2016 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 10

For today’s prompt, write a tragic poem. Two courses of action here: Write a poem that is heavy, or write a poem that is light. Or write a poem that could be heavy or light. For instance, a tragedy could be Shakespeare’s Hamlet or a bad hair day.


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Here’s my attempt at a Tragic poem:

“The Tragically Hip”

Are a Canadian rock band.
They have a song called “Poets”
& an album titled Man Machine Poem.
I like to think all the poetry references
make them tragic & hip,
or at least hip. I was

never that hip or tragic
or from Canada, though I went
fishing there for a week once & that week
was one of the most relaxing weeks of my
life. No phones. No TV. Just food,
sleep & fishing. In no particular

order. It reminded me
of trips to my grandparents’
home in the Eastern Tennessee Mountains,
the smell of the red clay in the morning &
clouds along the ridges that
provided them their smoky

reputation. On the final
day, an emergency call made
it through to me all the way from town
& I worried it might be my pregnant wife
or the baby she carried
but it was my grandpa,

the one I visited
in Tennessee & he
died alone & I felt so relieved it wasn’t
my wife or our child & then felt so guilty
that I was haunted
all the way home.


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 and Writer’s Market, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He never listened to The Tragically Hip before tackling this prompt, but their music is actually pretty good.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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147 thoughts on “2016 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 10

  1. Sara McNulty


    Time, time, give it time,
    Repeat sympathizers, well meaning but stilted.
    All you can do is nod, while a ragged
    Gut tells you that time cannot
    Ease your torment over
    Death taking life so early.
    Yesterday is not erased by today.

  2. MichelleMcEwen

    The News

    I don’t like to watch the news
    but sometimes I do—

    sitting up in bed
    shaking my head

    at a fire started
    by a cigarette

    Folks out here crazy

    I’ll say— sounding
    a lot like my mama

  3. deringer1


    How is it someone that you love is here,
    and then tomorrow gone? No way to be
    prepared for crushing loss, no time to say
    the words of love or take back hurtful words.
    The tears are falling from so many eyes
    for you were cherished for your caring ways
    and how you would be always there for us.
    You left without a word, a quiet soul
    now outward bound, away from stress and fear.
    But in our memories, forever here.

  4. tunesmiff

    G. Smith (BMI)
    He rode hard and he rode lean,
    Where the air was crisp and wind blew clean.
    He rode alone across the plains,
    Through sun and heat and snows and rains.
    And the life he lived was the life he chose,
    And if he loved it, no one knows.

    The code was clear, the code was true,
    It told him what he had to do.
    It shone bright as the noonday sun:
    Make a stand when when others run,
    Always do the thing that’s right,
    Work your worth; don’t force a fight.

    It couldn’t bend, it wouldn’t break;
    It always asked how much he’d take.
    Those he loved didn’t understand,
    How to love his kind of man.

    He rode hard and he rode lean,
    Where the air was crisp and wind blew clean.
    He rode alone across the plains,
    Through sun and heat and snows and rains.
    And the life he lived was the life he chose,
    And if he loved it, no one knows.

  5. bethwk

    by Beth Weaver-Kreider

    The sun still rose the next day
    though you couldn’t see it for the rain
    or for the veil of gauze that shock had raised
    between you and the world.

    The birds still sang, but your ears
    were ringing, your hearing dimmed
    by the hum of loss that roared
    all around you wherever you went.

    You might have felt the gentle autumn breeze
    except that your bones were chilled to the marrow
    and you shivered even in your coat and scarf.

    Nothing seemed to pierce the numbness
    that encased you like a layer of ice,
    nothing warmed you,
    nothing broke through,
    until you began to feel the rhythm
    rising upward through the soles of your feet,
    the voices singing all around you,
    chanting your name, calling you Beloved.

  6. Jane Shlensky

    Mountain Women

    “That girl was built for tragedy,”
    Granny said, stoking the fire,
    speaking of a neighbor’s girl
    whose drunken man burned
    in their house, leaving her homeless,

    pregnant, penniless, battered,
    and dry-eyed. “Broad hips, great
    muscled shoulders that can lift a child
    half-grown or tip a tractor off a man.”

