Recommended Poetry Fridays: 8/25

So I think I’ve just about given up on the full length reviews–they’re mentally exhausting and not very conducive to a procrastinator’s schedule.

Noise by C. John Graham: A pontoon! Pontoum?  Pantaloon?  Ah.  Pantoum.  It appears that WordPress is not up on the spelling of the lesser known poetic forms.  Thank you, Google Overlords.

Trees Are Only X-Rays of Bone by Arlene Ang: You had me at the title.

Recommended Physical Poetic Object of the Day: The Best New Poets series.  How did I not know this was a thing?  Oh, because bookstores typically don’t have a decent poetry selection and the only chain that did is now completely and utterly defunct?  Right.

The Reproduction of Mothering

My grandmother’s hands set in the west,
her fingers like cursive trees.  Each night
she stands at the kitchen sink, fearful
she will be unable to wash her own dishes.
On her birthday I sell beans to a peddler
for a bar of soap, unscented and white,
wrapped in silk.

The first evening my grandmother scrubs
her nails and her hands rescind the alphabet.
She watches horror films and the slivers
of monsters through the venetian blinds
of her fingers. The second: her knuckles thin
and thin, letting slip bands of gold and diamond
to the sewer.  She does not mind, and this
is my first warning.

The third: she straightens to her full height
and steals all my good dresses.  The fourth,
I lose her in a mall.  She has become too fast
for me, on feet for dancing till midnight.
The skin at her elbow plumps, tight and worn
as a well loved drum, dimples where fingers
may press and hold her through a crowd.
By the time the soap is utterly used, a cracked
landscape of desire, my grandmother’s skin
is as soft as goose down.  She sits at the center
of my bed swaddled in a crochet blanket
of her own making.

Years later, when my mother’s hands bend
irrevocably, I tell my daughter how I found her:
eyes dark through chinks of yellow yarn, watching
for all the years yet to come, and I press three beans
into her palm.

Recalculating

Editor’s Note: This story is by Tina.  Do you know Tina?  You should know Tina.  I first met Tina in the Pluto Academy for Intergalactic Emissaries and Sometimes Ninja Spy Assassins.  She helped me with my poisoned needlepoint and I helped her win the heart of the school’s sentient fighter jet.

This story was originally published by Brain Harvest which, sadly, is not a black market for organically farmed cerebellums but is a great place to find awesome speculative fiction.  Enjoy!

Recalculating

by Tina Connolly

Proceed 20 feet and arrive at your destination.

Scanning…. My sensors affirm there is no human female, 36, in this house.

Yet again.

New destination___? Speak up, please. Remember my audio receptor was damaged, and there are no replacements left within a 300 mile radius.

Recalculating.

The battery is capable of completing this journey. Please affirm you have the necessary equipment: Scuba Gear. Wetsuit, preferably your least favorite. One pound fresh produce, tightly bagged, state type___? Long-cherished dream of co-worker, describe wistful
imaginings___?

Cease. That is plenty to go on

Take on-ramp to Hwy 101S.

Continue 32 miles, avoiding potholes. Though potholes are ubiquitous, some of these could swallow a minivan. Be alert.

The off-ramp sign is gone, but you will see a broken billboard reading White Sands Mall. Take that exit and drive until the water is too high to continue.

Suit up, put me in your fanny pack, and wade out. Though I am capable of self-propelled motion, you will need me near.

Crawlstroke when necessary. That patch that sparkles is the blacktop roof of the mall. They have pipes there to run the oxygen and catch seagulls.

They also have booby traps. Stay away from the roof.

Dive down and frogkick 220 feet to the right.

The mall has one landlubbers’ entrance, through the Nordstrom’s. If you see the Cinnabon you’ve gone too far. Grab the N of the Nordstrom’s and lever yourself down three flights to the front door.

It will be dark on the inside. Show them your spinach and the guard will let you in. They still have sneakers, and are willing to trade.

The Nordstrom’s floor is generally wet. The carpet got soaked when the first wave hit and never really dried out. If you are allergic to fungus, get a move on.

The further in you go, the better sealing job they’ve done. Nobody lingers in the Nordstrom’s.

You will have to navigate several layers of waterproofing devices. It will seem like no one is watching you. This will be untrue.

Near the Topsy’s, you will meet the inhabitants. Though they seem an average cross-section of humanity, this is not the case. 90% of them have agoraphobia. Another 8% are afraid of the ocean.

