Teenage Ice Cream Shop Associate

Day 26 of NaPoWriMo.  Today’s prompt is to write a “persona poem”.  Well, even when I don’t write persona, to a great extent, I draw from many different people including my own experiences and even assuming an alter-ego.  Either way.  I had couple of ideas, but it seemed to explore them would require considerable amount of time, which is short supply today.  So instead, I thought about the many teenagers you see working at all the small shops.  So, I assumed a persona of a teen ice cream shop attendee working a Saturday afternoon shift.  I’m not quite sure if this is even a poem, a prose poem or flash fiction.  But, here it goes….

Two more hours till end of shift. Then 
meet friends over coffee, maybe catch a movie,
perhaps dinner after,

Whoa! look who just walked in - its Jenny.
God. Ok, keep your cool, don't get tongue-tied,
But man, she’s sahara desert hot,

You can't expect me to keep it cool, I bet 
she can melt all the ice cream in the shop.
"Heh. What can I get you?"

Damn. Did I just hear a sizzle when she licked
the ice cream sample. "Scoop of happiness,
That's a great choice."

Scoop it slowly. Think of something to say.
"School’s fine, how about you?"
Dope, why didn't you ask

about the chem class we have together. "My plans? 
Not much, just hang out, coffee, movie, maybe dinner."
Umm, why is she interested in my plans?

"Yes, you do know everyone that’s coming." 
Did I hear this right? "You want to come along? 
Sure. No, everyone will be cool with that."

What’s happening here. Keep it cool. Keep it cool. 
"Sure I can give you a ride. Pick you up at seven. 
Fabulous." Did I say fabulous?

What just happened here. Whatever.
Do the happy dance!

Cage and Other Clerihews

Day 25 of NaPoWriMo.  Today’s prompt is a Clerihew, which a four-line biographical poem.  The first line is usually the name of the poem’s subject.  The poem usually has a  rhyme scheme AABB, line length and meter can be irregular.

For a bit silly Clarihew.

Nicholas Kim Coppola aka Nicholas Cage
Did good offbeat work and was all the rage
His acting he says is ‘Nouveau Shamanic’
but it sounds more like cashing in and shambolic.

Geeky Ones

Byron’s only legit child - Ada Lovelace
When Babbage needed software, she was on the case
She wrote first instructions that were algorithmic
Now they have proliferated on a scale logarithmic.

‘Amazing Grace’ Murray Hopper
Built the first compiler proper
Her other skill was training young people
To take chances and cause ripples.

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Talks about subject of event horizon
His intellect and geekiness are inspirational
his wit and throaty laughs are simply gravitational.

Political Ones

Karl Christian Rove
Turned small Bush into grove
He was nicknamed ’turd blossom’
Whose deeds were oh so gruesome.

Richard Bruce “Dick” Cheney
Not your garden variety meanie
He spews venom through forked tongues
His heart is like coal miner’s lungs.

0.9 Poems

Missed Day 24 of NaPoWriMo.  I didn’t start writing till late and finished something by midnight.  So posting it today.  Day 24 prompt was to “write a parody or satire based on a famous poem.”  I had come across Aram Saroyan‘s poetry just in last couple of months and read about how his one word poem “lighght” created controversy.  He is known for his minimalist and concrete poetry.  Though, I am drawn to haiku and minimalism (yes I even like some of Philip Glass’ work, especially the ‘qatsi’ trilogy), thought this would be a good way to write some parody or satire making light of this work.  So for this prompt, I picked Saroyan’s nine poem.  In process of writing, I read and re-read some of the poems and actually started seeing different meanings and nuances.  So I am not quite sure if this is might be mix of parody and admiration.  Each of mine is preceded by Saroyan’s original in parentheses.

.1
(sky
every
day)

dew
leaf
drops

.2
(a
dish
of
irish
setter)

a
plate
of
Lady
Di

.3
(I crazy).

def crazy.

.4
(room now
door Humphrey
Bogart)

.4a
temple pick
fight Amitabh
Bachchan

.4b
I have
ma Shashi
Kapoor

.4c
sleep child
else Gabbar
Singh

.5
(    pagne
 cham.
)

    nation
car.

.6
(j;u;n;g;l;e)

.6a
l.o.v.e

.6b
m:e:t:r:o:p:o:l:i:s

.7
(car swerves
injures 11;
driver held)

car speeds
nothing happens;
driver leaves

.8
(seek
air
tragedy
bodies)

oxygen
bars
rich
parties

.9
(wind     oil    to
 blows    out    sea)

no         trade   great   show
dishonesty deal    than    details

Six of Spades: A City Symphony

Day 23 of NaPoWriMo.  Today was all about taking chances.  The prompt was to find a deck of cards (any type), and draw a card and then free associate and write for 5 minutes.  Being lazy enough to locate a deck of cards in the house, I drew a virtual card from an online site.  I drew a six of spades.  I like stream of consciousness writing.  Of course, after the 5 minutes, there was more work to stretch and organize the words that spilled out.  Can’t say if the result turned out great, but the process, at least, was fun.