    We puzzled over our skinny bodies,
    growing like weeds, Granny said,
    the sort like straws we pulled to chew
    when we fished. Like weeds our daddy
    mowed down or jerked from the ground.

    We watched our girlfriends grow stout
    as young mules, women whose feet
    were planted in red clay, too young
    to marry but already wives with babes,
    their voices whining like grownups,

    and we vowed never to grow so strong
    that we must lift so heavy a load
    and carry it and carry it. No, we vowed
    we would be built for comedy, like
    Aunt Jessa, who was odd and smart

    and naughty, who owned her own car
    and house, who dyed her hair bright red,
    argued with men, but kept her distance,
    her slim hips built for tight curves, her eyes
    daring fate, and her legs built for speed.

  7. Pwriter10

    I HAVE NO DEMONS by DeAndre Oolong

    I feel guilty when I sit alone.

    There’s no one whose ability
    I can match against my own.

    Often, when I’m alone, I paint
    or draw. Though, Picasso would wince in pain
    upon viewing my art.

    “What is that?” he’d ask and point
    at something that was
    obviously a face.
    “One day I’ll have to teach you magic.”

    But that day will never come
    no matter how many hours I pretend
    to be Monet’s jester
    (laughter is the best work that I produce).

    My self-portrait is somewhat odd.
    I never had the courage to paint my face.
    What if my strokes were wrong?

    What if no one recognized me?
    I guess that’s why I sit alone.

    I’d feel guilty if anyone saw it.

  8. Jane Shlensky

    Last Call

    Perhaps in the end, tragedy is
    the difference between what
    we could have been and what
    we were and are. Perhaps after
    we betray our best instincts and
    hopes, we feel regret and,
    changing nothing, reminisce
    over might-haves and could-have-
    beens that twist our very sad
    endings into real and pressing
    tragedy. Maybe we always knew
    right but chose wrong. Maybe we
    were confused or consumed with
    self-lies. Perhaps the tragedy is
    that we are ashamed of ourselves.
    Perhaps the tragedy is that we
    are not ashamed of ourselves.

  9. Jane Shlensky

    Life on the Farm

    Not so much that the boy
    nursed the calf to health,
    named him and befriended
    him. Not so much that
    the beast grew to be a steer
    gentle as a butterfly who
    followed the boy wherever
    he went, his best friend.
    Not so much that all animals
    have a purpose on a farm,
    often to become food. Not
    that the steer’s throat was
    cut, and it was strung up by
    its hind legs to a tree, skinned,
    gutted, and butchered. Not
    so much that the boy would
    not eat beef again in his life
    nor look his father in the face.
    The tragedy lay in this: a boy
    was forced to kill an animal
    he loved to toughen him up,
    forced to eat that love and
    feed it to his family as if he
    were proud his sacrifice could
    be of use. No one can digest
    that kind of betrayal.

  10. SarahLeaSales

    The Most Important Meal
    dedicated to https://spoonyouforkme.wordpress.com/,
    one of my most loyal readers.

    The Before-and-After Special:
    One chicken D-cup and scrambled eggs,
    served with candied meat candy,
    ‘longside a Jumbone turkey leg.
    French Fry-Fo-Fum Toast,
    stuffed with Hannah Banana cream cheese,
    and drizzled with marple surple.
    A cup of java,
    with mocha crème de la crème,
    tops it all off,
    this breakfast for one.

    The Green Dregs and Yam Special:
    Facon bacon and tofu scramble,
    served with Ezekiel toast
    spread with “I Do Believe It Ain’t Butter”.
    Sweet potatoes with funny honey,
    sham ham, and soymilk hoecakes,
    with a side of almond milk “gritters”.
    A shot of Orange Julian (with vodka),
    or Orange Julia (with champagne),
    washes it all down,
    this breakfast for none.

    There’s somethin’ for everyone Sunday Brunch,
    at the Heart-Stop-Drop-and-Roll Café.

  11. Kasey

    Tragedy is in the Eye of the Beholder

    One Godawful haircut turned out to be
    the height of childhood embarrassment.
    Propped on the mantle despite my protest,
    nothing was more tragic to me back then.

