Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Barn Cat's Betrayal

Bjorn, at Real Toads, wants us to play a game called Bout-Rimés. He gives us the end rhymes with which we are to compose a sonnet. I hate sonnets. Mine is called "The Barn Cat's Betrayal." It isn't about a cat. Enjoy.

I chanced to lie, but by no chance was caught,
A fetch in a mirror ball; and to him
With the cheek to spin what he has not got,
I say, "The more you grasp, the more I dim."
While my double poses riddles, throwing shade
And dirge down old bricks where the ivy goes,
His sister finds the handsy barn cat's glade--
Me in disguise, with gift of bird and flows
Of every feather, that in stillness lies.
Mirrors shatter, spins cease and turn to stone;
What never draws breath likewise never dies.
Send up a song in funereal tone
And dig the empty caskets from the lawn--
Our gift of dust--for love, for told, for gone.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Constellation In Glass

I said, "I have the sea inside a glass flower vase.
I have the stars on a necklace string, leather and light."

You said, "Oh, for the blue behind the moon;
the rain that never rains enough--
the silence--the ivory key--the night."

The etched leaves on the face of the flower vase
tell about your fingers on my skin.

And the necklace? Its silver clasp 
opens only once--releasing 
the lonely orderly stars...again.
_______

 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Murder Because (for Leelah Alcorn)

Murder because God is not a bludgeon to be used against your own children.
Murder because you couldn't stand the truth.
Murder because destroying a soul in the name of God is an obscene lie.
Murder because everywhere 
everywhere
everywhere
to be seen as feminine is to be seen as less.

Murder because you hammered nails through her wings and called it a cross.
Murder every time you called her "he".
Murder every time you used the name she knew was not hers,
and drove the despair in a little deeper every time you did.

Murder because of the rape of spirit that is conversion therapy.
Murder because you stuffed God's mouth full of your own lies.
Murder because this must not happen again.
Murder because you drove the sanctimonious unstoppable truck
that she stepped in front of and was smashed by dogma dressed up as Jesus. 

Murder again and again even after she's dead, through the things you say.
Murder because there is no bible anywhere that says it is better to bury your children
than to love them for who they really are.
Cisgendered, transgendered, genderqueer, gay, bi, or straight,
America's children are talking; don't let God be the only one who listens.
________

On December 28th, 2014,  sixteen year old Leelah (born Joshua) Alcorn killed herself by stepping in front of a truck. She did this after having told her parents that she was transgendered; their response was to declare her truth "a phase" and to send her to Christian conversion therapy. Feeling isolated and hopeless, she decided that ending her life was her only option. Even after her death, her parents spoke of their "unconditional love" for their "son." 

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Alice

Alice stepped through the looking glass,
but was stopped by security and searched;
detained and taken before a magistrate
for the contraband found in her purse.

They asked her her name, and she said it was Alice,
this morning to the best of her knowledge;
The gavel came down: "Guilty! Read the charge!"
Now enrolled in penitentiary, not college.

A champion appeared, a man with a queer
predilection for romancing minors;
wrote her story for the press, claiming duress
by the bumbling fools who'd tried her.

He got her released, and Alice was pleased
to be gone from the matron, a sadist;
now Kate Beckinsale plays her, and the studio pays her--
that's what the moral to that is!
_____

for Warning the Stars Saturday #23...Alice with a twist.

 
 

Thanks

Remembering all who served.

Especially my fellow airmen.

 
 To those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms, we salute you.  May you fly with God.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Review: "The Winter People"

The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


"The Winter People" takes place in two time periods, 1908 and the present. It tells the story of a small family, a creepy rock formation called The Devil's Hand, and a legend about "sleepers"--the dead brought back to life--that may be true or may be the rantings of a madwoman.

I liked the 1908 storyline much better than the present day. Some of the situations in the present day thread, especially in the second half of the book, just didn't seem believable at all to me, even given a little leeway for the sake of a good yarn. The 1908 thread, on the other hand, is engrossing and truly scary.

The tagline to Stephen King's "Pet Sematary" was "sometimes dead is better." That applies to this story, too. In Sara Shea, who loses her son and then her daughter (followed quickly by her grip on reality), McMahon has created an unforgettable character. Too bad nobody in the present day segment comes close to being as interesting.

In terms of sheer entertainment, "The Winter People" is pretty good. It's hard to put down. However, the first half is better than the second half because of the silliness of some of the present day scenes. I think she should have just stuck to the 1908 story by itself; it was genuinely frightening. She didn't, though, and the novel is the poorer for it.



