A man has been crushed to death by a butterfly he had been hunting in Zimbabwe last Friday. Theunis Botha was hunting a group of butterflies on an insect reserve with clients when the party accidentally stumbled upon a breeding flutter in Good Luck Farm near Hwange National Park. It is reported that three of the startled winged creatures charged the poachers, prompting Mr Bothas to fire at them before he was taken by surprise by a fourth butterfly who charged the hunters from the side. The monarch lifted Mr Bothas up off the ground with her proboscis before a fellow hunter shot at the bug, causing her to fall and crush the 51-year-old beneath her. The South African man was reportedly a renowned hunter who specialized in targeting ants and spiders and ran his own “big bug safari” hunting trips. Mr Bothas had been in business for nearly 35 years with four branches in South Africa. He leaves behind five children.
On April 16 of 2020 I wrote a poem about turntables. I even used this image as an illustration. Having forgotten about that poem, as one does, I set out today to write another poem about turntables–a little bit in keeping with today’s prompt from Napowrimo to write a poem in which an object becomes a symbol for a place or a time. I wrote this poem this evening, and then I thought to myself, I know I’ve got a good image in my media library I could use for this poem, and then when I found the image, I thought to myself, wow, I’ve probably written about this subject before. Lo and behold, April 16 of 2020 I wrote about turntables. I just almost typed a quip about feeling like a broken record. I’m so glad I stopped myself. Anyway, here’s another poem about one of my favorite past times.
Poem on April 22
Here it is: the turntable. Even after the 90 minute hi-fidelity blank cassette tape made it possible to listen to a full album without having to flip sides, the turntable was still ubiquitous. Our pirate activities entailed borrowing albums from friends, placing the needle down on to the record, waiting a second or so after the initial plosive plop for the stylus to nestle into the groove, then, quickly, so as not to truncate the first notes of the first song, we pushed play and record at the same time on our cassette decks. Every once in a while, we’d have to take a second pass, but after some practice, we got pretty good at timing things just so. These were the glorious 70’s and 80’s of childhood and early adulthood, when 45 minutes of continuous play was as good as it got, and the occasional pop or snap from the vinyl was immortalized the same way for every playback, forever, or until the tape went stale or the machine chewed it up. The turntable has made a stunning comeback in the last inning, and I’ve caught the bug once again, having sold all of my records moving into the 90’s, replaced every record with a compact disc, and now, finding myself replacing compact discs with new records. I’ve come, as they say, full circle, back to myself, almost a second childhood, where I’d love nothing more than for a friend to sit down with me to listen to a record, which used to be, and could be again, a real thing.
I don’t even know how to describe this next thing. The Napowrimo website does it best. It’s a poem inspired somewhat by a famous childhood nursery rhyme by an anonymous author (“There was a man of double deed?”) and ends up being simply an exercise in repeating the last part of a line in the next line. Actually, that’s not it at all. That’s what I did. And I stole some lyrics from Prince. The task was to write using repetitive set-ups. It was surprisingly difficult to do. Rules were broken. But nobody was hurt, not even the dogs. I think I’ve inadvertently written a different kind of poem. I think it has a name. Does anybody know it? I don’t know what I’m doing today.
Poem on April 21
The neighbor kids play on the mound of dirt while the neighbor two houses down plays reggae music in the afternoon. In the afternoon I take a well-deserved nap in the hammock . In the hammock I swing, take 10 minutes to snooze. To snooze, to dream of birds. To dream of birds and to wake up under oak trees full of birds. Of birds, I’d like to know what kind of bird is making that sound, that coo coo song. That coo coo song sounds like doves crying. Maybe I’m just too demanding. Maybe I’m just like my father. I get up, come in for dinner, just as the dogs are playing that same old shit song: let’s escape into the neighborhood.
The suggestion from Napowrimo today is to write a sijo, a traditional Korean form. It’s like a haiku, only wider. It’s a wide-load haiku. Lines can be as long as about 16 syllables. And it has a kind of magical relationship with the sonnet, I’m told, in that it’s kind of a discussion with twist at the end. I don’t know why I chose this photo to accompany the poem. I felt like the tone was correct even though the subject matter is unrelated. There are some cool images on the new “free image” library in WordPress. News to me. Enjoy!
Poem for April 20
Three quarters of the way through, eight months of staring at a screen.
It feels like I have been talking to myself all year long.
My students, like ghosts; I see their shadows and sometimes hear their voices.
April 19 must be Catharsis Day. Today’s prompt from Napowrimo was to write a rant. So I took the opportunity to get some stuff off my chest. It felt good. Don’t worry about me; I went over the top–you know–for effect. I went full-on grumpy old man. I had a good time. I recommend it for everybody.
