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

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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.

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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.

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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. lawrencek

    Love Vines

    As
    apples baked,
    brown, cinnamon
    crusted dimples
    dotted each
    eye. Falling
    faster gliding
    gossamer hammock
    heavenward. Instinctively
    I juggle
    joyous kites,
    kettles, letters,
    leftovers, my
    man. Nimble
    nettles over
    orange perfumed
    posies. Quietly
    quills rain
    romantic storms.
    Sober trees
    tent ughter.
    Underneath Venus
    volleys wafting
    wisteria ‘xuberantly.
    XOXO. Yours,
    yes. Zesty
    zinnia.

  2. lawrencek

    Operation: Procrastination

    Academics
    botch
    commencement
    destinies.
    Eclipsing
    faculty
    grimace.
    Histrionics
    impairs
    juvenille
    kodakers
    loving
    mirrors,
    negating
    opportunities.
    Procrastinators
    quarrel,
    reinventing
    selfie
    time.
    Urging
    victory,
    worried Gen-
    X’ers
    yearn
    Zymurgy.

  3. lawrencek

    Love Hurts

    Accidental
    bosom
    cradles
    dented
    ego.
    Famished
    gams
    hug
    intestines
    jauntily.
    Keelless
    lovers
    mingle
    needlessly
    over
    pretense.
    Quiet
    riots
    spill
    tired,
    ubiquitous
    vows.
    Wedding
    ‘Xes
    yearn
    zeppolis.

  4. lawrencek

    Boy Hoods

    Angelic
    boys
    chase
    dirty
    enemies
    faking
    genocide.
    Hapless
    imps
    jovially
    kill
    lizards.
    Mismatched
    nuns
    offer
    prayers
    quietly.
    Rough
    sentinels
    trip
    up
    voyeurs
    while
    x-men
    yank
    zippers.

  5. marci426

    REMEMBRANCE

    raindrops
    on backyard lilacs
    sapphire blue
    of crocuses
    peaking through winter
    flash
    of fireflies
    signaling
    across
    Indiana
    cornfields—
    all of these
    I miss—
    and you.

    –Marcia Jaron Morley

  6. StephanieMiller

    Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

    A little bundle of sticks
    Drawn together with thin white twine
    Running, without tiring, through head-high grass
    A fire hydrant rockets into the night sky
    Fireman, comically swirl around, in yellow hats and raincoats
    A trailer full of ponies pulls up in front of our house
    Hooves clatter down a metal ramp onto the sidewalk
    Riding my brand, new blue stingray, wind whistling through my hair
    A willowy boy draws his arm around my waist as the music begins
    Standing alone on the sidewalk watching my parents drive away
    Dust in the wind played in stairwells
    Drunken stupor followed by nightlong agony
    Ice cold stargazing on a dock in the middle of the lake
    Grandma exhales her last long breath
    Tears well in Dad’s eye as we wait to walk down the aisle
    Magical morning on a Kauaian hill
    Sudden stabbing pain and a long, sad day
    Profound grief relieved by Myrna Loy and Hobbes
    Crisp fall day walking the wall of an ancient city
    Angry sleepless night followed by sudden sobriety
    A wave of night blooming jasmine awakens us after midnight
    All these moments
    Now so far behind
    My story still
    Both so far away
    And my nearby self
    Familiar, with repetition
    And blurred by the gauze of time
    Snip the string
    And they clatter to the ground
    Leaving me silent
    Or to collect a new bundle

  7. horselovernat

    Onwards and Upwards

    From coal came diamonds’ shining light,
    the gift of a love stoked dinner fight,
    less eternal than a starry night,
    watch the breaking heart take flight.

    My heart’s a prism made of glass,
    three steps forward, stumble back.
    Stand up tall to face the mass
    of obstacles now painted black.

    Time is wasted turning around
    for there, no answers can be found,
    only a glimpse at what once was,
    seen through mistakes mighty jaws.

    Look forward, there is found the key
    to happiness for an eternity,
    because ahead is yet to come,
    it beckons like fate’s beating drum.

    Natalie Gasper

  8. mmarie

    We Don’t Live in a Poem
    by M. Marie

    We don’t live in a poem.

