WD Poetic Form Challenge: Golden Shovel

Let’s get the next Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge kicked into high gear. As you’ve probably already deduced, we’re going to write golden shovels this time around. Click here to read the golden shovel guidelines.

Once you know the rules for the golden shovel, start writing them and sharing here on the blog (this specific post) for a chance to be published in Writer’s Digest magazine–as part of the Poetic Asides column. (Note: You have to log in to the site to post comments/poems; creating an account is free.)

Here’s how the challenge works:

  • Challenge is free. No entry fee.
  • The winner (and sometimes a runner-up or two) will be featured in a future edition of Writer’s Digest magazine as part of the Poetic Asides column.
  • Deadline 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on July 20, 2014.
  • Poets can enter as many golden shovels as they wish. The more “work” you make for me the better.
  • All poems should be previously unpublished. If you have a specific question about your specific situation, just send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com. Or just write a new golden shovel.
  • I will only consider golden shovels shared in the comments below. It gets too confusing for me to check other posts, go to other blogs, etc.
  • Speaking of posting, if this is your first time, your comment may not appear immediately. However, it should appear within a day (or 3–if shared on the weekend). So just hang tight, and it should appear eventually. If not, send me an e-mail at the address above.
  • Please include your name as you would like it to appear in print. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use your screen name, which might be something like HaikuPrincess007 or MrLineBreaker. WD has a healthy circulation, so make it easy for me to get your byline correct.
  • Finally–and most importantly–be sure to have fun!


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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he has the pleasure of doing a lot of fun writing-related projects. He’s also the author of Solving the World’s Problems. He’s married to a poet, Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess).

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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763 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Golden Shovel

  1. Andrea Z

    I know this challenge is long over, but I wanted to give this poetic form a whirl:

    “In leaves no step had trodden black.” Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

    Bitter cold rushes in,
    Cold wind bringing dead leaves
    inside; they remain in the breezeway, no
    one notices, until a wrong step
    produces a “crunch!” and I wish I had
    taken heed of space previously trodden
    and cleaned up the leaves, now turned black.

  2. Andrea Z

    I know this challenge is over, but I wanted to give this poetic form a try:

    quote: “In leaves no step had trodden black.” Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

    Bitter cold rushes in,
    Cold wind bringing dead leaves
    inside; they remain in the breezeway, no
    one notices, until a wrong step
    produces a “crunch!” and I wish I had
    taken heed of space previously trodden
    and cleaned up the leaves, now turned black.

  3. BDP

    “Echinacea Healing”

    I never saw that coming,
    the way the stalk overnight snapped to,
    lifted its pink cone synched with ballerina flounce, this
    stumbling flower en pointe again. Chance has
    a way of hanging on, at times its
    force so faint that in response rewards
    are heaped: a blossom barely nothing
    praised. But a green stem is
    life promised
    through small steady thrusts upward where finally nothing
    but healthy seeds puff to soil. This is
    the best surprise: not what’s almost taken
    and given back, but what travels near from far away.

    –Barb Peters

    From “Coming to This,” by Mark Strand

    Coming to this
    has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.

    We have no heart or saving grace,
    no place to go, no reason to remain.

  4. BDP

    “Two Poets, a Single Steady Gaze”

    He taught us, his students, in a walkup, a self-effacing
    fifth floor pad that matched his persona. Like stripped trees,
    his place, each room with almost no foliage, so
    nearly empty, few chairs, lone guitar unstrummed, unlike
    my home with swathes of rugs from Germany, each with “the”
    in front, as in the prewar Berlin carpet, or the impossibly
    intricate Persian pulled from the Muenster house’s massive
    hand-excavated basement dug below the waterline and
    failing even as my husband’s aunt hefted buckets overly
    filled with sand hurting her already breaking back, serious
    weight, both pounds and mental. Call it a guilt of cedars,
    rough, red tinged nightmares from wrong place and
    wrong time, under-storied with dank-loving hemlocks
    known as Nazis each night forcing her to interpret, and
    the Russian prisoners were sure to die because of those
    translated words, her words. She clung higher in fir trees
    looking below to what rotted, what they were—are—
    those men who tried to make her into them. She chose brooders,
    heavy limbs filtering a plagued rain. Nothing dignified
    about sopping wet, as history, dense, pulled her, mist-shrouded,
    back toward perpetrators, so she, single, slew monsters
    with poetry, rhymed, rhythmic language slantly beautiful
    and hewn from sliver-edged bark, which brings this narrative of
    her around again to him, hers and his in a wending course—
    the things she’d no place for couldn’t fill her up and
    his were plain, barren—they wrote, both cleaved by awe
    that comes from line upon line of air, breath, itself inspiring.

