The Garden Out My Window (prompt 24)

Through the blinds I used to see a tall Norwegian maple

with leaves the color of tanned leather

bigger than my outspread hand.

It had a scar along the trunk, a long vertical burn

where lightning struck one afternoon

without rain or storm.

 

We liked the yard a little wild.

The tall, straight nut trees of ancient age

blocked the sunlight from the gardens

so the undergrowth was straggly,

except for the honeysuckle that grew

in wild abundance, trying to dominate

much stronger plants, and the thick moss

that grew instead of grass.

 

One spring we planted a thousand bulbs.

Two hundred daffodils along the stone wall

behind the maple, and three hundred tulips

around the maple’s base and over toward

the steps by the steep driveway.

They were splendid when they bloomed.

Violent, bright colors against winter browns.

The rest were crocus, and we tucked them away

in every place we could dig a hole in the front.

They bloom first, and we wanted the joy widespread.

Unfortunately, the grey squirrels wanted food.

 

The crocuses were a treasure hunt they never tired of.

So we planted ground cover that liked the deep shade

and let the wild life come and go as it would.

Sometimes there were deer. One day a mother turkey

and six babies. Another time rabbits.

Occasionally a ground hog or a fox.

And when the snow was over for sure, we had

nests of red chipmunks in the stones,

with their little flirty tails twitching and shrill barks.

They drove the dog crazy.

 

But it was the birds I loved. We had more than I could name.

Cardinals, bluejays, finches, nuthatches, sparrows, woodpeckers,

owls, hawks, and wrens, mockingbirds and nightingales to trill in glory.

Peace lived there, among nature’s bounty and beauty,

in the rhythm of life and the seasons.

A time of joy and blessing,

a time of true contentment.

Of Innocence and Consequences (prompt 23)

Probably I could have done something differently.

Can’t we always find a way to blame ourselves?

It’s hard to reconcile when one person is finished

but one is still bound in place by the memories.

They were good memories. Full of life and joy.

Perhaps I made the relationship revolve around me.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t love you.

Perhaps I could have shown it more—though

It always seemed we were happy and secure,

I grieved a long time when you left.

Send in the Clowns was my anthem for years.

But I realize that my destiny can’t be tied to someone

who leaves, or yours to someone who can’t move.

As we’ve discovered since, we can still care,

while knowing that the story we lived is over.

There were lessons to learn, but the long walk

we had together still brings me joy.

I loved those days, those days of innocence and

days of consequence. Sadly, you  reached

the inevitable transition sooner than I did.

I understand. There’s peace in that.

 

Madame X (prompt 22)

Madame X, an oil portrait by American artist

John Singer Sargent, portrays the cool, patrician hauteur

of a wife of a wealthy man who herself

came up from nothing.

Her face reflects uncertainty

as if she can only spare but moment for the portrait

and must leave soon. She leans nonchalantly

on a single, round wooden table. The background

is without ornamentation or drape.

Her arm is painted suggestively in a shapely, sinuous line,

a flow mirrored by her tiny waist and hourglass form.

Her black satin gown with fitted pleats and folds

Enhances her hips, with a heart shaped neckline

Of black velvet plunged daringly low for the period,

highlighting her milky white skin. The tiny gold and pearl

shoulder straps subtley represent her fragility.

Even her auburn hair is simple and unadorned. It is worn up,

but close to her head, and it appears to have been cut.

Curls sneak out along her neckline.

No lush Victorian pompadours or jewels or diamond tiaras

Distract from her beauty. She is a young mother,

wishing she could be with her children. Perhaps her head

is turned so she can hear them better, but perhaps

it is a small vanity to show off her lovely profile.

 

It’s the Truth! (prompt 21)

I’m not my mother’s daughter, I am my own machine.

I stand tall, I walk proud, and I know how to act mean.

 

I’m the funniest person you’ve ever met. Most interesting, too.

