An Open Letter to the Nymph (you know who you are),

Not sure if you are aware, but that poem was for my LOVE
not some sprite who runs around without any clothes on.
If we want to talk about liars, why don’t you go ahead and
tell me your age, or who you were with last night —

What was that? I couldn’t hear you over the symphony of the
birds. The nightingale in particular is sounding lovely these days.
In fact, I can’t get him to shut up. I guess we just
hear what we want to, don’t we?

Winter, yes, the killing frost will come, but I’ve got a nice
little place in the woods by the lake. I build fires
and drink a little hot cider — it’s really enchanting.
You’re right though, the flowers do die, I never really said they wouldn’t.

A honeyed tongue, sounds messy, but if you’re into that sort
of thing I hear the satyrs are game for anything.
Me? Myself? Well, I’m more of the sensitive and romantic type:
you know, the kind who makes more than breakfast in bed.

Best,

The Passionate Shepherd

Today’s NaPoWriMo challenge is to “write a persona poem – a poem in the voice of someone else. Your persona could be a mythological or fictional character, a historical figure, or even an inanimate object.”

Christopher Marlowe’s pastoral poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” has inspired many poems, so I wanted in on the action. I wrote back in response to Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem “The Nymph Reply to the Shepherd” in the form of an open letter (that’s poetic free verse, right? So it counts, right?)

Here are the poems that started it all:

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Sunday Funday

image1Today, I am grading essays, and I mean ESSAYS!!!!! AP season is upon us, so my students are fervently writing and reading and studying before their big day. Last Friday, I gave a mock AP exam that counts as part of their final grade; this academic exercise also allows them to practice the long haul of taking a 3 hour exam while providing feedback about their personal strengths and weaknesses. Now I have the joy of grading their tests…and this is why I am NOT applying to become an AP reader any time soon. While it would be amazing to connect with colleagues from around the States and get an inside look at the scoring process, I just couldn’t take all that grading/scoring! If you are an AP reader and want to help me see the brighter side of it, please do so because I’m sure it would help make me a better teacher if I did do it, but at this point in my life and career, it’s not for me. Like my students say, “I can’t even.”

Anyway, that is not the main point of this post; I wanted to share a poem I came across while grading my bazillion essays: John Updike’s “Marching Through a Novel.” This piece resonated with me as writer who just last night stared at my computer screen instead of writing the next chapter in my horrible novel. As I sipped my wine, I closed my eyes and tried to think of who my characters really are. I finally gave up, poured myself another glass, and joined my husband on the couch to watch an episode of Vikings (it was a good one!!!). My poor characters are still trapped somewhere in my mind, and perhaps, per Updike, I need to crack the whip and get a little more forceful with these faceless names.

Marching Through a Novel
by John Updike

Each morning my characters
greet me with misty faces
willing, though chilled, to muster
for another day’s progress
through the dazzling quicksand,
the marsh of blank paper.
With instant obedience
they change clothes and mannerisms,
drop a speech impediment,
develop a motive backwards
to suit the deed that’s done.
They extend skeletal arms
for the handcuffs of contrivance,
slog through docilely
maneuvers of coincidence,
look toward me hopefully,
their general and quartermaster,
for a clearer face, a bigger heart.
I do what I can for them,
but it is not enough.
Forward is my order,
though their bandages unravel
and some have no backbones
and some turn traitor
like heads with two faces
and some fall forgotten
in the trenchwork of loose threads,
poor puffs of cartoon flak.
Forward. Believe me, I love them
though I march them to finish them off.

 (P.S. Beginning with the second line of the poem, every other line is indented which adds to the reading, but I am unable to make that visual a reality on this website…to my tech savvy friends, I’m sorry I’m so incompetent…but we all have our limits…computer code is mine).  😉
One more thing…that ancient calculator in my picture is not for grading the essays (I know that it may seem bit out of place), but it is for the glorious mathematical scoring that must be done with decimals and percentages and the like…I really do love math. It was actually my better subject in school, so any time I get to do a bit of math, I get a little excited (confession: I didn’t like reading until I became an adult! GASP! I’m so glad I got that off my chest).
Thanks for reading.

Marjorie Parkinson

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Eirojram (ee-roje-er-am) Nosnikrap (nose-knee-crap) is what my dad would call her.

Simply put, it’s the backward spelling of my late grandmother.

Stronger and smarter than most; Marge could finish a crossword before the coffee was done.

I never got to meet her and for that I am sad, but this I do know, she raised a good son.

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “It’s the weekend, so I’d thought we might go with something short and just a bit (or a lot) silly – the Clerihew. These are rhymed, humorous quatrains involving a specific person’s name.”

I wouldn’t call my quatrain humorous, but the backward spelling/speak is funny. My dad told me that he went through a phase as a kid where he spoke everything backwards, and his favorite thing to say was his mother’s name. I remember belly-laughing so hard I got the hiccups as he pronounced all the words and names he knew backwards. I tried to provide a pronunciation key in the parentheses, but the characters are limited (e.g. the o sound in “roje” is the long o sound, but I couldn’t find an o with a line over it, so I added the awkward e after it to show the long sound as in rope).

Thanks for reading!

