Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Reluctant Homeowner, 4Amys and two haiku—#NationalPoetryMonth

 Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!  (Yep, it's a "thing." Click on the link for more official details.) Judi Korpi Webb and I have some sweet little pocket-sized haikus just for you. Or if they're not your style, I suggest you write your own and carry them around in your pocket. Better yet, write a bunch of your own haiku on different scraps of paper and #poetrybomb the pants pockets of clothing at your favorite retail outlet. (You did not hear this from me.)

 For now, we'll round out this experiment with Judi's reflections on friendship and mine on the month of April. This time, let's start with Judi's poems for a change. Judi's first is a haiku which she wrote for her friend who always requests haiku for his birthday. She wrote this one and sent it to me to post presumably on his birthday, April 21st.  I've stockpiled Judi's poems and am only getting around to this now. (Shout out to Judi's friend! Happy belated! Keep aging!)

On sun-warmed cement
Walking barefoot in the dark
I think I'll join you

-Judi Korpi Webb

Here's one of the haiku I wrote this month. I have a bone to pick with spring and the way the sun shines into tricking me that it's warm outside when it's really not.

Beauty in the Dogwood. Her toes are not cold because she is not sedentary like I am.
sun seeps through windows
dogwood blossoms beckoning
still, my toes feel cold

-Amy Baskin

 I love haiku. Most people think it's just a 17-syllable verse consisting of three syllabic lines of 5-7-5. But haiku is much more than that. True haiku must symbolize or imply the season in which the poem is grounded. It has to be anchored in a season. In Japanese haiku, there are other rules which do not clearly transfer into the developed English form, but the essence of haiku is that there are two images or ideas juxtaposed together, and a "cutting word" or "kireiji" that draws attention to the two ideas and sometimes serves to draw a parallel between them. English poets often, but not always, use ellipses or dashes to separate and/or unite these two images.

Now, Judi has overwhelmed me with a tribute poem to me and three other friends of hers, all named Amy! Judi, you've definitely turned up the fireworks for the finale today. This poem, while larger than her haiku, could still fit in a pocket if you're crafty and not opposed to folding.

4 Amy

Of all the Amy’s, you were the first
We’ve supported each other through our worst
Your enduring friendship is always true
Vast is the love I have for you

Our first meeting was a jolt out of the blue
Heartbroken when I had to bid you adieu
So luminous, curious, full of cheer
Delightful contentment when you are near

Unbelievable the life you have lived
Too many years where joy was elusive
To see you becoming, a delight it has been
Coming out of the shell you didn't know you were in

Throughout this month you have bared your soul
Some poems chilling, some quite droll
So many ideas and forms to explore
I was thrilled to answer when you knocked on the door
-Judi Korpi Webb 

The last poem I'll post this month reveals just how much I am given to remaining an object at rest, and how much I have to force myself to enjoy the gifts that spring has to offer. I've written this exposé in blank verse, which in this case means no rhyme, but in iambic pentameter. I wrote it while watching a landscaper renovate and enliven our neighbor's garden across the street. I enjoyed it all from a distance, under my blanket on the couch, with a cup of coffee. I'd carry this poem around in my pocket if it weren't already stuck in my noodle.

The Reluctant Homeowner

How good it feels to watch the gardener work!
He looks so happy plowing up the sod.
And bending over holes between his feet
while dirtying his fingers in the sun.
How wonderful a life of handy labor!
How grand it seems from windows in my house.
One day I, too, will plant a flat of starters—
learn satisfaction from a job well done.

-Amy Baskin

Yeah, right!

This whole #NationalPoetryMonth thing really got my brain percolating. I would have trudged on solo for 30 days straight, bearing the burden alone, had it not been for my steady poet companion, Judi Korpi Webb. Judi, you've played Sam to my Frodo for all of April! (Sam is my favorite character, by the way. Please don't take that as a slight. A slight would be to call you my Ed McMahon or something. You are no sidekick. Unless you're thinking Andy Richter. Then I'd be your Conan. But I digress.) The long and short of it is this: I've been so grateful for such good company. Judi, I've enjoyed all of the poems you've contributed this month and I hope that you keep sharing your work with me. Could we turn this gig into #NationalPoetryYear?

