Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010.12.22 — A Litmus Tested Slightly Acerbic Fushigi*

Earlier today I was playing with verbiage on, a reader/writers' social network. (Quite a good one, actually, I think.)
Specifically, I contributed a poem and discussion on a thread within the poetry string within goodreads. How it began is when one of the inquisitive regulars, who wants to learn to be a poet, proposed an exercise to use a word-of-the-day word to create a poem. The word he supplied was caliginous, adj. misty, dark. From that prompt a few of us created poems and commentary.

As usual with a fushigi, some elaboration is required, although this time, it is almost done. The key is Jefferson Carter. He is a regular contributor, published poet and retired community college chair and composition instructor. I've clipped the beginning of the entry Jefferson made for this exercise, which includes the title, 'Caliginous.'

Entitling his poem 'Caliginous' was his method of using the word 'caliginous' in a poem. This has the appearance of being a bit of a cheat, except that Jefferson actually made the poem work quite nicely with the title. Here's his poem:

Quiet! I'm taking
a litmustest.

The rumble strip
startled me awake.

Please flush toilet
after voting.

Jefferson's poem brought to my mind, instantaneously, a bunch of images. With his permission, I wrote them down. Here is what I wrote:

A litmus test is to test for level of acidity. The challenge of Dan's WotD is a kind of test; given what I have seen of the nature of your nature, Jefferson, your challenge is how to make 'caliginous' clearly acerbic.

You have done this quite well by making three clear statements (oddly linked in number to the three levels of acidity - alkaline, neutral, and acidic), which are not clearly linked.

However, litmus is often (usually) on a paper strip, and this provides an unstated verbal link between the first and second stanzas. The 'rumble strip' is a man-made bump in the road designed to alert inattentive drivers, but the sound construction of 'The rumble strip' I also associate to things like 'Sunset Strip', or 'The Strip' as a place to hang out, party, have a good time, drink too much.

The toilet flush is the day after fun on the strip. The gag reflex I feel about voting these days, creates in my mind the link between voting with vomiting, with a kind of alliteration. And thus the need to vomit after having fun on the rumble strip is hinted at.

Because vomit is now firmly associated with the toilet flush, what ties that back to the first stanza is the litmus test — vomit is comprised of acid destroyed food. The medicine to help an upset stomach is alkaline in order to re-balance the stomach's pH level.

And there you go! The power to make anything out of anything! And put into your verse a caliginous connectiion.
Hope this was as much fun to read as it was to write.

I find it very funny that as I wrote my bit in the thread on how Jefferson's poem's imagery played with 'acidity' in my imagination, I did not even make the fushigi association it had with my blog! On the 20th (into the 21st) I blogged my description of the process I have chosen to undertake in order to change the alkalinity of my body. I titled that blog Acid Wit Begon, to Wit, an Alkaline I'll Become.

Thus, even after having spent a few hours on a big blog in which I write all about acidity, I did not see the connection the next day as I also spent a substantial amount of time writing about acids and pH and litmus in another page. In fact it did not occur to me until very late this evening.

Thus I have included this as a fushigi because of the time proximity of the word litmus coming to me from completely disparate directions; and because it was by chance, more or less, that I even went into the 'Caliginous' poetry thread in the first place; and on Saturday (18th) I purchased for the first time in 50 years of being alive, litmus paper.

Oh! I might just as well contribute my own little poem, even though it contributes nothing to the fushigi:

On being asleep

I thought I was awake, when I woke.
So I wrote that down
and wondered,
in a half awake caliginous way,
what the day would bring.
Would I find myself waking up again,
Or dozing with Jack,
my calico cat?


  1. Hey, pretty cool! One correction: I'm a 2 -year RETIRED department chair and community college poetry writing and composition instructor, thankful I don't have to deal with administrators' and students' dirty looks anymore. Now it's napping with my gray cat, Scout, doing yoga, volunteering for a locally-based environmental organization, Sky Island Alliance, and playing full-contact ping-pong with my still-working wife.

  2. Thanks, Jefferson for the correction and expanded bio. I have substantially changed the blog since you read it. Yikes! It was full of bad grammar and repetition and the like. I was a bit embarrassed at its poor quality, given I'd asked a college English instructor to read it! Hopefully this edition would meet the standards of having a professional eye.