Shadowbird

Shadowbird

And so it begins again…

Shadowbird

Rise, dark Phoenix, touch the sky
Let those who would lay claim
To each prized and precious feather
Try to soar on stolen wings

Their unearned flight as fleeting
As the wind that lifts, embraces you–
Casting them from their pretentious heights.

Even now, you would turn back
Risking gilded, earthbound cage
Borne down by conscience, knowing
It was you alone that gave them faith.

What silly creatures mortals are
To make your feathers into myths
Obliging you to save them from their folly.

Cursed, because you can, their need
A jesse, a lure–their loss
They never dared reach out and touch
The rapid-beating heart within.

A rush of wings, an anguished mortal cry
Abandoned by the gods of their creation
Maybe now they’ll learn to stand…

Only then can they follow you in flight.

 

Copyright 1990-2019 Holly Jahangiri.
Previously published in Walking the Earth: Life’s Perspectives in Poetry.

 

Wrath

It was a dark and stormy night,
When Wrath, the bird of prey, took flight.
Above the wind I heard her cry –
The hunter cast a falcon’s eye
Upon the filthy creatures’ lair
Without regard to foul or fair.
Three eggs – and now, an empty nest;
Three rats – their hunger sated, blessed.
When Wrath, the bird of prey, took flight,
Rapacious in her appetite,
It was a dark and stormy night.

 

Copyright 2001-2019 Holly Jahangiri

A Cheesy Sonnet

A Cheesy Sonnet

Cheese Bored

It all began with a tweet. A gauntlet thrown my direction, picked up in a moment of weakness: boredom. Who can resist the lure of a challenge when they’re bored?

 

I once wrote a sonnet about roadkill. I’m down with an ode to cheese. When I was a kid, my parents owned a store in Daytona Beach: The Cheese Shoppe. My hastily penned poem might stink like yesterday’s Limburger smeared on an old fashioned radiator, but how could I resist it? It’ll pair nicely with that other sonnet.

Feel Free to Dis a Brie, But I Think It’s Gouda’nuff!

It began as a sonnet on cheddar
But a Limburger Limerick is better
And there’s nothing to lose
When singing the bleus –
If a lady would sing, you should let her.

Okay, that’s not “beautiful.” Let’s try this again, with a purely autobiographical sonnet.

Cheese Wheel of Life

“I’ve a craving,” I said, “Grilled Havarti on rye,
With horseradish–a copious slather!”
“But we’ve just finished dinner,” he said, with a sigh. 
“Chocolate cake!” he said. “Wouldn’t you rather–?”

“Well, I might, but we wouldn’t,” I said, with a wink, 
Looking down at my over-large belly.
And that’s when I brought proud Papa to the brink:
“Blue cheese! Habanero! And jelly!”

“Gorgonzola?” he asked. “Chocolate and chips?”
I nodded and grinned my unbridled delight.
“With mangoes and brie? From your ears to my lips!”
We danced through the groceries all night.

Now we are three, and oh, sweet Baby Bel–
What pairs well with strained carrots and white zinfandel?

 

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Lacrima

Lacrima

“The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.”
– Attributed to British Psychiatrist Henry Maudsley in “Why We Cry: The Truth About Tearing Up.”

Do we cry less as we age? Is it because we feel emotions less acutely? Or it is that we’ve learned to repress and suppress this outward sign of having any feelings at all – feelings that make us vulnerable to hurt, or shame, or impotent pity? Is there such a thing as a good cry, a cleansing cry? Have we robbed ourselves and others of this sweet release of pent-up emotion, stress, and energy that has no outlet? Does it really make us stronger, in the long run?

Lacrima

Marveling at the dusty plain…
I remember there being more tears.

My mother once told me that the rain was angels’ tears –
something about how they were bowling with God,
how they wept with joy at the thunderous noise from the heavens
whenever He rolled a strike.

I have never much liked bowling;
but I loved the rain.

As rainbows lit the air,
iridescent, I leaped, barefoot,
from one giant teardrop to another,
inhaling the cooling asphalt scent of a summer day.

That was then. A thousand tears ago.
In time, you learn:

Tears are the sweet flesh of gazelle
on the plains of the Serengeti.
Tears leak like motor oil
from cracks in the armor.

Weeping angels bare their fangs;
they don’t weep. Don’t blink.

Don’t blink! Because the sands of Mars
have invaded the arid landscape of invulnerability,
and there is nothing left but the screaming.
Yours? Mine?

