Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 23 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Here are today's "official" prompts. Robert Lee Brewer suggests "a location poem," which might be "physical [or] emotional, psychological, metaphysical, or some other kind of word that ends in -al" (Poetic Asides). Maureen Thorson challenges us today to write "an oldie-but-a-goodie: the homophonic translation. Find a poem in a language you don’t know, and translate it into English based on the look of the words and their sounds" (NaPoWriMo). This is also called a translitic poem.

The phrase "Day 23" reminds me of The Number 23, a 2007 movie starring Jim Carrey. This psychological thriller portrayed Carrey's character becoming more and more obsessed with the number 23, believing that his life and all events around him are connected to 23 or some permutation of 23, and developing extreme paranoia. I'm writing this after struggling mightily for hours with Maureen Thorson's prompt (described below), and I'm feeling a bit like the hapless hero of that movie. Ack.

Theatrical Release Poster
I wrote that last paragraph several hours ago, and it's now 5:37 P.M. after an afternoon of dealing with proofs and meetings and poetry selection at the North American Review. I feel a little better because somehow the translitic started to flow, and here it is.

My translitic plays with Rainer Maria Rilke's great poem, "The Panther," given in German to the right. I'll also quote a proper English translation of the poem at the end of this blog post.

The Pain There
Where cutthroat business reigns
Shane's block-buying more bargains from Steve,
So mad Gabe warned Dave or Nick. More heat
in those tales of the thousand Steve gave
and hints at the thousands Steve can wield.

Dave's rich gang guesses might make Steve shit.
They're sick in all their claims. Shane, Christ, rat.
This way intense crap hemming more middle
in their business than Gabe will state.

Nick monkeys more shit that overhangs people.
Such a lot lost of Dave getting billed. Insane.
Good dirt there, gloating, and Gabe's plan for Steve
would hurt him personally and sue Shane.

—Draft by Vince Gotera
   [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]
Der Panther
In Jardin des Plantes, Paris
Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
So müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
Der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
Ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
In der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
Sich lautlos auf. — Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille —
Und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

—Rainer Maria Rilke (1902)
   [Translation into English below.]
I think I might have satisfied Robert's suggested "other" locations (emotional, psychological, metaphysical): the poem that arose out of the homophonic translation seems to hint at that metaphysical location where business takes place heartlessly, and the title suggests there is pain there, wherever that is. I feel okay about it how turned and I think I can claim to have mashed up prompts today.

And now to Alan, who says, "Heartsore today, folks, I haven't looked at prompts."

Applied Mathematics

When I was a senior in high school, I took
college calculus taught by a Benedictine
born in Belgium, and old Father John
kept a disciplined classroom and guided us
through calculations and problems
with high estimations of what we
could learn to achieve; to this day,
on occasion, when I see quadratic
equations and some old Greek symbols,
I think of his bad lower teeth
in his open content to show teenagers
how to find meaning in variables.

I don’t apply calculus now as I
average grades or I balance a checkbook
or figure which bill can be paid,
but it’s all algebra at the most
as I might help my kids just a bit
on some homework until they take off
as if they’d just learned how to ride bikes.
But when they were all small I would read to them
so much it never occurs to them now
that their dad, the lit prof who’s to elbows
in dishwater, would take it as quite an honor
to talk about novels they’re reading
at school, look at stories they write, recommend
a good play. Still, I’ve never been asked
to present on a parent’s day,
be the odd professor/poet sat next to a firefighter, medic, and cop.

So, sums, mainly, I didn’t need to keep
calculus, don’t have it now, but I think
I should learn it all back. I don’t figure x
of a bully’s ineptitude making it more
economical to take away half the job
and to give it to someone who’ll get
a promotion, assuring that that job is done.

I don’t figure n of devoting
attention to something that matters
when fixing it is no concern of its maker —
my three hours of editing seems of more value
than one’s thirty minutes of cutting and pasting.

I don’t figure y of someone’s leaving home
but retaining a presence so that the new
quantity, less than, feels equal,
then only to have a return so that
what should be equal is now greater than.

