Thursday, April 30, 2020

Day 30 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “write a poem about something that returns.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a praise poem. Praise your health or the taste of chocolate cake. Pen an ode to normalcy (whatever that is) or expound on the wonders of your favorite pen (for me, it’s either the Pilot G-2 or Pilot Precise V5). Have a favorite song? A favorite saying? Today is a perfect day to sing its praises.”

I'd like to take a moment to thank Maureen Thorson and Robert Lee Brewer for the years they've both provided prompts in April. Here's praise to you both, and of course you and we will all return next April!


Today my last poem is a triolet with the requisite 8-syllable lines. A little cheating with the refrains, though, if I may. Just a hopeful little ditty merging both the prompts. Enjoy!

Looking Forward to
the Good Old Days


O let us praise our previous lives:
everything was sweet and normal.
Endless pizza in lockdown gives
us cause to praise our previous lives
when we could eat in seedy dives!
Shall we meet again, informal?
May we soon praise our future lives
with all again sweet and normal.

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

And here is Alan's last poem for the month. It's been glorious, Alan!

Flapper

Who in the night has not heard
the high-pitched whine like sweet strings
backing a Glen Campbell song
about some frozen phone lines
as the lineman makes his run,
especially after one’s
bed companion wakes them up
and makes them check the toilet,
finding in the tank the flapper
off kilter on the flush valve?
Oh, flapper, first of the joys
of home ownership, the first
plumbing job one does oneself,
to replace you by yet one more
in a series of others,
all guaranteed to shut off
the seal, to conserve water,
to keep the toilet silent,
hear my praise! What have you taught
so many like me but to look
in the tank and find plastic
objects: weird toys for STEM kids,
some like Mouse Trap game pieces,
some like junkie cousins’ works,
some like medical gadgets
best left as strange mysteries.
You teach us priorities.
You teach us it is better
to reach into the icy cold
and move a rubbery disc
half a centimeter—so!—
and hope the next flush lands square
than to lie awake and wait
for some silence that may not
happen at all. You teach us
that hard water will make even
a pliable object stiff
and unyielding. You teach us
what the plumber will tell us
when there’s a genuine need
for a plumber: not to put
any chemicals where they
might deteriorate works
in the tank. Only water
in there, guys, and it will last.
The tank, therefore, serves for us
as analogy of mind.
The flapper is the tank’s tongue,
relaying cleansing content
of the mind but shutting up
when it is time to refresh.
Praise to you, Fluidmaster,
Korky, Kohler, and Toto,
praise to the chains you come with,
praise to your universal
fit, no matter your design.

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

Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope it was a great National Poetry Month for you! See you here next year!


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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Day 29 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “For today’s prompt, take the phrase ‘Total (blank),’ replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles could include: ‘Total Madness,’ ‘Total Victory,’ ‘Totally Awesome,’ and/or ‘Total Cereal.’”

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. . . . If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse.


When I read the NaPoWriMo prompt, I gotta tell ya I was dismayed. I wanted to write another poem for my aswang novella, but I couldn't imagine my two aswang characters having pets. To up the difficulty factor, as I said yesterday, I wanted to write a Pushkin sonnet this month. And also, I have wanted to write a fun, lighthearted aswang poem, which is complicated by the fact that my characters are fearsome, man-eating monsters. Besides, I had killed one of them off a few days ago! Well, despite all these difficulties, I got it done. In under an hour!

Total Surprise on Halloween

Clara lay in bed recalling
Tiyago in much happier times,
memories that had her smiling,
pranks and little harmless crimes.

One Halloween when she was pregnant
the two imagined themselves as parents
taking their little one on the streets
of San Francisco: trick or treat.

Tiyago shifted into his canine
form, as big as a Great Dane,
and out they went, dog and dame,
taking a stroll in the moonshine.

Laughing children gathered around
in costume and petted her lovely hound.

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

Yesterday, I wrote a Pushkin sonnet (or Onegin Stanza) but it was in pentameter; the original form is in tetrameter. Here is the rhyme scheme and metric pattern: aBaBccDDeFFeGG, where the lower-case letters end in an unstressed syllable and the upper case letters indicate a stressed ending. Quite a challenge, but I think I was able to carry it off.

