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A long time ago I read “At the Core,” a story by science-fiction author Larry Niven. (Fate-of-the-galaxy spoiler alert.) His protagonist Beowulf Schaeffer was hired by an alien race to pilot a superfast spacecraft to the galactic core. As Schaeffer gets closer he sees a lot of radiation. And as he gets closer yet he discovers that the galaxy is exploding, and in about 25,000 years the deadly radiation chain reaction will reach what is called “known space,” where humans and all aliens that humans have encountered dwell. Soon after Schaeffer reports this to his alien employers, the entire alien race prepares to leave the Galaxy. Schaeffer at first shrugs–who cares about 25,000 years from now?–but then wonders if the aliens, who are considered cowardly, might not be more courageous than we are. At minimum they recognize without denial the danger that they must face, and the sooner the better. Niven ends the story by having Schaeffer think, “Maybe it is the humans who are the cowards–at the core.”

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The ceramic piece with the triangle cutouts was made by me in 2007. The chapbook was made by me, with help from my friends Steve Boyle and Genny Edge, in 2008. I gave both of these creations to my mother soon after they were made, but and they were hers till she died on December 11, 2020, and now they are mine again.

I don’t even remember making the vessel, though I do remember that i did a whole series of cutout pieces back in the day. One of them graced my deceased friend Karen Wilkinson’s front-room table for several years. As for the chapbook, it was a labor of love and I remembered it well, and am grateful that this copy yet exists.

Both works now make me feel strange, and strangely hopeful.

I’ve been doing Title Tuesday, first on eons.com, then on Facebook, for more than ten years. I did one again this morning, but for the first time I asked the poets to try my specialty, which is ACROSTIC Poetry, a genre favored by Lewis Carroll, the author of some of the Psalms of the Old Testament, and many others. So this week’s feature included a primer of sorts. Here it is in its entirety.

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Title Tuesday for March 2, 2021: Acrosticon

Friends, today I want to welcome you to my world, that of acrostic poetry. So we’ll have FIFTEEN titles today, for Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced acrosticists.

Beginning: Single Acrostic

The first letter of every line will also make words. Might be fun to warm up with an acostic that is also your name.

Gary

Gosh gee whiz
And this here is
Rejoicing to be
Yes, so much to see

Titles:

Mama
Loving
Anteater
Gadzooks
Filibuster

Intermediate: Double Acrostic

This time not only the first letters, but also the last letters, form words.

Kind Lady

Keep a thought that all be well
In a moment sound the bell–a
Nest of goodness C.O.D.
Delivers her love blissfully

Notice that the end of Line Two is really the beginning of Line 3. Sometimes I “fudge” like this when the end letters are hard to rhyme.

Titles:

Good Deed
Early Start
Iron Mine
Hurry Worry
Studebaker Deliveries

That last one will, I hope, be an irresistible challenge for our Stude Stud, Bob Kabchef​​.

Advanced: Triple Acrostic

In this one there will also be a middle column of letters.

Aye Luv Yew

Auld Lang Nay
Yet Unto Joe
Each Veil’s Glow

Joe is, of course, our own Joseph Arechavala​​.

Notice the more columns you put into your acrostic, the trickier it gets, and the “fudgier” you may have to be. But that’s not a bug; it’s a feature. When creativity is demanded of you, the more stubborn you are, the more creative you get.

Titles:

Take Bake Make
Mama Papa Baby
Try Vie Cry
Truth Truly Dares
Guitar Fender Bender

Seem impossible? Not so. If three poets are fearless enough to try even one of these, I will do all of them by midnight.

Have fun, Friends.

“You know you have to go through hell before you/Get to Heaven.” Steve Miller, “Big Old Jet Airliner”

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I had two artichokes that weren’t getting any younger. Right now I don’t have a pot big enough to cook them, but an experiment begged to be tried. Let’s strip a bunch of outer leaves off both and throw the stripped leaves in the pot too. Also, since the ‘chokes still have portions above mean high water, let’s turn them constantly.

It wasn’t the best brace of artichokes I ever had, not by a long shot. Even flawless cooking could not improve the meat-to-leaf ratio, and the stripped leaves had hardly any meat at all. And the thistly, bristly fiber atop the hearts didn’t want to yield to the spoon pull/scrape technique–five more minutes of low boil might’ve helped.

But nothing beats an Artichoke Heart. Whether your dipping sauce of choice is Garlic Butter, Red Wine Vinegar and Olive Oil, or (the way I was raised to enjoy it) Mayonnaise, there is always a little bit of heaven at the Artichoke Heart of Darkness.

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One humble member of my mother’s collection of her son’s ceramic works is a joining of two clay techniques, Pinch-Pottery and Wheel-Throwing. A Pinch Pot is often the first vessel a fledgling potter will make. Take a racquetball-sized ball of clay, stick your thumb in it, and gradually expand the interior by pinching, pinching, pinching the clay between your thumb and your other fingers. Don’t let the hole you first made with your thumb get too big. As the wall gets thinner, use fewer fingers, and for final refinement thumb and index finger only. Wet and smooth the lip. Don’t fret if the lip is a little uneven. It is more charming and organic that way.

