2010 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 4

For today’s prompt, write a containment poem. There are a lot of ways to contain things: Jails and prisons contain people; zoos and aquariums contain animals; and closets contain our clothes (and other “baggage”). Your poem can be about the actual container, the containment of things, or even the attempt to break free of containment. Of course, any other creative interpretation is encouraged as well.

Here’s my attempt:

“These Places We Travel”

Running through this parking lot, a woman
tries catching her bus, which is already
filled with passengers. She’ll get there in time
to be told there’s no room. “Another bus
will be here any minute.” The woman,
out of breath, will say, “Thank you,” though she won’t
think it–not until the next bus collects
her 15 minutes later and passes
the broken down bus without any room.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

(Tweet your progress and share links to your poems with the #novpad hashtag on Twitter.)


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192 thoughts on “2010 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 4

  1. Dennis Wright

    As It May Be

    Which words hold all,
    The paint that shows,
    Pictures we see,
    In hues we know?

    Hues that we know,
    Rich greens and gold,
    Hold all living,
    Young age to old.

    The grace of fall
    Winter’s soft ride,
    The husband there,
    His beloved bride.

    They live their days,
    As it may be,
    Pictures of love,
    As it may be.

  2. alana sherman

    Thinking About People

    I miss my father
    even though he was difficult,
    a 200 pound encumbrance.
    My mother could be an albatoss
    but I look for her everyday.
    And, "Oh how like a serpent’s tooth…"
    All those absent cousins, aunts, uncles
    grandparents making demands on my time.
    Now when they are gone for good
    the whole world is like a refrigerator
    in which I can’t find a decent snack.
    Life itself has a feeble hold.
    All my people keep me grounded—
    every life, every friend tethers me to this earth.

  3. Debra Elliott


    Within walls
    I hide from society…
    my reason, my being
    contained within propriety…

    If within walls
    I crumble…
    I will fall, I will stumble…

    Within walls
    I distance reality…
    my thought, my existence
    contained within finality.

  4. Monica Martin

    The evening is settling in,
    the breeze warm on our skin.
    I watch her- long legs,
    blonde hair, little colt-
    as she catches fireflies.
    I hold out the jar when
    she runs to me, hands
    cupped. We put her capture
    in the jar and hold it
    to the night, wondering
    how many more for a lamp.

  5. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    I Carry My Father
    by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    I carry my father with me
    the way his father carried his,
    contained, at arms length
    away from this porcelain heart,
    lest the fragility of it all
    fracture and test me.

    I want to tell you of my longing
    the way he and his
    father before him longed
    but the sorrow is too painful
    and might disintegrate into powder,
    lost to the mistraling of wind.

    I’m afraid of losing my father,
    not ready to let go of this shrine
    in danger of severing
    the memory’s carotid artery
    and watching life’s archives
    slowly bleed out, forever lost.

    I want to relieve myself
    of this burden
    tear open these lungs,
    release thousands of "I love you’s"
    but the words catch fire and dissipate
    the moment I speak them.

    So I carry my father with me
    the way his father carried his,
    contained, at arms length
    away from this porcelain heart,
    lest the fragility of it all
    fracture and test me.

    © 2010 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  6. Patti Williams

    Contained on the pages
    Is her story.
    Her dreams, aspirations,
    All spelled out
    In paragraph form.
    She yearns for the words
    To jump off the page
    And become real.
    But for now they are
    Still fiction,
    With a very small
    Voice willing
    Them to be true.

  7. Yoly

    Unsent Letter to TB

    Your barefaced disregard for Papa ate through my happy cells.
    Starving joy like a martyr, I thought, gave credence to your conceit. How terribly smug
    of me to carry a burden I had no business picking up. I was you in that regard.
    When that occurred to me, I had to stop. I had to forgive you. I exonerated myself.

    Fault lines are on the outer pages of history. I no longer wish that you had engaged Papa
    with respect at Grandpa’s funeral. We learn what we learn from human breakdown.
    I hugged papa today- told him that I value his life- how it teaches me to shed
    this green skin and make lots of peace pies.