If you have any poems—any poems at all— you'd like to share with me before this month wraps up, then by all means, please do! You can even share new work with me when the clock strikes 12 and it is no longer #NationalPoetryMonth. I just like poetry. That's all!  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

FLOTUS Shoulders World Opinion at Japan State Dinner—free verse #NationalPoetryMonth

I've got all kinds of time for Michelle Obama. Her light is bright and only seems to grow more radiant the more she shares of herself. Whether she's helping service members, youth with education goals, or getting kids to move, she puts herself out there with passion and unharnessed joy. Most First Ladies have looked overly practiced, careful, guided and guarded, but not Michelle.  Her hyper intelligence, compassion, and humor are completely disarming. Her carriage reflects her confidence and willingness to reach out to others. The fact that she's a knockout and can rock a frock is, for me, the least interesting thing about her.

And yet—
when I saw this picture today, I needed to give her props for her visible achievements.

FLOTUS Shoulders World Opinion at Japan State Dinner

Over fifty years since
Jackie wore a sleeveless shift to Jack's
One of these people is doing her own thang. Photo credits: NBC.
State of the Union speech
folks still debate whether
Michelle has
the right to bare arms
doesn't she know the
Japanese find naked shoulders
her skin is too accessible
just like 
the price tag of her evening gown
in the hundreds, not the thousands
where is her self-respect?
where is her respect for the nation?
She carries it all
in those sleek

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Blackout poem in the style of Austin Kleon #NationalPoetryMonth

 I'm not sure when the author/artist Austin Kleon created his first poem by redacting words from random text. But I do know he published his first book of these poems in 2010, called "Newspaper Blackout" which I learned about after having purchased and read his creative manifestos "Steal Like an Artist!" and "Show Your Work!"

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an invitation to create my own blackout poems. The Hollywood branch of Multnomah County Library offered patrons pages of old books and the use of a permanent marker to redact words of our choice and highlight the messages we find within.

Here, I was thinking about the myth of infallibility and the notion that even the best of intentions can serve to drive a wedge between people.

even God
he could do no wrong.
He exposed himself
on     the great cross
was troubled to find the distance
had become
his career.

Got a crappy book you'd like to tear apart? How about your favorite book that's already in shreds which you can immortalize in verse? If you put your scissors and markers to good use, share the results with me here!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Do you Clerihew? #NationalPoetryMonth

Yes, I watch The Voice. Silly as it is, I enjoy it and look forward to family commentary while cuddling on the couch eating popcorn. We make it an event, and I feel this event calls for a whimsical poem or two. How about some Clerihew?*

Blake Shelton
Made Sisaundra sing Elton.
He's never heard "America" by Simon and Garfunkel
So I guess he doesn't have all of the oldies in his arsenal.

Old farts like me enjoy this.
Look at that Zen Pharrell!
He coaches his singers so well.
Encouraging each like they're his children
even though they're probably too young to win.

Christina Aguilera
can't hide behind that mascara
she's got golden pipes
and can sing way above her haters' snipes.

Adam Levine
looks lean
when standing on his red chair
raising his tattoos in the air.

These Clerihews are hard to stop writing. They're absurdly easy. So here's two more about musicians, just for the heck of it.

Kanye West
puts his colleagues to the test
when he opens his trap—
oh, snap!

Brittany Howard
ain't no coward
she don't wanna fight no more**
'cuz she's top of her game—no need to keep score.

*Clerihews are silly, four-line biographical poems invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a novelist, crime writer, humorist, and Oxford old boy's club member. His work was popular at the turn of the last century.
The first line of a Clerihew contains the name of the poem's subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced. The line length and meter are irregular.  According to Wikipedia, "subject matter and wording are often humorously contrived in order to achieve a rhyme, including the use of phrases in Latin, French and other non-English languages." Bentley seemed to think the more awkward the forced rhyme, the funnier. If you'd like to dig a bit deeper into this uniquely British form, there's a great site I recommend checking out here.

