Your Monday Creativity Wake-Up Prompt: The Man Who Speaks in Poems

Here’s to the start of a new writing week (and, to the pending premiere of Lost)!

WRITING PROMPT: The Man Who Speaks in Poems
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings (how about we do one Friday?). If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, feel free to e-mail your story to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.

Write a prose story about a man who speaks only in poems.

Photo: (c)

Get Creative in 2010: Tap into inspiration. Learn strategies for making time to write. Plan your own low key writing retreat. Check out 26 writing contests that can get your book published. Create a book trailer with cinematic flair. Learn Sue Grafton’s writing secrets. Click here to check the February 2010 issue of WD out!

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

0 thoughts on “Your Monday Creativity Wake-Up Prompt: The Man Who Speaks in Poems

  1. Christina Hile

    The Blue Guitar

    I’ve seen the angel of Death. He wears a killer pair of thigh-high boots. Imagine Bowie with a broadsword.

    It was one of those nights where every time I’m about to fall asleep I have a hypnic jerk. Except this time I jerk myself right off the bed.

    On my bedroom floor, in the dark, everything looks different. The green light of the power strip gives the notebooks and paperbacks an absinthian glow. Dust bunnies merge together in the no man’s land beneath my bed preparing their ambush. The acoustic guitar propped up in the corner, the one I never did learn how to play, looks like a tired old man, one solemn chord away from serenading the undertaker. And then I see my face reflected in black latex that goes on forever. Almost. This guy looks like he knows what he’s doing and, frankly, I’m curious. So I say, “You aren’t going to get no fight from me, Death. To tell the truth, I’ve been ready for a while. Life is boring.”

    “We agree in principle. That’s clear.”

    “Yes, well, I’m glad someone finally understands where I’m coming from.” I still lay there on the bedroom floor looking stupid. And Death’s still standing there looking amazing, his left hand on the glittering pommel of his sword. And I’m wondering when it’s going to happen. You know, when he’s going to close my eyes with a slow wave, hand me that one-way ticket, do the reaping. He doesn’t seem in any hurry. “You want a sandwich? I think I’ve got some roast beef in the kitchen.”

    Death looks over at the corner of my bedroom. “Things as they are are changed upon the blue guitar.”

    “Ah, yeah, well, I never learned to play.”

    “I play. But this is what I think. We shall forget by day, except the moments when we choose to play.” Death bent his head down and I could see now his hair was white as his sword.

    I shrugged my shoulders. “I guess it’s too late for me to learn now. I’ve already got one foot in the grave. I’m, like, half the man I was this morning.”

    Death shook his head. “Am I not, myself, only half a figure of a sort, a figure half seen, or seen for a moment, a man of the mind, an apparition appareled in apparels of such lightest look that a turn of my shoulder and quickly, too quickly, I am gone?”

    And he was. Gone, that is. And I wish I could say I learned to play that guitar, but I forgot about until this morning when it fell over with a dissonant thud.

  2. Mandy Hartley

    Late to the party on this one, but enjoyed reading everyone’s responses.

    Jenny was trying to sleep, but his words kept running through her mind. That’s what rhyming will do for you. Keep you humming ridiculous tunes even what you wanted was to finally get some rest. No wonder marketing people were so well paid. They had the good stuff. They had what worked. Not like her. She seemed to have only what didn’t work.

    She rolled to her left side hoping that the movement would jostle his words out of her. She wasn’t even sure what the words actually were; it was the rhythm that hung around. The sound of his voice in the line behind her. She’d never liked poetry, but his words brought a kind of magic to the morning. Every day it was the same. Whether she arrived at 7:40 or 7:54, the Poet was always behind her.

    She had started thinking of him that way, as the Poet. In her more honest moments she might say that he felt like she knew him. She guessed that was what happened to women like her. Women in soul crushing jobs living with decent boyfriends who displayed no potential for moving into the realm of soul mate. They spent their nights fantasizing about men they saw in coffee shops. What else could she expect?

    Pulling her leg out from under Adam’s sleepy foot, Jenny crept out of bed. It was easier to be awake than it was to keep trying to sleep with the Poet whispering in her ear. Certainly less frustrating. In the kitchen she found the blue butterfly mug that was her favorite, filled it with water and gave it a minute in the microwave. With the tea bag floating in the mug and the warmth of peppermint on her face, her mind began to loosen its grip. She could still hear his voice as she settled into the couch, but she didn’t fight it. Sure, she was an unmarried woman pushing 30 who couldn’t sleep for thinking about a man she didn’t even know; a man who speaks in poems. The clock read 4:30. Three more hours.

