2♦sday Flicktions

If you hadn’t heard about the Tuesday Flicktions challenge some of my writing group is participating in, I hope you’ll pop over to Wonderland to read a basic write-up about it why we’re doing it, and to find links to other people’s poems and stories. If you do know about our writing exercise challenge, well, then, below is this month’s image, and the following is my little scribble about it. Enjoy!

Harryhausen Skeletons

Harryhausen Skeletons, by Flickr user Jürgen Fauth of Berlin.

Caught Up In Wire And Plaster

A heavy steam of golden syrup through our single-pane window, the sunbeam pressed me deeper within my nest of blankets, sweetly contented and relaxed. With my father elsewhere, and chores and other duties finally discharged, I was gleefully blessed with time to myself. I turned on our massive console TV to Channel 20, to find the Sunday Afternoon Movie. Always a double-feature, with no commercials allowed, the Sunday Afternoon Movie was pure gold. One never knew which cinematic clinkers would be unearthed each week; they ran the gamut from the Wizard of Oz to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, from Cleopatra to Cat Ballou. While my sisters would skive off to watch more modern shows on my parents’ tiny bedroom TV, I was all in favor of the oldies. If it was, as she called it, a “spaghetti Western,” my mother would settle in behind me, and drop off to sleep on the couch, while I watched with glorious abandon, my permission all but guaranteed by my mother’s insensate body. Though sometimes I was bored (I wasn’t as big a fan of Bridge Over the River Kwai or Lawrence of Arabia), and I spent more time with Shirley Temple and Bob Hope than can reasonably be expected of someone with the intent to retain their sanity, this Sunday afternoon tradition was a rare oasis of calm in a contentious household.

This week, there was a pair of adventure films on the bill. In the first, there were interesting costumes and a lot of dialogue – too much for me, so it was mostly ignored. At nine, I was vastly interested only if there would be dancing, animals, or stunts. Robberies, shoot-outs, and kissing scene were where I squinched my eyes closed, and if there was too much talking, I sometimes wandered away entirely. To my mind, this movie had a LOT of talking, but eventually, the bald, eye-glowy guy in fancy robes, the young woman, the other guy in a sort of baggy-ankled pant, eventually got …somewhere. The bald man did things, then disappeared, and then, only the couple were hurrying through a cave made up of improbably sharp stalactites and massive boulders, when suddenly, they come upon a chained dragon, scaly scale flexing mechanically. On cue, the woman gives a sharp, cinematic scream as another monster – a cyclops? – appears. They’re trapped, of course, between greater evil and lesser evils, but baggy-pants has a plan, and he somehow loses the dragon. Entranced, I leaned forward, toppled, and sank into the story without a splash.

It was a glorious afternoon. The acting was stilted, the monsters, completely ridiculous, and the stutter-step of the stop-motion animation of the skeletons as they emerged from underground and attacked the Argonauts – with eerie screams from what vocal chords? – was both hilarious and compelling. I was hooked, moving closer and closer to the television.

And then, from behind me, my father grunted, “Huh.”

I jumped.

I rarely lost track of my father, ever. Knowing his location was important, and as every rabbit watches obsessively for hawks, I watched for him. When he was home, the floor seemed made of glass, being scored by diamond-sharp words and cutting silences. When he drove away, the walls leaned in and exhaled, and chronic tensions which had held the foundations tense shifted, softening the floor and resettling the roof.
I turned my head, trying to watch him from the corner of my eye. Now that I thought about it, I’d vaguely heard a car in the drive, but when the front door hadn’t opened, I’d relaxed my guard. He’d come in through the backyard, I guessed. And now, when I was so deep into the story – and so close to the TV – that now, when I was dying to know how it ended, now he’d returned, and was staring, hands on hips, at the TV. Now was the silent judgment, but next would come the pounce, as his body uncoiled, one hand shooting forward to jab to the OFF button, while the other would come down, a weighty pincher claw on my shoulder. Then would come the tightly gritted lecture, perhaps the one where he told me that he had something for me to do, if I had nothing else to do but “waste the Lord’s time.”

I held my body to unnatural stillness, pushing internal furniture aside to lock down emotional response and resistance; already a rabbit going limp, even as I fumed that now I would never know how the skeletons got out from underground with shields and swords, nor would I know the outcome of the fight. The Sunday Afternoon movie rota would move on, and they might never show it again.

“Huh,” my father said again, then, rasping a hand over his scruffy chin asked, “That Sinbad?”

