This is the latest addition to the mural on my bedroom wall. The griffin is from Greece! Rome! Monsters! - written by John Harris with fantastic illustrations by Calef Brown. I talk to him more than I’d like to admit; he gives me career advice.
Archive for February, 2012
Another writing prompt from Dr. T: “When I was in the Underworld…”
Most women remember someone telling them – a mother, a friend, a friend’s mother – how it is always important to leave the house in underwear you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have cut off you if you were ever in an accident. Such a strange world we live in. Of course, I had to write a poem about it.
Here is UNDERWEAR FOR THE AFTERLIFE…
“Before getting into a car, dear,
Always make sure, have a care
Your underwear is clean and decent;
You never know when you might be in an accident,
Pinned to a tree with the wheels still spinning,
Still turning with the car sideways in the ditch
Or flipped over a cliff.
You never know when an
Eligible bachelor, maybe one of those
Brave Blue-Suited Firemen or Paramedics
Might have to use the Jaws of Life
To cut you from the wreckage.
And even if your friend is dead
And spread along the highway in bits,
Limbs in the thickets and drainage ditches,
Her limp body slung over the center divider-
You never know when
They might still have to cut your clothes off YOU;
You know how hard it is,
When the blood and gravel mix in
With glass shards in your skin,
To get the clothes off to check
For further injuries.
So, my dear, have a care what you wear –
No teddies made of gummy bears
No rubber-studded negligees,
No Superhero lingerie or
Or chocolate covered bustiers
No furry thongs, no leather belts
No corsets made of weasel pelts
No babydolls, no black silk slips
No paste-on cups in the shape of lips
No super-conducting underwire
No French Maid or High School Nurse attire
No garter belts or Union suits
No bloomers made from parachutes–
Because, wouldn’t it be a shame
For some handsome ambulance driver
With a steady job, a promising future,
To find you caught so ill-prepared,
Wearing the wrong sort of underwear?”
When I was in the Underworld,
Even with my chattering teeth
And my blood as cold as ice,
I remembered her strange advice:
“You know it’s never what’s outside that counts
But the person underneath!
If you want to catch a decent man,
Dear, stick to cotton briefs.”
For the most part, I love to read and write poetry that can be read aloud. We are reading Billy Collins’ Ballistics in my poetry class at the moment. I have listened to many recordings of Collins reading his work; he has a totally deadpan delivery, which works well with his style of writing. Collins really loves to play with words and language; I understand his humor and playfulness have hurt him in some circles, circles I will try hard to avoid.
In the spirit of playfulness, the following is a murder mystery set in the California wine country in an historically ambiguous and rustic past. The clues are in the homophones.
This week our prompt was “I sailed the Seven Seas long before you were born.” I was thrilled to have a reason to use my favorite treasury of words: The Sailor’s Word-Book. It’s available as a free download through Project Gutenberg.
I sailed upon the Seven Seas
Long afore ye were ever born
‘Til I were caught up by th’aigre
On a bitter Jan’ry morn.
We passed the weary hebber-man
Until we’d reached the Main;
Into heaving waters La Sirena went
And she were ne’er seen agin.
“Luff and touch her!” cried the captain.
Did by the westward drift we blow
Towards black alligator waters
Where the mangrove fingers grow.
The branches ripped the ragged sails,
The roots tore at the hull,
And drew us down into the swampy
Where we be a’waitin’ still.
When the water’s calm and the moon a’full
Glowing coldy through the moss,
We raise the ghost of La Sirena
And sing of loved ones we have lost.
I sailed upon the Seven Seas
Long afore ye were ever born;
I left you sleepin’ at my Mary’s breast
On that bitter Jan’ry morn.
Every week we are given three writing prompts in class, and we have to do a “timed write” for ten minutes. Usually these prompts are pretty strange. Oddly enough, with the exception of one, all of my (very few) published poems have been freewrites; this is probably because the prompts are so weird and I’m forced to use new materials to construct the poem. Here are a few examples of past prompts: “When I was in the Underworld,” “The King said once again,” “At the edge of the continent,” etc. Last week our prompt was “At the Quotidian Inferno.”
I happen to love Dante’s Inferno, but I have to admit to having horrible nightmares after re-reading bits and pieces of the cantos, especially the ones with hybrids. I suspect Dante might have suffered a psychic break of some sort to commit these vivid images to words. And, yet again, he’d never seen Las Vegas.
Waiting at the fiery gates
of The Quotidian Inferno,
our guide is a Greek in vintage Pumas.
Says he goes by P. V. Maro.
He’s got something to show us.
“Nine levels of scary, a dark wood and
a Satanic freak show at the end.
Don’t worry about the pets, they don’t bite.
I know the way through the joint,
up to a point. Or down to one.
It’s bigger than the Mall of America,
And darker than the Chunnel Tunnel.”
Even if it smells of sorrow and rotten luck,
your curiosity overtakes you.
“For a few bucks,” says our guide,
“Get a personal, behind the scenes tour
of the garden of earthly delights!
A carnal carnival, a dark themed park–
centaurs stand knee-deep
in the shallow rapids of bloody rivers
among the bobbing heads of murderers
to ensure their suffering is eternal.
It scares the stuff out of the living,”
says P.V. Maro with the vintage Pumas.
“At the Sinner’s Apothecary, one can find
remedies for dropsy, drops for Gluttony
cooling agents for Lust, elixirs for Avarice,
leeches for Usury, placebos for Fraud
snake oil for Greed and a stinging nettle
mouthwash, special-made for Heresy.
In the Quotidian Inferno Funhouse
you can walk across burning sands,
confess to the Harpies all of your
marital indiscretions; your own
Congressman is shaking hands
at the Lake of Boiling Pitch, where his
molasses fingers trade in sticky secrets.”
Sensing the sale was going nowhere,
P.V. Varo had a change of heart:
“There’s another joint across the strip–
if you want, half-way between here and
the Contrapasso, just past the Acheron–
The Garden Variety Paradise!
Nice place, good food, clean fun.
Funny,” he says, lighting a cigarette.
“but it never draws a crowd.”
Every semester my poetry prof. assigns something he calls a “fascination object” poem. In the past I have chosen things like a weathervane or a Jerusalem Cricket (aka potato bug); this time I chose a mirror. I found an Encyclopedia Brittanica entry on the history of mirrors – much is borrowed from that entry, so I guess this is really a found poem as well as a fascination object poem.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MIRRORS
Besides those sad tales of hardship – the ones
about covered wagons with busted wheels,
Indian wars, short grass prairies and dry wells–
most Texas stories involve beer and broken cars.
Standing two inches shy of five feet, my
grandmother Pixie wore horned-rim glasses,
kept her hair trimmed just over her ears
like it had been cut by fairies in a hurry.
Once, half-way home from Dumas about ninety miles
north of nowhere, Great Grandaddy’s beloved
lemon yellow Chevy Impala overheated,
stranding us on the iron skillet highway.
There we were: the shimmering asphalt mirages,
me and my sister (sticking to the beige vinyl),
panting cows behind barbed wire, a zillion grasshoppers,
Pixie, and a six-pack of Coors tall cans.
After an hour or so of waiting for help to arrive,
Pixie cracked a warm beer:
Well, cain’t hurt!
The whole time I’m thinking about serial killers
(I’d read about the Town That Dreaded Sundown),
or an eighteen-wheeler with bad brakes
or maybe never getting back to the ranch at all.
Had I known what courage it had taken to
weather the dust storms, with everything dying,
and that Great Plains sun blotted out,
how it filled their mouths, covered their blankets,
I might have worried less about
a poor Impala that couldn’t run.