Sunday, April 18, 2010

Poem A Day: Day 18

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 18 Poetic Asides
Posted by Robert

For today's prompt, take the phrase "To (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "To the left, to the left," "To write or not to write," "To Kill a Hummingbird," "To the Doghouse," etc. There are so many possibilities.

Well, I'm taking a very cheesy, cheap way out of this one today. I already had a poem that fit this prompt, which I wrote in October 1996. I think it's one of the best poems I've ever written, or at least, one of my favorites. It's a response to the little girl in red from Schindler's List. In the movie and the book, the list of names represents life, and both Thomas Keneally and Stephen Spielberg take special care to focus on the names of the people who survived because of the list. In the movie, the girl in red has no name. In the book, her name is Genia.

Here's my poem, with a couple of subtle changes:

To Genia

A passion for red
She floats forgotten among the already dead,
A doll from childhood’s dream
The guns have no sight for her
They will find her later

For now she is playing children's games
Of follow-the-leader and hopscotch
In blood-stained snow

A passion for red
And she did not understand
They would find her later
Under the bed
Playing hide and seek.

Thanks for reading!

Poem A Day: Day 17

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 17
Posted by Robert

For today's prompt, write a science poem. Science encompasses a lot, so your poem doesn't have to be scientific to still be a science poem. For instance, you could have a poem titled something like "The Science of Love," and then examine a relationship. Voila! A science poem! Of course, it'll be interesting to see how many poets talk about volcanoes and single cell organisms, not to mention finding out how many "mad scientists" are out there. 

In order for my poem to make sense, you have to read Robert lee Brewer's poem Scientific Method because I chose to write a response to his.

Here's what I came up with, mimicking as best I could his style and subject:

She Blinded Me with Science
A response to Robert Lee Brewer’s “Scientific Method”

Once upon a time, a princess
Was captured by a dragon, and
Five knights neglected to save her
From her perilous position

The last knight abandoned the quest
as an unsound proposition,
reasoning instead to pursue
the princess’ four younger sisters.

The first princess merely spurned him,
for as a knight he had not been
successful, neither in battle
nor in his prowess to rescue.

The second openly mocked him
as a coward who shied from a
challenge. She hurled at him scathing
affronts that wounded his manhood.

The third and fourth tried to lure him
with ribbons and feminine wiles,
and then when it came time to tempt
him, they gave him nothing but smiles.

But the youngest princess said, “Sir,
I find fault with your logic, for
you deduced our sister’s plight as
hopeless; Ne’er thought you of our hearts.”

Thank you for reading!

Friday, April 16, 2010

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 16 Poetic Asides
Posted by Robert

Maybe it's a little too close to tax day, but today's prompt is to write a death poem. You can write about a specific death or consider death as an idea. In the tradition of Emily Dickinson (and other poets), you could even address Death as an entity. Or you can surprise us with a different spin on the subject.

I chose, instead, the subject of dying. It's related, after all. And after much struggling and scribbling, this is what came out.

Room 1409, Brackenridge

The worst thing about visiting 
is not the hushing brush of the machines.
It’s not the fluid tubes that spill in spirals
down his front, from his nose, from his mouth,
from his thread-thin arms.
It’s not the windy sense of urgency
outside the door kept ajar.
It’s not the numb feet of waiting
or the burnt coffee,
or the glossy faces on the magazines
smiling out as if to say,
“It'll work out fine – you’ll see.”

It’s his teeth.
Too large for his mouth, they slide
sideways in his jaws, trapped in a
silent scream as he sleeps.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 15 Poetic Asides
Posted by Robert

In this neck of the woods, today is known as Tax Day. Luckily for me, I'm one of those people who races to finish my taxes in February. However, that doesn't mean life is not without deadlines. In fact, I have several breathing down my neck today, which is appropriate for today's prompt.

