Category Archives: Full of literary ambitions!

A Poem from a Dream, Based on People-Watching–“A Life”

Today, I’m putting up a poem that I actually woke up with in the wee hours, of all silly romantic notions about poetry!  I was dreaming the first line or two, and in the dream remembering someone I saw at the bar once, who didn’t really even make an impression on me at the time.  Be that as it may, once I heard the first two lines in my head, I had to get up and write it down, and the rest of it just came automatically.  I don’t know about you, but this sort of inspiration happens to me, usually, never, if “usually, never” is a thing one can say!  Anyway, I hope the real person’s actual life is better than the things I dreamed about him.  In all likelihood, he was just getting over a tiff with the wife and was at the bar to soothe his frazzled nerves.  Here goes:

A Life

He was a man
Rich in tea bags
And paper napkins.
His days were bounded
By thoughts of Caesar
And Agamemnon
But he was none of them.
Most of his friends
Thought he must at one time
Have been British,
For the accent was hard to place.
And when the little moustache quivered
At some frustration
With a daily happenstance,
In secret, they found it funny,
Though they didn't want to hurt him,
Oh no, never to hurt him.
He liked some alcohol in moderation,
Going to the local bar to have it
And always saluting the waitress politely,
Though he longed for a male presence
To be at his elbow, solicitous.
In token of her womanhood,
He always used the cardboard coaster
She brought him under his pint,
As if it had been her house and he her guest,
Convinced that she found him
More gallant that way.
He took his landlady's grim lace curtains
Down to be washed one day
When she had left them up just too long;
One day in winter, when the weather
Was damp and drear,
And he got soaked through, and his feet wet.
Then he sneezed once and was promptly ill,
As he would have expected.
When he signed into the hospital
The doctor wrote "chest complaint";
How quaint!  As if he belonged
To another, untechnical era indeed.
And when he inexplicably sickened and died
A few days later,
"No family" was written on his card at the morgue,
Though a few well-meaning acquaintances
Held a brief and noncommittal
Commitment service
Over his ashes.
His little bird, as if she had been
A secret mistress no one knew about
Or had forgotten in the dull excitement,
Chirped with mysterious forebodings
For three days more
And then gave out from lack of water;
She only knew that she had nothing to drink,
Couldn't get out,
And there was nothing to be done about it.
When the ones appointed
Went to clear out,
They found her, and
"What a pretty pet!
How nice it would have been
For the children to take her!" they said.
She, whose little claws had stiffened
Into predatory shapes,
So gentle as she was.
Gentle, as he had been gentle,
And sometimes annoyed without conviction
At the bounds of her cage,
Just as he with his life.
No greater conqueror than he of her,
She his only claimed territory,
The only living thing he even lightly controlled.
His friends, shrugging in amusement
At the cabinet of tea and coffee supplies,
The paper napkins and the cans and jars
And boxes of tea and coffee,
Ended by dividing them up,
Each grateful, but not unduly,
For his or her share,
"To remember him by,"
Not one of them wondering
How long they might remember him
When the stuff was gone.
The landlady, satisfied that the tenant
Had kept the premises clean
Contented herself with a mere sweep
And a few swipes
With a lemon polish rag,
Putting her notices up in the paper again.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/27/17

As I recall, in the dream I had early this morning, I was actually writing a story about this character, but I remember the first few lines of the poem distinctly; I was also getting very annoyed in the dream with a friend who was talking at me and keeping me from writing the story down.  Good thing I woke up, I guess; at least the poem is left!  Shadowoperator

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The Essence or Real Nature of a Person or Thing–A Poem Called “Quiddity”

The term “quiddity” signifies the essence or real nature of a person or thing.  I have chosen it for the title of this short, cheerful (and possibly quite mistaken) poem in order to make a point:  what we are at our cores may be very different from what we feel about ourselves most of the time.  I experienced a moment (only a moment before I sank back into everyday uncertainty) in which I felt quite happy about my chances in life.  This poem is the result:

