Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 350

For today’s prompt, write a napkin poem. I guess that could be a poem about a napkin or that involves napkins, but I think my original thought for this kind of poem would be a poem that might be scrawled onto a napkin in a rush–or maybe even slipped across (or under) the table to someone sitting with you. So maybe a warning or an invitation. As always, take the prompt where you will.

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Here’s my attempt at a Napkin Poem:

“to whom it may concern”

the service was wonderful
& the meal was great
but it’s time to move on
before it gets too late

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He doesn’t consider any time too late to write poetry, and he’s scrawled his fair share of poems (and random lines) on napkins. Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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169 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 350

  1. Juanita Lewison-Snyder

    napkin poem
    by juanita lewison-snyder

    beware of loneliness,
    it lives on bait
    attached to rat traps…

    © 2016 by Juanita Lewison-Snyder,

    1. Ederline

      Here is my Napkin Poem in response to today’s prompt.

      The Napkin Poem

      You enter the ring of my being
      Without any hint or so.

      You were there when I am so uncomfortable of
      my longing.

      You set the mood to an otherwise boring
      Ordinary setting
      To an encounter of two people.

      You wipe my tears to death
      You were always a taken for granted reality
      Now no more.

      Come on, enter the ring of my being
      And stay there as long as you wish.

  2. G.Wood

    Just after we left the café,
    heading separately
    toward the agreed-upon distance,
    the server cleared my glass-half-empty Chardonnay,
    your polished Philly-cheesesteak-plate,
    and my bev nap
    balled up around
    your chewed gristle.

  3. Jane Shlensky

    Timing

    He knows she’s irked
    at what he said
    and so he lets his napkin speak.

    ILY, he writes at the top
    and passes it across the table.

    She flinches as if she were slapped.
    True love is not an acronym,
    not an emoji on a screen.

    He wants to play a word game
    now, see if she will complete
    his thoughts.

    Will, he writes to her.
    You, she adds, thinking “Stop this!”
    Marry, he adds, and slowly passes it back.
    She stares into his smiling eyes;
    by all accounts she still is irked
    and yet he thinks this a good time?

    Eventually, she writes, waits,
    and adds a question mark.

    1. qbit

      I like that. Nice the way it builds with the back and forth plus the way he is both irritating het yet winning her over at the same time. Nicely done.

  4. grcran

    Found on a Beach

    Scrawled on a napkin
    Inside a corked bottle
    If a pair of sunglasses
    Lost a lens & both temples
    In the surging surf
    Does it remain plural
    Were they ever

    gpr crane

  5. LCaramanna

    Notes on a Napkin

    Welcome back to school,
    I’ve heard it all before.
    It’s the same old stuff,
    I’m not listening any more.

    My mind is off to wander,
    I’m on a summer shore.
    Sun and sand and ocean waves,
    A daydream I won’t ignore.

    Ocean lullaby, my head on your shoulder
    Saffron sunset on a turquoise sea
    Chilled Chardonnay, the touch of your hand
    Slumber in love and tranquility

    Notes on a napkin
    Poetic thoughts galore
    An urgent need to write words down
    Lest I remember them nevermore!

    Lorraine Caramanna

  6. Doakley

    Napkin Uses

    Gather crumbs from the table
    when breakfast is through,
    a setting for one,
    where once there was two

    To brush at my lips
    on the tip of my finger,
    dab a tear from my eye
    the memories linger.

    1. Star-writer

      The Friar and Me

      We ate at the college refectory
      Just the Friar and me,
      It was past three
      With few to see.
      He had a plan to me explain
      A napkin would do,
      Upon it he drew
      A mountain with stairs
      Each step was a prayer
      Concealed with a note;
      The top if one made it
      The message revealed.

      1. ppfautsch24

        Everyday Napkins
        Folded napkins held your kiss,
        And wiped my tears away.
        Everyday at my fingertips,
        Memories of you, that I miss.
        By Pamelap

  7. qbit

    The old man wipes the grease
    From his hands and mouth
    With a piece of bread.

