2016 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 3

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “If I’d Only (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then write the poem. Possible titles include: “If I’d Only Asked Her Out,” “If I’d Only Gone Left Instead of Right,” “If I’d Only Taken That Chance,” etc. Don’t wonder what would’ve happened if you’d only written that poem; get to it now!


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Here’s my attempt at an If I’d Only Blank poem:

“If I’d Only Stayed Out of Trouble”

I would’ve never learned how to respond
when trouble came calling. And trouble

always comes calling when I expect it
the least. Like love, I never know when

to say when. I fall down & dive back in
again. My eyes closed, I’ve learned

how to run with my fingers crossed
& a prayer on my lips. If I’d only stayed

out of trouble, I guess I wouldn’t know
all the benefits of chasing after it.


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’s not a troublemaker per se, but he is a Brewer, which according to his Hazard, Kentucky, granny means that trouble never gets too far away from him. For better or worse.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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173 thoughts on “2016 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 3

  1. ToniBee3

    If I’d Only Hid The Body Better…

    but The Body gon do what it’s gon do
    at times switching the mood, urging the blues

    cuz It likes the bread and the cream way too much;
    the chips, the shakes, all things fried and such

    but then It pops the button on the buttoned-down
    rejecting the notion of those bonus pounds

    but the “bonus” spills over strips and control grips
    and struggles with snaps and sliding zips

    all on display on the most important day…
    …so, I ask you for your honest say:

    if I had only hid The Body better,
    would I have gotten the promotion letter?

  2. tripoet

    If Only

    “If only” pounds in my head like a drum beat
    If only, if only, if only, if only, if only
    But rare is the second chance
    second chance, second chance, second chance
    If only you’d give me a second chance.

  3. Shennon

    If I’d Only Been Observant

    If I’d only recognized
    the pain on your face
    the hurt in your voice
    the sadness in your eyes

    I could have made you smile
    made you laugh
    made your eyes shine
    with the love that used to fill them

    Instead I served myself
    my desires
    my dreams
    my plans for the future

    I now recognize my neglect
    when I see your empty chair
    your empty closet
    our empty bed.


  4. Julieann

    If I’d Only Been Quiet

    I opened my mouth
    And my mother came out
    Clichés and phrases
    Drove her life and thoughts
    Some of them I liked
    Most not so much
    I swore over and over again
    I’d never say those things
    And now, I opened my mouth
    And my mother came out!

    1. LadyBug5162

      If I’d Only Known What To Say

      We were gathered at the river.
      Singing and celebrating
      A new life in Jesus.

      They were there at the river
      Peddling their trade.
      The river is public for anyone’s use.

      The one in the water
      Was flamboyant
      The man’s hands running all over her body
      In your face
      Hardened by her lifestyle
      Only God knows that.

      The other was in their “tent”.
      Brightly colored cloths of fuchsia and teal
      Draped over tree branches.
      So young.
      I was 14 and knew she was too young
      for what she was doing.
      She put her face into her hands
      And wept as we sang.

      My heart ached for her.
      Such grief expressed.
      So much hopelessness.
      I wanted to help her.
      I wanted to comfort her.
      If I’d only known what to say.

      I do not know her name.
      But I’ve never forgotten her.
      I pray for her often whenever I think of her
      I expect to meet her one day in heaven.
      If I’d only known what to say.

  5. PKP

    If I only ….

    If I only
    tore my
    clothes as
    they did in
    days of old
    hung sheets
    on the mirrors
    screamed of
    betrayals and
    and legacies
    lost and
    to close
    the door
    to home
    and heart
    if you did
    not open your
    eyes to the mis-
    take about
    to be committed –
    If only if I tempered
    that all a bit and
    simply ran down
    the aisle and
    slew the officiant
    threw over the
    wedding dais
    as Jesus threw
    over tables
    in the temple –
    If only I tempered
    that a bit
    and if only
    I spoke and
    said that
    I didn’t really think
    that this was going
    to be the one for you
    If only…
    if only I knew …
    I might have
    whispered a
    single solitary
    doubt – but once
    you said that the
    ice ball that lived
    in your gut melted
    whenever she was
    near – I had no
    doubt – no rent
    frayed garments –
    nor histrionics
    even entered
    this sunny
    world of
    as I soothed
    your doubts
    and applauded
    as I did your
    first tenuous
    step …
    with joy
    and no
    if onlies..
    not then
    not now
    not ever…
    if only …
    this ever after
    included me…
    if only …

