sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Archive for the ‘Creative Writing’ Category

A Set of Silly Stories

I was cleaning out my files in a so-far futile attempt to organize them and came across a couple of flash fiction pieces I thought I’d share with y’all.

About Chuck’s Chicken

I was pulling up to the drive-through at McDonald’s when the story below came to me. No, it was not inspired by a real incident.814015364_2879704483_0-1

Chuck’s Chicken

I rolled up to the takeout window at Chuck’s Chicken, Where The Chickens are Still Clucking and stuck my head out the open car window, sucking in a large breath of the damp, heavy summer air.

“Waddle it be, sweetie?” The guy, bald, and at least 300 pounds, leered at me. His name tag read, “Chuck.”

“Two thighs, a side of corn, a side of mashed potatoes, and corn bread. No gravy on the potatoes. Oh, and a large lemonade.”

I waited for Chuck to repeat my order back to me. Instead he held up a hand, gesturing STOP, and turned away from me. I heard a voice yelling from inside the restaurant.

“Chuck, that chicken you wanted me to slaughter? I chopped off its head, but it’s running around the kitchen, and it’s dripping blood everywhere.”

“Al, you idiot, I told you to kill the damn bird out in the yard.”

I swallowed, started my car and drove away. And here I’d thought when Chuck said, Still Clucking, he’d been feeding me a line.

About Mad Hatter Town Planners

When he was in middle school, my youngest son and I would wonder about how some of the roads near our house on the cape got their names; Rascally Rabbit Road was one of them.

Our conclusions inspired the story below. The town meeting is entirely a figment of my imagination. The only thing inspired by a real incident is the bit about the fire.houses

Mad Hatter Town Planners

I fell down the rabbit hole straight into the town planning committee meeting. A large basin of Sangria sat in the middle of the scratched wood table in the center of the room, and a keg rested against the back wall. Al, Stan, and Art were already there.

Stan wore a suit, and sweat dripped down his face into his long gray hair as he peered over Art’s shoulder.

“It’s my Mother-in-law’s recipe,” Art was saying as I walked in. Light reflected off his head, bald and smooth as an egg. He wore Khaki shorts and a very old Boston Pops t-shirt. His glasses were new, though: a snappy pair with a silver frame.

“Hey, Pete, have some Sangria.” Art handed me a large glass without waiting for my answer. The outside was still wet. I wiped my hand on my pants, leaving a purple stain on my new khaki shorts.

I took a sip. It was good. “What’s in this?”

“My father-in-law makes the wine himself. He gifted us with a barrel or two. We had to buy the fruit.” Art grinned. His father-in-law was over eighty, and Art claimed he still kept his savings in a suitcase under his bed.

 “So what’s the big crisis? I planned to spend the evening playing miniature golf with my grandkids.” I pulled out a chair across the table from Art and dropped into it.

“We need to name some streets in order to incorporate.” A shaft of sunlight reflected off Art’s thick glasses.

“They have names: Main street, Railroad Street, New Street.”  I brushed at the stain on my shorts. It didn’t help.

Stan pulled a pen from his shirt pocket, which was white and sported a large blue stain. “We applied to be part of Wonderland. A couple of our names are duplicates of theirs, and some of the others are confusing: Bay Street, Bay Road, and the like. I want to rename everything iffy so people won’t get lost. I thought we could come up with something original. All we have to do is pick names and drop the list off. They’re all set to approve us when we do.” He flipped open his notepad and scribbled something.

“I assume we have the list of existing Wonderland street names.” I took a long drink of the sangria, almost swallowing a piece of lemon at the bottom of the glass.

“Yes, and the list of ours, too. We’ve got the duplicates and the confusing ones marked.” Stan flipped to another page and passed me his notebook.

“Why not meet another night?” I glanced at the list. It was long. I handed the notebook back to Stan.

“Because I’ll be out of town after tonight. My daughter just had twin girls. We’re going out there for a month, maybe longer.” Al drained his glass of Sangria and poured himself another. Some spilled down his shirt. It was one of those nice polo shirts with a collar and some kind of logo.

