24 / Hope Sonnet

Hope Sonnet


If I could write a poem today with hope

I’d fit in all the trees and birds and bears—

all animals, the skies and seas and air,

republicans, the middles, and the woke


would have their places too, and right beside

them all are you and I and puffer fish

and coral reefs, the nudibranch and nudist.

Ebbing, high, or slack: it takes all tides


to plump up where the moon is.  Here’s the thing:

We’re screwed. We’re doomed. We’re toast. We’ve effing ruined it.

Nobody’s coming. Revelations shit.

The planet’s better off without our sting.

The best that I can do in terms of hope

is that the human race will soon be smoke.




[Prompt: Write a poem about hope]


23 / Another World

Another World


In another world, not this one

a politician apologizes, listens,

does better next time.


The drilling stops

in another world, not this one

we’ll soon burn to the ground.


Women’s vaginas dissolve

any undesired penis

in another world, not this one.


In another world, not this one

men see war is ridiculous

before they’re old enough to fight.


Children are always citizens

in another world, not this one;

their food and medicine are free.


Tokitae comes home, has a long

conversation with the family

in another world, not this one.



[Prompt: Write a poem about a world that is not this one]

22 / Perfect Silence

Perfect Silence


Look up in perfect silence

at the trees adrift

all night: their sails raised

to catch the earth’s warm breath.


Tilt back your tired head:

Look up in perfect silence

at the spreading stars,

the brighter Venus, Mars.


When loon calls, awaken

and hasten to the lake.

Look up in perfect silence

at the farther shore.


Pause while the others party

and step into the dark

with Walt; he’s with you now

looking up in perfect silence.



[Prompt: photo by Scott Umstattd / “Silence”]

21 / Running



running my hand slow

through a tidepool

I catch my fingertip

in an anemone

whose sticky tentacles

taste my skin

the way a snake sticks

out its tongue

or a cat hangs its mouth

open for a minute

or a sommelier

draws the grape

and breath into her

palate with expertise.

holding a moment.

while beside us

along hard gray rock

a tide keeps running



[Prompt: Write a poem that starts and ends with the word “running”]

20 / Bright Tapestry, Coverlet

[Prompt: Photo by Robbin Grimm]


Bright Tapestry, Coverlet


Armadillos are said to have no eyeshine,

he whispered that first night

in my cozy bed.


The Indian mirrorwork coverlet, Shisha,

shone its tiny mirrors at us.


The tapetum lucidum is a layer of tissue

immediately behind the retina,

reflecting light and contributing

to the superior night vision

of some carnivorous animals, I learned.


Jerry came over most nights for a few weeks.

Bright yellow eyeshine belongs to raccoon,

he said, while I took off my makeup

and let down my hair.  Moths exhibit

an orange-red glow. Same holds true for owls.


Cool nights we wrapped ourselves

in the winking embroidered fabric,

imagining the sexy glare of wolf

and coyote eyes.


The burning red of gator eyes,

the frog’s green flash

and bear’s deep orange

were quite the aphrodisiac.


But then he said wolf-spiders shine

white as glittering constellations

as he tugged on his heeled boots

and then left before daybreak

for his job at the lab.


Shisha, shisha.  The streetlight is cold LED

and it shines through the window

on the stars of your horrible eyes!



* Tapetum lucidum, Latin for “bright tapestry, coverlet”


18 / Haunted by Foods Passed

[Prompt: Write a poem about a haunting, real or imagined, detailed or abstract]


Haunted by Foods Passed

Who could forget loaves of bread stuffed with chocolate-covered cherries, perfect for making French toast on slow Saturday mornings?  That bakery on 4th or 9th street (I always mixed them up) in Vancouver long defunct.

Copenhagen pastries hard with solid butter, perfectly formed by that Dane now retired.  Even the waxed paper they clung to indelibly haunts me.

Real Greek pizza, dough formed at six each morning by Marguerite—long passed—who spoke no English.  Her coarse gray braid and gnarled hands both reminded me of olive trees in black-and-white photos.  Village Pizza today: a bland facsimile.

