2017 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 30

Here we are: It’s the final day of this challenge. Look for next steps sometime between now and Monday. But first, let’s poem one last time!

For today’s prompt, write a “back in the day” poem. You might also call this a “good old days” poem or a “bad old days” poem. To me, back in the day is synonymous with history–but a kind of personal history (even if shared among a community).


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Here’s my attempt at a Back in the Day Poem:

“& she’d always rock in the chair”

we’d get together all the time
the eight brewer cousins & play
while our parents got together
& she’d always rock in the chair

cracking jokes & making comments
about this or that & we would laugh
because we enjoyed each other
& she’d always rock in the chair

whether we were playing football
or listening to music &
sharing sorry made up dance moves
& she’d always rock in the chair

until she wasn’t there anymore
& we noticed but failed to say
anything because we wanted
her to always rock in that chair


Robert Lee Brewer

Robert 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 and Writer’s Market, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He lost one of his cousins this week, and he hopes she’s found a nice chair to rock in. Also, he wants to let everyone know how much he’s enjoyed another great month of poeming with friends–new and old.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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203 thoughts on “2017 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 30

  1. Shennon

    A curled yellow rope
    of a cord
    clings to my finger,
    pink tip indicating
    impeded blood flow
    as I loop the cord in
    large circles,
    like the double jump rope
    at recess.
    My brother’s tuft of sandy hair
    peeks around the corner.
    He grins to let me know
    he’s been listening.
    As a threat, I form a noose
    with the cord.
    When he laughs,
    I turn my back,
    then cup the receiver
    with my hand.
    A land line tethered
    to the wall
    makes privacy impossible.
    I’m grateful, at least,
    that we’ve progressed past
    party lines.


  2. Connie Peters

    The Good Old Days

    In the good old days,
    when his voice boomed
    as he strummed his guitar
    and everyone sang along.

    When his strong arms
    held me and I felt safe.
    When he walked in long strides
    with a little bounce in his step.

    When his penmanship was beautiful
    and he’d tell how his teacher
    used to make him demonstrate
    for other kids to learn.

    Seems odd that good old days
    were only a few months ago.
    Before the stroke.

  3. Brandi Noelle

    Joys of Youth

    I recall them well
    Those days of my youth
    Of innocence, play, imagination
    And wasting away afternoons
    Hours spent with Barbie dolls
    Hopscotch in rainbow-colored chalk
    Sketched across the sidewalk
    Cotton candy-scented hula hoops
    Scratch-and-sniff stickers
    Children’s treasures smelled so sweet
    Strawberry Shortcake and those little ponies
    Waiting lists for Cabbage Patch dolls
    Outside play meant roller skates
    And miles of riding bicycles
    A jingle heard from down the street
    Treats from the ice cream truck
    Jelly bracelets and leg warmers
    High-top sneakers and denim…everything
    Walkman blaring mixed tapes
    Friendship bracelets braided from yarn
    Simpler times, happier times
    Memories bring a smile to my face
    The good old days

  4. Eileen S

    November 22, 1963

    The end of Camelot
    the President was shot.
    Fifty- four years later,
    I have not forgot.

    Just a school girl
    about Caroline’s age,
    I knew nothing
    of the political stage.

    To Walter Cronkite,
    it made no sense
    as he fought tears,
    reporting the event.

    A veiled widow
    looking very sad
    and two young ones
    bereft of their dad.

    On network television
    the funeral was aired.
    A collective grief,
    the country shared.

  5. headintheclouds87

    The Good Old Days

    I remember when
    We’d ride bikes until sunset
    Struggling to scale the steep hills
    Of a muddy makeshift course
    Full of perilous dips and bumps,
    To then come barrelling down again,
    Then repeat, until boredom set in,
    Or bloody scabs marked our knees,
    (Whatever happened to come first).
    This is how we’d pass the days
    With only our wits and wily ways
    To entertain us, a simpler age
    Where anything could keep us amused,
    And we’d be forever enthused
    By forest paths and mystic caves
    Before life became serious and grave.

