Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 437

For today’s prompt, write a graduation poem. For instance, two of my sons just graduated middle school on their way to high school. But graduating encompasses a lot more than school. Some people graduate to new pay levels at work or new levels in video games or new levels of consciousness.

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Here’s my attempt at a Graduation Poem:

“graduation”

each accomplishment begets
a new challenge & hurdle

at times graduation feels
like a hill that leads to a hill

the song that never ends
a hyperlink to a list of links

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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). As his children graduate, he graduates.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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82 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 437

  1. tunesmiff

    COMMENCEMENT
    G. Smith
    ––+––
    Four years of education,
    And useless information,
    Results in revelation,
    That all the calculation,
    All the needless frustration,
    Gets a standing ovation,
    That’s over, lickety-split.
    They call it, “graduation.”

    (Written for the cyrch a chwta challenge.)

  2. grcran

    commencement of payback

    wow we’re glad you rate
    as you graduate
    buy a fireplace grate
    eat a salad plate
    friends infatuate
    and pontificate
    no one’s mad irate
    as you graduate
    but sorry it’s your fate
    now get a job

    gpr crane

  3. Eileen S

    Graduation Lesson

    Graduation used to be
    a time of celebration,
    a time to say goodbye,
    a time to move on.

    Now graduation ceremonies
    award posthumous
    diplomas and degrees
    to classmates killed
    in school shootings.

    In the past, students
    would go to school
    to learn lessons taught
    by their teachers.

    Now they are learning
    lessons no teacher can teach.

  4. MET

    I know this is too late… just felt really bad yesterday

    Grace and Understanding

    Many of my class
    When we graduated
    Went to Myrtle Beach…
    It was a rite of passage for many
    Living in South Carolina….
    I did not…
    I was not pushy or brave
    And was not asked.
    At the time it hurt
    Listening to friends
    Making plans….
    I was the wallflower
    No one noticed…
    Everyone knew
    But did not know…
    I graduated
    I did not do the rite of passage….
    I did not go to the beach
    But I spent four years
    Being a bum
    Traveling and working odd jobs,
    Finding my faith
    And Love… and then losing it,
    And discovering what I wanted
    And what I did not want….
    I remember the day
    I told a dear friend
    Of my new job…
    He said I was too gentle
    For such a job…
    He never knew the steel magnolia
    Who faced disappointments
    With grace and understanding.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    May 24, 2018

    1. tripoet

      These lines especially “hit” me.

      Traveling and working odd jobs,
      Finding my faith
      And Love… and then losing it,

      This cyclic poem doesn’t have an ending, in a way, because it paints resolution quickly followed by non-resolution just like life. I loved it.

      1. MET

        I think only resolution only really comes when life on this earth is done… not for those left of course but for that person… thank you so much… I used to decorate cakes… even had a two week job in what I call working for the “mafia”… and I could paint rooms… I got by…saw a lot but should have seen more…

  5. De Jackson

    Grad(u)ations of Color, Light

    We are still
    learning,
    yearning
    for some diploma
    -cy, some
    salutatorian sunrise
    promise. Hold this crimson
    close, that one in a vermillion
    horizon to heart; start
    asking all the right questions:
    Can I pocket this praise?
    Can I fill this page with sunbeams?
    Shall we dance on this one sky-scrim stage?

    ::

    1. tripoet

      De, I love how you work with words and shape them into more! I associate this style with your poetry now.

      an example

      for some diploma
      -cy, some

  6. Nancy Posey

    Senior Sponsor

    All these years I taught high school seniors,
    nursing them through the throes of senioritis,
    encouraging them through applications and essays,
    measuring for caps and gowns, intervening
    when the allotment of graduations tickets
    didn’t cover immediate family, considering
    parents, step-parents, custodial grandparents,
    sisters, brothers, half-siblings. I tried hard
    to balance Beowulf and Chaucer with prom
    and the SATs. I squeezed in oxymorons
    and puns amid metaphors and similes, aware
    of the cushion of gentle humor on hard days.

    I stood just outside the door, marching them in,
    offering my Solo cup to collect to collect their gum,
    relishing their practiced military corners,
    their mortarboards perched level on their heads,
    tassels swinging, awaiting the official announcement
    to move them right to left, marking a simple passage.
    Their mix of pride, elation, relief, and sorrow
    were palpable, contagious, as I recalled,
    on my first day of teaching so many years ago,
    the words of a second year teacher, asked
    what he learned in his first year: how much
    it hurts to see them graduate and leave.
    I laughed then, but how right he was.

  7. Sara McNulty

    Sullen Salesman

    Tell me,
    what was management thinking
    (or drinking) when they graduated
    Mr. Sullen to “Phone Man” at a small
    stand centered in Electronics?
    Robotic, inscrutable, with frozen
    frown that disabled him
    from moving his lips
    more than a fraction. Never mastered
    the art of interaction. From
    the moment he asked if
    he could help, insincerity
    poured forth like a foaming
    poison. He took my phone.
    Nothing wrong, he said,
    I believe it is a User
    problem. By User, you mean
    me, I shot back at him.
    Yes, accompanied by a self-
    pleased sneer.

