Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Ninety / The Nineties

“I heard one presidential candidate say that what this country 
needed was a president for the nineties. I was set to run again. 
I thought he said a president IN his nineties.” 
― Ronald ReaganSpeaking My Mind: Selected Speeches

“She's all brute force and '90s clichés.” 
― Rainbow RowellCarry On

“People have told me 'Betty, Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with 
old friends....'  At my age, if I wanted to keep in touch 
with old friends, I'd need a Ouija board” 
― Betty White

Midweek Motif ~ 
Ninety / The Nineties

Because this is Leap Year, March 30th is the 90th day of the year. Let's celebrate the number 90 and ninety minutes, ninetieth days, ninetieth years, the  1990s or the 1890s:
The Gay Nineties is an American nostalgic term referring to the decade of the 1890s. It is known in the United Kingdom as the Naughty Nineties, and refers there to the decade of supposedly decadent art by Aubrey Beardsley, the witty plays and trial of Oscar Wilde, society scandals and the beginning of the suffragette movement).
(Note that in the USA, we are just beginning to expose the history of the 1890s from other than white points of view.  That's why I include the Lucille Clifton poem below.  I wonder if that is true of other locations as well?)

 Your Challenge:  Today you have a vast choice of subject: the 90s.  There are two cautions: (1) write a new poem and (2) let your theme echo in your poem like a motif in music.  One way to do that is by refrain or repetition, but there are many other ways.  Enjoy.

marches in uniform down the traffic stripe
at the center of the street, counts time
to the unseen web that has rearranged
the air around him, his left hand
stiff as a leather strap along his side,
the other saluting right through the decades
as if they weren't there, as if everyone under ninety
were pervasive fog the morning would dispel
in its own good time, as if the high school band
all flapping thighs and cuffs behind him
were as ghostly as the tumbleweed on every road
dead-ended in the present, all the ancient infantry
shoulder right, through a skein of bone, presenting arms
across the drift, nothing but empty graves now
to round off another century,
the sweet honey of the old cadence, the streets
going by at attention, the banners glistening with dew,
the wives and children blowing kisses.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first
That I never might need them at last.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away,
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth could not last;
I thought of the future whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And life must be hastening away;
You are chearful, and love to converse upon death!
Now tell me the reason I pray.

I am chearful, young man, Father William replied,
Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember'd my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.

they thought the field was wasting
and so they gathered the marker rocks and stones and
piled them into a barn    they say that the rocks were shaped
some of them scratched with triangles and other forms    they
must have been trying to invent some new language they say
the rocks went to build that wall there guarding the manor and
some few were used for the state house
crops refused to grow
i say the stones marked an old tongue and it was called eternity
and pointed toward the river    i say that after that collection
no pillow in the big house dreamed    i say that somewhere under
here moulders one called alice whose great grandson is old now
too and refuses to talk about slavery    i say that at the
masters table only one plate is set for supper    i say no seed
can flourish on this ground once planted then forsaken    wild
berries warm a field of bones
bloom how you must i say


Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community.

                                     (Next week Susan's Midweek will be ~ Citizenship)

Monday, March 28, 2016


We are world travelers today, my friends, as we make a transatlantic flight to Hyderabad in India, to speak with the poet we know as PT, and meet her beautiful family.  PT writes at  Thoughts Unleashed,  and has been with us for some time. We are long overdue in getting to know her better, so pull your chairs up close, pour yourself some chai, and let us immerse ourselves in PT's world. We will do a bit of sight-seeing while we're here, so get ready for some beautiful scenery!


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Poetry Pantry #295

Photos of Mexico
by Tatius Darksong / Scotty Bridges

Greetings, Friends!  And happy Easter to all who celebrate.  I hope it is a beautiful day wherever you are.

Speaking of beautiful days, Tatius has shared with us some photos from Mexico this week.  They really make me yearn for a visit, but that will have to be another year!!

Tomorrow Sherry Blue Sky is featuring a poet from India.  Really, it seems that India has many fine poets, doesn't it?  Though she has been active in Poets United for quite a while, I don't think she has ever been featured before.  You are in for a treat.

Wednesday Susan's prompt for Midweek Motif is "Ninety / the Nineties."  Lots of possibilities come to mind.  Hope you are inspired too.

Do check Rosemary Nissen-Wade's "I Wish I'd Written This."  The poet is Tug Dumbly; and the poem is 'Black Elephant.'  Trust me, it is one powerful poem on the subject of domestic abuse, a subject I don't think many poems are written on.   But this is one not to miss.

After you have linked your (one) poem, visit other poets as well.  Be sure to stop in and leave a comment below too.  Looking forward to reading YOUR words!

Friday, March 25, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

Black Elephant
By Tug Dumbly

He’d turn up with their kids and a glass of
wine. New to the park. Maybe trying to
polish the scene of sprogs in dog shit shoes
chucking doggy-bag water bombs into
something a bit more refined. 