    –Barb Peters

    From “ Dear Internal Revenue Service,” by John Brehm

    …self-effacing trees, so unlike the impossibly massive
    and overly serious cedars and hemlocks and

    Douglass fir trees of the Pacific Northwest,
    where I used to live until poverty forced me East.
    Those trees are brooders—dignified, mist-shrouded
    monsters—beautiful, of course, and awe-inspiring

    (I wonder if you have felt this), but too damply
    archaic and imposing and uncomprehendable
    for my taste. I like a tree you can take in with
    a single steady gaze.

      1. BDP

        I appreciate your reading and commenting, William. This poem made sense to me, but I wasn’t sure it would make sense to anyone else. My thanks to you is not just for my poem, however–it’s for your sensitive and insightful treatment of others’ poems as well.

  5. Jane Shlensky

    Tunesmiff has inspired me. Is there such a thing as a double mirror?

    (after William Carlos Williams, “The Birds”)

    The birds come to life each dawn, celebrating the
    World made new, miracle of sunlight on dewy leaf. Each world
    Begins like love—in the heart’s throat, in flutter of flight, begins
    Again when we wake grateful as the world embraces the world again.

    1. tunesmiff

      Glad to be an inspiration in some small way~ especially given the grand result~!
      I especially like bird images running (flying/gliding?) throughout…

    2. BDP

      This poem, via line choice and double repetition of it, makes me aware of the world’s rotation–that’s not something we, or at least I, think of everyday. I know it and feel it, but don’t think of it. Big world, small poem, daily beginnings. Nice.

  6. MNRWildhood

    by: m.nicole.r.wildhood

    with help from Rainier Maria Rilke**

    Our apartment, with the gaping windows and
    the whiney floors, sun and juniper crowding for prominence in the

    east-facing egg-white-framed glass, is frighteningly
    large for how small it is, stunningly silent

    for all the airplanes that streak the abyss
    of sky, and sorely nestled into

    multi-colored rhododendron billows to the west, which
    look like they escaped the circus, for how easily found it is by four-legged others.


    1. BDP

      I’m in the apartment, looking around at it (love: “frightening / large for how small it is”) and looking outside at the wider world, feeling like a newlywed again!

  7. Jane Shlensky

    Citizens’ Open Mike
    (after Yevtushenko’s “People”)

    He stands transfixed at the drumming in
    a driving rain, puddle wondrous, any
    hint of dry lost to him, a man
    who goes with flows, who
    worries that in quiet people breath dies
    first, snuffed out by pollution and greed. There
    in green nature, he lives and dies
    with walnuts and honeybees, with
    only an arid wind to heed him.

    “I protect rivers,” he says. They ignore his
    comments, knowing their plans already. First
    obfuscate, then lie, as he remembers his first snow,
    ice melt currents muscling him, and
    fog’s mist settling on him like a kiss.
    “Water is Life,” he tells them, “and
    thirst is a thing to make men fight.”

    He faces self-proclaimed decision-makers, not
    citizens like him who value life, but people
    who will gain by loss, who play percentages, die
    or kill for wealth and risk. They yawn, tap watches, but
    he speaks for air, sun, water, for worlds
    lost when fracking goes awry. All things die
    without sunlight, fresh water, and oxygen in
    the atmosphere. “Why not side with life?” he asks them.

