Saturday, April 4, 2015

I, Unipiper - a rondel

I'll never forget the day in 2007 when I caught my first earful of The Imperial March played on bagpipes. I was walking down Hawthorne running errands. It was one of a slew of dreary, drippy spring days and both body and soul felt cold and damp, when suddenly a Celtic blast from behind warmed me up right quick. He sounded like Braveheart Meets the Death Star. Or Rob Roy Joins the Dark Side, on amphetamines. I took shelter in a doorway, worried that this boisterous Scot would single me out with his double-reed pipes and compel me to buy him haggis and a pint.

Then he rode right past me in his kilt and mask and I saw right away that he was using his powers for good.

If you live in Portland, you've seen and heard the Unipiper, too. He's upped his repertoire, retooled his pipes to shoot flames, and can now be witnessed pedaling and playing dressed as Gandalf, Santa Claus, a Redshirt or even a dragon from Game of Thrones. He's a local sensation, but entertains and bemuses nationwide as well. I think his first TV appearance was on Jimmy Kimmel.

He brightens my mood every time I'm lucky enough to stumble upon him on the street, in a parking lot, at the Rose Festival...

So yesterday, when Allison Joseph issued her challenge to write a poem 'from the point of view of someone wearing a disguise/costume/uniform, etc. in an unexpected place," I knew what to do.

Here's my rondel tribute to my favorite living Portland icon

I, Unipiper

Rolling down the road on Hawthorne
I pedal while I blast my pipes
I tune out all my neighbors' gripes
put on my Vader mask some morns,

ride on my wheel, though treads feel worn
dressed in my kilt despite mild snipes
rolling down the road on Hawthorne
I pedal while I blast my pipes.

My late night talk show act is born!
Portland is weird—believe the hype.
We welcome odd birds of all stripes
so hipsters might feel less forlorn!
Rolling down the road on Hawthorne
I pedal while I blast my pipes.

So, why a rondel? Well, rondels have a lovely circling set of refrains that feel to me like a rotating unicycle wheel It's an old French form that consists of 13 or 14 lines, two quatrains and either a quintet or a sestet, with open meter. The lines typically have 8 syllables, more or less. Here's the rhyme scheme: ABba abAB abbaA(B). The capital letters signify the refrains, or repeats.

Wanna try to write one? Share it here in the comments!

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