Wings (aka: Two Poems on a Winter’s Day)

Ode to a Caterpillar

 

Oh little caterpillar

who brought such color to the world!

How I remember

tiny fingers grasping

heavy Mason glass

swift

ready to catch, to observe

the free ones

the ones with wings

the ones who flew.

So much you learned, as you curled

safe

in your small, loved home

until today

fragile walls tearing loose

open crack of wide, wide blue

cupped in hands

to test new wings.

Oh butterfly

this world is yours.

caterpillar-to-butterfly

 

Night Angels

 

Eyes lifted toward darkened skies

strapped warm in leather womb

hushed voices mingle with

steady drone.

There I see it

flash of copper light

brief sight of wingless angel

flying in the night.

Warm sigh

fingers pressed, cold against glass

until

once more the darkness lifts

and angel glows.

One by one

on tall, steel legs

they dance

across the stars

halos burning in bronze glory

as my lashes droop

beneath watchful eyes.

street-lamps-shining

Three Poems on Tuesday

Fragile dawn

All the Things We Cannot Keep

Now I lay me down to sleep

dream of sunshine, little sheep

downy dandelion bed

angels dancing ‘round your head

 

Dawn will break before you know

bathe the world in scarlet glow

one by one the stars they fade

as daylight burns the window shade

 

Time will cut the nursery lock

restless feet must take their walk

leave behind the dusty lap

set your compass, draw your map

 

Garden walls shall not constrain

hold the clouds until they rain

push the wind until it blows

keep the seed until it grows

 

Sunrise pinks and palest blue

crystal drops of early dew

lingering dreams as morning creeps

all the things we cannot keep

all the things we cannot keep.

Words

What do you want from me?

More words?

Fine. Have a seat while I

boil them up

pour them steaming in your cup

then stand back

as you scald your tongue on the hot bitter black

words

Shall I melt them down like sugar

sticky and sweet

a child’s easy treat?

Or can you handle something more?

Yearning and sore

for the flowing passion

of my underground river

swift and changing current

reaching, wanting, hiding beneath the surface

in fear of your thirst?

You think this is what you want, what you need

but you never see

that I bleed

words

and that you are the form of every letter.

beware the girl in red

Beware the Girl in Red

“Go into the wood,” her mama said

then dressed her up in velvet red

placed a pail into her arms

“Beware the wolf. He means you harm.”

 

With tiptoe steps the girl made way

and left behind the light of day

weak and cautious little bird

marched to the tune of Mama’s word

 

Weary after many hours

Little Red noticed the flowers

blooming off the beaten trail

and so she paused to fill her pail.

 

It’s always off the trail, I fear

that clever wolves choose to appear

Sleek as shadows, swift as wind

He blocked her path and sniffed, then grinned

 

“Sweet and delicate little rose,”

He purred as the child froze

“Don’t you worry. What’s your haste?

I only want a little taste.”

 

Through the brambled wood she fled

But was no match for Wolfie’s tread

He swallowed her scream, devoured her cry

Then lifted his howl to the sky

 

He laid the girl beneath a tree

and shook his head in sympathy

“There’s one like me in every story

You wandered in my territory.

 

“All alone, a tempting treat

Juicy apple, red and sweet.

Beware the wolf – you should have known

Foolish child on your own.”

 

As he left her, Little Red

yanked the red cape from her head.

No more rank humiliation!

No more victim of predation!

 

With weapons fashioned from the tree

she sat and waited patiently.

As wolves strolled by, she took her aim

then made a fur coat of her game.

 

Soon wolf mamas warned their sons

“Heed my warning, little one

for many a wolf has lost his head.

You must beware the Girl in Red.”

Have a Wonderful Day (aka: Paying Forward Happiness)

wonderful day“You have a wonderful day today.”

Startled, I glanced up from my Kindle book and into the face of a fellow train passenger. “Thank you,” I said, smiling. “You too.”

The stranger flashed a friendly grin and exited the train. I felt dazed, too distracted to read my book, the unexpected and kind words echoing in my mind. You have a wonderful day today. He could have aimed those words toward any other stranger on the train, but he’d singled out me, handing me the verbal equivalent of a hand-picked daisy.

Funny how such a small gesture can change your morning. Instead of drifting to work in my usual fog of random thoughts, noticing little of the world around me, I snapped to attention. The same old scenery came to life — skyscraper windows dazzled with sunlight while strange and lovely shadows played on nearby walls. And all around me were people — ordinary people, like me, clutching their coffees and cell phones and satchels while shuffling down the sidewalks. People who may have been stuck in the same fog of thoughts that normally accompanied me on a typical morning.

What if I paid it forward?

What if I took the burst of joy that had come from a stranger’s simple words and offered the same to the next person I saw? Could I do it? Could I dare to break out of my eggshell of timidity and brighten the morning routine for another person?

Fighting back the butterflies, I studied the people who passed me on the sidewalk. One looked away. One was chatting on her phone. One marched forward, eyes trained ahead like the eye of a bullet train. My courage faltered. Maybe the timing was wrong. Maybe this wasn’t my thing. Maybe I had to find my own way to brighten another person’s day. Perhaps I could just try smiling at other people as they stepped onto the elevator. I could bring in fresh produce from my flourishing garden to share with other employees. I could be the first person to say, “Good morning,” instead of passively mumbling in response. kindness daisy giving

The point, I think, is to be mindful. The point is to keep from drifting into my fantasyland reverie and stay in the moment a little more often. Only then will I see people as they drift through the fog, and be able to offer them rays of sunshine at just the right time. Just as a kind stranger did for me on an otherwise ordinary morning.

