Day 6 / Poem 6

annie cat2So my job this month is to write a poem a day and I’m encouraging you to write, too. It doesn’t have to be good.

Today’s assignment (at POETRYisEVERYTHING) was to write about the name of a pet.

The Pet Cemetery’s First Citizen

Turtle (1998-2003)

The tortoiseshell cat, taken in as a tiny kitten, a furball
with a very loud purr, named Turtle 

(which delighted the children, themselves tiny back then,
and, in their own way, very loud).

Much beloved.


I don’t have a picture (on this computer) of Turtle, so I’m posting one of our current “top cat,” Annie-Cat. (Long story about her name.)

Searching for pet poems, I found Maria Popova’s website, Brain Pickings, with a post titled, “Literary Pets: the Cats, Dogs, and Birds Famous Authors Loved.” I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

Day 4: Sort of a Momentous Day

This morning — around 10:00 — I went to Staples and printed out my novel manuscript. I meant to take it home and give it to my beloved (he’s my final proofreader), but instead I went to Barnes & Noble and started reading. I have been reading all day! It’s good, I think it’s good. But I also finally — FINALLY — figured out my character Hannah and how she contrasts (and doesn’t merely mirror) the main character. So I had lots of little changes. And I’m almost all the way through. I’m so happy!

Luckily (in terms of my poetry goals), early this morning I spent some time with day 4’s NaPoWriMo assignment from POETRY IS EVERYTHING. I haven’t returned to it to try to make it better, and as it is almost 9 p.m. and I’m exhausted, I’m just going to post it, as is.  Shitty first draft.

I hope that you’re writing, too. Even just scribbling. It’s all good.

PROMPT for April 4th 2014: Bus Stop

Think about a bus stop. You might write about the place, or make observations about people at the Bus Stop. Does it have a specific meaning you might want to try and convey? Can you imagine a Bus Stop experience (realistic or not) that would inspire a poem? Write it.

For another prompt or challenge be sure to check out Maureen Thorsen’s NaPoWriMo site where you’ll find prompts, challenges, comments, and information on all things NaPoWriMo.

Riding the Bus

An early bottle (4 a.m.), then an hour
on the dissertation. Mornings
I left the house in the dark
before my babies woke,
drove to the bus stop and stood in line
with the other commuters. Mounted the steps,
found a seat. I liked to sit by a window,
lean my head against it, close
my eyes. I smelled of milk,
of the ammonia of the diaper pail.

At 11:30, my class taught, office hour kept, an hour (more)
of writing, I was on the bus again,
reading tomorrow’s lesson and student papers.
At the bus stop, my husband waited, babies
buckled into the back seat
of the station wagon. He took my car
and left for his teaching job. I drove our daughters home,
unbuckled, unzipped. Diapers changed,
lunch doled out, naptime beckoning.

Housework beckoned, too. Kitchen to clean,
laundry (always diapers). I could have spent
those two hours of slumber
grading papers, or writing—
the unbiddable mountain of pages calling.

It was not unlike waiting in line at the bus stop–
what does one do but what the others do?
Inspired by the closed eyes of my drowsing babies,
the little fists propped against their mouths,
I folded, too. I crawled into my bed,
curled into a ball. I smelled of milk
and ammonia. I slept.

Where Do You Work?



Lately I have felt like a one-woman tutoring center, helping to write English papers — one, notably, at midnight — and Political Science papers and Northwest History papers, graphing sunspots for Physical Science (that was interesting), and running through index cards of Spanish vocabulary. But my two oldest daughters are — finally — on spring break. Which leaves Emma, whose teachers seem to have ganged up on the assignments. Out of six classes, she has homework in four of them tonight. So we have decamped to Barnes & Noble (first time since my ankle injury). Emma is drinking a Hazelnut Mocha Frappuccino (did I spell that right?) and I’m having a Chai Tea Latte (stomach wonky from taking pain meds). Annie came along, ostensibly to drive, but she’s drinking a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino (no coffee in hers either) and doing something or other on her laptop.

One would think it would be more efficient and cheaper (at the very least) to work at home. But sometime back in the years of the Annie-and-Pearl high school circus, it became apparent that I had to do something different if I was going to get my non-academic kids to actually focus on their work. It must have something to do with my own background as a waitress, that the whoosh of coffee machines and clatter of dishes, not to mention people talking at the table behind us, helps me ignore the clutter in my own head and concentrate on a bit of work. My kids do not have restaurant backgrounds, and it works for them, too. A miracle, of sorts.

Just for good measure, here’s an old poem (one of mine).

English Café

The hostess greets us with a simile, waves
her oversized thesis like a shield.
Will you have regular verbs?
My friend orders braised clause

with a side of apostrophes.
I want only articles and prepositions.
Our waitress prompts, No dative?
No genitive?
She offers Shakespeare

or D. H. Lawrence for dessert.
We sip from snifters of Strunk & White,
trade adverbs as coordinating
conjunctions rise languidly to dance.

(Between parentheses, a gerund
cracks jokes.) Our repast now
past tense, we pay in participles, tip
a metaphor. As we slip

through a semicolon’s swinging door,
our waitress calls after us, You’ve forgotten
your predicate,
a ring of modifiers on circle of nouns.



About Time

From photobucket…though this looks exactly like our mongrel, Duke, from my childhood. A thoroughly mischievous dog (who soon disappeared from our menagerie), but full of joy.

As my husband has generously pointed out, the paperwork sent home with me the other day from the orthopedic visit specifies a lateral malleolus fracture. The x-ray report in my GHC inbox states:



I have been doing some time-tripping. I’m rereading Kate Atkinson’s 2013 novel, Life After Life…which is a time-trip even the first time through. Our heroine, Ursula (“Little Bear,” as her father affectionately calls her), dies at birth — comes back, dies as a very young child in a swimming accident — comes back, dies in a fall from a roof, and so on. In some lives she is brutalized by the sort of people she cannot comprehend (her mean older brother’s suave yet oafish American college friend, for instance); she meets Adolf Hitler; in one life she marries a thoroughly detestable man; in another life she marries a flawed man (well, are there any other kind?), but eventually, every time, she gets a chance to do it differently. It’s a brutal book in its way. So brutal that I hesitate to recommend it to you. But maybe that’s just me talking. (My mother’s voice here: YOU NEED TO HAVE A THICKER SKIN!) Meanwhile, lyrical passages abound. I am in love with Ursula’s childhood home, Fox Corner, and astounded to learn (I thought I knew!) how dreadfully Londoners suffered during the blitz in WWII. In a couple incarnations, Ursula falls in love with a German man and spends the war in Berlin. It isn’t men, Ursula (and Atkinson) concludes, it’s war that’s evil.

Meanwhile, my daughter bought me a copy of About Time, a movie by Richard Curtis, starring Domhnall Gleeson as the main character, Tim, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy. Plus other notables. (Including Lydia Wilson as Tim’s sister Kit Kat, a personal favorite.) As with Atkinson’s Fox Corner, I wanted to come home to this family and have tea with them. On the seashore in this case. The premise of About Time is that the men in this particular British family can, after a 21st birthday, travel in time. Bill Nighy, as the wise father, says that going after money or prestige has laid waste to some ancestors’ lives, and he can’t recommend it. Tim, wisely, decides that the mother ship is love.

There are a great many things in my life I would like to do over. I would like to be very, very careful as I walk down the wet grassy hill to the St. Andrews lodge on Sunday, March 9, 2014. But like the About Time characters, I would also like to go back and experience my children as small children again. I would take a walk with them. We would get a dog.