Warily, I turned my head. “Maybe,” I said. When he only hmphed again, I ventured. “It might be. See, there was this dragon, and then, these giant birds…”

“Naw, don’t remember all of that. That’s the skeletons, though.” He stood, transfixed, and so I turned, too, watching with him as the skeletons leapt in awkward jerky motion, and with voiceless yells, brandished menacing swords. Jason – or Sinbad? – and his men fought valiantly, heroic and dying dramatically, yet emerging at last, triumphant against their deadly wire and plaster foes.

When the scene changed, I heard my father shift behind me, and blow out a breath. I sat back again, waiting.

“Huh. Sinbad,” he said again, shaking his head with a chuckle. I sat, blinking, as he walked off, adding from around the corner, “Sit back from that TV some.”

I scrambled to comply, a rabbit streaking for the bushes, now that the hawk has passed by.

And so, my father went his way, perhaps to do something important and mystifying with a stub of pencil, grout, and a triangle rule. And, as I sank into the story once again, the foundations shifted, and the floor softened. From above my nest of blankets, the roof resettled.

{this is both hysterical and disheartening}

“Some Little Bug Is Going To Find You (Someday)

In these days of indigestion it is oftentimes a question
As to what to eat and what to leave alone.
Every microbe and bacillus has a different way to kill us
And in time they all will claim us for their own.
There are germs of every kind in every food that you can find
In the market or upon the bill of fare.
Drinking water’s just as risky as the so-called “deadly” whiskey
And it’s often a mistake to breathe the air.

For some little bug is going to get you someday.
Some little bug will creep behind you someday.
Then he’ll send for his bug friends
And all your troubles they will end,
For some little bug is gonna find you someday.

The inviting green cucumber, it’s most everybody’s number
While sweetcorn has a system of its own.
Now, that radish seems nutritious, but its behavior is quite vicious
And a doctor will be coming to your home.
Eating lobster, cooked or plain, is only flirting with ptomaine,
While an oyster often has a lot to say.
And those clams we eat in chowder make the angels sing the louder
For they know that they ‘II be with us right away.

For some little bug is going to get you someday.
Some little bug will creep behind you someday.
Eat that juicy sliced pineapple,
And the sexton dusts the chapel
Oh, yes, some little bug is gonna find you someday.

When cold storage vaults I visit, I can only say, “What is it
Makes poor mortals fill their systems with such stuff?”
Now, at breakfast prunes are dandy if a stomach pump is handy
And a doctor can be called quite soon enough.
Eat a plate of fine pig’s knuckles and the headstone cutter chuckles
While the gravedigger makes a mark upon his cuff.
And eat that lovely red bologna and you ‘II wear a wood kimona
As your relatives start packing up your stuff.

For some little bug is going to get you someday.
Some little bug will creep behind you someday.
Then he’ll send for his bug friends
And all your troubles they will end,
For some little bug is gonna find you someday.

Those crazy foods they fix, they’ll float us ‘cross the River Styx
Or start us climbing up the Milky Way.
And those meals they serve in courses mean a hearse and two black horses
So before meals, some people always pray.
Luscious grapes breed appendicitis, while their juice leads to gastritis
So there’s only death to greet us either way.
Fried liver’s nice, but mind you, friends will follow close behind you
And the papers, they will have nice things to say.

In my copious spare time (oh, hahaha) I’m helping find selections for our chamber’s comedy concert, and this song will NOT be one of the selections I suggest…! All I have to say is that 1916 was hardcore with their humor… but these people knew from epidemics, especially since the influenza one reached peak fatality only two years later. Oy.

{deep breath & welcome back}

It’s the first Friday of the first month of the new year, and we’re here again, against all odds. Happy New Year, dear ones, and all hail the dreams of faraway places. Someday, may we meet in Norway. Or anywhere where there’s a place to read in the sun, and quiet adventures….

Already its been an eventful year – SnoCyclonopolis 2018, earthquakes, floods, and nonsense. Good thing we have poetry to make… well, if not make sense of it all, certainly to give us something delightful to look at while we ignore the rest of what’s going on…

Once again, our poetry addiction has brought the sisters of stanzas together for another year… we’re once again pushing ourselves past our comfort zones and poetic boundaries with January’s curtal sonnet. It’s exactly what it sounds like, albeit with archaic spelling; a curtal sonnet is curtailed, and Kelly this month invites the sonneteers to join Gerard Manley Hopkins, the author of this form, in trying our hand at sprung rhythm. Lines 1-10 are iambic pentameter, and the eleventh line is iambic trimeter. It sccans effortlessly when Hopkins does it… not so much with the rest of us more ordinary mortals. But, let us crash the gates and bully onward anyway.