I was once much more comfortable,
number two pencil in hand and the hard
sibilance of encouragement,
“Yes, Mr. Holmes, you’re correct!”

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan, this poem really speaks to me. When I went to the Jesuit high school in San Francisco, my 9th-grade Algebra teacher, Fr. Jacobs, sounds a great deal like this Benedictine calculus teacher of yours. He was a tough old bird, and the grumpiest priest who ever lived, Fr. Jacobs, but we could all tell he cared about us.

I also connect with your feeling here that life was simpler in those days when math would provide a clear answer with an elegant route to get there. But life, or living life, is probably more art than science, and as in writing poems or painting illustrations we don't always know where we're headed, and no one tells us when or if we're correct, but there's nonetheless beauty and reward in it.

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, then find the word comments and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.  

P.S. Here's the Rilke poem in English.

The Panther
In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris
From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted
that it no longer holds anything anymore.
To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand
bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride
which circles down to the tiniest hub
is like a dance of energy around a point
in which a great will stands stunned and numb.

Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise
without a sound . . . then a shape enters,
slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,
reaches the heart, and dies.

—Rainer Maria Rilke (1902)
   Translated by Robert Bly.
            Der Panther
In Jardin des Plantes, Paris
Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
So müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
Der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
Ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
In der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
Sich lautlos auf. — Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille —
Und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

—Rainer Maria Rilke (1902)

POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 22 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

And happy Day 22 as well! Today Maureen Thorson suggests a poem for children (NaPoWriMo). Robert Lee Brewer has a two-for-Tuesday prompt: write an optimistic and/or pessimistic poem (Poetic Asides).

The Glass

The glass is half full.
The glass is half empty.
The glass is too big. But . . .
For kids, half is plenty.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Mixed lots of things here: a children's poem that addresses both optimism and pessimism plus Earth Day, indirectly. It was fun to write and came together rather quickly. "It wrote itself," as people sometimes say.

Okay, now let's move on to Dr. Holmes's latest. Alan introduces his poem for us today: "Here's a poem for children that is likely to get me in trouble with parents."

Nuts in Church

There was a boy who had my name;
I guess we even looked the same.
I can’t remember all he did,
but I think he was a good kid
who did his homework, did his chores,
spent lots of healthy time outdoors,
tried to be obedient
(even when not expedient),
treated old folks with respect,
but did stuff folks would not suspect,
feeding stray dogs peanut butter,
floating toy boats in the gutter,
reading books that some kept hidden
and had content they’d forbidden,
but the worst, let’s face the facts,
was during church, he’d sneak some snacks.

We’d all sit there so properly
dressed in our Sunday foppery,
the girls in pastels and in lace,
the boys in slacks. Each well-scrubbed face
a near-raw glow, our hair in place.
We didn’t have computer games
or cell phones—Hell’s eternal flames
would burn us up for sinful play
when we were there to think and pray.
But I admit, there would be some
with peppermint or chewing gum
to pass the dreary hour away
till church was done about midday;
it’s hard to feel contrite and humble
when your stomach starts to rumble.

One Saturday, he had a thought
if he avoided getting caught
a Sunday sermon snack of nuts
would be the best, if he had guts
to take the risk; his pockets full
of peanuts, he left Sunday School
and headed to the sanctuary
knowing that he must be wary
of his watchful mother’s eye
before he gave his plan a try.

She saw him in the back row, sitting
with the sleepy backslid; spitting
mad, she motioned him to her,
and he came up where his folks were
and had to sit just to her right,
the folks in that pew packed in tight,
his elbows at his hips. He felt
the nuts he feared his mother smelled,
and, trying to get one, his fidget
prompted her attention. He’d get
just about to grab a bite
when she’d squeeze on his knee, a “light”
reminder that he must behave.
“Oh God,” he prayed, “I beg you stave
this mortal’s weakened hunger.” (He
did not talk this way usually;
he offered such high eloquence
when seeking God’s benevolence.)
In proof that prayers are not ignored,
about that time his father snored,
distracting folks for pews around,
and our hero shoved his hand down,
retrieved some nuts and stuffed his cheeks
as if he had been starved for weeks,
the happy and contented criminal
hiding his face in a hymnal.