  6. MET


    Back in the day
    We were family.
    We still are, but
    I am here on this side, and
    I can’t see you anymore.
    I can’t touch you, or
    Laugh with you.
    I was broken
    But now I am not…
    I may not be able
    To touch you anymore,
    I feel you,
    Know you are a part of me,
    I am a part of you.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    November 30, 2017

  7. Walter J Wojtanik


    Two young boys caps askew, discussing the finer points of the designated hitter, a wad of Fleer’s between their cheeks, a bat over the shoulder of one, glove in tow. A cleanly stitched Spaulding tightly gripped and the other astride his bike, Jose Canseco stuck in his spokes. Not a common scene today, a refreshing look; a throw back.

    A clear spring evening
    memories of youth invade
    in mental cascade

  8. cobanionsmith

    More or Less, a Fibonacci

    to have
    to wait hand
    to pen to paper
    like magic a message appeared
    words meant something to the sender the recipient
    an investment the cost of inconvenience made the effort prescious time spent
    now notifications’ instant arrival has killed
    anticipation’s aching and
    artful cause
    with less

    Courtney O’Banion Smith

  9. Tracy Davidson

    Mentioning no names…

    he liked the old days
    when he could get away with
    groping who he chose
    he preferred it when women
    “knew their place” and held their tongues

    women prefer it
    when men keep hands to themselves
    (and other parts too)
    when they can speak up freely
    know their real place in this world

  10. Walter J Wojtanik


    Left behind.
    After all that have gone before.
    A box.
    No one left to claim the contents,
    so it becomes mine.

    Scraps and relics of foregone places,
    tug on my mind for the slightest traces
    of remembrance.
    Remnants of vaguely familiar people
    who caused me to be.
    Reminders of the way
    things came about in my history.

    The past revisited
    in fond recollection.
    I study the faces
    and strain for a mention
    of a name. Many are unknown
    and will remain so.
    But, in the myriad of this photographic
    patchwork I find a common thread,
    which binds this present
    to those long agos.

    This sepia tone
    is the trigger that fires these synaptic
    glimpses at who I have become
    and of the people who “brought” me to this place.

    Sepia is the color of memory.

  11. Valkyri

    candlelight christmas

    candlelight christmas:
    darkened room,
    glowing hues
    of vibrancy
    from the
    ancient fir…
    small ornaments
    purples, greens,
    burgandy reds…
    gleaming colors
    precious treasures
    hiding and
    gaily wrapped…
    the deciduous
    evergreen scent
    fully alive…
    snow drifts
    (layers piled
    high outside)
    while dancing
    inside upon
    corner table
    small carousel-
    trumpeting cherubs,
    sparkling angels
    of gold…
    tinkling bells
    carried around
    and around
    forever spinning
    by candle’s
    wavering heat…
    (no tears,
    not tonight)
    safe child
    in sweet
    shelter of
    family’s bosom
    watching quietly…
    fancy lights
    sparkle, twinkle…
    listening to
    singing sounds…
    angel’s fiery
    bells chime

  12. De Jackson

    Black & White

    Got a photograph of a smile
    taken way back when we could smile.
    Now this plane will take me
    where, I don’t know…
                        – Collective Soul

    There’s a sepia tone
    smile somewhere in this drawer
    that says we once were
    something more,

    before things went gray.
    Before the lines got blurred.
    Before you slurred the words
    and punched the wall. Before

    I balled up the dress that was
    my mama’s and ripped the photo
             in half
    as my heart.

    Before I started wondering
    what else could be.

    Before both the night
    and the chalk dust
    cleared, and I no longer


  13. Bruce Niedt

    Attention Digital Disorder

    Back in the day,
    if we had a problem away from home,
    we’d have to find a pay phone booth
    to make a call.

    Back in the day,
    if we had to call friends or family
    we usually had the numbers
    in the Rolodex of your heads.

    Now everything is wireless
    in your fingertips
    but you have to look up all the numbers
    sometimes even your own.

