Magic Mushroom Road: a Poem

Write a poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily-perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood.
(Prompt by Maureen Thorson)

You take life too seriously.
It’d be much more fun
if you remember to laugh.
(There’s so much to cry about,
what if we laughed instead?)

Chase the white rabbit.
This isn’t Wonderland,
but we can still wonder.
Try to hold onto that feeling
when the Christmas lights twinkle
as you breathe in deep,

as you speed past,
time speeds up
(when you don’t have much of it left).

Try to hold the magic inside of your lungs,
inhale as though it were a Turkish Gold.

None of us get out alive.
We might as well sing off-key
and laugh like tonight’s the last night
we breathe.

Take my guitar and strum a melody
to tell you the things that I could never say.

(I believe she’ll explain it to you
one day.
One day when I’m gone.)
You’ll remember my name, my laugh,
but don’t think me a fool
because I’ve proven myself to be much more
than that.

Laugh like tonight’s the last night
and tell the girl you love her
(because I forgot to say it
before it was too late)
.

-inspired by Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology

Requiescat in Pace
A monologue from the deceased. (Gone too soon.)

Grandmother: a Poem

Pretend a person or a moment in your life is a moving box you’re unpacking as you move into a new home. What do you unpack? How tenderly? Where do you place it? What do you realize you no longer need? What do you realize you have lost?
(Prompt by Todd Dillard)

Gingerly, I pull the packing tape back
and tug the cardboard flaps apart.
(Like wings, they spread.)
The scent of White Diamonds,
floral and sweet,
wafts over me, reminding me
of a grandmother’s embrace.

I remember burying myself into her
as she felt like unconditional love.
The way a grandmother’s hazel eyes are soft.
I unpack birthday cards
with whisper-thin penmanship
vowing “love always” and prayers.
Gently, I pull out the nail lacquer
she always used to paint my fingernails.

My grandmother was a home to me when I felt adrift.
I remember the way she always turned on a light
for me
when I was reading in her den.
She’d marvel at my stories, even when
my words were bland.

I take out the prayer books and the holy medals.
I unfold the comforter from her bed,
the thick one that buried us like snow.

I remove her vinyl of the soundtrack to Sound of Music
(and in my mind, I hear her trilling arias with Julie Andrews,
her warble beautiful and pure)
.
I smell her hand lotion and recall the blue eyeshadow
applied every day
(until even the dementia taking that away).

Her memories have been packed away
eleven years.
It has been eleven years since I heard her voice last-
I remember that night in the memory care ward,
that last night,
she turned to me, her hazel eyes watery,
underweight, and leaning on a walker,
and she said to me,

“Izzy, you look so pretty tonight.”

I lost someone who cared for me
and loved me unconditionally.
Like a leaf blowing away in autumn
(delicate and fragile).
Remember the afternoon we picked you up
from that foul hospital with the smell of shit and piss
and I sang to you a jazz lullaby,
thinking you were dying.

I hope someday to be your princess
(again).

Renovations: a Poem

Poetry often takes us to strange places-to feelings and actions that are hard to express except through the medium of a poem. To the “liminal”, in other words-a place or sensation that exists at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold, neither one thing or the other, but something betwixt and between.
(Prompt by Maureen Thorson)

Abandoned and neglected
(in decay from misuse),
you swear changes underway.

Making promises you can’t keep.

-image courtesy of @SpaceLiminalBot on Twitter.

Silly Girl: a Poem

Write a poem about your own road not taken-about a choice of yours that has “made all the difference” and what might have happened had you made a different choice.
(Prompt by Maureen thorson)

Don’t fall in love
at first sight,
you silly stupid girl.

Don’t look
into those magnetic eyes
and believe
words that tumble out
(like falling boulders).

They will land on your heart
and shatter it.

When he says “love”,
it’s a vacuous word,
but you made the mistake
of looking into those magnetic eyes.

You brought him into your home.
Offered him refuge and comfort
from a cold, cruel world.

(Not recognizing the frozen hostility
from his lungs and fists.)

When he was on top of you,
he begged for you to tell him
“love”
(like it was wedding vows).
You whispered it
(like it was a secret).

You waited nine months
to see
what the secret hatched.

And your heart splintered and cracked
only a hundred and twenty-two times
along the way.

Abandoned something pure,
relinquished the first thing that loved
unconditionally
(twice),
but what if…

what if? what if?

What if you had been selfish
and kept that whispered secret
bundled to your chest
(like a trinket from a relationship
gone wayward)
?

What if you had held it
to your heart
and allowed it to suckle from your breast?

Secrets,
just like hearts (and drywall),
can break,
shatter to dust and leave holes
that need to be spackled over.

No one could predict a tornado,
but now, they map the changing weather
and warn you
when storms rumble through.
(Warnings that could very well save your life…
and theirs.)


-inspired by Robert Frost’s “The Road not Taken”

Faded Paper Bouquets: a Poem

Prompt: Go to a book you love. 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.
( Prompt by Holly Lyn Walrath)

Faded paper bouquets all smell like newsprint
but close your eyes and you swear you smell
the fragrance of roses.

You vow you have nothing up your sleeve,
but the only magic I have ever known is
sleight of hand and smoke & mirrors.
(You slowed time to show me the romance
of slow-dancing alone-with the whole world watching-
and dichotomizing song lyrics.)

I knew better.

I knew magicians starved their rabbits
so they slipped through threadbare hats
all the easier
(ribs exposed & thin fur,
bulging eyes,
even magic has its secrets).

Nothing lasts forever, not even promises
hooked on ring fingers,
worn at the throat.
(I have worn a necklace for years
and a scar for even longer than that,
but Lazarus
still doesn’t rise from the dead.)

-inspired by Janet Fitch’s White Oleander

Genesis: a Poem

“Seductive Fantasy” Sun Ra Arkestra (animated by Chad van Gaalen)
Write a poem based on “Seductive Fantasy” (Sun Ra and his Arkestra).
(Prompt by Maureen Thorson)

Out of the universal midnight
creeps a neon specter.
(An explosive amoeba,
a colorful bacterium.)

Dancing along
midnight black
flora and fauna
in Technicolor rainbow hues.
(Straggly tentacles swaying
as if by a silent breeze.)

With a ball of lunar wax
floating in the heavens,
life animates itself–
planets rolling along
like bowling balls
down a cosmic lane,
human bodies leaping out of
electrified skeletons.

A shock of color
(laser-bright pyrotechnics piercing
against midnight hues)
.

This is creation
under the influence
of psychedelic mushrooms
& papers placed on your tongue.

Plants burst from the earth
(gigantic enough to consume you
in your entirety in one, huge gulp)
.

A clam-man snapping his jaw
(open and shut,
shut and open)
tugs along his yoke–
a burden all of humanity has to
carry.

A living, breathing sculpture roped & bound
wants to soar beyond the midnight black ink,
desires to break free of their tethers.

Bubbling beneath the sea,
the world is still
in creation.
New Orleans is submerged;
its jazz & zydeco performers
play on.
(Singing for the fish and the algae.)

Shapes drift past like Cubist paintings
and abstract art,
transforming into Warhols and Lichtensteins
(and flesh-and-blood people in their own right).

Life began on another planet;
perhaps it started on the moon.
We are all lunar children,
learning the collision dance of the cosmos.