    Our world isn’t always perfect,
    or beautiful,
    or worth
    writing home about./i>

    These are not fairy tales
    we’re living,
    and there are
    so few
    happy endings
    in our lives

    but
    we’ve had
    moments:
    thrilling,
    exciting,
    shocking,
    and heartbreaking moments
    that –
    though perhaps not
    as beautiful
    or perfect

    as those idealized by the fairy tales we grew up hearing,

    are,
    nonetheless
    poetic
    to us.

    1. mmarie

      Sorry – missed a formatting bracket 🙁

      day 27 – Looking Back

      (In addition to the daily challenge, I’ll be using an all-encompassing theme of “self-

      acceptance” to link all my poems together this month)

      We Don’t Live in a Poem
      by M. Marie

      We don’t live in a poem.

      Our world isn’t always perfect,
      or beautiful,
      or worth
      writing home about.

      These are not fairy tales
      we’re living,
      and there are
      so few
      happy endings
      in our lives

      but
      we’ve had
      moments:
      thrilling,
      exciting,
      shocking,
      and heartbreaking moments
      that –
      though perhaps not
      as beautiful
      or perfect

      as those idealized by the fairy tales we grew up hearing,

      are,
      nonetheless
      poetic
      to us.

  9. tobysgirl

    Hindsight

    If hindsight were 20/20 and I had to do it all over again:
    Spankings would be mandatory, as the hugs and I love you’s were;
    there would be no TV or internet;
    walks would be great fun, more than they were;
    laughing at ourselves would be easier and done more often;
    respect would be demanded and talking back not tolerated;
    reading out loud and often to each other would be enjoyable and begged for.

    I would give you choices, not letting you choose just anything;
    your genetics would not be allowed as an excuse for your actions;
    boys would not be allowed until there was a healthy respect for yourself.

    If hindsight were 20/20, I would not have to visit you in jail;
    watch you throw your “self” away to become what someone else wants you to be;
    see you not finish school;
    watch you grow older than your twenty-five years.

    I would not hate myself for who you have become.

    –Jennifer McCann

  10. JocyMedina

    You needed some space (looking back)

    You asked for some time
    You needed to leave for a while
    to get back on your feet
    to straightened your life.

    You needed some space…

    How was in space?
    How many planets did you see?
    Did you own shooting stars?
    Is it true they grant you a wish when they fall?

    At what speed did the light did you forget me?
    Did you travel the milky way and got lost?
    Did you ever find a black hole like the one where you left me?
    With your luck, I would surely guess no.

    I’ve been looking up since you left
    Hopping you’d answer all of these questions
    Did you ever peek down to see me on Earth?
    Did you ever see me totally losing direction?

    Are you back on feet?
    Or are you still needing more space?
    With my luck, I would surely guess yes
    Looking back, I can tell,
    Coming back was never your real intention.

    By Jocy Medina

  11. Jessenia

    Amnesia

    Under my eyes is the Black Sea.
    Quiet, be still before the
    tsunami renders tumescence
    uninhibited.
    My feet are covered in callouses and
    fault lines, a lifeline of
    rifts – yet, when
    I roll my eyes back to see the shore
    all the sand falls through the cracks.
    Under my lips I can taste the sunlight
    against my back I can
    feel my fingers tracing my palm as sure
    as the wind knows windows knows the
    back of a dandelion as the florets
    run away from home in the dead of spring –
    and I
    I know no winter, no summer, no home.
    Under the hard edges of my jaw is the dam
    to the black, the bleak.
    All I know is this darkness

    save the light leaving the cracks
    in my palms.

    Jessenia Class

  12. dextrousdigits

    When I return to a past event
    and step into my body
    I rerun not only the experience,
    but my thoughts, my physical response and emotions
    often as if it were actually happening now.

    If I return to the same event and become an observer
    detached just watching it unfold as if
    sitting in the living room watching a video
    or a coach of some sort like
    my dad, a teacher, or myself as an adult.
    I can slow the movie down,
    Change the voices, physical features or dress of the characters,
    Stand off stage behind the curtain prompt different words,
    gestures, physical movements, stance, voice tone/speeds,
    Run the prequel to give me a deeper understanding
    of dynamics I was unaware of,
    Try on different responses and endings.
    Remake it in ways not in my tool box at the time it occurred.

