Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge for April 13

April 13--For today's prompt, write a poem that remembers an old relationship. This relationship does not have to be romantic. It could be a departed (or estranged) family member, old friend, former teacher, or even just someone you briefly encountered. And the relationship may have even been one-sided or seemingly insignificant to the other person.

They Called Him Giuseppi
By Bill Kirk

They called him Giuseppi—
An old man by almost any standards.
His deeply tanned and
Weathered face and hands,
Left no doubt he had seen
More than his share of work
In the Mediterranean sun.

And yet, he had a certain
Athleticism about him, as if
He knew his way around
A cinder track and knew even far more
About the runners who raced there.

With a quiet nonchalance,
Giuseppi knowingly watched
From his perch high among
The irregular tiers of the
Hand cut stone benches.
His eyes were on a lone runner
Gliding around the ancient oval,
As so many thousands had done
Over countless centuries before.

The runner’s smooth stride hid almost any
Imperfection in his training regimen.
But Giuseppi sensed something out of kilter.
The straight-aways were fine—
Each footstrike found its intended mark
As a bowman would send
His arrow to its distant target.

But as the runner leaned into each curve,
Giuseppi could almost feel the
Imperceptible twinge himself.
There it was—a tightness in the calf
And an ever-so-slight pull in the hamstrings
Which flattened the heel—dulled the rebound.

Yet, the runner kept up his pace,
Through the long curve, once again
Pushing into the home stretch.
How many more repeats would he do?
Giuseppi knew he would disagree with
The runner’s automatic answer—
“Oggi, faccio altri dieci.”—“Ten more today,” he said,
Because that’s just what he did on Wednesdays.

“Basta! Oggi non piĆ¹. Vieni qui!” Giuseppi beckoned
With his voice and a single palm-down gesture.
Giuseppi knew instinctively an interruption today
Would pay dividends in days to come.
They walked together to a small wooden locker
Down near the edge of the track.
Releasing the latch, Giuseppi revealed
The tools of his trade inside the cabinet—
Oils, lotions and salves in dust-caked vials and tubes.

He warmed a small dollop of pungent salve
Between his leathered hands.
In silence and with a surgeon’s precision,
He pulled and pushed into the belly of the muscle.
Alternately using the edges of
Thumbs, knuckles, palms and finger tips,
He teased out the hidden pain lying
Deep inside, waiting to be exposed.
At first skeptical and wishing for its end,
The runner soon relished this
Trackside treatment, eager for more
As the stabbing pain subsided
With each smooth stroke.
Inside fifteen minutes,
The lone spectator was done.

Then, just as quickly and quietly
He was gone—as if he had never been—
And would never be seen again.
Only the memory of his image
And his handiwork remained
As an ever present reminder
Of the man they called Giuseppi….

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge for April 12

April 12—And just like that, we're already on to our second "Two for Tuesday" prompt of the challenge. I know this is a prompt that some poets have been craving, while others probably not so much. Regardless, I did this one on Tuesday to provide some options:

1. Write a form poem. This could be a sonnet, pantoum, lune, or even something as sinister as a--dare I say it--sestina. If you need a list of poetic forms and there rules, click here.

2. Write an anti-form poem. Just as there are poets who love playing with forms, there are poets who think they are the worst thing ever. That's fine. Express (in either free verse or a prose poem) your feelings on writing in traditional forms.

On Formlessness
By Bill Kirk

Could it be some days the poetry
Will be less well formed than others?
I’d have to say, it’s true.
Tonight, my brain itself is a formless blob.
Thus any attempt at poetic form
Will likely have scant chance at success.

Yet, I suppose the very capture of
Any thought or idea takes on
A certain structure, even if drawn
From wordless mush—much as
An artist’s blank canvass will
Eventually move toward an
Expression of artistic form,
Even if very sketchy.

Far be it for me to
Squeeze, mold or force
These words into a shape
They have no interest in taking.
Perhaps words on a page
Will somehow find their natural form
Much as water seeks its own level.
Might formelessness be its own reward?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poem For A Day Challenge for April 11

April 11— For today's prompt, take the phrase "Maybe (blank);" replace the blank with a word or phrase; make the new phrase the title of your poem; and then, write the poem.

