Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 127

I hope you’re ready for the 2011 April PAD Challenge that begins in two weeks! Click here for more details.


For this week’s prompt, I want you to respond to a poem that’s already been written. It could be one of Shakespeare’s sonnets or a more contemporary poem by someone like Mary Oliver or Robert Bly. Heck, you could even respond to other poems on this thread.

If you need some help finding a poem, respond to one of these:

Here’s my attempt (responding to Patricia Fargnoli’s “The Undeniable Pressure of Existence“):

“Fox trotting along the road”

Watch, if you must, the way I run and keep running
past one point and another without stopping
even as it looks like I must quit at any moment,
that the world and its gravity will finally pull me down
to the earth to rest, but I won’t let anything stop me
until that moment rushes in on me without warning,
just lights and metal, maybe the shrieking skid of tires
from the slow reaction of someone like myself running
on empty toward anything that gets in my way.


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87 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 127

  1. Dennis Wright

    I apologise my responding to this prompt so late. I went on a bit of a search. I researched anthologies and books by poets, but nothing struck me. I grew weary of going to my library and picking up another book. I could respond to poetry street, but I’ve done that before.

    I went to a store, picked up poetry books randomly, and bought the first book that had a poem that struck me. The first poem I saw was "Outside the Diner". In the first verse the poet deescribe someone so low as being beneath cynicism. Wow!

    I use the word cynicism in the philosophical sense: That the ultimate in human behavior is to live like dogs. The central notion of this philosophy is anti-coinage and the founder wanted to destroy all the money in the world. The poets statement was drawn so clear in this verse it struck me as sharp and that I had something to say in response.

    Thom Gunn was a British poet who moved to San Francisco and took on a bohemian lifestyle. He wrote passionately about HIV Aids as he watched his partner die from the disease. I admire his advocacy and courage to stand up for himself as gay, even as I question his drug use. In his poem he writes about an addict.

    Different Diner, Same Outside
    (After Thom Gunn)

    There is a place and time
    where hunger strikes the youth:
    where hunger strikes the old.
    But mistake not conviviality,
    for fellowship upon the sea.

    For we often make this world
    garbage outside a diner where
    some will live and wait
    to eat what a dog leaves,
    on greasy paper with ease.

    And there are empty cars
    with front and back seats,
    that are rooms with wheels
    in a world without money:
    shelter for one and a buddy.

  2. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    (Cheeky Response to the poem, "Red Red Rose," by Robert Burns)

    Get Over It
    by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    Get over it, Burns.
    Roses are so … yesterday
    and dont’cha know,
    June is the new December?!
    I’ll never be your bonnie lass
    no matter how many times
    you fare thee well me,
    so tuck away your saber
    and sober up Mr. Burns
    for tomorrow
    this modern woman
    will be ten thousand more away
    from spooning your sorry
    backwoods hour glass!

    © 2011 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  3. Walt Wojtanik


    She lays confused, lonely, cold
    in a world where warmth was never
    her strongest point. But she waits

    unknowingly for the synapse to fire
    a brief link to past thoughts;
    sparks of memory to catch and ignite

    the life she has lived. It gives
    her as sense of self that lasts
    sometimes for the blink of her eye.

    She cries at the futility.
    Tears, the utility of every broken heart
    start to stream, teeming within red and tired eyes,

    a life as seen through her vision
    sits in contrast to her existence.
    Days numbered and passing unnoticed.

    She sees her young neice as an old friend
    from a neighborhood that had died years ago.
    A photo of the girl’s father, her brother,

    sparks a smile with the recognition.
    Then her condition takes control and
    her stroll down memory lane ends.

    Each day starts and ends in darkness.
    Every moment in between holds
    a murkiness of its own. Aunt Jane lingers.

    Fingers curled and fisted, clutching
    prayer beads, or maybe the last moments of life.
    Her memory fades and she does not remember.

    Prelude to:

    "She Does Not Remember" by Anna Swirszczynska

  4. Walt Wojtanik


    There is no book I like, so friggit!
    The labels on cereal boxes will suffice.
    Their worth is found without a turn of page,
    the nutritional information sure reads nice.

    But, when the crunch has left the flakes and bud,
    a new edition must be scanned and read;
    The Daily News is fine for bird and mutt,
    but, as for me I’ll take frosty flakes instead.