For today's prompt, write a deadline poem. You can interpret what a deadline poem is however you wish. Maybe it's a poem that laments the idea of deadlines. Maybe it's a poem about someone intentionally missing them or who never has problems with them (I wish I were that person). Regardless of how you take it, remember that you have until tomorrow before another prompt will be posted. Consider that your poetic deadline.

A few years ago, I read a book by Kevin Brockmeier called The Brief History of the Dead. It remains the one book I wish I had never read. It chronicles the final days of the last person on earth after the population has been decimated by a fast-acting plague. I enjoyed reading the book up until the very end because it left me with a sense of overwhelming despair at the realization that all of the characters - in spite of their grand aspirations - died.

I decided to change the title from Deadline to Headline. I don't know if it works, but I like it.


Look at them:
Shuffling shambling
wrecks of humanity
Starbucks junkies,
newspapers tucked
under their arms.
Unread headline,
Always the same:
Someone’s dead.
All those words
fade into the
sewer drain.
All those lives:
God, look at us:
Poor bastards.
We all go
the same way.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 14 Poetic Asides  
Posted by Robert

For today's prompt, take the phrase "(blank) Island," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. You could do a well-known island, such as "Treasure Island," "Ellis Island," or "Total Drama Island." Or you could make up the name of an island. Or you could even have a long drawn out title, such as "You'll never get me on an island" or "If I were on a deserted island."

I have two poems tonight. Lost Boys Island came first as I wrestled with the second, the one I wanted to capture but kept wriggling fish-like from my mind. I think that my initial resistance came from the fear that I wouldn't do the topic justice. I finally had to just step back and tell myself, good or bad, you will write something tonight. Ah... deadlines as motivation. Anyway, it worked. This one's for Jim.

Our Island, or Undiscovered Paradise

We spin through cerulean spindrils
Through starlit depths,
fingertips glimmering
we scissor through noctilucent fish
as we swirl toward our shore
and slide into sands of powdered pearl.

Under the wheeling helix of stars,
Under the soft flannel night,
we carve out our crenellated dreams
from foam and hope and tide,
while the breath of breeze
stirs fireflies from the trees.

We are safe here, on our island
in our cantilevered treehouse
with its chorus of monkeys,
and its Victorian bath tub
crouched on clawfeet
and its telescopes reaching
for the kaleidoscopic stars.
Here we can rest and be who
we cannot be.

On diaphanous wings we flit
diving, darting, looping
through the canopy,
the heartbeats of our liberty
counted like wingbeats
that bear us up to the
opaline dawning of a new day
that will meet us, refreshed.

And when I open my eyes,
I will dream of you.

And here's the other poem: 

Lost Boys Island

We have never met
never met
But you and me are mates

We swim and swim
legs pumping
fingers scissor 
through sea and salt 
toward our shore 
Where by night we meet
by night we meet.

Here! – build a sandcastle 
Here – give it a shell for a flag
and a tower
and now run and run
and jump.

Now let’s climb:
a tree house
Climb up up up
It’s called a canopy
It sways and sways
Like a cradle
But it will never

Here is where we light
our torches
Here is where we wave
our signals
To the sea,
the ever-watching sea

Do you see us
on our island?
See our splaying fingers:
This many
I’m this many.

We have never met
Except by night
by light of this dream.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 13 Poetic Asides
Posted by Robert

Two for Tuesday time!

Here are today's two prompts:

1. Write a love poem.

2. Write an anti-love poem. 

One person came to mind immediately:


Day four, you lay in the bend of
My body – our body – and when
You looked out of your new skin
With your wellspring eyes, you
Stared with simple certainty,
As if to say, Hey, I know you.

In your eyes, I knew, I knew,
That you were home and we
would never again be alone.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 12, 2010

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 12 Poetic Asides
Posted by Robert

For today's prompt, pick a city, make that the title of your poem, and write a poem. Your poem can praise or belittle the city. Your poem could be about the city or about the people of the city. Your poem could even have seemingly nothing to do with the city. But the simple act of picking a city will set the mood (to a certain degree), so choose wisely.