One of the benefits of this form, to me, anyway, is that its rhyme scheme begins abcabc. That’s only six rhymed pairs, which feels manageable, at first. The additional five lines (DBCDC) have repetitions which may trip you up later, but to begin with, all is calm. -Ish. The first poem I came to with a topic, and shoving the idea I had in my head into the form… showed. It worked well enough, but it was fairly lifeless, so I scrapped it (even though it was written in the voice of Mr. Bennet, the hapless father from PRIDE & PREJUDICE). My second poem I decided to just… write, and then gently apply as much of the form as I could during the creation process. This actually worked out better than I expected, and I had minimal revision to do once I got it down – mainly just to elongate some of the lines to scan properly, and change a few of the more challenging word choices into something which had additional nonsensical words which rhymed. (The ‘c’ in the abc pattern is a snare unto the unwary, let me tell you.) I even knew for whom I was writing this – my unflinching, implacable, …marshmallow-hearted Tech Boy, whose favorite phrase used to be “disturb the comforted, and comfort the disturbed.” Everyone knows a truth-teller, and they often make people so very uncomfortable… but I, who so loathe lies and lying (and advertising, and sales tactics, and all the subtle, deliberate misrepresentation of exaggeration in media, social and otherwise) feel a certain ease that the scales never lie, and that the lens of truth always sees what’s really there.


        Pointless to point out garments that don’t match,
Knowing so well your penchant for the clash,
        How eager, cheerfully, you seek discord!
As sun’s bright gaze can kindle fire’s catch
        And burning, leave the forest white-hot ash,
So scything Truth divides us with its sword,

        Parts joints and marrow. Cuts us to the bone.
Scalded, we cower, hide from truth’s backlash.
        No, truth’s not universally adored
Yet, wisdom’s outcry needs its megaphone,
        Its living, two-edged sword.


Forsooth, did you realize that “sooth,” around the 800’s to the 1600’s, meant truth, or genuine? Oddly, by the 17th century, that was considered old and out of use; instead, by 1727 Daniel Defoe lists soothsayers along with astrologers and magicians. They went from being the source of truth to being augurers, clairvoyants, and psychics… the very antithesis of truth-telling. Odd, how meaning twists and changes.

There’s more poetry to accompany this damp and frosty (depending on which coast or hemisphere you’re on) day! Laura brings another beautifully natural image, while Liz is flinging it all to/at the squirrels. Sara’s acute perusal of Hopkins makes us bite our tongues while Tricia’s sonnet ushers in the deep breath of winter. Finally, Kelly shares an original in the original sonnet form, while we wave at Andi who is having a snow day.

Whether Curtal or longform, sonnets are a song, and if you’d like more poetry to sing to you today, Catharine at Reading to the Core is this week’s Poetry Friday host, and she’s highlighting CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR, which has to be my early choice for a 2018 poetry collection. Thanks for dropping by, and strength for your journey today. Tell the truth and shame the devil, won’t you?

{december lights: that indispensable silver lining}


~ by Wisława Szymborska

They say he read novels to relax,
but only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If he happened on something like that,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.

True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.

Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’s had enough with dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggle to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction,
with its micro-scales.

Hence the indispensable
silver lining,
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurried to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow tossed into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly in the last.

Nothing is promised; not even tomorrow. Therefore, take no thought of it. In the moment you have, arise. Shine.

{december lights: bright against the dark indifference}

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

~ W. H. Auden

We are adaptable creatures, on the whole. So, this door, or that heart has been closed against us? Well, it may take a little time, but we will go on. Arise and even if you can’t shine yet – rising is the first step, no?

{december lights: it’s what we’re here for}

Many people find the idea of divinity, of a separate Entity in this universe, of spirit… frankly terrifying. I remember my parents talking about growing up watching people in the throes of religious…somethings, and despite growing up with that, feeling dismayed and betrayed by the adults around them, and eager to escape. As soon as they were of age, they both decamped for more comprehensible experiences, less ecstatic and chaotic, and confusing. I know some would be critical of them for that, but your faith isn’t supposed to scare you.

And yet:

There is something to be said for those in the light of Divinity, who act in pursuit of understanding, instead of relaxing in the presumption of its possession. There is something to be said for the Mystery, and the Enigma, and for uncertainty. We ought to be less comfortable in our beliefs than we are, always questioning our assumptions, always querying our conclusions, critically adjusting them, becoming comfortable in our doubts and in our uncertainties and yes, our fear. We aren’t here to settle complacently into one way of being, but to be led, turned, and moved…to where we ought to be.