    Back in the day,
    we could read a whole novel
    in one sitting.

    Back in the day,
    we might read the daily paper
    from front to back
    and do the crossword puzzle too.

    Now everything is sound bites and memes,
    and ideas compressed to 140 characters,
    because you don’t have the time
    or attention to read much more.

    Back in the day
    it could take hours for us
    to do a difficult math problem.

    Back in the day
    if we wrote a term paper
    we’d spend days in the library
    and hunt and peck on our Smith-Coronas.

    Now encyclopedias and spell checks
    are in the palm of your hand,
    any fact just a Google search away,
    but you still can’t write a coherent sentence.

  14. Bruce Niedt

    Back in the Day

    Back in the day, I could do quadratic equations and translate poetry from the French.
    Back in the day, I could tell you all the lead actors in each of my favorite movies.
    Back in the day, I could read a whole book in one sitting and tell you the plot.
    Back in the day, I had all my computer security passwords memorized.
    Back in the day, I had family and friends’ phone numbers in my head.
    Back in the day, I could tell you what I had for lunch yesterday.
    Back in the day, I remembered where I left my glasses.
    Back in the day, I could still do a crossword puzzle.
    Back in the day, I knew when to take my pills.
    Back in the day, I didn’t leave the stove on.
    Back in the day, I recognized my children.
    Back in the day, I knew your name.
    Back in the day, I knew…
    Back in the day…

  15. MET


    Ma told Da,
    “I don’t fish; so, I don’t clean them
    Or cook them.”
    Da smiled for she didn’t make coffee either.
    Some Saturday mornings, he would invite me
    To go fishing with him….
    I didn’t fish either, but I built dams,
    And got soaking wet
    In the river.
    When he had caught his limit,
    We would stop
    At a white clapboard country store,
    And he would buy moon pies, and
    A grape soda some peanuts
    To put in it.
    He would talk to proprietor
    Asking about business,
    How long he lived here, and
    What he liked to do…
    They would jaw, and I would listen.
    Da and I would sit outside
    With the sun tumbling through the trees
    Spattering down upon us…
    Drinking our grape soda with peanuts,
    And have crumbles of moon pie on our chins.
    When my clothes had dried,
    He towed me up and said,
    “Your Ma will be waiting, and
    I need to clean the fish.
    She may not fish, but she will eat them.”
    I smiled because I knew she still
    Would not make the coffee.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    November 30, 2017

  16. MichelleMcEwen

    Back in the Day

    Nothing like
    how we played
    back in the
    day— catching leprechauns.
    Cupping them
    in our palms,
    peeking in.
    so strong,
    you can’t tell me
    I ain’t see

  17. LCaramanna


    Photographs show our history
    in vivid digital effects.
    Only the good memories
    frozen in photographs,
    for I would not be so foolish as to
    preserve a bad memory
    in vivid digital effects.
    Photographs show our story,
    all those wonderful moments
    when time stood still
    while the click of the shutter
    captured your smile
    and your arm around my shoulder held me close.
    Our history is written
    in vibrant colors through the lens of my camera
    so as memory fades,
    photographs remind me.

    Lorraine Caramanna

  18. MET

    I miss civility…
    The time when even
    You did not like someone…
    You still treated them kind,
    Sometimes with a barbed wit, and
    The tete a tete begins,
    With no name calling.
    When men knew the limits, and
    Women knew them too,
    As did children.
    It maybe stuffy, but
    Words meant more then
    Because they were not given so freely.
    They were thought out and
    Measured as to how it sounded
    To the person to whom it was spoken.
    I know there were exceptions…
    There always are…
    I am not talking about exceptions…
    I am talking about
    Being civil, and
    And thinking
    More of others.
    I miss civility.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    November 30, 2017

  19. MET

    Robert, I am so sorry for your loss…. a piece of advice… grief takes time and there is no closure… you just get a new perspective… I pray you have a safe journey thru the field of grief as well as your family, and I hope that along the way… you find love and joy… and dancing…. take care and again I am so very sorry for your loss….

