2015 April PAD Challenge: Day 23

Believe it or not, we only have a week left of poeming after today’s prompt. Let’s make it the best week of the month!

For today’s prompt, write a historic poem. It could be a poem about a landmark event, specific battle, an era in time, or whatever you consider a historic happening.


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Here’s my attempt at a Historic Poem:

“blossom rock”

in 1826 the captain of the hms blossom
discovered a rock submerged just below the surface
of water to the west of yerba buena island

but he noted the rock could be avoided
by aligning the northern tip of the island with two
very large redwood trees in the east bay hills

which worked wonders until 1851
when they were both logged increasing the danger
posed by blossom rock so on this particular

day in 1871 people made up for logging
two gigantic trees by blowing the top off a large rock
submerged in the san francisco bay


Today’s guest judge is…

Kathryn Stripling Byer

Kathryn Stripling Byer

Kathryn Stripling Byer

Kathryn Stripling Byer served for five years as North Carolina’s first woman poet laureate. Her poetry, prose, and fiction have appeared widely, including Hudson Review, Poetry, The Atlantic, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Poetry Review.

Her first book of poetry, The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest, was published in the AWP Award Series in 1986, followed by the Lamont (now Laughlin) prize-winning Wildwood Flower, from LSU Press. Her subsequent collections have been published in the LSU Press Poetry Series, receiving various awards, including the Hanes Poetry Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Poetry Award, and the Roanoke-Chowan Award.

Learn more at KathrynStriplingByer.com.


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Poem Your Heart Out again!

The prompts from last year’s challenge along with the winning poem from each day ended up in an inspired little anthology titled Poem Your Heart Out. It was part prompt book, part poetry anthology, and part workbook, because each day includes a few pages for you to make your own contributions.

Anyway, the anthology worked out so well that we’re doing it again this year, and you can take advantage of a 20% discount from Words Dance by pre-ordering before May 1, 2015.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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783 thoughts on “2015 April PAD Challenge: Day 23

  1. lawrencek



  2. lawrencek



  3. lawrencek



  4. KatieHolmes2

    I’m Still Here

    I was born in a current time of today,
    the 1980s were my time to play,
    but I’ve always related
    to a more historical day.

    I harbor morals and values
    respect and keeping my word,
    Mannerisms this day and time
    has hardly ever heard.

    Man and woman marrying
    together forever for love,
    Working and saving
    creating a haven
    content with life as it was.

    I see a house made from logs
    coffee always brewing,
    An old record playing
    regardless what I was doing.

    Fresh fruit on the table
    from the garden outside,
    Rosemary and parsley
    In the kitchen window alongside.

    Breeze blowing through
    the doors and windows all open,
    The smell of burning wood lingers
    from last nights fireplace smoking.

    Beds have been stripped
    put in the wash,
    My hair wrapped up
    in a handkerchief cloth.

    In a field of green I stand,
    a couple of clothes pins
    in the palm of my hand.

    As I hang fresh sheets over the line,
    I capture a feeling
    that I’ve been lost in time.

    My polkadotted dress
    blowing in the wind,
    The love of a man
    no one more handsome than him.

    This house and all that makes it whole,
    appears to be a different time
    A historic era of old.

    Sometimes I think I’m dreaming
    when I look at the world around me,
    I’ve been waiting many years
    thinking this other life
    would have found me.

    I’m stuck in this day and time I fear,
    When I close my eyes each night
    There’s hope-
    But when I wake up
    I’m still here.

    -Katie Lynn-

  5. mapoet

    General Lee’s Bible

    I see you encased in glass
    but picture you in his hands.
    Where did he take you?
    West Point? Fredericksburg? Appomattox?
    What did he take from you?
    Strength? Wisdom? Solace?
    The war had worn down both of you,
    but you remained his protector-
    his good book.

    By Michelle Pond

  6. Linda.E.H

    Fine Bone China

    center and rims decorated
    delicate hand-painted flowers
    periwinkle, yellow, pale pink
    all edges gold-gilded

    close to a hundred pieces
    of vintage china left behind
    when I moved overseas
    shipping costs and risk not worth it

    instead, I was planning
    to give them to you one day
    hopeful your future wife
    wouldn’t scoff but rather

    appreciate antiquity
    the significance of heirlooms
    cherished generation after generation
    but now that you’re gone

    the set remains in storage, each piece
    wrapped individually, floral pattern protected
    in age-faded paper, unseen,
    like the bridal bouquet that will never be

    Linda Hofke

  7. Jane Shlensky

    The History of Skin

    We’re featured folks, my daddy says,
    not caring if I understand.
    He’s not above repeating facts
    until I know from whom I come.

