College Tour – #PoetryMonth 2018 – April 8

OK this is not a zucchini, yes I know the difference

College Tour
The college tour guide explained
you could work on an organic farm,
right there on campus,
and I kept my mouth shut because
who the hell wants to play Mr. Green Jeans
with so much literature, knowledge, and beer
to consume, and only four years
in which to consume it?

To me, “organic farm” sounds like
a lot of bullshit shoveling, literally,
which I suppose isn’t that different from
a lot of bullshit shoveling, literarily.
Ultimately, both can put food on the table.

I learned to shovel bullshit
as a five year old, or rather
chickenshit I think it was,
which my dad piled into
the back seat of the Peugeot
to spread on his garden.
That’s how I remember it,
piles of stinky dirt called “manure”
which was also something
dogs rolled in, particularly dogs
with long hair like our husky.

My dad would spread manure
on his garden, then spend
sixty hours a day weeding, watering,
and fussing over that
sacred patch of dirt
until it was zucchini season.

It seemed to me that zucchini season
lasted ten months a year.
Stuffed zucchini, baked zucchini,
pasta with zucchini, zucchini with rice.
Zucchinis bigger than my thighs,
piled like firewood ten feet high,
all made possible by manure.

I went to college when it was cheap,
so I could learn a trade and escape
all that manure and zucchini.

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!
PS: Today’s poem prompt was… there was no prompt.
Previous Post

Depth Perception – #PoetryMonth 2018 – April 7

Depth Perception
You touch pencil to paper
like Yo-Yo Ma touches bow to cello,
a sudden confident stroke
against a vast emptiness of time
and blank space

One arcing scratch,
a mysterious curve carving
your unspoken vision onto the page.

I still remember the moment
of the doctor’s verdict,
that your eyes betrayed you
and destroyed your dream of flying
because one was lazier than the other,
and together they failed to give you
depth perception.

That doctor was short-sighted.

As I study your art, I realize
your eyes see depths within depths,
your heart feels the bottom of the abyss,
your imagination probes chasms that are
feared by those without sufficient vision.

And I hope one day you realize
with your feet on the ground
that you fly higher
with a pencil in your hand
than ever you could
holding the stick of a helicopter.

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!
PS: Today’s poem prompt was… there was no prompt.
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Your Melody – #PoetryMonth 2018 – April 6

Your Melody

When the barista asked
would I like a little room
I wanted to say that’s why I’m here
I wanted to tell her that space
was all I needed
just a little space
away from the legos and Blues Clues
and Teletubbies and
dirty socks
that never matched,
just like the two of us,
we never matched,
not really,
like the two sofas,
one dark green and one decaf-beige
neither one able to anchor the room
in the way a relationship needs an anchor
okay not an anchor like the kind that
drags you down to drown in frigid blackness
but
a center of gravity
to keep in balance the daily tumult
of squishy cheerios and squishy diapers
but instead I said
“thank you”
as Crystal,
that’s what the plastic rectangle on her lapel said,
etched in a skinny sans-serif
like her smile and her cheeks and her earlobes
smooth and rounded and glowing with
the caffeine of youth,
and her eye glinted as our fingers brushed
on my paper cup
just like your fingers brushed mine this morning
when you handed me that goofy pink mug
as I was still rubbing sleep from my puffy eyes
and you sang the “good morning” song
from that Gene Kelly movie,
the one we rented on VHS
twenty years ago
that same night we first met
in the coffee shop on 56th Avenue.

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!
PS: Today’s poem prompt was provided by Kymberlie.
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The Nerdiest Poem Ever – #PoetryMonth 2018 – April 5

The Nerdiest Poem Ever

“I need a word!” I cried.
My cramped office replied with
nothing but the gathering chill
of a dusky rain
outside my triple-paned windows.

The internet tried its best to help.
“Cry wolf!”
“The jig is up!”
“Keep your eyes peeled!”
These, as any sixth grade boy forced to miss recess knows,
are not sufficient to summon Euterpe to anything more
than a dismissive eye roll.

Any random word would do.

Bottle! Inspired by the half-empty short-necked IPA next to my keyboard.
Chord! Taken from a slender reference book designed to nestle in the tall neck of a guitar case.
Guillotine! I had apparently had enough of necks.

Any random word—not chosen by me—would do.

Fate would decide.
By dice I’d have my prompt.
In seconds, hastily excavated relics littered my desk:
A dog-eared Monster Manual. A faded Dungeon Master’s Guide.
A crisp, bright dictionary… the paper kind.
And the treasure I sought: a musty leather bag filled with precious jewels.
By which of course I mean dice.

D10: Four!
D10: Zero!
D10: Five!
Yanking the dictionary open, I flipped to page 405.
D6: Five! The far right column.
D10: Six.

My word, the sixth down the column.
Finally, I would have my prompt to inspire a poem on the fifth day of
Poetry Month.
The rain’s chill vanished, the internet’s babble silenced,
my finger traced word after word until…

Dismiss.

I could feel Euterpe rolling her eyes and
popping open her umbrella
for the long walk back to the bus stop
where the number six bus would take her home.

