Poem-A-Day Challenge: Day 30

April is National Poetry Month so I’m tackling the Writer’s Digest 2019 April PAD Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer.

Today’s prompt: Write a stop poem. <and/or> Write a don’t stop poem.

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LUCKY THIRTEEN

This bland waiting room stifles
with the predictable sage
and taupe. They
must have
taken surveys,
done long-term studies and
fancy tests that told them
these
are the least offensive
colors, the most
calming. But I
am desperate for red.
I was just sitting here doing what I’m
supposed to be doing—waiting—
twiddling my hair,
thinking about our recent anniversary,
tapping my pen on the monotonous table,
when it occurred to me
for the first time that this isn’t
a standard appointment.
I could be waiting at this tan table
in this taupe room surrounded by
sage chairs, everything halted,
cautiously mute, dull,
and you could
walk through those doors
and tell me something that will
change us forever.

Didn’t the studies tell them that this is
not the place,
not the time
for careful sages or
quiet taupes?
This is the place for flagrant yellow,
yellow alarm, a yellow that screams Caution! Slow down!
Prepare yourself for what’s ahead!
A yellow that requires the remembering of a daffodil,
a perfect yolk—anything that pins us to this
full and vital life.
This is the place for a piercing blue that takes me to
the sky on our wedding day,
after the April storm had cleared,
the one time I let blue mean happy.
If I am waiting here for words like They can’t be sure but…,
inoperable,
terminal,
I need something to grab onto,
a feisty orange to remind me
of all the reconstruction
God has been doing in us,
in this marriage once riddled with despair,
crumbling and dilapidated,
now built up with wing after rambling wing of
new and shiny rooms
furnished with hope.

But I am most desperate for red,
here in this sodden place.
Desperate for red and its raging song,
each note a blaring tally of the rich goodness:
your pealing laugh,
the contented glances mailed across quiet, firelit rooms,
the classic quips our boys (those clever, unjaded souls) have said over ordinary dinners,
our talks of dreams and hurts over so many sinkfuls of wineglasses and fading bubbles.
Let red stand for these:
these blissful notes, this song, these licking flames
of memory.
Let it stand for these things and not for Stop, for Exit,
for No.
Let the dreaded words not be what we are forced
to take with us today,
making each memory a brief and searing brand.

Poem-A-Day Challenge: Day 27

April is National Poetry Month so I’m tackling the Writer’s Digest 2019 April PAD Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer.

Today’s prompt: Pick a direction, make that the title of your poem, and then, write your poem. There are so many directions: north, south, up, down, left, right, over, under, etc. But there are also more specific directions like “Across the Way,” “Through the Woods,” and “Beyond the Clearing.” Or give directions like “Clean Your Room,” “Tie Your Shoes,” or “Get Over Here”.

A little background on this one just because I felt it needed an explanation for a couple reasons. First, I was laughing about including this in the PAD Challenge because a few days ago I’d written a poem called “Free Verse” about how I typically don’t like using obvious rhyme or structure in my poems, and then here I am rhyming all over the place! So I felt my double standard at least required some acknowledgment. Second, and kind of related to that, I actually started writing this poem a couple of years ago when I was feeling inspired leading up to Easter. I’d intended it to be a spoken-word poem with a brief sung repeating interlude (hence the italicized “chorus” sections). So the poem can feel a little clunky when read silently. Just imagine you’re a slam poet reading this passionately at an open mic and you’ll get a better sense of the feel of it. :-)

Image based on photo by Samuel Zeller / Unsplash

Image based on photo by Samuel Zeller / Unsplash

FORWARD AND THROUGH

It always happens at this time of year
when what has lain unseen
again becomes so clear.
The grass turns green,
the buds emerge,
the sun appears.
The dormant wakes
and now I begin to see
all that winter has been doing inside me.  

That’s when my affliction
meets Your holy contradiction 

You save me from the shouldn’ts
and You save me from the shoulds.
Grace Your only chorus
when I see the trees and not the woods.
I keep striving,
diving—
most days I settle for surviving.
But You died so I could LIVE:
You made me to be thriving.  

That’s when my affliction
meets Your holy contradiction

People didn’t understand You,
they did not know what to make of You,
standing up for the ostracized,
the marginalized,
the powerless, the overlooked, and the despised.
Drew your calm line in the sand
till one by one stone dropped from hand
as they realized
You’d come to redeem and not to penalize.

That’s when my affliction
meets Your holy contradiction

You—always one for the dichotomy,
Your strength made perfect
in the weakness that inhabits me.
Your power made the lame walk, the blind see.
You say it’s only when we give that we are wealthy.
You say it’s only when we’re bound to You we’re truly free. 
You urge us to meet hate with love
and to be praying for our enemy.  

