Prompt 29/Childhood, Four -18

1. At four, I am nearly stepped on by my mother, who finds me camped on the floor under her side of the bed each morning. I have no recall of this, but I do remember hiding all my toys under my bed and then taking over my sister’s to her chagrin.

2. From five to seven, I learn I can’t have everything when I accompany my mother to the store, that she won’t tolerate tantrums, that I eat too slow, and that I love to read.

3. From eight to 12, I pretended many things. I pretended to be a movie star, both popular and faded varieties. On the property adjoining our duplex, there was a stone well; here I pretended to be a gypsy. My gypsy phase fed my notion that there was a witches coven behind the wall in my and my sister’s room. My mother later painted the walls light purple to hide the scratches I’d made looking for the secret doorway to the coven. By the time I’m 11, I begin to take back my hair from my mother’s machinations. Finally free of braids, pony tails and foam curlers, I next stand up to my father when I inform him I plan to be a vegetarian.

4. From 13 to 16, I watched my parents’ marriage dissolve. The first unraveling began when we moved to a suburb. My mother would turn their fights into a spectator sport, that, in retrospect, I think probably made her feel safer about raising her voice if my sister or I were in the room. When I entered junior high, my father moved out and began living with the first of two girlfriends, who became wives 2 and 3. Both of whom are with men who make them happier now.

5. 16 to 18, I begin investigating my pop culture options. I have become a fan of the Beatles and the Clash, and the first concert tickets I buy are the Police. Later I cut my hair short, like Sting, whose name I draw in block letters on my notebooks. At 18, I still had not lost my virginity, I still had not had my first heartbreak (though I felt differently at the time) and I had years yet to accumulate the scars that received when I was old enough to value them.

Prompt 27/Rust

Everyday, we find reason to drive past the trainyard
where the river runs along the north of the city.
Under JMW Turner clouds, the lazy cluster of rusted cars
huddles in plain sight; Dylan’s idiot wind takes no pity

on the overgrowth of dandelions taking residence at their cavernous doors.

Prompt 26/Thought Dragons, Revisited

I’ve not been sleeping.
Willing myself to remain in situ, hostage to the factory bell
only confirms that the hours I have are a conceit
of schedules, a yoke I swore I would escape when I prayed to less
flexible gods.

Playing a woman of leisure with no money
isn’t the role I coveted, but, apparently,
it’s the one for which I’ll receive a lifetime achievement award.

I look for phrases to occupy my hands – anything to keep me from
getting up and down every minute a noun shakes itself from my late night promises.

I wade into projects of little urgency,
the completion of which tires me just enough to toss
book and turn off screen.

Tell Melatonin my name.
I have flames to subdue.

Prompt 25/After Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

Suggested by and quoting selected words and phrases from “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.

Some soft October night after we’ve wandered as far as you’ll allow yourself to be walked
past sawdust restaurants, where straw arguments are dipped in tar and left
to adorn gardens designed to resemble ancient ruins,
we finish dancing around each other’s point.

We never window shop without overhearing some tedious argument or another,
but for a hundred indecisions, we agree it’s not worth​
telling each other what drugs we took before we predicted
their hundred visions and revisions.

Nothing shouts disturb the universe like disagreeing which one of your visions
has heavier implications for all the voices dying with a dying fall
and then, which one of us will admit that limping at dusk through narrow streets
is just circular logic?

Which one of us said we couldn’t relate to the songs of our peers because
we doubted those artists will sing to me?
Sure, you’ll still sing Nat King Cole in your best crooner’s voice,
but your morning shouts will wake us before we drown.

Personal Prompt/This is What Salvation Must Be Like After Awhile

Following up on my early morning Dylan listening, I’ve given myself the prompt to write a poem about a line from any song, choosing a line from “Visions of Johanna.”

I haven’t seen the house I shared
with two housemates I’ve since lost contact.
But, once your bed gets sold out from under
you – and after you painted the walls to grow themselves –
some phone numbers are easier to forget.

That summer, there was always a party.
There were always ants on the kitchen counter.
And I dated a boy who worked as a waiter
who wanted to be a photographer.

After getting off our respective shifts,
we’d meet on the covered porch, through which
the evening breeze blew
and we were lighter than Gatsby and Daisy in the cool night.

I would write stories and he would photograph them
and our certainty was its own redemption
for what other things we said
and can’t remember.

Dylan at 2 in the a.m.

There’s an hour for every kind
of music, but, after midnight
on a lonely night,
finding the right Dylan songs to play
seems the only way to serve the time.

And sit
with a glass of red wine,
looking at the cover of Highway 61 Revisited.

He still has that tilt to his head.

Prompt 22/Dear Democracy

Dear Democracy

It’s been awhile since anyone – except for Colbert – has said so,
but you are missed.

You have so many well wishers, but
some of them have the wrong visiting hours.
Or, are sitting in attendance for someone who claims to
speak on your behalf and in bald attempt
at harming your good name
to our allies.

I won’t say I wish things could be
as they were;
we both know
the electoral college is an unnecessary holdover
and the doctor says our votes are strong
without this procedural shunt.

Please know that, after your you’re back on your feet,
you may want to take things slowly, but, again, the doctor says
you’re strong, stronger than you know,
and your three branches will, once again, work in accordance,
not defiance of each other and their constituents.

Know, too, that your absence makes our hearts fonder,
and that we know to deserve you is to earn you.

Let us see you rise again, and
all of us will flourish.


After Listening to CVB

We were walking down a Westport street
one summer night
after seeing band.
Someone had asked me to dance
and, not paying any attention to the man’s face,
I’d demurred.
In your penchant to reinforce the temporariness of
our arrangement, you suggested we walk to another club and come back for the car.

How far we got down the street
or what we talked about,
I can’t remember.
Behind us, headlights and the impossible moment of
no, that can’t be

The moment after impact
everything – police cars and lights – was in my view,
but nothing – including the stranger who leaned down solicitously and stole my purse – was in my focus.

I remember you standing over me,
your hand on my shoulder,
steadying yourself
as much as reminding me
I was ok as you stroked my hair.

Later, after our respective healing times,
we made it part of our banter.
We weren’t a couple; we were survivors of the flesh.
It was easier to see how ill-equipped we were to commit to a future
neither of us saw the other belonging.

I think of that night
but not often.

Prompt 20/For Alice Munro


Feet, all men’s by the types of shoes – loafers, wingtips, sneakers, cowboy boots –
all walk on a sidewalk. Again, by the types of shoes, we can see the styles are
early ’60s. We’ve just elected the first Catholic president, and girls are wearing beehives in this
small town.

As the camera pans out,
we see a sidewalk in a nice town in a state we don’t have to
address unless/until we want a specific reference that necessitates
(so, of course, we can shoot anywhere)

Over the above visual, per the opening scene of MEDIUM COOL, which this film references:
the Byrds’ “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.”

1 2 3 7