Writer’s Digest November Poem-a-Day 2017 Challenge #20. Theme: What I Learned

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What I’ve Learned (so far)

What I learned from Creative Writing is that you don’t take it with the notion of learning how to get published–you take it to learn how to become a better writer so that you will have a better chance of getting published.

What I learned from Computer Concepts… Well, that would be nothing. Nothing at all.

What I learned from Ethics was “The Silver Rule” (or what I call the passive rule, as it concerns not doing something), and that I can Kant.  (I also learned that I love philosophy.)

What I learned from Poetry was that rhyme is limiting (take that, Robert Frost–I play dangerously without a net!), and that a person who wears a “Make America Great Again” hat wants to discuss more than mere poetry. I also learned that with workshopping, it’s wise to abide by the admonition of Cinderella, which is “to have courage and be kind.”

What I learned from English Composition II was how to write a research paper on a subject I knew nothing about (i.e. horses) and that Shakespeare is more fun to discuss than read. (I also learned that ratemyprofessors.com is pretty accurate.)

What I learned from Intermediate College Algebra was that I was not necessarily brilliant, but persistent enough to not allow the fear of algebra keep me from finishing college a second time.

What I learned from Security Awareness (besides finding a cure for insomnia) was that I could go viral (if not bacterial) on YouTube and make lots of money producing cat videos.

What I learned from Contemporary Literature is that a playful syllabus is indicative of a chill professor. (And a chill professor won’t take it personally if you kill him off in one of your stories. He just might laugh!)

What I learned from College Publications, Reporting, and working on the student newspaper is that I can make 24-hour deadlines. I learned that being a humor columnist would be my dream job (as I will never have a passion for reporting “ticker-tape news,” but for what comes after).

What I learned from medical coding classes what that I hate medical coding, but in learning that, I also learned that no education is ever wasted, for it took a wrong turn to get to the right one.

And what’s more, I learned that with a career and a family, it will take me longer to finish my education, but that’s okay, for as my college newspaper adviser says, “No one has ever asked me how long it took to get my Ph.D.”

There is time.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-20

 

Another poetry manifesto, from “Slow Speaking Lady”

I’ve been bitten by the Shutterfly bug.

Last semester, for my final project in poetry class, we had to make a chapbook.  Being the anti-procrastinator I am (not because I’m so good, but because I’m so forgetful), the day the project was assigned, I started my Life, Inverse chapbook on Shutterfly, and worked on it once a week till it was due.

It wasn’t just a poetry project, but an art project as well.  I also learned a little about graphic design throughout the process.  I had so much fun doing it, I decided to do another, using the book below (one of the required texts for our poetry class) for inspiration.

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Growing up in the Deep South, I am far from a “fast-speaking woman,” so I named mine “Slow-Speaking Lady.”

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A screenshot of the cover of the book. I stood in front of a glass door where the sun was shining through and created a silhouette of myself.

With every Shutterfly project, rather than a dedication page, I will include a foreword or manifesto.  The passage below is from this project.

Manifesto

In the spring of my third year of community college, I finally got to take the poetry class I’d been waiting a year for. Though I’d written massive amounts of poetry, I considered myself more poetic than an actual poet. I didn’t feel I had a mind for adult poetry, but rather a heart for children’s poetry (which mostly rhymes). It wasn’t until I took Jamey Jones’s class that my ears were opened to how rhyming can often limit what could be limitless. I also became more aware of the way poetry looked on a page.

I simply became more aware.

I like to say that through my health information technology classes, I learned more about healthcare, but through poetry, I learned about myself.

I became comfortable sharing very personal poetry, when before, I’d always held something back if I had to read aloud. I conquered, at one student poetry reading, my fear of public speaking (at least non-extemporaneously). I quit asking myself “Why?” and began asking “Why not?”

I changed my internal dialogue.

I became more comfortable in my own skin, even though I’ve always felt there was too much of it. I realized if I could be confident in my message, then I wouldn’t feel like I had to look like the perfect messenger.

I had the pleasure of seeing renowned poet Anne Waldman perform one night during that spring semester. Though I’m more of a fan of her than her poetry, I was inspired by her passion, which led me to analyze her work on a deeper level; I discovered a greater appreciation of it, which inspired me to write my own version of an autobiographical narrative in list form (a la Fast Speaking Woman).

