2010 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 13

I’m not sure what time it is in your neck of the woods, but here in Duluth, Georgia, it is a little past 1 a.m. on Saturday morning (November 13). For some reason, I’m still awake, so I figure I’ll shake things up a little and post for the folks on the other side of the Atlantic and all those poets working 3rd shift or still up partying on a Friday night in the Americas.

For today’s prompt, make the title of your poem a question; then, the poem should go about trying to answer the question. You can be direct in your answer or a little vague. Possible titles might be: “Why is the sky blue?”, “Where are my car keys?”, or “How am I supposed to go about writing a poem that answers a question that also happens to be the title of the poem anyway?” I mean, any question will do to get you started, then the fun part is poeming an answer.

Here is my attempt:

“Why am I still awake?”

Is it my clod hopping neighbors upstairs
who seem to stomp louder after the sun
goes down? Or could it be the food I ate
causing my indigestion? Would my work
keep me from sleep? Or is it most likely
the words beating and burning inside me
until I have no choice but to write them?


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

(If you’d like to Tweet your November challenge progress on Twitter, use the #novpad hashtag.)


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190 thoughts on “2010 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 13

  1. Connie Peters

    Please Dad Can We Have a Dog?

    We sure would like a dog like this, Dad.
    She’s cuter than the ones we’ve had.
    To leave her all alone would be bad.
    Please, Dad, can we have a dog?

    We’ll faithfully give her water and food.
    We’ll keep her clean, with a good attitude.
    We’re sure she won’t intrude.
    Please, Dad, can we have a dog?

    What’s that barking noise you hear?
    We’re just playing, Daddy dear.
    I’m sure you have nothing to fear.
    Please, Dad, can we have a dog?

    Daddy, you thought I wasn’t looking
    When you snuck her some of Mama’s cooking.
    You’ve gotten used to the dog we took in.
    At last, Dad, we can have a dog!

  2. Susanne Barrett

    Playing some serious "catch up" when teaching and grading ruined my rhythm…..

    WHO AM I?
    I am a wisp.
    A thought unconnected,
    looping gracelessly through wind,
    alighting nowhere.
    I wish to be solid–
    someone of consequence–
    who with weighty word
    pins truth inescapable
    to the textured wall.

    I am invisible.
    A phantom, pen in hand,
    only recognized through
    ink splayed blackly across
    cheap lined paper.
    With little power,
    I dread whisper of change
    that may force my feet
    to tread earth stolidly,
    that may wedge reality
    down my too-tender throat.

    I fade….
    until not a blot shows.

  3. S. E. Ingraham

    I think I totally forgot this prompt! Heavy sigh …

    What is the Point of it All?

    Once, when discussing at length
    The origins of yet another crippling
    Depression – and finding no source
    A doctor I had come to respect told
    Me with real wonder in his voice but
    Tinged with sadness I thought—and came
    To learn it was closer to real grief—
    That ‘endogenous’ depressions – those
    That come from nowhere, of no known
    Origin or cause, and that he, and later I,
    came to think of as ‘existential despair’
    were probably the worst type to treat

    For how do you tell someone who cannot
    See the point to anything, the reason
    For living, for getting up, for going to sleep
    That it will get better by and by?
    It’s not like they’ve suffered the loss
    Of a loved one, or the death of a marriage
    Or any of the normal things that trigger
    The usual clinical depressions – no, it’s
    Just the eking away of the pleasure in
    Living that they are aware they once had
    But have no longer; not only do they not
    Have it, they have instead immeasurable
    Pain and inexplicable confusion about why
    They must stay alive at all; it makes little sense

    Sylvia Plath suffered from such depressions
    Exacerbated by the usual clinical type
    As many endogenous depressives are, and
    She ultimately could not see her way clear
    To fight the demons off, to live past the inane
    Pain of pointlessness that in the end stole
    The rest of whatever remained of her life
    Doctors are wiser now and often drug
    Those of us with this weird combination
    Of disorders until the mood passes, knowing
    As they do, and as the patient sometimes
    Grows to believe also, that, yes – it will pass

    So – for that twilight time – if one is lucky
    They are put out of their misery for the pointless
    Period, until equilibrium is restored and the question
    Retires to some portion of the mind to lay dormant
    Until the next phase when it will rise and the battle
    Will again be on and hopefully, won again.

  4. Megan

    Why Do I stay in Place?