    When I have gone back as observer or coach once or several times,
    if I go back and float into my body
    my thoughts, physiology and emotions have changed.

    It would be a useful tool,
    if I could do this at the moment I feel overwhelmed
    while the experience is happening,
    but alas sometimes, I just get caught by surprise,
    no guard on duty, or get trapped in the drama
    and my emotions suffocate my brain.

  13. akramer

    Desert Sunset

    It was a stunner that’s for sure
    Watched through a rearview mirror
    Vivid orange and magenta hues
    Spread across the glass.
    At last, you had to look
    Turn around and see firsthand
    Desert sky on fire
    A magnitude that stopped the car
    Opened the door
    Threw out your arms
    To the great expanse

    -Ariana Kramer

  14. De Jackson

    Shedding Seven Tears into a Hopeful Sea
    (Selkie Waiting)

    She
    knows her own salt,
    formed of the souls of water
    -y graves; plays
    with her children
       in the waves, casts
    her spell on a lonely
                  moon.

    She’ll seal this night
    with a brackish
        kiss; just a
    lost girl, breath
    caught fast be
    -tween
          lung
    and gills.

    .

  15. Janice Canerdy

    Memories

    Our home sat nestled in a country glen.
    A family of six shared this abode
    of four small rooms. My life was simple when
    we lived beside that narrow gravel road.

    There was no indoor plumbing in those days,
    no phones, no high-tech toys with catchy names.
    Our work required direct, efficient ways;
    we earned the chance to play our outdoor games.

    We had one car, and Daddy held the keys.
    When we got old enough to drive, we knew
    he’d not release them if he wasn’t pleased;
    and even then, our trips to town were few.

    When I feel reminiscent I am drawn
    to that small homeplace nestled in the glen.
    I close my eyes and see a house now gone
    that was the center of my world back then.

  16. Nancy Posey

    Pillar of Salt

    “Remember Lot’s Wife.” Luke 17:32

    Of course I looked back.
    You would have too—
    brimstone like rain,
    the smell of sulfur,
    my daughters back there
    with those mocking men
    they’d chosen to trust
    more than their father and me–
    or God.

    We were running away
    from fire,
    from fear,
    from what we could have become,
    not toward anything.
    What we saved
    could not replace
    all we lost.

    And what did it matter?
    In time, my tears
    would have turned me
    to salt.

  17. Jemgemini

    Day 27

    Looking Back Poem:

    By Teresa G

    It was the scent of his cologne
    His very essence of his being
    That made me want to stay
    Even though I would run away
    Looking back on my yesterday’s
    Of a time and place before
    When we smelled the roses
    When we walked through the park
    As My memories reaches a greater distance than before
    Looking back was just the easy part
    It was the only part that I could cut and paste
    A greater time of before I went running away

    Things in life I had to learn
    Thinking that you needed to learn a lesson more
    Yet, it would me also
    Looking back and realizing my own mistakes
    I am now open to accept and grow
    To let go and receive
    To not run anymore
    To quit looking back over my shoulder
    I will not look back no more
    For the pass is the pass and the future has not been written
    I live within the present

  18. Gwyvian

    Kilauea

    The rage is pulsing just below the surface
    mother’s heartbeat in dresses of primordial molten—
    here begins the essence of our sweet soil,
    our quickening cycle heaving towards the skies;
    yet sometimes the fiery heart drips forth still
    to dazzle our souls to stillness
    with the core that speaks a different tongue,
    the heat of creation washing away life—
    the pulse is birth and death in an endless romance
    that began at the beginning of time…

    April 27, 2015

    Note: as some might have heard, a lava lake has appeared atop Kilauea in the past couple of days, I’ve just seen it; this is to honor Pele, who brings forth the very core of our planet as in ages past volcanoes have.