I took the easy way out on this one tonight, choosing to post the four linked haikus I wrote in Heathrow Airport about our stay in Paris. They were written in March, but not shared publicly until now.


La Vie en Rose

C’est la vie en rose
That opens itself to us
In this budding spring

Champs de Mars

Running wild each night
Eiffel in glittering glam –
Forever in Seine

Notre Dame

Our mother reposed
In her divine symmetry,
Her sanctuary

Moulin Rouge

To their windmill wings
Whisper lost bienvenue
Les damsels de rouge

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poem A Day: Day Eleven

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 11
Posted by Robert

For today's prompt, take the phrase "The Last (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Some examples: "The Last Train," "The Last Kiss," "The Last Time I'll Give Directions to a Complete Stranger," "The Last Dance," etc.

I was really impressed with what Robin did in her Horror poem from yesterday (Bela Lugosi and the Spirits of the Dead), in which she mashed up Bauhaus and Edgar Allan Poe

So I tried the same mash-up technique with Etta James' At Last and Jeff Buckley's The Last Goodbye. This poem is not finished, but I wanted to post my attempt before bed tonight. I'll tweak this one more at a later time.

At Last Goodbye

This is our last goodbye
My lonely days are over
I found a dream that I
could speak to
But must I dream
and always see your face?

You smile – you smile
And then the spell is cast.
So this is our last embrace;
Kiss me out of desire and not
Consolation – A thrill that
I have never known.

You gave me more to live for
And life was like a song
But the voice unkind
In the back of my mind
Said the night I looked at you,
I didn’t know you at all.

More than you’ll ever know
I hate to feel the love between
us die. You know it makes me
So angry when here we are
in Heaven and I’ll only
make you cry.

So just hear this and I’ll go:
Bells out in the church tower chime,
the skies above are blue
Burning clues into this heart of mine
My heart was wrapped up in clover
And this is at last goodbye.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Poem A Day: Day 9

Poetic Asides: April PAD Challenge: Day 9

For today's prompt, write a self-portrait poem. Other artists study themselves to create compositions (not all of them exactly flattering either), so it is only natural that poets, who are word artists, write self-portrait poems from time to time. In fact, some poets make self-portrait poetry "their main thing." For at least today, make it yours. 

Every day of this challenge, I have thought, "Wow, this one's difficult. I don't know if I can come up with something." But then I went ahead and wrote something. However, this one was really hard. I sat staring at the page, and I swear I could hear a ringing in my ears, like I was standing too close to the place where a bomb had been detonated. In the end, I chose a symbol dear and familiar to me. Hopefully, it works.


A shadowbox
A motley collection
Of oddments:

One quill
An apple
(slightly bruised)
Carnet des tickets
(from Paris)
smooth round stone
(from the river in Otto)
pine cone
(from Denali)
Spanish coin
(from Scotland)
pink baby shoe
Gigi’s brooch
(like a starlit eye)
Houstene’s stole
white gold band
(2-karat diamond)
Radiator clamp
(worn as a pinky ring)
letters from Kenya
(missionary penpal)
Avonne’s ceramic cats
(held together with
love and glue)
blue ribbon
bronze medal
rhinestone tiara
bones of a cat
(we lost her
on the driveway)

Each remnant
In the spiraling chambers
Of my heart

Safely walled away,
each successive

until you reach
the seed
inside my heart.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Poem A Day: Day Eight

April PAD Challenge: Day 8
Posted by Robert

For today's prompt, pick a tool, make that the title of your poem, and write your poem. There are the more obvious tools, of course: hammer, screwdriver, wrench, etc. But there also less obvious tools and/or specialized tools available as well. Before attacking this poem, you may want to just think about the various possibilities first. Or just write.

I decided today to tackle something over which I have developed a true phobia - so much so, in fact, that I gave the issue to one of the characters in my book. Meredith's mother, Maureen, developed telephobia - or the fear of talking on telephones - because of her failed attempts to reconnect with Meredith in California.

