Day 30: Words fail

Another bittersweet NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo wrap-up! Thank you to Maureen for working so hard to make this beautiful month happen year after year, and to all the participants who are so generous with their creativity, vision, time, attention, and insight!

Today’s prompt is to write a cento, a poem comprised of lines from other poems.

“While we’re alive,” we kept
repeating. Tongues, throats, [1]
and fog inside the bones. [2]

And the days peeled away like that, like platitudes, [3]
forgetting old words for the heart and the things in it. [4]
And now we are here. [5]

How the years make loss leaf out, [6]
the mower coughing up the neighbor’s yard. [7]
A den of worms beneath the frozen grass, [8]

convalescing in the refuse, [9]
drowsy with a full century’s worth [10]
of words, of worlds that failed slowly, then all at once. [11]

The source poems are ones I particularly liked from various daily poem email subscriptions:

1. “Day After Day of the Dead,” Nathaniel Mackey

2. “Fog,” Ruth Madievsky

3. “A Little Slice of Heaven,” Jaswinder Bolina

4. “Big Clock,” Li-Young Lee

5. “Coming to This,” Mark Strand

6. “Hirtles Beach Metonymy,” Michael Goodfellow

7. “The Rock that is not a Rabbit,” Corey Marks

8. “Places with Terrible Wi-Fi,” J. Estanislao Lopez

9. “Lake of Shining Water,” Lillian Necakov

10. “The Bell System,” Adam O. Davis

11. “Apostrophe,” Lisa Katz Duncan

Day 29: Petals

Today’s prompt is to write about gifts and a curse you were born with.

The film reel of the morning I was born
was screened and re-screened for me
in story. In sudden colours, like Oz.
My old parents: awed, tiptoeing

in an absurd blue sky, afloat
amidst swooning fuchsia petals
and colourized birdsong.
Their 1940s grayscale

gone ‘80s pink in a flash—
airy as bubblegum
breathed into liftoff.
They bundled me

and rebundled me
against the April sunshine.
Hovered around my breathing.
Wished they could just

breathe for me, to be sure
I would not be burdened.
They made a wooden shield
to keep me safe from TV radiation.

They gifted me with the conviction
that I caused the rhododendron to bloom
into red balloon bunches every April.
That I was the sunshine.

And sometimes I find myself hovering
around my breathing. Checking
and re-checking petals. Noticing
their fragile way of rising, falling, returning.

Day 28: Clippings

Today’s prompt is to write a concrete poem. Here is my pre-work, caffeinated, no-breakfast-yet, shaky attempt. I am not a visual artist.

Handwritten poem on white paper cut out in the shape of a crescent moon, photographed against a black background. The poem text is in the image caption.
“Narrow keratin clippings took one moon to grow one tenth of an inch on you. Time advances past your hands. Lives spring-loaded in your marrow. Leaves a skyful of wistful smiles.”

Day 27: Duplex for restless dreamers

 Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a “duplex.” A “duplex” is a variation on the sonnet, developed by the poet Jericho Brown. Here’s one of his first “Duplex” poems, and here is a duplex written by the poet I.S. Jones. Like a typical sonnet, a duplex has fourteen lines. It’s organized into seven, two-line stanzas. The second line of the first stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the second stanza, the second line of the second stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the third stanza, and so on. The last line of the poem is the same as the first.

Maureen Thorson at

We keep a sleeping bag between us.
Down shock-absorbs our dreams.

Down we walk, aboard our dream
mountain/spaceship, bobbing in clouds.

How your face shifts, bobbing in clouds.
Kicking pebbles down our dual hill into dim

flickering fables. Down. You will fill me in
when we awaken—what my shins and knees did.

Did you awaken from my spins—what these did
to your routes down your mountain? How my dream

boots found your mountain. How my dream’s
moose kicked your right hip—and your tale slipped

loose. Flipped your sky-ship. And your trail tripped—
though we keep a sleeping bag between us.

Day 26: Final fish

Today’s prompt is to write a poem using epic simile (elaborate, extended simile).

Like fishing post-apocalypse. One long shot. Whistling spear—

seeking the final fish. Her eyeballs extra salty, brimming with the end-times. Boat wakes. Fear. This fish, dead, will prolong your breath by a million

seconds. Fast! The last affordable apartment flashes—

then weaves into dark weeds. Embark with the hordes—

board your blank cheque like a paper boat. Do not tip. Do not soak through to your skeleton. Join the white flotilla frothing on the water. Take up your pen, adrenaline—hurl them—

stab that improbable fish. Her sadness. Her scales dropping off like chipping paint. Her eyes single-paned and fogged with condensation.

Day 25: Dreamed one

Today’s (optional) prompt is based on the aisling, a poetic form that developed in Ireland. An aisling recounts a dream or vision featuring a woman who represents the land or country on/in which the poet lives, and who speaks to the poet about it. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that recounts a dream or vision, and in which a woman appears who represents or reflects the area in which you live. Perhaps she will be the Madonna of the Traffic Lights, or the Mysterious Spirit of Bus Stops. Or maybe you will be addressed by the Lost Lady of the Stony Coves.

