Thursday, June 15, 2006

JuPo Challenge 5 - long poem and a stab at humor (which I rarely write)

This Thing I Have With Asphodel

Her name is as exotic as saffron, secretive
as the sphinx and alluring as a porcelain
moon. She hides herself in folds of silk
that slip through my fingers when I try
to wrap them around; this feast or famine
witch who conjures scents of cinnabar, smoke
and myrrh; this Scherazade who weaves
adept tales in my head.

She’s an artist who tattoos my gray lobes
with words and images that melt glaciers
or hoar the heads of unfurling flowers; she
assembles turns of phrase that make me weep
with desire or shrivel like a prune from envy -
these words I’d whore for.

She wields them often and glories
in her gift of excess; yet her thin, miserly graces
stop her short of sharing. I am left staring
at a blank page while she chortles, smug
and satisfied with the torture she inflicts;
this wordmeister of mine who eats the last piece
of my cherry pie and leaves me no crumbs.

She only comes out of hiding when I’m bulleting
down the freeway or in the middle of a tango
with some guy who’s told me he’s sincere (liar);
and if I should stop and grab a pen she pulls
the silk around her again like the poem tease
that she is. That bitch

makes me itch in places my pen’s end
can’t reach. She should cease her eelish ways,
for when I snag herI will bind herand vampire
every word that courses through her veins,
watch her drool as my cherry pie disappears.

copyright 2006 by cookala

Monday, June 12, 2006

Epitaph For A Light Keeper

A small cemetary sits on the lee side of the cliff
adjacent to the old light. The headstone, gray now,
fouled by weather and salt mist, is never graced
by flowers. It tilts a bit to the right where the ground
has settled unevenly; its epitaph, still legible, reads
His life was determined by edges.

Born on the cusp of two centuries he endured
fifty-five years on the fringes of life;
toiled daily on a windswept cliff
keeping the beacon’s beveled eye
blinking at the rock-toothed shoal
sixty-four yards offshore; timed its eclipse
each night, secured its clockworks.

His fingers tempered into gnarled twigs
from years of contact with chill wet and salt;
yet grew dexterous, learned in different ways
to snug a screw or secure shoreline rip-rap.
He became intimate with the lamps and lenses
he polished, filled with oil, wicked; his back
bowed from bending into it, and from heavy
buckets lugged several times each day
up spiral stairs to the lantern room.

His tongue stilled as he learned the language
of waves; how to time the tides by the sound
of its rest or surge, and when a tempest
would thrash the coast. During the day
he dreamt about people he’d never meet.
Unable to entice a wife he forged friendships
with gulls and seals, adopted stray cats.

At the age of seventy-six the Lighthouse Board
retired him; said he was frail and forgetful;
replaced his vigilance with an automated switch
and sent him back into the living swarm
he’d long hungered for but did not fit. After a month
he said he missed his family then bought a boat,
sailed off the edge.

copyright 2006 by cookala

Sunday, June 11, 2006

June 6th - JuPo Challenge 3 - long poem, playing with structure, diction and sound

Sea Shells


The first time she goes shore-side
after months of churlish days she beams
at the soft squeak and shoosh of sand
beneath her calloused feet, its powdery velvet
soothing her chilblained skin. The breeze’s supple
mouth breathes life back in while the womb
of seawater baptizes toes and shins.

She marvels at cartwheeling gulls that wind shear
in thermoclines, imagines and glories in the windrush
that spreads and lifts lambent quills

then combs for sea shells to tuck away;
remembrances for wintry days.


He ambles along the water’s lip and broods
the echoing dream that’s squatted in his thinkbox
for weeks - the one where febrile roots are growing,
combing through the earthen muck to braid
and mingle with another tree. He sees himself
in the dead seahorse washed above the tide line
desiccating in the sun. He looks up,

sees her walking along the shore; from behind her
the sun’s nimbus illuminates her like a moth
as it flitters before a flame.

He will fashion a wreath of driftwood roots;
a mousetrap for wintry day remembrances.

copyright 2006 by cookala

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

June 3rd

JuPo Challenge 2 - long poem; an experiment in concrete form and structure (real unsure of part II, and S2 of part I).