Now you have a a bowl for a goblet. For the base, take another little ball of clay and center it on the wheelhead of a potter’s wheel, just like you’ve done dozens (hundreds per year) (thousands by now) of times. Raise a little cylinder with no floor. Spread it out a bit at the.base, collar it in up the stem and flare the lip. Smooth the lip with a bit of wet paper towel, or a chamois if you have one, while the wheel is still spinning.

Bisque fire the pieces separately. Don’t glaze the stem. Dip-glaze the bowl with clear glaze and carefully set it on the stem, and only handle the goblet by the stem until it is loaded into the glaze kiln. The glaze on the bowl will fuse bowl and stem together.

This goblet was made early on in my potter’s journey, perhaps as early as 1989. A goblet I would make now, using the same amount of clay, would be maybe 25% larger, and would not be so topheavy. But my new goblet, though more practical, would be less whimsical. The old goblet is sacred to a time, and my mother liked it enough that she put it on her bookcase across from her recliner, where she wouldseeit every day.

A fellow member of my Poets All Call group, a bright and imaginative man named Joseph Arechavala, wrote a poem and posted it to our group yesterday. I found the poem contained a metaphor for Truth that was apt . . . and I also felt compelled to respond. So I wrote a poem too. I have Joe’s kind permission to post our exchange for all the Blogoverse to see, and that will come soon, but first I want to share a drawing I just made, based on the fact that Joe is using a Groucho Marx headshot for his avatar. I thought it would be cute to draw Groucho and one of my own personal heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, shoulder to shoulder and smoking their tobacco products of choice, thus:

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JOE:

Truth is elusive
Like a woman
Standing in the distance
The sun outlining
Her beauty
A woman who
You know will
Never walk towards you
But will remain
A vaguely fair form
In the far away field
And you will
Walk towards her
But never
Come close to her
And you will weep

****

GARY:

Let me be your wingman Joe
Truth’s elusive this I know
She knows EVERYTHING you’ve done
Stuff for spite and some for fun

She has more than one big sister
I suggest you date one mister
Luscious Evidence will show you
Family pics of Truth–you know you

Could do worse than date Deduce Me
More plot twists than I Love Lucy
You’ll be challenged to decide
If you want Truth by your side
Or for a bride
With Lies denied

One more sister makes things clearer
That is Truth’s twin sister Mirror
Gaze deep DEEP into her glass–
TRUTH–she’s HERE!!!
–to Kick your Ass.

Whoops.
Sorry.

****
Gary: Joe, you have captured an important aspect of Truth in your poem. I am grateful. And I hope you see, for all my clowning, an important bit of Truth in mine, mainly that showing an interest in phenomena related to Truth does bring us closer to Truth Herself.

Joe: Gary Bowers It just feels good to finally be writing again.

Gary: Joe, I would love to do a blog post on this exchange of ours. May I have your permission?

Joe: Sure. Post the link so I can read it.

Gary: Will do, my friend!
****
A couple of things before I go. First, Joe and many others in our group are suffering from writer’s block. I think the pandemic has something to do with it. So his comment about feeling good to be writing again is a hopeful sign to me.

Second, this is not the first instance in poetic history wherein one poem inspires another. Christopher “Kit” Marlowe wrote “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” in the 16th Century. One year after it was published, none other than Sir Walter Raleigh wrote “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” a fitting response (snub) to the Passionate Shepherd’s overtures (lusty). And in subsequent centuries other poets wrote poems inspired by the original, and in the 20th Century those two sly dogs Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker both took a whack at it. So History is not by any means being made by Joe and me, but what matters to me is that the creative spark was ignited by Joe, and then I got ignited as well, for a pleasant journey to deeper digging.

Not less than six years ago I was a front desk clerk at Sedona Winds Independent Living Retirement Community in Sedona, Arizona, USA. One of my minor chores was to recycle paper menus into scratch paper. I would often use that paper to compose acrostic poetry.

Today I found a work in progress on one such scratch-paper piece. The piece is not a perfect rectangle, and that may disconcert some, especially those with at least a touch of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Let’s be charitable and playful and say that this is a little life lesson in not taking anything for granted, including right-angularity.

Here is what ended up being the back of a drawn trilogy of acrostics:

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It is likely, though not certain, that I created this menu on Microsoft Word, as another minor clerk’s chore. I did most but not all of them while working the 3-to-11PM shift. My instructions for the menus were to open the previous day’s menu Word doc, do a Save As with that day’s date as part of the name, and then change only those particulars that were different with the current day’s menu. If I’d removed the quotation marks from “Rolls upon Request,” which I would have if given the latitude, I would be deviating from orders. I would also have made the upper-case boldface D “hidden” text, since it was an indicator of which menu in the master book it was, and not necessary for the dining room patrons to see. But mine was not to question, nor deviate.