Dandelion Dreams

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When I was a little girl, I thought dandelions
were beautiful yellow flowers. I never understood
why my dad would get so angry
every time I made a wish
with those cottony clustered clouds.
Umbrella-ed seeds floating all
around spoke of all the possibilities of who I could be and
what was to come. My wishes rarely came true,
but then the parachutes didn’t
always catch the wind. Stubborn anchored sprouts refused
to move with a puff of my cheek. And I knew
that my dreams were stuck.
Now that I’m older, I know better.
Dandelions and their seedling blossoms,
the ones that line the beds of unkempt gardens,
are just weeds of wistful thinking.

 

Lego

Little tiny blocks

Waiting ominously on the floor.

Snap into place

And now you have created something:

A house

A car

A castle

A kicky beach condo

Complete with a dock and boat.

You itty bitty little brick of possibilities,

How did my soft, susceptible foot find you there?

These Heavy Things

I am happy to announce that National Poetry Writing Month has commenced! Here is an original ekphrastic sonnet I wrote that was inspired by Pieter Bruegel’s painting, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.” I challenge you to join the poet’s community and write a poem a day in the month of April! Happy Writing!

The burning eye of light calls out to me.
Her siren song so gentle and so sweet:
Here my child, respite in thy majesty.
No sound to hear coarse winds drown out my bleat,
For me these heavy things are far too proud
And stifling. Release me from your hold
And leave me clothed in heaven’s glowing shroud:
Celestial body; glittering gold.
Onward they sail, the market’s still a buzz––
Plough on, ploughman, nothing to see or hear
Sunrise, sunset––all that will be and was––
Herd on, herdsman, no need to hide your fear
Icarus’ wax melts in the green sea
Small restless feathers floating aimlessly.

Respect Your Mother (Poem #5)

Think green
Alternative fuels
Electric, solar, grain
Whatever the cars can use

Recycle, reduce, reuse
In order to save the earth
Now there’s a novel plan
But what’s it all worth?

Save the Planet
One can at a time
What?! Trade in our Hummer?
Now that is a crime!

Coming to Pieces Like Snow

The golden girl with a golden dream

Longs for a time where love reigns supreme.

Her hopes are dashed; the milk’s been spilt,

The daisies and poppies slump over and wilt.

Her fingers clutching tightly to the sand in her palm

It’s slipping, it’s falling; it’s hard to stay calm.

Time’s run its course and left her in fragments

Revealing the odious stench of her heart’s own stagnance.

Toxic and green, her voice fills the void.

But nobody’s there; her dream is destroyed.

Brilliance fades to a glittering glow;

She’s finally coming to pieces like snow.

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The first line of the poem is taken from the fourth chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece: The Great Gatsby when Jordan tells Nick about the tumultuous day before Daisy and Tom’s wedding. Apparently Daisy receives a letter and proceeds to get roaring drunk in a feeble attempt to mask her pain. The letter (who we can assume is from Gatsby) comes a little too late and sends Daisy into a tailspin before her extravagant nuptials to old-money playboy, Tom Buchanan.

“She [Daisy] began to cry—she cried and cried. I [Jordan] rushed out and found her mother’s maid, and we locked the door and got her into a cold bath. She wouldn’t let go of the letter. She took it into the tub with her and squeezed it up into a wet ball, and only let me leave it in the soap-dish when she saw that is was coming to pieces like snow” (Fitzgerald 76).

This poem is inspired by Fitzgerald’s Daisy. She is a complex little thing who has me sympathizing with her one minute and despising her the next. I think we all have a bit of Daisy in us (some sparkle brighter than others, truly revealing that not all that glitters is gold). Perhaps that is why she is so easy to love and, at the same time, so easy to hate.

A Poem a Day for the Month of April! Poem #2

Greyhound

 

Cigarette smoke

Fills my doll’s lungs

I cough

And never stop.

 

Bus stations

Packed with faded-orange seats

I wait

And never sleep.

 

Hot tears

Stream down my face

I leave

And never return.

 

Happy National Poetry Month! “The Laughter of 89 Years” (Poem #1)

To kick off National Poetry Month, here is a poem I wrote about my beloved family matriarchs.

The Laughter of 89 Years

 

The laughter of 89 years

Is heard through her smile.

Her wrinkles tell of simpler times

When telephones couldn’t fit in pockets and purses,

A time when the Internet

Hadn’t wrapped us in its web.

 

Her white curled hair

Tells of beauty parlor days

When our moms were little girls

Playing with the turkeys and kittens

In the barns of small town Minnesota.  

 

Her golden years have come and gone

But her smile still reminds me

Of the smell of gardenia and old books

And the old kewpie dolls on her shelves

That no one could touch

Except for the doll she made

To look just like me. She said she is

Special, specially made for me.

 

Uno games on antique card tables,

The smell of gingersnap cookies baking in the oven,

The sound of the organ, and the ringing of church bells

Remind me of her home

Remind me of her smile

Remind me of her laughter.

gma

These are my great grandmothers. They were bosom buddies especially in their latter years. This picture was the inspiration for this poem. The poem composites my memories of both of these amazingly strong and beautiful women.