Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 250

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s poeming time. But first, check out the winner of the somonka challenge. Also, Tammy and me will be reading at various locations for the Austin International Poetry Festival (April 3-6); if you live in the area (and even if you don’t), consider making it out for a poetry experience unlike any other.

For today’s prompt, write a stress poem. The poem could be about something that stresses you (or someone else) out: for instance, death, taxes, and/or Star Wars prequels. Or the poem could be about something you (or someone else) want to stress: for instance, your aversion to Star Wars prequels. Of course, you can bend the prompt to your whim.

Here’s my attempt at a stress poem:

“crutch theories”

the thing about a stress fracture is that it doesn’t just happen
like falling off a fence and breaking a bone more like sisyphus

this hairline fracture develops from falling off that fence over
and over which is different than falling in love over and over

because the constant ripping of heart tissue actually makes
the muscle stronger which is why i’m able to constantly push

through the pain falling off fences and falling in love or that’s
the theory not that it makes it any easier to hobble around

town on crutches clutching at my chest saying she got away


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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems, which is filled with poems about love, faith, and global warming (among other topics). He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who (as mentioned above) will be rocking the Austin International Poetry Festival with him. A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, Brewer is the current judge of the IBPC Poetry Competition. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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96 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 250

  1. msmuffintop

    Stress Points

    with a soft lead pencil
    emphasis and adjustments
    must be made, under

    lining words and moods
    editing for clarity, not limiting
    stressing the right accent

    Demand the syllable strong
    tolling, “ding Dong!”
    unembellished by anxiety.

  2. PromptPrincess13


    Sit still, don’t move,
    Be calm, don’t think,
    Just sit, relax,

    You need to learn how to quiet down,
    Stop moving, stop thinking,
    Listen to the quiet,
    Find peace in it,

    Listen to your breath,
    Don’t think about it, no,
    Never think about it,
    But know it’s there,
    Know how it sounds,

    Why can’t you lay down and not move?
    I can see you wiggling your fingers,
    And now you’re moving your tongue!
    Stop opening your eyes,
    Just relax,

    Give me a book and some music,
    Any kind but rap,
    Let me loose on a story, let me dance and dream,
    But don’t tell me not to move,
    Or think,
    Or laugh,
    Because don’t you see?
    That doesn’t work for me.

  3. Cin5456

    A Singers Dream

    Standing in line with thousands of others
    They shuffle along, waiting for hours.
    They follow instructions,
    make friends and smile.
    You never know who might
    get the judgmental nod.
    A grueling gauntlet through
    three mysterious stages:
    thirty seconds with producers,
    thirty more with executives.
    If luck still holds or comedy reigns,
    Three minutes with celebrities.

    Lucky, talented,
    she chose the right song.
    Talented, accomplished,
    he chose wrong.
    They practice, laugh, and
    joke about the pressure,
    the suspense, and the wait.
    Everyone wishes you well
    While hoping they sing better.
    The right clothes, wrong hair.
    The right song, wrong chair
    It’s a crapshoot.
    It’s a racket.
    It’s a casting call.
    It’s every singer’s dream.
    The one thing it’s not
    is a talent contest.

  4. Luis Enrique

    stress. i have no stress. . . unless you count life as a stress. like:

    1. death
    i work to not die. in the end — death

    2. my wife

    3. money

    4. money
    i’m poor. so poor

    5. eating

    6. exercising

    7. life

    life. i was supposed to die. a million times before. now i’m still here. i don’t know why

    oh well

  5. cstewart

    Stress Fracture

    After several stalwart millennia,
    The lightening storm roared up.
    The electric line traveled up my body
    Like a climber pulling up a cliff,
    With no cleats,
    Hand over fist, up, twisting,
    Through my heart and out of my head,
    At last, at last, floating

    1. PressOn

      This poem draws me: it strikes me as being as subtle as that hairline you describe. Makes me think of the small cracks in a windshield, that can proceed to cover the glass. Wonderful imagery.