    Tell me,
    does management of a large
    well known chain, have no
    other candidate for
    a sales position?

  8. SarahLeaSales

    Twelve Credits Remaining

    All those months ago,
    she’d wondered if she would be able to pass the math—
    not because she wasn’t a hard worker,
    but because remembering was a struggle and
    because numbers mixed with letters spelled chaos for her.
    At thirty-seven,
    she would be a first-time college graduate—
    twenty years since she had graduated from high school and
    twenty years she had spent learning
    not what she wanted to do,
    but what she didn’t want to do.
    She had started her college journey for the money,
    but had stayed the course for something more.

    1. MET

      Being one who deals with a brain that mixes letters and numbers… math was a nightmare… I laugh it off but recently I got lost in a building that was a maze … and I saw a door outside and despite the rain… I opted for something that was a little less confusing… congrats to her… thank you for this poem…

  9. k weber

    1995

    After the ceremony:
    red-gowned girls played
    basketball with boys
    in the blacktop driveway.

    Someone ripped their robe
    shooting hoops but we
    kept going. My best friend
    drove us around all night

    in his blue torpedo
    of an automobile. We had
    cake at someone else’s
    house and the dark icing

    turned our teeth grey. Have
    you ever laughed a grey
    laugh? I have, in a short navy
    blue dress with sunflowers

    and no sleeves. Wearing
    the worst shoes. I became
    barefoot, sober the rest
    of the evening and many years.

    Yelling something funny. Visiting
    people for the last time. I wish
    I was still friends with that one
    girl who probably recalls every

    detail I forgot. It’s such a blur now;
    in fragments. I’d like to briefly rewind
    to the last part of commencement
    i remember: sitting in the auditorium

    before the diploma and looking
    around at our small class and taking
    in that wave of finality I’d never felt
    before among 200 peers. I was

    next to this long-haired dude
    I never knew very well. He smelled
    like weed and kept giggling
    with strawberry eyes. On my other

    side was a guy I never saw
    in my life and still don’t know his
    name. But they made those last
    minutes hilarious. After the official

    pieces of paper, I went out into
    the world, or just outside, asking
    which friend could give me a ride.
    I got this pang of feeling like a first-

    time hitchhiker: frightened and excited
    about where life was going next. We
    all entered separate cars and trucks,
    experiencing this weight of being

    alone, together.

  10. thunk2much

    Ready or not

    Ready or not
    there you go, and I wonder,
    what will you carry
    into your shiny new
    unfathomable future?
    Are the lessons too heavy?
    And the grievances,
    never fully formed
    before you placed them
    on your shoulders,
    never really yours
    at all, that weight.
    Ready or not.

    Ready or not
    here I come, willing myself
    once again into existence,
    in search of a label
    that isn’t too small.
    Thinking of dropping
    the weight and the grief,
    and learning, maybe
    right this time,
    to carry only the lessons
    and wear them
    like badges on my chest.
    Ready or not.

  11. Kateland

    The Last Graduation 4-23-18

    Each man is born a sinner, may
    Proceed to find the truth
    Obstacles may skew the way
    An honest man pulls through
    If man should heed the wonderous word
    And Set all sins to rue
    Angels will greet death and say,
    This saint to heaven, forsooth!

    Kateland Smith

    1. tripoet

      I like these lines: Obstacles may skew the way
      An honest man pulls through,

      I visualized a man pulling a heavy load on a wagon. I think when words create a visualization, it has succeeded.

  12. candy

    Unlimited Potential

    Lined up on the stage
    You can see the light of
    The future shining all
    Around them – The Graduates
    Their goofy grins hold
    Promises of unlimited potential
    They pose for pictures
    Wearing their “Sunday finest”
    Expecting only the best from
    Life as they move on
    Unconcerned with what comes next
    Ready to tackle any problem
    The playground can throw at them
    Ready to leave Kindergarten behind

    1. k weber

      i really enjoyed reading this poem. my mind gravitated toward high school graduation throughout most of the poem and then looking back, the goofy grins and sunday clothes were even sweeter 🙂 i love how they are unconcerned and ready to tackle the playground… such a fun perspective!

  13. Anthony94

    Grass around the Flagpole

    was dark green almost wet
    with the evening
    dew coming on
    soothing
    my swollen toe
    where I’d scraped
    the stinger from a bee
    disturbed in white clover

    tomorrow I’d leave this place
    cram my foot into a white
    shoe that didn’t fit
    bought by a stranger

    return to the four-room
    with no possibility
    the same curtains
    I’d seen for 18 years
    shrouding possibility
    choking hope
    holes so big
    in old lace
    it would seep out

    tonight was loving
    and hating it all
    the captivity of boarding school
    the horror of no school
    beyond tonight so I listened

    to their joy those other kids
    making plans and pretended
    it would be the same
    for me. Packed my blue
    painted shortening can

    from the bakery back in
    Kansas City with my old
    uniforms and pretended again
    it was a suitcase I was proud
    to own, piled my sheets
    on top of dreams
    shut the lid.

