Here’s the last of this year’s November verses, uploaded 80 minutes before the midnight deadline:
November verse 14: Graduation
Today is preschool graduation,
milestone for the almost-fives.
Oh, after long anticipation
3 pm at last arrives
and soon the graduands are singing
(also jostling, waving, grinning).
One by one they shake the hand
of Teacher looking mighty grand
and take from her a bag of goodies:
artwork they themselves have made,
certificate (they've made the grade),
and popcorn. Then, unleash the foodies:
trays of watermelon, grapes and cake,
and cake, and cupcakes, and more cake.
Today I parted with a lot of money. The least I can do is write a rhyme about the reason.
November verse 13: Today I got my hearing aids
They said that I was hard of hearing.
More like soft, the edges dull,
the high notes mostly disappearing,
sibilants all rendered null.
But soft or hard, that’s just pedantic:
friends were cross, sometimes frantic,
tired of shouting to be heard,
repeating every second word.
Today I got two electronic
gizmos, one in either ear,
enabling me at last to hear
what yesterday was ultrasonic.
People have stopped mumbling words
and all my streets are filled with birds.
November verse 12: On a dead goldfishFor Euan
Today we found our last fish floating
lifeless, limp, no longer gold,
a death so tiny, not worth noting.
True though, They shall grow not old.
Flight path fuel dump? Change of season?
Too much sun? Who knows the reason?
This is not Menindee Lakes
where millions died and my heart quakes.
Today I felt a tiny tremor,
rumble from a distant storm,
an inkling that some day the worm
will try my bones, from skull to femur.
May mine be one tiny death,
leave undisturbed the wide world's breath.
Someone needs to write about the wonders of swimming-pool saunas in Sydney’s Inner West. While we’re waiting, here’s my 14 lines’ worth.
November verse 10: In the sauna
Some days we sit and sweat in silence. Others, it’s as if the heat dissolves some barrier, gives licence. Chat can flow and minds can meet, perhaps with bonhomie and bluster, pre-cooked jokes, a rant or just a monologue on weed or booze, or mild debates about the news. Tattooed gym-boy, taxi driver, yia-yia, rap star, tattooed youth, an old guy with a missing tooth: all these bodies, like Godiva almost naked, shoot the breeze, and no one’s sent to Coventry.
Today’s stanza draws on a passage from Middlemarch in which Ladislaw, whose hair is ‘not immoderately long’, argues the superiority of poetry over painting. The first two lines are almost a direct quote.
November verse 10: Pictures and words Language gives a fuller image, all the better as it's vague. Paintings flaunt their frozen plumage, stare insistent from the frame in finished, silent imperfection. Neither love nor harsh rejection crease a portrait's botox brow. No worm forgives the painted plough. Life as lived is full of noises much diviner than what's seen (or, on occasion, more obscene). The air resounds with speaking voices: one picture can delight your eyes, a thousand words can make you wise.
I won’t name the podcast. I suppose if I had been listening with real interest I wouldn’t have got snagged on what is after all a common usage these days, but it was drilled into me in primary school that one lies down and lays the table, lay down and laid the table, and my mind evidently still replays the nuns’ rebukes from 1954.
November verse 9: Yelling at my phone
She said she just laid in the water.
I shouted at my phone: Laid what?
The language changes and I ought to
take it in my strides – why not?
Give someone an intensive purpose.
Let him join an army corpus,
answer questions someone begs
and buy the dozens that are egg's.
Sneak peaks aren't fit to die on.
The world's just right for doggy-dogs
but still wrong for slow-boiling frogs.
The planet warms, we may be dying.
As we near that final night
at least let's try to spell it right.
In case any of the references are obscure:
line 4: the correct idiom is ‘take it in my stride’
line 5: ‘to all intents and purposes’ means something; ‘to all intensive purposes’ doesn’t
line 6: ‘Corps’ is pronounced to rhyme with ‘core’. And in my opinion ‘corp’, short for ‘corporation’, should be pronounced as written
line 7: ‘To beg the question’ does not mean the same as ‘to raise the question’. In classical logic, it happens when an argument’s premises assume the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it
line 8: Apostrophes aren’t necessary when an s is there to indicate more than one of something. (Apostrophes are probably necessary hardly anywhere, but that’s another argument)
line 9: It’s a sneak peek and a dog-eat-dog world
line 10: The analogy of a frog that won’t jump out of boiling water if it boils gradually may be instructive, but I’d like to know if there’s any evidence that frogs are that stupid
The weatherman on ABC News the other night spoke of graupel, a lovely word that was new to me. It almost does the impossible and rhymes with purple.
November verse 8: Graupel
The heavens opened, down came graupel,
baby hail. The storm soon passed
and downstairs' lawn shone green, white, purple –
jacaranda, ice and grass.
A rattling downpour, hints of thunder,
then this calm nine-minute wonder.
For a moment we knew grace,
La Niña showed her lovely face.
Not so in Molong, Forbes, and Nowra.
There La Niña went to town
to rip and drench, to smash and drown,
then flashed her worst at poor Eugowra.
She's no god we must appease.
Code red: 1.5 degrees!
Added later: Photo taken from our kitchen window of our downstairs neighbours’ yard. The jacaranda blossoms don’t show up in this photo, but they were there.
I was going to have a couple of days break from versifying, but yesterday morning demanded rhyme.
November verse 7: Demo
We met outside the bank this morning,
placards, microphone and drums,
to amplify the climate warning:
No more cash for coal, you bums.
This movement’s male and white no longer:
cheerful, young, brown, female, stronger
than it’s ever been. Today,
though many heads were white and grey,
the ones from Asia and the oceans
led us, spoke of rising tides
and fossil-fuel based genocides,
derided short-term profit notions,
knew how to push the envelope
and temper urgency with hope.
The National Australia Bank, in spite of having a policy of not funding new fossil fuel ventures, is actually lending billions of dollars to Whitehaven Coal, which has no policy of cutting emissions and plans to mine vast amounts of coal for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans are in trouble. The Move Beyond Coal movement has just finished an Australia-wide Week of Action targeting the NAB.
For decades newspaper cartoonists have laboured for metaphorical links between the Melbourne Cup and the US election that fell on the same Tuesday in November. This stanza labours a link between astronomical and political.
November verse 6: Eclipse
Here the streets were full of gazers,
faces to the shadowed moon.
No pyrotechnics to amaze us:
cosmic lightshow, gone too soon.
A woman said, 'It's good so many
came outdoors, when there's Sweet Fanny
Adams profit to be made,
just heaven's bodies on parade.'
But over there the lines of voters
braced themselves for Thunderdome
(though far too many stayed at home).
The climate, SCOTUS, former POTUS:
stakes are high this northern Fall –
this Tuesday’s poll could doom us all.
This happens every Tuesday, though the musical accompaniment is usually Latin disco rather than Glee.
November verse 5: At the Active Seniors Class
Meek we are, like lambs to slaughter – not for killing, nor still young. Lead us on, we say, no quarter, keep us active, though we're bung. A back, a knee, a frozen shoulder, nameless aches from growing older, long in tooth and short of breath: we've miles to go before our death. 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger': that's the soundtrack as we squat, lunge, lift weights, tighten cores, get hot and sweaty. Can we last much longer? Then it's stretches, brief applause, and back to life outside those doors