    The height of childhood embarrassment
    should be something that is quickly repressed
    not some framed, glossy high-res 8 X 10

    propped on the mantle despite my protest.
    I endured more than my share of torment
    with hair that looked like the butt of a hen-

    nothing was more tragic to me back then.
    Now all I feel is this civil unrest,
    and tragedy is fearing our new president.

  12. taylor graham


    The creek cuts through serpentine. Indian
    bedrock-mortars higher up the slope –
    its headwaters once home of the Nisenan;
    then dredged and panned by miners. Running
    free. A history-haunted watershed. How many
    tragedies long-forgotten? You remind me,
    the man who left his backwoods cabin – locked
    but with the lights on – and never came back.
    He knew the place so well. But these
    creeks and ridges keep their secrets. What’s
    tragedy to flowing water? We make our way
    upstream, one side till the way cliffs-out,
    then crossing to the other. Our dog’s in the lead
    – there, atop a boulder big as a blue whale’s
    heart. A whale? The mountain has such
    long memory. Remember those water-rounded
    ridgetop stones? Maybe this whole place
    was underwater once. Who knows?

  13. Valkyri

    mabel’s alzheimer’s

    voiceless are the aged and infirm-
    those who can longer remember
    how to swallow
    how to laugh
    but instead sit, day after day,
    tied to chair like a mannequin on autopilot
    head tremoring like a bobblehead
    outside the nurse’s station
    watching a flurry she can only guess at
    if her mind lets her do so
    for a wretched moment or two
    and wondering perhaps, when she can:
    where she is
    where her loved ones are
    who she is
    who she used to be
    what useless hands are good for
    sweet grandmother, my love and protector
    her rings stolen
    her glasses lost
    shaking her gaping maw
    at my cheek instead of a kiss
    does the mask of stonefaced expressionlessness
    fool me into thinking she is happy to see me?
    what pain and sadness in the recognition
    what shame inside the onlooker
    away way too long… way too long, indeed
    the knowledge that one day
    not so very many long days from now
    there, but for the grace of God, go I

  14. Nancy Posey

    Tragic Hero

    Rather than howling in the storm like poor old Lear,
    more a fool than his Fool, or falling for Iago’s trick
    with the handkerchief, let me be a hero of any stripe
    but that. I’d much rather rescue kittens from treetops
    or babies from burning buildings, stop runaway trains,
    pull Timmy from the well. Not for me the hero’s title
    laden with hubris and ambition, blind to my own flaw,
    my steely gaze on that of others. Unlike Odysseus,
    let me leave quietly on my escape from the Cyclops,
    content to be Nobody rather that shout my name,
    my forwarding address, while still near enough
    to be the target as he tosses mountain tops my way.
    If I must fall, may it never be from anywhere so high
    I can’t stand up, dust myself off, catharsis complete,
    relieved that no one follows in my wake of pity and fear.

  15. Pwriter10

    ALL THAT’S LEFT by DeAndre Oolong

    As the waves receded,
    my sandcastle walls caved.

    I had spent 2 hours digging,
    dragging sand and pail
    to the edge of the ocean,
    making it just wet enough.

    I tap-tap-tapped on the base
    of the upturned pail
    nearly fifty times.

    And while I did this,
    people fell in love,
    soldiers died,
    somewhere the rainstorms brought floods.

    But I was left with an empty pail
    and a few small mounds of moistened sand –
    the world seemed so unfair.

  16. writinglife16


    He did everything fast.
    His mantra was if
    It wasn’t fast,
    it wasn’t real.
    She didn’t think that made sense,
    She couldn’t get him to see,
    but she figured he would one day.

    He did everything fast.
    Speed was his addiction.
    Their wedding night
    was like a three minute
    commercial with a short break.
    She was confused
    but he said he had to sleep.

    He did everything fast.
    Even prayer.
    Said he didn’t have time
    to tarry with the Lord.
    As their speeding car left the road,
    She was sure he was going to
    wish he had.