Here is my attempt for tonight:


You keep on ringing
Incessantly annoying
Please leave a message

Thanks for reading!

Poem A Day: Day Seven

I did write poems yesterday; just didn't post them. We keep losing our Internet connection, so I'll post both of yesterday's poems today and the poem for today later on.

Yesterday's prompt was to write a poem with "Until" in the title. "Until blank."

Here's the first, called Until Three

Until Three

We took the baby in her stroller

To the park where we ate strawberries

and you said you felt strong, felt better,

felt like you didn’t need Doc McNair


In that false somnolent summer, I

believed it. Believed that the bitter

days trailed behind us, whispering

like the ashen edge of burning paper,

lifting like lilting smoke to the sky. But


they followed us, those timebomb days,

spreading like phantom fingers while I

made dinner, fed the baby, folded clothes,

and you watched CNN for the headline scroll

to let you know the world is not what you

thought it should be.


And we were family when we turned

out the light. We curled into cocooning

sheets where the baby and I slept, midnight

Until three.


When you woke us and said that

she and I should leave.

And the second:


Until I'm 16

Until I graduate

After college

After we're married

Until I'm 25 and I can

finally rent a car.

Until the baby's older

Until she starts school

Until we have enough money.

After the divorce

After I'm 30

When I finally have enough

life experience.

Until I'm 35

Until I'm 40

After she graduates

After she's married

Then I'll finally

write the book buried inside me

But until then there's never 

enough time.

Until then...

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poem A Day: Day Six

2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 6
Posted by Robert Lee Brewer  

For this prompt, write an ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)

Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya

Flashblind Pocahontas

With passionate indifference

She leaps through false foliage.

Voice off-screen commands:

Hold, then run again

Now LEAP, and –

Great. Again.


Flashblind, she resets to square one and

Damp leaves cleave to her bare toes.

She hears the clicking, clicking

As she runs, she believes

            One snap, she believes:

Twigs and verdant moss

And a man who wants to buy

Her soul

Is on a ship on shallow anchor.

In this way they are alike

This small way


As she leaps, she hears:

Hold, now. Run again

Now LEAP and snap.

Great. Again.

Well, this is a strange little poem. I chose the Pocahontas photo because of an immediate dislike I felt upon seeing it. I balked at it, thinking, 'This is so not Pocahontas.' I tried to imagine the photo shoot and Annie Leibovitz direction of the actress through the phony fall setting. 

Thanks for reading!

(cross posted everywhere)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poem A Day: Day Five, Poem 2

This is my second offering for tonight. It's weaker, I think, but it is a response to the first poem, posted here:

This is also a TMI poem, because there are many times when teachers see more of their students' lives than they bargained for.

They Think I Don’t See

Stolen pencil
Paper plane
Love note passing
Red shoe lace
Meth mouth
Dope eyes
Straight-edge razor
Insect bites
Cut marks
Tear streaks
Moon-shaped scar
Cell phone texting
Boyfriend’s car
Sneaking out
Freaking out
Taking something
Way too far.
They think
I don’t see them.
They think I don’t

But I do.

Poem A Day: Day Five

From Poetic Asides: 2010 April PAD Challenge: Day 5
Posted by Robert

For today's prompt, write a TMI poem (or too much information poem). As with all prompts, there are a number of ways to come at this one. You can make it about gossip or revealing too much personal information. You could write an information overload poem. Or...well, I'm interested to see what everyone produces.

When I read the prompt, this very brief poem came to me:

More Than We Should Know

When they committed
him, he sent a text
that read:
If you don't hear
from me, bury her body
by the lake.
We all thought, whose body?
As if we didn't know.
As if we haven't always known.

But for various family reasons, I can't share it in all places. So I'm going to have to work on another one.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Poem A Day: Day Four

From Poetic Asides: For today's prompt, write a history poem. This could mean a poem about your country's history, the history of an event or a tool, or even your own personal history. Hey, you could even write about the history of a relationship. The history of everything is fair game. Have fun! 