Like in Disney’s unanimated version of Cinderella, I learned, when it comes to workshopping, to have courage and be kind. Have courage when reading your work, and be kind to the person whose work you are critiquing.

Poetry class helped me become more aware of poets I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I could only learn so much in one class, but that one class inspired me seek out the work of other poets, and appreciate not just the way it looks and reads, but also the way it sounds. Good teaching, I’ve learned, leads to self-teaching.

I will never stop learning; I will never stop writing.

I will never stop until my heart does, and by then, I will have a million little pieces of myself behind, for writing is the closest thing to immortality on earth.

For more on the inspiration behind this project:

https://sarahleastories.com/2017/04/23/about-myself-and-poetry-what-i-learned-at-an-anne-waldman-workshop/
https://sarahleastories.com/2017/04/23/makeup-on-empty-space-poetry-reading-night/

After the Second Slipper Dropped

Alone she sits in her ivy-climbing ivory tower,
the princess of her castle somewhere in southern France,
the charm having rubbed off her prince—
like a gold-plated, plastic frog.

She is nothing but part of his menagerie,
like the Queen’s perfume bottle array—
the only piece of his princess collection—
a silver leaf in his family tree.

Her crown of jewels feels like a crown of thorns,
for twas when his father dropped the remaining glass slipper,
cracking it,
that the spell was broken,
for between the lines,
the light of knowledge
came through.
The prince had been tricked.
The stepsisters had wanted him—
not just a way out.

Ella’s barrenness haunts her,
as do the spirits of the children that will never be,
and she cries out to her fairy godmother,
who, unlike God,
answers prayers that should not be.

The fairy godmother appears,
like an angel of light,
and Ella cries out,
“Please, grant me a son,
and I will ask for nothing more.”

“Of course, dearie,” the old woman says,
and she finds the largest squash in the patch,
a pumpkin without blemish,
on whom the sun has shined all day.

Placing it in Ella’s arms,
she chants, “Cribbety-cribbety coo.
Be a boy with Ella’s sensitivities,
and his father’s proclivities,
so that there be no question
to whom he belongs”,
and the pumpkin, like the Popple,
turned inside itself and became an infant,
covered with the fibrous strands of the insides—
like a connective tissue that held him together
till he ripened.

And then the fairy godmother says,
“Before his eighteenth birthday,
he must find a mademoiselle
of royal blue blood to marry him or
he will turn back into a pumpkin,
and thus fertilize potential future generations.”

Despite this condition,
the Princess was happy, delighting in her only one,
and the Prince was likewise overjoyed that his wife—
like Bithiah, the adopted mother of Moses—
had kept this strange and beautiful secret.

When Prince Peter Pie found his mate,
seventeen years to the day of his maturation,
Princess Ella learned that the only seed her son possessed
was that of the pumpkin—
good for roasting,
and nothing more.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #340, Theme: “Finally” or “At Last”

Scenic 90 Cafe

The Diner Hour

Once upon a time in Pensacola,
Ella May Cinders—
a waitress of generous proportions—
lived with her evil stepbrothers,
Randy the Handyman,
who was anything but handy,
(just randy),
and Andy Jack-a-Dandy,
who disdained her fashion nonsense.

Jeb, her evil stepfather,
who liked to hedge funds,
had expected her to take over
his late wife’s wifely duties—
save those in the bedroom.

Eking out a hardscrabble existence
amongst the one-percenters that frequented
The Shiny Diner—
known as Scenic 90 Café—
she never lost hope that a single tip
would change her life,
as it was against the law in this parallel universe
for a woman to leave her father
without a husband—
to be “uncleaved”.

Ella Mae’s auto was a Caddy from the last Millennium,
having not seen an oil change in 5000 miles,
the white paint chipping away like eczema.
Her black uniform was soft and thin
from so many washings,
and her shoes had holes in the soles and toes.
She was a mess.

Every day, when she went in to work,
there was Ashton Prince at Table 25,
who was looking for a wife.
Thirty to her twenty,
and a Mormon at that,
he was gloriously unmarked—
piercings and tattoos had he none.

But alas, this prince saw her only
as a server willing to chitchat,
for she was known as “The Comely Backwater Kid”.
Though her hands were clean,
her hair needed a cut,
for the ends split every which way.