Six of spades 
As in spades, as in droves. 
Droves of doves perched on banyan trees 
Droves of doves, crows, sparrows and their kin - 
bringing up the raucous section of the woodwinds. 

Outnumbered pedestrians avoid walking under the trees, 
spilling off the footpaths and 
mixing in with rickshaws, scooters, cycles, cars, and cows 
all flow through the streets 
as multitude of horns honk and beep, 
add brass to the woodwinds. 

Sun sets against the district court - 
as plaintiffs, defendants, and lawyers stream out 
adding their chorus to the cacophony. 

Sun casts long shadows across the lake 
Boaters paddle and propel their oars on the lake 
The sloshing and thumping 
adds rhythm. 
Lantern-lit food carts dot the lake, 
Across the street at the music venue, 
Crowd gathers for tonight's event 
Inside the concert hall,the strings come online - 
And now, the noisy city symphony is in full swing.
 
But, we will end with 
the same words as we started, 
Not sure what any of this has to do with - 
Six of spades.

Actual Text:

Six of spades In spades is droves Droves of Doves on banyan tree raucous and loud in the evening setting sun soft light traffic high cyclists and rickshaws and cows and cars and end of the day  people with business from the court family disputes lawyers in black robes food carts and the lake with boaters and music college with students of music concerts one way traffic.

A Ghazal for Earth Day

Day 22 of NaPoWriMo.  Today is Earth Day, so the prompt was to write a “pastoral” poem.  I was leaning towards a particular idea, but ended up writing a ghazal, instead.

I remember the morning walk in the park this evening
Woodpecker is drilling the tree bark this evening.

Drive from work meanders across fescue grass fields, 
The blades sway, under gentle breeze, and arc this evening.

The brook on the trail is merrily babbling, as are the kids
in their neon-laces, that glow in the dark this evening.

Hyperbole and pandering is nothing new for politicians
But a Republicon must have jumped the shark this evening.

Sun prisms through the steeple’s stained glass windows
On fallow fields struts a streak horned lark this evening.

Columbia snakes against Rocky Butte and lush green canopy
’Mirage’ hopes this scene’s intact as we disembark this evening.

Notes:  All couplets with the exception of the fourth are nature related.  In a ghazal disjunctive ideas are perfectly fine, and I just couldn’t help but get that political dig in!  I mean how else can you use the expression jumped the shark.

All the couplets refer to local imagery.  In second couplet, for example, it is still common to see fields within the urban growth boundary.  The third couplet refers to the brook on the neighborhood trail.  The fourth couplet is specific to a church and fields on the edge of the urban-rural divide.  But, I cannot say I have really seen a streak horned lark – which is endangered and I am assuming rare to spot in Oregon and Washington, its habitat.  And the last couplet place reference is Portland airport which sits on the banks of the Columbia river.

Fountain of Youth: Erasure Poetry

Day 21 of NaPoWriMo.  Today’s prompt was erasure poem.  I did one back in 2013.  Today’s poetry as Mary Ruefle calls erasure (but not a poem)  is derived from an article Who Doesn’t Want to Live Forever?  The Cult of Singularity by Derek Beres.

 

Fountain of youth,
seeking of eternal youth,
ability to live forever,
desire to transcend the flesh.

Wizards, sadhus, and alchemists have all claimed,
correct chemistry, the key to perpetual existence:
Pranayama, the transmutation of lead into gold,
resveratrol,
concoction of nutrients in pill,
transferring consciousness into a machine.

Future machines - more humanlike than humans.
A new theology,
a silicon intelligence,
the new and complete God,
the matter and energy in the universe.

Like singularity, futurism.
Artificial intelligence becomes
more intelligent than simple biology

A slippery slope,
into Nietzche's abyss -
transcending biology, upending
evolution altogether.

Optimism has problem -
The fateful moment of singularity
with its promise of
more peaceful future.

Futurists using science to overcome science.
But the Buddhists knew: when contemplating the self,
the brain is studying itself.

Laugh
Gaze
Stay forever young taking a
dip in that fountain.
Utopia has robots, and humanity.
Immortality is the desire to transcend fear.

 

In the original text form:

While the Fountain of Youth is generally ascribed to the conquistador Juan Ponce de León — located in Florida, perhaps, or the Bahamas, or the Yucatan — the legend itself is far older. The seeking of eternal youth is as old as literature itself: Herodotus wrote of it; Gilgamesh nearly had it until his fateful nap.

Truth is, searching for the ability to live forever is probably much older than our texts reveal. Human beings have long struggled with this mortal coil we’ve all been wrapped within. The desire to transcend the flesh — so prominent in early yoga texts; so evident in biblical lifespans — has been with us for thousands of years.

And for thousands of years wizards, sadhus, and alchemists have all claimed such an inheritance. Our flesh is merely an engineering problem. Once the correct chemistry is understood, the key to unlocking a perpetual existence will be at hand.

