Somebody decided that April was a good time to have, what else? National Poetry Month, of course. And so I, ever-abiding sheep that I am, decided to give it a shot. Here are my 30 poems, one for each day of April.
A pre-April warm-up: 3/15/2017
A Dollop of Yogurt
A dollop of yogurt
when plopped in a bowl
gives cranberries or fajitas
an extra-live spurt.
I thought I’d start off my participation in this year’s National Poetry Month with the following poem about, what else? April flowers. Okay, granted the refrain is “April showers bring May flowers”, but since Poetry Month isn’t in May, I figured I could take a little “poetic” license…
The flowers of April are varied and many:
Daffodils, Rhododendrons, Azaleas aplenty;
Trillium, Spicebush, Viburnum in abundance.
I could mention several others
citing none in redundance.
But there’s one April flower you’ll quite likely not find
in any garden or catalog that springs to your mind.
Not on a vine, or a bush, certainly not on a shrub.
I refer, of course to April Flowers,
exotic dancer at Tropicana Club.
Juanita Jean Hodges, aka April Flowers,
plotting with mobsters to frame the sheriff at wee hours,
crawled into his hotel bed to feign an affair,
fibbing in court later that they were a pair.
Promised by thugs a Puerto Rico trip afterhours,
Juanita thus sullied the month of April flowers.
Note: This piece came about in a rather peculiar way. I wanted a list of flowers in April to include in the poem, so I checked out Wikipedia, but the entry I found turned out to be something quite different than what I expected, which “inspired” me to change the direction of my initial intent. For particulars see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Flowers
I Used to Answer the Telephone
I used to answer the telephone
when only friends and family called.
But these days only telemarketers
and scammers abound
to leave me financially unsound.
It’s now gotten so bad that I screen all my calls
and only listen for a voice that I know.
If I’m home and it’s yours, I’ll shout heigh-ho!
And if not, don’t expect a hooray…
because, you jerk, without any doubt
I’ll be far, ever far away.
Napping on Sundays
Napping on Sundays is a formidable task,
there’s no need at all to ask why…
The answer is blue as the sky.
For the moment you doze the telephone rings,
or someone’s at the door with a role
to salvage your soul, conduct a poll,
or sell you maybe some barbecued wings.
Which is why napping on Sundays
is a loss from the start.
So why lie on the sofa and try for a snooze,
when you know in your heart
you’ll be singing the wide-awake blues?
Imminent, Immanent, Eminent
I get so confused with the homophone,
especially those not quite of the full-blown.
Take imminent, immanent, and eminent.
These three make me want to get penitent,
but probably not discriminant…
maybe just the eliminant
Kid on a Bicycle
A morning stroll around the block
is more an adventure than a simple walk.
It takes me into a different realm
of simple pleasures that overwhelm.
Sometimes it’s a flower, a tree, or, childlike,
a little kid riding a bike.
The birds, the flowers, the gardens bright,
the trees along the streets a sight
to warm the heart, console the soul,
find me fair cause to therein extol.
Be that as it may, there’s naught quite like
a kid pumping her way to school on a bike.
Note: Actually, mornings I sometimes see a dutiful father on a bicycle taking his tiny daughter to school. They whip along the sidewalk (in the street it’s too dangerous), the little girl holding onto her dad for dear life, tucking in her legs so she doesn’t get clipped while passing close by telephone poles. Somehow the scene is very charming to me.
Schmaltzy Love Songs
Schmaltzy love songs
make my heart flutter,
my legs melt like butter,
and if that weren’t enough,
throw me in the gutter
when they finally utter
their sad so longs.
Note: This one came to me while listening to music on the radio during my morning walk, when the artist began singing “I Will Wait for You”, the English version of “Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi”, a song from the French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Woe the Lowly Table Napkin
Woe the lowly table napkin.
Not its aristocratic linen kin,
nor the fancy crêpe paper four-ply kind
with ornate colored flowery design
that inspire lips dabbing Chateaubriand
drippings with ostentatious grandstand.
