Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 456

For today’s prompt, write a tragic poem. Last week, I said the world is filled with magic for those who are open to seeing it. The world is also filled with tragic moments–both large and small. Of course, the big tragedies include violence and death, but smaller ones could include missed opportunities or minor mistakes.


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Here’s my attempt at a Tragic Poem:

“because i can’t”

because i can’t take one more day
of tragic lies caught on replay

i think i’ll find a quiet place
to disappear without a trace

into a book or piece of art
that shines a light inside my heart

because i know knowing a truth
from my sad comic tragic youth

will not delay the coming night
filled full of mystery and fright

the dark will cover all in time
until there’s no bell left to chime


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’s experienced his share of tragedy and happiness in his time on this planet.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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95 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 456

  1. Glory


    Not sure how it happened
    Really no intent
    I guess you had me crying
    After everything was said
    You really hurt me this time
    Not much that I could do
    The knife was in my hand
    Sorry! No, I’m not sorry
    I hurt you

  2. shethra77


    I remember when my siblings and I
    ran through grassy park fields
    filled with clover.
    We screamed about honeybees
    (flowers buzzing with them)
    as we ran, and running,
    tried to miss them.

    This summer, mid-July
    I stroll through our commons
    (all grass and clover).

    I could roll naked through this field
    and not be stung.

  3. Jane Shlensky

    A Normal Tragedy

    A normal tragedy is such
    that homes are wrecked, cancers return,
    blazes engulf or slowly burn,
    our loves are lost or out of touch.
    We say life doesn’t hurt us much
    lest we elicit much concern
    with normal tragedy.

    But we were happy, don’t you see–
    the world our oyster yesterday.
    Misfortune took it all away.
    We are bereft, stripped bare, and free
    by normal tragedy.

  4. fbxwriter


    The dot will go on
    Pale and blue

    Our home, however
    Will it continue?

    We have the means
    To make it so

    But lately I think
    The answer is

  5. Darlene Franklin

    (a rondine)

    Peace officers, that’s what we’re called, Lou said
    But we couldn’t pacify anything.
    Not that day in that place, there was nothing
    To do, but I gotta try something new
    He cocked his police hat back on his head
    Not every fight should end in death
    Peace officers
    If seen that way, we’re less likely to chew
    Seize the day, meet the people, plunge ahead
    Not stiff nor numb but alive, listening
    Seize each word and hear its meaning
    Peace officers

  6. Darlene Franklin

    Powdered sugar under red velvet skies
    Tinsel-wrapped trees of rose wine raspberry
    Lone figure slaloms between firs
    Faster, faster, plunge into drifting mounds
    Shadows chasing, snow eclipsing
    Dizzying, whirling, blinding, hurling
    Wilder, faster, bet on disaster
    Pretzel sticks twisted against bloody sheets
    Darlene Franklin

  7. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    there is a dog barking

    there is a dog barking, proabably
    a big one, a strong dog because
    you can hear how his entire being
    is thrown into that bark.
    the bark has a lot of being in it.

    i don’t know what makes a dog
    want to shout like that but,
    if it were a person i would’ve
    called the police hours ago because
    i can’t hear myself trying to be

  8. Terry Jude Miller


    we did not lose our home
    we know exactly where
    we left it, but

    we no longer have a country
    we foolishly believed
    we were our country

    we did not know, because
    we are not soil and water that
    we could be disowned

    we look now for pity and people
    we have no choice
    we must approach them with open hands

  9. sincerescribe

    How tragic to observe loved ones suffer
    When you have witnessed that God can buffer!
    With empathy, you offer words and prayer,
    Hoping burdens, they will let Jesus bear.

    They reject God and continue to fail,
    Fighting their life’s battles without avail.
    If only they would surrender to Him,
    They could exist with an outlook less dim.

