Winter Prompt #24: Lid off a Jar


Winter Prompt #24

Rusted on. The bail jar is full

of round black balls. Plums? How long

have they been here in the dust,

on this webby shelf?

She’s been dead how many years—

the woman whose house this was,

whose name I’ll never know.

A plum tree in the garden,

sheep in the pasture long grown up

to houses and lawns. New houses

not like this crazy one, layers

of wallpaper peeling, wide chestnut

floorboards, the space against the wall

where the kitchen stove used to stand.

Winter Prompts #7: Gear I Can’t Live Without


Winter Prompt #7

It’s six a.m., an easy time to answer.

This pen—silver, with a gold arrow clip,

a gold nib. My real godmother (not

my official one) gave it to me.

It was her mother’s. I cannot

write in my notebook without it.


This coffee mug—the blue one,

made by a local potter whose name

I keep forgetting. Jim somebody?

It’s pear-shaped, textured,

with a pattern around the top,

an underglaze and interior

of honey-color. I can fit all

of my big fingers through the handle,

and either hold the handle itself

or wrap my hand around the cup.


A notebook—this one is spiral bound.

And unlined. Always, always unlined.

There’s something about lines on pages—

perhaps it has to do with school,

with blue-books. But lines on pages,

like ball-point pens and cups

with delicate handles, tighten my hands,

pinch my nerve, keep me in.

Winter Prompts #5: The Postman


Winter Prompt #5


He called himself Havenor Greene

when he wrote poems.

The rest of the time he was

Mr. Barry, the R.F.D. postman

who every morning drove up

to our mailbox on High St.,

leaned way over the passenger seat,

and delivered the mail.  Mother,

who talked all the time

and got to know everybody—

who knew how she knew

about Mr. Barry’s secret name?—

told him her eleven-year old daughter

wrote poems, and the next thing

I knew, I was reading

to the Poetry Society of Vermont

in the upstairs room of some building

in St. Albans.  The older poets

were deeply respectful of me

and my convoluted rhymes.

After that, if I chanced to meet him

at the mailbox, Havenor Greene

talked to me as if I were a colleague,

as if what I was doing was real.

Winter Prompts #1: Write a Proverb


Proverbs 31  King James Version (KJV)

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.


This woman is worth her weight in rubies, all right—

she rises while it is yet night and makes the coffee,

feeds the cats and gives them medicines.

No matter how cold, she takes the dog out in the snow.

She sits then, or tries to, while her husband sleeps,

and she attempts to write and meditate.

The white cat climbs on her desk past the candle

trying to catch his tail on fire, and settles down

on her lap. The dog yelps to go out again

because the rabbits have come to feed.

Her children—her child, really, since she has

just the one—does not rise up to call her blessed.

No one rises up before she does, to call her

blessed, or anything else, for that matter.


January 20, 2018

The Spring St. Poets have decided to use prompts as a way of getting ready for a reading we’re doing in late February. This is one of mine. Mos of these will be rather raw, to put it mildly.

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, part VII

O: The Magnificat Antiphons, part VII


7. O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Saviour:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

With us—where else would you be

except everywhere?

Those galaxies, universes

bubbling into being,

stretching out and letting go.

Photons, quarks in their crazy flavors.

Magma flow, the frozen layers.

White shells and bones.

All the acorns buried under leaves.

The burning horses, stray dogs.

The toddler with brain cancer.

The addict under the bridge

staring at the river.

The black man, shot dead

even as I write these words.

With us.

The woman grinding the last of the grain,

drawing the last bucket of water.

If you’re not with us,

where are we?

And if you are with us,

where are we?



O Come.





Mile high glass mountain.

Enthroned on the peak

the jeering Muse in her Unattainable Princess mode.

She is eating a melon, spitting out the seeds.



Basaltic monolith set down by an alien god

in the middle of the narrow way

between the abyss and the infinite seething swamp



Fierce dark angel with a sword thin as a laser

darting to and fro, to and fro,

severing all connections

the strands of the web

synapses in my brain

sinews in my hand



Little wooden cubes

painted with apples, balls, clowns,

letters upper and lower case





The Kept Writer, July, 2002



Once I was a fisherman

until I caught the talking fish

and ate it—against its objections—

and now I cannot speak

of anything but blue.


Once I was a bookbinder

until I bound a volume

of verses about flowers.

Now I am trapped by fragrances

and the lullabies of bees.


I was a grave-digger

alone among the stones

with the cool earth around me

until all I could do was

sing to the shovel, and the clay.


Once I was a weaver

but one day my fingers tangled

in the web and pulled me in.

Now I go on and on,

a tapestry of knot and scrap.