Saturday, April 25, 2020

GloPoWriMo 2020 Day 24: Pomegranate Love

PromptToday’s prompt is a fairly simple one: to write about a particular fruit – your choice. But I’d like you to describe this fruit as closely as possible. Perhaps your poem could attempt to tell the reader some (or all!) of the following about your chosen fruit: What does it look like, how does it feel, how does it smell, what does it taste like, where did you find it, do you need to thump it to know if it’s ripe, how do you get into it (peeling, a knife, your teeth), do you need to spit out the seeds, should you bake it, can you make jam with it, do you have to fight the birds for it, when is it available, do you need a ladder to pick it, what is your favorite memory of eating it, if you threw it at someone’s head would it splatter them or knock them out, is it expensive . . . As you may have realized from this list, there’s honestly an awful lot you can write about a fruit!

As much as I've been wanting to write the last few days, life has gotten in the way with a vengeance - and with it the discouragement that comes with being so behind there's no earthly way of catching up. However, today's prompt reminded me of something I wrote a little while ago, so while it's technically cheating, it's still about a fruit, and it's still something up where there wasn't any five minutes ago, so even if it doesn't count, maybe it'll serve as inspiration for later, if life doesn't get in the damn way YET AGAIN...


My father's love is a big round pomegranate on the table after lunch.
For you, he says.

Two simple words which over forty years of troubled relations
hard work, and difficult love have polished to burnished gold sheen
wrapped about with the decades-old memory of a wayward daughter 
eating pomegranates in Virginia declaring that of all things 
she loved this fruit the best.

Yellow-streaked red. This pomegranate is heavy in my palm, not
quite as vivid as other pomegranates I have known but when I cut it apart
the thin red juice spurting from bruised sacs is sweet as honey.

Pale pinkish-and-red. Endothelium cells, contained by yellow membranes
thin as onion skin. Breaking them apart is like dissecting a body's secrets,
detaching each plump, ripe sac from the finger-clutch  of its yellow moorings
holding everything tight against smooth pomegranate peel
like flesh contained by its epidermis.

I stand at the sink, deseeding love that falls in tiny scarlet jewels -
pomegranate seeds, bleeding memory and the remembrance of things lost
and things gained, hope and the fear of things to come
thin pale-blood juice staining my fingers and the cutting board
with winter-sweet promise.

Tomorrow is tomorrow. Today, there are pomegranates
and my father, the kitchen god, storing up scents and conversation
like ribbons to tie around the next pomegranate
the next memento of unspoken love.

Friday, April 17, 2020

GloPoWriMo Day 16: (Ebulliently Effusive) Love Song

Prompt: Rather than encouraging minimalism, today we challenge you to write a poem of over-the-top compliments. Pick a person, place, or thing you love, and praise it in the most effusive way you can. Go for broke with metaphors, similes, and more. 

I really did try to be effusive and over-the-top. And then, like the deviant I am, things forked off into sarcasm, especially after two days of having to deal with parents who think that they shouldn't need to pay full fees if we're teaching online classes, or even pay fees at all.

(Ebulliently Effusive) Love Song

you swarovski my days
billy eilish blingblang
you ladygaga my moments
oh oh oh you’re over-garlicked bread
sinfully excessive butter-and-cheesed pasta

if round is a shape
you is the shape of shapes so shapely
nothing shape-ish can shape this

you sherlock my heart infinity times a day
you’re a million coins in the valley of plenty

you’re the effluve in effluvium
the rrar in ferrari
the moon in moonpies

oh superior intellect oh juno oh jupiter
oh wisdom of a thousand sages of the ages
what would my days be if they weren’t filled
with your buzz-saw clingclangclamour
that teachers like me should be paid less
(or not at all) for teaching your children online
(it’s push-button-stand-in-front-of-a-device easy
how hard could it possibly be
((like sewing a straight line))


Thursday, April 16, 2020

GloPoWriMo2020 Day 15: Banishing Spell

Prompt: Today, I’d like  to challenge you to write a poem inspired by your favorite kind of music. Try to recreate the sounds and timing of a pop ballad, a jazz improvisation, or a Bach fugue. That could mean incorporating refrains, neologisms and flights of whimsy, or repeating/inverting lines or ideas – whatever your chosen musical form would seem to require! Perhaps a good way to start is to listen to your favorite piece of music and “free-write” for the duration  of the piece, and then use what you’ve written as the building blocks for your poem.

