Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 150

As you might notice from my sophisticated numbering system, we’re doing the 150th Wednesday Poetry Prompt today. Yay! It’s amazing to think we’ve been writing so many poems on Wednesday for so long. Here’s hoping we’ve got another 150 in us.

For today’s prompt, write a poem that starts with someone else’s line. I’m sure this poem has a specific name, but I’ve been having trouble finding it (if you know the name, chime in below). Anyway, here’s what you do, use the line from another poet’s poem as the first line of your poem; between the title of your poem and the actual poem, write “After (poet’s name).” This way you give credit to the original poet and can feel free to take that line in a new direction.

Here’s my attempt:

“Free Will”

-After Ira Sadoff

Someone is always dying.
He knows the end is coming,
and there’s little he can do.

Another can’t stop living
even as the end approaches,
because she has no choice:

The show must go on or else
every butterfly and
every hurricane with

its furious wings beating
against the threat of colder
waters finishing it all,

their work will be for nothing.
Someone is always dying;
another can’t stop living.

*****

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*****

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84 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 150

  1. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    To Kill A Man
    (after Edwin Brock’s “Five Ways to Kill A Man”)

    There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man
    involving words, weapons,
    maybe even a freezer,
    but the weight of it all might prove
    too much for my delicate back,
    not to mention the cost involved
    in spite of the double coupons
    summer closeouts, and
    blue-light specials.
    If only there was a way to spread out
    payments for all this stuff,
    a kind of Layaway for
    –rope, duct tape
    roll of barbed wire
    ball peen hammer
    machete, baseball bat
    shiny new shovel
    gas can, latex gloves and
    a large 8×11 blue tarp,
    reinforced.
    And perhaps a blindfold,
    clean with bright paisley colors
    for the tears and the blood
    though he might not deserve
    even that much.

    © 2011 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  2. Mike Bayles

    Change of Weather

    After Elizabeth Bishop

    Think of the storm roaming the sky uneasily,
    brought by forces you cannot sees.
    Think of lightning flashes
    in a sky of green
    before the torrent of rain
    floods streets and swells streams
    with hardly a moment’s notice.
    Think of the clear sky that follows,
    a time of rest
    on a turbulent day.

  3. Bruce Niedt

    I didn’t fell entirely comfortable using this as a first line, so I used it as an epigraph:

    Unction

    Wrong solitude vinegars the soul;
    right solitude oils it.
    – Jane Hirshfield

    Olive, sunflower, peanut –
    it makes little difference
    what drops of gold we use
    to lubricate our lives.

    As they say, there is a world
    between being lonely and being alone.

    While vinegar stings the tongue
    that wants to spit back bitterness,
    oil smoothes the surface,
    a wisdom against friction.

    Even when they form an uneasy alliance,
    shaken in a cruet for the benefit
    of someone’s leafy greens,
    it is oil that always rises to the top,

    a paradox of heavy and light
    that seeks to anoint us all.

    1. Marianv

      To My Sister

      By Theodore Roethke

      “O my sister remember the stars the tears the trains”

      Those hot summer nights we couldn.’t sleep
      The lumpy mattress the sheet sticking to our legs
      And we would run outside and the grass the damp grass
      Tickling our feet our bare feet and our nighties floating
      Like wings and we would be angels angels on the ground
      Angels not flying angels dancing on the grass the damp grass
      while the big dipper sank down behind the trees the thick
      lush trees with their big leaves all black and whispering
      secrets tree secrets and we danced around the trees the dark
      lush trees that whispered and we were angels not flying but
      dancing on the damp grass in the night and the night train passing
      passing through and its whistle blew and it was time for angels
      to dance back into the house into their beds their sticky beds
      and fall asleep and dream of angels dancing with the trees.

  4. viv

    Winter
    after Norman Dubie’s poem The Boy Breughel, (half of the first line)

    The river groans, as its solid surface
    is forced against the bank.
    Earth protests the shackle of rime
    and willows weep, not knowing why.

    Small birds shiver,
    huddle in crevices in trees,
    hungry, yet afraid to fly,
    while kestrels search aloft in vain.