Quiddity

I had a very strange moment today
Of being glad I was I.
It wasn't just like the usual
Which oftener ends in a sigh.
What caused it, I couldn't quite tell you,
Or just what made being so right,
But buoyant I felt, and happy and quick
And ready to put forth a fight.
Though challenges face me, I'm safe now,
Though foes may be strong in my path,
But the way I was feeling this morning,
I think I'd just see them and laugh.
I had a peculiar notion today
That somehow, my problems were small;
They didn't seem nearly as big as before
Or I not so ready to fall.
What prompted this state of elation
I couldn't quite say and don't know,
But if it's now time for a battle
Then by heaven!  I'm ready to go.
I don't think I'm captain material,
Though let me just say it again
That if I continue as I was today,
Then I'd be surprised not to win!

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/23/17

One can’t feel this way all the time, of course, but if you’re feeling this way at all, in spite of all the bad things that have happened in the public arena lately, then I’d advise you to take advantage of the feeling and try to do something worthwhile, even if it’s only to work some more on poetry or fiction or posts on literature:  you never know whom you might affect to the good.

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“Having a Clear-Out (to Katia Gregor’s eloquence on the same subject)”

Back on October 9, 2016, on Katherine (Katia) Gregor’s site Scribe Doll’s Musings, she dealt ferociously  and fiercely (and eloquently!) with a subject that has always been a weak area for me, the subject of having a good clearing-out.  So I suppose it was no wonder that recently, faced with a clearing-out need of my own, I decided to write about it, and to dedicate the poem I wrote to her previous writing on the topic.  I’m only hoping that once I finish the preliminaries and get through the grubby bits, that I will be able to get the new bag on the old, tired vacuum cleaner for a clean sweep (a challenge at which I do not excel, usually managing to fill the engine with gunk instead of getting the bag on straight).  Here’s my effort, which I dedicate to Katia:

Having a Clear-Out
(To Katia Gregor's eloquence on the same subject)

Throw out the old holey socks.
Hang all the sweaters and tops
In the appropriate part of the closet.
Do likewise
With the pants and skirts.
The paperwork is enormous,
What to shred, what to save,
Better leave it until the end,
The cocktail party confetti of all the chances you missed
While you were busy playing with papers.
Remember to buy more clothes pins;
There aren't enough.
Fold blankets
And put all but one
Away,
You're alone here now,
And have only yourself
To keep warm,
At least until better days
Come along.
The cat's box is clean,
She under the bed
In her accustomed place
For the day.
She wonders,
But will get her curiosity prowl
This evening,
When it's time to make
Her usual appearance.
Throw away old tissues
  and wrappers
That have accumulated
Around the bedside table;
Reading in bed is said
To be a bad habit,
But one that's lifelong,
So why stop now?
Just remove the clutter and evidence
And no one who might be here by chance
Will care.
One must of course suppose an audience
For most of this to make sense,
As why's one stray hole in a sock
The more or less
Important just for you?
The books, no doubt, are a labor of love,
But they never get sorted and reshelved
Satisfactorily anyway,
So let them stay where you can find them,
Ready-to-hand
The next time there's no clearing-out
To take up an idle day.
For, somehow,
You thought it'd take longer,
The ordering of a whole life to date;
Is there really that little,
You ask yourself,
Or have I already disposed
Of that much before?
Did I throw out anything
Unwarily,
That I might need?
A moment's anxiety,
A moment's thrill
At the unexpected danger;
And now that there's room,
Who knows what next
Will step over the doorsill?