A few years ago, I performed in a choral production called Incantations, which involved music of ritual, rites, and altogether really interesting pieces of choral music. One of the pieces we performed was a very dark, experimental contemporary piece called Aglepta, which takes a Swedish trollproverb from the 19th century and brilliantly enacts it out in pitch, rhythm, and non-standard notation.

It's best to watch it here to get an idea of what it's like, but it's an amazing work and I love how Arne Mellnas uses various ranges of the voice to such effect.

The formatting for this was sheer hell so I left it in small font.

Banishing Spell

To leave an enemy without an answer, say these words to him: Aglaria Pidhol garia Ananus Qepta and blow in his direction; then he will not know which way he is headed and cannot answer you.
     - Smaland 19th Century, Swedish Trollproverbs (collected by Bengt of Kintberg)

A chant for three voices in three staves

|          fffffffffFFFFFffffffff      ffffffffwoooooooffFFFFFFFffffffooooo   ffff
|  They say                                     to leave an e! ne! my!                         beee
|       a    a a AH      a a      AAAH ah a        a a     a a     AAAAA  a a          hiiinnnd 

| BlOWwwwww   in his direction    aa    AAAAAA ahhhaaha       piiiihhHHHOOL!
|     blowwwww   in his direction    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh____  gaaaa a riii a
|  blowwwwww   in his direction        AAA a   a    AAA a  a     ga! a! A!   A! riAAA

|so I blow blow oh oh oh  ohhhhhhh hhhh               you                  you           away
|               and I send             and I send     and I send      and I send         you  away
|HAAAAaaaa            HAAAAaaaa    haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaway

|               iiiiissss    not child’s play                    we    are   no lon    ger  chil!  dren!
|         iiiiiiissssss                               we       are noooo lon   ger    chil!  dren! 
| This            iiiiiissss  noooooooooo   chiiiiiiiiiild’s pl – l – l –l –l aaaaaaaAAAAY

| go  go  go   I  claim my space s s S!   space s S! S!   i carve a space in air hh aairh
|    you you you  no lon       have a hooooooooooold       on me   dk dk chchCHTS S
| i i i i i i                        ger                hoo ho ho hold    i i i i breakkk your wordsss

|A GLAAAAA ri a     I take back my eyes                       I free my hands my words
|                I break my chains                          gaaaaaRIIIIIIaaaaa
|                                           PIIIIIDHOOOL                            I unsew my tongue

|ANANUSSSSSSSS       qepTAAAAaaaa                                   offfff your words
|        ANANUSSSSSSSS! S! S!                        looocked in the chains           
|    ANANUSS                         kept toooooo long           qep qep qep TA tat a aaaaa

| I blow ffffffff                           and you no! lon! ger! can answer              now
| I blow      fffffffffff             and you                                           answer            that
| I blow         fffffffffffff   and you                                                       answer             I

| blow your chains                  back          at   at at at              YOUuuuuuu h   ||        
|       ohhhhHOOOOOhhhhh      ohhhOOOOOhhh    qepta   YOUuuuuuu h   ||
| aglaaariiiia!   AGLAaariiiia!    garia   ANANUS qepta       YOUuuuuuu h   ||

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

GloPoWriMo Day 13: Bodysnatcher

Prompt: Today, I challenge you to write a non-apology for the things you’ve stolen. Maybe it’s something as small as your sister’s hairbrush (or maybe it was your sister’s boyfriend!) Regardless, I hope this sly prompt generates some provocative verse for you.

I'm not doing very well with this whole writing thing, given life keeps getting in the way. I'm half of a mind to just give up entirely, but today the prompt made me think of the grave robbers, the bodysnatchers in old England where they'd dig up bodies for doctors who needed them for medical experiments.

So I decided steal myself.


I am the traitor, the Hanged Man:
I am a byword, society's upside-down fool
A mind reduced to a rattling skeleton
Hanging on a gibbet
Gutted from stem to stern
My heart a shriveled apple core
A cautionary tale on display.