  3. Martha W

    Thanks, guys! I know, for me, this is like my relief…. from those mind-breaking novel edits. So thanks, Zac.

    I’m glad you play along, Dorraine! It is always a pleasure to read your stuff… even when the Poetry Muse comes dressed in funk. 🙂

  4. Dorraine

    Thanks, Zac. The M&Ms, as I fondly call them, do keep me motivated also.

    And good luck on your novel edits. I’m up to my elbows in the same thing, so please send those Gods over here when you’re done!

    Yes,those bots can be defeated. It takes around four tries to post on your forum but determination slays them every time. 🙂

  5. Zac

    Ha! Dug the batch and loved the ways the pieces took shape, cracking you up or invoking a grin. Thanks to everyone, as always, for writing.

    Dorraine, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them in fiction — although watching their speed and awesomeness has motivated me to try to push out some new stuff, rather than stare at the mind-breaking novel edit I’m currently stuck on at home. (Gods of writing, let it be finished!)

    As for those bots, I agree: definitely a rite of passage. I’ve gotten a few e-mails lately from writers unable to post, so I figured I might give them a light at the end of the tunnel that the Great Bot can be defeated — with skill and determination (I write as I post this for the sixth time — ah!)

  6. Dorraine

    Okay, Martha, Mr. muse did show up but he was a strange one, yo!

    Blue Poet Rapper

    Yo, what up? Name’s Leroy Blue, the rappin’ fool. My story, yeah, I got one. I be singin’ it for fun. Mr. Frost ain’t got nothin’ on me, I give my stuff for free.

    Well, look who stopped by. Hey, mama, wanna hear my latest rap? Yeah, you fine. Look at you. You know it. Aw, now don’t go. Come on. I got something for ya. Listen up.

    I’m the poet rapper
    Got soul in my zapper
    Shoot it all around, all around. Blue gettin’ down, gettin’ down.
    I got the money if you got the honey,
    Yeah, you do, feel it down to my shoes,
    Shoot it all around, all around. Blue gettin’ down,gettin’ down.
    Ain’t nothin’ I wouldn’t do for you, girl,
    You a fine little pearl,
    Blue getting’ down. Shoot it all around.

    Hey, dog, where’d she go? That girl loves me, yo.

  7. Stacy Christian

    Sorry, my bad. My first thought about someone speaking poetry all the time was that it would be annoying and I’d want to throw something at them. Then it seemed natural to write an annoying poem about it. I missed the part about it needing to be prose.

  8. Dorraine

    Zac, must I keep up with these two? Good stuff here. Okay, I’ll give this a shot, but I must take it home and see if the poetry muse shows up. Oh, dear.

  9. Mark James

    Martha, no flack from me. That was sweet.

    And you’re right about the robot God. Things just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t get in my daily practice of creative obscenity while trying to post.

  10. Martha W

    Zac – Don’t you know it’s like a rite of passage to get around the robot god?

    Well, I think I cheated by relegating the poet to the background. But gosh darn it, I’m not a poetry gal. Which I’ll probably catch flack for… but there it is.

    Mark – why did I laugh at the ending? Good one.


    "I think it’s romantic," Kate said.

    Jake raised his head from his homework. "Romantic? The guy’s an idiot."

    Sady laughed as she smacked him on the leg. "You’re just jealous."

    "Over a guy who talks in rhymes? You’re nuts."

    Kate looked at him, something unreadable in her green eyes. "Maybe you should be." She stood, gathered her belongings and headed to her lecture class without a backwards glance.

    He watched her leave, the easy sway of her hips mesmerizing him. It always did. Sady cleared her throat, drawing his attention away from Kate.

    "You are the idiot." His friend leaned in almost nose to nose with him. "She just wants your attention."

    "Then why’s she talking about some other guy? And why doesn’t she say so?"

    Sady rolled her eyes. "I change my mind. You’re not worth it." She stood and started to pack as well.

    Jake grabbed her arm. "What?"

    "I told her it was worth risking your friendship to have something better. But you don’t have the brains God gave a rock. So I’ll have to apologize to her."