We Have Come to Be Danced

We have come to be danced
not the pretty dance
not the pretty pretty, pick me, pick me dance
but the claw our way back into the belly
of the sacred, sensual animal dance
the unhinged, unplugged, cat is out of its box dance
the holding the precious moment in the palms
of our hands and feet dance

We have come to be danced
not the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
but the wring the sadness from our skin dance
the blow the chip off our shoulder dance
the slap the apology from our posture dance

We have come to be danced
not the monkey see, monkey do dance
one, two dance like you
one two three, dance like me dance
but the grave robber, tomb stalker
tearing scabs & scars open dance
the rub the rhythm raw against our souls dance

WE have come to be danced
not the nice invisible, self conscious shuffle
but the matted hair flying, voodoo mama
shaman shakin’ ancient bones dance
the strip us from our casings, return our wings
sharpen our claws & tongues dance
the shed dead cells and slip into
the luminous skin of love dance

We have come to be danced
not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow end of the floor dance
but the meeting of the trinity: the body, breath & beat dance
the shout hallelujah from the top of our thighs dance
the mother may I?
yes you may take 10 giant leaps dance
the Olly Olly Oxen Free Free Free dance
the everyone can come to our heaven dance

We have come to be danced
where the kingdom’s collide
in the cathedral of flesh
to burn back into the light
to unravel, to play, to fly, to pray
to root in skin sanctuary
We have come to be danced

by Jewel Mathieson, ©2004

Treasure Island 35

A dance that slaps the apology from our postures. A dance that refuses a self-conscious shuffle. A dance to strip us from our casings, and return our wings. What if we were to truly let go of ourselves, and leave the steps to Divinity? Then, we wouldn’t just dance. We’d rise and shine – and possibly fly.

And wouldn’t that just ring in a new year?

Hat tip to Tricia for sending me this poem after hearing it in a yoga class the other day. I might have to rethink my aversion to yoga! Or, at least find one where they read you poetry while you’re holding your pose. What a fine thing, to ignore your discomfort and open your heart to “eat and drink the precious words,” as our Em might have put it.

{december lights: in the post}

On the third day of Christmas, I finally went to the post office.

Yes, yes, I KNOW. In my defense, I have some kind of sinus thing coming on, and I’m on that immunosuppressant, remember? So, avoiding crowds is what I’m SUPPOSED to be doing… five holiday concerts notwithstanding. Anyway. I am painfully conscious of being overdue in mailing my friend Sarah’s holiday box. Not just this year… her box from last year. No, really. I started shopping for my good friend and blog partner at Wonderland summer 2016, and then put those small items aside in the closet, because after the election and following shenanigans, I… couldn’t… pull it together… enough… to get to the stuff into a box… and to the post office. Two. Blocks. Away.

Look, the end of 2016 was rough, okay? And, 2017… was more nonsense, and then we moved, and …more chaos. Heat wave. More piles of crud. Then I got sick(er). So.

Here we are.

So, today I have DECIDED: clean slate. To the post office we go. Let’s get this taken care of.

I feel hopeful, having Peter with me.

I hope you take a minute to read Andrea Davis Pinkney’s piece on the special significance to her of the memorial postage stamp from THE SNOWY DAY. (She talks a bit about her own book celebrating the original book as well.) I wasn’t born when THE SNOWY DAY came out – I really didn’t read it ’til college – but there’s still something magical about the commonality of one small person enjoying something as simple as a first snowfall. Of greater significance is that he’s one small black person, and that the book was published in a day and age where a book with a black person on the cover was seen as something impossible to sell.

Oh, yes: there are publishers who still believe that. To this day. Even after the 90’s, when there were a lot of shows on TV which had fully non-white casts. Even after the successes of myriad books and movies, the winning of awards… even after all of the successes people of color have had outside of the arts… there is always a backlash. Three steps forward, two steps back. All the progress disappears because there are people who insist that “the world” simply isn’t “ready” for these “new” ideas.

The more fools, they. Change comes slowly, but it does come. Arise and shine – and be ready to greet a new day.

{december lights: y fea sea la palabra}

“En un mundo donde la oscuridad y el silencio han amordazado la esperanza, que la musica sea la luz y fe sea la palabra. Para que vengan tiempos mejores, que suenen los tambores.” – Victor Manuelle

A loose translation: In a world where darkness and silence have muted hope, music is light and faith is the word. To bring better times, bring on the drums. I heard reference to this amazing quote on an episode of NPR’s Code Switch podcast in November, and it’s stayed with me. Even as I center light in this end-of-season celebration, it has been difficult to feel particularly joyous. More than ever before, the commercial nature of our celebrations has stuck in my craw, and the traditional insistence on larding all the cracks with manufactured joy in the face of some real doozies in terms of social injustice has been… difficult to swallow, to say the least. But, I do find that occasionally, music can drown it out, for a while, for long enough to recenter. In keeping an attitude that lifts one up and keeps one moving forward, turn up the volume. Faith is the word, so sound the drums, Sister Rosetta. On with the dance, Dirty Dozen Brass – and keep it moving. We have too much to do to mope. Arise & Shine.