But now he didn’t dare to munch,
believing that the tell-tale crunch
would give his little crime away,
and we all know that crime must pay.
He couldn’t chew or speak or swallow,
and his mouth was too dry to allow
any other option. Bad enough,
he thought he had to sneeze or cough,
and then he did. The peanuts sprayed
all in his lap while people prayed
at service end. His mother caught
him by the ear and then she brought
him down the aisle and out the door,
explaining just what church is for
with emphasis, each step and tug
along the way, the kiss and hug
of loving fellowship left back inside
as she began to dust his backside.

That boy grew up, I’m glad to say.
I see him almost every day
and recognize him through the gray.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Ah yes, I remember those days well. When I was about 4, my hands were two intrepid mountain climbers and they would rock-climb (as we say now) all over my torso, 'cause I would be the mountain. Wish I'd thought to sneak in snacks. One of the mountain climbers could convey peanuts up to the cave near the top and then rappel back down — quick! — before he's spotted.

Fun poem, Alan. Enjoyed these rhyme pairs very much: properly / foppery and criminal / hymnal. Amusing juxtapositions. I also appreciate the boy's wistful wish to be back in "the kiss and hug / of loving fellowship." If only. But the dusting must. Brilliant!

Finally, I want to show you some rockin' art I discovered while searching for images of half-full/half-empty glasses. Both of the pieces are by the artist Bradley W. Schenck, who blogs at Webomator. Click on either of the art pieces below to purchase a print or a T-shirt.


The pieces above are available in Schenck's shop at Retropolis, the Art of the Future That Never Was.  Browse around Retropolis and his other art shop, Celtic Art Works. The two worlds intersect here. I'm a new big fan of Bradley W. Schenck . . . there be dragons in his Celtic world. And robots in Retropolis. And also his own stories in yet another world, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual. AND, dig this, he's got a gadget where you can make your own custom pulp magazine covers that say whatever you want. Man, this guy Schenck absolutamente rocks!

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, then find the word comments and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.  

POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 21 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

21 is one of those numbers that's invested with everyday magic in our culture, somehow. Blackjack, for example. Or just the whole notion of "lucky 21." The age to vote. And majority in general, though in many places 18 is the majority age. Beyond the teens at any rate. Don't know where I'm going here, but let's hope Day 21 is a lucky day, where adults act like an adult, where we all win, maybe. Rock on.

"For today’s prompt, write a 'back to basics' poem," suggests Robert Lee Brewer (Poetic Asides). Maureen Thorson's prompt today is "to write a 'New York School' poem using the recipe found here [an exercise created by Thom Donovan] . . . many 'New York School' poems display a sort of conversational tone, references to friends and to places in and around New York, humor, inclusion of pop culture, and a sense of the importance of art (visual, poetic, and otherwise)" (NaPoWriMo).

Let's start with Alan. "I'm feeling fractious and facetious today," he says. "By the way, all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

Kemo Sabe

I’m telling you, Joe, since you left Johnson City
has gotten to be one big foul-up. By chance I was spending
some time at Poor Richard’s with members
of different departments throughout the damned campus,
and I was discussing the misery felt by our colleagues. Then Pat
(you remember—he played a bit part as a salesman
on Seinfeld) began echoing my curt comments,
like how the Athletic Department was like a Viagra
commercial put on for alumni, and he started laughing
until he remembered
a story about Henry Winkler, who once
was the Fonz but is now huckstering
reverse mortgages aimed at poor people
as old as my parents, but then in the day
he was featured in magazines as a sex symbol
and met at a plaza in south San Diego a maritime
officer wanting to prove he was
cooler than Fonz, so now I’m most distressed
by the concept of actors’ perspectives
on fame, how it matters for power,
but power dispersed in a way where the actor’s
an object who might not be able to sell
his own face — Clayton Moore, you remember,
was getting injunctions preventing his wearing a domino
mask in appearances as the Lone Ranger because
the production affiliates who own the character
don’t want old men in the suit; now remember that Pat
could draw Social Security, if not already,
and I took a bite of a salad I’m eating
to knock my weight down, while the sandwich
that Pat has is oozing all over, so juicy
my mouth is rejecting the lettuce, and I
am uncertain about why chance meetings occur
when Pat suddenly makes a bizarre observation
about matrimony among some professors
who have long affairs, dump their wives, and then
marry the students whom they’ll cheat on later,
as if infidelity has some expression of faith
in romantic ideals, and we said in agreement
these guys are afraid they are dying and, maybe,
instead of entanglements, getting a brand new
perspective would help, but I laughed
because I know these guys and a woman whose
exploits in amorous proclivities have eclipsed
even those of Fonz Winkler
himself, in the day, if we set aside
faculty emeriti, which I have absolutely
a miniscule chance of becoming,
for reasons you know, that I’m making
myself disappear into woodwork,
but laughing makes Pat think about
a new story involving a middle
administrator and a chair who would scare
a real biker and not a pretender like Fonz.
Come back home, Joe, the joke’s been on me
for so long, I’m believing the future
has gone Balkanized like my job.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Okay, and here's my best shot at a New York School back-to-basics poem.

