Editors Blog

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 277

How appropriate that today’s post took a while to get on the site. I had already planned on providing an update on the 2014 April PAD Challenge results. They’re coming, and I hope to have a final list in the next 10-14 days. Fingers crossed.

For today’s prompt, write a malfunction poem. Yes, I changed today’s originally planned prompt to fit today’s circumstances. Sometimes you just gotta have that kind of flexibility. However, not everyone handles malfunction the same: some roll with the punches, some throw punches, some throw fits, some quit, some try again, and so on. Plus, there’s any number of malfunctions out there: wardrobe malfunctions, mechanical malfunctions, and heck, I think many of my poems suffer a malfunction or three. Let’s get at it.


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Here’s my attempt at a Malfunction Poem:

“My Robot Brain”

“It’s not fair,” he says as he tosses
one more toy away. “None of them work.”

And I can’t help but quip, “Toys don’t work;
they play,” to which he merely tosses

an angry look my way. He tosses
another down and frowns, “Make it work.”

So I pick it up, say, “I can’t work;
I play.” My robot brain, he tosses.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, Robert has been a featured poet at events across the country and is married to poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets. He’s written and shared more than 600 original poems on this blog over the years.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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269 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 277

  1. mjsmith

    Ford for Now

    After a winter in California rain
    the 54 Ford truck, given up for dead,
    has returned to life, or something.
    Transmigrated from metal to mammal,
    it lives in a field of rising grasses
    grazing perhaps, on foxtail and
    mustard flowers, its toothy grill deep
    in the green spring salad.
    Or maybe she’s a mama to mice
    that slip like grey shadows
    through cottony cushion spillage.
    The step-side bed, rusty but sound
    holds a rainwater pool, stringy
    with moss, speckled with mosquito wrigglers
    and croaking with frogs at night.
    Rod thrown, block cracked, a Detroit derelict,
    another junked jack on the metal mountain,
    its dragging days are over.
    But something else has begun
    and the journey, if uncertain, is alive.

  2. taylor graham


    In front of the vacant storefront all day
    with a one-handed guitar he glides
    from one vintage song to another.
    What’s wrong with his other hand?
    Does he implore the passing tribute
    of a sigh from shoppers between dollar
    store and ATM? Their conscience
    is in their pockets. That one studies
    fine-print with a magnifying glass.
    I saw a crippled gosling gone astray
    on sidewalk, but it never sang so sad.

  3. BDP

    “Malfunctions: Señor One Hand”

    The nickname of his choosing helps his brood.
    They roughhouse, balance on his forearm stub,
    he pushes up, a dad-made altitude,
    they bounce back to the bed. But here’s the rub:

    the more they play, the more he sees the hub
    of war, he’s in the blast end-zone, his left
    hand spinning as he watches. Finger nubs,
    palm open, bid him follow. Motion etched,

    the rest of him unharmed. A tourniquet—
    bandana, use the other wrist. He’s trained,
    so freezes there until his eyes have swept
    for further IEDs. The rock terrain

    blurs into severed fists, they move about.
    He jumps: kids incoming, bombs screeching, shouts.

    –Barb Peters

    1. TomNeal

      “Small Knots of Global News”
      “Malfunctions: Señor One Hand”

      Ezra Pound is known for his counsel to “make it new, and your contemporary sonnets (over the past several weeks) do just that. Your use of parallel narratives and multiple voltas discover a deep unity beneath a surface fragmentation.

      I look forward to reading an extended sonnet sequence.

        1. BDP

          TomNeal, thanks so much for your comments. These days, my mind seems to think in sonnets, so I ask myself, why not keep writing and honing them? That you look forward to reading more of them gives me encouragement, and I appreciate that.

  4. tunesmiff

    Preventative Maintenance
    G. Smith
    Despite my efforts,
    the wheels come off. It’s always
    something we don’t see.

  5. TomNeal

    The Office Party
    (Malefactors and Malfunctions)

    Trust some Iago will tell you that wine
    ‘Is bottled poetry,’ and bid you drink
    With a festive heart; to play Cassio
    And invite an empty joy to your lips,
    An enemy agent to steal away
    Your reason- to let a beast overrule
    The elevating angel of your soul,
    And lead you into a realm of mental
    Misstep- beware the advocate of wine.

    (Othello: Act II; Scene III)

    1. drnurit

      I like the layers of allusions here, Tom – to the “Iagos” of “office parties”, those manipulative malefactors who are not what they claim to be, and to Stevenson’s “bottled poetry”. I like the way you depict the temptation versus the dire consequences when you accede to “empty joy to your lips”. But I detect here also an allusion to the power of poetry an “elevating angel of your soul” – its gifts “bottled” by words – to engage and change us.