  17. Walter J Wojtanik


    I watch her struggle with herself,
    her health is on the wane and it is insane
    that one once so vibrant can’t function
    as she once had. The past two months

    have been bad with no relief in sight!
    Every night her medication dulls her
    and lulls her into a stupor that Superman
    couldn’t punch through. You view

    her as if in slow-motion and any notion
    that she’s improving if behooving you
    to rethink your position. This condition
    has her doctors befuddled as she becomes

    more muddled and unbalanced.
    The challenges of life that my wife must face
    have replaced every day living, a reality still
    giving us a thankfulness for each day of hope.

    But our angst resides in the tragedy of her slow fade.
    She, a shade of her former self.
    But I remain here to help. She needs me near each day.
    And I am here, not wanting it any other way!

    © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2016

  18. barbara_y

    November Tragedy

    There was a killing frost last night
    and that wasn’t tragic. Not

    because of the sun’s thawing
    all but a few wild onion cowlicks

    back to normal well before the clouds
    (few, and skinny) had turned white

    for the day. I should buck up,
    eat an orange, and quit moping

    over the election. Which, also
    wasn’t tragic, comic, bathetic, or trite.

  19. grcran

    to limer- the –ick of the tragic
    defaulting one usage of magic
    can’t stay on this shore
    no shallow no more
    don’t beachcomb. go get the pelagic

    gpr crane

  20. Connie Peters


    Her shoulders slumped.
    Her lip nearly dragged on the ground.

    All because of one phone call.
    Rejected again.

    If she only knew how lovely she is,
    how people smile when they speak of her.

    Rejection has as much to do with the “rejecter”
    as it has to do with the “rejectee.”

  21. Walter J Wojtanik


    Cobweb encrusted,
    hinges rusted.
    Windows “busted” and the floor
    can’t be trusted.

    Left to her decay,
    in her day she was
    a warm and comforting lady.
    But she became shady,

    left to the elements
    and termites. Dry rot
    is not her best attribute.
    And they dispute her future.

    Left to die a slow
    and painful death:
    ashes-to-ashes, dust-to
    dust covered remnants

    of former tenants.
    A tragedy told in memories
    and sad tales… she never fails
    to foist her depression

    on feeble hearts. Praying
    for the wrecking ball’s
    retribution, a solution no more
    destructive than her current state.

    And she lies in wait,
    this storied soul, never
    in control of her fate,
    now it appears to be much too late.

    © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2016

  22. ReathaThomasOakley

    A tragic poem

    Is Hamlet a tragedy
    or a badly twisted comedy
    are bad hair days
    remembered fondly when
    a comb has no further use?

    In my youth,
    when I knew it all,
    opposites were polar,
    now I have no idea.

  23. Jolly2

    by John Yeo

    Tragedy a situation that can be woven into verse?
    Not a difficult question for the power of the pen.
    Read the question closely, memorise every word.
    Take whatever comes into mind and spin it.
    I remember a friend I made on the internet once,
    A creative poet with a magical, mind.
    I would wake every day and devour his work
    Then we would take time to greet each other.

    The poetic spells he had woven overnight
    Were gems of wisdom and poetic thought.
    With the communication of his imagination
    He became a friend, a guide and an inspiration.
    Slowly his verse became darker and darker;
    My friend was living on borrowed time.
    A terminal evil began darken his verse
    As he described in poetry his fight for life.

    One deep, black moment before the dawn,
    I looked for my friend but his magic was gone.
    Gone to new horizons to record infinity,
    A comet travelling through the universe
    Swamped in the starmud of eternal time.
    As dawn suffocated the starlight completely
    I knew my friend had breathed his last.
    Leaving a brilliant legacy of poetic tragedy.

    Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved.

  24. De Jackson

    Noisy World

    The tragedy is
    that most of us are just trying
    (on quiet knees)
    to raise nice kids,
    maybe write a little,
    to rid ourselves of worry,

    The tragedy is,
    there are always things
    we get to choose:
    and peace.

    And when we don’t,

                                         we all lose.


    1. Bushkill

      It really does come down to choice. Will we sit and wallow in our own self (righteous) pity? Or will we rise above and treat our fellow man as exactly that?