    Signs posts point
    in opposite directions
    I am stuck in idle
    no place in circles endless
    Placing one foot away from
    open wounds watching
    signs of hope decay
    tomorrow is only a repeat of today
    signaling another round of staying in place

    I chose to stay in place
    my heart may belong to open spaces endless writing
    but for now I will be here
    to be your memory stick
    to be your warder, your guardian
    to be stuck in place in endless circles
    for as long as it takes

  5. Lauren Dixon

    Will We Ever Get Home Again?

    We can’t know the future,
    but they say you can
    “make it happen” the way
    you want by thinking positively,
    and the universe will hear your
    plea and grant the wish you seek,
    Sometimes I don’t believe it,
    I’ve tried to think positively
    for years, it’s hard to do,
    after five years of death
    and disappointment,
    negative thoughts elbow
    the positive out of the way,
    bullying their way around my head,
    I’ll keep trying anyway,
    dodging those elbows,
    The dream is to get back
    home to Oregon,
    where we’ve got lots of sky,
    neighbors not too close,
    just close enough, where
    we can walk to everything,
    see our grandkids grow up,
    They say you can’t go home again,
    I say you can.

  6. Michelle Hed

    Who named the colors?

    The sky has been blue for longer than I can remember,
    The grass green,
    The sun yellow,
    The roses red.
    Did God name the colors of our world
    As he created them?
    Or did primitive man stumble upon
    the hues of the earth
    as he learned to communicate
    with his neighbors?
    Who named the colors?

  7. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    How Shall We Spend the Money?

    He had such a good month,
    we found ourselves unexpectedly rich.
    We needed carpets, we needed curtains —
    but we never even had a honeymoon.
    Kids and all, we went to Bali.

    That was such a good month!
    The experience proved unexpectedly rich.
    Woven carpets, bamboo curtains,
    and the holiday became a honeymoon,
    kids and all, in exotic Bali.

    Laughing and silly,
    we sprawled on the bed. The kids
    were having their afternoon sleep.
    ‘Just think,” I said straight-faced,
    “We could have had curtains and carpets,
    if we hadn’t come to Bali.’

    We laughed ourselves silly,
    rolling on the bed — while the kids
    somehow managed to stay asleep —
    to think how ridiculously straight-laced
    it would have been, buying curtains and carpets
    instead of coming to Bali.

    This form doesn’t have a name yet; it’s my own invention.

  8. Marian O'Brien Paul

    Why is the Sky Blue?

    Perhaps a clichéd question, it’s true,
    one ascribed to little children on first
    noticing the celestial phenomena, but
    I will never forget when I happened
    upon an essay offering non-scientists
    like me a scientific response. A benefit
    afforded to those who teach: the gift
    of learning from lessons they assign
    to students.
    New composition book
    in hand, skimming through the Table
    of Contents, my forefinger fell upon
    this title: “Why the Sky Looks Blue” *
    written by an author of unforgettable
    name: Sir James Jeans. After all, who
    teaching community college students
    does not daily view rooms-full of blue
    jeaned legs? Better yet was the essay.

    Sir Jeans stands us “on an ordinary
    seaside pier” watching “the waves
    rolling in and striking against the
    iron columns…” Sir Jeans explains
    “large waves pay very little attention
    … divide right and left and reunite
    after passing each column…. But,”
    says he, “the short waves and ripples
    find the columns … more formidable
    ….” When they hit the columns they
    are deflected, become “new ripples”
    scattering “in all directions.”

    waves become the essence of Jeans’
    explanation. Long waves compare
    to red light, short waves to the blue,
    struggling through “molecules of air,”
    water droplets and “particles of dust”
    acting as pier columns between the sun
    and us. Long red waves of light flow
    smoothly around those obstacles, so
    we don’t notice them, so taken are we
    watching the splash and spatter of short
    blue waves overflowing our bowl of sky.

    Anyway, thanks to Sir James Jeans, I
    now know exactly why the sky is blue.

    *http://www.grasslands.ab.ca/docs/library/Why the Sky Looks Blue.pdf

  9. alana sherman

    How Stupid Am I ??

    I thought it could never happen.
    I refused to believe it.
    I cried
    and prayed
    and bargained.
    I researched alternatives (hah!).
    I begged you to go to Mexico.
    I thought if I breathed with you
    you’d have the strength.
    I argued with the doctors.
    I dreamed you strong and laughing.
    I told myself there’d be a miracle.
    I never believed it would happen
    even as you drifted away from me.
    Even when every sign was there
    I believed you’d live.
    Even today, on a morning
    ten years later, I thought
    as I woke up, before the day
    had really set in, I thought—
    I’ll see you.
    I still don’t really believe
    you are gone. Your death
    was so unexpected.

  10. alana sherman

    How Stupid Am I ??