  8. Jane Shlensky

    Over and Under
    (after Howard Nemorov’s “The Blue Swallows”)

    How long have you watched me sleep? Perhaps
    my eyelids’ blue veins shift like ghost tides when
    I blink, drifting in a dream, and you
    wait for my nocturnal drama to crest. What will
    snap me awake, startled and confused? Where have
    I left dream symbols like shells on this shore? Fully
    formed awareness comes slowly, awakened
    one cell at a time, until my pulse knows I
    am awake, calms, afloat on rational thought. Shall
    I slip to the sea and make a dream come true, show
    you what riding a sea horse entails, ask you
    why you sit quiet as the moon, watching my face, a
    kind of wonder in your sea-green eyes, a new
    recognition stirring you toward some new thing?

  9. Jane Shlensky

    Twelve Steps, with Wife
    (after Nemorov, “The Blue Swallows”)

    I wonder if perhaps
    you remember when
    my patience saved you
    from self-destruction. Will
    you allow me to say that? Have
    we parsed honesty enough to fully
    accept our need to be awakened
    to even a sleeping world? Perhaps I
    should not rush to claim credit, but I shall
    never regret my faith in your goodness to show
    you anew to yourself as someone worthy of love; in you
    joy and hope stand waiting for recognition and reflection, for a
    healing time away from lies, sadness, and doubt, your Self made new
    by loving eyes watching, mine, as you grasp that you can become a wondrous thing.

  10. Jane Shlensky

    The Tao of Poetics
    (after Li Po’s “About Tu Fu”)

    An artist is often poor;
    but poverty can grow old
    and cheerless as Tu Fu,
    contemplating worlds where ”I”
    is replaced with “they”, thought
    is ignored for blather. Then
    when words fall useless, he
    gathers sad syllables like wildflowers. Must
    heart and head, self and soul be
    joined? Must meaning be made only of agonizing?
    Must a poet’s struggles tower over
    his joys until he lets go and writes poetry
    to heal himself outside in again?

    1. PressOn

      I don’t know the original source, so I can’t tell if you’re twitting it, though that’s the sense I get, but the sheer images of this are mesmerizing, notably “gathers sad syllables like wildflowers.” Masterful work, again.

      1. Jane Shlensky

        Li Po and Tu Fu were fellow poets and friends who wrote poems to and about one another, mostly joking around or pinching one another a bit. Li was a drinker and womanizer and thoroughly good fun, while Tu was burdened by the wrongs in government and the world. One translation uses the word “suffering” rather than “agonizing”, but the pinch is the same for poor old Tu Fu.

  11. Jane Shlensky

    Whitman’s Saturday Market
    (after Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California”)

    The flower vendor is not where
    he was last week. Zucchinis instead are
    there entangled with brother crooked necks and tomatoes we
    buy to make of vegetables a colorful plate palette. Going
    down narrow lanes, we hail a wispy Walt Whitman

    lounging in doorways, munching samples, observing the
    vendors and buyers transacting out-of-doors,
    sky their canopy, air their roof. Streets close
    to traffic on Saturdays to clear pavement for walking in
    a maze of crafts, produce, clothing, and food an
    artist should paint, everyone reclaiming life this hour.

    We are waylaid by quilts, flutes, breads and honeys. Which
    sense will lead us among flowers, cut and potted, the way
    crowded with buckets of sunflowers, roses, hydrangeas. Does
    Siberian iris, surely hothouse grown, complement your
    pink and blue frilly delphinium, each golden beard
    furry as a centurion’s helmet? Ah, Walt, we are one of you. Point
    us toward freedom. A human river, we flow to you tonight.

    1. PressOn

      I expect Walt’s chuckling about this, somewhere. Sam Clemens might be joining him. Amid the rich observations and descriptions here, I feel a gentle needle. Delightful.

  12. Jane Shlensky

    (after Lu Xun’s “An Impromptu”)

    Children play farther afield each day where
    they won’t hear their mothers call and can
    lose themselves anew in delight. We
    watch their games’ progress as we go
    about our lives, remembering when
    we were they, wondering when life began writing
    our futures, spinning our narratives, as if story is
    unsteered, random, without design, but
    little more than a ragged ball rolling in the dust?

