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Dust is ubiquitous. It is a major component of air pollution. It is found in our homes and other buildings where it collects on surfaces, hides under furniture, and can be seen in rays of sunlight coming through the window. It provides a welcome home for dust mites. When you drive on unpaved roads, you can watch dust billow up around your car. Other vehicles and animals often create the same effect. I remember my first visit to New York City when I was a college student. I was wearing a white blouse and made the mistake of leaning out the hotel room window, not expecting the ledge to be layered in dirt and dust! Yes, dust is everywhere.
Scientists study dust. According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust), half the dust in our homes is composed of dead cells. They mix with soil we track in, bits of hair, molecules of paper and textiles, animal fur (especially if there are pets in the house) and numerous other materials. Decreasing air pollution would require finding ways to reduce dust in the atmosphere. Scientists are working on this issue (See https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/airborne-dust-hazard-human-health-environment-and-society). Interstellar dust is also being studied (see, for instance, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/dust-particle). Of what is it composed? How does it impact the way we view the sky?
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is a phrase commonly used today, reflecting on Genesis 3:19, “dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (NRSV).
So what can a poet do with dust? The poet’s take can be serious or humorous. Here are some examples, beginning with the emotionally most difficult.
for such a large man—
vanishes behind gold velvet
as the organ groans
a hymn from childhood.
Those who never sing
now recall the words.
nuns taught us
"into dust you shall return."
They never knew the acrid
thicknesses left behind
at abandoned houses,
coating sill and mirror
with an inch of soot
soft as a rabbit's ear
layering closeted shoes.
souvenirs, and blankets
smelling of the sickbed
huddle in black plastic bags
at the curbside like strange
animals awaiting rescue.
hour the living
flee to the kitchen for tea.
Here, grease but no dust.
They reach for the kettle,
a china cup and saucer,
a little life left
in the last room.
~ Donna Pucciani
From Edges by Donna Pucciani (Purple Flag Press, 2016), page 9. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Edges-Donna-Pucciani/dp/0944048757. Used with permission.
For a change of pace, here is a poem that won second place in the 2020 contest of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies in a category for rhymed humorous poems.
taught dust bunnies to hide under my bed?
What makes them think it’s a wonderful spot?
They slink into darkness and quietly hide
behind the dropped books and the shoes I forgot.
not their intent to cause me great harm—
they just want to gather and have their own fun.
They hide from the broom and the vacuum, and hope
I’ll leave for the day and go out for a run.
they are caved, so to speak, in my room,
their only desire is to be left alone
to do or not do their very own thing.
But I’ve got a dust mop; their plans are blown.
gather them up with a vigorous stroke
into the dustpan and then in a flash
without pity for these cute little guys
I tip the dustpan, toss them all in the trash.
sometimes wonder if I have been cruel
and with no dog or cat, I have some regrets
for the dust bunnies hiding under my bed
were my only companions, my only pets.
~ Wilda Morris
Published in Encore: Prize Poems 2020 edited by Kathy Lohrum Cotton (National Federation of State Poetry Societies, 2020), p. 73. Available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Encore-National-Federation-Poetry-Societies/dp/B08CPG3BNG.
The following poem grew out of time I spent pondering the declaration that each of us contains atoms that once were part of William Shakespeare, and articles I read on the way dust from the Dust Bowl of the 1930 spread. The ending seemed appropriate since my obsession with Herman Melville’s great novel, Moby-Dick led me to write enough poems for a whole book. An Internet search will find numerous interesting takes on the question about how much of Shakespeare might be part of you. There are too many to list here.
On the Wind
. . . what's in the wind? ~ Stubb (Moby-Dick
by Herman Melville, Chapter 119)
have never walked the dusty trails
of Mali, the country roads
of India, but they com
to me on wings of wind.
wipe particles of dust
from a drop-leaf table,
not knowing where they were
before they came.
detritus of the Dust Bowl,
blown from Oklahoma,
still rides winds
around the globe.
say it’s likely
an atom of Shakespeare,
the quintessence of dust,
has become part of my body.
a bit of Melville
is in me, too.
~ Wilda Morris
This poem is from my book, Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Books, 2019), page 111. Available for purchase at https://kelsaybooks.com/search?q=pequod+poems, orhttps://www.amazon.com/Pequod-Poems-Moby-Dick-Wilda-Morris/dp/1949229602/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_pl_foot_top?ie=UTF8. .
You can find my poem, “Moon Dust”, which first appeared in the Journal of Modern Poetry 20 (2017), page 50 on two websites, that of the Illinois State Poetry Society at http://www.illinoispoets.org/poems0617.htm#MoonDust, and also on the Poets & Patrons website at https://www.poetsandpatrons.net/poems-by-members/2017/8/7/fog-h2w3z.
The September Challenge:
The challenge for this month is a poem related to dust. Your poem may be serious or humorous. The poem may be metaphoric, or literal. Note that the blog format does not accommodate long lines; if they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the May 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print.
1-Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles.
3-Put your name, a brief third-person bio, and your email address under your poem. If the poem has been previously published, pleas put the publication data under the poem also.
4-Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.
5-You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet. Poems already used on this blog are not eligible to win, but the poets may submit a different poem, unless the poet has been a winner the last three months.
6-The deadline is September 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however, winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language (some children and teens read this blog).
7- No simultaneous submissions of previously unpublished poems, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published.
8-The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.
9-Decision of the judge or judges is final.
10-If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.
How to Submit Your Poem:
1-Send one poem only to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a for “dot”). The poem must respond in some way to the specific challenge for the month.
2-Put “September Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio that can be printed with your poem if you are a winner this month.
3-Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem.
4-Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). or both. Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). 6-Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However, I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.
Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred but longer poems will be considered.
Wilda Morris , Workshop Chair of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and a past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has published numerous poems in anthologies, webzines, and print publications, including The Ocotillo Review, Rockford Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Modern Haiku, and Journal of Modern Poetry. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku, including the 2019 Founders’ Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. She has published two books of poetry, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant (RWG Press) and Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Books).
Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, Mediterranean Poetry, Acumen, Meniscus, Journal of Italian Translation, and other journals. A seven-time Pushcart nominee, she has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and Poetry on the Lake (U.K./Italy). She served as Vice President of the Poets Club of Chicago for a dozen years, and is a long-time member and supporter of the Illinois State Poetry Society and Poets and Patrons of Chicago. Her most recent book of poetry is Edges. Visit Donna's website at https://donnapuccianipoet.wordpress.com/.
© Wilda Morris