Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 271

Before we get to the prompt this week, a few things: first, don’t forget to write a golden shovel (or three) for the latest WD Poetic Form Challenge (click here for guidelines); second, Dressing Room Poetry Journal published one of my poems (click here to read it).

For this week’s prompt, write a poem in which you’ve imagined a story for a stranger. Maybe someone you see on public transportation, a couple at the laundromat, or a neighbor. Is the person more fabulous than expected? Fallen upon harder times? Exactly as one might guess? If you need ideas, use this prompt as an excuse to do some “research” by getting out and about in the world today/this week.


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Here’s my attempt at an Imagined Story Poem:

“the cashier at kroger”

as she leaves gives a high five
to the guy who collects carts

in the parking lot passing
the folks hidden in their cars

scanning their social profiles
or staring into futures

that seem impossibly bleak
but she’s not interested

in the sad & lonely not
today with the sun pounding

the pavement & a little
hitch in her step & a song

on her lips & a man who
can’t wait for her to return


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and the author of Solving the World’s Problems.

His collection has recently been named an Editor’s Pick by Crab Creek Review, and includes a poem about a guy sitting in a Kroger parking lot, because apparently he spends a lot of time (and money) there.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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301 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 271

  1. Julieann

    The Streetcar Conductor

    He sways with the movement
    Back and forth, back and forth

    The bell clangs, the car jerks to a stop
    With a jolt, it begins again

    He and the car reach the end of the line
    He shifts the lever walks to the other end

    To start his trek all over again
    I see him daily, this glimpse into his life

    A life of monotony, slowly swaying
    Back and forth, back and forth

    With only minor jerks and jolts along the way
    He sways with time, keeping time

    This lonely little man with nowhere to go
    Except the end of the line

  2. TomNeal

    Gulf Noir

    The rain that hit the paving stones snaked back up
    In grey coils of steam that hung above
    The street making for sweat with no labour.
    On the brow there was no relief: no breeze,
    No smell but mold and decaying orange,
    No sound but a crying cat seeking friends,
    No sight but her at the window staring
    Down at the square from a room bathed
    In urine yellow light with a soon dead
    Man on its ledge preparing to fall
    With the rain to the stone
    Reciting a prayer
    As I turned away
    From the story
    Of his despair.

    1. gmagrady

      Wow! TomNeal the desperate images you create in words and format are wonderful. The saddest part of this poem, for me, is the hopelessness of not being able to stop the rain from falling, nor the man.

    2. BDP

      I’m definitely engulfed by a humid despair upon reading this poem. The woman staring and the man on the ledge have no movement (watching and preparing, yes, but not yet moving), which leaves the saddest feeling for me in how, like the narrator, we have to turn away sometimes, albeit with prayer–how we sometimes, no matter what, cannot change shrinking hope and another’s fall.

    3. Julieann

      I’m glad to know I not alone in feeling the sadness and hopelessness of this situation. You’ve done a marvelous job. This one will stay with me for quiet a while.

  3. BDP

    “Strangers, One Bottle”

    A neighborhood stroll, ring moon night, we heed a shout.
    Teens bunk a few houses ahead—they must be back
    from snowboarding, their weekend junket, the Cascades
    still in their swivel-hipped rowdy blood. We’re spotlit
    ten strides to the next lamppost, see no one. More yells, we swing
    elsewhere. A woman crab-steps a late-model Ford,

    her shoulders tight. I glance away. A blur. The Ford
    obscures what soon breaks just feet from us. “Yikes,” I shout.
    The woman bursts in tears. She threw that! My guy swings
    round to her. She skips off. Righting wrong, he won’t back
    down, enters the garage. “You can’t throw stuff!” He’s spotlit
    by one bulb, a kitchen beyond him. “Your broom, please.” Cascades

    of sounds, harsh. I add, “Sweetheart, we’ll do it”: cascades
    against my burble. She appears, crying toward me. The Ford’s
    between us. We choose a path around pineapple pulp lit
    in contrast to the asphalt noir. A man growl-shouts:
    “Mind your own business, get the fuck out!” He’s in back
    by the fridge, lifts something—hard to see—from a baby swing?

    My husband stays, I call to go, the woman swings
    from me, speaks to him, he turns, “No worry,” cascades
    soft words, and helps her steer the garage bay, her back
    a slouching apostrophe (can’t, won’t, don’t). “Your Ford?”
    A friendly bait, then switch: “We all make mistakes, shout
    when we shouldn’t.” (I don’t want my doozies spotlit.)