  6. Connie Peters

    Growing Roots

    Like a tree needs
    a certain amount of drought
    to dig its roots down deep,
    we need an allotment of
    company coming over,
    floors to be scrubbed,
    children to be fed,
    articles due,
    publisher rejections,
    contests lost,
    pounds gained,
    climbing crumbly cliffs,
    bruised knees,
    aches and pains,
    flat tires,
    money woes,
    spousal arguments,
    getting lost in the city,
    because like an over-watered tree
    boredom can kill you.

  7. lionetravail

    Diagnosis: Stress

    In the house of God,
    the lights are kept bright.
    In the house of God,
    that which would kill us is excised,
    then painted, labelled, examined.

    Prophetic revelations about what has been,
    and what is likely to be,
    are awaited at the base of the mount
    with a false calm
    and a true dread.

    Selye’s principle still holds water,
    as it is not the stress which kills us,
    but our reaction to it.

  8. cholder

    The Write Life

    The stress of not knowing of constantly going
    To check an email, a blog, that submission thingamajob!
    The stress takes its toll, it constantly shows
    In the wrinkles and lines; that crease between my eyes
    When will it end; the rejection
    Not for me—good luck—it has merit but
    It’s not a good fit—the next agent may like it—enough!
    To make me scream, pull out my hair, phone a friend
    Take a chance, do a dance in the rain naked and then
    Grab paper and pen, sit at my desk or under a tree
    You see, it’s the write life for me!

  9. Walt Wojtanik


    There are days
    (We all have our days)
    where this crazy,
    cock-a-Mamie world comes
    down hard, and every card
    in your hand has a joker head
    instead of the aces it replaces.
    A quick shuffle and a stir
    of the pot and you’ve a mess,
    you’d guess you could be strong
    but you’d be wrong. The lid
    is clamped down hard on you
    and stew would require less
    pressure than you’ve been under.
    You wonder if this stress
    is in your best interest
    and you guess it’s best to
    let off some steam, you could
    scream and shout and let it out,
    but all that comes is that incessant
    whistle, going off like a missile,
    you blow the top off. Others may scoff,
    but simmering in your own juice
    is akin to self-abuse. Can you
    smell what I’ve been cooking?

  10. annell

    Around Midnight
    Traveling on the
    Dark side
    In the shadow

    The sun will
    Come up
    And there will
    Be relief
    Everything will
    Appear clear
    In focus
    There are always
    Two sides to
    Every coin

    Count your days
    They are but
    A limited few
    Make them count
    Light or dark
    Sunshine or

  11. PressOn


    It used to be, a boffo act
    would make applause so rise and flow
    that all would pause, and that’s a fact.
    Today, commercials stop the show.

  12. Sara McNulty

    Stressing Out

    She stews in her own acidic
    juices, sweating, wondering
    why he is not home yet.
    She picks up the phone
    several times, hesitates,
    puts it down. She wants
    to call the police, the area
    hospitals, and every friend
    he has. Instead, she wrings
    her hands, paces back
    and forth listening to the sound
    of her racing heart beats.
    He arrives home, numb
    from sitting on a stalled
    subway for over an hour.
    Overjoyed to see him,
    she hugs him, cries,
    and runs into the bathroom
    to throw up those acidic juices.

  13. Nancy Posey

    I’m a little late posting today, but hey–no stress because I’m also a:


    Flying in like a storm,
    leaving in his wake
    the frantic turmoil
    of all who did his bidding,
    he lived to a ripe old age,
    a great surprise to all.

    How, they wondered,
    could someone live
    his pressure-cooker life
    for so long without
    any repercussions?

    Surely the old ticker
    must have suffered
    from the pressure,
    of his childish tantrums,
    his rantings, never
    satisfied with anything
    that anyone did for him.

    The secret, they learned
    at last, was that in his world
    he did not suffer from stress,
    but was instead immune.
    He was simply a carrier.

