2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 13

For today’s prompt, write an optional poem. And no, that does not mean that writing a poem is optional today–I know a few of you were thinking it. No, no, no. No, I’m thinking of how some things in life are completely optional; in fact, most things are. So you have options for today’s poem–maybe too many–but can one ever have too many options?


Write a Poem That Wins $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

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Here’s my attempt at an Optional poem:


He asks, What are my options? I say, You don’t want
to know. Give it to me straight, he says. I can take

whatever you got. I ain’t got anything you
can take, I say. He says, Level with me, brother.

I’m not your brother, I say. But here you go. Yeah,
he says. You’re going to die, I say. He staggers

back and asks, When? Someday, I say. It will happen.
And probably when I least expect it, he says.

The circumstances are not so clear, I say, but
they never are, are they? No, never, he mumbles.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He has plenty of options, and he prefers spending his mornings writing poems. And eating breakfast, because it’s the most important meal of the day.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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173 thoughts on “2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 13

  1. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    still opt you
    by juanita lewison-snyder

    we’re home outdoors and it’s dark
    and the stars are sneaking peeks
    down at us like children
    through stage curtains
    and the dog is ahead of us
    against the tree line
    flitting between shadows
    sniffing and squatting
    sniffing and squatting
    and we’re giggling at the
    tinkling sound his collar is making
    when i feel your hand on my shoulder
    and smell that familiar cologne
    on your scratchy neck as
    you stand alongside me,
    gazing up at the same slice of moon
    like we used to, and suddenly
    i don’t feel so alone anymore
    even though it’s been a little while
    since you’ve passed, but
    i’m still thinking to myself,
    “i can do this”
    cuz i still opt
    for you.

    © 2014 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder

  2. deringer1


    I should get up
    but it’s cold.
    I’ll stay in bed.
    Perhaps I’ll write today
    or maybe not,
    it all depends on
    or not.

    I could take a
    long brisk walk,
    but maybe not.
    I should clean my house,
    but I’d rather
    read a book.

    The day holds many
    options for me.
    I must make up
    my mind–
    or not.

  3. Bhumphreys

    The questions that have
    Floated around the longest
    Tend to be the most thoughtful
    When given the choice between
    Simply living each day
    Or expending the energy
    To actually be alive;
    Where do you stand?

  4. Meriadoc


    Unaided, my options would spindle
    Forever up o’er my head
    Until they were cast into Stones of Light
    Cascading all round my bed

    Evermore Shining their Beauty
    As Rainbows that Arc into view
    Changing whatever I thought was set
    to Visions of unbeknownst Hue.

  5. seingraham


    I remember the day you were born
    looking at your tiny self
    laying in that plastic thing they put
    newborns in, all snug and peaceful
    Beside my bed in the recovery room
    I think I was still in shock from birthing
    you – wondering, as your Dad did too
    how anything so barbaric could have
    produced something so small and perfect

    But I also remember watching to see if
    your little chest was moving up and down
    Already so protective of you and that was
    a wonderment to me also
    That these maternal feelings I wasn’t sure
    would surface in me, came to the fore
    immediately, almost without my noticing

    I wanted to tell you that I would I always
    be there for you
    Because I knew in that moment, it was
    true – that there would be no time
    You couldn’t count on me…that my love
    was the unconditional kind

    I also wanted to tell you that life was a
    joyous thing, free from pain
    But even then, the day you were born
    I knew that truth was not optional,
    not something I could give you once
    or partially
    Then take away and give you a different
    version some other day

    All these years later and I would love
    to be able to soft soap
    What’s happening, what’s happened
    if only I knew how
    But none of it is easy, and none of it makes
    sense; more than anything
    Truth is truth as always, and none of it
    None of it is optional

  6. PKP

    False Options

    Too many live as though
    death were optional
    as though there is no fallin
    tumble of years into which
    they have already ran
    Too many live lives as though
    life were optional as though death-
    dancing had not long ago already began

  7. James Von Hendy


    A friend, otherwise a brilliant man,
    Fell for conspiracy theories the way
    I wanted once to fall for a woman,

    Hard, and without facts. He could not fathom
    Reluctance to accept his groundless faith
    In hearsay, nor I his to embrace

    The rich uncertainty and doubt that fuels
    Belief, that invites the open question,
    And gives us choice that leads to consequence

    That matters in our own and other’s lives.

  8. Bruce Niedt


    Every day on that geometrical field
    they are faced with options:
    fast or curve, change-up or slider,
    bunt or swing away, pinch-hitter
    or let the pitcher bat, steal or stay put,
    catch that looper on one hop
    or try for the diving catch
    and a chance to be on the weekly highlights.