One day she turned up with their kids and a
shiner. No trip into a cupboard this.  
Too exact a coal black pit. But there was
no trying to hide it behind shades. She 
flew it like a pirate flag

over the park, in battered broadside display.
She didn’t say and we didn’t ask
about what was so achingly stamped. She
just invited our silent surmise of
the black elephant.

Who’s sorry now? her bruised skull screamed. She’d screw
a penance from him to make mincemeat of
his puny hook – she’d barbeque his good
name slow, on the spitting rotisserie
of public shame.

I never liked the woman. For all the
usual piss-poor reasons. She was pale
and unsmiling, unreadable, aloof.
Plus her son nearly blinded mine with a
kebab skewer.

The jab missed his eye by an inch.
They were only five, just kids trying to
kill each other in the usual way.
Could happen to anyone. Not her fault.
Though still we suckle blame.

He made the kid make cookies and bring them
to our door as an act of contrition.
I’ll grant him that. It was a nice little
lesson in actions and consequences
and the need for amends

a lesson he himself was now learning again.
I admired her guts, turning up like that,
out of the blue with that shining black. He
wasn’t back in the park for a while, and
then without his glass of wine

swallowed by the badge of her brutal pride.

Domestic violence is seen as a big issue these days, in Australia and other countries. By which I mean it's becoming much less the 'elephant in the room' that no-one talks about, which is what it was for most of our past. It was never a small issue really, but was very much inclined to be swept under the carpet. Women themselves regarded their black eyes and other injuries as cause for shame. I love this story of one woman who didn't try to hide hers behind dark glasses, didn't stay indoors until it had faded, didn't pretend she'd walked into a door. We need to make sure such things don't remain hidden. Both the poet and his subject are doing their bit there! Interesting, though, that the observers in the park still keep silent.

What I also love about this poem is the authenticity, created in the details. These are real people with all their quirks and humanity. We don't of course know if the poem is fictional or whether the events were actually lived and witnessed. It doesn't matter; we've all known such people and such events. They ring so true because they are so familiar. What is not so familiar is the proud behaviour of the woman. I hope she's not fictional! Even if she is – when poems like this get written, we know the time is soon that many such women will come to life.

The name Tug Dumbly is a pseudonym, pronounced with the 'b' silent (get it?).

I'll let Tug tell you about Tug, in his bio notes:

Tug Dumbly has performed his poems, songs, monologues and rants for years on radio (Triple J, ABC 702) and at numerous venues and festivals, both nationally in Australia and abroad. He has released a couple of spoken word cd’s through the ABC, and twice won the Banjo Paterson Prize for comic verse, once for his 8000 word epic ode to meat Barbeque Bill and the Roadkill Café.
He has twice won the Nimbin World Performance Poetry Cup, in 2007 and 2010, and in 2010 won the Spirit of Woodford Story Telling Competition at the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland.

He last year (2015) got runner up in the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize through Griffith University for his poem Peeling.  

He hates fakeness, but is slowly coming to terms with the fact that fakeness is something many people enjoy. He resents the fact that the world has never recognized his genius, but is learning to forgive it. He performs widely in schools, and his passions include folk music and cicadas. He believes that, given a little perseverance, he would make a fine game-show host, Cult Leader and Shakespearian actor.    

He included his contact details, so I will too: 

    Tug Dumbly Contact:
Postal: 307 Abercrombie St,
Darlington, NSW, 2008.
Phone: 0413 503 027

Performers should be seen and heard, not merely read. You can find him on YouTube. Lots of goodies to choose from there. 

Much of his stuff is very Australian and others might not get all the references, but I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy. Poets and environmentalists (is there a difference?) will appreciate this one.  

He's also described online as a satirist, and that he is, of the kind some people hate, others don't understand, and I adore. I confess to being mad about the totally scurrilous, rude, over-the-top and hilarious Why I Hate Baz Lurhman. Even though I personally don't hate Baz and do love his films, it made me laugh out loud – a lot. 

Note:  I at first inadvertently posted an earlier version of the poem. The one you see here now is the one the poet considers final.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Climate

“Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.  
And that makes me quite nervous.” 
― Oscar Wilde

“Men argue. Nature acts.” ― Voltaire

“One of the biggest differences between humans and trees 
is simply that humans burn trees.” 
― M. JacksonWhile Glaciers Slept: 

Face the future
"Fortunately, the world’s governments are now fully convinced of the scientific evidence of climate change and the need to take urgent action. . . . "   (From WMO, where a number of countries have contributed videos of weather reports from the year 2050.)

