Poem: Skating On Words

Next Wednesday, Magaly will ask us to write poetry or prose which includes one (or all 3) of the following phrases: 1. “Happy and strange words are my home.” 2. “I see you.” 3. “Reason is music to a jaded heart.” – Poetry and Storytellers United newsletter.

It’s not Wednesday yet, but as I’m contemplating an insane move to open up new writing in myself(a 6 week course in lyric hybrid essays, bc I am totally unfamiliar), I thought I’d calm my farm a little by poeming here.

Happy and strange words are my home,

but they march in ordered ranks,

the usual configurations

with no ice skating backflip Biellmann axels.

Unhappy words are what I skim across.

I don’t invite them in,

but they seem to have wild card entries

to all events.

Humourous essays turn dark,

too personal for my own good,

and are banned to the sidelines,

told to be quiet and let the experts

do their Olympic thing.

To take words and make them slant,

zigzag, salchow, and Shoot-The-Duck

would be to be someone else

whose mind flows,

not lives in a padded box

made for skates.

Poem – Tombstone

“I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either.” – Annie Oakley.

Thumbelina rides into town

on the back of a blackbird.

One single hedgehog quill dipped in virus.

No need even to scratch a man’s ankle

in the Oriental Saloon.

Just drop that spike into the water barrel,

and watch the big ‘uns die.

Only the small things will live –

birds, mice, insects a-plenty.

She sits in the Sherriff’s office,

comfortable in a walnut shell,

booted legs swinging.

She will wait –

the others of her kind will come.

When they do,

they will live without fear

of a single finger flick.

*****

A half-hearted attempt at a mash-up idea I found in an old journal. What to make of ‘Thumbelina rides into town on her virus, carrying nano-vaccines and blackmail notices’? When did this idea strike? What was behind it? Why place Thumbelina in Tombstone? Well, why not? She’s not often written about.

This little oddity is the serendipity of me clearing out some old journals on a decluttering day, and a prompt from Poets and Storytellers United to mine an old journal for something.

Tilly TinyPony Trains Her Human

Eleven years ago, Tilly, a tiny kitten came into our lives, courtesy of my daughter, ThirtiesGirl, the cat collector. Every time ThirtiesGirl went through a crisis, it seemed, and there were plenty in her teens and early twenties, home came another kitten.

Tilly was the smallest of the lot. A wee black and white ball of fluff with big gelato mint eyes. She was small enough to fit in a tea-cup. Small enough to wedge herself into the upper shelf of a low bookcase, which became known as the Kitten Shelf.

Well, Tilly grew, and grew. And grew. Was there no end to her largeness. She is now the largest of our four cats, the youngest, and the only long-hair. She is enormo! I have wondered if there’s Maine Coon in her background somewhere. I can sink my fingers into her fur up to the knuckles and perhaps touch some cat under there.

Anyway, on to Tilly and my husband, PizzaBoy. PB is the biggest softie ever. He never had a pet of his own back in Canada, because he ‘didn’t want the responsibility’. So naturally, his next adventure was to move to Australia, marry an Australian woman who became a financial dependent, become an instant stepdad to two nearly grown kids, and a few years later, become a grandpa x 3. Oh year, and live with 5-6 animals.

PB likes to lie down while he reads. Bed, floor – it doesn’t matter as long as he’s happy. He’s made a nest of cushions and rugs on the floor near one of the heating vents. He stretches out there and reads for hours. I’ve tried it. I don’t know how his bum doesn’t hurt after 20 minutes or so, and I’m the one with the bum padding. Maybe it’s something to do with him not having his tailbone fractured giving birth in 1989.

Tilly has discovered that Bill’s chest is an ideal perch. She hops up there when he’s on the floor, and settles down. PB calmly lifts his book and continues reading. Tilly loves PB’s easy going vibe, which calms her. Tilly is a timid, highly startleable cat. She likes to spend her morning sleeping in my wardrobe. She doesn’t really believe I exist, nor anyone else in the world, and is constantly astonished when TwentiesPerson or I appear. She was HORRIFIED at the advent of the grandkids. They know her only as Cupboard Kitty.

When Tilly is startled, she has to go out and look at the fence for a while to calm down. When she does this, I call out: “Is the fence talking to you, Tilly? Is it talking in patterns? Is the fence moving, Tilly?” She turns her head, owl-like and stares at me as though she’s never seen me before in her life.

