Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 312

For today’s prompt, write a dead poem. The poem, of course, could be about a dead person, animal, or other formerly living creature. It could be about the undead, I suppose, or facing death. But then, there are things that die too: computers, relationships, feelings. And some folks feel “dead to the world” or just “dead,” though they are alive (it’s an expression). I hope this prompt doesn’t create a series of dead ends.

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Here’s my attempt at a Dead Poem:

“finition”

j’ai termine
my time has come
the world will end
& i’ll be done

the games are played
& now i’m through
j’ai termine
here without you

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roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff.

Since he’s on vacation, Robert actually feels alive this week. And he’s the author of Solving the World’s Problems.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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186 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 312

  1. lmurban20

    Master Thespians

    And so this is life,
    An epic drama.
    We are the actors performing our characters.
    Now the drama unfolds before us.
    One scene makes us lovers,
    Another slaves to industry.

    Life’s drama creates so many roles.
    Too many for us to play.
    We scream out in desperation, begging to be set free.
    Free to live our lives
    By our choice.
    Not by some director’s decision.

    We seek immunity from this overplayed drama,
    Only to find no way out,
    Waiting for the grand finale…
    Death.
    The ending to life’s epic drama.

  2. taylor graham

    OPENING DEAD LETTERS
    for Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith

    Almost 200 years since you crammed
    your head with languages, Elihu.
    You’re as dead now as Old Norse, Celto-Breton,
    Chaldee… fifty tongues you taught yourself,

    penniless blacksmith hammering words
    into memory as you hammered red-hot iron
    into hoe-heads, S-hooks, ploughshares.

    An obsession my computer doesn’t grasp.
    It won’t give me alphabets for Hebrew,
    Cyrillic, or Greek. So I type thalassa, sea,
    and imagine you sailing Homer’s waves

    as they lapped against the walls of Yale.
    Was it poverty or pride that kept you afloat
    that winter, as you mastered the Iliad?

    And then you gave it all up to study Peace.
    So many letters you delivered, Britain
    to France, epistles of brotherhood across
    the bloody Channel. So many centuries of war,

    so many sons of farmers and tradesmen
    conscripted for soldiers, dying speechless
    on foreign soil. Where does it all end?

    Learning to speak the enemy’s
    language – its breath-pauses, the drum-
    beat meter of its pulse; the halting,
    haunting music of its humanity?

  3. writinglife16

    Building Ties

    Chicago.
    Family gathers.
    Those who passed
    are with them.
    The dead celebrate with joy.
    The ties the living strengthened.

  4. writinglife16

    DYING ORCHID

    She is not
    like a plant you own.
    She is wife
    and mother.
    Like orchids in a hot room,
    She will wilt and die.
    Because you
    can’t see.
    Won’t see.
    What is before you.
    You need help.

  5. grcran

    Death of Sadness

    I learned a certain ache within the soul
    Pour red wine on it wonder at the numb
    Try singing think about this great big whole
    Unholy hole song strikes me deaf blind dumb
    Don’t want to hear how bad this life could be
    Don’t want to see the lyrics on the page
    Don’t want to sing it but I am not free
    To voice my choice belonging to the sage

    And left alone for dead she deigns to wake
    Me up and down I quake I get new glee
    Know ecstasy for once and all mistak-
    en flaky fears get shaken off like fleas

    Not dead I cry embrace her ample sweet
    Stroll satisfied on down Forever Street

    by gpr crane

  6. oldperson

    on a birthday i catch myself
    eating a lemon drop and pounding my chest

    in monastic celebration: finally a good and tangy
    reason to hate myself. all virtue now lost

    and myself too, in the makeup i left caked
    in the bench press at the gym.

    can’t seem run far enough in the same place
    my core desperately engaged

    to a straightening out of things,
    the belly button pinching breathing

    towards my back in an effort to fold the shortbread
    and feel nothing

  7. Shennon

    Something compelled me
    To contemplate death
    To contend with ramifications
    Conventionally forgotten.

    Coexistence with our souls
    Convinced we’re on our own
    Yet always owning up to our conscience
    On some complex level.

