So Long, NaPoWriMo

blue chicago 2

National Poetry Writing Month is at an end. My inspiration for today’s poem is a prompt from April 26th, which challenged us to respond to an “almanac questionnaire” and write a poem based on our responses.

Almanac – Spring 2020

by Jan Brown

The mayor is angry again, and her ire
will not land lightly on the masses–
those uncivilized civilians
who amass in the sunless park
sans social distance. How very long
it has taken us to come together!

And what a sense of timing.

Our bungalows stand proud
behind rows of crocus, indestructible hosta
and evergreen shrubs. Down the street,
an American shorthair hunts
for the missing betta fish
who committed suicide overnight.

Was his bowl too small, or was he
just a badass jumper?

Our elderly neighbor also passed
last night. She used to sew
dresses for proms and quinceaneras,
fantasy laden gowns for hopeful girls.
But there are no celebrations now.
No dream dresses this year.

This year, she crafted face masks
from the sparkly scraps of the past.

No one believes in Prince Charming
anymore. No man can save us
except Dr. Fauci.

Across the berm, freight cars stand
silent sentry, but do not stop the artist
who plies his trade across the stranded steel.
They pause, perhaps with stocks of PPE
more valuable than gold. I wonder
if the painter senses precious cargo.

Or do they carry caskets assembled
in haste by overwhelmed carpenters,
artisans, factory technicians, precision
robots, worn out and weary?

Sunday drives alone–sixty miles
to fields of corn and soybeans
exuding rays of quixotic hope,
longing to be transformed into fuel
or exported to faraway kitchen tables
and faceless factories.

Will we really need more ethanol to fuel
Sunday drives on lonely highways?

Dusk falls with a silvered mist, nearly
indistinguishable from our dreary day
were it not for a sliver of moon.
Police disburse anti-social non-distancers
to the various communities,
corners and crevices whence they came.

Hoping they can be drunk and disordered
at home like the rest of us.

Home. Once a haven.
Will anyone ever sleep again?
Ironically, we warm to cool blue
nightlights–TV pictures of a skyline
grateful to those who
keep it lit.

Looking for peace, hope
and love wherever
we can find it.

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#LightItBlue – Landmarks lit in honor of essential workers

#LightItBlue – Slide show of Chicago buildings lit to honor essential workers

NaPoWriMo 2020 – Day 5

Our prompt today is based on Jim Simmerman’s “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” a set of twenty instructions to construct a fantastic poem. I’m not sure this poem is all that fantastic, but it was interesting to write. It reflects my current dystopian view of the world. Every day, I read the news and feel as though I am watching a poorly directed sci-fi movie, in which the starring actors are untalented amateurs. I wonder what the future holds.

bean jude joshua pix

Summer 2020

by Jan Brown

The cool streets of Chicago are as quiet as an old English village.

No offense to English villages. I love England. Except that my ancestors emigrated to the colonies 300 years ago to get as far away from England as they could.

Except for that, I love England. Nuthin’ but love for ya, Your Majesty.

On Michigan Avenue at Adams Street, the listless lions that guard the Art Institute are silent at night. Black wreaths surround their majestic necks in memoriam to the fallen.

In the heat of summer days, they prowl Grant Park to keep the baseball diamond empty and the band shell silent.

The lions are not enough.

Restless suburbanites drive to the city. They take family photos in Millennium Park to share with envious followers on Instagram. They stand in front of The Bean and snap each other’s reflections.

They stand only three feet away from the next clump of tourists. Chacun a son gou. Whatever floats your boat.

They’ve heard the stories. They don’t believe.

The Bean bends down and envelops them, gobbles them up.

Tourists and teenagers. Men and women. The Bean doesn’t discriminate.

Is it genetic engineering? Or just natural selection? Okay, artificial selection. Either way, the human race will improve if stupid people don’t wander among us, reproducing at will.

But…this is not how we imagined our species would evolve.

We are told to go nowhere. But fit humans are everywhere, walking, jogging, biking, skateboarding.