**That's a musical reference to my latest earworm by the Alabama Shakes. Click on the video below and enjoy catching it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Not Going Anywhere Soon and a reflection on Home—two Tyburns #NationalPoetryMonth

Bouquet Today by Jason Baskin
There's such a difference between people who are marking time and lively spirits who savor life each moment. When Jason brought this quick sketch home, I knew he captured a certain joie de vivre that the model must have exuded.  I love the light and life in this piece. The woman is right there in her moment, enjoying the heck out of that bouquet of flowers. She is not taking them for granted. She is holding them like a newborn baby. Cradling the moment as if it is precious to her.

So I wrote this little Tyburn* with this lovely woman in mind.

Not Going Anywhere Soon

I am praying on staying around
greying and playing; standing my ground

Inspired by Allison Joseph's prompt, "Home is where the ________is," Judi Korpi Webb penned a tight Tyburn that fills in the blanks and makes her home sound as warm as a crackling fire in the hearth:

Home is where the laughter is

Family cackling and laughing now
Bonding while giggling and roaring loud

*What is a Tyburn, you ask? It's a nugget of a poem. A concise encapsulation of an idea or moment. It's a simple six-line poem in which the first four lines consist of simple two-syllable words that rhyme. The last two lines rhyme and are nine syllables each. They incorporate the words from the first four lines. It is standard to incorporate those words in the fifth to eighth syllables of the last two lines, but Judi and I took liberties, because sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

*Do you have a poem about marking time? Or one about savoring the moment? How about a Tyburn? How about you share it?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Path— free verse #NationalPoetryMonth

The Path
The Path at Rood Bridge Park by Jason Baskin

They felt like sunlight on my shoulder
before I turned around.
They walked in my direction
two adults
father and son
holding hands.
The son had Downs
his hair was growing back from chemo.
Their enjoyment of the day
the moment
the walk
the togetherness
radiated outward
touched me
patted me on the shoulder
kissed me on the head
assured me that there is
goodness here
that is
worth it.
Worth all of it.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cops: Watch. Look here. —a Fibonacci poem #NationalPoetryMonth

Did these Swedish cops school the NYPD?
Did these Swedish cops school the NYPD?
Posted by AJ+ on Thursday, April 23, 2015

Look here.
Measured calm.
"How do you feel, sir?"
The Swedish officers ask them.
Notice how they treat the perps with respect and concern.
They broke up this scuffle without the use of weapons, threats, injury, or ridicule.

This is my poem for today during ‪#‎NationalPoetryMonth‬. It is in the form of a "Fib" - or Fibonacci sequence poem. Thanks to Gregory K. Pincus for inventing the form. Thanks to these Swedish police for the simple, yet profound inspiration.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Stalker's Lament—sonnet #NationalPoetryMonth

"I Want You," the ballad of a creep, first debuted on this album.
Has anyone ever shown way too much interest in you? Has anyone ever treated you as an object rather than as a human?  Without going into the particulars, I can tell you that one such hollow manchild wanted me for his trinket. On a campus of thousands, he invaded my real estate. He routinely followed me into the dining hall and sat down next to me uninvited. He waited for me in the corridor to the restroom I used after Philosophy 101 each Tuesday and Thursday. Once, he crept out of some laurel hedges near the gym to surprise me. He crawled into the corner of my eye.

One night, while listening to the original Napoleon Dynamite in my (locked) dorm room,  "I Want You" came on for the millionth time. But I heard it for the first time.

Somehow this time I understood the desperate nature of the lyrics and how they eerily applied to this creepy dude. It finally clicked that his attentions were not indicative of affection. In fact, they were 180 degrees shy of respect and headed due north for danger. Stunned, I tried to shake him.

Remembering this, I imagined what the thoughts of today's paranoid obsessive freshman might look like in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet.* I don't know why. It just seemed like the thing to do.

Stalker's Lament

Why do I think to text you every day?
It is because you really should be here.
When I return, I'll make sure you will stay.
To lose you once again would tweak my fear.
Your face appears with every bud I smoke.
Your scent pervades each room like piny wood
you said goodbye 'for good' when we last spoke
you needed space and 'hoped I understood.'
I'll grasp the slippery string of your balloon
give up heart and soul as weights for ballast
Don't float away; I'll pluck you from the moon
and claw you back to Earth with fingers calloused.
You disappeared as quickly as a dream.
I'll capture you in videos I stream.

