and road cracks


A friend’s neighbor is an older Chinese man who immigrated to the US in the mid 1960s.  She had him and his wife over for an outside patio picnic. After dinner he was relating his story to the kids. He left China and managed to make his way to freedom. It was not an easy journey. There were times he thought he would be caught and returned to his home country. He was young and unskilled. He didn’t know any English. He didn’t have family or friends in the US. Nevertheless he was able to find a sponsor family through a church organization (the church where my friend attends). He ended up in Indiana. He recently retired from working for the street department and had a confession to make. He had worked for many years on a crew sealing the cracks in the streets. His coworkers never caught on, but he would write on the streets using Chinese characters, at first it was just good wishes. After he had been working for several years he started writing his life story. I suppose if you could read Chinese and drove slowly enough you might be able to decipher some of his tale – from oppression and fear and flight to his eventual life in the US where he found love, life and a full life.

Perhaps we can return to a better version of ourselves…

Looking Good, Feeling Better

At the start of the pandemic, before we realized that this was going to last longer than 3 weeks, everyone was starting home improvement projects and reveling in a little “free time” as we were locked down. After reality set in and we understood that this was going to last well into Spring and probably though Summer, there were lots of resources sent out into the world that were meant to be a help in coping with isolation, loneliness, depression, and the general grumpiness of having to reinvent how we worked and interacted with the world.

I was gifted such a thing by the University HR department in conjunction with the Wellness Center. It is a booklet titled “Feeling good: 100 ways to feel better every day”. I have to admit I tossed it in the desk and forgot about it. That is, I hadn’t looked at it until I was rummaging through the desk trying to unearth some important papers for tax purposes. With the prospect of doing the taxes and probably having to shell out a tidy sum to the IRS, I was not feeling very good. When my hands fell on this booklet I immediately thought, “Wow! This might be something to lift my spirits!” With hopeful anticipation I sat at the desk and started reading. The book is designed to introduce one practice each day to allow you to slowly build a routine that improves your ability to cope, reduces your stress, and makes you “feel good”. I got all the way to #54 before I started to laugh hysterically. I know this is long but I couldn’t help it!