    She kneels, her fingers touch glass, jump as if all lit
    at once by sparks. “Let me hug you,” she stands, swoon swings,
    and falls to my arms, sobbing. “The tires will push out
    the slivers,” my husband assures. A cascade
    of sharp splinters belies him. “No flats.” Pats the Ford.
    She smiles. “You can get over this.” But she moves back

    away, soon gone. We pile small heaps curbside, head back
    home. “Coward, he grabbed the baby after he tried to split
    her head.” What? I ask. “She ducked, the bottle missed the Ford.”
    But she did it! “I saw him throw it, and then swing
    down for the child. Bet he thought I’d hit him.” This stuff cascades!
    He’ll throw something again! “We’ll listen for a shout.

    He knows we’re here.” We spy, true, the groomed backyard shouts
    perfection, honeysuckle cascades and blocks most fence slits.
    The swing set’s stock-still. And tonight the Ford’s missing.

    –Barb Peters

  4. marsca

    Hope it is not too late to post this poem. I have watched and worried about this neighbor for awhile. The prompt gave me the push to write what I have seen…

    The Cafeteria Lady
    The cafeteria lady lives next door, she parks her car
    In the numbered space and goes inside.
    She hardly ever smiles. She hardly ever speaks.
    She must be too tired at the end of the school day,
    She has talked and smiled to at least 500 hungry kids each and every school day.
    The last kids boarded the buses saying their summertime goodbyes to teachers, friends and all
    Saying goodbye to homework and books and the cafeteria lady last of all.

    Her car is sitting in the parking spot, lights out next door,
    Her children never come around, I wonder if she is okay
    I haven’t seen my neighbor much since the last school day.

    Every afternoon she comes out of the house around four.
    Plastic cup in hand, ice cubes tinkling as she walks
    Today‘s no different than all the other days
    Slowly and carefully she climbs Into the driver’s seat, she drives away
    Creeping into the parking space, she is back,
    Exiting the car like a thief with stolen goods, furtively carrying a sack
    She scurries inside her lair, privacy a must; that is understood
    The neighbors never bother, no one says hello,
    Passersby turn their heads, avoiding to ask her how she is.
    Today was different than the rest. The neighbor children ran over to her,
    they see their old friend, the cafeteria lady.
    She puts down her sack and her plastic cup and gives them each a hug.
    They do not notice that she slurs her words and she seems to lose her balance.
    She is smiling and talking just for today.

    1. BDP

      This captures a stretched-out loneliness, of one person, of the possible situation of all us. I like that you chose to write about a job/person that might be largely overlooked, except perhaps by kids in line getting their food from the cook-servers–I fondly remember my school’s cafeteria ladies, and that was quite some time ago. Each had a particular personality. Though this lady has a sad story, I’m now thinking of all the ladies I used to know. Thanks!

  5. RuthieShev

    I have been away all week couldn’t get online so I apologize for the quickness of this writing and if it is not folowing the prompt right. I missed reading all the wonderful poetry here.

    A Reflection on St. Therese, My Hope
    By Ruth E. Shevock

    You amaze me St. Therese, You amaze me.
    With your continuous shower of roses
    As you help the depressed and defeated
    Rise above their hopelessness here on earth.
    I have been lucky to have received your favors
    On several different occasions in my life.
    Roses, roses, and more roses
    Any color, any size, any species
    What a sign of your great love
    For all other human beings.
    You are a great saint
    Who gave of yourself here on earth
    And continues to give after death.
    I think of how people don’t understand
    Why women can’t be priests
    I believe that women have greater aspirations
    For, like you, they can be the spouse of my Lord
    Which is a greater honor than any priest could ever have.
    Those who think women are ignored in the Bible
    Need to realize that only a woman can be God’s Mother
    As our Blessed Virgin Mary was
    And only a woman can be Jesus’ betrothed.
    A man can be a friend or a brother to Jesus
    But only a woman can be the other half of Jesus.
    Only a woman can be his spouse, his bride.
    As I ponder on your life, St. Therese
    And realize the pain and suffering you had
    Which never deterred you from your true purpose
    And that was to bring souls to Jesus
    So He can save us in this life
    To join him in Heaven in the next.
    Thank you St. Therese,
    who along with the Blessed Virgin Mary
    set the best example anyone could ever follow
    In the name of Jesus our Lord.

  6. JRSimmang


    He’s a drifter, sure,
    but his heart’s child-pure
    So, what’s the allure,
    no car, no home, nor
    code? This life demure
    must be the true cure
    for all.

    -JR Simmang

  7. gmagrady


    I walk.
    She walks.
    We walk
    around the park, our paths converse so that
    we meet two times with every lap we tread.

