2011 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 16

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Once Upon a (Blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. Example titles could include: “Once Upon a Time,” “Once Upon a Moon,” or “Once Upon a Stage Accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature.” Hey, a poet can dream, right?

Here’s my attempt:

“Once upon a chair”

Climb onto a table
and call for daddy
to come get you–
unless you decide
it’s a good idea
to jump to the floor.
Then, ignore
that feeling that
maybe just maybe
this isn’t a good idea
and later–when
daddy is holding you
and saying, “It’ll be
okay,” and, “What
were you thinking”–
figure out what you
can climb on next.


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359 thoughts on “2011 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 16

  1. Lovely Annie

    I have been playing around with the cinquain…this poem reads better centered…check out the formatted version on my blog: http://wp.me/p10J0o-Bl

    “Once Upon A Star”

    The dreams
    of a child found
    in the space of wise ones.
    Where the sword and the stone are bound
    with the
    of two souls coming together
    to awaken entire
    kingdoms with just
    one kiss.
    These words
    dropping slowly
    as ink becomes paper
    fulfilling all dreams wished on that
    first star.

  2. barton smock

    once upon a hill

    an older boy I thought a cross
    took my stomach
    for an arrow’s head and science
    book. took my breath for brother’s
    bike. removed my father’s glasses
    to kick dirt in my eye. rode off.

    I thought I’d eat my hands, but threw them up.

    brother would be sad, father angry.
    my mother would be smooth hip
    and jut elbow-
    a plus sign.

  3. NomiWrites

    Once Upon a Day in the Woods

    The woods are dangerous, she said
    Full of hippies and moldy, decaying things
    Like old memories and discarded scraps of life

    I ignore her and plunge in
    Crunching twigs and leaves beneath patent leather pumps
    Strange shapes emerge from fallen stumps
    Birds screech, twitter
    Music blares from smoke-filled lean-tos.

    I wanted to be brave Gretel
    On an adventure
    Seeking a gingerbread cabin to nibble
    Wickedness to confront
    I found only
    Deer fenced in their natural habitat
    Bright church-coming families in gloves and hats
    Laughing and shouting praises to the Creator
    Hunters-plaid and rifle clap hinting at danger beneath the foliage

    Straying from the path, I saw
    Houses nestled below us in the mist
    Streaks of winged things and furry flight
    Through tear-filled sight
    Lost and alone I learned
    Beauty could not conquer fear

    The woods are dangerous, I say
    Betraying innocence and trust
    With seeds of fear

  4. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    once upon a red sweater
    by juanita lewison-snyder

    once upon a red sweater
    that i now wear about my own shoulders like a shrine to you.

    each time i slip it on i can

    still see your silver creep in around my moon face
    still smell the stoke of a good wood fire as you lay a kettle down
    still taste the cilantro and chilitos of posole in your kitchen
    still hear the gulls frock and tussle upon the white beaches of mazatlan
    still feel your ghost in the threads of a red sweater i inherited upon your death.

    i want to set you free but i don’t know how.

    © 2011 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  5. annell

    Once Upon a Rolling Sea
    On deck the captain
    Spied the lighthouse bright
    The sea a light brilliant flue
    Yellow lemon drop sky
    Surrounds the sun
    A big red blood shot eye
    Balanced on the flat horizon
    Far as the eye can see

    We walked up on the shore
    To picnic in the shade
    Of one lone pine tree
    Which welcomed us to dine
    Beneath its’ branches full

    Little black and white boat
    The bow pointed out to sea
    Tied to the shore
    As I am tied to thee


  6. Judy Roney

    Once Upon a Neighborhood

    We see proof, we know you are there
    though you hide in cars that pass me by
    no acknowledgement to my waving hand.
    Your garage door opens, automatically,
    closes before you get out of your car,
    before I can see you and know who you are.

    I wonder if it’s because we are older now,
    no children to get to know you through,
    or if this is the Twilight Neighborhoods of today
    where no one knows, no one speaks, no one
    sees the other. How do they get their mail?

