9/27/23 Workshop – A Poem by Tiana Clark

My Therapist Wants to Know about My Relationship to Work
I hustle
I grasp.
           I grind.
I control & panic. Poke
balloons in my chest,
always popping there,
always my thoughts thump,
thump. I snooze — wake & go
boom. All day, like this I short
my breath. I scroll & scroll.
I see what you wrote — I like.
I heart. My thumb, so tired.
My head bent down, but not
in prayer, heavy from the looking.
I see your face, your phone-lit
faces. I tap your food, two times
for more hearts. I retweet.
I email: yes & yes & yes.
Then I cry & need to say: no-no-no.
Why does it take so long to reply?
I FOMO & shout. I read. I never
enough. New book. New post.
New ping. A new tab, then another.
Papers on the floor, scattered & stacked.
So many journals, unbroken white spines,
waiting. Did you hear that new new?
I start to text back. Ellipsis, then I forget.
I balk. I lazy the bed. I wallow when I write.
I truth when I lie. I throw a book
when a poem undoes me. I underline
Clifton: today we are possible. I start
from image. I begin with Phillis Wheatley.
I begin with Phillis Wheatley. I begin
with Phillis Wheatley reaching for coal.
I start with a napkin, receipt, or my hand.
I muscle memory. I stutter the page. I fail.
Hit delete — scratch out one more line. I sonnet,
then break form. I make tea, use two bags.
Rooibos again. I bathe now. Epsom salt.
No books or phone. Just water & the sound
of water filling, glory — be my buoyant body,
bowl of me. Yes, lavender, more bubbles
& bath bomb, of course some candles too.
All alone with Coltrane. My favorite, “Naima,”
for his wife, now for me, inside my own womb.
Again, I child back. I float. I sing. I simple
& humble. Eyes close. I low my voice,
was it a psalm? Don’t know. But I stopped.
Reflective writing prompt
Write about the hustle upstream.

8/16/23 Workshop – A Poem by Kyle Carrero Lopez

Ode to a Croptop – Kyle Carrerro Lopez

O                         sliced crêpe;

dress                         code break;

half-                                    set sun;

slut                         symbol;

cracked             window;

short                                    story;

a whole summer                         carnival, shrunk.

How I adore                         your spunk,

your sincere open                         call for air

on my belly                         hair.

The little Target®                         boy

groaning eww                         as I pass

isn’t worth                         any ire.

He’s playing                         with fire,

but his parents                         lit the torch.

To think such small                         cloth

sparks grown brains                         aflame.

Why you in                         a girl’s top,

the man yells                        in DC.

I could have cut him                        one too,

so we’d both                                    feel the breeze.

Reflective writing prompt:
Write about a time you stood out from the crowd.



7/19/23 Workshop – A Poem by Wisława Szymborska

                   Poetry Reading

To be a boxer, or not to be there
at all. O Muse, where are our teeming crowds?
Twelve people in the room, eight seats to spare
it’s time to start this cultural affair.
Half came inside because it started raining,
the rest are relatives. O Muse.

The women here would love to rant and rave,
but that’s for boxing. Here they must behave.
Dante’s Inferno is ringside nowadays.
Likewise his Paradise. O Muse.

Oh, not to be a boxer but a poet,
one sentenced to hard shelleying for life,
for lack of muscles forced to show the world
the sonnet that may make the high-school reading lists
with luck. O Muse,
O bobtailed angel, Pegasus.

In the first row, a sweet old man’s soft snore:
he dreams his wife’s alive again. What’s more,
she’s making him that tart she used to bake.
Aflame, but carefully-don’t burn his cake!
we start to read. O Muse.

Reflective writing prompt:
Start with “O Muse.”


6/28/23 Workshop – A Poem by Stan Heleva in a Play by Michelle Pauls

       Stan Heleva and Michelle Pauls

When We Were Whales* – by Stan Heleva

We knew nothing of the legs we had shed
As we swam in the Peruvian desert
Nor how they had become unnecessary
Not an inkling of immanent return had we, nor again why.

We had only silent ballet, no music
Turning ourselves over in the murky sun
Only to dart in to tear more flesh from our fellows
Our tusks glinting dully, our beards stained with blood.

