Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 282

If you live within striking distance of Columbus, Georgia, please consider coming out to a poetry reading on Saturday (October 4). I’ll be reading with Megan Volpert (yes, this Megan Volpert) starting around 5:30 p.m. at the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians. The event is free, and the first 10 folks to arrive will receive a free book (either a copy of Volpert’s Only Ride or my Solving the World’s Problems). Hope to see you there!

For this week’s prompt, write a broken down poem. Write about cars, lawn mowers, or the human spirit. So many possibilities for things and people to break down. Write one!

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The early bird deadline is October 1 and costs $15 for the first poem, $10 for each additional poem. Enter as often as you’d like.

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Here’s my attempt at a Broken Down poem:

“horizon”

not so much broken down
as broken

waking up
roll out the driver’s side

consider what was thought
before sleep

washed over
before the sudden break

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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.

He once worked third shift in a car factory and often had trouble with getting his body to fall and stay asleep during the daytime. This eventually caught up to him, and he crashed his first car, a Plymouth Horizon, into the back of a parked pickup truck as a result. He has not worked in a car factory since.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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253 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 282

  1. taylor graham

    BREAK-DOWN OF THE DAY

    That man with a tin cup and guitar –might he
    be a down-on-his-luck prince begging coins?
    The old lady who rustles her black skirts
    suddenly transforms to crow; the muddy path
    the homeless take toward sundown, in a certain
    slant of light, becomes Florentine clay. And
    those thieves the jaybirds – this very morning
    they were hawking the most pleasing silk
    of blue sky. It came over you like the need
    to say something is what it’s not instead of
    what it appears. Take this river-smooth stone –
    it might be metamorphic, the rock of trans-
    formation. Like a poem it might change you.

  2. Jolly2

    BREAKDOWN
    Written by John Yeo

    A very smooth journey, so far,
    Much to our delighted surprise.
    The aircraft was in very good shape,
    Except for the occasional rattle.
    A very smooth flight coming here,
    Touch down smoothly, my fears subside.
    Our hired car was not so great,
    A banger that had seen many a battle.

    A really good scenic route by car,
    Through the hot dry desert,how time flies.
    A rattle, a bang, then sad to relate,
    Smoke is pouring from an engine baffle.
    We have broken down, very far
    From the nearest town of any size,
    We can only sit in the car and wait
    The heat intense, we share the water bottle.

    A convoy arrives and the leading car
    Stops to help and to offer a ride
    Our prayers are answered, we hesitate
    To think there is danger in the offer.
    Then beaten and robbed by the thugs
    We are stripped of all we possess.
    Then left stranded in the desert
    Death comes as no surprise. Slowly.

    Reawakening in the hospital here,
    I lie awake from my dream and decide,
    I must question the doctor about the state,
    Of my mind since my nervous breakdown.

    Copyright © Written by John Yeo. All rights reserved.

  3. grcran

    Broke. Downhearted. Angry, Too.
    (One Step-father’s Lament)

    I might be angry if I write this poem
    Then they could photograph the fires of hell
    We had a falling-in, also the –out
    I could not tell what it was all about

    Oh yeah, their mother died and left me ev-
    ‘rything she owned. That’s how it really was.
    The will was lawful, probated, and filed.
    Ev’rything to me. Naught to ary child.

    They brought a suit. Twelve lines I give ‘em here.
    They disrespected me and their mom both.
    Broke both our hearts. They kicked us when we’re down.
    She’s dead and I’m the saddest guy in town.

    by gpr crane

  4. BDP

    “Selves”

    She’s weighted down by picnic table sun,
    her body prone, the wood rough, fingers clenched.
    She hears day’s yowls and scratches, yet no sound.
    Her mind’s both caterwaul and calm. Doubt cinched

    so tight her two selves opened equal—please
    don’t say that she’s more howling than refined.
    Her left foot seeks to anchor on the keys
    that floated to the bench. They’re fate conjoined,

    samaras from the maple overhead—
    they never have to pick, do they? Commit
    a separation? Split their wings, they’re dead
    to flight, their rotor broken. This is it,

    restart. Get up. Forget the severance
    “Perfection.” It lies. There are always two ones.

    –Barb Peters

    1. TomNeal

      Barb, your experiments with the sonnet form continue to intrigue. In ways this sonnet seems an excellent counterpoint to Frost’s “The Silken Tent. Frost’s sonnet’s single sentence brings a soft emphasis to an underlying unity. Your use of 8 end stops brings out a jarring sense of separation and imperfection- as does your use of pararhyme in the first stanza of the octave. In any case, your “She” leads a life that is in sharp contrast to the “She” of “The Silken Tent”. “Selves” and “The Silken Tent” would make interesting companions on facing pages.

