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The True River

Written in response to a word list from the site Red Wolf Poems

The mallards always told me
magic wasn’t in the cards—faithless magic,
with its trumpeted tricks and striped wands,
scented and false as dolls. Magic that promises
Fire, torrents of Possibility, loud cascading tides of
sleight of hand, disguising the hard kernel of trick
written in dark ink at the center of the river.

All talk.
This true river has no center, only currents textured by
oars, stones, weeping willows striping the banks.
Forget magic. Follow the mallards who know
the river so well, their glowing selves swimming
Home, whole lives swimming in the muck-thick mists
of this real world.

Magic isn’t in the blood, this empty scenery. Forsake
Artifice, forsake the gramophone’s tinny melody
camouflaging the music of the river. When you Dance,
Dance through the dual worlds.
Forsake the blare of magic tricks for unknowing,
for the bend in the river,
for mallards moving in and out of this cage
the bars limpid, impermanent.
The cage door always open.


Rowing This Boat

Written in response to a River Prompt at Red Wolf Poems.

The instructions are clear:
Row, row, row your boat
down the stream.
Gently, gently
and Merrily—
Sing till you remember how to Row,
how to Change Course Midstream.
Though you’ve grown accustomed to drifting
and admiring the scenery, now you must
Take Hold of the Oars—
Oars dry from disuse, with their
paint crackled or chipped away.
Splinters fill your hands,
hands which grip too tightly.
Remember to breathe.
Remember what you know
of good seamanship:
Sometimes you cannot
Sometimes you cannot
put the whole thing in dry-dock
and wait for repairs.
Sometimes you are in the
Middle of the River.
Remember what you know.
Later, there may well be time
to sand these oars smooth,
paint them a bright, jaunty yellow.
But for now?
Loosen your Grip
Set your Course
Hold to your oars Firmly
but Gently
rowing towards merrily
till the end of this particular
Bend in the river.
till the end of this particular
part of the dream.


Orange Change Agent

This one was fun— A Word Chain Poem, from a prompt in The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockwood. You should go buy it. Immediately. This prompt is on page 55. Buy it, try it, let me know how it all turns out.

Nothing rhymes with orange
and isn’t that strange?
Nothing in our huge array
of words, of sounds ranging
along the tongue, not one
not even changed
or smashed sounds banged
into new shapes, arranged
None soar
spark with the same tang
as Orange.

Plans For The Future

Here, a quickly written poem based on a  list prompt from We Write Poems a  site I just discovered and look forward to exploring soon. Try it yourself!

When you hear those tangled blue dreams of knowing, begin—
First, turn to vapor all the words tagged Nightmare by your soul:
Carapace, chrysalis, cocoon all spiral away into the dark
With all the winged truths they held. Not these.
Next, Soul, nurture the witch in the cathedral of your center
Drop into your inky cauldron the striped filaments
Of all those years of rain and roots and nurturing.
As sunlight stripes the stone floor, turn to those watchers
Stoic demons, blooming angels and honeysuckled geishas
In gowns fragile as fortunes.
Together, marvel at the brimming cauldron
How the rising smoke of a million votives
Twists with seafoam air from a thousand long-stemmed hookahs
Into the invisible future you built,
cradled in its mystery, opaque eggshell of time.

Bliss: Five Sentence Fiction

Thanks once again to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction for this week’s prompt.  Visit her site to read other five-sentence fictions. Here’s my shot at it–

Bliss can be bought in a bottle, you know, so you Google directions to the right sort of store, an apothecary, as they used to say back when they first started bottling Bliss.

If they ever manage to find the store, most people pass Bliss by because it’s hard to grasp, the bottle is small and slippery, always perched precariously on the highest shelf and of course it’s almost invisible, which is why people settle for other bottles, larger ones on lower shelves, bottles labeled Comfort, Success In Business, Health, Wealth, Self Control, or the Abilities bottles: Mechanical, Mathematical, Culinary, Artistic, Musical, etc. when Bliss is what they wanted all along.

You’ll likely never get there by Google, but someday you may stumble upon the shop beneath the squeaky metal sign. It happens that way, occasionally, and if it happens to you, the secret is to walk to the back of the shop where dusty bottles are stacked to the ceiling, hold out your hands, right where you are, and Bliss might leap down and choose you.

But that way is rare and people spend fruitless years searching for the shop, so I’ll tell you the second secret: Bliss takes itself wherever it pleases and often can be found at your corner market next to the children’s favorite jam, or the mustard your love says is tastiest and there it is, ready to crawl into your arms like a sleepy kitten that’s been waiting just for you, and you can carry it home, for free.

Five Sentence Fiction: Limitless

Response to this week’s prompt on Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction.

Everyone told him it was the wrong time of year for balloon rides, that he ought to wait till autumn and charge twenty dollars for a tethered float at the county fair.

July was too hot, they said, and though the balloon was visible above the corn field, the sign itself was hard to see, obscured by stalks that soared higher every day, so it was unlikely anyone would find him.

But here was this girl, young, with a spark in her eye that should have made him uneasy, if he wasn’t so occupied feeling smug that he’d actually attracted a paying customer.