  19. Khara House

    Home Going
    Monday, January 9, 2012

    You left without ever looking back.
    I even dream you cavalier, boarding
    a bus to depart even while I beg
    you to stay. All you say is that your time
    has come, and off you go—leaving me
    only your shoulder blades, the curve
    of your neck, and a silent plea
    to keep you forever between these sheets.

  20. Swati Mitra

    When I look back…..

    I see a grey, stormy, tumultuous ocean,
    I see a lone sampan, lost and helpless,
    I see an extremely remote possibility
    Of a lighthouse sketched as a delusion.

  21. jennglenn

    How to Live Without Regret

    the little voice repeats don’t:
    don’t worry about what they think of you.
    don’t worry about how you make them feel.
    don’t try so hard unless it’s for something you want.
    don’t give in to fear. don’t be afraid to cry. don’t be afraid to fail.

    yet a louder voice pleads listen:
    listen with intent and without interruption,
    listen for the tone, the purpose, the desire.
    listen to your mind before your heart, but
    listen to instincts first. they will keep you alive.

    we try to live without the burden of contrition
    accepting happiness and sorrow alike
    as facets of an ephemeral existence.
    we’re subject to the whims of a cruel nature
    and evolution often stems from pain.
    the wisdom gained over the years helps
    quell the ache of unheeded advice,
    yet the more harrowing pieces of the past
    have led to one desperate wish on many a forlorn night:
    if i could just tell you one thing,
    it would be to live without ever looking back.

    1. jennglenn

      Wow, I have no idea how that whole thing italicized :-/ HTML gone awry. I only wanted to italicize “don’t” in the first line of the first stanza, and “listen” in the first line of the second stanza.

  22. MarieJason

    I’m on Pacific Time here in San Diego, so it’s still April 30th where I am:

    HINDSIGHT IN SIGHT

    Across the International Date Line
    Where one day meets the next in
    Just a timezone difference, the
    Marine life cross back and forth
    To and fro, never realizing how
    They jump back and forth in time
    Like there’s no tomorrow. And
    Yesterday becomes today while
    Today becomes yesterday to the
    Oceanographer who has to log
    Back and forth the varied times
    Of the wildlife swarm he is
    Tracking for science’s purpose.

  23. jazzladyw

    Reflections- Inspired by Olivia Newton-John’s “Twist of Fate”

    There are no second chances;
    no do-overs, no changing the fates.
    There is only now, one still thought,
    to create, laugh, experience the rain
    when you were hoping for sun.
    Each hug, each tear, each broken wing
    strengthens us. The wounds heal,
    the rains stop, the snows melt.
    Each new day is a gift,
    handle it with care.
    Don’t let the past be your restraint,
    stalk the moment and play with it.
    Tomorrow is not promised,
    and today won’t last forever.

    1. HypatiaKant

      NO TURNING BACK
      Do not look back.
      Do not regress,
      live with regret
      or second guess.
      Do not waste time
      saying “what if…”,
      thinking there is
      something you should
      have done that would
      somehow have changed
      things, if only
      you had known,
      for it won’t, can’t,
      change what is past.
      By Kimberly Murray

  24. JillyB

    Looking back

    Looking back made no sense

    I missed the touches of delight
    waiting for you to call
    waiting for you to come

    I missed the visions of faith
    blurring what was here
    blurring what was true

    I missed the sounds of tranquility
    silencing my love
    silencing my heart

    I missed the tastes of joy
    souring the hope
    souring the charm

    Looking back I missed the vibrant sensations all around me

  25. Jennifer Peach

    don’t look back
    by jennifer peach
    ___

    you cannot destroy concrete walls with your eyes, love,
    so just forget the space between here and Detroit.
    there will be higher parking garages to dive off of, head-first.
    didn’t they tell you not to miss someone so much that you’d
    twist your head off just to mail it across the states?
    he doesn’t want it. he doesn’t know how to describe
    the color of your hair or the shape your smiling cheeks make.
    keep the walls up, baby doll, please believe me.
    he is not pounding his fists against the Michigan skyline
    begging to will his way back to you. forget the coffee shop.
    wait for someone who takes you to the place where the moon
    blows a kiss to the sun in passing. wait for someone who
    has the words to tell you that 800 miles has nothing on the
    distance of their palpatating heart and how it will reach you.

