Day 11 / 30 Poems in 30 Days

Fritillary butterfly. Photo taken by Beatriz Moisset.

Here’s the prompt for today’s poem from POETRYisEVERYTHING:

“A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.”
― Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Welcome to Day 11 of the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge. One third of the challenge and poetry month is behind us now. If you are just getting started I hope you’ll set a goal to write 20 poems in the next 20 days.


Prompt: Use 4 or more of these words in a poem: 1. euphonious (pleasing to the ear); 2. mise en abyme (French meez-ahn-ah-beem –placed in an abyss ); 3. prurient –( an unwanted arousal or interest in sex (or violence or?) an itch, craving); 4. anodyne (unlikely to offend or upset anyone); 5. antipodes (diametrically opposite sides of the earth as in Australia to U.S.); 6. fritillaries (butterlies that are usually orange with black spots on the upper sides of the wings and silver spooted on the underside of the hind wing; also Scarlet and White wildflowers in the NorthWest).

Your poem should be a minimum of 4 lines and include at least 4 of these words. Have at it!


Remember, your poem doesn’t have to be perfect. Here’s mine.

I have been in love with words all my life —
my father reading aloud Emily Dickinson and Rudyard Kipling,
Christina Rossetti and William Wordsworth from our
big book of verse. Sitting in the scabby pew
in church, running my finger under the euphonious syllables
of Old Testament cities, those antipodes of ours,
beautiful names though not always difficult:
Jericho and Babel and Ninevah.
I loved even my cousins’ repertoire
of cuss words that brought on our prurient giggles
at the way they hammered and bludgeoned
through their jokes. Much later, in college,
I fell into the abyss of words, the dark side
of “creative writing” that the scholars scorned.
Naming my daughters — I won’t speak
of the joy diving among the possibilities gave me.
There is no anodyne, no placebo to smooth over this love,
no tautology to explain it —
I am in love with the words, multi-syllabic, short,
vivid and dull, all of them dancing like fritillaries
amid the flowers — phlox and tidytips and fireweed,
columbine, heal-all, shooting star —
whose names themselves are words I have loved.

I have a feeling that this could either be much longer or much  shorter. It’s interesting, in any case, to type it up and share it. I’ll let it (and the other poems this month) sit a while, and then I’ll return to them to see what else they may have to say to me.

An Inappropriate Poem

Sharon Olds

“If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write.” -Gail Sher

My assignment today is to write an inappropriate poem. Keep it PG, Chris said, and, Don’t tell me you don’t know what I mean.

Here’s my attempt.

Told to write an inappropriate poem, I begin thinking about sex,
and then I think, no, 
and so I have to wonder what else might be
inappropriate enough to satisfy my instructor, who,
after all, is invisible, some guy on the Internet
throwing out suggestions all month long. And I think of comparisons
to how he throws out these suggestions,
maybe to 14-year-old boys
and masturbation, and then I blush,
and I try to keep on the track of what else might be inappropriate.
Anger, maybe, of which I have an especially large store,
or maybe those awful your-mother jokes
that my teenagers and their friends like to tell.

And then self-pity shows up and I remember how sorry
I was feeling for myself
just this morning, how, just as my self-pity crested, a wave of self-pity
because I have a broken ankle, because I have to use
these damn crutches, I opened the newspaper and found a story
about a young mother caught in a landslide,
her ankles broken, her arm broken,
trapped, and even so clutching her baby to her chest
and screaming herself hoarse, for hours,
until they were rescued.
I would like to say that my response was a simple awe
at her, and prayers for her, or even a quick check on my own children,
but instead —  I wallowed in even more self-pity, sorry for myself
for being such a pathetic excuse for a human being,

and right now I am wishing I had just buckled down to it,
and written a really rip-roaring, inappropriate poem about sex.


Pretty pathetic beside Sharon Olds and her “Ode to a Douchebag.” (Click on the link to hear her read a truly inappropriate, and hilarious poem.)

Skirt or Skirts?

I am — honestly — in the last stages of the novel revision, and one of the picky things I worried over today was “skirts or skirt,” as in:

With a flounce of her red skirt (skirts?) beneath her cloak that suggested the young woman she would become in a few short years…


My friend Priscilla says this isn’t linguistic — did the Puritans wear skirts (multiple) like Victorians, or just one skirt? Look at pictures, she told me. I finally decided on skirt. I worked about 6 hours today, not all of it on this decision, I promise you — a record for broken-ankle me. I cleaned up 102 pages!

Meanwhile, the prompt for Day 7, over at POETRYisEVERYTHING has to do with Port Townsend and Art Deco lampshades. I imagine that Chris recently visited PT. It seems fair that my poem originates with what I’ve been visiting. And it is in the same spirit — old fashioned.

So here goes.

To Skirt

Here on the skirts of the argument
I shirk the decision, skate
on the fine ice of your scowl,
hide (metaphorically)
in my mother’s skirts,
second-guess, quiver and shake,
all skunk logic, squished,
no escape, still skirting it.

Where Do You Work?



Lately I have felt like a one-woman tutoring center, helping to write English papers — one, notably, at midnight — and Political Science papers and Northwest History papers, graphing sunspots for Physical Science (that was interesting), and running through index cards of Spanish vocabulary. But my two oldest daughters are — finally — on spring break. Which leaves Emma, whose teachers seem to have ganged up on the assignments. Out of six classes, she has homework in four of them tonight. So we have decamped to Barnes & Noble (first time since my ankle injury). Emma is drinking a Hazelnut Mocha Frappuccino (did I spell that right?) and I’m having a Chai Tea Latte (stomach wonky from taking pain meds). Annie came along, ostensibly to drive, but she’s drinking a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino (no coffee in hers either) and doing something or other on her laptop.

One would think it would be more efficient and cheaper (at the very least) to work at home. But sometime back in the years of the Annie-and-Pearl high school circus, it became apparent that I had to do something different if I was going to get my non-academic kids to actually focus on their work. It must have something to do with my own background as a waitress, that the whoosh of coffee machines and clatter of dishes, not to mention people talking at the table behind us, helps me ignore the clutter in my own head and concentrate on a bit of work. My kids do not have restaurant backgrounds, and it works for them, too. A miracle, of sorts.

Just for good measure, here’s an old poem (one of mine).

English Café

The hostess greets us with a simile, waves
her oversized thesis like a shield.
Will you have regular verbs?
My friend orders braised clause

with a side of apostrophes.
I want only articles and prepositions.
Our waitress prompts, No dative?
No genitive?
She offers Shakespeare

or D. H. Lawrence for dessert.
We sip from snifters of Strunk & White,
trade adverbs as coordinating
conjunctions rise languidly to dance.

(Between parentheses, a gerund
cracks jokes.) Our repast now
past tense, we pay in participles, tip
a metaphor. As we slip

through a semicolon’s swinging door,
our waitress calls after us, You’ve forgotten
your predicate,
a ring of modifiers on circle of nouns.