  10. grcran

    to our orb

    sad world pained planet
    once fully diverse and balanced
    predators and prey balancing anew daily hourly
    and according to rules of land sea and sky
    rainbow prisming of flowers ferns cacti seaweed
    no landfills no roadside trash
    no roads, back then
    now frogs toads honeybees redwood trees saddened
    now devastated by human billions
    all greedily needing more and caring less
    o Earth! o tragedy!

    gpr crane

  11. Sara McNulty

    Blind Eye

    fish die
    animals starve
    people are bombed
    blind eye

    losing allies
    gaining dictators
    crimes against humanity
    blind eye

    opioid use intensifies
    black men are profiled
    justice has turned
    a blind eye

  12. taylor graham

    last survivor in the village

    She’s had enough of her own un-kind –
    half-man half-horse savaging down on her
    village, snatching every soul she’s known.
    Even the children carried off for slaves.
    She couldn’t save them. Those traders left
    her nothing but shattered legs soon turned
    to gangrene. Dying in her own skin. She
    accepts the trade as she must. Tonight
    she’ll let Coyote take her, far from
    the miseries of a human world.

  13. PowerUnit

    No October Ball For You

    Your starting pitcher gets a million a game
    and you call it a tragedy you won’t win again

    This year without the edge you cut through them with
    two years ago, when the dynasty bells chimed loud,

    but I am unemployed, struggling to make ends meet
    and you shed no tears for me or my hungry kids.

    Pull up your socks you said, tie up your boots, get a
    job, buckle down and fight. Life is not fair. Only

    the best get ahead in this game, only the hungry
    get to play for the title. the money, and the fame.

    Well I’ve borrowed a good book from the library,
    so I’ll be shedding no tears for your dying team or

    your hurt pride, the money you wasted on a sweater
    and a team cap that you’ll be embarrassed to wear.

    1. grcran

      wow, this is powerful work, very well-written… i still like baseball though, and believe that many of the players do shed tears for hungry kids and give some of their money to help communities, but you are correct in saying that some of them do not shed the tears

  14. furrong

    Ode To The One

    Margaret told me all the answers
    He had said them to her once
    He spoke them softly, which was not like him
    nor was saying things only once.

    Margaret asked me if I remembered the answers
    Then she whispered them quietly under her breath
    Her eyes darted up to me, had I noticed?
    The indent on the couch he left?

    Margaret Listened, a school bell was ringing.
    He was walking her by the Old mill.
    She didn’t like the way he was always talking
    Now she listens for him still.

  15. headintheclouds87

    In These Tragic Eyes

    It’s a tragic thing
    When eyes once burning
    Are left dim and black-ringed
    Tired of the numb feeling
    Of merely existing;
    A far cry from the fire before
    That thrust the body to action,
    Now a pitiful tiny flame
    Flickering in a weary reaction.

    Only an event most epic
    Can lift the tragic air
    That chokes the inferno inside
    Just begging to be released again,
    If only the will would come
    To awaken the creator within
    Who put the world on his own spin
    And would sooner stamp his mark there
    Than merely be the observer of it.

  16. De Jackson

    The Tragedy of Toes

    They’re stubbed
    and snubbed
    and scuffed
    and stuffed
    into those cute heel-strappies.

    (Misery might love company,
    but all of ’em ain’t happy.)

    They’re cramped
    and tramped
    and clamped
    and damped
    in puddles, ponds and lakes.

    (You’d think that we might give ’em
    a break, for heaven’s sakes.)

    They’re socked
    and mocked
    and shocked
    and stocked
    with polish, paint and piggies.

    (They’ve gone to market, hell
    and back, and shrugged and said “no biggies.”)

    They’re shod
    and clod
    and flawed
    and thawed.
    (That’s the tragedy of toes-es.)

    And sometimes,
    they get stinky.

    {Thus: a tragedy of noses.}


  17. De Jackson

    All Rise

    I say the tragedy is how you’re gonna spend the rest of your nights with the light on
    So shine the light on all of your friends…
                                              – Jason Mraz

    This sky’s
    got a million ways of cracking
    just wide open, holding
    out its beating,
    thunderous heart.

    I didn’t ask you enough questions
    before you left, and now
    I’m scared
    of all these things
    I’ll never know.

    The rain’s got a patter
    of truth to her, but the wind, well
              she lies
              in wait
    for those of us
    with sympathetic ears.

