2015 April PAD Challenge: Day 27

Wow! After today’s poem, we’re looking at three days left. That’s just crazy.

For today’s prompt, write a looking back poem. Of course, some people just glance over their shoulders, and others stop and turn all the way around. Some look back in time and weigh their successes and failures, evaluate things they could do better. Some claim they never look back. Whatever your stance on looking back, capture it in a poem today.


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Here’s my attempt at a Looking Back Poem:

“how to be a track star”

of course the training’s important
as are the shoes each step landing
on the balls directly beneath
the chest pushed out slightly & arms
swinging back & forth but never
across hands relaxed at the wrist
& shoulders relaxed as well as
the face head aimed toward the next
target or turn on the oval
& never ever looking back


Today’s guest judge is…

Okla Elliott

Okla Elliott

Okla Elliott

Okla Elliott is currently an Illinois Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois where he works in the fields of comparative literature and trauma studies. His nonfiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Harvard Review, Indiana Review, A Public Space, and Subtropics, among others.

He is the author of the fiction collection From the Crooked Timber (Press 53) and poetry collection The Cartographer’s Ink (NYQ Books). His novel, The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (co-authored with Raul Clement), is forthcoming from Dark House Press, as is his book of translation, Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jurgen Becker (Black Lawrence Press).

Learn more at OklaElliott.net.


Poem Your Heart Out, Volume 2

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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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795 thoughts on “2015 April PAD Challenge: Day 27

  1. DanielR


    Memory is a ghost
    touching my skin
    spiny fingers pressed
    against the small of my back.

    Memory is a ghost
    screaming at me
    white or black banshees
    what difference does it make?
    unless I’m a racist.

    Memory is a ghost
    slipping through the walls
    of my ancient mind
    vanishing like dusty whispers
    then reappearing in blurs.

    Memory is a ghost
    with no substance
    void of essence
    haunting and hollow
    a weightless creature
    crowing of its victory.

    Daniel Roessler

  2. Kimmy Sophia

    Looking Back 3

    Looking back it’s a good thing
    that I wasn’t born
    looking like
    Angelina Jolie.
    I wouldn’t have known
    how to carry all that stuff
    around with me.
    It must take special skills
    to have that face and body
    and deal with everybody
    wherever you go.
    It’s a good thing
    I didn’t get the deluxe set
    with my birth equipment,
    I wouldn’t have known how to run it.
    (Kimmy Sophia Brown)

  3. mschied

    In retrospect

    How can it hurt
    the something that never was?
    Why does my heart tug
    with sorrow
    when I think of you?
    Looking back
    is it right or wrong
    that we never made it?
    That we danced around
    our mutual silence
    like snakes without
    waiting for the other
    to strike first
    to admit we were bitten

    but it never came
    and now
    as I look behind at the road
    I did take
    am I happy?
    or am I still waiting
    for a

  4. candy

    Just Looking

    Clouds are dripping and
    the sun is absent this morning
    A cup of tea is slowly cooling
    on the table beside me
    The newspaper is spread across
    my lap like an afghan and I
    am lost in reverie, tangled in
    the “what ifs” of yesterday
    until today gently taps me
    on the shoulder and beckons
    me to follow

  5. Kimmy Sophia

    Looking Back at the Last Moment

    However it happens
    I want to be conscious at my last moment.
    I want to freeze frame the transition
    passing from this plane to the next,
    even if there’s nothing,
    I’ll tell myself, “Stay awake!”
    Even if there’s nothing
    I want to see it.
    I wonder if it will be like
    Edgar Mitchell
    looking out the window
    of Apollo 14
    at the blue green jewel,
    all the weather systems,
    and the animals, trees and people under that.
    I’m keeping my eyes open,
    I’m going to keep taking breaths
    I’ll make myself grow wings,
    I’ll think of Jimmy Cagney yelling
    “You’ll never take me alive!”
    I’ll fly out there
    with no oxygen or pressure suit
    and knock on the windows
    of the space station
    and grin at them like Alfred E. Newman
    and they’ll drop their space food sticks.
    I’ll lasso my memories
    and go live in the best ones,
    but if there’s a heaven
    or something like it,
    even a trailer in a field with some cows,
    I’ll be glad I didn’t lose hope.
    (Kimmy Sophia Brown)

