2013 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 21

Today marks three weeks! That’s pretty special, if you ask me. So let’s take our poeming to another level today (whatever that means). Also, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned on here that my book, Solving the World’s Problems, was reviewed recently by Wild Goose Poetry Review. Whether I have or not, click here to read the review.

For today’s prompt, write a secret message poem. Maybe it’s a coded message, a message in a bottle, sign language, foreign language, etc. Confession time: I’m often (though not always) hiding messages in my poems, and nothing rocks my world more than when readers catch them.

Here’s my attempt at a Secret Message poem:

“Big Country”

When you look at me
and say the words,

no one understands
you except me;

no men at work, not
tonight. As our

children dream, we sing
ourselves asleep.


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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and a person who writes as much for his wife as for himself. Also, he’s sure everyone wants to hear “In a Big Country,” by Big Country, right? Or how about “Down Under,” by Men At Work? Robert is the author of Solving the World’s Problems and married to the amazing poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five tiny poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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207 thoughts on “2013 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 21

  1. bjzeimer


    From the north to the south
    and from the east to the west—
    the climate that is needed
    for lush gardens and forests to grow
    is being destroyed
    by contaminating the atmosphere.

    Carbon pollution from power plants,
    emissions from automobiles,
    and greenhouse gasses are affecting
    the weather. Derichoes, bow echoes,
    and landfalling hurricanes—
    ten miles wide—at the frontlines.

  2. Glory


    Waking from my sleep
    Or was I in a dream
    that caught at my head
    bringing old memories,
    sweet yet sour across the years
    as I woke to the sound
    of music,
    or was it your voice I heard?

  3. hohlwein

    For today’s prompt, write a secret message poem. Maybe it’s a coded message, a message in a bottle, sign language, foreign language, etc. Confession time: I’m often (though not always) hiding messages in my poems, and nothing rocks my world more than when readers catch them.

    Yellow Paper
    I don’t think it was a suicide note.
    I’m willing to.
    I could.
    The dance was with death, throughout.

    But the note:
    My dear and faithful friend
    ….. Did it have an ‘s’
    — ‘friends’?
    Or not?
    You’d think I’d remember.

    It could make all the difference.

    In nothing.

    She had started such letters, hundreds of times
    as she had said, as I do, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
    I love you. I love you. I love you to the wind
    or to someone or just to say it, to repeat it in the dark
    for hours, for decades. Why do we do that?

    There was nothing after. Line after parallel waiting line
    Season after season. No other utterance.
    Was there a secret message there?

    One way or another, she knew she was loved
    Would never not be loved. Maybe that is the
    secret message I should consider, learn.
    Finally, believe.

    And the hours, next, that passed over the paper,
    The slant, very first, slant light of fall.
    did not illuminate invisible ink
    or the passage of a frail hand, and its telling,
    did not indicate, in any way, that love would be enough.

    Only that there is this world
    and, one way or another,
    sooner or later,
    we must leave it.

  4. Yolee

    After All These Years

    I still don’t want to know all your secrets.

    Let them stream in
    like stay-cation days when
    without plan, moments become
    unexpected memories
    with built-in shelves.

    Let the wheelbarrow
    work part-time;
    illusion needs work.

    I want to blow your heart
    on rainy weekdays when plain
    warm milk isn’t the only cup
    on the kitchen table.

    I want to watch your expression
    welcome the stranger guest
    at our party.

    And at the end of our lives,
    let there be one last mystery
    floating between our souls.

  5. deringer1


    There’s a message that I’ve sent to you
    about how much I care.
    And tho’ I never wrote it down
    it’s out there in the air.

    I sent it many, countless times
    but only in my head,
    for things I wanted most to say
    were things I never said.

    You never told me that you cared,
    you never spoke of love,
    and when you left and turned your back
    you shed me like a glove.

    My heart was sick for a little while,
    suffering from its wound.
    It bled awhile but now it’s dead
    and buried in the ground.

  6. Karen H. Phillips

    Day 21
    Prompt: Write a secret message poem.


    Undercurrent and subtext,
    mystery probably never to be unraveled,
    why she left on Saturday,
    when she was supposed to stay till Tuesday.

    Was it texts she discovered,
    borrowing a phone,
    or words misconstrued in a spoken conversation?
    Or did things just not go to suit her?

