2017 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 17

I know for poets in the States that we’re getting super close to turkey time; I hope everyone is able to keep poeming through the crazy holiday week. If not, be sure to catch up as you’re able.

For today’s prompt, write a “what I meant to say” poem. As someone who takes his time to consider what to say, I often find myself in this position of knowing what I meant to say…after the moment has passed. If you’ve ever been in that position, here’s your chance to write out what you meant to say.


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Here’s my attempt at a What I Meant to Say Poem:

“after careful consideration”

after careful consideration
of everything i could possibly say
every defense i could roll out
& excuse that might be plausible

after careful consideration
of how you might react & how
i might react to your reaction
& where it might lead us

after careful consideration
of the profits & losses & whys
& wherefores & whatevers i’ve
decided the best response is

i’m sorry


Robert Lee Brewer

Robert 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 often finds the best responses are variations of “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” and that it never hurts to say “Please.” Of course, there’s usually so much more to say, but he finds excess tends to complicate things.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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235 thoughts on “2017 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 17

  1. Shennon

    When gravel crunched under tires
    as you backed out of the drive
    window rolled down
    offering last chances,
    all I could scream
    was how I never
    wanted to see you again.

    Such foolish behavior,
    a reckless wish that came true,
    when what I meant to say,
    what I still want to say,
    is “I love you.”


    1. ingridbruck

      Here is my what I meant to say poem. 

       What I meant to say…………………..

      I meant to say I love you
      but it didn’t feel right on the phone
      you lived so far away
      yet I thought about you
      day to day

      I meant to say I was sorry
      but I didn’t know how to phrase it
      your heart was still bruised
      I felt ashamed but I didn’t say it

      what I meant to say was 
      I miss you when your not here
      I missed the opportunity
      now you lay in a satin lined box
      surrounded by flowers
      I know what I wished I’d said ©

      Michael Peck

  2. AFPrice


    I meant to say I want more of you —
    distance stretched between us
    but still – within that frame
    I wanted some meaning and some love

    distance stretched between us two
    but phone calls would have shortened miles
    to create some meaning and some love
    tucking them into letters unaware

    as phone calls shortened miles
    I’d have heard your story-telling voice
    and tucked into letters unaware
    we would have traded pieces of ourselves

    I’d have heard your story-telling voice
    and learned the depth of story
    we would have traded pieces of ourselves
    and I would have come to know you, Dad

    I would have learned the depth of story
    and then within that frame
    I would have known you Dad
    Oh—I meant to say I want more of you

    1. ingridbruck


      What I meant to say was

      I didn’t mean it.
      If there were justice,
      the bullet would have ricocheted
      and hit me.
      My rapid fire words hit you,
      you weren’t my target.
      That’s a problem
      with handling loaded guns,
      sometimes they misfire.

      I Mean to Say

      It was hard to say
      what I meant to say
      when I believe in you
      and you believe in me
      but I don’t.

      Why do you believe in me?
      You tell me, “”You’re a winner,”
      and coach me. “Try, give it your best shot .”
      Guess what? They hired me!
      Why do I feel they made a mistake?

      Let me try this again,
      what I meant to say was
      my success wouldn’t have come
      without your encouragement.

      What I mean to say is,
      “I believe in us.”

  3. bmorrison9

    Tear It All Down

    My young friend—frustrated—cried,
    like a toddler with a tower of blocks
    but with consequences more chilling,
    and damages more enduring.

    I argued, using logic and fear.
    But what I should have said was
    I remember.
    I said the same back then,
    even when older friends asked
    what would I put in its place.

    I should have said:
    We need your passion,
    your fierce conviction.
    Don’t give up too soon.

  4. angieinspired

    “I can’t tell you where I’ve been”

    a dirt road by I-5

    like so many others
    i used to search out

    lined with some kind
    of trees, i can’t tell
    you what
    for hidden deeds

    but today
    i woke up in my own
    bed, not a grove,

    feeling familiar

    even easy
    that i can see the sun

    what i mean to say
    is that
    i’m back

    if sunshine matters

  5. Nurit Israeli


    You’re unable to take my call,
    your greeting voice gives notice.
    Even on a voicemail recording,
    I love the sound of your voice.

