#437: Gifts and Curses (the penultimate poem, April 29, 2022)

“We are disabused of original giftedness in the first half of our lives. Then — if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss — we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed.”

Parker J. Palmer

Gifts and Curses

Parker J. Palmer asks us
to reclaim our birthright gifts.
Somehow, miraculously,
I was not disabused of mine.
I held on tight, even as a child
and into my teenage years,
to playfulness, to performance,
to the love of melody and rhythm,
to the impulse to create worlds
of words, to leaning always into
the silly and the absurd,
and conversely, to serious thought.
My curses, as I see them,
gifts in disguise, sometimes
barbed and weighty: the vulnerability
of an open heart, an excess of
selfishness, more often than not,
at the mercy of some desire or another,
a tendency toward too much of
a good thing. Some say regret is foolish,
but I’ve got one or two and I will likely
never be free of them. It’s all to the good,
I say, as long as the shadow and the light
can harmonize, can recognize each other
as friends.

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#436: One More (I Promise, the Last) Metaphor Dice Poem on April 28, 2022

poetry. sacrosanct. midwife.

Thirty days has the cruelest month
and thirty days in a row for nine years
during April I have written a poem.
I try and mostly fail to communicate
to my students the worth of such a thing,
poetry in and of itself, yes, let alone
writing one every day for thirty days,
but they don’t quite buy it.
I think they see it as a kind of madness.
They’re not wrong. There is something
obsessive about it, and maybe
masochistic, although, for me,
rarely is pain part of the equation.
It might be described as a kind of addiction,
but the high is nominal, a fleeting feeling
that, yes, after all, I have written another poem.
Whoop dee doo. It’s something else.
Almost devotional, religious, but more
than that, there is this ecstatic notion
that the endeavor has birthed some
essential part of me that wants to live:
poetry, the sacrosanct midwife
to every creative impulse within.

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#435: A Metaphor Dice Concrete Poem for April 28, 2022

I intended this month to write a poem inspired by Taylor Mali’s metaphor dice that would be suitable for submission to The Golden Die Contest, the deadline for which is two days away. This isn’t it. This isn’t the one, neither is the earlier one I wrote this month. But I’ve been sitting on this roll for some time (I am, well worn, thunderstorm), and I was intrigued by today’s prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a concrete poem, a poem that has a shape that represents its subject matter. If you know anything about the word processing software that is part of the WordPress blog toolkit, you would know that it’s nigh impossible, outside of simply centering text, to manipulate words on the “page” into any kind of shape. So–the concrete poem, if I were to write one, would have to be done the old fashioned way–with pen and paper. I did not have time today to make it pretty–so here is the image of my sloppy composition on notebook paper, and below I will include the text of the poem, woefully, formatted in the way of a traditional poem–very unlike concrete.

The outline I have drawn here of the image – that’s kind of cheating.

A Well-worn Thunderstorm

I am a well-worn thunderstorm,
to the expectant earth, already
bored with my fireworks.

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#434: Buying a Shed (a duplex on April 27, 2022)

Here’s a poem called a duplex, a sonnet variation developed by the poet Jericho Brown. It’s 14 lines long–and it follows a pattern of partial repetition in the first line of each stanza of the second line of the preceding stanza. Except that the first line and the last line must be the same. A true but mundane story about buying a shed and converting a garage. Home improvement poetry.

Buying A Shed

Today I tried to buy our home a shed
to store the shit that we’ll take out

of the garage, the shit we’ll take outside
while we convert the garage into a home.

We want our garage to be like a home
and a shed to do what garages do

save house the cars, like garages do
but not ours. Ours is just storage, you know.

Tools, mowers, camping stuff–storage, you know.
I’ll work out there, when the project is done

unless someone else lives there when it’s done;
it’s not what I want, but what I might get

if my work is not lucrative. It’s what I might get.
Today I tried to buy our home a shed.

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#433: An Epic Simile for the School Year (a poem on April 26, 2022)

True story. And a response to today's prompt to write an "epic simile." That's actually a thing. Typically found in, you guess it, epic poetry. Milton's got some doozies in Paradise Lost, for example.

This school year is flying by
like a bullet train at lightning speed,
its passengers securely buckled in,
or, even, despite incredible
rates of acceleration, move freely
inside the cabins as if they were
standing stock still, sipping their
drinks, forking their hors d’oeuvres,
oblivious to the fact that they
are moving at 200 miles per hour.
I think, but I am not sure,
that as the engineer of this train,
I have a certain modicum
of control here, but still, I have to ask,
are we really going this fast?

