Monday, December 26, 2016

Why Snakes are Long and Skinny (revisted)

Long, long ago, when the grass was greener and the sky was bluer and the lakes were cleaner than they are today — long, long ago —  snakes were round.
They were as soft and round as meatballs. They rolled up and down the hills, hither and yither, and when they were tired they gathered in little clumps of snake-balls to gossip and giggle and sing together.
Sometimes Pooleeporkies would come along, pick up a soft ball of a snake, and play catch with it.

You know what a Pooleeporkie is, don’t you? One of those enormous purple and green creatures with pink beady eyes and snorting snouts  . . .

What? You’ve never heard of a Pooleeporkie?

Too bad.
Anyway, one day, two Pooleeporkies were playing catch with a particularly squishy, mushy snake — let’s call her Lucille — when all of a sudden Lucille started to recite a poem.
Maybe I forgot to tell you that snakes, back in the days when they were soft and smooshy, were wonderful poets. The thing is, until that fateful day they had never let the Pooleeporkies know it. It was all a well-kept secret until Lucille got confused and spilled the beans.
The two Pooleeporkies were mighty impressed by this poetry-spouting snake.  They wanted to take Lucille home with them so they could listen to her poems anytime at all.
Mishka, the older Pooleeporkie, pulled Lucille toward him. But then Pishka, the younger one, pulled Lucille toward him
I think you can guess what happened next.

There was pulling and tugging and pulling and yanking and pulling and stretching and pulling and pulling and pulling.

And before you could say onomatopoeia, Lucille lost all her lovely roundness.

Now she was l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-g and skinny. She didn’t look anything like a meatball anymore. She looked more like a strand of spaghetti.

Poor Lucille.
Ever since that day, snakes have been long and skinny.

And also silent.
Whatever poetry they know, they keep it to themselves.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bengal Spice Tea

This poem was inspired by the painting "Device Circle" by Jasper Johns (it has a lot of red in it) and by snippets of poems from "The Rain in Portugal," by Billy Collins

at ten past twelve
on the reddest day of the year
bundled in layers to ward off winter

you and i
head down a snowy path

it is our choice
no one is making us do this
we go willingly but not

we do it because
it's supposed to be good for us
even in the cold
even if we hate it

we call it trudging
the way we move
one short step at a time

we are not in a hurry
we never hurry
we say we are too old to hurry

ten past twelve
a good time to set out
morning chores behind us
the heart of the afternoon right here
surrounding us

later we will have tea
and buttered toast
we might shell pistachios
i wonder if there are any figs left

that is in the land of future-maybe
and we are practicing being in the

the present-now that shifts
second by second
so if either of us checked our watch
(which we do not)
we would see that it is no longer
10 past 12

it is 15 or maybe even 20
minutes beyond noon

noon is just a memory

now is the cold air of this moment
the wind burning your eyes
my fingertips cold
though i had high hopes for these new gloves

you will not wear a scarf
you simply will not
but you do own a hat with ear-flaps
and you are wearing it

i wear a sweater
and a vest
under my coat

i waddle
you are more sure-footed
not quite as layered

you don't complain that i complain
i have not stopped complaining
since we left the house

i don't mention that you are sniffling
and not using a hankie

i say
we are two odd ducks

you laugh
you don't quack
though i suspect you want to

it is too cold to quack
a quack would freeze midway
in the air between us

when we get to the end of the path
we can turn right or left
if we want to continue

but we do not want to continue
so we turn around
and head back in the direction of home

it is no longer the reddest day
it has become a bluegreen day
with patches of white
that are neither snowflakes
nor clouds

once we are home
wearing only our indoor layers
and our noses have warmed up
you kiss me on my forehead

and i kiss you on your forehead

and then you go to make the toast
i put the kettle on

it will be bengal spice tea today

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Young Woman's Diary, 1916 (as imagined by Zee Zahava)

(NOTE: This is a Long Read. You might want to dip in and out over time, to see what this Young Woman has been writing in her diary)

A quiet hour of reading in the morning.