They say laughter is a great stress reducer. So to assist you with relaxation, elevate your mood, reduce your stress, I give you some of the suggested “feel good activities”:
#1 – Eat breakfast. They suggest a high fiber smoothie (they are really in favor of fiber – lots of it).
#2 – Cut back on caffeine. I’m decaffeinated already so this didn’t really apply. However, living with a man who MUST have his coffee, I know that my stress level will increase as his coffee consumption decreases!
#4 through 9 – Exercise. Why? To quote the book “exercise will decrease your chances of death from heart disease, stroke, and reduce incidence of diabetes and colon cancer.” Isn’t that uplifting. Increase endorphins with vigorous exercise. Take a walk every day to get a change of scenery. Get an exercise buddy to give you accountability (I suppose that means one of those virtual slave drivers from Biggest Loser?). Do strength training to get stronger (increases stamina for those marathon Zoom meetings).
#10 – Smile. You should smile because it will make everyone around you feel better. When they feel better, you will too. I am acutely aware that this little book was written well before the pandemic. Smile at your partner, coworkers, strangers while wearing a mask?
#12 – Trust your instincts. Listen to your inner voice. (at this point I was chuckling because my inner voice was telling me that this booklet was a bunch of hooey.)
#13 – Rid yourself of one bad habit. The book suggests “talk yourself out of the habit” which sounds pretty sketchy. I mean the chocolate is a much more persuasive speaker than my inner voice which generally chimes agreement with whatever the chocolate suggests – cookies, fudge sundae, s’more?
#15 – Find a doctor you like. They don’t give any guidance. I was wondering at this point if they meant that you should have them fill out a dating profile or if it was based on looks or would it be better to find one with a healthy bank account??
#16 – Do something for others. I was highly amused at this one. I can just imagine the woman working from home attempting to provide meals for the kids, assist with tech issues for online school, deal with the family pet, mollify a cranky spouse (who has not had enough caffeine) and attend yet another Zoom meeting where they are assigned even more tasks! The author was obviously a man.
#17 – Go away. Although it sounds good the practicality is lacking. They did say that a getaway may involve relocating to a little used space to afford some distance from the daily routine. For most mothers, this is a bathroom that has a good solid door and a sturdy lock or perhaps they can sneak into a crawlspace or attic. The only problem is that children can smell chocolate at incredible distances and have hearing acutely tuned to the rustle of a candy wrapper and they will find you.
#18 – Spend time outdoors. I suppose that after you’ve done your walk, you might find that the picnic table on the patio is a nice spot. Unless you are in Indiana in the winter and early spring, where the snow has buried the picnic table, the wind is creating a wind chill of double digit negative numbers… (by this time I was snickering out loud)
#19 – Spend time with your pet. If you don’t have one, they suggest “borrowing” a pet from a friend or neighbor. I seriously doubt that will happen.
#20 – Take a daily vitamin. Because that breakfast smoothie isn’t nutritious enough. My problem is that the adult gummie vitamins are too tasty and I need to make sure I only eat 2!
#21 – Get the calcium you need. So use milk or yogurt in the breakfast smoothie because a little lactose plus all that fiber may cause gas and then people will avoid you… (you might even be able to sneak away and have that candy bar!)
#22 – Get enough sleep. So turn off the computer. Drink some warm milk (gotta get that calcium)…
#23 – Create a community. Turn on the computer and connect virtually with people you have things in common with. Of course that might be hard to do if they are throttling your internet and the kids are all using up the bandwidth anyway. So you’ll have to do this late at night (in a direct contradiction to #22) after you’ve had your warm milk…
#24 – Laugh. They suggested subscribing to a daily joke, watching animal videos, movie bloopers, etc.
#25 through 32 – Nutrition. Eat a balanced diet and don’t over eat! (as if COVID weight gain wasn’t hard to prevent). Avoid snacking between meals. Be a defensive eater by stopping when you are full and having a glass of water and carrot sticks before your meal to reduce your appetite (isn’t that a contradiction because that is the very definition of a snack). And finally lose weight. (easier said than done and the ridiculousness of the suggestions made me guffaw)
#33 – Take a nap. Like that is going to happen when you are supposed to be working and home schooling the kids.
#34 – Be good to your feet. Lose the high heels and wear shoes that fit properly. I personally have to say that with the pandemic I haven’t worn heels or panty hose. Heck, I haven’t even shaved my legs…
#35 – Get help if you have a hearing problem. This one baffled me. If people are losing their hearing it is most likely due to having the speakers on the computer turned to full volume to hear the meeting discussion over the TV and screaming match in the other room. I think the help we need would be for the weather to let up so everyone could be pitched outside without fear of frostbite!
#37 – Avoid work overload. Learn to say no. (hahahaha! I can hear it now – “Sorry Boss, I can’t take on that project. I only have so many hours in the day and they are already filled.” with the nap, walk, cooking, cleaning, laundry, kid’s school work, computer trouble shooting, and my regular work load.) I’m sure the Boss would be fine with that… NOT!
#38 to 44 – Stress. Learn to recognize it. Learn to eliminate it. Help the family manage it. Ask for help when you need it. Get support when you are feeling it. Make a schedule to manage stress. Step away when the pressure builds. Perhaps they should have just said to quit your job and become a surf bum?
#45 through 50 – Be health conscious. Pack healthy lunches. Avoid middle age spread by staying active. Drink water. Take stretch breaks when working at the computer. (this was a rewording of the previous health instructions and a tad redundant and a little offensive since the book mentioned menopausal women as needing to be extra vigilant or they’d turn into lumps of lard – my wording but their meaning).
#51 through 54 – Talk to your teen. Their “feel good” suggestions included having a little heart to heart with your teen concerning alcohol use, sexual activity, drug use, and the one that put me over the edge – wearing a seatbelt. The seatbelt suggestion to “feel good” was, and I quote, “Be a nag about wearing a seatbelt.” It is very obvious that the author has zero experience with teenagers. As I read these I could not imagine any scenario where there was not extreme eye rolling, sullen looks and what may have been a teen in a neutral mood being pulled into the realm of demonic possession. As far feeling good, this is absolutely the opposite not only for the child but also for the parent.