When I wrote "Great Dane" above, I was thinking generically. Then I googled. I didn't realize what the biggest Great Dane ever, Little George, looks like! Crazy! It's partly the angle and the woman is back a bit, but still that's one big dog.



Alan got his poem done early today; he got it to me by 9:00am! Congrats, Alan. And thanks . . . you inspired me to complete my poem early too. Good job with the total title and also getting a pet-of-sorts in there!

Total Immersion

What thoughts I have of you this morning, Jack, as the crow caws in the black locust
                near the back of the lot,
the black locust that turns on itself knotting, seeming to break itself over years in its
                refusal to yield to its own worst growths,
a malignancy surfaced on the smooth round overturned bowl of a hillside back there,
                covering instead something rising and nourishing dough, the ground fertile even
                for the unwelcome,
like the black locust, which can send runners for yards across yards and can force
                constant attention on our part,
like the cawing crow that takes that high perch for the perspective and warns of dangers
                to come
in a familiar call.
I have left Mardi Gras beads looping over loose nails in the side fence, offering them to
                the crows of our neighborhood,
welcoming them to take what treasures might catch their eyes
because I want them to perch and call to each other in their crow inflection, the corvid
                cadence, the rising and falling raucous musical caw,
their commentary from on high
although they seem ordinary enough close by, they share a community, fuss at each
                other sometimes, and learn
like colleagues,
like us in our working group as we had it,
and as much as I miss you, I am relieved that you do not see the mess that mires us
                survivors now.

I wrote a poem about you years ago without naming you, Jack, and it got published in a
                regional journal,
and, without my knowing it beforehand, the poet laureate of an Appalachian state read
                it aloud to an audience at an Appalachian regional conference,
and some listeners recognized you in my completely fabricated story
that I wove from your voice
and what I knew of your breadth of learning
and from an earthy joke my father would tell in my presence only once I was an older
                teenager,
because I never heard you tell such stories, but I always thought that if you were ever to
                tell one, everyone would ache with laughter afterwards and feel grateful that such
                a broad and generous mind would make room for consideration of all human
                foibles and vulnerabilities,
but I am projecting, of course, because putting my father in a poem about you also
                suggests that I have over the years shifted paths, learning to walk one and then
                finding a corollary path with another, sometimes following but often, when
                fortunate, blazing,
because you knew what you loved about this place, and you could encourage other
                people to value it and love it, too, even the parts of it in themselves they were not
                certain what to do with—
you were creating in the classroom what our great authors make in their tradition, what
                I hope to make, in my modest way, Jack,
sometimes, like so many of us, to expand ourselves from what we have thought we are
                into what we learn we can be.

This morning I see myself weatherbeaten and resist the idea that somehow I have
                purchased some high perspective
and hope only that I can preserve an expanding mind wedged open by consideration of
                many well-expressed ideas
even in rough music, Jack, and you have taught me that.


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

Last day tomorrow. Thanks for coming by to read, everyone! Stay safe out there, especially if you are in a location where authorities are lifting COVID-19 restrictions.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Day 28 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt is his usual "Two for Tuesday":
1. “Write a look back poem and/or . . .”
2. “Write a don't look back poem. Because some folks just want to keep their eyes on the road ahead.”
Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt comes from the Emily Dickinson Museum, based on a reminiscence by Dickinson's niece Martha: “Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.”


Today's curtal sonnet is again an episode in the aswang novella project. This poem mashes up all three prompts, not only showing (and redecorating) Clara's bedroom but also incorporating both of the Brewer look back and don't look back themes.

New Day: Clara's Bedroom

On Sunday morning, I fixed up our bedroom,
taking Tiyago’s clothes out of the closet
finally, boxing them up to give away.
I put vases of lilies and nasturtiums
on the dresser, and laid a new bedspread,
yellow, discarding the old quilt, green and gray.

Holding the photo of Tiyago, uniformed,
I smiled, looking back to our golden days
at home, eating halo-halo at the market.
For Malcolm’s sake, I must now look forward
                to new nights and days.