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/22/17

There is a difference, of course, at least one, in Katia’s creative post on clearing out and mine:  hers and mine were occasioned by different things, and went in somewhat different directions.  Still, I wanted to dedicate this poem to her because I thought of her when I was clearing out and also when I was writing this poem.  Katia, you make good things happen!  Shadowoperator

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A Poem Using a Frequently Occurring Rhetorical Figure: “Paralipsis”

Though love poems are sometimes happy and sometimes sad, there’s no reason that one cannot also use a rhetorical figure to express its point.  Paralipsis is a rhetorical figure in which one vows that one is not going to discuss something, all the while mentioning it.  It is as if one were to say, “I have no intention of mentioning my opponent’s underhanded tactics!”  One is, thus, calling the tactics into prominence and awareness again, all the while saying one has no intention of doing so.  That’s what this poem is at least partly about.

Paralipsis

I'm not going to speak about love, no,
For it gets me overwrought.
I've said all I'm going to say now,
I can't give love a thought.

I'm not going to think about love, no,
Why should I be upset?
I've considered the whole thing very well,
Or I'd be reflecting yet.

I'm not going to tumble in love, no,
It's made a mistake with me,
Because I'm in love right now, and it
Wears me down mightily.

I'm not going to write about love, no,
Or put my woes in verse;
For love has a way of sneaking in,
(Unless I'm very terse.)

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/18/17

I hope you had some fun, at least, with this poem; I had, in writing it.  All for now!  Shadowoperator

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A Poem About Pedagogy–“The Rookie”

Though I have only taught college and never high school, I have often thought of the years I spent in contact with junior high (middle school) and high school teachers, and I remember how devoted some of them were to their jobs, and how big the challenges sometimes were.  This poem, though, goes out to all teachers, and I hope as well to their audiences.

The Rookie

"Now folks, I want you to reach down deep inside for this one," 
  says the well-meaning, who only missed professorial degree by two years,
And who now musters her high school forces to face English and American
  literature.

Her soldiers, however, armed only with adoration in some cases, disrespect
  in others, and indifference for the rest, all laugh alike
When Tucker Boyle lets out a deep belch,
And incants, aloud, to no one and all,
"That was from deep down; honest!"

She allows them their laugh, being enlightened rather than professional
And thereby the despair of her older colleagues.
"You've got to control your students!" they say.
"They have to learn respect; God knows, they don't learn it at home."

She only laughs lightly.  She doesn't want them to be afraid of her, she says.
"But they don't look up to you either!" insists the most senior of her fellows.
She smiles and says nothing.  They little guess how the jibes and jests
  of Tucker Boyle and Co. have frayed her nerves and loosened her sinews,
  even,
As she stays in nights to plan her deep campaigns
Instead of going out for her usual run.

Determined that Tucker, of whom her deepest reproach is to call him primly
  "Mr. Boyle," as if meeting him at a church soirée, where he would never be--
Determined that he will read Walt Whitman and cease
To make lewd noises about the other, real soldiers and Walt,
When he understands the biographical details clearly
(That a miracle in itself, given his obtuseness!)--
She recites, she pounds the desk, she shows them passion.

They, for whom the word "passion" means only sex from True Romance
  and Penthouse magazines scarfed from their mothers and fathers.
They eye her doubtfully, uncomprehending:  Can she be going the way
  of the Social Studies teacher a year or two ago,
Who blamed them, and blasphemed their parents' God, and then
  blew her brains out with an old family shotgun thought to be unloaded?
Even Tucker Boyle is silent; though he grins, and touches his finger
  to his forehead:  she won't be here long.

How funny fate is, sometimes!  How apt the measures meted out,
  To those who see them clearly, yet how overdone, how harsh it seems
  to her now--
For Tucker Boyle, tired of poetry,
Joined the Marines, bulked up,
Played his way through a few minor battles,
With honors and all that,
And then came home in a body bag.
And she?  Of all the few who went to his funeral,
She alone wept streaming tears,
Tears that his parents, shy people afraid of their son's proclivities
  to harass,
Feared must be about something betwixt her and him.
But wasn't she one of his teachers?
Didn't she threaten to flunk him, his last semester,
Relenting to a "D+" when the Marines were mentioned?