    I feel like a ghost walking a tiny dog
    down the empty, quiet streets, my head
    tilted at the houses for signs of life. My lips
    form the word, I whisper and then I shout, Boo!

    1. cstewart

      Once Upon a Specific Latitude

      Once she was there.
      In the place that was most full.
      Of kisses and embraces and kindnesses.
      She lost all sense of time and space.
      And had to get out her compass,
      And look for true North,
      To find her way home.

  7. Marian O'Brien Paul

    Once Upon a Lie

    Bir varmış bir yokmuş –
    In Turkish that means
    “Maybe it happened, but
    maybe it didn’t.” That’s
    how Turkish fairy tales
    begin, according to our
    Turkish language teacher.

    Our “Once upon a time”
    claims that it did happen
    and if memory let us, we
    could mark it on the clock;
    whereas Turkish tale tellers
    wink an eye, allowed to lie.
    The listener gets to decide.

  8. Sibella

    I couldn’t make this prompt work for me. Everything I got came out arch, snarky, saccharinely whimsical, pointlessly punny. So I changed it a bit.


    At nine, as I lay awake in the small hours,
    I imagined half-death. I saw myself grown up

    (sixteen), nearly perfected. I was stolen

    by someone deranged: a monster, if the sick
    are monsters. My lungs, my blood filled

    with undetectable poison, I lay asleep

    (no breath, no pee, no sin) in a dark grove.
    He would find me just in time.

    He would cry over me.

    He would press me to his warmth;
    he would offer his life for mine.

    He would not kill the monster.

    The monster would be gone,
    undetectable, out of the frame.

    I would live, I would love, and then,

    unless I’d worn myself out to sleep,
    it would start again, a story

    that never quite ended.

    Pamela Murray Winters

  9. Michelle Hed

    Once Upon a Wish

    I once was ill
    quite sickly and pale,
    I was too ill to laugh,
    I was too frail.

    I wished upon a star
    every night,
    I wished upon pennies
    thrown within my watery sight.

    I wished for a miracle
    a healing touch,
    I wished for deliverance
    this life was too much.

    I started to feel better
    getting stronger a bit,
    I could chuckle again
    thanks to my returning wit.

    I am stronger now
    but never cured,
    I am laughing again
    although my life is unsecured.

    I do not know
    what the future will bring,
    but my life is my own
    and for now it’s on the upswing.

  10. Michelle Hed

    Here is my bad limmerick for the day…

    Once Upon a Stroll

    Once upon a meandering stroll
    I met a hairy, one-eyed small troll.
    He looked me up and down,
    I gave him my best frown.
    Dancing to heart and soul was my toll.

    …I really should quit trying to write these, my funny bone is always broken when I do. 🙂

  11. Dan Collins


    You frightened me
    all of Halloween.
    This will be simple, you said;
    a small sting, an IV for contrast.
    We were hoping
    that you would show us
    that you would explain
    with your thumping
    voice and circular logic.
    But you said nothing
    and the image of my spine
    was only a skeleton.
    So I’m back to ask,
    once again.
    Let me tell you first
    that I am happy, and have
    just started to unfold
    into the bounty. I will give
    thanks this November
    for my good fortune.
    But, I want to know
    why you come now
    with this dark grey matter.

  12. Walt Wojtanik


    Once, upon a hillside dreaming,
    as clouds driven by winds passed
    overhead, I though I heard a voice.
    Speaking, the hushed tones drew
    my eyes to search for the source.
    And of course, being alone once
    upon a hillside, dreaming of people
    who have influenced my life, but
    were no longer there to tell me
    if they had heard the voice,
    I could not be sure if I had even heard.
    Once upon a hillside dreaming
    a bird landed on a branch overhead,
    and I said hello. I do not know
    if it understood a word I said,
    but it remained overhead listening,
    but I only said it once.
    Upon a hillside, dreaming of a face
    where I can place the tender kiss
    of love’s passion, I heard a voice.
    No bird in sight, the sky was bright
    and the clouds ventured to other climes.
    But I wrote the words, once upon
    a hillside dreaming, and continued
    to write each word I heard. It spoke
    of the longing in my heart, and
    I started to trust its message,
    the gentle massage of a time worn
    love. And from above, once upon
    a hillside dreaming, as clouds
    driven by winds passed overhead,
    I though I heard a voice speaking.
    It came from within. From whisper
    to din it filled me in with the wonder
    of those well-turned words, amused
    by the muse that boiled in my ear.
    Each word I did hear, end up here,
    once upon a hillside dreaming.

