2020 National Poetry Writing Month Anthology
of mostly ekphrastic poems
- an anthology by Geoff White, B.Ed.
With Orbs of Uncertain Gaze
And into uncertain depths we plunge
with hand-held lamp and axe with broken haft,
we explore a world of filth and grunge
eyes looking left and right, fore and aft,
fearing jaws that snap, claws that catch,
to emerge, perhaps into light of day,
fatigued, with just what winks we snatch,
some weeks hence, upon the first of May.
1. April Quest
April Quest Embarking on a month long quest for thirty poems while waiting for Spring to vanquish winter snows Is like starting an adventure in the unexplored woods, with untrod paths, each perhaps a better one, who knows? I seek a harmony with this familiar forest of verbs, and nouns, like seeking truffles there on the ground and even though I cannot see the herbs for the trees there in the shady grove, I know these tasty treats abound. I go to forage there in Mirkwood or Lothlorien, and even though of taste there is nae agreeing I seek no more, no less, this April morn than to find a special way of seeing.
2. Orbs of Uncertain Gaze
Orbs of Uncertain Gaze Like a cruise missile in his gray livery, the iguana shot across my path on claw tips, scrabbling, just a blur beneath my focus. I started, no need for direness to stir my fell of hair, nor a dismal treatise, just a mini-dragon, slithering, all scaled up, will do. To reach the safety of the other side He leapt from the path to scale the bark, His trajectory rose like a hockey stick, he rocketed up, ascending into the dark and shade of safer realms. A flash of wings at the edge of my vision, I flinch; In this jungle, with tripping vines and unkind critters, It is no friendly squirrel, nor a charming finch I know, that shadows my every move, or chitters at me, as I tread cautiously, inch by trembling inch. I hesitate to steady myself on a tree lest I touch a slithering tail or engage a pair of whirling eyes, watching before and behind, seeing orbs of uncertain gaze, and a suspicious countenance, stare back at me, questioning my every move, my very being.
3. Visions of Galileo
Visions of Galileo I punch the sky and spread my fingers to grasp the moon. It is lunate, just a sliver with slender horns; my lunulae resemble the crescent moon. The sun has dropped below the horizon. Now is the perfect time. On the concave edge, I imagine I can see the broken ridge separating craters, as Galileo did.
Dusk Except for R&B, the Blues and Dr. John, night is an idea I want to forget. Night is a concept I want to unlearn. When sunset takes away the lines of the day and dusk blurs the edges of the night, my emotions start to burn like neon zippers arcing across my vision, searing glowing contrails into memory, parallels of daydreams someone bought with a pack of Luckies and an iced bourbon. Intellect sloughs away and feelings are all that's left. Hard contrast vanishes and lines are slurred by five o'clock cocktails and late night promises - fabricated visions induced to ameliorate guilt; daddy doesn't love me 'cos I ain't bin good. I linger on the bridge of broken dreams above the whirl of today's thoughts. They've become an excuse to drink until I'm numb and nothing is what it seems.
5. The Waiting game
The Waiting game A Dash-8 is really great If it's home you want to go And have had to wait way down in Mexico. But wait, a Dash-8 Won't fly so far Its 6000k to CUN All the way from YVR For such extensive jaunts You need at least a 737 From remote Canadian haunts to Mayan Riviera heaven. I've been here amid iguanas, beaches and jungle birds four months now my April return was virus-deleted; the next one out is Cinco de Mayo.
6. 1, 2, 3, Cat
1, 2, 3, Cat A singular, empty, cardboard box would not attract a lonely fox. Its smooth hardened-paper walls are cool, inviting, and to a kitty calls. A strange, curious cardboard house might lodge a wee, slicket, tim'rous mouse, but the curious echoes and slippery feel yield an addictive (to felines) thrill. Inside the puzzling structure a puss will sit Enjoying thrills known only to a kit. To catch the furry, silly, house cat is easy as saying une, deux, trois, quatre.
7. Iguana Non Grata
Iguana Non Grata On Isla Cozumel, in a bit of tropical paradise called Los Amigos Hostel, there is a rock star liz, a ten pound colossus of the iguana species, Such a compelling figure they named him Elvis. The walled garden is his domain. Lesser lizards scurry to escape his head-nodding threats. The guests are leary even as they snap selfies with him and toss him scraps. With one eye-open, they always take their naps. No, it's mornings when his presence isn't cool. At half past eleven, ascend into the mango tree he would, and let go a humongous crap, smack, plop, into the swimming pool. Same branch, same tree, every day, set your watch you could. But sometime last Autumn he fell and hurt his back, or hip; the lizard doc couldn't help, despite his soothing hand. So Elvis is no more. I was sad to hear this tale last trip. He's missed around the hostel; they may even re-name it Graceland.