Ten Pounds, and No Epitaph

I thought his return would be weird
and creepy; my own private little showing
of some murky black-and-white film noir
reeled out in real-time. My dreams

were surreal, fashioned from faux sniplets
of old horror movies the week before:
a shrieking woman cleaving the fog
with bloodied talons; unnoticed,
a shifty-eyed servant sliding a latch;
the bloodsucker float-walking in
and me, knees shaking, back to a corner
making the sign of the cross.

Returned to the house he didn’t dare a moan
or haunt the hallway
but settled in to become a dust collector,
another ugly knick-knack
in my mother’s bedroom.

Funny how death mimics life,
and how I never expected him
to weigh so much
or that there’d be enough of him left
to fill a jumbo-sized kleenex box,

but I was wrong.

He’s in a
plain, white
the size of a
loaf of bread
inside a white
paper shopping bag
sitting on the floor
in the corner of
the dining room
beside the end table
snugged into
the corner near
the door.

"Where we gonna put’im?"

"I don’t know. You’re the one
who has to live with’im."

He ends up in mom’s bedroom
tucked away in the corner
of the closet shelf
shut safely in
behind closed doors.


Monday, June 05, 2006

And now for JuPo - 10 poems, one every three days. My goal is to write poems longer than 25 lines, and to assign different challenges as I go along. The first poem's challenge was to evoke a sense of place.

Poem 1

At the Lobster Roll

Come with me again to our country café
tucked in among the eastern farmlands
spread parallel to the sea
and its welcoming white plank walls,
gingerbread framed doors, tete-a-tete rooms
with Tiffany windows and cloth geraniums
sprawling from sills.

The open pit will greet us with a belch
of flames as we walk by and watch the chefs
pirouette around its jaws in seeming melee,
brandishing knives and pokers, shouting
orders to underlings busy battering food.

We’ll sit further in, where noise and light
dim; where red checkered tables are candled
and fresh flower sprigged. The fireplace
will yawn sweet warmth while cherry wood
crackle-pops in its belly. Firefly lights floating
overhead will mimic the night sky as the slender
scent of fresh fish filters in from the galley
to mingle among snippets of muted discourse.

Soon a red-aproned waitress will bring
menus we will not open; drinks; warm bread;
a crock of pickles, dill and sweet.
Our entrees, of course, will be puffers
and fish and chips; deep-fried, crisp
chunks of palate pleasure; waffle fries,
oil burnished and golden, and small pots
of cole slaw tanged and creamy on our tongues
washed down with tap drawn beers.

So let us away to our nook out east
and we’ll plump our rawboned selves
with beatitude and agree not to heed
the diluted light of a sinking sun.
We’ll glow in the moonlight instead.

So, as promised, here are my MaPo poems from last to first.


May 31

Poem Crazy

I live in a world of letters
and words where metaphors
are an unstopped ink bottle
and similes sashay around the paper
like tiny Japanese dancers
cloaked in bright kimonos.

I live to discover new words
and dancing phrases whose sounds
will tickle with delight, and satisfy
more than the last piece placed
in a jigsaw puzzle; its perfect fit
giving my penfinger goose bumps.

Paths of thought take me
on spiraling journeys, far away
from the mundane world
as I forage for wordfood,
wordsong and rhyme
and forget about everything else.

I’ve become poem crazy.

No ordinary life for me.

May 30-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


She is two-faced,
can be hurricane or zephyr;
wicks humidity from the air
and fans the overheated earth;
taxis spore and seed on her back
to new beginnings; delights us
with wind chime music.

Kites won’t fly without her, windmills
won't pump water or grind grain,
and sailboats won’t sail; sagging lines
of wash take longer to dry; wild animals
cannot stalk and know not to flee
if she does not offer them a whiff
of scented enemy. Out West,
in the flatlands, she spins geo-fans
and creates electric, keeps cities
and towns air-conditioned or heated,
depending on the season.

Men have called her Mariah,
and say they know not how she blows.
But when has the average man
ever truly understood a woman?

May 29-------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Broken Wings

Such a graceful bird; a bright canary
who trilled Billie Holiday tunes
behind a veil of smiles, on display,
locked in a gilded cage.

Camellia’s were not her favorite flower -
those coarse reds clashed with her fine
yellow feathers. Paparazzi stalked her
with their relentless snap; even in death
they made a spectacle.

