Day 20: Foods are our friends

Lucky me! Today’s prompt is to write in a weird poetic subgenre that I happen to have explored extensively: anthropomorphized foods. I must have half a dozen poems that would qualify. My first ever public poetry reading in 2016 was of a poem about identifying with produce, called “Swiss Chard, Dear Heart.” Below I present my new shadorma for coffee and a few oldies.

Coffee

Bad lover.
You hand me a drink:
anxiousness
rather than
bubbly. Such tension! Keep me
sleepless, insecure.

Seduction song

No need to text me back! I’m fine.
I’m cucumber personified.
I’m chill. I’ll keep for weeks in here.
This crisper’s comfy! Cool. Benign.
It’s dim and when the fridge is closed
I’m out of sight and out of mind
and if a cuke leaks slime alone
you can’t say that it really cried.
Like if a stalk of celery
falls in the fridge without a sigh,
without a witness (but old ear
of corn, who’s deaf as Douglas pine)
philosophy can’t verify
the truth of that. And nor will I
admit the slime of past-prime grief
that’s roiling under rough green skin.
And nor will I permit the ick
of needs and feelings to offend
your sniffer fine, through balsamic.
I won’t aspire to grace your fork.
Nor talk accountability!
I won’t ask you to think of me,
or be less free. Or be less free!   
Just don’t evict me from your fridge.

I love it here!!!! 😀

Don’t compost me. ❤

Resistant

What’s a cassava. Resistant
starch. A fist upon a limb.
Broken and healed twisted wrist.

Second on the list on my box
of cheezy vegan snax. Right behind
that first-in-line white
mushroom cloud of carb hate
the cauliflower. Terrible
machinations from cabbage slab brain.
Convolutions excuses and demands
for sun moist well-drained rich

soil. Meantime cassava resists
drought like no one’s agribusiness.
Staunch survival called by many
names. Answers to manioc
and yuca. Brazilian arrowroot.
Loose approximations of the true
tongue shapes. Oh cassava. Oh you

are defamed as containing few
nutrients. Truth: So many
contain you. Whole nations.
Health sites claim
your antinutrients choke
vitamins from staple foods of virtue.
Calls you poor. A danger.

But you course with energy. You
drum bellies alive from the roots.

Swiss Chard, Dear Heart

Dear crucifer caked with dirt.
Dear blood-red ridges rich in iron.
Dear veiny reach through wilting leaf.
Dear bug-chew-through-made lace:

I think you are my heart!

Placenta-coloured and gory like mine!
A frayed yet upright core like mine!
Tattered and bordered by wear like mine!
Our uncanny organs aligned.

My veins trace paths well-trodden by plants:
The Fibonacci twists! The turns
and splits through pebble and grit!
The shameless mutant shifts!

Dear produce aisle! Dear family tree!
My cousins, the peaches, grin up at me
and yield to the press of my palm. I assess
their newborn flesh so downy.     

Dear venerable carrot, so pliant, so grey:
You once sprouted crisp from the same earth as me.
Now your thin arrow droops as it’s pointing the way
to decay and our shared destiny.

In the cool ICU of my crisper you hide,
covered over in greens, your frail presence denied.
But forgotten? You’re not, as I cannot shake off
roots and rot, your memento mori.     
   
Late at night when I open my fridge, roused by light,
each plant food pronounces my name.
Knows my dark secrets, shares my wild genes,
resembles me. Stakes its claim.

Day 19: Stop with the peep peep

Today’s prompt is to write a poem that begins with a command.

Stop booting those sharp
little toenails of unkempt
light against my window.

Shrill infant chicken
of the yellowing hour—
stop with the peep peep

clawed peep tiny peep
wrecking beak peep peep
abrasions to my dreams.

Daylight abort. I’ll be forty
tomorrow. My pillow spirals,
surrenders a mess of fine lines

where my scalp said Just no.
I am deeply raccooned
from exhaustion and failure

to take off old mascara.
Though I’ll be forty I remain
raccooned, greasy

spooning with the late night
trash bins. Jagged tins
of discards I dig

brittle claws into, to find
my food. So stop
with the peep peep

mornings peep count em
peep peep peep peep
peep peep peep peep

fowl youths
leaping
like sheep.

Day 18: Five answers about arrival

Today’s prompt is to take inspiration from this gorgeous poem by Faisal Mohyuddin and write a poem that answers the same question five ways without explicitly revealing the question.

At the arrivals gate. Eager
like the neon letters on our welcome sign.
Star stickers. Bopping on tiptoes.
Scanning the travellers. Time filing past.