  8. Brian Slusher

    The paradox: as a kid
    I always wriggled out
    of my footie pajamas
    as fast as Houdini did
    his straitjacket, yet I
    always slept with the
    blanket hooded over my
    head, so uncovered and
    smothered I negotiated
    the boundless terrain
    of the locked cell of
    my skull, my legs pale
    roots searching deep
    while my imaginings
    were sealed as the
    blossom in its calyx
    into a dark fragrant
    with the bitters of
    the body and
    sweet laundry soap
    until morning, when
    the diver emerged into
    the cold world with
    the treasure of dream
    half-grasped, unsure
    of his footing but ready
    to breathe again

  9. Lauren Dixon

    My Fathers Garage

    My fathers garage
    can barely contain itself,
    doors bent and twisted,
    paint curling with neglect,
    stuffed with relics
    of past lives lived,
    things he thinks
    are still valuable,
    except they are
    now tarnished, or
    warped, or chewed on.
    How do you tell him
    they are worthless now?
    That they will have no
    value except maybe
    to a recycling company?

    He had me come pick up
    some of my sisters things,
    personal possessions
    she left ten years ago,
    after words were said,
    she felt betrayed, and
    hasn’t looked back,
    He kept her box in the garage
    with all the rest of the forgotten,
    photos from her first marriage,
    since it failed she may not
    want them but, she may want
    the pregnancy pictures,
    since she only had one,
    and a pair of galoshes.

    She was appreciative
    that I brought them
    out of their interment,
    now if she could only
    forgive him before he
    himself is buried.

  10. Jeanne Rogers

    Thank you, ina, for the comment on my poem. The nephew mentioned in the poem became our fifth child–we adopted him after his parents both went back to their respective state penitentiaries.

    I hoped to give a glimpse of how the children of inmates are incarcerated, too, just in a different way. The vision of those three children clinging to their mother will forever be with me.

  11. Terri French

    Cousin to a Butterfly

    Not every caterpillar becomes a butterfly,
    sometimes their second-life is as a tiny
    gray-white miller or a dusty brown moth.

    While the monarchs and swallowtails are coveted,
    chased with nets, captured, pinned to foam boards,
    shared at show-and-tells and prized in museum showcases,
    their homely cousins are all but ignored,
    left to themselves to flit from flower to flower,
    free to fly and live their lives undisturbed,
    and somehow I think
    that suits them just fine.

  12. Khara E House

    Holding on

    The caress of calm crimson water
    sauntering through your fingers.
    That is what you remember.
    Ripping the gentle embrace
    you try to hold. Feel your membranes
    snap as the touch fails to linger
    like ash. Your palm like soap clasping
    copper pennies. You ache to grip,
    to grasp this dandelion bliss that flies
    like drops of dew, like sand whispers,
    no longer trapped in your clutches,
    the rusted folds of your hand.

  13. Sam Nielson

    Flesh To The Bones

    I stand soggy and cool
    Under a clump of streamside pines.

    A boil of rain crackles creek water,
    Miniature cool eruptions.
    Canvas hat hangs heavy on my ears.
    Slow drips form off the brim and fall
    Onto larkspur and tall grass.

    Thunder grumbles down the canyon.
    Far away snaps of lightning hide
    In the gray sky. Wisps of mists,
    Like breaths of Old Man mountain
    Float out of the canyons.

    A couple of small moths hide
    On the drier underside of my hat brim.
    A large spider, fat-bodied and spindly,
    Crawls around from my elbow,
    Probably brushed off a branch in my haste.

    My wet boots and socks seep
    And dibble water into crumbly earth.

    The unhurried turn to evening begins
    And a different shade of gray
    Colors the sky first warm, then cooler.
    The uphill climb to get out
    And towards home, awaits.

    Small cliffs crowd the canyon
    Downstream, an esophagus
    That guzzles until the stream
    Disappears around the bend,
    Off the freestone tongue.

