Horses have feathers
But they still aren’t birds.
An ostrich has never
Run the Grand National.
Toilets, they say,
Flush in E flat.
Imagine a porcelain orchestra
Playing Beethoven’s Third.
The lobster aspires
At dinner parties he boasts
Of his blue blood.
The world’s oldest known spider
Died an unnatural death
At forty three.
Too soon, my eight legged friend.
French kissing uses 25 muscles.
English kissing is more sedate
And less strenuous,
Burns fewer calories.
Telephones ring in 5-time.
Delphic hymns used 5-time too,
I know which I’d prefer to hear
In the small hours.
The platypus has poisonous feet
(And this comes as no surprise)
The male of the species.
Notes: The prompt was to write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. I asked my Facebook friends for the weirdest facts they knew, and used all their suggestions.
They are always other,
The snake tongued, sideways glancing
Always, even when they come wearing
A heart on a blood-stained sleeve.
Whose heart? Whose blood?
Even when they kneel in confession
To your priest-robed soul
To the smug, secret smile
And withhold absolution.
They are always other,
The bold, the self-contained ones
Even when they come wearing
Your face like a mask,
Their breath echoing your pulse.
Why your pulse quickens.
They are always other
Even in mirrors.
Especially in mirrors.
Notes: The prompt was to “write a poem based on the Plath Poetry Project’s calendar. Simply pick a poem from the calendar, and then write a poem that responds or engages with your chosen Plath poem in some way. ” I chose “The Other.” I hope Sylvia will forgive me…
This postcard comes from a place where I have never been. I have never been here, but I needed to send this postcard. I needed, specifically, to send it to you. You would like it here, I think. You want to know about the weather, the weather which is not touching me, you want me to tell you of the towers I have not climbed, to echo the unheard accents in the unwalked streets. You want me to describe the way the sun sets over an unvisited lake. There will be further postcards. Be patient. I wish you could have shared my non-existent journey here, through phantom seas lively with mermaids and sea-serpents, over ghosts of mountains my feet never touched. It took longer than you would dream. It took longer than I could dream. It took my dreams and turned them upside down. Take my upside down dreams and travel with me. I wish you were here. I wish I were here, too.
Notes: Today’s prompt was to draft a prose poem in the form/style of a postcard. I don’t think I’ve ever deliberately written a prose poem before, so be kind to me!
Beneath a waxing moon
She keeps the balance
Between blade and blade.
She cannot see how moonlight touches
Sharp edges of decision.
Behind her, the sea breaks
On treacherous rocks.
Muscles on fire, her arms tremble.
She cannot avoid the choice forever
But tonight, arms crossed,
She protects her heart.
Notes: The prompt was to write a poem inspired by a Tarot card. I’ve used the major arcana in poems before, so I thought I’d pick randomly from the minor arcana, and got this.
Spice seeds exploding.
Loud doorbell chime,
Sauce turmeric yellow.
Tangle of curls,
Hint of burning.
Air dried linen,
Garlic and onion.
Trace of mouthwash,
Contrasting cool yoghurt.
Demanding tongue probing
Notes: The prompt was to write a poem that includes images that engage all five senses. I was inspired by the vague memory of a poem (by Adrian Mitchell?) which ended with the line ‘Two curried lovers on a white-hot sheet’. The form is chained hay(na)ku, alternating normal and reverse.
Do not attempt
To activate suddenly
Or with insufficient caffeine –
This may result in damage,
Not necessarily to property.
Is prone to wobbling
When short on fuel.
If explosion seems likely
An immediate application of theobromine
Is strongly recommended –
Either solid or liquid is fine.
When exposed to certain stimuli
May produce salt water from the visual area,
And in extreme cases liquid may also stream
From the nasal orifice.
Do not be alarmed.
This is perfectly normal,
And requires only the application of tissues
Or a cotton hanky.
It is not, however, helpful
To say “It’s not real.
It’s only a telly programme.”
