Kate and Edith Too

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The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Kate and Edith Too

She was made mostly for me
harvested, fermented, distilled guarantee
she parts my lips and pickles me
bad is blinded, blended, bound as tamed

She was not made just for me
plucked, dried, rolled into opaque slips of a tree
weaponized vapor, she infuses me
heavenly scent, demonized flames

Together, will they be to me
what opium and hemlock were to Socrates?
I’d empty the goblet with boundless glee
no toxin could bind with sweeter degree

Together, we’ll be poetry
smoke and spirits consumed, transmuted, free
green dragon extract from our torrid sea
can a phoenix be drowned in poison? Let’s see
** *

Written for dVerse Poetics with poisonous plants, hosted by Bjorn. Others have contributed to this prompt here. I know I’m supposed to be taking a break from these prompts to work on my collection, but could pass on such an intriguing prompt as this? Is it still procrastination if I’m technically still writing? Probably, but I had fun so screw it!

Tuna Salad

barryterri

Momma and me, circa sometime in 1981-83, I think.

Tuna Salad

Wifey made tuna salad today and offered me some. I gratefully heaped a pile of it into a cereal bowl, but stopped short of eating. It was missing something. I diced up two hardboiled eggs and mixed them with the tuna salad. Much better, but it was still missing something. I sprinkled paprika onto the dish and tasted it. It was good, but one more thing was missing; Ritz crackers. Sadly, we were out of Ritz, so multigrain gourmet cracker nonsense had to do. I tasted, and was transplanted back to Chicago housing projects during the many times momma made this special snack for me.

grayer than most light
noon sky, counterfeit silver
I pocket the fee

Minus the Ritz, I had inadvertently made momma’s special way of making tuna salad, which on the surface, was probably unremarkable to most. But it was the one meal she made where I didn’t feel like a poor person while eating it. I could imagine all wage brackets having a tuna salad craving, and I imagined people from all walks of life savoring this delicacy in some fashion. It felt good to be on some kind of universal level with wealthy ones who enjoyed tuna salad occasionally.

clouds hide sky-scrapers
visibility is poor
to what lies beneath

I had always known I was poor, but it wasn’t a big deal because everyone I knew was also poor. We lived the same struggles, went to the same government check-cashing places, shopped at the same discount stores, ate the same public school free lunches, wore the same knockoff-brand clothing, and feared the same criminal element and/or corrupt, racist police shakedowns. I didn’t experience any stigma or shame for being poor until I began being bussed to the magnet school Beasley Academic Center. I have nothing against the school, as it was an expansive learning opportunity, but it was perfectly apparent to me that I was one of the poorer kids in attendance. Many kids were from stable, successful 80’s Cosby-sitcom-style homes. They wore Guess jeans, Genera button-ups, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, BK’s, you name it, and they always had the latest technological marvels like Walkmans, mini-synthesizers and etc…

rain bathed in streetlight
amber-hued menagerie
all will be covered

I recall being teased for many things; being shy (back then, nobody mentioned introverts as otherwise normal folks content to keep to themselves; we were “shy” kids who needed to be “fixed” so we would be more social like a “normal” kid), being a nerd (back at regular school, being a nerd just meant that I was smarter than the average sixth-grader or had greater intellectual curiosity than most; being a nerd at the magnet school – where I was rendered intellectually average due to all the other “gifted” kids being bussed in –  just meant that I was the funny-looking kid with the coke-bottle glasses), and being rather unfriendly and all too eager to throw hands for someone so tiny, shy, and nerdlike (if all you wanted was to be left alone, but others kept screwing with you, I suspect you would develop a chip on your shoulder as well).

But for all the random teasing, nothing left me as defenseless as being teased for bring poor. Being a shy nerd who fought a lot was in my DNA, and I owned all of that, but I had nothing to do with being born poor. I had no say in it. Those were cards I had been dealt.

sunshine reveals you
true colors rich, emboldened
the shade, deeper still

The hilarious part was that after three consecutive days of being teased, bullied, getting fed up and fighting back, and ultimately, losing said fights in overwhelmingly one-sided fashion, a teacher decided to counsel me. She wanted to “crack my shell” and find out why I was always so angry and depressed. She wanted to know what in my home life could possibly make me so enraged and isolated. It had to be something at home, right? Perhaps my mother was abusing me, or had boyfriends with boundary issues.