Maureen Thorson at

I reworked an old dream poem that was perfectly suited to this prompt and also wrote a new little shadorma for good measure. Here they are:

Dreamed one

She my most dreamed
intersects with me
in the SkyTrain system.
Its wet quick veins.
I’m constricted
by acceleration
and compensated.
By riding just one stop I

six stations on.
Evading all the

and stalling raindrops.
The cause was a mouse
caught in an umbrella bin.
I heard him berserking earlier
whipping up fluorescent
getting sopped on.
Misdirected by canopies
collapsed and dripping
down the cylinder.
Shoppers Drug Mart
considers this serious
compensated me
with said acceleration.
Now from one station
I take many

more distance and
my dreamed one agrees

venture with me
to the lake of my youth
where arbutus
divests itself of itself.
Writes tomes and tomes
of sunburned space
cursives in on itself.
We retrace

my parents’ living room
where arbutus is absent
but our old cedar is blasted
in two at an ungodly

lensing cedar the sheer
non possible shelter
the sap
strobe possible
the map gone the

rain the SkyTrain
tracks the time

my dreamed one.

under cedar falling

East Van Ruth’s Cool New Mode of Flight to the Still Creek Crow Roost

Dreamt of her
hoarse caw, dark flitting,
found metal.
Alley bits clang, merge: jet-winged
tin-can bicycle.

Day 24: Accelerate

Today’s prompt is to use vivid simile with a wry or sarcastic tone, in the tradition of hard-boiled detective novels.

The day’s tasks stack up like what passes for tools
in the toolbox in the kitchen cupboard
above the dish-drying rack:

Three eviscerated, elastic-bandaged Energizer boxes—aged beyond
drum-bunny’s decade (max) of expected life. Hammer noggin
that teeter-totters. Box and instructions for
a no-see-no-touch lost mousetrap.
Infinite cycle of slivered clear
tape. Wrinkled once-white
ribbon. Illegible, crick-
necked mea-

Haste flashes like loose-limbed hammer brain sliding from
the pile. Diving from the cupboard. Precision-
striking a wineglass. Igniting its latent
fireworks. Under crystal rain
we accelerate. At last
we can skip drip-

Day 23: A place of parting

Today I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the style of Kay Ryan, whose poems tend to be short and snappy – with a lot of rhyme and soundplay. They also have a deceptive simplicity about them, like proverbs or aphorisms. Once you’ve read a few, you’ll see what I mean. Here’s her “Token Loss,” “Blue China Doorknob,” “Houdini,” and “Crustacean Island.”

Maureen Thorson at

Moulded glass
makes the bottle.
Soda ash, sand,
and limestone
merge. Amass
a boggling
This here
forms the bottle
body. Glass—
essence of
the statuesque
of water.

water craves
a lack of glass—
a place of parting
in the bottle.
A non-bottle
space named
the mouth.
this here
the bottle cannot
let water in or out.

As for our bodies.
the spaces
of non-body
in our faces—
the gapings
between bodies—

there’s nothing
we can say.

Day 22: The days

Today’s prompt is to write a poem using repetition. Who knew it would turn out so depressing!

The days and day-old
cups accumulate. Stain.
Make rings like tinnitus.

The days and day-old
calendar turn stale—
crumb into lost appointments,

lodging like days and day-old
pain inside the teeth.
Wired and grinding.

The days and day-old
grime hum to the song
of mournful floorboards.

The days and day-old
thoughts crumble in pockets
of dirty laundry, set to dissolve

the days and day-old
jottings, blue words caught
in the throat of the lint trap.

The days, the day-old
hours crawling to bed.
The young ones tired of dawning.

Day 21: Les accordéons

Today’s prompt, from poet Betsy Sholl, “asks you to write a poem in which you first recall someone you used to know closely but are no longer in touch with, then a job you used to have but no longer do, and then a piece of art that you saw once and that has stuck with you over time. Finally, close the poem with an unanswerable question.I rolled them all into one. The piece of art that has stayed with me is this song:

All summer I lent my ear to les accordéons
tales of them—squeezebox memories—meandering—

when I worked at the limit of existence, the end zone
of Montreal, terminus of the east-reaching metro line,

the long-term care home there, where I forever lost
a bingo ball in the lawn, but picked up

the franco-hits of 1940s radio, songs that have not left me
through my aging, one of which translates badly to “Let’s leave,

the sea is beautiful.” The first verse beckons, Amis, partons sans bruit,
“Friends, let’s leave without a sound.” I poured melodies

from a watering can, witnessed lyrics blooming, from faces awakening
like winter bulbs—perennial hearts of language. I learned by heart

the chorus that lovingly looped, the story of the song, the song
of les accordéons again, le Musée de l’accordéon, from a gentleman

museum in his own right, le Musée de l’accordéon, regaling me
again with little-known truths about bellows, reeds, keys,

folk tunes, accompaniment on the spoons, again, such rhythm,
les accordéons, les accordéons again. Monsieur l’Accordéon.

I was brushing up on my French then. Fresh-faced anglo.
I picked it up fast. I learned Elle est partie means

she died—she didn’t just leave. I learned the phrase
again that summer. The chorus looped. Partons.

But how should I pronounce the sound—the waltz
around the hall—the rich and rounded voice—

the years compressed—expanded—compressed—expanded
between two palms? Les accordéons. Les accordéons.