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.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

OctPoWriMo Day 16: Love Song

I am not good with poetic forms. This is most likely because I wasn't introduced to them early enough in my life to be comfortable with them, and I managed to miss any classes in college that might have taught me something about them.

So. Today. Terzanelle.

I almost gave up on this one after metaphorically throwing it across the room more than a dozen times, starting at Line 1. The intrepid and wonderful Jane Dougherty, whose poems I am in awe of, suggested listening to the rhythm instead of trying to beat it into submission with a wet noodle and an excited corgi - and that really helped a lot. Rhythm I can grok - I'm a musician, rhythm is part of my life.

So after much potato-ness, brain going on a tangent mixing up symbiotes with 'Catch me when I fall' (yes, Venom), and dozens of snarly fits later, this is my Terzanelle of Doom.

It's a good thing I have an amazingly supportive unconventional SO. Not everyone'd be thrilled at being called a symbiote host - even one not named Eddie Brock (he is definitely the Better Half of the pair of us. Me? I'd bite off heads without the slightest provocation if I had my way of dealing with Idjits).

For the Greyhound

Symbiote. You and I
Know each other too well.
Symbiote: you and I

Co-exist. Heaven. Hell.
Either happens when we
Know each other too well:

What should be said softly
Is shouted. Faerie light
Either happens when we   

Dream it, or make it. The night
Eats me. What should be soft
Is shouted. Faerie light?

Maybe. Hold me aloft.
I’m your Venom. Darkness
Eats me. What should be soft

Isn’t. You light my blackness.
I’m your Venom. Darkness.
Symbiote? You and I?
Symbiote - You and I.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

OctPoWriMo 2018 Day 15: The Restorers

Today's theme, of something being an umbrella, was a lot of food for thought. I know it was supposed to be a 10 minute write, but I thought about it all afternoon because so many things can be both literal and metaphorical umbrellas (garbage bags, friends, all those things.)

For some reason the image of an umbrella being imperfect, leaky shelter in a storm kept churning about in my brain, and then in floated another image, of a mother who, imperfect as she is, protects her child like an umbrella until they can stand for themselves - and then the metaphor sort of gradually extended itself and turned into this.

In honour, love, and gratitude to all the different people who have been my forest of hands over so many years in the difficult seasons of my life.


let me fix you he said
and took me apart      
p i         ec   e        s
saboteur masquerading
as mechanic

a nut a wheel a bolt
one piece at a time
different hands
joined me together again
made of my cracks a kintsugi mosaic

a forest of hands
               over hands
                       over hands
both near        
                and        far
forming over me
an imperfect umbrella
until each mended crack was dry
until I could stand whole
and build for myself
a shield

Monday, October 15, 2018

OctPoWriMo 2018 Day 14: Mirror Mirror

So today, the suggested form was a shaped poem, and the theme was, If I Were Me.

Shaped, fine, shaped on the computer? Maaaaaybe not, I don't have the patience.

So I wrote the thing first, and shaped it the way I know best - with hand lettering. Poem included below, because it's not really legible without it (and that's bad design, I know, but.) You'll have to click on the picture itself to enlarge it because my HTML-fu isn't good enough to alter the sidebar widths so the large picture shows properly.

caged with words
corseted by expectations
you’re a nail to be hammered down they said
the ash from burnt garbage
a pigeon pecking the ground watching eagles soar

until the mirror showed me
not a nail but a sword
not ash but inferno
not a pigeon but a phoenix

Sunday, October 14, 2018

OctPoWriMo 2018 Day 13: Un-Inspire

I've been told so many times that because my students aren't all championship students, I am a shit teacher. That unless they're always winning and being top of their class and top of their competitions, that they're pretty much useless and I'm even more useless because I can't even do a simple thing like making them win. 'We pay you to teach. We expect results.' Straw, camel's back much? 

The Blitz poem would've been super-fun to try, except tonight my brain is so tired it isn't working at all. So this is a prose poem, slam poet Bill Moran style.


every day someone posts some inspirational shit on social media and every day I want to shove those stories down their throats and shout STOP TRYING TO INSPIRE ME DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE KILLING ME INSTEAD

(i measure out my life in spoons ((coffee tea sugar teaspoon tablespoon it doesn’t matter)) no that’s not right

i measure out my life in lack of spoons
 i am a spoon that folds in on itself and vanishes
all i have left are knives)

(good teachers produce A students championship winners you don’t so you’re a shit teacher don’tcha know ((why must A equate success why / can’t B or C or D be equally as good because not everyone starts from A some start from X and climbing up to V is Mission Impossible with the theme song blaring only you don’t know if it’s gonna be pass or fail so why / isn’t that something to celebrate isn’t that something to teach students that it’s ok not to be the top  that mediocre isn’t bad that they aren’t defined by numbers and letters but by name their own secret name)) to name a thing gives it power gives it existence) why won’t we give them power give ourselves power how does one stop the world so we can all



runrunrunrunrun BE PERFECT runrunrun YOUGOTTABE A STAAAAAAR
what if I’m just a pigeon with tinsel twisted around grubby feathers

s p a r k l e

Saturday, October 13, 2018

OctPoWriMo 2018 Day 12: Legacies

Today's theme was to explore how the feeling of being 'tortured' was a necessary part of love, and of growth in a relationship.

