Sunday, November 29, 2009

More November poems

The November PAD challenge is almost over. Here are a couple more from my collection.

November PAD 25
For today's prompt, I want you to write a temperature poem. Remember: Temperature can mean the heat outside, the heat of something (or someone), or even the temperament of someone.

My husband says lime sherbet
runs through my veins.
He could be right.
My hands and feet are always freezing
even in the hottest summer days.
But, remember that old saying,
“Cold hands, warm heart.”
I like to think my heart is warm
making up for my body’s chill.
And, that works fine for me.

November PAD 27
For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem involving a shape (or multiple shapes). You can make the shape the title of your poem, or you can work the shapes into the actual poem in some way. There are two dimensional shapes, of course, like squares and circles, but don't forget some of the other shapes available out there: horseshoes, coffee cups, houses, etc. After all, some objects become so iconic that they actually are considered shapes unto themselves.

The Shape I’m In

I’ve learned over time
that dieting doesn’t have a lot to do with it.
I’ll still have the thick waist I’ve had since puberty
and a straight up and down torso.
I’m a rectangle.
I’ll never be the ideal, the hourglass,
no matter how much I work out
or control what I eat.
I’ll never have big womanly breasts
that people can snuggle into,
hips that sway as I walk,
and a waist small enough
that a pair of hands can wrap around.
But I am lucky.
I’m not a triangle with a big top that tapers down
to skinny hips and legs
like my poor mother-in-law
who kept breaking her ankles
because they couldn’t support her weight.
I’m not the inverted triangle either,
tiny on top and wide from the waist down.
You see a lot of examples of those
on TV these days,
examples of how not to be.
No, I’ll keep the shape I’m in.
It’s served me well all these years.
And, I know better than
to try to change myself now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Choosing not to take no for an answer

Lee Daniels, who directed the movie Precious, refused to take no for an answer when he received one no after another when he tried to get financing. No one wanted to support a film about an obese Harlem girl who had been raped by her father, abused by her mother, impregnated, and afflicted with H.I.V. But he persisted and this movie that he wasn't sure America was ready for has become enormously successful.

Well, I'm not sure America is ready for my book about madness and suicide, but I'm encouraged by the success of Precious to keep on pushing. I won't take no for an answer either.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I can't beat the words of President Obama on this day. So, here they are:

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones.

American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share.

Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve.

So tomorrow, I'll be giving thanks for my family -- for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

But tomorrow is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love.

The soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids. The sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling. The folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach.

So when we gather tomorrow, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.

It seems like a lifetime ago that a crowd met on a frigid February morning in Springfield, Illinois to set out on an improbable course to change our nation.

In the years since, Michelle and I have been blessed with the support and friendship of the millions of Americans who have come together to form this ongoing movement for change.

You have been there through victories and setbacks. You have given of yourselves beyond measure. You have enabled all that we have accomplished -- and you have had the courage to dream yet bigger dreams for what we can still achieve.

So in this season of thanks giving, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to you, and my anticipation of the brighter future we are creating together.

With warmest wishes for a happy holiday season from my family to yours,

President Barack Obama

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A couple more November offerings

November PAD 17
As mentioned above, today is Tuesday, which means we've got a "Two for Tuesday" offering. Remember: With "Two for Tuesday" prompts, you can write to either one or both (or none, if that's how you roll). Here are the two prompts:
1. Write an explosion poem.
2. Write an implosion poem.

We recently caused a small explosion
in a deep dark crater on the Moon.
A little satellite, called LCROSS,
crashed into it,
creating such a disturbance
that water vapor burst
out amidst the other debris.
After further investigation
that explosion exposed
the presence of water
on the Moon
in vast amounts.
Something we’ll surely use
as we continue in our omnipresent
quest for life beyond the Earth.

Note: Though I didn't work on this project or the proposal, I helped write the Aviation Week program excellence award application. We recently received notice that LCROSS won the award.

November PAD 19
For today's prompt, I want you to write an attachment poem. There are all kinds of attachments you could write about: physical, emotional, digital, etc. You could even write about your fear of attachment OR fear of no attachments OR fear of seeming to be afraid of attachment when really you're afraid of not being attached but you don't want other people to know that you know that...where was I?...oh yeah, write an attachment poem. Write it now.

