Pink Secrets

Pink Secrets

I am dropped off by my mother
to her mother’s to spend the weekend
with Nana. It’s early Friday evening
and I’m already dressed in my lavender
and pink pjs, soon snuggled into Nana’s
oak sleigh bed, cane-seated chair placed
beside me so I don’t roll out overnight.

Morning sunrays drift from kitchen window
through the bedroom door, Nana already up
and starting breakfast. I sat at the table,
jade green linoleum, a pillow beneath me
on the jade dinette chair so I could reach
my bowl of farina and glass of lavender milk.

Nana decorated my cereal with pink jelly bean
eyes and a pat of butter mouth; food coloring
my milk was essential or I wouldn’t drink it.
If I finished all my breakfast, Uncle Jimmy,
who lived in the front rooms of the house,
would give me a half piece of Bazooka gum.
I asked him why the gum wasn’t lavender.

Dressed in pink pants and lavender top, I sat
on Nana’s lap as she read me a magazine
but the meaning slipped by me; I am 4 and
coddled to stay within reach, no running or
jumping, and I realize now that Nana was 71,
not up to racing after me but it didn’t stop her
from spoiling me.

We played grocery store with her canned goods
splayed on the table, my red cash register ringing
up her corn and peas. After a pb&j sandwich
with the crust cut off, the only lunch I’d eat,
Uncle Jimmy would give me the other half
of Bazooka gum and read me the comic.
I laughed when he laughed but we both knew
I didn’t understand. He grumbled again when
I asked him why the gum had to be pink.
My secret kept still.
I hated pink.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 14

Reverence

Reverence

in the silence between butterfly wings
between hummingbird heartbeats
between us, there is the space of prayer

find it in a grain as small as a mustard seed
in a trust large as the firmament
in a sacrosanct place for contemplation

be a witness to miracles of water and wine
be the reason for blessings bestowed on the needy
the giver of alms, receiver of indulgences

to pursue a life of sanctifying grace
to bring righteous to all your actions
to embrace faith when all the world is doubting

find peace in devotional scripture
in the stillness of pond water at twilight
in the epicenter of your soul

bring a resurrection of divine traditions
a heart able to follow God’s will
bring gratitude and fortitude to all you meet

to begin, to end
a sacred word
Amen.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 13

Without Comparison

Without Comparison

brighter than the aurora borealis
glitzier than the Times Square ball dropping
lovelier than a field of fragrant lavender

sparkle of light sprays grander
than a hundred thousand stars
more enduring than the Milky Way

a splay of radiance deeper
than the Grand Canyon
mystifying as a coral reef

a glow to overshadow the moon
a permissive luster to melt the sun
shimmer of light so dazzling it blinds

nothing compares
to the brilliance of your smile
when you look at me

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 12

Protagonist

Protagonist

It’s our Wednesday night workshop,
creative writing group meets via Zoom
until the governor allow libraries to open
after this pandemic has finally passed.

We’re virtual so no masks required
but Robert – don’t call me Bob
or Bobby or may fairies and sprites
devour you, not Robby ever –
was wearing a bear mask. Strange.
He clears his throat, twice; I realize
it’s Robert’s turn to read.

He adjusts his furry mask, and begins.
“I was walking a forest path, the treeline thinning
as I ventured on. I saw a pigtailed girl catching
fireflies in a bottle. I asked her name but she
‘poof’ vanished.
“I kept walking, the morning heat growing,
my stamina depleting. An intense lethargy
overtook me and I felt myself swooning.
Up ahead, I saw a little cottage, lavender
growing in the garden. The door was open
but I knocked anyway. Crusted bowls
of cold porridge sat on the table but
there was no one home.
“I found a comfy bed, too big for me,
and a smaller one still too big, and finally
one that was just right. I fell asleep.
The end.”

We clap, I ask for comments for Robert
but there are none. I am at a loss for words;
Robert snarls.
“You people aren’t writers; you don’t get it.
It’s so simple. I’m a metaphor for Goldilocks’
alter ego.”
He growls into his mask and clicks his screen off.
Our Zoom room is silent.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 11

Upstairs

Upstairs

Everything I need is upstairs
when I’m downstairs. A full flight
of stairs is exactly what happened
when I was rushing off to work,
arms full, pocketbook that seemed
lined with bricks, tote bag brimming
with essentials, and I’m late for work.