I never opened up, partially because at the time – though an undiagnosed schizophrenic initially losing her grip on reality – mom was the best thing going for me and I didn’t want any outsiders screwing that up by revealing her secret. Also, I never opened up, partially because I felt like asking for help was a sign of weakness, and I felt compelled to endure on my own. But mostly I remained silent because I couldn’t fathom why the teachers couldn’t see the bullying right in front of their faces and understand it for what it was. I was baffled at having to show them what was happening and having to explain why it hurt so much to have to endure it. So, I never did.

birdsongs vibrate moods
gathering for the ride home
we flock and migrate

I would bus home after a particularly rough day of being teased and bullied for wearing generic versions of Converse shoes and a Michael Jackson jacket only five years out-of-style. Sometimes mom would have tuna salad on Ritz crackers waiting for me. I don’t think she knew all that was going on with me, but I suspect she knew I was traversing a rough patch. She never asked about it, but she would talk with me, cracking corny jokes to get me to crack a smile and laugh a bit. She always succeeded. I don’t know if the tuna salad was her secret weapon, but it was often present while she was peppering me with corny jokes. I miss those jokes, as well as the sound of her laugh. But the tuna salad I accidentally made in her honor was pretty tasty.

bluest sky leans west
surrounding me with comfort
memories of you
** *

Written for Terri Ann Dawson, on the ninth anniversary of her death.

Ode to Good Senses

yoann-boyer-185507

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Ode to Good Senses

I have the greatest nose I know

I can detect strawberry,

Spiced cinnamon

And encapsulating earth-tones

Of her presence

 

My ears are tremendous acoustically

Bringing me songs of her laughter

Cocooning me in the

Comforting confines

Of her cooing voice,

Granting warm pathways to her

Innermost ideas

The percussive reassurance of her

Light snoring, like raindrops

Shushing the roof above us

 

These astonishing eyes of mine

Take in the angles of her smile

At angles where gods and goddess

Are perceived, but pale in comparison

To the sight of her in flannel pajamas

Doubled-over, compressed

Tickled, in-spite of herself

By our silly whimsy

 

My body is buoyed by

A buffet of sensation

Of touching and tenderness

Of her connection

We cuddle and exalt

Life with definition

We touch and connect

And flush as cells rush

We infuse and blend

Molecules, use, renew

Our fire, chemically tuned

To our new, sacred element

We touch and forge,

We kiss, and sparks tell

We embrace, and I face the folly

Of oneness within our absurd bliss

 

I taste supernovas

Of past lives

On her lips,

Elemental fire-quenched eclipse

Craving her flavor rewrites code and creed

I drink her in abundance; she is

More than I needed and never enough

 

But there is something more

Within her, beyond perception

Greater than inhaling her presence

More tremendous than her vibrations

Transcending her astonishing spectrum

More buoyant than her touch

Beyond infinity of her taste

 

I cannot smell, hear, see, feel, or taste it

But I know it to be the purest form of her

As great as my fine senses are

I am grateful to find

Something greater in her.

** *

Written for Wifey, on her birthday on November 12.

Shared at Poets United, Poetry Pantry #378.

 

 

Lifted, Chopped, and Screwed Affirmations

Lifted, Chopped, and Screwed Affirmations

I am of hip-hop

Jazz is my mother

Soul is my father

 

My pulse, reclined

refined bass-line

 

My bones creak

counter-beats

 

I feed on funk

to find the funk

 

I count tempo

with Counts

Duke-out measures

with Dukes

 

My birthright,

American as

sweet-potato pie.

** *

 

Written for dVerse’s Quadrille #43, hosted by Grace. I figured I’d give a shout-out to one of my first loves. Also, here’s another cool video on the evolution of hip-hop verses:

Go here to read other poet’s contributions to this prompt.