    I walk
    past lighted baseball fields where years ago
    my son was on the mound and tipped his hat
    at me, and with a beaming nod I’d clap
    so loud, so proud, but now that boy is dead.
    She walks
    past swings and slides. I wonder if she has
    sad memories like me of kids who sat
    beneath the bench, a perfect spot for hide
    and seek, before they spied his peeking head.
    We walk
    past garden grasses, yellow petals fill
    the field, and as we pass, I want to chat
    but simply nod when she, with steady stride,
    just smiles at me. I look away instead.

    I walk
    past swings and slides and think of years ago
    when Daddy’s hand he took to see the cat,
    a stray we kept, a pet he named Meow.
    If only I could change what lied ahead.
    She walks
    past lighted baseball fields. I wonder if
    she, too, had players there, to hear the bat
    meet ball and crush it hard to clinch the win.
    His foot hits home in dreams when I’m in bed.
    We walk
    the bridge above the murky water, still.
    She says, “Hello.” I find my voice, though flat,
    and say, “Hello” but can not slow my pace,
    for fear she might see tears I haven’t shed.

    I walk.
    She walks.
    We walk
    around the park, our paths converse so that
    we meet two times with every lap we tread.

    1. PressOn

      I read this several times, savoring it more and more. It is so moving. Really a magnificent piece of work, in my opinion. The form fits the story beautifully.

        1. Marie Therese Knepper

          I’m serious! Your poem could touch a lot of people in many different ways.
          Any publication that targets seniors, walkers, and widows/widowers would be a great start. I can even see in my minds eye your poem being cut out and posted on somebody’s refrigerator, computer, workstation, etc.

          Let us know if you follow through and get it published 🙂

          1. gmagrady

            Your support has me speechless (and that’s pretty darn hard to do!). Thanks, Marie Therese. I’ve posted pieces on my blog; I’ve submitted work to contests, but I’ve never submitted my poetry for publication. You’ve given me something to think about!

  8. Marie Therese Knepper

    by Marie-Therese Knepper

    You dress like
    think like
    talk like
    I like you.

    Your dress is unconventional.
    I don’t like you already.

    Who would name their kid Moo Bounce?
    I click my tongue in disgust.

    You honor me

    Maybe there’s more to you than I thought.

  9. De Jackson

    Luna, Naked

    if you will, her house
    on that golden hill
    and all those dark firs
    pining for some summer
    breeze. Picture those trees
    humming some gospel good
    news song, some hummed long
    -ing of light loosed to ebony

    Give her back
    her other, better half
    and all the cheesy
    men you’ve ever seen
    in her bright sheen. Beg her
    forgiveness for the
    tears you’ve shed to sea
    instead of sky, the where
              (with all)
    and how and when and
    why you breathed in
    salt, when clouds
    made finer sheets.

    Make it her own
    fault she hides, dissolves
    with time, wanes when
    tides complain and fades
    within the milky veins
    of her own shallow,
    swollen skin.

    to hear her violent
    violet roar, the stored
    up rage she holds close
    and closed in slatted,
    starry cage.

    give her some small
    space to erase her


  10. monkeymanpat

    *Language alert* and a bit low brow….

    Bad Driver
    Garret Patton

    Driving up
    You must be doing 80
    Sliding between lanes
    Like butta

    In my rearview
    Coming up from behind me
    Flashing your headlights
    “Move ova”!

    Blinkers on
    Hold your horses just a sec
    Baby on board here
    Mutha fucka

    Passing lane
    You’re not paying attention
    Head down hands on phone
    Bad driva

    Shake my head
    Turn up “Rock-a-bye-baby”
    Oops! Look at you now
    Got pulled ova!

    1. Marie Therese Knepper

      Thanks for the language alert. It’s been said that a man/woman’s real personality comes out when they get behind the wheel. I’ve spontaneously (and regrettably) let loose with foul language and some obscene gestures over these 34 years of driving. I make no claims to perfection.

      Your poem conveys in artistic language the reality faced by drivers the world over. I enjoyed your use of ova, driva, etc.

  11. Cynthia Page

    (I seem to see the homeless everywhere I go now. I can’t get them out of my mind.)

    A Sad Angry Man

    At two o’clock in the morning, he rants,
    waving his arms all about. He shouts
    at no discernable audience about
    every pain and slight in his life. He curses
    a woman, now absent, far in his past.
    She hurt him, betrayed him, ran him out
    of her home without a dime. He cries
    for his babies, now grown and lost to him.
    He yells at every car that passes in the night
    for not ending his pain. He falls silent
    to drink from his brown paper bag.


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