As if the steps are made of ice, I fly,
arms flapping, bags dropping, feet
pirouetting out-of-balance and I crash
land on the side of the stairs. How I got
there, I’ll never know. Our inquisitive dog,
Snapple, standing over me, asking
“What are you doing on my floor, Mommy?”
I don’t know sweetie but it’s not good.

I sat on the stairs for a little while
before getting up, limping a little,
and going to work. Not good.
A few hours later, I’m at urgent care
shaking my head in disbelief. I broke
my knee. It’s the day before Halloween
and I’m hosting a poetry costume party
the next day. My costume: a bride
and with my bruised knee and swollen ankle,
I could be Frankenstein’s mate. X-rays say
stay off it but it’s poetry, I’m the host,
and I can’t. Cocktail length skirt shows
my brace but that’s ok. My husband knows
when it comes to poetry, it’s useless to protest.

Later, at home, not good. I am miserable.
Every blasted thing I need is upstairs
because I am trapped downstairs. I try
to improvise, use calendar boxes as
a haiku journal, but the pen leaks blotches.
Paul had to run some errands so it’s me
and Snapple. I finally find the courage to crawl
backwards up the stairs. It took an eternity
to figure out how to get off the floor in the hall
but I did it; Snapple helped. Bliss. Upstairs,
my pillow, my bed, pens and journals, it’s good
until Snapple has to go out. Urgent.

Useless to cajole Snapple, I ride the stairs down
like a playground slide, collide with the front door
just as Paul opens it. Not good. Now, I’m strapped
in the recliner, stacks of pens and paper beside me,
my pillow under my head, Snapple sleeping
next to the chair guarding my every move,
and no way I’m going upstairs for a long long time
and, I confess, that’s good.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 10

Downstairs

Downstairs

Bedroom on the second floor, laundry
in the basement, two flights of stairs carting
baskets of dirty laundry down to sort and stuff
in the washer, detergent, softener, check the timer
and back upstairs.

First floor kitchen, dining room, living room
and a bathroom screaming to be scrubbed. While
the clothes agitate, I reach for the spray cleaner;
bottle is empty. I climb stairs to the bathroom
on the second floor, grab the cleaner, descend again,
start to clean the bathroom when I think I hear
the done signal from the washer; go down to find
13 minutes left on the cycle. I could stand there
but instead go up, see a sink full of dishes, open
the dishwasher to find it is full of clean dishes. Sigh.
I put them away, pack it, fill it with soap, press start.

For some strange reason, I’m still holding the bottle
of bathroom cleaner; I go back upstairs, figure I might
as well clean this bathroom, not remembering I didn’t
finish the downstairs one. I turn on the showerhead
to rinse the tile and nothing happens. No water,
a loud gurgling but no water.

I hear a loud sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard –
something like a garbage truck crashing into
a snowplow with a thousand panes of glass
between them. I race down the stairs, dishwasher
stopped mid-cycle and another groaning growling
sheet-metal shredding war with monster trucks
sends me soaring down the stairs and there,
water water water water water everywhere
water capped in soap bubbles undulating like
an angry tide, a waterfall cascading up over
and behind the washer.

Slippers sopping, knees complaining, I trudge upstairs,
find the plumber’s number, unleash a frantic plea
please please please please emergency, says he’ll be
right there. Back downstairs, waves are cresting;
useless to try to do anything, I go back up, wait
at the door. It seems years but he pulls up, I direct him
down, I go up, first-floor bathroom tiles covered in foam.
I slam the bathroom door shut, peek down the stairs
into the basement, hear him curse, go up to find more tiles
foaming, slam that door and go down to the kitchen.
I open the glass cabinet; empty. I get a paper cup
from the bathroom, fill it with vodka and go outside
with the bottle to sit on the deck. Soiled clothes still grimy;
both bathrooms grubby; dishwasher stacked with dirty dishes.
I vow to sell the house, buy a ranch with no basement,
hire a cleaning service, and send my laundry to the cleaners.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 9

Sutures

Sutures

Sometimes,
my head fills
with anger, festers
toxic wounds, scars
scab a paralyzing fear;
I feel like my inner seams
are ripping apart.