    Collaborating with products
    Promising controlled aging
    Privy to contentment and comfort
    Prisms creating contortions
    Conveniently provided.

    Until death contravenes
    With our concept of self
    Carried away by convictions
    Of continuous youth.

    But death greedily converges
    Conquering all eventually
    Confounding idiots and sages
    Confessing nothing of its conquests.

    –ShennonDoah

  8. Shennon

    It wasn’t from her
    Lack of enthusiasm to see me.
    It wasn’t due to her
    Neglecting to return my texts.
    It wasn’t because she
    Didn’t answer my phone calls.
    It wasn’t even clear when she
    Deleted me from Facebook.

    I only realized
    she was serious
    about breaking up
    when she glared
    at me and said
    in a voice

    colder than the slab of granite
    beneath which most people
    eventually lie,
    “You’re dead to me.”

    –ShennonDoah

  9. seingraham

    REFLECTIONS ON THE DEAD
    AND THE UNDEAD

    We rise as one to sing “How Great Thou Art”
    I can’t help thinking you’re having us on
    I know you planned your funeral down
    to the last flower placed, the bows tied
    on the pews reserved for family
    And the hymns have double-meanings,
    of that I’m certain

    You, the master punster who named you
    child’s bunny, “Rabbit Redford”
    and dictated your eulogy to your baby
    brother as you lay dying
    Telling him it was to be all about laughter
    with no weepy bits – you were not about
    crying while you breathed;
    you’d not have your funeral
    about sadness either.

    I remember the last time we talked—
    it wasn’t that long ago—
    You were, after all, less than three months,
    diagnosis to death.
    After hearing our sad, untenable situation,
    I can still hear your disbelieving shriek and
    your words, “I’d just die if I couldn’t see my
    boys – I don’t know what I’d do. They’re
    my world!”
    You and your now widowed husband saw
    your grandsons almost every day.

    Watching your elderly mother having to
    say goodbye to yet another one of her
    children—she had to bury your second
    youngest brother several years ago,
    I couldn’t help thinking how convoluted
    the world is…
    You no longer breathe and your grandsons
    will never understand your absence.

    Our grandsons probably have no idea
    who we are by now; it’s been almost a
    year since our banishment from their lives.
    We cannot imagine what their parents
    told them to explain our sudden
    departure from them
    but we’re certain they laid the blame
    at our feet,
    telling them it was our choice to either
    go away forever, or that we died.

    I grow less angry and bitter all the time
    but still struggle with the bewilderment.
    It’s hard to grieve the living as I’ve said
    numerous times
    when you’ve no idea why they choose
    to remain dead to you.

  10. Doakley

    I knew I was dead

    The movie started
    promptly at eight,
    in the basement of that
    ancient community hall,
    a dozen children seated
    on folding chairs, eyes
    focused on the home movie screen
    that too often featured flickering
    rivers of black across the picture,
    watched as the cougar
    silently trailed the footsteps
    of the young boy walking
    through the deep dark woods,
    a shortcut to a home
    he would never reach.

    Outside, after the movie,
    I was met by the blackest
    night of the summer ever,
    my home and safety being
    nearly two blocks away,
    the streetlight, normally
    too bright for playing
    kick the can, was now so dim
    I could barely see the ground.
    I ran as fast as I could
    on the old cracked sidewalk,
    along the side of the store building,
    past the vacant lot with the old
    machinery and weeds grown up,
    past four houses with big trees in front.

    Out of breath, but safe
    on my porch, I looked
    back to see if I had been
    trailed, like in the movie,
    no sign of a cougar anywhere
    but the street light
    now shone brightly again.

  11. Jezzie

    WIMBLEDON WEEK

    Frazzled we sweltered,
    dazzled we sheltered
    as the storm raged
    in the sky overhead.

    First days of July
    were extraordinarily hot.
    Dog didn’t like it a lot
    and neither did I.

    Tennis playing Brits
    were cooked to bits
    in the deadly heat
    and most died in defeat.