You will recognize their leader by the amount of Claire’s Jewelry he wears. He will likely be scented with Warm Vanilla Body Wash from the Body Shop. Even his agoraphobia hardly dims his lustre. You may find your interaction goes more smoothly if you tell him how brave he is for keeping his tribe alive and thriving in the mall under the ocean.  He will pretend he is too modest for compliments. He would rather interest you in a fine selection of colognes in exchange for your spinach.

You’re still interested in the girl? Yes, my sensors have located the likely target. But she is a small mousey thing, saddled with acute shyness in addition to her other fears.

Very well.

Recalculating.

Proceed 80 feet to the Women’s Shoe Locker. She has made a home for herself behind the Nikes and Adidas, and she is not likely to go with you, even if you produce an extra wetsuit that you have brought.

It does not matter that you have thought her name in your dreams.

It does not matter that you think you knew her when you were both young, and foolish, flipping ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery in the Food Court.

That is a different girl. That is a girl who left. This is a girl who stayed.

And she is not so much a girl, is she? In your dreams she is still 19, and she laughs when you sneak over to the Chick-Fil-A and drop scoops of ice cream in the fryer. But here in the mall she is 36, and she prefers rubber soles and aglets to the world above.

You take her by the hand (a moist, under-the-sea hand) and you say softly, come with me.

Time passes and the water pools in your flippers. The leader will come soon, and want to exchange Mrs. Doubtfire DVDs for your spinach.

You are waiting.

You must decide, and I cannot stay here forever. The sea air will ruin my processor, and I have a vested self-interest. You cannot blame me for this, where this is leaving you with a mall of stored dreams, vacuum packed against love and foreseen apocalypses.

Recalculating.

Tina loved that sentient fighter jet.  He was a sharper, an acer, an all-in-one battle phaser.  But he got caught by a white knight and deliquesced.  After that she turned her days to confectionery.  Her sugared orange peel has been exhibited at the Tri-Galactic Auto! Show and eaten by the Artellian natives from Pelsinore, who exist solely on imported sweetmeats and the kindness of strangers.  She once went into a Claire’s, but it went nova.  Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com

Two Farmers Formerly Without Internet Discovering the Sudden Progression of Their Tractor’s Talents

Hey, Bob?

Yes, Larry?

Want to see a dancing hamster?

Not particularly.

How about a cat who wants cheeseburgers?  A list of the six craziest pirates from fanfiction movies?  A pirated copy of Barefoot in the Park?  A recipe for blueberry pie?

I have a recipe for blueberry pie.

Yeah but this pie is made with common household ingredients.

As are most pies.

Yeah but this one has received 3 and a half stars from welessthanthreepies.com

My pie won the blue ribbon at the state fair.  It beat out national winners and Betty Crocker and a Martha Stewart robot.  My pie is the best pie.  It is the Plato cave of pies.

Yeah but this comes recommended from AppleAnnieoneone_1984#LasVegas.

And how do I know AppleAnnieoneone_1984#LasVegas’s pie making qualifications render her the expert of my peculiar tastes and blueberry preferences?  How do I know AppleAnnieoneone_1984#LasVegas isn’t just someone’s grandmother with a fancy rotary phone who painstakingly typed out this recipe in binary code out of a deep seated desire to impress her high school’s prom king knowing that he has since lost his sense of smell and couldn’t taste the difference between blueberry, huckleberry and freshly mown grass.  I have tested my pie recipe under the most extreme pie tasting conditions.  I have made children weep with the wafting aroma of my flaky crust and cerulean filling.

Yeah but–

Larry?

Yes, Bob?

You do know that blueberries aren’t in season anymore, right?

Sigh.  The thresher didn’t look thrilled by the prospect of printing it out anyway.

Falling Skies – Sanctuary

Aww… civilization has returned: children play soccer on a farm in the woods.  Granted, some of these kids get handed over to the skitters every couple of days but them’s the brakes.

Jimmy doesn’t trust Ben, because apparently these writers have interpreted children’s detestation for all things different as ‘Children will be inherently suspicious of evidence of the other children’s slavery and torture.’  These kids have been portrayed as victims since the beginning.  What, are the other kids jealous that Ben and Dreadlocks got to play in the mines and they didn’t?  They’ve done some hand waving that the others are worried that the kids have somehow switched sides and this interpretation makes sense for Dreadlocks, but not for Ben.  And it only makes sense when Dreadlocks acts strangely not when he just walks around with scars on his back.