    A cautionary tale
    Of waste not,
    He then eats the bread
    As he looks at me in silence.

    His accent and this place
    Remote even to the Old World,
    All I can understand
    Is he has not seen an American
    Since the end of WWII,
    Although that cannot be true.

    I was holding out
    For some kind of French Zorba,
    Someone to show me
    How to live without affectation.
    Maybe a way
    Free of my own skin.

    But this will not end
    Where he dances any
    Sirtaki
    With me, drunken, arms across each other’s
    Shoulders, transported beyond ourselves.
    No.

    Just looks me up and down
    Eating and chewing.
    Then wiping his face
    With a bit of crust.

  8. MikeGill

    Lunch Sack Love

    It took only a moment
    To make his day brighter
    A simple “I love you”
    On a lunch sack napkin
    Written in a mother’s hand

  9. RJ Clarken

    Pub Crawl Scrawl

    The phone number on the napkin wasn’t real.
    She scrawled it just to get rid of a pick-up artist offender
    who was too pushy, negative, and had little appeal…
    If he chanced to call the number, he’d get ‘Weather’
    and therefore,(for him, anyway) it would be a frustrating reveal.
    As his ‘line,’ he bragged, telling her she couldn’t ever do any better,
    and since he acted like a jerk and a heel,
    she ditched him and went home with the bartender,
    who (for her, anyway) was far more genteel and ideal. Oh squeal!

    ###

  10. De Jackson

    The Scent of Old Lemons & Stale Beer

    This poem is a nap
    -kin. Sister of the paper
    towel, a place for blotting
    lips and strategically placed
    wine-stained rings, things
    quickly written while under
    the influence of one thing
    or another.

    May I have your number?
    You can write it right here:

    _____________________

    Mine is infinity some days
    (that’s a side-slant 8, for those
    of you keeping score at home),

    ground right down to zero,
    others. Call me

                             crazy.

    .

  11. PowerUnit

    He sits on the bar, as patient as any drunk, ready
    For moments of grief and clumsy, when dry is preferable. Sleeves, eyes, beds, when sticky
    Does not mean you want anybody touching you, or licking.
    That friendly woman two stools away, smiles
    Shows off her gold, a ring
    Of power, you laughed the joke.
    Rings don’t mean a thing
    And power spills from its glass too easily. He only
    Cleans messes. He cannot
    Recreate illusions.

  12. seamuscorleone

    Confession written on a napkin left in a bar that is casually thrown away by a waitress, unread

    I confess to
    Drinking too much,
    But if I hadn’t
    I wouldn’t have gotten to see you.

    I confess to
    Following you with my eyes all night,
    And when your shifts ends,
    I’m going to follow you home.

    I confess to
    Believing in love at first sight,
    I should know;
    It happened to me when I first saw you.

    I confess to
    Being too shy to say these words out loud,
    So instead
    I’m going to leave them here and hope you find them.

    But even if you don’t,
    I will be seeing you
    Soon,
    And then you will know
    How I feel.

  13. MikeGill

    Paper Napkin

    I still have it
    after all these years.
    At first it spent time
    collecting dust on my dresser.
    Then, cleaning one day,
    I found it and tucked
    it into my sock drawer
    with birthday cards and Valentines.

    Truthfully, I’m surprised
    it survived at all—even
    the first night. How did
    it not end up in the wash?
    How did it not get swept away
    in a fit of decluttering?

    When times were tough
    and we were fighting or
    you were upset with me,
    I remember sitting in my locked
    bedroom, fingering the edges
    and times when we were not.

    Now it rests, forever
    preserved, in a small
    shadow box on my desk—
    a Father’s Day gift
    from my wife and children.

    I don’t remember why I was sad
    that night when you pulled out
    a pen and drew a rocket ship and
    stick spaceman on the napkin.
    I laughed and you told me a story
    about the man and his rocket trip
    to the moon
    to escape his problems.
    As we got up to leave,
    I slipped the drawing off the table
    and stuffed it in my pocket.