*Shakespearean sonnets are insanely fun to write (not only when writing from the vantage point of a disturbed mind!)  14 lines composed of three quatrains and a rhyming couplet. Iambic pentameter. The couplet often serves as an epiphany. It usually arrives in the form of a conclusion, amplification, or even refutation of the previous three stanzas. Write one and pretend you're the Bard himself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No Soliciting—a roundel #NationalPoetryMonth

Darn! This item is no longer available.
Do any of you have "No Soliciting" signs by your front door? If yes, are they effective? Do they serve to repel all those who would have you buy whatever it is they are selling? Does the sign work like garlic on vampires, or do people ignore it and ring your bell anyway?

I've got to confess: I'm horrible about turning people away. When we were younger and (slightly) more gullible, my spouse and I threw cash at many a stranger thinking we could return to our dinners faster this way.

If you look up "idiot compassion" in a Buddhist dictionary, you'll see our pictures sketched there, WSJ-style.

We need to remedy this. I've been leading on some poor Jehovah's Witnesses for years, simply because I don't have the heart to tell women my grandmother's age that I'm not interested.

Please tell me that if I purchase a sign, I will make my problem disappear.

In the meantime, I wrote this roundel* that exposes me for the cranky hermit that I am.

No Soliciting

Who's at the door? Is it the mailman?
No. It's the Jesus freaks with their lore.
Damn! They've been knocking since time began!
Who's at the door

but righteous marms with pamphlets that bore
me, telling me God favors their clan.
I should just say, "Don't come anymore!"

What if my home had a stronger floor plan?
A parapet from which I could pour
boiling oil! Wrong, but not much worse than
who's at the door.

*A roundel is an 11-line poem. 9 lines have the same number of syllables, plus two refrains; one after the third line and the other after the last line. The refrain must be identical with the beginning of the first line. It may be a half-line, and it rhymes with the second line. Roundels have three stanzas and the following rhyme scheme: ABAR; BAB; ABAR, where R is the refrain.

Do you have a roundel you'd like to share with me? Short of that, how about an effective sign suggestion? I'll gladly take either! Oh my god- I'm soliciting you for poems and sign suggestions. Oh, my hypocrisy! Sigh. (I promise I won't knock on your door, though.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Swill Ghazal #NationalPoetryMonth

Image from Brainless Tales by Marcus
Water is the stuff of life, and, in order to grow up, you have to absorb as much as you can. But not too much. Everything in moderation. I had to play with this apparent contradiction—this conceit— and what better form than the ghazal?*

Swill Ghazal

 Two sisters drenched and laughing together, side by side, step
forth knee-deep, splash each other giggling, wading in lock-step.

Toasting, fumbling, storytelling, guzzling life together—
eyes smiling, voices harmonizing, immersed step-by-step.

Bodies steeping, marinating, swapping boys like clothing;
bobbing along, the frequent slip-up, the clumsy half-step.

Does one leap forth on paths, more carefree with a buoyant gait
and the other trawl her feet with caution, plant every step?

Who's to say? At the end of the day, one of them has sunk
but this beloved still treads somehow, despite each misstep.

*Ghazal, in English, is roughly pronounced "guzzle." According to, this intricate, musical form with five to fifteen couplets originates from 7th century Arabia. From there, it traveled to Persia, India, and all points west and everywhere. Ghazals traditionally invoke love, melancholy, longing, and metaphysical questions. Each couplet works on its own structurally, thematically, and emotionally. each line is the same length, but meter is not necessary in English ghazals. The first couplet begins a scheme, made up of a rhyme or repeated end word used as a refrain. Subsequent couplets repeat the refrain in the second line. The final couplet usually includes the poet's signature, referring to the author either in the first or third person. It typically includes the poet's own name or a derivation of its meaning.

