Last night it teemed with rain, now the garden fence steams in the morning sun.
That fence has been there oscillating between disrepair and repair since we moved in.
The posts are the weak points, when you dig down the ground teems with wood bugs and weevils gorging on that succulent cedar.
The garden shed is also cedar. One summer, a family of skunks made their home underneath it. They would regularly strut across the lawn in single file father, mother and two young skunks tails cocked, sphincters primed afraid of nothing or no one. I wrote a haiku about them and then when they were no longer of literary value I spread moth balls all around the entrance to their hole, an internet remedy which did not work. It’s a tad quixotic or ironic or both, isn’t it, trying to use smell to get rid of skunks.
All that summer as we sat drinking on the deck and the evening sun warmed the cedar shed, the odour of skunk and moth balls that naphthalene-mercaptan cocktail would hit us in gusts, in waves like halitosis at a party and inevitably, invariably I would turn to anyone within boring distance and say, as our noses twitched in disgust, “Isn’t nature marvelous? Isn’t nature marvelous?”
For this week’s challenge, TEEM. Write a poem that introduces the reader to the environment you live in –a landscape shaped by time with a culturally diverse ecosystem (with human, animal and non-animal elements). Widen the focus, deepen the gaze and green the voice. Be wild. Gallop and fly and dive a textures of suburban spring afternoon. Language is your friend and opponent here: be florid and peculiar but particular. What is in the petri dish of the verse-captured moment that undulates and cavorts and cha-cha-chas at the end?
The great TS Eliot once wrote:”April is the cruelest month”. I’m not one to make facile connections but April is also National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo which is about as un-poetic as an acronym can get and now….
poets are dutifully posting a poem a day the blogosphere is loud with words like babble, ripple, burble, unfurl glow, glitter, shine, glisten winds are blowing suns are setting dawns are breaking waves are crashing on every available shore and birds, yes, birds are chirping, trilling, twittering, even singing, nature is under siege; but I have to admit I’m not up to it I don’t have the diligence, the discipline the creative bandwidth besides it’s the second day of April and I’m one day behind already nothing constipates a poet like a deadline.
Versions of this poem appear every year around this time
dogs and trees dogs and trees free jazz, jazz for free, the
bass player leans like a drunk around a lamp post.
After hearing this one, I asked Slim if he found this verse form, this 3 syllable line too confining. Did he not want to escape its shackles and roam free, go for 5, 6 syllables or even stretch a line across the width of the page. “Au contraire”, he said. He actually said that, “au contraire”, which I thought was a bit effete, a bit foppish for a bald guy of his heft, his corpulence.
“Au contraire, in fact I find it liberating to escape the tyranny of free verse, the endless decisions – upper case, lower case, line length, is it really a poem or is it just chopped up prose, if I am writing a poem about a flower, should the poem be in the shape of a flower, should I rhyme or not rhyme, what is doggerel anyway? This is like fundamentalism, religion, the boundaries are clearly defined, this far and no further, you have 12 syllables per verse, make the best of it!”
Well, that answer was a bit more than I needed or wanted, if I owned a watch I would have been looking at it.
“Got to go, Slim” I said.
“Hang on” he said, “I am feeling a vague fin de saison ennui, a certain je ne sais quoi and I have this urge to use every hackneyed French phrase I know in a pathetic attempt to sound world-weary, like I’m sitting in an outdoor café, a scarf knotted at my neck, smoking a Gitane and nursing an existential crisis, out on
a rain swept pier, a lone tourist bends to the wind.”
Bono, Paul name those streets it’s time it’s time.
Mr. Joyce, James yes, that sea still tightens the scrotum.
Mr. Beckett, Sam we’re waiting we’re waiting we’re waiting
Mr. O’Brien, Flann, Myles of the Little Horses this is not about a bicycle. My dad once told me you were a regular on the last bus out of the city, heading home to Booterstown langered, stotious, three sheets to the wind whether this was an observation or a judgement or an exaggeration I could never quite figure but if you should meet my dad in that section of heaven reserved for former residents of South Dublin please say hi from me and I hope it’s always late June up there and the evening is stretching its legs and the light is like filtered longing.
today I remembered limbo you can’t stand too far from the track
the first line is about memory the second is a disconnected fact
Bob Dylan mentions Rimbaud Van Morrison does too
today I remembered limbo Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus
existential boogie do that existential thing been waiting for that vaccine summer, autumn, winter, spring
if you’re looking for an answer don’t ask Albert Camus
that dude’s been dead a long time he can’t tell you what to do
and old Rene Descartes he said I think therefore I am
well I call that a beginning I don’t call that a plan
waiting for that vaccine waiting to cut loose hit me with your best shot of that antiviral juice
Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer I don’t need no appetizer hit me with your best shot of that antiviral juice
Over at earthweal, Brendan asks in reference to the pandemic “What tools in the poetic repertoire are there for describing and naming and calibrating it?” A good question!
