a spring storm sputters from the blue, dancing on bathroom tiles, and I know as foggy dream yields to hazy reality you have already answered daybreak for your Sunday morning shower.
you sigh and coo in blissful oblivion and doves take flight up my spine.
your hairdryer yawns into action as you hum a backing tune while I sing the lead in my head, lying in our bed, one knee crocked, staring out the window to horizon as cotton candy slowly trades back and forth with blue.
I act as if asleep as you reenter our bedroom, shadow falling upon me like the world’s warmest blanket, failing in your efforts to move silently.
“Stop faking,” you admonish gently, and despite myself, I lose a snicker.
on occasion of an ordinary spring Sunday, well before noon, sneaking a peak, there you were, uncovered, and upon widening my eyes to drink you in, every depth, contour, and Venus dimple of treasures previously beyond conception came into focus from eastern daybreak.
“What?” you ask through wry grin, as if you could not possibly know.
“Our prompt for today (optional, as always) is to write an “occasional” poem. What’s that? Well, it’s a poem suited to, or written for, a particular occasion. This past January, lots of people who usually don’t encounter poetry got a dose when Amanda Gorman read a poem at President Biden’s inauguration. And then she followed it up with a poem at the Superbowl (not traditionally an event associated with verse!) The poem you write can be for an occasion in the past or the future, one important to you and your family (a wedding, a birth) or for an occasion in the public eye (the Olympics, perhaps?).”
with all Midnight Plains a playground we crammed into each other’s airspace as if we’d implode from any separation licking our past from our lips compressing present between thighs hearing the future grunt from our core
soaked in milky-way sky and malbec unlocking French on flannel sheets Great Divide traversed before dawn and dew drops kissed our skin
we writhed, undeterred by chill of fog
we wore our own tropical high melting Olympic glaciers upon release
us furious lovers; us selfish givers
when I awoke, tangled in your absence wisdom made for poor company.
“Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that responds, in some way, to another. This could be as simple as using a line or image from another poem as a jumping-off point, or it could be a more formal poetic response to the argument or ideas raised in another poem. You might use a favorite (or least favorite poem) as the source for your response. And if you’re having trouble finding a poem to respond to, here are a few that might help you generate ideas: “This World is Not Conclusion,” by Peter Gizzi, “In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever,” by Wanda Coleman, “La Chalupa, the Boat,” by Jean Valentine, or “Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm,” by Carl Phillips.”
“There are many different poetic forms. Some have specific line counts, syllable counts, stresses, rhymes, or a mix-and-match of the above. Of the poetic forms that are based on syllable counts, probably the most well-known – to English speakers, at least – is the Japanese form called the haiku. But there are many other syllable-based forms. Today, I’d like to challenge you to pick from two of them – the shadorma, and the Fib.”
I’ve dabbled with the shadorma a few times, but I cannot recall ever trying a Fib, so naturally, I went with the unknown to see if I could make a new friend of it. The Fib is a fun, light form that seems made for nostalgia.
What can I say, Wolf? I’ve never owned any pets. Too much overhead, too much work,
oh, and also because of slavery.
Yes Wolf; I mentioned pet ownership and slavery in the same breath, but it’s not like you’re gonna call me on it; you’re just a dumb dog,
one that’s been dead for nearly thirty years.
But fine, I remember those soulful eyes, so I’ll try to explain it.
There’s something to be said of those unlucky in birth who persevere against all odds to overthrow their oppressors in triumph.
Americans especially love these underdog stories, as our recorded history is full of them.
But what of the other stories?
With Tubman, Douglass, and The Amistad as outliers of four-hundred years of mostly humdrum, garden-variety slavery, with all the standard rape, abuse, and outright murdering of slaves too stupid to mask their intelligence,
how many stories of the voiceless do we know?
It’s weird, Wolf. You were a dog – a beautiful German Shepherd/Doberman Pinscher mix
– but when I think of all the voiceless slaves who were born and died in unconscionable suffering, I think of you.
To be honest, Wolf, I haven’t thought of you in ages, and that’s a shame, but
the less remembered of your tragic life and death, the better for me.
Or perhaps not; after all, I’ve left your memory as it were, untamed, but there it sits upon my return, waiting patiently only for me.
What if my sidestepping your legacy is but one more injustice for you?
Our lives were intertwined for so long, with much of the trauma descendent directly from my ancestors in bondage.
You weren’t even my damn dog, but I was your reluctant caretaker, and there’s nothing poetic about feeding you and cleaning up your shit, but I felt your loyalty and your agony in-kind.
Wolf, you were an idiot of a dog, raised on ignorance and cruelty, and yet you were still sweet and loyal.
I’d given up on hiding grandma’s tools of discipline, as she’d just find herself a sturdier switch to snap on ya,
but I taught you to sit using head-rubs instead of grandma’s rubber hose; you were always a good boy.
I wish I had told you that more.
I remember you having the audacity to demand more head-rubs from me, swatting at my hand with your paw like Bunky the cat taught you, and I happily gave them to you.
I wish I’d given you all the head-rubs.
But I’d graduated the basement and fled to the Navy, making the cut despite the odds.
I heard of your fate secondhand, and I wept real tears over a freaking dog that I didn’t even own
who lived his entire existence chained to a waterpipe in a half-finished basement,
life snuffed-out, most likely, by someone well-known and trusted.
Can you imagine that?
Anyway, yeah, I’ve never cared for any pets.