There’s absolutely nothing I’ve ever tried that I can’t do.

 

Only black diamond ski slopes, and dollar slot machines.

Did I mention I was in black ops in the United States Marines?

 

I’ll wear grey hair tomorrow, but purple rocks today.

There’s never a situation where I don’t know what to say.

 

Want to get to know me? Come out to my yacht!

I’ve got ten million Twitter fans, and they all think I’m hot.

 

I once stole a ride through Canada on a giant hot air balloon

Then went straight down to NASA to fly a rocket to the moon.

 

I climbed up Mt. Everest backwards, and I only used one hand,

Then flew right back to London to front a death-metal band.

 

I’m sure you know Rhianna—I taught her how to dress.

The Pope and I philosophize, and then he asks me whom to bless.

 

Mechanics come to me to make their fine Ferraris purr.

I wield a magic sword that forces kings to call me sir.

 

I saved five thousand refugees from drowning in the sea.

I even solved the problem of where to let transgenders pee.

 

I’m sure by now you’re thinking only some of this is true.

You’re right, but what exactly? Well, I leave that up to you.

 

 

 

Strandbeests (prompt 20)

A collection of plastic and string and wings;

part stick insect, part sailboat,

walking kinetic sculptures from the realm of fantasy

moving up and down the beaches unsupervised

and avoiding the water with no technology at all.

 

Just stored energy applied to actions, like rubberband propellers.

Purely mechanical parts, no self-replication.

They seem remarkably alive, they seem intelligent, and yet

Just plastic and string and wings to catch the wind.

A zoo of bizarre, multi-legged dreams made real.

 

Walking with weird gaits, these giant beach animals

seem to think, and move within nature as if they can see,

as if they can avoid dangers. They shock the unprepared.

Mythical creatures like some twisted nightmare,

startling the senses and baffling the mind.

Unnatural elements in otherwise ordinary nature,

yet completely at home. Dark imaginings

exploring the light of day.

 

Metaphysics (prompt 19)

Physicists believe that the universe is shaped

like the inside of a soccer ball, with holograms

projecting all possible angles of view like Indra’s net;

that black holes extrude through the walls of space-time

like scattered spikes that can suck us out

of this world and into another (could we but survive).

 

They trumpet dark matter and dark energy,

Places so black that nothing appears to exist.

Neutrinos that no one can see, pour through the gaps

In the particles of our bodies each second,

Without witness, outside the range of sight, unfelt.

 

Gloriously, we evolved for this world and time,

small bags of water, composed of nothing

But billions of competing colonies of bacteria

animated by a life vibration no one comprehends.

We are stardust. We are eternity experiencing itself

as separation from oneness. We are a hive of cells,

bacteria and systems that let us function

as a singular entity. We have senses to

experience life—our raison d’etre. So darkness fades.

 

Quivering waves fill our ears with sounds

made in the ancient past, taking light years to arrive.

The sounds of star births and atoms colliding,

of movement and the pulsing of galaxies.

Even hymns of praise and campfire songs

once sung reverberate indefinitely in space.

We are moved to dance and sing in reply like

human Chladni plates.

 

Our eyes perceive the waves of light bouncing

off imagined forms, and give it names like red and sky blue.

The brilliant nuance of color startles and pleases our eyes.

The tastes of bitter and sweet, sour and salt, define

the objects we start mouthing as infants.

The smells of sweet lilacs and hyacinth, of urine and death,

fill us with emotion and memories of our experiences.

 

We were made for this world and this time,

We inconsequential life forms of perhaps random origin.

This small, blue planet whose beauty we uncovered

as we floated through space, reveals itself because we experience

explosions of sound and elaborate eruptions of color.

Cloud Mountain (prompt 18)

In the movie the girl stands

On a bridge over infinite clouds.

Below, a vast chasm.

The stones are cold

Under her hands, but there is sun

On her face and she closes her eyes.

A memory slides into focus.

