Tag Archives: lit class

Regular Poem: You Keep Using That Word…

24 Apr

I’m suspicious
these folks don’t know what

It doesn’t mean
nuts to the max.
It’s not shorthand for
uncontrollably excited.
It’s not synonymous with

It refers to a previously domesticated animal now living in the wild, reverting to a natural state,
which I guess in some contexts
fits what they’re trying to say.

But really,
it’s a neutral word–
doesn’t have the feverish fervent connotation
they want it to.

a opossum
(yeah I use that indefinite article;
the o is silent)
hissing in a dumpster
is not feral.
She’s just
that you interrupted her.

I’m being pedantic about it tonight

because I’m so tired of seeing it–
overuse of an initially innocuous maybe even pleasing phrase is not only annoying in its own right
but also especially annoying because the more I see something
the more I’m inclined to analyze and investigate it
and be pedantic about it,
and heaven knows:
pedantry [even from me, who is very pretty and very clever]
is very annoying–

And also because I recently did a bunch of reading on so-called wild horses,
and technically these pockets of free-range mustangs in the American West
are not wild but feral,
and I still haven’t stopped thinking about that.

The idea of feral horses
with the connotation of feral so often in common use
is hilarious and sort of frightening.
They’re so big
and so skittish and so weird, even when well-trained.

I bemusedly found myself at a horse rescue a while back,
and the gal running the joint was an old hick lady,
so of course we got on well,
and anytime you get on well with any old lady
there comes a time in the course of the interaction
where she’s forgotten her reading glasses somewhere and squints at her phone and pulls it away from her face and brings it in close to her face and pulls it back again and finds the correct distance where she can see
and then scrolls through a bunch of pictures of restaurant menus and blurry shots of grandkids
and finally finds the things she’s actually wanting to show you

(I have always loved old ladies,
and now in this current technological landscape
they’ve really brought their a-game to changing with the times but still retaining their old lady essence, and I hope to follow their example as I age and gradually become an old lady to some younger woman who will laugh at me and with me and love me and appreciate me at the same time).

And the thing she wanted to show me was the horse bite

She has worked with horses her entire life. Some of the horses have lived with her for decades.
Every single horse at this place
came from abusive origins,
and yet in the five hours I was there
I didn’t see a single one startle.
They were all gentle and socialized to people,
ate right out of my hand,
nuzzled my neck–
what a testimony to the sympathetic and comprehensive care this woman has shown.

So if a sweet and well-loved horse can do that accidentally
(the biting horse had been in and out of consciousness while giving birth at the time of the incident)
what might a feral horse be capable of?

I’m kind of arguing against my own point,
but also no I’m not.

Most animals–domesticated, tame (tame is on an individual level rather than a species level which is where domesticated lives), feral, or wild–are just minding their own business,
reacting to stimuli,
defending themselves if need be.
They don’t typically
actively seek out conflict.

When you’re at the zoo
see a tiger pacing its cage
a polar bear swimming figure eights
they’re not biding their time and planning something.
They’re just understimulated–
what they’re doing is called a stereotypy,
and they do it when they as LeAnn Rimes would say
got nothin’ better to do.

In conclusion,
doesn’t mean
always ready to bite and scratch and commit crimes.
It’s just animals being animals
after they’ve been pets or livestock.

Author’s Note 1:
Language is a device
with frequent updates.
Maybe feral does mean what you want to pretend it means;
as long as whom you’re communicating with understands,
no harm no fowl (pun!).
I’m just in a mood
and still
thinking about
feral horses
as a phrase as a concept as an actual thing that exists
and needed to talk about it more.

Author’s Note 2:
Most animals are just minding their own business.
Except the domesticated cat.
Whether a housecat or feral, cats are dicks
and do very much seek out whatever trouble
they find themselves in.