    2. BDP

      I love the contemporary topic while the words also go well with the particular Shakespearean scene in Othello. The poem flows (poetry uncorked?) from beginning to end. Well done.

  6. Marie Therese Knepper


    I went to see a doctor who
    referred me to a tech
    Being stuck in mid-life pause
    I figured – what the heck

    I’ll go and see the techie
    hear what he has to say
    After all, when it comes to me
    no price’s too high to pay

    He told me “It’s your motherboard.
    You hearin’ what I’m sayin’?
    Somehow you got stuck in rewind
    when life you should be playin’.”

    I looked at him, confounded.
    “What’d you mean?” I said at last
    “I mean,” he said not meanly,
    “you’ve been livin’ in your past.

    “Dude, you got a virus
    Somewhere back in time
    when you were young, is my best guess
    A parental paradigm

    “You’ve got it bad, so bad in
    fact, I’ll wave my standard fee
    Do exactly what I tell you
    and you will be set free.”

    We sat and talked and searched until
    we knew we’d found the cure
    It’d be safe for me to enter
    My whole system’d be restored.

    I’m all backed-up and running now!
    To be sure I don’t repeat
    the past now in my future:
    all that trash stays in delete.

    Marie-Therese Knepper

  7. Bruce Niedt

    One Man’s Trash

    My friend told me about the time he found
    two perfectly good kitchen chairs on the curb
    with a neighbor’s trash. When he started
    to load them into his car, she ran outside
    and started to yell at him. It seems she couldn’t
    bear the thought of someone else finding
    a use for something she deemed useless.

    So I’m putting the world on notice:
    you’re welcome to whatever leave on the curb
    on trash day. If you can find something to do
    with it, more power to you. That barbecue grill
    I haven’t been able to fire up for two summers,
    that old TV with no picture, that easy chair
    that no longer feels so easy. Take my tired,
    my malfunctioned, my destitute possessions.

    Even you folks who cruise the night before
    in your pickups loaded to overflowing
    with other people’s discards – I salute you
    if you can find a way to un-junk my junk,
    recycle the sad and abandoned.
    Here’s to you, pirates of the curbside –
    Where I bury trash, you dig up treasure.

  8. lionetravail

    Life in Dali’s Clock

    The hours move like sliding sand
    which shifts at gravity’s command.
    My days flow past like water brushed
    against my skin before it rushed
    away down river’s bed. I stand

    and watch events which, rude, demand
    attention. I misunderstand,
    my focus blurred, importance hushed,
    as hours slide like moving sand.

    The overload is all unplanned-
    my brain’s slipped gears and can’t withstand
    the deluge of the moments crushed
    in tidal flow of all that’s flushed
    away in sweep of second hand-
    the hours drop through glass, like sand.

  9. drnurit

    Couple Therapy

    By: Dr. Nurit Israeli

    They sit across from me,
    like shipwrecked sailors, trying
    to save what has long been lost.

    They lay out the shattered
    parts of their union, one
    mangled piece after another:

    The storms have left their mark.
    Deep scars refuse to fade away,
    and curtailed hopes cast them adrift.

    She is beautiful. Her grace is
    discernible, despite the bitterness
    etched on her defeated face.

    He is well-mannered, though
    the anger bubbling under his
    well-chosen words is visible.

    I dig through the wreckage of
    their broken dreams, searching
    the remains for survivors.

    It is when I ask them to stop
    talking, just gaze wordlessly
    into each other’s eyes,

    that a spark arises from
    the embers of their smoldering
    silence. A tiny fragment of light.

    I catch that glimpse of hope
    and, though I am not sure
    of the odds, we start there.

      1. Dorothy's Daughter

        I love this. I like how you went with the malfunctioning relationship. That was my thought too when I saw the prompt. This is a lovely poem and I love the shipwreck motif you’ve used. It fits perfectly.

    1. TomNeal

      She is beautiful. Her grace is

      This is a fine and delicate line. Before there is any qualification or containment of her grace, “her grace is”. Her grace is the fountain of her beauty. The enjambment highlights the presence of grace, and lends credibility to the hope glimpsed in the final stanza.