Anyway, so one of the Farm girls is in love with Hal because anyone with ovaries instantly melts whenever he is in the vicinity.  Her father notes the attraction and we get the alien invasion update of ‘He’s not good enough for you’ as ‘Remember we’re going to feed them to the skitters in a couple of days, so don’t get too attached… One night stands only for my little girl!’ only in much less nuanced dialog.

The writers hit their Mopey mopes quota early as 2nd Mass Fighters show up without the Professor.

Later Hal and New Set of Ovaries are in the kitchen.  Hal complains about vegetables, no doubt because vegetables are phallic and any indication that Hal is not 1001891% heterosexual will foil the writers’ plans of throwing even MORE females in his direction.

I’m about to turn this episode off for good when we finally get to Pope–aka the only remotely interesting person in the entire series.  Pope makes some crack about the way they’re cooking the asparagus and I can now confidently diagnose him with a full blown case of Noah Wyle disease.  See, Pope is a chef so every third line will have to be related to the development of genetically engineered agricultural products and the ways to salt them.  Soon every character on the show will be reduced to wearing white t-shirts with black words emblazoned upon their chests:

PROFESSOR

COOK

NOT GAY

MOPEY, PREGGY AND DOC-BUT-ONLY-A-PEDIATRICIAN-WITH-WEAKY-LADY-PARTS who will no doubt form their own grunge band on Alpha Centauri when they realize they want more from their life than out of season vegetables and marching bunions.

So COOK and EVIL GRAY HAIRED TRAITOR MAN have a conversation recapping the whole ‘This farm is an evil ruse to give children to the skitters even though that is so illogical even Pope, sorry, COOK didn’t think of it.  There’s more awkward conversation and the reveal that PoOK killed OVARIES’ Daddy’s Brother.  Why is that important?  Why so Pope can reveal he cut him way out of his handcuffs to bake a cake out of hay and broken glass! Oh no, I’m sorry, he just cut the rope and now beats other white dude unconscious but doesn’t kill him because the writers have finally figured out Pope is the only interesting person on the show and we can’t have any moral quandaries about our electing him President of the World in two episodes.

Back at the school, a distinct lack of skitter attacks have made everyone nervous.  Weaver wants to know when Preggy is about to pop, because it makes total sense that she stayed behind with the fighters and imminent danger rather than walk to the nice secluded farm in the woods with the others.  She randomly asks Weaver if he has children… why?  I have no idea.  The line comes out of absolutely effing nowhere. I mean that as literally as literally can mean while bastardizing the word’s meaning and substitution for figuratively: Weaver asks Preggy when she’s due, some response about 2 days ago, Weaver turns around and then:

Hey, do you have any children?

It would have been less random if she had asked ‘Hey, do you know how to take the derivative of an asymptotic integral?’ Or something.

So Weaver reveals he has two daughters and the entire writing staff breathes a great sigh of relief that their careful and systematic placement of 18,000 clues every episode have finally paid off.

Back at the farm, everyone sits down for a civilized meal.  Dreadlocks sits awkwardly because he is now AWKWARD SKITTER MAN.  He refuses to eat–no doubt a hunger strike until someone gets a decent line somewhere.

RELIGION discovers a backpack that doesn’t belong and is now SUSPICIOUS GIRL.  Maybe there’ll be a Nancy Drew spinoff, which is actually worth watching as RELIGIOUS SUSPICIOUS GIRL investigates tales of haunted alien ships which turn out to be really fancy fog machines.  She goes to find Hal and finally three people have a logical conversation:

Suspicious backpack that shouldn’t be here + sentries on the farm and stores but no one watching the Skies or roads = SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT.  Only Dreadlocks’ father is an adult AND black and therefore the writers have forced him to down a bottle of stupid pills.  “I’ve known this guy for 6 months.  I believe everything he says.”

Fortunately as soon as he has no more lines to speak, TOKEN reclaims some dignity and starts investigating.  He finds… a chair where Pope was being held plus more clothing.  Oh and a guy with a gun.

GRAY HAIR tells the story: we gave the skitters a child and they stopped attacking for a week.  Apparently the skitters have a quota and GRAY HAIR has a dream of ensconcing himself in the new alien consumerist economy.  Dreadlocks’ father turns around to show his deep, moral turbulence.