Too much overhead, too much work, just too much. ***
And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today, I challenge you to write a paean to the stalwart hero of your household: your pet. Sing high your praises and tell the tale of Kitty McFluffleface’s ascension of Mt. Couch. Let us hear how your intrepid doggo bravely answers the call to adventure whenever the leash jingles.
If you don’t have a pet, perhaps you know one or remember one who deserves to be immortalized in verse. For inspiration, I direct you to a selection from an 18th-century poem by Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno, in which the poet’s praise for his cat ranges from “For he is docile and can learn certain things” all the way up to “For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.” Personally, I’m lucky if my cat doesn’t just sleep the day away, but I find her pretty delightful all the same.
This was painful to write, and I nearly scrapped the whole thing. I kept trying to walk away from it, but it kept calling me back.
It’s unpolished, and I won’t be revisiting it at all, but Wolf deserves to have his story told.
We made it halfway up before yielding to father time and self-imposed inertia.
Bending onto a level manicured path, a young tree bloomed in watercolor reds; a beautiful alien among puffy white sapling blossoms.
Along a strip of conformity where anything out-of-place is hammered, snipped, or sprayed into one of the approved labels, the tree of rubies grabs the eye for all the reasons, right, wrong, or otherwise.
Towering firs in the distance command focus, even as humanity carved condos, two-car garages, and rickety steps into where their cousins were felled years ago.
They stretch and slowly sway stoically against the light breeze, reminding all to stand as tall as their posture allows and inhale deeply, accepting their regifted oxygen, exhaling in mutual respiration.
The opposite side of the valley, across the Sammamish river, teams with every shade of green, blending seamlessly into each other, accepting the uncolored order before bowing to man’s rectangular boxy factories and warehouses, each aligned to and more unremarkable than the last beige, bland nothing.
Between the bland boxes and us lies another greenbelt with an overgrown abandoned rail line cutting through it; a boundary noted and ignored by most.
Near the bottom of the rickety stair landing, two teens social-distance together with their tiny dog, who silently, but rightfully eyes me suspiciously.
I doubt he’s ever seen the likes of me in his territory before.
But he shrugs it off, finding a far more intriguing scent, oblivious to the nearby blackberries at war with a similarly invasive species.
The shrub battle is waged on its own time and would’ve gone unnoticed by my eyes had my beloved not been beside me to pull me out of our moment, drawing attention to it.
She often helps me see things with new colors and angles, bending our halfway-uphill trips into an unyielding odyssey. ***
Today, our optional prompt challenges you to write a poem based on a “walking archive.” What’s that? Well, it’s when you go on a walk and gather up interesting things – a flower, a strange piece of bark, a rock. This then becomes your “walking archive” – the physical instantiation of your walk. If you’re unable to get out of the house (as many of us now are), you can create a “walking archive” by wandering around your own home and gathering knick-knacks, family photos, maybe a strange spice or kitchen gadget you never use. One you’ve finished your gathering, lay all your materials out on a tray table, like museum specimens. Now, let your group of materials inspire your poem! You can write about just one of the things you’ve gathered, or how all of them are all linked, or even what they say about you, who chose them and brought them together.
Of course, upon hearing that in order to stay on prompt, I’d have to leave the house, my wife was thrilled. Me, not so much, but hey, I did it.
The world burns with the worst humanity has to offer along with a contagion coldly vying to finish the job.
The country where I was born continues its fine tradition of ignoring its festering generational wounds, allowing a con man to bankrupt its already decaying conscience.
The new neighborhood is full of facile smiles too perfectly affixed upon the only books I’d rather not open.
The sky is heavy, densely burdened by the shade of sorrow that spittles rain in mists too fine to be noticeable until it beads upon fresh spring leaves and slickens the path enough to reflect dreary clouds back into us.
The tears fall from her face, mingling internal precipitation with external condensation; a reflection of both my subconscious betrayal, and the nature of nature.
The sugary-tart sunshine emanates from my glass of vodka-spiked orange juice, rendered pale by soaked, anemic daylight spilling into my window.
The long swig I take, soaking in nutrient and toxin, reminds me that I still draw breath, and therefore there’s always a chance to set things right. ***
Our optional prompt for the day also honors the idea of Saturday (the Saturdays of the soul, perhaps?), by challenging you to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. Perhaps it’s the first sip of your morning coffee. Or finding some money in the pockets of an old jacket. Discovering a bird’s nest in a lilac bush or just looking up at the sky and watching the clouds go by.
Rather than encouraging minimalism, today we challenge you to write a poem of over-the-top compliments. Pick a person, place, or thing you love, and praise it in the most effusive way you can. Go for broke with metaphors, similes, and more. Need a little inspiration? Perhaps you’ll find it in the lyrics of Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top.” (Scroll down at the link for the lyrics and an annotated explanation of them).
This is another one I feel like I do way too much, so I went the other way with it, tapping into my emotional flatline (which sadly, can feel all too real at times).
There’s a pithy phrase attributed to T.S. Eliot: “Good poets borrow; great poets steal.” (He actually said something a bit different, and phrased it a bit more pompously – after all, this is T.S. Eliot we’re talking about). Nonetheless, our optional prompt for today (developed by Rachel McKibbens, who is well-known for her imaginative and inspiring prompts) plays on the idea of stealing. Today, I challenge you to write a non-apology for the things you’ve stolen. Maybe it’s something as small as your sister’s hairbrush (or maybe it was your sister’s boyfriend!) Regardless, I hope this sly prompt generates some provocative verse for you.
Oh, thank God! I was afraid that this might be one of those Erasure – found poetry prompts that I suck at find so frustrating. Thank goodness it’s just a prompt about good-old stealing! Yay for stealing!