Who knows. It’s dark –
and there are no gazelles left on the Serengeti.


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Hike WHO? Oh, Haiku!

Hike WHO? Oh, Haiku!

It’s a wonder the Japanese haven’t squished us with the giant flyswatter of disdain for grossly oversimplifying haiku. “Oh, it’s easy! Just three lines. First line’s got five syllables, next has seven, last one’s got five. See? Anyone can write haiku.”

Cultural appropriation at its worst, if you ask me. Rarely is it mentioned to the budding poet-blossom that Nature, with symbols of its changing seasons, is traditionally one of the essential elements of haiku.

Tanka – or, if you must, haiku followed by a couplet of seven syllables per line –  might be a better fit for social commentary. We act as if haiku were the poetic form of Twitter. Admittedly, trying to compose a tweet of exactly 140 characters, comprising a single, complete thought, has a similar charm. Already, I’m wondering if I could work this idea into three lines of 5-7-5 syllables, and trying to decide if it’s worth the risk of being drowned in an old pond by bullfrogs.

tadpole ripples race
returning – frog-faced, tailless –
to the sandy shore

Okay, maybe that’s not horrible… let’s try another!

froglings’ fated gig
clarified; drawn-butter bath
(tastes just like chicken)

WordPress U., I blame you!

don’ be pokey, mon –
storm’s a-comin’, soon to flood
’bout to rain frogs, here

That’s almost as bad as the time I wrote a sonnet about the Ultimate Blue-Eyes White Volkswagen. Oh, just be glad I didn’t take them up on using “amniotic fluid” as a stand in for “water” in today’s assignment. On second thought… Oh, hell – here, hold my beer:

gumbo, red beans, rice
breaking wind, the water broke
your first slip ‘n’ slide

I’m thinking I shouldn’t watch Adult Swim with my son anymore. Or Jake & Amir. I think I’m channeling Amir Blumenfeld with that last one.

And for the record, my water never broke. But my #2 pencil did.

For more serious, poetic efforts from today’s class, see Falling Leaves and Water.

Falling Leaves and Water

Falling Leaves and Water

Just for fun, I signed up for WordPress University’s “Writing: Intro to Poetry.” Of course, if you’re expecting me to follow the lessons like an obedient little student, writing, as the first assignment suggests, a “haiku about water,” then you don’t know me at all. Poke around this blog a bit…

In all fairness, it’s been a while since I wrote any poetry at all (limericks don’t count, my Bonny Anapest!) so it never hurts to ease on in before throwing caution to the wind and consorting with villanelles.

The first poem has nothing to do with water (sorry, WordPress U.) and neither is Haiku. “Mats and Markers” is a short tribute to days – and days – gone by, when once we chose the prettiest of autumn leaves to iron between haphazardly cut sheets of waxed paper to use as placemats.

The cynic in me whispers, “Yes, little placemats full of death and dying…” My son might roll his eyes, having raked yesterday’s yard and watching his car shed dried leaves for a full mile at 40mph on the way to lunch today. But by all means, let’s write a poem about it.

* * *

Mats and Markers

At once, the leaves of autumn fell;
They flew and danced, then came to rest.
We raked them up, and saved the best.
Then, pressed between waxed paper sheaves
we preserved these red, gold, auburn leaves –
warm reminders, when winter grieves.

* * *

You may, by now, have figured out that I have a love-hate relationship with poetry – born of cautionary verses memorized from Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls and seasoned with the Bard’s wry, pentametric iambs. Now and then, I can even manage to play it straight and write serious poetry. Not necessarily good poetry, but poems written with a straight face and appropriate poetic gravitas.

* * *

“Niagara” was inspired, not only by water (happy now, WordPress U?), but by a visit to the tunnels behind the Horseshoe Falls, once, when several young men who appeared to be students at a private school walked slowly through, singing Gregorian chants. It sent a thrill up my spine to hear them against the backdrop of a roaring curtain of water. I took a few liberties and changed the tune, but the event imagined as I wrote it, and the emotions inspired by the majesty of the falls, were real enough.

* * *

Niagara

Its downward rush impels the soul – “Take flight!”
Do not dwell on sharp-clawed, bitter rocks,
That lie beneath the roaring, thunderous
Tonnes: “A trap, unwary, hopeful Fools –
Upward, upward, always upward fly!”