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




Halo-halo, the quintessential
Philippine fruit dessert


And here is Alan's poem today mashing up the bedroom and look back prompts. Bravo, Alan!

My Favorite Bedroom

My favorite bedroom
was in our last home
in Tuscaloosa,
the town house we had
while I was writing
my dissertation,
teaching comp and lit,
and flirting with you.
I don’t remember
anything except
some hot afternoons
when rain broke the heat,
we’d open windows,
lie down together,
and lose long hours.
I could, if you like,
describe every
other bedroom,
mine and ours, I’ve had;
that townhouse bedroom
in Tuscaloosa, though,
is nothing but you
and some thunderstorms,
warm breath and wet heat.

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

I have a second poem today that I actually wrote before the one above. I thought I was going rogue this time with the following COVID-19 poem, but a few hours after finishing it, the aswang poem above using today's prompts started bubbling up.

As Georgia’s Massage Parlors Reopen

Rearranging letters in COVID-NINETEEN
yields INCENTIVE DONE, as in we stayed home,
so we can be out and about now,
but really, can
we? DIE CONVENIENT is another anagram.

Personally, the letters seem vindictive —
I NEED NOT VINCE — and also predictive
in unflattering fashion: VINCE END ON TIE.
Which means, I think, either way I’m going to die.

It would seem there’s no path to domesticate
this pandemic somehow. The word virus
has its roots in “snake venom, slimy juice,
poison,” and so we just have to face it.

Until we have a vaccine, read my lips:
Lockdown is the easy apocalypse.

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

This is a Pushkin Sonnet, also called an Onegin Stanza because Alexander Pushkin invented it to be the basic unit of his novel-in-verse Eugene Onegin. This sonnet form begins with a Shakespearean alternating quatrain (abab), followed by a Clarean couplet quatrain (ccdd), and then a Petrarchan envelope quatrain (effe), and finally a closing couplet (gg), which could figure in any of those three sonnet types. I do depart from the Pushkin format, however, because I use pentameter rather than Pushkin's tetrameter, and I also dispense with his pre-ordained pattern of so-called masculine and feminine line endings. It occurs to me now that, since I am writing a novella-in-verse, I should probably write some Pushkin sonnets for that project. Maybe tomorrow!


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Monday, April 27, 2020

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a massive poem. The poem itself could be massive in size and length. Or it could take on a massive problem, describe a supermassive black hole, or praise a massive bowl of ice cream covered in chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Whatever you write, I hope it’s a massive success.”


My poem today only cursorily arises from the two prompts. The words review and massive just appear in the poem momentarily. This installment in the aswang novella project fills in an earlier gap: how Clara’s villagers begin to think she might be an aswang. Also, a “sari-sari store” in the Philippines is a Mom-and-Pop sundry shop in a rural area; sari-sari is a Filipino phrase that means “variety.” In terms of the story, it’s important that the two men in the poem are at a sari-sari store, which would be a community hangout, so their conversation could fire up the local gossip mill.

Two Men Talk in the Sari-Sari Store

Okay, let’s review the facts, Nestor. You got lost
in the woods last night, and then you came upon
a massive meadow you’d never seen before.

                      That’s right! The moon was shining through the mist,
                      and in the meadow a huge black dog was running,
                      no, prancing. Above, a dark winged shape soared
                      like an eagle wheeling. No, more like a bat.


That would be a manananggal, an aswang.

                      Well, Jojo, I saw her face! It was so clear.

Who was it?
                      That cute girl in the market.

You mean, Clara?

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

Form-wise, this is a curtal sonnet in rhyme and meter but takes the shape of a (seemingly) free-verse conversation with two speakers. The tricky section is line 10 (“Who was it? That cute . . .”), where a dropped line indicates a change of speaker in the middle of the line.

Alan’s poem today takes the idea of review in an entertaining direction.

The Sentences I Write When the Person Demanding a Letter
of Recommendation Will Not Take “No” for an Answer


When I consider what ______________ has accomplished in the time of our
                acquaintance, I find myself shaking my head in wonder.