Beware: ghazals are habit-forming puzzles, worse than crosswords, Words with Friends, Bejeweled, or what have you. Don't believe me? Try one. You'll see what I mean when you look up from your pen and paper five hours later, wondering what the hell happened to your day.

If you do try one, be a dear and post it here to share, won't you?

And if you're in search of inspiration and want to see modern mastery of the English ghazal form, search no further.  Click here and here and prepare to be blown away by the works of Patricia Smith and Natasha Trethewey.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Between - free verse #NationalPoetryMonth

My baby cares for babies now.
Damn, I'm tired. The teen and the 'tween finally hit the sheets. I'm ready for sleep before they are. Or at least I'm able to admit how zonked I am.

When they were babies, we would tuck them in and watch a movie together before bed. Now that one is taller than I am and the other is borrowing my clothes, we go to bed and then they watch a movie.

I served dinner at 4:30 this evening. (Early bird special, anyone?)

The bottom line is: we're all aging at an astonishing rate.

Here's a poem I wrote about watching my daughter grow before my eyes over the course of a 120-minute feature film.


Asleep on the couch next to your father
during Skyfall
I watched you alternate between
infancy and
from one breath
to the next.
On each inhale,
the curves of your face, convex,
shrink-wrapped the arch of your bones.
On each exhale,
you were swaddled in soft cheeks again.

What has grown before your very eyes? Are you tired? Want to answer one or both of these questions in the form of a poem? Share it with me in the comments. Thanks, and good night!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The One Who Sleeps Beside Me—a villanelle #NationalPoetryMonth

A live wire in the morning, he crashes by mid-day?
This villanelle* is for Jason, my in-house artist, who works tirelessly each day but still manages to wake up whistling and ready to entertain.  Inspired by Allison Joseph's prompt: "Write a poem about someone or something your speaker loves so much or feels so strongly about he or she is willing to get up early for it."

The One Who Sleeps Beside Me

On mornings when the sun can't find me
through the clouds amidst the grey
I find the one who sleeps beside me

watch him breathe and let him be
my lover at the break of day
on mornings when the sun can't find me.

Under covers, he lays dreaming
soon he'll leave, to my dismay.
I spoon the one who sleeps beside me—

wrap my arms around him, wondering
why he still decides to stay
on mornings when the sun can't find me

when my mood feels paralyzing
he wakes and prods me into play.
I find the one who sleeps beside me

brighter than that solar orb, glowing
warmth, he radiates and lights my way
on mornings when the sun can't find me
I thank the one who sleeps beside me.

*So, what's a villanelle? It's a fairly structured 19-line poem, with two repeating lines and two refrains. Villanelles are five tercets (three-line stanzas) followed by a closing quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the starting tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the remaining tercets and in the final quatrain, serve as the last two lines.  Here's the rhyme form, if you're curious: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2. The capitals indicate the refrains. The two rhymes are either A/a or b. 

Make sense?


Then check out my poem with the rhyme form next to it. (Note: I took liberties.) 

A1  On mornings when the sun can't find me      
   b  through the clouds amidst the grey
A2  I find the one who sleeps beside me

a    watch him breathe and let him be
b    my lover at the break of day
A1  on mornings when the sun can't find me.

a     Under covers, he lays dreaming
b     soon he'll leave, to my dismay.
A2  I spoon the one who sleeps beside me—

a     wrap my arms around him, wondering
b     why he still decides to stay
A1  on mornings when the sun can't find me

a     when my mood feels paralyzing
b     he wakes and prods me into play.
A2  I find the one who sleeps beside me

a     brighter than that solar orb, glowing
b     warmth, he radiates and lights my way
A1  on mornings when the sun can't find me
A2  I thank the one who sleeps beside me.

Try it. You'll like it! And post it here in the comments for me to read and enjoy. Thanks!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Masters of their crafts—two etherees #NationalPoetryMonth

This book can change parents!
Each year, I read a freight truck full of picture books.  I head straight to the Rose Room when I enter Powell's. There, I pick recommendations off the shelves, plop down at the wooden kiddie tables, and explore that fertile backyard where words marry pictures and make babies together.

