Prompt # 8, “Never A Cross Word” brought a new dimension to the quality of work we have come to expect here in the Garden. And as always, our poets did not disappoint. Here is the decision for this prompt:

Marie Elena’s selection:

This prompt was most certainly a challenge, Walt. You stretched all of us, though you’d never know it by the quality and variety of poetry posted again. You poets absolutely ROCK!

I had chosen the poem I wanted to spotlight (though it was a tough choice once again this week), but then Misk Mask showed up and threw the proverbial wrench into my plan. Misk, your “Finished” stunned me, and touched me deeply. You’ve somehow tapped into the heartrending, disturbing world of our homeless and mentally ill. You offer snippets that convey the mind, manner, and soul of your subject.

First, you endear her to my heart with her aluminum tab rings.

Then, you show me her intelligence, sense of humor, and despicable circumstances with this one simple line: “She’s a fashion rebel, she tells a blue bottle fly that licks at a sore on her ankle.”

You again brilliantly use one line … this time to convey exactly how disturbing is the world that unmercifully traps her mind: “And there’s the mutilated fairy doll that’s missing its head, but that doesn’t stop it from yammering on about nothing all night long.” I can’t even read this line without tearing up. The first time I read it, I literally shuddered.

I could go on, but highlighting nearly every phrase is the equivalent of not highlighting at all. I’ll just end by saying thank you, Misk, for this astounding poem.

FINISHED by Misk Mask

The rain can’t reach her here.
She’s sheltered in the shadowed
recesses of a rank smelling alcove,
a dreary ravine between two shops
that she calls home during the months
that promise warmer weather. Wind flays the
marble walls of the shopping center,
paper cups and burger wrappers
swept up in the gusts that fly
past her imaginary front door
with its peep-hole at eye-level.

She pats her bulging pockets, protected objects
retrieved here, there and somewhere she can’t remember.
Store receipts, not hers of course, but she likes
to pretend that she bought something there.
Aluminium pull-tabs, 8 of them that she wears
one on each finger as her precious rings;
she’s a fashion rebel she tells a bluebottle
fly that licks at a sore on her ankle.
And there’s the mutilated fairy doll
that’s missing its head but that doesn’t stop it
from yammering on about nothing all night long.
And empty disposable lighters in bright primary colours
reminding her of a rainbow, like the ones
created by her favourite key chain
with its dangling crystal pyramid.

But most valued, most precious, her legal tender,
her handfuls of half-smoked cigarettes
rescued from a nearby aluminium pillared ashtray.
The one topped with a swathe of funereal sand –
cigarette butts erect in it, tilting,
bent and subdued under thumb,
abandoned ghostly headstones.
Abandoned like she was.
Abandoned of hope.
Abandoned of joy.
Abandoned dreams of a life that included
children smiling each morning in exchange
for her hugs and kisses.

She fingers the short stubs,
counting and recounting them in case
one was stolen by that freak of a headless fairy,
possibly when sleep danced on her pillow
stealing away her dreams of a fold-away cot
with a clean pillow in a warm hotel room.

“Concierge! Give me a light!” she shouts
at a woman with fiery-red hair. Ignored,
she launches into a Sunday sermon on the evils
of shopping on the Lord’s Day of Rest
and calls the woman a flaming heretic.

She looks away and lets the last cigarette butt
roll from her finger back into her pocket.
“21!” she counts, but instantly forgets and so
resumes recounting them one at a time.
One hand counts, the other opens her package
of empties. Time for a drink from the remains
of the day – a discarded beer can. It’s marked
by its previous owner as finished, the sides
compressed together and bent into a deep fold,
but she knows that nothing is ever finished
until God releases her from this hell.

What caught Walt’s eye:

I’ve always found this montage of words to be a great exercise when writing poetry. The randomness of the choices allows for some fascinating combinations and visualizations. That being said, I found my choice rather easily this week. I myself tend to over-think this task at hand. But simplicity reigns in my mind with the approach that Connie L. Peters applied to the challenge.

The humor and connection that Connie presented reminded me of my first attempt at such a prompt. Many times I pray for a “good fairy to come tiptoeing between neurons” She carried her theme throughout.

HOW I WROTE THIS POEM by Connie L. Peters

I’m afraid I’m going to be sitting here till morning,
trying to put a scattering of words in a package called a poem.
Maybe the good fairy will come tiptoeing between my neurons,
picking ideas off the shelves like a Christmas shopper
at a well-stocked shopping center,
choosing thoughts as light and strong as aluminum
or soft and comfortable like a quilt and pillow,
piecing together this and that like a dogmatic heretic,
stacking metaphors like Egyptians building pyramids,
willing to rebel against rhyme and reason,
attentive like a concierge looking for a big tip
and then the end stands before me like an open door.
I pocket dreams, fold up my feelings like a camper’s cot,
and run through.