This may result in prolonged sulking.
Do not be concerned about
And rhythmic tappings of fingers.
This is not a glitch
But a necessary step
In the manufacturing process
And will result, if all conditions are met,
In something like poetry.
Note: The prompt was to write a warning label for myself. It could have been a lot longer…
These are the bitterest tears of all
The tears I cry for someone lost in dream
These are the sweetest tears that fall
Sorrows may not be the thing they seem.
I treasure like a secret in the night
The tears I cry for someone lost in dream.
Not every sorrow fades into the light.
The memory of the life I didn’t live
I treasure like a secret in the night.
I miss the kisses that I didn’t give
And, half-awake, I let myself believe
The memory of the life I didn’t live.
A loss without a name, yet still I grieve
For that unknown, that tender might-have-been
And, half-awake, I let myself believe.
Who knew imagined loss could be so keen?
These are the bitterest tears of all
For that unknown, that tender might-have-been.
These are the sweetest tears that fall.
Notes: The prompt was to write an elegy that had some kind of hopefulness in it, but I’ve already written several of those, so I went off at a tangent with a bitter-sweet, somewhat elegiac terzanelle.
I’m not being funny or nothing –
Are you sure this is poetry?
My mate Susan said I should come
To the poetry thingy.
She was like “It’ll be a right laugh
Seeing all those poncy prats
Wittering on about nightingales and daffs”
And I was like “All right then,
But if it’s pants I’m off to the pub
And I’m not even kidding.”
And now look at this lot –
Him on the stage now, he looks proper rough
And he doesn’t talk posh or use big words at all
And the woman before him who looked like my nan
Went on about dildos though she must be near eighty
And I was like ‘Is she even allowed to say that?’
Hardly any of it rhymes –
Poetry’s supposed to rhyme, innit?
And now there’s some kid on the mike, can’t be older
Than nineteen or twenty,
Angry as hell, and ready
To take on the world, it seems like.
Don’t know if it’s poetry
But it’s making me cry
And I’m not even lying.
Notes: Today’s prompt, about spoken language and the way language sounds, prompted me to think about the way people often think poetry ought to sound (and how poets ought to look and act).
Percy the piglet, one fine afternoon,
Was sitting in his sty
When he heard a gruff voice over the wall
Mutter “And pigs might fly!”
When Percy heard these words, he squealed
And jumped around with glee.
“Well, what a thing!” he told himself.
“Pigs might fly! That’s me!
“I’m not sure how I’ll do it –
I’m not really built for flight –
But lots of creatures fly around.
If I try, then I just might.”
He thought he’d imitate the birds,
So he taught himself to sing
But all the melodies he learned
Didn’t give him wings.
“The bats hang from the rafters
In the barn – is that the trick?”
But his trotters slipped, he lost his grip.
Good thing that straw was thick.
“Caterpillars eat leaves and then they turn
To butterflies and soar.”
So he stuffed himself with dandelions
Till he could eat no more.
Still no wings. Percy despaired
Of ever taking flight
And so to entertain himself
He bought a brand new kite.
He took it to a nearby hill.
The wind was cold and strong
And as he ran, the kite sailed up
And carried him along.
The people down below looked up
In wonder at the sky:
“What’s that creature way up there?
Good heavens! A pig can fly!”
Notes: The prompt was to “take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:
The sun can’t rise in the west.
A circle can’t have corners.
Pigs can’t fly.
The clock can’t strike thirteen.
The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.
A mouse can’t eat an elephant.”
I felt in the mood for something light and frivolous 🙂
He saw She saw
His needs reflected Her needs ignored
Open flirtation Friendly smile
Implicit invitation Polite avoidance
Harmless hug Unwanted groping
Flattering compliment Too personal remark
Clever chat-up Humourless cliché
A coy maybe A resounding no
Notes: I’d quite like to try this for two voices in performance. Also, it’s practically impossible to lay out the way I wanted it!