  6. josephdaniel

    Moving Forward

    I look back at the trail
    that brought me here,
    and see quite a crooked path
    Today is the aftermath of a focus lost;
    too much time spent meandering
    Yet, I don’t reflect wistfully
    There’s little I would change
    The past is not meant to be rearranged

  7. G.Wood

    Day at the Lake

    The white beach and slender pines
    on the bank of Lake Hartwell
    looked within swimming distance,
    and Daddy cut the engine
    of our family-fun boat.
    My hairy little girl legs
    hung off the nose as we glided
    swiftly toward the coast–
    but not fast enough for my liking.
    I decided to swim,
    and popped in unexpectedly.
    A moment of underwater silence
    and then I broke surface
    to hear Mama screaming, “Swim! Swim!”
    Daddy tried to fishtail
    the bow away from crushing me,
    but without the motor,
    the boat held course
    I scissored my arms and legs
    in a dog paddling frenzy,
    focused on the white beach ahead
    and never looked back
    until I reached sand.
    And then I ran
    from the weeping,
    and the hugging,
    and the spanking,
    coming towards me
    full throttle.

    1. Kimmy Sophia

      this is so excellent in every way, the little hairy girl legs and the impulse to jump and swim and how you took off and didn’t want to face the aftermath, what a memory!
      the poem is wonderfully executed!

  8. Undrtakr

    History’s Taunt

    Like glow paint on the hardwood,
    I see the steps we’ve danced
    Our moments spent together,
    When suddenly my mind is lanced
    “Where am I? Who are you?”
    I’m lost, alone and afraid
    All the memories of our life together
    Gone, along with the life we’ve made
    You may return to me tomorrow,
    The kids, the years, the strife
    This disease has taken everything,
    Everything, but my life

  9. trishwrites

    Looking back on that night
    the smell of freshly painted nails
    and stale beer hanging in the air
    you must know by now
    it was never a ten year old’s fault
    that Dad left

  10. kelly letky

    the short long life of a lovelorn tulip

    of course she had no regrets
    she’d wear that red dress again
    if she could find it

    rubbing ankles in the dark
    and smiling smugly at the waiter
    with his tray of sweets for the sweet
    thinking he knew
    the definition
    of divine

    and the whispers she couldn’t quite catch
    shuffling by from two tables over

    grief and apology
    or something smaller

    -Kelly Letky

  11. sppeac1987

    Seeing Things Sideways

    I try to not tread too far back
    Or fret about what’s forward,
    What’s best for misty eyes
    Is to see things on their side.

    We look through time’s trail,
    Forgotten faces frozen in time,
    Long lost laughs now silent,
    The scenes of simpler, sillier days.

    Everything staring back is still there,
    We may not see them all the time,
    But just out of the corner of our eyes,
    They live on in a parallel mind.

    To see we must shift our sight,
    Look to the left, regard the right,
    To keep it all with us, just not
    Allowing it to cloud what’s to come.

    So many things shape us,
    Soften us, sadden us,
    They put us on this path,
    So to throw them back is treason.

    But nor must they burden us
    On the wavering road ahead,
    To keep them at our side instead,
    Is the sentiment of a sane mind.

  12. lionetravail

    Retrospectoscope- A Shadorma
    by David M. Hoenig

    looking back,
    navigated path
    of choices
    to reach here
    looks like predestination
    rather than ‘best guess’

  13. Bruce Niedt

    It’s easy for me to “look back” today because it’s my birthday. 🙂


    I don’t remember much about 21 or 22,
    but by 23 I was a precocious second-grader
    with three little sisters. At 24
    I was a geeky sophomore in high school
    who was into Dylan Thomas
    and thought Jefferson Airplane was groovy.
    By 25 I was married, well into my career,
    and already raising two boys.
    Now I’m 26, the last time I will be
    a power-of-two years old.
    Unlike the Beatles’ prediction,
    I don’t rent a summer cottage
    in the Isle of Wight. I have 20 grandchildren,
    but her name isn’t Vera, Chuck or Dave.
    I’m proud of my 22 grown-up sons,
    and I still have all 25 of my teeth.
    I could make it to 34, but for now,
    I’m just counting on the power of two,
    and you’re the best part of that power.