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#432: Teaching Nightmares (a poem on April 25, 2022)

You would think
that after 33 years
of classroom teaching,
one would cease to
have nightmares
about teaching.
You would be
wrong to think that.
Sometimes they come
randomly here and there,
once or twice a year,
and mostly they’re easy
to shake off. But sometimes
they come, spawned,
one imagines, by a real-life
classroom nightmare
that becomes obsessive,
on which the educator-brain
becomes stuck,
as in a loop. And then one
dreams of mass insurrections,
students in danger,
good kids acting badly,
bad kids acting nicely,
the naked dream, or worse,
the dream in which nothing
works the way it should
or nothing goes the way
it was planned,
a dream in which one
appears absolutely and truly
incompetent. The weekend,
of all things, gets punctuated
by these nightmares,
a whole Saturday and Sunday
of stressing out about
a work-related thing,
which on Monday morning
turns out to be far less
of a thing than you
thought it was.
That weekend right there,
the one you lost to
fretting and brow furrowing
and fright night fears:
You will never get it back.

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#431: Don’t Want To Write a Poem on April 24, 2022

It took 24 days,
but finally,
I don’t want
to write a poem.
It’s not unusual
in a run of 30 days
during the April
month to have
such a feeling
sooner or later.
Nothing appeals:
the prompt doesn’t
interest, the mind
is tired, or, in my
case, unsettled,
distracted; What IS
unusual, is the
intensity of my
resistance today.
I just don’t want
to do it. I don’t want
to write a poem.


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#430: A Poem in the Style of Kay Ryan on April 23, 2022

Crocodiles and Bears

are having a field day,
a great yield of playful
shenanigan in suburban
streets and inside
peoples’ homes.
They may be trying
to tell us something.
Like: hey, this used
to belong to me. Or:
hey, now you know
how it feels to be
a bear or a crocodile.
I would not be surprised
if, in bear or crocodile
language, the word
for human is something
like bear or crocodile,
fierce words for ferocious
beings, dangerous things
always poking around
where they don’t belong.

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#429: My Friend the Media Specialist (a poem on April 22, 2022)

My friend the media specialist
(we used to call them librarians)
gifted me this morning a
prompt for a poem.

My friend the media specialist
says the word “precarity”
might make a good subject.
“Precarity,” I say. “Is that like
the feeling or state of precariousness?”

My friend the media specialist
says, “Yes, precarious, uncertain,
tentative, vulnerable, transitory,
dependent on chance.”

My friend the media specialist
and I talk for awhile about
the way precarity, especially now,
seems ever present. Hasn’t it
always been this way? Maybe,
but it feels to be more so now.

My friend the media specialist
and I are both living through moments
of great shifting, personally,
and our community, the country, too,
and even the world seem to be
on the verge of a precarity
of seismic proportions.

“And yet,” my friend the media specialist says,
“here we are, doing our thing, living our lives,
moving forward, holding on or holding steady,
somehow hopeful, perhaps, that our
own precarious states may not end
disastrously. Isn’t that something?”

My friend the media specialist goes
back to her work and I go back to mine,
but then, on this day, not an hour later,
my work day takes a precarious turn
in a classroom activity that goes awry.
Everything hinged for a moment on
one very tense and difficult exchange;
the whole thing broke down around me.

My friend the media specialist
has no idea how prescient was her visit,
no idea how absolutely essential was her
gift of the prompt for a poem. And yet,
again, here we are, holding on
and holding steady, in precarity.


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#428: Curly, Dunkin Donuts, and that Bosch Painting (another poem on April 21, 2022)

I miss my best friend from high school.
His name was either Jeff, McBee, McTimmons
or McSeven, depending on a variety of
variables, none of which were his choosing.
My parents called him Curly
because he got a perm once
and the curls, years later, were still there.
We listened to music all the time
and together we got drunk hanging
with older kids from an Everclear
concoction mixed up inside of a cooler.
I worked at Dunkin Donuts for three
years, and my job was to hose
the kitchen floor and squeegee
the soggy donuts down the drain.
I also dumped 25 pounds of sugar
into a big-ass bowl, added some water,
color, and flavoring to mix up
the icing. I called my boss “dude”
once and after that, never again.
I first saw the Hell part of Bosch’s
“Garden of Earthly Delights” triptych
on a Deep Purple album cover
and believed at the time that the art
was made specifically for this record.
I found the image of the gigantic rat
eating people and pooping them
back out again especially disturbing.
This has been a poem about
a childhood friend, an old job,
and a work of art–all of which,
despite the decades, still inhabit
my very being, you know, as if not
a moment has passed in the interim.

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