The Pepsi Challenge

Touch me not,
you Pepsi challenge of a —
well, we all have challenges, don’t we,
every one of us fighting those tiny Twilight Zone aliens
from Earth, each of us alone in our dress in our farmhouse
on an unnamed planet of our own?
Pepsi is the national drink of those aliens — I mean,
does anyone really prefer it? Many of us said we did.
Many of of were shocked, a veil lifted from our eyes, a label
(black on white, Cola A or Cola B) sliding off the can
to reveal our secret choice. I know I took the Pepsi challenge
and wanted it to go a certain way, and it either did or didn’t,
but I forget what I wanted and what I chose, and how I felt
when the truth was revealed. I know I have certain challenges now.
I forget what I want and what I choose and how I feel, and the truth.

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The Woodpecker

Billing into the tree
to insect itself enough
to survive, while I
garbaged down the alley
in my pajamas, then
staired back up to my son,
who was oatmealing
and buffalo plaid bathrobing
while once again kneeing
up over the table, but I
hated to lecture the stillness,
so I peaced it, this time.

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Today’s prompt at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads was to write a poem in which we did a lot of verbing (making nouns into verbs). It was harder than it looked — I kept thinking of nouns that already are verbs. I kept “lecture,” in fact, even though it’s on shaky ground.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of NaPoWriMo. Thank you so much for following along! As for what happens next month (starting tomorrow), I can’t even speculate … yet.

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The Almost-Last Visits

Don’t make this one about your mother,
how you saw an anniversary card she wrote to your father,
and it made no sense, her mind slipping under the pain meds,
about six weeks before she died, as it turned out —
but you didn’t know that then,
visiting as if it were any other visit, only with
artificial voices, bright and cheerful, and then terror
at the wrongness of everything, the slipping of everything,
every night in the guest bedroom,
alone. (Or was your husband there? Were your children there?
Funny that you don’t remember — the almost-last visits blur.)
Don’t write about how when she reached over one night
on the couch, to rub your neck and shoulders, you were startled that,
after all, you were still the daughter and she was still the mother,
and still strong enough in her hands, still wanting to do
something for you.
Don’t write another poem about your mother
and how she was sick and how she died.
Don’t write about grief.
Don’t.

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Today’s prompt at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads was to write about the moment just before something ends.

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Blank Wave

Like a curl of vanilla ice cream
coming in fast from the north,
washing over everything you know.
The wall of your mind is now
eggshell or ecru — or greige.
Neutral for pleasantness and
resale value, and also because
you used all your colors
yesterday and 26 days back.
It’s a 28-day cycle, you know.
You’ll be replenished soon.

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I had to break a rule. I said I wouldn’t jump around among different prompt sources during this year’s NaPoWriMo, but I was stopped by the one at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads (form is not my strong suit, and I’m feeling tapped as this month draws to a close), so today I used the one at Poetic Asides, which was to write a poem titled _______ Wave. I took it literally because I feel the blank wave coming.

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The Bones of Mars

The bones of Mars
still rest within Mars,
but for how long?

Every night now,
when I walk the dog,
I expect a shower
of fragments, chips

of broken planet —
a different broken planet
from the one we’re living on.

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Today’s prompt at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads was to write a poem inspired by any of several examples of children’s artwork. I combined two: one of bones, and one of Mars.

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Why My Mother Bought Five Alive

  1. It’s possible that we were poor at the time. We were never poor poor, but
    I do remember a period of reduced-price lunch tickets and powdered milk.
    So it may be that Five Alive time coincided with that time. Between jobs.
    I seem to recall that she was apologetic, ashamed about the non-juice juice.
    If that’s the case, she shouldn’t have been. But there’s nothing I can tell her now.
  2. Maybe people were less discerning back then. I see that Five Alive had
    60% real juice and 100% refreshment. That doesn’t sound too bad.
    In another few years, Sunny Delight would come along and try to
    convince people that it, too, was juice, and that cool kids in sunglasses
    were all-fired desperate for Sunny D offered by the coolest of moms.
  3. Moms aren’t really cool. (I am one.) Sometimes, we get frustrated, and
    if these damn kids think I’m going to pay real orange juice money
    day after day to fill their glass so they can sit there, letting it get warm,
    or gulp it down in three seconds and never once say, Wow, Mom!
    Thank you for serving us real orange juice, well then. We’ll just see.
  4. Because she had a 30₵ coupon, and that’s not nothing, you know?
    It expired in 1980, at the very end of that year. Where were we then?
    Thief River Falls, Minnesota, my father out of work. That brings me
    back to No. 1 on this list. I don’t know if everyone associated
    Five Alive with poverty, but I know I got that idea from somewhere.
  5. Come on now — it was the ’70s (or 1980, as I’ve said). Everything
    was about 60% real, and no one cared, unless you went in the other
    direction — macrobiotics and all of that. A lot of us drank Hi-C
    after school, from a giant tin can with triangles punched in the lid.
    A lot of us drank Five Alive in the morning, before we left our mothers.

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    Today’s prompt at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads was to write a list poem that involves “five.” I swear that mine had carefully considered line breaks, but you won’t see them because WordPress is confused by poems with long lines. Just trust me.

    No automatic alt text available.
    (Posted by another member of a Facebook group called Off the Rack – Retail Memories. I’m going to assume that Snow Crop doesn’t care.)

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Wrath

For breakfast that day, I had scrambled eggs
and wrath,
stirring so vigorously, I sprained my wrist.
I ate my portion and threw the rest away,
even though he was sitting there,
hungry and waiting.
Him.

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Today’s prompt at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads was to write about one of the seven deadly sins or seven heavenly virtues.

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