Tragic heroine, tired of singing
behind the bars, did you find your release
an untimely reward?

Did you underestimate its cost?

May 28------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Drunk on her champagne,
he’s too high to see it -
there’s a hornet’s nest in his dormer,
and the queen is buzzing with intent.

His carefree days are over.
She’ll soon devour all the honey
in his hive; lap each octagon orifice
dry; then depart before her champagne
has a chance to fizzle flat.

May 27------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Baffling the air, wings beat in short bursts;
two ear shaped mosaics, orange and black,
capture an air current then glide.
They cycle this series of movement
until a resting place is found
where, if embraced long enough,
will bring a surrender to stillness.

May 26----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Sprung memorials and fresh-cut flowers,
arranged in staggered displays,
are getting mud-splattered by the rain
that bleeds down from heaven.

Scattered among long rows of teeth,
pine box coffins lie in state
draped by the gloss of stars and stripes,
waiting to be covered with dirt.

Half-mast flags snap in the wind.
Rifle reports crackle the air, echo
the silent void. This time will pass,
but will we remember their names?

May 25------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He Was Drowning

He got too close to the edge
one day - the ground gave way,
he went in and under for so long
I thought he was drowned-dead.
But he broke surface, breached
like a swordfish flashing wide eyes.

A fisherman who was casting upwind
left my frenetic SOS unanswered;
so I anchored myself and offered
an outstretched hand. He felt
heavier than a sack of wet sand.
I hauled him halfway out, far enough
for emancipation.

Weeks later I spotted him
raking piles of brilliant leaves;
I went over and he mewled
a low pitched thanks, avoided my eyes,
went quickly inside. He moved
shortly after, never said goodbye.

May 24-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just An Observation

At the beach today a man
lowered the back of his shorts
to towel away the sand. He fussed
about his untanned ass and its six
inches of exposure a long time
with a nonchalant composure.

The shorts were white, chiffon-thin,
revealed far too much; it was clear
he was proud of his substantial
endowments. He was a man, after all,
and when has the average man ever given
a second thought about how he looks?

Maybe that’s why, when a single
woman meets a man with some
semblance of style and class,
she loses her senses; sees an oasis
in the desert and lets down her veil
just long enough for him
to prove it was all a mirage.

Surrounded by all that hot sand,
it’s no wonder that she’s parched.

May 23----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Snow Queen

It is a cruel thing, this weight
of winter, with its icy stings
and pelting wet; a snow queen
pretty to look at, who harbors
the touch of death. Her heavy,
white jaws snap seedlings
in dale and glade, and her breath
black rots flower necks regardless
of size, color or shape. All who
enter her domain are made frigid
and fragile, fall prey
to her stone cold spells.

May 22-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


I sit, lotused in the sand, atop
a dune cliff. The ocean swells
before me as her watery lungs
seesaw in sync with my own,
the zephyr of her breath cools
my face. With eyes closed
I listen to the rush of waves
like breaths, and drift; relive
then burn todays negative frames,
honor their ashes and exhale
their soot into a blackened
balloon. It grows heavy
in my hands before I tie it off
and toss it into the sea
to fuse with the flotsam
while I float with the clouds.

May 21------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Weight

Teachers taught me to color inside
the lines, told me I should take pride
in how I dotted my i’s and crossed
my t’s. I was rewarded with gold
stars for neat, completed homework;
it made me feel like I was dressed
in my Sunday best. But

they never taught me about death
or how to carry it in the black bag
slung over my shoulders; how heavy
it would become the longer I carried it
with me, and that I would not be rid of it
until I went home.

May 20-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Feng Shui (a haiku)

We arrange our rooms
for optimum flow: freedom
grows from restrictions.

May 19-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Our hands mold the raw
dough of us. They knead
and stretch pliant flesh,
hollow out a place
were we can nest;
create a hiding spot
for us to hallow.

See how we rise
in the warm dark.

May 18----------------------------------------------------------------------------


It’s April, and the magnolia trees
hold out cup and saucer petals
for morning sun tea. Azaleas
dot the dew hazed perimeter
of the arboretum’s central lawn
with neon pinks and purples
and converse with fragrant forsythias.
Daffodils toot their trumpets
and sing aubades to spring
while the sun paints cowslips citron
in this place of earthy posturing.

