Day 13: Grateful

Today, in honor of the potential luckiness of the number 13, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that, like the example poem here, joyfully states that “Everything is Going to Be Amazing.” Sometimes, good fortune can seem impossibly distant, but even if you can’t drum up the enthusiasm to write yourself a riotous pep-talk, perhaps you can muse on the possibility of good things coming down the track. As they say, “the sun will come up tomorrow,” and if nothing else, this world offers us the persistent possibility of surprise.

Everything terrifying 
has an eggshell of beauty
Stained in skin is hope
Marrowed deep are chromosomes
Of not just survival, but joy  
Remember the yin and yang 
Of this sweet and sour life
A tornado in the pink of spring
A delightful poem in the mind’s
World wide web of synapses 

Day 11: Desert

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about a very large thing. It could be a mountain or a blue whale or a skyscraper or a planet or the various contenders for the honor of being the Biggest Ball of Twine. Whatever giant thing you choose, I hope this chance to versify in praise of the huge gets your poetic engines humming.

Red sand expands
For miles
Below a saffron sun 
Footprints and car tracks
Disappear in a flurry 
We are the mirage 
the desert seeks with 
Wide hope 

Dizzy with awe
The brain is struck by 
The heat engulfs 
with serpentine 
Like wind

Day 10: Seeds of love

“Today’s (optional) prompt is pretty simple – a love poem! If you’re having trouble getting into the right mood for a love poem, maybe you’ll find inspiration in one of my favorites, June Jordan’s “Poem for Haruko.””

With soft eyes I watch
As you gently pick out guava
Seeds for your father’s
sensitive teeth 
I tell you that you are sweet
And you say,
“He raised me. It's the least I could do” 
as you sprinkle pinches of garam masala 
Across fleshy fruit

With a warm heart I watch
As you hold your mother’s
Hand when we walk in a garden
I snap a photo of you smirking, 
Questioning my intentions, 
Finding my awe to be trite,  
And I reassure you,
“It’s just for me”
Smiling as I discover
Leftover seeds lodged in my molars
Reminders of small acts
Of deep tenderness 

 Day 9: Foraging

“Because it’s a Saturday, I thought I’d try a prompt that asks you to write in a specific form – the nonet! A nonet has nine lines. The first line has nine syllables, the second has eight, and so on until you get to the last line, which has just one syllable.”

In my palm lay pink dipped dainty pods
Plucked from the redbud tree above
We are told to eat handfuls
Tasting of peas and spring
Palm is heavy with 
Violets, too

Day 8: Mushroom witch

“Today’s prompt comes to us from this list of “all-time favorite writing prompts.” It asks you to name your alter-ego, and then describe him/her in detail. Then write in your alter-ego’s voice. Maybe your alter-ego is a streetwise detective, or a superhero, or a very small goldfinch. Whoever or whatever your alternate self may be, I hope this prompt lets you stretch both your writing skills and your self-knowledge.”

Watch your feet 
For I thrive in hidden places
You’ve probably heard - 
I own my own kingdom
Consuming the remains of my domain
Their waste becoming my feast
I decompose, absorb, and give back
Embedded among the roots of my community
I create interconnecting webs of forest gossip 
My myriad disguises  
Seduce when I please
And kill when finders are heedless 
Butter me up, let me color your brain
Watch your feet
Watch your head 
Know I don’t need to be your master
To enchant you 

Day 6: If it doesn’t serve you

“I’d like to challenge you to write a variation of an acrostic poem. But rather than spelling out a word with the first letters of each line, I’d like you to write a poem that reproduces a phrase with the first words of each line. Perhaps you could write a poem in which the first words of each line, read together, reproduce a treasured line of poetry? You could even try using a newspaper headline or something from a magazine article. Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy this prompt”

If your heart beats fast
It means you’re alive, it
Doesn’t make you unique to 
Serve yourself blackened thoughts
You can rise up high as skyscraping trees
Wash them away like dirt for
It won’t be long before it’s
All stardust and dreams

Away we go 

Day 5: Medusa

“Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem about a mythical person or creature doing something unusual – or at least something that seems unusual in relation to that person/creature. For example, what does Hercules do when he loses a sock in the dryer? If a mermaid wants to pick up rock-climbing as a hobby, how does she do that? What happens when a mountain troll makes pancakes?”