    Reply to:

    "There is No Frigate Like a Book" by Emily Dickinson

  5. Sam Nielson

    Broken Bones

    None of mine, officially,
    Though phlanges surely

    My father’s leg
    By a colony of honeybees

    At night. A daughters ulna
    On meeting a late night floor.

    Bone folding tool taken
    From the right rear shin

    Of a French cow forcing
    Paper pages where

    They ought not to go. A
    Deer scooped by car and helped

    Off the highway at dusk.
    A pedestrian near me hit

    By a flash past-ing bicyclist
    The thud felt, teeth & stomach

    Slow waltz cresendos in a
    Walking fractured foot

    A red-faced lion and multiple
    Cracks of springbok

    Pardon me Robert Frost,
    "These I can unlearn to love."

  6. Walt Wojtanik


    Fingers poised over hard plastic,
    keyboard clicks and ticks of that internal clock.
    Three O’Clock and I toil at work and my craft;
    a multitask I am married to. Working to live,
    and writing my poems. One of these days I’ll
    show them what my muse brings to the table,
    no longer a storied fable, but a bonafide ride
    into poetry relevance. A chance to express
    to the masses what my heart has felt for years.
    But, the biggest fears I’ve always faced
    were laced with trepidation and embarrasment.
    Self-loathing and harassment make my criticism
    a scism to all that I’ve held dear. But, right here,
    right now, I vow to make a go of it for my protection.
    A poetry collection and a quarter won’t buy me coffee.
    But, I drink to much damn coffee anyway!

    Response to:

    "An Ode to Poetry Collections" by Robert Lee Brewer

  7. Uma Gowrishankar

    Sisters That Bet

    The sisters moved away from the valley –
    Kadru didn’t want anything of the forests and hills
    marshes and darkness that left her depressed;
    they moved to a low cliff close to the sea,
    she sunned on the rocks waiting for her thousand eggs to hatch.

    Vinata collected stones and twigs, built a nest
    with wind-swept feathers, dry leaves,
    cradled her golden egg in cosyness of care,
    bordered the nest with a levee of sharp stones.
    Waited warily for the serpents her sister would birth.

    Kadru was fatigued cracking the eggs,
    reaching for her thousand serpent babies,
    throwing away the shells that built like a small hill of foam.
    The children looked through slits of glass eyes
    reached for the warm crevices of rocks.

    Not one given to parenting she fed her babies
    for a day or two rats and fledglings,
    then she went to her favourite rock
    lay there looking at the clouds above the sea
    that changed shapes ever so often.

    Kadru was disgruntled with her brood – she
    had asked Kashyapa for a thousand sons, but Vinata
    as always outdid her, asked for one son to surpass Kadru’s thousand.
    Jealousy stirred like a python when Kadru saw Vinata’s golden egg
    as it lay on the rock to collect sunshine for five hundred years .

    Vinata kept busy having the egg warm at night time
    protected it from the cold sheets of wind that blew from the sea –
    she built a clay oven where she placed the egg ;
    through the day she watched the knotted coils of serpents
    as they moved on rocks, foraging for prey.

    Kadru annoyed with the clamour her hungry sons made,
    busyness of her sister clambering the rocks,
    moved close to the sea, walked on the cool strand of sand .
    She thought she saw an apparition in the horizon –
    just a family of clouds gathering into a thunder storm?

    That is Indra’s horse, Vinata pointed to the horizon.
    Kadru scowled. The seven headed white horse
    that emerged like a foam from the ocean of milk. Uchaishravas.
    Vinata’s lips rounded around the name
    the way it did sensuously when Kashyapa told her the story:
    distracted he had stooped and taken hers in his.

    Not all white Kadru said, let’s fly close to the horse,
    if it’s not all white I become your mistress.
    Running her fingers over the veins on the shell Vinata smiled.
    Spent with lovemaking as they awaited pink dawn
    Kashyapa narrated stories that she listened lying on her stomach.

    The sisters flew like wisps of breath emerging disappearing in the blue,
    the fish looked at the sprites waving thin arms, propelling as they flew,
    like little girls they giggled rolled over as their skirts tossed ,
    like translucent marble their thighs shone in the morning light.
    Uchaishravas looked at the two beautiful women skimming the ocean,

    unaware of the serpents, the ugly sons of Kadru, on his tail
    that crawled like lices, black shot trough silver – making him not all white.