    Is there magic
    in the knowing? Or are we
    merely kidding ourselves
    and calling it good?

    All these years,
    I simply thought the earth
    a comedy
    of errors,
    a gathering of fools.

    And me,
                (ay, me!)
    still full of songs
    and silence.


  18. taylor graham


    You checked into the old Gold Rush hotel
    for its ambience, its lore. Brick masonry four
    stories tall with full front balcony overlooking
    Main Street. Stepping in the door, you admired
    the fine woodworking and the grand staircase
    dating from 1857. You rode the original elevator
    to the second floor, and found your room.
    It was late, you’d had a long drive. You went
    to bed; and soon asleep. You woke – a
    start, to see four people standing over you.
    A priest, a doctor, a mother and father.
    They didn’t notice you at all, but spoke in soft
    worried tones about the sick baby. How
    could you sleep in such a bed? You learned,
    in your room a whole family died of the flu.
    How many deaths in this town, from that
    epidemic? In this very room, these spirits
    still haunting the passings.

  19. brokenlens

    Happy gets adopted

    I remember
    holding your hand on long walks to the park
    I remember
    The sidewalks glittered with autum leaves
    I remember
    They way you smiled, cigarette smoke blowing in the breeze
    I remember
    The Blistering smell of Bar-b-cue aromatic through the town
    I remember
    You nursing my wounded knee when ever I fell down
    I remember
    You saying bye, while trying not to cry
    I remember
    You wanted a good home for me, social worker said she’d try
    I remember
    never blaming you, there had to be reasons why
    I remember
    our last walk and the day we said goodbye

  20. tripoet

    The Dark Light

    It isn’t the darkness that haunts
    the inmate. In prison where everything
    is upside down, it is the unceasing light
    reminding the inmate of things
    he wished he could forget. He’d welcome
    a blackout, find comfort in the dark,
    grow more with less bright- haunted
    by a shine that will never go out, no matter
    how hard he tries to turn the switch off
    in his mind. It is the too revealing light
    that robs him of the solace found in Aloneness.

  21. k weber

    tragic figure

    i never once stopped
    traffic but often wanted
    to run right into it. i’ve been

    asked why i am so sad
    sometimes, to stop that.
    i never once asked to carry

    all of these secrets.
    i often just wanted a hug
    for no reason. i run fast

    from the past like a gold
    medalist but the track
    is still a sort of circle. i am

    often sitting in my own lane.
    sometimes i haven’t passed
    or even paced my progress.

  22. PressOn


    Tragedy and comedy
    wear different masks, or so they say,
    but I confess that, day by day,
    they somehow seem the same to me,
    for as I’m watching life’s great play
    each laugh seems to accompany

    They seem to share osmosity;
    perhaps this reason is their way:
    it’s comedy that keeps at bay
    events that might work out to be

  23. Daniel Paicopulos

    A Note Found on a Desk

    Thank you for
    completing me,
    this being
    my last task,
    left hanging,
    waiting for your part,
    otherwise how tragic,
    how it might sadly be,
    no beauty, no art.

    Did I die well?
    I have given the matter
    great thought,
    well, frequent thought at least,
    perhaps not so profound,
    this being the nature of the beast.
    My preference would have been
    for the least untidy end,
    free of trauma for me,
    to be sure, but see,
    even more for my discoverer,
    upon whom I must depend.
    I had thought it would be best
    to be asleep at the time,
    but maybe it wasn’t so,
    maybe at my desk,
    one last comma to insert,
    or to remove…now there’s
    a tragedy, I know.

    I did not want it
    to be in public,
    strangers made awkward by the intrusion,
    but my fondness for my love
    led me to wish for not at home,
    though she would wish for her inclusion.
    Ah, the dilemma.
    Well, no more.
    What it was, it was.
    Do not be sad, please,
    as I am not,
    this ancient body
    had long begun its rot.
    I have seen
    some of what is to be,
    the thin veil,
    the great mystery,
    the ever-hopeful maybe.
    Be well, and do not shirk,
    do great work
    with small things.
    And keep in touch.