Our name, Leviathan Melvillei, was unknown to us
And might have remained so for all the good
It has done dead whale or dead poet: we had no tune I repeat
We taught them only to cry in pain; they made of it a song.

*From Michelle Pauls’ Forthcoming play, “It’s Complicated….This Gift of Life.”

Reflective writing prompt:
Write about when we were something else.

5/24/23 Workshop – A Poem by Danusha Laméris

           Danusha Laméris

                      The Watch

At night, my husband takes it off,

puts it on the dresser beside his wallet and keys

laying down, for a moment, the accoutrements of manhood.

Sometimes, when he’s not looking, I pick it up

savor the weight, the dark face, ticked with silver

the brown, ostrich leather band with its little goosebumps

raised as the flesh is raised in pleasure.

He had wanted a watch and was pleased when I gave it to him.

And since we’ve been together ten years

it seemed like the occasion for the gift of a watch

a recognition of the intricate achievements

of marriage, its many negotiations and nameless triumphs.

But tonight, when I saw it lying there among

his crumpled receipts and scattered pennies

I thought of my brother’s wife coming home

from the coroner carrying his rings, his watch

in a clear, ziplock bag, and how we sat at the table

and emptied them into our palms,

their slight pressure all that remained of him.

How odd the way a watch keeps going

even after the heart has stopped. My grandfather

was a watchmaker and spent his life in Holland

leaning over a clean, well-lit table, a surgeon of time

attending to the inner workings: spring,

escapement, balance wheel. I can’t take it back,

the way the man I love is already disappearing

into this mechanism of metal and hide,

this accountant of hours

that holds, with such precise indifference

all the minutes of his life.

Reflective Writing Prompt
What drives your internal clock?

5/3/23 Workshop – A Poem From a Book Banned in Florida

Electrons – Lehab Assef Al-Jundi

Atoms within your body
What seems solid –
knees, nose, hair –
moves swiftly. Particles
orbit each other. Dart like meteors
through vast spaces.

Air about you
made of same.
You take from it
and you give.
Drawing in atoms and molecules
to form
your ever changing image.
Your lips move.
Your tongue speaks your name.
You take it on faith your words will
make sense.

Meaning flows out effortlessly.
Electrons skip like rocks on water
between your solid body
and your electromagnetic thoughts.

You look through a window.
Listen to voices from within and without.
Dazzled by what you perceive,
you wonder about causes and effects.

When a wave of love takes you by surprise,
your eyes well up with tears.

Reflective writing prompt:
Write about what seems solid

4/19/23 Workshop – A Poem by Virginia Drda

Transient – Virginia Drda

Sunlight inhale
day’s heart beating
nature’s time clock
sunset sigh
splashed through the sky
exhaled twilight
waves goodbye

spring wind whispers
breath in bubbles
bursting blossoms
day’s length doubles
firefly blink
firework gasp
midsummer’s grasp

coy striptease
of autumn trees
in cinnamon breeze

icy frostlace
frozen fingers
winter’s breathcloud
lightly lingers

floating snowflakes
heaven sent
we too
are transient

Reflective writing prompt:
Write about what does not last.

3/29/23 Workshop – A Work of Sudden Fiction by Sejal Shah

Sejal Shah

From: Curriculum

My friend Anne says use the old frames and wear them. Replace the lenses. I, too, wear glasses; this is one way I know I belong to my family since I don’t really resemble them. They are my mother’s cat-eyeglasses, from the sixties; or maybe it was the seventies. They are broken and I cannot bear to get rid of them. I keep them in the blue-and-white flowered glasses case she always used. I keep them in a wooden box that says Buffalo Baking Powder Company and that I bought one summer, at an antique fair. I was not even twenty-five. What did I know then of the way things break down? Of the way I would and one day did. I want to believe I will wear her glasses one day. I keep thinking about these objects that have no particular use, how I study them: two handkerchief maps of an area now called something else; pale, needlepointed flowers (unframed); spectacles with black and gold rims, a relic signifying forthcoming absence, these glasses of a mother I will lose one day.

Reflective writing prompt:
Write about an object with no particular purpose