Time dragging its way unbroken
across the airport ceiling
like contrails. Time
smelling like exhaust.

The sun descending somewhere.
Each airport fast food outlet
cranking down its face metallically.
Black boxes of early sleep, saying

No more salads in hard plastic cases.
Now we contemplate the welcome bouquet.
We Google which flowers are edible.
Time growing light-headed. Aromatic.

There’s a helium balloon wheezing
far above us. We squint to read
Welcome home! A lost moth straining
against the skylight of the atrium.

Day 17: Rescue psyches

This is today’s dog-related prompt from comic artist Lynda Barry. I forced myself to follow the instructions to the letter despite having another dog poem in mind. I am happy with the result! Amazing prompt.

Good-hearted older cousin. Nurse. Professional carer.
She had no children and adopted all the rescue dogs instead.
Not dogs you’d call cute, she acknowledged. They looked
sharp-faced. Austere—like obsidian sculptures
with prominent ribs. Their fur flowed pitifully
from the corners of their eyes. Long and terrible.
Clotted with grief like their life trajectories.
Neurotic, she called them.

That was my first time hearing the word.
I might have been fifteen. At her place in Winnipeg—
city of hardened mosquitoes mocking citronella coils—
we were blasted at the door by their rescue psyches.
Their paws shot up nonstop emergencies
like flares onto our chests. Insistent,
ear-splitting, finely tuned to threat
like smoke detectors sniffing out one candle.

I shut myself in the bathroom to escape them. I could hear
muffled familial chitchat and claws scraping around
my exit. The dogs’ fear sparked mine. I was scared
of my aunt’s pasta salad doused in mayo. I was scared
of my memories of Winnipeg. Last time here, I’d blocked out
my view of Babka’s funeral with a heavy column
I hid behind in the Orthodox Church. But I couldn’t hide from
the thurible. It kept swinging incense into my nose and sight-line.

One thin bathroom door. The dams of neurosis
barely restraining gravity on either side.

Day 16: What your lens saw

Today’s prompt is to write a curtal sonnet.

DAD, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, STOP RIGHT HERE. YOU MUST WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW. I AM PUTTING MY TRUST IN YOU.

Others, please scroll down.

Through silhouetted fronds, your lens saw sliced-up sky.
Its strips of red papaya, mango. In the blue—
now navy—now near-black—of such an ample bowl
that all can feast—who wriggle, scamper, swim, or fly.
You caught the colour-flavours dropping into view
as fast as mid-air grapefruit from its tree, juice-full.

Dear Dad, tonight we watched the video you caught.
Why were you in a hurry to fast-forward through
the artsy-craftsy parts, you called them? Most of all
you wished you’d stuck to showing us. More people shots.
But Dad—the sky was you.

Day 15: I don’t do gangster movies

Today’s prompt is to write about something you have absolutely no interest in. Absolutely. None.

I used a syllable pattern that works up from 1 per line to 10 per line and back down again.

No.
No.

I won’t
watch it.
That poster:
more white men
with arms folded.
Fedoras, suits,
shades. Why the shades when
they’re in a shadow?
Ooh. That did not amuse
these organized, no-smile
guys. Why did this film get made?
Just to show us how they crime?
I can’t keep up with their criming—
casinos, some special briefcase,
wads of cash, great gobs of gun violence
something something. These guys look alike
with their made-in-Italy samesies suits
and beefy cigars and bloodthirstiness
and lack of introspection. So yeah,
no clue what the hell just happened there.
When blood spurts, I mentally write
a ripe-tomato-themed haiku.
I wish this film would critique
society’s injustice.
Reveal buried feelings.
Underlying trauma.
I feel very sure
this film will not have
relational/
social substance.
Though it’s true
I have not
watched it.
Will I?

No.
No.

Day 14: Look down

Today’s prompt is to write the opening scene to the movie of your life. As my life stands now, I’m not sure why anyone would make a movie about it. However, I’m writing a musical with my partner, so let’s just say everything goes as planned and we turn out to be the next Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (I’m Rice). That’s what the movie is about.

“Overture/Work Song” from Les Misérables, 1987 Broadway Cast Recording.
Its cloudburst of sad brass instruments. Title screen: white script on black.

Close on raindrops streaking down a window pane.
Each trembles a moment at centre stage before exiting.

The chain gang song jangles on. The focus pulls
from the pouty droplets to a warm interior. Palpable privilege.

For each orchestral Ta-da of agony, another jump-cut close-up:

Les Miz program held by a tiny hand.