“Much of the oxygen we breathe comes from plants that died long ago. We can give thanks to these ancestors of our present-pay foliage, but we can't give back to them. We can, however, give forward. . . . When tackling issues such as climate change, the stance of gratitude is a refreshing alternative to guilt or fear as a source of motivation.” 
― Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone


Midweek Motif ~ Climate

  • World Meteorological Day is held annually on 23 March.
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is the UN system's authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources
  • WMO Regions.PNG
    Member states of the World Meteorological Organization.
  • Technically, climate is a set of weather statistics gathered over many years, a summary of tendencies in a region condensed from many spheres: atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere
  • The science is too complex for me to understand.  It would take poets or novelists to explain it to me, just as they have been explaining the human and political climate to me for years―and the climate is changing.

Your challenge:  In a new poem, use climate or climate change as a thematic element.  As an added challenge―if you wish to accept ituse a specific situation to clarify a political or natural climate change in the past, present or future.

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,   
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries   
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am   
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,   
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,   
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,   
which are what will finish us off
. . . . 
(Read the rest HERE at The Poetry Foundaton)
Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Source: Morning in the Burned House (1995)
(¡Pura vida! —Costa Rican phrase for "O.K." or "Great!")
Such heat! It brings the brain back to its basic blank.
Small, recurrent events become the daily news—
the white-nosed coati treading the cecropia's
bending thin branches like sidewalks in the sky,
the scarlet-rumped tanager flitting like a spark
in the tinder of dank green, the nodding palm leaves
perforated like Jacquard cards in a code of wormholes,
the black hawk skimming nothingness over and over.

What does the world's wide brimming mean, with hunger
the unstated secret, dying the proximate reality?
. . . . 
(Read the rest Here at The Poetry Foundation.)

UN Climate Summit Poem "Dear Matafele Peinem"

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community.

                               (Next week Susan's Midweek will be ~ Ninety / The Nineties)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Poems of the Week ~ Eco-Poems by Bjorn, De and Hannah

We have a feature close to my heart today, my friends. We are showcasing three excellent eco-poems by Bjorn Rudberg, of  Bjorn Rudberg's Writings, De Jackson, of whimzygizmo's blog, and Hannah Gosselin, who writes at Metaphors and Smiles. Their poems work together very well to take us out into the streams and fields. We can walk through the forest, visit wildlife, and experience the difficulties nature encounters these days, the human footprint having such a devastating impact. I hope you enjoy the work of these three very fine poets.

Our friend Bjorn

Sherry: Bjorn's poem "Still Life From a Silent Spring" had me right from the title, which references Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Here is a photo Bjorn snapped, of a springtime walk he took last spring, to get us right in the mood for his beautiful poem. Enjoy!


Crushed by a boot
the marigold’s nectar
will never feed the bees.

Rain flushed through
will school the one-finned fish.

After turning up the heat –
brimstone acid
burns both leaves and lungs.

In the shadow of a tree
a fawn is waiting
for the doe at gunpoint.

I scribble poetry
on paper heartbeats
from a dying forest.

copyright Bjorn Rudberg January 26, 2016

Sherry: Your poem makes me feel for the plight of the bees, the fawn waiting for its mother, and, especially, that last stanza, your poem written on "paper heartbeats from a dying forest." Wow.

Bjorn: ... It's an honor to have a poem shared. A few words about the poem:

This poem was written for a challenge on eco-poetry. To write something for something that I care so much about was a real challenge, as I find it really hard to write about something I care about so much without being judgmental or sappy.

I decided to collect some really simple scenes in the form of three line stanzas, that would describe the terrible things we do to nature in a detached way. Rather show and not tell. In this poem I am especially satisfied with the title that plays with the double meaning with both "still life" which could both mean something dead or still life in the meaning of hope. Silent spring was intended to give a reference to Rachel Carson. 

Sherry: You accomplished your objective to perfection, Bjorn. That is always a good aim: to show and not tell. I love the reference to Rachel Carson. The closing lines of the poem especially made me think: of the trees, our waste, (of paper and everything else). It really hit home in a big way. Thank you for this poem, which has great impact, the more so for its brevity. Well done.

Let's take a look at De Jackson's wonderful poem, "Of Limbs, and Liquid Skin", whose ending made me catch my breath.

of limbs, and liquid skin

O, Tree. I know the quiet ache
of leavings,
shedding selves.
I, too, have felt
bruised, used.
O, Ocean. I feel your heartbeat
under my own skin,
the ebb and flow of spring.
The scorch of sun.
The pull of moon.
O, Earth. I hold the buzz
of bee in the bumbled cage of my un
-quiet heart, this strangled birdsong
behind my own tired teeth.
Sorrow comes
with the knowing;
our bruisings,
our misusings.
For today, I will raise my arms
and float, let my voice fly
on fluid wings.
 copyright De Jackson, January 26, 2016

Sherry: This is really breathtaking: "the buzz of bee in my own unquiet heart", the "strangled birdsong behind my own tired teeth". And then the hope in the lifting of arms, and letting your voice fly. Sigh. I love the power in this. Love your photo, too, kiddo!