    I look at it now while I work
    and remember you and your stories
    whenever I was down or had messed up.
    You seemed to have a way to make
    it all better.
    And you still do.
    Because, on bad days,
    when the boss has yelled at me
    or I have yelled at the kids,
    I look at the rocket
    and remember that day at the diner
    when you made it all better.

    1. tripoet

      William, this is like an “action” succinct bio. I loved it In so few words you create a whole scene in an easily conjured up space. Nice work.

  14. Nurit Israeli

    IN THE KEEPSAKE BOX

    the crispness of memories
    is folded into a napkin,
    wrinkled at the ages,
    that still holds
    his old phone number,
    since changed,
    a “Please call” plea,
    since revamped,
    and plans that crumbled.

    But the gold ink
    that she thought was bold
    has faded −
    akin to her hopes.

    ~ Nurit Israeli

    1. BDP

      Very lovely, Nurit. And sad.

      (This is my second try at commenting to this poem. Perhaps the first comment will show up somewhere, sometime. Your poem inspired me to come back and post again.)

  15. RJ Clarken

    Words on a Napkin

    If a toothpick were to become my quill
    and I could use it to jot stuff down on a napkin, I wouldn’t have to grovel
    to a cranky muse. Why? Because then she’d do my will,
    and my thoughts could flow like spaghetti sauce
    and with that napkin, we’d catch all the spill.
    What an appetizing thought:
    Toothpick and napkin would then become a ‘paper mill’
    as I (or we) would write the Great American Novel.
    The chance of that happening? Zip zero nada nil. But for a moment, it was a yummy thrill.

    ###

  16. mschied

    Notes on a bar scene

    In the corner
    sitting alone
    at a four-seat high-top
    listening to conversations
    ricocheting off each other
    around the room

    mortgages are high…
    phosphorus in the river…
    don’t pick on Hillary…

    standing around the bar
    holding court at table
    huddled across the room
    sharing secrets over
    a basket of wings

    two eyes
    two ears
    taking it all in
    reflecting back
    a curious solitude

  17. Shennon

    Our tea party was fancy.
    We wore our frilly dresses.
    We borrowed mom’s special
    china teacups.
    Our napkins were lacy, with
    crocheted edges and the
    letter L sewn into
    one corner of each.
    We thought ourselves
    ladies of fine distinction
    until our brother interrupted
    with disturbing news.
    Our fancy napkins
    were none other than
    Grandma Lou’s well-used
    handkerchiefs.

    –ShennonDoah

  18. uvr

    In the little red box
    at the back of the shelf
    I gently unwrap
    a yellowing napkin
    in which nestles
    a little white tooth
    the first one to fall
    from your rosebud mouth
    My heart swells as
    I pull out a fresh tissue
    roll up the pearly keepsake
    tuck it neatly back
    a treasured memory
    I will gaze on fondly
    another time

  19. Sara McNulty

    Missive

    When he left their table,
    a short, red-bearded man
    appeared at her side,
    clutching a folded white
    napkin. His pale eyes
    scanned the café. You must
    pay attention to this note;
    it is crucial. He dropped
    it into her open palm. Her eyes
    widened in alarm. Who are you?
    she asked. Miss, my name
    is unimportant, he said.
    With a sense of dread, she peeled
    back a corner of the napkin.
    The messenger vanished. Before
    she could decipher the note,
    her fiancé reached the table,
    rendering her unable to read it.
    As she slid napkin into her purse,
    her engagement ring shook
    on her finger.

    1. BDP

      Today some of my posts have been sucked up by an ethernet monster and have disappeared after I hit “submit,” so here goes again for your poem: this reads to me like you might have a series of poems in mind in response to the message on the napkin. If so, I’m all in favor of it! If not, the poem is intriguing as a standalone.