  14. bclay

    kinda stressed at having such trouble already with writing more this year……

    The Poison Monarchs


    even teasing in olden
    archaic greecian tongues,
    those dieties revel in chaste
    and dare tempt forbidden love.

    whoever says a butterfly can
    not fly with wet wings is wrong,
    some even hibernate in men who
    are the unlucky immune to their
    poisonous cardiac glycosides,

    stressors of the cursed shy
    triggered by external stimuli,

    even if I find it hard to look
    in her eyes, I want the cure
    or the toxins from those lips.

  15. seingraham


    So many way to consider this stress thing
    and none of them worth diddly-squat
    Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying
    there aren’t reasons for being
    anxious or upset, there are those
    But full out stressed?
    Not many I can think of to tell the
    truth, and let’s face it
    You know what stressed is spelled
    That’s correct…desserts…
    So, if ever you feel yourself getting unduly
    worked up over very little
    Try to keep that little factoid front and
    centre in your mind
    Go and get yourself a piece of pie and a
    double latte
    Sit and think of all the good things in your
    life, and there will be loads…

  16. De Jackson


    They run deep, and keep
         going if you don’t stop the strain. They’ll
    stain every strand along the way the deep
         deep color of cold regret. Don’t get
    too attached to that particular sling,
         see here’s the thing, tomorrow some other
    limb will ache. You’ve got to take
         it one breath, one step, one tiny break,
    cast only one
    small stone at a time
    put the

    on the right syllables,
    underline your heart’s most scoundrel beat
    ac-cen-tu-ate your own smile.


  17. Jane Shlensky

    Serious Stuff
    Our third-grade teacher readied us
    for stress apocalyptic.
    Each thing she taught was serious.
    It made us feel dyspeptic.

    “I cannot stress this point too much,”
    she said, expression gruff.
    We saw in stressing such and such,
    a little is quite enough.

    Besides, her statement wasn’t true.
    In stressing everything too much,
    nothing was special; nothing, new—
    it stressed us out, a touch.

    We learned that learning’s serious stuff
    not to be taken lightly.
    While she was stressing, I daresay obsessing,
    joy in learning was simply unsightly.

  18. priyajane

    Searching For Answers

    Does the tree feel stressed
    when the seasons change
    and its leaves go south
    into unknown terrains?
    Does it bare its soul to songs in prayer
    for things to come sailing
    through the air?

    Does the ocean frown
    when the waves go wild
    and the jewels that are hidden
    just slip and slide?
    Or –
    Does it patiently wait for the storm to subside
    and then to behold–
    more treasures in sight!!

    Do the muscles in the mountains
    tighten and swell
    when the sun goes yonder
    to speak to gazelles?
    Or –
    Does it bathe itself in hazy moondrops
    and melt in the arms of
    embracing night falls?

    I’m searching for answers for questions like these
    If you think you may know, please enlighten me—

  19. De Jackson

    I am Bic, hear me roar.


    Can’t you see I’m in cold sweats?
    My words don’t always want to play,
    sometimes they simply want to stay
    stressed and stressed and stressed
    and stressed
    (though I know
    they need the rest.)

    So listen up, words.
    Just for fun…
    before you stress,
    you must always un.

  20. Hannah

    What Words can Do

    Did they know
    the effects of their reckless mess?
    Could they comprehend
    the messages their wild murmurous tongues bled?
    Neath this unforgiving moon
    a round door
    a portal
    of escape was chosen;
    a stepping out of blue
    and striding away from forever blackness.
    Those that grieve,
    they wear silence-
    a garment against those voices;
    words that can never be taken back.
    I imagine the yew tree
    above her grave
    holds its limbs in firm clusters-
    knuckles of bark and white flesh,
    charged with this disaster
    its sap seeps-tinged of red,
    grief for a young life…
    one given
    too soon.