So I decided to tackle a poetic form with this one. I pulled out my Poet's Notebook and found a villanelle, which, despite how it sounds, is not a female villain. A villanelle is an Italian verse form with five tercets, rhymed ABA, and a concluding quatrain, rhymed ABAA. I took a free verse poem I'd written in France for the Notre Dame Cathedral, and re-worked it following the form. It was something like solving a mathematical equation, but I felt it fit with the cathedral's symmetrical architecture.

Our Mother

Reality, or so it goes

Is clasped within her plainsong dreams

With this endless La Vie en Rose


Into the glass, divine light flows

All broken shards and streaming beams

While in her heart the saints repose


Beneath her wings, all mankind froze

Astounded by the Martyr’s gleams

With this endless La Vie en Rose


Along the Seine, the bards compose

Replete with light or so it seems

While in her arms poets repose


Through you and me, a stillness grows

No better life, my heart esteems

Than this sweetness, La Vie en Rose


Across your face, the color flows

In lovely liquid shining streams

We bid au revoir to all our woes

Embracing this La Vie en Rose

Thanks for reading!

(cross posted everywhere)



Saturday, April 3, 2010

Poem A Day: Day Three

The prompt for the day is to write a poem with the word "Partly" in the title (Poetic Asides). I made a list of Partlies: Partly Caring, Partly Vegetarian, Partly Christian... but landed on Partly Okay and it clicked. This pair of lines sprung into my head immediately:

For four years I sat in coffee shops

Waiting for you.

I wrote the original draft of the poem from there and found it pretty ordinary.

Then, while I was looking through posts in the Writers Digest Community, I came across someone's posting that mentioned their location as "somewhere between the head and ribcage."

I thought, cool... what if I changed the setting of the poem?

This is what came out:

Partly Okay

Four years I lurked inside a ribcage

Listening to the dwindling echo

While she waited for him to decide


If he wanted the house-and-kids life:

PTA meetings and the sprawling chaos

Of Christmas Eve with her family,

The singing socialist republicans.


You sit up there in your shallow crown

You say you see what’s going on.

Even from my bony hold I realize

Four years is a long time in limbo.


But when you consider this forever proposition,

When you think about a side-by-side someone

Who will endure stubborn Kool-Aid stains 

And late night scarlet fever scares


You might begin to understand

Why I am partly okay

With waiting.

Thanks for reading...


Friday, April 2, 2010

Poem A Day: Day Two

I tried to wait for the Writers Digest Poet to issue today's prompt, but I was up early and this is what came out. 

This is a poem for Uncle Chico, who died unexpectedly after a fall in a Safeway just before Thanksgiving. He died from a stroke on Christmas Eve. The thing that bothers me most about his death is that for all of his brilliance, for all of his life pursuits, he died a lonely man.

This one is called Ash.

Ash cold blown over hardpan              

We stand at an overpass                                  

At Highway 87                                    

And FM 963                                                   


Beyond the graves the blank fields                    

Scroll wide to a dull chalk line              

A divide between this earth                              

And a bowl of gauze white sky             


A turquoise feather, you flit                              

One child among us ravens                               

Beside a line of mid-range cars             

You drift up to take my hand                            


Raked by wind, we huddle close                      

Among headstones succumbing            

To the slow crumbling of earth,            

The constant wing-beats of time                       


My Dad and his brother kneel              

With a zip-tied bag of ash                                

All that’s left of their brother:                

Charles Michael Gravis                              


But we know you as Chico                              

Our Uncle: mad scientist.                                 

The man taught you algebra                              

And now all we have is ash.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poem A Day: Day One

This is a Post-It poem, something I jot down on a sticky pad when I'm in my classroom. They have to be quick, because I'm always getting interrupted; and they have to be short, because it's on a sticky note.

This one is for my students.

Listen To Me

Listen to me!

I'm here!

I'm here


Do you see me?

I'm sick

I'm weird

(I think something's wrong

       with me)

So many...

There are so many

that I'm lost

Please see me.