Five Lines or Less: My #micropoetry

mi·cro ˈmīkrō/noun
noun: micro; plural noun: micros
a combining form with the meanings “extremely small” ( microcosm; micro dining area), “very small in comparison with others of its kind” ( microcassette; microfilm), “too small to be seen by the unaided eye” ( microfossil; microorganism), “dealing with extremely minute organisms, organic structures, or quantities of a substance” ( microdissection; microscope), “localized, restricted in scope or area” ( microburst; microhabitat),
 

I have been responding enthusiastically to a writer friend’s recent challenge to me: to write micro-poetry every day for a week and post it.

Rules:
1. Create a world in five lines or less.
2. Sparse or no punctuation.
3. Title not compulsory. (But I love titles so…)

Ever forward-thinking I now envision Section One of my Book Three (why not dream big?) with the working title:

Five Lines or Less: Poetry. Quickly.

How could I have missed this poetry form? They are so much fun to do, and great cortical exercise. Like jumping jacks from the neck up. The only kind I could ever do anyway.

I welcome your reactions. Post your comments, do.

Here are the first few entries.

 

Undercover

Late August
and slyly
the light becomes
suddenly
a miser

 

September First

Boats pulled out for the season
Children rushing to school
And like a switch was flipped overnight
The water in the bay now darker
Deeper

 

Almost Flying

The two nuns, arms linked
their billowing voluminous habits blowing them
up the steep hill toward the gates of the convent
like black forbidding
sails.

 

Cosseted

We’d meander slowly
past the convent at night,
hoping for the slightest gap in the curtains
a peek into their cloistered
alien lives

 

Checkout

hotel rooms up and down the coasts
identical save for the key card
quiet as tombs
we slip in and out touching nothing
we make our lives up as we go

 

Mork

How can the unstoppable
stop
the brilliance diminish to nothing
the tributes already receding
alongside you.

 

His Mornings

Even the way his hair’s combed
is proof.
See how he missed a button
on his little shirt?
And the sleep still in his eyes.

 

Paused

His book propped opened with
spectacles on the side table,
his reading light still shining
on the place he left
off.

 

Strip Mall

Orphaned and standing in the rain
but it’s not as bad as it sounds
I can hear Bonnie Raitt’s voice from a car in the parking lot
And a little boy in a shopping cart just smiled at me
No reason. Just smiled.

 

Compulsory

The school uniform, penance
the wool knee socks even in summer
the black serge tunics
shiny, slick, crisp, from too many
hot irons.

 

Dock-at-dusk

A poem I wrote in honour of the summer – This Instead

A poem I wrote in honour of the summer.

 

This Instead

There’s a hole in the sprinkler

and the patio needs swept

but not now.

Let’s use summer for something else,

do what people used to do

in sunshine.

Lie together on old blankets

beside a river we happen upon.

Stare up at the blue holding hands

blurting out whatever comes to us.

Time will have no sway.

We’ll just lie there

for hours.

Let the day take us

until we are counting

the stars.

BEARA-08-24-alternate_400x270

Ode for Mrs. William Settle

Above the Middle West, truth and beauty
are one though never meant to be.
 

No perhaps or possiblys … no qualifiers at all …  Philip Levine remains my favourite living poet. He sets an impossibly high bar but we learn most from the very best; I am astonished by his talent.

In this magical one to his mother, “Ode for Mrs. William Settle,” he blesses her for giving him more than he gave her.

Ode for Mrs. William Settle

by Philip Levine

In Lake Forest, a suburb of Chicago,
a woman sits at her desk to write
me a letter. She holds a photograph
of me up to the light, one taken
17 years ago in a high school class
in Providence. She sighs, and the sigh
smells of mouthwash and tobacco.
If she were writing by candlelight
she would now be in the dark, for
a living flame would refuse to be fed
by such pure exhaustion. Actually
she is in the dark, for the man she’s about to address in her odd prose had a life span of one 125th of a second
in the eye of a Nikon, and then he
politely asked the photographer to
get lost, whispering the request so as
not to offend the teacher presiding. Those students are now in their thirties,
the Episcopal girls in their plaid skirts
and bright crested blazers have gone
unprepared, though French-speaking, into
a world of liars, pimps, and brokers.
2.7% have died by their own hands,
and all the others have considered
the act at least once. Not one now
remembers my name, not one recalls
the reading I gave of César Vallejo’s
great “memoriam” to his brother Miguel,
not even the girl who sobbed and
had to be escorted to the school nurse,
calmed, and sent home in a cab. Evenings
in Lake Forest in mid-December drop
suddenly; one moment the distant sky
is a great purple canvas, and then it’s
gone, and no stars emerge; however,
not the least hint of the stockyards
or slaughterhouses is allowed to drift
out to the suburbs, so it’s a deathless
darkness with no more perfume than
cellophane. “Our souls are mingling
now somewhere in the open spaces
between Illinois and you,” she writes.
When I read the letter, two weeks
from now, forwarded by my publisher,
I will suddenly discover a truth
of our lives on earth, and I’ll bless
Mrs. William Settle of Lake Forest
for giving me more than I gave
her, for addressing me as Mr. Levine,
the name my father bore, a name
a man could take with courage
and pride into the empire of death.
I’ll read even unto the second page,
unstartled by the phrase “By now
you must have guessed, I am
a dancer.” Soon snow will fall
on the Tudor houses of the suburbs,
turning the elegant parked sedans
into anonymous mounds; the winds
will sweep in over the Rockies
and across the great freezing plains
where America first died, winds
so fierce boys and men turn their backs
to them and simply weep, and yet
in all that air the soul of Mrs. William
Settle will not release me, not even
for one second. Male and female,
aged and middle-aged, we ride it out
blown eastward toward our origins,
one impure being become wind. Above
the Middle West, truth and beauty
are one though never meant to be.