May 17----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Easter Lily

Ancient lore tells us a tale
of Juno nursing Hercules;
and how her excess milk
rained down from the sky.
Some of it formed the stars;
the rest fell to earth
and blossomed into lilies.

Their hand-sized trumpets announce
spring’s arrival while their honeyed
scent makes us think of how heaven
must smell.

Nellie White will bloom for a week
then die, but will bloom again in late July
if replanted in the earth; she’ll resurrect,
just like Christ.

May 16------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Dove Tree

They are large things: massive trunks, long
limbs, tall at thirty feet. Branches are laden
with white flowers in spring that look
like doves, or angels wings fluttering
in the breeze; or albino bats sleeping beneath
a leafy bower. At the junction of wings
is a pom-pom flower, its tiny vanilla stamens
tipped in burgundy-black. Smooth, pliant,
thin as skin wings have vertical veins
running to serrated tips and a scent
like black currant tastes.

This tree has soul.
A tree where angels roost must.

May 15------------------------------------------------------------------------------

African Violets

A mound of leaves furled
together whose waffled flesh
is furred, silken when touched.
Some leaves have ruffled edges,
heart-shaped, radiating out
from a central stalk.

They teach us patience as we watch
for blooms, stems with balled fists
of flowers in shades of pink, purple
or white that unfold overnight
into iridescent petals when viewed
in the morning's light.

May 14-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Why I Suddenly Hate Mother’s Day

This year it will be different:
for the first time there will be
no stressing over gifts, no fancy
dinner to cook, no fuss, no catering
to the lady of the day.

There will be no arguments
or hurt feelings, no daughter
with duties to fulfill other than
a grave side visit
to plant azaleas.

The yoke of her is gone, cut
along with the apron string of years
and I should stand taller, lighter,
not be crumpling in on myself

as the world conspires against me
with reminders that flourish everywhere:
the web, tv, newspaper ads,
big banners plastered on the windows;
each one a spike driven deep.

May 13-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Daydream 5

I step from bed fog-footed, heavy
with the remnants of a dream still stitched
with the embers of his touch, leave him
swaddled in our flesh warmed sheets.

Sweaty and flushed I will unsteady legs
into the shower, wash the last tendrils
of sleep down the drain;
but if I shut my eyes he returns,
sheets his hands over my water slick skin
as smoothly as the soap he laves me with.

I adjust the flow, add more cold
water to the mix. I’m late for work,
don’t have time for this. But
this figment pulls me back,
places my hands high on the wall,
seizes my hips and heaves
until I feel each drop of spray
pulsing from the showerhead.

Enough of this I tell myself
and finish up, shut off the water
and turn around to leave
but he is there,
fully woken,

I call in sick.

May 12------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Focus (a haiku)

When sky is cloudless
mind sees beyond horizon
comets among stars.

May 11-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


They’re the camels of the garden;
dry, sandy soil will not wilt
their ruffled, pompadour heads.
These garden cops keep bugs at bay
with their snarky scent, bloom from June
to first frost in flamboyant reds,
yellows and oranges against
a backdrop of vegetable greens
and seem to shout,
"Look at me!
Aren’t I sensational?”

May 10-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fibromyalgia - Bond-Servant of Pain(working title)

It's there in the misfire of spark,
the non-stop feed of charge
to knees, back, neck. Wherever
sinews slide in locomotion, where stretched fibers
snap from overload, its constant peck
demands attention and tells us it will not relent.

The body's synapses, strung out
by the constant race of signals
along the neural axis, speak
its language fluently and bare their backs
to its lash. We react with measured gait, blue
pills, booze, Ben Gay; whatever it takes
to rock the beast back to sleep
and out of our misery.

But the mind goes on remembering
and does not switch off. In distraction
it turns bleary eyes on current tasks
like cooking, reading or watching
the news on television

while pistoning needles cruelly tattoo
whole maps on our bodies, staining roads
and rivers until we think of nothing else
and learn to dread inclement weather,
stress and alarm clocks that bring us back
to the bite of consciousness.