    Ever in Christ’s Love,
    Mary Elizabeth Todd

  20. MET

    This poem is based on a woman by the name of Emily Earl… she was well known in our community and did ride on horse back as Lady Godiva… came to my grandfather’s house for breakfast in July wearing a full length mink coat… He said, “Miss Emily,,, it is very hot maybe you should take your coat off.” She smiled at him and winked at my grandmother and said, “Mr. Edgar, I don’t have stitch on underneath it.” this is a couple of those stories…

    The Lady who rode like Lady Godiva

    There is a saying in the south…
    We don’t hide our eccentric relatives
    As they do in other places…
    We put them on the front porch, and
    Celebrate them.
    In fact, a whole community celebrated
    This one woman whose legend is infamous.
    She was a daughter of a wealthy farmer,
    A good shot… had ribbons from England
    To prove it.
    She taught school for years…
    She was blue blooded and rich, and
    Eccentric and loved.
    She rode like Lady Godiva
    With her gun by her side…
    She was our eccentric… and
    They reveled in her antics.
    There were stories a plenty
    Spoken with pride
    For she was their eccentric, and
    Was celebrated with pride.
    The Missionary Meeting was held
    And she was the host.
    All the ladies were a twitter…
    Wondering what she would serve…
    Maybe petit fours with some butter mints, and
    They knew the fine old house
    Would be white glove clean.
    They had planned to see if her sweet tea
    Was as good as their own…
    They each had high standards of how
    A Missionary Meeting had to be held.
    The meeting went off as planned….
    With money given to charities, and
    Then the refreshments were to be served.
    The ladies were shocked… so much
    I heard one fainted…
    For this eccentric lady…
    Had to be a touch more than eccentric
    For she served pinto beans and cornbread.
    I can see her smile a sly smile
    As the ladies tried to be so very civilized
    For a good southern woman knows
    Manners always matter
    Along with flower arranging
    And how to make petit fours.
    The one thing I do know…
    No one that was there could tell
    What anyone else had ever served…
    Except they always remembered
    The lady that rode a horse
    Dressed like Lady Godiva
    Broke the unwritten rule
    And served common food
    To the Missionary ladies,
    But they were still all proud
    Of their own eccentric.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    November 30, 2017

    1. ingridbruck

      Robert, Michael Peck in Utah has been writing a poem a day with me in Pennsylvania and SE in Edmonton, Canada. He asked me to post for him and I am. The best I can… Ingrid

      “Ingrid, please paste in the poems for me. I would appreciate it if you would. This is what the prompt popped out of my mind this morning.
      Michael nPeck

      Prompt /  back in the day
       November 30, 2017

      I used to think I was impervious
      to failure
      I was young and wild
      in love with the world
      I had good fortune
      with transitory love
      the sweat dried sweet
      upon my skin
      I worked for myself
      and I treated myself well

      Then came the day
      I lay broken beneath 
      a mangled car
      unable to move
      I saw a different life
      loom before me
      I felt the pain
      of existence
      the knowledge of becoming
      it changed everything
      now I enjoy the present day
      without yesterday’s recriminations
      or tomorrow’s promise ©

  21. Jacqueline Hallenbeck

    $POILED ‘R’ US

    back in the day
    life was innocent and plain
    wallpaper was newspaper
    poor little stinky me couldn’t wait to shower in the rain

    i cherished my first soap
    gifted to me by the rich lady in america (my mom) when she first came to visit
    it smelled so good and looked so exquisite, i kept it in my blouse pocket for a month

    favorite toy was pata pata
    a ball at the end of a rope looped around our ankles that we spun ’round us while skipping in place

    lucky were the days when discarded toys and decapitated barbies traveled their way from other people’s houses into our loving arms in the muddy river beneath our stilt-built home

    punishment did come when our big rebellious sister ripped pages off an entire notebook, made paper boats and sailed them down the river

    grandma fed our colds, starved our fevers and cured all our ills with love and vics vaporub

    for baby sister and i
    happiness was a yellow, matching dress

    back in the day
    santa did not know our address
    and we were okay with that