Half-finished glass of chocolate milk.

Wall calendar: Kitten peeking out from a pointe shoe.

Pencil crayons strewn on a table.

A grim chorus of male voices: Look down! Look down!
From above, a small head bent in concentration. French braid to the waist.

Don’t look ‘em in the eye. Close on her eyes squinting down. Thick dark brows.
Safety scissors gnawing at a folded paper, following an outline of a human figure.

A growing pile of paper dolls. The little hand labels each one on the belly:
Prisoner 1. Jean Valjean. Cosette. Factory Girl. Foreman. Pimp. Crone.

Close on the little hand giving Fantine riotous ringlets with a yellow pencil,
cutting her out, then manually advancing a first-gen CD player to Track 6.

Paper doll Fantine and Crone, face-to-face in the child’s hands, vibrate with tension.
They morph into stage actors. Real performance footage.

The Crone accosts Fantine, pressuring her to sell her hair for a pittance.
Desperate and destitute, Fantine surrenders. Operatically.

The actors morph back into paper dolls. Close on safety scissors
hacking away at the pencil crayon mane. Then the braid.

Day 12: Diacritic

Today’s prompt is to write about something tiny. I have written a haibun about the importance of the small typographical marks required to represent names correctly.

You named your baby after your grandmother. You lovingly spelled her name with a diacritic to inflect the sounds—so they’re pronounced with the whole tongue, throat, chest, and belly, like your grandmother would have done. The tiny mark looks like your grandmother’s dimple on just the right side. Watching your newborn sleep, you notice the beginnings of that ancestral half-smile within a smile, on the very same side. You look again at what you typed up on the form. The diacritic looks like a beauty mark on the most precious word you’ve ever known. A name has to hold a whole person. A name is watchful, like new parents. Awed and alert to every detail.

Somewhere under fluorescent lights, a Vital Statistics bureaucrat’s hands are tied. No way to make the true spelling official. She hits Send on the form email. Then she goes on break to eat a plum.

Plum held by the stem
that fed it on the tree. Twist.
Stem arcs into bin.

Day 11: Humpback whale song

Today’s prompt is to write about something very large. I’ve had it in mind for a long time to write about the transmission and transformation of humpback whale songs after my friend told me about this amazing phenomenon. To try to capture the strange magic of it, I experimented with progressively morphing the sounds in my “song” (my first stanza) to create the two subsequent stanzas. Thank goodness RhymeZone is there as a resource for finding similar-sounding words and near-rhymes.

Humpback whale song. The bass line goes something like
Dock rocking under sunbeams, creaking. And the melody
goes like 30,000 kilo puppy: squealing glee in a tussle,
then sulking and crying.
With falsetto notes of There’s a ghost
in your glass of water—circle the wet rim to hear her whistle.

The song whistles on, moans on, chirps on, twenty minutes
or longer. Its waves swim four kilometres to be listened to
by neighbour whales, who riff and pass it on. In this way,
the phrases morph, and the whales teach and learn
a new song each season. Off by heart—200-kilo heart—
the same long solo from each vast throat. Brimming
with rainbows of tropical fish. And strangely, tropical birdsong.

Humpback whale song. The bass line goes something like
Rock slickened by sunbeams leaking. And the melody
goes like Flirty mouth of killer guppy. Squalling fleeing the tonsils.
The songing undying.
With falsetto notes of There’s a glow
in the vastness of water—circle, wetly roam, a hearing vessel.

The song whispers on, drones on, stirs on, thirty minutes
or longer. Its ways swim more kilometres, to re-glisten to
the nadir whales, who swiftly pass it on. On this day,
the phrases surf, and the whales reach and yearn.
A new song, no reason. Off by heart—to enter feeling. Heart,
the great song polo. Scrimmage past boats. Swimming
with rainbows, a typical wish. A ranging, magical, blurred song.

Hymn book whale song. The grace line goes something like
A wreck, silken. My sublime seeking. And the melody
goes like Flurry south of colour, muddy. All in. Feeling the gone souls.
The dawning of dying.
With together notes of Never knowing
the past which was augured—a certain deadly bone, a fear visceral.

The long wisps of song blown on sturgeons—thirty metres
or longer away. Swim more. Billow. Lead with ambition to
serenade whales swiftly, before they pass on. On that day,
unease will surface. Now the whales breach and turn.
A blues song the whole legion knows by heart. Senses reel in hard.
The praise song below, an image that floats, swimming
with pain. Though unsinkable, this. Arranging magic: the herd song.