Thursday, October 25, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 24: Typographical Musings on Finnish

For the first time in my life, I've been grounded by the doctor, who not only took issue with my having gone into work at all today, but has vehemently issued an order that I stay at home and rest tomorrow for complete recovery (apparently I have a bad infection in my lungs and an equally bad inflamed throat, and the fact that I actually didn't even know, because I'm so used to working while feeling utterly crappy, is...kind of telling, really.)

So I'm about to go do just that, but I had to at least finish up today's poem. 'Opening' could mean a lot of things. I wanted to take it in a more serious direction, but then I got waylaid by Finnish, and it took me in a whole other ridiculous compass point away from serious (I learn Finnish in my spare time, because I want to read untranslated books and many of them that I really like are in Finnish. I'm also interested in hand lettering, calligraphy, and typography - part of it may be in the blood, as my father was a printer in the typesetting days before digital printing. But that's another story. )


‘Helvetica or Neue Haas Grotesk is a widely used sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedingerwith input from Eduard Hoffmann.

Like many neo-grotesque designs, Helvetica has narrow apertures, which limit its legibility onscreen and at small print sizes. It also has no visible difference between upper-case 'i' and lower-case 'L', although the number 1 is quite identifiable with its flag at top left.[26][27] Its tight, display-oriented spacing may also pose problems for legibility.’


Today I learn that the Finnish word for ‘world’ is maailma:
Maa, earth, ilma, air.
Ground. Sky.
Hell. Heaven.

Today I also learn that the Finnish word for ‘hell’ is helvetti,
Which is not a compound word like maailma
But one complete word unto itself.

Ergo: If  helvetti is hell, then Helvetica must be a close relative. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 23: Atomic Non-Blonde

Initially I was wondering what on earth I might be able to write with a prompt like 'See Me' - which is deceptively straightforward, but can be taken in a variety of different compass directions all faaaaaar far from magnetic north.

And then I watched this poignant, horrifying clip of Australian atomic veterans, men who had seen and experienced nuclear explosion close up during nuclear testing. One phrase just stopped me in my tracks, dug in, and wouldn't let go: "If I was looking at you now, I would see all your bones." The atomic flash had apparently illuminated all the bones in their hands as they covered their eyes with their fingers. They all agreed that none of them wished to experience that ever again, as much as it was something utterly extraordinary.

I couldn't help thinking how terrifyingly vulnerable that must have felt - to have your skeleton laid bare by just a flash of light and a wall of heat passing through your body.

And thus, my macabre take on the prompt. (Yes, pun on the title - I am decidedly non-blonde even if I've experimented with it in more unfortunate moments, and this is very much literally atomic.)

For the Greyhound

“If I was looking at you now, I would see all your bones.” – David Hemsley, atomic veteran

You’ve seen all my bones. Atomic flash, a revelation of skeleton and skin, the light places, the dark places, you’ve seen them all. The zombie kraken. The eldritch horrors buried in the Mariana Trench of my subconscious, the green-eyed envy-eels and depression-wyrms that slither out slit-eyed and soul-hungry. I’ve seen it all, there is no more to see, Bjork sings, but she’s wrong. Something always cracks the ‘no more’ barrier, oozing through hairline fissures. There. You see me, dissected on the table, a most un-model alien specimen, flaps of skin peeled back to reveal soft tissue and bone, neatly labelled - ‘tibia’, ‘patella’, ‘brain’, ‘undecipherable thought pattern’, ‘strange matter’. Go deeper. Under the bone is where the skeleton of my thoughts lie. Under the neural networks and firing synapses are the nameless things, the godknowswhats that define one moment more than the next, one specific place over another , this man from that man, which to run from, which to stay with, which wrong word spills out two seconds from ‘I love you’. Atomic flash. Skeleton and skin, light, dark. You’ve seen them all.

A stone. A star. Flash.
Your breath, earth-warm, beside me.
I give you my bones.

OctPoWriMo Day 22: 'Zia's Nine. She Refuses To Sleep Without A Night Light, Says There Are Monsters. Oh No, We Didn't Install One. My Husband Said She Was Just Being Silly.'

I've read palindromes, but I've never attempted one until today. 'Betrayal' as a theme encompasses a lot of stuff, but I couldn't help thinking about what happens when protectors betray the ones under their charge.

What happens when home - the safest place a child should have - becomes a nightmare, because there is a human monster lurking about?

This is far from the best palindrome, but the thoughts wouldn't go away, so I wrote it, and decency be damned. Sexual abuse of children happens in the home far too often, and it NEEDS to be addressed.


