{pf: poetry peeps time travel with M-W}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of February! Here’s the plan: We’ll roll a set of metaphor dice and write a poem inspired by your metaphor. Don’t have metaphor dice? Never even heard of them? I first encountered them in Heidi’s Juicy Little Universe, and they were invented just a few years prior by the poet Taylor Mali. Interesting, right? If you’d rather not get metaphor dice, just use an online metaphor generator, like this one. Then share your poem on February 26 in a post and/or on social media – #PoetryPals.

Our first challenge of 2021 was to visit Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler page and explore when a word was first used in print. Not invented, but printed – the first time a word was used in the United States, at least, in a print publication – a book, a newspaper or a magazine. To begin, each of us chose a year which was meaningful to us – for whatever reason – and went back in time before diving into poetry. There were no other rules.

Time Traveler is a big old rabbit hole, and I hope you take set aside some time to dig around and see what you discover. I chose 1973, and find it surprising that no one had said “underwire” or “bralette” in print until then – although, that might be because some objects of clothing were considered “unmentionables” not so long ago, even in women’s magazines. Just imagine – people hadn’t referred to “news person” or “anchorpeople” before 1973. Concepts like a “crumple zone” or an “ACE inhibitor” were unknown. The plethora of medical words first in print in 1973 indicates the number of discoveries being made – and shared – with the general public for the first time. And I was unsurprised to discover that words like “lockdown,” “super-spreader,” and “bunyavirus” (what even is that?!) were also there. History records, and our Time Traveler confirms: viral outbreaks and lockdowns are nothing at all new.

While forty-eight years ago, no one had ever written about video games, urgent care, soccer moms, or televangelists, romance was, of course, alive and well (how else did we all get here). The clutter of Valentine’s related junk in my inbox (as frantic retailers try to make it The Next Big Holiday) together with the utter randomness of my 1973 word list came together in my head to create… a love story. Obviously. Because, what else would I write about? With apologies for the resulting cheesiness, I present to you…

Meet Cute

A Love Story With The Worst Romantic Verbiage, Ever

Who would’ve thought when first we met
A deconstruction – of Chaucer! – made him a sure bet.

His factoid filled mind jump-started my heart
8 AM edutainment – he made snark a fine art.

I kept seeing him, sending me into hyperdrive,
My space-cadet heart barely kept me alive…

I was cash-strapped and stressed, held up by duct tape
Balanced on razor wire with no means of escape.

While reverse-engineering success, I could soar
But dating? No thanks! I was no revolving door.

So we were “just friends,” and he shared his moon-roof.
As it turned out, “mere” friendship was the burden of proof

That I needed. That swooning was not such a sin.
My heart broke its lockdown: I gave up! He was in.

(Don’t fact-check me, but there’s just the teeniest bit of history in this poem. Deniability is the name of the game!)

This list of words was both frustrating and hilarious. I started trying to use the fact that the words are presented alphabetically, but an abecedarian form did NOT work. I finally settled on blank verse, which apparently any Joe Six-Pack could do, but the disparate variations of meanings and sounds made me greedy – I so wanted to use so many other words, but — honestly! — this was plenty. I had fun, and that satisfies the requirements for this challenge. Want to see the other attempts of our stalwart crew of poetry peeps? Check out Laura’s. Right here is Liz’s. This one’s Sara’s. Find Kelly’s here, and Andi’s, and this is Tricia‘s. Cousin Mary Lee’s will eventually turn up here, and Michelle Kogan’s is here. More poets will check in throughout the day, so stay tuned!

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Jan at Bookseed Studio. Thank you, Jan! It’s finally safe to say Happy New Year to everyone – it’s the Year of the Ox! Here’s to stubbornly pushing forward on the things we need to do this year. Until then, keep your food processors busy, and your hot tubs sultry, and your Earth tones subdued. Happy weekend.

{#winterlight: no such thing as lost}

I’m so glad many of us enjoyed the very succinct and on-topic poem yesterday. I was glad I’d come across it. Amos Russel Wells is actually a new-to-me poet as well; he was a professor of Greek and geology at for the first part of his professional career, and ended it as editor of a religious magazine. He was also a fairly dedicated Sunday School teacher, and apparently loved children. His book, Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters, first published in 1902, is where today’s poem comes from. You can see the Sunday School teacher/hymn writer in this verse.

“Lost” Opportunities

Many words are lightly tossed,
   Only cowards mind them,
Opportunities are “lost” –
   Rouse yourself, and find them!

Some are lost for aye and aye,
   But the most are hiding –
*Cars the switch has found are they
   Take them from the siding!*

Past is past, the chance is gone? –
   Up, and follow after!
Many a noble race is run
   Despite sneers and laughter.

Opportunities are “lost”?
   Aren’t there legs behind them?
Boldly run, nor count the cost,
   Speed until you find them!

*”Cars the switch has lost” refers to train cars that are shunted to a different track when the switch is thrown.