    You aren’t available right now,
    but my call is important. If I leave
    a message, you’ll get back to me
    as soon as you can. (What’s soon?)

    I flounder, hang up, then redial –
    your lovely voice makes me smile.
    Again, you wish me a very nice day:
    It’s rainy, it’s gray, but I’ll try anyway.

    This time, I start talking right after
    the beep, or at least so I think,
    but I’m being cut off midway……..,
    before I have a chance to say

    what I meant for you to hear:
    I miss you so much, my dear.

    ~ Nurit Israeli

  6. Connie Peters


    What I meant to say
    to the doorman
    of our Oahu hotel
    was thank you, we
    had a great time and
    tip him for his troubles.
    But an invisible barrier
    materialized between us
    and feeling awkward,
    I said and did nothing.

  7. lsteadly

    It Wasn’t Meant to Be

    so cutting,
    that remark I made
    about your mother
    but, oh brother! How
    she judges others
    including me,
    and I not being one
    to allow comments lie
    quiet and still, I let
    my thoughts spill out-
    sorry if my voice
    came off a bit shrill-
    I said what I had to
    say maybe just
    not in the best way

  8. pipersfancy


    Fields of sweet verbena surround the place where
    such sorrow comes to fruition. Can you hear me sigh?
    Now, amidst the flowers that lead to our front door, comes
    silence. I stop. Nature feels this unnatural pause—as if
    the entire world holds its breath—waiting for some
    greater power to pull me back into orbit around the sun.

    My neighbour gives a nod of familiarity as he passes by me.
    I smile, say nothing. His work day is done as he unlocks
    the door, enters his home to greet his wife. My hardest work
    is just beginning—my husband glowers from our doorway
    as he looks out. He will accuse me of flirting with you.
    Something will be broken during the night: a dish, a picture

    frame, another tiny piece of me. I will have a new bruise
    by tomorrow morning, purple and soft like a ripened plum. I will
    think back to this evening, the way you passed by me on
    our adjoining driveway, like a hundred times before. And,
    I will think about what I could have said, what I meant to say:
    Will you help me call the police? My husband beats me.

  9. MHR

    the slam door hit against the wood so hard,
    it was a tornado gust and it ripped us in half:
    “hide in the basement.”
    what i mean to say is-
    what i meant to say-
    isn’t what i said.
    there’s moving shadows cast off from the windows,
    and it’s the worst circumstance when you remember:
    all the could have should have never said circumstances.
    what i mean to say is-
    what i meant to say-
    isn’t what i said.
    it slipped between my lips,
    and it fell between us:
    the bridge was severed between the canyon,
    there’s no way to get back across.
    what i mean to say is-
    what i meant to say
    isn’t what i said.

  10. Ann M

    “Trump Administration Lifts Ban on Imports of Elephant Hunting Trophies”

    When elephant
    is trophy
    and tusk is
    and president
    is liar
    and son is
    and president
    trophy hunting
    and lie is
    and liar
    is president
    and trophy
    is tusk
    and tusk
    is ivory
    and elephant
    is trophy
    for president’s
    the answer
    is simple:
    save elephants
    dump trump.

  11. tunesmiff

    G. Smith (BMI)
    I don’t know what it was,
    That made her laugh out loud;
    But I’m so glad it made me,
    Stand out in the crowd.

    It didn’t take a long time,
    I knew she were the one,
    The more I tried to tell her,
    The more she seemed to run.

    And I think what she heard,
    Is not what I meant to say;
    I think what she heard,
    Is not what I meant to say;
    Sometimes it’s almost funny,
    How the ear get in the way.
    And I think what she heard.
    Is not what I meant to say.

    I meant to say a lot of things,
    But the words just never came;
    And the next time that I saw her,
    She had a new last name.

    And I think what she heard,
    Is not what I meant to say;
    I think what she heard
    Is not what I meant to say;
    Sometimes it’s not so funny
    How the heart gets in the way.
    Yeah, I think what she heard.
    Is not what I meant to say.