    1. PressOn

      This is wonderful. I especially like “wondering when life began writing / our futures”; it captures the wistful feeling of passing Toyland’s borders.

  13. PressOn


    See that curving tombstone over there,
    the one where the overgrown lilac bush is?
    The woman buried beneath it had a
    madness for music, a kind of magic
    in her fecund soul that fuelled every song she made.
    Read her stone, her message to all who pass by:
    “Play me no threnodies; remember me in melody.”

    William Preston
    using “There is a magic made by melody”
    from Elizabeth Bishop’s I Am in Need of Music

  14. Jane Shlensky

    (after T.E. Hulme’s “Image”)

    Old injuries are rainy day gossips, old
    voices echoing down hallways of houses
    empty of everything but ache. Were
    we reduced to skeletal scaffolding,
    we’d still make marrow of fractured joy, that once

    or thrice we fell—in love, in laughter and
    loss, in faith in hope, our cells, worthy workmen
    laboring in us to face pain whistling.

  15. Jane Shlensky

    One Master
    (after Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”)

    He said I’d never amount to much, the
    doctor whose forceps dented my newborn forehead; his art
    is jerking life into being and making pronouncements. Tell a mother of
    the brain’s promise in the skull of her babe. Tell her even losing
    takes resilience and courage. Stopping being isn’t
    as easy as he thinks. Ask any of the dead how hard
    it was to loosen their grip on breath. To
    amount to much, we must yield to the unknown as master.

    1. PressOn

      I like the “how dare you” tone of this, in response to “pronouncements.” The final sentence has the feel of a mantra,. to my ear anyway.

  16. tunesmiff

    I s’pose y’all saw this one coming… an inverted/mirrored golden shovel…

    G. Smith
    Wood cut and stacked by the door;
    Yellow warm glow at the window;
    A picture of winter peace
    In some pastel imagining,
    Diverged from the reality of
    Roads iced over, power out;
    Two degrees below zero.
    Yes, again from Robert Frost’s
    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

  17. tunesmiff

    Or the “mirrored” golden shovel~ the FIRST word of each line comes from the selected work…

    G. Smith
    Two lane blacktop, like so many country
    Roads, ran alongside the highway, then
    Diverged to follow the riverbank
    In its twisted way south to the Gulf.
    A similar path leads home, with paired
    Yellow lines stopping at a covered bridge of
    Wood before leading to a horizon balanced on the asphalt.

    Again… From Robert Frost’s
    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

    And of course there follows (?) the inverted mirror…
    And what if each line uses the word in its original place in the referenced line?
    Or it’s the second (or third, or fourth, or so-on-th), word in each new line… The possibilities are (not quite) endless~ but might be worth the challenge(s) in their own rights…

    1. PressOn

      These alterations of the basic “golden shovel” challenge have their own feel. It would seem easier to write with the seed line(s) at the front of the lines than at the back, but I haven’t tried, as you did. I like this poem very much, especially the image of ” a horizon balanced on the asphalt.”

  18. James Von Hendy


    Whatever unfolds in the hills is outside time, our
    Passing here indistinguishable from nothing, our lives

    Less than wind. Do the trees even sense that we are?
    Down in the hollow a green carpet of algae floats like

    Solid ground at the far end of the pond where the birds’
    Nests hang, already abandoned, the broods dispersed, lives

    Not unlike our own, but wholly different. They’re flying
    Into their shadows without knowing. We look around

    From the shadows of our unspoken longing, wind-blown
    Like the thistledown passing us by and lifting away.

    From “Drone and Ostinato” by Charles Wright
    “Our lives are like birds’ lives, flying around, blown away”

    1. BDP

      Very nicely written, James. This poem reverses the zen question, “if we fall in the forest, do trees hear our sound?” I love the image of birds “flying / Into their shadows without knowing.” And then the entire sentence that follows and builds on that image is exquisite.