Pale and wan,
she was often tired
from cleaning up after her father and brothers.
She never thought of her mother,
who’d only married the miser for his money,
thinking it would benefit her daughter.
She laughed miserably at the irony
that she was poorer than she had been
when her 99-percenter father had been alive.

So there was Ashton,
ordering his usual—
the Steak Diane—
with Rosy, the waitress,
a riveting one, at that,
with her Italian charm and French perfume,
talking him into some dessert.

Ella still had twenty minutes till her shift,
and so she went to the picnic table out back,
where no one was smoking for a change.
She started to cry,
pulling an old napkin—
smelling of brown gravy—
from her apron.

Then suddenly,
a man she had never seen,
wearing the uniform of the diner,
came up to her,
sooty as a coal miner.

“Hello,” she said, sniffling,
and he smiled and said,
“I’m Harry, and I’m here for you.”
Ella looked around,
but he told her not to fear,
for her fairy godfather was here.

“I’m here to make your prince see you
as you really are—the Daughter of a King.”

Since it was Halloween night,
he dressed her up as the Duchess of Cambridge;
her Caddy was now a mint-green Minnie Cooper,
her shoes making her feel ten feet tall.

“T’will be when the diner closes at nine,
the spell will be broken,
and you will be as you were,
so you’ve but four hours to make this man
fall in love with you, Ella unseen.”

He sprinkled some dust,
ground from the seeds of forget-me-nots,
so that none would recognize her.

She walked through the front door—
no longer “the help”—
breezing by the hostess.
She went to the booth where her prince
was soothing his sweet tooth,
and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

So taken with her he was,
over the course of an hour,
and three courses in,
that he pulled his mother’s engagement ring
from his pocket.
“Whosoever this ring fits,
that will be the girl for you,” she’d said.
He let her try it on,
and it fit like a Trump in a tower.

Suddenly, it was closing time,
and she said, “I have to go”,
but the spell broke before she could get away,
and he saw her as she had been,
and as she was now.

“Forgive me, Ella, for being such a dolt,
for you had my heart at ‘Sweet or Unsweet?’”

He took her away from her evil brood,
and they were married in the temple the next day
possible.
She got to know her Heavenly Father,
and knew through Him,
she would be reunited with her earthly father,
and would be sealed for time and all eternity
to her prince in a shining Mercedes.

As for Randy, Andy, and Jeb,
they eventually each ran for mayor,
using the Princess of Pensacola,
Mrs. Ella Prince,
as their claim to the seat.

At long last, Ella was happy—
happy to not endorse any of them.

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #338, Theme: Stained

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The Stain of Inhumanity

Though her sheets had been as white as snow,
they were stained with the scarlet sins
of Dr. Krueger—
with the sins of the donor fathers,
who had never looked upon their Sleeping Beauty.

Asleep, she proved her usefulness,
for such was greater than her wakefulness—
her unwillingness—
to collaborate with the devil M.D.—
to create a master set of keys
that would unlock the world powers.

Her empty vessel was filled
with clumps of cells that would grow to form
a single function—
like little Romes, or rather, Dresdens—
each unique,
and carefully selected;
each conception immaculate,
even sterile.
She was the garden from which his
little flowers would grow—
a bridge to the sun.

Violations by dozens of men,
all the way from Denmark,
are imprinted on her memory,
the results of each planting,
another loss of autonomy.
She has no voice but Sister Augustine’s,
whose powers are limited on this earth.

Her body is not her own,
for it was bought with a price.
Dr. Krueger was her savior,
even as he is her imprisoner,
having harvested her from the trash
that was her family—
the plot of an evil stepmother
with a rotten apple.

Stockholm Syndrome, they call it,
for he preserves her life,
even as he denies it to her.
The news of the world beyond her windows
filters in secondhand
through this haze of semi-consciousness.
She cannot make sense of it all.

This incapacitated princess cannot love them all,
any more than the princes of Scandinavia,
can love their all.
Through not one,
but many like her,
will spring up kingdoms and principalities—
light in color,
but dark in intent and purpose.

“You will be a queen,” he says,
her throne a hospital bed,
her crown a tangled mass of hair
the color of golden raisins,
her glass slipper a yellow sock with a
puffed smiley face on the bottom.

A plastic bracelet has her name,
but she has forgotten it now,
for it’s been so long since she’s heard it.
She is simply, Another Eve,
and sometimes Mother Mary,
who was overcome with a mysterious entity
called the Holy Ghost;
or was that Ghost,
that vapor,
simply a doctor with a needle
that put the Virgin to sleep?