  10. grcran

    House of the Rising Malfunction

    You think, perhaps with reason, I’m a louse
    Some mitigating factors do exist
    We live alone together in this house

    Dear step-daughter, you’re dead to me. My spouse
    had hospice here with me and cancer cyst.
    You think, perhaps unwisely, I’m a louse

    But you know naught except how to carouse
    How dare you scold me as I reminisced
    We live alone together in this house

    I think of you, all I can do is grouse
    about the chances I perceive you missed
    You think, perhaps with reason, I’m a louse

    You’d like me better quiet as a mouse
    Too bad I’m Irish and I’m getting pissed
    We fight the good fight never in this house

    Upon the fire, water, holy douse
    Sweet mem’ry of true love I’ve daily kissed
    You think, perhaps with reason, I’m a louse
    We live alone together in this house

    by gpr crane

    1. BDP

      The villanelle form lends itself to this subject matter. You repeat the tension between the narrator and the step-daughter, and that heightens it. The other actor in the poem is the true love, who’s died, but his presence is strongly felt through repetition. The line–we live alone together in this house–is strongly felt by the end of the poem: alone, though together. Well done.

  11. Shennon

    On the Death of Royden Joseph Gilbert Raison de la Genesta

    He’d done the trick a hundred times,
    Had a hundred times escaped.
    What made this time different?

    The barrel was small and cramped,
    But it was always small and cramped.
    Didn’t it seem a little more cramped this time?

    The shackles he could not loosen,
    Nor could he loosen the tinge of despair
    That he’d never felt before.

    His lungs burned, longing for air.
    He tried the maneuver one last time,
    And then he felt the large dent in the side.


    1. BDP

      I hadn’t heard of this man before, so looked him up–the Wizard of Wonders. The poem captures his predicament, his malfunction in a barrel. True story and scary.

  12. icandootoo

    The Bibliophiles Defeat
    naomi poe

    I pulled the reader from the shelf.
    The screen was dark and frozen.
    It would not turn from page to page
    Or pull the book I’d chosen.
    I’d only have to blame myself
    Though I felt I’d been cozened
    I tried a fix, but to my rage
    The screen stayed dark and frozen.

      1. icandootoo

        Thank you! I love the feel and (dare I admit it?) smell of a paper book, and being able to see the books I have purchased lined up on a shelf. I guess that makes us just old fashioned, but if (or when) the world ends, and electronics fail, we’ll be a source of light for a world plunged into Dark Ages ;-)

        1. tunesmiff

          I hafta go along with you here~ AND I love the feel of progressing through a book, the weight shifting from right to left with each turn of a page ~ something the e-world hasn’t been able to duplicate.


  13. Dennis W

    It Will Not Work
    (Rondelet style)

    It will not work.
    It’s broken down and sputtering.
    It will not work,
    The lamp is on, the radio plays,
    but headlights are not flickering.
    My battery is now dying.
    It will not work.

    August 28, 2014.

    1. Dennis W

      Here’s the poem with the dropped line included.

      It Will Not Work
      (Rondelet style)

      It will not work.
      It’s broken down and sputtering.
      It will not work,
      The lamp is on, the radio plays,
      but headlights are not flickering,
      under my breath, I’m muttering.
      My battery is now dying.
      It will not work.

      August 28, 2014.

  14. grcran

    Way Out of Control

    Your temperature control ran to malfunction
    Two or three fever episodes per day
    Checking with medicine ruled out infection
    Some liver enzymes were shooting out way
    Way over the norm that got you a catscan
    Found several masses large in the liver
    Probably cancer
    Still there’s a gameplan
    Oncology doctor and fulltime caregiver

    Strong chemo drugs brought the fevers to ground
    Malfunctions then with the white cell and platelet
    Units of blood emergency room bound
    No telling why your body’s not dead yet
    Christmas and New Year’s in hospital bed
    Only place he’d want to be by your side
    Stayed there through hospice filled up with dread
    Held your hand tightly with love as you died

    Floated in white light away from that plane
    Filling with peace seeing spirit so vast
    Power unlimited vanquished your pain
    Making malfunction a thing in your past

    by gpr crane

  15. James Von Hendy

    Self Flagellation

    Aging seems like that, a malfunction
    Of our plans, an insult to experience,
    A riposte to knowledge at the junction
    Of forgetting and recall. One’s reliance
    On others returns despite us, that vaguely
    Familiar hair shirt we thought we shucked off
    When we left home armed with ourselves, giddy
    With independence, long ago enough

    That almost we don’t remember the weight
    On our shoulders, only the yearning itch.
    It’s worse for the wear and ill-fitting now
    That we know what we leave behind. The slight
    Frame of the body, its palsied twitch,
    Doesn’t lie, yet still we’d deny it anyhow.