  19. tunesmiff

    An “inverted” golden shovel~ i.e. I reversed the order of the words from the original…

    G. Smith
    In the silent wood,
    Leaves have turned yellow.
    And there, beyond a
    Long, easy bend in
    The stream there diverged
    Logging trails, half-roads,
    Waiting for we two.

    From Robert Frost’s
    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

  20. James Von Hendy

    Meditation While Mincing Vegetables for Breakfast

    Bright light, sharp and clear over my shoulder, just
    Enough to see by at the black counter. If I’d wanted

    That constellation of stone and glinting glass below the knife to
    Remind me, I didn’t know, but then the night’s dream let

    Itself slice between the leeks, the ghost of a lover. Do you
    Ever let things go? Her face invisible, her voice lost, but I know

    It was her. The ghost of my face floats in the counter’s sheen. It.
    Memory’s a tricky deception, and imagination, too, hasn’t

    Found its edges. Onion falls from the blade. Nothing’s changed.
    The woodpecker shrills from the trees, these peppers no

    No match for his red nape, that brilliant flash of flame out
    In the oaks a treachery of my wants, my needs, no

    Thing a symbol for another unless we put it to that end.

    From “Reply to Wang Wei,” by Charles Wright
    “Just wanted to let you know it hasn’t changed—no out, no end,”

    1. BDP

      Excellent, James. Like it all, but especially the night’s dream letting “Itself slice between the leeks” and “Memory’s a tricky deception, and imagination, too, hasn’t / Found its edges.” Actually, hard to find what I like best!

  21. tunesmiff

    G. Smith
    I can’t decide between the two.
    That’s the trouble with country roads;
    they’re like friendships that have diverged,
    gone their separate ways, one true, in
    a straight line, the other in a
    sharp cuve with twin lines of yellow
    leading to hills and a dark wood.
    From Robeet Frost’s
    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

    1. James Von Hendy

      Yes, it’s been wonderful in many ways. One I’ll note is the lovely unspoken invitation (perhaps requirement) to go back and reread (or discover) the poems of poets we admire and appreciate. That journey has been wonderful. Thank you!

      1. James Von Hendy

        Marie-Therese, I’ve especially enjoyed your self-imposed goal of posting a golden shovel every day. It’s a challenge that’s clearly sparked you to some lovely, lovely poems. Thanks for them.

        Of course it’s also sparked many of us. There are many gems in this challenge!

        1. Marie Therese Knepper

          Addressing the last part of your comment first, I concur: there are so many noteworthy Golden Shovels submitted in this challenge.

          Thank you for your compliments on my poetry. I would love to be part of a workshop in which people alternate picking the line or lines from various poems to write new Golden Shovels. What can I say – I’m hooked!

    2. tunesmiff

      Definitely… I’ve found myself looking at others’ work differently as well… lines and whole stanzas or poems that open different vistas and offer new opportunities to expand on or take a tangent to the original work…
      Thanks, as well~

  22. Linda.E.H

    I used Dororthy Parker’s poem, Resume.

    Here’s the long version (using the whole poem):

    Jack-o-Lantern Girl
    after Dorothy Parker

    She carves herself like a pumpkin of flesh, razors
    her choice of medium to release the pain,
    to let it bleed out through etched lines on her skin. You

    are unaware of her straight flowing rivers
    that run crimson to scabby brown then white, for they are
    tucked in beneath a cover of clothing. Damp

    screams slip silently from her eyes, burn like acids,
    déjàvu droplets trying to wash away the stain
    of memories as she cuts and mumbles “Fuck you,
    you dirty little shit” between sobs. Depressed and

    alone she contemplates moving onto drugs
    to numb everything, to mask the memories that cause
    her suffering, to diminish the bewitching cramp

    gutting her every time she sees him. She thinks guns!
    guns would do the trick. What a treat, making him ghostly. Aren’t
    many girls gonna’ mourn him ’cause what he’s doing ain’t lawful

    but she has no guns, no weapons at all. No tethered nooses,
    no super-sized mousetrap, no poison-spiked punch to give 

    him, no torture chambers, no lethal injection, no deadly gas,
    just tiny, hand-held blades and pleasant distractions – when she smells
    jasmine in the air, when she hears the blackbird’s sweet song those awful

    feelings drift off and she vows to finally stop stitching with steel. You
    wouldn’t believe how many times she’s tried quitting. One might
    compare it to a smoker, months without cigarettes until needing a drag, or as
    an alcoholic who keeps falling off the wagon and into a glass well.
    She’ll either turn to mush or let the candle feed her, giving strength to live.