I honestly cannot imagine that ______________ could do a better job than he does.

It amazes me, when I give ______________ training, data, and protocols, what I get
                back.

I have often wondered why ______________ has not moved to another position
                already.

I cannot say enough good things about ______________.

I absolutely can imagine ______________ in a high administrative position.

“Pleasant” does not describe having ______________ as a co-worker.

______________ has made an unforgettable impact on our entire department.

I am confident that the upper administration is aware of ______________’s
                contributions to our university. Some often ask me, “Just what can we do with
                him?”

I know that students have reconsidered their career paths after their meetings with
                ______________.

Should ______________ get a position elsewhere, there will be a major gap to be
                filled.


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



We appreciate your coming by to read our work. Stay safe and be well.

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Day 26 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a change poem. This could be a poem about something that has changed or something that will change. Changing tires, clothes, or perspectives. Change left over when paying for something with cash. Feel encouraged to change it up today.”

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt today asks participants to fill out an “Almanac Questionnaire” as a basis for a poem. Example items in the questionnaire ask for answers to “Found on the street: _____”; “Hometown memory: _____”; “You walk to the border and hear: _____”; and the like — some items mundane and others strange.


My poem today is a hybrid sonnet for the aswang novella project. This time the son, nine years old, at the point of change, with a couple questionnaire items sneaking in.

Malcolm and the Bully, Fourth Grade

His ugly mouth, with jagged teeth, it seemed,
sprayed spit on my face as he screamed insults
so close I could bite him if I wanted. My shoulders
itched with the budding of wings. His friends formed

a ring of yells around us: Fight! Fight! Fangs
began to lengthen in my mouth as blows
fell on my face, upraised arms. Only thing
I could see in squinted eyes was a red haze.

In my mind I walked up to the edge but heard
Mama’s calm voice, Resist, Malcolm, hold on.
Knocked down to the street, I saw a blue bird’s
wing on the asphalt, torn, beautiful. And

then it was over, laughter fading as they left.
I whispered. Yes, Mama, resist resist.

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




After finishing the poem, I googled “torn bird wing street” to find a possible illustration and found this image, not beautiful exactly but arresting and . . . blue. Someone saw this outside their front door and sent this photo to an Extension “Ask an Expert” website inquiring what predator might have done it. Intriguing.

I wrote another aswang poem today, a curtal sonnet from Clara's perspective, a change á la Brewer, a turnabout from the "dark night" poem yesterday where she is feeling overwhelmed and desperate about the future for her and Malcolm without Santiago.

The Future: Clara's Change

After Tiyago died, I started welding
at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Don’t ask
me how I got the job. It was like my man

was guiding my steps from the afterworld.
I love the intense heat and light of the gas
when metals do my bright bidding, melt and

fuse, flow and meld, the acetylene blue
blaze from hearts of stars lighting up the dry dock
where we repair Navy ships. I feel like I’m
a virgin planet in the cosmos, brand-new
                sun, electric aswang.

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

Alan says he's going rogue today. Though on second look, this poem seems to me about change. Bravo, friend! Excellent Petrarchan sonnet.

Poplars

Before late April dawn, a storm blew hard
and broke the poplars’ jointed limbs. I find
their impact-shattered branches. How the wind
that flailed them whistled through our eaves! Our yard
has petals dropped from dogwoods, cherries bared
of blossoms, too. The honeysuckle, twined
stems bending, bowing, newly blown, have joined
the English ivy near our fence, prepared
for mutual defense against my saws
and clippers. Though a poplar branch looked dead,
I found some buds at twig ends. O, what draws
life’s urgency, please work through me and spread
renewed creation, what the poplar knows:
let go; preserve the green new life instead.

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





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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Day 25 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a remix poem. That is, take one (or more) of your poems from earlier this month and remix it. Make a free verse poem into a villanelle. Or condense a sestina into a haiku or senryu. Or forget form. Just completely jumble up the words . . . or respond to the original poem(s).”