  6. Nancy Posey

    If I’d only written it down

    Just before sleep arrived
    my muse whispered
    in my year a poem,
    each word, each line,
    stanza breaks, meter
    intact, rhyme tight.

    So beautiful, so tender,
    I thought it would echo
    in my memory. Sleep
    beckoned, telling me
    that tantalizing lie:
    You’ll still remember
    in the morning. My pen
    lay at my bedside;
    lined paper waited too.
    Because I did not
    write it down, my muse,
    slighted like Barbara Allan,
    left, taking my words.

  7. Melanie

    If Only I’d Waited

    The shelf
    Feared by all women of a certain age
    A sad resting place
    For the unwanted and the unloved
    My destiny, I thought
    So I mimicked pretty and pretended coy
    And enticed you

    Falling in love
    Anticipated by all women of every age
    A chemical reaction, misperceived
    By the desperate and the despairing
    My soul mate, I insisted
    So I whipped up my heart beat
    And married you

    Really falling in love
    Experienced only by the few
    The across a crowded room glance
    For blessed and cursed alike
    My completeness in him
    And I understood my folly
    And regretted you

  8. tobysgirl

    If I’d Only Followed Directions

    The directions my parents gave me always seemed so stuffy,
    so grown up and
    unbelievable to me.
    Get an education,
    get a job,
    meet someone,
    fall in love,
    get married,
    buy a house,
    have some kids,
    grow old together.
    Add in the standard don’t smoke,
    drink in moderation,
    don’t do drugs.
    Mix it up with treat others as you would have done unto you,
    turn the other cheek,
    always be kind.

    All of this would guarantee me a

    Except somewhere along the way I messed up
    and following directions got screwed around and not for me.
    I was unique and I marched to a different drummer.
    I did everything backwards and upside down.

    I still look for that picket fence and those children
    with the dad that takes care of everyone.
    I wonder if he would have made a difference in our lives,
    made my life easier,
    made it so that I wouldn’t have had to make so many decisions.

    Oh, if only I’d listened!

  9. seingraham


    If I’d only known to turn left not up
    If I’d only waited instead of drowning
    If I’d only wished upon the earth
    instead of praying to that goddess
    If I’d only followed my nose and not
    my broken heart
    If I’d only rolled over and gone back
    to sleep instead of joining the gang
    robbing the circus
    If I’d only said yes to marriage counseling
    instead of sling-shotting him dead
    If I’d only tried chemo instead of
    getting stoned every night
    If I’d only known then what I know now
    I like to think I would have acted better,
    but really?
    I rather doubt it.

  10. foodpoet

    If I’d Only Said

    Say yes and safety never reading behind the lines
    Living a life of diamond sparkle shackles
    Living a life of wait and wait more when
    You go out on the town with your guys
    Staying home a shelley in pearls

    Say no and leap between and out of lines
    Living a life of loud verse clamoring to be written
    Living a life of fierce poetry dancing
    Looking at the guys and broken dreams
    And writing no breathing impaling it all down

    And I

  11. Bruce Niedt

    If I’d Only Won a Lot of Money on That Game Show

    I might be richer today. I buzzed in the right answer
    less than half a second later than that other guy.
    He got all the glory, and a quarter million bucks by the end.

    They gave him all the same questions that they
    would have given me, and I would have aced them too.
    I could have paid off my mortgage, bought a new car
    or two, taken my family on a really nice vacation,
    sent my kids to college a little more easily.