    1. Bruce Niedt

      Okay, that didn’t work – apparently my HTML tag for superscripts didn’t work. I ‘ll have to rewrite it for this blog.

      2 to the Sixth Power

      I don’t remember much about 2-to-the-first
      or 2-squared, but by 2-to-the-third
      I was a precocious second-grader
      with three little sisters. At 2-to-the-fourth
      I was a geeky sophomore in high school
      who was into Dylan Thomas
      and thought Jefferson Airplane was groovy.
      By 2-to-the-fifth I was married,
      well into my career, and already raising
      2-to-the-first boys.
      Now I’m 2-to-the-sixth, the last time I will be
      a power-of-two years old. Unlike the Beatles’ prediction,
      I don’t rent a summer cottage in the Isle of Wight.
      I have two-to-the-zero grandchildren,
      but her name isn’t Vera, Chuck or Dave.
      I’m proud of my 2-squared grown-up sons,
      and I still have all 2-to-the-fifth of my teeth.
      I could make it to 3-to-the-fourth, but for now,
      I’m just counting on the power of two,
      and you’re the best part of that power.

  14. John Bauer

    Looking Back Poem
    John Bauer

    You didn’t understand me
    And I didn’t understand you
    But it really doesn’t matter if we don’t or do.

    What we’ve to say
    Has all been said before
    We’ve debated as nocturnal boors
    Retraced opinions before, ‘til it’d become insomnia’s chore.

    You often showed me the clichéd door
    When I asked for some inspiration, something more
    You said I was a surrealistic, word-mad whore
    I laughed, then slept, but you woke me when I snored
    Then you continued as a hackneyed bore, never provided a unique floor.

    We enjoyed I played with words—they and you toyed with me.
    A predictable melodrama remained to see. Yawn.
    Allow the curtain to rise
    Place the prophylactic over my eyes
    We’ll have no procreation in all our years
    Only fornication and masturbation of ideas.

  15. ReathaThomasOakley

    Looking back

    I choose to look up
    into a cloud of seagulls
    chasing my brother and me
    down the shore as we toss
    bread crumbs and joy in
    the chill air while Mama
    and Daddy watch from the car.
    A winter day so ordinary
    so perfect I still feel the wind
    in my face as I run
    see the sun through
    the tracery of wings.

  16. kmmallegro

    has shaken her skirts
    and again the climbers’ bright bodies
    have fallen
    and the unladdered Icefall
    has become an icefall
    and those whose
    only dreams
    had been summit-
    have eyes only
    for the impossible
    –now impassable–

    -Kris Miller, 4/27/15

  17. MariaPadhila

    Learning to Look Back

    Don’t neglect this glance in your arsenal:
    The strategic turn of the head to one departing
    Can serve to seal the deal. But here’s the trick:
    Work quickly, lightly, as with ink on paper.
    Take too long with it and your head will
    Ache, you’ll start to see your childhood
    And beyond, times gone and gone before
    That, and you are ink, a dark puddle.
    That was a fine piece of paper
    You started with, and now it’s ruined.

  18. Minibusy

    Among the Fallen

    When I was small
    I danced among the leaves
    weaving in spirals
    of unchecked joy
    chasing a dream

    When I was young
    I gathered fallen leaves
    tossed them aloft
    in a spin of delight
    feeding a dream

    As I grew old
    I sprawled among the leaves
    feeling them wither
    along my spine
    leaching my dreams

    And now as I repine
    I hold a single leaf
    follow the veined design
    and ache to know
    if ever it held a dream

    Sharon Anderson

  19. EeLas6678

    Looking Back, Not Going Back
    I was afraid to look back and revisit claustrophobic spaces.
    There was so much I never talked about,
    Was told I should just “let it go.”

