Day 10

Challenge: Try the abecedarian form. No compulsion to get to Z.

And so, as I was saying earlier,

beautiful things can happen if you just
change your thinking. I mean, if you get
down all the time and catastrophize then
everything will crash and burn, but if you
fight against that sort of pessimism, 
get out of the house now and again, you’ll
have a better time overall. From the look you
just gave me I can tell you’re still on the
kvetch train. See, that’s what I’m talking about, it’s
like you’re in love with your pain. Keep that up,
Ms. Masochism, and soon you’ll be totally alone,
no one will have anything to do with you. So
open your eyes, dear, and smell the coffee,
paint a smile on that pretty face, ditch those
queer clothes, get your nose out of those books, 
recognize that life is short, and what you make of it, 
seize the reins and turn it around, don’t play
tragic Ophelia. Look at me, I could have gone
underground a long time ago but, no, I
very much made myself available, I
went to great lengths to say yes -- even my many
exes remain faithful. And when I die, you’ll see,
you’ll miss all this excellent advice, you’ll 
zero in on what’s important when it’s too late.

Day 9

Challenge: Write a pantoum about the goddamn weather


It’s Saturday morning, April 9,
and the pinche lawn is glazed again
with motherfucking snow. 
Just looking at this epic shit show

-- la chingada lawn glazed, again --
the blood deserts my fingers.
Looking at this hijo de mierda
makes me want to hurl,

the blood leaves my fingers,
my mamada muscles go into shock,
I want to hurl sunshine and puppies
all over this goddamn bitch.

My muscles go into shock,
my hair turns whiter,
and all over this bitch of a body, 
the snow takes hold.

My pendejo hair freezes,
my veins push ice water,
the puta madre snow attacks me,
my brain swells,

my veins push ice up
my old ass spine
until my fucking brain explodes into
a cocksucking chingadera de nieve --

my aching old ass spine,
apocalypse of April-sucking-snow,
meta-fucking-physical blizzard, retejodida hasta la chingada
snowbound cunt of a Saturday, 

April 9, 2022.

Day 8

Challenge: stop making sense

it’s always darkest before the dawn of the dead

dark windows shine on nights 
spent dreaming his sudden 
severed strings the fates

strum barn stomp 
polka riffs fucking bongos 
on our ribs baby so 
at the red light I missed Amy 
with a blade thirsty for my heart
I took it with me to the un-

country for old women 
while the young kept climbing 
into hell in an endless

series of papier mache
hand baskets saying a
sign we need a sign

I’ll take a shot of bourbon 
right to the brain stem

where it’s darkest at the 
same old same old end I said 
with an empty parens 

(or maybe one of those)
I don't know dot dot dot
thingees amen I meant

Day 7

Challenge: Try 10 x 20 (10 syllable lines, 20 of them)


The dog is fifteen, deaf and somewhat blind. 
She huffs and pants, has to heave herself up 
with groans, skitters on our slick floors, slips cat-
astrophically with stick legs that don’t 

bend under dinosaur bulk. Bulbous growths
sprout through dulling fur -- she nibbles them 
raw with yellow teeth. One mile an hour is 
her new top speed. No matter what she eats, 
she leaks toxic gas. It hangs over her 

sprawl in a corrupt halo. I have to 
wonder if she’s still here or if she’s un-
leashed, floating lost dog days, running in her doze 
through dewy fields, a shiny black arrow 
of joy, flushing birds, sun glinting from sleek 

sides. No matter. Wherever she is, she 
still makes her way back, lit with a love that 
breaks through cloudy eyes, shivers, rubs itself
into us, snorting and wild, pure timeless
ecstasy, soul, our unearned redemption.

Day 6

Challenge: Focus on a color.