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt today can only be described, not quoted. She suggests following Hoa Nguyen’s exercise called “Writing After James Schuyler’s ‘Hymn to Life.’” This poetic algorithm is based on the Schuyler poem named and includes such instructions as “Bring your perspective and verbs back to the present tense, even when addressing memory,” and “Introduce a swerve or observation that serves as interjection, non-sequitur,” and “Animate the landscape or nearby object, imbue it with expressiveness of action or address,” and so on.


One of the options in Robert’s prompt today is to “respond to the original poem.” Today’s poem is a response to my aswang poem from April 22, “The Truth.” The NaPoWriMo prompt that day involved including a proverb. My curtal sonnet today begins with the proverb I used, echoing that earlier poem’s ending in this current poem’s opening. (A bit of background on the aswang poems here.)

As far as today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is concerned, I haven’t fully engaged the Nguyen exercise, but I did incorporate the three instructions I cited above as examples.

The Future: Clara’s Dark Night

While there’s life, there’s hope. But I have Malcolm
to raise by myself now. Although we aswang
are not known here, there is still the danger
that he is seen as aberrant, like some
Frankenstein monster. Susmariosep, putang
ina!
Villagers attacking the stranger.

I must find a job. I must feed my boy.
The clock on the wall, its face is smirking,
mocking, “How can you escape your nature?
Like Tiyago, you’re both aswang. No joy
                ahead, just pain there.”

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

How I followed the selected Nguyen instructions: (1) I restricted myself to present tense; (2) Clara interjects by swearing: susmariosep is an abbreviation for “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” (common cuss words in Filipino), and putang ina is equivalent to “son of a bitch,” literally meaning “whore mother”; and (3) I’ve animated the clock on Clara’s wall, even giving it some dialog.


Today, Alan is remixing "Ode to the Shop Vac" from April 18. Click here to revisit that poem.

Ode to the Oldsmobile

If it was out of courtesy to clean
the Oldsmobile I gave away last year,
despairing we could not find a repair
for that ill-used, short-circuited machine
that gave two schoolkids rides between
their classes near and far, and our home here,
where I could check the oil and tank, and swear
that they may never do it. I’d seen
the floorboard detritus, leaf-mulched rugs,
headliner blown loose and hair-brushing low,
receipts tucked curled between cushions, unread
and unrecorded, desiccated bugs,
while in one ashtray, something tried to grow
out of all that junkyard refugee, dead.

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

   

So interesting to compare the two poems; the earlier poem is in blank verse and this one is a Petrarchan sonnet. Details cross over between the poems but the thematic focus is so different between them.


I wrote a second poem today, a remix of the tanka I composed for Day 7. Since it's small, here's that poem again:

Hydroxychloroquine Tanka

Aren’t we lucky Trump
has friends and money in big
pharma? No, we’re not.
So he can make a few bucks
he’ll cash in millions of us.

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

I've remixed this tanka into a hybrid sonnet, mostly Shakesperean but with one Petrarchan envelope quatrain.

Follow the Money Trail

Only hope we got is that we stay well,
that somehow we can keep out of the curve
at the same time that we flatten it. While
we pray to stay safe, what do you think the Perv-

in-Chief desires — besides grabbing kitties —
he’d like to make some moolah, gravy, cash,
greenbacks, from this profit opportunity
called a pandemic. Why do you think he was

pushing hydroxychloroquine so hard
for weeks? Turns out he and some of his cronies
have financial dibs in the French company
that produces the drug. What if the world’s

cure was HCQ? Bankroll for this POTUS!
For that payday, he’d cash in millions of us.

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

Friends, won’t you comment, please? Love to know what you’re thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don’t find the word “comments” in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Day 24 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a nature poem. Could be nature like trees, leaves, grass, birds, etc. Or your poem could tackle human nature. Another possibility is to look at the nature of technology or the interaction of planets around each other and the sun. Or well, the nature of poetry! When in doubt, just see what happens naturally.”