Regular Poem: What Ought to Be the Truth

24 Apr

you ever have that kind of dream

(or read too much of something too late at night when your body’s already half in stasis and your mind’s already half-dreaming or fantasize about something immediately upon waking when your brain is between gears and can’t super discern whether it’s dreaming or daydreaming but it indulges itself regardless)

that an image of it appears
in the full sunlight of a two pm
and it takes you a minute to process
that it isn’t a legitimate memory
that it isn’t something real and tangible that actually happened

and the moment you realize it’s not real
is one of the least real-feeling moments
of your life
because you’re essentially living in multiple dimensions at once
and then abruptly
it’s just the one dimension
and all the other dimensions that you can still access emotionally
and even to an extent existentially
are rationally fake?

there’s a veil there
gauzy and romantic and easily ripped if touched
by fingertips
or certain neural pathways

the illusion shatters
and you shatter with it a little

i really thought as i aged
i’d turn into one of my parents
i would never have put money on blanche dubois
and yet here we are

i guess i’ll worry more about it
if someone tries to turn the light on

Regular Poem: Symbolism

4 Jan

a symbol a motif a theme
does the english teacher insist or is it real

what is real

a symbol a motif a theme
represents something else
is repeated multiple times
is what it’s all about

a symbol a motif a theme

anaphora perfect rhyme eye rhyme consonance assonance enjambment

is what it’s all about

it’s all about
whatever it’s about
close and far and here and there and

wherefore art thou

(why are you)

why shoudln’t i be

a rose by any other name

roses smell sweet
rose hips taste ok too
they’re soft and palatable

but the rose bush itself

a symbol is only as good as
what it represents

in print it’s different

but in person

in person
it’s up to memory
which is so fallible
and malleable
prone to whatever seems best at the time or circumstance

Regular Poem: Ambiguously Tragic

27 Dec

they call it hubris
in the greek tragedies
and in other tragedies too

the hero is too proud
the hero shakes a fist at a god
a god breaks that fist and the hero too

but a tragedy is not
by definition
a bunch of bullshit that happens to someone
a cycle of neverending bullshit
so much bullshit
even the insects are surfeited and bored of it

a classical tragedy
necessitates a doomed hero
someone who falls
from a position of power and honor

and hubris isn’t just cockiness
it afflicts heroes not douchebags
it’s the thinking you know
thinking you’re good and right
thinking it won’t happen to you
because you won’t let it
feeling not so much superior as

and ain’t that a kick in the head

a tragic hero
is by definition
and yet knowing that and acting upon it
is so often the fatal flaw
that precipitates
the tragedy
that lends its adjectival form
to the hero
who is not a regular hero
but one fated to lose

most games are losing games
if you play long enough

is that the pessimist in me talking
or the tragic hero
[discussion of dramatic irony redacted]

am i a hero at all
tragic or otherwise

i know good and well
i’m the villain
in someone else’s story

but who am i in my own

in a good tragedy
the hero is her own worst enemy
i’m not sure
how committed i am to the genre

let’s have a comedy instead
(classically technically those end in marriage
so that’s probably out)

let’s have gothic horror instead
(ghosts and arson and madwomen in attics
i can abide those more easily)

let’s have pastoral poetry
let’s have medieval romance
let’s have screwball comedy
let’s have absurdist drama
let’s have magical realism

still there are protagonists and antagonists

protagonize isn’t a recognized word
but i know how to antagonize
only too well

and even when i don’t mean to
i do anyway

the tragic hero is a hero
in his own story
but he’s just a dick
in somebody else’s

jocasta this is your life
the ’50s tv announcer says to her
she fucked her own son and then took her own life
he’s a tragic hero and she’s
collateral damage

lady macbeth this is your life
the ’50s tv announcer says to her
she manipulated her husband into murder and then took her own life
he’s a tragic hero and she’s
collateral damage

there’s the genre i want to embrace
i’ll be a ’50s game show panelist
i don’t know who the guest is
i ask questions
and am so charmed by the responses
i investigate
i deduce
i delight in