If PB and I swap sides of the bed, she will sometimes hop up and sit on me until she realises I’m not him. What gives it away, Tilly? The boobs? Less body in general? When she notices, and this can take half an hour, she leaps off as though given an electric shock.

Tilly has trained PB to accept her on his chest. Now, when he sees her, he flings himself to the ground, lies flat out, and pats his chest twice, saying: “Monkey pillow, Tilly, monkey pillow!” And likely as not, she climbs on and sits there.

And that, readers, is how Tilly keeps her human in line.

*****

It wasn’t really a prompt, more a little note of sweetness from Poets and Storytellers United..

Prose whimsy

From the Poets and Storytellers United prompts: Magaly would like us to write poetry or prose inspired by the following Jim Rohn quote: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live in.” Feel free to use the phrase literally or figuratively.

*****

There’s a lady on the internet, as there always is. She’s called FlyLady and she teaches people how to conquer their household chores, and life, so that they can have more leisure and pleasure. She sends RATHER A LOT of emails if you sign up. I signed up for a week, then unsigned again. However, her methods of taming the house are useful to me.

Anyone can do any unpleasant chore for 15 minutes. It usually takes me longer to yank out my leg hairs, on the odd occasion I do that. Never in winter. A werewolf needs their thick coat to stay warm.

Monday is vaccuuming day. I give myself an all over dry brush, and wash my hair. I’m squeaky clean afterwards.

I do dishes every day, just like I clean my teeth. I believe the dish soap and toothpaste come from the same organic company.

Twice a year, I oil all door hinges. It’s an old house. I dose myself with so much fish oil, flaxseed oil, and evening primrose oil that I’m surprised I don’t slide off my yoga mat. I do yoga so all my hinges still move.

Grouting is the bane of my life. I hate flossing my teeth.

Sometimes I paint a bit of the house. I wear make-up maybe once a year.

My house is laden with books. My soul is coated with words.

My windows are dirty, as are my glasses. But I still see from both.

I have a green fluorite crystal on my lounge room windowsill. Slowly, arthritis crystals are building up in my left shoulder.

I live in me, in my house, in my mind, as a small brown bird on the wing.

*****

Poem – First and Last

In a strange burst of newly-married enthusiasm,

I first cooked for you.

Homemade champagne pastry for an apple pie,

using fresh apples.

I’d never done anything like that before.

Or since.

It was the last time I cooked for you.

No matter what I did,

I would always be the girl who took your preferred son away.

What I didn’t tell you was the cat walked on the pastry

before it was cooked.

The wrinkles in the crust hid any soft paw prints.

The heat killed any bacteria,

I suppose.

We’re still linked through my children,

although my marriage to your son is done with.

You could have had him back,

but by then, even you realised

how truly odd he is.

The last time I served you a cup of tea

was your husband’s funeral.

You didn’t drink it.

Your grief was years old,

having lost him to dementia four years past.

I can only presume my efforts

were not up to your English tea standards.

Or maybe it was me

who didn’t fill your cup.

*****

A little prompt from Poets and Storytellers United. ‘The last time.’ I ranged over a number of topics until something about my ex-mother-in-law rang a tiny bell.

Poem: Dandelion Clock

I broke out the macro lens for my smart phone yesterday, and spent a happy hour snapping pics around the neighbourhood. It’s a workout in itself, squatting down to take the pic, sustaining my balance and stillness long enough to get close enough to the plant, then hold my breath, steady my hand as much as possible and…..wait for the slight breeze to give up before I take a pic.

This week’s prompt from Poets and Storytellers United is about examining something in close up. The success of Mary Oliver’s poetry is to focus intently on one thing and let its meaning unfold. She was a mistress of this art. And a bloody good poet. Which reminds me that I haven’t had any Mary Oliver in my life in a few weeks, and I’m overdue for nourishment. F.Gwynplaine McIntyre might be good fun, but there’s little soul in their poetry.

I’ve already written a poem this week about my Mr Lincoln rose bush, which is starting to leaf and bud in the Spring, but I want to go even closer now.

*****

Two ragged dandelions,

first in their neighbourhood class.

While the rest of the school are blooming,

they’ve been and done,

and are graduating to a life seeded on the wind.

Those long teenage stalks

with untamable fluff hair on the end;

white after all that study out of season.

Down in the heart of the dandelion clock

is dark,

where thoughts of ‘what will become of me’ lurk.

A stronger breeze urges the seeds from home.

That last exam I took at school,

the exhileration and relief at being out of there.