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “write about a particular fruit – your choice. But I’d like you to describe this fruit as closely as possible. Perhaps your poem could attempt to tell the reader some (or all!) of the following about your chosen fruit: What does it look like, how does it feel, how does it smell, what does it taste like, where did you find it, do you need to thump it to know if it’s ripe, how do you get into it (peeling, a knife, your teeth), do you need to spit out the seeds, should you bake it, can you make jam with it, do you have to fight the birds for it, when is it available, do you need a ladder to pick it, what is your favorite memory of eating it, if you threw it at someone’s head would it splatter them or knock them out, is it expensive . . . As you may have realized from this list, there’s honestly an awful lot you can write about a fruit!”


My poem today not only satisfies both prompts, it also fills in a gap in my aswang novella-in-poems (see here for more on that project). I needed a poem about Santiago’s love and desire for Clara soon after they first met. Clara is a manananggal, which means that at night when she takes on her aswang form, she separates her body at the waist; the top half grows wings and goes hunting, while the bottom half is guarded by Santiago. This poem is a curtal sonnet, which is the form I have used more than any other in the novella, exactly half of the overall book so far.

Aswang Mango: Santiago’s Fantasia

There is no fruit I love more than the mango.
Taut skin, yellow and red, the blushing cheek
of a maiden, the soft curve, the shy smile
on my girl’s sensuous mouth, a slow tango
smoldering in her eyes. The mango’s sleek
flesh, sweet and fragrant as her bosom. While

Clara’s away these summer nights, the heavens
cloudless and clear, moonlight-filled, where she wheels
in air, she leaves with me her hips, two cheeks
like shapely fruits, the moon’s curvy crescent,
                firm mango handfuls.

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





Alan's poem, like mine, takes on both prompts with another of my favorite fruits.

Peach Tree

In the narrow strip of grass
between the sidewalk and street
at the side of Papa John’s
near the university,
a peach tree grew. As I walked
by there some summers ago,
a smiling woman picked fruit,
fragrant fruit, thoroughly ripe,
just days before it would fall
bruised on the packed ground to rot.
I knew it was sweet; the tree
was full of yellowjackets,
but the woman filled a bag
and walked away, smiling
at this unclaimed gift for all
who thought to accept the fruit
from a tree that had survived
the failure of businesses
that surrounded it and grew
untended and neglected
except by the elements
that outlast corporations,
real estate development,
bad faith, and politics.
When I stand in narrow straits,
my head buzzing, I hope I
can be unwittingly kind
and generous, maybe sweet.

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





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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Day 23 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “write a poem about a particular letter of the alphabet, or perhaps, the letters that form a short word. Doesn’t ‘S’ look sneaky and snakelike? And ‘W’ clearly doesn’t know where it’s going! Think about the shape of the letter(s), and use that as the take-off point for your poem.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “take the phrase ‘Social (blank),’ replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Possible titles could include: ‘Social Distancing at the Grocery Store,’ ‘Social Media Trolls,’ ‘Social Club,’ and/or ‘Social Distortion.’ Heck, flipping the script to come up with a title like ‘Ice Cream Social’ would totally work too.”



My poem today is an acrostic. If you don't know what that is, just read straight down on the left side, only the first letter in each line. I'm following both prompts today. In fact, I'm starting with what Maureen wrote above, “Doesn’t ‘S’ look sneaky and snakelike?”

Social Distancing . . . Yeah, Right

S . . . all S’s . . . they’re sneaky and snakelike.
O h, they want you to think they’re like I’s.
C lear, tall, upright, hard. They say, “Yeah,
 I am an I. I am a skyscraper. You can trust me.”
A ctually, you can’t. They’re still S’s. They’re not
L eaders. They think they are. They started this

D istancing baloney. So they could be out front
 I n charge of everything and everyone. Bull
S hit, I say. It’s a Democrat secret plan, buddy.
T rump is onto it. He’s not putting up with shit,
A nd we shouldn’t either. The doctors, they’re
N ot I’s, I tell ya. They’re S’s, every single one.
C an’t trust ’em. Now Trump, there’s one real
 I . . . we are too. You and me, both I’s. We’re
N ot putting up with this fake news virus crap.
G o on out and party. Yeah, all good. No fear!

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

Alan's poem today takes on a similar approach with the letters going down the page (though not as an acrostic) but almost animating the letters with their own personalities.

