Hyperbolic Coffee Filters

I cannot take complete credit for this poem (for in reality I contributed only one line of this tanka), but as soon as I saw this one-word prompt from the Daily Post, I thought of it. My coworkers and I create a tanka each week, with each writer contributing a line at a time. A few weeks ago, our staff came out with this one:

An unhappy truth:

Our quaint little coffee pot

uses a filter

hewn from Shadow and the Void.

Now it only brews decaf!

A tanka is like an extended form of the haiku. For information on about the history, use, and formatting of a tanka, click here.

I think that this poem is my favorite one that my staff and I have cranked out so far, because to me decaf coffee is, indeed, the liquid form of the void. If you know me or see how many cups of the dark stuff I drink every day, you know.

My most recent post before this one was written about a year ago (to be exact: a year minus eight days). Here’s to posting more often on my blog! Cheers.

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Last Rose of Summer

Right before the Fall began this year, my Grandpa passed away just after he turned 90 years old. I wasn’t there with him in the moment that he died, but I saw him in the hospital near the end. He went to the hospital first because he fell, but then improved significantly and was about to be discharged to go home. The day before they let him go, though, his body suddenly turned against him. He was unable to breathe on his own or open his eyes or talk. They worried that he would never be able to breathe on his own ever again. Although we hoped he would pull through like usual (his medical history has been fraught with hospital stays and difficult diseases), a part of each of us knew instinctively that this was it. He was getting tired of fighting, it seemed, even though he wasted no opportunity to try and tear the tubes away from his body. He pulled again and again on his restraints (meant to keep him from hurting himself), but would exhaust himself with the effort. As we hovered around the hospital bed, my family and I joked that we would know he had gotten better if he were to start swearing in German. He had been doing that when he was about to be discharged–cussing at the tubes connected to him, the restraints around his arms, and the nurses for putting those things on him. Then he went quiet, and left this world even more quietly.

Or so I understand. I wasn’t there. My mom, dad, and brother were there with him. I don’t think that I regret that too much, because I’m not sure about how I would have handled this if I had actually been in the room with him when the heart monitor flatlined. I’m content to be removed from that so that I have the freedom to face this without having to keep the visual image reel of the moment of his death on replay in my head. As it is, I already have a description of the scene to feed my blessed/cursed imagination: who was holding whose hand, the tubes removed, tears, swear words, beep, beep…beep…beeeeeeeep.

Grandpa’s other name was Trouble (with a capital “T”) for lots of reasons. Too many to name here, really, but I’ll name a couple. He used to pull on my pony tails and react with mock surprise when I whirled around with a furrowed brow to tell him to stop that (“But…isn’t that what pony tails are for?”). He would try to catch my toes with his cane by lightly pounding the ground around my feet with it (“Well! Isn’t that what canes are for?”).

He also loved Mickey Mouse. My Grandma (who is an amazing quilter) made him his own Mickey Mouse-themed wall hanging which hung in his den next to the rifle cabinet. He also had this great figurine of Mickey Mouse riding a propeller plane with frightened Goofy hanging out of the bottom. He made a special wooden stand just for that figurine so that it could be placed on a shelf in his den.
Grandpa was good at making things, too. He made things like tables and chairs, but also stories and poems. He taught my brother and I to do small jobs in his workshop and tested us on our ability to successfully hammer nails into leftover blocks of wood. And as a writer and an artist himself, he recognized my inclination to be those things as well. He made and gave me a lap desk and an enormous drawing desk to complete my projects on.

Grandpa had also been in World War II. He shared stories from his army days and passed on some of the training books he had kept from his enlistment. He gave my brother his old army-issue toolbox. After his death, it was decided that this very box would bear his ashes to the ground.

Finally, my Grandfather was a Master Gardener. A degree-holding Master Gardener who never actually retrieved his diploma because he didn’t need it. “I don’t need that piece of paper,” he said. And the matter was closed. The knowledge he had gained through the classes was already enough for him, I think, because he found no value in the physical object which declared that he knew those things. (Maybe I get my love of learning from him.) His own garden in the backyard was featured in the newspaper, though, and a clipping of his Press Gazette debut was framed and hung in the hallway of his house. Many people remember him for his love for and vast knowledge of roses. Every kind of rose. They were all beautiful.