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!
PS: Today’s poem prompt was provided by random chance, as described in the poem.
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Wicker Basket – #PoetryMonth 2018 April 4

Wicker Basket

A tepee that’s lost its Indians
A fire engine with pullback action
A riderless horse
An orange Spitfire
The handmade wood fighter jet
A battleship out of water
A monster truck
A police helicopter

Now the wicker basket
Knows only the brutish hands
Of cleaning ladies
Dusting the shelf
And
The fading memory of
Tiny, clumsy hands
Tumbling toys
Across the carpet

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!
PS: Today’s poem prompt was provided by Maria.
Previous Post

Spring’s Fairy – #PoetryMonth 2018 April 3

Spring’s Fairy

Too cold for sweat.
“I am the harbinger,”
She grunts as she swings
One foot up, then the other.
Erigenia hauls herself
One leaf higher up the flowerstalk,
Rising above
The stubborn remnants
Of the final March snow.

Her hands blistered and torn,
Her rough clothes sliced,
Her chest heaving,
She stands triumphant
On the top
Of the tallest
Dandelion.

With a parched whisper
Made of long-dry oak leaves
And trampled corn husks,
Erigenia commands,
“The time is now, Spring,”
And a swish of her sword
Cuts loose the first
Raw blossom
To carry her up
Into the orange sunrise
On the last gossamer breath
Of winter’s spent fury.

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!
PS: Today’s poem prompt was provided by Aerin.
Previous Post

After the Last Birthday – #PoetryMonth 2018 April 2

After the Last Birthday

Tick-tick-tick,
Like the pecking of pigeons on bare concrete,
Or the tapping of hail on windows,
Grains of beach sand tumble
Tick-tick-tick,
Driven by the relentless breeze
Across the weathered wood of
An abandoned picnic table.

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!
Previous Post

Poetry Month 2018. Day 1.

Deceptions

This house
Crafted with love
From honest wood

The sacrifices we made
On this solid slab,
Aching over the labors
That our idealistic youth
Promised would build
A home

A home
That protected us
For twenty years
Though it needed paint
And a new faucet
From time to time

A home
A safely comfortable bed
Thick, trusted studs
The aromas of us

If only we’d understood
The termites
Chewing away the core
Until the only thing
Holding up the corrupted shell
Was the stubborn resolve
Of our shared denial.

Poetry Month 2018
I’ve resolved a few times to write a poem a day during the month of April, and I actually succeeded once. I’m again trying it out. No idea what each day will bring. Some light verse, some politics, some “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haikus. If you read one and feel moved to comment, please do. If you want to share your poetry, please share!

What does your tattoo signify to you?

Last week, my daughter and I got new tattoos. She designed hers two weeks ago, I loved it, and I asked for a modified version for me. Since she was visiting from southern California last week, we found ourselves under Aaron‘s needle at Zebra tattoo in Berkeley on Thursday, walking out with new ink in time to go to grandma’s for dinner. (She hates tattoos.)

My first tattoo

Most people are surprised to find out I already had a tattoo. Clean-cut white guy with no sense of style, very polite, very little cussing, worked for a bank… that guy has a tat? But yeah, it’s tiny and one color and in a place that’s often covered up. So.

Anyway. Emma modified her drawing to my specifications, and Aaron redrew it to make it more tattooey (for skin instead of paper).

It’s on my left forearm, so a lot bigger and more visible than the first.

Emma’s tattoo was the medical symbol of a staff with a snake wrapped around it, but she changed the snake to a rattlesnake and added the words Don’t Tread On Me. I decided a quill (for writing of course) suited me better, though I kept the rattler. The color pattern on the snake is blue-pink-white-pink-blue, repeated; this is the pattern of the trans flag. (As you know if you’ve read my blog much, I am the proud father of a trans woman.) While I don’t think of my writing as venomous, I do want it to have bite, and the rattler reminds me not to be timid in my writing.

Do you have one or more tattoos? Do they have significance beyond aesthetic appeal? Let me know in the comments.

Remind me, where do I look this up? #EditingPony

Do you ever want to reply to emails with, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Or, “Thanks for asking me about that. If only you had some way of finding it out yourself.”

Or,”Hey there’s this new thing called the internet. You should check it out.”

Please don’t be the person who makes me want to send you those replies. Because all of them basically mean, “Look it up yourself.”

When you’re sending an email or other written correspondence, stop yourself if you

  • … are beginning the email with, “Remind me…”
    This means you’ve already been told, but you think your time is better spent by having me look it up for you than by you looking it up for yourself. This is a great way to make your coworkers feel disrespected and resentful.
  • … are including or attributing a quote from memory
    As Mark Twain never said, “I’d rather be misquoted than languish in obscurity.” If you are including a quote from literature, history, or culture, it’s worth your time to get it right.
  • … are referring to historical facts
    You may have heard everyone you know talking about the Bowling Green Massacre, but if you’re referring to it in print, you should spend two minutes looking it up first to get the details right.
  • … are presenting data
    I’ve been guilty of giving estimates from memory in informal emails from time to time, but once these estimates are in the wild, they can grow to become more “real” than the actual truth in people’s minds. If that happens, these informal inaccuracies can haunt you. Don’t go from memory; look up the numbers. (And don’t send a note to a coworker asking them to remind you…)

The Editing Pony

The Editing Pony is a blog series about good business writing. I’ll post periodic tips and gladly critique and rewrite emails or one-pagers for you in a blog post. Contact me to learn more.

Why a pony? A writer friend said she hadn’t edited in ages, but she was “getting back up on that pony.” Thus, the Editing Pony was conceived, to trample your words with ruthless, plush cuteness.