 

But Much More Than That

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Photo by frank cordoba on Unsplash

But Much More Than That

Red-shifted light is

moving away from us at

unimaginable speeds.

 

Nature’s senescence

will overtake us before

we could conjure a method

of overcoming physics.

 

Red hue of dim light

surrounds us now, painting your

rosy silhouette kneeling

upon tangled plum bedsheets,

 

facing away from

me, preening your neck to peer

my darkness, closing behind

you, smiling coyly with

 

licentious lips that

I imagine must taste of

bourbon and fizzy ginger,

its bubbles catching a faint

 

gleam in your eyes as

I fall into you, and I’m

overwhelmed by a vision

of blue ocean lapping at

 

your sun-kissed skin as

you serenely swim away

from my anchored boat moored at

the edge of my comfort-zone

 

I page through my book,

pretending not to obsess

over your safety as you

let currents increase distance,

 

peeking over your

shoulder, confirming I’d be

there, right where you left me, no

longer in the red. You are

 

to the left of me

and my teasing left you with

the impression that I had

forgotten your name.

 

You tsk me for it

from behind wine lips and we

collapse in rose-hued laughter.

***

Shared at Poets United Poetry Pantry # 376

Lumpy- Headed Sonnet

lumpy

Image source: google

Lumpy- Headed Sonnet

Greetings! And what has brought you to see me, Mr. Dawson?

You see, I’ve found a small lump that has amassed mass distress

And would you say from day to day that you feel mad depressed?

A curveball, but yes, I confess feeling less than awesome.

 

Do you drink too much? Feel out-of-touch? And if so, how often?

Maybe… Yes… I guess the process has me viewing my own coffin.

Do you feel like a let-down to all who love you in life?

Is your med-degree in poetry? Why yeah, I bear that strife.

 

And how often would you say that you indulge in marijuana?

What? I’m here for my lump. Kindly address that instead.

Evading the question? But why on earth would you wanna?

 

No answer? Let’s refocus. My prognosis is something you’ll dread.

How much time do I have left? I know that I am a goner.

There is no lump, Mr. Dawson. It is all inside your head.

** *

Inspired by dVerse MTB – Neruda and the free verse sonnet, hosted by Bjorn, but not shared there, as this is not quite what he was looking for in a Petrarchan sonnet. The subject matter is inspired by actual events. When I saw Bjorn’s post, it gave me the idea to create a conversation in sonnet form. [EDITED: Bjorn suggested that I share it on his prompt anyway, so I did! I also tightened a few lines in my poem. The flow was bugging me.]

Did I just invent a new form? Surely someone has already done this. Meh. It was a good de-stressing exercise anyways.

If you’re curious about Petrarchan sonnets, head over to dVerse. Also check out some examples here.

 

Muses – Collaboration with Tre

IMG_20170810_115511

Muses – Collaboration with Tre

In the presence of yellow,

I bury my tears.

A great act of solitude follows shortly

After I rid myself of

A belly full of worries.

I embrace beauty.

It is the one thing sharing itself

In its most pure state and we

Have the opportunity

To swim as long and as hard

As we need to.

We usually drown, though.

 

Regrets crouch, obscuring dusk

Whispering in fitful sleeps

Quilted cotton repels them all

Invulnerable, for now

I rest

 

The average person cannot

Hold three gallons of

Water without bursting

From the inside out.

I see blue and think of Dory.

I hear her optimism in the

Face of clownfish adversity

And I wonder, “Is swimming

All we have to do?”

The pessimist in me is alive

And gearing up for the days

Of tarred and feathered.

History repeats itself.

 

There are days

Usually deceptively overcast ones

When I feel an ocean of worry

Settling upon my neck and shoulders

Days like these are when I desperately

Seek out the dividing line

Where the land melts into the sea

Briny air becomes my totem

Lifting my wings while grounding me

In the reality of nature’s bosom

Everything is as it should be and

Not as upside-down as my doubts

 

Muses come in the middle

Of the night, sweaty boxers

Covered under thick comforters.