She handed him one hundred dollars and said to keep the change, which seemed generous until she told him, “Getting ready to leave is like pulling a bandage off slow,” as she cut the rope while he was still on the ground and left him below to watch his balloon sail away over the cornfields.

All his maps tumbled into the air and as they drifted down he heard the pop of the champagne cork overhead.

Wisdom: Five Sentence Fiction

          As usual, I have no idea how I landed on this site, but…today I discovered Lillie McFerrin Writes—Home of Five Sentence Fiction. The clever and mysterious Lillie posts a one-word prompt every week and asks the world to respond with a five-sentence story. Love it! This week’s prompt is “Wisdom”.   Almost the moment I read it, Wisdom sidled up and whispered this story in my ear…

Wisdom says she’s done with being wise, done with handing out mountains of calm, clear-hearted advice to dolts who do not listen or listen and then still go off and steal the jewels, quit the job, rush the altar, buy the day old sushi, worse, eat the day old sushi.

“I’m sick of the very sound of my name, which I’ve discovered also means Prudence, as if things weren’t bad enough,” she tells the old elephant over mugs of Earl Grey.

The elephant has known Wisdom a very long time and expects she’s exaggerating when she says ‘Done’ since Wisdom gets fed up, of course, who wouldn’t, but in the end she gathers herself and dispenses herself for free again, like a reliable though battered old vending machine, wise enough to seldom say never.

“Definitely Done for good,” says Wisdom as she throws clothes into a too-small satchel, paints the elephant purple, drapes him with jewels, and climbs onto his back, beautifully bedecked herself in cinnamon scarves.

Now, she says, now is our time to finally leave home and never knowing where the next cup of tea may come from, be Foolish in the world with our names changed to Adventure and Gull.

Whirl #116


Much earlier than my last couple tries, here’s my attempt at a poem using the words above, a prompt from the wonderful site, The Sunday Whirl.

The pressure accumulates of everything that
has ever happened to you or might.
It climbs into bed with you every night, whispering
and smoking. It’s scary, that voice, as it builds its case:
Calamity upon risk, impossible change, disaster. It builds
from an ember to a slow fire that can smolder all night
If fed. This slow, hypnotic voice coaxes, says
Attend to this jumbled order of what could be,
what never was, and what there is no more time to Accomplish.
Oh that voice will keep you company all night long,
If you listen.

Encourage The Bears


The Sunday Whirl, #115 Below, my attempt at using all these words, though this turned more storyish rather than poem-shaped.

Next life, I’ll move to a wild island in the sea. This when regrets and bridges in cinders are so thick on the ground that I can’t sweep them up or move through them for one more day. The weight of them, once like piles of fallen leaves or heavy snow become heavier and unstable, a loose scrill of rocks, shale that flakes and cracks, crumbles at every step. Moving cautiously has got me exactly here.

So then, the island. It is difficult to find. In truth, I bent reality, curved the oceans oh so slightly, just enough to make it a challenge. The birds, of course, have no trouble finding it by the scent of green and the whisper of insects. There are bears. Or, at least, a bear. And a sign.

One country lane meanders across the island, linking beach to meadow. I live at one end, the beach end, to get the spectacular view. The bear lives at the other end of the lane, in thick woods beyond the edge of the meadow.

I hear him sometimes, snuffling along through the woods, hunting the wild raspberries we both crave, both the taste and the shape of the word. When he stands at the edge of the wood—Seven feet tall? Nine feet? Who can tell? Who would dare measure? When he stands so tall, it’s hard to follow the directions on the sign I found posted at the edge of the meadow. This small wooden sign says, in careful block letters: Encourage The Bears.

When he’s eating flowers in the meadow, down on all fours, or picking at the berry bushes delicately, his paws careful as hands, and his fur shines so soft and warm in the sunlight, well it’s easier to imagine then, and I shout Positive Messages to him: Looking Good! Nice Fur! Excellent Berry Foraging!

That kind of thing.

The bear, he’s gone with me everywhere in this life. Is he Fate? Chaos? Or just a lost bear, dragged here to keep me company, to fit inside my head, my stories? Maybe, in the beginning, his whole existence was so I’d never heed, or even find, the piece of sign fallen long ago into the tall grass, disintegrated. The part of the sign that said “Don’t”.

In any case, story contrivance or accident, he’s here and real as teeth now.

The Opposite of Serious Moonlight

I just discovered a site called The Sunday Whirl, from writer Brenda Warren. What a fun way to loosen up words.  Once a week, she posts a Wordle as a poetry prompt. I can see I’m late to this particular show, since the Wordle I used is #113.  Here it is, with my response below:


The master of revelry answers,
Again—The important thing
is to step out of the cave.
Along the way, scoop up
crazy big loads of
anything that giggles.
Then, break open the moonshine
which wakes everybody up
enough to cut through
the daytime world’s chattering
So your day begins to make sense.
Face it, after enough moonshine
anything makes sense. The first
step is to get out of the cave.
Only then can you see the light—
bathe in that moon,its shine,
till you glow. You’ll know the cure is working
when the world splits,
cut into before and after
you remembered how to giggle.

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