ATTENTION IPAD USERS!
Apple doesn't like listing me as "Will Shakespeare (poetry blogger)"
to differentiate me from the other guy, although everybody else does.
They took my first book but now won't take new ones. (Go figure.)
Since Smashwords distributes my books to Apple anyway,
just go to my Smashwords author page and download EPUBs from there.
Smashwords provides samples of my books also.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Binky

A name often used for a child’s pacifier,
but it can also be used for
any favorite toy of a child or pet.

He clutches the financial pages
Securely under his arm
As he toddles off to lunch.

He laughs when his suit pocket buzzes
As the stock alert comes through.
Thank God for trading apps!

He hurries back to his crib
And pulls up the website
On his laptop.

He murmurs “goo-gle”
As he researches the company names
Dangling just beyond his wallet’s reach.

He sucks happily on a pencil
As the realtime trading data
Pulses across his laptop’s screen.

Now all he needs
Is a pair of footie sleepers
Covered in dollar signs.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Unleashed

What if Edgar Allen Poe
had a dog instead of a raven...?


Once upon a workday dreary,
Master came home, weak and weary,
Realizing with regret that I had not been curbed all day.
Though my urges made me antsy
And my bladder made me dancy,
Master longed for nothing fancier than sipping Perrier;
He preferred to lounge, unbothered, sipping on his Perrier
Though my water longed to spray.

Though I love my Master dearly,
He’d forgotten my needs. Clearly
I would have to make him see that I was more than just a toy.
My intelligence is legend!
After he ignored my beggin’
I just lifted up my leg and soon I got my message through –
Fear of damage to the carpets helped me get my message through.
He and I bid home adieu.

As he walked me, Master nearly
Dropped my leash, so cavalierly
Did he hold it as we wandered through the suburb we call home.
With his notice circumvented,
Opportunity I scented –
My walks can’t be regimented when I get the urge to roam!
One quick jerk was all I needed ‘cause I had the urge to roam;
Soon I ran the streets alone.

As I sprinted down the highway,
Thinking things were going my way,
My neglected bladder soon betrayed me; its incessant calls
Gave my plans a whole new wrinkle –
I was forced to stop and tinkle!
Gallons poured out – not a sprinkle – poured out like Niagara Falls;
Rushing, gushing, aching rivers poured out like Niagara Falls.
Drained, I couldn’t stand at all.

Master lurched toward me, gasping.
As he fell, I saw him grasping
Desperately to snag my leash. He thought to end my joyous romp…
But his pride got violated.
He had not appreciated
How much I had been hydrated! Now I stood inside a swamp;
Emptying my bladder turned the roadside into quite a swamp.
I began to bark and romp.

Master led his happy doggy
Home and, though already soggy,
Gave us both a soapy bath; he said our odor was profane.
I received a thorough rinsing;
Master’s clothes refused all cleansing.
Never will he need convincing when my need to go is plain;
Nevermore will he resist my urgings when my need is plain…
Now my Master’s potty-trained!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 23

A continuation of last week's scene.
It contains a good example of how something
unexpected can become fodder for your poem.
A few years back History Channel did a show
about the Beast of Gévaudan, a "werewolf" that
killed a number of people in France roughly
250 years ago. The show concluded that the werewolf
was actually an Asian hyena that was trained as
an attack animal. In this post, Constable Garrett
uses just such a scenario as an implausible
explanation for the deaths he's investigating.
---------------

Benedict laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Aiden, my friend, I’ve never seen you thus.
Your faith has always been strong. Tell me, please:
What could make a man like you so unsettled?”

“You know about the murders, I presume?”

Benedict nodded. “How could I not know?
Vaxen is a small town, and fear is fleet
Of foot. Many pray daily at the church
For protection. A pack of wolves, correct?”

Constable Garrett sighed and gazed upward.
“If only it were, Father… if only…”
He turned and saw the Father’s confused look.
“Dr. Fenn says no wolf hunts like these do.
He suspects something worse is behind this…”

Benedict smiled. “Elias Fenn suspects
A conspiracy behind everything.
I suppose the Cardinal has arrived
To supervise the killers in their quest?”

Garrett’s violent reaction caused him
To jerk away. “This is no laughing matter,
Father! A dozen victims fill the morgue
And more may join them soon unless I find
The murderer or murderers… and quickly!”

“Please forgive me, Aiden. I never meant
To make light of the victims or of you.
It’s just that Elias doesn’t inspire
A rational man’s confidence.  As I
Recall, you have questioned his sanity
More than once. What makes you believe him now?”