    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2014

  21. writinglife16

    Winter Storm Impressions

    Winter stress.
    Twelve inches of snow.
    Icy roads.
    Empty shelves.
    When the snow plow breaks,
    stay home.
    Rushing was futile.

  22. taylor graham


    I expected fire
    from the sun as it rose
    this morning through a notch
    between the pine-top mountains.
    Blinding, how it hits me in the eyes
    as I make the big stress-curve, driving
    into town. What I didn’t expect, this
    winter of drought, was a rainbow-
    halo around that sun.

    Last night you saw the same
    concentric halo on the moon – micro-
    moon they call it, so distant though
    it seemed so huge.

    “When apogee coincides
    with full moon, there’s magic in the air.”

    And now this rainbow halo.
    What can it mean? A presage of rain.
    Or just another trick of sky, of light
    struck dry like kindling to a spark.
    I’ll take it as hope against
    darkness, a morning’s

  23. elishevasmom

    Mission Control

    With cell phones and laptops
    who could have predicted
    in such a short time
    we’d all be addicted.

    Even those who held fast
    and resisted the techno,
    they’d reject it forever
    with resounding a “Heck no”!

    And yet here we are,
    so visibly tense,
    with the smallest of problems
    creating suspense.

    So we call on a youngster
    who knows how to quash it.
    Extermination complete,
    and no need to wash it.

    We’ve the wisdom they need for
    living life, even though
    when talking technology,
    kids are the pro

    -genitors of science
    inventing the wave
    of bio-genetics,
    soon to be all the rave.

    Yet a pet peeve of mine
    that causes me stress,
    while with all their genius,
    it’s true none-the-less.

    Without a register’s guidance
    they can’t change a dime.
    And unless clocks are faceless,
    they can’t tell the time.

    Ellen Evans 1.15.14
    a “stress” poem for PA

  24. NoBlock

    Laid down and stressed out
    Paralyzed when words don’t come now

    How can I express to you
    Without immobilizing you too

    Okay, okay stop now and focus
    It’s not as easy as hocus pocus

    Thoughts and emotions collide in this chamber
    I apologize if my tone is one of anger

    Walt, Edgar and Frost these are my heroes
    Fingers drum on desk, trying to emulate those

    Look in the mirror, is there any hair left
    Why does something I love, leave me so stressed

  25. laurie kolp


    your anxious need
    to sugarcoat the situation;
    I’m devoted to helping you
    through this phase of life.
    I sleep on ice
    while you sweat,
    watch your weakened body
    melt away as scrawny legs
    freeze up, refuse to move
    without assistance.
    I’m here.

  26. Michelle Hed


    Slippered shoes softly tread, unwilling to be the
    Target of her ire, quietly she
    Read, the pages whisking by, so silently…
    Engrossed they made not one
    Sound, each bended head reading as if no one was around.
    Soft snores chorusing with whispered pages…stress melted, gone.

  27. priyajane

    Making It

    She enters
    with her heart
    folded neatly in her pocket
    smelling of jasmine
    and velvet cake
    as the world spins in combat
    She stumbles
    After all-
    how does one
    who is not a warrior
    run through the jungle?
    And yet, her wobbly steps
    that ache and bleed-
    dare to dream
    to make it through the day——

  28. Michelle Hed

    What if You Could See The Death Star From The Space Station?

    Would we feel that death was imminent
    or would we go about our day?
    Would we hone our fighting skills, be diligent
    or would we continue to play?

    I think it would cause some stress
    to have Vader walking about,
    but the Emperor in his dress
    would surely cast some doubt.

    And planets full of teddy bears
    can cause no fear,
    all those tree-top stairs,
    I can hear the children cheer.

    Robots who talk too much
    and some not enough
    might leave you feeling a touch
    like walking off a bluff.

    But really,
    should you see a space ship in the sky
    please do share willy-nilly,
    I promise not to blink an eye.

