{the #MoSt Poetry: 17}

Prompt #17 (for December 31st)— What Are You Doin’ New Year’s, New Year’s Eve? — Write a nocturne — a poem set at night. Maybe this will be a journal of a night vigil, or a prayer at nighttime. Perhaps it will be a lyrical exploration of the transitions and emotions that occur between twilight and first-light. Possibly it will be an account of an Eve (New Year’s, Graduation, All Hallows’, etc.) that went so very wrong—or so very right. It may be a list of all the best ways to spend (or survive) a whole night—or the quest for those ways. Ready>Steady>Bonne nuit!

I know people who, every year, read back over journals and emails and such, and actually make sense of the past. Himself has an app that breaks down all of his business emails so he can kind of keep track of communications and business conducted throughout the year. For myself, I find all of this… kind of gobsmacking. I’ll never be that good at keeping track of what I/he/she said and what happened, and I find it a tiny bit tedious to go back over things… of course, this from someone who didn’t learn to revise papers, really, until grad school. I am of the school of Get It Right The First Time, but life has no such guarantees. I hate looking back, because I see all of the mistakes and things… if there is to be a reckoning, I want it to be when there’s still a chance to fix things. But, again: life. You can only fix what you can. As you look back over 2019… good luck. May your only concerns be what’s left in your bag that needs to be thrown out, so you can start over again.


the night the year turns
extracting the detritus
of an auld lang syne
made up of bullet journals
and unknown, worn business cards.

yearly summation
like women cleaning purses —
we plumb our own depths
shocked by the mess erupting
of pasts – packed and forgotten –

here, our promises
there, resolutions, amidst
stale crumbs and wrappers –
a trail, marking good intent
a map, unfolding hindsight.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 16}

Prompt #16 (for December 30th): Believe it or not, yesterday’s Prompt #15 marked the halfway point of NYPC 11! Okay, here’s today’s challenge: Listen to this live performance (after you’ve finished reading the prompt, of course) or to this one recorded in a studio, or to both. If you can do so, try not to watch, but to listen — at least the first time. The write a poem inspired by either performance/musical composition — or both, or one you compose in your head as you write. Ready…Steady…Go!


the size of a fist
this heart, half-formed and shadowed
clings to one small thing –
faith – clutched firm in two hands, leaps.
and now the clock strikes the hour

{the #MoSt Poetry: 15}

Prompt #15 (for December 29th): Another adapted Two Sylvias Press Advent Calendar prompt: Choose an event at which you were not present. This could be fictitious, historical, or actual. Write a poem that plays with the implications of not being present for an event. You weren’t there when Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty met. You were absent when Grandmaster Flash pioneered hip hop DJing or the Berlin Wall came down. You forgot and missed your anthropology final exam in junior college. Whether your poem is fanciful or serious, make it real. For extra credit, choose a line from a piece of fiction, a quotation from an historical time period, or something someone might have said that time you, you know, weren’t there…


i wasn’t there when
“no blondes allowed”
became a school-wide slogan.
(can you imagine
the chaos as fair-haired privilege
ran face-first into
a locked door?)
wish i could’ve been
a fly on the wall, but —

i wasn’t there
the week four blondes went non
opting out of anguish
while one bleached brighter —
wish i could’ve seen it:
grief in seven stages
bitter fear and panic seethed
some, in monstrous rage —
could even a fly on the wall
have caught it all?

i wasn’t there
as flashbulbs popped
recording how a change was wrought
in days to come, indelible
an institution altered.

wish i could’ve seen it, but
wrong how, wrong where, & years too late
did even the watchers
see how it went down?
wish i could’ve been
a fly on the wall.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 14}

Prompt #14 (for December 28th): Credit Where Credit is Due Department: I have adapted this prompt from one in the annual and excellent Two Sylvias Press Advent Calendar…

An earwig in amber. A ticket to the premiere of the Marx Brothers’ Horsefeathers. An advance advertisement for the iPhone XIX. What do you not expect to find in an envelope that’s been sent to you (assuming you still receive mail)? Write a poem in which you receive something very strange in an envelope. Be sure to include details such as where the envelope was sent from, whether the address is handwritten or typed, what sort of stamp is on it, etc. For extra credit, lend extra mystery by having the speaker (whoever he/she/they might be) try to figure out who sent the envelope.

Finnieston 255
six stamps and a watermark
broad, loopy initials in faded ink
I take to be my name.
who would be sending me,
now that the festive season is over,
aught but bills and circulars?
the rough brown envelope
gives way under cautious probing
revealing a crisp manila punch-card
no name. no return address.