    Manacled in misery beside the hearth,
    illusion of warmth against
    the outside chill
    Everything slowed to hybernating rhythm

    waiting, waiting,
    for a Spring that never comes.

    © Vivienne Blake 2010

  5. Cat Ginn

    Of Those Who Were Older Than We… (A Limerick)

    After Edgar Allan Poe

    Of Those Who Were Older Than We…
    (There weren’t very many you see)
    Maybe we were not lasses….
    (maybe we needed glasses….)
    But maybe they were DEAD already!

  6. De Jackson

    Here
    – After Theodore Roethke

    One sigh stretches heaven.
    Arms wide,
    I absorb its absurdity
    filter earth’s lies through
    fingertip, flesh. Hold
    bitter breath behind
    tired tongue. One
    small echo tossed
    lost, I wander
    a sea of many streets
    longing to know my own bones.

  7. DanielAri

    “From eyeball earth”

    –After Gertrude Stein

    The trouble in both eyes
    does not come from
    the same symmetrical carpet,
    it comes from there being no more
    disturbance than in
    little paper.

    one FIELD is the over-arch
    of dark endless-out sky,
    all to all going out to dark lighting
    onward there, just there,
    nothing else but everything

    one OBJECT is ground,
    a ground,
    self-thing,
    created thing,
    flat pavement, runway,
    machine,
    moving machine,
    distant whirling of
    light machines

    one LAYER is reflective
    bounce of light on air,
    masking both
    field and object:
    someone approaches–their image
    in light traces on glass,
    words on a sign
    HTOUM OTAMOT YHW
    some mechanical shadow of
    a mechanism

    and then there’s
    one other SOMETHING…

    an aspect I can’t sense to name–
    the witnessing-ness
    the earthing thing,
    the hold that releases this,
    some kind of verb,
    some kind of numberless

  8. AC Leming

    Coughing up words

    Sometimes I spend the whole night coughing up
    the words which lodged in my throat all day.
    The words I could not force out for fear
    of your fist on my face, your fingers clenched tight,
    holding my jaw shut.  Sometimes I’d spend the night
    watching you sleep, pillow clutched in my hands,
    wishing to stop your breath just as finally as you
    silence my words.  I may bow down, avert my eyes
    from the danger in your gaze, but in the dead of dark
    I whisper my prayers to the sullen summer breeze,
    I shout them to the angry winter wind:  Bring me
    back my courage.  Bring me back my will to speak
    in the light what I dream of saying in the night.

  9. Mike Bayles

    Truth Teller

    After Sylvia Plath

    I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
    Every morning I will show every line of worry on your face
    as you awaken for the day. I know no lie.
    I will lie in shadows while you’re away
    while you spend the day, seeking acquaintances
    to help you see what you want to see,
    but every night you must come back to me
    while you try to put another day behind you,
    and from me you cannot hide.
    A soft light comes through your window
    while you drift along a sea of dreams,
    such as the life you lived in a summer cottage
    next to a pristine lake where you spent your youth.
    At night you view realities in many ways
    denied by the light of passing days
    while another life stirs inside you,
    the essence of dreams
    I cannot conceive.

  10. Mike Bayles

    Truth Teller

    After Sylvia Plath

    I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
    Every morning I will show every line of worry on your face
    as you awaken for the day. I know no lie.
    I will lie in shadows while you’re away
    while you spend the day, seeking acquaintances
    to help you see what you want to see,
    but every night you must come back to me
    while you try to put another day behind you,
    but from me you cannot hide.
    A soft light comes through your window
    while you drift along a sea of dreams,
    such as the life you lived in a summer cottage
    next to a pristine lake where you spent your youth.
    At night you view realities in many ways
    denied by the light of passing days
    while another life stirs inside you,
    the essence of dreams
    I cannot conceive.