    His eyes traveled in the direction Kate had went. And made up his mind. He jammed his books into his backpack and sprinted in the opposite direction.

    He could hear Sady hollering at him about going in the wrong direction, but he knew Kate couldn’t be won in the college commons. Not now, anyway.


    Kate flung every piece of memorabilia from Jake into the garbage can before throwing the whole thing in the dumpster behind her apartment.

    Her cell phone rang. It was him. "Yes?"

    "Wanna grab something to eat with me?"


    "Fine. I’ll bring it to you." And he hung up.

    She stared at the display on the phone, uncertain what just happened. She called him back. "What are you doing?"

    "You’ll see."

    She sighed. "Okay. Pick me up."

    "Come out front."

    She walked to the corner and peeked around. There he stood at the door to the complex. She hung up the phone and called out, "I’m here."

    He turned to her and smiled, something warm softening the normally sharp edges of his face. She adored the angles and planes of his features. They begged for a lover’s touch.

    Holding out his hand, he nodded toward his car. "C’mon."

    She remained silent, pondering the shift in his attitude all the way to his house. Once there, he led her inside. The sight before her stopped her in her tracks.

    On the table in the middle of the living room stood a tall vase of red roses with her favorite Italian meal waiting on paper plates. She covered her mouth with her hand, afraid to speak, afraid she was wrong.

    His hands settled on her waist, his breath whispered along her neck. "I can’t be him. Poetry, wine and constant romance. But I can love you… if you’ll give me the chance."

    She turned in his arms, cradled his face. "That guy’s just an idiot anyways."

  11. Mark James

    Zac, this was a blast. Puncutating the Masters I grew up reading, so they’d fit into my dialogue was like walking a tightrope without a net.

    “I don’t know. You talk to him. He keeps spouting off at me.”

    I took in my partner’s two day beard, his rumpled clothes, the heavy bags under his eyes. “How long you been at it?”

    He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Too long. Guy’s got more poetry in his head than all the books up in that Library in Congress.”

    “Go home,” I said.

    I was pushing by him when Lou grabbed my arm. “There’s cameras, Dez. Watch it.”

    “Hey.” I pulled away, straightened my leather jacket. “It’s me.”

    He didn’t roll his eyes. I think he was too beat.

    I opened the door to the interrogation room. The guy was all over the papers, “Serial Killer” under his face, and he was sitting there like he’d never parked in a Pregnant Mom space. “Heard you had a lot to say to my partner.”

    He looked past me to the door. “All hope abandon, ye who enter in.”

    I took the chair opposite him, turned it around, let my hands hang over the metal back. “You’re in pretty deep. We found souvenirs under your floorboards.”

    “The grave’s a fine and private place,” he said, leaning toward me.

    His cuffs clinked against the wooden table. I thought about a key in my jacket pocket, a key I wasn’t supposed to have. “You know they’re shouting your name outside, throwing Tasers on the steps, so we don’t waste current putting you in the chair?”

    He leaned back, closed his eyes, like he could see the mob outside. “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many,” he said.

    “All right, that’s enough.” He didn’t flinch when I got up and grabbed his hands. I undid the cuffs, took them off.

    He talked to the grey wall behind me. “What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

    “You think I’m rough now? You wait. I’m giving you my own personal tour of Hell.”

    He smiled, bowed his head, like I gave him a gold engraved invitation. “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me.”

    I heaved him up, hauled him to the door. “Let’s go, Shakespeare.”


    I dragged him down the back steps, used the key I wasn’t supposed to have and unlocked a door into a basement that didn’t exist. Not on any city surveys, anyway.

    I flicked on the light, threw him against the wall. “I spent six months of my life picking up pieces of women’s daughters. You’re gonna talk to me.” I took a step closer. “Only question is, are you gonna talk before I make you scream, or after?”

    He looked at the cracked cement walls, the unmistakable pools of dried blood on the cement floor, the manacles hanging from the ceiling. “Farewell, happy fields,” he said, “where joy forever dwells. Hail horrors, hail infernal world.”


    At the trial, no one asked how come he had two fingers missing, or how he got those little burns all over, burns almost exactly the size of the tip of a cigarette.

    In the end, before he begged me to let him dictate his confession, I told him a line of my own, “Every drop of your blood I’ll fling, make the demons in my soul sing.”

    Hey. I’m a cop, not a poet.