Social

The “S” suggests we’ve not completed the infinite loop and remain hanging like an
            unmet high five and down low, separated, badly rendered as some old clichéd
            attempt to walk like an Egyptian for a sodden high school reunion,
but “O” is all and nothing at the same time, an expression of wonder, a call, a
            preparation for a poetic apostrophe, but complete, although one might argue that
            it considers itself all-in-one on its own, though empty,
as the “C” somehow fails, either empty and spilling out, or empty and agape, ready to
            bite
into the “I,” which stands rigid, unyielding, and hardly belonging in the word “SOCIAL”
            at all, in visual opposition
to the “A” in its heroic posture, not the intrusive wide-seated stance of a U. S. Senator in
            an airport but the steady, braced stand emphasized by serif feet, accompanied
by the “L,” which offers an empathic gesture to the future, forearm extended, palm up
            with slightly curling fingers, a genuine invitation even a newly whelped puppy
            can recognize, slightly wagging its tail like this word, whose last third offers the
            only friendly part.


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

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare! And Happy Shakespeare's Birthday, everyone!



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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Day 22 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2020


Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “engage with different languages and cultures through the lens of proverbs and idiomatic phrases. Many different cultures have proverbs or phrases that have largely the same meaning, but are expressed in different ways. For example, in English we say ’his bark is worse than his bite,’ but the same idea in Spanish would be stated as ’the lion isn’t as fierce as his painting.’ Today, I’d like to challenge you to find an idiomatic phrase from a different language or culture, and use it as the jumping-off point for your poem.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a quirk poem. The quirk could be a personal or human quality. Or it could be a quirk of fate.”


Alan's poem today takes on the "quirk" prompt with close observations of people.

Telling

The people who ponder words
before they speak telegraph
how important their thoughts are
by how they bolster themselves
before delivering them.
In my small circle of friends
with whom I share everything,
the women’s signs are subtle,
sometimes only eye signals,
but one leans back just a bit,
another purses her lips,
and one raises her eyebrows,
and so I know something big
is soon to be delivered.
Three of the men stroke their beards,
even the scraggly bearded man,
one of them chuckles a bit,
and one perks up, ramrod straight.
But there’s one of them who holds
his hand across his lower face
and speaks between his fingers
as if what words escape should
count if any do at all.

I see these signs and turn my head
so I can let them talk without
the reservations eyes prompt,
offering my askance trust.

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

Today, my first poem, a tanka, is based on the "quirk" prompt, like Alan's, but focuses on a large social and/or natural quirk, marking today's annual celebration — a 50th anniversary.

Coronavirus
quarantine quirk side effect:
Los Angeles has
the cleanest air in the world.
Happy Earth Day, everyone.

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

My second poem today arises from the "proverb" prompt: a curtal sonnet in my aswang novella-in-poems (as described earlier in the blog): Clara gets some probably not unexpected news.

The Truth

Official letter from the US Army.
I open it slow, knowing what’s inside.
Yes, my Santiago is dead. No hope
left. Found in the jungle, no uniform.
He was naked and so presumed tortured.
No, that’s not what that means. He was happy

at the end. I can see Tiyago’s smile,
hunting humans again. True self he hid
within finally out, my man’s true shape.
Habang may buhay, may pag-asa. While
            there’s life, there’s hope.

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

A little analysis and explication here, if I may: it’s fascinating to look at the rhymed words:

            Army / uniform
            inside / tortured / hid
            hope / happy / life / hope
            smile / while


I got lucky there. The second set of rhymes (the b rhyme) suggests Santiago’s emotional situation, being aswang, and his inner conflict about what Clara wants of him. The c and d rhymes imply Santiago’s feelings on ultimately being true to his real self. Clara finally realizes the truth about her husband’s true desires, and the proverb represents both of their viewpoints.

The well-known Philippine proverb — or salawikain — I included in the poem I found in an Owlcation article, "55 Examples of Filipino Proverbs." Quite a treasure trove there of Filipino folk wisdom.


Stay safe out there, friends. And Happy Earth Day!

         

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