  11. foodpoet

    After Woods

    After Robert Frost

    whose woods these are I think I know
    the trees are gone
    chewed to mulch
    snow covers only the hole
    ready for man machine
    to pave over nature
    the man in the village now city
    collects his green and leaves
    only rubble and a crop of townhouses

  12. Walt Wojtanik

    UNCLENCHED

    (After Pablo Neruda)

    Night became what we were all about.
    Whether seen or unseen holding you,
    I stole precious moments from the unaware.

    We were bathed in the brilliance of love,
    in full view from the top of the world.

    You are life’s currency, as golden
    as the early rays of sunshine.

    Into the vault of my desire I kept you safe,
    and you were attune to my emotions.

    So, where is your interest?
    A love shared is not love divided.
    Do my words speak to your heart?
    Will this emotion overtake your misgivings
    when we are distant from each other ?

    Written upon your soul, the parchment lays
    content to lick your wounds and heal you.

    It is forever in retreat that night recoils,
    the spoils claimed in victory; dispersed.

  13. Colette D

    After Emily Dickinson

    Wild nights — Wild nights!
    Were I with Emily
    My soul and hers c’d write
    Some wild poetry!

    Wild verse — Wild verse!
    With Emily and I
    Bolts of melody sh’d burst
    To shock a wild sky!

    But Wild words — Wild words!
    My domestic poetry
    W’d be the stuff of wild birds
    After Emily!

  14. cstewart

    Pablo Neruda 1934
    From:
    Las Furias Y Las Penas/
    Furies and Sorrows (1129), 1945

    (En el fondo del pecho estamus juntos,)

    In the depths of our hearts we are together.
    Truth and powers were our daily tribunal,
    And what we wrote as two came to pass
    For others who were not as lucky as us.

    Barcarole (107), 1934

    (Si solamente metocaras el corazon,)

    If only you would touch my heart..
    A place that has missed you like blood,
    Aching for your very innocence and consciousness,
    Passed by here forever like the body
    Of the wind that dies in June.

  15. cstewart

    Truth 1

    First line by:
    Emily Dickinson (435), 1890….

    Much madness is divinest sense…
    The heart does not censure truth.
    The head pulls the curtain,
    For reasons it knows.

    ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬_______________________________________________________________

    Truth 2

    First line by:
    Emily Dickinson (1129), 1945

    Tell the truth but tell it slant –
    With humor,
    Or a grain of salt,
    Or by completing the story –
    The next day,
    Or next week for those most closed.

  16. CatGinn

    This is my first try at Poetic Asides… Let’s see…. how about one for the poem, “Pride”

    Rocks (poetic asides #150)
    After: Dahlia Ravikovitch

    I tell you, even rocks crack,
    Building a chasm in their shield

    Even rocks, in the heat, bear
    The summer’s rage,
    Will not yield.

    In their prideful stance,
    Unending dance
    With nature’s frosty field….

    Rocks crack…

    But remember…
    Hearts are not something
    That they wield.
    So when rocks crack,
    Even a crying river cannot make
    Them whole again.

    But then again…
    Pebbles grow up.

  17. Shannon Lockard

    To Be Somebody

    –after Emily Dickinson

    How dreary – to be – Somebody!
    People watch your every move
    and expect great things and
    if you fail, disappointment
    fills the room.

    How dreary – to be – Somebody!
    People wish for your success and
    when you don’t jump the bar
    they rush to your defense;
    never leaving you to rest.

  18. Joseph Harker

    Between the Bridge and the River
    (after Mark Doty’s “Charlie Howard’s Descent”)

    Jason took me down there over Spring Break one year,
    when the water was still swollen (throbbing more
    than flowing), and we trudged in sneakers through what
    remained of last year’s leaves–

    brown stains clinging to our ankles, river-grime
    and March morning rubbed into our sleeves while we
    performed arithmetic of the tongues. Jason had
    hazelnut hair, I remember noticing–

    fanned out to a soft crown that caught faded graffiti
    within its tangles, snow and rust and mint colored scrawl
    faded after generations of trysts (under-bridge trolls
    with cocks and paint cans and nothing else to do–

    but kick rocks into the water and freeze
    when big boat cars rattled furiously by overhead)
    and if my mouth was full of Jason, and if
    I happened to read silently to myself–