Back at school, Preggy is finally in labor.  She reveals that the father is a sperm donor and she has the worst timing imaginable since six weeks after conception, you know, aliens.  I would try to accuse the writers of making some backhanded argument about unnatural family units and the apocalypse, but really that would be giving them too much credit.

At the farm, Token is still conflicted.  But Gray thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to let him walk around on his own instead of sequestering him to prevent the most inevitable result: Token reveals everything to the kids and they try to escape.  Ovaries betrays them because being handed over to the enemy to work as slaves is a fitting punishment for getting dissed by a boy.

There’s a shootout, Dreadlocks clearly doesn’t want to leave.  He continues his refusal to do or say anything until he gets a better script, and truly I admire him for it.  Stick to your guns, Dreads!

Meanwhile, Professor has learned that the map is wrong, the escorts aren’t back, and Weaver refuses to believe anything that isn’t written on paper.

Elsewhere, the kids have holed up in a house.  Ben wants to go out and look for help because he is Super Pushup and Jump Rope boy now and is incapable of fatigue.

Back in the maternity ward, after “a few hours” the baby still hasn’t come, and Preggy is shocked,SHOCKED I tell you because she KNOWS she is in a TV show and TV babies never take more than 15 minutes to deliver.  Doc reveals it’s a breach and this is the most DIRE DIAGNOSIS IN THE WORLD.  Especially because Doc has to point out that she is neither an OBGYN nor a SURGEON.  Because apparently doctor school is so specialized that you learn no other medical skills while there.  And since we all know Pediatricians are the lowest of the low specialties, the only thing we’re sure that Doc knows is lollipop dispersals.

“But,” blonde remembers, “You deharnessed those kids,”

“Yeah with a blow torch”

Which, lets admit, would make the most awesome C-section on the face of the earth.  Unfortunately Weaver steps in to assist since as a soldier and a man and participant in one home birth this one time with the daughter we finally got to mention and now will mention repeatedly, he has more experience in delivering babies than the licensed medical professional.

Back at the giant house, the kids have been found by Gray Hair’s men.  They all line up at the front of the house because no one went to Police ‘Where Bad Guys Escape Through the Back Door’ school.  Of course these kids are too stupid to actually run out the back, so they get to watch as Noah Wyle gives himself up and then tells all the kids to come outside where they are then SURROUNDED BY MEN WITH GUNS.  Professor say “First Rule is to Survive.”  Umm.  Okay.  I thought first rule was to run when you can and let Pope and Professor take out the men with guns from behind, but whatever.

So now everyone is back at the farm like a big happy family and the kids are locked in the stable OH where Weaver and everyone else has been hiding.  Well that was almost smart since now they can raid the farm for supplies and guns.  Ben is now one-of-the-non-slaved-and-tortured and Pope is receiving medical attention next to a crying baby (delivered ‘mostly by Weaver’ to further demystify the medical profession and the abilities of women everywhere).

There’s a burial for Dreadlocks’ dad and Professor gives us a lecture about Taps, a bugle song from the Civil War because it’s been at least 5 minutes before the Professor got to Professicate about anything and the world is in danger of exploding.

Then Religion girl pulls out piano music and sings while Dreadlocks gets handed a flag and he looks sullen and unmoved.  He doesn’t understand how people could kill each other. Because he apparently is not human at all, despite being all bipedal and covered in skin and stuff.

Windmills

Editor’s Note: This is actually an old post from my other blog.  I should’ve put Tina Connolly’s Recalculating here as the reason I’m a robot-post short today is I am packing up to move back to St. Louis, but I haven’t yet come up with a proper introduction for her story.  So look for Cautionary Tales Regarding Automatic Geopositioning Systems next week.  Until then, pretend the reason for the windmill congregation is a sudden advancement in nano mimicking technology and something about robots that build other robots with an inexplicable desire to view the sea.

We should have listened to Don Quixote of La Mancha. For when they came, we saw only windmills as that is all we had ever seen. One, then two, then dozens cresting the hill with great flapping shirts of woven saplings. The birds would not go near, and we thought this was normal as birds never sit on windmills. Spinning arms could break the wings of a careless bird and the constant whumpssht, whumpsst of blades through too-high grasses would crack the mind of a conscientious one. No, birds like trees for sleeping, the attics of houses, or the comforting right angles of steeples.