Life and Death and Art

So, Kathy, you’re the closest person to a New Yorker
I know — well, of course you are a New Yorker, but
upstate or central or Finger Lakes or whatever,
and you know I’m talking about NYC, no offense —
and now I’ve forgotten where I’m going with this.
Oh yeah, it’s 4:06 in the PM, on the 21st of April,
2014, and I’m sitting in my office trying to imagine
myself in Grand Central Station or at the freakin’ top
of the Empire State Building or in Times Square but
I can’t make it work, though I can kinda get the smell,
you know that mix of BO and street exhaust, like
humanity every-stinkin-where: “Oh, the humanity!”
Wait, that was crass, sorry, I wanna take that quote back.
This is starting to sound like a Denise Duhamel poem —
is she New York School, well she lived in NYC for a while,
I think — but that would be quite a feather in my hat
if I did succeed in doing Denise Duhamel. Well, not like
that, sorry Denise. So I’m getting the humanity smell
right but then instead it turns into a smell like death.
You know, if I’m gonna do Denise (sorry Denise),
I’ve gotta be all about life and all the cool funny things
that go on everyday. But no, I’m just getting death.
D-E-A-T-H in capital letters. Fuck. So I’ll try to think about
Valerie Bertinelli and Jenny Craig. Did I tell you I’ve had
a longstanding crush on Valerie Bertinelli? But Jenny Craig
makes me think about bodies wasting away, oh shit.
My writing buddy Alan Holmes is losing weight right now
and he’s eating a lot of salad, but he’ll be all right.
Yeah, fuckin’-A, he’ll be golden. Am I dreaming? No, I’m
in Iowa. Though if I was dreaming, I’d still be in Iowa
although in the dream, I could be in New York. I know
you wish I was in New York. But upstate, not in the city.
Though we could both go to the city. And eat an apple.
A big one. Sorry. But anyway, it’s death death death.
Okay, let’s think about somewhere in middle America,
in the wide open spaces. Like Tennessee, which is where
Alan is. Johnson City. But I’m really thinking Knoxville.
Oh damn, that’s where the Body Farm is, the original one.
You know about that? At UT they have a research facility
where they leave corpses outdoors in all sorts of different
environments — well, as many different ones as you can have
while still staying in Knoxville — to study how humans rot.
Decomp, I think they say. You ever watch CSI? You know
how they can tell how long someone’s been dead by what
larvae have hatched out? They learned that at the Body Farm.
Fun, huh? We almost had a body farm here at my university,
it was going to be an indoor one, but the legislature wouldn’t
fork out the funding. Crazy. I mean, it couldn’t smell any worse
than a hog confinement facility. Wouldn’t it be a blast to see
Jessica Simpson and Kate Perry visiting a hog confinement
facility? They’d both be good troopers and tough it out. But
Lady Gaga, if she did it, I wonder what weird ideas she’d get.
Anyway, I guess the topic for the day, lucky 21, is the body farm.
We all gotta decomp, right? So let’s learn all about it. That would
be the ultimate back-to-basics journey, huh? Your skin starting
to slough off, like you’re a snake molting. My flesh composting
into good dark soil. I imagine my soil would be darker than yours,
and your soil would have freckles. And eventually, there’d be
a vine growing out of your soil, and another vine growing out
of my soil, and they’d entwine together and make great grapes
in a warm clearing in the sun, like in a Van Gogh painting
with purple and blue and tawny yellow brushstrokes all over.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan, I gotta thank you, bud. I was pretty blocked except for the Body Farm back-to-basics thing until I read your poem. And then I knew what to do. Just had to let it flow. Channel Frank Freakin' O'Hara.

