NaPoWriMo: 30 poems in 30 days (day 8)

Day 8 prompt: Use a portion of a poem from a twitter bot as seed (inspiration) to write a poem.


Confession: I dislike the words twitter, tweet, and bot. It’s getting late. I need a poem. I’ve read nearly all of Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay” searching. I considered her “Where does unbelief begin?” and discovered her phrase, “That was the night that centered Heaven and Hell,” which I may use later. I pondered Richard Siken’s words, “Let’s admit, without apology, what we do to each other” and “This has nothing to do with faith but is still a good question.” I did the perusal work of reviewing several twitter bots. Nothing worked.

Then, as I was re-reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (1990), I found it. I try to do “optional” prompts. I hope I semi-followed the elective prompt with a twist.

My poem is based on a scene from O’Brien’s book, specifically from the chapter, “On the Rainy River.” Tim writes of sitting in a small boat 20 yards from Canada while facing his inner dilemma of doing what he thinks is morally right and what his family and most people (at the time) thought he should do: to accept his draft notice and fight in the Viet Nam War.


The Embarrassment of Tears

It was a moral freeze,
part hallucination, he supposed,
as paralysis took his heart,
a tightness he wants me to feel.

He could swim but he saw them,
a blind poet scribbling notes, people,
his past and his future, and mine.

His conscience lost the battle in a war
it could not win. He would do it.

He would go to the war –
he would kill, and maybe die
because he was embarrassed
not to. That was the thing.

And so, he sat in the boat,
and he cried, but he did not die.
Not a happy ending, his war,
his book, our war. He went to the war.

He was a coward, he claims,
because he stuffed it for them,
for their love, which he carried then,
and carries today. I disagree.

He asks me, and you,
would you cry? The scene jerks
my tears, not for Tim, or the war,
but for me. I was not in his boat.


Sit in your boat and look both ways, to Canada or to home.
Mind the gaps, there may a book or a poem in them.

Poetry: Back in the Day


House lights were off, back in the day.
A tinted eerie black and white glare,
as the boob-tube illuminated
white nicotine-laced clouds,
cigarette smoke from lit ends of
Camels or Pall Malls, unfiltered butts crowded
many ashtrays, back in the day.

Like ghosts sucked into dying lungs
of people I loved,
alive, back in the day.

The smelly, wispy, floating clouds
rolled and twisted or waved
as we passed through,
back in the day.

Forbidden addictions, I then, not yet
old enough to kill myself,
back in the day.

Second hand was for used,
not smoke.
Sickening smokers,
plus all who breathed in,
nicotine laced habits, back in the day.

Born into our rite of passage.
Now sick and dying, smoking goes on.

Never allow science to invade
personal stupidity.
We’ve always done it this way.
Back in the day.


Look both ways but stay away from back in the day.
Discover progress through science but mind the gaps to fill as we learn.

Sammi’s Weekender – Flash Story: The Little White Lie


The young man stood straight as the teacher’s loud, angry voice bristled. She berated his atrocious spelling and wretched grammar. He held back tears of shame and anger as she publicly humiliated him. She declared his entire family abysmal failures as human beings destined for an eternity in hell.

He found abysmal in the dictionary. When his mother later asked how he had done on the school paper he worked on so diligently, he reported that the teacher said it was very deep and that the entire family was destined for infinite success.


Look both ways. They may forgive, but they’ll not forget.
Mind the gaps. No memory is flawless.

Poetry: Survival

What was the most tired you been?
Slept standing or fallen down tired?
Been so dizzy? I hallucinated.
At POW camp they
would not let us sleep.
Peed in a #10 coffee can,
locked in cell, both overflowed.

To learn how to survive capture,
being treated beyond awful, we endure
such misery; to live it, feel it, survive it.
I thought I would not. Might never try.
How did they survive not knowing;
forsaken and forgotten?
Many decided to die. Too awful
to live. Most decided otherwise.

Sometimes, dancing in the rain,
or walking through the fire
are both hard-learned lessons.

Look both ways for light at both ends of the tunnel.
Mind the gaps in the dark until you can see.
Find life. Love freedom.

Poetry: Fear and Dread


Fear and dread
have settled like two large stones
into the pit of my stomach,
depression diving sudden and deep
into my gut.

My mind is occupied
with thoughts of impossible
lifesaving attempts.
I’m unable to focus.

Tears press against my eyes
wanting to be released,
my composure is thread bare.
I want to live without
such deep desperation or
just to fucking die.

I feel such a sadness
like I’ve never known,
like others have suffered,
some in shock, some like me
a slowly turning poisoned
pair of pits, burning
stones within my body,

Making me the saddest
of men, of fathers or mothers,
some sons or daughters
feeling helpless and worthless
unable to save the things we love
the most. Such agony
is the human condition.

***

Look both ways on good days and bad.
Mind the gaps of the bad on good days,
and good on the bad.

Poetry: Sammi’s Weekender, ‘longevity’


I Hear You Died

Letting go of one you know,
or knew, reminders of a finite
life, is not easy as we
reminisce of times when
longevity was forever.

Another man down, life
brought to end before ending,
not here to listen to, no one
hears me talk about you.

When I heard you had died
My mind began to trip and bounce
over thoughts and memories
of our times past,
when we both were alive.

You taught me well.


When faced with loss, look both ways,
your past with them, your future alone.
Mind the gaps for hints of eternity.

Poetry: Sammi’s Weekend Prompt – Liminal


The Pall of Fear

Sometimes, when I lie down and relax
I feel senseless liminal fear stir inside me
until it gathers and settles
at my core. I become desperate to
deny the tension, or I will die.

Depressive mental illness is taking
control of my mind, filling my body
with this awful sadness.
What is left for me to do?


If you don’t look both ways, someone may die. Mind the liminal gaps.