Poem on April 19
And another thing! I sit outside for ten minutes And I’ve got these stupid little Bugs all over my shirt. Meanwhile the dog keeps Digging holes in the yard And the neighbor lady Keeps yelling at her barkers And I’d much rather hear Their barking than her yelling And her grandchildren are Playing in a big mound of dirt. Why do people throw Their garbage in the ditch? Don’t people know there’s a Speed limit on this fucking street? And every time I hear one of Those engines that sound like Helicopters or a billion lawn mowers I just want to scream bloody murder. No, you can’t hook up a goddamn Gasoline burning engine to your Stupid bicycle. They’re called pedals! Am I just supposed to say yes now Every time a student asks for something? Yes, you can turn this assignment in Three months late. Sure, yes, it’s okay That you haven’t attended a single class The entire quarter–because I can make time To look at your late work During the next quarter when I’ll have Another ninety new students. I’m so done with this, people keep Saying, and I’m thinking, no, you’re not! Or rather, it doesn’t really matter That you feel done with this; whatever this is Will still be going on whether you like it Or not until it stops. Stupid auto-capitalization At the front of every new line! What century Is this? And I call tech support for some Ugly shadowing on my laptop display, and It turns out my battery is swelling like a hard sponge or a cancerous growth. And I send the computer to Apple and they Replace the battery but there’s still this Ugly shadow shit going on because the two Problems had nothing in common and now I’ll Have to send it out again for another repair! Damn it, don’t throw your needles in my yard! And now Morrissey’s angry at The Simpsons And that one Russian guy is at death’s door And don’t get me started about guns and Qanon And that congressman with an enormous head Who’s in trouble for sex-trafficing a minor And that Jim Jordan guy who thinks wearing a Mask is a violation of his civil liberties. I’d love To violate that guy’s civil liberties. Let me at him. My skin is super dry and I itch all over. Where’s the God forsaken moisturizer in this house? And what’s Up with these ugly spots on my arms? Work with me, People! If it ain’t one thing it’s another stupid thing.
Today’s suggestion from Napowrimo is to write a poem based on or inspired by a chapter title from a book called Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words by Susan G. Wooldridge. The Look Inside feature from Amazon gives us a peek on to the contents page and it contains a surprising and evocative list of starting points, a table of contents so good that you really want to read the book. I’ve not heard of this text before, which seems to be a kind of inspirational tool for would-be-poets, à la Bird By Bird, or Writing Down the Bones, or any number of “how-to” books about writing–not so much a craft study as a kind of self-help genre designed for writers who are not writing and who need purely generative sustenance. Running a little bit low on energy this evening, I found a title I liked from this contents page, and, while it made me think of a whole host of things to write about, it really all came down to this haiku.
Poem on April 18
Please don’t understand that what I most want to say I’m afraid to say.
“Daddy always looked to the moon. He claimed it as his own.” I wrote those lyrics 20 years ago for a song we recorded, only loosely about my dad about 10 years before he died. Those two lines, though, we’re an accurate portrayal; Not that my father really believed the moon was his, but somewhere along the line, because he loved it so much, he probably just said something like, “There’s my moon,” and it caught on, so that every time a family member, especially my mother, who cherished her husband, saw the moon, a good full one, they’d say, there’s daddy’s moon, or there’s Glennie’s moon. As a child, I fancied that my father’s possession of the big rock in the sky was literal, that as a young man he constructed it somehow and then just got a really tall ladder to find its perfect placement. In my mind’s eye I can still see that fantasy as if it were a real one. At the very least I will continue to think about my dad every time I see the moon, mythologizing my father, keeping him present and very much still alive as the years pass and I try not to forget what he smelled like, the sound of his voice.
Our task today is to write a Skeltonic but I don’t mean, when I say, to be ironic that I’m glad our plague wasn’t bubonic; it was bad enough, our case was chronic and I think I’m supposed to keep up this sonic rhyme scheme until I run out, subatomic, of words that sound like a mixer, a tonic. I guess it’s okay, half way, to sound moronic on day 16 of 30 of this poetic catatonic but I don’t know how long I can stay on it because I can feel a cheat coming on, shit.
My mother talked to herself. I remember listening in from the hallway as she’d go on and on as she was doing some chore or another in her bedroom, putting clothes away, tidying up, dusting, cleaning the bathroom. I rarely could make out what she was saying, but mostly I could tell it was serious. She took these conversations very seriously. I think what she was doing was rehearsing conversations she’d like to have, or weighing particular decisions, talking her way through various outcomes, or taking both sides of the issue, exploring options. She was her own devil’s advocate. Was she ever caught in the act? I think she was. I seem to remember crossing her path in one of these moments where she would be speaking to no one in particular and I would look at her kind of funny. There was no self-consciousness about it. She wasn’t embarrassed. She didn’t apologize. And perhaps I looked at her only kind of funny, because even as a young boy, I knew it was something we had in common. As a child, my older siblings already out of the house, my play was full of speech to no one in particular, and today, when I’m doing the dishes, tidying up, cleaning the bathroom, mowing the lawn, or just sitting around, I will speak to no one in particular, and almost always, no one in particular will respond.