    1. BDP

      James: I’ve read this several times and will read it several more. Each time, I found (and will find) something new to love, some good line, some thought. The hair shirt as aging is a splendid metaphor, and the reality of aging is self-flagellation not volunteered for but a hair shirt is better than the alternative. Great job.

  16. foodpoet


    When nothing works
    the work arounds like back to back chain smokers
    flaming another task into a mountainscape alpine cold
    I wonder if a right around would even be recognized
    My life is papered by swords made of reamless
    dreams and widget beans
    being sorted by mice and ants
    In my sleep my eyelids only
    see the next unrelenting day
    and I open awake to another
    day to
    malfunction through.
    Each day widgets
    grow and eat another piece of me

  17. Jerry Walraven

    Time Again (again)

    The elastic band
    which holds time
    on its forward path
    has jumped on its pulley,
    slipping back
    so that 10:16,
    which I know has passed,
    runs by again
              and again
    until time’s minions
    and replace
    the worn band
    with a fresh one
    and time
    slips back

  18. millet israeli


    there are the
    faded photographs of
    that day long ago
    they thought was
    the beginning of forever.

    there is the carefully
    chosen china, its pattern
    faded, and the fragile
    crystal stems
    that haven’t shattered.

    there are the tiny
    pink pajamas she wore
    home from the hospital
    and the dusty shoes
    in which he took his first steps.

    there are the hardcover
    books with the broken
    spines and watermarked pages
    that he read on that trip,
    sand still between the pages.

    there is the dress she wore
    to that party, the one
    where they had that
    fight and said things that could
    not be forgotten.

    there is the clock, its glass
    shattered and dial
    trapped in time at the moment
    he swept it off
    the mantle in anger.

    these are the boxes that
    tell the story of how
    they fell apart. stacked by
    the front door,
    waiting for the movers.

  19. Jolly2

    By John Yeo

    I have just had some very sad news,

    My memory has not been too great

    of late.

    I forget what the Doctor actually said

    Somehow I wasn’t in tune.

    I had a vision that was too good to lose,

    I felt the influence too sad to waste

    or replace.

    The Nurse took me home, I forget what she said,

    I can almost hum the tune.

    I got lost last week in our local mews,

    It was scary to be alone in that place,

    hard to retrace

    the steps I took to my familiar homestead.

    How did that music resume?

    My family made me an offer too good to refuse,

    I will go to paradise, a room of my own,

    in a nursing home.

    With many lovely people with blank friendly faces.

    I am sure the tune will come to me soon.

    Copyright © Written by John Yeo All rights reserved.

    1. Dorothy's Daughter

      Nicely done. I loved everything about this piece. The only small comment (I hate to even make it because it’s so minor) is about the “in a nursing home” line — I don’t think you need it. Everything you’ve told us paints the picture so well, we don’t need to hear the words. It sort of breaks the spell you’ve cast with the “forgetting”.

      I love the ‘blank friendly faces” too. This poem is heartbreaking and beautifully written.

  20. Cameron Steele

    Meditative Malfunction

    Wake the night
    Filter it through
    Water or seagulls in my
    Throat sometimes I am
    Too alone to sleep
    And the birds on my
    Tongue disrupt
    The tide

    Feathers caught in
    The flow how to be a woman
    In the morning is different
    How to find stars in
    Daylight return to
    Water snap the brittle
    Necks still the flapping
    On my own tongue

    Of mine mammally fertile
    Of the illusion
    Of disappearing against
    Of self or the daily wet
    Of darkness
    Of dawn breaking the backs
    Of birds
    Of loneliness

  21. Sara McNulty

    The Convention

    A consensus was reached
    at the yearly meeting
    of American Appliances.
    The stove volunteered to falter
    first, followed, one month
    to the date, by the refrigerator,
    shuddering once before dying.
    By the end of the meeting,
    a top ten list had been compiled,
    although the water heater, missing
    from the meeting, would have to go
    as directed by the others.
    A clattering, dripping disaster,
    he was always absent or tardy.

  22. candy

    Break The Rules

    Write without taking a breath. Break the rules. Write until you’ve wrung your heart dry and your mind is an empty shell. Don’t stop for line breaks or meter or rhyme. Make the rules. Keep your pen marching forward into uncharted spaces. Push your muse through the dark places until you emerge, reborn. Then start again at the beginning with poetic rules and old friends and favorite rhymes.