  12. RJ Clarken

    Noon of Thought

    “The dead of midnight is the noon of thought.” ~Anna Letitia Barbould

    The house is quiet except for what I am drawn
    to in my unquiet mind.
    In that bewitching hour, I find
    strange characters, oddly drawn

    and loosely defined. I don’t mind.
    In fact, I think it’s kind of riveting.
    Why? My imagination is pivoting
    all around, even though it’s confined solely in my mind.

    I can’t put a name to this blivet*-thing that is so riveting
    but it’s honestly not in the ‘10-pounds in a 5-pound sack’ annoying sense.
    Given the hour, I may be a bit dense
    but I must state it once again: it’s really riveting.

    And then I sense,
    in the next moment, that all the strange characters have withdrawn.
    I can’t recapture the feeling, but I won’t dwell on
    those make-believe things…Does that make any sense?

    Somewhere between two twelves a dawn is drawn
    and finally my mind
    becomes quiet, sleepy and even resigned.
    The house is quiet except that from which I am drawn.

    *something indecipherable and often annoying.

    ###

    1. grcran

      i read this several times and do not quite understand… but it was still a good read… well-captured, the feeling of dread/dead of midnight… enjoyed the rhyming! rusty

  13. Arash

    “The dead. But grieve they not.”

    by Arash

    The dead. But grieve they not.
    And tears would drown their rot.
    Us that breathe we must grieve.
    Us that grieve we should breathe.
    Inside I’m dead, shall never weep.
    Fearing dreams I never sleep.
    In fluid pain, I can’t there float.
    Arid land inside would need no boat.
    Alone here, dead, my island dry.
    The stars are looking blurry bright.
    Tonight the stars they cry.
    I dipped my toes in their tears from skies
    that poured like rain in my own eyes,
    into my buried spirit, drowning my rot.

  14. SarahLeaSales

    Dead Air

    It was when the world went dark,
    silent, but not still,
    like the holding of a breath
    during a home invasion,
    seven something years ago,
    that I was on my way to work,
    listening to Dave talk about debt.

    It was a day like any other,
    but aren’t they always?
    I listened to dead air
    for thousands of seconds
    before I turned it off,
    so used to the voices was I–
    the voices that made me feel
    like I was a part of something more
    than just my own life.
    I was sharing in the joy of another young couple
    paying off more debt than I could make in ten years.

    It was August in Florida,
    and when I got out of the car,
    I felt like I was walking through a steam bath.
    I used my cell phone to call my husband,
    but there was no signal.
    I picked up our landline,
    but there was no dial tone.

    I turned on the television.
    Nothing.
    I turned on my computer,
    but again,
    nothing.
    No connection.
    Communication was lost.

    It was like “The Birds”,
    this absence of technology–
    like some kind of fog had flown over our town,
    creating this quiet chaos.
    Without constant communication,
    it was like we were asleep,
    like in “The Village of the Damned”.

    The world as I knew it,
    died that day,
    but I wouldn’t know it for hours.
    I suddenly felt very afraid,
    for always before, anyone I loved
    was just a phone call away.

    When you came home,
    you told me there would be no more
    electronic communication for a long time,
    if ever.
    I thought of all my friends on Facebook–
    some I couldn’t even remember where they lived,
    and I felt they were lost to me forever.
    It had been a long time since I’d ever really had to remember anything–
    an address,
    a phone number,
    the meaning of a word.

    The newspapers still managed to run,
    but gone were the talking heads,
    telling me how to think about what I heard.
    I think I saw things as they really were for the first time.
    Like the veil that we pass through when we’re born,
    so that we forget from whence we came,
    the veil of instant communication was parted that day,
    and then disappeared like the mist.

    Neighbors began to meet for coffee,
    and there was a resurgence of books and poetry.
    I saw teenagers playing outside,
    and I rushed inside to grab my camera
    to capture that perfect moment.
    We began to relearn things we thought we had forgotten:
    counting back change, cursive writing,
    reaching out first in person without the screen-to-screen icebreaker.

