Day 24, way off prompt


“You smell like you want to be alone.”

“It’s my hat.” 

She bowed her head 
to her notebook and pen.

I bent my head down 
to sniff the cowboy hat 
pushed tightly down
onto her forehead.

My belief was that it was not true. 

I leaned back in my chair. 
Her mousy scribbling 
scratched the paper.
I watched the fog 
roll down the mountain 
into the valley.

I yearned for rain. 

Gray clouds 
made a good argument for it. 
I wanted to be enveloped 
in their soft dark hands, 
keeping me safe from
childhood monsters under the bed. 

There was hope.

I smelled the lemon 
in the carafe sitting on the table. 
Pouring the last bit into my glass, 
I made a note to ask for a refill 
the next time I saw the waiter.


She would finish soon.

Wondering if we would be able to leave
in the thick gray curtain
I saw from the front window, 
mist hiding the shops 
across the road,
I watched the woman with her poodle  
in her bag 
stepping out the door 
off the curb 
into the gray abyss.


Water poured down the windows and flowed into the curb down the street passing the sewer not wanting to leave its path I imagined it flowing into the houses filling up the basements to the top of the stairs where bottles of homemade beer floated like dinghies lost at sea.

“More water, please,” 
she ordered him, and
returned to her notebook.  

A swift hand 
grabbed the carafe,
almost in the same space and time
placed another down. 
A pirouette. 
He was practiced.

I bent my head closer to hers. 
My belief was that it was not true.

She must be getting close 
I leaned over to see her scribbling. 
I could never read it, 
even if it wasn’t upside down. 
But she would read it to me.

I never knew
if she was reading 
what she wrote. 
Or changed the words 
as she read along. 
Or was just 
telling me another story
she thought I wanted to hear.

the scent of rain, 
and gray clouds eating the sun, 
I really couldn’t smell if she wanted to be alone.

Maybe it was just hope. Or the rain.


I haven’t been able to keep up with daily writing. However, our writing group met yesterday and I decided to devise a prompt pulled from several different sources. The group was none too pleased and I was a bit of a whip cracker a few times. But in the end as we finished, the group broke out into a self applause. That has never happened in the ten plus years we have been meeting. We felt good about our writing.

Here is the long and complex prompt. And below it are the prompts I used. There were parts that everyone in the group used and then ones that we each individually chose and used. And, of course, as always, one can write what they wish to write sans prompt. We are a delightful group!


  1. Name a type of hat – group shout out – cowboy hat   
  2. A childhood monster –  our own
  3. Name an object in this room – group shout out – carafe 
  4. Choose one and no FOMO. I only read the list once. From NaPoWriMo.


5. Construct a sentence with one of the above words – our own
6. During the twenty minute writing period, I instructed the group to use this sentence in the first seven minutes. 

Then I stopped the group once at seven minutes and once again at  fourteen minutes and instructed the group to end whatever sentence we were writing, even if it wasn’t the end of the sentence, and to place a period and end it.

I then instructed the group to write down the above sentence we each constructed with the word we chose. 

At the final bell, I asked everyone to write a contradiction of something they wrote earlier.

Opening line: “You smell like you want to be alone.”

My Prompts:

  1. cowboy hat
  2. monster under the bed
  3. carafe
  4. Belief
  5. My belief was that it was not true. 
  6. I really couldn’t smell if she wanted to be alone.
  7. Opening line: “You smell like you want to be alone.”

Crashe’s Law

NaPoWriMo Day 22

Crumbling is not an instant act.

It arrives almost unseen and
bows with a fundamental pause.

It is dilapidation, an organized decay,
beginning first with a cobweb 
weaving itself small,
a gentle strangulation upon the soul. 

It is found in a cuticle of dust 
that borders my axis, 
a spec of elemental rust,
a shy unnoticed ruin, at first.

It is a formal designed in devil’s work 
consecutively draped, falling all around me.

I fail in what seems an instant 
partnered with the Devil,
slipping into Crashe’s Law.


Here we are at day 22 in NaPoWriMo. I got a little further this year than I have in the last few in which I participated. My last poem was on day 10.

Today’s prompt has us choosing an Emily Dickinson poem we’ve never read and take away her punctuation and dashes. Then we can remove and add words.

This is my kind prompt!

Here is her poem:

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act (1010)

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays —

‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust —

Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crashe’s law —


Day Eleven


“Thanks for the handcuffs, Grandma.”