This poem is adapted from two other poems – ‘Limbo Blues’ and ‘Existential Boogie’. So the form I picked is a sort of mutating blues and humour is a part of my poetic repertoire (although not everyone might agree ), so I used that!
(Episode 1 is here) The following is a memory and like all memories it’s under constant revision. What’s significant I think is that it was the first time I realized that Slim was taking this whole slimverse thing a bit more seriously than I was. As I remember it……..
I invited Slim and the rest of The Poet’s Circle over for a few drinks to celebrate something, I can’t quite remember what it was and to be honest, it doesn’t matter. The evening began relatively smoothly with an intense discussion about accessibility (no surprises there) and I made an emotional speech about the end rhymes in Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne”. The conversation moved on to verse forms – cinquains, tankas, sestinas, halibuns, what happens if one turns a haiku upside down -fascinating stuff. Then Slim chimed in and asked where our own invention, the slimverse, fitted in to this pantheon. There was an awkward silence. Eventually, The Accomplished Poet spoke up. I should add that he is indeed accomplished and his compact vivid poems, mostly about his garden, have been widely published. He politely suggested that perhaps a 3 syllable line was too limiting, that making poetic music with such a restriction is quite difficult. Now there was another kind of silence, the kind that ensues when a lion tamer drops his whip. Slim said quietly “fuck you and your fucking garden” and aimed a punch at The Accomplished Poet’s head, who, perhaps because of all that work in the garden, is quite agile. He ducked Slim’s punch and kicked him adroitly in the crotch. When the applause died down and Slim could speak again, he uncharacteristically apologized and gave The Accomplished Poet a hug, a doubtful pleasure given Slim’s personal hygiene issues. The evening ended on a happy note with a raucous rendition of “Suzanne”, everyone hitting the end rhymes hard. Later that night Slim and I wrote the above poem which stretched the slimverse form to two verses. History in the making.
Looking back now to 2016 when the above was written, it’s hard to believe that slimverse was once an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. Now, it’s 2021, year 2 in the age of Covid and slimverse is, well, still an obscure 12 syllable (3-3-3-3) verse form, standing in the shadow of its older sibling, the seventeen syllable (5-7-5) haiku. The above masterpiece was composed by Slim (Volume) and I in the early hours of the morning following “the Poet’s Circle” Christmas Party which was held at the Accomplished Poet’s house. It was a fun-filled night of poetic over-indulgence and excess. The Accomplished Poet (an avid gardener) read a poem about pruning as a metaphor for the editing process involved in writing a poem, it was tortuous but accomplished. The Upper Case Poet had a minor shoving match with our newest and youngest member, the editor of an edgy E-zine called “Capslock Off” – no prizes for guessing what the argument was about. Slim hung around the buffet all night like a dog that had come across a bag of pork chops while walking in the woods, then later insisted that he had an invented a new word : “tumultaneous” – when tumultuous events occur simultaneously. He was met with benign indifference. But that was all back when Slim and I were in each other’s pockets before our estrangement, our parting of the ways, but more about that later…….
Taking part in Open Link Weekend over at earthweal
thousands of turtles are stunned by the cold off the Texas Coast, the lights go out, the lone star flickers, Republicans tilt at windmills. Ted Cruz flees to Mexico but returns prematurely after a less than excellent adventure chastened, but still oilier than thou.
