Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Vigilance

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." ~Ida B. Wells

Today is World Water Monitoring Day!

 Wednesday, September 18

❝. . . . we challenge you to test the quality of your
waterways, share your findings, and protect our most precious resource. ❞
 –Philippe Cousteau, Jr.

Allegory of Vigilance, Domenico Tintoretto
File:Vigilance (United States Navy poster).jpg
United States Navy

Midweek Motif ~ Vigilance

I started building this prompt around World Water Monitoring Day ~ which is today ~ then widened it to vigilance.  We might agree that youth and community involvement could prevent poisons in our water, but is vigilance always a useful community action?  Would it be useful in keeping guns out of the hands of would-be killers?  In stopping hate crimes?  In keeping treaties?  In guiding media and the internet?  Who should be vigilant?

And when is vigilance simply too exhausting? How much more creative might people be if their attention wasn't divided by constant vigilance?   I remember wondering this during feminist "Take Back the Night" marches in the 1970s.  Now I wonder around issues of immigration and racial profiling. 

Your Challenge:  Create a new poem that addresses the monitoring and vigilance you see as necessary or obtrusive. 

Volunteers from the United States Environmental Protection Agency geared up in their official water sampling gear to show students how they do their jobs. To find out more about water sampling and monitoring visit:


In Which She Considers the Water

 by Rebecca Dunham

Flint, Michigan, 2016

The river rushes and beats her
             home. Through phosphate-scaled
plumbing, it veins the walls' plaster
            and water bleeds
orange chloride from the tap. The pipes
            leach. The lead—no
imminent threat to public health—seeps
            and floats like a ghost, silent,
straight from the Flint to her child's
plastic cup. Lead levels peak
            at 13,200 ppb and the pipes moan:
what was done cannot be
            undone. Fill a glass. Hold it
to the light. No one here to see.

(I used this poem without permission, and will remove it if you wish.)


By Natasha Trethewey

— After Katrina, 2005

At first, there was nothing to do but watch.
For days, before the trucks arrived, before the work
of cleanup, my brother sat on the stoop and watched.

He watched the ambulances speed by, the police cars;
watched for the looters who’d come each day
to siphon gas from the car, take away the generator,

the air conditioner, whatever there was to be had.
He watched his phone for a signal, watched the sky
for signs of a storm, for rain so he could wash.

At the church, handing out diapers and water,
he watched the people line up, watched their faces
as they watched his. And when at last there was work,

he got a job, on the beach, as a watcher.
Behind safety goggles, he watched the sand for bones,
searched for debris that clogged the great machines.

Riding the prow of the cleaners, or walking ahead,
he watched for carcasses – chickens mostly, maybe
some cats or dogs. No one said remains. No one

had to. It was a kind of faith, that watching:
my brother trained his eyes to bear
the sharp erasure of sand and glass, prayed

there’d be nothing more to see.
(I used this poem without permission, and will remove it if you wish.)

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

By  Richard Brautigan

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
  ( Next week Sumana’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Honey / Bee )

Monday, September 16, 2019


We have a special feature today, friends. Fireblossom (aka Shay Simmons) and Mama Zen (aka Kelli Simpson) are weighing in on poetry and blogging. Pour yourself something tall and cool (or stubby and hot) and draw your chairs in close. These poets know how to Use Their Words, and we don't want to miss a single one.

Proof For The Postulation Of An Old Poet

The generosity of madmen
--whether born or made so--
is like a pitcher overturned, 
sweetness wasted in the sharing.

I'm not about to mistake straitjackets for haute couture;
I am as hard and closed as a policeman's nightstick.

Still, you can lay naked in the spring grass,
holding a hymnal and a caramel.
Pretend yourself a parrot, all colors.
I will still be the crow from whom the night borrows its darkness.

When you have gone, I will play ancient games
with dying cicadas.
The years will fold themselves into pastries
the crumbs of which I horde and never drop.

Go, parrot. And this time
do not leave open my coat of poems
with sleeves like shaded roads, and wool like forgotten noons.
But if you do, I will have been right in my manic certainty

that you would make me cry in the end.

Sherry: Oh my goodness! The "coat of poems"! "Wool like forgotten noons!" I don't know how you do it. I am just so very glad you do, and that we get to read you. Tell us, Poet, your thoughts on poetry.

Shay: Poetry to me means being fearlessly honest, including and especially about difficult subjects. It means passion and energy and brevity. By that last I mean saying what you have to say in a succinct and powerful way, not losing or diffusing your point with meandering fluff. (I re-read my first solo book and think, oy, where was an editor when I needed one?) 