Here be monsters
Always. But Mummy says there are none.
Door opens. Monster eyes. Daddy’s face. Daddy’s
Dark like monsters.
Must I? Yes, says Daddy.
Daddy says Yes I must.
Monsters like dark.
Daddy’s face, Daddy’s eyes. Monster opens door.
None are there, says Mummy. But always
Monsters be here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 21: The Littlest Time Lord Contemplates Laws of Attraction

I don't think I did today's prompt much justice, but a migraine stopped over to visit and pound my head to smithereens with a sledgehammer. 

I wasn't much for for anything after that, so this is the best I could come up with.


Synapses: around 0.5*ms per synapse per complicated thought.
Thoughts: generated and acted on in less than 150ms.
One thought: multiple neuron networks.

60 seconds into the future is as far as I can see or think.
We’re orbiting bodies, satellites, planet-moon gravity-joined at the hip
Navigating asteroid belts. How will I know? Know what? I don’t know.
60 seconds to lift off, 60 seconds to find out if we crash or we burn.
60 seconds, maybe less, to figure out us. If we make. If we break.

I don’t know. I don’t know any more other than
We’re orbiting bodies, satellites, planet-moon gravity-joined at the hip
Navigating asteroid belts called 'attraction'.

I’ve tiny hands. They’ll fit into the palm of yours
With room to spare.
Long orbit ahead. I’m game if you are.

*ms: milliseconds, ie: 0.5ms = 0.0005 seconds

Sunday, October 21, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 20: Threnody

I thought over today's prompt - 'Time stands still' - on the bus the entire way home. It had the potential to go in a lot of directions, it's a fantastic prompt, but my mind latched onto a) Kitty Mao, the pregnant stray cat living downstairs who's adopted me, who's about to have her kittens in maybe 3 weeks' time b) my friends who have had miscarriages.

I also wanted to do a Minute Poem as well, but the Loop Poem Variant seemed to fit subject matter and the flow a lot better, so I went with that instead. 


[Threnody]: A wailing ode, song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person.


If I could freeze time -
time it precisely with the tip of a finger
finger-dial like a rotary telephone, all the way back -
back to the day they carved
carved dead life from my womb.
Womb-dead. They said -
said I could never conceive another child.

Child. My cat births her kittens in a squall of blood.
Blood, afterbirth, life. These squalling lumps,
lumps of knitted cells stitched together by fur
fur licked slick-wet, thin piercing mewls
mewls carving the air into furrows
furrows like womb scars. If I could –

could freeze time, time it precisely with the tip of a finger
finger-dial like a rotary telephone, all the way back –
back to the day they carved
carved dead life from my womb, to exchange -
exchange these squalling lumps,
lumps of life, for those pieces
pieces of you, of me, crusted and dead, on the glittering,
glittering razor edge of a cold, aloof scalpel.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 19: Dear Men Who Keep Asking Women 'What Do You Want' And Never Listen To The Answers

I don't apologize for being caustic or blistering today. I've had enough gas-lighting, emotional/verbal abuse, condescension, and mansplaining in my life to know how destructive it is, and that many men seem to keep asking, but never listen to the answers. So. Here it is. Blunt, no mincing of words.


What do you want
       you to stop
       trapping my body with:
       your eyes
       your hands
       your words
       your smug assumptions
       and expectations
       on *[how I should behave]
       [how I should conduct myself]
       [what career is fit for me]
       [how my body should be regulated]

So what do you want
       you to stop
       treating me as territory
       to be *[conquered]
       [staked out]
       [put into proper place]
       (*replace with [word] as necessary)

       to have flags sunk into me
       flying labels you’ve imposed
       incompetent weak slut bitch ugly
       because you are Omnipotent Man
       who surely must know my body and needs
       better than myself who has lived in it
       since birth
No really what do you want

Friday, October 19, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 18: (Throwback) The Love Song of Ms Mary Modern

The prompt for today also dredged up something I'd written ages ago - a modern nursery rhyme/fairy tale, as it were, that was a take on 'Mary Mary Quite Contrary', and what might a modern little girl might think about.