    I thought it could never happen.
    I refused to believe it.
    I cried
    and prayed
    and bargained.
    I researched alternatives (hah!).
    I begged you to go to Mexico.
    I thought if I breathed with you
    you’d have the strength.
    I argued with the doctors.
    I dreamed you strong and laughing.
    I told myself there’d be a miracle.
    I never believed it would happen
    even as you drifted away from me.
    Even when every sign was there
    I believed you’d live.
    Even today, on a morning
    ten years later, I thought
    as I woke up, before the day
    had really set in, I thought—
    I’ll see you.
    I still don’t really believe
    you are gone. Your death
    was so unexpected.

  11. Sam Nielson

    Have You Ever Been Red?

    My answer to the question
    In third grade, when it became
    All important that I decide,
    Hasn’t changed much,
    My favorite color– red.

    The color of red, was not
    Common to things left out
    In that world, except for
    Fall maple leaves, my hair or
    Noses left in the cold.

    It has a uniqueness clear,
    Unmistakably apart from
    Brown trees, dirt, yellow sun,
    Bananas, or black in leggy
    Black widows, a shut door.

    Somewhere in those years
    Someone accused my red
    Of angry, burn roaring
    Violence like murder and
    Eyes bloodshot, in strain.

    Now my color is blue
    When someone asks
    And I cannot evade that
    Probing personal question,
    But still I just red-shift it.

  12. Lavinia Kumar


    The River of the Arrow, the Ganges,
    enlightenment is the light to nothing
    not a holy man, a wise man, or fool
    but the body free, a shadow,

    the shadow a gift of the sun flowing
    hot arrows, three-legged birds, dragons
    there flowing from hot ashes, trickling
    to a wide delta on the plain, floods

    flooding birth, islands that give earth and life
    but suddenly disappear to the sea
    when the mountain snow melts, and swami
    bodies walk down, not ascetics but clothed,

    cloth covering new spirits carrying
    bodies we see as nothing curious,
    a river of feet along paths
    essence not seen.

  13. Mike Barzacchini

    How Much Longer?

    The old yellow dog and I walked
    out early one morning to talk to the moon.
    “How much longer?” we asked.
    “Not long,” the moon responded.

    But what does “not long” really mean
    when you mark time like the moon?
    Millenia flicking by on a bird’s wing.

    The old yellow dog and I walked
    back inside for a biscuit and some milk,
    both agreeing that when it’s time, it’s time,
    and most likely the moon won’t even notice.

  14. Monica Martin

    Where did I get the idea
    to list so many books,
    to try to read them all?
    When did my reading
    increase? When did I
    begin list-making? I
    think I’ve always been
    this nerdy.

  15. Sheila Deeth

    Why did you paint my face with tears?
    How long must I cry to dry the years?
    When will my sobs be loud enough
    To drown away the clouds?

    Why did I paint your face with tears?
    Because the mourning dew would bring you sun.
    Joy comes
    With the dawn.

  16. Lee Pursewarden

    Where are the secret poems?

    That Italian poet said
    “tremulous light”
    it was his line
    borrowed & mistranslated.
    Cavalcanti was just a poet
    a man in love.
    Those who re-wrote his lines
    stole them from others
    not himself, we read only
    what someone else said.

  17. Arash


    You’re welcome. I was worried that my taking the last line of your poem would be considered a sort of an adulteration of your heartfelt poem but suffice to say that your words spoke to my heart enough to have inspired my poem. Glad it made an emotional connection with you.

    Also, what a great suggestion, to use the last line of someone’s poem to start a new one!

  18. Kevin D Young


    After the dance he walked her onto the porch
    then out to her car, where she turned and kissed him
    lightly on the cheek – one of those friendly air-brush
    misses guys make fun of in football commercials.

    The tail-lights jostled bumpily out of the parking lot
    into traffic, as nondescript a departure as air,
    two red eyes sinking into that pail of fireflies
    that was LA, or Salt Lake City, or Denver

    (that part’s a little hazy). Somewhere, though,
    in the foothills of a memory. She was my mother,
    but none my dad. When his children ask, What
    did you do in the War? he smiles, and wonders.

  19. Pam Winters

    Joseph, I only just read your Hahnemann poem. It’s wonderful. It makes me want to walk over there and visit the statue. You’re doing such wonderful things with the D.C. landscape…I really appreciate them.

  20. Terri French

    A Sunday Poem

    Why the hell does it matter
    what a person wears to
    praise the Lord?

    Whether decked in the
    finest lace, sack cloth,
    or plumb buck naked
    my God will delight in
    my praise.

    And what the hell does it matter
    where I pray and worship?