i am an obscure broadway star
wearing a blindfold
asking yes/no questions
being glib and glamorous and charismatic
there is no other pressure
in this black and white dream

but it’s not black and white
and it’s not a dream

it’s surreal
but also so real real real

real and unreal
real and hyperreal

the figures dancing behind my eyes
don’t know which is which

i know what i know
i can testify to only my own testimony
(two women equals one man
i try not to get riled up)

i can testify to only
what i know
which is increasingly less

i may not be a tragic hero
but in some cases i’m tragic
and in some cases a hero

but always
there’s that hubris

a tragic hero has hubris
i have hubris

does it logically follow
sat act a million years ago

and ain’t that a kick in the head

if then if then

there are so many puzzles
and so many solutions

i’m not smart enough
i’m not tragic enough
but i’m proud enough

they call it hubris
in the greek tragedies

Regular Poem: Tennessee Williams

17 Aug

it’s a tennessee williams night

all hot and humid and repressed

(it’s southern gothic
but not

yes to the ivy
no to a lot of other things)

it’s all lyricism and smoke and mirrors
semi-autobiographical heartache

(i’ve often been mistaken for a southern belle)

it’s a tennessee williams night

his later plays were too weird
he was too weird
and then he died
too weird even in death

but he is still known

for his hysterical ladies

i am hysterical in my own right
and people indulge me all the same

“i’ve always depended upon the kindness of strangers”

i’ve always depended on the indulgence of strangers

they’ve always just let me

be the center of attention
ask me questions
dare me to answer them

who else could get away with the things i say

do i actually get away with them
or am i only barely allowed to say them

if i were to encounter myself
would i indulge myself

it’s a tennessee williams night

deliberate cruelty is unforgivable

but we’re all

Regular Poem: In Medias Res

12 Apr

They say
good stories
in medias res.

Almost all stories in real life
You’re talking
to somebody you’ve just met,
and she’s telling you
about Brian
and the dog track,
and you don’t interrupt
to inquire about the identity
of Brian,
the location
of the dog track.

You listen with your binoculars
and telephoto lens
in your ’90s Firebird
on the stake out in your mind,
spilling stale brain coffee on yourself
as you investigate, put the pieces
of this person’s puzzle

It’s even better
when the story has a lot of exposition
but the kind that only adds to the mystery.

She’s telling you something about Brian
and the dog track
when suddenly she’s
also telling you

every detail
about why the dog track
is no longer operable
and why it was not converted
into a casino.
There are dates and figures
and conspiracy theories.
You still don’t know
who Brian is.
Or how all these loose ends
will ultimately be woven
into cohesion.

In the Law and Order
episode in your mind
where you’ve moved on from the
stake out scene
to the interrogation scene,
you’ve got her behind a two-way mirror, and she’s spilling, and
you’re waiting.

But it’s not like that.
Not really.

The assistant district attorney never
shows up.
You flip the channel
before the concluding
court scene.

You leave
with a piece of somebody–
that piece
in medias res–
somebody somehow decided
to bestow upon you.
And you also know
a lot more
about the dog track.
Wherever it is.
And you still don’t know
who Brian is.

Regular Poem: Significant Quotations

20 Jun

Where were we
when we were here

It’s one of those
repeated phrases
meaningful and meaningless
a motif
(bigger than a symbol
smaller than a theme
I used to explain
when I used to do
that sort of thing).

“But can’t
an author just write something
and it’s that something
and not something else?”
someone would inevitably say.
“Yes, but that’s not
why they pay me the big bucks,”
current me would’ve glibly retorted
if she’d been there.
I can’t recall
what I probably said then–
some diatribe
about the merit of literature
some obtuse
to inspire thought
but mostly confound
and that’s why I got fired.
(That’s another motif.)

here I am again,
here under a full moon,
a rare astronomical phenomenon,
like so many before–
blood moons and eclipses and super moons–
each coming and passing
and all promising and not satisfying,
romantic yet nothing–
“Do you always
watch for the longest day in the year
and then miss it?”