View all my reviews

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Still

"What matters most is how well we walk through the fire." --Charles Bukowski

The maple keys are falling, as they do every year.
I have taken to reading out in the yard,
while my new dog wanders.

My walnut tree, the one the winter nearly killed two years ago,
is green again, a home and pantry for squirrels.
It is Michigan cool, late May, but warming.

I don't dream of your body as much as I used to,
but my dreams are full of you all the same.
I line up these poems like dolls, a puppet show to please you.

Books end, dogs die, summer runs its course.
Stay, won't you, sweetheart? Call me when you can--
I will be here, spinning like a maple key, still your breezy northern girl.
______

For Play it Again, Toads. I chose Kenia's challenge to start with a line from a poet you don't like. I dislike Charles Bukowski, the idol of many. Too much booze, too much ugliness. I got the idea to write a very gentle poem about a very bold thing--making it through this life with some sort of grace.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Types of Birds

Types of birds:

sparrow
blue jay
hawk.

All birds love the church.

the tower nest
the tower bell
the sky spread out overhead, inexhaustible altitude.

Stacked stones in geometric statement offer sanctuary.

pigeons
crows
cardinals and a heart to beat them into the world.

My love, lit match, black book, dark eyed juncoe,
taloned starling,
raptor asleep in the afternoon,

I have gathered every rain and made these glorious stormy wings.

Why can't I touch God?
Why the gauntlet between us, the tether, this madhouse distance?
Wrap your one wing around me as I will mine for you; we rise together semi-divine.

Types of birds:

male 
female
juvenile

striker
stricken
cartwheel in the open air.

Have faith in Me, sayeth the Lord.
Just trust in us, baby. At midnight, music playing.
Types of song, shades of color, each requiring light, air, love.

We do the best we can. We pray. We kiss. We fall willingly into the sky and vanish.
________

for Real Toads.

  

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Partridge Family

The Partridge Family, ruined and violent,
take up residence in what's left of the ark,
parked in Noah's cracked, weed-lined driveway
next to his run-down split-level.

David sings, "I Think I Love You" with heavy irony,
as he shovels old giraffe shit into a wheelbarrow.
Danny Bonaduce walks up and pops him one,
shouting, "shut your pie hole, you pinhead motherfucker!"
The police come.
Again.

Susan Dey does Noah for the rent,
her life a mountain of failed wrinkle creams.
She can't believe she made an idiot of herself over David.
She can't believe she sat there shaking a stupid tambourine
when she could have learned to shred on guitar.

Their tv show is an ancient memory.
All their out-of-date clothes rot in resale bin hell.
Susan's hair looks like shit no matter what she does.
It is starting to rain,
and the animals are gone.

Reader, behold the rising waters,
the fallen stars.
Weep,
and start rowing.
_______ 

 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Resurrection of The Fly

When the funnel came twisting down out of the anvil cloud,
I saw it first in the middle pane of the window,
then the one on the lower left, as well.

A dead fly hung suspended where the the twister hit the earth,
remaining motionless, as it had for weeks,
while roofs and SUVs circled, suddenly airborne.

I rang the bell, and if it was only the tiny ornamental servant's bell,
at least I tried. "Get to safety," I thought as loudly as I could,
then sat down to wait.

My children all live elsewhere, I already took in the mail,
and covering the garden flowers would do little good,
even if the afternoon weren't mostly gone.

It's gotten too dark to read; besides, the power is out.
I will just calmly watch the resurrection of the fly,
shaking in his cobweb, brother to the brick wall, sister to the semi, the silo, 
and the cement overpass where idiots huddle 
only to be swept out and away, having ignored my warnings.
_______

for Karin's mini-challenge at Real Toads: for whom the bell tolls.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: "The Circus In Winter"

The Circus in WinterThe Circus in Winter by Cathy Day

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


"The Circus In Winter" is a series of eleven "displays", or short stories, that are loosely interconnected; a detail from one story becomes the main theme in another, or the offspring of one character gets their own story later on.

Everything centers on the Wallace Porter Circus & Menagerie, a fictitious traveling circus that winters in the town of Lima, Indiana. Because of the off-season theme, the stories are more about the people than they are about circus acts, though of course there is no way for many of these characters to ever be ordinary.