    (This is the end part (beginning?) of the three poems that I have written on Garuda.

    Following time order becomes problematic when there is no linear narration of events. Time in Hindu belief system moves through cycles of creation and destruction, end and beginning become synonymous : Pralaya wipes away the world only for the creation to replicate the world that has been destroyed. Srimad Baghavatham begins with someone’s end, reading the puranas presupposes moving through narratives, going back to read a story that began at the end. The motif of a snake swallowing itself with its tail in the mouth explains the non linear, cyclic nature of story telling.

    ‘Sisters That Bet’ is written to the prompt from Poetic Asides where we are asked to respond to a poem that’s already been written. Yes, I am responding to Vyasa who is claimed to be the author of Srimad Baghavatham. But Vysa allowed his son Suka to narrate the stories to Parikshit the grandson of Arjuna. And the stories get their existence as a body of work only in this retelling. So who is the author? )

  8. Michelle Hed

    The Hostler

    In the dark old inn-yard, the barn door creaked
    where Tim the Hostler, out the door he peaked;
    He heard the trot-trot, trot-trot of the Highwayman coming near,
    here now would be his comeuppance,
    the highwayman’s comeuppance,
    Tim the Hostler’s face was grinning from ear to ear.

    He heard the musket boom that night,
    he could see her slumped form in the moonlight;
    She died to warn her one true love,
    never knowing another hovered near,
    always watching, hopeful, near,
    The tears slid down his face as he watched the mourning dove.

    The next day mad with grief, the Highwayman was shot down,
    they say the lover’s meet for all eternity when the land in darkness is bound;
    Tim the hostler went mad with rage,
    at being denied his prize,
    love unrequited, never his prize,
    He lived for years, blind and alone, his heart blackened and shriveled with its cage.

    In response to ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes

  9. Walt Wojtanik

    NEAR THE ERIE TRACK (The House With None of Us In It)

    I do not venture there anymore.
    The old homestead near the Erie track
    stands in an unrecognizable state.
    The tales I’ve been told of our old house are tragic.

    The house is empty, a haunted house bears more life.
    The sharp contrast cuts like a serrated knife,
    shredded, tattered edges and shards of memory
    laid to waste and leaving a bitter taste in our mouths.

    Generations stacked three high would cry
    a collective tear if they went near the Erie track.
    In fact, many more would shed when the fact enters their heads
    that there’s nobody in the house worth a mention.

    I cringe with a strain; a tension winding my spring
    until I release and cease to be rational.
    A right and traditional home; a suitable sanctuary,
    it is scary how quickly it has fallen. It is hard

    to imagine a manicured yard and bountiful garden left barren,
    I wouldn’t care if the years of my making weren’t taking
    their toll on my memory. There is nary a day that goes by
    that I do not try to recall her as our domain. All that’s left is pain.

    Indeed, she offered us all that a house should, it was good
    that warmth and shelter were felt in her embrace.
    We played no part in her disgrace; this place is no longer
    ours to concern over. We’ve grown stronger in our absence.

    I do not venture there anymore. That place,
    that house with none of us in it. I do not look back.

    Response to:

    “The House With Nobody In It” by Joyce Kilmer

  10. Walt Wojtanik


    Winsome in her youth, a beauty
    in these eyes as seen over the distance
    of many years; many tears under the bridge.
    Photographs of her and my father,

    larger than life; man and wife combatants,
    rampant with passion and vitriole.
    A loving soul, mother of seven
    eternally resting in whatever heaven

    Mother are assigned. Always on my mind
    when the demons of youth rear their heads,
    ugly and demeaning as seen over the distance.
    She still offer comfort in every memory

    I can conjur. I see her in every new day;
    in the sway of wind swept leaves or
    the fragrance a new spring brings.
    It takes me home where she held fort.

    Inspirational and surely sensational
    you will always be, Mom!