    I look into that maw.
    These feet need more introspection,
    Need more attention before they attempt
    That climb across the rock teeth
    And out of the jaws of this canyon.

    For now, I am content to stand
    Still and let the jaws close.

  14. mary ann o'gorman

    Containment Day


    My thin shield renews
    every seven years,
    but never in a piece.
    With each sock pulled off,
    denim pulled on,
    each shirt yanked overhead,
    I open to the world,
    the boundaries blurred
    by hands across my ribs,
    my back, my face–
    the lines deteriorate.

    mary ann

  15. mary ann o'gorman

    Containment Day


    My thin shield renews
    every seven years,
    but never in a piece.
    With each sock pulled off,
    denim pulled on,
    each shirt yanked overhead,
    I open to the world,
    the boundaries blurred
    by hands across my ribs,
    my back, my face–
    the lines deteriorate.

    mary ann

  16. gloria


    Cold bones,
    chilled to the marrow
    and silence.
    Ears aching for sound
    to penetrate
    where only blackness rules.
    And the pungent smell
    of rancid earth,
    half remembered
    in endless darkness.
    An eternity of nothingness
    awaits me, here…

    in this grave.

  17. Michelle Hed

    Amy, Marie and Pearl – Thank you so much for the comments! The poem is total fiction but I think we can all related to similar happenings in church! 🙂

  18. Walt Wojtanik

    Thank you so much, Penny. I am finding the "I Am Santa" pieces to be very satisfying and comforting. They become easier to write and are truly an exercise for my fertile imagination. Apparently, my "theme" for the chapbook has been revealed, or one of them anyway. Loving your work as always. It is appreciated along with your support.

  19. Rosemary Nissen-Wade


    We flew home with Qantas,
    the ‘graveyard shift’,
    scheduled for midnight
    and running three hours late.
    The cabin staff
    were hard-faced, grumpy.

    The head steward
    addressed us:
    ‘Your cabin baggage
    is so heavy it’s a hazard.
    We’re not taking off
    until it’s all stowed in the hold.

    Up and down the aisles
    the hosties checked
    lockers and under seats.
    Guiltily Bill offered
    the overnight bag on his lap.
    A glance. ‘We don’t need that.’

    Relief. In the hold
    the old Dutch lamp
    of curved white glass
    could have broken,
    smashed by its own
    lead weights.

    Our legs were cramped.
    It was cold.
    The kids were fractious,
    so were we.
    No-one got much sleep.
    The crew continued surly.

    shuffling through Customs,
    we said with a laugh,
    ‘You can tell
    who’s been to Bali.’
    Other travellers were neat.

    The Bali mob
    straggling, yawning,
    looked like refugees
    in stained t-shirts, thongs,
    and all kinds of bags
    hanging off us.

    We also had even tans,
    an unhurried air
    and a conscious, unspoken
    complicity with each other —
    we’d learned a simpler, sweeter
    life we could not import.

  20. Iain D. Kemp

    At 06:10 yesterday there was a minor tremor – at 13:02, this happened:

    Cats, Poetry & Death #47


    The earth moves,
    the building shakes,
    the bed jumping,
    like the vibro-bed in a cheap motel,
    the wardrobe staggers across the room,
    the cat spread-eagles,
    claws skating on the tiled-floor.
    The poet clings on for dear life,
    is this the end?
    Will this be the ignominious demise
    of scribe and feline alike?
    Heart pounding in rhythm with the walls
    and then…

    …as quickly as it came,
    it is gone – normality resumes,
    pulses slow, the cat runs wild, still confused,
    the furniture is put in place,
    the newsflash says 4.1 on the Richter scale,
    sanity replaces chaos,
    Mother Earth rests peacefully
    and the poet lives,
    to write again.

    The cat sneers content in the knowledge
    that he has lives to spare…


  21. Penny Henderson

    Only had time to read the one just above me, but golly gee whiz Walt–that was really good!


    Her children are crammed,
    (they can barely walk)
    with stuff she wanted
    to be or achieve.
    She patiently poured
    it all into them
    in hourly dribbles
    from conception on.
    She really did think
    she was freeing them
    to rise on the wings
    of her own lost dreams.