    And here is the short version:

    Jack-o-Lantern Girl
    after Dorothy Parker

    She carves herself; a pumpkin of flesh. Razors
    are her choice of medium tp release the pain,
    allow it to bleed out of etched lines on her skin. You

    are unaware of her straight flowing rivers
    that run crimson and eventually white, for they are
    tucked in beneath a cover of clothing. Damp

    screams slip silently from eyes and burn like acids
    raining down behind closed doors as she cuts. Tears don’t stain;
    so it’s easy for her to hide the truth from me and you.

    1. Linda.E.H

      I forgot to post my name. (No surprise there…I do it every time. I forget it just post me as Linda E.H.)

      Also here are the lines of the poem Resumé that were used:
      Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren’t lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live.

      Linda Hofke

    2. PressOn

      This sounds something like Parker, alone with private thoughts and not trying to impress the Algonquin Round Table. It’s powerful, breath-taking writing, creating clear and disturbing images. Wow.

    3. BDP

      My vote’s for the long version, Linda. Definitely. The last stanza is chilling. “Stitching with steel” becomes spot on after reading the poem through. The form works well here: Parker’s somewhat flippant sentences juxtaposed with this stark poem full of pain, which also has a touch of flippancy (such as “What a treat! Making him ghostly.”) I feel like have been on a seesaw of sadness.

  23. tunesmiff

    G. Smith
    I don’t know what’s next. Will you let
    me love you, or will you leave me
    in chains of heartache and tears, not
    knowing what next steps, or stops, to
    make on the road, whatever the
    path. Alone alone? In marriage
    Is there some happy midpoint of
    life that’s completely, always true
    to other’s hearts and souls and minds?

    Afraid to face or to admit
    there are roadblocks, impediments
    to out happiness, our joy. Love
    means having no fear, and fear is
    an odd way of learning how not
    to turn loose of all things; to love.

    Who is the one who loves, and which
    one turns for the other, alters
    his or her very being when
    that other arrives, as if it
    is the cause of alteration,
    the essence of the one who finds.
    From William Shakespeare’s
    “Let me not to the marriage of true minds,
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds…”

  24. tunesmiff

    G. Smith
    Together we
    Sing, dance, and wear
    The one thing the
    Heart asks: a mask
    That reveals; that
    Both cries and grins,
    Telling truths and
    Believing lies.
    From Paul Laurence Dunbar’s
    “We wear the mask that grins and lies…”

  25. mjdills

    “What fresh hell is this?”
    From Dorothy Parker

    It’s wiser to leave the phone unanswered and wonder what
    Awaits one in the dawn of a fresh
    Day, than to open the door to unrelenting hell
    Of news that will change the course of what is
    A new normal and not ever say: “I didn’t ask for this?”

    Margo Jodyne Dills

  26. mjdills

    I thought this poem was written by Zora Neale Hurston but after doing some research, I find it has been attributed to some and none and often the vernacular is different. Hurston’s “Stepped on a pin, De pin bent….” So whomever the author, my apologies in advance.

    “I stepped on a pin, the pin bent,
    “And that’s the way the story went.”
    Ah, the arrogance to think whatever I
    Deem important, might be a bit stepped
    Up in my mind; whereas others who are on
    Their own collision course with a
    Reality for themselves and a push pin
    On a mental board with the
    Sincere intention to accomplish goal of pushed pin
    No matter how twisted and bent
    That trail becomes and
    Giving rare thought to whatever that’s
    Going to do to affect the
    Viewpoint or others, I commit to seek the complicated way
    (Or perhaps horribly simple-minded) depending on the
    Outcome and what sort of fish story
    As explanation to which way it may have went.