  26. AmyA

    Look Back!

    Look back!
    Don’t look back!
    I am here, in the car,
    Watching you,
    Waiting for you to turn
    And wave
    Or smile,
    Or shrug
    To say:

    Goodbye,
    I am grown now
    I will be fine
    Thank you for raising me,
    Packing up the car,
    Hauling my belongings up the stairs,
    Helping to make up the extra-long bed
    Thank you for backing me up,
    Feeding me,
    Soothing me,
    Cheering for me,
    Helping me with the big words,
    Carrying me when I was small,
    Taking me to my favorite places,
    Accompanying me to less favorite places,
    Thank you for baking 18 birthday cakes,
    Not coming downstairs when I had friends come over,
    Not being horrible when you did come downstairs
    Too many times,
    Thank you for staying up late,
    For driving me to games, rehearsals, lessons, appointments,
    For coming to my meets, plays, concerts, debates, science fairs, recitals,
    Thank you for hosting, planning, worrying, supporting, loving.

    Turn around,
    Don’t turn around,
    I am in the car,
    Watching you go,
    Holding you in my heart,
    My tiny baby boy,
    While that tall young man,
    Square-shouldered,
    Strides into the dorm,
    Confident and cautious,
    Ready for what comes next.

    Amy Appleton

  27. deborahbgkelly

    On Grief

    I still cry when I think of you
    But now it’s not simply with sadness
    But with joy
    For all the little things we had
    For the memories we still have

    I feel you all around me
    And know you are picking out a brother or sister

    He or she is coming soon
    I can feel it
    Because I can feel you

    I know you are all dancing with each other
    And dancing with your grandma and great grandma

    I reach out in hope
    Not as much in loss
    It’s amazing what a few years will do

    There is nothing different in how much I love you
    Only something different in the way I see the loss of each one of you

  28. AleathiaD

    Wisconsin

    These clouds hang
    like slow moving dreams,
    remind me of Wisconsin,
    of beautiful days
    moving effortlessly
    from summer to autumn.

    Clouds across the wide, flat
    landscape where I was too little
    to understand the world,
    but old enough to remember
    the way you looked at me that day.

    The clouds gave way
    to something darker,
    a storm roiling—sparking silver
    angry bellies with lightning
    flashing in the distance.

    We sat on the sidewalk together
    watching its approach,
    neither of us with fear,
    neither of us to know
    what lies ahead.

    Aleathia Drehmer 2015

    April 27, 2015

  29. tjholt

    BEFORE THE DIAGNOSIS

    Longing to go backward, I turn around
    I’ll retrace my steps- I can find it
    follow the crumbs, return to another time.
    A spring persists beneath the winter’s white

    I’ll retrace my steps- I can find it,
    the place, the time before HIV took hold.
    A spring persists beneath the winter’s white
    which lusts for the passionate kiss of warmth.

    The place the time before HIV took hold,
    a season of no fall, a winter incomprehensible
    where lust more than a passionate warm kiss
    our naked bodies exposed because we could.

    A season of no fall, a winter incomprehensible
    that green spring before leaves fell.
    We exposed our naked bodies because we could,
    a banquet feast, a vision for the hungry.

    That green spring before leaves fell
    released from the winter’s hold love grew abundant.
    Hungry for a vision of the banquet feast
    I was eager to taste the treats

    of love’s abundant growth. Released from the winter’s hold
    dormant in my marriage bed
    I was eager to taste the treats
    wanting the fantasies I saw.

    My marriage bed dormant,
    crawling from beneath the covers
    the fantasies I saw, wanting,
    impotent illusions who suck my strength.

    leaving the bed to discover
    impotent illusions suck my strength
    and yesterday’s oasis, merely a mirage.

    Leaving the bed to discover
    I follow the crumbs, return to another time
    and yesterday’s oasis merely a mirage,
    longing to go backward, I turn around and around.

