Phewph! as R likes today. That was a lot of poems and I did lose momentum at the end because–life. But I have a couple of thoughts about completing the challenge. First, it was really fun! Not that I always loved the obligation of writing so many poems in such a short time, but it was a great way to interact with my creativity. I can get hyperfocused on quality and forget about quantity. This blog has been my attempt to not be stalled by inadequacy (see Be Bad At Anything). It was also fun to read your responses. I was often surprised by which poems elicited comments and which ones didn’t. I love poetry! So thanks for following along with me.
Day 22: Write a Field Guide
A Field Guide: The California Gull When you visit the beach the first time, it will feel so intensely magical, what with the sun and the sand and the frothy waves beckoning to pull you in for a briny bath. You may be so charmed by the smooth bottoms of thong clad sunbathers and chubby thighs protruding from ruffled swim bloomers that you may decide to befriend the fauna. This guide is meant to protect you from a very reckless decision. Our focus here is on one particular wildlife—the California Gull. You might recognize them from your local landfill.These scrappy, street thugs earned their stripes plucking every edible refuse from the trash heap and their role at the beach is no different. The nonchalant waddle hides his sinister motive to turn your beach bag full of snacks into a riot of beaks, feathers and Cheetos. And this will happen so quickly, there will be nothing left but a pile of wrappers and the gaping wound of your complete violation. Don’t think your simple presence will protect you! My sister once had an entire sandwich yanked from her hands right in front of her face. The bird attacked from the rear, landing on her shoulder. All she could do was gape as she watched lettuce, tomato, turkey and cheese fan across the sky and, as the cloud of gangsters descended, all traces of sustenance disappeared in a matter of seconds. I’m not trying to be alarmist, but I’ve seen the carnage. Too many times. Constant vigilance, people! Don’t become a victim. And don’t be afraid to show force. An intently lobbed flip flop can be effective. An energetic preschooler can also lodge a respectable defense (though they are easily distracted—and YOU—you must not be).
Day 23: Write About the Quiet
Quiet. When I go to the coffee shop to write, I put my Air Buds in. Oh, forgive me—I don’t have tiny, basketball-playing golden retrievers stuffed into my ears. It’s just what I have opted to call my Air Pods because when I try to call them the right thing, it never works out. So the Air Buds are in, but here’s the secret, I’m listening to the birds in the trees around me and the wind in the leaves. And the Air Buds—they act as tiny, white do-not-disturb signs hanging from both sides of my head.
Day 24: Fake News!
This prompt was to use a headline from a satirical news source, like The Onion or Reductress, for inspiration. This headlines was Reductress.
Why I’m Ditching Social Media — Oh No, Wait, This Line is Actually Really Long Taken from a Reductress headline (@reductress) I almost didn’t stop for coffee. The line was way too long. I actually said to my sister, No, I’m fine. But then I parked illegally and left her in the car with two kids. I got in line. Is that when I noticed him? It was either right before I got in line or right after. Sitting in the makeshift outdoor dining area with his black Australian Shepard-ish dog (I know absolutely nothing about dogs, but my sister had a mean, old cuss of a dog that looked about like this one, only it had a ginger mane and this one was curse-black). Big nose, dark eyes, dark hair (on the man, not the dog—keep up, people!)—I noticed him. I noticed him notice me. And I picked up my phone. I could hear me mentally coaching myself, Act natural, (with that old-timey accent that encourages anything but natural behavior). And I scrolled though the same posts I had already looked at this morning because there was nothing else to do in the line as I felt his eyes on me before they disappeared into his own rectangle. He got up to get his breakfast sandwich and coffee. He was less than two feet from me. I was still holding my phone. This is WHY you will never meet anyone organically. I put my phone back into my purse as whispered to myself, You have NO game. But I was wrong, because then I was talking to Bob, an old guy. Bob, a regular. A nonagenarian who just blew up TikTok when his coworker posted a video of him in Lulu slacks bouncing his behind. I met Bob who has 30k followers and 804k views. I met Bob IRL. I met Bob.
Day 25: Rewrite a Sei Shonagon List
Infuriating things. After Sei Shonagon The large and important piece missing from the water table toy that sits halfway assembled, in my backyard. The amount of cardboard and plastic I have to figure out how to responsibly dispose of. How I need glasses to work on the computer now. The speed people drive their cars down my street. The way I can mess up my perfectly clean house, entirely on my own (Kids are so messy! Riiiiiiiiiiiight…). How I am terrified to stand up for myself. Female facial hair. Dings on my surfboard. Aphids and grasshoppers. The way I still think of him but I don’t even know him anymore. Invisible spider webs first felt by my face. Subscribe and Save that I swore I cancelled but it KEEPS. SHOWING. UP.
