913/22 Workshop – A Poem by Quan Barry

Author Quan Barry biography and book list

Someone once said we were put on this earth to witness and testify


Nowhere    in   the     Halakha’s     five   thousand   years   of   rules

does   it     specifically    state    Thou     shall     not     [                      ]

but     sometimes    tradition    carries    more     weight    than    law


and   so   for    much   of   the    past    year   we    have   not    talked

about     what    will    happen    on     Thursday,    how   the    cervix

will     start     its     slow    yawn,     the     pelvic      floor     straining


as         the           head        crowns,      the      fontanelles     allowing

the       bony        panes       of       the      skull     to      pass    through

until,     over    the   next    24   months,    the   five   cranial   plates


gradually      ossify,     the      head      forming    its     own    helmet

as     structures     harden    over   the    soft    meats   of  the  brain,

nor     do   we    talk   about    the   colostrum  sunny  as egg   yolks


now   collecting  in   your   breasts,   the    thing’s   first   nutrients

already    ready    and    waiting,    the     event    just    days   away

and   still  we  do  not  talk  about it, the mass growing inside you


tucked    up    safe     in   the     leeward   side    under    the   heart

because   sometimes   our   god   is   a  jealous god,   the evil   eye

lidless    and    all-seeing.  Instead  we  will wait  until  it is  done,


until  the  creature  has been  cleaned and wrapped in soft cloth,

the    bloody     cord   that    binds    you    severed.    And   maybe

you       will      name      it      Dolores,      which       means     grief,


or perhaps you will call it Mara, the Hebrew name for bitterness

because       this      is      how     we      protect     what     we    love,

by   hiding   what  it   truly  means  to   us,  the little  bag  of  gold


we    keep   buried   in  the  yard,   the  thing  we will do anything

to      keep      safe,      even    going     so      far    as    to     pretend

it    doesn’t    exist,   that   there’s   nothing  massing in  the  dark


despite  the steady  light  emanating  from  your  face, a radiance

so bright sometimes I can’t look at you, the joy so  overpowering

you     want    to     shout   it     from   the    highest    mountaintop


straight into God’s ear.


Reflective writing prompt:
Shout about an overpowering joy
Protecting what we love

8/30/22 Workshop – A Poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

From: Coney Island of the Mind

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind happiness
not always
being so very much fun
if you don’t mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don’t sing
all the time
The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn’t half so bad
if it isn’t you
Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction and its priests
and other patrolmen
and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to
Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs of having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
‘living it up’
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling

Reflective writing prompt
The world is a beautiful place, if….


8/16/22 Workshop – A Poem by Mary Oliver

The Pond

August of another summer, and once again
I am drinking the sun
and the lilies again are spread across the water.
I know now what they want is to touch each other.
I have not been here for many years
during which time I kept living my life.
Like the heron, who can only croak, who wishes he
could sing,
I wish I could sing.
A little thanks from every throat would be appropriate.
This is how it has been, and this is how it is:
All my life I have been able to feel happiness,
except whatever was not happiness,
which I also remember.
Each of us wears a shadow.
But just now it is summer again
and I am watching the lilies bow to each other,
then slide on the wind and the tug of desire,
close, close to one another,
Soon now, I’ll turn and start for home.
And who knows, maybe I’ll be singing.


Reflective Writing Prompt

Write about something you wish for.

8/2/22 Workshop – A Poem by Chen Yun

                     Summer – Chen Jun

The swinger the swirler the swirled: stop grieving.

I drink all night but in a diminishing appetite.

The scene outside is obscene from a humbling window.

My sentiment spreads, my famine a flagpole, a grizzle.

Birds sing next year’s songs, or antique rescues.

I write but where shall I send it?

Let go — I shall go tie the flowers the leaves the whole orchard.

The outskirts are curved, shadows of countrywoman donors    …

You bring me a cup of fresh tea that I love,

I return you two kapok leaves — like hand waves.


Reflective writing prompt:

Write about letting go.

7/19/22 Workshop – A Poem by Ada Limón

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use
by Ada Limón

All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.

Reflective writing prompt:
Write about how the world looks to you.


6/21/22 Workshop – A Poem by Ross Gay

Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be
               —after Steve Scafidi

The way the universe sat waiting to become,
quietly, in the nether of space and time,

you too remain some cellular snuggle
dangling between my legs, curled in the warm

swim of my mostly quietest self. If you come to be—
And who knows?—I wonder, little bubble

of unbudded capillaries, little one ever aswirl
in my vascular galaxies, what would you think

of this world which turns itself steadily
into an oblivion that hurts, and hurts bad?

Would you curse me my careless caressing you
into this world or would you rise up

and, mustering all your strength into that tiny throat
which one day, no doubt, would grow big and strong,

scream and scream and scream until you break the back of one injustice,
or at least get to your knees to kiss back to life

some roadkill? I have so many questions for you,
for you are closer to me than anyone

has ever been, tumbling, as you are, this second,
through my heart’s every chamber, your teeny mouth

singing along with the half-broke workhorse’s steady boom and gasp.
And since we’re talking today I should tell you,

though I know you sneak a peek sometimes
through your father’s eyes, it’s a glorious day,

and there are millions of leaves collecting against the curbs,
and they’re the most delicate shade of gold

we’ve ever seen and must favor the transparent
wings of the angels you’re swimming with, little angel.

And as to your mother—well, I don’t know—
but my guess is that lilac bursts from her throat

and she is both honeybee and wasp and some kind of moan to boot
and probably she dances in the morning—

but who knows? You’ll swim beneath that bridge if it comes.
For now let me tell you about the bush called honeysuckle

that the sad call a weed, and how you could push your little
sun-licked face into the throngs and breathe and breathe.

Sweetness would be your name, and you would wonder why
four of your teeth are so sharp, and the tiny mountain range

of your knuckles so hard. And you would throw back your head
and open your mouth at the cows lowing their human songs

in the field, and the pigs swimming in shit and clover,
and everything on this earth, little dreamer, little dreamer

of the new world, holy, every rain drop and sand grain and blade
of grass worthy of gasp and joy and love, tiny shaman,

tiny blood thrust, tiny trillion cells trilling and trilling,
little dreamer, little hard hat, little heartbeat,

little best of me.

Free writing prompt:
Write about the best of you.

5/24/22 Workshop – A Poem by Catherine Imbriglio

I have had my results for a long time: but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them.
-Carl Friedrich Gauss

The poet corresponds to a projective geometry, the poet corresponds to the knots in her hair

Sometimes in my dreams I descend four flights without ever touching a stair. Or on pavement I take one step and glide 406 feet, step, then glide again, a periodic walking on air. Outside the picture plane, the figure is moved to tears by a transformation of the object. What properties are invariant under projective mappings. If you put down “bleep” on paper, what part remains from the actual bleep. What parts are preserved if you shrink a heckler or a pear. In the reality plane, I have to scramble to write down a sigh word. At the last second my gamboling is curtailed. The power is out, so there’s no light pollution. Still, in the dark, pulling nine carrots from the earth is a bleeping experience.  She learns to bleep by herself while studying knot theory. A bowline knot is like a throat knot, a panic knot is like matted hair. It’s no big deal, this putting two and two together, like transference, like equating a sight line with elephants or bears.

Free writing prompt:
Write about being tied in knots.