Day 20

Challenge: Write about high school and music

I didn’t know anything about love then except

for what I read in books or, over and over,
alone in my room, lying on my bed, 
heard in songs —

Foghat declaring, live, that they feel like makin love,
Fleetwood Mac’s songbird singing that it knows the score,
James Taylor seeing fire and rain, 
Foreigner claiming to be hot-blooded, 
the Eagles living life in the fast lane.

At dance parties I hoped I’d be chosen
to hang on a boy in the dark, swaying in circles, 
sweating in our separate skins to Led Zeppelin's 
“Stairway to Heaven,” Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,”
or Phil Collins’ relentless drums, feel it coming 
in the air, oh Lord, waiting for this moment
all my life —

mostly, I stood separate, watching others
complete their circles, sketching territories that
didn’t include me, that didn’t recognize my passport,
breathing in Tom Petty, an ugly man with 
barracuda teeth, who told me I didn’t have to live
like a refugee, and Neil Young, with his high,
strange voice, like a man strangling in his own throat, 
who reminded me to keep on searching for a heart of gold,
even as we both, impossibly, inevitably, grew old.

Day 19

Challenge: Open a nearby book to page 45. Find the 3rd complete sentence. Type it out and see where it takes you.

“I grabbed my robe from the back of the door and shrugged it on as I walked to the main desk.” Feed, Mira Grant, p. 45.

Disclaimer: This is a persona poem. The opinions expressed bear no actual resemblance to the author’s experience.

The Escape

I grabbed my robe from the back of the door
while you were sleeping.

While you were sleeping, I shrugged it on,
naked, and walked to the main desk.

Naked under the robe, I walked to the main desk, 
where a nurse typed secrets into a computer.

A nurse typed secrets into a computer but I was
a secret she couldn’t read -- naked,

a secret she couldn’t read, I slipped past
robed only in hospital green,

robed only in darkness, I disappeared
into the healing night ...

into the healing night while you slept on,
dear husband, in the antiseptic room,

dear husband lost to antiseptic dreams
of perfect waiting wives,

perfect waiting wives, obedient, blank,
waiting to be erased  . . .

waiting, obedient, for your electric erasure,
not naked and running, wild --

not naked and running now, wild and free
into the healing night!

Day 18

Challenge: What’s outside your window?

Time to Go

A shining strip of the lake through
sheer curtains, 
heaving and sparkling in
cellophane waves

The zip of cars 
back and forth 
along Lake Shore Drive
going fast, not stopping, on their way

Sere tree branches unfolding
like an unbundled broom
up to clouds glowing with
champagne morning sun

Another Monday
the edge of the week

Miles of roadway going 
away from and back to
Unfiltered view

Day 17

Challenge: Write about something that happened yesterday.

Unreal City

Lizzie and I took the bus north to Michigan Avenue,
where throngs of people wove around each other
like marine animals, drifting schools of fish, startling in

and out of the glittering stores as if into coral reefs.
The tides pulled us, relentless, block after block,
through towering shoals of commerce. In a crosswalk,

while shark SUVs nudged the stream, nosing a gap
into the fleshy current, two boys nipped and tumbled
and darted at each other, a pocket of chaos

ignored by their family pod. “Don’t scootch 
in the middle of the street,” Lizzie snapped, as we
swept behind them to the curb,

saying the human thing, voicing what I’d half
been thinking, deep in the wreck 
of my mother brain, waking me at last

from my cold sea dream. 

Day 16

Challenge: Recycle something you wrote at least 5 years ago. Chop the original into lines and rearrange them. (For maximum recycling, come up with an arbitrary scheme for rearrangement, such as sorting the lines alphabetically.) Then cut every other line. Revise for the illusion of sense, or see where the new poem takes you.

I revisited a poem I wrote in April 2014:

At the Séance for Dead Poets

Only six or so ghosts bothered to show --
embarrassed souls recalled from distant pasts,

blinking with owl-eyed confusion (dizzy effect of 
unasked-for return), from dingy bars lit with 

deathly dissatisfaction instead of hope. 
We’d tried to invoke the Spirits of Romantic Love,

but only these anonymous hacks arrived, befuddled, 
bent spectacled and inky, clutching incoherent notes, 

stoop-shouldered, distracted, lacking any 
historical attraction. Where have all the 

giants gone? we wondered. Are they just late? 
Then, sighing, we settled in with the seedy unreality 

we’d evoked, and later agreed that the current 
Living World must be inhospitable for Great Poets, 

cold and soulless as our colonized moon.