  22. Walt Wojtanik


    In the shadows they creep,
    lurking silently, stealthily;
    the need for secrecy drives them;
    commandos for a cause.

    They pause at the top of the stair,
    unaware that they have been detected,
    the still of this early moment reveals them,
    though their hiding place is protected.

    Embers glow in the fireplace,
    every space filled with the warmth it provides,
    and its dying coincides with my arrival,
    my very survival relies of the fire’s submission.

    Eyes, wide with wonder, should be under
    sleep’s restful watch. But who can sleep?
    Still in shadow, they creep and peek.
    Nothing has changed; no thing rearranged

    to signify the events so anticipated.
    All the year they’ve waited, for this time
    as the crack of a reticent log startles.
    Composure shaken, and they are stirred

    for they are the creatures of this night.
    In the small wee hours,
    their exuberance can not be contained,
    their joy can not be pacified.

    Visions of sugar plumbs do indeed dance
    in other children’s heads, but instead,
    these have opted for a chance to glimpse
    the legend upon which they have been raised.

    Eyes, so glazed and heavy, should be under
    sleep’s restful watch. But, who can sleep?
    Without a peep they slink, drinking in the scene.
    But, not a change is seen in the flicker of the lighted hearth.

    Suddenly, flames part and the brilliance they impart
    lights the hearts of ones so trusting. They’d be busting
    at the seams, but those dreams of sugar plums distract.
    The moment has arrived, as have I.

    They tense with joy, this good girl and boy watching,
    matching my spirit. A creak on the floor behind them.
    They turn, both, and see nothing.
    Reverting their stare, they see everything,

    But I am already gone. The tree lights fade
    and the embers return to their soft glow.
    They’ll never know for sure if I am,
    their belief is a constant struggle, but as they snuggle

    back into bed until morning, my warning brings sweet dreams.
    For goodness sake, they’ve been good. And I’m excited!
    I cannot contain myself, it is Christmas after all!
    And the gentle snowflakes fall. I am Santa.

  23. MiskMask

    Containment prompt, #2, A dream contained — I’m going to give this another shot. I hope no one minds.


    Bruce Boxleitner wants my camera.
    We’re contestants, a photo competition.
    You don’t deserve to win, he grins.
    The man’s obsessed by his own ambition.
    A flash of hand, he tries again.
    I run, my camera tight in hand.

    And just like that I’m on a stage
    Alone, I think. It’s intermission.
    A movement right , a floor board squeaks.
    Boxleitner’s arrived; a spark, a shot, a premonition.
    He’s set up a photo exhibition.

    And just like that the alarm bell rings.

    Awake for me, to sleep my dream.
    A dream, that’s all, and there he’ll stay.
    Boxleitner, two cameras,
    A peculiar apparition.

  24. Tracy Davidson

    Out of the Closet

    I shouldn’t have opened the door.
    Better to have left it firmly closed,
    padlock the damn thing even.

    But, no, curiosity got the better of me
    and now a lifetime’s worth of junk
    has rained down on my head.

    Clothes and shoes not worn in twenty years,
    tattered old school books, one still bearing
    a smudge of blood on one crumpled corner
    when Billy rammed a protractor into my palm.

    My High School diploma, pictures I drew
    in Art class, the shirt I made in Home Ec
    with one sleeve two inches longer than the other.

    A collection of love letters held together
    by the pink ribbon I wore in my hair
    at our Senior Prom.

    That was the night you first kissed me.
    And last night you kissed me goodbye.
    Now I cram everything back into the closet,
    pushing your ring in as far as I can reach.

  25. MiskMask

    My favourites today are Sara’s specimen poem, which made me smile for a very long time, Amy’s Set Them Free was total fun, Pearl’s poems about Kaitlin are always very touching, and last but not least as I think it’s my fav is Kimio’s Inbox. As a grandmother, I know all about that box; mine is stuffed to the brim and overflowing.

