Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Thin Ice

This Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: preparation, tic-tac-toe, splurge, auction block, the bitter end, milk, papyrus, when the parade passes by, bill of lading, stone wall

Mini Challenge: polar bear, 20 seconds, get it together, spasmodic, antiquity

On Thin Ice

This week’s mini challenge:

A polar bear’s plea. Get it together. Please. In the blink of an eye, 20 seconds in earth’s deep time, a spasmodic twitch in the millennia of visible life, all of antiquity could be lost. And this beautiful teeming blue planet would become oh so lonely. Listen. As the ice groans .

Ice melting

Here’s my 10 word offering:

I would stand by her til the bitter end. But tonight, I could swear that time is drawing near.

First I heard of the Ancient Egyptian Magazine Project was when Bridget, a classmate, quietly stacked a pile of index cards one inch high onto the dinner table. My sloppy copy, she explained. Oh, is there a project coming due? Yeah, mom, don’t worry, I have it under control. Turns out it’s huge!!! They have to produce an edition of a monthly magazine with a clip art cover, table of contents, full page introduction, 4 plump articles with primary sources, an annotated bib and documented computer time. I reflexively splurge on an anthology of literature of ancient Egypt, set it in on Emma’s desk, hoping the papyrus will come alive. Each night I gently prod her and she casually delivers a sanguine progress report. I draw assurance from the steady tap tap tap of the keyboard streaming from her room.

I have a confession to make. I am an alarmist when it comes to my daughter. I am so afraid the parade will pass her by. So, on Wednesday, I eagerly offer my editing skills. She skillfully evades, claiming dominion over her work. We play tic tac toe behind closed doors. My X for her O. As Facebook robs her of her future, I become more desperate. I learn she is still contemplating an array of topics. Burial practices maybe? !!! My patience is wearing thin. The milk of maternal kindness is evaporating as the clock ticks.

Just how important is it that she complete this project? The bill of lading, I claim, is not in the points subtracted, as much as in what is missed. I am convinced that my daughter’s future is on the auction block. While she is at school, I search for the collection and some evidence of my daughter’s efforts. I rifle through Agatha Christie, the Twilight series, a tangle of leggings and toe shoes. But the book is nowhere to be found. How she managed to bury it I do not know. The tome weighs about 5 pounds. Perhaps she knows more about the ancient art of embalming than I give her credit for.

The climax: Mom, can I go to the movies with Layla? How far along are you on your project? We lock horns. Mom. Please stop trying to save me!

Let’s face it. I am the Queen of Sheba when it comes to last minute relays. I acknowledge this ingrained trait as I feverishly sprint towards Mr. Linky in preparation for this week’s wordzzle.

For those as hardheaded as we two, sometimes there’s nothing like the stone wall of a deadline to bring you to your senses.

Monday, April 20, 2009


This week's prompt is: one word


There is no glamour
in piracy
these days
one must pawn
to secure a dented dinghy
portage for miles
the lifeless thing
across rusty terrain finally
at a tired inlet
wrestle your way
double fisted kelp
soundlessly dip oars
into waters
you have fished
with your father’s nets
scramble up long ladders
of important ships
a far cry
from Anne Bonny

Fully advised of
occupational hazards
too numerous to name
wouldn’t anyone
in their right mind
cold call for a front office job
or sulk in a dusty lot
at daybreak
waiting for the tomato truck
to come?

If you would like some background on what inspired this poem, please read the summary below.

You can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without being inundated by stories of pirates.

Dinghies niggling the bows of behemoth craft? Random unprovoked attacks? It all seemed so illogical and incongruous. What would drive anyone to commit such desperate acts? I began looking for answers. The story is much more complicated than the news reports suggest.

This chapter of piracy began 18 years ago as a group of fishermen banded together to protect their livelihood and their habitat. They called themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia and they were acting in absence of a viable government that could intercede on their behalf. They were met with pots of boiling water and bullets. As we know, the conflict has escalated and now a vast armada of navies is converging off shore to fight what is being described as one of the great menaces of our times.

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed as a result of protracted civil war, drought and a proxy war waged by Ethiopia. Its nine million people have been teetering on the edge of starvation ever since.

With the destabilization of the region, mysterious ships started to materialize off the coast of Somalia, one of the richest fishing zones in the world. Illegal trawlers continue to trespass the 12 mile inshore artisanal fishing waters, encroaching on local fishing grounds. They come from the European Union, Russia, Japan, India, Egypt and Yemen where marine life has been depleted by overexploitation. They take over $450 million in fish value out of Somalia annually without compensating local fishermen, paying tax or respecting environmental statutes (established international standards for regulated fishing.)