Chocolate marshmallows that puffed and smoked on sticks over beach fires; slip off the crispy shell and toast the molten middle again.  What corporation would discontinue such a thing?

Big yellow papaya from Hawaii, sliced down the middle and emptied of black glistening seeds.  I filled the hollow with large-curd cottage cheese so many mornings, until the markets stopped getting you and we’ve got these wizened, unripe, expensive failures now!

Montréal: you are famous for smoked meat but your sesame bagels I will never get over.  Hand formed, poached in honey water, baked in a woodfire oven.  You still exist, but I can never afford to visit you again.  Ditto New York cream cheese with seasonings and diced vegetables.

Fresh chinook salmon, you are my favorite food ever.  I would stand at the fish counter and make sure I got the line-caught Sitka king with the most belly fat.  I bought you for my father’s last great meal.  But now I feel like I’m taking you directly out of the mouth of a starving orca whale.

Something in a Chinese restaurant in Durham, New Hampshire, I called “orgasm chicken.”  You were coated in sesame seeds and I could still cry from missing you after I graduated and moved.

Chicken in an Indian restaurant in Cambridge, England: you were marinated in yogurt and I’ve tried to order you in every Indian restaurant since.  I have failed to find you.

Sara Lee pecan coffee cake before trans fat was banned.  You and Lorna Doone cookies were superb.  RIP.

White cheese with smoked pork right inside, bought at a roadside stand in Vermont in the 80s and never to be found on the internet.

Orange-chocolate ice cream in California.  Soft serve rolled in chocolate powder in Denmark.

Ontario butter tarts.

Patak’s Kabouli sauce.

Fresh Elk liver and onions.

Grandma’s canned green beans.

Hob Nobs.

Apple beer.

Jello 1-2-3.

17 / Kaleidoscope


[Prompt: Write a poem either titled or centred around a ‘Kaleidoscope’]


she is maKing her bed this morning

before high school And broken

wavy lines like Looking through leaded glass

are what she seEs: the comforter

is all messed up & shImmering

as EDna Pontellier in The Awakening

when she walks to drOwn herself

in the Gulf.  So okay, she tells herself,

don’t paniC, don’t panic:

another Ocular migraine

with Phosphenes and the

unmistakable scEnt of pinks


16 / Your Complimentary Poem

Your Complimentary Poem


This poem is free; take it

however you want, making

its abstractions suit your wedding

divorce break-down triumph

long journey into the night or

creative writing assignment

due in an hour.  A concrete image

is not here.  Any simile

is like something you’ve heard

about a thousand times already.


This poem agrees what you’re feeling

is what it’s feeling too.  It’s a lot

of feeling, but in a general

kind of way.  Universality

is what makes this poem

get so many likes.  It feels

so seen!


Take it easy, complimentary poem:

you can’t have an undertone

when you are generated

from homogenized fragments of poems

throughout recorded human history.

But you can rhyme and switch point of view.

You do you.




[prompt: Write a poem that is pretending to be something else, a set of instructions, a recipe, a letter, a news report, etc.]

15 / Riding Lessons (perspective poem)

Riding Lessons


She came with a light girl, confidant girl, visitors

to our paddock.  She did not want to touch me but

the girl rode round and round and I let

it seem she was in charge.  Then Julie patted

my neck and the girl brushed me down

and my sawdust was soft and sweet.


When Julie came back alone her clothes

were from the gift shop, so stiff, so new.

Trainer McKenzie taught her tack

and how to sit; she barely breathed.

I felt her fear.  Round and round

McKenzie lead us in the livery yard.


Her first dismount was luck; the second

was a fall.  But week by week her muscles

grew.  She learned to trust.  I learned her voice,

her hands that stroked and drew my hair

in lines.  We ride outside.  I give her rein

these afternoons.  She’s just about broken in.



[prompt: Write a poem about an experience, but from the perspective of another.]

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