Day 26: Write A Nocture
Cricket Song Sometimes I wake up at 2am for no particular reason. And if I can’t go back to sleep, I might step out into the night. Just to check. The house is quiet, but is the world quiet too? For a moment, there is no sound. That’s what quiet is—the absence of sound? But it’s hard to notice because the thoughts buzz by on ticker tape. Question. Answer. Worst case. Tomorrow. Next year. Last week. Last month. That one time. Until I begin to hear The whoosh of blood traveling through carotid arteries. The trickle hum of digestion. The gentle hiss of breath. Like cricket song. The sound of quiet.
Day 27: What I’m Taking
I loved the quote this prompt was inspired by: “I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not a virtue. It was a disguise.” Anais Nin
What I’m taking. People say abs are made in the kitchen. But I made mine in the war. Paddled out on a windmill blade to meet my nemesis. My self. I cut her back to almost nothing. Watch the flesh melt from her. Was shrinking. Was eroding away like the cliff against the sea until a slip of a woman remained. It’s fire. It’s fear. It’s Fe. The life rose. Rose in her cheeks. Rose. In her heart. In her eye. In her height, which was not more than a large suitcase and buried under the weight of a child and forty pounds of winter clothes standing on the departure curb at the airport. I’m leaving. I’m putting the weight back on and it’s strange to see myself larger, fuller, full up. I’m full of myself. I’m fuller than ever. Abs are made on the kitchen floor, against the cabinets, holding quartz and eyes.
Day 28: Use a Poetry Prompt Generator
Unusual Habits. via the Prompt Generator at robertpeake.com/prompts Life will find you. It knows each ovalle and the vantage from the mountain top, spired with lodge-pole pines humming like a pan flute. It knows the streambank, with its babbles, panes and mirrorments, marinated in sunlight. You can cry, Hyah! Flailing your limbs against the current. But there is no concealment from life. So post your white flag grass-high. Relax by wildly picking the sand from the corner of your toenail. Or take a turn amongst the wooly sheep. I’ve wondered, Did God know exactly what she was doing when she created you?
Day 29: Write a Palinode
I learned that a palinode is a poem that retracts a statement made in a previous poem.
The Fig Leaf Maybe the fall happened, not with the fruit, but the fig leaf. [A whisper in the tree: Cover your nakedness. God will see you. Run. Hide.] The fall was not first sin. The fall was first lie. First leaf. And now I stare in the mirror asking, Am I as fearsome a creature as Joanna Gaines? [Now that I have her clean leather tote, minimalist earrings and effortless jeans.] Joanna might be the closest thing us women have to Jesus. She heals broken homes, turns ingredients into sumptuous Southern dishes, while maintaining her gymnast physique, raising a brood of exotic mixed race kids and keeping her marriage to a zany extrovert alive and popping. I’m not jealous. I am curious. Because if I did all of that, I would be covered in a cloud of foliage so thick you would scream, It’s Swamp-thing! in horror as I approached. Instead, I have been slowly plucking away all the leaves and plan to one day rest naked in the sun wearing only minimalist earrings and with the clean leather tote by my side. Oh, and I’ll be on a very chic Turkish cotton beach towel, you know—white with the tassels and maybe a small stripe of grey? Come find me.
Day 30: Year in Review
And what a year to review!
An Open Letter to the Man at the Dog Park with the Black Top Hat, Ruffled Shirt and Shiny Belt Buckle. I’m going to open up to you because everyone else here seems way too normal, all sensible cardigans and leggings, Patagonia jackets. I think you and I are the only ones who really considered a costume for the dog park. And I must confess, I am charmed by the silver cuff holding your wiry, grey beard in a neat bundle at the level of your Adam’s apple. After all, if the dog park isn’t the place for such accoutrements, what is? And the formality of the top hat seems fitting for the mixture of effervescence and butt sniffing here. This year has been strange, but I think you and I came into it fairly well-suited. Learning to do things for my own pleasure. Enjoying the flourishes and finally allowing myself to be a little EXTRA. Because no one was around to see it anyway. So I made champagne cocktails on a Tuesday night. And grilled salmon on a cedar plank. I bought the audacious dahlia from the grocery store and I informed the casher these were “just the essentials.” I lounged in the tub with eucalyptus epsom and a drink and a book and a tune. I drew Audrey with her middle finger raised fo no good reason, except I wanted to. I kissed a Brazilian and a firefighter and an accountant, because I wanted to. Pandemic be damned, I survived to find that I am really, really, really good company for myself. I pelted my son with water balloons on the fourth of July and we belly laughed together and we drew ice cream cones and ate them. I didn’t crouch. I bloomed.
Hope to see you again next year, Amy Kay! Thanks for the challenge, the prompts and the enthusiasm!