That key used to be pranayama, intense breathing exercises, as well as the transmutation of lead into gold. Today our understanding is more nuanced — it could be resveratrol, the “good stuff” in red wine, or some other concoction of nutrients in pill form. Anyone for a frosty mug of soylent?

Perhaps the biggest change over the millennia is the understanding of “what” is perpetuating itself. In prior times it was a soul that needed to transcend this “meat body” that our true selves carried around. Today, however, it’s all about transferring consciousness into a machine.

Don’t take my word for it: In The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil writes,

In fact these future machines will be even more humanlike than humans today. If that seems like a paradoxical statement, consider that much of human thought is petty and derivative … Our future primarily nonbiological selves will be vastly more intelligent and so will exhibit these finer qualities of human thought to a far greater degree.

If this all sounds like a new take on theology, that’s because it is. As Kurzweil states in the book, “We need a new religion.” He goes on to describe a silicon intelligence that will occur once we “transcend biological intelligence.” This is the new and complete God, a “sublimely intelligent” entity that will wake up after we humans have “saturated the matter and energy in the universe with intelligence.

Last week Kurzweil revealed his somewhat normal breakfast habits — well, as normal as smoked mackerel, dark chocolate, and soy milk might be — before admitting that his intake before a hundred or so pills, totaling a few thousands of dollars a day in supplements. At 67, he prefers to state his biological age being in the “late 40s.”

Like singularity, futurism is a borrowed term: An early 20th century Italian artistic movement by the same name emphasized speed, technology, youth, and violence. Only violence is mostly brushed aside in the race to the singularity, the moment when artificial intelligence becomes more intelligent than that offered by simple biology. As Kurzweil writes,

Our merger with technology has aspects of a slippery slope, but one that slides up toward greater promise, not down into Nietzsche’s abyss. Some observers refer to this merger as creating a new “species.” But the whole idea of a species is a biological concept, and what we are doing is transcending biology … We are upending biological evolution altogether.

Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad have been studying the dangers of gurus and cults for decades. In order for a person to be considered a wise agent revealing a special message for humanity, they must convince people to distrust themselves and their surroundings. As they write in The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power

If one’s viewpoint is mainly historical, optimism is difficult to muster, because history has not shown the human species capable of intelligently handling the power and problems created by its technological cleverness.

The fateful moment of singularity calms that fear with its promise of a more intelligent, and therefore more peaceful future. All of this petty biology so far has not served anyone in the truest, highest sense. 

Linking religious ideology with science is nothing new. If you’re hoping to create a new religion, you actually need a bit of it: Christian Science, which ironically is science in name alone, considering that prayer not medicine heals you; Scientology, again, in name only, as the auditing leads to one of the most insane science-fiction disasters ever dreamed up. Some even call the most neurotic of this lot “creation science.”

Futurists, however, firmly root themselves in the sciences in hopes of transcending them. The very thought of using science to overcome science has a foundation in our neural structure, something the Buddhists knew long ago: when contemplating the self, the brain is studying itself.

What is not being studied, however, is the world outside of Silicon Valley. We might laugh at the HBO sitcom or awkwardly gaze at the ingredients in soylent, but something about this entire endeavor feels in-group. Besides being available to only an elite few, the notion of spending thousands a day to stay forever young sounds more like a fear of death than a promise of taking a dip in that ever-elusive fountain.

Sure, all technologies come down in price over time. But what in our culture today could possibly hint at an even playing field void of financial concern? It is estimated that up to $5 billion could be spent on the 2016 presidential campaign, while it leaked that Spotify is lawyering up to try to pay lower royalty rates. Nearly half the world’s population lives on under $2.50 a day. Any utopia has to address that first, not robots.

Humanity, and by extension our technologies, is accelerating rapidly — Kurzweil and legions of futurists are correct about that. Little will stop this trend, save environmental catastrophe. But trying to sell an idea like immortality is probably as old as language itself. Like all heads at Google, Kurzweil is selling an ideology, one that will eventually be capitalized upon by whoever holds the patent. The desire to transcend biology and the fear of losing it are two sides of the same coin — a coin that will land regardless of how many times he tries to flip it.

Microbiota

Day 20 of NaPoWriMo.  What seemed like an easy prompt, turned out little more difficult to write on today.  The prompt is, “write a poem that states the things you know. For example, “The sky is blue” or “Pizza is my favorite food” or “The world’s smallest squid isParateuthis tunicata. Each line can be a separate statement, or you can run them together. The things you “know” of course, might be facts, or they might be a little bit more like beliefs. Hopefully, this prompt will let your poem be grounded in specific facts, while also providing room for more abstract themes and ideas.”

I know I am me
But only ten percent,
like the African savannah, where -
there are lions, leopards and cheetah
there are wildebeest, cape buffaloes, zebras
and giraffes, and rhinos and elephants
there are elands, gazelles, impalas and waterbucks,
I am an ecosystem of microfauna -
Nine out ten cells of my microbiota -
my savannah - is
bacteria, yeast, fungi, archaea and achari.
I know I am me,
But barely.