Monday, April 14, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 14: April Abundance

In line at the grocery store I listened to
the bagger and checker discuss the weather:

"It just jumped so suddenly.
From the fifties to the seventies."

One said about the first opportunity
we have had to remove our parkas.

"Yeah, we don't even have spring anymore,"
said the other, oblivious, I guess

To the patches of snow lingering in the woods
And the tiny yellow crocus blooming beside

The walkway to my house, and the peepers
each night, growing their chorus of "spring-spring."

The winter was long and dark and cold
it is true. But worse than the weather were

The relentless complaints from people who in
a few months would be moaning about the heat.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 13: A Poem for My Son

A Poem for My Son on the Occasion of his First Rock and Roll Performance in a Bar

I watch you
watching the headliner band
on a couch with the other kids
ginger-ale in your hand
and I remember
taking you to the pool
at the YWCA
when you were
nine months old
your eyes wide
your mouth a line
you held onto me
and did not move
or make a sound
until I concluded
you were not having
a good time
but when I tried to
climb out the pool
stairs you whimpered
and strained for the water.

Now I know your
serious countenance
means concentration
not unhappiness
so as I watch you watch
the lead singer
a tall blond man with a
white sweat band
bang out Talking Heads
and "We Like the Funk"
I do not worry
about your enjoyment.

Only after you
and your best friend
take the stage
shred out Nirvana
The Ramones
shaggy blond hair flying
with every bang of your head
only after you finish your
set and take a seat
on the couch with the other kids
only then do your lips crack
a lopsided smile
half-hidden by the dip
of your head.

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 12: The River

Yesterday I took a poetry field trip, walking all by myself down to the river while the boys all worked on the maple syrup and rode bikes and played two square. I found a nice comfy spot, leaning against a tree, and wrote a fairly dreadful poem about the river.

The exercise was to sit quietly and listen, then write down what you hear and then compare it to something. I'm not a natural-born metaphor-maker and I struggle with metaphor, simile, analogy, and personification. In fact, I gave a graduate presentation on "Figurative Language for the Metaphorically Challenged," with the hopes that I in teaching it I might get better at it, but it's still a challenge for me.

How about you? Are you a born metaphorical genius or do you have a hard time coming up with figurative language? What are your tricks for developing fresh images and avoiding cliches? What would you compare the sound of a river to? (I came up with marching, applause, shouting)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 11: A Missed Opportunity

A Missed Opportunity

My seventh-grade English teacher,
in a lame and transparent (to me now,
28 years later) to make poetry “relevant,”
told us to write down the words to a song
that was like a poem. 

I chose U2’s “October” 
-- nine lines long 
(even then I resisted authority) --

And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care?

And kingdoms rise 
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
And on

Mrs. B. -- who equated quality with quantity --
doubted this was a whole song. “What? Do
they just repeat it again and again?”

She did not invite the class to bring in tapes
of our songs, or she would have heard the 
haunting piano instrumental. She did not use 
"October" as an example of metaphor, of saying a lot
with a few words, of “this leaving-out business.”

She merely “harumphed” my song and my
attitude and gave me a B.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 10: After


Chytrid took the frogs
but the salamanders simply shrank into oblivion.
The honeybees collapsed
and the fisheries too.

The glaciers calved themselves infertile.;

And the sea level?
Don't even ask me about the estuaries,
let alone New York, New Orleans,
or half of Florida.

The coral bleached
delicate white bones.

The trees you say?
There were the beetles, the borers, the adelgids, the moths
the fungus, the bacteria, the inexplicable
Sudden Die-offs.
There were a lot of those.

Oh, forget polar bears
snow leopards.
Look how long we did without
Carolina parakeets
ivory billed woodpeckers
great auks
passenger pigeons
the dodo.
Who even misses the woolly mammoth?

The skies brought drought,
tornadoes, floods, hurricanes,
stinking black smog,
dust storms from halfway around the world.

You know about the water, of course.
Fracking slurry, coal ash,
atrizine, jet fuel.
Injected underground.
Diverted, dammed, damned, and drained.

The children?
What about the children?
You should have thought about the children a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 9: Bologna


Last night
my kid came into my room
strumming the three-quarter guitar slung over his shoulder.
"Is that 'My Sharona'?"
I asked,
wondering where a kid
born in 2001 would have heard "My Sharona."
"Yeah," he said,
"But it's Weird Al's version, 'My Bologna'"

I, whose
musical talent extends to
recognizing the guitar line of "My Sharona" twenty-five years
after I last heard that song,
asked him,
"How can you
hear a song and then just play it?"

"It's easy,"
he said. "I have a
sound-graphic memory."
"What is a sound-graphic memory?" I asked.
"Like a
photographic memory for sound."
"How do you know
you have one of those?" I asked.
"I hear a song once and then I just know it," he said.
"Yes," I said,
"But where did you read about that?"
He laughed.
"I just made it up."

This kid is amazing.
Not only
does he have musical talent and a sense of humor,
but he's a
class A bullshit artist.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 8: Thirteen Ways of Saying "No"

Thirteen Ways of Saying "No"
(with apologies to Wallace Stevens)

First there is the whine and the shriek
the lips clamped over bare gums,
head roving side-to-side to avoid
the spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes.

Then there's "un-uh" and index finger
and middle finger tapped to thumb ––
baby sign language for "NFW."

There is the traditional "no" of
course, yelled or shouted or
chanted –– "nononononononono."

Then comes "I'd rather not." Who
can spoon casserole onto the
plate of a three-year-old who
would  "rather not" eat it?

And then "Circle with a line
through it." As in, "Circle with
a line through it zucchini."

There are the chest-racking sobs all
the way home from the thrift store
where you picked up an infant carseat.
(Translation: "No baby brothers.)

Now there is, "I'll do it later," and
"After I finish this chapter," and
"I'm playing guitar right now, Mom."

The thirteenth and final no (you know
this is not true; there is no end of no)
will be the no that means, "I'm got this.
I'm all set. I don't need you any more"
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