The next day afraid of what came next.

Was I expected to suddenly plant myself,

and be like my parents?

Poem: Mr Lincoln in My Garden

Poets and Storytellers United: this week’s prompt for weekly scribblings comes from my BFF, mentor, Reiki Master, sister witch, and prolific poet snakypoet, aka Rosemary.

Take an object in nature and examine it closely, letting it inspire a sense of wonder.

*****

You looked dead, Mr Lincoln.

I thought I’d pruned too hard.

I quietly mourned you for your lack of green.

You’re fairly old, Mr Lincoln,

with a lot of grey wood.

(Can I say that about a President?)

But here you come again,

with fresh red leaves

feathering the ends of your twigs.

The other rose bushes have knobbly buds.

You have sprouted, like a wand

in a nature-based tarot deck,

first one with leaves.

A defluffed dandelion pokes up through the middle of you,

Mr Lincoln.

Is it uncomfortable.

Are dandelions growing from the corpse

of your namesake, Mr Lincoln?

Is America’s dead President

a home to nasturtiums and borage,

like you, Mr Lincoln?

Forever faithful, back from the dead

of winter,

grow well, Mr Lincoln,

and govern your red and cream roses to come.

Mid week writing prompt

From Poets and Storytellers United, mid-week Magaly asks us to write to: ‘war is over, if you want it’.

The war on drugs,

the war against covid,

Wars We Will Win,

let’s not talk about wars lost.

The war isn’t over for some.

Paul Hogan, comedian,

once declared himself king of Australia,

and said he was taking the country to war.

“I’m not saying where,

but I wouldn’t go to New Zealand for your holidays.”

Everyone laughed,

because he was a funny man,

with a tv show,

and ANZACs unite our countries forever.

“I’m waging a war on aphids!” says a neighbour.

I am repelled at her language,

even as I loose ladybirds in the garden,

and spray liquid garlic everywhere.

Aphids suck the life out of roses.

War sucks the life out of me.

*****

I’m afraid this is a bit of a nothing poem, or jagged piece of prose. I’m not feeling it today, but I can at least say, now, that I’ve dipped my toe into writing.

Sudden Moment

This prompt of ‘Sudden moments’ from Poets and Storytellers United.

I felt lousy for days. One of the endless head colds I copped back then, in my thirties, when every period meant my immune system crashed, and the bugs my kids so generously shared from school crept into my body. This one came with a cough-cough-cough.

My partner was fed up with my coughing. I coughed when he came to bed at 2am, fresh from a night’s computer programming, and ready for sex, sleep, and a home-cooked breakfast(every morning, thanks, because he’s the bread winner, so no store bought bread). So it was a perfunctory goodbye as he went to work.

I made the bed. Coughed. Swooned on it a while, covered in sweat. Coughed. Dusted a shelf. Coughed. Must carry on, be tough, prove to him that I’m worth his time. Cough.

Something sharp jabbed me in the side, and tingling pain spread through my back, my ribs, up into the nestle spot of my shoulder, my neck. Breath held, pain dying away to a dull ache. Breathing – pain, and more pain. Stabbing, an odd rustling in my chest, strange gurgle from somewhere around my liver.

I couldn’t lie down because getting up off the couch or bed was pain. Couldn’t sit. Couldn’t stand for long. I leaned against the wall. Coughed. Pain. I climbed onto the kitchen table, lay there, because at least I could slide off that to standing.

He telephoned mid-morning.

“I didn’t like the way you looked this morning. You looked sick for real.”

As though all those other times, I’d faked it.

“I coughed, and something’s wrong,” I said, croaking, coughing, groaning in pain.

He took me to the hospital. Nothing wrong. Ribs fine, lungs fine, everything good, good, good, we’re not keeping you in, go home, rest.

Two days later, I see my chiropractor.

“I almost didn’t recognise you,” he said. “You look that bad.”

My coughing had thrown something out in my spine, and my ribs. Painful clicks, and I could breathe and think again. More crunches, and the coughing stopped. I wept in gratitude, threw my spine out again. Another click.

That spot, years later, still goes out but obstructs rather than stabs. I don’t get quite the range and ease of movement I want when it’s being foolish. A few chiropractic clicks, and I’m fine, but no adjustment in the world gets rid of the scar tissue my ex-partner left behind – heart, mind, back teeth, scalp, ego.

Five years ago, he tried to make contact, saying we were friends. I disconnected in a short sharp stab of time.