If my voice
must be full of money
why can’t I be, too?

Regular Poem: Upon Having My Convertible Fixed

31 May

One might forget
just how very
her stories tend to be:
each character
gets her money’s worth–
trades exposition amd rising action
for a cameo in the climax.
Sure there are red herrings,
but no 11th-hour villains,
diablo ex machina
to pin the whole thing on.
It’s all a tight affair–
brass tacks mystery,
each scene integral to the plot
with a few descriptions
of gowns tossed around
just to set the stage.
Dialogue is terse, serviceable, interspersed
with synospes of talking we didn’t need to hear.

And then there’s Nancy herself–
just a blonde girl
in a blue convertible
who talks
more than she deduces.
Things just seem
to happen to her–
she finds herself
in all these situations
where clues
into her lap
and she recognizes them as such,
where people
just say things
and she listens.
She connects dots,
but all the dots are in a perfect line–
no scatter plot for Miss Drew–
a perfect, neat mystery,
tied up and packaged
so that it will fit in her trunk
behind the vinyl stack.

I’ve always had an affinity for her,
felt some special thing
when I thought of her
and not just because I’m a blonde girl in a blue convertible.
I always expect
to see that stranger again
and realize what he’d said had been
a clue to some mystery–
but the funny thing is
when you keep your eyes open
this happens more often than it ought to–

like life sometimes feels
like some sprawling, rambling James Joyce extravaganza,
some dark Faulkner allegory
and you sit to write down the facts of it–
the observed and observable rather than the felt and thought–
and it comes out so small and
Nancy Drew–
and there’s a laconic beauty
in it.

We never hear
Nancy’s feminist diatribes,
rueful musings,
philosophical rants,
existential dilemmas,
but we hear
her heart
of detection and truth and justice and compassion.

She’s boiled down
not hard boiled
but boiled clean.

The Best Rhymes in Classic Country

19 Apr

All this poetry this month has me thinking about rhyme–especially perfect end rhyme but also that other rhyme-y stuff like assonance, consonance, alliteration, slant rhyme, etc. I’ll admit most classic country songs consist of trite rhymes such as blue/you and train/rain (which have their place, of course), but this list contains purely the weird, wonderful, and word-play-ish.

Honorable Mention: Saginaw, Michigan by Lefty Frizzell

The Rhyme:

I wrote my love in Saginaw, Michigan.
I said, “Honey, I’m a-comin’ home; please wait for me.
“And you can tell your dad I’m coming back a richer man:
“I’ve hit the biggest strike in Klondike history.”

Why I Love It:  This whole song features a bunch of really forced feminine(multi-syllabic rhymes)  rhymes that (sometimes rather marginally) rhyme with Michigan.  This verse is my favorite because we not only get the Michigan/richer man one, which sounds close enough for a country song and has the added effect of being kind of an eye rhyme (looks as if it ought to rhyme but doesn’t) with the ch, but we also get the bonus feminine rhyme of for me/history.

Sometimes all this is just a little too ham-fisted to me, so the song earns merely an honorable mention.

#5:  He’ll Have to Go by Jim Reeves

The Rhyme:  Listen carefully next time for all the o sounds and ooh sounds.  SO MANY!!!

Why I Love It:  I love a song that can work a particular angle.  Gentleman Jim Reeves is trying to sell to us that he’s open, honest, earnest.  What vowel is more open than o?  None.  None more open.

#4:  9 to 5 by Dolly Parton

The Rhyme:

Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen

Why I Love It:  The very first line of this fabulous song sets us up for the entire mood of it–hustle and bustle.  We’ve got a feminine internal rhyme (inside a line of poetry instead of at the ends of lines) of tumble/stumble, both of which are basically onomatopoieia (because they’re the sounds you make when you do them), and they both accurately portray just about anybody as he or she is ambling through a dimly lit corridor, stubbing toes and reaching blindly for coffee during the morning routine.