I cut myself down and steal myself back:
My thoughts, my words, my space, my voice
The things I’ve been told to bury, to hide
Sealed up in a coffin of shame.

(Single, stupid, ladylike, ugly -
Every adjective a nail in the lid.
Judgements weigh me down like lead.
I sink. I am dead weight.)

I am a guerilla, a bodysnatcher, a rogue.
I am no thief – I take back only
What’s been stolen from me.

I reclaim my life.

I mark the shape of me in the air
And cut space for this body, this me:
I take up room, I stand
Forcing you to see me -
An inconvenient obstruction
In an elevator door
Holding your mind open
Preventing it from closing.

Friday, April 10, 2020

GloPoWriMo Day 9: Love In A Time Of Corona

           Click to enlarge! It eats the picture if I set it larger, grrr...

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) is inspired by Kaschock’s use of space to organize her poems. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a “concrete” poem – a poem in which the lines and words are organized to take a shape that reflects in some way the theme of the poem. This might seem like a very modernist idea, but poets have been writing concrete poems since the 1600s! Your poem can take a simple shape, like a box or ball, or maybe you’ll have fun trying something more elaborate, like this poem in the shape of a Christmas tree.

I am a fledgling calligrapher who hand letters sometimes, and my skills have gone so rusty I figured I'd use today's prompt to attempt to brush up on them. Since I also detest trying to write shaped poems on my computer (since the formatting always goes wonky) I decided to do it the old-fashioned way instead - pen and ink.

Here's the non-shaped poem in case it's difficult to read (I did try for legibility but may not have succeeded). There've been two deaths in two days in my circle - my SO's beloved 13 year old cat who was taken by gut lymphoma, and my friend's grandmother who succumbed to Covid-19 just today. There've been other deaths too, of frontliners here, and that, perhaps, influenced the poem (which I hope isn't appropriating or inappropriate because that would be bad.)

Love In A Time Of Corona

we’ll go to australia you said
we’ll count the oceans and i laughed
the moon outside our window
bright as the bat signal
make a wish on the moon love
you told me
make a wish
hold out your hands and hold the moon
and a day later you answered the call
(bat signal disguised
as a cellphone you
a superhero disguised
in mask and scrubs)
and now six weeks later
you’re gone without even the dignity  
of a farewell or a last kiss from me
(the virus gave you that)

when this grief is over
i’ll rise i’ll rise
but first let me hold the moon in my hands
and remember that when i woke when i slept
you were the first thing the last thing
imprinted on my eyes
and now you are gone
your imprint remains
set me as a seal upon your heart you said
on our wedding day
no no you are the seal
binding this box of memories
that holds within it
australia and all the oceans
of the world

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

GloPoWriMo Day 7: Welcome To America

Prompt: Today our prompt (optional, of course) is another oldie-but-goodie: a poem based on a news article. Frankly, I understand why you might be avoiding the news lately, but this is a good opportunity to find some “weird” and poetical news stories for inspiration. 

I really tried to find something hopeful to write about in the news. I wanted to (I'm not always an Angry Poet, I promise!) But after seeing some of my students in other countries posting about how they're afraid to go out now because they've been verbally assaulted and harrassed simply for being Asian, and reading a couple of news reports about the surge of racism going on - I got angry. Again.

I lived overseas for over a decade, and their experiences resonated even across the years.

I'll try not to be angry tomorrow.

This is the news article I used:


i was 22 in america when a veteran walking down the street screamed GO HOME YOU FUCKING JAP in my small college town (i am not japanese even though i have been mistaken for one even by japanese people // when i worked in a hospital years later japanese patients always addressed me in their native language and all i could do was smile and direct them to the interpreter's desk in rudimentary japanese)