Anyway, after #54 had me gasping for breath I decided that I had had enough #24 and made the decision to donate this gem to Goodwill. Perhaps some working from home parent will get a good laugh out of it!!

A little tanka to fulfill Calmkate’s Friday Fun challenge – streaks:

Laughing tears streak face
Mascara streaks cheek to chin
Streaker causes mirth
Seeing what little is left
To the imagination

Looking Hopeful

As I peer into the future, I’m wondering if this year will be better, worse, or a continuation of this last dumpster fire of a year. I’m not alone. I picture a colony of Meerkats all facing the sunrise staring with an intensity unrivaled. Each individual keenly focused in an attempt to catch the slightest indication of danger. Sadly this last year has made us into a nation of pessimists, even defeatists. I don’t do resolutions. I do goals. My goals from last year are mostly unrealized. None of the travel goals got traction. Some of the exercise goals were sidelined. Lots of the goals that would put me in contact with other humans were aborted. BUT this is now a new year and there is an air of possibility with the availability of a coronavirus vaccine. So I’m going to take a leap of faith and make some goals.

(yes another bulleted list only not with crosshairs)…

🐭 GeoWoodstock in Canada was cancelled. It was supposed to be the 20th anniversary of geocaching. I was very excited. We got passports. We made reservations. We were going to go and couple it with a cruise to Alaska. It came to naught. It is supposedly on for this year. I’m ready.

🐭 We anticipate that son#2 will be able playing viola with the Elkhart Symphony and we will be able to attend. I really want to hear them play Holst’s The Planets.

🐭 I’m going to redo my address book. As I was looking over the addresses to mail Christmas cards, I realized that many of the people were no longer with us, some have multiple addresses due to moving all over the place, and a couple have had name changes that are not reflected. This is a task that will be tedious.

🐭 I was going to complete a poetry book for my mother. I even came up with a catchy title. It was lost in the flash drive crash of 2020. I recovered the poems and was able to give it to her for Christmas. But I’m thinking I’d like to make it available to a wider audience. So my goal is to get it printed this year…

🐭 The driveway. We were going to replace it this last year. We painted the house instead. This was mostly because the schedule for cement work was booked. We are supposedly on the list for an estimate…

🐭 I am working on completing my 365 day challenge for Geocaching. As of today I need 23 days in January, 21 days in February, 10 days in March, and one day in April to complete the grid!! I can do this!!

🐭 I have some canvases that were unwanted. I’m thinking I will play with them and some paint and maybe do some collages or mixed media creations. Who knows? I might release my inner 2D artist…

🐭 To make one new recipe a month. And by new recipe I mean a main dish. Sure I could do desserts and that would be fun but Sparky isn’t too much into sweets. (He’d be happy if made soup or spaghetti every day.) I have a big venison steak in the freezer that needs to be eaten. If any of you have recipes for venison I’d be interested!

🐭 I’m planning to make a NPM challenge available again. Although 2020 was awful, my NPM challenge saw some participation with outstanding poetry produced. I’m always excited to write poetry. I hope some others will put up a couple of month long challenges as well (maybe in May or June) just to keep it going!

As a way to start the year off on the right foot, I give you my January 1 poem – a Jisei, a Japanese traditional death poem written as a tanka with 5 lines with a strict syllable count of 5/7/5/7/7. Is generally serious but can be humorous.

Twenty-twenty dies
Watched it gasp a last short breath
Not a tear was shed
No life saving measures done
On its grave we dance for joy