This tumble/stumble also stand as the only internal rhyme in the whole song, which adds to the jumble of everything in the morning–two words that use so much of one’s mouth to say/sing smushed in together in the very first line of a song?  Good work, Dolly.  You’ve got me listening!  (That typewriter-as-percussion doesn’t hurt either, of course.)

#3:  Fist City by Loretta Lynn

The Rhyme:

You better move your feet
if you don’t wanna eat
a meal that’s called Fist City.

Why I Love It:  I love too many songs to really have a favorite, but when asked I always respond with this one.  It’s so spiteful and so silly and so white trash, and I love it thoroughly.

So the rhyme here (feet/eat) is commonplace.  Nothing to write home about.  What makes this pop is the enjambment–the counter-intuitive line break between eat and a meal.  A listener knows that Fist City’s gotta make an appearance at the end of this verse, but when that listener first hears “if you don’t wanna eat,” that listener immediately ponders how exactly Loretta’s going to parlay that into something that ends in Fist City.  “Oh,” the listener says afterward, “the tramp’s going to eat a meal that’s called Fist City.  Oh wait, that makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE.”  But this song isn’t about sense.  It’s about blind rage and threats promises and ladies slugging it out in Fist City.

You’ve also got the ee assonance (repeated vowel sound) in feet, eat, meal, City, which shows a screeching harpy sort of side to our narratrix.  I mean, is there a vowel more grating and aggressive than the ee sound?  None.  None more grating.

#2: (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song by B.J. Thomas

The Rhyme:  Oh goodness gracious.  Where to even start…  The entire song is a big poetic-sounds stew.

Why I Love It:  This song’s got it all!  Alliteration!  Assonance!  Internal rhyme!  Perfect end rhyme!  And it gets stuck in a person’s head for years at a time!

The defining factor, of course, is all the uh sounds: love, some, done giving the song a rather droning effect that is both smooth/comforting and sad at once (much like what our narrator is trying to accomplish by having the proverbial you play another cheatin’ song).  But a listener could surfeit himself for a week with all the assonance: hey, play; feel, baby, baby; I, cry; me, melody.  And then we’ve got that completely jarring won’tcha in the middle that breaks all the smoothness for just a moment as the narrator signals to the barman and tries to get his attention.

It’s just a wonderfully crafted little ditty, and I consider this blog post an act of contrition for hating it so much when I used to hear it all the time on easy listening radio stations.  Now I love it–admittedly mostly for nerdy reasons.

#1:  Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn

The Rhyme:

The work we done was hard.
At night we’d sleep ’cause we were tired.

Why I Love It:  Loretta Lynn, you’ve done it again!  You’ve captured dialect so perfectly, and I love you so!  This may or may not be my favorite rhyme ever.

Regular Poem: The Oxford Comma Did Not Actually Go to Oxford

17 Apr

Disclaimer:  This poem does not reflect my actual feelings toward the Oxford comma.

The Oxford comma did not actually go to Oxford.
(I’ve been doing some checking.)

Oh yes, he’s
a beautiful specimen.
He’s tall, handsome and always looks so
But he’s pretty common, you know.

Oh sure, he’s
always throwing lavish parties,
hosting big shebangs and
giving fantastic galas.
But if the party’s too big, a semicolon
(a semicolon for heaven’s sake!)
has to
take over his duties.

And another thing!
He’s a bootlegger, you know.
Don’t get too caught up in the logistics.
I just know he makes, sells and distributes
illegal substances of some kind
(perhaps whos that should be whoms is his vile specialty).

he did not go to Oxford, he is a bootlegger and I have no idea
why he insists on calling everyone Old Chap.

Book 'Em, Jan O

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