Archive for the ‘writing exercises’ category

Compounded (Poem 8 for April)

April 6, 2016


She penknifed the backseat
of the Buick roadmaster
for every fibbermeister, who,
poring beer and mewling
semen, had cupboarded her
there, his no-neck bulk
her down;
the upholstery popcorned
beneath the slim
chokeheld blade
like hookworm turned
to foam;
if a seat could apologize, this vinyl
would be on
both knees,
but it had
no knees.


This is very much of a draft, my number 8 poem for April National Poets month, for the wonderful Kerry O’Connor’s prompt on Real Toads to write a poem using some compound words. 

The drawing is mine, recycled and not quite right for this, but I think I have to recycle drawings this month!  Note that I am trying to return comments, but if I miss you, let me know. 

Crocodile? Alligator? (Arboreal Uncertainty about the Family Tree)

March 22, 2015


Crocodile?  Alligator?  (Arboreal Uncertainty about the Family Tree)

The tree, which traditionally only studied matters
ornithological, had neglected to ask the large lizard its genus,
and, ever after,
regretted the precipitous gulp.

Though there were ample other reasons for regret–
the creature had thrashed about with remarkable dexterity
for the barked,
nearly severing
a major root system.
(The phloem at the bottom of its trunk still felt loose.)

Since that distending swallow,
the tree had taken a great interest
in all things snout-shaped,
under-or over-bitten–

the word alone might still
raise a flutter
if it had given its leaves the slightest leave–
But it was a hard wood, and would not let its emotions engage
in the type of blow-back it associated with only
the most unstable life forms–
the unrooted seas or those mini-oceans of irridescence
that shimmered across those who waved, wandered,
wriggled, weeped
(damn willows)–

There would be–it always swore–nothing of the pigeon
about its limbs.

Though still, deep in its heartwood,
it pondered–
what had made it see such red
at the beast’s slow creep?

All it could remember was an old saw–
not something to live by–

and a smug grin that, for all its ties to the primordial,
knew nothing of the jaws
of trees.


Really more a drafty prose-poem than drafty poem!  For The Mag, a photographic blog prompt site of the very stalwart Tess Kincaid.  I believe this is Tess’s photo (as did not see other credit.)  No copyright infringement intended. 

Flicked Off

March 8, 2014

“Doug’s Watch” by Vandy Massey

Flicked Off

He collected pocket watches and was a real bastard.

His wife–a widow before they married–always sighed- oh he just likes to have things his own way–until she woke to a too-loud tinkle of glass.

Turned out to be a woman in khaki, boxing up her medicine cabinet for the moving van.  (From Mayflower she was; name of Nina.)

The wife, discovering then he’d left her, sat, shocked, back on the bed.

I would like to say he’d snored but she never really recovered.

She was a proud woman, vanity part of her make-up.

Only it was a made-up vanity–sure, she moued in mirrors–dimples deep as a wink–pivoted with hand on hip when she tried on clothes, liked shoes–but the truth was she just couldn’t feel herself without feeling pretty; and she could not feel pretty unless a man thought so; and though she’d smile, laughing, at just about any stubbled nod–it had to be a man of worth to give her worth, for she’d been poor, young, her first husband sick for years, and nothing makes a warm soft glow like gold.

He gave no reason for leaving, though he’d never given much.  Not even one of the many many pocket watches.

Then she, amazingly quickly and well before her time, just wound down.

So sad–she, a kind person, despite the posing, never speaking ill of anyone, and with the cutest smile.


I don’t know exactly what flash fiction is but here’s an attempt for Grace’s prompt on With Real Toads to write something (a poem or flash fiction less than 250 words) responding to the wonderful watercolors of Vandy Massey.  More of Vandy’s wonderful work can be seen at With Real Toads and on Vandy’s website.  Sales of her work support a military charity called Care for Casualties.     

My apologies to Doug–whose watch this is a painting of, according to Vandy’s title.  

When Life Feels Like a Bailsbondsman

August 25, 2013


When Life Feels Like a Bailbondsman

It is useless to say you didn’t do it.

He’s about ten times bigger and not listening so when, after a bruising tussle, he clamps you onto a narrow board, and ties on, for good measure, an old army blanket, it’s probably best to just go slack.

To breathe deeply, except, you know, when he funnels that board into the back of an old station wagon, the motor gusting. Then you might just want to hold your breath. The blanket is your friend there.

As the board clunks against the lift gate, steel your spine against the rat-a-tat-tat, ruts in metal. Most important of all, keep, if you can, a positive outlook.

Okay, it’s hard. You hurt. It scratches.

It may help, in this regard, to think of fall leaves, the swish of your feet through dried color, the warmth of a borrowed sweater, the childhood wonder of a picked-off scab.

Cold nights, when, with the seats froze stiff, the roughest wool was somehow a picnic.
Snow blue mornings when, socks on, the whole world echoed orange.