Here's a YouTube video on the Body Farm. Watch out: it's pretty graphic. The title of this video is quite sensationalistic . . . pay no attention to the title. The Body Farm — or as it's officially called, the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center — is an internationally respected and renowned research lab.

Here's another video: "Secrets of the Body Farm" — an hour-long documentary from National Geographic. Enjoy!

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. If you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince, find the word comments, and click it once.

Ingat, everyone.  

POEM-A-DAY 2014 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 20 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Day 20 . . . Happy Easter and Happy Passover. Two-thirds done with National Poetry Month. Hey, here's another NaPoWriMo button I found online but in reverse colors from the one I showed you yesterday. Or is that "inverted" colors? I suppose one could display this as a token on the blog that shows one did the NaPoWriMo challenge in a certain year? Maybe I can find the 2012 and 2013 ones online too.

Today's "official" prompts are very close to one another, perhaps because of the holiday. "For today's prompt," Robert Lee Brewer says, "write a family poem" (Poetic Asides). At NaPoWriMo Maureen Thorson says, "Today I challenge you to write a poem in the voice of a member of your family." If you follow Maureen's prompt today, you automatically do Robert's. Very cool.

So, here we go. A persona poem from beyond the grave by someone I only know from family stories.

Gerardo, My Dead Brother, Speaks
Gerardo, born premature, lived a week.
Family legend says he visited our house,
invisible, only heard, pointed out by me.
I have been your guardian angel, brother,
for the last sixty years, protecting you
from mishap and danger. Yes, those wings were me,
those wings heard by you and by our mother
and father that time when you were only two.
You called, "Ahdo, Ahdo," identifying me correctly.

We have been together ever since, because the Lord
assigned me to be your keeper. When the car missed you
when you were six — all those other times — because of me
you lived. My motto all your life has been simply one word:
                                                        We . . . always we . . .

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

This is a curtal sonnet, a form invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins in the 1800s. Shrinking the line count and pattern of the Petrarchan sonnet, 8 + 6 (an octave followed by a sester), Father Hopkins fashioned a smaller ("curtal") form with a sestet and a quatrain plus a half-line, 6 + 4 1/2. Pretty tight little form. The rhyme scheme I use above is modeled after one of his most famous curtal sonnets, "Pied Beauty": abcabc dbcdc. Fun form. Give it a try.

Having been raised Catholic, I remember hearing about guardian angels often. It was something all of us Catholic kids took for granted, that each of us had a guardian angel. How one got one was something we never asked about; having a guardian angel was like having a right hand — you just had one. And the reason you had a right hand still, the reason it hadn't been chopped off somehow, was because you had a guardian angel. Perfect logic. QED.

Pietro da Cortona
"The Guardian Angel" (1656)

And now on to Alan's poem for today. His intro: "Here's a family poem for the holiday."