  20. mjdills

    We drove high into the jungle
    A café spread over the grounds of an old hacienda
    Clay oven under a brick and palm-frond shelter with the scent of maize escaping into the mist
    We sipped sweet sticky drinks, fanned ourselves uselessly
    You told me about the child, never born, and you wept for a girl whose name you could barely remember
    A huge butterfly, the size and color of a paper napkin, floated by and another and another…
    Like thoughts spiraling over our heads
    Words unspoken
    Floating in the path of memories

  21. lsteadly

    For Your Eyes Only

    If I am the feast for your eyes
    that your wayward glance implies
    meet me in the parking lot
    so we can see how hot is hot

  22. writinglife16

    TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

    The napkins
    were fifty-nine cents.
    Great bargain.
    What a sale.
    Water dissolved them quickly.
    I should have known this.

  23. taylor graham

    NOTES ON A NAPKIN

    We came to a kink in the road, kind of a
    dog-leg kicking east. Pulled off, parked the car.
    “Name of the place comes from Hawaiian
    for ‘person.’” Past a hanging snag that fell hugely
    in storm we hiked, our dogs hugging the wind.
    “Those people would dive into rivers, pick up
    gold nuggets.” But we came for clouds, a kiss
    of breeze to keep the hunger of this valley
    keen. Rivers? “How could they pick a place so
    parched dry?” No cabin or hearth, just corridors
    of oak and pine. Key to the heart, heart that
    keeps secrets weightier than gold in the pan.

  24. writinglife16

    ON THE IMPORTANCE OF NAPKINS

    Our doctor asked quietly,
    “Are you sure?”
    I had just handed him
    a napkin with the words
    No Code
    written on it.
    The letters were shaky and
    slanted, but the words clear.
    I told him we were
    both sure.
    I left him to go find my
    wife in the
    emergency unit.
    It was the last thing
    she wrote before
    she collapsed.
    My wife is a doctor.

  25. tripoet

    The Last Supper

    “You’re breaking up with me?”
    “Yes”.
    “But we’ve only just had appetisers”.
    “Turns out, I don’t like stuffed mush-
    rooms”, you say. “I told you to order
    the asparagus dip”, I whine.
    You disagree. “Won’t you at least stay
    for the entree?” Your response is to place
    down your fork and me and reach
    for your napkin with the intention
    of wiping your face and “us” away.

  26. Jilllyman

    On a Brown Napkin

    February night quite cold
    Privet shrubs in bloom
    Walking briskly drinking tea

    Writing Haikus in Panera
    The shrubs come in the side door
    Shaking off the cold and order tea
    Earl Grey with milk and sugar
    And sit near the window
    She, considering and lamenting a broken branch
    He, feeling the hedgerow ancestors’ call.

  27. SarahLeaSales

    The Two-Dollar Counter Tipper

    Mr. Napkins came in to the diner every night,
    ordering his hacked steak and wiping after every bite.
    Too many napkins he would use,
    which he would leave like a pile of refuse,
    and so the dispensers were recycled outright.

  28. Asha1000

    Lost Napkin

    Wrapped in a small, white square
    of napkin, two little
    baby photos, in sepia,
    were all that remained after
    the breakup, the splitting apart
    of happy days with children’s smiles.
    Then someone thrashed the napkin wad
    of wrapped photos, a true mistake.
    Childhood memories fade
    like ink in a napkined message.

    – Lelawattee Manoo-Raming

  29. Azma

    Indian Napkin vs. American Napkin

    Reading through the poems on this blog
    has made me realize- my interpretation was fogged.
    A ‘napkin’ for you is not the same as it’s for me,
    we’ve been routed by our countries quite deceptively.
    What you’d call a napkin is what I’d call a tissue
    confusing it with body cells shouldn’t be a real issue
    And what I’d call a napkin is what you’d call a towel
    manufacturing industry for which here, is quite swell.
    But let’s not narrow down to a favorite type
    after all, they’re all just used to wipe.

    -Azma Sheikh

  30. Azma

    Reading your napkin threads

    Your generous self strikes again, I see
    when you willingly share your napkin with me.
    The light and clean, delicate cotton describes
    your healthy, spotless and tidy vibes.
    As I cautiously stay close to the seam,
    my image of your character starts to use its gleam
    as the napkin has spots of your selfish affair
    with salty tears of sorrow woven there.