Mort, the final member of our team, strolled in, dropping his pile of library books onto the table and flopping into a chair. He was young, only fifty-five or so, but he’d retired early. “Remind me why we need to be part of Wonderland.”  

Art handed Mort a glass of Sangria, which he drained and handed back to Art. Art poured him another glass.

“So we can be part of their emergency services: police, fire, and all that. They have a full-time fire department, not just volunteers on call. To do that, we need to rename some streets.” Stan passed Mort his notebook.

Mort dropped the notebook onto the table before taking another healthy swig of Sangria. “So?”

Art got up and refilled all of our glasses before turning to Mort. “That’s right, you’re new. My son’s house burned to the ground last year. He had to drop his kids from the second story window. My granddaughter Maria was screaming, ‘Daddy, don’t. They hadn’t even rounded up the so-called volunteer firemen. The chief had his phone turned off. Maria broke both legs.”

 “All right, so what are we going to name those streets?” Mort finished his glass of sangria, and Art poured him another.

 “Merciful Marvin Meadows. Treacherous Tom’s Twisty Trail Jabberwocky Junction.” I hiccuped. I’d had four, maybe five glasses of Sangria by then. 

Time passed. We drank and named streets.

 “No more,” I said, peering into the now empty tub. “Time to go home.” I tried to get my car keys but they kept falling on the floor.  Art, Al, Stan, and Mort were no better.

We called Town Taxi to come pick us up. We must have dropped off the list of names but I really don’t remember. The next thing I knew my wife was shaking me awake.  Sun streamed in the window. When I peered at the clock, it read noon.

“Al says Wonderland has approved the new street names and we’re now officially part of town.”

I sat up and groaned. My aching head! “So what’s the problem?”

“You boys really tied one on. Some of those names…”

“Art had a tub of Sangria. His father-in-law gave him a couple of barrels of his wine.” I pressed my hands to my pounding head. “Can you get me a couple of aspirin?”

“No, honey, you can get them yourself.” She turned and left. I rolled over, pulled the pillow over my head, and went back to sleep.

And that’s why I, Peter Piper, now live on Picked A Pickle Pepper Path.

 

 

My Letter to the World: A Poem and a Prompt

Whether just starting as a poet, or well-experienced, you can learn by imitation. Choose a poem by another poet, classic or modern, and write a poem in the same style. There’s a few ways you could approach this:

  • Write a poem as a direct response to the subject.
  • Write your own poem inspired by the topic.
  • Follow the poetry form only.

Here’s an example of one of my early poems. I personalized Emily Dickinson’s “This is My Letter to the World.” I kept it in a similar style, and thought: What would I say to the world?

To: The World; From: Mary

My Letter to the World

What do I have to say to the world
That all but deserted me?
Would anyone listen to a single soul
Through the unheard art of poetry?

Although surrounded by others,
Wanting my voice to be heard,
I’m often isolated
For no one will hear my words.

Can I make a difference in someone’s life,
As others did in mine?
Will anyone read the simple words
That I wrote in my spare time?

I may be a shy, quiet person
But I have a message of my own;
Won’t someone come and discover
The soul within my poems.

The message of my poem remains true today. I want my voice, my poems, to be heard. I’d love it if you shared your own poem based on the prompt.

mary-sig2 (1)

The Story of Mathematics

mtns2The Story of Mathematics

It was the last day of class before Christmas vacation, and our high-school math class was restless and without anything much our teacher needed to cover.

“I can prove the existence of the integers from the axioms that there is a number one and the operation of addition,” he said, and started scribbling on the board.

1+1=2
2+1=3
and so forth.

That was the beginning of my love affair with number theory, the elegant pie-in-the-sky structures mathematicians build; structures that appear to have no application to the real world but somehow do.

The first number poem I wrote was called Round. Round was sparked by my memory of a discussion in a college physics class about the rate at which a cup of coffee would cool and how the shape of the cup played into it. We spent an entire class writing equations about the rate at which the coffee would cool based on the cup shape; we concluded a tall, narrow mug is best – least surface area at the open top.