Later, the tears that she cried were at least partly for herself,
Or even mainly for herself, and not him:
For who can tell who Tucker Boyle might have been
If she could have made Walt Whitman live for him?

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/18/17

Nota bene:  This poem is not meant to deny the feelings of those who feel that it’s an honor to die for one’s country (or as it is put classically, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”–“Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s homeland.”)  Rather, it is meant as a comment upon the senselessness and waste of war in general, though it may oftentimes be deemed necessary in order for a country to survive with its freedoms intact.  In this connection, Walt Whitman is a key figure in this poem.

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Another new poem: “A Rhyme for the Hard-to-Please”

Having done various experiments with different forms and after attempting to break my meter and rhyme habits, I’ve gone back into my old habits for another poem, a whimsical one this time, a little forlorn and sad, but one with a certain humor as well.  The rhyme and meter seemed necessary to suit the subject, so I hope the fact that most or at least many poets these days don’t use rhyme or meter won’t offend.  Here goes:

A Rhyme for the Hard-to-Please

I don't have faith in rain,
I have far more in pain;
For rain just comes and goes,
But when pain comes, it grows.

It bows and bends my heart,
And makes a hollow smart;
How could it hurt and pine
And to leave thus decline?

I don't see much in snow,
Though it refuse to go
Like pain; it blankets all
And casts a weary pall.

For though snow stays and stays,
Like to pain's dreary days,
Ice crystals may shine white,
And may some days be bright.

Least trust I, though, the sun,
Which every day does run,
From East 'round to the West,
Each hour, without rest.

It too, like pain, is there
Though it may not appear
To be within our gaze
Or showing forth its rays.

And while all, sun, snow, rain,
Do each their force retain,
Sun most does with pain flirt,
Because it joy asserts:

When forth across the sky
The light shines out on high
Then pain does plain and moan
Because it is alone.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/17/17

 

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Finally! Another free verse poem on this site–“Evolution”

This poem was initiated by a remark I once made to someone I love; I told him he wasn’t a Neanderthal, meaning what most contemporary and not necessarily knowledgeable people would mean, i.e., that he had polished manners.  But then, later I remembered that scientists in more recent times have come up with the notion that the real Neanderthals were in the main a gentle and peaceable people, so it’s as much in justice to the Neanderthals as it is to ancient peoples in general and my friend in particular that I made up this poem.  And I was delighted finally to find that the poem agreed to be written in free verse, after all.  (N.B.:  In this poem, I use the word “lewd” primarily though not exclusively in its older sense, i.e., “untaught, unlearned.”)

Evolution

A shy dweller in a cave
Peers forth at the sky,
Only disencumbered at the stone mouth
Of his harking back to the shadows.
His being, pained and gentle,
As if borne down already by the load
He must carry back to keep warm with.
So look you at me,
Your true sweet soul chilled and full of necessity,
Diverse paths before you, but none
You are eager to depart upon.
A glance, weather-eye upward
Then you commence
Leading me to hope that a smile or a joke,
A solar approach,
Will sweat out the heat of you,
Teach you the trick
Of loving yourself more,
Dreading the forest less
Where you may find more to sustain you
Than dripping stone walls and packed floor.
Still, I know that the asceticals we are used to
Often seem our only choice of direction
When night falls,
The wild calls are all around us,
And the sky lowers and promises nothing.
But step forth, while daylight beckons,
And try your skill at this:
Facsimilating your shelter
In the own arms of the trees;
And when night falls,
Call you out with the rest,
For you have forgotten
That you are one of them.
And in place of your lewd--read: unlearned--
Sketches on the cave walls,
Make your artifacts and rouse your voice
To songs of the sky and gods and demons,
For the sky loves you, and all its denizens too.

©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/14/17

I am rather fond of this poem already, though that may be for reasons aside from its quality, I don’t know.  Good night, and in cave or forest, sleep well!  Shadowoperator

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