    The information superhighway was a pile of virtual rubble.
    The news sites were replaced with newspapers,
    the e-mail, with a handwritten letter,
    for it seemed pointless to sit at a computer,
    talking to no one.
    I had to ask my husband where to put the addresses,
    where to find the stamps.
    I spent time looking across to the neighbor’s yard,
    and saw children playing—
    teenagers, no less.

    Suddenly, the world which had seemed so small,
    seemed so very large.
    The other side of the world was like a dream
    I could no longer imagine.
    My children have never known a world like the one I had,
    and I’m not sure they ever will.
    Communication with a text,
    a tweet,
    is gone.

    We speak now with our eyes,
    our words,
    our gestures;
    not in memes,
    or in 140 characters or less.
    Characters.
    It means what it used to mean.
    I write a letter now,
    the imprint of third-grade cursive
    still engraved in my memory;
    then I go to dust off the dictionary
    to look up a word,
    and I see not just the word I searched,
    but the next word,
    and the next,
    until I have gone through all the C’s.

    Somehow, a friend of mine found me,
    and we managed to locate some of the rest.
    Not all of us exchanged letters,
    and even those that did began to feel so very far away.

    The world I once knew is gone,
    but this other world,
    where the old has become new again,
    is otherworldly.
    I try to think when it was I stopped waiting,
    hoping for the old way of life to return,
    but I can’t remember;
    I only know that it isn’t as bad as I would have thought,
    for we humans are resilient.
    We adjust,
    we adapt,
    we persevere.

  15. Kaulmer

    What was left behind

    Your green thumb could coax dead dry husks
    To sprout from stale ground – verdant, alive
    Our garden was layer upon layer all flowers, vegetables, and green
    A passerby would hardly notice the herbs,
    The tradeable kind, you dried in the microwave

    Most impressive were the long leggy Cosmos and Phlox
    Bright explosions – pink purple yellow orange fireworks
    Across a backdrop of scarlet runners
    Our private hideaway from the always peering
    Eyes of looming neighbouring trailers.

    We feasted on chard stalks, red purple and clean
    Green bean strings, summer ripe tomato bites and
    Baby white potatoes. We ate like kings, like queens

    So full of these memories, I search for you
    Amongst the stalls at the farmer’s market
    Certain to see your face between the rows
    Like you never left, were never gone.
    But no – it is just my mind playing tricks –
    Coaxing life from the dead dry remnants of a time
    I was left with instead.

    -Krina Ulmer

  16. Jane Shlensky

    No Outlet

    Three years of constant vigilance and considerable funding
    finally convinced them to change the signage on his road
    from Dead End to No Outlet. He explained,
    “I have to think of the future. My three
    little daughters will soon read
    and date and marry. They
    need to grow up with
    better words.”

  17. Jane Shlensky

    Just Say No

    Opting out of the inevitable
    is the especial province
    of the young who tinker
    with time, impatient to grow up
    but blind to the tomb at the end
    of life’s shady moldering path.

    Even when grandmothers explain
    nature’s cycles, the beauty of each
    phase from seed to fallen leaf,
    the usefulness of rest and rot,
    the slow progress of a grand plan,
    a natural order and logical outcome—

    how old cats lose their spring
    and hunker closer to the ground,
    white-muzzled and thin, darkness
    invading their eyes, old organs
    shutting down, the last of nine lives
    leaking away with purrs of acceptance,

    even as old people—pigment and muscle
    fleeing, wearied of constant activity—
    age toward momentary or eternal rest,
    embraced with joyful acceptance,
    life is defined aslant, involving
    memory and silent acquiescence.
    Transitions are difficult.

    After many questions, nods, and frowns,
    my small granddaughter shakes her head
    rejecting the very concept of death,
    of aging, of pain and sickness, of cycles.
    “It’s nothing to fear,” I say, barely convinced.
    “Everything dies sooner or later; everything
    has seasons of rest, sooner or later
    to prepare for the next part of its cycle.”
    That’s as good as I’ve got, still bitten as I am
    with doubts as to the sense of any plan
    that requires suffering and discontinuation.