I wear it everywhere.
It attaches to my clothes
on the wasteband
of my slacks or skirts.
It counts out my steps
and if I press a little button
it also tells me calories spent,
miles walked,
or the time of day.
My goal each day is 12,000 steps
and usually I overachieve.
Every year when it’s time to renew
my gym membership
I think about deleting
my step counting device
and the uploading software
from the menu of added perks I pay for.
I feel I’m much too attached to it
and much too obsessive about
amassing so many steps every day.
But, so far,
I can’t bring myself
to even begin process
of becoming unattached.
This little counter and I are
attached at the hip.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another November poem

A prompt from last weekend was perfect because we actually spent a lot of time renewing old friendships. And, I do mean old. We were with people I went to high school with back in the dark ages -- or as my mother used to say -- in the Year One.
In fact we're going out to dinner with two of the couples again tonight -- probably to tell more lies to one another (just kidding).

November PAD 13
For today's prompt, I want you to write a renewable poem. I suppose you could write about renewable energy or renewable books (from the library). But there are other ways to come at this, too. Vows are renewable, as are promises and oaths. In fact, if you think about it long enough, it's hard to think of things that aren't renewable. Now, get writing.

This was a weekend to renew old friendships.
We celebrated Lee’s 70th birthday,
the first one of our high school newspaper staff group
to reach that proud and
totally unbelievable age.
The Fell’s from Illinois,
the Doyle’s from Arizona,
and the rest of us,
convened first at dinner Friday night
and yesterday at the birthday celebration.
We ate tacos, drank champagne,
and gooey birthday cake
while reminiscing about kisses
through the screen door
trips to downtown Chicago
to see burlesque
and books and screenplays never written,
except in our heads.
Though we met while working
on the high school paper
Lee was the only one
to actually make a living as a news man.
But that only came after
stints at two less than prestigious publications,
called Penthouse and Hustler,
and rides in Ken Kesey’s magic bus.
Boy, does he have tales to tell
if only he’d stop acting like an old fart
and write them down.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November poem a day challenge

I've almost kept up with the November poem a day prompts. The object of this challenge is to produce and submit a 10-20 page chapbook by the end of December -- so, not all of the November poems need to be included. Here's my first five days' attempts with the prompts.

More will follow.

November PAD 1
For today’s prompt, I want you to write a poem in which you (or something) enters something new. Sound abstract? Some examples: Write a poem in which you travel somewhere new. Or try some new exercise. Or diet. Or hair stylist. Or, well, I’m think you get the idea. And remember: It doesn’t have to be about you. You could, I suppose, write a poem about an insect entering a new phase of development. Or a plant being introduced to a new environment. And so on.

I’m always up for a challenge.
So when promised a point award
for upping my weekly steps total
by 1000, I took it and walked with it,
so to speak.
That meant only 10 minutes more
cardio exercise everyday
for seven days,
a surprisingly small commitment.
But when I finished the week,
successfully upping my total
more than the minimum 1000,
I was tired
and took the next day off.

November PAD 2
For today’s prompt, I want you to write a poem in which you look at something from a different angle. For instance, a chef could go out to eat at a restaurant where he’s not the chef, or a short person can look at the world from the vantage point of a tall person (maybe with the help of stilts or a stool or something). The predator could become the prey. The photographer could become the photographed. And so on and so forth.

Last night I judged a poetry reading.
High school students
showing few nerves
got up, stood at the podium,
and gestured appropriately
as they shared their favorite poems
and talked eloquently about their choices.
Judging a reading isn’t a simple task
especially when a monetary prize is involved.
But it’s so much easier than being judged
for reading poems myself.

November PAD 3
Prompt #1: Write a positive poem. Like how great writing a poem a day through November is. OR
Prompt #2: Write a negative poem. Like how un-great technological hiccups in November are.