A little boy and his grandma
A bus ride in celebration
A joyous reward
For hard work well done

He was excited 
and my mind raced
back to the days
of cowboy shows
and sheriffs 
saloon brawls 

TV offerings in my childhood

The jingling of spurs 
boots hitting the dust
the click
then the shuffle off to jail


I’m breaking those images
ingrained from long ago
of criminal and hero
what it means to make a mistake
be sorry

And I wonder

On that bus ride
an innocent gift
from grandma of my TV years
to grandson of justice today

how do we elevate forgiveness
and compassion
in simple acts of love


Today’s prompt: “And finally, our (optional) prompt for the day. This prompt challenges you to play around with the idea of overheard language. First, take a look at Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “One Boy Told Me.” It’s delightfully quirky, and reads as a list, more or less, of things that she’s heard the boy of the title – her son, perhaps? – say. Now,  write a poem that takes as its starting point something overheard that made you laugh, or something someone told you once that struck you as funny. If you can’t think of anything, here’s a few one-liners I picked out of the ever-fascinating-slash-horrifying archives of Overheard in New York.

•             So I asked my priest, and he said “I think you should see other people.”

•             Don’t say “no” to drugs. Say “no, thank you.”

•             You smell like you want to be alone.

•             Oh hi! We were just speaking very poorly about you!

•             I feel so elated! Wait…no, I mean, “violated.”

Dog Poop, A Land Shanty

Day Ten

I struggled with posting this one, but decided a little humor is okay.

TMI? Sea Shanty day at NaPoWriMo. It’s 2:30 in the morning, so this is it. Sorry. Not sorry.

Dog Poop, A Land Shanty

What do you do with a dog who won’t poop?
What do you do with a dog who won’t poop?
What do you do with a dog who won’t poop?
Early in the morning.

Dad’s up first, so he rises.
Dad’s up first, so he rises.
Dad’s up first, so he rises.
Early in the morning.

What do you do with a dog who won’t poop?…

Mom’s turn next, so she rises…

She eats everything in the yard…

Call the vet to find relief…

Pumpkin purée that’s the answer… 

Back to bed we’re very grumpy…

That’s what you do with a dog who won’t poop.
That’s what you do with a dog who won’t poop.
That’s what you do with a dog who won’t poop.
That’s what you do with a dog who won’t poop.
Early in the morning.

Benny, my Bean

Day 9

Benny, my Bean

Benny, My Bean

Your ashes on my mantle sit. Your stained
and dirty collar as its base. “Let’s play,”
the pocket holding tags dangles down, chained
no more to me, but in my heart you stay.

Four months since you are gone, my everyday 
breath still catches, tears roll down reminding 
me of my “Soul Dog.” Our daily ballet,
of your protection, my soft kiss binding

us forever. You sent her quickly finding
me a new warm heart to love and cherish.
Your departure just a pause, spellbinding
our hearts forever and will not perish.

Your stately paw and side-eye glance, heavy 
sigh, my Soul Dog. My Bean. My sweet Benny.


First, and foremost, I must thank from the depths of my heart the peeps at NaPoWriMo. They chose my poem “Prismojen” from from Day 8, to be the featured poem for today. I am deeply humbled. And a great thank you to all who read and posted their words of support. I a deeply grateful.

Now on with today’s prompt. My dread of al dreads – the sonnet. Oh. I tried my best to use ABAB BCBCB CDCD EE –   “The Spenserian sonnet is a 14-line poem developed by Edmund Spenser in his Amoretti, that varies the English form by interlocking the three quatrains (ABAB BCBC CDCD EE).”

Today’s prompt from NaPoWriMo. “Finally, here’s our prompt for the day (as always, optional). We’re calling today Sonnet Sunday, as we’re challenging you to write in what is probably the most robust poetic form in English. A traditional sonnet is 14 lines long, with each line having ten syllables that are in iambic pentameter (where an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable). While love is a very common theme in sonnets, they’re also known for having a kind of argumentative logic, in which a problem is posed in the first eight lines or so, discussed or argued about in the next four, and then resolved in the last two lines. A very traditional sonnet will rhyme, though there are a variety of different rhyme schemes.

Today, sonnets are probably most commonly associated with Shakespeare (who wrote more than 150, and felt very little compunction about messing around with the form, at least to the extent of regularly saying “who cares” to strict iambs). But poets’ attention to the form hasn’t waned in the 400 years or so since the Bard walked the fields around Stratford-upon-Avon and tramped the stage-boards of Merrie Old England. Take a look at this little selection of contemporary sonnets by Dennis JohnsonAlice NotleyRobert Hass, and Jill Alexander Essbaum. You’ll notice that while all of these poems play in some way on the theme of love, they are tonally extremely different – as is the kind or quality of love that they discuss. Some rhyme, some don’t. They mostly stick to around 14 lines but They’re also not at all shy about incorporating contemporary references (the Rolling Stones, telephones, etc).

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write your own sonnet. Incorporate tradition as much or as little as you like – while keeping in general to the theme of “love.”