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #337, Theme: Persona Poem

A Persona of Grace

Grace

Grace Anna Goodhue,
a persona of grace.

Twas never church creeds,
but the spirit of the sermon
that lit the path beneath her feet,
leading her in music and song
that were her forms of worship,
education, her edification.

She taught those who could not hear
to read lips—
to learn the language of the perfect pitch.
She taught them how to live not just in their world,
but in the world around them,
so that they could be a part of both.

With an unspoken understanding,
she was to marry another,
but then she met Calvin
whose presence and poise
was most gentlemanly
with his quiet dignity.

She knew he needed her
more than she needed him,
and for seven days,
in the land of Montreal,
the man Calvin proved himself to be
ice to her fire.
She was his babbling brook
that bubbled over his still waters,
which would ripple all the way to Capitol Hill.

With her husband who spoke in silences,
she followed him,
even as he followed her.

As she listened to yarns on politics
behind closed doors,
she knitted away her anxiety,
ticking away the quiet.

The President’s equal, was Grace Anna—
his Florence Nightingale—
this lady with the knitting needle,
mightier than a sword.

She was a kindred suffragette—
a word that had always sounded
like a battered woman in a tattered dress.
When the right was recognized,
giving women the voice of men
to elect those who would rule over them,
she was there,
filling out an absentee ballot,
the flash of cameras dazzling in her depths.

An English rose, was this First Lady,
coming into the bloom of her time,
shining as the morning dew.

Like an archaeologist searching for an ancient language,
digging through tomes,
brushing them off like old bones,
she searched for a slice of herstory—
knowledge about the former mistresses
of the great, White House;
but, like the Bible in ways,
it was about the men who won the elections,
with the wives supporting them from behind,
raising their children,
doing what they did
so that their husbands could do what they did.

Though he never spoke of the issues of women,
he showed his respect in so many words,
in so many ways.
While he served the public,
she served the private,
her influence shielded like the veil of a widow,
a little light filtering through in times of his need.

Threads of conversation would unravel,
and she would pick up the ends,
knitting them back together.
Never did she want another to hear in him
what was unspoken—
a man in the greys of melancholy.

Like Cinderella,
she was the princess of the American palace,
with the mice family her friends—
a love for the underdogs,
be they mice or women.

And then, in July of 1924,
the smallest thing,
unseen,
killed her son,
leaving her with one
who would live to the New Millennium.

It was Grace who would wipe her husband’s tears
with the lace of her handkerchief.

Of an open door, she would write,
her spirituality shining through it,
banishing the darkness that was her grief.

When Calvin said a depression was coming,
she thought of all people,
he would know.

When she became a widow,
spending the next quarter of a century of her life as such,
she spoke no longer of the man
whose voice she had been.

“For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.” 
–Calvin Coolidge

Source:  http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=31

 

Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #15. Theme: Ritual

November’s Daily Writing Ritual

I log onto Twitter,
writing my daily six-word story
while I munch on ham on toast.
I need coffee.
Hannah comes in,
bringing one of her balls.
It is playtime in the hall,
where the floor is hard,
where the balls roll better
and make a really cool noise.

I sit back down to write my daily poem
for the Writer’s Digest PAD competition,
trying not to come up with an idea,
but let it come to me.
When it comes,
Hannah comes in,
handing me the bubble vial,
a pink magic wand;
I am the fairy godmother who
blows out balls that float like
little Cinderella coaches.

I still need coffee.
I work on a scholarship essay,
a short story,
or some other small project,
trying to get the creative blood flowing.
Hannah comes in,
slamming her rotary toy telephone
in my lap.
I make a pretend call to Dada,
or Grandma,
performing really bad improv while
reciting the phone numbers
so that one day she’ll remember them.

I finally open up my NaNoWriMo novel,
no longer resisting my obsessive compulsive need to edit,
even though doing so
is like making sure each brick has been laid straight,
so I can keep driving on this road to the finish line
called “The End”.
Hannah comes in,
handing me a toy,
and we go play.
Maybe by relaxing my mind,
reading a bedtime story,
I will become unblocked.
I forgot about needing coffee.

At then, it is the end of the night
that the words come,
and I borrow time from sleep,
stealing from the day that needs it.