    Whether on a mountain top
    or a prison cell,
    my God’s ear will bend
    toward me.

    Because to my God
    I matter.

  21. Bruce Niedt

    One of the good things (I think) about the PAD challenges is you feel like such a slacker when you skip or miss a day. I’ve had a hard time getting inspired this month, even with Robert’s prompts, but an idea hit me this morning as I was getting ready to throw something away:

    Who Wants an Old Encyclopedia?

    Certainly not the people at my yard sale
    who glance at my 28-volume set
    of Funk & Wagnall’s – copyright 1983,
    including index, yearbook and dictionary –
    with the same bemusement they would
    for a typewriter or a box of Beta videotapes.
    Certainly not the trashmen, who leave it
    on the curb after collecting everything else
    I put out as offerings to the recycling gods.

    Even their name seems antiquated –
    “encyclopedia” – no one has patience
    for six syllables anymore. These are the days
    of Google and Wiki, when information is consumed
    like fast food burgers. They had their day
    when I first collected a volume a week
    at my local supermarket, and gave them
    to my 7-year-old, who found them useful
    for research papers over the next few years.

    But no one regards these still-handsome volumes
    as elder statesmen of wisdom, these books that discuss
    the Soviet Union and Berlin Wall as if they still exist,
    and name countries in Africa that aren’t there anymore.
    To most, they’re just a collection of pressboard and paper,
    pages of obsolescence, reminders of a time
    when facts didn’t change by the hour
    and you could take your time to look them up.

    Still, a change of heart has brought them in again,
    and I wipe them off, set them up on a bookshelf,
    lined up 1 to 28, maroon-and-gold spines catching
    a bit of flash as I take a photo, and hope to find them
    a good home, somewhere in the universe of eBay.

  22. Jeanne Rogers


    I’m writing this through tears. Thank you for the poem inspired by the last line in my prompted poem. Your lines "measured in unfulfilled dreams" and "stars that lift her mother, too" just break my heart anew for the mother facing the death of her child in the light of this new day.

    Thank you. Jeanne

    Also: A fantastic idea, taking the last line of a poem and creating something new. I did that as an exercise once, long ago, and thank you for the reminder of how well it can work when it works well. Prompts begetting prompts–I like it. 🙂

  23. Kyhaara

    I just realised now that I copied the wrong poem! I had another that I’d written for the prompt – the one I posted was from one of Robert’s Wednesday Poetry prompts I never got to (but I’m glad you enjoyed it, Elizabeth. It encourages me when I get comments)

    Here is my actual written poem for the promopt

    Why Remember?
    Some ask, “Why remember?
    It does not concern me;
    Why must I sit through
    All these boring assemblies
    Year after year after year?”
    To honour the sacrifice made.
    History forgotten is relived,
    Wars fought are revived.
    Lives lost are lost again.

  24. Judy Roney

    Wayward Hair
    (Was a Restless Hair)

    I wonder why that hair on the back
    of Bill’s head sticks up now when it always
    acquiesced to the shape of his head before.

    Is it because he is older, grayer, his hair more
    course so it springs up to Alfalfa proportions?

    I’m researching gooey things with names
    likeManeuver Working Wax, Hold Still,
    Work Hard Molding Paste, Grip Tight
    Holding Gel, Get r Done Pomade,
    and Stand Tough Extreme Gel.
    I mean to get to the resolution
    of these wayward hairs! Hope Bill cooperates.

  25. sara gwen

    Does It Not Rhyme?

       Because the educated official edit inspector authorities in charge found an accidental rhyme
       too close for comfort, words were spurned, turned off, a childish archaeic crime, as it were.

       Because each step down which words were given the rude boot looked too much as though in sych
       with the orphans, lining up even steven clop hop stop that! stop that! stairs were disallowed.
       Because streets and skies words and stairs flew nights and days like untrue birds and prayers
       traced the next street over and chased the hole left by the wind before, none of that anymore.
       Because the tear one one cheek curved too much like the one on the other. Because the top lip
       broke too much like the bottom. Because hair remained too combed, too arranged, too clipped.
       So I came home to you seeking comfort, reassurance, support, encouragement, all those things
       that rhyme without effort. You weren’t there. I had to be alone. They said you had to go too.

  26. Walt Wojtanik


    Life emits a signal,
    a sign that it exists.
    It is embedded in the sounds
    lovers make when emotions call.
    It lives in a baby’s laugh,
    a happy lilting call.
    A Morse code of mortality,
    this semaphore of sound.
    Assuring each and everyone,
    of lives to which we’re bound.
    It rises in the morning
    with the early sun,
    and keeps it pace within your space
    when the day is done.
    Do you hear it’s meter,
    the sound that it imparts?
    Do you hear what I hear?
    It’s the rhythm of a beating heart.