Day Eight


The house was a box of dynamite

My mother threw a sauerbraten at my grandfather once
I remember the Sunday afternoon
But I didn’t know what precipitated it

The chunk of meat slapped against the wall
It’s juices running through her fingers
It was an unusual meal
My nose was unaccustomed to the spices
My grandfather picked it up
sliced a few pieces
and dutifully ate it as I watched from my bedroom door

I was six years old
I could taste my fear

Mom picked up her keys
and purse
and drove to a motel
in Colorado Springs for some days.
I can’t remember how many,
but I remember the feeling of unknowing

She just threw it at him
Because he complained
and she worked so hard to make something special
just for him
So she threw it at him
in despair
of not being
she felt like she never was
I understand that now

In the still night I could hear her
hollering through the phone
From some hotel far away
My grandfather asleep in his bedroom
Me in mine
And Dad listening
Holding the receiver away from his ear
sitting on their pullout couch bed in the living room
We lived in the back of my dad’s TV repair shop
Which was my grandpa’s
shoe repair shop first
She lived there her whole life until I was 18

Who knew a sauerbraten

Could cause such an explosion

Shaking her head
my grandmother said
then pointing to her head
when my father told her what happened
I knew what she meant

The crazy woman of delusion

In my bed, a stone, not comfort

I flew away
But only in my dreams

Little girl, a name she never grew out of,
An only child
Six years old
She was only an observer
And she would grow up
To understand

The hospital
welcomed her
I remember those days
some days
I can’t remember how many
Visits just like in the movies
Cold with green walls
windows into rooms
doors that locked
lots of shiny green tile
and stainless steel

And she was quiet for a long time after the explosion


the stuffed bunny
from the Easter basket
as tall as I was
comforted me when she was gone
even now
I’m sitxy seven

and cold green walls


This happened with today’s prompt. I didn’t see it coming.

Each stanza is an answer, in order, to the 20 “little projects.”

“The prompt is called the ‘Twenty Little Poetry Projects, ‘ and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. And here are the twenty little projects themselves — the challenge is to use them all in one poem:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.

2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.

3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.

4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).

5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.

6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.

7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.

8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.

9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.

10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).

11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”

12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.

13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”

14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.

15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.

16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.

17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.

18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.

19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).

20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.”


Day Six


depend on the day you choose to hear them,
not so quaint passing voices

Let them be the segue dare

Depose them, YOU dare THEM
cruise right by them

Line your house instead
with arias

just imagine


Today’s prompt always stops me. ‘Choose a poem in another language that you don’t know. Read the poem thinking about the sound and shape of the words, and the degree to which they remind you of words in your own language. Use those correspondences as the basis for a new poem.”

Its hurts my brain Every. Single. Time. No matter how hard I try, my brain refuses to be loose with it. Others find it delightful fun. I am in angst. I’m too concrete. And I give up and ignore the prompt.

But with the encouragement of a few artistic friends, I soldiered on today.

Michael – The nature of inspiration…?

Sepha – Hmm, that in itself might be your prompt!

Catherine – Perhaps a conversation with the myth of inspiration! Or with angst!

Here is the poem I used. I did not read the English translation until I completed my poem.

dramaturgia do mundo
by Francisco Mallman

tanta coisa depende de quantos 
passos voce consegue dar 
depois de cruzar 
linhas imaginarias

Then I wrote down the words I heard and saw that reminded me of something in English:

Too Much Drama

Taunt cause depends day quaint
Passes voice can segway dare
Depose dare cruiser
Line house imagine arias

From that, it led me here:


Tauntings depend on a day you chose to hear them
not quaint passing voices
Let them be a segue dare
depose them, you dare them
cruise right by them 
Line your house, instead,
with arias,
just imagine

And the original Portuguese poem in English:

dramaturgy of the world
by Francisco Mallman,
translated from Portuguese by Robert Smith

so much depends on how many 
steps you are able to take 
after crossing
imaginary lines

I guess I didn’t let the prompt taunt me this year.

I Don’t Do Easter Anymore

Day Five

I don’t do Easter anymore
Or ashes or fish on Friday

I no longer sit in church housed  prayer
To ask forgiveness of my imperfections 

Or kneeling as a sinner guilty for nailed holes 
And bloody hands and feet and crowns of thorns

Instead I glory in the rising sun 
Her velvet ears and gentle paws

My partner’s smile and loving touch
And homemade bread with butter

I don’t do Easter anymore
I don’t have time or space

But I know Your essence deep within
And rest in union in Your love


So, I didn’t quite follow the prompt today. But I used juxtaposition to describe my relationship to Easter past and now my present. Dark and light. Guilt and joy. No laughter here. Just deep and grace filled peace.

“Finally, here’s our (optional) prompt for the day. Begin by reading Charles Simic’s poem “The Melon.” It would be easy to call the poem dark, but as they say, if you didn’t have darkness, you wouldn’t know what light is. Or vice versa. The poem illuminates the juxtaposition between grief and joy, sorrow and reprieve. For today’s challenge, write a poem in which laughter comes at what might otherwise seem an inappropriate moment – or one that the poem invites the reader to think of as inappropriate.”