This is why he reminds me of a charcter in a book I was reading shortly before he passed, which was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. In the book, theere is a character named Sergeant Cuff who is the detictive hired to come to the Verinder residence to attempt the discovery of the fate of the famed Moonstone. He’s a patient guy, but he’s a little manipulative and very sure of his conviction of Rachel Verinder upon finishing his investigation at the Verinder household. The connection I draw between my Grandfather and Sergeant Cuff is their love of roses. Both of them would be willing to drop everything at any time to discuss breeds of roses, growing conditions, grafting, etc. That sounds like Grandpa.

Sergeant Cuff is also the reason that this post is named “The Last Rose of Summer.” Throughout the book, he whistles or hums the tune to that song whenever he’s thinking. That wasn’t a habit of my Grandfather’s at all, but the title of the song and Sergeant Cuff’s habit of singing it makes me think of him because Grandpa died a few days before the official end of summer.

Originally a poem written by the Irish poet Thomas Moore, the text personifies the rose as a feminine object whose experience reflects upon the anticipation and possible loneliness felt in the approach of death. It reads as follows:

‘Tis the last rose of summer

  Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

  Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred, 5

  No rosebud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

  To give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

  To pine on the stem; 10

Since the lovely are sleeping,

  Go, sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter

  Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden 15

  Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,

  When friendships decay,

And from Love’s shining circle

  The gems drop away. 20

When true hearts lie withered

  And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

  This bleak world alone?

Poem from: http://www.bartleby.com/41/487.html

Song version: Celtic Woman, Laura Wright

I have been wondering if he thought things like this while he tended to his rose garden and put it to rest at the end of the growing season. Please forgive my romanticism–I know that I’m probably putting thoughts into his mind that may not have been here. However, I wonder how he could have tended to his lovely roses for so long without considering something like that.

When we buried my grandfather,

There was moss on the ground,

grasshoppers flinging through the grass,

and a toolbox-shaped hole in the soil

with prayers lining the bottom.

We thought of roses and swear words auf Deutsch.

Two sets of daughters’ hands lay memories in the box,

three sets of grandchildren’s hands lay the box in the hole,

One set of pastor’s hands bless the soil and prayers

which blanket the toolbox.

Gone were the tool-torn hands which buttoned uniforms before inspection

and guided pens across paper with thorn-pricked fingertips.

Once specked with sawdust, now ashes.

Grass will reclaim the soil in front of the tombstone with two names

and grasshoppers will return to dash above the moss,

after the roses have finished weeping for their last rose of summer.

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What’s wrong now?

Tell me.

I’m having problems, but not problems like the people in the movie Biutiful, which I just watched last night.

Ok. What are your problems?

I’m not doing well enough. At anything.

What things?

My jobs. My social life. Communication. Family. Planning ahead. Saying the right thing. Staying awake when I’m supposed to be awake. My classes. Everything.

Oh? This is…quite serious. It sounds like you’re…

…human.

What? But really. My own inadequacy is overwhelming.

Says who?

Me.

So no one came out and told you that. Interesting. Do you suspect that everyone else is better?

Yes.

Why?

They just…are?

Nope.

But I think they are.

Stop. They’re not. You’re struggling along amidst a group of millions of people who are struggling along and their impressions of their interactions with you (if there are any) will not be enough to make them really notice or shun you for these things. You can’t compare yourself to them because you’re not them and they’re not you. They probably think the same about their own problems most of the time. They just generally hide it from the public like you do. Some of them may even think that you’re the one who has it all together.

Well. They’re crazy if they think that. It’s just…

Stop being a perfectionist. Be comfortable with the struggle. Do your best. Carry on along with the rest of the other humans, have confidence in what you do, and forgive yourself for not being next-to-God perfection (read: get over yourself).

…ugh. Fine.

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We heaved relief as scores of innocents died

In response to the prompt entitled “Can’t Drive 55” by the Daily Post, and using the “Calamity Song” by the Decemberists.