    climbing crazy up the inside of the trestle’s grey arch
    was a verse of Howl, and along the water’s verge
    there was a cryptogram of ancient initials in
    heart-shaped cartouches, and further down–

    someone wrote FAGGOTS in ecstatic fuchsia paint,
    round the joists of the railing. It had bled
    into the cracks of the cement. It expanded, contracted,
    with the stone and the metal in the passing seasons–

    who had put it there? And why? And was it
    celebratory, suicidal, murderous? Jason had his eyes
    closed with pleasure. I thought of boys coming down,
    spraying their secrets in a corner of the world–

    and I thought of teenage skeletons slowly turning
    tannic under our feet. (I thought of misery
    loves company.) I thought of the sewer pipes
    half a mile down and the beautiful, eventual ocean–

    Jason didn’t want to stay long, he said, I have to
    get back home
    . We buttoned up, climbed the scarp
    where the first flowers began to soften the earth,
    though I kept looking over my shoulder–

    what do we leave in hidden places? Some of it
    we mean to, some of it we don’t. Some of it
    stares back, and anyone would think it was
    your own face, catching its breath like a ghost.

  19. Miss Mel

    “Nothing Gold Can Stay”

    After Robert Frost

    Nature’s first green is gold
    Its harm a blackest mold
    Subtle its reach for power
    Strikes in the darkest hour
    Shaken tenets of belief
    Delicate as a reef
    Ginger steps find a way
    Nothing gold can stay.

  20. Marie Elena

    “May I Join You in the Doghouse, Rover?”

    – After Ogden Nash

    Inflation is booming
    My mortgage is looming
    And I am presuming
    That after his grooming
    I won’t have enough to “make rent.”

    I ended up rooming
    With Rover, and fuming
    While odors were “blooming”
    From chow he’s consuming.
    Perhaps I should buy a pup tent!

  21. Andrew Kreider

    Many years ago, I heard a poem on the radio (I think) – or it was in a book – and I remember it beginning with the line “All words about death are meaningless.” It was a very important piece to me in that time – even had it printed and hung on our fridge. Then I lost the paper, and the title/author. I have often wished I could find it again. So, dear friends, this is an SOS – can any of you think of what the poem might be? No search engines have helped, which makes me think I must have the words wrong! Anyway, in honor of my missing poet:

    All words about death are meaningless

    After the crowds fled
    You swooped in, tore at my face.
    Crying, I held you.
    We roosted in your kitchen
    And you put the kettle on.

  22. Sara McNulty

    Cat Tricks

    (after William Carlos Williams, Poem)

    As the cat
    jumped
    over the dog

    to reach the
    tiled table top
    where treats

    were plentiful,
    the dog woke,
    covered in cat.

  23. SaraV

    Nice poems everyone! Robert thank you for the new poet to read–Ira Sadoff. Was trying to look up the full poem and found “My Mother’s Funeral” Wow. That was a powerful, beautiful poem.

    Here’s one of my favorite poems–very simple and tasty the whole poem is called “This Is Just to Say”

    Saying More

    -After William Carlos William

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold

    Purple skin chilled
    My mouth
    Coaxed it to open
    And delight in ruby flesh

    Plum juice sparkled
    On my skin
    Licking each rosy rivulet
    Off my fingers, palm and wrist

    I didn’t want to rinse
    Away the sweetness
    That started my day
    And instead to savor it, the way
    I savor you

  24. Jane Shlensky

    Fishing for Words

    After Ted Kooser

    Once you were young along a river, tree to tree,
    sure in your knowledge of swirling fish beneath the surface
    hungrily awaiting the swish and plop of your line and bait.

    Now the fish may well be there, although your vision blurs
    without your spectacles, the river is colder than your bones remember,
    causing an ache to surface wherever sprains and breaks have been,
    a tiredness rising with the mist off the water,
    as you balance two visions of the catch:
    the dogged work of it with the exhilaration of struggle
    and the taste of imagined success. You thumb through pages
    looking for lines of fresh trout you can share
    beside the sunlit river where they were spawned.

