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NaPoWriMo Days 15-17: Retelling of Family Anecdotes, Play, And The Vulnerability Of A Villain

Another post with three days worth of poems. Forgive me in advance for the groan inducing,  day fifteen.

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) follows Gowrishankar’s suggestion that we write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time. It could be the story of the time your Uncle Louis caught a home run ball, the time your Cousin May accidentally brought home a coyote and gave it a bath, thinking it was a stray dog, or something darker (or even sillier).

Day Seventeen

All quiet upstairs

She slipped

Down the stairs 

and into the shadows and shelter 

of the basement

Hot little hands

Heat of the heart running through them

and down into the finger pads 

that magicked over 

castles and castles of  boxes

Card board—smooth and wooly

Found the one

The one she’d secreted in thought

down the stairs to find

Pulled it open with a rustle

Gleaming and nestled

Babies of treasure

The jeweled and preserved excitement of Christmas

all there nested in tissue and waiting

Fragile month of December

Round and glass

Smooth and painted

Handled like a mother’s egg

Life inside

Curious hands shouldn’t hold too long

scolded if touched or turned too long

Found her accomplice stool standing still

Climbed and dropped 

Each one, on the concrete basement floor

a colored crystal explosion

All for her


In this vein, our (optional, as always) prompt for the day asks you to write a poem that prominently features the idea of play. It could be a poem about a sport or game, a poem about people who play (or are playing a game), or even a poem in the form of the rules for a sport or game that you’ve just made up (sort of like Calvinball).

Day Sixteen

With the adult world swelling all around them

they fashion child kingdoms

to make sense

of what they see

Capes and tunnels and bands of warriors

Sunset dreaming and flying through trees

Leafy worlds and tiny islands

Heady breathless sweaty leaders atop hills and swing sets and decks

Makes pacts and rules and rule their people

Decrepit sewage drain becomes the promised land

The anthems of play

Mimic, mirror, make different


And now for our prompt (optional, as always). In her interview, Blake suggests writing a poem in which a villain faces an unfortunate situation, and is revealed to be human (but still evil). Perhaps this could mean the witch from Hansel & Gretel has lost her beloved cat, and is going about the neighborhood sticking up heart-wrenching “Lost Cat” signs, but still finds human children delicious. Maybe Blackbeard the Pirate is lost at sea in an open boat, remembering how much he loved his grandmother (although he will still kill the first person dumb enough to scoop him from the waves).

Day Fifteen: The Vulnerability Of A Villain

Morning routine

Cover the hide

Hide behind

the white

The taunts were real bad sometimes

Paint  was his savior

Swiping and covering

Layers of closeness

Closer than anyone wanted to get

The white paint found on sale  was his friend,

and covered for him

Covered him and his gruesome skin

People didn’t care

 to linger too long 

No curious triangle glances

from the eyes

to the mouth

to the chin, that signaled a possible friend

That signaled the soft curiosity of  another human

Just sharp left turns from—

(Repulsed and afraid of)

From the man he sees in the mirror

Fingers hold the tin

Pop the lid

Moist dread

Empty pot

The Joker’s out of makeup

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The Path That Leads To…Somewhere Else

What happens when the *Thing* doesn’t work out?

(A relationship, a friendship, love, a job, a career, a career step, something you endeavor to do with great passion…. something you think you’ve been “called”  to) 

What happens when the *Thing*  that’s animated your imagination, given your heart direction, and given your actions a deeper (more far reaching)  trajectory, doesn’t work out at all?

Different from never happening, what happens when the *Thing* finally presents itself as a wide open door of possibility then starts to go very badly, once you’re through the door. And then instead of changing or getting better, it ends. 

When the *Thing* ends it is a painful flail in slow-motion, a stagger into the surreal. 

Color, flavor, light, and movement all drain from the basin of your present reality. 

Days may accumulate into a week of bewilderment. 

And when that one bewildering week turns into two,  you start to see yourself in a way you never have before. 

When the bottom of YOU drops out, and the strings in the knots and in the elaborate weaves you’ve woven for yourself begin not to just unravel, but  disintegrate between your confused fingertips, you start to get real with yourself real quick.  

Illusions tumble away and you really start to *see* yourself. Unclear are your past motivations or reasons for doing anything, but cuttingly clear are the expressions and gestures and missteps and messiness  of the body you see before you in a mirror,  and of course the vivid mess of multicolored shreds and strings piled at your feet. 

That is what happened when my *Thing* didn’t work out.  And now, on the other side of hope—on the other side of all of that animating wonder for the thing that was not to be—I wonder why (at all) the thing took shape in me. Why did the hope or idea take shape with such certainty in me? It is easier to discount the truth—the realness— the validity of the thing into whose arc I threw myself. But along side of the failure, it still stirred up truth, and realness and validity in me and those things leave room for purpose. So maybe doubting the thing is not the way to examine it, or even to doubt at all, but to examine my hope, my certainty of the outcome.  

Many of my most beloved sayings are those that describe exactness in the mess, beauty in the chaos, knowing that life should not be organized but radical, that we are all together fully messed up and are wrecks, and are also fully good. We are not simply “either’s” and “or’s”, but “both’s” and “and’s”. We are things riven, but also beautifully given. 

And so I share this poem by Christian Wiman. Please give it a read. It’s also beautiful  read aloud, so give that a whirl if you will. You can also hear the audio of Christian’s reading by clicking here

“Every Riven Thing”

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made

sing his being simply by being

the thing it is:

stone and tree and sky,

man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,

means a storm of peace.

Think of the atoms inside the stone.

Think of the man who sits alone

trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made

there is given one shade

shaped exactly to the thing itself:

under the tree a darker tree;

under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made

the things that bring him near,

made the mind that makes him go.

A part of what man knows,

apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

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“To Water, To Let Rain”

Oh lord

Release me from the bedraggled monotony of my ingrattitude

Haggard and dry, brittle and unyielding

Despair makes a mummy out of me

Withered patchwork of gray

Worn and frayed

I see through a veil of unease

How sweet the way the sun breaks through

How tender the rain on my bones

How spongy the fog makes the moss

Oh Hope, Oh lord

Release me from my bedraggled monotony

Send hope

Send rain upon this day