  13. zevd2001


    Once upon a computer we
    took a ride to where everything
    was real,.
    The system analysts warned us
    not to get enthusiastic
    that our calculations might lose their value.

    our capital gans shrink., Without a future
    no bubbles in the air
    and the fan dancers supply the electricity..
    .Everything front

    in banner headlines. What you see
    is what you get on rows of tables, Black and white,
    in color if your prefer. Touchable piles
    of hard copy, no screens between you and
    the information. There is free coffee and donuts while

    you absorb what you read. It might take time
    to get used to this.
    Your eyes will learn
    how to dig into the page, Once over might not be

    enough. Yet
    if you are lucky, the paper you hold
    will imprint its message into your mind
    wherever you go. Like magic, numbers
    appear on lists, look Ma, no keyboard. Words
    with multiple meanings, images that multiplies
    like wild flowers on endless fields. Yes,

    Nothing more and nothing less than
    what is inside you, a garden that
    never stops never stops growing.

    Zev Davis

  14. ab-troubadour

    once upon a bouquet of flowers
    young lovers stall on doorsteps
    butterflies aflutter
    before a declaration of emotion
    heartstrings aflame 
    by fragrant breezes of red and pink
    timid as school children, they ring the bell
    hope illuminating their faces
    and fall into the sweet trap
    of moonlit sentiment
    and maybe,
    if destiny hides no starry shadows
    they will love, happily ever after

    once upon…
    Prompt: write a poem replacing the X in “once upon a X.”

  15. KathyintheWallowas

    once upon .. and so on

    greetings and … the letters began
    my fellow … ask not what… ask….
    and salutations, Americans, your
    country, t’is of …, sweet land of…

    what’s a country to do, with an
    elegant anthem set to the tune …
    (hint: a good old men’s drinking
    song). and here on the table, a

    20,000 word … on the price of
    cabbages and kings, seventeen
    seventy-six style. oh say can you…
    where do we take it, from…?

  16. seingraham

    Once Upon a Beautiful Horse

    I remember driving down a country road searching
    for I knew not what
    My heart was aching for fear my father was dying
    And I had no answers nor any thoughts on how
    to ease his pain, or my own
    Then, rounding a bend, I came upon a field with horses
    And slowing, as if in a dream, I parked, got out
    Went to the fence and as I approached, you lifted
    Your head, stared straight into my eyes and in synch
    We moved towards each other

    I know how odd it sounds but I’ll never forget you
    How you came to me every day I drove there
    How you would trot to me, then swing your great head
    Over the split-rail fence and let me lay my cheek
    Against the warmth of your mighty neck
    And sob my sadness into your mane
    Allowing me to stroke your velvety nose all the while

    Throughout that summer and fall, you were ever
    Faithful to me as I visited several times a week
    In the waning of my father’s life
    I came to believe you were what made it possible
    For me to get through that time
    Knowing after I’d been with my father
    I could go to you and be comforted
    By your equine equanimity
    Your seeming surreal empathy with me

    After Dad died I still visited you a time or two
    But it didn’t seem to matter to either of us
    Quite as much … my wondrous beautiful horse

  17. posmic

    Once Upon a Root Beer Float

    In the soda shop of someone else’s mind
    we’re all just another dollop of fizz and foam.
    There’s nothing on the jukebox now; dreams
    don’t really work that way. Or maybe there is
    some unrecognizable tune of your own
    midnight invention, a garbled mess of
    a pop tune from long ago, now combined
    with aphorisms and the bits of no-sense
    that drift through the mind like floaters
    across your aging retina. This is what
    it means to get old, perhaps; you dream of
    soda shops, or of other people dreaming of
    soda shops that contain you, or at least
    a dream of you, a spoonful of your song.


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