Like all babies, picture books are perfect. And like all babies, everyone feels the need to weigh in on how best to raise them. Everyone seems to know the only way to make the best ones, and they will not hesitate to tell you the ways in which author/illustrators succeed or fail.

And like child rearing methods, The Rules on how to best make picture books seem irrefutable. Until, of course, they change over time. Public opinion swerves and swims in synchronicity like schools of barracuda.

Today, everyone knows that picture books writers should use words sparingly. Everyone knows that illustrators must fill each page with lush color. It is understood that the protagonist must be a child (or child-like, anthropomorphic animal or ugly-cute monster).  And most important, the protagonist must grow and change from start to finish. These are the current cardinal rules, and they have been for some time.

But God—how I love the rule breakers!

Ruth Krauss was one such mess maker. Like Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon), she worked on her craft at the Bank Street College of Education Writers Lab. She published at least thirty picture books, none of them formulaic, each one different from the last, and all of them questioned by those in the know, namely marketing departments. Krauss's editor Ursula Nordstrom staunchly defended her ability to morph her style and concepts so completely from one book to another, and groomed marketers to pitch her genius to booksellers.

Krauss was a master of her craft. Of all her works, The Carrot Seed is my favorite. Her husband Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon) illustrated this timeless story about a boy who plants a seed and knows it will grow, despite the naysayers who tell him otherwise.

Krauss didn't make the boy change. She didn't even make the naysayers change. All that changed in the story was that carrot seed. It changed into a plant with a giant orange edible root.

But outside of the story? Every time I read that book to children, I change.

A switch flicks on inside me and by the end, I am reminded that I should, at a minimum, allow room for children to experiment. Let them try things without telling them what I think will happen.

Furthermore, like Beverly Cleary has said about children's stories, we shouldn't expect kids to ruminate on themes when they read. They should just be allowed to enjoy them. I agree with her entirely. When I read and re-read The Carrot Seed as a child, I didn't change at all or ponder the meaning of the tale. I simply loved the fact that the boy in the story had been right all along.

So, inspired by the works that Ruth Krauss and other rule breakers have given to children here's an etheree* to ward off formulaic publishing in kid lit.

Picture Books

are not—
never  were—
stories for children.
Don't make kids grow faster
than they need to. Don't force them.
Don't press them to give away things
that comfort them, that lull them to sleep.
It's the parents who must grow from these tales.

I'm lucky to have Judi Korpi Webb join me in this exploration of both etheree and masters of their craft. Judi is not only a poet but also a professional ASL (American Sign Language Interpreter.) She was inspired to write a poem about her hero, the legendary interpreter and master of her craft, Sharon Neumann Solow.

An etheree after being in the presence of an interpreting legend
Show what you know
Not scared, excited
Sharon Neumann Solow
Be genuinely joyful
How can you thank us? We thank you!
Legendary and approachable
We see ourselves reflected in your eyes

*An etheree is an unrhymed, unmetered 10-line poem, in ascending syllable format, from one syllable to ten. Like a cinquain, there's limited real estate in which to construct your message. Want to give it a try? Share it with me in the comments. Thanks!

Judi Korpi Webb with her hero, Sharon Neumann Solow

Friday, April 17, 2015

Event Horizon and Sunset— two monodies, free verse and rondel. #NationalPoetryMonth

Now showing at OMSI!
 I am a science nerd.  If I'm vacationing somewhere and someone utters the words "science museum," I'll be on my phone checking hours, locations, and convenient bus routes to get us there. I don't need a reason to visit hallowed halls of geekdom and discovery, but if pressed, I can lay down a solid argument and can persuade most naysayers to go with me and get their hands stamped at the door.

In Portland, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI is a go-to destination for stay-at-home parents and toddlers. Intriguingly, it has also become evening headquarters for the mingling hipster crowd, with After Dark and Science Pub nights serving up locally brewed microbeers and sustainable food coupled with "child-free, brain-building science fun!" So, there's a chance you'll learn something and get laid that night. How many venues can boast that?

What's not to love?