Oh sure, it’s not ideal. Your eyes glitter in the olive scritch, but the wool smells at best like rotting grass, a field where you once fell, maybe not laughing; the board sunken rocks in that field.

Still, now as the road rumbles in steady bumps, just see if you can’t find stars–there through the coarse-grained weave, through the tan of car roof, through that outer blanket of night–

Just see if you can’t feel the wind rifling your hair, sluicing across your skin–how can the wind make it through a blanket you ask? How does it caress your cheekbones, lying flat?

You’re overthinking it, I say, telling you to just feel the freedom, and you groan, oh sure, maybe the wind is free.

And who are you anyway, you ask accusingly, to talk about all this shit.

And I sigh from the next board over, the next clump of coarse blanket, and confess, with some embarrassment, that it is just possible they will charge us with conspiracy.

But don’t worry, I add, we didn’t do it.

Here’s I-don’t-know-what kind of a piece, posted for no current prompt; just for fun of sorts. Have a good week. I am en route to city and office life tonight. (I swear that was not the inspiration for this piece!)

More Six-Word Stories (And Socks)

December 6, 2012


My life has had very little writing time of late, which leads me to… more six word stories!  (Inspired by Ernest Hemingway and Luke Prater.)  The idea is to tell a story in just six words.  I came up with a few the other day — here are a few more:

Her socks.  He paired.  Soul mates.


Boy meets girl.  Doesn’t end there.


I.O.U. forgiven.  But not anything else.  (Perhaps more true to form:  I.O.U. forgiven.  Nothing else.)


Stone.  Fits pocket, palm, guard’s temple.   (THIS ONE IS NOT ADVOCATING VIOLENCE.)


Beach bottle.  Message waterlogged.  Nickle deposit.


His newspaper.  Personal circled.  She paced.


ps – if you want to check Luke’s site, note that I think it may down right now with some software issues but should be up soon.

Tired of Computer. Six-Word Stories.

December 3, 2012


The wonderful poet Luke Prater has a great post up about six-word stories, including a most famous and fantastic one by Ernest Hemingway, as well as some terrific ones of his own.  I urge you to check out Luke’s post.  (It also includes some of the background as to what makes these micro-fictions work.)

As for me – it’s been a very long day with lots of hours spent on the computer. A great night, in other words, to doodle on a yellow pad and scribble out something very very short.  Here are a few of my attempts;  each is separate. 

I can imagine arranging each of these as poems – one can feel the line breaks in each.   But for now, they are just short short stories.  Even so, I am linking them to dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night, hosted by Tashtoo!


DNA conclusive.  Thirty years too late.


Learning to land didn’t concern him.


Left all but clothes.  Rental furnished.


Life’s work lost.  Chance for enlightenment.


He didn’t mean it.  Life sentence.


Abstinence education.  They both skipped class.



p.s. several commenters have said Luke’s site has gotten infected with malware.  Agh.  Hopefully he’ll be able to get that fixed soon.   

Weather or Not – Villanelles (Traveler’s Wedding Side by Side A Nap)

July 7, 2012

Monsoon Skirt

I am posting the villanelle below, an older one, for dVerse Poets Pub Poetics challenge, hosted by the wonderful Stu McPherson, to write a poem influenced by the weather.   To spice up this villanelle a bit, I have made a doublespeak audio recording of it,  pairing it with another villanelle called “The Nap (Post-Fight)” (whose text may be found here.)   I personally find the mixed audio more intriguing than reading the single villanelle bel0w–there is a really odd music to two villanelles together, that, as incomprehensible as the words are, kind of transcends the texts –at least my texts!

Traveler’s Wedding/Nap (ITunes)

Travelers’ Wedding – Bangkok

The monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey
as sweat like traffic stalled the steaming city.
It didn’t feel much like the first of May,

not even in his shirt saved for the day,
nor in the Indian skirt she’d thought so pretty.
The monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey

as they hurried to the bureau where they’d say
“I do”, or if required, some learned Thai ditty.
It didn’t feel much like the first of May;

still was, and, as they found, a holiday.
Closed office doors made clean clothes somehow gritty;
the monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey.

“Tomorrow then,” they sighed, feigning dismay,
and then made jokes that almost passed for witty.
But it didn’t feel much like the first of May,

stained, like his shirt, with portent and delay
as sweat, like lifetimes, stalled throughout the city.
The monsoon sky grew slowly thick with grey;
it didn’t feel much like the first of May.


Thanks for your patience with this new technique!  I definitely have a long way to go with it.  K.

Mermaid Sonnet – “Different Tastes in Mythical Creatures”

September 26, 2011


I am reposting this poem and painting as an entry in the weekly links of another very active poetry site, Gooseberry Garden, which is focusing this week on mythology.   A dear friend had suggested the topic of mermaids for a poem, which I used as a writing exercise.   At first, I envisaged a poem about teenage girls diving into the surf on a tropical beach; but the poem that came out was somewhat different. (I’m afriad that I had a Robert Pattinson fixation at the time, and somehow brought the subject of mermaids around to vampires.