Another trigger memory from a math class about the sphere having the least surface area per unit volume of any solid figure. One afternoon as both these memories chased each other around the inside of my head, I wrote the poem.

Round

The sphere
is the perfect
shape

for conserving heat,
providing the least
surface area
per unit
of volume,

thus explaining
why Santa

lives at
the North Pole.

It was published, a friend liked it and challenged me to write more.  So I wrote.

About Counting

If you couldn’t count, could you still tell if someone took one of your toys? Maybe, if you only had four or fewer toys. Perhaps you could tell with five, but at some point, we all reach our limit, where we can’t tell unless you we count. And, it turns out, some animals, such as birds and insects, have a number sense, too. So while the ability to count is, in a sense, built into our genes, the symbols we use for numbers and the whole structure surrounding them: addition, subtraction, and all the rest, are our own creations.
If we couldn’t count there would be no computers, no telephones, no electricity, no television or radio or boom boxes. In short, no modern civilization.

Man invented arithmetic. In fact, he invented numbers and counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and percents. He invented the whole structure of arithmetic. It did not, as I like to imagine, spring full blown from the mind of some great Mathematician in the sky.

A Few Poems

This is the way I like to dream mathematics came into being:

The Way it Should Have Been

In the beginning there was zero, void.
And the Mathematician said,
“Let there be a number one,”
and there was a number one.

And the Mathematician said,
“Let there be addition,
so numbers can be added together,”
and there was addition, the first operator.

And the Mathematician said,
“Let them go forth and add,”
and they went forth and added.
And there was two, three, four, five, …

And the Mathematician said,
“Let there be subtraction,
so one number can be subtracted from another,”
and there was subtraction, the second operator.

And the Mathematician said,
“Let them go forth and subtract,”
and the went forth and subtracted.
And there was -1, -2, -3, …

And there were positive integers,
and there were negative integers,
the first set of numbers.

And the Mathematician looked
upon what he had created,
and behold, the sum was greater than the parts.

Birth of the Twos

One is the mother
of the integers,
addition their father.

All you need
is love
and number theory.

Addition

In arithmetic,
one plus one
always makes two.

In life, if you wait
nine months
you might get three.

Playing Around: me and Gertrude Stein

Playing Around: me and Gertrude Stein

gertrude_stein_by_alvin_langdon_coburn

I am taking an online poetry class, and one of the poets we’re studying is Gertrude Stein, an American novelist, poet, and playwright: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gertrude_Stein

The last time I took this class, three or four years ago, Stein kind of slipped by me. This time, I am enchanted with her language play. My particular favorite at the moment is her verbal portrait of Picasso, a kind of cubism in words rather than a straightforward description of the artist.

Here is a link to Stein reading the poem, “Would he like it if I told him, a completed portrait of Picasso”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJEIAGULmPQ

Playing Around One: A Sestina

 

Inspired by this, and by a list of words from a poetry challenge, I decided to write a sestina. A sestina, for those who don’t know, is a poem consisting of six six-line stanzas plus a three-line envoy where the end words repeat in a set pattern https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sestina

I wrote a Sestina where I repeated the entire lines and not just the ending words. If you want to try writing one, you might use http://www.renajmosteirin.com/sestina.html to generate the end of line words in the correct pattern. When I wrote mine, I repeated the entire lines of the first stanza instead of merely the final word.

the_djinn_by_maeshanne

The Devil Made Me Do It

 

Write right
Trudge down the road
Leave footprints in the snow
Meander through thick pine forests
until you see apple blossoms
Mending boys is significant

Mending boys is significant
Write right
until you see apple blossoms
Trudge down the road
Meander through thick pine forests
Leave footprints in the snow

Leave footprints in the snow
Mending boys is significant
Meander through thick pine forests
Write right
Trudge down the road
until you see apple blossoms

until you see apple blossoms
Leave footprints in the snow
Trudge down the road
Mending boys is significant
Write right
Meander through thick pine forests