  25. tripoet

    Butterfly Bloodbath in Chengdu, Southwest China, March 30th , 2015

    kept too warm and too safe

    cannot rustle strength to wake
    when greeted by chilled air
    and released from ornamental
    boxes to overzealous children

    instead of flying off
    like enchanted mini kites
    little feet stamp them to decay
    as parents, in horror look on.

  26. Anthony94

    On Seeds and Pecans

    Yesterday’s desperation lifts a little
    like the frost that rimes each blade
    shrinking back into a wet dew then
    disappearing as sun creeps across
    the weedy lot. Hope is a seedling,
    a perennial able to sink roots so
    deeply as to ward off the freeze
    in the darkness of cold ground.
    To await with a certain patience
    some distant spring. Stubborn seeds
    require the shock of ice to crack
    and germinate later, while others
    are content to horde energy against
    the next certain push toward daylight.

    Today she says her spirit is a seedling,
    a morsel inside a leathery casing,
    tucked in for protection but a force
    nonetheless. Last night she cracked
    pecans for hours, reminded herself
    of the packages of seeds wedged
    between the oil cans in the barn.
    How they will wait and so will she
    for the right moment to start another
    sowing in which she can grow her heart.

  27. RJ Clarken

    A Question of Time

    “Humor is tragedy plus time.” ~Mark Twain

    And if there were but time enough,
    we might make heads or tails of … stuff.
    The problem is where humor lies. One can’t
    but rant when there’s surprise.

    But maybe with some time, we’ll see
    the joke’s not quite on you or me.
    Absurdity might yet inspire some wit:
    a bit? Time, don’t backfire.


  28. pipersfancy

    I’ll add another layer of tragedy to your poem. The lead singer of the Tragically Hip, Gord Downey, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer a few months ago. The band quickly put together a cross-country tour which took place in September. The tour ended in Kingston, Ontario, Downey’s hometown, with a live televised broadcast of the show. It is certain to be remembered as the most tragically hip farewell tour in the history of Canadian music.

  29. G.Wood

    Day after election 2016
    Carpool this morning—
    I’m two cars behind the school bully
    who is hanging out the window
    catching raindrops on his tongue,
    and today I’m less certain that his prospects
    are limited, that the bullying doesn’t have a negative outcome.
    My children in the backseat are saying the morning prayer,
    praising God for the trees, and the energy, and the air,
    and the car in front of me is sporting a bumper sticker
    I can’t understand and can’t shake.
    I start to feel like the rest of the world is in line behind the USA,
    and we have that very same bumper sticker
    that is both devoid and full of meaning:
    I love my chiweenie.

  30. Pwriter10


    Instead of a dollhouse,
    I bought her a dungeon.

    To teach her about dating.

    Barbie doesn’t need a car
    when she’s chained and shackled.

    (Never throw away the keys).

    When Ken doesn’t call,
    she doesn’t need to text him repeatedly.

    Just invite him over to talk.

    There’s always a guillotine –
    but not for killing.

    Only to make the fear real.

    To know that all it takes
    is a blink and a prayer –

    And they can go their separate ways.

  31. Walter J Wojtanik


    I remember that it snowed that day. Don’t you remember?
    I remember it was on a Monday night in December.
    I remember I picked you up at a half past three,
    and you were waiting by that old maple tree.
    I remember the wind was blowing rather strong,
    and I had you waiting out there far too long.
    I remember you thought you should have stayed in bed,
    but came out with that horrible cold instead.
    I remember we had some dinner, we saw a show,
    and we made some angels in the snow.
    I remember I drove you straight home to get some rest
    and offered to rub some Vicks® on your chest.
    I remember we finally got there a bit after nine,
    and I remember you said you had a really good time.
    I remember we chatted briefly watching the snow
    and we listened to music on the radio.
    I remember the announcer broke in with some bad news,
    and that shroud of sadness covered you.
    I remember. Don’t you remember how you cried
    that night we heard that John Lennon had died?

    © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2016

    1. Bushkill

      I do remember and started a fascination with all things written and composed by John and his former band. Great take on tragedy which can steal away our breath and leaves us panicked and disoriented.