De: I have always felt a deep connection to the earth, seeing my Creator best through his incredible creation. I write often of tree, and ocean, and sky (especially that wily moon). This was my first official foray into “eco-poetry,” though. In the leavings, in the salt, in the birdsong…I like to remember that there is always, always hope. For the earth. For us.

Sherry: Yes, we must always hope, and hold the vision of a sustainable earth. I remember an activist friend of mine saying "Mother Earth feels your pain. Let her feel your joy, too." That stuck with me.

Hannah had a  close encounter with wildlife recently that was very painful for her. Her eulogy is filled with the love of nature for which  her work is so well known. I love its title, "Of Seeing", because Hannah is one who truly sees nature, close-up and personal, and brings the vision to us through her poems. 


Of Seeing

I guess the trouble with seeing is that when I really begin to see – I care
but I can’t curse the day I counted – I worry about pigeons knowing their numbers
there’re twenty-three of them – twenty-three perched there daily
about the family of five ducks – now I look for each silent V trailing behind them
and crying guy in his car in the parking lot of a bank – I cry with him.

Maybe it’d help if there was some Karmic-Book of life equivalency
chart that would surely show how many lives equal that of another –
how many mostly frozen earth worms gathered from tar and relocated
yes, those and does the cold unidentifiable gray worm creeping slowly
and the dog and cat I rescued count toward cosmic debt?

This spring as sapling begin their seed-warmed tendril-crawl
as they reach for rain and fresh green light
growing among them will be your contribution
acorns never found will rise from the sun-warmed ground
here and there – strategically hidden they’ll become

mighty and tall – Oaks with a secreted note on their souls
your name will be written within – pure energy wishing for survival.
I hope they’ll grow to be as brilliant as the one whose roots cradle your body
now – under a careful quilt of leaves and sticks you rest
resigned by design of mankind – my wheels were too, fast

my mind was too, busy and I didn’t see you quickly enough.
Tears fell unrestrained as I sobbed my sorry over your grave
I pressed my right hand to Nature’s tiny blanket that I’d arranged
but it could not, nor did I want it to, hide your magnificent tail
slate-silver-downy-fur alive in morning’s wind. I sent prayers to appease my grief

for I’m sure that you didn’t need them – beautiful gray squirrel
and God wasn’t going to strike me down with lightning over this mistake
but regardless of my making peace with this unfortunate moment
rivulets of emotion coursed a sudden river on my neck while I drove
blurry-eyed and stopped at stop signs – did drivers and walkers see – wonder?

Have I left an impression on their perfectly-imperfect day?
Later will they remember as they chew their lunch of salad greens
as they move garlic croutons around with a poised fork
will they ask themselves who was that crying girl
will their hearts break a little, too – eyes briefly pool?

Copyright © Hannah Gosselin and Metaphors and Smiles, 2011-16

Sherry: I was riveted to every single word, Hannah. I love that you know exactly how many birds are on the wire, that you assist worms, that you bury dead squirrels, with prayers. I love the title, "Of Seeing", especially, as you do truly see nature, from the smallest to the biggest, and you love it all with such an open and appreciative heart.

Hannah: Of Seeing is an outpouring of several incidences all pooled into one poem, but the focus was definitely on the gray squirrel. I believe this is the first time I was the one controlling wheels that became an unfortunate end to a squirrel life. Luckily squirrels have come into my life in other, happier ways, too.

Last spring there were a pair of baby squirrels born on our property, they were so fun to watch – chasing each other around tree trunks and tagging one another before darting away. They’re such playful and hard-working animals. I see a message about balance in them. :)

Another squirrel serendipity is that lately I’ve been watching a program called Animal Odd Couples and in one episode the pairing was a squirrel and a Saint Bernard. Witnessing this orphaned squirrel being raised by humans from a tiny-hairless baby to a healthy adult, (hiding nuts in the house and in the dog’s fur), caused me to realize that animals can interrelate with other species and grow deep bonds as well.

There're so many amazing beings to be in awe of and to carry compassion for. When we begin to really see that we’re all One-breathing-creature and One-beating-heart – it’s impossible to unsee this kind of Truth. 

Sherry: I wish everyone could know that - that we truly are all connected, one beating heart. Sigh. So lovely. You have such a compassionate heart, Hannah, and such a love for Mother Earth and all her creatures. Bless you for caring so much.

Thank you, my three talented friends, for allowing me to feature your poems, each of which leaves us feeling closer to nature and, thus, uplifted.

Well, kids? I hope your heart was touched by the beauty of these offerings, and the caring hearts of the poems' creators. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

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