Meander through thick pine forests
until you see apple blossoms
Write right
Leave footprints in the snow
Mending boys is significant
Trudge down the road

Trudge down the road
Meander through thick pine forests
Mending boys is significant
until you see apple blossoms
Leave footprints in the snow
Write right

Trudge down the road until you see apple blossoms
Meander through thick pine forests Leave footprints in the snow
Mending boys is significant Write right


Playing Around two: More Fun

 

Then I put the words through a “cut up” machine

http://www.alepoems.com/poems/generate

 

and edited the result, coming up with the following:

 

Cut Up

Forests Meander right through blossoms

Devil blossoms in leaves

through thick apple, significant

See pine See forests

 

down until

right is pine blossoms

Road is trudge

Write forest roads

You leave

Trudge pine forests

Trudge through snow

is the thick trudge

 

Footprints meander

Write boys, apple

Leave, the see pine thick

Right boys, leave down the snow

 

Meander, leave right

the pine is the boys road

right until trudge

in apple footprints

 

Blossoms until in snow

down through significant footprints

Leave mending in, meander

See until trudge apple

 

Write down thick blossoms

See boys in mending forests footprints

apple significant road

until you meander

 

Footprints see right

Mending thick apple,

you leave footprints

significant is right

 

Loads of fun! Go ahead, try playing around and see what you come up with. Feel free to post your poem(s) in the comments.

Playing around with Mesostics

600px-william_simpson_-_charge_of_the_light_cavalry_brigade_25th_oct-_1854_under_major_general_the_earl_of_cardiganWhat is a Mesostic? A Mesostic is similar to an acrostic, but the spine word (or words) run down the middle of the page rather than down the left side. The letters of the spine phrase are capitalized. The choice of words also follows certain rules: the next capitalized letter can’t appear between it and the next word, or sometimes both the capitalized letter and the next capitalized letter can’t appear.

Here is a short article on Mesostics:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesostic

Mesostic poems can thus be generated using an initial text (Oracle) and a spine word, most likely using a Mesostic generator program. Here’s a link to one:

http://mesostics.sas.upenn.edu/

and here’s some information about the project at the University of Pennsylvania that produced the program:

http://mesostics.sas.upenn.edu/about.html

Here is an interesting piece by Marjorie Perloff about John Cage’s Mesostics:

http://thebatterseareview.com/critical-prose/116-john-cage-conceptualist-poet

The following was generated from “Charge of the Light Brigade” source using the poem’s title as the oracle:

                      
                  in guns into ii the theirs Cannon
                                rigHt
                              them cAnnon to left of
                                 fRont of and stormed boldly they and of the
              their sabres bare as in air sabrinG
                                 thE gunners there charging
                           army while wOrld wondered plunged in the batterysmoke
            they broke cossack and russian reeled From
                                  sTroke sundered rode but not not
                            v cannon rigHt
                                of thEm cannon
                                 to Left of
                              them behInd at had of from mouth of
             left of six hundred vi when can their Glory fade o
                                wild cHarge
                                   They made all world wondered honour they made
                            the light noBle six
                                 hundRed
                                   I half a half a a onward the rode six
                           forward the liGht
                                  chArge for the
                             guns he saiD
                               into thE of left and through

“Of Frogs and Fishing”

Here are three poems I wrote in response to photo prompts for F2k class at Writers Village University.  Writing a poem inspired by a photograph is harder than you think!

picture-prompt-1b

Of Frogs and Fishing

I’ve kissed a few frogs.

In the fourth grade,
warts on my hands
from kissing a boy,
no doubt,
his eyes bulging, croaking
hello in the halls.

The auto mechanic
who told me fish stories,
never kissed him.

Prince or pauper?

The newly divorced,
washed up on the beach,
flopping on the sand.
Yeah, I kissed him.

Plenty of fish in the sea,
or so they say.

The businessman who flashed
a fistful of credit cards,
enough for decent fishing gear.
I never kissed him.

Maybe it was the tin crown
that fooled me, the too shy
toad always just out of reach.
I kissed him.

Does that make me a princess
in a pink tutu, ever hopeful?