Maybe This Isn’t Such A Good Idea
By Bill Kirk

Have you ever noticed how
All through the day we are faced
With decision points—large and small.
Should we do this thing or that?
Should we go this way or that?
Why not push on, full steam ahead?
After all, we’re on such a roll,
And wouldn’t it be a shame
To lose our momentum?

On the other hand,
We could simply stop—everything—
And allow ourselves in that moment,
That pause-for-a-breath moment,
To think, maybe this isn’t
Such a good idea after all.

That’s not to say we won’t do it anyway.
But if your gut is giving you pause
And your brain is holding open the possibility
Of considering an alternate course,
Mightn’t it be worth a wondering wait?
And could giving in to a second thought
Be a rare golden opportunity
Just waiting to be tapped?
Something to think about, no?

Then, again, an argument could be made
That trading prudence for the pay off
Gained from a little risk taking
Might be worth the price.
But, to paraphrase, whether something
Is a good idea or not, is ultimately all in the risk….

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge for April 10

April 10—For today's prompt, write a never again poem. Maybe you'll never again fall in love or never again tell a lie. Or maybe, just maybe, you'll never again not write a sestina.(Like that? It's a double negative.)

N’er again will yester be—
That time is now behind us.
Yet, perhaps in memory,
Its ghost may come and find us.

Will it ask us once again
Those questions long avoided—
Scraping wounds until our pain
Has fully been exploited?

Or will it probe a different trace,
And would our path be altered?
Had we run a different race,
Would we have won or faltered?

Truth be told, as life unfolds,
Despite how well we’ve striven,
Faith will shape what each life holds,
For we just get what’s given.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge for April 9

For today's prompt, write a time of day poem. In fact, make the title of your poem the time of day. For instance, "5:54 a.m.," 2:23 p.m.," "Midnight," etc. Then, write your poem. Of course, different things happen at different times of day. So have fun with it.

4:15 P.M.
By Bill Kirk

What a miserable
Time of day 4:15 p.m. is.
It’s in that limbo time
Between lunch and dinner
When it’s too late for
A mid-afternoon snack,
Yet the hungries are on the move.

You can feel them slithering around
Somewhere down in the bowel.
And then the sounds start—
Just a slight nagging at first,
Becoming more urgent
As they change from a quiet rrreeee-errrr
To a full blown grrr-ow-w-w-l.

For kids in school, let’s face it.
They are on the food clock
As soon as the last bell has sounded.
If they are quick about it,
And maintain their focus,
They will manage to get themselves
Home in time to do some grubbing
Before the 4:15 p.m. snack curfew strikes
And the time for grubbing is gone.

With all that late afternoon suffering,
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist
To figure out America is clearly
Out of touch with global gustatory reality.
Could there be any other explanation why
4:15 p.m. just happens to be time for tea?
There’s little doubt it is a
Pure survival strategy designed
To get them past humankind’s
Most vulnerable point in the day.
Why, tossing all that tea into the harbor
Those many years ago may have
Inadvertently put us on a
Terminal trajectory to our own doom.

Personally, I’m not a great fan of
Tea and crumpets but I must concede,
Crumpets trump cramps no matter the time
But especially at 4:15 p.m.

And don’t get me started on
Daylight Savings Time

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge For April 8

April 8—For today's prompt, write a ready to celebrate poem. You could chronicle the actual celebration or even write about the anticipation of one.

Are You Ready To Ce-le-brate?
By Bill Kirk

Some might say a cause for celebration
Hardly comes along every day.
Yet maybe that’s cause enough to be ready,
Wouldn’t you say—to giggle, smile, shout, congratulate?
After all, there’s always plenty
To bemoan our pitiful circumstances
And ample reason to groan and complain,
Wondering why this or that hard knock happened.

But then, along comes some happy time
Or its memory or the anniversary of one,
That curls up the mouth corners, even if only slightly.
So, shouldn’t we be ready for those happy-nings,
Whether anticipated or unexpected?
You know, just in case?

Oh, sure. We could also be ready
To sink into the depths of depression.
After all, deference to the sensibilities
Of those who suffer loss is at times
The only right thing to do.

Yet even in the midst of inconsolable sadness,
The spark of joy and gladness awaits its turn
To give another day of life its due,
In anticipation of yet a better one.

“This is the day the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge For April 7

April 7—For today's prompt, write a "what if" poem. It could be a "what if" from the past, present or future.