The joggers are persistent. They run half the length of the city, through once-busy streets and officially-closed walking paths. Once they run through “the wall,” they taste the sweetness of success, the saltiness of their sweat. They feel invincible.

Until they feel the sweat of the next jogger spray their bare skin. Their maskless face.

The Bowman and The Spearman come down from their granite pedestals at the entrance to Grant Park and gallop along the paths packed with walkers and joggers and bikers and skateboarders.

Their majestic horses rear up on back legs, challenging the nearness of invading humans.

The Bowman and The Spearman lived here long before the colonists. They lived in harmony with the land, cultivating and caring for it without need of ownership.

The colonists brought diseases, racism and cruelty. Centuries later, they are still bringing it.

Their horses don’t like to be crowded.

They will trample the dim-witted humans.

The cries of the fallen will pierce the silence. They will scream in electric colors that cover the jogging path in chaos.

Jan will perform triage, tagging each fallen jogger with plastic triangles: green, yellow or black.

She doesn’t like the black ones.

The ozone layer is melting over the city. If we venture out, we confront the smog, the plague or the angry icons of our disappearing culture.

Which will we choose?

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Image by Jude Joshua from Pixabay

Lenten Series – Light

Photo: Stephen Hyatt. Source: thechurchesoftheworld.com

Our theme this week is light, or more accurately, light and darkness. In nature and in life, we have both. In our lives, we strive to keep the darkness at bay: love and loss, success and failure, wealth and poverty, friendship and loneliness, health and sickness. It is difficult to walk in the light when we experience obstacles that hurl us into the unknown.

I thought back to this prose poem I wrote in a 2015 blog post in memory of the slain members of Mother Emanuel AME Church. The horrific nature of the crime, the mass murder of a prayer group in a historic church, was so shocking that it broke the hearts of people across the nation, people who had never been to the church or known the victims, people thousands of miles away. We were hurled into the darkness. Yet those closest to the tragedy, the families of those whose lives were lost, carried the light. 

At the bond hearing for the shooter, the families were allowed to testify. They all expressed compassion for the young man. Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of one of the victims, spoke directly to the shooter, saying, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love. Hate won’t win.” (Source: NBCNews.com)

Carrying the Light
by Jan Brown

Why do churches have such lovely chandeliers? Perhaps…


To remind us there is something irresistibly beautiful, something higher and more permanent than our imperfect selves.


To remind us of the beauty that can shine from just one beacon, even in a world otherwise devoid of light.


To focus the still-bright light of our lost loved ones, so that we will not flounder in the dark.


To infuse love, the kind of love that shines on every living being, the kind of love that will never falter, never flicker out, never discriminate and never be darkened, no matter how deep the night.

Reverie

NaPoWriMo Day 29: We are challenged to write a poem in which each line starts with “I remember.” We’re asked to focus on specific details, and not whether the memories are of important events, or are connected to each other. 

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I remember the youth group, our trip to Vermont. At night, we listened to comedy albums, back when we thought Bill Cosby was still a good person.

I remember the concerts, astounding acoustics for our college choir. Drinks at the Yacht Club (which had no yachts, and no body of water) before…and after.

I remember the Artist’s Café, the heady lunches in late afternoon.

I remember spring break. We got married.

I remember the move to Wisconsin, the blizzard with snow so deep only snowmobiles could traverse. No power or water—only the cheese shop was open.

I remember Main Place, the Saturday brunches that lasted till the bar closed Sunday morning.

I remember dinners with John at the Inn, Friday night fish fries and dance bands.

I remember the trips to Arkansas–warm, sunny Christmases and barbequed goat on New Year’s.

I remember Summerfest and 70’s music.

I remember the divorce.

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Backwards in Time

It’s National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo), and I’m completing a challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days. Today, I am combining the daily poetry prompt with the Friday Fictioneers’ photo prompt. The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem that tells a story…but tells it backward. Thus, the first line of the poem is the end of the story. As I see it, I have four challenges: make it poetic; make it tell a story with a beginning, middle and end; make it work whether it is read forward or backward, and keep it to 100 words. You can let me know if I succeeded in the comments!