  27. Marie Therese Knepper

    The Black Hole Of Despair
    by Marie-Therese Knepper
    (credit to Shel Silverstein’s “Where The Sidewalk Ends.” line used: let us leave this place where the smoke blows black)

    These old feelings won’t let
    go. The truth of us
    just won’t leave,
    and I’m stuck with this
    hole in the place
    I used to call a heart, where
    nothingness resides, the
    repository of smoke
    dreams, where the wind of despair blows,
    filling my world with black.

      1. Marie Therese Knepper

        Hello William 🙂
        Would you care to expound on what you mean by your comment “despite images such as a hole in the heart?” Thank you. Constructive criticism is always welcome and appreciated.

        1. PressOn

          I was thinking of these words, ” I’m stuck with this / hole in the place / I used to call a heart.” Perhaps my impression isn’t what you meant, but the image struck me as impossible (a heart with a hole in it), even though I recognized the poetic use. I commented that the whole effect of the poem was, for me, accurate and precise in describing despair, yet it’s not “accurate” to speak of a heart as having a hole in it, though I suppose there are some medical conditions like that. I don’t know if that is “constructive” for you; I hope it clarifies where I was coming from, though.

          1. Marie Therese Knepper

            Yes, thank you.
            I was trying to have the subject of the poem convey the feeling of nothingness inside of her. The imagery I had was of an empty shell filled with smoldering black smoke.
            I will be sorry to see this challenge end! I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time.
            Thank you again.

  28. shellaysm

    “Spiraling Courtship”
    -after “Brass Kaleidoscope” by Dale Harcombe

    The carnival’s allure piques at the resurrection of a
    ferris wheel, its lights radiating in time to vintage calliope melody.
    Beyond its fences, firefly lanterns randomly flicker messages of
    innocent joy and magic’s promise. Trailing outward still, vagabond stars
    peek through the deepening darkness as a lone frog belts
    rousing chords of summertime courtship. The restless suitor, a
    serenader focused on perfecting his waltz-worthy tune,
    trills in humble hope of enticing a kindred female only
    a few hops away. Dizzy with cautious romance, she
    strains to locate the baritone dreamer as best she can.
    An errant ripple teases the pond’s surface. Leaning in closer to hear,
    the lulling swish of cattails and katydids finds her instead: an eclectic
    diversion. The pond diver forms dream-catcher patterns
    ignited by the breeze: exotic water prints in soft shiver.
    With shy sequence they stretch, freeze, stare, and
    at several pivotal moments appear to shimmer:
    a mirage under opal moon nightlight. Reality questioned, then
    the moment fails. The gypsy dancers retreat, leery for love’s first splinter.

    -Michele K. Smith

    1. shellaysm

      I guess I got so into writing (& revising word choice), that I changed line five’s end word from singing to belts. So, it should read: peek through the deepening darkness as a lone frog is singing/

  29. barbara_y

    My beloved little billiard balls

    sigh for my sister poet, my
    scuffed unrhymed rhymer, no beloved.
    brittle girl, she drinks a little
    killing time itself in billiard
    halls, counting syllables like balls

    “My beloves little billiard balls”
    __James Tate, Poem to Some of My Recent Poems