Grandmother telling a story,

A story of a princess

Who sacrificed herself for love.

She leaped from the bridge of sighs

And turned into a snow white bird

Who lived forever flying among

The white clouds with her love.

The girl sighs.

She knows the only way to be

with her lover is to dive in.

Did he become a bird,

Waiting for her in the clouds below?

Without hesitation she climbs

Onto the stone wall and jumps.

Her arms go out, her legs spread out,

Her shirt fans out like white wings.

She falls into the waiting clouds,

A serene look on her face.

Gone forever.

Unexpected Loss (another prompt 17)

I wanted to try a Golden Shovel poem from an earlier prompt tonight. I happened to do this one, also on loss.

From W.B. Yeats – When You Are Old
“But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you”

 

 

The weather was always too hot for you, but

that didn’t stop us from taking joy from the one

thing we loved most–togetherness. You were such a man.

Afternoons were the times we talked and loved

best. Joy sparkled in our blissful oneness. The

trust in your soft eyes encouraged my pilgrim

spirit, your nurturing fed love into my soul.

No doubt crept between us, yet we parted in

disarray. My heart still beats with a hole in the shape of you.

Solana’s Secret (prompt 17)

Solana sat at the kitchen table, tapping her saucer with a spoon.

She could barely see it anymore, but she remembered

The yellow roses from years of use, and the cup in her hand

Was familiar and comforting.

 

Her son thought she was vain because she didn’t wear her glasses

And fumbled when she reached for things.

He didn’t know the glasses no longer helped. Her vision was fading.

Soon it would be gone.

 

Each day she walked around the house as usual, filled with secrets.

Hiding her oncoming blindness.

Hiding her memory loss behind jokes.

Hiding her grief. Hiding her fear.

Hiding the new pills in her pocket.

 

She didn’t want to burden her family. No.

They could worry later. They were lucky.

Alzheimer’s has a slow clock.

 

Every time her husband went out, she went to the china cabinet

Or the photo album or the rooms upstairs where the kids stay

When they visit. She studied each familiar object,

Committing it to memory. Before her eyes failed.

Before her brain went blank.

 

The disease consumed her waking thoughts.

It never left her mind. It swamped her in grief.

She was going to forget them all. It broke her heart.

 

Soon familiar things, dear names and beloved faces

would blink out one by one. Vacations in France.

Early life in the mountains. Her wedding.

The birth of her children and how they looked sleeping.

Her husband striding down the beach all tan and windblown.

 

Not telling them would be her last gift. Christmas Eve

they would go to midnight mass, open their presents.

Then she would tell them. They would all hug a lot.

She would quietly take the pills that night.

Eventually they would realize it was a kindness.

 

Maid Marian’s Lament (prompt 16)

Oh, for a jug and my Robin beside.

Astride his horse, together we’d ride

Along the dray road to the village of Quay

And we’d sing jolly-lolly-o-lay, o-lay,

We’d sing jolly-lolly-o-lay.

 

He left me to rot in this castle so grey

With the nuns and the friars and his battle dray,

Keepin’ his sword for the next fightin’ day,

Why sing jolly-lolly-o-lay, o-lay?

Can’t sing jolly-lolly-o-lay.

 

Our Little John came to see me this morn,

He spoke of the green men and left me his horn,

Sayin’ “use this to call me at evenin’ or morn,

And I’ll come” jolly-lolly-o-lay, o-lay,

I’ll come jolly-lolly-o-lay.

 

I know in my heart that day will not come.

My Robin is gone, and I soon will be done,

The love of a man will not bring us to one,

So I’ll sing jolly-lolly-o-lay, o-lay

And mourn jolly-lolly-o-lay.

 

(slowly)

The Sheriff of Nottingham sent us his men,

To carry me off hoping I’d  marry him.

He’ll find but a cold corpse and well-poisoned rim,

And no lady to sing jolly-lolly-o-lay,

She is gone jolly-lolly-o-lay.