Sonorous tenor voices ring out bright
Against unyielding stone. Slick and dark –
Tenebrous tunnels cold with clinging mist;
Soft, “Gaudeamus igitur,” then,
Triumphant: “Iuvenes dum sumus.”
Life rings out from the catacombs
As sunlight parts the rushing veil.

Pereat tristitia,
et Pereant osores.

 

It’s…Different on the Inside

It’s…Different on the Inside

We began to roll out of the driveway. Emmett examined the dashboard with great interest.He fiddled with the AC knob and radio seek buttons, startling himself as the radio landed on a rather loud Death Metal station. “First car trip?” I asked. There would likely be a lot of firsts, all within the first hour or two of our road trip. Emmett nodded. Though he was a little scrunched over there in the passenger seat, he did not seem uncomfortable. Moreover, for a 200 year old man, he seemed surprisingly at ease with a woman driver. Not that there was anything he could do about it, but it did occur to me that there might be faster ways to travel with a genie and all.

I hit the brakes, and slipped the car into Park. I had a freaking Tardis sitting in my bedroom. Did I really need to drive seven hours to New Orleans? Dared I hope not? I had a unicorn, for that matter. It had dawned on me that the creature might be less than magical when it came to holding its bladder and bowels. Back into the garage we went, poor Emmett looking more confused than ever. “It’s all your fault,” I muttered irritably.

“Isn’t it always?” he replied dejectedly.

“I wouldn’t presume to answer that on such short acquaintance, but thanks for the warning.” It was churlish, and I instantly regretted it. “We’ll figure this out, Emmett.” He smiled and unfolded himself to emerge from my little sports car, which was definitely not bigger on the inside. “Hey, Emmett?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Does that Tardis actually work?” I’d assumed it was just a stage prop or replica, but maybe I was dreaming bigger than I realized. A girl could hope. Why I didn’t dream of a fully functional teleporter from Star Trek, I’ll never know. The impracticality of a return trip, perhaps.

“What do you think it does?”

“Time and space travel?” I suggested.

“Then yes, I guess it works.”

“If I’d said, ‘grates cheese,’ what would you have said?”

Emmett blushed. “It could do that, too. If you believed it did.”

I catch on quick, don’t I? “Well, that’s handy to know in a pinch.” Maybe having a genie around wasn’t such a bad thing. I’d probably miss him a little, once we figured out how to get him back to wherever and whenever he came from. Dammit, Emmett, I thought – or, rather, mentally shouted – are you just over there being super quiet in an attempt to pretend you can’t read my mind?

Emmett’s head whipped around so fast I thought his poor neck would break. Guess that answered that.

“I enjoy conversation,” he said quietly.

“Okay.” The unicorn was in the kitchen, helping itself to a box of corn flakes. “Emmett, I need a stable and some actual unicorn food. Can you make that happen? Do I have to formally wish for it, or something?” With a low creak and a moan, followed by a shuddering thud, the house shifted. I must have looked panic stricken, for Emmett grabbed my hand gently and led me to the back yard.

“Will this do?” he asked, as we stepped into my new sun porch, half of which served as a greenhouse while the other half could double as a stall for the world’s priciest racehorse.

“Wow.” It even appeared to comply with building and HOA codes. “I suppose this will do. Will he have enough food and water for a few days?”

Emmett laughed heartily. He assured me that the unicorn could “make do” on whatever I had in the pantry and the luscious greens currently gracing the greenhouse shelves. “Did you know that domesticated unicorns are also quite talented gardeners?”

I opened and closed my mouth, trying to think of the appropriately snarky comeback to that, but was too astonished to do more than shake my head no. “Wait…” I looked over at the unicorn, which was now pouring milk onto a bowl of cornflakes. It had slipped its horn into the carry handle and tilted its head to look at me. I am absolutely certain it gave me a wink. I narrowed my eyes at it, and it shrugged back at me. Sure enough, it’s hoof was emerald green. I looked down at my own thumbs, which ought to turn black as coal in the presence of plants, and twisted my mouth into a grin. “Whatever I think it does, and whatever I need it to do?” I asked Emmett.

“Something like that.”

“It could have probably let itself out–”

The unicorn tossed its head and let out a sharp, indignant whinny. “I’m quite housebroken,” it snorted. “But I did use your shower before you woke up.”

A fastidious unicorn. Just what I dreamed up, apparently.

“Okay, let’s go, Emmett. The sooner we get to New Orleans, the sooner we can start to solve this mystery.” Turning to the unicorn, I smiled. “Lock up if you go for a stroll, will you?”

