2019 Poetry Marathon: My half-marathon recap

Another year’s half marathon come and gone. As I often point out, I prefer to do the half marathon because I like to sleep; consequently doing the full 24-hour marathon simply wouldn’t work for me, as it would take me at least a couple of days to get back to normal.

Making things easier this year was my recent acquisition of Scrivener. Thanks to the program’s separate panes, I was able to have the prompt always visible as I wrote:


Screenshot showing working layout in Scrivener, with area for notes on the right


As before, I worked with all the prompts for the sake of simplicity. That said, a couple of them still gave me trouble. For example, for the hour 5 prompt calling for a poem about a dream, nothing immediately came to mind, so I dug out a couple of my old journals that I knew included detailed descriptions of dreams I’d had. The problem was that the ones I still have dim memories of today turned out to be not that interesting. I finally just picked one and tried to reduce it to the barest details (taking a couple of liberties along the way). Similarly, none of the photos in the hour 4 prompt did much for me—and my first choice (the black-and-white photo of the woman next to the tipped-over stool) felt a little too obvious for me. And the song chosen for the hour 7 prompt was not at all my taste, so I had to take some time to find something I would find more inspiring.

In the end, most poems took me 30–45 minutes to write, lightly edit, and post. On the whole, I think they turned out all right. At least, I didn’t hate any of the poems I posted.

This time, I did get around to checking out the later prompts and using them to write additional poems. I posted only one of them (also written while listening to music), however.

Now to pick out the two poems to edit and submit for the anthology…

(23 June 2019)

We forged on…

Erasure poem using p. 143 of art sex music by Cosey Fanni Tutti (Faber & Faber, 2017):


erasure poem using p. 143 from art sex music by Cosey Fanni Tutti (Faber & Faber, 2017)

We forged on—
artists, poets and musicians

He was wild
dangerous and uncompromising

I was stuck at a local factory
for quite a while

I’d been practising
and felt pretty good about my organ

It was coming along
for an arduous journey

I loved fun

Any hitches were
never a problem

He’d just smile
and use


(22 June 2019, Hour 12)




Dear Kevin who likes to take shortcuts sometimes

Okay, we have to talk

Every few years
you try to save yourself time or effort
by taking shortcuts

You know what I’m talking about—
don’t even lie

Let me remind you:

That time at the Graham Hill playground
when your bicycle chain fell off?
You couldn’t use the brakes to stop
so you steered right into the chain-link fence?
Fortunately, the boys were all right

That time in the Cleveland parking lot?
You were in a rush to get to your first class
so you went up the dirt embankment, tripped
and fell on a piece of glass?
Spent the morning in the emergency room?
Six stitches? Ring a bell?

That time at Crazy Mike’s when you jumped up
to grab something from the other side of the counter
and your ribs hit the edge on the way down?
That still hurts sometimes, you know

That time when Levitz was delivering the new living room furniture
but got lost in that wacky little area
where the street names trade places?
After flagging them down
you ran across the lawn and tried to jump up to the front door
so you wouldn’t have to go up TWO STEPS?
You didn’t break it, but that ankle will never be quite right…

That time you went with the wife to get a new car
after one of the kids totalled it in a wreck?
You should have bought used, I’m telling you
’cause that thing was already doomed
even without the damn kids

All those times you grabbed everything from the car
because you didn’t want to make two or three trips
then tripped on the stairs because you couldn’t see where your feet were?
How long did it take before you could pull stuff out of the washing machine
without going OW–OW–OW–OW?
That’s right!

Or that time you were carrying that big-ass box out to your car
from your mom’s house and fell down those TWO STEPS?
Remember how it took two or three years
for that arm to get back to normal?
Don’t tell me you don’t—you still have the elbow brace to prove it

And what about that time you married your ex
because y’all thought you were so mature now
and all the bad shit was already behind you?
Uh-huh—where are you now?


