Laundered Ideals

78E4A31F-F55A-4E45-98C4-5DE7E170A2F3.jpegMany years ago, I took a poetry class in college and read The Shirt Poem by Gerald Stern. I was taken with the imagery of shirts marching through the closet, oblivious to the life changes of their wearer. I wish I could find a good copy to link to. I’ve read this poem to my kids and it makes me weep.

Anyway – my poem won’t make you weep. This poem was inspired by Stern’s work and was published in Chronogram nearly twenty years after I first read The Shirt Poem.

——
Laundered Ideals
(with apologies to Gerald Stern and The Shirt Poem)

The laundry room is the last bastion of segregation.
Whites sit apart from blacks,
Lights stand separate from coloreds.
Blue jeans avoid those delicate,
While intimates cuddle together.

Children’s clothes avoid the writhing masses of adult debauchery.
You know the clothes I’m talking about—
Those R-rated ones that slither and gyrate,
With his underwear sliding over hers suggestively
As they breathlessly await the dryer.

But crossing a laundry line is seldom permitted.
Should a dark mingle too long with the whites,
Or a rough rider tangle the fragile,
We all know what happens—
The damaged clothes are cursed and cast aside.

I say the stained shirts should stand tall,
Proudly displaying their perceived flaws.
Brave pioneers in the fight against uniformity,
They are but startling reminders of our own prejudice.
We could all be so brave; we should all be so flawed.

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Newly published in the Golden Haiku Contest

I have a thing for daffodils. They are the first flowers of spring in my neighborhood, and they crop up in odd places.

Last year, a poem I wrote about daffodils was chosen to be displayed as public art in the Golden Triangle District of Washington, D.C.

This year, I entered the same contest. Again, I didn’t win, but it was yet another poem about daffodils that was chosen for publication in this unusual and clever fashion. I hope they place my poem next to an errant daffodil.

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You can read the winning contest entries here, along with other poems, like mine, that were also chosen for display.

Evolution of the Poem: charcoal landscape …

If you’ve read my poetry, or follow my Instagram account, you’ll notice that I have an obsession with clouds (see photo above!). Last December, this poem of mine was published in the new Autumn Moon Haiku Journal:

charcoal landscape
a smudge of nimbostratus
on the horizon

I like this poem because it captures the ephemeral nature of clouds. I can almost visualize the artist at the easel, trying to get the effect just right before the cloud changes shape again.

When I was very small, I took an art class and used charcoal pencils. Over the years, I’ve taken more of a liking to pencil sketches, but the technique of shading – or attempting to capture a moment through shading – is similar. For me, this reminds me of smudging and erasing and smudging again, coupled with watching clouds and trying to capture their beauty in words or by photograph.

Now, similar to other poems I’ve explored through Evolution of the Poem, this one didn’t start out this way. An early draft read:

shaded charcoal lines
smudged slightly at the edges …
nimbostratus clouds

In retrospect, there’s a lot wrong with this picture. First of all, there is no picture. What are we even looking at? L1 doesn’t tell us.

L2 doesn’t fare much better. The phrase “slightly at the edges” is wordy and doesn’t add anything to the image.

L3 is redundant. I remember thinking that it was a heavy line, ponderous like a dark cloud ready to rain, but in reality, it just weighs down the poem.

I played around with this haiku for at over three years – and it was rejected at least twice – before it found a home.

Newly published in the Golden Triangle

Today, I received notice from the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District that one of my haiku placed as a runner up in their recent garden haiku poetry contest. 

daffodils —
freshly cut
bangs

This means that somwhere, in downtown D.C., my haiku is posted as a sign in a flower bed. How cool is that!


Evolution of the Poem: at the barre …

pia04937orig1Recently, I was combing through old poetry, and ran across an early draft of my scifaiku poem “at the barre …”, complete with a list of markets that had rejected it.

Now, I love the completed version of this poem, which reads:

at the barre
the graceful arms
of a spiral galaxy

— first appeared in Rattle‘s Issue 49, Fall 2015, Tribute to Scientists

And I was excited when this scifaiku won an award, placing second in the 2016 Dwarf Stars Award given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

But the poem didn’t start out that way. In fact, the early versions were downright terrible.

My inspiration for this poem came from my daughter, who was taking dance class at the time. One of the ballet positions – fourth, if I’m remembering correctly – had one arm curved over her head and the other curled around her front. She reminded me of a spiral galaxy.

So, I began to research spiral galaxies, and discovered that their arm positions determine whether they are classified as spiral galaxies or barred spiral galaxies. The shape that reminded me most of my daughter was barred – an SBc.

I thought this was a nifty comparison, and conjured a row of little galaxies standing in front of a ballet barre. Such a lovely image should be easy to put into words, no?

This is an early draft of my poem (yes, I actually sent this out):

spiral galaxies —
intergalactic dance troupe
in “b” position

Um, yeah. It’s my poem, and it doesn’t even make sense to me.

But I knew I liked the concept, so I hung in there and kept editing. Barre was a lovely word to use because it both evoked the ballet and gave a nod to barred spiral galaxies. Once I put that word in there, I could take out the line about “b” position (the “b” stood for barred anyway), and I didn’t need to use the word dance. Elimating that clunky verbiage allowed the poem to flow from there.

So, please, my poet friends, hang on to your poems that speak to you, even if they start out rough. Haiku or scifaiku, in particular, can be deceptively tricky to write. Some short poems practically write themselves, but not this one. “At the barre …” needed distance, perspective, and research to come together.

Photo credit: That’s spiral galaxy Messier 81 above, as imaged by NASA/JPL/Caltech/University of Arizona/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/NOAO/AURA/NSF.

Newly published at Amazing Stories

I’m excited that two of my poems were reprinted – and I was interviewed! – by Diane Severson for her Genre Poetry Round Up for March 2015 on AmazingStories.com. Her topic? Speculative haiku. The speculative haiku umbrella includes science fiction haiku (scifaiku), horrorku, and poems with a fantasy theme. Here’s one of mine:

rapping
at the window
the ice storm
beckons

(First published in the micropoetry Twitter magazine Seven by Twenty)

Ice Storm
Photo credit: Dwight Sipler, via Flickr