In Praise of Purple

Yes, my hair is purple —
and, yes, it's my favorite color, 

a mixture of red and blue, 
fire and ice. It’s royal, but 

better than that, it’s “when I 
grow old I shall wear” Tutu

in all her live out loud glory, 
wide smile and laugh, indefatigable 

chain lightning glowing lavender 
from my head. It’s a way of tempering 

dissolution, of dyeing against 
dying, a pandemic yawp sounded

from the windows of my madwoman attic,
a fuck you to slipping under 

into grey. 

It’s in your face, man, it’s 
silly and bumptious and larger 

than your ordinary wife, a signal 
to my tribe of melancholy matrons,

meeting as we do in 
parking lots, saying "yes, dear,

you can" and a crown 
for every 6 year old princess

who stops to shower me with
ecstatic adoration.

It’s April crocus and June iris,
pulchritudinous violets colonizing

your chemical lawns, 
spring and summer sunsets in 

zero weather, 
shouting hallelujah in a Puritan church,

laughing and singing and dancing
inside this wrinkled skin 

with the chorus of hard headed women
who wore the color before me --

a long line of mothers, grandmothers,
of sassy aunts in hot pants,

of makers, doers, and survivors,
of loud, proud purple warriors.

Day 5

Challenge: Play with the sestina.

How It Is Here

I keep trying to give things up —
sugar, booze, useless anxiety —
and so far I’m only successful at
the worry. Most of it, anyway.
As long as you don’t count the sweaty
dreams, where I’m always alone
and late and lost. TBH, I’m alone
a lot of the time, but that’s okay. Up
here on the 3rd floor, 50fuckin7, sweaty
is reserved for the 9-5 anxiety of
saying the wrong thing. So anyway,
I’m more successful if I
stay silent. Shit. “Success” is just
another moving target. Like “alone” no longer
means lonely. And hey — is there a way
to make myself a moving target? I’ve got to get up
from the damn desk, burn off the stress 
around my waist. God, I get sweaty 
thinking about my metabolism, sweaty
ruminating about other peoples’ successes.
All this emotional work makes me nervous, like
I’m Sisyphus, pushing a big old boulder, alone
on the mountain, mad, shouldering it up up up
through vertical impending disaster, all the way
to the top … Fuck it. There’s no way I can
go on with that metaphor. Like I said, I don’t sweat
anymore. I sit. I can’t make myself get out
of this damn chair. When I imagine success
it belongs to someone else. I’m not lonely per se,
and a little yellow pill eats anxiety down to
nearly nothing. And why worry when 
everyone’s crazy anyway? 
It’s fine to be old and mostly alone.
I got this, folks. No actual sweat.
I suppose, looking back, I’ve been successful,
getting myself up every morning.

But what are you up to? I’m anxious to hear
about your successes. Anyway, sweetie, don’t
sweat it. Write back if you can. I’m fine on my own.

Day 4

Challenge: Begin your poem with “I don’t have anything to say about …” and end it with “ … but in any case that’s how I feel.”

To Dad in Dreams:

I don’t have anything to say about the way you appear ---
out of a pile of strange hoarded stuff, the flotsam of your
life and death --- smiling, as if you never left us,

first hiding in cheap beer and paranoia, then sliding
into a permanent state of erasure. You appear and take up
living as if it’s completely natural. “It was a mistake,” you say.

“I wasn’t dead but only sleeping, deeply sleeping,” your smile
shy, inviting, where in life it was sly, and vaguely biting. 
Here in dream’s many rooms you don’t say too much, but

hang at my elbows, persistent, shadow protection, part of the 
crew. I expect you to step back up to the podium, to issue more
ultimatums, but in this resurrection you prefer silence.

I should love you now that you’ve been burned clean of living,
your angry striving, your agitated anxieties, your small hates.
Instead I’m filled with liquid indifference, and only worry

that you will follow me back to reality, stand in my bedroom
like Bartleby, watch me dress. I’m still afraid of you. I know I
should forgive you, finally, but in any case that’s how I feel.