One day before they moved to Hanceville, Mom
took Lynn and me to visit our Aunt Kate
in Holly Pond. She and her husband lived
next door to cotton fields; as girls, my Mom
and Kate had picked by hand long rows
of cotton many years, and, even now,
should Mom and I drive by a field machines
have harvested, she’ll say her dad would not
have let them leave so much behind, the white
clean fiber, partial bolls, it costs too much
to get. My Uncle Bobby’s hardware store
in Hanceville he inherited had kept
him from the fields, and Lynn and I, town boys,
were curious to pull the cotton loose,
in spite of pricking fingers as we picked,
and soon, our small hands full, we pulled apart
and wadded up the white to make ourselves
old men, mustachioed, our eyebrows white
until the wind pulled all away. For lunch
Aunt Kate had made spaghetti, sauce as sweet
as candy (sweet tooths weren’t uncommon; both
sides of my family fall on a cake
like famished castaways) and then dessert:
she made some chocolate syrup poured
on biscuits, melted butter on the top.
Somehow, I don’t know how, she cooked
the syrup so it started hardening
and made a candy by mistake, and Lynn
and I, of course, believed it was the best
we’d ever had, and she, a newlywed,
was vexed. But fifty years ago (about),
how could I say there’s no bad love
with fork and biscuit like a lollypop?

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Such a wonderful memory, how a mistake can be real and positive in retrospective. You describe the sweetness — both tangible and intangible — so clearly. Bravo, Alan.

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Go hug your family members. Ingat, everyone.  

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 19 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2014

Hello, everyone. Day 19, almost 2/3 through National Poetry Month, and I only today found this cool little button online for NaPoWriMo 2014. Not sure what one could do with such a thing, but here it is on the right. Anyone have any ideas for what I could do in the blog with a button? Why they are called buttons anyway. Comment and let me know if you have a suggestion, won't you? Okay, let's get on to the business at hand, the official prompts for Day 19.

Poem-a-Day guru Robert Lee Brewer's prompt today: "pick a color, make the color the title of your poem, and then, write your poem" (Poetic Asides).

Maureen Thorson says, "Today I challenge you to take a look at the list of actual sea shell names below, and to use one or more of them to write a poem." You'll have to look at the entire list of 19 at, but here are a few of them: "Shuttlecock Volva," "False Cup-and-Saucer," and "Lazarus Jewel Box." I googled images of all 19 and here's the best-looking one, the most colorful, the shell of the "Strawberry Top" sea snail.

You probably won't be surprised to hear I'm combining the two prompts today. I really need to write a proper love poem to Kathy and so I'm using her favorite color as my starting point and title. Here we go: linked haiku. Enjoy!


Kathleen, you were born
to the purple . . . regal queen
of periwinkle

and magenta rose.
Royalty's Tyrian hue.
Strawberry Top snails

Your fave sea creature.
The color of penitence
at Lent. Deep Purple,

the band of your dreams.
"Purple Haze" and "PurpleRain, "
your best rock anthems.

And, except for me,
of course, Prince is your main man.
Well, not the best poem

someone ever wrote
but heartfelt . . . a love letter
of amaranthine

splendor, amethyst
gemstones, lilac, lavender,
orchid, mauve, fuchsia.

Plums, pomegranates.
Heliotrope, mauve blossoms.
Kath, I purple you.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

I was inspired by this particular image of a Strawberry Top seashell photographed in ultraviolet light. Isn't that the most magnificent shade of purple?

Alan sets up his poem today: "Lunches lead to conversations that can go anywhere."

Two of My Colleagues Might Have
Encountered Each Other at a Nude Beach
Years Ago Before They Met Each Other

Suppose we’re having lunch,
semester nearly done,
and two at table talk
about their trips to Greece,
and one says “Speedo,” laughs,
and then the other says,
“Since all the other ones
were nude, then why should I
stand out?” And I can’t think
of anything but how,
away from anyone
you know, high SPF,
Wayfarers, and a smile
would be all that you’d need.

And then I realized
how private tanlines are,
a demarcation — here
is what one shows the world,
and here’s a privileged space.
It seemed to me a beach
of unclothed people would
be like a zoo, the norm
negating nudity,
but knowing someone puts
a face with all that flesh.

And now, at least for weeks,
I will associate
these two with stripping down
in anonymity
because Greek locals did.
My locals did as well,
but nakedness has risks
that being nude does not.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes     [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

That must have been a very interesting lunch, Alan. Anyone I know?  

Won't you comment, please, friends? To make a comment, look for a blue link below that says Post a comment; if you don't see that, look in the red line that starts Posted by Vince and click on the word comments.

Okay, friends, watch out for purple seashells on those nude beaches.  ヅ  Ingat, everyone.

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