Plus, did someone mention laser light shows? And while we're at it, the last time I took advantage of my membership and got free tickets to OMSI's Kendall Planetarium, my favorite Irish actor narrated the content. I found myself sitting in the dark, feeling all science-y and yet emotional as well. I thought of how Liam Neeson tragically lost his wife Natasha Richardson six years ago and marveled at how he has kept going strong, despite an irreparable change in the fabric of his life. Then I thought of someone I have lost. We were once described as "twin stars."  In a flash, she was gone and I fell out of orbit. But like NASA's mission to redirect lone asteroids in space and train them to circle the moon, good folks have helped me form new trajectory. I thought of this, smiled, and kicked back to enjoy the screening.  Which doesn't mean I've forgotten her. When I got home, I wrote this monody.*

Event Horizon

In the planetarium
Liam Neeson's dulcet tones
explained the fourth dimension
while colorful CG explosions juxtaposed
with Einstein cameos flashed overhead.
For some, black holes confound
but I know first-hand
that a supernova can light up a galaxy
and immolate it all at once.
That her gravity can become so dense
so intense
that she rips the spacetime fabric
in ways that can never be mended.

 -Amy Baskin

Judi contributed this moving rondel that also doubles as a monody, for it laments the death of her childhood home, which, though arguably a place, takes on the feeling of a treasured person, lost. and mourned.

The sight of the house
Is where I catch my breath
Barren rooms, and an aura of death
Pervade this nineteenth century farmhouse

This fire will not be doused
Furious flames bring a warriors death
The sigh of the house
Is where I catch my breath

Falling tears, soaking my blouse
So much more than the cemetery, this is the death
Blazing, scorching heat, smoldering aftermath
We popped champagne and toasted our house
The site of the house
Is where I catch my breath

-Judi Korpi Webb

*A monody is simply a poem lamenting someone's death. Short but sweet, or bittersweet as the case may be. Got one? Or perhaps an ode to OMSI? Want to share it? If you do, I'll read it. Or, if Judi's poem piqued your interest in rondels, try your hand at one. I wrote some guidelines for rondels here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Minute Poem Madness! Mine, and a contribution from Judi Korpi Webb #NationalPoetryMonth

My Blues needs to have things spelled out, like Marvin K.
Have you ever let yourself luxuriate in your own tear bath? I'm not talking clinical depression here, I'm talking about wallowing in your own worries just a tad past what might be appropriate.

Well, I have. I admit it. I typically indulge on those grey steel-cold days, when I should give myself a kickstart with a some hard-core yoga but end up climbing back in bed once the kids have headed off to school.

Hey- I'm not proud to divulge this lesser side of me, but mistakes have been made! I thought of those occasions last week when Allison Joseph posted this prompt:
-->"Write a poem in which 'the blues' shows up, hangs out, gets to know you, and then just up and leaves." So I wrote a little minute poem about one of those times. I pictured "The Blues" as a leech in the vein of Dr. Seuss' Marvin K. Mooney who just won't take the hint that it's time to leave until you lay it plain and in no uncertain terms. Take a hike, Blues!

The Blues

The Blues showed up to hang with me
and helped me see
that I'd been blind
and way too kind.

He smoked and drank me through his funk,
which kind of stunk.
I cleaned his mess
settled for less—

and coddled him, this grownup kid
then flipped my lid
and Blues walked out.
He was a lout.

-Amy Baskin

I just can't get enough of the minute poem form. It looks straightforward and simple, but when I get playing with it, it feels more like one of those brainteaser puzzles left out to confuzzle patrons at science museums. Luckily, I've found out that Judi Korpi Webb is another puzzler worthy of the minute poem challenge. Read this and feel invigorated! Luxuriate in Judi's energy and her beautiful use of the form. Then head to yoga!

Minute Poem for a Three Hour Class
Reclaim! And don't look back. Photo credits to my favorite yoga studio.

The glassed-in room lets us see all
The raindrops fall
Sun-dappled trees
Wave in the breeze

The energy flows up and in
Through rainbow skin
Breathe in, feeling
Earth is healing

What are these chakras you speak of?
Which one is love?
Fanning the flame
Power, reclaim

-Judi Korpi Webb

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where is your "down below?" Here are ours in free and echo verse. #NationalPoetryMonth

Ouija Séance scene in Downton Abbey
One Christmas, years before Downton Abbey summoned the dead down in the servant's quarters, my mother thought it would be fun to speak through a medium.