 

Canada Day heart resized

Canada: A Glowing Tribute

For fun… on Canada Day, a whimsical piece I wrote about what constitutes being Canadian.

This was my entry into a contest to win a spot in “Barbed Lyres,” an anthology of satirical verse about Canada, edited by Margaret Atwood.

 

Glowing Tribute

There’s this girl I know on the Danforth

who goes to Buffalo to shop

for the bargains on Bill Blass sheets

and with her parents to Polish nights in Orillia

where she says she wouldn’t be caught

dead if the perogies weren’t to

absolutely die.

 

She takes her vacations in Warsaw almost every year

because she tells me the deals on crystal are

incredible and she can stay cheap with her Aunt Stenya.

 

It’s not like Mary isn’t into Canada

she did Banff in ’82

and drove all by herself to P.E.I. in ’84

where by the way she lucked into a

fabulous villa timeshare in the Caymans because

thanks to God she had American Express on her.

In the back window of her Beamer with the Blaupunkt

there’s one of those Canadian flag stickers and it glows

at night.

I mean what do you want from her.

It isn’t like she was born here.

young girl wirh lanterns resized

She read to them while embers, eyelids simmered low…

I have been taking a break from writing and reading a backlog of old and newly discovered poetry collected on my bedside table. Nothing I like better.

This is one by Rachael Ikins that has quickly set itself apart, in so many ways, delivering to me the magical moment of understanding I always hope for, look for, in every poem I come upon.

It’s a jewel, a story so perfectly told that it made me feel stronger, maybe even a little wiser, after reading it. I hope it also reaches you in ways that matter.

At Miss Kitty’s Home for Wayward Girls
Rachael Z. Ikins (c) 2014

In the aftermath of winter storms,
broken marriages, death, and a quest
for independence a group of women
various ages, hair colors etc. gathered before a fire
to roast marshmallow Easter candies called
Peeps. Creme brûlée on a fondue fork.

Good scouts that they were, creativity
& indoor fireplace saved dinner. A sudden rainstorm
soaked the plan to cook wieners over a bonfire
in the back yard. Every single woman lost a father
to heart disease when those fathers were fifty.
A strange, sad community.

But the elders, this tiny group of survivors,
delighted to shock younger, tales of sex,
older women, erotic experience, LOL,
sex-toys and dream lovers. One dreamer,
a poet. She read to them while embers, eyelids simmered

low. They slept with dogs, woke up, faced new
adventures. Next morning, poet noticed the fire.
Rekindled through night, ash-camouflaged coals.
Not unlike an older woman; holds deep heat.
One candle continued to waver from mantelpiece after

they’d gone to bed, guarding all sleepers and travelers
through darkness with fragile constant magic.

hayley and brooke

If I Could, I Would

I often wonder if advice ever really helps us in our everyday lives. Or do we have to live through something ourselves for the wisdom to stick to us?

My twin nieces turned 18 this month and I have been thinking of what I would most want them to know at 18 that I didn’t.  I mean, what’s all this learning by our mistakes and the resulting heartache if we can’t pass on some heads up?

What do I wish someone had told me? Where to begin? I’m exhausted thinking about it and how can I not fall short of such a lofty, impossible goal? But you’re not living if you’re not trying.

Out of that came this piece, “If I Could I Would,”  about trying to concoct a poem that would do it all: serve as the girls’ steadfast template, guide them through whatever may stand in their way. A piece devoutly to be wished for sure and also a concrete and lasting way to remind them, through their very own poem, what they mean to me and the riches they have brought to my life.

 

cropped rain and fog on highway

Shape Shifters

Written last week on our travels in Scotland…

 

I won’t always be able to follow you

down every corridor,

into your next adventure,

all through your wild

precious life.

Just when everything comes

clear,

takes a shape you recognize,

is when it is bound

to change,

utterly.

Remember the cloud pattern you

marveled at,

its perfectly rendered skyscrapers

strung along a city shore,

how it seemed meant for us

alone,

and how in the

instant you turned to tell me

had unceremoniously become

once again

just clouds.

 

(Photo by Joel Koop http://www.joelkoop.com/)

pencil sketch of horse

With hoof beats as impermanent as stars

Happy Easter to you!

It continues to amaze me the legions of poets out there writing exquisite verse like the one below, artists that I am fortunate enough to stumble upon, time and again, in my travels, by land and keyboard.

Case in point is today`s offering:

Fists I Thought Were Made To Hold the Reins
by Brooks Haxton
Catfish, lacking scales, are beautiful
in their repulsive way, but they will give you
an infected wound if you’re not careful.
The filets I rubbed with cayenne, chili, salt,
and ginger, skillet hot and dry, then drowned
with lemon. Even the kids, who don’t eat fish,
left none. My wife and I stopped brooding,
and my right hand opened with me staring
into the empty palm, long having, if I ever
knew, forgotten when and how the reins
slipped free. I love equestrians,
but I let go the reins, unlike my heroes,
lacking their authority.

An unimaginable horse
is rippling at a gallop far away, unshod,
with hoof beats as impermanent as stars.