Cathy Day very skillfully weaves a lot of things together here. For example, she follows the lineage of a family of faux African pinheads all the way from slave days, and shows how becoming a spear-shaking wild man for the circus paid much better than emptying so-called honeypots on a paddle boat.

A lot of these characters long for something better that seems to elude them. From a clown who ends up running a dry cleaning store, to a rising baseball star who passes up a chance to play with a barnstorming team of all-stars in order to take over his parents' mortuary, to a disillusioned railroad worker who has to find a way to deal with the gypsy band that takes over the campground he has become manager of, they all dream of happier things, but rarely find them. One character is even drowned by his own elephant, and a lonely wife hires the circus painter on whom she has a crush to paint circus scenes all over the inside of her house.

I really liked this series of stories, and although the lives portrayed don't usually go very well--like the clown who accidentally kills his clown pal by hitting him in the head with an ax--these tales are nonetheless highly readable and memorable. Recommended.



View all my reviews

Thursday, May 14, 2015

To My Darling, To Make Short Work of Noobs

"Your love is really an experience." --Taj Mahal

My Love, never waste your singular self on
unworthy noobs
or stammering, unprepared buffoons.

Behold the noob.
Harken to my inquiry of the noob,
to explain in stanzas, equations, hymns, vulgarities and riddles
your sexy cool self.

"Uh...well, basically...."
The noob has no idea.

Placing the noob in an open field,
we introduce them to the updraft that is you,
the rotation and charge. 
The noob, covered in ice, returns to earth at speed.
The noob breaks a windshield, then spins away with someone's roof.

Placing the noob in the lion's den,
the noob becomes a yolk within a shell of teeth, tongue, jaws.
In this way, the noob studies your sharpness, your appetites,
your sudden strike and your tendency to toy with things.
Lucky noob, copying down the poetry of your rough tongue!

Placing the noob in a tossing sea,
overboard is the only place to be,
cataloging starfish,
hammerheads,
heat vents,
and written cautions to just go with it, not to rise too fast,
and a decompression chamber at the ready in case of the bends.

My Love, discard and forget the noobs.
You are the lioness riding a funnel cloud and carrying a beach umbrella.
With you is the cub, the dust devil, the sharky koi pond,
so that it all might continue into the next generation.
That is the only noob you need.
________

for Marian's music prompt at Real Toads. My title is a tongue-in-cheek play on Herrick's  "To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time."

  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lizzie Borden

He cut himself shaving.
Yes, on the couch. He was cheap,
and bought those disposable things 
that are just a golden invitation to bloody accidents.

On the couch because he was too cheap to run any water.
Goodbye, horsehair sofa!
Now I can pitch that hideous thing.

No, you're right, that doesn't explain Mama.
Meteor shower, if you ask me, and you did. 
Through the open windows, of course.

Fall River, home of the snoopy neighbor
and the bigmouth gossip!
How am I supposed to live here, after this? I'm a victim.

Go on his computer, he had loads of enemies on Instagram.
They could have just blocked him!
No, it wasn't a murder, it was razors. You're confusing me.
Who does a girl have to kiss to get a Diet Coke around here?

That axe was already broken.
Bridget tried to chop down the equestrian statue in the town square with it.
Maybe she doesn't like horses, how should I know?
Hire bog Irish and that's what you get.

Look, do we have to do this right now?
I have a date for duckpins tonight.
(Mimicking the interviewer) "This is very important, Miss.
Seems like you'd want to clear this up, Miss."
I bet you don't get invited to many parties.

*sigh*
All he ever said was, "No, Lizzie. I forbid it, Lizzie."
Put a nickel in her and it was always "Listen to your father, Lizzie."
Now the cat's got his tongue,
wherever it is.

I have rights, you know.
I want a lawyer, one of those ones on tv 
that stands there and goes, "My client is innocent of these ludicrous charges,"
"This is a gross miscarriage of justice!"
and like that.

Maybe he stepped on a land mine.
Yes, in the middle of the parlor. 
There could be a rhinoceros standing there,
and Bridget would be all "Wut rin-aw-srus? You mean that wee horned thing?"
So, yes, a land mine. As if she'd take it out to the bins without being told.

I'm done here.
This isn't exactly CSI Fall River.
Your own people keep tromping through like a herd of retarded elephants,
every one of them a size twelve or better.
Anything that was here is gone.
Yes, including the razor.

