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Rolled Oats

Some phrases just roll off the tongue.  I like “rolled oats” because of the long “O” in both words.  In fact it inspired me to see if I could extend it.  This is good practice for poets since the sounds of words in poetry is so important.  Here’s mine.  You try one too.

Lonesome Jones owns forty glorious rolled oat stores for those poor bores ordering s’mores.


I waltzed out of the local grocery store, pushing a cart full of bags and shoved them in the back of my Honda Fit.  I slid into the driver’s seat and then huffed in annoyance. A folded flyer was stuck under the windshield wiper. I yanked open the door, balanced on my left leg, and reached around to pull the flyer loose.  I unfolded it and read the large Times New Roman bold letters:

“The earth is shifting beneath you.”

“In MY day, we….”

For some reason this phrase evokes Thanksgivings as a kid when odd smelling grandparents and weird uncles came over for a big turkey dinner.  It wouldn’t be long before one of them would scowl and say, “In MY day, we…” with a variety of endings.  Perhaps they walked ten miles to school and back (barefoot) and thought I was a slacker because I was in a car pool.  Perhaps they only had one or two books, and it infuriated them that I turned the corner of a page down to mark my place in my paperback.  Or perhaps they thought my attempt to fling a pea off my spoon across the table into my sister’s big mouth would have brought on severe corporal punishment if they’d acted up at the table.

Times have changed.  As we become the parents and then the grandparents (though I sincerely hope I do not smell odd), I can feel this phrase wanting to rise to my lips as I watch nephews, nieces, and grandchildren do the unthinkable.

“In MY day, we didn’t take phone calls during dinner, not to mention checking your cell phone and texting every two seconds.”

“In MY day, we had to go out in the cold weather and hang out in the back yard to sneak a joint instead of lighting up in the house.”

“In MY day, we only had one television, and if Pop wanted to watch football, we didn’t get to watch An Affair to Remember.”

How would you end that phrase, “In MY day, we…”?


Never-Never Land

Never-Never Land was where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys lived.  Two stars on the right and straight on until morning.

I find myself using this phrase often as a place that doesn’t exist.  (Example:  Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen has been living in Never-Never Land.)

But what if we could create our own, preferred Never-Never Land?  What would it be like?  Yes, this is a tricky question.  The more you think about it, the more details you give it, the less it holds together.

Even so, when times are tough, it would be nice to go to Never-Never Land.  Take me to yours.


Fire has so many connotations.  It can be the source of warmth, a way to cook food, a lovely candle flame, a cozy crackling campfire to create camaraderie, or even the way to clear a field.  The flip side is fire as the destroyer of homes, a way to scar the skin, how to burn a favorite pot, or a force that easily gets out of hand.

But whether it’s left its mark in a scar, in the glory of crepes suzette, or a belly full of barbeque, fire evokes memories in all of us.   Yours?

Leonard Bernstein

This is a poetry challenge.

Think back to that great song in West Side Story when the women argue about whether it’s better to live in American or Puerto Rico.  Sing this in your head:

I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev’rything free in America
For a small fee in America!

Rhythmically, this is a fascinating lyric.  It combines  3/3 time (waltz time for those of you who didn’t get piano lessons) and 2/2 time on the word “America.”  Let me count it out for you.

I like to   be in A    mer    i       ca.

1-2-3        1-2-3        1-2    1-2    1-2

Notice that all the ones are the heavy beats while the twos and threes are the weak beats.  All the numbers get equal time.  You can beat this out on your desk with your left hand doing the ones and your right hand doing the twos and threes.

Most poetry settles for a fairly settled rhythmic pattern like iambic pentameter.  You’ll find it in Shakespeare sonnets and in a line from Keats below:

2     1        2      1          2         1         2    1    2      1

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a few variations to make the words fit the rhythm, that’s the way it is through the whole poem or sonnet:  sets of 2-1s (iambic), repeated five times (pentameter).

Now, along comes composer Bernstein, and he wants to mess around with the rhythm and time.  He’s not the first, but he does it so well here that this becomes a song (actually the chorus) we all like without quite knowing why.

So your challenge, should you choose to accept, is to either use Bernstein’s rhythm or come up with a crazy—but compelling—rhythm of your own where it is not consistent within the line but is consistent across the different lines.

Your content is your own choice, whether funny, serious, or musical.  I know you can do it!

Sir Milos Who?

The orchestra played “The Waltz of the Dancing Bears” as the couples alternately swirled and pounded their feet to the deep bass music, heavily accented by drums.  Candles burned in silver candelabras placed on the window sills of the ball room.  All wore white, shining in the dim light.  Sir Milos Westerman spoke.