    You’ve got your mother’s skin, he says,
    her wide flat feet, her nose, her cheeks.
    Too young, I think he means I stole
    her very ones. Oh, no, he laughs,
    she’s using hers, but yours are like,
    and now I learn dissecting traits.
    I’m kin to disembodied parts.

    Her people, most, were Indian—
    dark eyes, hair, skin. He shakes his head,
    sweeping a memory away.
    They paid a price for that red skin,
    he says, and sucks his teeth, a tssk.

    Imagined money changes hands;
    to whom, for what, I am unsure.
    My daddy’s sunburned brown as stone,
    but round his collar, his skin pales.
    So he’s a white man, I suppose,
    my brown arm not as dark as his.

    My mama’s burnished copper in
    the sun. Her layers can’t keep dark
    away, long sleeves, broad hats, thick gloves.
    I want to be a white lady,
    she says. We laugh because she is
    as white as she will ever be
    and she is beautiful, aglow.

    Picture in hand, he points toward
    an old man holding a fat goose
    under one arm. Your grandpa’s eyes,
    he says, but they are his, something
    unsaid lying beneath that stare.
    I see it. Yes, they’re my eyes too,
    blue as corn flowers, though yours are
    still wide and clear of hurt as yet.

    He shuffles photos in a box,
    choosing a matron with a child.
    That whorl of hair atop your head
    just like great Uncle Charles long dead
    a soldier in the civil war.
    His dying almost killed his ma.
    He could have passed for anything.
    I listen, feeling itchy wrong,
    wearing a dead man’s hair and eyes.

    My old man’s skin was fair, a blond,
    his people given to red hair.
    A skin like that can’t serve you well
    when there’s hard labor in the sun.
    He died of cancer years ago.

    Those freckles on your nose belong
    to him, I reckon. Just a dot
    of Irish keeps us mindful of
    another root, another branch
    of kin who carved new scars into
    the skins they didn’t claim as theirs.
    That can’t be helped. That’s history.

  8. faith85

    is it any better now

    in the 1960’s my dad was born
    he doesn’t talk a lot about
    the things that happened in his day

    but i learned in history
    about the marches
    and the wars

    he is turning gray now
    and the most i know about his past
    comes out when he’s singing old songs to himself

    but i wonder
    how much those times affected him
    made him who he is

    because he never went to war
    he never marched anywhere
    as far as i know

    but i still march for peace
    every September
    and i wonder

    is it more peaceful now
    to keep us hoping for it more?

    or was it more peaceful then
    is that why he still thinks everything is all right with the world

    Faith Owen

  9. Jane Shlensky

    February, 1975

    Four people died when Siloam bridge collapsed
    into the Yadkin River, sixteen hurt,
    and all the foggy falling nightmare drops
    that wake us breathless sweating in the night
    were visited in one place and one time.

    A February night of milk glass fog
    “so thick we couldn’t see two feet ahead,”
    reported rescue workers, once they heard
    a damaged bridge collapsed on the deep side
    and cars dropped blindly in an icy brink

    upside down in dark metallic screams
    and frantic struggles to escape drowning.
    Some victims crawled atop their wrecks to wait
    for help, forgetting other cars rained down.
    In fifteen minutes, seven autos plunged

    for who imagines black-mawed nothingness
    stretched wide to swallow any passerby?
    We trust the bridge is there without our sight.
    Both Hugh and Ola Atkinson were killed,
    their grandson getting clear to swim ashore

    and one day serve as Surry County sheriff.
    Mother and baby Needham both were lost
    as father, frantic, saved another child.
    The injured lived to tell their horrid tales,
    to bear the scars, breath tight on any bridge,

    frightened of fog even within their dreams.
    Ironies figure large in tragedies,
    for Atkinson petitioned governors
    for months that this old bridge was too impaired,
    “a death trap,” like a bomb yet to explode,

    another letter found in an old coat
    although his campaign fell upon deaf ears.
    We name our bridges for the honored dead
    because our moral compasses are skewed
    to listen to disaster, heed too late,

    a living citizen not half as heard.
    The new Atkinson-Needham bridge is named
    for them, and strewn with flowers where
    a local tragedy became big news.

  10. James Von Hendy


    They’re the standing stones in barren fields
    beside a road’s long and lonely stretches.

