PAD 2021 – Day 6

I’m not posting my poem today, but am sharing the prompt because I think it has the potential to bring interesting results. I used the instruction borrowed from Holly Lyn Walrath to go to a book you love. Then, find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

Photo by Thau00eds Silva on

PAD 2021 – Day 5

Today I experimented with the prompt to find a poem, and then write a new poem that has the shape of the original, and in which every line starts with the first letter of the corresponding line in the original poem. The poem I chose was this translation of “Alcaic” by Tomas Tranströmer. The tone is certainly divergent from the original, but it was interesting to see what came out when I had to write within the constraints of starting letters and line-syllable counts.


That devil in me. I wait for your yell:
the way your voice goes high, then deep. Simmering.
		In my bedroom, I bury my hot
face in the pink quilt you made for me.	

I am never able to access why.
Can’t tell you in words, the need to be seen
		takes over from the want to be good.
Testing a needle against a balloon.

PAD 2021 – Day 4

The NaPoWriMo prompt for today asked poets to scroll through the photos posted on the Liminal Spaces Twitter feed and choose one to write about. There are many interesting and strange photos there, but this is one that sparked something for me.

Afterhours Mall

It’s a space reserved for
fashionable ghosts materializing
to try on Ray Bans,
lost children who never 
made it to the information
booth and withered at the 
bottom of a bin 
of glass-eyed teddy bears
as big as their fathers, 
trapped spirits of 
teens who’ve huddled together
like matched penguins 
outside a GAP
to protect themselves
from a cold wind of
or still-warm apocalypse bodies,
seeking security and supplies
in a place that has everything, 
neatly hung and shelved 
for accessible looting
and long, open paths, with
unobscured visibility 
as they scramble from one end
to the next to escape 
a tenacious,
undead horde.

PAD 2021 – Day 3

Working today from the 30/30 prompt “cold sweat.” I frequently have nightmares, including last night! Even so, I love reading about the origins of the word and artistic depictions throughout history.

If it’s just a bad dream then why is it that

the worst ones
don’t leave the chest
even after you’re awake?
You might breathe fine 
throughout the day,
cold sweat dried, racing heart
but still it presses,
a burrowing worry
that drinks air
and reason
through its blackened roots.

The Nightmare, 1781 oil painting by Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli. 

PAD 2021 – Day 2

Mixing two prompts today: the first being “ambient light” and the second being a challenge to write a Robert Frost-inspired poem about a road not taken.

You Are Probably Telling This With a Sigh

Imagine, if you can, a man with the deepest voice you’ve ever heard
sitting at a strangely firelit table, intimate in an otherwise teeming bar,
looking at you in way you will remember 23 years later, on a random Wednesday,
while you’re folding a pair of your daughter’s leggings and waiting
for a second pot of coffee to finish brewing. 

Imagine, if you had left that night, away from the strangely firelit table, 
and ventured into something less sure. Perhaps deeply contenting. 
Perhaps disastrous. Where you might sit again, 23 years later, across from a man, 
running your finger around the rim of a coffee cup, counter-clockwise, in some 
subconscious spell of time reversal.

Imagine, if there were only two roads, in a calm yellow wood, 
and not the tangled many-paths of options, like an intricate burst of blood-vessels 
pulsing life to places you can’t control, but might try to, or at least hope
to look all the way to the end of a shady track, beyond the protective undergrowth
to see not what but who is waiting.

PAD 2021 – Day 1

Today’s prompt called for a way to “derange” yourself by experiencing something strange, like this animated version of “Seductive Fantasy” by Sun Ra and his Arkestra, and then writing the poem. What resulted for me is more abstract than normal, but half the fun of poetry month is experimentation.