For anyone out there who happens to be reading these words, I hope that you will have a wonderful day today.

Kalliope, Where Are You? (aka: How to Treat Writer’s Block)

question marksSYMPTOMS: The words won’t come. The clock ticks, the shadows shrink and stretch again, and somewhere, a spider scuttles across the ceiling. But still, the words won’t come. I lift my fingers to the keyboard, pause, then let them drop to my lap. A scream builds inside my chest. Words, they are only words – type something, type anything! Dmkvnekfnienomknjsaono12i34cn8. UGH! In frustration, I throw back my head and cry out to the muses, Kalliope, where are you?!?

DIAGNOSIS:  Writer’s Block

Snoopy Guide to Writing Life

TREATMENT:

  1. Take slow, deep, calming breaths. Resist the urge to throw your laptop across the room. This is counterproductive.
  1. Go for a run. Ride a bike. Exercise gets the blood flowing, possibly even to your empty brain.
  1. Write something else. Sometimes, taking a break from the novel to write something from a different genre may stimulate creativity and give you a fresh sense of perspective. Try a poem, a persuasive essay, or a shallow, humorous blog post.
  1. Step away from the computer screen and get out into the world. Observe and talk to people. Yes, real, live people. Other people can be interesting and inspiring. Thought: In order to create art that imitates life, one must actually live and observe life.
  1. Get some sleep. Yes, we writers tend to think that the muse only comes to whisper in our ears during the wee hours of the night. But the truth is, inspiration can come at any time, and we are better prepared to receive it when well-rested.
  1. Read books. Most good writers were inspired by reading the works of other good writers. Read for pleasure. Read to learn new techniques. Read something outside of your genre comfort zone. Fill your brain with great words, and maybe then, your own words will begin to flow.
  1. Revel in the Shitty First Draft. Your first draft does not need to be perfect. I repeat – your first draft does not need to be perfect. Aim for perfection, and you will go nowhere fast. So what if your character is unlikeable? So what if the dialogue is crap? So what if you have written 5,000 worthless words that no one would want to read? This is a first draft, for goodness’ sake! Write the whole novel, even if it sucks. It is during the editing process that your real story will arise.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 

wrong muse

The Chaos (aka: Exploring Poetry, part 1)

Like many lovers of language and literature, I adore poetry. And so, for the next several posts, I would like to focus on poetry, beginning with The Chaos, by Gerard Nolst Trenité. It is not often that I read a poem that makes me laugh with delight, but this poem certainly had such an effect. I urge you to read it aloud, and try your best to pronounce each word correctly. It may be easier said than done, even for native English speakers!

 

Gerard Nolst Trenité – The Chaos (1922)

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
   I will teach you in my verse
   Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
   Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
   Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
   Just compare heart, hear and heard,
   Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
   Made has not the sound of bade,
   Saysaid, paypaid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
   But be careful how you speak,
   Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak ,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
   Woven, oven, how and low,
   Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
   Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
   Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
   Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
   Solar, mica, war and far.

From “desire”: desirableadmirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
   Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
   Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
   Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
   Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
   This phonetic labyrinth
   Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
   Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
   Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
   Blood and flood are not like food,
   Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
   Discount, viscount, load and broad,
   Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
   Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
   Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your r correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
   Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
   Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
   Would it tally with my rhyme
   If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
   Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
   Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
   You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
   In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
   To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
   Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
   We say hallowed, but allowed,
   People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
   Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
   Chalice, but police and lice,

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
   Petal, penal, and canal,
   Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,
   But it is not hard to tell
   Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
   Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
   Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the a of drachm and hammer.
   Pussy, hussy and possess,
   Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
   Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
   Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker“,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor“,
   Making, it is sad but true,
   In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
   Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
   Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
   Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
   Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
   Mind! Meandering but mean,
   Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
   Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
   Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
   Prison, bison, treasure trove,
   Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
   Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
   Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
   Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
   Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
   Evil, devil, mezzotint,
   Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
   Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
   Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
   Funny rhymes to unicorn,
   Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
   No. Yet Froude compared with proud
   Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
   Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
   Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
   But you’re not supposed to say
   Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
   How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
   When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
   Episodes, antipodes,
   Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
   Rather say in accents pure:
   Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
   Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
   Wan, sedan and artisan.

The th will surely trouble you
More than r, ch or w.
   Say then these phonetic gems:
   Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em
   Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
   Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight-you see it;
   With and forthwith, one has voice,
   One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does *. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
   Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
   Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
   Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
   Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
   Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
   Puisne, truism, use, to use?

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
   Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
   Put, nut, granite, and unite.

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
   Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
   Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
   Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
   Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
   Bona fide, alibi
   Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
   Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
   Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
   Rally with ally; yea, ye,
   Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
   Never guess-it is not safe,
   We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
   Face, but preface, then grimace,
   Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
   Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
   Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the o of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
   With the sound of saw and sauce;
   Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
   Respite, spite, consent, resent.
   Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
   Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
   Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
   G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
   I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
   Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
   Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
   Won’t it make you lose your wits
   Writing groats and saying “grits”?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
   Islington, and Isle of Wight,
   Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Finally, which rhymes with enough,
   Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!


Notes on The Chaos

“The Chaos” is a poem which demonstrates the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation, written by Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946), also known under the pseudonym Charivarius. It first appeared in an appendix to the author’s 1920 textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen. (From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chaos)