  23. elledoubleyoo


    The day he had the stroke, he couldn’t talk–
    his lips askew for ill-shaped words,
    our ears unequipped to understand.

    he penned his quips on legal pads:
    his perfect wit, in crooked scrawl.

  24. De Jackson

    The Inevitable Failings of Falling

    Oh, you fickle, fragile law
    -abiding citizen, you. Consider
    stars, rocks, rain –
    all things bright and right
    and sane, each and every much
    things teetering on crum
    -bled edge. Consider
    the ledge, the decision
    to stay and fight, the
    long and quiet flight with
    folded wings. Hold all things
    loose and free and fine,
    knowing some will stray
    and others,


  25. candy

    Time Malfunction

    Ah, at last a Wednesday poetry
    prompt – great way to recharge
    all those little gray cells
    Sneak my hand from under the

    covers, grab my phone-
    Safari cannot open this page!
    Wait ten minutes, try again
    Wait ten minutes, try again

    Wait, wait, wait
    Type in Poetic Asides – success
    No prompt but a poetic form
    challenge – prose poem

    This will be the morning calisthenics
    until the prompt is posted – soon
    Lots of rants and raves but I
    compose a short offering which

    should elicit some responses
    Post and wait- no response
    Wait, wait, then check again
    Wait, wait, then check again

    Where is everyone – no responses
    no more posts from familiar names
    Has time stood still – is it the
    apocalypse – was that my last post

    Meanwhile back at the top
    of the page – hidden in plain
    sight – unseen by my sluggish
    gray cells – the date – 2011

  26. Mike Bayles

    The Broken Mirror

    shattered image
    spirits released
    out in the cold
    this is not me
    nor is this my reflection
    early morning waking
    lies left untold

  27. Ann M

    When the kidneys go
    the doctors
    avert their eyes
    and it doesn’t matter
    if it’s a beautiful day
    or that I want to send you
    a YouTube of
    a Greek song
    And bring you sugar cookies
    wrapped in a blue ribbon
    like your eyes.
    Nothing matters because
    what can’t be
    repaired will slip away.

  28. Cynthia Page


    Most things that go wrong
    can be made right
    lemons and lemonade
    and all that jazz
    Machines malfunction
    We can fix that
    For everything else
    God gave us duct tape
    Patch it up and carry on

  29. seingraham

    Dysfunctional Families versus Malfunctional Ones*

    Imagine my delight when our picture was removed
    as the example of the dysfunctional family group
    from out of the many dictionaries where once it
    was shown
    Technically, of course it will only be gone from
    anything printed from here on, but still…
    In fact, we were notified officially, and with an
    apology stating that those who should have been
    in the know were actually spelling the word incorrectly…
    There is no such word as disfunction…no, no, no
    It has to be spelled with a “y” and even then
    is rarely used in the way we’ve all been using it

    The so-called “disfunctional family” has been used
    so often and so commonly it has become part
    of the vernacular
    However, upon much reviewing by etymologists and
    other wordsmiths
    It has been decided that out of all the words being
    misused in today’s lexicon
    Or used so often that we’re willing to take it into
    common usage as is,
    This, “disfunction” is not one of them…
    No, we are heretofore to use the correct term, “malfunction”.

    I wonder, will they take a new photo to go with
    this word, or if we should send them a selfie?
    I am pretty sure we will still qualify for the category.

    *a lie actually, dysfunctional is acceptable almost everywhere!

  30. shethra77

    No Sleep, with Added Oxygen

    Sometimes I think I should stand on my head,
    except the only way I can do that without balancing
    is straight out of bed and onto the floor.
    Why? Because my brain needs blood—
    oxygen it didn’t get all night. It’s
    sleep apnea, probably, that would explain my snoring.
    So every morning my head’s groggy and dull and forgets
    everything all day, and my throat is sore, and my
    tongue is so dry—I can feel each
    separate little fuzzy taste bud. Yuck.
    Maybe a drink first would be better
    than downside-up straight off the mattress.
    Yes, a drink will rehydrate my poor tongue.
    But I want coffee, and Tom will need his coffee,
    so I have to go downstairs away from bed,
    and walking downstairs drains the rest of my insufficiently
    oxygenated blood to my toes, leaving me
    lightheaded, to say the least, even dizzy.
    Time for the blood pressure meds
    (which make me dizzy to begin with but without them I will pop),
    therefore, time to brew coffee to send those meds
    racing through my body on the wings of caffeine:
    flap, flap, zing!
    The day progresses; I never get back
    to bed to stand on my head.
    Artificially recharging brain with coffee…priceless, but
    no oxygen in that.
    Maybe I just want one of those
    oxygen tanks people wheel around, inhaling
    life-giving gas through clear plastic tubing—a
    self-contained underatmosphere breathing apparatus.
    Scuba undiving for the non-adventurous.
    I can dive into the air from the bed
    every morning, like diving into the practice deep-water quarry
    to which the local diving instructor used to take new recruits.
    (All those future Jacques Cousteaus, practicing diving in our land-locked city.)
    Sleeping with an O2 tank, perhaps
    I’d dream of birdfish and fishbirds, coral reef gardens rippling with creatures, right out back next to bee-buzzed sunflowers, and I’d dig for pirates’ pearls and golden pieces of eight under the sidewalk beside the garage.
    Yeah. That’d be cool.
    Wish I could breathe.
    Wish my brain did brain things.