 

Because it wasn’t us? Sure. Because the cause never affected us, but could have? sure. We were born to be the privileged, the few who escape murder on the basis of who we are, where we are. Those who died were born into that doomed lot, which still doesn’t include us yet, which will never have a rest from predators.

I look at the news with my roommate and sigh. We’re still here. We’re still safe. We look at the news-curated pictures of the fallen (in school poses or warm parties) as though they’re doomed cards in the deck. And suddenly we can’t care beyond the surface news of their death. We can’t dwell on the circumstances any deeper than the sterile words of the reports because there are so many fallen. So many that the words float to us routinely. “Who got shot today?” And there will be an answer. “Was it just one person or a lot of people?” Another anwer. “Why did this happen?” Answer. “How can we stop this from happening again?” Answer. Repeat tomorrow.

And the pictures of the fallen reappear on the screen so that their lives can be viewed through the lens of their deaths, like their whole lives were set up to end at this moment, at the hands of a fellow mortal. Like maybe they were made to be examples of what happens when…

But we sigh with relief because today was their day, and not ours. It was their school, their pain, their fate, and not ours.

Not yet…

…but tomorrow looms overhead. Maybe.

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Back to the Clay!

I recently acquired a mason jar cookie cutter…which I have yet to use for actual cookies. First, I used it for melting pony beads into sun catchers. I have now graduated to using my lovely mason jar shape on clay.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, And I’m quite pleased with how the first batch turned out!

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For this project, I used the following items:

  • recycled clay from the on-campus craft center
  • cookie cutters (of the following shapes: mason jar, star, heart, Christmas tree, square, crescent)
  • alphabet pasta for words
  • water
  • newspaper for work area
  • needle tool to help remove alphabet pasta and score clay

After I had the shapes, I just went to town on them and had fun! I’m still deciding on colors, but that’ll come later anyway. They will need to be fired, glazed, and fired again, and I’m very excited to see how they will look when they’re done! I will eventually use wire to make them into ornamental pieces, and I will hopefully add ribbon to that wire to accent the colors that will be on the jars. The only thing I am concerned about is that the Center in which I have done this does not have a great selection of glazes anymore. The ones that are left will not be as solid or as vibrant as I was hoping them to be, but I will do my best with them.

Something new that I tried out was to stick alphabet pasta into the clay to make words, and so far I’m happy with how they look. My main concern is that the words won’t be as visible as I put them through the firing/glazing processees, but I will post more pictures of the finished products. I’m hoping that there will be no problems with that. Now…I wait a couple weeks and pray that they survive.

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Wire-Wrapped Polished Rock Pendants

Recently, I have tried my hand a wire-wrapping polished stones! Before I tried it, I looked up several ways to do it on Pinterest and various other pages on the internet. They haven’t yet turned out like I had hoped they would, but I can continue to work on them! Below are my first tries:

So, as I said, they still have a long way to come. I had some challenges and some of my first attempts are not even worthy of being posted on here–I’ve only shown you the slightly more successful products here. I am still working on figuring out some things about this craft, but I’m not sure that I will continue it right away. I feel like I have many other crafts to attempt which I will like better! But these didn’t turn out so badly, so I’ll see if I feel like making more. Stay tuned!

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Cat-Calling Bikes on the Street

For Stephanie 

“Mmhmmm, baby, look at those spokes! They spin me right ’round!”

“Hey honey, why don’t you roll my way?”

“Oooh yeah, I’d ride you in a second…with a helmet on.”

“Hooo-weee, you got some sturdy handlebars. Can I hold on to them?”

And then the bicycles felt that the bike oglers were objectifying them

(which, of course, was indeed happening)

so they filmed “Ten Hours of Riding on the Street” while they rode around town

with hidden cameras attached to their frames.

From this, they hoped to spread awareness for bicycle rights:

bicycles have a right to not be looked at as some piece of hot metal which requires validation by people.

People who just cannot help themselves when they see a snazzy bike

would have to hold their cat-calls in.

Instead, they may either say things like,

“I appreciate the ease with which you carry your load. You are obviously very sturdy in character,”

or “Have a nice day,”

or they may just take notice, turn their heads, and walk away.

And that was the end of the unappreciation of the bicycles.

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