    You remember that young you like the fish itself,
    handsome and fluid in your element, wiser than man-made flies,
    uncaught by hardship, and you smile at how life has
    caught you off-guard and served you up.

  25. Tawny Powell

    Home(a)ge
    -After Jim Carroll

    But an unforced grace remains. Your generous silence
    Always given way to the absence of words
    No thoughts on tongue
    No second hands or thoughts revisited out loud.
    The crowd
    Swells.

    But you,
    You weep so often,
    So silently, weeping the woes of long lost others,
    A homage in self,
    to feel the other’s pain as your own.

    Oh you poet, you,
    Whisking away worlds of wisdom on your fingertips,
    Recanting long stories not your own
    But of loves not forgotten,
    Held calmly, assured in your heart and mind,
    Oh the things you carry,
    Whisked away by ocean tides and sunsets,
    Off to new lands,
    Your second hands will visit
    But where will you land?

    Oh poet, you lovely, lovely poet,
    Whisking worlds and hearts away with you,
    Their hearts are on your tongue,
    But what do you speak poet?
    When and how do you shine?

  26. leatherdykeuk

    The Learning Skin
    (after John Siddique)

    Rock crumbles under her fingertips.
    Yellow, the colour of English mustard,
    the colour of a tube of Naples Yellow
    when the oil has dried and the pigment has cracked.
    The rock is like that.
    It flakes and crumbled into tiny cubes a quarter-inch to a side
    leaving edges sharp as flint which cut her skin.

    Her middle finger is bleeding. Isn’t there a vein
    which runs from there to her heart?
    Or is that the ring finger.
    Either way her blood seeps out over her hand,
    down the underside of her arm,
    dripping off her elbow to be absorbed by the mussels
    clinging to the rocks below.

    She climbs higher.
    The wind is a roar in her ears,
    drowning out the sound of the sea far below.
    Freeclimbing on the Yellow Wall.
    Dangerous as shit and as exhilarating as any drug
    Four hundred feet up a sheer rock face
    with nothing but death below
    and seagulls above.

    At the top is a strip of grass a foot wide
    and a hundred yards to the walker’s path.
    She edges along,
    dodging gull’s nests and herring bones
    to the safety of tall grass
    and shelter from the crying wind.

  27. Debra Elliott

    Great poems everyone:

    Here’s my attempt:

    Seasons

    After Helen Steiner Rice

    Seasons come and seasons go,
    melt away with winter snow…

    Leaves fall and leaves blow,
    seasons end and seasons go…

    Changing direction with the wind,
    seasons end…

  28. laurie kolp

    Finding Myself

    (after Robert Frost)

    As I went down the hill along the wall
    cloaked in ivy climbing kelly green,
    I saw a diamond hiding ‘neath the leaves
    reflecting truth I not before had seen

    for in that gem a stranger did appear
    with probing eyes like headlights in the dark
    through which an open heart beaconing
    the image of myself His love did spark.

  29. taylor graham

    BY ACCIDENT

    (after Jere Odell)

    In mourning, all that is marvelous. Call it magic
    how we survive the roll-over crash at our gate –

    no one we knew, but still we keep a photo
    of the wreck. Each witness carries a long wake

    as the jaws of life shear away everything
    we counted on. Security of a steel box, safe

    cage of ribs to hold heart and breath. Gems
    of windshield glass on the shoulder, shaken

    like salt into the raw of dreams. Anniversary
    of disaster, and still the city floats on its lake,

    people dress for work, and mourning doves rise
    from the witness field. This magic, to be alive.

  30. Connie Peters

    Apparent
    After Eleanor Jewett

    To him with the heart for the seeing of things
    God’s mercy is discerned
    In a baby’s trust
    Rain for the unjust
    In His forgiveness to proud hearts turned

    To him with the heart for the seeing of things
    God’s grace is clearly seen
    In the sun and the clouds
    In the farmer’s plow
    And even in the lowly string bean

    To him with the heart for the seeing of things
    God’s love is evident
    In the mother’s will
    In the night so still
    On the cross where Jesus was spent

  31. Domino

    Wow, this was a challenge for me. All the same, here goes. ^_^

    Still, Passions, Still

    (after W.B. Yeats)

    O Heart, be at peace because
    Nothing more can be done
    To cure a love with all its flaws,
    To make two hearts be one,
    Or return the remiss love;
    It cannot be recovered.
    Though you pray to gods above;
    Though you wail; you beat, you flail;
    Fresh passion you’ve discovered;
    Poor heart, you cannot prevail.