  31. shellcook

    Brain Drain

    Insert brain, open foot.

    There are days when I feel like that.
    My brain is wide open
    but there’s no one home to catch the ideas.
    They fall like rain in a wide open brain,
    then…wait, what?

    They puddle, inconsequentially, at my feet,
    which under any other circumstance,
    would be in my mouth.

    I can’t stop, for going.
    I can’t laugh, for crying.
    No matter the urgency, at hand,
    some days you just have to do nothing
    until everything

    turns back on,
    clues back in,
    walks, not runs
    and comes around again.


    Anne Michelle Cook
    August 2014

    1. shethra77

      I love that you know it will all come back.
      “They fall like rain in a wide open brain,
      then…wait, what?

      They puddle, inconsequentially, at my feet,”
      I also like the puddles of ideas!

    2. Cynthia Page

      I like this, especially that last word, which indicates we keep on keeping on, no matter what. Also, because my deceased brother and I used to trade puns and tag lines back and forth, and when we tired of one theme, one of us would call, NEXT, as if new ideas waited in a line to be called up for witty inspection.. Thank you for that bringing back those happy memories.

      1. seingraham

        Very clever and intriguing…it almost reminds me of someone who’s suffered some sort of brain damage (perhaps a stroke?) and how they know all the info is there, they just have to wait for it to surface…

  32. annell

    A Little Malfunction
    Sometimes things don’t go right
    Most of the time it doesn’t matter
    Things will go one way and I will go another
    Or things will go another way and I will go the same
    Misplacing my keys drives me neurotic
    I lose my cool
    Experience momentary ‘crazies’
    But just missing something on the grocery list
    Is OK… I’ll get it next time
    The beginning of each list
    Is usually the things forgotten on the last

    It’s not always easy to hang out with myself
    Sometimes I forget
    Sometimes I misplace
    Sometimes I just have no idea
    Sometimes things don’t work out
    Have no one to blame but myself
    Sometimes malfunction is the name of the game

    I plead with the ‘finders’
    They assist
    I remember to thank them
    More than once I’ve needed their help

    August 27, 2014

  33. Jane Shlensky


    Cleaning a closet leads to heavy things
    like ordering the chaos, letting go
    of objects cluttering a tidy life,
    like recognizing hording when it shows,
    like wondering when you became this way,
    each closet stuffed with things that time forgot.

    Cleaning a closet leads to beer or pot,
    desires for pathway drugs or stronger meds
    to take the edge off all that waste and shame.
    Where are hard-working thieves? I’d lay no blame
    if they’d take this detritus clogging life.
    No wonder we grow heavy as we age:

    We need that flesh to offset tons of junk
    we’ve kept too long (and I include anger).
    We cannot wade the wonders of what’s kept
    and long to tip the house up on one end
    and let the lot flow out to waiting trucks,
    to start out fresh and clean again, complete

    with uncarved minds and bodies, as pristine
    as beaches that we visit in our minds.
    It’s clear that nothing here brought us real joy.
    It’s obvious we have to put this right.
    Cleaning a closet leads to heavy things
    like nakedness and howling in the night.

    1. seingraham

      Oh Jane…this hit me so close to home, it brought me to my knees…I have been downsizing our over-large house for something like 3-5 years and am getting nowhere (I don’t move well to begin with)…Every time we leave town, I give our daughters permission to “bomb” the house and they know I am not really joking. I’ve just recently found an organizer who works with people who are “psychologically damaged” by the thought of their clutter and reorganizing and/or moving…am on her waiting list now. Sorry, to go off on a tangent…your poem is wonderful, truly…every line is writ large upon my soul.