Garrett bowed his head. “Father, you needn’t
Ask my forgiveness. It’s just… so many
Have died and I have seen wolf bites before.
Fenn is right; no normal wolf kills like this.”

Benedict frowned. “No ‘normal’ wolf? Aiden,
What kind of wolf do you believe did this?”

He closed his eyes and sighed again. “A werewolf.”

Benedict asked softly, “What of the moon?”

“You’re mocking me. You think I’ve gone crazy.”

“No, Aiden. You are as sensible a man
As I have ever known. But the logic
Of your suspicions must be tested, no?
And there is no full moon this time of month.”

“And you know these woods as well as I do,”
Garrett replied. “There are no large animals
Capable of such violence. Besides,
Wolves kill for food but the victim’s bodies
Show no signs of feeding. This is murder,
Pure and simple. There is a mind behind
This madness; all of the victims are known
Criminals, though their guilt cannot be proven.
No women, no children are ever harmed.
A pack of ravenous wolves are not so
Choosy. Am I to believe this is luck?
Oh no, Father. There is a mind behind
This madness, and the murderer’s blades
Are the sharp fangs of a large animal.”

“But Aiden, why must it be a werewolf?”
Benedict asked. “Could it not be a man
Who has trained some giant, exotic beast
To attack and murder on his command?

“So I thought,” Garrett said. “The victims are
Violent men. Perhaps someone sought revenge
For an evil done to him – an evil
Of such depth that it would consume a man,
Drive him to train a dangerous beast, track
Those men down, and avenge himself on them.
But that man, like his beast, must leave footprints
Or broken branches or some such evidence;
There are none. Logic demands that the man
Be nearby, if only to watch as the
Judgment he has decreed is dealt out.
No, Father; the truth defies all logic.
This is a beast, an intelligent beast,
With human motives. Such an unnatural
Beast goes against the laws of God, and if
Our God allows such a one to exist,
Then my faith fails me when I need it most.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Personal Chickbook

Traditionally
Black, it’s always tucked away
Within easy reach.
Friends say, “How convenient!
And how cool is it
To have so many women
On a string like that!
What’s your secret?” He just smiles;
These “hotties” hate him.
A current list means fewer
Potential embarrassments.

Monday, February 18, 2013

23 B-day

Basketball icon Michael Jordan,
who wore the number 23
during most of his career,
turned 50 yesterday (Feb 17).
Happy B-lated B-day, MJ!

Rising above his peers
With a basketball palmed in one hand,
MJ soared into history.
His Airness proved a man could fly
Without wings;
He needed only strong legs
And a heart too big to be held down
To lift him above the everyday.
Many young stars-to-be
Still buy into his belief…
And the rest of us
Settle for buying his shoes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 22

Sometimes the simplest answers are the most
difficult to recognize. After several days of struggling
with what Garrett would be doing when Benedict
finally found him, I realized that just because
Garrett wasn't in his office and just because
Benedict didn't know where he was didn't mean that
someone else didn't know where he was. (DUH!)
I still have to work out a lot of the dialogue,
but at least I have the scene underway...

After he’d seen Miss Devin safely
To her room at the Vaxen Inn,
Benedict visited Constable Garrett…
Or, at least, he meant to.
The Constable’s Office was empty;
Dr. Fenn had not seen him all day
But suspected that Garrett was plotting intrigues
With the Cardinal. The Church could not be trusted!
(No offense to the Father, of course.)
Benedict merely smiled and nodded;
Fenn was a strange one, even for one
Who spent his life dealing with sickness and death.
Benedict thought him harmless…
But never turned his back on him.

After asking a few of the citizens,
Benedict finally found that Garrett
Had taken some men to search the woods
Along the river path. Eager for sunshine
After so much time caring for Dietrich,
Benedict wandered happily on his search.
In time the gentle murmur of the river
Gave way to strident voices, one of which
He recognized immediately.
Another minute’s walk, and Benedict
Could see the Constable address his men
And feel the stress among them as they worked.
“Greetings, Aiden, my friend,” the Father called,
“And may the good Lord bless you and your men.
Might a poor priest in some way lift your spirits?”

Garrett glanced up, startled, then a wide smile
Spread across his face. “Indeed, you’ve done that
Already,” he said as he reached for Benedict’s hand.
The other men also smiled as Benedict
Greeted each in turn. “Tis a fruitless search
That keeps us here,” Garrett said as the men
Went about their work. “A fruitless search indeed.
If you would, please walk with me.”

