Just Enjoy Yourself Marathon 2020 Week 14

The Marathon journey is in its fourth year. Just Enjoy Yourself is the current incarnation. Let’s do it!

Before I start – I’m going to intersperse some spring photos throughout the post, views of my yard or scenes around home. Spring is really beautiful here this year.

PO 4-3-20 (1)

This week’s session I held at home on April 2 and 3. I worked on two different lines of approach.

Presbyterian church Wyncote 3-20 (4)

First, I had an image in my mind that I couldn’t get rid of and I don’t know why, because it was not meaningful or particularly memorable, even. Many people are out walking their dogs these days at all hours of the day, and I saw one person go by with a large brown dog wearing a red dog coat (we have had a chilly week).

Art Drop off 3-31-20 Wyncote (1)

Yes, that was it. Just a brown dog. But it prompted me to try writing a series of poems in different formats (haiku, tanka, shadorma, and five syllables/line) treating the same subject with a greater or lesser degree of adherence to my memory of the visual image. This I did on April 2.

PO 4-3-20 (4)

On April 3, I pulled out some library cards upon which I had glued random phrases taken from discarded books. You’ve seen me use these before. I went through my small collection today with the idea of using each phrase in the order it came on the card, adding other words/sentences/phrases as I liked, to come up with something.

PO 4-3-20 (7)

I like this process since, like so many other uses of print snips, it sends my mind in directions I would not think of – it opens a door into stories and images that are not autobiographically derived and often allow me to be someone else as the voice of the poem. The words and phrases and the order of them determine parameters but the details draw from all the corners of my mind. I surprise myself, I like that. I did several of these poems. One card produced three versions.

PO 4-3-20 (2)

I hope that all of you are well and that you stay well.


All right, let’s go. Here is the brown dog series. I need to work more on these, but I liked trying the image in different frames.

brown dog lithe long legs
smooth glide and a weave reweave
switch stride doing undoing
propelling. April is cold:
He wears a red coat.


that brown dog
in a red coat. Legs
sew switchback
Threads drawn by a waxed needle
through a cold morning


Brown dog in red coat.
Not-quite-spring April sunrise.
Hurry our walk. Cold.


Looked out the door said
wow he sure can go
said from the inside
of my battered and
frayed old morning head
not up to talk yet
but I could take in
that sidewalk scene of
brown dog wide awake
on the move and fast
one leashed human man
in tow. That brown dog
brown like hot coffee
with milk and does he
ever have a shine
a vitality
from more than the light
drains from the tired
stayed-up-too-late and
tapped-out today
pale sun queasy and
trying to drag itself
up and out of bed
just the same as the rest
of us who groan and
moan because it’s just
too darn early for what
is coming at us
but we still have to
shine. I feel it too
Oh I feel it. And
Here goes another
day Let’s hope and I
quit thinking what I
hope instead
I make to shuffle
back into the house
having found out what
opened the door for
April and morning
chilly but what a
shine it has on it
and the brown dog he
scissors those legs on
goes a nice long trot
a smooth easy glide
across my blear eyes
that brown dog he is
alive and whole and
his brown coat does shine
he goes and he goes
alive and in fine shine

five syllables

PO 4-3-20 (5)


Here are the three poems derived from this one card. Once again, I think there is a need for some more work, and maybe I’ll even throw some of this out, but if I don’t get it down on paper, well, there is no first step in the journey, is there?

PO 4-3-20 (3)

extreme too many
leaves on that tree
blotting out the sun
in the little summer
moment just the one we are allowed
this year. I couldn’t say how many
leaves. Look at it. Greedy bloat excess
Anything more modern than a grabby tree
I don’t know how you can even
stand a tree in your yard to be like that
It makes me confused
that there is just too much
personal going on right now
with me and that tree.
Her big hat hovers
blotting out the sun
in the little summer
afternoon hot time
we have right now
I couldn’t say how many
fuchsia flower shapes
congregate on the brim
never mind lime squiggles
circle round her head
Look at it.
Anything more modern
could never compete
I don’t know how you can even
find a hat like that now and why bother
This one exists.
It makes me confused
to look at it. I respect it.
I fear it. I want it.
the chartreuse bird
owns the sky
blotting out the sun
in the little summer
I couldn’t say how many
look at it. Anxious.
Anything more modern
than existential terror
I don’t know how you can even
imagine it
it makes me confused
that I hope
alone of all the people I know
the bird
will speak to us
and I am not afraid
to listen.

