Take a Knee

[“Taking the knee.” If you have missed this, a number of American pro football players have chosen to go down on one knee during pre-game playing of the National Anthem to protest, for the most part, racial injustice.]

Write a poem of allegiance, of protest, of praise. Any or all. It need not be political, but it certainly can be. You can praise your local pub or your spouse? Pledge allegiance to actual apple pie? Excoriate Apple for bringing out operating systems that won’t work on your tablet%#@!!

Nothing to keep you from planting your tongue firmly in your cheek, either.

As always–have fun.

One more Quickly before I fold my ears and pack me away.



If Hydrogen and Oxygen are gasses, why is a water balloon so heavy?

Did anyone ever come up to you and explain that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile? Were you that blankblank person? I wasn’t frowning. It’s my face NOT expending energy. Gravity is heavy, man.

But seriously.

It’s easy to become depressed. Sometimes it seems that you have to work to be happy. Sometimes so much that it doesn’t seem worth the effort. Even humor contributes to the weight.

Today, I want you to manufacture some joy. Don’t use something for which you are already happy, unless you want an internal measuring device. Avoid those things tradition links with joy. It may be hard for you not to use abstractions, but keep them in the back seat–use nouns we can reach out and touch if we’re fast enough, and verbs that transfer what you feel–transfer–into your chosen vehicle. Don’t let your internal censor tell you that drinking this much will have bad side effects, either.

Manufacture your joy out of something not of a normally joyful nature. The first Pixar (short) movie was about desk lamps. I’m looking out the window at a patch of weeds where my garden is supposed to be. They are grasses. They have already gone to seed. They have fulfilled their purpose. They are dead and don’t know it. But they act alive. The wind is moving them around, erratically. There’s light. If I can’t dance, I can believe in weeds that do.

Cram as much joy as you can make into something not built to take it.

Failure in this is way more probable than success. Hug it like it is someone you really do feel glad to see.




Dumpster Dive

Sometimes our poems fall flat (sometimes, flat on their faces). Lately I’ve been combing through a decade of duds.

I want you to consider doing this yourself. If you have your work in any way consolidated, a rough yes/no/maybe sort is almost mindless, and is a good accompaniment for a TV movie you’ve already seen a hundred times or the sport equivalent.

Some (hidden treasure!) only need tightening, a little wax, better title. Some have enough of that indefinable to be worth later study–is it a good idea for this poem, for a new poem, is it a good idea at all, etc. Some–let’s face it–are trash. Writing to prompts produces reams of poems and, well, quantity ain’t all quality.

However: even the trash may have salvageable lines. I’m noticing that my own fall, roughly, into two camps: nifty sounds and interesting ideas.They’ll probably re-use in different ways, don’t you think?

So here’s your challenge (bet you thought I’d never get to it):
Worry at some of your false starts and et cets, and find 10 lines or line fragments that stand alone (grammar, concept, image, you’ll know it when you see it). Offer them to the world at large, or hoard them like classy chocolates. Makes no nevermind.


DO write a poem for which your line could have been the title, or first line (or last). Maybe a synopsis. Write about your line. Write all around it.
BUT DON’T USE THE LINE ITSELF. (Quickly will know if you cheat, and there will be coal, or flaming turd sacks.)

If someone else generously allows others to comb through their garbage, and if you find something that fires your neurons, thank that soul, but don’t specify the castoff.

Just to get the fur ball rolling, (and because some people have actual lives, and might not get around to the first part of this assignment/idea) I’m offering ten of my culls. Some of them, not even I know what they mean. Use (if you do) with impunity.

Sometimes she loses. That’s not hard

She listens to the dead men sing

Make me a slingshot of justice

Three people, separate as books

You know that the world’s gone to hell

We spill our paints on creation

Time slept curled in a hollow tree

Her hand on his arm is wicker

She cradles his feet in her lap

Day ends with a single pillow





Stating right off the bat that I don’t have permission to use these images, but then you don’t need to reproduce them, do you? It isn’t as if you were writing true ekphrasis. The art takes something you know–about yourself or your family or the world you inhabit–and makes it greater. It’s the “greaterness” you’re writing about, and that stands on its own.

Find the greater in these images or in a juxtaposition of the two, or let yourself be reminded.


Clicking will give you a somewhat larger image.

K├Ąthe Kollwitz
The Parents (Die Eltern) (plate 3) from War (Krieg)
(1921-22, published 1923)
August Sander: Lumpenball Em dekke Tommes, 1929. Private Collection, Gerd Sander. The Tate


Do You Believe



Do you believe we “deserve”?

As in “she got what was coming to her” and “they didn’t deserve that heartache”

Think before you write. Look at your underlying expectations, cultural and idiosyncratic. No harm in writing what you wish were true.

Let ‘er rip!




Note: I wasn’t fully functional when I loaded this prompt, and included some images that were a little more charged than I intended. Illustrations should open, not limit, a prompt.