Colour Theory With Closed Eyes

There are colours in a dream that don’t exist in conscious spectrum.
Ways to pigment the expanse of the universe, or the depths of an ocean so
they’re more than limitless black. More than unbounded imagination.
Musical hues are alive in dreams too, the rhythm-tinted synapse from brain to heart to 
compelled body, must move, must dance, must flow towards something freer, wilder
than wakeful inhibition. Than all the reasons to think ourselves out of instinctual happiness.
The beginning and end of the world exist in a colour-wheel driving you through sleep reverie,
recording the Been-There-Felt-Thats and plotting the What-Could-Bes in vibrant shades and shapes you’ll strive to sketch when you’re awake. Yearn for when you reach into the pencil box 
and keep pulling nothing but charcoal. 

Still from Sun Ra Arkestra – Seductive Fantasy (a Chad Van Gaalen animation)

Happy NaPoWriMo Eve!

I have barely written a single creative word since last April. Yet here I am, on the eve of National Poetry Month, feeling something like…enthusiasm?…to tackle another poem-a-day challenge. As in previous years, I plan to use prompts from both and my local poetry group’s 30/30 challenge in order to generate the poems. I aim to write something every day, though not necessarily post here every day. If pandemic life has taught me one thing, it’s the importance of embracing both uncertainty and flexibility.

The prompts traditionally begin on March 31st in preparation for a productive April. Today’s “early-bird prompt” asked writers to spend a few minutes looking for a piece of art in the online galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. After finding something that piques interest, study the photographs and the accompanying text to inspire your poem.

I chose this photo, more for the title of the piece and the description than the actual image. Then a draft came out. Whether or not I will ever shape the poem into something more is a six-months-from-now decision, after the words have settled.

Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat ca. 1990–1900 B.C.
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 111
Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat 
Where cosmetic implies to beautify
        	improve the face       	not just of the body
                                	but of things as they seem
                                	impress with transformation
                                	superficial dusting that somehow
                                	makes me feel more here
        	the shape of a cat      	is some classic ideal
                                	grace unmatched but mystery too
                                	the way the lithe muscles of a back
                                	in motion, toward prey or affection
                                	convey a power I have yet to hold
        	how a vessel             	is a place to contain
                                	something utilitarian, necessary
                                	or simply coveted and kept
                                	a swift vowel switch and
                                	vassal I become to perfection

PAD Challenge 2020 – Recap

I decided to take stock this morning and look back at what I wrote this month. 36 poems and 7 starts (that may turn into poems at some point). I even like 4 of them! Most of the poems I’ve gone on to publish in journals or anthologies have started from seeds planted during these poem-a-day challenges.

I recently submitted a revised version of my poetry manuscript, and the majority of poems in it also started from the monthly challenges I’ve completed in previous years. I realize prompts don’t work for every writer, but they have been an amazing motivator for me, and also help me explore writing in new forms or about different topics than I’m normally drawn to.

All of this to say, even in the midst of one of the most stressful and disorienting months I’ve ever experienced, poetry has been a respite. I know it always will be.

To anyone who has read or commented on my work this month, thank you! I am grateful. I always write for myself first, but it’s encouraging to know something I’ve created and shared resonates in some small way with someone else.

Next comes editing and revising. A different kind of fun! But not until June. The words need time to age and settle a bit. First I plan to read more of the poems others have created this month, and dig in to the MANY poetry books I’ve purchased in the last several weeks. I firmly believe every day is better with poetry, but never has that seemed truer than now.

green leafed plant on sand

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

PAD 2020 – Day 30

For the final day (woohoo!) of Poetry Month, I followed the NaPoWriMo prompt asking for a poem about something that returns.


What Comes Back


Some returns require nothing  —

geese, poplar leaves, sunrise —

but our attention.


Other returns demand such faith:


phone call from a doctor

child taking their first solo bike ride

teenager late home from a party

lover gone away on business, mid-winter

cat, escaped out the door left carelessly open


A sense of safety,


oblivion to danger.


A feeling, warm in the chest,

that just as the grass greens,

the apple trees blossom


happiness will come home to its heart.


silhouette of flying birds

Photo by Wendy Wei on