In honor of NaPoMo, I have accepted the challenge of on-line poet friends to write a poem every day for the entire month of April. I will only slog to the keyboard to type every now and again, being one of those old fogies who still uses ink first. Write on, people!
NAPOMO-2008, POEMS 1-17
1 Bean Counter
As a girl, she’d purposely kneel on the rickety chair, for that
was part of the ceremony. She’d heard the tale
of the little boy who brought back beans for his cow.
Shuffle. Sort. “1…2…3….” Pinch. Pick up. “How about
this one, Mummy?” Sometimes it wouldn’t be
a rock or grit of any sort; however,
her mother might say, “Oh, no. We don’t want
that in there at all. What a thorough job!”
Much later, she was a proofreader, then file-
clerk-finder of lost charts at the big university
hospital. Friends became mothers, counselors,
legal personnel. That was not for her though.
She swung in a swiveling chair on a cushion
brought from home, smiled at night, remembering
the occasional unusual beans she’d slipped
into pockets, metal lozenge boxes, and slid into
socks, tucked away where no one else coveted
them. How well she had loved each strange bean.
2 Skin Care
Morning becomes her. Well held, kissed,
licked, and rubbed at night, why bother
with creams, scrubs, dead seas’ serums?
Watching his deliberate reverse strip
each dawn–boxers, shirt, pants, tie
–she lolls naked, kisses him “Tonight….”
Risen by the re-set alarm, the manager strides
past “How does she do it?” with love crinkles
framing her fully-dressed “Good morning!”
Call me Ahab. I have chased the tale
that seems mine now and crept up on
then devoured myself, luring my purpose
with the chum of glory.
Which among us are savages? Who kens
which are God’s chosen? …chosen to do
what? To drown? To float? Who will rescue
me from this madman’s ticking watch?
4 Night Guard
I’ll be back in ten minutes.
I have to catch something, but as always,
can’t remember what it is. Yet, running,
coat flapping, gloves dropped, makes
the effort offical, real somehow.
Could be, it’s a plane. Maybe only
a spring cold. The only sure bet is
it will be missed. Oh, and that
without it, tomorrow I’ll be back
at work, having egg salad on rye.
Where are you going, brother,
alone and unknown on the cold
train platform, late on this darkening night?
Even your own ears will not hear
the swing of a mugger’s knife,
the chug of the screeching train
…as you become immortal.
(Inspired somehow by a poem I memorized in middle school “Swing high, Iscariot…”)
She arrives without make-up, wigless,
then removes hat, hearing aids, and jewelry,
the bridges from her half-false teeth
–still a fine woman. I see her heart,
but wouldn’t know her if our toes
passed on Longwood Avenue.*
*A major street in a major medical area of Boston
7 Frontman Walking
When you’re the frontman, everyone expects
the best and worst at once, suspects
your bubble to burst on stage, where the rage
comes showering out as a hit song,
but somehow you still won’t belong.
You were the guy paid to act crazy. Lines
between career, life, and dreams got hazy–
Man!–when your drugged brain implied
that your shoes, so whole world, came untied.
And that time you stumbled alone down the hall,
after hitting the wall…signing your name to it all.
Now sober, still writing, your skulled ring just shrugs:
To hell with jerks saying, “He sounded better on drugs.”
[For Steven Tyler]
8 Sometimes Stupidity Cannot be Contained
Sometimes stupidity cannot be contained
in a mere day. She said, “get out,”
low and innocuous, but it was there.
His response a seething something
about “well, if I do, I’m never….”
leaves him still lounging on a couch,
a week later, then a month, best friend
shaking his head as five o’clock shadow
gets the best of him, worst left to his wife
of ten years who doesn’t miss his socks,
but still pours his mug of coffee.
(No idea where this was going–lost it halfway through.)
Autumn apples, hard-pressed to earn a living,
fermenting in the dark casks of their own juices,
turn saucy and boil over, then act all syrupy
before they crust over in resignation.
They line up in neat, neat big rows, always
ready to extend a branch, help a crabby neighbor
through rotten times, as if summer grew on trees.
10 You Think: Therefore
Don’t step off the curb while thinking,
especially if you’re a philosopher.
In theory, one can die twice and still
be immortal, but why chance it?
You’re no Ambrose, either. Ipso facto,
it is highly unlikely that you’ll disappear
while searching for vigilantes to join.
Friends might begin to worry about you
if your dry cleaning sits too long.
So, please, swallow yawns straight-up.
Excitement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
11 In Profile
Being a stranger means not overstaying a welcome,
never disappointing, not caring about falling through
cracks in systems, or the ice, wherever one might be
missed. Besides, in retrospect everyone on the news
off-handedly loves the quiet boy next door. “He was
never any trouble, hardly even noticed him at all.”
12 The Best Remedy
(With apologies to RL Stevenson)When I was ill, alone in bed,
I had a rag wrapped round my head
–Filled with onions, bad advice,
For onions reek so once they’re sliced.
All about me on the quilt
Were magazines to read, sans guilt.
Thus I lay for hours til
My smelly headdress grew quite chill.
Then I got up and drew a bath
–With bubbles and a duck for laughs;
But gradually I got too hot. Oh!
Now I’m fine, I think, but blotto.
The screen door slammed, clattered, and Eve picked up
a sack of flour she didn’t really need, mostly because
it was in an actual sack. Grandma must’ve bought
plenty just like it back in the mountain days when ladies
had to think weeks or months ahead. Eve kept marbles
in one when she was a little girl, let it sleep with her dolls
to make it into a girl’s toy too. She was no girl now, having
sugar, cinnamon sticks, baking powder, canned milk–all one
might need to create a month of feasts for four–labeled
and stored in matched plastic tubs with hermetic(sp.) sealing.
Hers was the best-stocked pantry for miles. Back home,
she micro-steamed veggies. All she ever lacked was time.
14 First Draft
You cannot teach a poem the way you show a child
how to tie his shoes. For one thing, it’s alright
that words often get tied into knots, again and again,
before becoming useful. And neatness does not count,
or guarantee in any way at all that the poem won’t trip.
You cannot teach a poet the way you show a man
how to make love to you, his now woman. A man
will understand that his touch is always right when his
heart is in exactly the right spot. All a poet knows
is that the love of his life will never be satisfied.
15 About the Author
She cheated on her husband, and her kids
always looked like ragamuffins. She was,
you know, quite the drunk. The house was
in shambles. Her elderly mother wandered
often into traffic until a neighbor took her in.
Her editor, one of those many lovers taken–
taken for all they had and left to fend, like
the rest, for themselves–well, he washed up
one day. Dreadful bloated-blue, poor fool.
Writing was her life. She wrote well, died young.
16 The Son’s Apology
Oh, please, don’t give me wings,
then tell me not to use them!
I tried so hard, Father, to stay
within the limits, safe, like you.
I know I am indeed too close,
feel that it is over now, but I am–
or was–only human, and it,
Oh, it! Glowing with so much
energy and passion for me
that makes me laugh and cry–
Please, don’t you weep for me!
It’s the sun, O Father, it’s the sun!!
I found a word in ceramic today,
when I was looking for a cookie.
Something had bent the lone verb’s
spine, and I took pity on it, pressed it
with a rolling pin into green sugar until
its eyes glowed sticky-sweet into mine.
All night I thought about it, placed back
alone without the weight or smoothness
of wood to keep it fit to devour, but I
needn’t have worried. The top brimmed
by morning with nouns, adjectives, a modifier
dangling from the side. So I let the sentences
spill over the counter as I gulped my coffee.