Rather that supermarket cheapo
one-ply, skid row so-so
deinked, bleached white,
nondescript pattern trite
a mere pretexture
to wipe away a single smear,
a simple tear, a sneer,
then wadded up and cast away,
forgotten in some alleyway.
They’re after your blood,
which is something to brood,
to nourish their eggs and to keep alive.
And when they’ve had their fill…high five!
Some are so small you’d think they’re gnats,
some so big you’d swear they’re bats…
A deplorable creature, this here mosquito.
The Alaskan ones, I’m told, could even
cart off your brat sister Charito.
Brain Dead at 9
Cranking out poems,
one every day
makes April seem evil
in a versical way.
Before when I woke up
my mind was at peace;
all was well with the world.
Today it’s surcease.
On this ninth day of April
nothing comes to my head.
I struggle for naught,
I’ve gone poetically brain dead.
He swaggered about,
all round and stout,
the man with the cane,
with gold on his mind in the main…
a bane that surely drove him insane,
with no one to blame
For the covetous joke
of avarice and greed,
as upon such acquisitive breed,
in the end still left him both
buried and broke.
tomorrow speak of flowers
on an april day
Note: Brunfelsia pauciflora is a species of flowering plant in the family Solanaceae, the nightshades. It has several common names, among which includes yesterday-today-and-tomorrow, the reason being that it blooms purple with a white throat, then turns lavender and then white.
Tossing and turning,
itching and burning
seems like an odd
way to sleep.
But the way that it chances
under these circumstances
is not having a clue how
to count sheep.
My Fair Lady Revisited
I’ve grown accustomed to English words
from the best to very worst,
from chimes to cacophony,
dawn to crunch, mist and alimony,
they make the day a lullaby:
golden, hush, gripe or apple pie.
Phlegmatic though some be,
luminous, plump or treachery,
spoken by a plutocrat or pauper
each word’s still an eye-popper,
I’ve grown accustomed to English verse,
be it in a Rolls Royce or a hearse,
I’ve grown accustomed…
to best…and worst.
Note: This poem (or, if you will, peculiar song) came about this morning while perusing The Book of Lists by David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace (1977). Two lists in this fascinating, entertaining book are the basis of the above piece, to wit: Wilfred J. Funk’s 10 most beautiful words in the English language (Chimes, Dawn, Golden, Hush, Lullaby, Luminous, Melody, Mist, Murmuring, Tranquil) and the 10 worst-sounding English words, based on a poll taken in August, 1946, by the National Association of Teachers of Speech (Cacophony, Crunch, Gripe, Jazz, Phlegmatic, Plump, Plutocrat, Sap, Treachery). Obviously, these lists are very subjective, and, alas, I was unable to fit all of them into my poem (though substituted a few with others of my own).
Excuses for Not Writing Today’s Poem
A walk around the block
in the morning at eight o’clock
works up an appetite.
Breakfast of turkish delight,
granola, banana, and papaya,
not exactly jambalaya.
Brew a pot of coffee
but with an odd taste of toffee.
Turn on then the pc beast
only to see it transiently deceased.
Ah, only an update to move it along…
to play new solitaire and mahjong?
Achh, an anti-virus warning,
wishing me all’s well and good morning.
I check my e-mail inbox…
digressions from the boondocks.
I ready myself for a poem,
Let’s see now, what rhymes with phloem?
Egad! Only jeroboam!?
The phone then rings…my niece!
“Julie, what’s up! A caprice?”
“Nope, no school, today’s Good Friday.
Cleaning branches, leaves away.”
She shares the call with her dog Bella,
and passing neighbors, Jim and Prunella.
Our chats are long and newsy,
until my bladder shouts jacuzzi.
I hang up, relieve myself, cry ahh!
Then go fix lunch, ham on rye..uh.
Halfway through my phone rings thrice.
It’s my friend Ray, of Texan paradise,
on his way to work a hundred miles away,
but keen to jaw along the way.
And that is why, my friends, I say
I won’t be writing verse today.
When You Begin to Suspect You’re Going Senile
Putting my socks on in the morning,
I found my undies dumped on the floor.
Makes you wonder then where the heck you were
during the night before.
Steve, You’re a Pill
Pills, pills, pills, pills!