I get ideas from almost anything. It's like....I'll be watching a movie and something will send my imagination into a big long tangential invention of my own and by the time I blink and come back, I have to rewind because I daydreamed through the last 15 minutes of the movie. A word, an image, a song, anything can send me off to the races. 

When I know I've gotten it just right--which isn't that often--it's a fantastic feeling. This will sound horribly immodest, but when that happens, I think, "Damn, I'm good!" It's a great feeling. And that confidence, that ego, are what make me feel like I can say something difficult well the next time. Fear paralyzes writers. I have become fearless in my old age. (I also realize that there are a thousand things I am NOT good at. But I am good at this one thing.) 

Sherry: To your followers, it seems like you get it just right every time, and we are astonished by that fact. And so impressed!

What is your take on blogging? Has the online poetry world impacted your work?

Shay: Blogging has been wonderful for my love of poetry and for writing my own. Poets like Hedgewitch and Mama Zen push me and always have. I read something fantastic that they have written and I am 1) thrilled for them and 2) eager to try to match it. I'm not competitive with the writers I admire most. I love their successes as much as my own. I'm just saying they spur me to greater efforts. Also, blogging has made me friends who I never would have met otherwise. I don't think poetry blogging has the same energy as it once did, though. I am not as into it as I used to be, but I do keep my hand in. 

Sherry: I don't think blogging has the energy it once did either - but we are ten years more tired too........I loved those heady days! I will always look back on those years with gratitude, when the world of online poetry opened its doors to me.

I like what you say about not feeling competitive with the poets whose work you admire most. I feel the same way (about your work, for example.) It would be like trying to compete with a star, rather than enjoying its beauty and perfection in the sky. I just glory in their (and your) talent. 

Thank you for this chat, Shay. Online poetry, as you say, introduced me to friends all over the world I never would have met otherwise. My life has been so much richer for it.

Let's see what Mama Zen has to say, shall we?

Snoopy - who cracks me up!

The Buck

The buck, throat cut,
bleeds out about six.
Half-hidden in nightfall,
I redden a stick

and dampen the doorway -
a Sunday school lesson

pass over
pass over
pass over.

Sherry: Yes, may bad things pass over our homes and our lives, though it feels like the whole planet is in peril these days.

Would you share your thoughts about poetry with us? Your poem definitely shows the power words have to impact our minds and hearts.

Kelli: Have you ever heard of the Supreme Court obscenity test? In a ruling in the '60s, Judge Potter Stewart wasn't able to define obscenity, but claimed to know it when he saw it.  That's kind of how I feel about poetry.  I can't really tell you what it is, or what makes it what it is, but I know it when I see it and, more importantly, when I feel it.

Sherry: And the reader, too, knows it when she sees (and feels) it. As in your poem, shared here. Great explanation, Kelli.
Kelli: Without the online poetry world, I'm not sure that I would be writing poetry now.  I had written poems and songs in my teens and twenties, but I had given it up to pursue other things.  It was the wonderful poets that I met online who inspired and encouraged me to pick up the pen again.

At the moment, I'm taking a break from blogging.  I'm homeschooling and doing some political activism, so I don't really have the time to interact the way I would want to if I were posting.  I'm still writing, though, so I hope to be able to return soon.  And, I miss you guys!

Sherry: Homeschooling and political activism are important, Kelli. We are glad you are still writing, and it is wonderful to know we can look forward to your return. Thank you for saying yes to this short visit. We are so happy to hear from you! We miss you!

Kelli: Thank you, Sherry.  And thank you, everyone, for all of your kindnesses over the years.

We hope you enjoyed this exchange, friends. Next week, Marian Kent and Susie Clevenger will similarly share their thoughts on poetry and blogging. Be sure not to miss it!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Poetry Pantry #493

We hope this brings you a smile this morning. If only they would sing! LOL. We have another great week coming up at Poets United, my friends. We hope you caught our Friday feature, when Sanaa brought us her interactive Wild Friday! (I love the idea of wild Fridays, needless to say!)

On Monday, Fireblossom and Mama Zen are weighing in, sharing a poem each and a few thoughts on poetry and blogging. You won't want to miss it.  And Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif on Wednesday will be Vigilance, a quality we need in these difficult times, so our countries don't become unrecognizable. 

Next Friday Magaly will bring us one of her interactive features. It sounds like an interesting and fun week. We hope you'll join us.

As today is Sunday, top up your coffee and settle in for some wonderful poetry. Thank you all for being here. We appreciate you, for you are the reason we're here too, doing what we do.