  30. shellaysm

    “Bottled Whispers”
    -after “Small Breaths” by Eileen Carney Hulme

    Miracles land upon weary shoulders and
    yet blindly get waved off or missed entirely. I
    feel their ill-appreciated pain, cry
    in their misunderstanding, nod at
    their bravery, and long for the
    beauty–ever patient–beneath the surface of uncertainty,
    where golden nuggets are lodged south of
    the shadows drowning too many rainbows.
    Chance and opportunity coexist all
    over, under, and are forever woven between the
    simplest moments. I’m guilty of clasping daydreams
    while refusing to see their potential. Today, I
    would rush to return days I once stole,
    when, stuck in my own tightfisted refusing,
    I foolishly left behind insulating joy to
    partake of fleeting security. If only I could give
    a handful, I would steal back and share them
    openly, equally with others. I’d turn back
    the clock and weed out the poisons which are
    now bullheadedly rooted and stored
    in silos I never knew I was filling. Just as
    each cloud possesses a luminous silver
    lining, the less dense outer layer of dust
    can be scrubbed away with diligence. And,
    though we can never reverse what’s been lost, each
    miraculously charged budding day
    offers second chances to right what is
    ailing and build up a layer of polish so a
    stranger may evolve into a friend and even small
    gifts may whisper renewal into stagnant breath.

    -Michele K. Smith

    1. PressOn

      This poem has a wealth of phrases I wish I had thought of, such as “bullheadedly rooted and stored /
      in silos I never knew I was filling” and “each / miraculously charged budding day.” Marvellous.

  31. shellaysm

    “Sealed Invite”
    -after “Small Breaths” by Eileen Carney Hulme

    Without renewed invitation, the sinuous paths
    of certain uncertain yesterdays which
    first offered me a walk, since forgot
    my naive smile and grew vacant to
    over-the-shoulder glimpses. Choosing then to follow
    treaded footfalls, stifled and cheated by choice, I now slowly
    tiptoe-trot over mossy rocks, grip frayed rope, rejoice: joy sealed.

    -Michele K. Smith

  32. shellaysm

    “Coming Unbound”
    -after “Belonging” by Eileen Carney Hulme

    Savoring twilight’s debut tonight,
    tucked away from reality, our
    jagged edges smooth, our souls–
    secret wayfarers–repent, rest.
    The horizon inhales fragrant
    slashes of watercolor skyline in
    rhythm with our own spiritual
    breathing. Found, yet in essence
    equally lost together by candle-flamed
    longing, one moment exists undamaged,
    bound to nothing–even itself–until utterly
    seamless, we’re awash in silent belonging.

    -Michele K. Smith

  33. Gabrielle Freeman

    by Gabrielle Freeman

    “You Don’t Get To Tell Me What To Do Ever Again” by Denise Duhamel

    You’re getting out of hand. There
    are important people here. We were
    supposed to stay sober. I’m be-wild-
    ered. Your expectation crushes
    my intention. Your posture says I
    showed my ass. Your drink is never
    in the glass long enough to let
    the ice melt. It’s high time to get
    another shot, another drag. Out
    the inevitable. I am of
    the opinion that your two hand(s)
    are the best/worst something(s), even
    better than the smooth of your mouth, though
    not by much. And I forget how one
    burning word makes me think of the time(s)
    you left me by the phone until I
    called your friends, made myself a fool, spent
    nights awake, alone. My memory the
    thing that tends to disappear. At night
    I dream your skin. I hover at
    the brink. Destruction. Desire. Someone
    should shake me. You’re someone else’s
    problem now. Our small apartment
    is a strip mall, a highway overpass. But
    I can’t help but feel all alone.
    Your haughty indifference imprinted on
    the backs of my eyelids, bright blight a
    field of mines in which to couch.

  34. Gabrielle Freeman

    The Edge
    by Gabrielle Freeman

    with lines from “Blue Stone” by Richard Hugo

    I want an infinity pool made of plexiglass, a
    ledge of water hanging heavy blue
    over the edge of a cliff carved from stone
    gray as the verge of sleep. The brink is

    an illusion looming sky, the drop only
    in the eye, in the mind. Set one
    foot at the bottom. I will piece
    together limit to limit, traverse the margins of

    water, air. I will walk over the city below, a
    cheap shot, a free pass, a peep show suspended, huge
    suspension of disbelief. Woman bending blue,
    legs like Colossus brass shimmering, stone

    sculpture scraping across streetlit night. No
    plastic contraption will do. No concrete hole. One
    step beyond futility. I will crawl to the chasm. Can
    I hang on to the lip, bring myself to the fringe, and find?


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