One perk of the job was that they fed me the meal of my choice, and a master chef was running the kitchen, so Goody-Goody Yumdrops for me while a Sedona Winds employee. I miss that, but not too much, because in my current job I often get a complimentary meal, depending on the Manager of the Day’s decree.

Here’s what is now on the other side of the menu.

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Before this morning only the acrostics and the endwords of each line were there. So, in collaboration with my younger self, I have finished the Squanderlust acrostic, including a spot illustration of a superhero wannabe in Virtual Reality being held aloft by a ridiculous VR bird, and have started spot illustrations for Ponder Pantry and for Wander Wanter. Both of those will need cleanup and zing.

Or not. I haven’t decided whether the image is better off being left for another six-plus years. I gained a lot when I did the work this morning, but I lost a galaxy’s worth of fresh possibilities. Squanderlust is now set in cement. The other two might be better off wandering the Quantum Multiverse for creation patronage. (Rationalization for being not up to finishing, most likely!)

Squanderlust

Suppressive superheroes blush when donning mask & cowl
Quiescent polymorphs are given choice of fish or fowl
Unvirtued VR simulcastswell suit the parvenu
And one soul’s U of A might be another’s ASU
No self-respected citizen sets forth till s/he assesses
Desiderata such that Uberjoy outweighs the stresses
Enteric eschatology gives faithful fold a Lyft
Remaining to be seen is if there’s Substance to the gift

A long time ago the phrase “wretched excess” was in vogue. Those with Squanderlust seek such. I think we all get a touch of Squanderlust from time to time. 🙂

It being Tuesday, I did my Title Tuesday feature for the Facebook group Poets All Call. This time round my fellow moderator Genevieve Lumbert offered three of her own titles as well:

The Great Falling Away
inertia
hope

My thanks to my lifelong friend. These titles helped me write some poetry that went beyond puzzle-solving and into exploration of matters of the heart.

Here is how I responded.

The Great Falling Away

A clumsy man heard surf
Felt love
Listened to a story about cowhide
Flung over a cliff
And kissed a woman soundly
And kissed a woman softly
And kissed an opportunity
Goodbye.

We don’t always fall down
Like Lucifer.
Sometimes we fall away
Like a vagabond
Or a brisk wind
That shifts direction.

Sometimes a man dies
With a private chamber of sound kisses
And tender sentiments
Still in him.

inertia

the clutter of a litterbug
a scattered realm of shame and love
a stutter step a tale of woe
of habits formed that won’t let go

the butter of another’s lust
unshuttered cluster’d stars unfussed
pull/cull the interstellar dust
and slowly come unwound

the mainspring of eternity
is neither wild nor full unfree
mere cutlery manipulating
flesh of roasts anticipating
guests to sink their teeth
and flee
or saunter through
infinity

hope

we are vertical
and we breathe.

so let us believe
life contains a goodness
our thirst to slake,
the warm embraces
we want to make,
the hikes and climbs and jousts
for whish we roustabouts roust,
the heldhands nightwhispered
plans d’evasions
we wish to conspiratorily make
and then unleash…

hope like a sprig of a sprouting bean
makes a fat man long to lean,
makes two journeys intersect
and lovelorn halves
at last
connect.


This morning Alberto Rios, an Arizona Poet Laureate, posted a link to an article he’d written, an exploration of what the phrase “magic realism” wants to mean. It’s a wonderful, if (necessarily) meanderful, think-piece, and so here’s a screen print for those who want to know where it is:

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As improbable fate would have it, I’d just re-acquired a bowl I’d made in early 2007 and subsequently given to my mother, who went to the Great Beyond on December 11, 2020, and whose former home is being prepared for sale.

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it’s been a long time, but I think the clay body is Laguna Rod’s Bod, Cone 10, outside clear-glazed and inside glazed with Majolica White and allowed to coat the top inch or so of the outside. The glaze appears to have been applied on the outside by dipping, and on the inside by pouring, and then a quick lip-dip to mix Majolica and clear, and to add a coat of thickness to the Majolica’s lip and upper inside areas. The goobery trails of the white outside glaze are due to mixed glazes being more runny, whereas on the inside the glaze-thickness variant is thin where there are ridges and “veiled” where the dip overlaps. The bowl has a nice shape but is not perfectly symmetrical; there’s the slightest pinch in the lip, which with the jester’s-cap gooberishness makes the bowl rather clownish. But even more improbably, the potter incised the Greek symbol for pi on the outside, and white-glazed it. What was he/I THINKING?

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I don’t remember. If there is such a thing as Fate, maybe Fate took over and had me do that back then just so I’d happen upon it just as i was reading an article about Magic Realism by Alberto Rios. Fate also gave me this phone with its tranformative photoediting. Behold the same bowl, which through the “Cartoon” photoediting effect appears to be straight outta The Great Beyond.

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