That’s when
I take pen to paper
allow myself to bleed
onto the page, let it seep
into creases to form words
and the poetry stitches me up
helps me heal.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 8

Virtual Timing

Virtual Timing

Phone has been a silent sentry
for weeks into this pandemic,
robo callers extinct for lack of work.
I’m on a Zoom poetry reading,
mic on to read my poem at the open,
and you guessed it, my phone rings.
Not my cell phone at my elbow that
I can click off but the house phone,
too far to reach to press the red
shut-up button, and so I read my poem.

A few days later, the host sends
a video of the reading; so nice to hear
the features again, phrases I missed,
narratives to relive and savor, and then
there’s the open. Too anxious to wait,
I fast forward to me, hear the phone
loud as Big Ben at midnight and again
cringe at virtual timing.

What I missed the first time now
makes me chuckle. Several poets
get up, checking their phones, sighing
before returning to their virtual square
on the screen. I want to shout “It was me,
my phone rang – so sorry to interrupt”
but I know it’s too late for that.

Two days later, I attend another reading,
my time at the open mic, I hold my breath
that the phone will not ring and it doesn’t.
Instead, Snickers, our watchdog,
starts a chorus of barking, joined by
our other dog, Ruffles, just as I start reading.
No way to shut the door, tell them to shut up,
I just read my poem through gritted teeth
at the sheer injustice of virtual timing.

I’m the last reader, we say goodbye, click off
quick and clean; dogs still barking an alarm,
I race to look out the window and smile
to see three baby bunnies running in circles
to catch each other, a hopping game of tag,
so cute, so small, so clear why the dogs
are alerting me.

When the video arrives in my inbox,
I click off without watching it; instead,
I sit watching our front lawn for bunnies,
the dogs quiet beside me.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 7

Genius At Work

Genius At Work

My desk is littered with lists
do this by then, that before when,
remember this, don’t forget that
and when I need to find the thing
that is chomping at my to-do clock,
that thing I know I need to do now,
the thing I can’t remember what
maybe even why, I can’t find it.

Scraps of paper stack up in wild piles
a Jenga game gone wrong from the start;
when I sweep them up to neaten them,
towers topple, pages take wing, fly
to freedom under/behind the bookcase
or line the floor like errant throw rugs
with verse fragments written on them,
poetic lines to find a place for, grocery
lists from last month.

I get distracted by too-small scripted words
that mimic extinct birds flying overhead,
scrawled words with exclamation marks,
clouds and stars signaling their hierarchy
on the wow-write-this-now-scale,
or hieroglyphics of pyramid proportions
that keep me inspired for hours, writing
about what I think I was jotting down
but most times just writing and writing.

I’m a list maker, no reforming me.
I never toss them, they span decades
of do this and I didn’t, go there before
and I missed it, don’t forget and I did.
My friend tells me to use a calendar
to jot down important dates and info but
I have yet to find a calendar with boxes
big enough to hold the reams of written-
on stacks that keep my desk useful.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 6

Metaphoric to Sink Your Teeth Into

Metaphoric to Sink Your Teeth Into

A friend recently said
poetry is like a tube of toothpaste.
That’s it, that’s all he said.

I told a friend that this friend
said this about poetry
and she said, that’s ridiculous.

Perhaps, but I get it.
Once poetry is squeezed out,
you can’t put it back.

Once a person writes a poem
they become a poet.
Once a poet, always a poet.

Once a poem is read,
you can’t pack it back up
and shove it into the tube.

No cramming your words
back in when they are set free
spread wings and fly.

And, anyway, why would you want
to stifle inspiration, flavored and
fluorided to prevent gingivitis.

Next time you hold that tube
in your hands, think about how
your words will be minty fresh,

your verses scrubbed to remove tartar
of dull words and lackluster images,
similes like a bright shiny smile, and

promote oral hygiene, reduce the plaque
of quotes that plague your epigraphs
with common clichés.

Next time you squeeze that tube,
imagine newbie poems waiting to fill
your mouth and mind with dentrific brilliance.

~ J R Turek
June 27, 2020
Hour 5