    Reply to:

    “Memory of My Father” by Patrick Kavanagh

  11. Walt Wojtanik


    Like cats and dogs
    I see us. Confrontational
    and unconditional.
    All traditional modes
    of communication
    have been broken down
    and tossed into the street.
    We agree to disagree,
    and see both sides of
    every argument as winnable,
    as long we sit upon that fence.
    We have no defense
    except to claw at each other
    and let the chips fall.
    You meow and hiss,
    I yip and yap. Neither
    speaking the same language.
    We recoil; you skitter up a tree.
    I bark up the wrong one.
    I see us as cats and dogs.

    Response to: “You and I” by Roger McGough

  12. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    Oh Robert…delighted that you were nit disturbed and count me as one of your merry band of supporters…. I just couldn t see the negative comments… for which I am delighted. May….hem away!

  13. Joseph Harker

    Well, I feel a little bit sheepish about this, but… I totally wasn’t even aware that there was a controversy going on until I was informed this evening. o_O It’s probably for the best that I’m unaware of everything that happened; but I want to say thank you to Amy, Barbara, Bruce, de, RJ, and Robert for your support, and to everyone who did not fan the flames of bigotry. You guys make this a place a pleasure to be a part of, and it’s reassuring to know that when one is too busy to check in on personal attacks that may or may not be happening, there are others willing to come to the defense of decency.

    Hopefully I won’t cause so much mayhem in the future… :)

  14. Mr. Walker


    I fell in love with a girl
    from the other village
    I was out with my brothers
    sowing their fallow fields with salt
    She was out with her sisters
    sinking arrows into our sheep
    We hate them and they hate us
    I was supposed to rise into love
    with one of my own, to belong
    But I loved the way the light
    gleamed off the sweat on her skin
    her skin that was the wrong color
    I wanted to sneak off at night
    to hold her in my embrace
    and look at the stars and listen
    to the stories of her elders
    the false myths of their sky heroes
    and the pagan gods they believe in
    My righteous passions would fill me
    and I would conquer her, invading,
    my sex touching her sex
    the two others meeting as they should
    But I told my brother of my love
    and now I scrawl these traitorous words
    on my cell wall in my own blood
    which my brothers will spill tomorrow at dawn.

    Written in response to "The People of the Other Village" by Thomas Lux.

  15. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    Whoops! The above submission was actually another site…..but it works here for Emily Dickinson " …the thing with feathers.". Enjoy Sunday to all!

  16. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik


    Skipping in her summer dress
    through green grassed
    yellow daisies
    singing wishes
    to a blown bare
    certain someone hears

  17. Taylor Graham

    James Wright, "A Prayer to Escape…."


    Give up the blindness of lies.
    I’ll lie down speechless as a dog,
    my hands to tell her there is no death
    inside of death, as breath
    is only wind.
    And then
    as a bird flies, she’s flown,
    her shadow skimming earth beside
    the trusting road.

  18. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    In response to

    …there was a young lady
    from Nantucket……

    You know what it!

    ( is there really going to be more commentary on commentary! So, many wonderful responses to the prompt …but my response springs from my confusion about Joseph’s poem … and mean spirited comments… I am lost!
    As a child my grandfather would come into the middle of an animated family conversation and repeatedly ask " who? who?". I feel like he must have felt right now….
    Well enjoy the beginning of Spring and have a good weekend.
    Anyone who feels like enlightening me knows here to find me…
    .FYI I agree that no matter how egregious some might find another’s POV we have the ability to respond to the ideology NOT the individuals with an inspired poem…. )

  19. Daniel Ari

    One more, after "I Knew a Woman" by Theodore Roethke, one of my all-time favorites, and linked from my name below.

    "This woman I know"

    Could I paint that woman’s truth in a trillion strokes,
    portray how her features—like white shorebirds in flight
    skim over sand skin in fierce flocks—before I’m stuck,
    transfixed on any bright detail—how she delights
    us both losing her whole sense in just the right joke—

    how she flies our lives in her whimsy’s winds, two kites
    held aloft—and held up—by the strings in her hand?
    Hers is the private tide of points and counterpoints
    at which I sigh, then rise to the acts of a man
    until I tire, until we retire—thus, lucky.

    She summons the council, advocates for the dance
    with dances of lavender buds and sandpaper.
    The same wind that whips her hair stills her turbulence.
    A soul warrior must be her own enabler.
    Standing close (except for hiccups), everything’s right—

    at the end of day to feel her rubbing the shape
    of infinity on my back, kissing generations on my nape.


