Poem #105: “Senior Moment”

Another week without much writing, since I spent it working on the reviews and finals for my classes. I have a little more to do on them this week, and then my prep work for the semester will be done. I’ll still have teaching and grading to do, but it shouldn’t be excessive. (The grading will mostly be during the two weeks after Thanksgiving, when they take their finals.) I should have some time for writing between now and then — if I feel like doing it. I didn’t feel like writing last weekend, which is why I worked on the reviews / exams. Now I’m feeling a bit run-down because of it (and my chronic insomnia), so I probably won’t feel like writing until later in the week — if that. Despite this, I revised the beginning of a story and have a good handle on how I’m going to finish it, and I jotted down a few new ideas. So, when I finally get back to writing, I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting started. Hopefully, that will be on Thursday or Friday, which seems to be the pattern I’ve had over the semester.

In the meantime, I had two brevettes accepted by Whispers…. yesterday. They will probably get published next month. I’ll post an update when they do.

Finally, here is the poem for this week — a much longer one than usual:

Senior Moment

I can’t believe
how long it takes
to find my pool
cue.

Why did I put it
in the closet?

It’s too early—
10:00 am—and
no one I know is in
the pool hall when
I get there.

I play an hour
before my back
starts to hurt.

Half an hour later
there is a dull throb
in my forearm, as if
it’s forgotten some-
thing important.

Maybe it has?

I pocket ball after
ball—the best I’ve
played in ages—and
finally call it quits
after three hours.

The faint, muffled
scent of fresh sweat
stains rises from my
armpits as I reach
out to pay the bill.

My fingers shake
from fatigue, but I
feel refreshed, alive.

On the way home,
something nags at
the nape of my neck,
worrying it like a half-
remembered, half-
forgotten itch, but it
isn’t until I pull into
the driveway and
see the other cars
that it hits me.

I don’t recognize them.

The dorm house is
a different color.

The boys standing
outside throwing the
football back and forth
are so, so young…

I slowly drive by and
pull up to the stop sign.

I grip the steering wheel
so hard my knuckles almost
bleed, and I sit there so long
that one of the boys runs up
to my car and taps on the
passenger’s side window.

I turn with tears seeping
from my eyes, and press
the button to lower it.

“Hey man,” he says
in a way that only
the young can.

“Are you okay?”

My mouth moves a
few times before I fi-
nally say in a soft, even,
empty tone, “I forgot
I was teaching today.”

He has kind eyes, like
a Born-Again striving
so hard to live up to
His new standards.

Before he can say
anything else, I nudge
the gas pedal and my
car creeps away.

I haven’t played pool
since I graduated college
and started teaching—
there wasn’t time.

It’s midday.

I should be
teaching now.

How could I
have forgotten?

I’m only 43.

© 2015, all rights reserved.

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Poems #102-104: “Jealousy,” “Clingy,” and “In Orbit”

Here are a few of the short poems that I wrote last weekend:

Jealousy

How often
do you say
“I love you.”
when I’m
not around?

© 2015, all rights reserved.

Clingy

Your love
is like a soft
drizzle slowly
smothering
me.

© 2015, all rights reserved.

In Orbit

My world
revolves
around the
sunlight
in your eyes.

© 2015, all rights reserved.

Poem #101: “Reflection”

If my count is right, “Reflection” is the 500th poem that I’ve written (and kept) during 2015. It is a form that I created that is an adaptation of the sonnet. I call it a “sonnettennos” because the first half is a sonnet and the second half is a sonnet in reverse. The rhyme scheme from the first half is inverted in the second half, and the two halves of the poem focus on complementary or opposing ideas. I’ve only written a few of them, so it might be a bit clunky; however, I wanted to write a formal poem to complete my goal for this year, and this form seemed appropriate for the task. Now that I have completed my poetry goal for the year, I plan to focus more on fiction for while. Speaking of which, my short story “Limbo” has just been published by The Corner Club Press, which is available for free online.

Reflection

It took me twenty years to write a thou-
sand poems. Why? Because the vast major-
ity were formal verse, and learning how
to write them took some time. I probably purged
two hundred of my early ones before
I had five hundred that I kept. The son-
net took a year all by itself. The tor-
ture of its simple rhythmic form—once found—
became a splendid melody, and then
they flowed like rapids from my pen. The more
I wrote the easier they came, and then….
Well, college put a damper on my work.
Although I kept a thousand, there were more,
so why the hell have I been keeping score?