    How many times we’ve seen the signs and passed
    them by, these points of interest called

    to attention, and fleeting, left behind,
    memorials to some small history

    that shaped the road we’re on, some stake to life
    unrecorded in the liturgies

    we learned were destiny’s great events.
    But someone raised these stones to greatness

    Small enough to matter, the simple lives
    of plain survival eked from unknown soil

    without a thought to history, when stones,
    if they had them, were markers for their graves.

  11. akramer

    Not so long ago
    no one round here
    had an answering machine
    lots of people didn’t have a phone
    If you wanted to meet
    you dropped by your friend’s house
    or made plans when you saw each other
    We didn’t have home movies, either.
    Used to be there was a theater
    right in the center of town
    Walked down the steps to the dark
    underground and the lights
    of the screen shone bright.

    -Ariana Kramer

  12. Khara House

    Kansas, 1877

    What made you choose that western plain,
    the aching grip of corn husks and flat rivers
    of sky? Did you take to the fields

    for the freedom of flight—or to stay
    grounded in sweet roots that tremble loose
    of earth with crumbling stones you till

    to tell your story? You bend the river Solomon,
    gather bison bones to plough and reap
    a long-suffered harvest, sink ankle deep

    in prairie sod for shelter—a refuge
    for your plumes. Climb, climb like Nicodemus—
    rise on black wings to a grassland sun.

    Did your free lands taste of salt and clay,
    there in the western shoals, where dust blows
    cinnamon over bones to name these plots

    your own? Have angels blessed your exodus
    with moth dusted wings, with sunlit motes
    to tempt your skin to rise—rise—Nicodemus,

    like tales sung of southern fields where your kindred
    took to down and quill? Spines compass needled
    straight at all your rough won progress.

  13. MarieJason


    Born, lived, met their fate –
    Natural selection’s hand
    Invisibly wrote

    Their repetitive
    Biography’s fractal;
    Comet changed it all.

  14. Catherine Conley

    Rock the Vote

     ‘‘the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men’’ (Johnson, ‘‘Remarks’’)

    From Seneca Falls to Selma,
    Americans have convened, marched,
    Pleaded, begged, argued for
    The right to vote.
    To have a say, to break down
    Injustice. To destroy the terrible walls.
    A powerful weapon, that anyone
    Can wield with no training, no practice.
    Yet, like child who screams for a toy
    And then abandons it as soon as he gets it,
    Americans have abandoned
    This instrument, this tool, this weapon
    And instead seem to let the status quo-
    Which seems to be full of division,
    Full of creating those terrible walls-
    Imprison them still.
    Or they become so disillusioned
    That they don’t vote at all.
    Susan B., Sojourner, Martin, Malcolm
    Are turning in their graves.

    Johnson, Lyndon B. ‘‘Remarks in the Capitol Rotunda at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act,’’ 6 August 1966, in Public Papers of the Presidents: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, bk.2, 1966. 


  15. ameyer15

    Ode to Edgar

    Once upon a midday bleary, a month of blogging had left me
    As I pondered over many poems about forgotten
    While I plodded, wishing I was napping, suddenly my brain heard a
    As of a thought gently rapping, rapping at my imagination’s
    “I need some coffee,” I muttered, “to help me open this door:
    With some sugar and nothing more.”

    When it happened I can’t remember, maybe April or December
    But the ghostly glow of incandescents wrought shadows upon the
    I need energy down to my bones marrow; enough to climb
    If I’m to reach the end I must borrow – borrow gumption not to say “I can’t do this
    Or I will remain an author unpublished for evermore.

    And the sad rustling of each empty page left me certain
    Chilled me – stilled me with writer’s block unlike any I had seen
    So that now, to stop my head from beating on my keyboard, I stood
    “I can do this. I can do this. I can open imagination’s door”
    One just has to get the juices flowing to open imagination’s door.
    But I stared at the screen and nothing more.

    Another coffee and I felt stronger; and told myself to hesitate no
    “Look,” said I, “you dolt, write something I implore;
    But the fact is I wish I was napping, when so gently I should be
    I willed myself to start tapping, tapping upon my keyboard
    Oh what should I do —- open wide imagination’s door
    Crickets chirping and nothing more.

    Deep into that blank page peering, long I sat there
    Marveling, fearing
    Doubting myself more than any mortal had ever dared to doubt
    And the still stayed unbroken, my story still not
    The only word in my mind spoken were those nasty words,
    “Unpublished evermore?”
    This I whispered, and my mind murmured back the words,
    “Unpublished evermore,”
    Just this and nothing more.