  30. tjholt

    A TASTE OF DEATH

    a seaman trusts the stars
    he knows they’re persistent in position
    constant in their course
    from first sight to fading glow
    the sextant is his holy grail
    if the courses were to alter
    he would falter in his sail
    lost in the featureless face of the sea
    doubting the stars, his navigation

    you are my sextant
    your presence a gauge
    my steadfast constant
    in a world of countless features
    I trust in your being

    when you are nowhere to be found
    there’s nothing where you stood
    a guiding star gone black
    the tenacity of presence destroyed
    then you’re there where you should be
    confirming for now your presence
    leaving doubt when faith had sufficed.

  31. kissingtheshoreline

    “mirrors,” Drea O.

    in the positive thinking books,
    they tell you that looking forward is key.
    that dwelling on regrets leaves you aching
    for what you no longer have the chance to have
    or to fix.

    i have tried every positive trick i know
    to try to fool my mind into some semblance
    of happy;
    try not to spin dark clouds out of thoughts
    try to picture my future like sunlight

    the best i can do is glass.
    glass, which glints with the reflection of other people’s bright
    and happy,
    a someday future i may or may not have.
    but positive thinking does not direct the rays back to me
    and

    the problem with glass,
    or at least the glass my future is made of
    is that it’s reflective.
    you look into it and you see
    yourself.

    i have been trying positive thinking.
    have been trying not to look back.
    but it is hard to look into the
    mirror of my future
    and see not only the tattered now
    but the fractured
    and sorry past,
    ever lingering behind.

  32. seingraham

    NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT

    In hindsight I wish I’d thought to bring a sweater
    Crossing from the island to the other islands
    is always chilly and you’d think I could remember
    that; it’s not like I don’t do it every other week
    or even oftener but somehow, looking back,
    it wasn’t the only thing on my mind that night.
    After all, it’s not every day a girl throws over
    the man she was supposed to marry and, let’s face
    it probably the only one who’ll ever ask me.

    Oh, I’m not being as pitiful as I sound, it’s just a fact.
    In my late twenties, fast closing in on that dreaded
    three oh … no matter what they say, those women
    who don’t care about numbers or such – it’s still
    one of those defining birthdays for most of us.
    Especially if, like me, we don’t have exciting careers
    or great ideas of what life holds – and maybe
    we’re thinking getting married and having a family
    was the most fulfilling life imaginable.

    It didn’t matter though – I was so cold out on the deck
    of the ferry and when that nice man asked if I’d like
    his jacket, I wasn’t thinking – the part of my rational
    brain that should have been screaming : No! No!
    You don’t know this person! Go below deck if you’re
    cold! Don’t take anything from a stranger! No!
    Those are the very faint last thoughts I had as
    I stared into the man’s eyes when he wrapped
    his jacket around me and in one great sweeping
    motion, kept moving and shoved me overboard.

  33. faith85

    you don’t realize you’ve survived until after

    once i wrote a long book
    and told myself it was the greatest thing i’d ever do
    so i might as well kill myself
    because that was all

    i’ve never written a book again
    but somehow i’m still alive
    someday i think i might get inspiration
    but instead i write uninspired poems

    and call them my success
    because they’re no good
    i’m no good
    but i am alive

    Faith Owen

  34. SJR5

    Looking Back

    Looking back, she could only find the names of
    Towns her grandparents left.
    Khotin, Vitebsk, Lodz.
    The Russian Empire held them all
    A hundred years ago.
    Looking ahead, those towns ended up
    In new countries,
    Ukraine, Belarus, Poland.
    All those lands, then and now,
    Saw her grandparents as interlopers,
    Jews, Christ-killers, usurers.
    Looking back, she knew she’d missed her chance
    To learn their stories.
    The little she thought she knew
    Was sometimes wrong.
    The cigarette smuggler fleeing the “old country”
    To avoid police
    Owned the cigarette factory
    Fleeing the “old country”
    To avoid paying a cigarette tax.
    Why else did they come?
    What was it like in the towns they left?
    What did they think of their new country?
    Looking back, there were too many questions,
    Forever unanswered.

  35. Alemonlot

    Liquidate

    You were the one who said this is hard and this is sad.
    As smart as you are, it’s the mono-syllabics that get me.

    When I look back, I wish for restraint
    so that I will remember less how you always shared first.