  22. MET

    No one told me that when people died
    Their homes which
    I was in and out for thirty or more years
    Was no longer accessible to me.
    It took me time to realize this.
    I miss getting hydrangea blossoms
    In late fall from my Aunt Vennie.
    She would take her scissors and we would
    Go to pick the best for the church service.
    She would tell me the latest gossip, and
    I would smile because I could count on her for that.
    The last time I saw her was standing on her porch
    With her apron covering her dress, and
    Handing me big softball size blue and lavender
    Hydrangea blossoms. I leaned over to kiss her check, and
    She patted my face and said. “Now go on with you.”
    We were standing before her white house,
    With the grey porch, red door, and black shutters.
    It was November; a freeze was coming
    Before Sunday. In two weeks at the beginning of December,
    She was gone, and memories were all that was left.
    I miss her house. I miss her. I miss seeing her laughing with Ma.
    I miss the places, and life as it was.

    Mary Elizabeth Todd
    November 30, 2017

  23. Sara McNulty

    I Recall

    I recall:

    old playmates of childhood,
    games of iron tag, jump
    rope, and hula hoop marathons.
    double feature movies
    with cartoons,
    and news reels.
    patent leather shoes,
    tube tops, straightening
    my hair with an iron.
    boyfriends who sang,
    lovers who didn’t.
    the only job I loved.
    my many apartments–
    some with hanging beads,
    some with beanbag chairs.
    heady sense of freedom
    in the sixties and seventies.
    music forever cherished.
    mini, midi, and maxi-
    skirts, fishnet stockings
    with high heels.

    I have changed,
    not changed,
    not lived,
    but kept
    solid my values
    from childhood.

  24. lsteadly

    Robert, I’m so sorry to hear about your cousin. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. This has been such a difficult year in so many ways- thank you for your commitment keeping the chapbook challenge alive and providing us with this creative outlet and for sharing your own poetry. I love this little corner of the world.

    And to all of you amazing poets who gather here, I wish I could have participated every day commenting on your creations, but just know that the days I was able to read and post were sanity-saving moments. Thanks to all of you – you all rock!

  25. Janet Rice Carnahan


    Her only daily goal
    Knowing when
    The fog would clear
    Essential timing
    Making it to the beach
    Early enough
    Using suntan lotion
    Before the ocean
    Began the rolling sets
    Favorite place
    Critical ray angle
    Laying down the towel
    For the all important
    Greatest tan potential
    A few quick body surfing moments
    Before the rest of the cool kids
    Showed up
    Looking for an even bigger wave
    Save them a spot
    Today, the thought
    Remembering, seeing
    Feeling the surf
    The thrill
    Running after each wave
    Before it broke
    Will I catch it
    Will it rumble over me?
    Will I have the nerve
    To ride the curve
    Smiling in this moment
    Happy to just walk on a beach
    Anywhere she can reach
    Current photos of long ago
    Where she still takes the ride
    In her mind
    Maybe her time to body surf
    Has long gone by
    Yet her memory is crystal clear
    Those were the freest days of her life
    So far
    On the sandy shores
    Of a timeless yesterday

  26. cbwentworth

    late morning
    grandma sings
    with the birds

    til dusk we yell
    five more minutes

    movie night
    grandma’s laugh
    lights up the house

    midnight scrabble
    double word score
    grandpa wins

    – – –

    This has been an incredible month of poeming! Thank you, Robert for the challenging and inspiring prompts and thanks to everyone for filling this space with such wonderful poetry and encouraging comments.

  27. grcran

    back in the day

    dark in the bay
    sleek dolphins cavort
    flip flounders in air
    back before sway

    park on the way
    preserving this scene
    conserve, don’t demean
    retract shades of gray

    and spark it, oh play
    revive the old joys
    reinvent ancient toys
    and go
    back in the day

    gpr crane


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