So that the birds stayed far, far away, crossing provinces and parishes, did not bother us. The dogs too, howling in the night could be the sign of rapidly decreasing pressure systems and it often rains in summer. When a farmer said, ‘wasn’t there just the three of them the other day?’ we thought he’d been tipping the bottle a little earlier than usual.

It is a theory in some South American history circles that the Incas did not see the Spanish ships until Pizarro himself stood on the beach. Even then perhaps his armor was so much like a giant, burnished oyster shell that children passing thought to collect his feet from under him. If Pizarro had not moved irrevocably inland, perhaps the villagers would have continuously referred to the silver acacia washed up from the sea, advising young girls to press their hands to the lower branches to bring good luck in childbirth.

Many things are only dangerous when they move in unexpected ways. When a visiting Irishman noted that the windmills turned clockwise he wrote at once to his Prime Minister.

“Have you sent our windmills away? Have they fled the homeland to put down roots on barbaric shores? Have you insulted them? Has our whiskey turned sour? Why have they abandoned us?”

The minister dismissed it, assuming that the Irishman, like the farmer, like the ingenious Hidalgo, was tilting all too soon.

The windmills though, hearing this, corrected their movements but this gave them away. Even the cynics, the tourists, the international prosecutors on leave from the Hague, will notice when a great hulking structure slows down and begins to circle the other way. Each reacted differently. The tourists glanced from side to side, calculating the degree of astonishment or fear in the locals’ expressions and decided to mount their awkwardly painted bicycles and flee. Tourists, as much as we mock them, are often quite sensible in their decisions.

The farmer and the Irishmen and a few birds too old or stubborn to emigrate ordered whiskey and toasted their vindication.

The legally minded decided they had found an irresistible opportunity, though they did not yet know whether they possessed jurisdiction. It was a matter they relished investigating for years.

And the windmills, the real windmills, sensing an impossible change in their surprisingly complex pecking order, heaved a great sigh like waves lapping over a wooden bow.

Rejection Letters

Dear Steve,

While your autobiographical piece found some reception among our more techno-savy staff, unfortunately the pervasive lack of purpose made it unsuitable for a magazine devoted to motivational speeches given to bears during times of war.

Sincerely
Motivational Speeches for Bears in Times of War Magazine

Dear Pinkie,

Rhyme is a difficult sell here. While we appreciate your dedication to the many ways to rhyme medical ailments, ultimately we felt that your 287 page epic which we read in full would be better suited for a literary magazine. Try the New Yorker. Tell them we sent you.

Sincerely,
Popular Mechanic

Dear That Metal Thingy Over There, You Know, The One With the Teeth,

Our editors were extremely impressed with your creativity, perseverance, and dexterity. Unfortunately, this is an erotic graphic magazine for lawnmowers and as such, we will not entertain any submissions by the lower mechanical lifeforms.

Sincerely,
Cut That Grass, Cut It Hard Weekly

Dear Lothar, Destroyer of Universes,

Awww, what a cute little bunny you are. Cute little bunny! Here’s a carrot! Here’s a carrot!

Sincerely,
Awww, what a cute little bunny you are. Cute little bunny! Here’s a carrot! Here’s a carrot! Digest

Dear Chunk,

No, we will not let you out of the icebox.

Sincerely,
Obscure Cinematic References Collected During Late Night Chatroom Sessions

A Face Like an Imperfectly Shaven Tennis Ball

Sometimes I wish I had detachable body parts.
My mouth I would leave locked in a box, wedged

between two bricks. Then, when my grandmother
asked what to give her cousin, a nun, I could not have said,

“Early edition of the bible. Signed by Jesus.” My ears I’d tag,
then send on their own way. Perhaps ironed and slipped

between pages of library books. What has your own mouth
betrayed in the presence of Hemingway or October’s

Popular Mechanic? My eyes I’ll leave with my grandmother
as she is old and likely to stumble when no one is looking.

She can have my hands too. To open jars, diet coke cans,
and to smack her demon-spawn cat into next Tuesday.

“Love nips” my ass (Donated to charity, there’s more
than enough to go around. Twice.). Toes to my cousin Bubba,

who has none on his left foot. May he grow accustomed
to cherry red nail polish. Other parts I’ll pitch, or burn,

as lately I have read many stories of nefarious teeth.
And my nose I’ll keep, for purely selfish reasons.