  32. Bushkill

    Vo Ahn and Caleb
    (these are two of the main characters in a novel i’m sometimes writing.)

    She stood upon the river bank
    With eyes of blue and hair straight black.
    Stared she did to where he stood
    On opposing side, no cape, no hood.

    Silver moon beams split the night
    And shadows hid from the light.
    While his gray eyes struck her soul
    She dared not cross. She dared not go.

    For love’s touch she surrendered to once
    And lost herself for countless months.

    While it’s not he, not entirely, that needs
    To wash in Caution’s bath.
    She trusts not herself
    To set their path.

    And so each fall
    On this lonesome night,
    They meet and stare
    And their conscience’ fight.

    For he serves a dark master with cruel intent
    While she the light stays fully resistant.

    Both must choose
    To break the spell,
    To cast away old styles
    And to start anew.

    But none the path of love have tread
    The gods don’t marry, they do not wed.

    So blue and grey their eyes stay locked
    With pain and loss and fear and shock.
    ‘Till she turns and slowly flees
    Into her wood and sheltering trees.

  33. PowerUnit

    The Plan

    Your policy of sympathy, combined
    with intentional apathy, implemented
    by methods of rationality, coordinated
    through arrangements of fantasy, stopped
    since procedures for bankruptcy, tempered
    his program of apathy, complicated
    by a project of gadgetry, intimated
    her suggestion of jalousie, encompassed
    in their system of stagnancy, concluded
    the treatment a travesty, became
    a strategy of tragedy

  34. uvr

    I felt my heart
    fling itself against my ribs
    heard it shatter
    in the quietness of my breath

    My unshed tears hid behind
    my dazzling smile
    as I watched you walk away

    How tragic for you
    that you’ll never know
    the love you were seeking
    was within your grasp
    if only you had dared
    to reach for heaven

  35. Linda Rhinehart Neas


    Her scarf, wrapped tightly,
    framed the fear on her face.
    Her eyes, dark orbs of trauma,
    had witnessed unbridled hate
    unleashed in the center of home,
    or what was once home to many.
    Now, in this perplexing place
    where privilege presides proudly,
    a new battle challenges –
    a skirmish of words and ideas,
    some so new, they are sharp
    on her tongue, cutting into her past,
    releasing stories held secret,
    making way for kernels of hope
    to bury deep in her heart
    with dreams of freedom
    and justice for all.

    Dedicated to the refugees.

  36. headintheclouds87

    Tragic Things

    Socks with sandals and mixing red with green,
    Backwards-on caps and painted-on jeans,
    Gold teeth and overdoing it with bling,
    These are a few of the most tragic things.

  37. DMK

    unnecessary tragedies
    by Dawn Kvernenes

    seth couldn’t believe it
    when she who had company of sheeks
    married hobbit him

    marriage brought forth a son was a delight
    son taken from his mother at birth
    a mistake by the state never heard of one

    seth did everything they asked
    did not get his son back
    her prescription now justified

    knew they weren’t going to give him back
    she stopped the fake trying, real crying
    seth took it to the king’s court

    false witnesses testified against
    truth didn’t will out that day
    ended up losing his wife due to the weight of it

    left a note to tell his son
    should he grow and ask
    but alas, he fought valiantly losing the final battle

  38. Jezzie


    When my mother passed away
    her treasured things came to me.
    Over the years of our accumulations
    of meaningful, meaningless collections
    we had both amassed too much stuff
    and I’d finally got more than enough.

    My spending sprees
    simply had to stop.
    I used to shop ’til I’d drop.
    “Didn’t have it yesterday
    so don’t need it tomorrow”
    became my new motto.

    Now I’m moving away
    to a smaller home
    not much can stay.
    I have to make room.

    My clothes are all out of fashion,
    books are no longer my passion,
    ornaments don’t now suit my taste.
    What a tragic wanton waste!

    Shopping used to be my pleasure
    but I’ve repented long at leisure
    and now this drastic measure
    is a charity shop’s new treasure.

  39. PressOn


    There are days when I’d like to pounce
    on this form that irks, ounce for ounce,
    but I try, despite
    a skittish Welsh sprite
    I can’t write
    or pronounce.