PO 4-3-20 (6)



Thank you for reading!

Lifeguard, 1978, Tells Her Story

From Clean Canvas, 2018. Note: I worked as a lifeguard/swim coach in the summers while I was in college. This poem is true to my memories and to our (the lifeguard staff) bored and sophisticated (!) perspective. Forty-plus years later, I still remember those days fondly though of course now I’d have a role other than narrator in this little story, wouldn’t I? Maybe I’d be one of those ladies playing bridge over there in the shade…? No, I don’t think so. Anyway. Time passes.)


Lifeguard, 1978, Tells Her Story

Old guy at the country club
comes down to the pool
after a round of golf
stands outside the chain link fence
hanging on it like they all do
plant their feet
fasten their hands to it
right above shoulder height
lean forward
leer a little
looking for his wife
admiring the view around the pool
all those women caged in
wearing bathing suits.
Old fart
considers himself
extremely well-informed on
a life of romance
That’s clear to see.
A baby blue sweater
wouldn’t be the same without you
I think
as I climb down from the lifeguard chair
exchange with the burlier of our two male lifeguards
on duty today
the stand shaking a little as he climbs on
Same view as the old guy
minus the fence
but my observation is
a whole summer of looking after these people
changes your interest level to
less than zero. You just know too much.
I saunter off to the office
not located near the fence
I’ve got thirty minutes ahead of me
checking in at the gate
runts and old ladies and
sun-worshipers and
amateur high-divers and
teenagers specializing in splashy cannon ball repeats
I’m wondering if I’ll have to change the radio station
from previous office occupant’s taste to mine
when I see
the old guy’s wife finally getting over to the fence
Good. She made him wait. Old fart.


Real Friends

From Clean Canvas, published in 2018.

Real Friends

I sing and
I’m a donkey,
chime to chime
I’m loud and happy
braying out a song
I’m going to kick it over the moon
as soon as I get near the tune
and all you listeners
so kind-hearted
two years twenty years fifty or more
in attendance
every impromptu concert or
singalong or
music get-together I’ve put on
I’ve never had to count or fret
empty spaces full of naysayers
I don’t deserve such fans
but I’ve got’em:
Thank you.


Little Vines 3/31/20

I’ve been doing these tiny poems for a while. Now I’m giving them their own space.

This week’s assortment of Little Vines. I hope all of you are well.

the guilty sister
visiting the cemetery
reflecting on how well crime really does pay

considering my options this week
after what happened last week
I let you tee off first.

a decent man but vain
transparent as glass
he sat in this chair many times
while my mother smoked and looked out the window

my voice on the answering machine:
I’m not here to share my feelings.
I’m just collecting messages. Speak.

a bent fork in the silverware drawer
what will be my fate:
tossed into the trash
or made into jewelry?

chewed fingernails

OK, so we make a schedule. I’m likely to be at home
all day every day for some time so how about
if I sleep on the couch with the TV on
M-F 2-4 PM?

It’s a reliable distraction
in any touchy situation
I had a strong hunch I’d be using it today

in my previous career path
well, I thought nothing of it but
these days, I’m a bit lime green and squeamish about it.

Of course I’ll pay for the thread and needle
to mend your broken heart
Since it’s my fault it’s damaged

I thought you’d never ask
too much
I thought you’d make a great spouse

Of course I don’t like being so angry
at such an inconvenient time for you
(What a big liar I am)

what a bad liar he is
let me rethink
sending him in as the front man

Turns out he’s not the guy
who works the miracles after all
It’s just not his style, he says

no that would be cheating
it takes all the fun out of it
when you already know that’s who she is

we were newlyweds
this is our first argument
we said to each other
in reverent tones

not us
but maybe you
poor soul

His unlocked car was parked in the lot
a half-eaten pizza in its box on the front seat.
No way he would have left that behind
Yes, I am afraid he is dead.

I’m feeling lucky today
yeah my mood it might just be wishful thinking
but it is still contagious, isn’t it?

at one o’clock in the morning
the tenth card in the deck
finally knocked out the competition
Several gold chains exchanged hands.

maybe the sales assistant over there –
wearing the beige sweater that’s been shrunk
by too many washings in too-hot water?
no, I’ll try someone else.

I shrink it on purpose with
hot water and soap and
a whole lot of agitation
on your part will certainly ensue

why lie about it at this late date
when the feelings have congealed
the leftovers are ready to be scraped off the plate?