Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lame-Brained Poetry

Dear George,
Since September we’ve been doing a Poetry Writing Workshop offered by the OLLI “lifelong learning” program at the university, and it’s been fun and challenging.  There are about a dozen people in the class, most of them more experienced poetry-writers than I.  Carrie writes profound soliloquies about the meaning of life and death.  Roger reflects upon intellectual and scientific matters, e.g., “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”  Sandra creates nostalgic poems about growing up in the Ozarks.  My poems aren’t as elegant or poetically expressive.  I get inspired by Dr. Seuss, though I know it’s impossible to come anywhere close to his off the wall style.   I don’t know if there is actually a category called “lame-brained poetry,” but, if there is, that’s the specialty I seem to be aiming for.  Here are a couple of my efforts from class.

Colors.  One of our assignments was to write a poem about a color or colors, using repetition of a strong word or phrase.  For some reason, I immediately thought about a blue kitten.  Here is how my poem wound up.

Blue is for Kitty

If my cat could change color
I think she would want to be blue
Blue as the sky on the Fourth of July
Though green is a good color too

Green makes me think of cabbage and peas
I could add these to Kitty’s stew
A cat dyed green would stand out in the crowd
Yet pink is a hip color too

Pink is the tint of an infant’s skin
For a cat, that’s radically new
Kitty already has a pinkish tongue
Though red is a smart color too

Red is the color of rubies
I’d love to buy Kitty a few
Rubies would make her neck sparkle
But purple would more than make do

Purple reminds me of vampires
At my throat evil Kitty would chew
She’d be another of Dracula’s brides
That’s why orange is a much better hue

Orange is a favorite color for cats
I know you have seen quite a few
Kitty, in fact, was orange at birth
That’s why I was thinking of blue

Yes, blue would be best for my Kitty
I could show her off at the zoo
But in fact I don’t really own a cat
So some of my poem is untrue

The Senses.  Another task was to describe a specific setting, incorporating most or all of the human senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste).  I guess pets are on my mind since it occurred to me that our sheepdogs provide us with daily experiences through most of the senses.

I Wish I Could Sleep Like a Sheepdog

I haven’t slept well for a dozen years
The reasons are vague and mysterious
Bad sleep taps into my deepest fears
I’m scared that I’ll soon be delirious

I used to think it was due to the noise
The sirens whiz by on our street
But noise doesn’t seem to bother the boys           
Their sleep is so deep it’s a treat

The sheepdogs retire at nine o’clock         
Twelve years old, they’re both getting creaky           
I hoist each one up like an eighty-pound rock
I hope they don’t think that I’m geeky

In bed the dogs are a wonderful sight
They’re such a jubilant pack
Mike’s handsome head is snowy white
While Duffy’s right ear is jet black

Mike’s forty inches from nose to tail
And Duffy’s exactly the same             
The bed’s seventy-eight from rail to rail
Small space for big dogs is a shame

The humans climb in with a sense of dread
Katja lies on her side on a slant
I scrunch up my knees with my feet off the bed
The dogs would make room but they can’t
Duffy then rests his head on my calf
While Mike leans on top of my back
So heavy and warm I’m prompted to laugh
Though I feel like I’m pinned to the rack

The dogs begin dreaming at two a.m.
They’re chasing squirrels on the lawn
Their legs are twitching at a high r.p.m.
These dreams keep on going till dawn

Our room often smells like dog perfume
Especially if fur’s wet from rain          
Sometimes a dog makes a gaseous fume
We stop breathing and pray it will wane

At least the dogs don’t bark through the night           
Instead they make whimpers and moans
It’s hard tell if it’s sadness or fright
With dogs there are many unknowns

In closing, insomnia’s a mystery
The sheepdogs sleep perfectly fine
We share the same bed, the same history
I guess I’ll start drinking more wine

Similes.  A third homework assignment was to write a poem using one or more similes.  A simile is a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between different kinds of things, usually using “like” or “as”, e.g., “as cool as a cucumber.”  I started thinking about “life”, which of course can be represented by a zillion similes. 

What Is Life Like Exactly?

Life is a lot like a movie
A beginning, a middle, an end
The beginning can often be groovy
But I think that the end’s where you mend

Childhood was like a Three Stooges short           
Curly bopping Moe on the bean           
Our parents tried to give us support
But for children it’s fun to be mean

My teen years were more like those Beach Party flicks
Frankie A. and Annette Funicello
Crew-cutted guys and bikini-clad chicks
I’m sad I was such a shy fellow

My college years were pure John Belushi
All-night poker and free-flowing beer           
We ate cold pizza and vegetable sushi
It’s amazing I found a career

My thirties became a comic horror story
The zombies lived right down the hall           
Conflicts at work could border on gory
I tried to stay out of the brawl

Middle age was a black and white mystery
Charlie Chan or maybe Sam Spade
I struggled to unravel my history
And hoped that my dreams wouldn’t fade

My sixties were like a slow British pic           
The scenes were offbeat and quirky                       
I went to work and did my shtick
I was lucky my spouse was so perky

Retirement’s been a song and dance show
Ginger Rogers and vintage Astaire
Their dancing trick was to go with the flow
And treat life like a glorious affair

This year seems most like a travelogue
We go on adventures through OLLI
We learn everything about Paris or Prague
But the poems are what keep us jolly

G-Mail Comments: 

-Phyllis S-S (11-15): Dear Dave,  I especially loved the kitty one but they are all delightful.  Phyllis

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