    But maybe I would have frozen in the hot lights
    of that elaborate stage, drenched in flop sweat,
    forgetting everything I’d learned in almost half a century,
    stammering some lame answer to the host’s question.
    There’s no way to know for sure.

    I came home no richer than I went.
    Yet, as my wife pointed out, when all of us contestants
    had to pick the names of three friends to call
    if we needed help on a question on the show,
    one of my fellow contestants couldn’t think
    of a single person to call. You see, she said,
    you’re already richer than he is.

  12. headintheclouds87

    If I’d Only Been Bolder

    Would I have less reason to regret
    As time turns me slowly older?
    Wasted chances I’d like to forget
    Leave me feeling ever colder
    As I long for that warmth I once knew
    When leaning upon a lost love’s shoulder.
    But now in these bitter days of blue
    I ask this empty room, if I’d only been bolder,
    Could I have shared the years with you?

  13. pipersfancy

    If I’d Only Noticed

    The huntsman’s hounds recognize
    the hare’s scent, it’s mad dash soon
    to end in one last agonized shriek—
    and tearing of flesh from bone—but

    I have become that wild-eyed rabbit
    pursued by “what ifs” and “if only’s”
    of every decision made in soft dens of
    plucked fur and gathered moss—but

    now I question what is already past
    as if time could be reset, sent to scurry
    in a new direction, as if safe keeping
    could be found within a different den

    away from scornful eyes and scented
    trails and sharpened teeth that clatter
    through the night’s uncertain darkness
    and then, as if you’d still be here—

    if I’d only noticed.

  14. Valkyri

    If I’d only…

    days are passing
    at an alarming rate

    the speed of life is running
    full tilt warp-drive

    never enough time
    to do everything

    the more I try to run,
    the slower I go

    the planet spinning too fast
    for me to catch up

    always running
    ahead of me

    its power too great
    to overcome

    pretty soon death
    will be upon me

    the fates have told me
    their whispered truth

    this pace is wild,
    breathless, uncontrollable

    if I’d only known
    when I was younger

    how fast and faster
    and how much faster yet

    this life seems to rush
    toward its final conclusion

    when I was more fit,
    stronger and braver

    when I had stamina
    to beat the moon

    there would have been
    more done by me then

    more accomplished,
    more completed

    more great deeds
    both grand and small

    only now there is a rush
    of frenzied time

    and I am frantic
    with this movement

    the sands pour like water
    through death’s hourglass

    and I am standing still,
    beaten and lowed

    while rushing forward
    headlong into the darkness

  15. seingraham


    If I’d only known to turn left not up
    If I’d only waited instead of leaving
    If I’d only wished upon the earth
    instead of praying to that planet
    If I’d only followed my nose and not
    my broken heart
    If I’d only rolled over and gone back
    to sleep instead of joining the gang
    for a marathon run
    If I’d only said yes to marriage counseling
    instead of running off with the woman
    next door – I should have known I wasn’t
    morphing into bisexuality just because I
    wanted to
    If I’d only tried treatment when I was
    diagnosed with fourth stage lung cancer
    instead of getting stoned every night
    If I’d only been braver sooner, been willing
    to take risks instead of chances, I’d
    have fewer regrets, fewer thoughts now
    of “if I’d only”, I believe.
    Oh, if I’d only.

  16. grcran

    If Only I’d Been God

    Oh God Ahmighty what the heck
    God made little green pears
    The ripe ones, dear God, in a bowl
    God bless these strikes and spares
    No still-life… vibrant… thank you, God
    And don’t forget my mom
    God knows she sinned, but Lord she tried
    She and Dad at the prom
    I wasn’t God yet I was me
    Nine months after the dance
    This stupid baby came along
    And learned to mess his pants
    They growed me up, I worked at it
    God taught me what was right
    I’ll thank you, God (not the reverse)
    When I say prayers tonight

    gpr crane

    1. ppfautsch24

      If only I had embraced my vulnerability;
      When I try to think what it could be other
      Than me that causes others to flee, and
      Not savor a love guaranteed.
      It must be that one can’t see the belief
      And beauty in me. But, I fall into a pattern
      Of losing me to love that is just make believe.
      If I had only known my vulnerability would have set me free, to fall, feel, and give unconditionally.
      By Pamelap