    -Azma Sheikh

  31. Anthony94

    The Napkins

    As they move for the third time
    she finds it again, forgets what’s in
    the blue square box and pops the
    lid, gasps the same quiet gasp
    she always does to see their
    names around the gilt roses
    naming the day they pledged to
    try and intertwine their disparate
    lives. She should have used them
    up for picnics, anniversaries going
    unmarked, as shards shifted in the
    kaleidoscope that was their
    coexisting. She buries them now
    in another box along with the oddities
    of birthdays, Christmases past, knows
    she’s safe until years from now the
    time comes to divvy up ornaments
    among the kids. But for now they’re
    too stark a reminder in their creamy
    creases of what she thought it would
    be about when it all unfolded.

  32. Julieann

    A Gift to Treasure

    Your daughter’s unemployed
    A birthday gift, a birthday wish
    Written on a napkin
    In her precise penmanship
    Happy Birthday Mom

  33. ReathaThomasOakley

    Napkins

    Wedding gifts, promises of
    candlelight, carefully ironed,
    tucked away, waiting to grace
    the table at every perfect meal.
    Years of spills, too many times
    ignored at the bottom of laundry
    baskets, frayed hems, pulled
    threads, stains, raveled squares
    finally, painfully, discarded with
    the broken vows of that first marriage.

  34. Julieann

    The Napkin

    Cast aside as
    Any piece of trash
    Tightly wadded
    Crumpled, twisted
    Only a corner tip
    Surviving the damage
    A lipstick smudge
    A hint of ink
    Carefully I unwound it
    Spread it on the table
    Your lips are red
    Your eyes so blue
    No longer will I
    Live without you
    A confession of undying love?
    A suicide note?
    A hint at murder?
    Who left it? Why?
    To be cast aside
    As any other
    Piece of trash

  35. KM

    Let Down

    In this age of texting I hope you appreciate this
    handwritten note scrawled while you preened
    in the bathroom. Blue ink cursive on the square
    white napkin. A few small words to say in a big,
    big way, it was not a pleasure meeting you,
    but it’s certainly a pleasure leaving you.

    – Kim Mannix
    http://www.makesmesodigress.com

  36. carolemt87

    Napkin Poetry

    Small snippets
    captured phrases
    pressed on paper
    at the bar or
    coffee house mornings
    tinkling bells over the door
    sweating water glass
    beneath the neon
    blink and buzz
    thoughts cascade from
    tired uncallused fingers
    holding yet another beer
    pen scratching at something
    just out of reach
    word drunk rambling
    more crossed out
    than left behind
    written in blood and
    tear stained tucked
    away in back pockets
    until the next morning
    laundry when I empty
    my pockets and
    read the crumpled words
    and wonder
    what in the hell
    was I thinking?

    Carol J Carpenter 2016

  37. Sasha A. Palmer

    Not TheaTER, TheaTRE Cloud
    Across the
    Pond pondered my poem
    Kept, read
    It out loud
    Now I’m honoUred

    A somewhat bragging acrostic: my poem’s on the shortlist of the Loneliness Project run by Theatre Cloud 🙂 If you get a chance please listen to a British actress Samantha Hopkins reading my “Storytelling”

    http://theatrecloud.com/get-involved/creative-projects/shortlist-the-loneliness-project/storytelling/2358

    Robert and PA folks, if it hadn’t been for the instant encouragement and camaraderie I found here in 2011, when I first posted my poetry online, I wouldn’t be sharing my poems now. I’m not even sure I would be writing any.
    Thank you.

  38. annell

    A Napkin to Keep

         folded white
    within reach
    catch the drip from my lips
         like a kiss
    wipe my fingertips

         made of paper
    disposable
    of no great value
    great for picnics

         mother’s best
    touch of lace
    washed and starched
    folded just so
    used on special occasions
    appear on the table
         each christmas

         in the bar
    served under the glass
    a note between us
    a love letter
    from trash
    to a treasured thing
         a keepsake

    May 18, 2016

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