8. Smell of Burning Fiddles
Smell of Burning Fiddles There are worse things than to spend my afternoons with a beer, in a hammock, writing poetry. I may never know how much a philosopher earns, or rack up enough air miles circumnavigating islands by bike, chasing sunsets, scanning small ads for the next open-mike, or contemplating virgins while a nation burns, but sipping a cold Tecate in a Mexican hostel, dodging iguanas, tapping out verses awaiting release from quarantine beats the daily grind of punching a clock. A breeze rattles the bamboo wind chimes, mucho viento! The Eagles are reprising Hotel California on the house PA, I think I'll chill awhile.
9. Under a Candid Sky
Under a Candid Sky Andreas, under a candid sky, lay tanning on the strand. His skin acquired a sheen, turned to shades of caramel. Beyond a wavering sea, an ocean of sparkles at half past three, Miranda pondered her next move. They were destined by the turning of the spheres To meet, glammed up, in the light show at Eden, Ibiza. The sun sets on glassy waters behind silhouettes of yachts And the sun-bussed skin glows from lusty fires within. Andreas's languid gaze took in her liquid thighs; She gyrated professionally on the dance floor. Andreas had plenty of moves of his own, but - He was seduced by her pawn to Queen four. Neither had much to offer beyond mere superficience. Driven by hormones, alcohol, coke and desire, They combined to a dazzling level of hyper-lucience. Together they strove to set the very night on fire. Flesh merged to theirs, and the drum's, frenetic beats. Nothing was held back; they left it all out on the floor, rubber on the parking lot, and protoplasm on the sheets. It wasn't meant to last, they never thought it could; with all they lacked in taste, judgement, and common sense, it probably never should. But that's not what Ibiza is all about; you go there for a good time, not a long time, definitely not for good!
10. It's Never Enough
It's Never Enough I wrote an haiku, a light conceit, a terse verse, but it seemed too brief. Amusing, witty, clever, I didn't hate it, everything you'd want a NaPo to be - trite, but light, not yard sale fodder. With adjectives & adverbs, I could inflate it to be bloated by poetic calories, but with the critters hereabouts, perhaps I hadn't oughter.
11. Deadly Ice
Deadly Ice I do not wish them ill, these men Who descend with picks and shovels to rip At Gaia's entrails, to extract a bauble Or two. They follow the serpentine strand of kimberlite down, down into the lowest reaches clawing at the pressure-set clay. Infested it is, in places, with the hardest bits of carbon squeezed into transparency, if cut, brilliant, dazzling, alluring stones to drive a woman mad, a man to risk his life three thousand metres below, or to kill, steal, smuggle them in their flesh, to sell. What value is a bounty acquired like this, by such means? These blood diamonds fascinate, seduce and corrupt Even the sincerest hearts, but leave such parts Shredded by 9mm and machetes. It starts With a lust for light of coruscating effect And ends with tragedy, lives destroyed, even death. I do not blame these men who dig and toil way down Beneath the surface, who only want to keep their families fed, I merely wish the treasures they unearth were equal to the dead.
12. Graveyard Shift
Graveyard Shift I have seen them coming at break of day from the depths wherein they earn their pay, a motley crew, all soiled, covered in dirt, with open, undead eyes, not a one alert. Conditions below, stifling, dark, unclean, are far from best but wearied now, they have no strength for protest. Like their will, their backs are broke, they homeward tread to wash, eat, sleep. They kiss their brood, then fall dead. All day they sleep, their bodies try to heal and in the e'en they rise again to steal a moment of comfort before they drift back to the mine and to work, descend in the lift. All night they toil in the stygian depths below, they must endure the heat, the stultifying labour, the choking dust, and for what? A paycheque, something to take away the pain, for a moment, before they go down to do it all again?
13. Short Ode to Dunc
Short Ode to Dunc So, that's a clerihew. So underrated! Well found, from one so venerated, Dunc, as you, four lines, two rhyming couplets on a Don, who knew? Not yet writ, but let's.
Hungry I look down to see their faces, beaming with excitement, just forty inches off the floor. A tug at my trouser leg, Alan clings hopefully; he glances around, planning his escape: - the hallway, no, the closet? Then comes the question, "What time is it, Mr. Wolf?" I pretend to study my watch. "Almost ten o'clock," I reply. This happens every day, just before recess. I feel a tug on my other trouser leg. It is Melody, four years and six months. I move forward carefully, the small train follows: Casey Jones beginning the long haul. I pause. A voice, timourous, calls out, "What time is it, Mr. Wolf?" I glance at the clock. One minute to ten. Their tiny bodies are wound like springs, ready to flee. I decide. "Lunchtime!" I exclaim, and they scatter, screaming and laughing, me in pursuit. I snatch David off the floor in mid-stride, tuck him under my arm, and swipe at Michael, who falls to his knees, I miss. They love this game, never tire of it. But I am getting better.
15. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis I've laboured over lessons and hoped to be farther down the road To riches and to fame, but there is still no one to blame but me. All my demonstrations and many tests have showed I paid the price and did the deed; I must bear the shame where I have failed. Since the first, I coveted the Arts of music, of dance, of visual expression in paint or stone and of Capella's syllabus, of the trivium, I've mastered parts, rhetoric, grammar, and the dialectic, but of the Four alone: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy have not exceeded my reach but lie within my grasp, merely music renders me inept. No muse has succeeded, nor master been able to teach me, how to sing, to raise up a joyful noise, the simple concepts: harmony, key, tune, melody, and all that jazz have eluded me. I have tried to learn the parts, studied skilful players, minstrels reeking with pizzazz, but alas, have not acquired this most sublime of Arts. When songs are sung, I sadly take my place, and feeling frustrated, may think it all a farce; humbled I stand, and can only ask for Grace that a joyful noise may issue from my Ars.
16. Caesura in the City
Caesura in the City Frenzied routine sometimes has interruptions. It's like someone called timeout, and everything stopped: the chaos, the relentless beat of the traffic, even the wind. I stared. The leaf rocked as it fell. Time stood still. When it hit the pavement, life resumed its frenetic, ball-busting pace. A tumult, throbbing, it proceeds.. where? Who knows? It moves, without doubt, but does it progress? Maybe, just a paradigm shift every five hundred years or so. Frenzied routine sometimes has interruptions. I feel calmed by these.
Kaleidoscope Like life has a symmetry, if it does, the going out and coming in of tides, the coming round again of gold rings, the ones on carousels, not brides, with the music of the spheres, it sings. All else is geometric; sharp angles intersect, divide, multiply and be damned. Four hours pass, the world has rotated 60 degrees, everything has shifted in the void. Andromeda is not where she was, all the moons and every planetoid, even mighty Arcturus, have drifted. Every four hours, another 60 degrees of rotation - like a kaleidoscope, it all shifts; there's a new comportment. Nothing is as it was. It is a new relation. Except underneath, there, it is the same assortment of triangles and rhomboids, trapezoids, and convex quadrilaterals. All spin in cosmic harmony and disjunction. One hardly knows where to begin to approximate its function.
18. Aegean Idyll
Aegean Idyll "You had me," she said, "at 'whitewashed walls on Santorini!'" Her sunset lips glistened in the softening light, the golden light that burnishes sun-bussed skin, bringing out tones of gold and copper, molten, sultry, not the intense morning light that makes colours so vivid. That island is epic in my mind, those views.. It's a bucket list trip for me. Those blues, the contrast between the whitewashed walls and the breath-taking falls from cliffs high above the Aegean Sea, ouzo, sizzling food, her kiss and the sway of her hips, are enough for me to cash in my chips, call it a day, sigh, "Take me now, Lord. I'm ready." Why need I go on? It doesn't get any better than this.
19. Cerulean Insights
Cerulean Insights In all the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer never said it. Despite the sky and the sea, and many another cue - black, plus a bit of light, they thought, but he never named it. The great poet! All that stimulus, and he never called it, blue. You may call it celeste, cerulean, azure or azul. From Memphis to Mobile, and it still is news, Be it the sea, the sky or a backyard swimming pool. You can call it whatever you wants, I knows I gots the blues. The blue tints from such as copper sulphate range from turquoise-green to a deep dusk-blue. Azurite and malachite, both copper carbonate, together yield a cosmically satisfying hue. When it comes to stunning decoration, the Italians know a thing or two, Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo, Donatello, were outta sight! On the ceiling of the Arena Chapel in Padua in 1305, then new, Giotto produced a vault coloured with the last moment of a clear Italian twilight. French artist, Yves Klein painted monochromes back in the '40s, made a buck or two! He said, "In the future people will paint in just a single colour." In the fifties he found one so glorious, so lustrous, so profound a blue That you could fall right into it; it reached to the very heart's core. So rich, so deep, it spoke for itself: "Blue is the invisible becoming visible."
20. Sick Limerick
Sick Limerick There was a sick man in Cancun who swore that he had been immune But he tested for COVID And soon there was noted A host of them by the lagoon
21. Stormy Limerick
Stormy Limerick A hurricane swept through Cancun A really monstrous monsoon More than three feet of rain Went right down the drain It was a real sumbitchin Typhoon
22. Tasty Limerick
Tasty Limerick I met a young man in Cancun Who had recently come from Rangoon I served him up dates Which he said that he hates But he ate with a runcible spoon.