These countries have also made deals with local war lords and the Italian mafia to dump barrels of industrial and nuclear waste into the waters. After the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of leaking barrels washed up on the shore. The local coastal population began to suffer strange rashes, nausea, birth defects and many have died of radiation related diseases.

Appeals to the UN to protect Somalia’s sovereignty have repeatedly been thwarted by well entrenched and powerful interests.

Piracy is defined as “a war-like act committed by a nonstate actor, especially robbery or criminal violence committed at sea, on a river, or sometimes on shore, either from a vessel flying no national flag, or one flying a national flag but without authorization from a national authority.”

So technically, the big boats are not committing piracy. But they are in clear violation of international law.

None of this makes hostage taking justifiable. But it does give context to recent events.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


This week’s prompt is live water


I am sending in a bottle
waters that buoy my heart
the ebb tide of things resting
tributaries of thoughts parting

the wetlands of our wanting
puddles of joyful jumping
the shoals of dreams’ drift
the drumming of young rain

I label ball jars
with words vibrating
all the names for love
of alluvial silt
of old stones
webbed legs curious
for a new world

*Hado - chi: intrinsic vibrational patterns at the quantum level . Photonic ecstacy.
Consciousness influences the structure of water. Exquisite crystals emerge.

This poem was inspired by Maithri Goonetilleke, poet, healer, troubadour in scrubs.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Next Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: acrobat; grocery store; ceiling fan; dandelion; bumble bee; alabaster; scissors; chartreuse; strenuously; cube

Mini Challenge: iPod; poison ivy; computer; interpreter; optometrist

Fatima Maysarah passed her days as a cashier at the Rainbow grocery store in the lively Uptown district of a midsized Midwest city. Typically, she was assigned to the 10 items or less checkout lane because of her perennial sunny countenance and her willingness to serve as interpreter for Ethiopian clientele. She had diligently committed all the produce codes to memory in her first week of employment. These rigors afforded her the luxury of easy banter and free mind play. She delighted in watching the implausible array of items bob along the conveyer belt after the obligatory computer scan. And imagined each sale to be an anthology.

The first customer of the day bought a pint of chunky monkey and a bottle of witch hazel (which she knew to be a remedy for poison ivy). She imagined him making a hasty stop at Hollywood video, then settling in with Penelope Cruz under the whirring consolation of a basement ceiling fan.

Next up: kitchen scissors, a 75 sq ft roll of parchment paper, a jar of capers in brine and a compact package of cheesecloth. Fatima instantly recognized the giddy visage of anticipation, akin to the hope she felt when pouring through seed catalogues in the dead of winter.

She could expect her regulars as sure as afternoon rain.

The acrobat. Who appeared to float on dust motes in the aisles. Checking out in retrograde tie dye leggings: pistachios, watermelon and evian.

At lunch time, a swarm of city workers, lit up in chartreuse uniforms, stampeding towards the deli. Emerging with self contained meals partitioned in black plastic: macaroni, fried drummies, quivering desserts.

When school let out, distracted adolescents, ipod nodes nestled in their ears, loading up on butterfingers, batteries and ramen.

On weekends and holidays the predictable ice cubes, 12 packs of pepsi on the lower rider, hamburger buns and chips.

Fatima had a special place in her heart for the crazy cat ladies who swooped down on defenseless stacks of bumble bee tuna, on sale for 47 cents. No matter how many cans they mustered, she would ring them up. Sometimes she wondered: in times like this who the tins were really for?

Then there were the “serious” shoppers who spent hours trolling the store, armed with facts and determination. “ You really need an optometrist to read the labels,” one of the young moms complained. “And still you could not be sure of the ingredients.” Hydrogenized canola oil, xanthan gum, natural flavors. Buy fresh! She wanted to shout at them. There’s nothing strenuous about putting a stir fry together.

In quiet moments, Fatima dreamed about growing things. Back home, flowers were interspersed with vegetables. This helped with predator control while adorning the changing landscape. In the raised beds of her adopted urban home, red tips of Russian kale were crowning, nascent alabaster squash were slumbering, knobby bamboo strewn across the paved walk were patiently waiting her return.

Dandelions so reviled on lawns tunneled tap roots deep into the loam, slurping up trace minerals to deliver. A weed is just a plant that is in the wrong place, she mused.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

One Single Impression: Listening

still not sleepy?

go outside
and put your
ear to the earth
you can hear
puddles vibrating
with insects

close your eyes
for a moment
you can hear
cobalt sky opening
to a starling’s
brush stroke

take a stroll
beyond the city limits
You can hear
wheat ripening
in the field
not yet

Photographer: Cayce from malaysia

in the wee hours
if you are very still
and not trying
to write good poetry
you can hear
a song behind a song