Make the extra trips
Walk around the whatever
Take the stairs
Don’t rush
Do it right

And most of all—history is not a shortcut

Future Kevin


(22 June 2019, Hour 10)

After breakfast

The coffee at the canteen’s no damn good, you know
I think the supplier slipped the kitchen super
a bag of cement mixed with topsoil—
you’d think they’d have figured it out
when the shelf collapsed under the weight of the sack

But no, they kept it hush-hush
so Lieutenant Moonbeam won’t end up
scraping barnacles from a ship in drydock

They must figure the guys on guard duty
won’t care what they’re drinking
when it gets so cold the fog turns to ice

I hear Corporal Feynman used that slop
to cement a fir stump to the Lieutenant’s Lexus the other day…


(22 June 2019, Hour Ten)

The mortgaged heart

Somehow I’ve never thought to say anything
it’s hard to complain
when the terms have never been disclosed
and you don’t know who holds the note
or when it’s supposed to come due

I guess I’ve always figured the payments
will eventually get to the right person

Is every project a ‘fixer-upper’?
How much labour should we expect to put in?

I’ve given it away before
thinking the arrangement was permanent

Every deal breaks eventually

Am I mistaken in thinking
that mine was built for two
when it’s really just a room for rent?

I should stop my yammering
and get ready for the open house

I’m hoping to find a buyer this time


(22 June 2019, Hour Nine)

Sevenling (Two directions)

Two directions traversed at once
the map folded in half
and deliberately marked

Signposts conspicuously absent
the face of the compass blank
with the needle missing

This is quite a journey


(22 June 2019, Hour Eight)


Inspired by: ‘The middle of night interlude where dreams may or may not happen.’

Moonlight shines
on the back of her neck
suggesting muted colours, light textures
a flowing arc

I am intrigued, enchanted
but keep a respectful distance

This moment is a haven
I am but a wanderer seeking sanctuary

Yes, I may find temporary solace
in the warmth of an embrace
but it is the feeling
that will protect me
long after body becomes memory

I close my eyes

Her presence tinctures the air I breathe
I am inadequate, but she does not share such concerns

I sigh
I am comforted

And when my open eyes
reveal the illusion
the shimmering moonlight
carries a tint
that was not there before

I will be all right


(22 June 2019, Hour Seven)

Welcome to my little corner of the world

This is my apartment
my refrigerator is either freezing cold
or room temperature

This is my desk
where my computer is
I prepare to do everything here

This is my sofait’s orange!
I do everything here

This is my car
the CD player is broken
but I can still listen to cassettes

This is the bookstore
I come here to buy books, write
and get away from my apartment

This is the grocery store
some people know me by name
some people know me by what I buy

This is the gas station
nobody knows me here
I use gift cards so I don’t have to pay so much

This is the parking lot
José, the apartment manager, passes by:
“Have a great day!”

This is my apartment…


(22 June 2019, Hour Six)

20 February 1993

The man behind the counter
has a drinking problem

He ignores me
I leave

In the middle of the grassy field
on the other side of the chain-link fence
an old woman, wrapped in blankets and shawls
rocks in her chair
oblivious to everything

Next to the field
an abandoned freight car
sits on now unused tracks

I look inside
it is empty, except for a black stove
and a manual typewriter

Walking back towards the field
I find a small piece of paper
by the fence

On it are printed three words:


Suddenly, everything is bright
as though I have just awakened
and my eyes have not had time to adjust

I rub my eyes
when I look at the piece of paper again
it has changed:


I shrug, and put it in my pocket

But when I take it out again
it has changed:


I rub my eyes and look again:


And again:


I crumple up the paper
and stuff it in my pocket

What could this mean?

I look out at the field:
the old woman in the rocking chair
is gone

Am I in the right place?

I turn around—
the freight car is now gone
the typewriter has been left between the rails

I cross the street
and make my way back to the ticket counter

The young woman on duty
tells me the flight to Cincinnati
is leaving now

The man in the next line
is carrying nine copies of TIME magazine

He looks at me and shrugs


(22 June 2019, Hour Five)


Photograph of boat in the bay of Dunsborough, Western Australia, by Jake Allison.

Anchored and waiting
calm seas under marble-blue sky
dreaming about land

long to sail on oceans wide
leave countries behind

In the bay, we sleep
our boat swaying with the waves
and green-blue sea dreams


(22 June 2019, Hour 4)

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