She paid for me and my sister to join her and boy! did I learn a lot.

Our well-paid channeler notified us that many spirits had joined us in the room, including at least three we knew intimately. These spirits offered much insight and many disclosures, three of which I will share with you now:

1) It was high time to paint the walls and install new carpets in my childrens' bedroom,
2) My son loved fins and scales and would benefit from an aquarium, and
3) In past lives, I had been both a nun and a librarian.


Truth be told, the medium was "dead-on" about at least two of the three revelations. I went home and redecorated the nursery. Also, my son asked for a freshwater tank. A decade has passed and his nickname is "Fish." While I can neither confirm nor deny the psychic's third communication, my mother is certain that I gave her ample clues with which to divine my fondness for books and religion. "It's your wardrobe, Amy! She just looked at how you dress and made an educated guess."

Ouch—nice rap on the knuckles!

Yesterday, Allison Joseph challenged us to "write a poem about something that takes place 'down below': in a basement, cellar, tunnel, etc. My mind skipped and jumped from Downton Abbey's Christmas séance to my own and then trailed deeper into the depths. I imagined a curious teen creeping down to a musty basement, lit with one swinging incandescent bulb. She dusts off an old work table, lays out the ouija board, gingerly touches the planchette and has a conversation with someone she knows. Her quest appeared to me in echo verse form.*

Ouija Séance

Can you join me at this table?
Are you in here?
If you're with me, please speak.
Can you tell me things I need to know?
Why? Do you think that's selfish?
Don't you love me?
Love me.
This feels creepy and insane.
What should I do with all the thoughts I think?
I can't believe I'm talking to a ghost.
What's that supposed to mean?
I don't understand.
How do I really know it's you?
It's you.

Got a subterranean tale to tell? How about an echo verse? Share them with me here, please!

 *Echo verse is a type of poem that uses repetition of a first line in a second, imitating an echo. The repetition can be the last syllable, word, or words of the previous line, and plays with and twists the meaning. Echo verses aren't that common these days, but in 16th and 17th century England and France, they were all the rage. Check out George Herbert's poem "Heaven"and Jonathan Swift's "a Gentle Echo on Woman."

Here's an update!
Judi Korpi Webb took Allison's "down below" prompt to geologic depths. After I read this, my knuckles and knees felt scraped up and I had to take a few big, full breaths. Go grab your headlamp and read this. Go ahead. You'll see what I mean.

Ape Caves

Sunny and warm under a dazzling blue sky
The disfigured mountain is glimpsed over the treetops
We breathe in the scent of hot dry pine needles
Our yearly adventure into the past begins

The descent on rickety stairs into the caves
Forty-four degrees overcomes us, we shiver
Flashlights only just pierce the darkness
Lanterns required!
The hiss of the kerosene accompanies us on our excursion

The lower caves are uneven underfoot
Spacious and grand overhead
Gently sloping deeper into the earth
Voices of fellow travelers echo around bends
The flicker of lanterns, ahead and behind
The tunnel diminishes to almost nothing
We crawl in the crushed lava,
making ourselves smaller
Then turn around, making our way
Back to the light

Anxiety-inducing upper caves
We resisted for years
Finally, daring to enter
Piles upon piles of fallen lava, boulders
Crawling, careful in the darkness
Treacherous gaps often unseen.
The lantern can blind
Remembering to breathe
Under the mountain, this path slopes upward
Here and there, a tight squeeze
The Wall.
Teamwork is crucial
All are bruised and scraped after clumsily clambering

A break in the ceiling(ground?)
Sheds light into darkness
A riot of color in the gloom
There is no turning back
Onward we go

An old weathered ladder leads up through the earth
Hand over hand, suddenly
I feel the heat
My feet are still in the cold
I pause for but a moment
We emerge victorious
Into the sunlight and familiar world
Breathing deeply, faces turned skyward
Got a subterranean tale of your own to tell? Share it with me in the comments. Thanks!