“Do you have a code for the alarm?” the unicorn retorted, rolling its eyes dramatically.

I thought the code at it. It grinned. Thank you for your trust, I heard, its voice soft and low in my head. There was no mockery in its eyes, this time. I nodded.

Can I hear your thoughts, too, Emmett? I asked silently.

If I want you to, he replied without moving his lips.

How handy.

The Tardis was, indeed, bigger on the inside. But it wasn’t THE Tardis – not even close. Which was good, because I’m not that into fan fiction. It looked more like a cross between a Renaissance alchemist’s laboratory and a venerable old university’s library. Leather-bound volumes of books were stacked from floor to ceiling, four stories high. In the center, there was a flight console that looked more like the quarterdeck of an old pirate ship than the control panel for a spaceship. “What is this thing?”

“Yours to name, for one thing,” Emmett replied. “Without a name, it lacks personality, direction. It’s the naming of things that enables them to achieve their purpose. That, and the fuel they get from your imagination.”

I felt a bit like a pirate, standing there on the quarterdeck, getting used to the feel of the sturdy wood wheel in my hands. I could forget that the whole mess was still propped in a corner of my bedroom, surrounded by boxes of unfinished crochet projects. I thought back to famous women pirates I’d heard of, like Anne Bonny, and considered names like “The Bonny Anne.” But that would make it another woman’s ship, and I was warming to my role as Captain and master of the high seas. “How about the Bonny Anapest?” I composed a little ditty and sang it out, off-key:

’twas a dark and a stormy gray night,
we set sail without moonlight in sight – 
we were tossed to and fro
then becalmed; had to row
but the wind at our back’s a delight!

“Aye, that’ll do.” Emmett grinned and waited for me to figure out how to operate our little “ship.”

Our clothing was anachronistic; it seemed a shame to be standing there in a sailing libraritory wearing WalMart t-shirts and lounge pants. No sooner had that though idly flitted through my mind, than we were dressed in tight but comfy leather pants – expertly tailored for both fit and flexibility – sturdy, well-made boots, and flowing poet shirts. The look was topped off with wide-brimmed hats trimmed with black emu feathers. Comical? Hell yes, it was comical. It was also enormously fitting and glorious. “Cast off!” I cried out, and the world began to spin…

Instead of the characteristic whomp, whomp, whine of the Tardis, my Bonny Anapest sang naughty sea chanteys to the deep whooshing roar of a ten-foot wave on the high seas. “Weigh hey and up she rises, weigh hey and up she rises, weigh hey and up she rises early in the morning!”

As the song came to an end, we landed with a crooked “kerplunk!” – gently enough that only one book fell from its shelf – and a portal opened before us. It looked like we were in the middle of Jackson Square. I hoped no one could see us.

Your wish is my command, m’lady. I looked at Emmett, but he only shrugged.

“It’s her.”

“Her?”

“The Tard–er, the Bonny Anapest. Thing has a soul, or something, I think.”

“Ahh, right – gotcha.” Not like that was creepy, or anything. But sure enough, as we stepped through the portal and looked back, there was no “Bonny Anapest” to be seen. “How are we going to find the door to get back?” I whispered.

I’ll find you, she whispered back. I wasn’t sure, but I strongly suspected Emmett was just messing with me, now, projecting his own thoughts as a female voice inside my head.

Fortunately for us, we weren’t the most oddly dressed peeps in Jackson Square. “Oooh, let’s get beignets!” I urged. And coffee. Strong, fragrant, creamy French Market coffee.

Emmett looked at me strangely. “It’s still here?” he asked.

“What?”

“The Café du Monde.”

“You know the Café du Monde?” I asked. “How is that possible?”

“It looks just as new as it did in 1862 – only quite a bit bigger. And busier.”

I blinked. I knew that the  Café du Monde was old, but not old enough to bridge the gap between my genie pirate and me. “All righty, then. Let’s see if the beignets are as good as you remember them.”

“They’re fried dough topped with sugar, how could they not be?” he asked, grinning.

 


If it wasn’t clear, I’m attempting to tame two birds with one blog – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo – simultaneously. Throughout the month, posts tagged NaNoBloWriPoMo will be works of fiction adding up, I hope, to a ridiculously silly “novel” of at least 50,000 words. I say “I hope” because I’m blogging this one day at a time – as a committed “Pantser,” I’m learning how the story unfolds just minutes (hours, at the most) before you do.

Did you miss one? Here are the chapters, all in order (more will appear as they are posted):