    2. millet israeli

      “No wonder we grow heavy as we age.” this captures so much. if only we could let go more easily, of this things “we’ve kept too long” – especially, i think, “the anger.”

    3. Jane Shlensky


      Thanks so much, friends, for your comments. I’ve always started and ended school years with “reordering” home and office, an exercise in getting my mind and heart right for another year. Even then, it’s amazing what is kept, not because it’s needed, but because I grew weary before I finished. Psychologically, it ain’t good to harbor stuff. If I can’t remember it without a prop, how powerful WAS that experience. Anyway, you got me going again. Love y’all

      1. drnurit

        Thanks, Jane, for this wonderful poem! My head hurts from nodding in recognition. I too try, ongoingly, to order the chaos, to let go of the objects cluttering (my fantasy of) a tidy life. And I know “howling in the night” when I hear it…

  34. Nancy Posey

    Man vs. the Machine

    Most baffling of forms of conflict,
    that face-off with the impersonal,
    mechanical, forces me to rant,
    to pace, steam from my nostrils.

    I imagine early man, inventing
    the wheel, only to have it run
    him over. Textile looms yank
    the long, untended hair of girls
    who should have been in school.

    Minutes before deadlines, ink
    cartridges run dry, hard drives
    crash, flash drives mysteriously
    themselves erase Houdini-style:
    now you see it; now you don’t.

    I much prefer to face off against
    my fellow man, society at large,
    nature in the form of wild dogs,
    tornadic winds, an Arctic blast.

    We can, at least, appease the gods,
    or dodge their gaze, tempt fate,
    pray to the Almighty or tell
    that impish devil over the left
    shoulder to take a flying leap.

    The mindless machine, just
    cogs and wheels, algorithms,
    knows no laws but Murphy’s,
    coldly grinding to a halt.

    1. drnurit

      “I much prefer to face off against
      my fellow man, society at large,
      nature…” Yes — me too. Eloquent portrayal of the ongoing discourse between man and his own inventions.

  35. taylor graham


    The wind-chimes, she says, don’t work anymore,
    they just hang from the rafter all day long.
    Just try, he says, to rouse them with a song,

    a wind-song bright and quick as evermore.
    She won’t believe him. She knows something’s wrong.
    The wind-chimes, she says, don’t work anymore,
    they just hang from the rafter all day long.

    It all depends, he says, on metaphor,
    the wind of fancy dancing all along
    to set our wind-chimes clanging like a gong.
    The wind-chimes, she says, don’t work anymore,
    they just hang from the rafter all day long.
    Just try, he says, to rouse them with a song.

  36. PowerUnit

    You Can’t Fix Stupid

    Hiccups are expected
    You live in a home for twenty two years
    Tolls of overactive children and yeard wear adults
    Hockey pucks and ice storms
    Drunken indulgences and brain-dead decisions
    We all screw up sometimes.

    It crept upon us as we slept and worked and played
    It slipped into our lives as we lived them
    A back door that wouldn’t open
    Or close if you pried it open, a sliver or a crack
    The slab the winter home of Goodyears and Briggs & Strattons and musty camping gear
    Broadened by frost, deepened by old age, sagging
    The ravages of time we all know, or will know

    The buck saving decisions of a previous owner come back to haunt the unwary
    Twenty two thousand curses on the Boucher clan and all its heirs
    Money can fix crumbling foundations
    But nothing can fix malfunctioning minds.

  37. writinglife16


    Every day is
    A step into the mist.
    Memories dim
    And thoughts fade.

    She struggles
    To do the things she knows
    But then finds
    She does not care.

    Memories dim
    Like a light on a timer.
    Cares fade like paper
    On a wall.

    Every day is
    A step deeper into the mist.
    It invites her in
    She’s full of words and dreams.
    It pushes her out
    Her mind a little lighter.

    Like the sea
    Wearing down a beach.
    Roll tide roll.
    She wants to yell stop.
    But she doesn’t know the words.
    They have been washed away.

    p.s. Purple is a color that has been associated
    with Alzheimer’s Disease awareness.

    1. seingraham

      Aww…this one made me ache. Very aptly presented in a succinct fashion, I could almost feel her memory fading in and out. I didn’t know that about the colour purple (my favourite colour actually)…such a cruel disease that keeps one lucid part of the time as it washes away everything the rest of the time. Good poem.

    2. tunesmiff

      If I may, purple is also on the opposite side of the color wheel from yellow, and so I read (saw) this as a kind of opposite road being followed than one traveled by Dorothy and friends… against her will, no doubt…

  38. Susan Schoeffield


    Circuirt breakers out of control.
    Overuse has taken its toll.
    Simply put, a state of dysfunction
    lives and breathes at Malfunction Junction.