Mother had a sick headache and did not come downstairs all day.

Very weak sunlight, but not too cold.

I have been thinking about the planets.

The roast was too rare so I ate no dinner.

The good vase broke today, the violet-colored one.

Mother said she wanted to go for a walk but then she changed her mind.

A quiet hour of reading before bed.

Miss W brought over a jar of preserves. I will have to bring her something, but not until next week.

I did not sleep well last night.

A flock of geese, just after one o'clock.

Fluffy caught her paw on a nail. Quite a crisis.

A trip to the library to exchange my books.

The Tapper sisters stayed too long and spoke a lot of nonsense.

No one can locate the largest serving spoon. Much distress.

Miss W asked how we liked the preserves. I said they were very fine. I must remember to try them. I have not yet brought her anything in return.

Mother says she is longing for her garden. I told her "soon" but we both know it will be a while.

Mr D came for tea. Uninvited. He looks sickly.

I have been thinking about the number seven.

The serving spoon has been found.

I did not sleep well again last night.

My embroidery is getting worse, not better.

Mother complained of a sick headache and asked for breakfast in her room. As usual.

There have been strange noises in the pantry.

I wonder if the piano will ever be in tune again.

The light was glorious today but it is still too cold to stay out for long.

A quiet hour of reading before bed.

Mother was humming in the bath. What can that mean?

Where is my little gold locket?

Miss W asked if I baked the scones myself. I assured her that I did.

There hasn't been any sunshine for two days.

Mother stayed in bed all day. She did not each much. I ate two eggs.

I had no trouble falling asleep last night and this morning I was up with the worms.

A quiet hour of reading in the afternoon.

It was impossible to get warm today.

Mr D said there is something very important he wants to ask me. I said "Please don't."

I have still not found my gold locket.

There seems to be something wrong with my left eye.

My eye is completely better today.

I heard Mother humming again but I did not recognize the tune.

Received a letter from L today. She is now in Venice. I try not to care.

Fluffy is going to have kittens. She is behaving strangely but I suppose that is to be expected.

Mr D appeared in the afternoon and I told him to go away.

I have decided never to wear yellow again.

My latest books from the library are all disappointing.

Mother is not pleased with me but refuses to explain why.

I have been thinking about the planets again. And also about the stars.

I will soon need a new hat.

The light was good today. I sat at the window and watched the clouds.

My gold locket has been found! It was in my glove box all along. Mysterious.

I asked Miss G for assistance today when I visited the library. She was gracious and accommodating. I returned with two new novels and high expectations.

A quiet hour of reading this morning and another hour before bed.

I purchased a new bottle of ink this morning and spent the afternoon writing letters that I will not send.

Mr D arrived, uninvited, and offered to read to Mother. I informed him that Mother would not find that to be a pleasurable experience and he departed quickly.

Fluffy has disappeared.

Miss C asked if I would be willing to pose for her. I replied that I did not feel simpatico with the camera. She said perhaps she would ask me on another day.

Miss W brought a small bouquet of flowers from her garden. Mother had a sneezing attack.

Fluffy was found behind the kitchen stove, along with her babies — five adorable kittens.

A quiet hour of reading this evening.

A perfectly nice day. I considered going on a picnic but then decided it was pleasant enough indoors.

I have been thinking about this: what is a good omen, and what is a bad omen?

L wrote from Naples. Her letter was polite and vague.

Mother remained too long in the garden. Now she has a sick headache.

The eldest of the Tapper sisters is engaged. To Mr D. I hope I managed to look pleased when the news was announced.

A quiet hour of reading this morning.

There are many picnics being planned and I am invited to all, but I do not feel tempted.

The relish bowl is shattered. Fluffy is innocent.

There is to be a new post-mistress. She is the niece of Mr B-K.

Miss C asked me to pose for her, once again. Everyone seems to be entranced by her camera, but I am not, not in the least.

I wanted to go for a walk this morning but I could not find my hat.

My visit to the library proved most satisfactory.

It rained all day. I spent a pleasant hour with a book.