Oh, I forgot capsules, tablets, gels
and, of course, more and still more pills!
For the heart, for the head,
for the gut, liver, morning, noon and before bed.
Well, at least there’s one thing nice:
no more mustard plaster or damn poultice.
So many pills?
They say I have a fatty liver,
a loose or clogged up bowel.
A sinus arrhythmia makes me quiver,
for which I might run afoul.
I’ve got a bummed-up toe and thumb,
eczema on my back.
So they tell me, don’t be dumb,
take your pills, more pills…
by the packet, by the sack!
Little Baby Barn Smells
How shall I love thee,
Little Baby Barn Smells,
when thou hast bathed
nary a drop this week?
You exaggerate, dear Dad,
a bare five days have passed…
six at peak.
Note: When but a wee child and wont to return home after sweaty, boisterous play outside, my father used to refer to me and/or one of my siblings as “Little Baby Barn Smells”.
Writing an R-Rated Sci-Fi Fantasy for Harlequin Romances
Fleshing out her novel
in a most peculiar way,
Maxine drove herself to spittle
for what she had to say.
Clapping meat upon the written bones
made her drivel on and on,
penning words of love uncivil
among a gang of ill-bred clones.
Last Night I Dreamt of María
Last night I dreamt of María,
I saw her last in ’95,
but I don’t think I said good-bye.
She may be dead by now;
her husband already gone for years.
But there she was in a couple’s
house I chanced upon
while hiking God knows where
in some far off village.
I’d lost my way,
which is not unusual
in my dreams.
I traipsed across their front lawn
and stopped to ask for
directions, also God knows where.
The man asked me in,
no doubt curious about my trek,
introduced me to his wife.
And in the background
from two decades ago.
She was much taller than I remembered,
more reserved, almost regal,
a far cry from yesteryear,
when she measured no more than four foot five,
and dressed in somber black,
looked dead serious…
when she wasn’t laughing,
wasn’t teasing playfully.
I cried out, María Juchazara!
and she stared at me surprised,
a spark of recognition in her eyes.
But in the introductions
with the couple, María slipped away,
and never once said hello,
never once good-bye.
Note: Most curious that I should dream of María Juchazara quite out of the blue, and particularly in the way described in the above poem. She was a Quechua Indian who, together with her husband Manuel, lived in Cochabamba, Bolivia. They were caretakers of a local institute where I stayed for a number of months when I first arrived in that country in 1968. Both María and Manuel soon became friends, and both had wonderful senses of humor, which I found to be a fairly common trait among the Quechuans I came in contact with during my years in Bolivia. They found my broken Spanish amusing, though their own wasn’t all that much better than mine, their native language being Quechua, so we had ample occasion to tease one another.
A willful child
in the wild
is seldom mild,
but may, beguiled,
with a kind word, a plea,
but most of all a sweet!
A sweet shall not be reviled.
But if even so–God forbid a swat
upon the bum old-styled!–
as a last resort a whisper smiled
in the child’s ear,
“My little buccaneer,
hear me if you won’t behave,
I’ll pull up stakes
and drop you in a grizzly’s cave.”
Disclaimer: Just to be clear, this is merely a tongue-in-cheek poem, not a loosely veiled admission or endorsement. I do not boost bon-bons, blows, or bears to charm challenging children, no matter how horrendous they may be. Well, maybe bears… 😉
Okay, the following piece is a poetic mishmash, and indubitably a hodgepodge and mingle-mangle rhyme scheme as well, but it’s a true-life adventure that happened back in the 1950s, so I am, to pardon the pun, taking a good deal of poetic license here.
How I Nearly Lost My Brother Down a Hole
There’s a park called Standish Hickey
up near northern California’s coast,
a campground in a redwood forest
where tree stumps can be dark and tricky.
Many years ago, when I was
no more than ten years old,
and all a-quiver,
my family took a trip along Route 101
and landed there just outside Legget,
along the South Fork Eel River.
We arrived there long past sunset…
past midnight, in fact, no moon, pitch black.
We set up camp on that dark eve,
and jumped into our respective sack,
too tired to sweat or fret.