Benedict raised an eyebrow. “The werewolf?”
He asked, a touch of humor in his gaze.

Garrett nodded. “I only wish it were
A joke,” he said. “I’m not a man much given
To superstition, but the things I’ve seen
The last few days have shaken my beliefs.
I fear my grasp on what is real is lost.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rash Wednesday

In case you don't know, Mardi Gras
(or "Fat Tuesday") is the last day of
gluttony before the season of Lent
begins on Ash Wednesday (today) -- 
a period of repentance and fasting.
I chose to take a slightly tongue-in-cheek
approach to this last indulgence before Easter.

Fat Tuesday is over
But not the hangover;
The beads on the bedpost are blurry.
We’re feeling like trash as
We repent in ashes
And hope to come clean in a hurry.

Lent season’s when sinners
Bypass a few dinners;
They fast and they pray without jest.
But it’s no sacrifice
After yesterday’s vice –
We’re all glad to give parties a rest!

Who thought up this racket?
And why’d the Church back it?
Don’t people know God’s not a fool?
To become such a mess
Just so you can confess
Makes you sound like the worst kind of tool!

So heat up that coffee
And sober up! Lofty
Delusions won’t help you this season.
Thank God you’re alive
And just stop all this jive.
I'm quite sure that your liver will thank you!

NOTE: This is an excellent example of how
accidents happen. That last line should have read:
"You can say that your liver's the reason!"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pygmalionated

So if you ask him, he’ll say it’s the work
Alone that makes his life worth living now…
And so enamored is he of his own,
He cannot see the value of another’s.
There’s no appreciation in his voice,
Nor patience in his manner, nor a scrap
Of kindness t’ward another struggling soul,
No matter how heavy their burden is.
At some point in the past, this living man
Transformed himself into a lifeless stone…
And none of those around him find the statue
Worthy of a kiss. For him, life’s a myth.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dogged by Story Logic

I said early on that I might occasionally do a post about the process of writing Dogged by the Curse, to help those of you who want to try writing something challenging like this. And since I'm temporarily stuck, I decided this was a good time to bring you all up-to-speed.

Writers -- whether they write poetry or prose -- often debate whether to outline or write by the seat of their pants. Actually, I'm not sure there's really a difference. In both cases you have to figure out what events happen and in what order they happen.

The advantage of an outline is that you have a roadmap to guide you in your writing. The disadvantage is that outlining isn't the same thing as writing. Since you're not in the flow of inspiration, you often miss key events or relationships. An outline is just a list, after all, and not likely to get the creative juices flowing the same way.

The advantage of writing by the seat of your pants is that flow I just mentioned. When you just "follow the muse" you come up with things you'd never come up with by making an outline. The disadvantage? Mistakes are costlier. You can end up having to rewrite a major portion of your work because you discover a better way to do things.

I've written both ways. With Dogged by the Curse I'm doing a little of both. I have a very sparse outline to give me direction but I'm counting on the flow to help me work out the actual events that happen. I think this is how the pulp writers of the past created their stories, and this is the Pulp Poet Project, after all. The good thing is that the flow has made me think long and hard about "what happens next" in a way that outlining just doesn't do.

But it's not a perfect process, and that's where I am this week.

While writing in the flow of the story I realized that I needed an extra event in the story to make it logical. The good news is that I know what that event is -- installment #22 is a scene between Father Benedict and Constable Aiden Garrett (you may remember him from the initial investigation mentioned way back in installment #3). I also know that #22 concerns Garrett bringing Benedict up-to-speed on his investigation, about how the wolf isn't a normal wolf (in #3 the bites weren't normal wolf bites) and how conspicuous it is that only known felons are being targeted. This scene is necessary to launch Benedict off into the direction I originally planned for him to go.

The problem is, although I know what has to be in the scene, I'm not sure how to structure it. The problem presented itself pretty quickly -- a mere three lines into this installment, when I sent Benedict to Garrett's office and realized I didn't know what Garrett was doing. Is he doing paperwork? (Somehow I have trouble believing paperwork is a big concern in Vaxen.) Is he searching the woods for the wolf? (Then how does Benedict even find him? I've already established that the killings are happening off the beaten paths of Vaxen.) As you can see, although I know the thrust of this scene, I'm not even sure where it should happen.

So that's why there's no Dogged by the Curse 22 post this week. It's not a case of not knowing where to go, but a case of not knowing how best to get there. I need a little more time to figure that out. All writers run into this problem at times... but many don't tell you about it because it takes a bit of the shine off the writer's "aura."