23 when police stopped me at a gas station when i walked past because ‘there was a robbery earlier and the suspect was described as being short, and dressed in a green overcoat like yours’ (perhaps my hair marine-short and spiky made me look suspicious-bad-attitude-suspect i don’t know ((they let me go after the owner said no not this one – this one / what one / how many ones of us are there that look like me or do we all look the same to you / ahh that’s the answer  all asians look alike one / can be mistaken for the other no big deal they’re all the same))

the same year a trucker stopped beside me as i was walking home and asked HEY ARE YOU WORKING TONIGHT as if all asian girls walking in the evening are prostitutes and hookers not daughters or mothers or wives going home from work

the same summer the police trailed me as i walked the 2.5 miles to school in the blazing afternoon sun (if i were about to ply my trade afternoon would not be the time to do it / nor would a large backpack almost as big as my five-foot-frame be my choice of accessory) / they only stopped when i crossed the road into the university (do asian girls not walk at all unless we are soliciting customers / what do we do then if we need to go somewhere bicycle bus ((but the buses are non-existent here)) drive but what if we’re too poor to get a car / or fly)

welcome to america they tell you 
what they mean is / welcome to america so that in future
there is someone to blame
if something goes wrong (first the yellow peril now this virus / china is a country a people a virus
((all of asia is china so these virus-people should be eradicated))on immigration forms we are 'resident aliens'
not even the dignity of personhood
merely something foreign / another planet / to be conquered and subdued)

welcome to america (the scapegoats are here rejoice the whites will never
to take responsibility again / not when there are people of colour to blame to stone to kill)

but first (before the gunfire the media crucifixion the xenophobia)
appropriate everything of the culture and call it [trendy / new / amazing // choose your own adjectives]

glorify the [exotic looks / submissive women / anime / food // take your pick]
i am a cultural accessory dangling from lips and arms and twitter feeds instagram posts

here in malaysia where my ancestors settled they scream at us
but i have never been back to the village of my ancestors in guangzhou
(there would not be a home for me there either ((unmarried childless over forty / that’s what failures
are made of))

i am a virus but there were viruses before me
((that took over asian countries and people (my country my people too))
but instead of a virus named after country of origin
(people argue that coronavirus should be china virus after all)
it was named

(settle infect multiply take over in colonies)

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

GloPoWriMo Day 6: 'Hieronymous Bosch Painted Primarily On Oak Panels'

Prompt: Today’s (optional) prompt is ekphrastic in nature – but rather particular! Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem from the point of view of one person/animal/thing from Hieronymous Bosch’s famous (and famously bizarre) triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights. Whether you take the position of a twelve-legged clam, a narwhal with a cocktail olive speared on its horn, a man using an owl as a pool toy, or a backgammon board being carried through a crowd by a fish wearing a tambourine on its head, I hope that you find the experience deliriously amusing. And if the thought of speaking in the voice of a porcupine-as-painted-by-a-man-who-never-saw-one leaves you cold, perhaps you might write from the viewpoint of Bosch himself? Very little is known about him, so there’s plenty of room for invention, embroidery, and imagination.

Real life and illness decided to interfere with writing, so I'm missing 3 days which I'll catch up on eventually (or not). I happen to really love Hieronymus Bosch's work, but this was incredibly difficult to write because I was out of ideas as to what viewpoint I wanted. I eventually settled on writing from the perspective...of the oak panel that the work was painted on. An hour plus of research into historical painting techniques later, this is what emerged.

‘Hieronymus Bosch Painted Primarily On Oak Panels’
A Meditation on 'The Garden of Earthly Delights'

Chalk is a taste and so are colours –
Azurite, the copper taste of salt and sea and heaven, light as air
Malachite, copper-tanged like its sister Azurite but brighter
Bold as frog-skin, sharp as spring
Carmine, a musty, brittle intensity of crushed and dying insects
Ochre, cake-rich, earthy and thick as clay.
Oil, viscous and unctuous, swirled into pigments, seeping into cracks.
The master’s touch is deft. Gentle. Sweep by stroke by layer
The dark chalk underdrawings – the taste of dry dust and powder
Come alive on my surface -
I, this hewed oaken panel felled from a forest I will see no more
But perhaps relive through the master’s colours on my skin.
I taste. I feel. I rejoice in the sun that bathes this studio
The same sun that warmed me in the days
When leaves still grew on my branches
And the birds still sang.
Now they sing on my skin for eternity:
Flamboyant tattoos devised by the master
Outlandish, glorious, silent.