For more information on Friday Fictioneers, or to post your own story, please visit our lovely leader’s website, author Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Addicted to Purple.

antique store mary shipman

Photo copyright: Mary Shipman

 

The nightmare ended as quickly as it began

She turned to watch her pursuer vanish in a cloud of dust

Dazed, she ran through the doorway into the mall

His face red with rage

He turned to look at her in her flimsy sundress

His harsh words echoed through the rafters

Hyper-religious

Hypocritical

Brutal

He reminded her of her grandfather

A man in Victorian dress berated a young clerk

Dizziness overcame her

Sun peeked through high windows, reflected off dust motes

The walls were as faded and stained as the wares

The antique store looked like a portal in time

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To read more Friday Fictioneers’ stories, click the link: 

How to Grow Old Gracefully

Here is another tale in the oh-so-ironic “How To” series for Friday Fictioneers. This one is in the form of a prose poem.

The photo prompt this week is courtesy of Emmy L. Gant. It reminds me of an old building or row house, and it put me in mind of my own 100 year old house. Sadly, the condition of my house seems to mirror my own rapidly aging bones–or is it vice versa?

Friday Fictioneers is a lively and friendly international writing community. Between Wednesday and Friday of every week, we each post a 100-word story to share. To learn more about Friday Fictioneers, or to post your own story, please visit our lovely leader’s website, author Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Addicted to Purple.

emmy l gant

Photo Copyright: Emmy L. Gant

How to Grow Old Gracefully

by Jan Brown

This house has no more dreams. There are only distant hopes, painful yearnings and blood-chilled fear.

…the fear of growing old.

The piano plays no complete songs. It is dusty, like my vocal cords. Two shallow breaths, a hoarse wheeze, to sing half a measure.

…the silence of my voice.

There are fragments of poetry in the corners. I pull them out with cobwebs. Piece them together clumsily.

…the frailty of my muse.

Etchings line the walls, crucified on wires and nails. My soul is searing in artists’ shades of molten gold and cutting crimson.

…the color of my pain.

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To read more Fictioneers’ stories, click the link:

Carrying the Light

I’m late with my Friday Fictioneers contribution this week. The photo prompt, as some of you may know, is published Wednesday morning. I contemplated the ornate light fixture in the photo and copied it onto my hard drive, as usual.

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The photo reminded me of some lovely chandeliers I’ve seen in churches, but I had no idea what to write.

That night, I procrastinated and scrolled through my twitter feed instead of writing. I came across breaking stories from various news media and was horrified to learn of the vicious hate crime in Charleston, a mass shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The cold-hearted shooting of a church prayer group…how do we reconcile the irony, the inhumanity?

The historic status of the church and its founder, Denmark Vesey, was mentioned in the first two articles I read. This church has suffered unthinkable losses in the past. The church was founded in 1816 by black congregants who left their predominantly white churches over issues of discrimination. It was burned down in 1822 when its pastor was convicted of planning a slave revolt. When the laws of that era prohibited all-black churches, the members had to meet in secret. The church survived all of this and was rebuilt at the end of the civil war, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1886. In the twentieth century, the church was the site of seminal civil rights speeches and demonstrations, including a mass arrest of more than 900 protesters in 1969.

Now they have suffered more unthinkable losses. As I read the articles and watched the news videos, two questions gnawed at me: 1) Why are we the only advanced nation to have mass shootings on a seemingly regular, if not frequent, basis; and 2) Why, in a country that has the most ethnically diverse population of any country on Earth, do we still have racial hatred? The answer to the first question is fairly obvious.  The answer to the second is so complex as to be incomprehensible, but I’m sure we’ll hear many sociologists, psychologists, journalists, pundits and random internet trolls try to break it down for us in the coming days/weeks/months.  I welcome that discussion with open ears.

Meanwhile, the only answer I have is love.