    Perhaps we’ll never know.
    Nothing is the same, and I’m out of sorts, and I’m not
    being cryptic.

  7. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    (Second attempt)

    Secret Messages

    We wrote them in lemon juice
    on white paper.
    The juice faded quickly
    to invisible. We children knew —

    When you received
    a blank sheet of paper,
    it was a secret message
    from one of the gang.

    To read it, you had to
    iron it — yes, like laundry.
    The heat made the letters appear,
    turning them rusty brown.

    But it all depended on
    having a wooden pen
    with a steel nib — as we did —
    to dip in the lemon juice.

    What do kids do now
    when pens like that
    are never seen?
    Now they use computers.

    Now, to make
    a secret message
    hit Select All
    and turn the text white.

    The recipient has to know.
    They re-select,
    turn it back to black,
    read it. Perhaps reply.

    But that’s the problem
    with secret messages.
    Sooner or later you do have to
    read them. And if you can …

    In my day you burnt the paper,
    or chewed it up in little bits
    and swallowed it. You can’t do
    things like that to a computer.

  8. seingraham


    In the quietude that is yours
    Here in this place of deathful
    I come to lay bare the secrets
    of my soul…
    Those, I seem unable to share
    with anyone still breathing

    Does it give you some modicum
    of pleasure to realize
    That even from beyond the abyss…
    for didn’t we both conclude
    death’s outcome, especially
    for those who rushed to the
    dance prematurely would be that?

    A chasm of unfathomable depths…
    Knowing you as well as I did,
    or at least thought I did
    I cannot imagine you deriving joy
    from causing others pain

    My main secret is the same
    as always and as time slides by
    at an ever increasingly fast pace…
    I feel more inclined than ever
    to be clandestine about this
    You are probably omniscient now —
    at least that’s how I imagine you,
    crossed over

    So, it will come as no surprise
    that I am still furious with you for dying
    And, as you know, not just for dying
    but for taking your own life
    I know, eight years plus, and still my anger
    and regret burns as hot as ever

    Most of my secrets seem to surround
    death; yours, as stated
    My brother’s…so many things left unsaid,
    so much left unresolved
    Now my Mother’s…not even gone a year…
    But, when I think about her…
    And the issues left flapping between us…
    some of which I wasn’t even aware
    Until she had ceased to exist corporeally,
    There is a fine red mist…carnelian
    in hue, that floods my brain-pan, makes it
    difficult to think or see for a bit

    What else? I’m sure there is more
    But I grow weary of your columbarium
    There are more ghosts here than just yours
    And all clamoring for some something;
    The very thought is as wearying as death

  9. Missy McEwen

    This prompt gave me trouble
    Found poem from dream moods. I hate it 🙂

    Rocket Ship to Africa
    While Eating Honeycomb

    To see a rocket
    in your dream means
    your plans, ideas will soon be
    taking off in a big
    way. You are
    experiencing a higher
    level of awareness.
    All your hard work
    is paying off
    or you feel that
    things are going too fast.
    If a rocket is taking off,
    then it is symbolic
    of male sexuality. Africa Reflects
    your desire
    to return to your roots,
    to learn more about your
    heritage. To dream
    of a honeycomb
    means you are trying
    to hold on
    to the sweetness
    and the pleasures
    in your life. It is symbolic
    of your desire
    for love and affection.

  10. MichelleMcEwen

    Name All Vivid

    I like to anagram
    your name

    we’re apart—

    to feel
    closer to you

    to find
    hidden messages

    in the

    (fyi: the title is an anagram; I love how it kind of matches)

  11. bjzeimer


    You stay in your room all day
    with the door closed
    and when I knock you sleepily
    answer that you’re asleep.
    Then when I come back a little
    while later, you’re already
    dressed and ready to leave.
    A car pulls up in front of
    the house and you run out
    the door that has been
    closed all day to me.

  12. bjholmes

    Secret Code

    I think it’s a secret
    or maybe a magic code
    this thing they call math
    my head wants to explode.

    I think I get addition
    of adding 2 +2
    and what is so difficult
    about the subtracting I must do?

    Multiplying and dividing
    are simple by compare
    to variables and FOILing
    how do I even compare?

    Quadrants and formulas
    prisms and angles
    why do they speak
    so my brains only tangle?

    Theres’ area and perimeter
    not too hard to believe
    but Pythagorean Therom,
    how is a + b = c?