    1. k weber

      so poignant and such memorable detail. i really like how the poem starts with the shared uniformity and solemnity but ends with that contrasted life standing out from the others.

  14. Poetjo

    Passing Grade

    How
    do you
    graduate
    from
    grief?

    You
    don’t.

    New
    lessons
    appear
    all the
    time
    and
    the
    only
    way
    I know
    I’m
    passing
    the
    test
    is
    that
    I
    still
    cry
    when
    I
    need
    to.

  15. PowerUnit

    Black Trains

    Black trains rumble through the night
    Their careless journey counted right
    By the ties that bind us in sight
    Of towns and cities of this great land
    Like a magic spell cast from a broken wand
    Reliance on resources drained from the pond
    We’re addicted to lavish lifestyles
    We keep driving, driving, driving the piles
    Turning into something only the poor revile
    Have mercy on all our myopic souls
    Wealth requires oh so many more owes
    We’ll be lucky to keep out of the holes
    One, five, ten, twenty, one-hundred
    A graduation of civilized bloodshed

  16. taylor graham

    CLIMBING THE STEPS

    for C.C. Peirce (1825-1903)

    Graduation after graduation –
    law school, key to a world of courtroom
    intrigue for which he wasn’t fit; then
    seminary, another place to discover
    creeds of hate against love. Still,
    he was ordained; set sail for the wild
    west of California. San Francisco.
    But even there, in the ministry,
    he found that money rules the world.
    He kept moving, suitcase in hand,
    to the Sierra foothills, ending up here –
    what’s sometimes called God’s country.
    He founded a church, graduated
    to become Reverend of Our Savior,
    Placerville. Still not enough. Carrying
    his same old suitcase full of books –
    each book a step in the climb to
    learning, knowledge, enlightenment –
    he walked the foothill fringes
    of his parish – circuits of small towns,
    settlements, isolated dwellings –
    up-ridge, down-canyon to cross
    the roaring South Fork then climbing
    the Divide. He passed out books
    as he talked with the people, bringing
    the Word and its consolations in a world
    still green and growing. God’s Country.

  17. Daniel Paicopulos

    Graduation Day

    After a year of tears,
    not from kitchen prep work,
    but from weekly PTSD therapy,
    where an onion of another
    sort was peeled,
    I asked if I would get a gold star.
    She said,
    no, you get more homework.
    For how long, I asked,
    already knowing the answer
    to be for the rest of my life.
    Knowing it to be
    a life sentence,
    we still called it
    graduation day.
    Time to stand up straight,
    shoulders back,
    treat myself like someone
    I am responsible for helping,
    always tell the truth,
    (or at least don’t lie),
    and live my life
    with incisive simplicity
    and tart common sense.
    Oh, and when I encounter
    a dog or cat anywhere,
    pet it.

    1. tripoet

      I love strong endings and yours is definitely poignant.
      and tart common sense.
      Oh, and when I encounter
      a dog or cat anywhere,
      pet it.

      This poem is so powerful. If you are a Veteran I strongly suggest that you submit to Veterans’ Voices. I know about VV because it is based in Kansas City but is a very attractive national publication. They even give monetary awards for select poems. You can google to see how to submit. I think this poem would be a great fit for it.

      1. Daniel Paicopulos

        Thank you for that suggestion. I am a Marine veteran with two Purple Hearts and 50 year’s of getting to this place. I have neve4 been one to submit much of anything except to social media, but this might be a good place to consider

    2. tripoet

      WOW! Thank you for your service. I happened to be in contact with the VV today and they are very pleased that you are considering sending in your work. Why don’t you give it a go? You are an exceptional poet and others can benefit from your words. 🙂

      Again, thank you so much for your service and for sharing your poetry. I’ll look forward to seeing more. Blessings, Annie

      1. Daniel Paicopulos

        The therapy reatment was a lot tougher. It was also effective, helpful and gratifying. The poem reminds me that this will always be with me, but the past remorse and guilt are abated, and when the sadness and anger arise, I know what it is and what to do.

  18. tripoet

    1964————————–2018

    Graduations

    My husband was handed a degree,
    orders to Vietnam, (he looked up on a map),
    and took a wife, the girl of his dreams
    pre-war, all in the same week. Soon
    bullets were flying at him from every angle.
    Life later hinged on second chances.

    The lad down the street this past Sunday
    watched his dad help the party rental company
    lift the tables and chairs from the van.
    A food truck parked in his drive.
    I imagined projectiles flying over the fence
    during the backyard food fights.

  19. connielpeters

    My Niece

    Almost thirty,
    she drives along,
    twiddling her hair
    like she did when she
    was a little girl.

    Now, she’s graduated
    to designated driver
    for two worried aunts,
    not brave enough
    to drive on the left.

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