Different Tastes in Mythical Creatures

Some go for vampires; they like the idea
of sharp but elegant pursuit, the notion
that they personally are the cup of tea
of the ruthless.  Others look to the oceans,
scanning fantastic waves for a gleam of gleam,
twist of twist, the well-hipped curve of tail;
their magic’s found in the muscular seam
between breast and flipper, flesh and scale.
They love the submergence, dive to the unknown,
an elegance unclothed in its own wet skin,
Eve and the serpent combined, slicked hair let down,
the search for safety in the dare, plunge, swim.
Others—we’re too afraid to go in headfirst,
would rather wait, dryly, to slake another’s thirst.

For more on the mechanics on sonnets, check here.

Happy Belated Bloomsday!

June 18, 2010

Happy Belated Bloomsday!

I missed it yes I did an important day I don’t know where my mind was under the bed or out the window or most likely in a screen where real life and even book life can pass you by it’s not really an important day not like a birthday they made a lemon cake this year orange really out of lemons and didn’t want to drive to town moist as anything the zest of orange so sweet if anything a book holiday not bank those manicured sons of bitches O and now its too late to even talk about it much less write but Ive always been on the late side running for the train my suitcases better have strong wheels

I actually did go to Dublin years ago so grey and blue and gusty the Irish Sea like that scarf that’s been lost and found all crinkled not with huge waves but on every single inch of it pressing me to the railing the whole night long freezing over the side I was and sick as a dog while the natives kept to the warmth in the saloon of course like a parody of Irish drink and song I could hardly stand and neither they staggering out red faced morning with cheap black pants legs clumping over stuttering shoes it was so long ago and poorer then though now is not great either what with the crash me as green as sea ice even on land I was pale back then O not like now maybe get some special cream for redness wrinkles too real soda breads on the shelves lined up like little school kids I tore the pieces that’s how hungry I was when I finally got over it no knife and my fingers scrabbling among the caraway and crumbs Martello Tower what I most wanted to see the Joyce stuff most were grey toned streets but it with all its grey stones was blue that morning out by the sky and sea and Im standing there on the pavement admiring tea I can’t help thinking of tea with Martello Tower in front of me thick brown irish tea with the thick slabs of bread and butter Stephen Dedalus and Kinch his sort of friend  the milk in that chapter so thick and sweet as well the whole breakfast one I dream of porridge sometimes too humble not French toast or pancakes or what do they call them crepes but those thick sweet slabs of tea in sun and cold and tower though its not all sweetness Joyce not exactly generous to his past not is the word forgiving?  Art like a knife the wind then too December not June when I got closer to the tower and a woman all bare and white her flesh as creamy as the milk only with pink folds where she rubbed she had a little towel and then just undies bra and panties overflowing robust that’s what you had to call her her flesh so white and pink and flowing like the wave crests maybe a nice bit of pork I hate the way they hang those sides up in the window no not like pork everything about her lived fresh from the sea she had been swimming and her curls the only thing that didn’t glisten curly hair don’t with its frizz I wish I had it mine straight as a stick my whole life long but what I really wished for then was that glow smiling at me towel rubbing the nape of her neck below the curls.

In the movie she has curls too her dark hair spread upon the grass in Andalusia some place south and is kissed and saying yes though I’m not sure about the grass in the book itself and how do you make a movie of a book like that or any book to tell the truth I do know that she says yes though I’m sure of that even though I missed the date that’s the one thing I won’t ever miss that she says yes.

Not Quite National Poetry Month but “Good Enough”

May 3, 2010

Diamond Enough

After yesterday’s post concerning the relatively higher payback for posts about Robert Pattinson, I am returning to poetry.  This is, in part, because the  Academy of American Poets announced that it is extending its April program of daily emailed poems for the entire year.  (I figure if the Academy of American Poets can post a poem a day for longer than a month, I can too.)

So here’s another draft poem  (written on the morning subway).   Any suggestions for improvement that you may send are seriously considered and greatly appreciated.

Good Enough

Why is it that they,
the amorphous they,
can never say
you’re good enough
well enough
for you to feel, in fact,
good (enough);
not perhaps like a
diamond in the rough,
much less a diamond buffed,
just not ‘not good enough’.

What can they say
to allay
that bay of inadequacy,
that convenient, if unsafe, harbor,
built-in, if empty, larder?

It sounds like a game,
but if words can tame pain,
rhyme act as anodyne,
it’s worth a shot,
would mean a lot,
maybe, for a short time, enough.

(PS – note that an earlier version of this post incorrectly named the Academy of American Poets.  Sorry, Poets!  Their emailed poems are a feature called “poem-a-day”. )