That’s when my affliction
meets Your holy contradiction

Your love astounds,
knows no bounds.
Even the one lost sheep gets found.
You never give up,
never make mistakes,
never hesitate to shine Your light and guide our way,
ever wanting to teach us,
to reach us,
wanting our lives to shout JESUS.
So I will say yes to You,
be changed and blessed by You,
trust that I find all my rest in You.
I will lay down my life,
count all joy in my strife,
let You take all my wrongs and start making them right.
Let You turn me around,
let You point where to go,
let You order my steps,
let You be the arrow
Who shows me the way
forward and through
so even in the
deep dark of struggle
I see just
the bright light of
You.

That’s when my affliction
meets Your holy contradiction

Poem-A-Day Challenge: Day 28

April is National Poetry Month so I’m tackling the Writer’s Digest 2019 April PAD Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer.

Today’s prompt: Write a remix poem. That is, remix one of your poems from earlier in the month. There are many ways to do this. Turn a free verse poem into a traditional form (using lines from the original poem). Or use erasure to cut down a long poem into a short one. Or expand a short poem into a longer version. Get creative with it.

Image based on photo by Roman Mager / Unsplash

Image based on photo by Roman Mager / Unsplash

AFTERMATH (REMIX)

Ten years
and we say:
Mind the still Truth,
the started road,
the forced loyalty—
how it is
hidden and always,
the two a measure equal to love.

And the common question now is:
What of before?
The attempted discerning,
the shape of congruence?
Any equation
numbers the specific after.

But what to tell you?
God is so tender,
His sincere cascades and
steady fidelity
so irrational,
relentlessly for all.
Never tell us we’re not
very much—
we will draw near
infinity.

Poem-A-Day Challenge: Day 25

April is National Poetry Month so I’m tackling the Writer’s Digest 2019 April PAD Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer.

Today’s prompt: Write an exile poem. Exile is a noun, a verb, and an American rock band from Richmond, Kentucky. A person, animal, or object can be exiled. But people and animals also exile others–or even exile themselves.

Image by Matthew Miles / Unsplash

Image by Matthew Miles / Unsplash

LANDS THAT ONCE WERE OURS

Driving two squabbling boys home in the misty dusk, I try to concentrate
on a radio interview with a young poet who,
the host says, has almost a million followers on Instagram.
This, because she wrote about loss and identity and homeland
to help her students who were grappling with their own hard things,
and then she posted her words and then they went exponential
and then here she is with followers and books and radio shows.
But I almost miss all of that
because the host says
She was 16 when she emigrated to Canada from Lebanon.
And my ear halts there,
or rather, listens there,
because I know what is coming next—I have already heard, already read what is coming next—
those inevitable words I know must be coming next: the war-torn country.
I wait and I listen and I brace myself, and though no one ever says them,
(I cannot believe no one ever says them)
I can’t stop thinking, can’t stop dwelling
on those words—
war
torn
war-torn—

and how dangerous cliché can be,
how it has trained me to expect a whole cedared country
to be whittled down to two meager words,
how it has crowded out this young poet’s complex particulars—the loyal family, the laughing friends, the artistic endeavors—
and made a monotony of strife.
war-torn
war-torn
war-torn

O that I could rouse myself from cliché’s hypnotic sleep, give back all the essence that has been slowly drained from those sapped words,
infuse them with the wincing power they once had, a power purpled with bruises not just of body but of spirit and of nation.
O that I could dredge them again in the scarlet loss that first horrified, and force myself to confront the real and violent rending.
But it is too late. Repetition has done its numbing work.
Even the most searing fire will be doused by a million rains.

Yes, it is too late to resurrect the flame these words once sparked,
and too late to apologize for so many other extinguishings.
We have appropriated horror for our own glib purposes in our safe and warless land.
Our children’s messy rooms have become disaster areas, our group of friends a tribe.
We have cushioned our destruction as carpet-bombing and branded our popularity viral.
We slather pity on refugees while praying that we ourselves are not required to provide the refuge.

It is too late to believe that words are still capable of affecting us and yet that’s a poet’s job: to trust
in the hefting power of words, to lace them together and have them haul meaning.

But what do I know of such weight as exile?
I know leaving only as a burden of choice,
as the wrench of a red barn rotting inward.
How suffocating are the towering trees when my heart still yearns for the consoling sprawl of vast and fertile land.

Poem-A-Day Challenge: Day 26

April is National Poetry Month so I’m tackling the Writer’s Digest 2019 April PAD Challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer.

Today’s prompt: Write an evening poem. A poem about or during the night. Or take evening a completely different direction and think of evening the score or making things more even (or fair or whatever).

Image by Christopher Jolly / Unsplash

Image by Christopher Jolly / Unsplash

ORIONID

Under a sky gently scalded with stars,
we stand in the empty street,
scanning for the meteors
we were told would come.
The wind shifts
and the heavy billow of my coat
no longer seems excessive.

Once, I had imagined
these kinds of nights
and how my children
would later write rosy essays
about the Excitement and the
Adventure and the
Inculcation of Curiosity,
and the Darling Mother
who made them all Possible.

But the meteors are a no-show
and the boys gripe their way back inside,
so it’s just me now,
me and my extinguished dreams and
the cold sheer static of stars,
and I realize no ethereal pageant
could have exceeded this embellishment of grace.