I’ve kissed
a few frogs.

picture-prompt-2c

Patriot

I believe in liberty,
justice, peace and plenty.

All that good shit.

The flag for which it stands.

And the Pursuit of Happiness.

You both get out of my way
before you get trampled.

And that guy, carrying that flag
on the beach, like it was yours alone…
and alone to bear.

These red, white and blue tennies
will leave marks on your back.

So get out of my way,
get out of my way.

picture-prompt-1c

Stacks

My bedroom,
shelves of notebooks
and books, both kinds,
hardback and paperback.

They could be the important
kind, history, philosophy,
politics, law.

Instead, fiction-old favorites
and new friends, cookbooks,
Astrology and travel books,
writing books.

The local branch
of the Westlund library.

Favorite Poems

djinns

Les Djinns is one of my all-time favorite poems.

Here is the poem (in French, of course)!

http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/victor_hugo/les_djinns.html

Here is a link to someone reading it on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQv4GgQX9A

Here are the first couple of stanzas in French:

Murs, ville,
Et port,
Asile
De mort,
Mer grise
Où brise
La brise,
Tout dort.

Dans la plaine
Naît un bruit.
C’est l’haleine
De la nuit.
Elle brame
Comme une âme
Qu’une flamme

Toujours suit !
Note the rhyme pattern, A/B/A/B/A/A/A/B

The form, both the line length and the rhyme pattern, contribute greatly to the effect of the poem. It’s extremely difficult to translate, but here is a link to one that stays pretty true to both the text and the form:

http://lyricstranslate.com/en/les-djinns-djinns.html

At one point I attempted to translate it myself but gave up in despair. Instead, I ended up with the following piece of nonsense:

lee_jeans

Lee Jeans

by Margaret Fieland

 

The real
report:
the meal,
in short,
a quart
of grease,
the teas
a tease,
the torte

,

is too plain
and not sweet.
They complain,
I repeat.
It is plain
it’s insane
to remain
here to eat.

 

The chef, you know,
who kneads the dough:
he had to go.
It’s quite a blow.
He stole the plants,
a big advance,
and all the pants,
when things were slow.

 

I hear him approach
I know it is he.
He sounds like a coach
or an angry sea.
I may be a fool
but I think it’s cruel
and not at all cool
to take things and flee.

 

So I went down the hall
to see what could be found.
I had heard someone call
so I looked all around.
I walked down to the lamp.
I wanted to decamp
but I had a bad cramp
so I leaned on the wall.

 

It was warm for the month of May.
I looked around and he was gone.
The chef hid from me, and I say
that the search for him may drag on.
I know that he has run away;
I looked around to see which way.
I know I won’t find him today,
and I don’t know where he has gone.

 

Our restaurant will close. I want to weep,
We have no more money and we are dinned
by all our creditors. I cannot sleep.
He destroyed our livelihood. He has sinned.
He took the money and he stole away.
If he is caught, then for his sins he’ll pay,
but when that day will come no one can say
and for now all our money has been skinned.

 

We would need to buy some more pants
for the waiters and for the cooks.
We could get by without more plants;
but I took a look at the books:
we can’t get by without more dough,
and there’s no place we could go
that could provide us with the dough.
That chef has really cooked the books!

 

He has passed by the court!
I see him hide away
behind the kegs of port.
He’ll try to hide all day.
I know this thief is Ben
and he has fled again.
We must catch him, and then
he must be made to pay!

 

His name’s Ben Fontaine
He lives in Billox.
He can fly a plane.
He’s sly as a fox.
He has a strange smell.
It’s one I know well,
one like a gazelle
or maybe like lox.

 

His home’s a lab
with no front door.
He owns a Lab
or three or four.
His face is grave.
Although he’s brave,
he is a knave
down to the core.

 

It’s not vague,
what is more,
what a plague
to the store
was that man
when he can
steal a can
or some more.

 

No doubt
in brief,
without
the thief,
our woe
will grow.
We’ve no
relief.

 

What are some of your favorite poems? Leave us a comment and let us know.

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