  29. Michelle Hed

    Being a Wee Bit Stressed Out

    Unequivocal degrees of frustration
    biblical in their relation;
    Criminal shouts of an accusation –
    imbecile walking, “For God’s sake don’t stop to smell the carnation!”
    visible stress reaching saturation!

    Pinnacle explosion mitigating an evacuation
    divertible by the surprising cessation,
    literal deflation –
    clinical frustration…
    Or is it?

  30. PKP

    all work and no play

    gently she opened the sunroom door intending
    to walk to the child on window-seated cushions
    book on knees lost in a world of black scribbles
    they told her that it was not healthy for a child
    to sit still thus and yet watching paused at that
    entryway knew with surety that she stood at the
    tip of the Universe her child had entered and
    slowly, silently, as on those ‘little cat feet’ she
    retreated as gently as a lifting fog and
    closed the door
    on the worlds
    opening behind

  31. PKP


    She knew a teacher of English was she not to be
    when the dipthongs tortured her so unceasing mercilessly
    those vowels that slid and slipped and hid in plain sight
    regaling their importance to young fresh faces just not right
    young faces that ached with unspilled words just coalescing
    criminal to constrain, contain and cut heart from passion dipthong rehashing

    No. She felt the burgeoning boundless balloon pressure rising irrevocably in her chest
    gathered papers, books, and out into natural unsliced language walked in freedom blessed

  32. PKP

    Paper gown on breast

    She sits icy hands folded
    in silent penitence for
    all wrong-doing real
    and imagined and waits
    pulse pounding in ears
    as in the other room
    her films and destiny
    are read

  33. barbara_y


    I can’t
    she said
    stress this too much
    but she did, pinching her lips,
    clenching that square jaw. Every syllable,
    a punch. The armadillo,
    and the rolly-polly pill bug
    must know her in their DNA. Bend
    to your sternum as if in prayer
    while she can’t
    make it any more plain.

  34. PressOn


    Though it’s hardly a fact one can bless,
    modern life has the constant of stress.
    If the times should demand it,
    I think I can stand it
    as long as it isn’t duress.

  35. J.lynn Sheridan

    The girl

    Little girl once on her way to girl-talk,
    pajama parties, safe in the arms of
    painting pinks splashing lilac
    snowflakes-pristine and puppy-kissed
    wanting Everything
    Now whimpering over fine lines,
    tiny tummy rolls and living
    in the red.

  36. snuzcook

    “A bad day for you,” the psychic said, in an ominous way.
    April Fifteenth, she said, “will be a very bad day.”
    I wish I’d remembered her warning today.
    What I might have avoided if only I’d gone yesterday.

    My books were a mess, my receipts were misplaced,
    My poor accountant groaned at the extra work she now faced.
    “Some day,” she scolded, “your filing will be paced,
    And this last minute panic can be easily erased!”

    But last minute, it was; the way I drove was a crime
    To get the taxes down to the post office in time.
    It was three minutes to six; I felt my blood pressure climb.
    I turned the corner and saw a three-block long line.

    Resigned to the wait, I added my car to the stack
    But just five minutes in I felt stabbing pain in my back.
    The muscles cinched tight, and my vision went black.
    My chest constricted; my heart was under attack!

    Somehow someone saw I was in serious distress
    Someone called the medics, someone called the press.
    At the ER they stabilized me and did lots of tests,
    And determined that all I really needed was rest.

    The story on the news that appeared the next day
    Was the tale of what stress can do if you should delay
    To get your taxes done in a responsible way.
    Lord, how many times did that story have to play?

    So my lesson, I guess, since there has to be one
    Is to be a more conscientious old son of a gun.
    Don’t think psychic warnings are just all in good fun.
    ‘Cause death and taxes come due to everyone.

    1. snuzcook

      Thanks for your kind feedback.
      Reading it now, I am not proud of it (as verse) as I was in the wee hours of the morning.
      Much too raw and terrible cadence.


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