Miss W brought a bouquet of flowers, again. There is no need for her to do this as our garden is also flourishing. I found a slug on the underside of a leaf. Fortunately Mother did not notice.

I will scream if I am forced to eat another lettuce leaf. Or even a tomato.

There has been no word from L and I think perhaps there never will be.

Mother has entirely lost her voice. This is puzzling, since she rarely uses it.

Miss W wants to start a reading club. I asked her not to invite me to join.

The doorbell rang at two o'clock, but when I went to answer it no one was there.

Two china cups are missing.

The birds seem frantic. Do they dislike change too?

I wonder if anyone will bring us a pie? I hope not.

A pleasant day: sunshine.

I have been thinking about the moon and the tides.

Surprise! L arrived home and seems to be in good spirits. She brought many sweet gifts. All is well. For now.

Miss C passed by the front gate, holding her camera, but she did not stop in.

Father's old pocket watch appears to be lost. Or perhaps it has been stolen. Mother says it was not valuable but I think it was.

I doubt I slept at all last night.

People are so kind. I wish they would not be.

I told Mother it is time for us to do something about the curtains.

The new post-mistress has watery blue eyes.

Where have my old hair ribbons gone?

Fluffy is missing. So are the kittens. This is all very distressing.

Mrs S has a cold. I wrote and told her not to call on us until she is entirely recovered.

I am trying to be more patient.

I cannot find my ivory comb.

I don't remember the last time I felt young.

L has gone to Boston, suddenly and mysteriously. She left yesterday morning. I don't care.

The younger Miss Tapper wanted to lend me a novel by Mrs T but I told her I already read it, even though I have not. I prefer never to borrow anything from that family.

Spent the afternoon mending. I am in a foul temper.

A murder of crows has set up home in a tree in the side yard. Neither Mother nor I are the least bit pleased.

Mrs S has recovered from her cold. She offered to tune our piano for us, which is a ridiculous suggestion and I told her so.

A very bad night. Hardly slept at all. Dreamed of crows and clocks and spiders.

Miss W brought over not one, but two, pies. What will we do with them?

I wonder: where does the sun go when it wants to hide?

Miss J (a friend of Miss C's) came to tea. She was crying. I offered what comfort I could but I hope she never returns.

It has been two weeks and I have not received a single letter from anyone.

Three small stones were left in a pile on the back steps.

Mrs R broke her toe. I doubt we will see her again this year.

A quiet hour of reading this evening.

Went for a walk with Miss W. She reached for my hand. I told her "No."

The clasp on my bracelet is broken.

Mother is talking about Barcelona. I fear the worst.

There are rumors that the elder Miss Tapper, now Mrs D, is expecting a child. I don't believe this can be true.

Suddenly all my dresses are drab and droopy. It doesn't matter.

Miss F has begun taking French lessons. She is so very earnest.

L has written to announce her engagement. She met him at her cousin's house in Boston. I am shocked. But not surprised.

Miss J is hosting a salon next Wednesday. I told her that Mother and I will be resting that day.

I miss Fluffy and the kittens. I fear the worst has befallen them.

Spent one hour practicing my penmanship, for no reason at all.

Miss W asked me to accompany her to Philadelphia next month. I pretended I did not hear her.

A disappointing visit to the library. There doesn't appear to be a single book I am interested in.

I doubt I will ever sleep through the night again.

I asked Mother if she has seen my beaded bag. She pretended not to know what I was talking about.

I just noticed today: my right hand is apparently slightly larger than my left hand.

Father's pocket watch was discovered under a pile of linen. Relief.

A quiet hour of reading in the morning.

I have replenished my supply of paper and ink.

Mother asked me to air out the guest room but I see no need to do so, as we are not expecting any overnight visitors.

I must have slept for a while last night since I remember dreaming about a lion.

Received unpleasant news this morning.

Mother was exaggerating, things are not as dreadful as I feared.

I saw Miss J in the library yesterday. She was not crying, but still I made a point of avoiding her.

Mr and Mrs D are expecting twins. I have heard it on the highest authority (Dr N). I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I will laugh.