    She stares me down, considering.
    “No!” she says resolutely.
    “That’s crazy! I’m not doing it!”

  18. Cynthia Page

    When you were my heart
    I lived, I breathed air.
    Now the sun
    has forgotten light.
    Who traded air for this
    cheap imitation?
    Bring back daffodils
    and crickets
    and frogs.
    Make weeds grow again
    Give snakes their hiss.
    Grow webs where they belong.
    I would take all bad things
    and the rest restored,
    if I only had you again.

  19. ReathaThomasOakley

    Revelation

    This morning in the bathroom mirror
    I saw
    this slightly familiar woman
    standing where I should
    have been
    wearing a short pink robe, are they still called
    dusters (I’m so easily distracted) I wonder
    as I take inventory of all that’s wrong
    with this woman staring at me in my own bathroom
    what poor clothing choices she has made
    with that green nightgown collar showing
    and the nightgown arms longer than the robe’s
    and the colors clashing
    such an outfit my mother would wear hurrying out
    with the trash when she heard the truck turn the corner
    while I said, Mama, you just need a bunch of cats to
    make that outfit complete, and she’d smile like she
    knew a secret
    smile like the woman in the mirror when she realized
    her middle age was dead.

  20. pipersfancy

    Necrophilia

    When I move, or set your hand on places where
    my skin aches to be touched,
    like a petulant child, you turn to face the wall—
    muttering how you can’t do anything right.

    Your organ immediately soft, unwilling,
    and nothing I can do to revive your desire
    as you roughly push my mouth away—
    angry, yet not allowing me to provide a solution.

    I thought it was an ego thing,
    and so over time I stopped moving
    while you copulated with me;
    stopped asking for what I wanted,
    to let you feel manly in your conquest of me.

    I’ve come to realize it was not your ego,
    but your love of death,
    that disrupted our love-making.
    To feel alive, you needed me to feel dead.

    You needed me unresponsive, incapable of rejecting you.
    My words of affection and love — never enough;
    my silence in bed more arousing.
    You wanted to fuck a corpse… but I’m not dead.

    Although, my God, how close it came to that.

  21. josephdaniel

    The Death of Civility

    Remember when manners
    were King & Queen of the prom
    and they danced to polite applause
    all night long?

    Remember when Thank You
    was the standard of the day,
    and you never tired of hearing it
    no matter how many times it played?

    Remember when Smile
    ruled over Scorn
    and we never shied away
    from tooting someone else’s horn?

    Society has changed.
    I feel sad for newborns.
    “Manners not included”
    their operating manual warns.

  22. annell

    The Yellow Flowerpot

    i lie on my back     curled into the bottom     of the yellow flower pot

    how long have i been lying here     i cannot say     as my brain quit

    the minute i died     and left the scene       my body dried

    i lie upside down     in a yellow flower pot     when living

    i led a secret life     stealth was my trade      so good at my job

    no one noticed      when I dropped      into the pot

    without a sound      lying on my back     curled in the bottom

    of the yellow flower pot

  23. josephdaniel

    Don’t Mess With Me

    I’m not somebody you can crush like a bug
    Don’t get any funny ideas
    Don’t try and sweep me under the rug
    That’s not a panacea
    When you least expect it, I’ll take a stand
    and show you precisely what I’m made of
    If you’ve lost all faith, then place your bet
    You may have written me off, but I ain’t dead yet

    1. Sarah Metzler

      I enjoyed your poem. Such interesting and driving rhythm throughout that punctuates each thought and line. I hope you don’t mind my saying this…and I could be terribly wrong …but I was thinking you could keep your rhyming pattern in the last two couplets by exchanging “what I’m made of” with “the cards in my hands.” Again, please ignore this if you find it rude or ignorant…it’s just that I really liked your poem and wanted to share this idea with you.

      1. josephdaniel

        Oh, I appreciate your comments vey much, Sarah. Your suggestion is a better fit. Sometimes I rush things too much and wish I’d take a breath and spend more time on them. Thank you very much for taking the time comment. I get inspiration from you & all the poets here, and every comment helps.

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