    One of the following is average
    mean, median, or mode
    but how do I figure
    if I don’t know the code?

    So many secrets lay
    in Math’s learning path
    I’m doomed to repeat it
    under the secret codes wrath!

  13. RJ Clarken


    “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~Antoine de Saint Exupery

    am but
    a secret –
    I may be invisible to the eye,
    but not to the heart. I’m cryptic, but not
    a cipher.
    I am


  14. RJ Clarken

    A Secret Told in Tears

    “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.” ~Antoine de Saint Exupery

    small tear
    is my way
    of speaking volumes in a secret way.
    But, do you understand my message, or
    are more tears
    on the


  15. Tracy Davidson


    He says he’ll call me
    but he never does.

    He says it’s not me –
    I’m lovely – it’s him.

    He says another
    time, another place

    he could have loved me,
    but now’s the wrong time

    and here’s the wrong place.
    I get the message.

  16. Lori P


    My only last night ruined
    by basketball and doorbells
    still hopes of prospectless Facebook
    though looking in the wrong place
    can still make me cry
    through insisting that it’s not true
    an even forty, younger now
    and worse, real
    who could have thought that my own
    was better

    1. gl86

      I find this incredibly intriguing and evocative, though I unfortunately can’t quite figure it out. It’s strange how something can speak to you even if you can’t get to the heart of the subject.

  17. Rosemarie Keenan


    I love you more than ever I loved life.
    Too much, to hear my mother speak of it.
    So much that should you take me for your wife
    Oh, how I’d strive to put up with your shit.
    Vacuum your couch of peanuts and the like
    Echo your homophobic, racist rants
    Remind myself that some fish need a bike
    Signal to strangers that you wear the pants.
    Who wouldn’t want to hitch her star to you
    Ever and a day with no vacation?
    Even though when our first date was through, you
    Told me not to rise above my station.
    I won’t believe my mom. Who cares if I
    Empty my head and live with such a guy?

  18. BezBawni

    Go Figure

    “Aw, well. That’s it, enough of you!
    Shove your excuses up your lazy pants.
    Right, say it! No, on second thought,
    you know, just go – you make my hamster sick.
    Three years I’ve spent – three precious year! –
    on you, pathetic, selfish… Oh, you know,
    even curse words appear too good to waste
    Wait, don’t come any closer or I’ll scream.
    Or, better, I will dial 911,
    I’m doing it right now. See? That’s right,
    go on and put your hands up,
    roll your eyes. Please, help yourself
    to my shoehorn. And take your staff!
    Or rather, I will mail you all your junk!
    Leave, don’t forget to slam the door
    just as you would, and don’t you dare call,
    I’ll swich my phone off, I’m doing it
    right now!.. There!..”

    He left. She pushed her tears back;
    lied down with her phone in her hands;
    she switched it on and stared at it
    for hours, awating him to call.

  19. rosross

    Secret message

    The dream in staggered haunting
    reveals the image set,
    repeats the message yet again,
    of something lost … but what?
    It comes to taunt and teach me
    of memory now tossed;
    of time tied to forgetting
    a pain of ancient cost.
    Remembering is tangled
    and broken through the nights,
    of something which has happened,
    yet hides in shadowed fright.
    This loss is ever lingering,
    a trailing through the years
    of something dark and awful,
    in shroud of unshed tears.
    It’s lost, it has no presence
    in real words, or thought or form
    and yet it wraps my world of dreams
    in torn, tormented cause.

  20. De Jackson

    Beyond Bottles

    Open it to ocean,
    etch it in the sand.
    Whisper to the pillow,
    trace it on your hand.

    Spill it into starlight
    breathe it on the breeze.
    Put this horizon on hold,
    and leave a message for me.


  21. Broofee

    No secrets

    The biggest challenge so far
    Is the fact I have to
    Write a secret message poem.

    There are no secret messages
    In what I write
    It’s either love or hate

    Laugh, cry, scream
    Or shout.
    The poem is a pure
    Put on a piece of paper
    Or a computer screen.

    Emotions are better not to be
    Or so the psychologists say.

    There are no secret messages in
    My poems.
    If I think you’re a bastard
    I’ll just say it straight
    If I love you
    I’ll shout it out.
    I’ll be cynical
    But it won’t be hidden
    How I feel will come out
    As forward as it can.
    You’re gonna have to
    Look for secret messages
    Some place else.


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