Friday, April 13, 2018

April Poetry Month: An Imaginary Future, Many Things Happening at Once, A Neighborhood Haibun, All Leading to a Rain of Wishful Dreams

We're almost halfway through the teasing month of April, and besides it's Friday the 13th, but here are my latest efforts in response to the challenge from National Poetry Writing Month to write a new poem each day of the month. The website offers daily prompts. And poets respond (or not) in our own way.

4.13 The Prompt: Today, we challenge you to write a poem in which the words or meaning of a familiar phrase get up-ended. For example, if you chose the phrase “A stitch in time saves nine,” you might reverse that into something like: “a broken thread; I’m late, so many lost.” Or “It’s raining cats and dogs” might prompt the phrase “Snakes and lizards evaporate into the sky.”
In response I began with the phrase "It never rains but it pours." Here's the poem.  

It Never Sleeps But It Dreams

It's raining yaks and motorcycles
The children are excited
Soon the boreal ungulates are roped into hauling
doll carriages to the playground
where gray-haired men already gathered around the
disassembled chassis dissect the internal workings
of the machines they wished they'd had when they were young

What further gifts from the heavens may we expect?
Is it raining birthday cakes and second chances?
A successful return to the precincts of early-life mediocrity
where the sixth grade teacher smiles with the warmth of justification
and the girls receive the attention they always knew they deserved
and the shy smart ones of either gender
whisper their secrets to one another and smile?

The rain of atonement is slowing now
The skies of forgiveness open
In the little playhouse between the clouds
pink-eared first graders throw their arms
around their oldest relatives and welcome their sloppy kisses

Sunny days will follow
Baseball cards flipped against the brick walls of schoolhouses
sharing space with tea sets and pink rubber balls
The yaks have gathered in the green plain of the playground
that stretches now into next schoolyard, the next town,
the shiny green world below the clouds of another color
And the gray-haired men of the motorcycles
gather in slow circles, throw their arms each other's shoulders ,
and try not to weep.

4/12 The prompt: "Today, we’d like to challenge you specifically to write a haibun that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live."
           A haibun is a prose poem capped with a haiku. An important feature of the haibun is not simply to provide a writer a shape in which to jot mundane musings of landscape and travel but also to evoke that sense of aware—the quality of certain objects to evoke longing, sadness, or immediate sympathy.
             Here's mine:

Silent Days

Dark-haired women gather scrap lumber
into black trash bags
in the neighbor's snow-pocked yard
The hawk quiets the feeders
When I walk beside the fenced-in wetlands
the state describes as an 'environmental treasure'
and the city calls 'the bog,'
I am struck by the scree of litter spread inside these wire diamonds,
the debris of plastic and fast-food containers
resembling an overturned dumpster
near the place where the highway crew blacktopped the road last summer
and we waited in vain to hear peepers in spring
see fireflies in July
Still it is the silence of an indoor country
that impresses here
Where noise is likely annoyance
and the hungers of our solitude
provoke the true and lasting disturbance

Song sparrow may dance
in the cherry tree, but she
know it is not time

 4.11  The prompt: Write a poem that addresses the future, answering the questions “What does your future provide? What is your future state of mind? If you are a citizen of the 'union' that is your body, what is your future 'state of the union' address?”

My Future Among the Stars

I'm thinking I may need mittens
It could be cold up there
I'm proposing a new foundation:
"Hand-warming for the nation"

I may not get to the very top
I may be slogging away amid the crowd
of grim-faced climbers
When the middle way gets thick
It's like me, isn't it, to move to the edge
If there's a straightaway, a place, a time
to make my case
That's a bet I'd like to hedge

They burn brightly in the
cool spring night
These ancient capitals of wisdom and light
to whom I long aspire
I will find my future there
in the airy spaces that light the years
All that distance, that gloom
and for my future a little room

My organs they may separate
Long-distance runners long for lungs
Romantics steal my heart.

4.10 The prompt: Write a poem in which two things (or more) are happening at once.

Late Summer

When Mom was falling off to sleep
The August sun made the cone flowers bloom
I struggled to keep a hydrangea happy
that I bought for a song, and both were sad
and showed no gratitude for what I did --
the song and the hydrangea, not the Mom

My teams were struggling as usual
and I was eating ice cream by the half-gallon
coating my insides with its cold, creamy tongue,
like a cow inside my stomach 
Ignoring the bloat, and recently free of cancer

Complaining of the neighbors' power tools,
planning the late summer trip
to the Long Island beaches, maybe,
where the waters came in waves of nostalgia
recalling that even in her seventies Mom demanded
her "swim in the ocean"

Grilling veggie burgers, listening for birds,
gearing up for the election, meditating a collection.
Mom was sleeping in a quiet place
that would let you sleep all day
"There just isn't anything to look forward to any more,"
she told me. It was our last connection.

She knew my name and spoke it.
If I promised anything, I broke it.
I never said I loved her.
We were a quiet family that way

The TV was still on -- what was showing I don't know -- when she fell asleep that evening
The Red Sox rallied, then fell short
The hummingbird deserted us
-- and never woke that morning 

To get their side of the story, here's the link to National Poetry Writing Month.