Day 14

Challenge: Drop a little mad lib bomb into a famous song or poem and see what happens.

The Burial of our Heads (in Digital Sand)

“Unreal and totally shitty — I had not thought the internet could screw so many.”

— T. S. Helliot
April is a stupid month, leading
would-be poets out of their doldrums, fixing
pandemic boredom with invented desires, blurring
“literature” with spring’s regurgitated pain.
Winter swallowed us, digested us inside, converting
our shared insanity into the internet’s snow, energizing
our shitty lives with freeze-dried fantasies.
Summer should terrify us, swelling over the airwaves,
a tsunami of mutually assured destruction; soon we’ll shut up again,
go back to sterile silence, impose another worldwide quarantine,
and smoke dope, watch YouTube, emotional junk food.

I’m not a zombie, I’m no one, a true American.

And when we were young, unconscious of crime, we played
hide and seek in city streets after dark, not yet
afraid of each other. We yelled, Olly olly oxen free,
called each other slut and whore without meaning what we meant, 
built forts, set fires, threw dirt bombs at passing cars.
Now we hide from each other online and don't want to be found.

What memories still grab us? What twisted trees grow
out of this intellectual wreckage? Children of TV,
we cannot say, or guess, because we know only
an infinity of copied images, pixilated suns heating
galaxies of cartoon planets, where there’s no relief
from the dry stones of anorexic imaginations. Only ---

there’s the illusion of community in this digital box,
(Join the illusion, come in to this digital box),
and it will rewrite you into someone different from either
that lonely little girl who hid when no one bothered to find her
or the lonely old witch creeping up now to eat the last of her youth —
it will offer you oblivion in a sprinkle of binary dust.

Day 13

Challenge: Write a letter to someone you don’t know

Dear God,

I’m not sure what to call you, or if you’re
even around (in the human sense) to answer.
You’re certainly not in charge of anything anymore,
so I’m wasting my time asking for help. It’d be faster

to dial up one of our corrupt politicians, and pray
for divine dispensation, or better yet to buy some
indulgence. Now that I’m here, I’m dumb, I can’t say
my mind, find words, make sense, can’t come to

any purpose. I feel empty. I feel naked and ashamed. 
I thought You said you were Love . . . No, some man
wrote that thousands of years ago. You’re not to blame
for human emotions, disaster, devolution. But if You can,

smite us with righteous compassion. Hail on our hate
parades. Kill us with kindness before it’s too late.

Day 12

Challenge: Try terza rima (for added challenge, try to hit iambic pentameter, or more or less 10 syllables per line)

Love Song for Lizzie

As the days slide toward Easter, thick bud thumbs
thrust up from our forgotten flower beds,
the yellow lawns licked clean by waxing sun —

impossible, now, not to leap ahead 
to lazy summer days, hot afternoons,
fleshy maples waving dappled in red

daydreams . . . And how soon, oh sweet Jesus, soon!
I’ll see our girl again, all grown up, near-
ly Mastered, living her best life, not alone

but without us, her empty room here
a reminder of her separate story . . .
Oh, I’m not going to waste any tears on

our new insignificance. It’s glorious just
to know that one April afternoon she
leaped into being, our victorious

January baby, our only E-
piphany, darling daffodil, living
poem, resurrection, our infinite We!

Day 11

Challenge: Include 3 cliches, a confession, and a cat.

Monday Blues

I wake up thick as a brick, 
mouth sour, heart pounding 
from another dream (ancient
disaster, moral panic, alternate 

unreality). I am old, 
Father William, and my brain 
is made of sealing wax. 
Forget the cabbages and kings, 

all I need is a lazyboy, 
a nice fat cat for my 
squashy lap, 
my yarn stash, 

streaming TV, and 
a reasonable pension. 
I’ll confess: 
I’m tired of trying to be 

smart. Mornings like this, 
I ache to take a permanent 
vacation — not a dirt nap, 
if you know what I mean, 

but a little 
intellectual oblivion, 
a wee disconnection 
from sense —

to fall into the herd of happy
grazing test pattern 
brain waves, wandering in
walking comas, 

to live at last my
authentic American-style 
good life.