River Walk Life

Every morning I walk along the river. To get there, first I must walk through the city, past houses of people still sleeping, sometimes encountering a raccoon or skunk, finishing its night of roaming and looking for home. I must pass through the bar district, sidewalks littered with cigarette butts, broken glass, crushed cigarette packs and empty chew tins. The stench of stale beer, smoked butts, and acrid vomit wafts briefly through my senses, my pace quickening to get by, to reach the water. There the life is so different, open, unencumbered by hard-cornered brick. Instead, the softness of marsh and brush, leaves and grass. My walk becomes mediation on vibrant sunrise, lush green, the steady thrum of birdsong.

beside the river
I enter a life, every day
I leave behind

[Prompt: Haibun]


Uncle Eddie lost three fingers
when the combine ate his hand
and Junior lost his life
when the tractor rolled into the ditch

There was reason for families
to have so many children
to do all the work, and because
God would always claim some back

Jealous, Grandma would say,
of all the love they had here
and wishing he had never
given them away

Every day she’d wake them
feed them, send them out to chores
never once saying, Be careful
because she never wanted

their last thought to be
that it could have been their fault
but instead, that God had come
to take them home with him.

[Prompt: Technology]

Avery Alone

Avery let loose a little scream
it was more surprise than pain
though the hammer hurt when
it came crashing down upon his thumb.
He dropped the tool and ran inside
where he found himself alone.
His whimpers echoed in the empty kitchen.
As per usual, Mother was ‘out’ with friends
and father, not a word in his vocabulary
since the day he was born.
He stuck his thumb inside his mouth
and soothed himself, silencing all the hurt.

Before Darkness

Come here beside me
sit skin close
hum of cicadas
vibrate between us
dusk dampness
rises from the earth
lean to me
only our weight
to hold us upright
bury our toes in the sand
only these tiny grains
to keep us warm

“For you I have so many words”

that bang around
in my head
batter themselves
against the walls
of my head
silent violent screams
exhausting all
I wish I could say

(Quote from prompt song Ben Howard – “I Forgot Where We Were”)

Grandma’s Apron

Wrapped tight around
her full breast, rounded belly.
Thin cotton fabric worn through
breakfast, lunch, dinner prep.
Pink and orange petaled flowers
scented with kielbasa and sauerkraut
and a clean, pungent salty sweat.
Our faces buried in it
she hugged us each hello.
“Sit! Sit! It’s time to eat!”
A blur of cotton and steam
from kitchen to table, “Just sit!”
Each plate piled high, the table filled
elbows jostling for room to dig in.
“Oh! The potatoes! Make room for potatoes!”
And yet one more dish squeezed in
until finally she untied the apron
hung it unceremoniously
on a nail in the door.
Apron strings, frayed ends
swinging gently to rest.

(Prompt: An End)


Denise Hill – first-timer. I’m Editor in Chief of NewPages.com and a full-time college faculty and English Division Chair. I read lots of other people’s writing and rarely take time to write outside of work. This is my time. Hooyah!