This is a sort of bracing hope that is really old-fashioned and brought to you by people who lived through wars and upheaval and didn’t have time for self-pity. No such thing as opportunities “lost,” to them… just a need to be up and doing. Here’s to that bracing, gingery, spit and vinegar.

{#winterlight: country of freedom}

I’ve run out of words.

Fortunately, there’s poetry.

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children. Thank you, Sylvia.

Country of Freedom

Country of freedom, be free in thy heart:
Free from the shackles of poisoning pride,
Free from the liar’s contemptible art,
Free from allurements that tempt thee aside,
Free from the crafty and treacherous guide,
Free from the ravening greed of the mart,
Free from the snares that in opulence hide, —
Country of freedom be free in thy heart.

— Amos Russel Wells (1863-1933)

{#winterlight: irony}

I found it just a bit ironic that I blogged yesterday about anger before I got on social media or read the paper, or heard anything about the attempted coup at the nation’s Capitol. After hearing nineteen million politicians blurt, “This isn’t who we are!” I feel like it’s a good day to resurrect a poem I wrote in 2017… after the first nineteen million times I heard politicians say this phrase, in defense of this indefensible presidency. Enjoy.

“…this is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.” – Ursula K. LeGuin, THE FARTHEST SHORE, Ch. 8

“you may experience feelings of momentary discomfort”

“This is not who we are,” good souls profess.
“This brief discomfort heralds changing views.”
The dream, America, is dispossessed.

And politicians wallow in the mess
Eyes rolling wild, while looking for their cues —
“This is not who we are.” Good souls profess

To understand the needs of the oppressed,
Who are not newly pressured, but eschew
The “dream America.” We, dispossessed.

“Just rhetoric and chatter,” pundits stress.
“A bigot’s dreams could never here come true.”
This IS. Not who we are? Good souls, profess!

Resist. Support, with dogged faithfulness
Those who, with courage march. We must push through
the dream and wake our country, in distress.

Distracted by your grieving? Reassess
Comfort you proffered those who are not you…
This. Is. Not. Who. We. Are. Good souls, protect
The dreamer, wakening, and dispossessed.

{#winterlight: rage epiphany }

I’ve blogged before about how many times girls are taught that anger is “being ugly,” thus setting anger as antithetical to being somehow properly attractive/womanly or whatnot. It’s always so bizarre when you don’t think you’ve been raised with any slant in particular, and then hear yourself prevaricating when someone asks you if you’re angry. “No, I’m not mad, I’m just upset. I’m a little vexed, yes. I’m frustrated. I’m aggravated.” Yeah. I’m also pretty torqued, ticked off, peeved, furious and properly raging as well – but it’s not nice to say so, apparently.

It’s always a little breath-taking to realize that you are mad about something when it’s deep-seated, private, almost even from yourself, and catches you off-guard. You stumble out of a conversation, panting like a marathon-runner, and wonder, bewildered, “Where did all this rage come from?”

I suspect the rage is a more common epiphany than one might think.

Dolomites D 039

Who Said It Was Simple

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.

Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

– Audre Lourde

Real life is distracting, contradictory, full of issues of competing importance, and thoroughly messy. This messy, conflicting ball of emotions is also worth examination, if one is to live well.

Good luck with that.

{#winterlight: swishings of joy}

Here we are – with the year started, and all the mechanisms of society or progress or whatever you want to call it, starting up again, like a balky, failing engine we never should have turned off, because now it needs jumper cables and whispered prayers. Here we are, in a world where bills are coming due, but no jobs are necessarily materializing. Here we are, in a month where hospitals in our area are treating people in the gift shop, and the EMT’s are no longer bringing in emergency cases, making judgment calls about who will and will not survive. Here we are, in a state of being we know isn’t particularly sustainable, and there are orange nasturtiums standing erect and bright in the cold, and the Anna’s hummingbirds have arrived, and the activity around the feeder is wild and unconstrained. Here we are, with the unexpected, occasionally diverting us from the present which is bleak.

Life Is Not What You

expected — cows
ruminate by the highway
even in rain or bat their
ears forward and back and how
you thought the story of your life
would get told: the children you thought
you’d already have by now partially grown
books and other accomplishments — houses
owned cities seen lakes traversed — and now
we’re stuck in traffic
and it’s not even rush hour
with the hurricane storm
moving slowly north from Alabama.
How come it’s raining here already
somewhere south of Albany — just one
damned thing after another and those
injections you’ve had to give yourself and
your dad’s bypass surgery. Just look:
Evening primrose all along the roadside match
the painted line and Queen Anne’s lace
on the other side rows of young corn
joe-pye weed blurred to Scottish heather.
When you go for a walk blackberries have started
ripening you     pluck two
from each bush notice tadpoles suck air
along the fountain’s rim. Such small swishings
of joy maybe
this is it — every day puts forth a new song deer flies
dive-bombing your head when the breeze
lets up —

Sharon Dolin

Notice, this is what we’ve always had – a new song, a susurration of starlings, a rainbow from a prism hung in a window – steady sources of illumination and comfort in a world gone dark and cold. Notice, and keep looking.