May 9-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


The queen of all, her buds
are as beautiful as her blooms,
enough to give Helen of Troy
pause to alternately pale,
or green, in comparison;
her scent synonymous with a ladies
dainty and intimate trousseau,
summer, romance, love.
After she’s blossomed her petals
have the feel of satin when stroked,
but beware the thorns. When pricked
she’ll draw blood...

May 8------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Woe, and Why Nothing Gets Done

Down to the dungeon to slave away
in the halitosis of the burner’s breath;
down to the cold, hardscrabble cement
that tortures my feet, stiffens my legs
and sets traffic lines of synapses aflame
as they travel along my backbent spine.

Time to get hands grunged-up black, scratched
and bruised while I slowly sift and sort and achoo!
through thirty sooty years of accumulated crap
that must be black bagged up for incinerator fuel

while outside the earth is preening,
greening her trees and fields,
and the days are growing longer and balming
and the birds are mating
and cooing
and mating

Ah, fuck it.
Life is too short.

(Ok, I know, I know. The ending... But damn, isn’t it the truth? This is a good example of a poem that started out in good intent and got lost along the way. heh)

May 7--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


These southern belles have three
triangular brachts, pseudo-petals
as thin and delicate as iridescent
rice paper. Shades of purple, red,
yellow or white look dyed on silk
and reach out long, tendrilled arms
to hug supportive trellises and walls.
Though they beg your touch, beware
their thirsty thorns; they do not worry
who they bite. On early spring nights
their perfume rides the zephyrs’ back
to visit bedrooms and sweeten dreams,
perhaps as token apology.

May 6-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Vision Valley

In Vision Valley you can see
beyond the towering ridge lines
of the mountains’ crooked back, past
smokescreens, facades, veils, mist -
none of these can cloud the eye
or fog the brain. Heavy rains
cannot contaminate crime scenes
or remove the red of bloodied hands;
snow cannot cover tracks; fire
cannot burn substance to ash.
No gypsy ruse or sleight of hand
can hold sway or alter the cold,
clear light of reality.

There is no gray.

May 5-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bleeding Hearts

Before they emerge, their bed
on the earth’s face is a clump
of fat yellow nubs. They unfurl
their clenched fists, then send up
shoots the color of dried blood.
Gradually, the constant kiss
of sun nurtures them to open,
and their leaves green and spread.
After a month of increase
they throw open their arms to the world,
heavily laden with pink and white
hearts that dangle by slim
stems, easily broken when touched
yet resilient to the ever changing wind.

May 4-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Daydream 4

I hike through tidy rows of lavender,
dazzled by heat and scent as the bleat
of birdsong serenades my steps
and zephyrs tease out tickling tendrils
of my upswept hair.

It is mid-morning as I roam
these Tuscan fields, my gypsy soul
delighted by this land that begs
discovery. My eyes scan horizon lines

and note the village up ahead
crowning the top of a high hill,
the sun-colored buildings reflecting
keen light. To the right are fields
of sunflowers that arc far into the distance,
until the eye can see no more.

To the left is a dusty dirt road bordered
by a weather-worn wooden fence
and tall stands of cypress. Past that
are groves whose trees boughs are laden
with nubs of olives; neat rows of vines,
pregnant with muscat grapes
ripening in the sun, are planted alongside.

May 3------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Fragrant miniature suns, whose plate faces
are packed rows of burnt umber seeds,
crown thick wooden stalks in summer fields.
Their heavy heads pendulum in the breeze,
provide a banquet for birds and bees
and from a distance provide an all day sunset
that revives the spirit.

May 2-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Fragrant, frilly and tongued they tower
on slim necks, their regal bonnets
hold court above scythes of verdant leaves.
They follow after Jesus, rise up
from dormant rhizomes that lay in wait.
Tissue wrapped buds have peek-a-boo tips
that forecast variant shades
of purples, reds, whites or yellows;
open at the top first, then bloom their way
in succession back down to the soil
saluting May, announcing the dog days.

May 1------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Soft Shoe (a triolet)

I woke up in his arms
and heard the soft shoe of a shower.
How it mesmerized and charmed
me as I lay awake in his arms.
But the drill of the alarms
bell rained discord. I shuddered
and woke up, left his arms
and soft shoed into a shower.