Next morning we awoke,
found ourselves amid a grove
of giant redwood trees
stretching highwards such
that looking up too much
I thought my neck would crack,
if I so much did sneeze.
After a campfire breakfast,
(in truth it was a Coleman stove),
brother Dave and I set out
to inspect the grove…
and before long found ourselves
a redwood tree stump laced with moss,
eight foot high, ten feet across.
“Let’s climb up,” cried brother Dave,
always keen for any death-defying feat.
“I’m too short,” I reasoned, not so brave.
“No sweat; I’ll boost you up,” said he.
And reluctantly, I crawled upon his back,
and on his shoulders put my feet.
Once atop the stump I breathed a sigh,
both of relief and a little bit of triumph,
to be standing on a redwood stump so high.
Then I saw the hole.
At the center of the stump
a gaping hollow there did loom,
and for me it could only spell one thing:
Then brother Dave was by my side,
peering into the tree stump tunnel.
“Far out!” cried he. Or back in those days
something allied, like “Wicked!”,
“Cool!”, “Bitchin’!”, or “Rad!”
Whatever he said, it meant he was glad
to see the redwood tree funnel.
“I wonder how deep it goes,” he mused.
For my part, I was not so enthused.
“Looks like cobwebs, spiders, cockroaches,”
warned I, already keen to leave.
“All more reason to see what crouches
therein, brother Steve.”
And down he went, until out of sight,
grunting, grasping, sliding, rasping,
giving me a fright.
“Come back, dear brother,” I implored.
Of course, to which he quite ignored.
Then all went silent for a long while,
until I could stand it not a minute more.
“Dave? ‘You all right?” I cried,
peering scared to death into the maw
of that tree stump crocodile.
“I’m stuck,” he called out at last.
“The sides are slick as soap to grab.
Run back to camp and get a rope,
but don’t tell Mom and Dad,
or surely all hell will be forecast!”
I somehow scrambled down the tree,
but how could I comply?
How could a kid my age climb back
alone a tree stump eight feet high?
Ergo, no way could I heed his plea.
I ratted out my brother Dave,
crying to our dad the sad, sad tale.
Another camper lent us rope
and after two attempts did fail,
they extracted my dear disheveled bro,
no worse for wear, and raring
for another road to pave!
Note: Seriously, I was so scared I’d lost my beloved brother down that tree stump hole that even today, 60-odd years later, when I think about it I want to weep.
You Don’t Actually Have to Go to Mars
You don’t have to go to the planet Mars
and leave behind the scars
to know its rugged terrain,
at least not if you’re in your seventies
and you still have half a brain.
Just roll up your sleeve
and adjust your bifocals,
and you’ll see more topography
than all the wannabe yokels
who yearn for the six-month
red planet leave.
There on your hand, your arm,
your elbow, your fingers
are more tell-tale wrinkles,
rocks, rills, valleys, periwinkles
than you’ll ever find by a Martian freighter
to Olympus Mons or Cassini Crater.
Bus Ride to Uncía
The bus ride to Uncía in nineteen sixty-nine
wasn’t the lark that I’d had quite in mind.
The Andean town full of alleged restless miners
had oft been accused a hot bed of leftist liners.
Fear still ran rampant because of El Ché,*
though his death over a year ago was no longer hearsay.
Insurgency of rebels still filled government heads,
whose paranoia was focused on takeovers by Reds.
Police stops were frequent on well-traveled routes,
checking for contraband and insurgents thereabouts.
These increased delays incited mumbled protest
among passengers keen on arriving home for some rest.
Near the end of the ride we were stopped yet once more,
and a carabinero well-armed attended the front door.
As he moved down the bus aisle to luggage oversee,
his eyes at long last rested on little old me,
sitting near the back like an out-of-place gringo.
What he saw instead was…Cuban guerilla, by jingo!
His hackles aroused, he shouted, “Who is this!”
Exacting demands that something was amiss.
My Spanish being still bad, I stuttered all aflutter,
my tongue for some reason had turned into melted butter.