See ya in the funny papers, Sherlock.
Oh don't look so down in the dumps.
I'll put a kick-starter thingie on my Facebook page 
to buy you a new magnifying glass.
Your eye will look THIS BIG when you look through it,
and then you'll see I didn't do it and you'll be all "So sorry, Miss," and I'll be like, whatever.
_______

 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Harlow

"And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence" --Jane Hirschfield

Harry Harlow was her secret incubus. 
Oh, she would never admit it, 
and he probably Titanic-ed his pecker on the iceberg,
but he was there, always, 
a wire mesh cage in either hand.

My brother told me I fell out of a cereal box,
with Harry Harlow's research notes printed on the back.
Facts are sketchy and suspect when you're the youngest by nine years,
but the obvious
is the obvious
even to a monkey.

She knew what was truly valuable--
chairs,
linoleum floors,
gravy boats.
These are the eternal things, or should be.

One by one, the males swung off into the jungle,
except for the steadfast Harry Harlow,
who stayed up nights with her, drying her tears with a terrycloth towel.
One thing about her,
she was good data.

To protect the furniture,
she wrapped me inside of a good strong sack.
Harry Harlow painted a smiling simian face on the outside,
and then they swung it,
to the strains of a Benny Goodman record he had.
I remember the pulse of the percussion.

Harry Harlow's rhesus macaques were seriously fucked up.
They and I are sibling parcels, arriving via night terror,
our broken parts rattling alarmingly in the deliveryman's hands.
I have grown back well,
like a tree around an obstacle,
but the troupe is up in the branches, big-eyed and pissing themselves.

Harry Harlow was her secret incubus,
and together they proved what any imbecile knows already.
Pick me up, I'm a mess.
Swing me inside a tire, I won't know the difference.
Mama, be proud, I have never in my adult life broken a dish,
except in my dreams,
which cannot be logged by Harry Harlow or any other demon.
______

for Real Toads mini-challenge. Harry Harlow is known for his heartless maternal deprivation experiments on monkeys. Happy Mother's Day, Harry, wherever you are.

 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Nadine, The First Blind Baseball Player

Not only is she the first blind baseball player,
rare as a thylacine yawning cavernously on the early-morning dewy lawns of suburbia,

she is also the first woman. 

She is Justice and the curve-hipped Eve of the Major Leagues.
She can pitch it on in there, HERE IT IS, HIT IT.
Athena had her owl; Nadine has Oscar the white pigeon.

How does she do it? you may ask.
She can hear the baseball cutting through the air.
When the batter beats one foul down the third base line, she can smell the chalk dust come wafting with the afternoon breeze.

As Oscar circles encouragingly above her,
she kicks and flings that pea.
She can smell where each batter is,
his desire to mash her deliveries into some distant stand,
his fear of looking bad,
his inability to handle the inside fastball,
his stink in the heat of day, and of battle.

"Strike one!" 
Nadine loves the feel of the baseball in her hand,
its seams,
its potential to raise her above her dime-store life.

"Strike two!"
She can hear Oscar's wingbeats.
She can hear fat fingers digging into tubs of popcorn in the stands.
She can hear opposing fans shouting editorials,
mostly obscene.
"Strike three!"

Nadine listens for the sound of her first baseman's breathing.
They had a short affair.
His posture when flipping her the ball as she covered the base
reminded everyone of a suitor kneeling, the ball like a ring in his hand.
She had spent hours touching his face.
With his head full of love sonnets, he had slumped and been sent down,
and though he is back, things aren't the same between them.

With her baseball money, Nadine has gotten herself a little house,
with window boxes and a ledge for Oscar.
She can't see the flowers but can feel their delicacy, smell their fragrance,
so unlike a cleat or a mitt.
She is happy there.

In her famous poster, sold at most sporting goods stores,
Nadine wears designer shades and road grays,
killer lipstick and bookoo confidence.
Little girls idolize her.
HERE IT IS, HIT IT. But no one can.
______

for grapeling's Get Listed challenge. I used "house", "face", and "suburb" (suburbia).


 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Skittles

Here she is, Her Majesty the Little Queen, surveying her backyard realm. This photo comes complete with neighbor's covered-up cherry-picker truck.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hollyhocks

The tank crew put their gear back on.
Before the treaded wheels splintered down the last of the fence posts,
the one with the grease in the creases of his hands smiled at me as he pulled up his pants.

"Raise my kid right," he said in his heavy accent before hauling himself up,
graceful as an acrobat,
onto the turret where he sat like a sultan as the thing began to move.