    So that’s my short sad story,
    I’m so glad you asked to know;
    But I wish you hadn’t asked me,
    If it means you have to go.

    And I think what you heard,
    Is not what I meant to say;
    I think what you heard
    Is not what I meant to say;
    Sometimes it’s almost painful,
    How the past gets in the way.
    Yeah, I know what you heard.
    Is not what I meant to say.

  12. Bruce Niedt

    Sisyphus in November

    I hate to work against the breeze.
    I should have said I cannot rake,
    but we’re too close to winter freeze.
    I hate to work. Against the breeze
    it’s worse – the gusts will sweep the trees’
    detritus from my piles I make.
    “I hate to work against the breeze,”
    I should have said. “I cannot rake.”

  13. MichelleMcEwen

    Might as well

    Might as well

    what you meant
    to say

    in the first

    I’m gonna
    overanalyze it

    either way.

    Might as well

    what you meant
    to say

    in the first

    A waste
    of time

    to lie.


    I can


  14. Valkyri

    The Shrew in Eight…

    Katerina sat upon a chestnut mare,
    and studied the clear blue sky.
    Birds flit and alit on the olive trees,
    the sunlight danced on her porcelain skin.
    “What I meant to say, my dearest Petruchio,
    my most fine and handsome noble sire,
    is that the moon looks rather bright tonight,
    on this fairest of all summer evenings…”

  15. MET

    He said what he meant

    The three-year-old curly-haired
    Cherub, whose halo was askew
    Most of the time,
    Questioned me
    “Do you know how to count?”
    I smiled
    Remembering my older brothers
    Teaching me to count
    “Ace, deuce, three, four…
    Jack, Queen, King,”
    I smiled;
    Then counted the right way.
    “One, two, three, four.”
    He shook his head at me;
    Then said,
    “No, this way,
    One, five, three, six…
    Now you try.”
    Again, I counted,
    “One, two, three,”
    “No, no, no,”
    He said, “try again.”
    Again, saying the numbers
    In order, I counted.
    He shook his head
    Sadly looked
    Disgusted at me,
    “Boy, you are dumb.”
    I said, “I guess I am.”
    He taught me much
    This little cherub
    While he gave me many trials.
    He taught me that body lotion
    Could repel alligators
    Cause it said so
    In a commercial, and
    That a spirit as bright as his
    Could survive

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    November 17, 2017

      1. MET

        yeah one of those children that each time I think of them I say a quick prayer…and he was such a bright one and it was his mother’s boyfriend… and I asked often..”Why?” there are no answers to that satisfy

  16. Janet Rice Carnahan


    Yes, our tempers flared, and fireworks flew fast
    Please hear me in your heart, I love you, thank you
    It happened even though we didn’t last
    Yes, our tempers flared, and fireworks flew fast
    Our time came in, now we’re in the past
    We gave it our best, trusting what we knew
    Yes, our tempers flared, and fireworks flew fast
    Please hear me in your heart, I love you, thank you

  17. candy

    Just a Whisper

    this poem never meant to say
    “I love you”
    or even
    “I really like you” or
    “call me”

    but the moonlight had
    smoothed out all
    it’s rough edges

    and the heart of this poem
    began beating a beat
    it had never beat before

    it looked in your trusting eyes
    finding the soul of a mate

    and this poem whispered
    “I love you”

  18. SarahLeaSales

    What I Meant to Say

    What I meant to say
    when I said I don’t like talking on the telephone
    was that I don’t like getting stuck in a conversation
    even Houdini couldn’t escape from.

    What I meant to say
    when I said I liked the color of your dress
    is that I hate the rest of it.

    What I meant to say
    when I read your work and praised your grammar
    is that your story sucked.

    What I meant to say
    when I said I’m allergic to something in your food
    is that your cooking makes me sick.

    What I meant to say
    when I said I have a headache
    is that I don’t feel like brushing my teeth right now
    (because I might want something sweet later–
    something that adds calories,
    not burns them.)