    I’ve been able to forgive, but the remnants of unprocessed experiences
    collected in my spirit.
    Infection spread until I reached a point of surrender.
    I didn’t want to look back because I was still fragile,
    I didn’t want to become the person of my past,
    I needed to look back, gain a different perspective,
    Review my story with different eyes.

    Not everything makes sense and I don’t believe it all happened for reason,
    But I’m growing stronger
    With every storm
    With every season.

    -Emily Lasinsky 4/27/15

  20. strandedmoon


    I don’t like looking back
    Today I wonder in crack
    I wished my life to be
    From my current routine

    Is always my dreamed truth
    To live
    Drinking chocolate in art’s cafés
    With creative people – the vest
    Through smiling
    Within the bad packed nest
    Bright sides
    Between north, south and west
    Of stories
    Lying in the culture monoliths

    Is always the buzz machine
    Of Money
    Making through corpse’s futile
    In East
    I would for sure be millionaire
    Of Ambitions
    I always been proud of and had
    How my situation would be
    If lived
    There with local house and cuisine

    In Munich
    Studying psychology in its university
    The rhythm of student’s want be
    All over the methodical Germany
    Find a well-paid job in the industry
    Living without thinking with curiosity
    Changing on every three years
    Best performer with professor’s degree

    I don’t like looking back
    Yesterday I happened to lack
    To move toward my own path
    Meeting every single obstacle

  21. Jaye Words

    Looking Back

    When young, I looked forward.
    When I am five, I can go to school.
    When I am sixteen, I can drive.
    When I am eighteen, I can vote.
    When I am twenty-one, I can buy alcohol.

    Now that I am older, I look back.
    When I was nineteen, I married.
    When I was twenty-one, I had a baby.
    When I was thirty, I couldn’t have more.
    When I was fifty, I became a grandmother.

    Now, older still, I again look forward.
    By the end of this week,
    I will have finished PAD.
    By the end of next month,
    I will have published a friend’s book.
    By the end of summer,
    I will have my print book as an ebook.
    By the end of the year,
    I will have published a book of poetry.

    Looking back is good,
    If you are writing memoir,
    But not if you are a
    Let’s get it done go-getter.

  22. Misky

    The Slopes of Hills

    I was too exhausted to speak.

    All day to climb that hill. I felt
    broken in body and very old.
    I felt the mortality of it all —

    That hill that gave way to a cliff,
    and I, being scarcely brave enough
    to look — I kept myself well back

    from its extreme and slippery edge.
    And there I saw its full length of
    white chalky walls — a perilous truth

    if one were to fall. And I watched
    white sails as boats twisted and turned,
    lost of direction, and carried away
    on deep inkily hued seas. And then

    I looked back from where I’d come —
    knowing a trek down a hill is always
    a steeper slope than any journey up.


    © 2015 by M Braendeholm

  23. MutherBear

    potential changer of
    my morning,
    my day,
    my life,
    my world–
    solver of all problems
    and yet, without
    my morning,
    my day,
    my life,
    my world–
    There would be no need for

  24. BJ.Writer

    Looking Back- BJ Reiter

    Swimming through the memories
    The breast stroke cuts a path
    and pushes them aside
    Going back
    Swimming past hurts
    Past errors, both mine and others,
    Swimming past punishments
    Past accolades
    Swimming, searching
    Searching for the one
    That will break me free

  25. PeanuttyO

    She wasn’t sure how much time was left
    when she began keeping the journal
    I found it after she’d gone

    The beginning full of hope
    wondering what the future holds
    The middle transitioned
    like her sickness

    The end looked back, wondering
    Not about the future
    But what happened in the past
    What had she done to cause this

    Should she have forgiven more
    Should she have tried harder
    So many questions as she looked back
    on the life she was about to leave

    I read her words, saw into her heart
    I only wish I had seen the words
    in time to tell her she did no wrong
    She was perfect, her heart was pure
    Her intentions were good

    I read her words and wished
    Wished I had known her pain
    Looking back I wish I had known
    and released her from worry

    Someone please read my words
    before my time, before I look back

  26. Linda Rhinehart Neas

    Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

    As cliche as it is to say that
    “History repeats itself,”
    we don’t heed the warning.