Where the hollyhocks had been, there were now trenches of churned-up earth.
It will be easier to bury my dog, the herder,
who they shot as casually as waving across the field to a neighbor.
I think my wrist is broken.
I can't see out of my left eye, but perhaps it is only the blood drying over it.

Years from now, in another country,
a graceful child will swing himself up the bars of a playground castle,
waving to me from the top before his proud smile fades.
He will ask me why I'm crying, and it will only be half a lie
when I answer that it is because of him and my gratitude
that God has blessed me with such a son.

Then he will smile again and cross his arms,
looking out across the schoolyard like a sultan,
the very image of his father
and the great things that men create from their most casual of actions.

 
Please. Please. Can't we stop killing each other?

Poetry, Writing Itself

I am not a Tweet.
I am sequential and chaptered.
You can't scroll to the good part.

I am not a plastic flower.
I am a bag of seeds,
and the picture on the front is only a hired artist's notion.

I am a vine that's been winding for years.
I'm not what you're used to.
I am rare, and thorned.

I have a bed, but you're not invited.
Not yet.
Grapes aren't wine fresh off the vine.

I am poetry, writing itself.
I am gorgeous blooms.
I will be these things seen or unseen, by sun or by moon.
_______
art at top by Gustav Klimt. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blechface the Terrifying

Blechface, the terrifying monster, opens a Facebook account and starts posting.
She posts selfies that everyone hates.
She switches to kittens and makes scads of friends.

Blechface the terrifying monster is part squid, part insect, and part monkey.
Pervs she doesn't know from Adam send her private messages, which she ignores.
Facebook suggests friends:
Susie, Annie, Bob, Gerry.
How to approach them? By sea or by air? (By tree?)

Blechface the terrifying monster puts this problem aside, and works on her profile.
Interests:
mating, ingesting, establishing territory, poetry and movies.
Education:
?
Looking for:
mates, food, territory, poetry and movies about these topics.

One day Blechface meets someone on Facebook who seems to understand her.
He sees that she is
Blechface the Royal,
Blechface the Brilliant,
Blechface the tentacled sea mollusk, with exoskeleton and prehensile tail.
Blechface the Babe.

They arrange to meet.
Blechface the Coy insists that he come to her, and so he boards an Amtrak in Ohio,
and travels to her home in Galveston bay.
Imagine her surprise when he turns out to look so different from his profile picture!
She was expecting Sean Connery,
but he turns out to be Tabbyface, the Unbearably Cute Kitten.
She shrugs her tentacle and smiles.

"I will make you the happiest little puffball dude in all creation," she tells him.
"I will take pictures of you and make you a MEME."
He gets a thousand "likes" the first day on her time line.
"Pooky," she says, hauling him up into her tree.
"Foxy ladyyyyyyy," he purrs.

Blechface and Tabbyface, trending forever.
________

Sunday, May 3, 2015

While Pouring Coffee

I am ten crows, twenty-three starlings,
one tree, a world of racket, every dusk that ever was.

I am a holy heart four angels defend,
other times I am nothing but cunt and fingertips.

There are four seasons, three necessities,
two sides to the moon.

The window has eight panes;
I am in them all.
_______

A double 55 for Real Toads. 55 words, and the numbers in the poem add up to 55.
 

Book Review: "The Longings of Wayward Girls"

The Longings of Wayward GirlsThe Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen  Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The first half of this book passed like the setting of the story, the slow unfolding of a suburban summer. It was okay, not great, not bad. Then, as soon as I hit the half-way point, it really picked up, and I couldn't put it down until nearly the end.

There are two stories here, centering on one character. There is twelve-year-old Sadie together with her friend Betty, using the long summer days to play an ongoing prank on a slightly younger neighborhood girl, as well as to nurse a resentment against her sexy unstable mother, and to do for the last time some of the things belonging to her childhood, and to try for the first time things like boys, cigarettes, and beer.

Then there is grown-up Sadie, with two children of her own, trying to sort out her grief over her stillborn daughter, and her desire to escape her suburban role to have an affair with a local man. Through all of this, the reader is taken through a maze of intersecting plot lines about missing girls, chances and mistakes, and yes, the longings of wayward--or indeed every--girl and woman. It's a story about the history of a place, the connections of mothers and daughters, and the price to be paid for the things we do, and then regret.

Once the book grabbed me mid-way through, I loved it, but it did take a long meandering time to get to that point. Nonetheless, I do recommend this very good debut novel. If you grew up in the 70s in American suburbia as I did, you'll relate.



View all my reviews