I turned it into a song for a performance at a jazz bar, and it's below, if you're interested:


Mary Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow
With silver bells and cockle shells
And Cadillac dreams
And pretty bridesmaids all in a row

There’s a buried star from that boy in college
Who broke your heart and left you just for fun
So you gathered all the pieces up
A coat of scars, a patchwork plaque
To shield your heart from further indiscretions

Here’s a withered tree in the corner
That once reached for the sky with dreams of travel, of adventure
If money was no object – but it was
And that was that
So now it droops there, not quite forgotten

Oh Mary Mary quite contrary
When her heart is breaking you will never know
'Cause she hides it so well, she’ll never tell
Silence is her lover
She just waters all her dreams with her tears

Leave it behind Mary, leave it behind
Regrets of yesterday can’t be undone
The only thing that keeps you strong is castles in the air
Always ‘if’, always ‘maybe’, never ‘when’

Mary Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow
With silver bells and cockle shells
And Cadillac dreams
And pretty bridesmaids all in a row
Yes, your pretty bridesmaids all in a row
Oh, your pretty dreams all in a row

OctPoWriMo Day 18: Pearl Necklace

I had a surprising amount of trouble with this prompt. Who'd have thought that 'Once Upon A Time' would be so difficult?

Then Jane, wonderful Jane, suggested taking a character in a myth and writing about them, and an old, old idea I'd played about with several years ago resurfaced, and things went from there.

The original fairy tales - Mother Goose, the Brothers Grimm, and even Hans Christian Anderson - all had some rather grim endings that were sanitized for public consumption.

I have to admit, I took great guilty pleasure in unsanitizing this one.


Blue, blue, water so blue
Water as blue as your eyes, my dear
Water as blue as your eyes.

I wear a pretty necklace, my dear
Shining silver and pearls so blue
Pearls as blue as your eyes.

I loved you with all my heart, my dear
Your hair so silver and eyes so blue
Your eyes as blue as the water.

You pulled out my heart and ate it, my dear
You broke my bones and left me to wither
Dried up, like the child that leaked from my womb
Spilling life over your fists and my gown.

You lived with mirrors for eyes, my dear.
You wouldn’t see, you couldn’t see
You couldn’t see me at all.

How could you, when your beauty, my dear
Filled up your mind – your pretty mind
Until there was no room for me?

Blue, blue, water so blue
Water as blue as your eyes, my dear
Water as blue as your eyes.

I wear a pretty necklace, my dear
Shining silver and pearls so blue
Pearls as blue as your eyes, my dear
These pearls that were your eyes.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 17: Definitions

I had a bit of trouble with today's prompt, less with the three variants of it, and more with defining madness. I've had (and still have) my share of mental health issues I'm working my way through, so I'm very familiar with dark sides and the feel of everything spiralling out of control.

What came to mind instead, after a good long think on the way back from choral rehearsals tonight, was a different sort of madness - one that many fellow singers and performers are very familiar with: The Saga of Dressing For The Occasion and the pressure-come-stress of it all (for those who aren't so familiar, most performers have so much black clothing in their wardrobe they could build a black hole. That's because more than half the performances they do require them to wear formal black.)

Here's my not-so-tongue-in-cheek take on the prompt (not-so, because of the underlying expectations and perceptions that necessitate the whole situation to begin with), in the pseudo-style of illustrated dictionary definitions.



Annual clothing sales are of the devil.
(So are major choral conducting events which necessitate
attendance at said annual clothing sales
in search of the next perfect black jacket or black pants or whatever else
the event has decreed but that’s another story.)

Or rather, all the Outfits You Cannot Afford are suddenly
somewhat within range of covetousness 
(covetousness is a sin. Especially when the black outfits in your wardrobe
have inexplicably taken over and multiplied like trolls on social media.
That's why clothing sales are of the devil.)

And then there’s that One. Perfect. Black. Outfit --


-- except it’s a size and a half smaller than is comfortable.
Do you really want to hold your breath
for a few hours on end?
No you do not. You really do not.

Parisian chic and sophisticated style aren’t substitutes
for oxygen, breathing, or turning purple in the face
trying not to give a demonstration of Exploding Seams
in the middle of conducting Camina Burana. Or Gilbert and Sullivan
(even though it would fit in the latter world quite well.)

But. It makes you look tall (at five foot nothing, that’s important.)

But. It’s slimming (of course it is, when your innards are compressed
to the width of a noodle and your ribs have migrated down
to your hipbones which have migrated
down to your knees and your stomach
is now located somewhere in your esophagus).

But it’s that One. Perfect. Black. Outfit --


-- So come that day you hook yourself up to an oxygen pack strapped around one thigh
like a concealed gun and holster, and arm yourself (and your students)
with old-fashioned smelling salts (those Victorians did know a thing or two)
and strict instructions on how to proceed if you
turn purple in the face and gracefully buckle like a tottering swan
in 4-inch heels –

but hey! At least you’ll be dressed in the pink of
Parisian chic and sophisticated style

Because it’s that  One. Perfect. Black. Outfit
(even though it’s a size and a half too small and you
are going to need to be inflated with a balloon pump
later on)

and even mere choral conductors
aren't immune from wanting to look glamorous
(even when passed out on the floor.)