The challenge over at dverse is to write a 44 word poem (quadrille) incorporating the word “go”.
there’s a crow black against the snow pecking at a lime green plastic egg down by Jericho Beach Park
the egg will not crack
frustrated, the crow grabs the egg in its beak flies to the top of a tree drops the egg and flies back down to check its status the crow repeats this sequence a number of times
the egg will not crack
the lifetime of a crow is approximately eight years the lifetime of a lime green plastic egg is approximately five hundred years
the egg, therefore, will outlast the crow the best we can hope for is that the crow is laying down some kind of evolutionary marker one that establishes for future crows that not all objects shaped like eggs are actual eggs
a woman scurries by wearing a long black hooded coat the hood obscures her face she appears to be on an urgent mission
the crow turns from the egg and cackles: Where’s your scythe, Mrs. Death, where’s your scythe? You can’t do grim, if you don’t have a sickle if you don’t have a scythe. Where’s your scythe, Mrs. Death, where’s your scythe?
the only one between me and the magaleptic mob, a zaftig army in dollar store camouflage, is Mike Pence
their fists are raised to the spacious skies there’s spittle on their lips anger and atavism in their eyes
this does not bother me a rock hits the wrought iron gate behind me this also does not bother me I’m staring into an open cooler containing ten tall cans of craft pale ale and a bag of frozen shrimp and I can see that the ice is melting way faster than I expected this bothers me
Go through the gate, Mike yells Go through the gate But Mike, I reply, I need more ice for the shrimp! Forget the fucking shrimp, Mike yells Go through the gate and I’m thinking, Mrs. Pence would not like that kind of language
I look down at the shrimp and imagine them curled and pink on my plate with a dash of soy a dash of sriracha another rock hits the wrought iron gates they swing open onto a long driveway that leads up to a large mansion which I know in the strange logic of dreams is a house of consequence I know this is the house of Richard Nixon
I turn to Mike who is bleeding from the forehead and clutching the nuclear football like a quarterback waiting for someone to run a pattern and I say Hey Mike, I wonder if Mr. Nixon has a freezer.
Oh. the herring were running wild and fast as we sailed out from St. John and the cod were plump as Mary’s arse on a Sunday morning after early mass with sausages on the griddle-o and rashers in the pan whack fol de diddle dairy oh whack fol de diddle dan.
These lines were randomly composed while listening to a band from the Maritimes in the Dubh Linn Gate Pub, Whistler, British Columbia. There were twenty additional verses, but they got lost on the way back to the hotel, as did I.
that familiar ache in the western sky the sun, a bawling fire
like a jack from a box a memory springs
there’s a grand stretch to the evenings my mother would say in Spring.
Over at earthweal, Sarah Connor, asks us to celebrate Imbolc
“Today, I want to think about Imbolc. Traditionally celebrated at the start of February, Imbolc is a festival of new life and new beginnings. The name derives from “in the belly” — the first stirrings of life, seeds starting to sprout. In Northern Europe the days are starting to lengthen. Lambs and calves are starting to be born. Snowdrops are appearing, and buds are swelling in the hedgerows. It’s a time when my stride starts to lengthen and my shoulders go back a little. The darkness of winter is starting to lift. Everything is trembling on the brink of the explosion of life that is spring”
This a a rewrite of an older poem, which I couldn’t get right, so it’s a new beginning and it references Spring and springs.
Over at earthweal, the challenge is to write a poem about Deep Time. This is a poem about a place where time is deep and the air is thin.
The Sun God
Myron volunteered once
as a caretaker on an island
in the middle of a lake
in the High Andes
North of Puno,
The top of the island
was as flat as an anvil
and every day
he would climb up there
from his lake side cottage
to study the funerary towers
over on the mainland,
using his large binoculars.
It was never quite clear to Myron
what exactly he was taking care of.
He had a house,
a dread-locked alpaca
and three guinea pigs.
The guinea pigs were housed in a wired compound,
inside the compound was a miniature mud hut
with a thatched roof
and three open doorways
which the guinea pigs retreated through
every time he approached.
perhaps he was supposed to eat the guinea pigs
it was clear that they thought this also.
Located close to the funerary towers
were the remains of an Inca temple
worshipping the Sun God,
at that time in his life
Myron was losing faith in atheism
and the Inca worship of the sun god
had a certain logic to it.
Without the sun where are we?
Where are we, indeed!
He wasn’t overly keen on human sacrifice
but he had to admit that the Incas
dealt with the blood well,
channels and drainage being an Inca thing,
knowledge they acquired along the way.
and so it goes forever.
Myron thought he would use this time to write
but mostly he sat looking at a blank page
listening to the tinnitus in his left ear roar
and in the absence of his fellow human beings
he began to think that the alpaca was judging him,
the way it stared at him from under its matted fringe
and down its long nose.
One night he found himself shouting abuse at the alpaca.
The next day he left for Puno
and got drunk on gassy lager
in a pizzeria on the ragged, dusty town square