Do not laugh
For I, too, have
Aesthetic needs
Someone to braid
My serpentine darlings
Bathe them with beauty 
Weave them with warmth
Someone to apply golden gloss
To my untouched lips 
Someone to bear the burden
Of turning their gaze
Not out of fear
But because desire calls
From deep within
In hopes that one day
Someone - anyone - will
Soften to milk
Upon looking into 
My glossy eyes 

Day 4: Folding Laundry

“Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem . . . in the form of a poetry prompt. If that sounds silly, well, maybe it is! But it’s not without precedent. The poet Mathias Svalina has been writing surrealist prompt-poems for quite a while, posting them to Instagram”

1. Take your mind off the future and fold the laundry
2. Stand and feel your back arch over the bed as you reach for pink socks
3. Mismatch if you please, but don’t hesitate. This is your life
4. Feel surprise and delight as you smooth out wrinkles in your favorite sweater
5. Take a seat and watch your wrists flip like pancakes over old t-shirts
6. Create satisfying piles of folded fabric 
7. Bury your face in something soft, inhale like your life depends on it 

Day 3: Where to begin?

“And now for our (optional) prompt. This one is a bit complex, so I saved it for a Sunday. It’s a Spanish form called a “glosa” – literally a poem that glosses, or explains, or in some way responds to another poem. The idea is to take a quatrain from a poem that you like, and then write a four-stanza poem that explains or responds to each line of the quatrain, with each of the quatrain’s four lines in turn forming the last line of each stanza. Traditionally, each stanza has ten lines, but don’t feel obligated to hold yourself to that!”


“The witchery of living

is my whole conversation

with you my darlings.

All I can tell you is what I know.”

-Mary Oliver, “To begin with, sweet grass”

I sit at 90 degree angles most of my days
Breathing in shallow patterns
Oxygen does not visit my whole body
Knots tighten like highway congestion
At my shoulder blades and hips
I ache for touch
As I peer out my window
The parking lot empty and loud 
But alas that is 
The witchery of living 

How will my weekly meals pan out?
Will my brain silence for a moment?
What if I embarrass myself?
Could you rest your eyes from the screen?
What if I am accused of laziness?
What if you took a rest?
How can I be sure of anything?
Why not embrace the wind?
What if I do not wake?
Is my whole conversation 

With myself 
Inside loops of nonstop thoughts
Endless feeds
Constant buzzing, beeping, ringing 
Familiar chaos
Nostalgic itchings 
Addictive scratching 
The lock and key of ancestral chemical reactions 
With you my darlings

I begin to see it 
Surgical masks littered at the roots of ancient trees 
Evidence of life here and now
Airplanes roaring, gunshots firing, birds singing 
Carpeted floor, untouchable kindness 
Cold water against teeth meant for joy 
Burning popcorn, daffodils
All I can tell you is what I see, hear, touch
All I can tell you is what I taste and smell 
All I can tell you is what I know

Day 2: Longing-mark

“Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on a word featured in a tweet from Haggard Hawks, an account devoted to obscure and interesting English words.”


My chosen tweet from March 27: “Newborn babies’ birthmarks were once known as LONGING-MARKS, because they were said to take on the shape of something desired by the mother”

A brown spot on my knee
Marks me from birth 
Circular, it embodies wholeness, continuity 
My mother, like many mothers
Longed for endless love
Accustomed to familial disconnection
And a failed marriage
She releases this longing 
Across nine months
And like honey, it seeps
From her bones into mine
And she rests easy 
And leads a simple life knowing
A warm secret is tattooed deep
Into her daughter’s skin
Like a fresh kiss 
Where it will remain
For eternity