What If?
By Bill Kirk

To ask “What if?” implies
A certain choice, does it not?
Do we dwell on past events,
Wondering what might have happened “if”?
Or is time better spent turning our “what ifs”
Toward the future where hope still resides?

For what are the chances
Of predicting a different outcome,
Had we chosen a different path?
What if we had been given different gifts?
Would any one thing done differently,
Have made all the rest the best?
Or would results have been unkinder yet?
How could we possibly know for sure?

And what of decisions made today?
Are our predictive powers any better?
Or might applying lessons learned from past mistakes
Simply make us better guessers?
And what of the cards we’re dealt?
Life context provides a rich field of “what ifs” to harvest—
Divergent pathways in the woods, awaiting our next steps.

For me, color blindness may have been my salvation.
If I were to discern a different color palette,
What are the chances I would be writing this poem—
Or celebrating my wife’s birthday today?
What will you do with your set of unique circumstances?
Will you follow a lemonade dream?
Or do you relish your lemon drizzled over grilled salmon?
Same juice, different use.

What’s in your bracket?
And how will you give voice to your choice?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge For April 6

April 6—For today's prompt, take the phrase "Don't (blank), (blank);" replace the blanks with a word or phrase; use the new phrase as the title of your poem; and then, write your poem. Some possible titles might include: "Don't walk, run," "Don't fight, dance," "Don't turn around, they're right behind you," or whatever else you can think to create.

Don’t Say Won’t. Say Do
By Bill Kirk

Just thinking DON’T is such a drag—
It’s nothing but a frowner.
For DON’Ts won’t end up in a smile
Because a DON’T’s a downer.

It doesn’t matter if a DON’T
Is practiced in the present,
For even if said here or now,
A DON'T is hardly pleasant.

But even DON’Ts from yesterday
Won’t generate much action.
An old DON’T—just a DIDN’T then—
Still gives no satisfaction.

Now, if a DON’T still later on
Is what you are intending,
That future DON’T becomes a WON’T—
A DON’T that’s merely trending.

And if you might not do a thing,
The “might” makes WON’T a “WOULDN’T.”
To be polite about your WON’T,
You must insist, “I COULDN’T!”

Yes, DON’Ts abound in all their forms,
And if we listened to them all,
We might just think, “I CAN’T!”

So, when you’re asked to give advice,
Think what you’d like to hear.
If you were in another’s shoes.
What word would you hold dear?

Just one small word will say it all.
Two letters and you’re through!
You WON’T get far with Mister DON’T.
So DON’T say “WON’T.” Say “DO”.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge For April 5

April 5—For today's prompt, do one of the following:

1. Write a goofy poem.
2. Write a serious poem.

(Note: This one could go either way---you choose.)

Lament To My Absent Muse
By Bill Kirk

It’s dark and cold at 4 a.m.
Yet I can hardly sleep.
Instead of writing poetry
I should be counting sheep.

For truth be told, this rhyme’s gone cold—
My poem is a flop.
No matter what I try to write,
My brain keeps yelling “Stop!”

Oh! What the heck. I think I’ll quit,
And leave my letters lost.
This search for words is getting old
It’s time this tome is tossed.

So, wrinkling up this scribbly page,
I’ll turn off every light.
If dribbly doodle’s all I’ve got,
It’s time to say good night.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge For April 4

April 4—pick a type of person and write a poem about him or her. To help set the scene, you may want to title your poem as who the type of person is. For instance, you could write a poem titled "Firefighter," "Cynic," "Optimist," "Teacher," "2-year-old," etc. The list is endless.

The Drummer
By Bill Kirk

The drummer stands alone, waiting.
Poised and ready, his sticks hover above skins
Stretched taught over their frames—
Simple implements await his bidding.
Then, as if some solitary nuclear clock
Finally emits its primordial pulse,
The first strike of stick against skin
Signals life through action.

Tak! Tak! Tak! Tak!
Vibrations scream a one-note staccato—
R-r-r-racketa! T-t-t-tacketa! Pop! Pop! Pop!
Ripples push the sound barrier,
Seemingly broken in an instant
On the surface of the drum’s head—
Its micrometric amplitude
Hardly perceptible to the human eye.

The drummer calls his cadence without speaking
Save for the insistent sound spreading in ripples
From his drum’s core—through the rest of the
Drum corps on the floor around him.
His fellow drummers respond in kind with their first step,
And another and another still—
They answer the incessant urge to move.
Then in quick succession, they pick up the beat—
Accepting it as their own, completely owning the next strike,
And the next,
And the next,
And the next.
Crisp. Clear. United.

