{p7 writes back: the lai}


Upon sitting down to compose my Poetry Friday post, I generally express shock that the month has so passed quickly, but May has been ridiculous — it was the same day for at least fourteen years, and then suddenly we were hurtling toward the first of June. The other day, some wag at the Farmer’s Market wished me a Happy Apocalypse, and …yeah, okay, fine. I’ll take it. Welcome To Your New Abnormal.

A friend mentioned the other day that at times, she finds things as they stand simply unbelievable. And I laughed – in empathy, in commiseration, and in recognition. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? In this society and in our world, so many times we’ve faced the same sweeping sickness, the same financial losses. The same racism, the same violence, the same losses, the same pain. Society lurches from pain to plenty and back again, and it feels like nothing we learn makes any difference. I don’t say this cynically – but sometimes in utter bewilderment, and a sneaking suspicion that we’re incapable…

Our poetry challenge this month was to revisit and revise an old poem, or write one new in conversation. Holding to our anti-2020 theme of foresight, I wandered back through old poems until I found the lai poems from 2017. The theme back then was hope and peace and light… and I wrote then that we “sorely needed it.” Bah. I don’t even remember specifics of the horror of 2017, and today’s self looks back, haggard, at yesterday’s self and sighs, “Girl, please. You don’t know the half of it.”

Hindsight. Foresight.

…since we ONCE AGAIN find ourselves and continually in need of hope, peace, and light, let’s light up another lai, shall we? This French form has a nine-line, “A” and “B” rhyme scheme with A lines being five syllables, and B lines two, with the pattern of AA B AA B AA B. This was difficult to work with, and seemed too short to imbue with meaning. To switch that up a bit, today we’re exploring the Lai Nouveau, which has a similar pattern internally, but falls into two stanzas of sixteen lines with repeating opening lines. I find this helps to tie together the whole:


“recompense”

Fate’s had a field day:
Predator’s turned prey:
Checkmate.
Knowledge can’t outweigh
Chance’s power play.
Stalemate
Forces us to say,
“Try another way.”

Plans still go astray
Every single day.
Irate,
Bigwigs cry “Foul play!”
Scrambling away.
They hate
Feeling like their prey…
Fate’s had a field day.

Who is the predator, and who is the prey? Is fickle chance the only way to upend tradition? Given the chance to change something big, where would you start? While you ponder these points, don’t miss more poetry from the Poetry Peeps: Laura, joined by Rebecca, and Sara, following Tricia, and Liz. And welcome to others who’d like to write along with us!

Still more poetry at Poetry Friday which today is at Cousin Mary Lee’s blog. There might be nothing you can do to predict the way life goes, but I know you can roll with it – just like the rest of us. Be good to yourself, friend, and be well.

{npm: solus 29}

another birthday

Last night, and dreaming –
My brother, in a stairwell,
Paused, smiled, and hugged me,
Resumed his downstairs sprinting.
He’s out of reach, just like time.

(I don’t know why I dreamed of my brother when it was my nephew’s birthday yesterday, but my brain doesn’t make sense; ymmv. Also, I have worry dreams often; my brother works in a store, and I think about him, stocking shelves in a mask and gloves, and sigh.)

{npm: solus 27}

We have tried to take fewer risks with my health, as the one with both the previous history of undiagnosed pneumonia, and the one with the autoimmune disorder, but I started cleaning this morning and …weeding and cleaning some more, and doing laundry… and probably would have started pulling out my hair next, strand-by-strand. Sometimes, one must consider one’s mental health… and take a breather.

I intended to only sit in the car, but finding the farmer’s market up and running was an unexpected joy. Finding the growers from four hours away was sheer bliss. Brought from warmer counties, they had blueberries! and strawberries! and early cherries! I had to get out. Mask, hat, sunglasses, bag, and socially distant – and I didn’t even think to touch my face. Who cared that the band and the bubble machines were absent? Who cared that there was no chalk art and that the children were swathed in cloth masks and carefully kept at their parents’ side? It was still community, and connection. And, most importantly, strawberries.

Irvington Market

forty days desperate
seeking fresh tastes and faces
we, tangled in masks
find a sweet slice of heaven.
farmer’s hearts are paved with gold.

{npm: solus 26}

My mother – and my sister – are stalwart women, calmly accepting the presence of myriad translucent new friends, climbing the curtains. My father, brother, and other sister are somewhat less sanguine about the whole thing. Oh, to see the world as an adventure, and every rock and weird seed pod looking thing as something which should be picked up and brought inside… There’s nothing like being ten and twelve, under global house arrest.

indoor adventures

“some kind of egg case”
was the conclusion they reached
two boys on lockdown
bored until the emergence
tiny mantises, climbing

{npm: solus 24 – p7 gets the skinny again}

As long as March seemed to last, I find it astounding indeed that the end of April seems to just abruptly have been thrust upon us. How is it the end of the month already!? What a long, strange trip it’s…being. Maybe it has something to do with it being a leap year… time is flinging us into a future we cannot imagine, and it keeps catching us off guard…

Meanwhile, Laura reminded us of our poetry meet-up this month a little earlier, and I’m grateful – most of us right now are having a hard time keeping track of what time of day it is, and whether or not we’ve bathed and eaten, much less trivial things like calendars and plans. My Poetry Peeps joining us this month are Andi, Laura, Tricia, Liz, Sara, and Rebecca. We wave hello to Kelly and John, who are elsewhere, deep in the quarantine outback, the requisite six states apart. (Or, something like that. Whatever works, you guys.)

Now more than ever, it seems we were prescient with this year’s poetry forays – seeing as our goal was EASY and “more refuge than challenge.” Oh, how we all need a refuge just now. We’re back this month with The Skinny – the eleven line form first invented in 2005 by poet Truth Thomas. You’ll recall the first and eleventh lines can be any length, and use the same words, in the same order or rearranged. The second, sixth, and tenth lines are identical. (Skinnys have a linked form, which would be amazing to play with if any of us had spare brain cells – this year, we do not.) And all other lines but the first and last are a single word – thus the name of “skinny,” as they appear rather narrow. (Fiddling with the font helps this appearance as well.)

…if we define essential, what is it? Is it what drags us upright in the morning? What brings us to our feet, instead of slumped in our seats, staring out at the rain (or snow – that was a shock for some this week)? Is it what extends our arms with care – or with coffee – for another? What defines essential? What underpins our routine, our neighborhoods, our society?

What it is that gets us up in the morning?

              

…how quickly might we learn to live without it?


To hit pause on those deep (or disquieting) questions, amble over to Wondering & Wandering, where Poetry Friday today is hosted by Christie Wyman. This weekend, friends, gather what is essential to you… and share it.