      1. grcran

        howdy ppfautsch24, not sure if you know this, but you can post your own poem, so that it’s not indented below someone else’s poem, if you scroll to the bottom of the poems on the comments page… if you scroll there before you click reply on someone else’s poem, then you’ll see a comment box where you can paste and/or write your own poem… then it won’t appear as a reply to someone else’s poem… not sure if you knew ;<)

        thanks, rusty (gpr crane)

  17. James Von Hendy

    If Only I Had Nine Lives

    It was after breakfast and I’d folded
    the paper he didn’t read past headlines.

    We stood at the window. Birds filtered
    across the yard. I thought, again? I sat

    with my mother in the nursing home
    the year before she died and stared with her

    at an empty feeder. I bought thistle
    to bring the goldfinches back. By then

    she didn’t care. But he asked what are they?
    again. Their iridescent shimmer

    in sunlight. Heartbreak. Would I be willing
    to live it again? Shifting light played

    across his face. The wonder of it.
    We are so careless with the life we have.

  18. lsteadly

    If I’d only known where

    you hid your nest
    I never would have
    stepped near in-
    stilling fear
    sending you with a burst
    of frantic beating
    wings to distract me
    diverting my eyes
    to follow your barred feather flash
    while your young ones
    stayed silent
    looking on

  19. Sara McNulty

    If I’d Only Learned To Drive

    I could choose location, hop in car,
    top down, music on, free to go
    or changed direction with scent
    of sea tugging me to
    run barefoot on sand.
    I would be pleased
    just to know
    that I

  20. qbit

    My life with you,
    Cast wide into the horizon of “if”:

    If our letters
    And the stars both
    Had not crossed in the mail.

    If you had saved all those quarters
    For something better
    Than spending them hour after hour
    In a phone booth talking to me
    And freezing your feet.

    If you had not seen her nightgown
    Hanging on the back
    Of the bathroom door.

    If I had not tried
    To die an early but heroic death
    Sailing into the maelstrom
    From the cost of Norway
    Like my ancestors.

    When I wake in the early hours
    Would I feel sick with regret
    For a different past, different failings
    And I worry them
    Just as smooth and polished?

    Yet when the sun rises,
    The infinity of the sky
    Gathers back
    To the single point of here
    And now
    This bed, these arms.
    Where against all if’s
    You are the one
    And only.

  21. PWPress

    If I’d Only Listened

    I would have attended community college first.
    Of the world I’d be more versed.

    I wouldn’t feel the years were wasted.
    I wouldn’t be so frustrated.

    Life’s responsibilities all demand time.
    It rarely fits together as a perfect rhyme.

    My life would be more as I envisioned.
    If I’d only listened!

  22. deringer1


    One day I said “if only.”
    My first mistake. For then followed
    the discontent, the regrets,
    the voices loud inside my head,
    pointing fingers of accusation as though
    every choice I ever made was wrong.

    The passing years have taught me now
    to never listen to the voice of “if only”
    and never turn to look back.
    The past is gone, the future near.
    I shall never say “if only!”

  23. bethwk

    If I’d Only Had More Time
    by Beth Weaver-Kreider

    If I’d only had more time
    had more rhythm
    had more passion
    had more energy
    more focus, more rhyme

    If I’d only had more zeal
    had more wisdom
    had more hope
    had more tenderness
    more compassion, more appeal

    If I’d only had more sass
    had more impertinence
    had more whoop
    had more in-your-face
    more fierce, more brass

    If I’d only had more only
    had more mostly
    had more often
    had more will
    more do
    less lonely

  24. Kim Bailey Deal

    If Only I’d Been Brave Enough

    A different life
    regret instead
    sits like a cat
    on my chest, digging
    its claws, impeding breath–
    purring as it pins
    me down.