I’m anal. That’s the simple answer. Sure,
the numbers measure what I’ve done, but poor
ones rate the same as masterpieces. Purg-
ing all the worst ones helps. But still…. And then
there’s this year’s poems—some five hundred short
ones—added to the tally. Barely ten
percent are formal rhyming poems bound
by rigid rules and expectations. For
the most part, they are free verse poems, sound
bites, haiku wannabes, imagery, word-
play, mimicry, and moments captured—more,
by far, in three to five lines or a doz-
en words than otherwise. They came in spurts,
like sips of boiling coffee too hot to swallow.

© 2015, all rights reserved.

Poem #99: “Religion” and a Flash Fiction piece (“Parable”)

If I have counted right, “Religion” is the 99th poem I’ve posted this year, so I might write a commemorative 100th poem for next week. I’m not sure it warrants it, though, so I’ll probably wait until I get to the 500th poem for the year (current count: 464) before I do something like that. As for my other goals, there hasn’t been much progress because I was too busy with midterms over the past few weeks. They’re done, now, so I’ll probably get a little writing done before I have to get the finals ready. Even so, I’ve made a little progress by writing a few really short ones (like “Parable”), and I think I’ll end up with two collections by the time I’ve finished. The SF collection is one of them, and the other is a mainstream / mystery one that I started some time ago. “Parable” will fit in with the latter.

Religion

The inspiration
for many to do great good
and greater evil.

© 2015, all rights reserved.

Parable

I was walking to Damascus one day, when I met a strange man with a small boy at his side. They were dressed in frayed, dirty-gray robes that were spotted with a spattering of familiar brown stains. The man had a beatific smile that was as disturbing as it was serene, and he possessed an almost godlike self-confidence. He walked with a brisk stride, as if he were a prophet on some divine purpose, and—but for the lack of wings—the boy at his side could have passed as an angel.

What can their story be? I wondered as I fell in step beside them. We walked in silence for a short time, and then the man suddenly turned his gaze toward me, and a silent shudder rushed through me. Never had I seen such an intense, piercing look! “We are bound for the holy city,” he confessed. “My son has been blessed with God’s mercy.”

He said it with such honest conviction that I was held speechless for a long moment before I could say, “That is indeed a fine blessing.”

He smiled with such radiance that I thought that he, too, had been touched by God, and then he looked at his son. “He is a fine boy,” he said with reverence, “so unlike his brothers and sisters. They were the devil’s own, they were. But no more.”

I was puzzled by this, but before I could raise a question, he had fixed his stare on me as if he was studying my soul. His voice was profoundly sad as he said, “They were unruly, disobedient children who never listened to me. The depth of their disrespect was unfathomable, unforgivable. I was patient. I was tolerant. But a father can only forgive so much.” He fell silent, as if a heavy burden was draped across his shoulders.

There was something disturbing about that silence, and I felt compelled to ask, “What did you do?”

He blinked, and the smile returned to his lips. “What does one do with devils?” he asked. Before I could answer, he said, “I took up my axe and sent them back to hell!” Then he looked down at his son with such tenderness and love that it brought an ache to my heart. “But not Noah,” he said. “He listens. He obeys.”

© 2015, all rights reserved.

Poem #98 “Fox Hunt”

Well, I didn’t win, place, or show in the Lyrical Iowa contest this year, but I was less surprised by that than I was winning the humorous contest last year. Still, they accepted my poem “Yukon, 1897” for the 2015 edition of Lyrical Iowa. They only publish one poem from each entrant, and they said it was a tossup between that one and “Fox Hunt,” so I decided to make “Fox Hunt” this week’s poem. Both of these sonnets were written during a snowstorm in January, which explains their winter motif.

Fox Hunt

A red fox prowls the surface of a snow-
pack three feet deep. The frozen crust is strong
enough to hold its weight, and down below
amid the snow the subnivean zone
is thriving. Mice and voles have burrowed through
its depths to make their nests and raise their young.
They think they’re safe, but the red fox is hun-
gry, tilts its head to listen, hears them go-
ing to and fro. Its ears perk up. Its eyes
shift to zero in on them. It scrunches up
like an accordion, its muscles poised
to strike at something it can’t see. It jumps.
Its spear-like snout impales the snow and buries deep.
Its white-tipped tail held high, a flag of victory.

© 2015, all rights reserved.