    I took a break and came back with mind turning, the urge to write within me
    Soon there was a tapping, just a pencil rapping still no keystrokes as before;
    “Surely,” said I “just a few moments playing Nintendo
    Will fix my mental apparatus,
    Let me see, then what Mario Brother’s world I need to explore;
    Clear my mind for just a moment and this game explore;
    Tis just a little break and nothing more.

    Hours later I flung down the controller, after many a coke and
    popcorn with butter
    I struggled to drag myself away from this haven upon the floor
    But my legs did not want to obey me; my i-phone said stop and stay with me;
    So, mean as a lunch lady the lock held tight on imagination’s door;
    Out of my reach just as before.

    Then this thought so beguiling gave way to truth that stirred me to smiling,
    I just need to sit down and tackle this
    So I resumed with hair a mess and legs unshaven, I said “Thine art
    Sure a maven,
    A talented and brilliant maven wishing I was wandering the
    sunny shore;
    I must stop my mind from wandering on procrastination’s
    Or a published author I will be, nevermore.”

    Much I marveled my new brainy inspiration so much so
    I started to write daily
    Though I fought the urge to keep daydreaming – insurmountable odds I bore
    For we cannot help agreeing that no reasonable human being
    Thinks that they will ever make a living doing something so
    Few have been successful at before
    But slowly I began to open imagination’s door
    Unproductive Nevermore!
    So this maven sits lonely on her butt, her life only
    Invested in her souls outpouring of this one splendid
    Not a further party shall I attend, no more movies with popcorn
    Till I finish this manuscript I muttered –“Other friends have
    Flown before;
    On the morrow my life will return and be again
    As before.”
    But this maven shall be unproductive nevermore.

    Proud of my resolve unbroken during this challenge so aptly chosen
    “Doubtless,” said I “I shall pull magnificence out of my stock and
    No longer an unhappy master, my life a painful
    Going fast and then still faster with nothing to show
    Gone is my lack of hope spurning melancholy that I once bore
    Unproductive nevermore.

    Now this maven sits her fancy smiling
    No more do I sit on cushioned seat in front of tv gnawing pizza crust
    And more
    Now I sit on computer chair sinking, my brain always thinking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking of plot lines galore
    What a hard but proud existence now I lead
    Unproductive nevermore.
    Now you sit engaged in guessing, but no words yet expressing
    How badly the urge to follow my lead burns into your
    This and more you sit divining, in your lazy boy reclining
    On the soft leather seat with tan thread lining and phone light floating
    Shall you get up, ah nevermore!

    Then I thought the air grew heavier, fragranced from an
    Unseen censer,
    My husband’s foot-falls thundered across the hard wood
    “Thanks,” I cried “my eyes are burning and my stomach is turning”
    Respite – Respite and peace, I can’t take these interruptions
    I get quiet Nevermore!

    “Almost there,” said I “I will make it or dash it all!”
    My energy is spent, I am frustrated to my
    Tell my soul heavy with sorrow that the will be a brighter lining
    I shall clasp the hand of an agent and sell books
    A radiant contract in my hand which has never happened
    Unproductive nevermore.

    “Then give me respite starting as soon as I finish,” I shrieked
    Keep me away from that procrastinator’s
    Leave not one shred of paper blank. My story will be
    Then I will get my life back if it’s not permanently broken. Leave me now to this
    Take yourself out of this room and your noise I
    I shall be unproductive nevermore.

    And the maven, never quitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
    At her keyboard churning out the lore
    Her eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is
    If people don’t stop leaving her alone as she churns out her bestseller
    Till it’s ready for the door
    And my soul from this project flies floating on the high above the
    Unproductive nevermore!

  16. JMKnott


    A handful of berries
    dried mushrooms on a string
    a bronze ax
    a flint knife
    a wood frame backpack
    boots bound with straw:
    with these accoutrements
    the Ice Man lived 5,000 years
    and told his story.

  17. AmyA

    History/My Story

    Every brick is accounted for,
    Each corner named,
    The houses labeled with descriptive plaques,
    The squares immortalized in books and poems.

    This is my home, the history-soaked place
    Where America’s past is overlayed with my own.
    There was Paul Revere’s Ride,
    Here was my first bike ride.
    There was the first shot of the revolution,
    Here was my first kiss.

    My own history is dwarfed by our history,
    My yesterdays are entangled in America’s,
    My ghosts are shades compared to the Revolution’s.

    And the quick-flowing river runs by the teeming daffodils
    That flutter on the banks of the Charles,
    Where once, decades ago, we dared to skate beneath a bridge
    And hoped we would not anger our parents
    By shattering the thick frozen coating,
    And being sucked into the coursing water.

    Amy Appleton


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