    Could I have been brave
    enough, bold and bright,
    to love who I wanted
    not who they expected?
    No, I could not.
    But it’s never too late–
    time, friend and foe,

    can gift us with one
    more chance, or take
    all the rest of our days.
    I can be brave enough
    now, but it will cost me.
    Yet, love is worth the price,
    and I am worth the gain.

  25. uvr

    If I ‘d only shed my inhibitions
    like autumn trees

    let myself bloom
    like spring flowers

    my heart would have escaped
    the winter freeze, and we could have

    combusted in a passion fiercer than
    the summer heat

  26. tunesmiff

    G. Smith (BMI)
    If I’d only listened a little bit longer,
    If I’d only stayed awake;
    If only I’d been a little bit stronger,
    If only I’d seen how much more I could take.

    If only I’d been paying attention;
    If only I’d picked up the phone;
    If only I’d come to sit down beside beside you,
    If only I’d not left you standing alone.

    If I’d only done the next right thing,
    If only, if only, if only.
    If only “If only,” made everything better,
    If only, if only, if…

    If only I’d taken a minute or two,
    If only I’d taken your hand;
    If only I stopped and listened to you,
    If only I’d said, “I do understand.”

  27. Jo_the_Bard

    If I’d Only Faced that Dragon

    It came in a poison cloud,
    Wings like hellish fear,
    And all he could do was hide.

    Oh, what knight is he who flees?
    His life will not echo
    In the tales our children sing.

    Who could blame the man
    For responding within sense
    To something so much bigger.

  28. tunesmiff

    G. Smith (BMI)
    They looked at me in the strangest way,
    Like they couldn’t believe what I had to say.
    Religion and politics? Not among friends;
    Only one way the whole thing ends.
    A simple discussion run amok;
    If I’d only kept my big mouth shut.

    Friday night at the corner bar,
    I may have pushed it a bit too far,
    Chatting up a sweet young thing,
    Didn’t see her boyfriend swing;
    I guess he wouldn’t’ve kicked my butt,
    If I’d only kept my big mouth shut.

    If I’d only kept my big mouth shut,
    If I’d only kept my big mouth shut,
    If I’d only kept my big mouth shut,
    Where would I be now?

    She was waiting for me when I came in the door,
    Wound up about something like some times before.
    I felt like a bowl of warmed over death,
    And muttered something under my breath,
    She sat up straight and asked me, “What?”
    If I’d only kept my big mouth shut.

  29. SarahLeaSales

    If Only I’d Done

    “What is love? It is the morning and the evening star.” –Sinclair Lewis, “Elmer Gantry”

    If only I’d listened,
    I’d have learned.
    If only I’d said no then,
    I wouldn’t have to say yes now.
    If only I’d left,
    I wouldn’t have stayed,
    only to know what I would leave behind.
    Life is full of “if onlys..,”, “What ifs?,”
    and “Why did I ever do that?”
    Life is often a question that goes unanswered,
    so we make one up to fit the narrative we draft,
    and live by it.

  30. MichelleMcEwen

    If I’d Only Known

    just because

    he looked like
    he might taste like

    neon light

    didn’t mean
    I had to find out

    didn’t mean
    I had to lick

    every inch

  31. jazzladyw

    If I’d Only Didn’t Now Know

    You told me about what happened
    To you when we were kids.
    Shock ran deep,
    Robbed me of my words.
    They bounced around in my head,
    Lost and incoherent,
    Unable to make sense of the senseless.

    Your childhood was stolen
    By a man who was to be trusted,
    He took your innocence forever.
    You became an adult who tore at the walls,
    Unable to break free of the jail
    He put you in. You told me of his crime,
    And I want to wail in the grief you feel.

    Now I know, and the guilt of being free
    Makes me itch with frustration and shame.
    Shame for having memories that were good ones
    When yours were filled with secrets and pain.
    Shame for not knowing. Now I know,
    And my world will never be the same. If I’d
    Only didn’t now know; I carry this burden of truth.

    The truth that broke me, destroyed the vision of
    A good life that never existed but only in my mind.


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