Day 3

Challenge: Think about transportation

A Short History of Cars and Drivers

1968: Dad drove fast, and hit the brakes hard. He liked to blow out the bad gas in his Pontiac LeMans, a dark blue shark in the Pittsburgh driveway. 1981: Mom tried to teach me how to drive in Mexico but I was too afraid, cars stacking up behind me in a honking mass, the clutch a tetchy devil. The Dodge Aspen stalled for the 10th time, and I quit — got out and took the passenger seat for 5 more years. 1986: 21, I applied for a temp. “You know it’s a crime to hide previous attempts,” the picklefaced woman at the counter said. Caleb got me going in Providence that summer, nudging me from Rhode Island to Massachusetts to Rhode Island in his white Yugo, and Stewart and his Mazda 626 finished me off 3 years later in Tucson. I lost control in the apartment parking lot, hit a tiny tree, took off his side mirror. 1990: Dave helped me buy my first car, a Mazda GLC that drove me through the PhD, wedding, Lizzie’s first two years, to Michigan, where I learned — in a horrifying second — how to stop in heavy snow. 2000: “The right front wheel is about to fall off,” the mechanic said. “Drive across the street to the dealer and dump it.” We drove for three more weeks, Lizzie strapped in the back. 2000: Fred, our first brand new baby, a black Toyota Corolla, drove us to Wisconsin. 2001: A BMW crushed Fred’s back bumper. I felt his damage in my guts. 2010: After a rattling Fred took us to Yellowstone and back, we traded him for Carlos, a silver RAV4. 2013: Lizzie learned to drive him, took him to Portland and back (2018-2021), and he’s still alive, a proud warrior, battlescarred in the drive. 2018: Sappho, a dark blue Camry hybrid, solid, stately, joined me in my middle-age journey, a series of small circles inscribed between Green Bay, Madison, and Chicago. We get good gas mileage (though not quite as good as advertised), especially on the open road. We aren’t afraid to merge, to drive in big city traffic, to explore uncharted territory. We never stall. On the other hand, we don’t feel that bloodcrazy excitement of driving the edge of incompetence, or that bonedeep fear of moving tons of metal through streams of indifferent strangers. We just drive, body and machine, while my mind travels back and forth in time. So far, we’ve always reached our destination…

Day 2

Challenge: Include a bird. Be sure to identify the bird by species.

Two Robins

When I came out of the meeting, late afternoon, Friday,
the sun had decided to warm up the parking lot,
as if to underline “the weekend!” and increase the rise
of freedom's light making my skin thin and loose.

Still, I couldn’t get into my car and go, not when two robins
twittered in the budding tree just yards away, bobbing
back and forth on bare branches, flashing me their
bulging red bellies, fluttering and fidgeting like tiny soul

containers overfilled, harbingers, signals of something mighty
coming. I tried to sneak up on them, tried to hold my phone just
so, to frame them in a photo, to capture their promise in my
machine. But of course they flew, voices trailing back on

the warming air, scolding, celebrating, saying fool   fool
looktoyourself    and    gogogo   pursueyourown        release ---

Day 1

Challenge: use random rhyme and refrain

A Pair of Ducks

"April is the cruelest month," says old TS, and yes,
it tends to disappoint, anointing us with snow/rain/pain

and filling the yard with hard white pellets of cosmic
despair, with a soggy puddle going pond, dark water

signifying frigid erasure. Even my hairs, worming 
into my head, feel, at the skull, frozen. Cooly cruel. 

I remember when a pair of ducks once visited, sifting 
through the wet wreckage, drifting on the odd pond, 

paddling it with invisible feet. Indifferent, casually cruel, 
it's a month of broken promise, imperfect resurrection, 

mundane depression and dejection, rejection, gray skies 
and dull eyes, the echoes of dead white guys like Eliot

telling me how to survive in hollow voices from poetic 
tombs, when in life they were doomed, dabbling like 

that long gone mallard dipping its beak into dead water
against a dying neighbor's rusty fence...   It's early, now,

and far too late, as cruel skies slide up, golden red
with frigid day one sun. The month has hardly begun

and already I feel ancient, dusty, irrelevant. Done.