  24. Walter J Wojtanik

    Tragic flaw… Let’s try that again.

    Thalia and Melpomene

    “Well, we all have a face
    That we hide away forever
    And we take them out
    And show ourselves when everyone has gone.”
    ~ Billy Joel from “The Stranger”

    We all wear a mask.
    To hide our fears, insecurities,
    our anger and hate.
    Identities obscured as if
    voices unheard were really silenced.
    Violence and the aftermath
    are dispatched, plans hatched
    in a tragic sense are forgone.
    It’s almost funny in a sick sort of way.
    We play it for comedic effect,
    to protect our hearts and minds.
    We come to find that Comedy and Tragedy
    walk a fine line, separated by a breath
    of laughter or tears of great sadness.
    The madness never ends, my friends.
    Unmask and be free.

  25. Walter J Wojtanik

    Thalia and Melpomene

    Well, we all have a face
    That we hide away forever
    And we take them out
    And show ourselves when everyone has gone.

    We all wear a mask.
    To hide our fears, insecurities,
    our anger and hate.
    Identities obscured as if
    voices unheard were really silenced.
    Violence and the aftermath
    are dispatched, plans hatched
    in a tragic sense are forgone.
    It’s almost funny in a sick sort of way.
    We play it for comedic effect,
    to protect our hearts and minds.
    We come to find that Comedy and Tragedy
    walk a fine line, separated by a breath
    of laughter or tears of great sadness.
    The madness never ends, my friends.
    Unmask and be free.

  26. Anthony94


    You know when you walk by the book
    titled Mood Disorders and it’s really
    Komodo Dragons that things have slipped

    downhill again the icy draw receiving
    pieces of sweater, boot scrapings where
    you tried to anchor along the slope

    slid back (the irony of moving back
    when moving forward) but that’s how
    it is and you are sleep deprived again

    telling numbers on the phone/clock
    like a child learning by rote the digits
    that mark the course of a day

    but it’s night that foils all the white
    pills prescribed no less as remedy
    but wait, surely by now cats

    will stop by the window and tell you
    it’s time to get up and you will
    put out pans of food for them

    as they talk to you in their own way
    as if they knew.

  27. Karen31

    Tragic Magic

    Tragic magic waits for you –
    Don’t attempt a witch’s brew;
    Stay away from gnarly wands,
    Do not carry garlic garlands.

    Equally, do not rely
    On angels floating in the sky
    Shepherds keeping watch at night
    Or that it all will end in ‘light.’

    It’s within you to be strong
    Find your way, sing your song
    Help yourself, and others, too,
    And be the most amazing You!

  28. connielpeters

    Tragic Regrets

    He sits there in his wheelchair with head bowed,
    Hands folded across lap, ankle on knee.
    Eyes closed, he breathes deeply while he dozes.
    Eating breakfast took long (hard to swallow).

    Men like him line retirement home hallways.
    He sits there in his wheelchair with head bowed.
    Today he said God left him here for me.
    That thought makes me feel a little guilty.

    I know he’d rather romp on golden streets,
    Where he could run, walk, sing and talk clearly.
    He sits there in his wheelchair with head bowed,
    Wishing he’d go back two summers ago.

    Then he would follow a nurse’s advice,
    Go to the doc’s and get blood pressure checked.
    Perhaps he could have avoided two strokes.
    He sits there in his wheelchair with head bowed.

  29. Walter J Wojtanik


    Prolific comes to roost,
    a boost to his ego that
    words would flow with force,
    of course he’s confused.
    Has he abused his muse
    and driven like minded souls
    off? He scoffs at the notion
    for surely their devotion to words
    was equally as strong.
    Did he pick the wrong day to
    splay his poetry on the page
    in lieu of others offerings?
    The prompt is posted
    and one who once boasted
    of a muse so demanding
    finds no one else is playing.
    Are they delaying?
    Is everyone asleep?
    Or is he the last poet standing?