    But the biggest decision may be whether
    to retire or to play another season.
    Some guys don’t have an option:
    another torn ACL, too many shoulder surgeries
    may force the issue. But most just get too old
    and slow and aching to face another spring.

    That’s where I am right now,
    not on a diamond, but in a square cubicle,
    and I’m ready not to hang up my spikes,
    but my pen and keyboard, to make way
    for some up-and-coming rookie.

  9. shethra77

    All My Choices

    I could read a book.
    I could go shopping,
    or do more laundry. Or wash the
    floor again. Again, again. I could start supper,
    or lunch, some
    thing food-like.
    I could have a nap since waking up
    was not my idea. The bills
    need organized; after all, the end of the year is nigh
    and the paperwork’s a mess.
    I could play a computer game—
    need more money to buy more
    plants in my zombie game, and that means
    playing mini-games till you’re blue in the face.
    Got the garden taken care of before it
    snowed/slushed on it last night.
    I could clean the fridge.
    Yeah, that’s gonna happen.
    Think I’ll get the girls their food and
    read. Lord Peter is in the middle of
    a phantom carriage mystery, and
    Scaramouche is barely started.
    Food. Books. Yes.

    Shethra Jones Hoopes

  10. thunk2much


    He writes elephants
    And I hear the beat beat beat
    Of their heavy heavy
    Feet on dusty ground.
    What a sound.
    He writes Jazz
    And I’m swept away
    Off the porch steps
    And onto the lawn.
    I want to be that Jazz
    And make people dance
    Like it’s a hot night
    Filled with cool cool beats.

    ~ Liesl Dineen 2014

  11. MichelleMcEwen

    Would you Rather Be

    or blind

    or high

    or hot

    An alien
    or a robot

    or healthy

    or wealthy

    The painter
    or the muse

    Always alone
    or sometimes abused

    or crazy

    or Sadie

    or seen

    or green

    or Beyonce

    Jay-Z or

    A dead superstar
    or a living nobody

    A gypsy
    or a homebody

    Where you’re from
    or where you’re at

    or that

    or fat

    or black?

  12. BDP

    “Observed Speeding, Unstoppable”

    An officer on Sunday road patrol
    steers toward an odd occurrence, at first blush,
    a dozer run amok. Stare down or bail?
    Check “live another day” and hit the brush.

    We’re Kip and Lizbeth, twin reporter-sleuths
    who aid the law. Cop says (extreme hat hair):
    “I know who drove it—Chuck was on the loose!”
    To get the scoop we call Baloo Town Chair,

    Bull-D-Chuck (shorthand, just-coined): “You been out?”
    His low-vibration-melts-the-ice-cubes voice
    makes us sigh. Could sing country, there’s no doubt.
    “Was watching the Packers, what other choice?”

    Not buying: car nosedive first and then kickoff.
    But we won’t print this. Don’t want Chuck ticked off.

    –Barb Peters

  13. Connie Peters

    Shoe Shopping

    Twinkle Fairy went to buy shoes.
    So many pairs from which to choose.
    Hiking boots, sneakers, flying shoes, flip-flops,
    shiny shoes, saddle-shoes, rainboots, high tops,
    high heels, penny loafers in pinks and blues,
    tap shoes, tennis shoes, ballet shoes,
    with emeralds, rubies, diamonds, bows,
    slippers and ballet shoes with pointy toes,
    leaf shoes, silky shoes, new and used.
    Twinkle was beginning to feel confused.
    She didn’t want to buy shoes anymore.
    She turned around and flew out the door.

  14. shellcook

    The Spirit of The Glass House

    I see it now upon the ridge,
    a silhouette against the sky.
    Where once it was,
    a hidden gem,
    surrounded by thickly forested pine,
    now it stands, memories shrouded,
    silent sentinel to fire and time.

    The gem, still there, waits, quietly,
    for their return, and they will.
    No other option for the spirit of the house,
    But to wait, behind glass, in the sun.

    Today was the day.
    Today, they came.
    It was obvious that they were overwhelmed
    by what awaited them here.
    A barely recognizable piece of yesteryear,
    but the bones, the bones were still here.

    She could have left after,
    she’d wept and
    made her way through the door
    Walked inside, took a knee and prayed
    and then she wept some more.

    I do not think she will choose to quit,
    not this one, no way, no how.
    She’s got the blood burning in her veins
    And she’s ready to be here now.

    Its the not knowing how,
    that’s eaten her up,
    not knowing the options were there
    for opening doors to long lost worlds
    to bring the dream home again.