I try to wrap my head around the so-incredible level of love and forgiveness displayed by the families of the victims at the shooter’s bond hearing. No one said it better than Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of one of the victims. She spoke directly to the shooter, saying, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love. Hate won’t win.” (Source: NBCNews.com)

Mother Emanuel will be open for Sunday services today. The light they carry into the world is witness to God’s love and to our human potential to love, rather than hurt, each other.  I hope my little poem reflects that light.

Photo by Stephen Hyatt http://photos.thechurchesoftheworld.com/Charleston-SC-Churches/Mother-Emanuel-AME/

Photo by Stephen Hyatt
Source: photos/thechurchesoftheworld.com

Carrying the Light

by Jan Brown

Why do churches have such lovely chandeliers? Perhaps…

To remind us there is something irresistibly beautiful, something higher and more permanent than our imperfect selves.

To remind us of the beauty that can shine from just one beacon, even in a world otherwise devoid of light.

To focus the still-bright light of  our lost loved ones, so that we will not flounder in the dark.

To infuse love, the kind of love that shines on every living being, the kind of love that will never falter, never flicker out, never discriminate and never be darkened, no matter how deep the night.

shooting victims

Source: NBCNews.com

Mother Emanuel’s light shines now, this very moment. I pray that everyone will let it in.

Amen.

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Friday Fictioneers is a lovely community of writers from around the world. My blog this week was a departure from the usual form. Normally we post 100-word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. To read more stories of every conceivable genre, or to post your own, click here.

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O’Reilly – NaPoWriMo Day 12

Abstract alphabet

A couple days ago, when I was busy writing haiku and thinking about my taxes, the NaPoWriMo challenge was to write an abecedarian poem. Today I am answering that challenge. Is it also a prose poem? Possibly! Hope you enjoy it!

O’Reilly

by Jan Brown

As I pause the news to plop some
butter on my frozen diet meal, I wonder:
can Fox really be called “News”?
Does anyone watch this shit sober? Bill makes it seem so
effortless to be a
flaming asshole. He just doesn’t
get it.
How did he grow so bitter?
I wish he could acknowledge that
just because a family is poor, they’re not the enemy. He must
know that democracy will not fail if we
let people have basic human rights. And he
must know that liberty is for all,
not just the rich.
Oh, Bill, you cantankerous
prick!
Quick, hand me a Zoloft so I can watch the
rest of this moral quagmire they call a
show.  I think I just agreed with him on a
talking point. I must be hallucinating.
Usually, at this point in the “show,” I am
very worried about his health.
What did they replace his heart with, to turn him into a
xenophobic blockhead?
Yes, they fucked with his brain as well. As to mine…where’s the damn
Zoloft?

Lost and Found

Day 19 – National Poetry Month

I’m doing a little catch-up here! The challenge for April 19th is to write a personal ad or other type of ad that might appear in a newspaper or other media. 

By the way, if you find this item, please let me know 🙂

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Lost/Stolen

Heart, size XL.  May seem confused. If found, please handle gently.  May turn into mush at first touch. Whispered promises of love may cause cloying neediness. Big fat lies likely to cause breakage, bleeding and public retaliation. Return to owner as soon as possible to avoid unwanted bonding or attachment.

What a Drag

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, when writers from around the world post 100-word stories based on a photo prompt provided on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog.  This week’s photo is by David Stewart, and it is full of intrigue. The sculpture makes a very powerful statement about human interaction.

You can read other Friday Fictioneers’ work by clicking the link that appears below my story.

Copyright David Stewart

What a Drag

by Jan Brown

The harder he struggled, the more she dragged him down.

She latched onto him like quicksand.

He paused too long, allowing pure physical attraction to get a momentary edge. She convinced him there was a difference between temptation and addiction, between enjoyment and overindulgence, between a drink and a drunk.

She said she wanted love. What she really wanted was a place to stay, an endless wallet, an ardent admirer, a defender of all her misdeeds. She needed a comrade, a cohort, a co-dependent.

She latched onto him like quicksand.

The harder he struggled, the more she dragged him down.

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