All passenger eyes turned toward me (the sentry’s fuss),
when suddenly an Indian woman seated to my left commenced to cuss:
“You! You call yourself a guard, you disgraceful rascal?
Jumping on this poor man like a cowardly jackal?
Well, let me tell you, so-called macho with a gun,
this innocent young man happens to be my stepson!”
All eyes in the bus turned incredulous at my “stepmother”,
gaped at her, then at me, back to the guard, and then one another.
Then shrugging en masse at last, they began to shout:
“He’s her stepson, you jerk, her stepson, so get out! Get out!”
The guard, now himself much frightened at the crowd’s irate clamor,
retreated, jumped off the bus, then waved us away with a stammer,
and off we went, laughing, cheering all, our spirits one with another.
And as for me, I gave a grateful hug to my savior Indian stepmother.
Note: We all arrived safely in Uncía, exhausted from the trip but in the best of spirits, and after thanking again that wonderfully resourceful lady, confident now that I was going to enjoy Bolivia to the max, I made my way to the home of friends. By the way, that delightful woman actually declared that I was her son-in-law, not her stepson, but it was simply easier this way to rhyme.
*Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara was captured and summarily executed in the tropics of Bolivia in 1967, almost exactly a year before I arrived in the country, but a feeling of uncertainty about a communist insurgency persisted long after.
A Vietnam Story With a Smelly Ending
As a medic in a company
that supported fighting groups,
I was sometimes sent to battle grounds
where we’d treat our wounded troops.
One place I’ll always remember
when we fell under fierce attack,
I think it was September,
late at night, a place then called Phu Cat.
While mortars fell and bullets chirked
and choppers took to flight,
the rest of us ran for cover
awaiting for a fight.
As I leaped into my foxhole,
I nearly had a fit,
when I found that our Mess sergeant
had changed my refuge
into his garbage pit!
Note: True story! After the attack, my companions would not let me return to our tent and bed until I washed away the stinky grime.
Los descansos de los gansos mansos
se hacen en remansos
al no sufrir arremansos.
Here’s the English translation to the above Spanish play on words:
The reposes of gentle geese
take place in quiet backwaters
so not to suffer setbacks (or chills).
is you can’t tell the
difference between truthibility
thereby transforming credibility
into a liability.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
Passer domesticus Excessiveness
There’s a sparrow
outside my door,
somewhere hidden in
my lemon tree,
whose sole purpose
seems to be
to drive me batty with its
ceaseless cheep, cheep, cheep,
and not a more upbeat
Back Pain Remedy
While laying in pain on my back today,
and looking straight up at the ceiling,
I watched some floaters, two spiders,
and a fly pass by,
and wondered what on earth
they might be feeling.
The floaters, of course, I could quite ignore,
being nothing but muscae volitantes.
The fly and the spiders however might amuse,
though in numbers they seemed a bit scanty.
But these three alas soon skittered away,
now only floaters were left to entertain me.
And so I rolled my eyes this way and that,
thus swirling them like ocean debris.
After five minutes of this
I felt something amiss,
and I struggled to stand up thereupon.
I stretched and I wiggled,
and then I grinned and I giggled,
for my back pain, by George, was quite gone!
The Penultimate Day of National Poetry Month Could Turn Ugly
What do you do on April Twenty-ninth,
the penultimate day of the month,
when you can’t rhyme a line
with ‘poem’ or ‘month’
but phloem, jeroboam,
millionth and youngth?
It’s aggravating enough the first
twenty-eight days to traverse
writing something witty or terse…
but approaching the end,
and rounding the bend,
is like wringing dark matter
out of our universe!
Stop your whining, people cry,
you’re making us die
with your poetic palaver and rhyme.
Rather do something delicious,
or better, make it malicious,
just as long as it’s prosaic crime.
A whiz-bang finish
for Poetry Month I wished
instead rallied knish
Note: I discovered senryū a while back while reading up about haiku. Although they are constructed similarly, haiku tend to be themes of nature and serious; senryū on the other hand incline toward human foibles and are often cynical or darkly humorous. Here’s another senryū I attempted:
Sparse hair fluffed and coiffed
though may enshroud balding pate
hides not shifty eyes