Once I said:

I have become
ridiculously crowd adverse
since the pandemic

She said: It is weird out there.


She said: Misogyny, apathy, and fear
about sexuality in general
runs very, very, very deep.

All the more reason
I’ve been finding myself
retreating from the world

Or perhaps just
finding different ways
to engage with lower expectations

[Prompt 12: Write about gathering with others. The specifics are up to you.]


We cover our mouths
gasping for air
snorffling through our fingers

Whatever it was
one of us said
that was so funny
doesn’t matter now

L contorted so hard she farted
A spewed the Sprite she has sipped out through her nose
I heaved so hard to breathe my vision went splotchy

I don’t remember how we composed ourselves
to finish our dinners
pay the check
each head our separate ways
carrying some gem to rediscover
for decades to come

[Prompt 11: Write a poem about laughter without ever using the words, laugh, laughter, or giggle.]

Mama Squirrel

We call her Mama Squirrel
because all these little babies
we know came from her

Every night we sit out
wait for her to show
mangy patches and swollen eye

“Hey Mama” we call
and throw her a handful
of raw peanuts

Some she eats
some she stuffs
and runs

Not to bury them
but instead to offer
to her neighbortree friends

Mama’s Peanut Kitchen
has been running
for three or so years now

Feeding scraggly squirrels
Bluejays and an occasional raccoon
Mama don’t discriminate

And when the summer comes to a close
and Mama checks her larder
she’s none the worse

for having shown a little compassion

The Relish Tray

We used to sing this food song when we were kids:

Fried ham, fried ham, cheese, and bologna,
and after the macaroni, we’ll have
onion, pickles, and peppers,
and then we’ll have some more fried ham!
Fried ham! Fried ham! Fried ham!

The relish tray is a staple
at our family gatherings and holiday dinners.

It had to have pickles – because we’re Polish –
and pickled beets and pickled onions and green olives.

The relish dish was always clear glass
with some star-shaped pattern cut into the bottom.

Those dishes are ubiquitous at garage sales
and wish I could take every one of them home

Fill them with salty savory delights
to tempt and tease the appetite

Then hear the room fill once again
with a chorus of laughter and love

[Prompt 9: “Look in your cupboards and find a food that brings up a childhood memory, and the memory is your prompt” – contributed by Deborah Dalton]

What’s Your Major?

What’s your major?
English?! What the heck can you do with that? Teach?!

I never really understood this obsession
with having to choose some approved “profession”
and as professions go, what was wrong with teaching?

I’m going to be a teacher.
College. English. But more than that.

Like so much in life, I was drawn
to the most abused and suffering.

For thirty years, I asked my developmental learners
What’s your major?

I’m going to be a teacher
some would respond
and I would offer a wisened nod.

But what’s your backup plan
Just in case?

[Prompt 7: Gigan]

The Gardener

He stands on the porch
surveying the landscape

Years of churning soil
planting watering fertilizing

They say women turn to gardening
in the years after childbearing

But in this household
the role reversed

My husband the laborer
giving birth, nurturing, coddling

Until now each plant can stand
on its own, propagate families

The universe did not provide
grandchildren in our lives

Instead, we sit out each night
look out over the blooming expanse

Take compliments from strangers
passing by enjoying the beauty

My husband guffaws as I beam
“It’s all his doing.”

The proud PawPaw
His family fills the yard

man standing on a porch

[Prompt 7: Look on your phone and find the 10th non-selfie picture and use that as your prompt.]

Hey Gal

Remember riding in my Chevy Nova
through downtown Traverse City
how we blasted the Talking Heads
all the way down Front Street?

How was it that we had
so much time in our lives
to just sit around talking
and drinking Labatts and smoking Camels?

My kids are grown now
about that age we were
when we became thick and thieves
and probably did illegal stuff.

But we never got caught
and I hope they never do either
but if they do, meh – I’ll
chalk it up to chance.

We had it good for a while
didn’t we?
We had our whole lives
ahead of us.

Now here we are.
Age found us both.
I’m a mom, maybe a grandma soon
and you – how are you?

[Prompt 6: Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of someone who is no longer in your life.]

See What You Will

“But did you notice the flowers?”
asked the man who stopped
to help me fix the flat on my bike
after I had complained how
my ride had been ruined.

I hadn’t.

I had biked nearly fifty miles
churning hips pounding the pedals
eyes steady ahead, thinking only
of the next fifty I wanted
to cover that day.

Ever since, I have noticed
every bike ride I look around
see the wildflowers in the ditches
the planted flowers in the yards
miles behind me and miles ahead.

Even now, when I look into an image
a weatherworn window frame
tucked into its concrete wall and brick
spindling leafless fingers of ivy gripping tight
giving all the auspices of death –

But did you notice the blue sky?

[Prompt 5: Picture]

what we wrought

it’s quiet again
the machines quelled
as night falls
we each sit
in silent solitude
looking out over
barren terrain
tomorrow may rain
regenerate something
but the forecast
likely disagrees
decades gone by
at least it hasn’t ended
not entirely
not yet

Cello Song

walking along the river
fall sky heavy heaving
clouds gray cast
winter still months away
ochre orange yellow red
leaves flutter fall around me
I quicken my step
rustling through fallen piles
circling in wind eddies
I imagine being home
warm tea nestled in my hands
nowhere to be
joy in the absence
of all responsibility
embracing the autumn of my life

[Prompt 3: Listen to the following song before writing a poem, you can also play it again and write with it:]

1 2 3 7