  27. Uma

    Why Does The Crow Sit At My Window?

    The black bead of eyes looks deep into me beyond me,
    antennae sway in the static space to strike the right signals,
    seeds like aquatic beings travel through darkness
    to build genealogies and the brood of ashen crows.

    The glistening coat at the neck a bleading rainbow sky,
    scales of moon for wings. During nights crows fly away
    to their nests, but not you; you sit at my kitchen window :
    the black bead of eyes look deep into me beyond me.

  28. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    (ok it’s 4:30 am and mama’s feeling a little cheeky this morning…either that or the rock & rye is kicking in…LOL)

    what’s it all about anyways, mister?!
    by juanita lewison-snyder

    what’s it all about anyways, mister?!
    butterflies dieing in a bowl full of orange jello
    while helicopters mate in the valley below,
    ritualistic circumcising of one of washington’s highest peaks
    as if lava was the grape juice of the gods?

    too much pepper in the soul makes bad soup
    and farmer in the moors that is rome,
    hibiscus only grows on the southside of linens
    and just how mexican are you anyways?

    if Chelsea loves tractors then what kind of state
    would Carolina be in the morning?
    and if sushi was a kind of white giradelli
    would you have one or two or three?

    think big, shop small says the paper
    folded on the bureau in the hall,
    if pink is the new business trend
    ‘cause spidey wants to know,
    what’s it all about anyways, mister?!

    © 2010 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  29. Tracy Davidson

    Why Am I Ironing His Underpants?

    Just because his Mom used to.
    God forbid her precious little boy
    leave the house with creased y-fronts.
    She should see his saggy ass these days.
    If anything needs ironing,it’s that.

    Why do I bother making apple pie?
    It’s "not as good as Mom’s",
    even when I follow her recipe
    to the letter (which I stole
    when she refused to share).

    Why do I put up with the criticisms,
    the always being found wanting
    in comparison with she who can do no wrong?

    I put up with it because
    she’s a rich bitch who won’t last forever.
    And I have my eye on her beach house.

  30. vivienne blake

    My old eyes won’t let me read all of these, but some gems stood out for me. I particularly liked Rachel’s heartfelt "Why does a sonnet…"
    I learned on my last course that it’s OK to play with the rules, so I wrote one in iambic octameter.

    After my pettish earlier poem, here’s another question:-

    A quandary,

    To dye or not to dye
    that is the question.
    Blonde or brunette,
    redhead, or yet
    cover the onset of grey?
    That would be such a fag,
    roots growing would nag –
    to retouch them, a drag –
    I won’t be deciding today.

    It can be found here: http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/quandary/

  31. Maxie Steer

    What’s Your Problem?

    Contention over mentions
    of your last known address,
    confess you got somethin’
    to hide, or let pride
    force your ignorance,
    because oversensitivity
    is never happenstance;
    you give yourself away
    with your jitter and sway
    a coincidence is no evidence
    so calm your frayed nerves
    build up reserves.
    Learn to take it lightly.
    Be better than the mighty

  32. Arash


    The weight of a coffin full of child
    is measured in unfulfilled dreams but
    also mother’s kisses lighter than feather
    that lighten the sky of her young face–
    stars that lift her mother, too,
    to heaven inside her glowing heart.

    Not relevant to the prompt but inspired by the last line of your poem

  33. shann palmer

    Where did all the cowboys go?

    Not the pretend ones dancing at Gilley’s,
    hanging out at the rodeo in shiny boots,
    looking for a rich girl to offer them a ride.

    She’s looking for a real one, in jeans
    with a bit of wear, calloused hands,
    pick-up truck, and the unmistakable smell.

    There’s a trade-off to be sure, doing-all:
    dishes, laundry, fetching beers at sunset,
    she’d be expected to be like his momma,

    except in bed, of course, where bucking
    and hollering is what you do, within reason,
    decent on Sundays, wild on Saturday night.

    If you can’t make a biscuit, you’ll be single,
    her gran’mama said, so she was dutiful,
    learned to make a fluffy cloud on a plate

    for all the good it’d done, a set of losers,
    hungry toads who didn’t know what-for
    and wanted somebody pretty and slim.

    She was holding out for someone in need,
    who knew a hefty girl could manage a calf,
    wouldn’t be concerned if she breaks a nail.

    Waiting has about worn her out, she’s tired
    of going to church suppers, swap meets,
    all the right places, turning up empty.


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