As usual, my brain decided to go off the beaten path, especially after reading this article on the outcast Vietnamese children of American soldiers - bui doi - left behind in the war, and the brutal impact on their lives. 

Bui doi means, literally, 'dust of life'. Dust. No dignity, worth nothing.

What happens when love means knowingly embracing a minefield that could blow at any time?


We always cut her hair so it stays short. So it doesn’t curl.
She’s never known what it’s like to have long hair like her sister.
She asks, but we tell her, don’t ask questions.
She’s a good girl. She studies hard.
Even then she comes home crying.
*Mẹ, mẹ, they threw stones at me again.
Why are they so mean to me, mẹ?

I can’t tell her they hate her because she is different
That her face gives her away.
That her skin is dark and her hair is curly
Because her father was an American soldier.

That her mother didn’t want her.

I wipe her tears away and tell her, they are just jealous.
Jealous of her long limbs and round eyes.
Jealous of how quickly she learns.

Bui doi don’t choose their face, their hair, their skin
Any more than they choose
To have their worth stripped away
Before they’re even born.

Every night, I watch her eight year old body curled up in bed with her sister
Her sister with long straight hair and a Vietnamese face.
One terrible day she will ask, and someone will tell her the truth.

I am terrified.

*Mẹ: ‘Mother’ in Vietnamese.

Friday, October 12, 2018

OctPoWriMo 2018 Day 11: Sub-Zero

I fell off the bandwagon. Badly. Internet outage, work stress, physically not well - no spoons left, down to knives only, and I was pretty much about to give up altogether because I just couldn't catch up.

I gave it one last shot to see if I could write anything today, after days of complete brain-blank. It came out as an absolutely lousy cascade. Maybe I'll try to catch up on the missing week in the next few days, if I can. I am also being reminded to try and be kind to me, when I'm totally out of spoons and depressed so p'raps I might not get around to all of them (and I feel guilty about even THAT.)


i’m an ocean no i’m a lake no not a lake a puddle
i’m a puddle in a rut muddy puddle muddy rut
i vaporize i rise i dry i vanish and the sun eats me

i have no substance no form i beat invisible fists
against apathetic air i have no voice i am a hole in the world
(i’m an ocean no i’m a lake no not a lake a puddle)

i condense i freeze i fall i am contained in a drop of rain
no i am split scattered i am rain falling down into the cracks
i’m a puddle in a rut muddy puddle muddy rut

i am rain i am pieces of rain i fall into the cracks of my life i disappear
(below ground it’s sub-zero hell froze me over)
i vaporize i rise i dry i vanish and the sun



Friday, October 05, 2018

OctPoWriMo 2018 Day 4: Three Caged Species of Exotic Animal

Today's prompt was 'Strange Animals', and the mention of Gerald Durrell and his delightful book 'My Family and Other Animals' made me squee with joy. I love Durrell; his writing is wonderful and evocative and witty, and I felt sure I'd have a whale of a time (pun intentional) with the writing today.

Except I didn't. Because things, as always, took a left fork into the middle of Unexpected Territory, and the piece came out nothing like what I envisioned. I didn't want to write it, I swear, but one thing I've learned (resignedly) is that my brain will churn out what it churns out and I don't have a say in the matter.

Here goes nothing.


Filipino Maid in Kuala Lumpur

ma’am is in a bad mood tonight
she come home start shouting
at dinner she get mad again
throw the plate on the table

i think of my children in manila
they ask nay when you coming home
i say i don’t know nak

ma’am has my passport
she say she keep so i cannot run away
she keep my money too

malaysia is very far from manila
i wish i could swim
so far

Thai Bride in Belgium

She loved him. She wanted a better life.
Both these things are not mutually exclusive.
Dating website. Six months.
He said he loved her. That’s all she needed.

She loved him. She wore long sleeves and long skirts
To hide the marks he left after his jealous rages.
She told herself it’s ok, it’s ok as he
Checked her phone every night
For signs of infidelity. Vetted her emails.
Built her a locked cage called Marriage.

Five years and she could divorce him if she chose
But it’s only two this June.
They can deport her now if she leaves.
He says he loves her. She believes him still
Makes excuses for his abuse.
She can’t go back to Thailand. She won’t go back.
Everything has its price. She’ll pay hers
In  makeup carefully masking bruises and black eyes
Clothes that cover her skin
And silence.

Exotic Dancer in Florida

Money for college.That’s what I think about.

Money, as I pluck this sequinned hell off my body
Money, as I flash my tits to dead-eyed dicks with beers in their hand and tents in their pants
Money, as I gyrate my hips and think of anything else but this damn claustrophobic club and these hideous lights and this bloody pole and this zoo of eyes watching like I’m some damn species of pussy in a cage

It’s ok on the best of days, downright degrading on the worst but hell –
It pays the bills.

Sure, there are other jobs. Better ones with less shitty bosses even.
They don’t pay half as well as one good night here though.
What a joke innit – being tied to a pole by debt.
I’d laugh but it’s true.
Anyway, Annie’s done  and I’m up next.

Time to go make money.