      1. BDP

        Tom: I’m traveling, and I read your comment a couple days ago while on the road. I’ve had that time to let it simmer in my brain–that comment and Frost’s poem. I hate to admit I’d never read that particular poem of his before. It’s beautiful. So thank you for your words and for sharing “The Silken Tent.” When home again, I’ll put my poem next to the maestro’s and see what I can learn from the comparison. Your thoughts are appreciated. Barb

  5. foodpoet

    All kindness false
    Lies truth
    This is how we live each day
    Facing platitudes eroding memories
    And plaster smiles
    Made up to be fake
    And say everything is fine
    And cruise control is broken
    The road ahead mined with good intentions
    All kindness false
    Lies truth

  6. Shennon

    I wouldn’t have
    broken down
    had I known
    you were on the
    other side of the door.

    I wouldn’t have
    let my emotions
    get the best of me,
    like they’ve done so
    many times before.

    I wouldn’t have
    stopped to remember
    the innocence,
    the heartbreak, the joy
    in that first kiss.

    I wouldn’t have
    contemplated love,
    fought fate, or dashed dreams,
    had I remotely known
    that something was amiss.

    I wouldn’t have
    let you in, ever,
    had I imagined
    the unnecessary burdens
    all the havoc you’d wreak.

    I wouldn’t have
    broken down
    over the little things,
    over anything,
    had I ignored the thrills you seek.

    –ShennonDoah

  7. Jane Shlensky

    Breakdown

    She ain’t from ‘round here, for she walks
    a free and easy lullaby,
    smiling and wearing ugly shoes
    on purpose, thrumming like
    a Jew’s harp, her longish skirts
    move reaching like a steel guitar,
    a denim jacket, twisted hair
    that could be Country, Gospel,
    Gentle Rock or fiddle tunes.

    She’s heard we jam on Thursday nights,
    that everybody’s welcome here,
    to listen or to play along.
    We play all styles of well-known songs
    and sometimes write one of our own
    of broken hearts and cars, legs and lives.
    We know right much of breakage
    and of loss, for why else would we play
    the hurt away. She looks unbroken;
    scars mark a song as sure as a tattoo.

    We wait to see her lift a case
    and wonder what she’s brought to play.
    Most bet on fiddle or guitar
    when she lifts out a Celtic harp.
    The local boys start to smile
    knowing their noise will drown her out,
    but she is welcome as can be
    to stick around and strike her lick.

    And so she does, just warming up,
    an Irish tune to twist our thoughts,
    her voice more beautiful than most—
    an honest rendering of loss.
    Silence continues long after she’s done
    and none want to be breaking it
    until the heart can mend and swell
    with something like applause.

    1. PressOn

      This tells another story wonderfully, in a gentle pace, much like the harp. I read it several times. I especially like the phrase, “play the hurt away.”

  8. millet israeli

    the sparrow

    that summer day when they spotted
    the broken sparrow on the hot pavement,
    and came running to me with
    pleas of helping him, of saving him,

    questions spilled out not waiting for
    answers – can you fix him? does he need
    a bandaid? is he gonna die? will we have
    a funeral? what should we name him?

    i said i couldn’t promise, said he
    seemed very hurt and would likely die, but
    that we could help, could keep him warm
    and comfortable and safe, while we waited.

    they lined a small box with an old t-shirt
    and carefully selected, especially soft leaves,
    and the fragile patient was placed ever
    so gently in his hospice bed.

    they checked on him a lot, at first –
    is he dying? when will he die? does he need
    covers? what about food? but then
    got back to the things that little boys do,

    like the families of the dying who, helplessly
    grasping, ask the very same questions and
    then return, hopelessly, to the ordinarily
    benign dilemmas of their day to day.

    and then he cried, “he’s gone.” as that
    woman cried at her son’s bedside. and as
    i readied to console, he held out the empty box,
    the sparrow gone, the bird had flown?

    they still think i can heal all – scrapes, hurt
    feelings, broken birds. and me? i still look for
    that sparrow – doubting because i know. because
    hasn’t so much broken that could not be fixed?

  9. taylor graham

    SOMEONE FORGOT

    to properly latch his crate.
    Old veteran of the Best in Show,
    retired now, but caged at ringside
    among all the younger dogs
    waiting their turns. Why did his
    handler bring him here?
    What need does an old dog have
    of challenge cups? But
    someone didn’t fix the latch.
    Security breakdown at noon break.
    The old Shepherd broke
    from his crate, found the ring;
    winged inside at the flying trot
    that made him legend – faster and
    faster as one by one people
    gasped and started clapping, then
    whole groups, the assembly
    on its feet trying to
    make their hands move to match
    his stride. And he ran
    faster, lighter for applause,
    like any grand performer
    practicing the love of his life.

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