    You see part of her spirit lives in the glass house,
    with the mothers of mothers who’ve been there before
    and left loving pieces themselves.


  15. Pat Walsh

    by Patrick J. Walsh

    somewhere along the curb of a sidewalk
    beneath the ledge of an open window
    on an otherwise respectable evening
    in the borough of Queens in New York City

    voices escape their conversation
    to settle alongside him in the back of the cab
    as he nervously counts out the red light
    and thinks of how much he’d rather be home

    a flimsy curtain billows in the weakest breeze
    the man in the window sounds young
    his voice is thin and quiet
    i think i’ll take a walk, he says

    the building looks weathered but sturdy
    the woman in the window sounds a little older
    or maybe just a little tired
    where are you going? she asks

    i’m just going out — he says, almost asking
    don’t go out tonight — she replies, even
    i’ll be back in a little while — he tries again
    just come here, now — she offers, soothing

    the gaudy red light wears on a little longer
    with no care for tension or decent thought
    and in the back seat of the cab
    the stillness and silence are nearly unbearable

    staring at the back of the cabbie’s head
    as the driver stares at the traffic ahead
    he nearly wonders out loud
    why he agreed to go to the city tonight

  16. Janet Rice Carnahan


    Sandals in the summer,
    If you fall a bummer,

    Don’t think high heels,
    They’re better with wheels,

    Flip flops,
    Not good if something drops,

    Forget any boot,
    Never in a tight suit,

    No ballet slipper,
    A definite tripper.

    If clogs stumble, you’ll frown,
    You’ll get too bogged down,

    Before I board a plane,
    I work to stay insane,

    Easy to know what to choose,
    I’ll be in quick stepping . . .
    Tennis shoes.

  17. Shennon

    He didn’t feel life was an option.
    He played Russian Roulette with his friends.
    Many shots might be fired,
    but only one life would end.

    Blank after blank
    explodes near a head.
    The gun now in his hands
    consumes him with dread.

    He tries to act cool,
    though he’s filled with doubt.
    He can’t let his buddies down,
    it’s too late to opt out.

    With the barrel in his mouth,
    he tastes its metal tang.
    He glances ’round at all his friends,
    then quickly pulls the trigger…


  18. Karen H. Phillips

    Day 13
    Write an optional poem.

    The Main Option

    You can choose a square cake or round–
    with tiers or without.
    Daytime stations or dinner buffet.
    Standard tablecloths or fancier, with runners.

    Pick stephanotis, baby’s breath or caspia;
    choose a satin dress, or taffeta,
    a veil or a tiara,
    cathedral train or none at all.

    Tuxes, suits, or overalls have served as groomsmen’s
    garb, while bridesmaids or mothers don floor-length
    or ballerina. Flower girls in tutus or ruffles, ring bearers
    fully decked or dressed down.

    Churches, galleries, museums, gardens
    serve as wedding venues.
    Musical choices vary from Bach to Beatles.
    But the main option’s still

    the bride the groom chooses,
    the groom the bride would wed.
    Out of all the options,
    they want only each other.

    Or that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

  19. Sara McNulty

    Wedding Wishes

    Upcoming wedding. Rich cousin
    marrying moneyed woman. He wonders
    how elaborate this affair
    will be, not that he can afford
    anything right now. Counting
    pennies since he lost his job.
    Anxious about next month’s rent.

    When he receives a formal
    invitation, he is not surprised
    at the required black tie, but
    is surprised that the engaged
    couple have decided to marry
    at a ritzy inn, in Connecticut.
    No car. No chance. He struggles
    with his decision, but finally sends
    the R.S.V.P. back, stating, I know
    the black tie is not optional,
    but neither is my attendance.
    Wish you the best.

  20. Jolly2

    by John Yeo

    I walk very close to the wall
    The traffic noise is very loud.
    I love the smell of fish and chips
    I get when I pass this way.
    The rain starts, I feel the wet
    The tyres of the traffic spray,
    I pass the school, the children laugh
    I love to hear them play.
    My white stick helps me along,
    I know when I reach the corner.
    I stand at the crossing and wait
    Someone will help me across.
    My options are very limited,
    I stand at the corner and wait.
    I hear the bleep, I can safely cross
    Then I step out into the road.
    The only alternative option is
    To wait and get wet in the rain.

    Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved

  21. LaraEckener

    What will you do?

    Whatever you want.

    Can you make me better?

    We will make you more.

    Cracked ribs? Skinned knees?

    Titanium alloy endoskeleton.
    Carbon fiber farings with a
    gel coat, warmed by motion.


    Micro-compactor if you want
    to eat. Battery life if you don’t.


    There will be no pain
    receptors, only pressure.