  30. Walter J Wojtanik


    Her father called her Kat, always with great tenderness. From the time she was in the cradle, Catherine was her father’s angel. He doted over her and protected her. When Catherine was three, he had taken her to the county fair; a good ol’ country girl who loved the animals and the simplicity of life. She told stories about how she loved peering into the animal tents to watch them munching on apples and corn. But she also remembered seeing other things, secret things the “carnie” teens did exploring their youth and each other. But she had sent those memories into exile. When her father had died, Catherine’s mother became unhinged. Her spirits plummeted and a tension had built between mother and daughter. This angst clawed at Kat’s heart and left her a ravaged heap of humanity; a pile of confusion – she lost her father and was losing her mother. When she turned eighteen, the memories of those young people in the animal tents haunted her. Catherine made the tragic decision to find her comfort elsewhere, in the arms of strangers. She called herself Kit, a bastardization of her father’s love. That’s all everything had become now!

    Her loss brought her pain.
    Nothing could ease her struggle.
    That was her first clue.

  31. Walter J Wojtanik


    The memory of her father was shadowy; a blur.
    She recalled him being hard as flint and quite austere;
    to even get close to him, she felt as if she’d
    have to scrape the barnacles from his rough keel.
    And her damaged soul. She needed to take control.
    So Prudence retreated into her sterile cocoon,
    an attempt to bolster her burnished and brittle heart.
    But the wail of sobs and her torrent of tears
    drenched her bodice, a saline stain,
    leaving the offensive taste of salt on her tongue.

  32. Muniya

    An Ashpit of Secrets
    1:11 am, I am rustling my old, flexible sheets of moist imaginations

    Long forgotten, willingly hindered papers of lying words.

    My muddy hands shake, bend, and shake again

    This was once my territory, the room

    Where my mother died;

    That window, those curtains, and the eaten wooden table

    Were my inspirations, the source of my solitary solace in crowded inventions.

    Turning off the shower, my hands look fresh

    New, clean and guileless

    As if my horrific accomplishment is gone like the November storm.

    It is a wintry, freezy, broken night and the girl in front of me

    is busy collecting the precious pieces of her frozen tears.

    I touch her inane chest; ache fills my bosom

    Like the air fits into my lungs.

    I remember that little, sunken face used to be

    Pretty and those bluish orbs of black oceans it had

    Were full of day-hopes and open-eyed nightdreams.

    Mother was gone by the time her husband married an uncanny feminine existence

    She passed away like the fragile petals of the dandelion,

    Floating with her was I, her little princess.

    After her, my liquid imagination used to fall from my hands and eyes

    Without my premature knowledge.

    I let it happen with a sense of oblivion.

    Today my soft hands have turned into hard, stony graves

    With the cold, stinky blood of that unearthly devilish figure.

    My old male parent will be beyond the cloud nine of depression

    But, I, the innocent poet will start inking down my journey

    From a daughter to a killer.
    _ Muniya Pyne

  33. Walter J Wojtanik


    Billed as the Alabaster Disaster,
    a fighter by his trade,
    he made his bread
    taking blows to the head
    with such force that
    of course, his thoughts
    were in jumbled chaos. Graphic
    violence does that to tragic
    people; when he hit the height,
    no one else could reach his altitude.
    But when he fell, it felt as if his life
    was a bottomless mine.
    He stood in the clearing hearing the bell
    that constantly rang in his head.
    His career was dead, he would soon follow.

  34. Walter J Wojtanik


    There he sits with pen in hand
    scratching ink marks as if thoughts
    coming to rise up to embrace his page.
    No words can describe how no words
    come to the fore. And what’s more,
    he feels his best work is behind him.
    It reminds him that he had come
    from nothing to be something more
    than a fool with a rhythmic muse.
    He refuses to let it stop him from being.
    He is seeing things through the eyes
    of a poet’s heart and that’s where he starts.
    He had struggled greatly with his stately art
    lately. Life had handed him a grand detour
    but he was sure his words would regale again
    and send a signal that he had never left,
    he was just bereft of inspiration.
    But from his lowly station a phoenix ascends.
    It never ends for the tragic poet.


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