Today it’s all bad:
the hair,
the face,
the job,
the boss,
the people on my work team,
the food.
It couldn’t get any
worse than a greasy plate
of chow mein for lunch.
Even after a piece of gum
the greasy taste remains.
So, today is a day to stay cool
and not make any rash decisions.
Just put one finger on the keyboard
at a time and push down
and let it all evolve
as it will.
Though tomorrow bodes to be
just as bad.

November PAD 4
For today's prompt, I want you to take the phrase "Maybe (blank)," replace the (blank) with a word or phrase, and write a poem using that new phrase as your title. Some example titles: "Maybe we really did need a bigger boat," "Maybe next time you'll listen to me," "Maybe never," "Maybe baby," and so on.

Maybe I should drive to Big Sur
instead of going to work.
I would see blue sky and small white clouds
once out of the city
and fog
hovering over the cliffs
as I climb the coast.
I would smell the salt and pine air
and stop and look at the ocean
lapping against the rocks
every few miles or so.
I would not be in a hurry
but once there,
I would immediately
run down the hill to the tubs
relax in a bath
of hot sulfur spring water
and let the stress of work
ease out of me.
And I would never look back.

November PAD 5
For today's prompt, I want you to write a growth poem. This could be psychological or emotional growth, physical growth, or however you'd like to take it. Maybe your poem is about growing hair or growing hungry or growing impatient or...

I’ve decided it’s time to look my age.
I’m done with the dyes and low lights
and all those bottled hair coloring potions.
I’m done with the bluing, the cinnamon, the henna.
I’ve dumped them in the trash.
I’m growing out
my natural gray/silver color.
Slowly, month by month
as the colored ends get trimmed,
more and more
of my true color shows.
Now, the question is,
will I keep it that way
once I’m done with being done
and dye it all over again?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A beautiful Sunday morning

We spent a lot of this weekend with my New Trier high school friends, culminating in Lee's birthday party yesterday. (I won't say how old he is because that will give away the age I'll become just a few months from now.) Suffice it to say I feel very blessed to still be so close to folks I knew way back when we were all working on the school newspaper together. Lee is the only one of us to actually work on a newspaper; however, that job was preceeded by stints at Penthouse and Hustler and rides on the magic bus with Ken Kesey and company. Needless to say, Lee has lived a long and interesting life. I love him dearly.

Unfortunately we didn't get a photo together, so I'll post some I took this morning during my big long Sunday morning walk. Today was a perfect day for the surfers, and they were out in droves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering those killed at Fort Hood

Last week a military psychiatrist opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing 13 soldiers and wounding another 30. It was a horrific act, and one hard to explain. There are rumors that the attack was terrorist inspired because the killer is a Muslim. And, it also could be explained away by post traumatic stress – which is now running rampant in the military. The memorial service was held yesterday with President Obama speaking. In reporting the event, one of the news people called the survivors the “walking wounded,” an expression someone used for me many years ago. It refers to those of us who have lost children. This killing touched me closely – young people dead, mourning parents, and all the possible result of mental illness.

It just never ends. And, it always makes me cry.

Let's not forget our military on this Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Restaurant games

The other night while out to dinner with friends we tried to guess why a table nearby had an added feature -- a tall vase filled with beautiful red roses. Since no one was seated there yet, we really had no clue about the people when we started to play the what do you think the roses are for game.

With that my friend immediately suggested a marriage proposal. I countered with a 60th wedding anniversary celebration.

After the couple finally arrived we knew, even without any facts, that we were both wrong. He was kind of a paunchy, balding guy and she, not a spring chicken, was rather plain and dressed like she was living in the 50s of Donna Reed, wearing a long sleeve white blouse and a full skirt. She also had long wavy hair and wore dark rimmed glasses.

Could this be a first date? Had they met on or eHarmony?

They certainly didn’t look like they knew or even liked each other very well. She sat in one corner of their booth and he in the other, barely talking to each other. Then when she returned to the table after a bathroom break she sat closer – but still they showed no affection toward one another. One would think if they were celebrating a special anniversary they would have looked lovingly at each other once in a while.

Well, we finally gave up and asked our server if she knew what they were celebrating. And, much to our surprise it was a 29th wedding anniversary.