    Like cogs on a machine,
    we return to the same rut,
    falling in with precision.

    What does it take to stop
    the clock’s return to what was?

    What does it take before
    we learn to step over the hole?

    1. BJ.Writer

      The last stanza says it all – for all of us – certainly for me. ” What does it take before we learn to step over the hole?” Avoiding the pitfall, avoiding that memory, avoiding… Thanks for putting it into words.

  27. mohinipuranik

    Looking Back, How It All Began

    This poem is dedicated to the PAD challenge, we all are enjoying every day. Thank you Robert Brewer and thanks all the poets. Enjoying this month so much.

    looking back, how it all began
    that anxiety, i can or i can’t
    what’s gonna happen?

    looking back how it all began
    a lot of planning
    i’ll do this
    and i’ll do that
    i want to be the perfect

    looking back how it all began
    ‘i don’t want to fail
    no, no!
    i don’t want to fail’
    looking back how it all began

    ‘practice, practice, practice
    will it work?
    i want to succeed’
    looking back how it all began
    it was so easy
    just one poem per day
    one small effort at a time

    looking back how it all began
    a lot of fun replaced anxiety
    poems replaced the fear of failure
    success and perfection
    it’s all about just poeming

    looking back, how it all began
    crazy pen brought crazy words
    love, hope, desires, and faith
    everyday blossomed with a new poem flower

    looking back, how it all began
    how pad challenge began
    how this fun began
    we all joined
    and how this rain of poems began

    looking back, how it all began
    and now am thinking,
    ‘how it’s reaching to the end of the challenge
    i’m sad
    i’m in tears
    a new poem every day
    what a wonderful journey it was!’
    looking back how it all began

    looking ahead
    for a new journey
    for new destinations
    for new challenges
    with new fun poem festivals

    don’t know how i did it
    but it just happened
    the insane love for poems
    kept me writing every day
    will keep me writing every new day

    life is simple
    life is beautiful
    just one challenge at a time
    one small step every day
    look back and assess
    look ahead and improve
    life is simple

    – © Mohini Puranik

  28. lucydbrown

    And run
    Far from the dull ache in your finger tips
    They tasted the tears of long forgotten memories
    And you wonder why your bones creak?
    They’re calling out to times lost
    Run far from your forgotten days
    Tie up your shoelaces
    You won’t want to trip.

    Lucy Dowling-Brown

    1. lucydbrown

      Woops! I accidentally cut out the first line.. It’s meant to be:

      Tie up your shoelaces
      And run
      Far from the dull ache in your finger tips
      They tasted the tears of long forgotten memories
      And you wonder why your bones creak?
      They’re calling out to times lost
      Run far from your forgotten days
      Tie up your shoelaces
      You won’t want to trip.

  29. Kyusu

    Looking back

    The building was burning
    flames licking up
    from open windows
    and I knew that this was
    just the start of something
    that would change everything.

    I said that it was time
    to leave and you agreed
    but when I looked back
    you were already gone.

    The building was burning
    and I was drawn
    towards its vigour
    so I left the place of safety
    I was in and moved towards
    that all-consuming fervour.

    I knew that it was time
    to risk the danger zone
    and in that moment
    everything changed.

    Alison Williams

  30. Doakley



    Looking back
    while you are running
    means the monster
    has gotten ahead of you.


    you will trip and fall


    When entering a dark room,
    do not turn the light on,
    and back in watching
    where you just were.

  31. Doakley

    Small Leadership Role

    I thought I could help them, this small group of nine,
    their procedures and logic stuck in some previous time.

    What they need to have done, is just what I did,
    before I retired, I can’t keep that hid.

    After elections each year, their ways they do keep,
    no change to the board, this bothers my sleep.

    The names on the board, sometimes they are changed,
    the duties and officers, they are just rearranged.

    Spread sheets, word docs? They move like a snail,
    who knew it was discriminatory to require email?

    After five years of trying, I’ve done all that I can,
    the only change made, I’m an angry old man.