    Walking around the house, I make it a point to turn
    the picture frames like how I always wanted you to push me face down.

    The afternoons passed as we thought about what
    we’re addicted to, not doing what we love.

    I have such little moonlight left in this glass.
    It’s heavy, a bucket of snow.

    I’m lying when I say it’s for the vials I plan to resurrect you with.
    I’m saving it for myself.

    That day, when I have all my happiness, how can I show you?
    Or will I still hold my tongue the way you never did.

  36. Alemonlot

    Take Me Prayer

    The chinese herbs designed to loosen up my neck smell like wet, dark orange logs, hot moss. They’re a favorable perfume in the familiar mouth cave even so. When my acupuncturist gave them to me, I tucked them purposefully deep in a pocket of some unusable luggage to forget how to talk about the damn stuff. She can’t stick the needles in there yet. She says it is like I have a shell. My muscles have become one. Blessed body, I have always been afraid of/wanted this: I make eyes or simply show up and they would know immediately how all my bodyparts tell the stories of the other parts. It’s what they don’t say most of the time. Like how I went a year without an orgasm and now I downplay how scared I am I will never recover, who is supposed to apologize for that? She said I can expect to feel some heat there, any day. So, don’t be worried. It’s designed to happen that way. When I try to pull myself up, my shoulders hurt so bad. I can barely get through it even with grit teeth. While trudging through the damp, I focus on how my knee is broken in at least ten places, maybe a thousand. They are still discovering bones there, so I will probably never know.

  37. A. Ault

    “The Hill Ahead”

    The rock spontaneously kicked up by my feet rolls back, repelled by the upward curve of the road rising higher. My view is blocked when I pause, the hill, steep, casting shadows in the orange light sinking beyond.

    and I look back

    The dust is still settling from those last footprints, fading the further I look down the road I’ve come. There are smaller bluffs beside bends still highlighted by the setting sun. Soon the shadows even disappear as I can almost glimpse the beginning of my journey–so clear now–every sight condensed to summarized memory: a single stream of feeling, knowing, and understanding.

    I blink, the light becomes flat, dark, and the breeze spins me back around. Under the light of stars, I trudge up the hill. Beside me, the moon rises.

    A. Ault

  38. JRSimmang

    BUTTON UP SHIRTS

    Where would you go, if you were turned ‘round?
    Would you still stand with your feet on the ground?
    Or would you take flight
    on each starry night
    to chase the sunset, to lose what you’ve found?

    If people were pleasant, would you say, “you thank?”
    I’d think the looks on their faces would be blank.
    Would you start with the Z
    and bumble the bee?
    It’d be rather odd, if you let me be frank.

    Would you let your dog scratch behind your ears?
    Would you scare away all of your fears?
    Perhaps it’d be nice,
    whatever the price,
    to always keep yourself in arrears!

    To always see what you’ve already seen,
    to always be where you have already been,
    Oh! what a treat,
    in the passenger’s seat,
    never able to drive. See what I mean?

    Where do you place your backward feet?
    Are you ever able to type then delete?
    What you’ve done,
    well… it’s done,
    It’s time to face forward. Do not retreat!

    Just think, instead of behind, you may be the first
    to jump into crystal blue waters headfirst!
    You just may as well find
    that toe-ing the line,
    could be the very best, not the worst!

    People won’t run in circles just to shake your hand,
    and kisses will always intentionally land
    where they should
    and not where they could
    if you’d just turn around once and demand

    that the back of your head stay fixed in the past,
    to give your eyes images that will happily last
    as laughter and smiles,
    those extra miles,
    the sunrise’s brilliance unsurpassed.

    You are what you are from what you’ve accomplished,
    and keep those medals and keepsakes well- polished.
    On to the next one!
    It’s so much more fun
    if you can watch where you’re going. I promise!