23. Zombie Limerick
Zombie Limerick There was an undead man named Fred who walked with an axe in his head. While not easy to be, He's a zombie, you see, and that's why the undead we dread.
24. Jungle Breath
Jungle Breath The jungle inhales, and the mist dissipates as it exits the canopy, a living breathing thing. Trees cling to the mountain sides, oblivious of the gales scouring the peaks. The wind ruffles the very tops of fluffy trees and waves proceed as the foliage writhes and flails in the breeze. Underneath, along the bole, in the bark and the leaves, the insect cosmos thrives. From branch to branch, across the breech, Howler Monkeys scream of warning and of love where even gymnastic swinging and prodigious leaps cannot reach. One comes from within, one from above, or from far below, along the ground where natives with blowpipes stalk to deliver a felling dart. Parrots squawk, among the buzzing of bugs and chirping, humming, thrumming of cicadas, and frogs burping. Cacophony below, majestic silence above.
25. A Strange New Addiction, Books
A Strange New Addiction: Books A squad of monks in hooded robes against the cold sit in their carels carefully copying scriptures from parchment scrolls. Their glosses are an academic delight, each providing insight to the text of the sermons of Father Bonaventura or whomever. The keyboards of their laptops clatter in dull thuds to pierce the misty mornings they spend reproducing the works. Each a masterpiece in itself, errors notwithstanding, meticulously reproduced, wrong or right, the product is the thing, not the content. As it was, is now, and ever shall be.
26. Chasing Ice
Chasing Ice The toenails of the glacier are black and dirty. Water trickles between the digits. It claws at the earth where its last gritty stand occurs. Maybe an hundred years hence, or a thousand, it will come back and the dirty foot will be white, again growing, flourishing, presaging a reborn glacier, and the end of the fever. The virus that is homo not-so-sapiens may survive, even thrive, but in harmony with Nature, or become extinct like Her other failures. Toes break off, the ice recedes. A decade before, the foot of the glacier was across the road. Now across the road there is moss. The parking lot has grown, no ice remains, and in twenty years perhaps, the moraines will be a memory, distant, a kilometre up the hill.
27. Look Out!
Look Out! If the Milky Way and Andromeda each were a horse and cart they would be only twenty cart lengths apart. Disturbing, because they are on a collision course, and closing at colossal speed, faster than your ordinary horse.
28. Forgotten Andromeda
Forgotten Andromeda Daughter of Cassiopeia, Andromeda lolls in a lambent corner of the sky. Her backdrop is a night-dark damask spread, littered with gas clouds and stars that are dead wandering the space between galaxies, forgotten maybe because Cassiopeia, daughter of Zeuxo and Coronus bragged that she and her daughter, were more beautiful even than the Nereids. Her hubris was her fate. Inside the Heart, Andromeda possesses a dazzling gem, HD15-558. Of all the starry masses in the Milky Way, it is 150 times that of Sol and thus, the biggest one of all! Heart Nebula, HD15558-A is lowest of 4 bright stars in the centre of the Heart
29. That Moon Again
That Moon Again The lunulae are long gone. Now, that lunate moon is back - a cream-silver crescent high against a map of black. 28 days ago I penned an ode, fifteen lines that showed how material the twin-horned moon that glowed, really was. Romances that were somehow dependent on that wondrous orb that hung above us, resplendent, sumptuous in shades of gray, slender and mysterious, in truth did not need it hung up there in the sky, nor had to have a blue lagoon standing by. Lovers seduced by Selene's beauty were just delirious, in love. Perhaps a few falling stars, some soft guitars and a secret hideaway, would help the mood. Soon, May will arrive. With COVID, there will be no castle in Spain but maybe a dance, and a constantly surprising refrain.
30. NaPo 2020
NaPo 2020 The special way of seeing remains elusive at least to me, for now. That elite group of poets who have found it is exclusive. One day I may hope to join that troupe of minstrels merry who go about their way spreading happiness, enlightenment and joy, one day, one May, but maybe not this May it will happen and this deflated schoolboy will find it, like the bright elusive butterfly of love, a rhyme for orange, the perfect girl, a garden plot, a peaceful pool to putter by, far from the madding crowd and manic social whirl, a bee loud glade, a cottage of clay and wattles made. But this is fool's gold, the fairy stuff of dreams and so, the stuff in which those poets trade who know that special way, or so it seems. To create without inspiration, to compose a poem daily by the lunar clock is folly. In the name of fun, if fun it is for those sinister souls among my friends who find it jolly, it has been done, and proud I am to post it here. Now I put away such toys, until next year.
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