    Machines are never lonely.


    We do not understand.


    Please hit Enter to start.

    Can you make me better?

    We will make you more.

  22. tunesmiff

    G. Smith (BMI)
    On a Chinese menu you know what you’ll see;
    Choose one from column A, one from column B;
    Spring rolls? Egg rolls? Shrimp toast? Tea?
    So many options, overwhelming me.

    Same’s true for pizza – pick your favorite shop;
    And try to decide what you’re gonna put on top:
    Anchovy? Pepperoni? Not just any slop;
    So many options, tell me when to stop.

    Down on the car lot, all those things to choose:
    Five speed, two tone, how many different blues?
    Two door? Four door? Rag top or sun roof?
    So many options I don’t know what to do.

    Most things in life
    Are optional, it’s true;
    And given the choice,
    I opt for you.
    Given the choice,
    I opt for you.

    Open enrollment, it’s that time of year;
    Insurance changing brings a certain fear;
    What’s the right coverage? The deadline’s drawing near…
    So many options; let’s go get a beer.

    Most things in life
    Are optional, it’s true;
    And given the choice,
    I opt for you.
    Given the choice,
    I opt for you.

    Given the choice,
    I opt for you.

  23. bxpoetlover

    The Mandate

    Like the constant drip of water
    on iron,
    corrode the soul.

    is not option.

    It is the act of letting go.

    Moving on, smoothly
    as silk on skin.

    It is not ever
    the same as
    approving thoughtlessness
    and cruelty.

  24. De Jackson

    {Carpe(t) Diem}

    You gotta start somewhere,
    so they tackle
    the floors.

    Saxony? Frieze?
    The options pile,
    make them loop

    They seize
    the samples, trample
    around on a couple dozen
    squares, square their
    shoulders and stare at
    the choices before them.

    Muted hues or moody blues?
    Solid or pattern? It matters in
    ways more than
    all these swatches
    can say.

    Their last foundations simply
    weren’t all that strong. They’re
    watching their footing
    and believing the day.


  25. Hazel_Mist


    It’s optional to try.
    to get up in the morning.
    to even go to school.

    It’s optional to care.
    to bother listen to others.
    to even talk to people.

    It’s optional to eat.
    to sleep.
    to even breathe.

    Every day presents


  26. De Jackson

    Black Tie

    Wear it,
    don’t wear it. I swear it
    doesn’t matter, Love. Blue
    days are waiting; midnight’s
    calling. You can salt this gray
    sky, or you can croon me one
    last song.

    Take this,
    don’t break this; one last
    vow under falling sun:
    you wore that old
    suit on the day that you
    married me.

    You might
    as well
    wear the same
    one to bury


  27. Danielle Wong

    Stay or Go

    Outcast from day one,
    I search for the day
    I can stop longing
    to belong.
    I could pack and leave,
    but can I pack kids?

    I am imploding, exploding, while I try downloading, uploading, before all happiness starts eroding
    into nothingness.

    Outcast from day one,
    today is the day
    I opt not to try
    or to cry.
    I will leave them all,
    and keep my family.

  28. Walt Wojtanik


    It seems every year Thanksgiving Day get the brush!
    We get Christmas rushed up to
    our eyeballs. From Halloween to the yuletide,
    you can’t hide tossing aside that one day of thanks.
    It would certainly not break any corporate bank,
    why the need for greed? No deal is a good deal
    at that price! It’s a sad truth that family traditions
    end up in critical condition and die a slow
    and painful death in a last breath dash to the mall,
    all for a cheap electronic windfall! Why do you think
    we shroud Friday in a darkened pall. All it takes
    is one day to say thank you for the wealth of the other.
    three hundred-and sixty-four. Be very sure,
    Thanksgiving Day is NOT optional.

  29. Natasa Bozic Grojic

    How Silk Is Made

    Inside the silk dome
    the moth is safe.
    It sleeps.
    It grows.
    In order to prevent damage
    to the silk fibers,
    it is necessary
    to boil the cocoon
    before the adult emerges.
    This process
    kills the moth
    and helps the cocoon
    That way
    the quality
    of the final product
    is preserved.

  30. dub

    Just for Today

    I’ve decided to stop grieving,
    to blow fuzz off the faces
    of dandelions instead.

    Pick hollow stalks
    from earth, squeezing
    them until they drip, shouting

    with puffs of breath
    that they are too perfect,
    too fragile to be left behind.

    I won’t give up
    when the last piece refuses
    to loosen it’s grip. I’ll pluck

    at its center, pull the core
    from its base, whispering
    how they would have lost them

    anyway, to some other wind.


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