    This is the art of communications.

  19. robinamelia

    The Lady With The Downy Arms Speaks

    “That is not it at all,
    That is not what I meant, at all.”
    (From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot).

    If, Alfred, you had just burst out and proclaimed
    yourself Lazarus risen from the dead, I am sure we would all
    have been thoroughly delighted! Truly, we had exhausted
    the topic of Michelangelo and would have welcomed
    the interruption. You do look a bit like that sketch
    he made of Lazarus, with the grave cloths just slipping off
    and swirling about. Oh, that’s not it either?
    Well, we can’t really discuss matters like the bodily
    resurrection at these little gatherings, now can we, dear?
    We’d all end up as melancholic as you are—oh, I’m sorry—
    it doesn’t show, I assure you, I was just referring to how I
    would feel if I dwelt on such topics. But let’s consider
    a nice evening get together for serious chats like these.
    We can contemplate just how those grave cloths came off.
    Did he tear them away quickly? What a moment
    that must have been, to wake up with those dreadful
    wrappings like a mummy all over one! I’d simply want to scream,
    wouldn’t you? No, probably not. You prefer silence. And so,
    likely, would Mr. Lazarus. I guess if you’d been dead
    for three days, oh, I mean, four, three was the other,
    four days you might not see the humor right away:
    at least not until after a cup of tea or two. Sherry?

  20. tripoet

    Free Speech

    Wouldn’t it be nice
    if we could say
    just what
    we meant to say

    not filter out,
    as if panning
    for gold,
    the nuggets

    of speech that will
    assure we keep
    our jobs but lose
    our souls?

  21. De Jackson

    It Comes Down to This

    This part
    -icular poem
    would like to take it all back,

    retract her former
    selves and songs, let down
    her hair a little longer, be

    -long to another moon. She
    swoons for sea, and salt, but
    all this clacking is giving her
    a bit of a headache.

    She’ll happily take
    a nap. Or a break. Or a breather
    somewhere where the sky
    is still blue. She’s

    feeling a little misunderstood,
    misconstrued and mis
    -quoted. Folks are doting
    on the wrong phrases.

    Her phases are sporadic
    at best, resting in pools
    of their own
    (blood, tears)

    and yet, if she could just
    stir it all into some
    semblance of hope
    stew, she’d be
    the happiest poem

    You see, it seems
    the masses think
    she thinks she’s

    And what she means
    to say:
                   she’s found.


  22. Walter J Wojtanik


    My god is dead.
    He used to be a good and loyal god,
    but he is dead and I feel forsaken.
    It has taken be quite a while
    before I thought I’d ever smile again.
    My heart is instead forlorn,
    I had sworn at my god too many times.
    I had walked with my god and found
    great comfort and joy. My god
    was always there for me.
    Where he had once blessed me,
    now him being dead has messed me up.
    I am apoplectic, a born again skeptic.
    And to top it all off, I am dyslexic.
    My god is dead!
    Hit by a car filled with nuns,
    I swear to Dog!

  23. Eileen S


    Let’s grateful for our blessings on this Thanksgiving Day.
    It’s a day to eat turkey with all the trimmings and not a day to fast.
    We want all gathered to have a good time and no dismay.
    Let’s grateful for our blessings on this Thanksgiving Day.
    Let all at the table think carefully about the things we say.
    It is not a day to be dour or air the wrongs of the past.
    Let’s grateful for our blessings on this Thanksgiving Day.
    It’s a day to eat turkey with all the trimmings and not a day to fast.

  24. thunk2much

    Lost for words

    I remember when I found
    my voice just lying around
    like it had always been there
    even though I’d looked
    a thousand times before,
    and daring, I picked it up
    staring in awe
    of the mother-of-pearl
    and the swirls of jewels,
    in sparkling pools
    before I opened wide and
    placed it inside where it fit
    like it had always been there
    even though I’d looked
    a thousand times before
    and it sounded like gold,
    if gold had a sound,
    I had found it again
    and forgot all the pain
    and cost of being lost
    for words.


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