    There wasn’t one poem today that I thought was less than exceptional. I’m quite in awe.

    Marie: I did overlook your comment of yesterday, and I’m glad you set me off to find it. I’m touched. Actually, I feel a Sally Fields moment coming on.

    Pearl: I’ll have a chat with my inner critic. Thank you.

    And a very good morning to you all. Time difference and all that you know.

  26. shann palmer

    Six people, no music

    A bleak and inexpensive
    funeral for a insignificant man
    who’d been making do
    under a bridge off I-95
    in the shadow of the
    Governor’s School,
    he died without notice.

    Morrissett Funeral Home
    took care of his remains,
    his sister in charge from afar,
    in her email she said,
    “I loved my brother,
    but he didn’t love himself.
    Keep it simple.”

    She did insist he go to ground-
    since Rapture be here soon
    he would need some place
    to rise up whole and pure,
    be what he was before;
    a promise, a soldier,
    he deserved a decent bed.

    For a double sawbuck each,
    six men were picked up
    at the temp stop on Broad St.
    brown men to carry him down
    the hill to the family plot.
    They started to sing him out,
    but the box was heavy, enough.

  27. S. E. Ingraham

    Signed between the Blades

    A very young poet she is, newly minted
    And she came to me with her thoughts
    About her very first poem and the attachment

    She has to the words that she wants to contain
    In a way I cannot imagine, try as I did to understand
    It is not a short poem, not by any means, in fact

    Quite lengthy in stanzas, line length and words
    But she adores it all the same, and in her mind
    The only way she reasons she will have it forever

    She wants to have it placed permanently upon her back
    The shock of this solution must be written upon
    My face as she hastens to show me her other tattoos

    Reassuring me that she is not afraid of the needle
    And I, just as quickly, want her to know that I am not
    Frightened for her, of that pain, but worried about later

    Will she never regret that amount of poetry, even hers
    Splayed across her back, always, will she never want it gone?
    Never regret the eternal, everlastingness of a permanent poem?

  28. tanid boucher

    Will be back to your troubled entrance and allured premises
    Soon indefinite … stepping slowly knowingly between
    Streets, through faces I maybe have seen and talking
    Whispery about how everything changed and yet same
    City I long left and now every night dreaming off

  29. de jackson

    What Remains

    It takes its toll
    this loss
    things tossed
    into the sun and left to burn
    this yearning for something more
    without ability to store
    what she already owns,
    this unknown: that all she is
    cannot be held in word and phrase,
    must be whispered in wind and wave
    etched in sand
    spilled over edges
    into sea.

  30. Jacqueline Hallenbeck

    Cubicle Dreams

    He compared her to Ogden Nash
    She blushed at the compliment
    One more Open Mic under her belt

    Bless the job that pays her rent
    There is more to her underneath these scrubs

    It’s only a matter of time
    before she is discovered
    Boss coming
    Wake up

    (c) jh 11/4/10 11:52 pm. Jersey City time

  31. Jeanne Rogers

    November 4, 2010

    The Incarcerated

    The women’s prison visiting room
    fills quickly on this warm Sunday afternoon.
    My sister stands as we enter,
    bringing with us her youngest child,
    a son who lives with me.

    “Mommy, Mommy!”
    I turn, watch a young girl squeal
    toward her mother, launch
    herself into a hug.
    Another little girl and a newly-walking
    curly-haired boy join
    the embrace.

    Four hours pass
    in a frenzy of talk, two weeks worth
    of words, squeezes, play time.
    The announcement interrupts:
    time to leave.
    The three children crowd their mother
    on a bench in the outer yard,
    the daughters clinging to her neck,
    the son to her leg, all wailing;
    the father peels them free,
    one by one.

    The guards move us to our exit,
    the anguish of children growing
    ever louder as we approach
    the door. The mother of three sobs,
    silently, tries to smile,
    wave goodbye without tears.
    My nephew and I are at the back
    of the line, and as her children walk
    out the door, I see the exact moment
    her heart breaks free.