    -JR Simmang

  39. infliximox

    Looking Back
    by Victoria Hill-Chalmers

    I know that I have ruined things, though
    there’s no way that I can tell you so.
    There’s so much miscommunication between us
    that you might not ever know,
    especially now.
    In times of reflection, I have created maps
    that pinpoint exactly where I have gone wrong–
    if only I could take steps back just like
    I’ve taken steps down a thousand different roads.
    Dearest, I am sorry; eternally, I am.
    Sorry that I loved too much,
    that those feelings mutated
    and ran ahead of us on legs of hope.
    That, finding nothing in our future,
    they dissipated entirely
    and fell to dust at our feet.
    I assure you, that those feelings hold
    the largest ‘X’ of any of my maps
    and that in taking those first few, new steps
    in the world outside, I have lost my heart
    and left those feelings a thousand miles
    behind me.

  40. Angie5804

    Since Walt said it was okay, once again I looked back to find a looking back poem. 🙂

    Debbie

    So glad the casket was closed
    Didn’t want to see her in repose
    Eyes shut, once lit with laughter or bright with fire
    A body tired
    No longer tanned and toned
    But shrunken down to a whisper
    Broken bones and lost strength
    Devoured by an unknown force
    Overtaken by pain
    Legs that once took her miles on the beach
    Could, at the end, hardly cross the kitchen floor
    The mind of a teacher
    Ever learning
    Narrowed to a two syllable representation of a sound
    With a heart for others
    I never heard “why me?”
    As she left behind
    The ones who love her
    To carry on
    With her example

  41. Shennon

    Pinocchio Reminisces

    Looking back to the days
    When my mind was a haze
    When I was misunderstood
    Completely made of whittled wood.

    I had trouble being good
    Even when I knew I should
    Every time that I told lies
    My nose grew between my eyes.

    Til one day I realized
    Life is oft idealized
    After knowing real pain and joy
    That’s when I became a real boy.

    –ShennonDoah

  42. lovewriter

    Behind Me

    In my narrow apartment kitchen
    it’s a quarter turn, just a pivot really
    from the stove to toss the eggshells into the sink.
    But salt in my hand goes over the shoulder
    with no care where it lands.

    What was that?
    Did you hear it?
    Grandma haunting me.
    Her superstitions, hanging like spider webs.

  43. therankspoon

    On time.

    I maintain
    that your stance
    on the concept of time relates to your
    age and station in life.

    Some consider time a straight arrow.
    Others see it as a curved line on a globe.
    A chosen few think of it
    as a river following the path of least resistance.

    I have preferred to think of time
    as a moving train.
    It never allows us to remain neutral
    and it affords us the opportunity
    to look back as we move forward.

    ***
    Matt MacDonald
    “Give me money and I’ll write whatever you want”.

  44. dhaivid3

    Reflect

    While it’s good to look back
    To check the tracks for the marks
    that indicate failure and regret
    It’s great to look ahead
    With confidence that the road ahead
    once passed
    Will be covered with marks that read
    astute, experienced, wiser now

  45. BDP

    “Losing Threshold”

    You lose your key, so scour the distance back
    to your car. Stifle curses. How, when, why!
    You search. Nope, not here. Where? Stand still and try
    to think. Ain’t working. Hunt again and track
    each step toward home, (recall you found that sack
    of coins, age ten, sweep hands as wizardry
    above the lawn), invoke karma, don’t pray,
    exactly, but down on your knees, one crack

    at please can’t hurt. Then chastise: there’s far worse
    than curb toe-taps until your friend arrives
    and lets you in. Earthquakes and avalanches—
    embarrassed you’re so linear, ahead, reverse.
    Now find red buds like popcorn along tree branches,
    see parrot tulips nodding to a breezy jive.

    –Barb Peters

  46. Ecubed

    Looking Back
    Traffic splashing softly reminds me to remember
    To notice the scent of rain and the comfort it brings in drought –
    The comfort we felt in the farmers’ kitchen
    And in their dark parlor where we played hide and seek
    In quiet respect for the history in that room always closed
    Against the dust of every day except that day-
    the morning after the dam of boulders tumbled and water
    Rushed to cover fields we thought were flat.
    “No wonder I was always tired walking back from the lake,”
    Mother would say, recalling the place we lived years after
    Flood control bought our land and the farm and half the little town
    Dispersed like run off as traffic passes in the rain.

    Beth Ramos

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