Insert Card. This Side Up
The plain font barks instruction.
Within my hands this
wafer-thin hedge against Republic’s fall –
an empty ballot
from the year I was born.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 13}

Prompt #13 (for December 27th): Think back to a time in your childhood—or in the years since—when you collected something. (I pretty much went from putting together AMT brand car models to stockpiling record albums.) Maybe you were a philatelist, a numismatist, or cartophile (stamps, coins, baseball cards, respectively.) Whether it was these, or dolls, beer cans, license plates, or something less tangible (like regrets), write a poem in which the speaker is obsessed with her/his/their collection. Allow these objects to appear and reappear as often as possible.

lost & found

everything I lose, I find eventually —
the pot-bellied baby rounds childhood’s base
lugging a pound or two, snatched
from too-strict parents, and then
freedom begets the horror of
the Fresher Fifteen. no worries, of course — Rx,
a piece of See’s and Nik’s aerobics course, twice of day
the cure was more fun than the cause, but
everything I lose, I find eventually.

those first shaky years of marriage — rabid-in-laws,
and hostile natives, a speck of pepper
in a sea of salt
comfort food became
the only one telling me The Truth
but its croon was subjective
and everything I gained

I lost, eventually —
fasting, circuit training, ICU —
too much time in high, white beds
had I done this
to myself?
learning the names of my maladies
and stunned, I am
finding my balance and

everything I lose, I find eventually
maybe this time, I’ll find my feet.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 12}

Prompt #12 (for December 26th): I’ve been carrying the words and melody of the carol “In the Bleak Midwinter,” (based on Christina Rosetti’s poem, and usually set to a melody by Gustav Holst) in my skull for a few days now, and still find myself gripped by by these lines:
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Here are a couple of versions to listen to/watch (after the annoying YouTube commercials).

Whether there’s winter snow where you live, consider this painting by Vincent Van Gogh, entitled “Winter (The Vicarage Garden Under Snow)” as you prepare to write today’s poem. Once you go to the Norton Simon site, you’ll probably want to enlarge, zoom, and/or pan the painting to notice the details. To the right of the picture are some bits of biographical information and some questions worth considering—to which I’ll add some other possibilities:

What is it like to work outside in cold weather? What things are under the snow? What secrets are revealed—intentionally or accidentally—when we uncover what’s been hidden? Use any of the above stuff (the painting, the carol, seasonal sensations)— or anything that occurred to you while reading this—to write a poem set in winter, bleak or joyful, arduous or easeful.

R e a d y…Steady…Go~~~


dusk comes so early —
not yet a moonlit blanket
water turns to stone

{the #MoSt Poetry: 11}

Prompt #11 (for December 25th): There are a lot of holidays to celebrate in December! According to nationalday.com, there are several designated holidays between the 21st (Winter Solstice) and the 27th (National Fruitcake Day), including Chanukah, National Cookie Exchange Day, National Short Person Day, Festivus (!), Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, National Candy Cane Day, and National Thank You Note Day. Whether you celebrate one, some, or all of these days, or have a favorite day of your own set aside for celebration or commemoration, how do you choose to acknowledge it? What sensations (sights, sounds, smells, etc.), objects, traditions, memories, and people come to mind? Write a poem no longer than 25 lines that explores these possibilities. For an extra challenge, write a poem about a holiday that doesn’t yet exist, but should. Ready…Steady…Go~~~

This one’s for Heidi Mordhorst, who observed that I already made this a poem anyway…

Starlight Saturdays

I’ve been reminded
Of tiny gifts of love pressed
Into willing hands,
Of stiff cellophane wrapping
& striped-red minty sweetness.
Tucked in a round cheek
Just a spoonful of sugar
Shortens the service.

If you celebrate, Happy Christmas.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 10}

Prompt #10 (for December 24th): Write a poem about the photograph below—which I snagged from some random Facebook post a year or so ago and don’t know how to credit. Try incorporating some of what you see into a “Just before this…”/”Right now…”/”And then…” narrative. Consider having your title serve as your first or last line—or merely number it as if this poem were one in a series. Ready? Steady… Go~~~

Transbay Tube

Heads down, on uptown train
The jostling faithful endures.
(O come, with frigid fingers
Cold cheeked and triumphant)
A crackling intercom
Produces staticked fragments
The next stop, presumably –
No one knows for sure.

And then
A man in a tree
Or, a man AND a tree
Shuffles on
Consumed by needles and lights
Exuding holiday.

Around him, passengers glance
Blink, taking in his festival garb
And go right back
To their phones.