  32. Arash

    “But Looking Back Tonight…”

    by Arash E.

    But looking back I see the clock intact,
    our lovey-dovies tucked in bed, and we’re alone perhaps,
    the tree aglow in red, the presents wrapped,
    a Lego set for Kat – But facts are facts,
    you smashed the clock, my gift to you the day we met,
    broke the twenty-year-old glass, your bags had been packed
    for years inside your head, I’d grown attached
    to tender whispers in the dark, addicted to your scent….
    Though you left, your orchid pillow – for years – I kept,
    years and years I hugged the orchid pillow and wept.
    You recall the nights I kissed the curve of your neck and back?
    It hurts to know you never ever truly loved me back….
    Now I know the whole thing…just a lie, was an act,
    but tonight I’ve you, the kids, the happy family, back.
    But looking back tonight I see the clock…intact.

    1. Roxanna Watrous

      This is gorgeous. I like how it rhymed, told a story and tied the beginning to the end adding so much more weight to the line the second time around.

  33. uvr

    Setting out
    on a life
    full of promise
    like raindrops
    on concrete

    too late
    like the sun
    that slept in
    it remembered
    to shine

    only to highlight
    life had drifted
    way off course

    So here I am
    where I never
    intended to be
    Looking back

    and wondering
    how different
    things could
    have been
    had I followed
    my heart

    I force it
    to follow me
    to the end
    of the rainbow
    even though
    there is
    no pot of gold

    Uma Venkatraman

    1. Arash

      like raindrops
      on concrete”

      This is an interesting metaphor, not just because of the difference between water and concrete, but also because it got me thinking that maybe hope is not just a single thing that once broken, is broken forever. It’s like rain, and it can keep on coming, trying to rejuvenate life.

  34. donaldillich


    He could hear twigs snapping, scuffing of feet on rock.

    He could smell her perfume, orchids, plums, innocence.

    He could taste the air, different somehow, cleaner, without ash.

    He could feel her breath on him, heated, on his neck, his body.

    But he could not see her. He couldn’t turn around.

    He knew what the rules were, from that god who wanted everything.

    Who would keep what he desired, even after his song, rocks cried.

    Hear her little laugh, smell her apple skin, taste her salt, feel her hands.

    Hear her dress dragging, smell her sweat, taste her cheeks, feel her eyes.

    A touch on his back, almost as if to steer him forward?

    Does she want him to turn around? Is it time to take her in?

    He half turns, he turns back, he half turns, he turns back, he half turns.

    He turns back. He turns.

  35. Jezzie


    I’m sitting in the back
    of Mum’s car in my crate
    as the guy in the truck
    behind us mouths “Hi Mate!”

    What are we doing here
    stuck in this traffic jam?
    I’m supposed to be there
    by six ten, so I am
    going to be very late
    for my training school date.

    Travelling through rush hour
    each week we have to drive
    but just last week, oh dear,
    I didn’t even arrive.

    Another Doggy Ditty using my theme “Almost Human” Read more at https://jezabelmyschka.wordpress.com/</em)

  36. mzanemcclellan

    “Love for the Ages”

    Perhaps at first glance it all seems
    to have been somewhat quixotic.
    She, adamant that Love, like Life,
    cannot be idealistic.

    Cannot be measured honestly,
    outside the crucible of trust.
    That time, both elastic and dense,
    requires from us a calm patience.

    My desperate, sisyphean,
    clinging to insubstantial faith.
    Providence revealed her wisdom
    the hill took forever, the fall …

    My heart chanted my soul’s mantra,
    night and day without surcease.
    insisting on the relevance,
    of what was a Love for the Ages.

    M. Zane McClellan

    1. Arash

      I like how you start the second stanza with “Cannot” not “It cannot”, it throws the reader right into the action while adding on to the complexity of thought the reader is pondering from the previous stanza, on love/life that can not be idealistic.

  37. Caitix

    Look Back

    When walking down the street
    I don’t just look forward
    Glance over my back and to the side
    If someone is following me
    I’ll be wanting some forewarning
    So, I look over my back
    And cast my eye


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