    Learn the calm and lasting peace,
    Heart, they say will soon prevail
    With time and luck, the pain will cease,
    Be more mellow and more pale.
    Right now this bitter-sweet relief
    Is not what passion craves
    It throws itself upon the rocks
    It wants to rave, to storm!
    In time, if my poor heart behaves
    I know it can transform

  32. Justine Hemmestad

    “I take my people with me everywhere I go.”
    (poet anonymous)
    My people are simply those I love
    – of my mind and of my heart.
    My people seek out my past injustices as I do,
    And shine their light upon them.
    My people leave me breathless,
    For their courage is of my own.
    My people are not of this world,
    For no one knows their struggle like they do –
    Except me, for they are my people,
    And I am theirs’.

  33. Walt Wojtanik

    BATED BREATH

    in anticipation of words I planned to choose,
    my muse has been usurped. i cannot see
    through to the meaning of what this poem shall be.

    my acumen with wit has had a fit and sits
    silentlt ranting, nearly panting and wanting
    to be as expressive as always. but those words

    belabor my point. i shall not annoint them
    to dominance, for their prominence rests
    in their meaning and use. a definite abuse

    of the power of my words. much like the birds
    of the skies, my point lies buried deeply within.
    with baited breath we pray for a way to say our peace.

    Thanks Nancy!

  34. Nancy Posey

    Forgive me. I couldn’t resist using Yeat’s beautiful “Deep Sworn Vow” to take a jab at Facebook today:

    My Deep Sworn Curse
    (at Facebook)

    after William Butler Yeats

    OTHERS because you did not keep
    things as they were, may win my heart,
    my time. As, tired of finding change,
    without fair warning, I look elsewhere
    for news of my friends—all my friends—
    their thoughts and actions, photographs,
    minute by minute, second by second,
    a simple click away. Now, instead,
    I may perhaps turn away, reject
    all forms of conversation relying on fickle
    whim of someone I know not. I may
    pull a pen, fine vellum paper, stamp,
    and post a letter to my friends, one
    at a time, waiting days or weeks
    for my reply, the tension in that long
    delay, a titillation all its own. I may
    resort to ringing up those friends
    whose voices I’ve long forgot, knowing them
    only by their keystrokes, and even those
    filled in by some invisible force,
    in anticipation of words I planned to choose.

    1. Jane Shlensky

      Thoreau’s notion that no one has anything worth writing a letter about apparently did not include him, but I still like that anticipation of sending and receiving letters by other than virtual means. If FB is not going to be convenient for our momentary connections, it has no purpose in my day and won’t continue to be a part of it, so I dig you, girl.

  35. barbara_y

    The Ordinary Guy

    after William Carlos Williams
     _______Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

    According to Brueghel
    All the Flemish Greeks
    ignored flailing Icarus.

    Then we see homeless men
    drown to save lapdogs,
    and commuters risk hell 

    to roll a car, burning,
    about to explode,
    off a maybe dead man.

    Icarus who would rise
    melted like candlewax
    on Chianti, and fell.  

    Proud Superman, 
    who would die, rather
    than want their help.

    They turn away to bless you.

  36. ely the eel

    Please Give

    – after Kay Ryan

    If it please God,
    let it be less about me
    and more about them,
    the ones without.

    If it please God,
    let my wishes go,
    except the dreams of peace,
    the ones with hope.

    If it please God,
    let my goals not matter,
    but for the sharing with
    the ones who need.

    If it please God,
    let me be smaller
    but have the gifts be great,
    the ones from the heart.

    If it please God,
    let my days run no longer
    than I am useful and caring,
    the ones filled with kindness.

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