4/26/22 Workshop – A Poem by Billy Collins

The Next Poem – Billy Collins

Whenever the question comes up,
the poets all say the same thing:
the only poem we’re interested in is the next poem,
the one not written, the poem of tomorrow.

It’s a perfect answer,
which conjures up a bit of hope
and manages to place on the higher tray
of the scale of pride a gram of modesty.

But the problem is
as soon as you start to write it,
the next poem no longer is the next poem,
rather just another poem you are writing,
and the next poem has become
an imaginary mushroom waiting
in the future in a dark forest of pine needles.

And that is probably why I have lost interest
In this poem, in where it is going
or how it will manage to find a way to end.

It could droop into a reverie,
maybe shift to the doctor’s waiting room
where I am entering it into a notebook,
or circle back to that mushroom for all I care.

All I care about is the next poem,
not this current one,
which might even turn out to be my last—

the last orange on my miniature tree,
a shroud pulled over my baby grand,
the ultimate chirp of my canary,
or, how about this?
the final striped umbrella on the vacant beach of my soul?

Free writing prompt:
Write about the next time

4/5/22 Workshop – A Poem by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Bone Appendix – by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

After Alexandra Petrova

Trace your son’s left hand
against construction paper
with a nontoxic marker,

teaching him the edges
of his bones. Then fill
the space between

with what shines
or powders, glitter,
crushed cheerios, flecks

of skin even, teaching him
his bones remain
in spite of it. Let him try

to fit his fingers in the contours,
teaching him his bones
keep growing. And when

he makes two fists, afraid
his body can’t keep up
with what’s inside, clenching

hard as teeth to keep his bones
just as they are, to keep them
from sprouting out, tell him

of  Ukraine’s oldest apple tree
that grows its branches
low into the ground

until they drink the soil—
an indiscernible colony
of roots or eternally new trees.

And when he falls
asleep pressed to your chest,
trace his right hand

against the tree-house
rib cage it first grew, teaching him
the endlessness of bones.

3/15/22 Workshop – A Poem by Tishani Doshi

Girls Coming Out of the Woods

Girls are coming out of the woods,
wrapped in cloaks and hoods,
carrying iron bars and candles
and a multitude of scars, collected
on acres of premature grass and city
buses, in temples and bars. Girls
are coming out of the woods
with panties tied around their lips,
making such a noise, it’s impossible
to hear. Is the world speaking too?
Is it really asking, What does it mean
to give someone a proper resting? Girls are
coming out of the woods, lifting
their broken legs high, leaking secrets
from unfastened thighs, all the lies
whispered by strangers and swimming
coaches, and uncles, especially uncles,
who said spreading would be light
and easy, who put bullets in their chests
and fed their pretty faces to fire,
who sucked the mud clean                                                                                                    off their ribs, and decorated
their coffins with briar. Girls are coming
out of the woods, clearing the ground
to scatter their stories. Even those girls
found naked in ditches and wells,
those forgotten in neglected attics,
and buried in river beds like sediments
from a different century. They’ve crawled
their way out from behind curtains
of childhood, the silver-pink weight
of their bodies pushing against water,
against the sad, feathered tarnish
of remembrance. Girls are coming out
of the woods the way birds arrive
at morning windows—pecking
and humming, until all you can hear
is the smash of their miniscule hearts
against glass, the bright desperation
of sound—bashing, disappearing.
Girls are coming out of the woods.
They’re coming. They’re coming.

3/1/22 Workshop – A Poem by Serhiy Zhagan

They buried their son last winter

They buried their son last winter.
Strange weather for winter—rain, thunder.
They buried him quietly—everybody’s busy.
Who did he fight for? I asked. We don’t know, they say.
He fought for someone, they say, but who—who knows?
Will it change anything, they say, what’s the point now?

I would have asked him myself, but now—there’s no need.
And he wouldn’t reply—he was buried without his head.

It’s the third year of war; they’re repairing the bridges.
I know so many things about you, but who’d listen?
I know, for example, the song you used to sing.
I know your sister. I always had a thing for her.
I know what you were afraid of, and why, even.
Who you met that winter, what you told him.
The sky gleams, full of ashes, every night now.
You always played for a neighboring school.
But who did you fight for?