But I'm telling you about it so you'll know. If it happens to you, you're not a bad poet. It's just the normal way of things, so don't get discouraged.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

End of the Silk Road

I travel over half the world
Along a maze of camel trails
Through desert sands
Through grassy steppes
Through mountain passes white with snow
A stew of cultures, swirling, blending
Lands and customs foreign to me
Never knowing who to trust
Or not…
Every merchant seeks his fortune
Every merchant seeks more power
Every merchant seeks the favor
Kings and queens alone can give…
Will I even live?
Death and danger trail behind me
Plague and hunger travel with me
Gold and honor loom before me
As I near the end of the Silk Road;
Day and night, like tireless bandits,
Try to steal my dreams of wealth
Waiting at the end of the Silk Road;
Choking on my fears, I struggle
Till I reach the end of the Silk Road

Monday, February 4, 2013

Washboard

Every day, life
Roughs me up a little more.
Abrasive people, abrasive rules,
Abrasive circumstances
Crowd me, rub me the wrong way,
Conspire to scrub holes in my
Resolve. Like old lye soap
It brings tears to my eyes;
The burning is intense
But I feel no cleaner from
The agitation.

Whose hands are responsible
For this friction in my life?
Is it God? My friends?
My family? My enemies?
Or is it my own doing,
Compulsively scrubbing at stains
Others may never even see?

Perhaps the key to
Cleaning up my act is simple:
Perhaps I should just learn to
Sit and soak for a while
Before plunging headfirst
Into the daily wash cycle.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 21

This section is an excellent example of something
new writers don't understand. Although I have
a pretty good idea what's going to happen from here on out,
I don't have all the details... and I had no idea what
would happen in this section when I sat down to write it.
I knew I needed Simon Chase (the main villain) to do
something, though I didn't know what. But having written myself
into this corner, I realized Chase needed help
(I killed his second-in-command, John Burgher, way back in #8)
and suddenly the next step became very clear...

As Benedict escorted young Miss Devin
To the Vaxen Inn, Simon Chase
Glanced cautiously at the pair
As he diverted down a side street.
Once assured that no one followed,
He upped his pace and quickly darted
Down a narrow alley, dodging
In and out of doorways, slipping
Silently among the common
People, careful not to interfere
Or draw attention to himself.
And after several minutes of this
Cloak and dagger game, he calmly
Entered one of Vaxen’s taverns,
Looked along the bar, and wiggled in
Beside a largish man, his shoulders hunched,
His hat pulled down to hide his face.

“You seem a cheerful fellow. May I join you?”
Chase asked brightly. Answered with a grunt,
He called the barman for a beer then said,
“Perhaps you’d find a chair more to your liking?”
Another grunt. The man joined Chase
At a table near the back wall.

“I don’t like this at all,” he grunted.
“What if someone sees us here together?”

Chase laughed. “Oh, Jarvik, do relax.
Should anybody see us, they’ll have
No idea of who you are or what
We have in mind. Are you prepared?”

The Cardinal drank deeply, then he said,
 “The church would not approve of this.”

“Since when have church affairs been paramount
In your consideration?” Chase retorted.
‘I doubt your plans include the church at all,
Or that they even dream of your involvement
In our business. Tell me, do you even tithe
Your ‘profits’? Such a holy man as you
Must surely own a piece of heaven
All your own by now, eh Jarvik?”

“The devil take you, Chase,” was all he said.

Chase glared at him, then gave a rueful smile.
“I sometimes wonder if he’s tried already.”
He thought about the ghost wolf and
He shuddered. “Answer me. Are you prepared?”

“Aye,” Jarvik said. “I told the church’s leaders
That this creature might be hellspawn,
Born of a witch’s spite toward the church.
I told them of the saintly folk now murdered
By the beast. They couldn’t wait to help.”

Chase smirked. “My men would have enjoyed that –
Them, good saints avenged by Mother Church.”

Frowning, Jarvik let the slur pass. “They gave me
Special weapons, blessed against the darkness.
Have you any men left to use them?”

“Ah Cardinal, you represent the church,”
Chase mused. “No doubt good Christian men
Shall flock to aid you when you call.
We’ll have no lack of fodder for the beast.
We’ll feed it till it cannot move, then kill it.”
Chase took a deep draught from his mug.
“I understand the girl is your assistant.”

Warily Jarvik said, “She is. What of it?”

“I want her,” Chase replied.

Stunned, he asked, “Just who do you think you are?”

Chase took another draught. “The man who owns you,”
He said with a smile. “And soon I’ll own her too.”