The very essence of integrity—One cadence. One team. One line.

The drummer carries the corporal beat—the rhythm of life.
Yet where does it come from and what does it mean?
Certainly the merging of rhythm, sound and intensity
Is more than mere technique.
Might there not be a subtle nuance
That defines the drummer’s very nature?
Could it be the soul’s search for perfect resonance?
And how does one discern such things?
Indeed, might drumming not be considered a metaphor for life?
The call of the distant drummer
Tapping out his cadence
And hoping it will be heard, headed and followed.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Boom. Boom. Boom.

The pulse of life beckons loudly—
Not wanting to end but having to.
In one beat, the performance is over.
Rejoice and be glad in it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge For April 3

April 3—Write a poem in which you imagine the world without you. The world could be a much worse place, pretty much the same, or even better. Anyway, it's interesting to contemplate our individual contributions to this planet in ways small and large.

Were I Not Here
By Bill Kirk

Were I not here,
The lawn might be mowed,
The weeds would be whacked and
The bare window sill would already be primed and painted.

Were I not here,
The blown down back fence would be replaced,
The crack in the driveway would be patched and
The front door latch would work and not stick.

Were I not here,
The ivy would not have overtaken the side yard,
There’d be no birds nesting in the attic and
The perilously leaning pine would be long gone.

Were I not here,
The taxes would be done before April 14,
There might be more money for vacations and
There’d be less money needed for life insurance,

But were I not here, there would also be
Fewer cups of coffee at bedside each morning,
Fewer lunches made each work day,
Fewer omelets cooked each Sunday after church,
Fewer miles run for the pure pleasure of it,
Fewer pick-ups after school,
Fewer haircuts at Grandpa’s house,
Fewer children’s rhymes written and read,
Fewer reminders about Scout meetings,
Fewer camping trips with the old man,
Fewer holiday turkeys cooked and carved,
Fewer New Year’s Day black eye peas for good luck and
Fewer kisses goodnight.

So, all things considered,
Consider me here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge For April 2

April 2—The prompt for day 2 is to write a postcard poem. Make it brief and communicate what it is like where you are. Also, make it personal.

Postcard Wishes
By Bill Kirk

Just got to my “room”.
There are windows galore—
On all sides, in fact,
From ceiling to floor.

A post at each corner,
In the middle, a mast;
We’ll tie off our hammocks
Oh, wow! What a blast!

We’ll sleep in “plein aire”—
A canopy above.
We four happy strangers—
Hey! What's up with the shove!?

What do you mean
Those "shoves" are a gale
And our very large tent
Is now a large sail?

You’ve got to be kidding!
Pack up my gear?
Vacation is over?
Wish I weren’t here....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Poem A Day Challenge for April 1

I suppose I might have written an April Fool's Day poem. But alas, I didn't. This is the first day of the Poem A Day Challenge. Based on it's ending mood, I hope it's not my last. But it is what it is....

What Got Me Here
by Bill Kirk

Certainly it's true,
Some goals and objectives
We reach by design.
You know---the planned ones,
For which we set our destinations,
Whether figurative or literal, ahead of time;
Then plot our path,
Pack our provisions,
And strike out,
Relatively secure in the knowledge
We will get there---
By our own two hands.

Other times, pure serendipity wins the prize
For getting us to where we are---
Landing us square in the middle of
Good fortune or not,
Where we are left
To take advantage of unanticipated
Targets of opportunity.
And quick thinking alone
Makes the outcome our own,
As if we are the ones responsible somehow
For being where we are,
For better or worse.

Yet, on occasion isn't it simply
The passage of time
That allows us simply to be,
Never mind how we got to the spot?
Mightn't such unplanned "while you wait" moments,
Be the sum of the what and the how of where we are---
Like the instant between breaths
When there is neither ebb nor flow?

During those times,
We sit in the midst of quiet or turbulence,
Doing nothing in particular
And certainly nothing of special value
Or personal advantage in mind.

Such circumstances of time and place
Neither sought nor pursued
Are gifts of a sort---wanted or not,
For which there is nothing to do
Beyond acknowledging the
Unexpected blessing of another moment
In hopes of a much delayed,

Yet inevitable...