    Husband bored, he’s starting to roam.
    Wife is angry, wants to leave home.
    Lawyers seek to file an injunction.
    Marriage ends at Malfunction Junction.

    Wardrobes fail a lot on TV.
    Gives the viewer too much to see.
    The show goes on without compunction.
    That’s the way at Malfunction Junction.

    On the web, you type some mistakes.
    Out they come, like slithering snakes.
    Fail to use the correct conjunction,
    you’ll be doomed to Malfunction Junction.

    © Susan Schoeffield

  39. jhowe

    Assembly Not Included

    Suitable outcome surely not achieved
    Results of assembly not clearly perceived
    A working design perhaps not conceived
    Confidence by consumer no longer believed
    Emotional homeowner now so aggrieved

  40. grcran


    The cause of
    malFunction is
    multiFactor or even
    multiFaceted so when the
    mF-ing thing won’t do its thing
    the short answer to Why? is almost always
    malFunction and that answer almost never leads to

    by gpr crane

  41. Dorothy's Daughter

    The Room

    I hide here
    you aren’t allowed in.

    I always make myself promise
    never again
    under no circumstances
    no matter how sweet the talk
    don’t unlock that door.

    The dank and dark
    are sometimes too much
    and I long for company

    that’s when you stand
    outside the door
    whispering things
    I have always
    wanted to hear you say.

    I know I shouldn’t
    but I do
    click goes the bolt
    and the door squeaks open

    Then you say all
    the things I never
    wanted to hear again
    and remind me
    why I must never
    open the door.

  42. PressOn


    It’s miserable, this getting old:
    the bright is dark and warm is cold;

    once-supple muscles all are sore
    and moving is a constant chore.

    These days, I feel a belt of air
    where formerly I felt my hair

    and finish every meal with Tums
    and stick my teeth to naked gums.

    From top to bottom I am failing;
    I’ve reasons for my constant railing.

    Above are nothing but arrears,
    for sound cannot excite my ears;

    inside, where tissues used to was,
    I have a brace of hernias;

    below, my bottom is annoyed
    by a herniated hemorrhoid.

    I’m scared to move or catch a cold;
    it’s miserable, this getting old.

    1. drnurit

      Wonderful! Yes, William, I know: it’s miserable this getiing old, and you depict the misery so accurately (and with the sense of humor this topic deserves). It’s miserable, and yet…

  43. DanielR

    My life had shrunk
    to a 19” monitor
    where I encountered the world
    but then it went blue
    and reminded me
    of the pleasant sky
    so I went outside
    to see the real thing.

    Daniel Roessler

  44. DanielR

    “Left turn ahead”
    her cell phone said,
    and she believed it
    instead of her own eyes.

    An hour later
    they pulled her Prius out of the lake
    as she stood on the shore trying to explain
    why her cell phone was to blame.

    Daniel Roessler

  45. Connie Peters

    A Conspiracy Theory

    It appears when their warranties run out,
    appliances unite and make a pact
    that in a certain week, at any time,
    they will go on strike, fizzle, stall, expire.

    Refrigerators warm up, stoves cool down.
    Clocks refuse to tick, CD players stick.
    Handles will fall off; knobs will quit turning.
    Parts will pop, sizzle, smoke, grind to a stop.

    All we can do is sigh and be thankful
    they served their purpose as long as they did,
    and then go buy something new and improved.

    Naughty, conniving gadgets might behave
    if they knew they would be trashed and replaced,
    but merchants and designers grin in glee.

  46. DanielR

    Down the aisles I wandered
    without a care on my mind
    name-brand or generic I pondered
    skating across floors newly shined

    Through the dairy and frozen food
    by green vegetables and plump fruit
    a loudly talking witch on her cell was quite rude
    and the target quite large for my size 12 boot

    My cart squeaked as I wheeled along
    filling it full to the brim
    the smells from the bakery were quite strong
    then I noticed the lights became dim

    I raced toward the checkout line
    certain that things were okay
    but as I listened to the store clerk whine
    I realized it would be a long day

    She furrowed her brow and gave me a frown,
    “I’m sorry sir our computer’s down!”
    “I’ve got cash, can’t you take my money.”
    “Sorry.” She smiled. I didn’t think it was funny.

    I left my groceries and just walked away
    forward is backwards when I can’t even pay!

    Daniel Roessler