Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 288

For today’s prompt, write a false poem. Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” That’s good advice, but these poems should descend with falsifying the intent. False documents, false names, false teeth, the balance of true or false, and so on. A revision to Dickinson, “Tell all the truth but not this week.”

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Here’s my attempt at a False poem:

“false face”

-with a nod to PLD

we wear the face that grins and tries
to hide our thoughts & empty lies
because someday we hope we’ll see
the end to our humility
as one more unarmed person dies

& served up fast before our eyes
as all around we hear the cries
of i can’t breathe on city streets
we wear the face

wanting to figure our replies
but all we seem to find are sighs
when we dream all humans are free
god knows that’s what we want to see
hiding behind our alibis
we wear the face

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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 hails from Dayton, birthplace of Paul Laurence Dunbar who wrote “We Wear the Mask,” which inspired today’s poem (among other things). He believes that if there was ever time for poetry, now is it.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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219 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 288

  1. BDP

    Kris K”

    Oh, he looks like him, large, tall, fond of sleigh,
    red Ford Extended Cab, a driver white
    of hair, head full of curls, and on his way
    he waves to friend and outsider alike,

    this well-known figure in the town. Mustache
    twirled round, he’s fun, a voice through Main Street snow,
    we reach his candy shop, with deep panache
    “Hello,” he says, though we hear ho-ho-ho.

    Perhaps that’s why kids think he’s talking false
    when (not two-faced, for lies bring lumps of coal)
    he answers them that he’s not Santa Claus,
    but they still briskly nod You Are!—dear soul—

    and I confess, like Sadie at three plus,
    we’re more than sure that he’s St. Nicholas.

    —Barb Peters

  2. grcran

    False Won’t Follow

    An erasure of Polonius’s speech from Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3, by William Shakespeare

    The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
    my blessing with thee!
    Look thou character.
    Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar:
    Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
    Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel
    Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice
    Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment
    Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend
    This above all- to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.

    by gpr crane

    1. BDP

      This erasure so fascinated me that I felt compelled to look up the original speech. How many times have I heard these maxims outside of Hamlet, and haven’t remembered they come from the play! Good use of the art form.

  3. Walt Wojtanik

    JOHN NO LONGER SPEAKS

    John no longer speaks.
    His noises are weak, guttural.
    Not quite groans or moans;
    incoherent exhalations
    of breath held in waiting.
    Debating whether this one
    would be his last, or followed
    by yet another exasperated swell.

    John is unaware.
    He does not care who fills his room.
    The gloom is mocked by the trappings
    of a Christmas in suspension.
    The tension no longer affects him.
    The soft stroke of a comforting hand
    is an irritant allowed to be,
    he no longer has the words to speak.

    John does not see.
    Eyes closed to the world around him,
    darkness has found him and covers
    him like a shroud. His expression
    is grotesque. Mouth disfigured,
    a gaping maw twisted,
    hands tightly fisted, but he no longer
    has the fight in him to use them.

    John is unresponsive.
    Recognition is a condition long vacated,
    we have waited in silent vigil, sentinels
    to the oncoming barrage, his last stand.
    John demands nothing, he knows nothing,
    he feels nothing but an existence
    that had abandoned him long ago.
    He shows signs of distress.

    John does not find comfort.
    A silent wish to go home for Christmas,
    not the four walls he once ruled
    but a place where pain is eased,
    where his eyes see the Wonder,
    where under an azure sky he rests
    in eternal vigil; the peace he seeks.
    John no longer speaks.

    1. grcran

      great poem! you are so accurate in your description of this scene (I lived through 2 similar ones in 2011 and again in 2013, as primary caregiver both times)… there’s a profound desolation that you convey most excellently, not sure any mode could express it better than poetry, or any poem express it better than yours… rusty

      1. Walt Wojtanik

        Thank you, Rusty. Mom passed Christmas Eve in ’86; Dad, four days short of the 20th Anniversary of her death. Now another father (father-in-law) lays in wait! You are most kind in your words. Poetry is indeed cathartic and soothing. A balm for a weary soul!

  4. Doakley

    False Expectations

    Traveled by bus
    most of the day
    to get an army physical
    stayed at YMCA

    Had time that evening
    home was nowhere near
    caught a cab to the bar
    had myself a beer

    Talked with a pretty
    girl in the next seat
    said I would be back
    Saturday night, let’s meet.

    She smiled and said
    I will be here you know
    well I came back
    but she didn’t show.

  5. grcran

    backwards is not false

    do we enjoy the word “backasswards”?
    some would say no, it’s not proper usage, it’s slang, it borders on vulgarity
    others would approve of the word, noting its place in the vernacular
    does it have a definition? connotations?
    perhaps even personality?
    in my opinion, yes.
    Words are not false, in the way that people can be.
    and if you don’t believe that, well then, as a poet,
    you got the whole thing
    backasswards.

    by gpr crane

  6. grcran

    Falsie

    Believing this to be a mature poetry forum, perhaps the best one in Atlanta, oh wait, I mean in the WORLD, I will now introduce a discussion…of… falsies (oh, she gasped, he’s not doing that, is he?). At sixty-two years of age, I’ve not, to my knowledge, ever fondled a falsie. Neither have I spoken with any woman who’d state that she ever wore falsies or even stuffed kleenex in the brassiere. There, I said that. Won’t take it back. In fact, I once knew a woman who used duct tape (RED duct tape) to compress her breasts so that they were better suited to her Halloween costume. So, in conclusion, I just want to say… falsies do not exist, and never have.

    by gpr crane

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