  20. Daniel Ari

    Great poems this week!
    I think it’s empowering for us to tap excellent poetry as fuel for our own creation.

    de: wow! very nice take on cummings.

    RJ: you always make me smile.

    and Bruce — holy Toledo! "What’s Fixed" is a real gift – and I’m right with you.

  21. Walt Wojtanik


    So he bores the masses.
    Any classless perversion of his vision,
    is in derision to the God who made him. And you.

    But, his words, they float;
    winged and flamboyant, spread to
    educate and extricate. Love lives

    within the heart of "everyman",
    beating; a pulse vibrant and liberated.
    Why should he be hated and denegraded when his voice smacks angelic.

    The relic of conformity has been worshipped to death
    and every last breath drawn becomes the one breath
    that rescusitates a brotherhood into action.

    Retraction is a horrid self-censoring whore.
    Contraction is a retreat from a life well lived.
    Distractions do not sway the voice as it plays

    in the ears of all that have once loved or crave to be.
    Sing the right song, Angel. Release the one hidden from view.
    It’s the one you love to sing. Most of us asses outside of the masses
    love the words you bring. Rule the day, you have much to say.

    Response to:

    "Voice of an Angel" by Byron D. Howell

  22. J. Walraven

    Technically, this is in response to a song, "Gone" by Ferlin Husky but I wanted to post this here in honor of his passing.

    "done gone"

    She called it hillbilly music.
    listening to tales of heartbreak,
    helping it down, first, with beer,
    then whiskey and water,
    wondering why her snow-white dove
    had been delayed.
    Shot down, I expect,
    like happiness in a world without horizons
    only haze filled yesterdays,
    already gone.

  23. Walt Wojtanik

    Clenched Soul by Pablo Neruda                                      UNCLENCHED by Walt Wojtanik

    We have lost even this twilight.                                   Night became what we were all about.
    No one saw us this evening hand in hand                      Whether seen or unseen holding you,
    while the blue night dropped on the world.                    I stole precious moments from the unaware

    I have seen from my window                                        We were bathed in the brilliance of love,
    the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.         in full view from the top of the world.

    Sometimes a piece of sun                                            You are life’s currency, as golden
    burned like a coin in my hand.                                     as the early rays of sunshine.

    I remembered you with my soul clenched                      Into the vault of my desire I kept you safe,
    in that sadness of mine that you know.                        And you were attune to my emotions.

    Where were you then?                                                 So, where is your interest?
    Who else was there?                                                    A love shared is not love divided.
    Saying what?                                                               Do my words speak to your heart?
    Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly           Will this emotion overtake your misgivings
    when I am sad and feel you are far away?                     when we are distant from each other ?

    The book fell that always closed at twilight                   Written upon your soul, the parchment lays
    and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.   content to lick your wounds and heal you.

    Always, always you recede through the evenings            It is forever in retreat that night recoils,
    toward the twilight erasing statues.                              the spoils claimed in victory; dispersed.

  24. Bruce Niedt

    Here is a sort of "response poem" I wrote a while ago – I hope no one minds me sharing it here:

    Slowing Down
    (after "Postscript" by Seamus Heaney)

    Keep the sun ahead of you, always the pursuer,
    to where rocks and green collide recklessly,
    and wind is substantial, an almost living thing,
    the light and the ocean, in the dance of shortening days,

    tearing, biting away at the season,
    where stones are marble-polished from years at sea,
    and further in, the lake moves with translucence,
    where swans glide, uncovering the water in flashes.

    They rear up and flap in protest to the animal wind,
    necks curling and uncurling, calligraphy S’s,
    that thrust underwater, where mud-bound frogs are not safe.
    Even with your camera, that most imperfect eye, you will not capture this.

    You are some place in-between, where time is on holiday,
    and everything comes uninterrupted, not caring whether you understand,
    and the wind rocks you, as though to tease the child in you,
    and creaks your rusty hinges into service.

  25. Bruce Niedt

    I must have missed whatever comments may have been made disparaging of Joseph, but let me add my name to the list of fellow poets who whole-heartedly support his work and his right to express himself here.