The only thing naked are

My dreams.

 

Some flowers have prickly stems

Self-preservation against those

Who would drain their nectar and essence

Offering nothing in trade

An elegant solution

To nature’s vulgar crime

Against itself

I am made of thorns

Nourished by dried tears

In the presence of yellow

I swim on currents of light

Unbound by barbed uncertainties.

** *

I love collaborating with my talented friend Tre. Our styles mesh so well together!

You can find some her solo work here.

Tre is also an Editor and writer for This Glorious Mess on Medium. She is also Resident Writer via The Scene & Heard Journal of Artistic Expressions.

In her spare time (haha! Yeah right!) Tre contributes nearly every month to Visual Verse Anthology You can find her work here.

Sadly, Tre shut down her WordPress blog, as she needed to streamline her online presence, making room for her personal site, https://www.simplesoulsister.org/.

If I wasn’t such a fan of hers, I might be envious of Tre’s prolific work ethic!

Sunset Hunting for Two

gary-lopater-311084

Photo by Gary Lopater on Unsplash

Sunset Hunting for Two

Her sky aflame, chasing sunsets

Horizon frets

We try to grasp

Her song’s last rasp

 

Her blush remains, shadows unfurl

Cirrus spit curl

Red dusk’s deplore

Billows ashore

 

Her heart exclaims, pulsing twilight

Sky night’s calcite

She blends me in

Obsidian

** *

Written for dVerse’s MTB–The Minute Poem, hosted by Frank Hubeny. Go read about it because this form is freaking bonkers! The moment I read about it, I knew I had to give it a go.

While you’re there, check out other poets’ take on this tight, tight form!

Bowling for Fireflies

bjphil

Bowling for Fireflies

Dad looked cool as hell throwing his first strike, shocking absolutely no one. I expected no different as I tried emulating his movements during my turn. I got a split and left a pin on the spare.

Then it was Lil Phil’s turn.

The lightest ball they had seemed to weigh more than his tiny ass. We watched him struggle, wind up, throw the bowling ball like a shot put, and fall flat on his ass. The ball sounded like it would go through the floor when it landed about a foot from Phil’s Pocket-Herculean toss, before creeping towards the pins at an obscenely leisurely pace.

 

spring becomes summer

sunlight stretched to horizon

I shall keep this day

 

Dad and I fell over each other laughing hysterically in spite of ourselves. After a moment, Phil started laughing too. The ball was almost halfway to the pins as we helped the little guy to his feet. Phil was grinning; always with that grin that seemed to know where mom hid the last of the cookies. Dad reassured Phil that one day he would be bigger and strong enough to handle a bowling ball instead of it handling him. The ball was nearing the end of its journey as I playfully ruffled his hair.

Then we all turned our attention to Phil’s ball as it slowly, painstakingly nudged each and every pin out of its way; an uncanny microcosm of Phil’s unhurried, determined, free-spirited personal philosophy.

My brother had thrown a strike. The heavy ball made a mockery of him, but per usual, Phil got the last laugh.

 

starlight blinks awake

they salute the setting sun

gently, fades the dusk

 

We laughed even harder at the absurd luck as we all high-fived.

I’m certain we had other moments, but I will cherish that instant forever as my favorite mental snapshot; the three Dawson men just kickin’ it in the bowling alley, smiling, laughing, and politely debating whether rap music was actually music (Phil and I were absolutely hooked, but Dad held back, thinking it was just another fad, like disco.) We genuinely enjoyed ourselves and each other in a transcendent night at the bowling alley.

A little over one and a half score later finds Lil Phil a grown man, a devoted husband, amazing father, and wise far beyond his 38 years. But in many ways, he’s still that determined little guy throwing strikes with a grin while laughing at the idiocy of fate.

 

fireflies dance with stars

I cup them with my mind’s hands

captured memories

***

big Phil

Big Phil with his son, my nephew, “Thundercat”

Happy birthday, Big Phil, my plucky little brother.