Is that how most people who are married 29 years celebrate? Alone, sitting far apart, not talking to each other? Like they had nothing to celebrate at all?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The B series

Okay, here's the tweet size poems about the B. No names here. Just let it suffice that this pain in the A at work was a yeasty poetry subject....until she left the company. Right now, it's out of sight, out of mind. And, that's a good thing.

The B Series

The B swaggers across the room,
looking from side to side
with a judging pursed-lip smile
on her face. Doesn’t she know
that will cause wrinkles?

With her ubiquitous Coach bag
slung over her shoulder,
her Daytimer and papers
tightly in her arms,
she stomps her 4-inch heels
down the stairs.

I wonder why men
gather and cow-tow.
She’s got something they want.
Certainly not her sweet demeanor.
Oh right
I’m a girl.
No way I’d understand.

The B is retiring
Only 51 more days to deal with
her demands, her haughtiness,
and her lack of appreciation
No I won’t miss her
when she’s gone.

Little lacey see-through tops
Showing lots of arm
rhinestones on her belts
And short skirts with flounce
Anything to detract
From her flat chest.

Today it was a white low-cut
clingy number
with enough sheering across the breasts
to give the impression
of something under there after all.

Why does she
walk through my room?
Certainly the hall is there
for a reason.
Perhaps she’s out for
human adoration
rather than mean blank walls.

Why was her smile so wide
when Joe announced a security breech?
Was she reveling in someone else’s mishaps
or just savoring her own daydream?

She doesn’t seem to notice
how her stomach sticks out.
She just keeps strutting,
swinging her hips, and clicking those
heels across the floor.

Now here’s a scary thought.
She retires on October 31,
just two more weeks from now.
A perfect witchy day for
transforming the B into a W.

This is it. This is her last day.
Her replacement is here.
He communicates, he’s pleasant,
and he can do her job without a hitch.
All is good.

Work life without the B
is peaceful. We communicate
openly without fear
of her insulting retorts
and fake-y slimy smile.
Our smiles now are real.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Palin -- the lowest common denominator

Yesterday I heard an interview with Michelle Norris of NPR and Mary Kehe, the book editor of the Christian Science Monitor, about the flood of books coming out about Sarah Palin. The last interchange really hit home to me, because of the number of rejections I’ve gotten about the subject matter of my book.

NORRIS: If we look at all of the Sarah Palin books that are about to be published, what do we learn about the book publishing industry in this moment?
KEHE: Oh boy, I - you know, I hate to say it, but I don't think it paints a pretty picture. It seems to me it smacks of a bit of desperation. And in many cases it shows a little bit of disregard for quality, a willingness to cater, in some cases, not every case, certainly, but sometimes to a lowest common denominator.

Well, that conversation makes me feel less like a failure. I think my work is good. I've heard from others that it's good. Unfortunately, it’s not the subject matter that will grab a book agent or publisher who wants to deal with popular people and their thoughts no matter how banal they might be. And, I’m not a celebrity. One agent said she could only see a publisher interested in my book if I were a famous person. Well, maybe once the economy picks up, these folks in the book publishing world may be more willing to take some literary chances. I can wait.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Query update

So, I got the most direct rejection of my material via email yesterday. The agent, no, no names here, wrote me back almost immediately saying: “Thanks for the query, but I don't want to deal with such pain.”

I'm enraged that a person could be so short sighted and actually admit this. Yet, he is more courageous than most agents who just blandly say my material is not right for them or doesn’t fit into their list.

I am tempted to send Mr. Blatant Agent Glenn Close’s article. I’m tempted to send it to all the agents who have rejected my work, but it’s a waste of time. I need to keep moving on. I need to keep querying and taking the rejections – no matter how they come. I just read a success story – that it took an author three years to find her perfect agent. I’m not anywhere close to that. Another reason to keep querying on.

And, speaking of moving on, I’ve started the November Poem a Day (PAD) challenge. I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue with busy day job is this month, but at least I’ve started. I wrote the first two poems today – just little bitty things, but at least I wrote them. I also wrote another 140-character poem for the B series.

You'll see them all here -- soon, I promise.