To come here every year, to weed dry grass.
To dig the earth every year—heavy, lifeless.
To see the calm after tragedy every year.
To insist you didn’t shoot at us, at your people.
The birds disappear behind waves of rain.
To ask forgiveness for your sins.
But what do I know about your sins?
To beg the rain to finally stop.
It’s easier for birds, who know nothing of salvation, the soul.

Free writing prompt:
Write about not being sure of another

2/15/22 Workshop – A Song by Leonard Cohen

 

Lover, Lover, Lover – Leonard Cohen

I asked my father,
I said, “Father change my name.”
The one I’m using now it’s covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame.
Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me,
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

He said, “I locked you in this body,
I meant it as a kind of trial.
You can use it for a weapon,
or to make some woman smile.”

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

“Then let me start again,” I cried,
“please let me start again,
I want a face that’s fair this time,
I want a spirit that is calm.”

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

“I never never turned aside,” he said,
“I never walked away.
It was you who built the temple,
it was you who covered up my face.”

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

And may the spirit of this song,
may it rise up pure and free.
May it be a shield for you,
a shield against the enemy.

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

Free writing prompt:

Write about starting again

2/1/22 Workshop – A Poem by Catherine Imbriglio

Catherine Imbriglio

the poet admits to a history of malfeasance

A woman and a duck walk into a bar.
The bartender says, “Where’d you get the pig?”
The woman says, “That’s not a pig, it’s a duck.”
 
The bartender says, “I was talking to the duck.”
            – Anon.

Is this funny, is this an aliquot part.
            G.C. Waldrep

 Forgive me gatekeeper for I have cringed; it is 40 years since my last confession; during that time, I winced at other people semi-automatically; hung onto resentments I concealed and carried; didn’t give a ghost; was too lazy to do comparison shopping; was late for my water bill; was late for my father’s funeral; laughed at the pig joke; had several free-floating infernal toad intervals; was petty; was cowardly; didn’t behave as if many problems should be considered trivial; in arguments large and small, cultivated a multitude of excuses and defenses, refused graciousness, refused toconcede I wasn’t right; in the same way, failed to take my medicine, failed at abnormality, didn’t suspect algorithms could be programmed white; disliked trigonometry; disliked queuing; minimized unknowns in the hunger equations; mocked at the undead, the half-dead, the retreating graylights; misfired at the heckler; blew away housework; hated folding; stole wildflowers; stole subtexts; stole sweetheart tokens; read the gun numbers on the wall; blew off the numbers, kept on going.

 

Free writing prompt:

An admission….

 

1/18/22 Workshop – A Poem by Jim Harrison

Broom – Jim Harrison

To remember that you’re alive
visit the cemetery of your father
at noon after you’ve made love
and are still wrapped in a mammalian
odor that you are forced to cherish.
Under each stone is someone’s inevitable
surprise, the unexpected death
of their biology that struggled hard as it must.
Now go home without looking back
at the fading cemetery, enough is enough,
but stop on the way to buy the best wine
you can afford and a dozen stiff brooms.
Have a few swallows then throw the furniture
out the window and then begin sweeping.
Sweep until you’ve swept the walls
bare of paint and at your feet sweep
the floor until it disappears. Finish the wine
in this field of air, go back to the cemetery
in the dark and weave through the stones
a slow dance of your name visible only to birds.

Free writing prompt:

Write about remembering you’re alive

1/4/22 Workshop – A Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca

[It would be neat if with the New Year]

for Miguel

It would be neat if with the New Year

I could leave my loneliness behind with the old year.

My leathery loneliness an old pair of work boots

my dog vigorously head-shakes back and forth in its jaws,

chews on for hours every day in my front yard—

rain, sun, snow, or wind

in bare feet, pondering my poem,

I’d look out my window and see that dirty pair of boots in the yard.

 

But my happiness depends so much on wearing those boots.

 

At the end of my day

while I’m in a chair listening to a Mexican corrido

I stare at my boots appreciating:

all the wrong roads we’ve taken, all the drug and whiskey houses

we’ve visited, and as the Mexican singer wails his pain,

I smile at my boots, understanding every note in his voice,

and strangers, when they see my boots rocking back and forth on my

feet

keeping beat to the song, see how

my boots are scuffed, tooth-marked, worn-soled.

 

I keep wearing them because they fit so good

and I need them, especially when I love so hard,

where I go up those boulder strewn trails,

where flowers crack rocks in their defiant love for the light.

Free Writing prompt:

All the roads taken.