How to Write a Poem

Imagine teaching your dream writing class
filled with adolescent poets
waiting to be sparked.

Tracing our hands,
we generate topics—
one feeling for each finger.

Teacher Lady gives the first one.
Elation: word of the week.
Everyone writes it on a digit.
What else you got?



City Girl says poverty isn’t a feeling. Giving rise to replies.

You ever been poor?

Stuff it, City Girl.

Isn’t poverty like being hungry all the time? –that’s a feeling.

What about poverty of spirit?

City Girl says good point and
so . . .
elation, sorrow, poverty, and greed!
There’s another one—greed!

Teacher Lady interjects—
Yes City girl,
like a poet’s greed for words
her hunger, aching to be fed
that absent muse
that’s what hurts.

Hey Teacher Lady
Why you call a poet her?
seems – (his fingers air-quote this part)—
“non – in – clu – sive”
Poverty Boy pronounces every syllable in singsong
nodding his head back and forth.

Good point, Poverty Boy
nothing feels equal.
Maybe you should write about it.
Express your angst.
Express your elation.
Your words open cracks
that need your light.

Open your journals.

Some Other Kid retorts
Look at our hand chart.
We only have four feelings.
What about our thumb?

Teacher Lady replies
Add angst.
a feeling of deep anxiety or dread
something that needs light
later we’ll revisit and make today’s word shine

Here are your words:

elation, sorrow, poverty, greed, and angst
Pick one or more.
Dig deep.
You know the drill.

20 minutes on the timer and…..

The entire class yells,

Heads down,
relentless pencils scratch and explore.


Notes: This piece follows today’s NaPo prompt to write a How To poem. It lost the formatting when I uploaded, and wish I knew how to upload audio from my phone. This is best served out loud. Day 2. Check!

Self Portrait as Cinderella

It’s time to dress for the ball!
My grandmother’s backless dress
beckons with cascades of tulle
in buttery yellow sheets.

Its underdress brushes warmth
with satin against my skin
And then, my prince waltzes in.
His fingers trace the path of
the labyrinth tat on my back.

Our eyes meet in the mirror
where he gestures with his head.
There’s a gift beneath the bed.

From beneath the bed I pull
a pair of lemon slippers,
jeweled flats that flatter my dress.
They find my feet. I love them.

He offers a hand in dance
our bodies pull us to trance
Balls can(‘t) wait, it’s not too late.
Fade to music twisting sheets.



For this piece I followed the early bird prompt at NaPo. To give myself some parameters, I made every line 7 syllables (if you say jeweled as one syllable). The rhythm feels choppy and odd in some places, but it was fun to write.

Like sand

His smug face covers his fear
as he feeds his followers.

Believing that the loudest guy wins,
he shouts his power
obliterating truth with tilted tweets.

In a boundless game of defense and blame,
he swoops in, hot wind,
sifting his story
like sand through memory’s hands
and builds it into castles
to dazzle and distract those
who hunger for
power and control,
while they take their polished guns to Walmart.
“Blood and soil!”

Can you sense the madness here?

People with guns kill people.
Women are more than pussies and prizes.
There are no good Nazis.

I miss sanity
and the sound of Obama’s voice
urging us to love each other
and meaning it.
I miss the days
he gave this country hope.




Visit The Sunday Whirl




Between beneath behind the cracks
darkness climbs that place where memories hide
muted and bound.

You wonder if light is God’s breath,
filtering its way through cracks
where writhing piles of snakes seek warmth.

Or is that just hope listening to light?

Your musty memory molts
leaving a trail of grey papery pods
unbound and fluttering.



Distance isn’t measured in fish

We did not adequately prepare for this distance.
How could we?
We did not expect to feel like stones
among our tribe.
Heavy and dark.

Peeling back the edges,
it’s hard to pinpoint
when connections quaked
and ripples turned to waves,
waves that swallowed us
churning, then spit us
onto opposite sides of nothing.

There is no water left.




tell me how these mighty rumors circle and spin.

tell me how
when you’ve got nothing to sell
but your Self,
your sweet light flickers
casting shadows that sliver your middling plot.

tell me how grapevines feed cellphones
through screen shots,
boils that fester,
never lost.

tell me you can’t sleep at night,
that your eyes follow seams
vining across your ceiling
searching for flies about to drop.

tell me how it feels as
one by one your bits of filth fall
and fill these ditches
non existent.



You said No

Sometimes you love
The man who assaults you

In the shower
From behind

You are five feet five inches
One hundred seventeen pounds
He is six foot four
200 plus pounds

He lifts you
Pushes you against the shower wall


You say no

He continues
You hear the shower
Spout to sewer

You say no

He enters you

You say no
Torn apart

Afterward he touches your face
In tender caress
He loves you

You say no

He can’t help it
You’re the one
Who joined him
In the


You said no



Words like moron
eat your power
punching holes through
your endless sense of

Preening your ingenuous
you swirl distractions against
your inner collapse,
indignity in tow,
charging over roads
showing us who’s boss.

Your struggle creates
a mystery game,
dangling divinations
as calm before storms.

American spirit lists
as invisible fringes muster
in dissipation
of your work against
the nation.

“Time will tell,”
you say.
“You’ll find out.”

At night
even the stars sigh
by the collapse your dark portends.


That one lady, That nut.

That one lady
That nut
Simmered color
In waves

When She laughed
It burst
Like rain from high white clouds

In her mind
Nothing mattered
But the angle of her throat
When her head tipped back
Babbling brooks
like sunshine spilled
If She could bottle it and label it She would

Waves of Babbling Sunshine
Sure to shiver your timbers
Shimmering diamonds mixed with
Your eyes
Spread your thighs
Be wise

That one lady
That nut
Fruit punch
Drinks too much
Down below the surface
She knew She’d won
‘Nothing’s at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box’
Everything She never needed
She received for free

Empty chains evaded her privilege
She laughed
Until she cried
Her disguise

That one lady
That nut

Did you see her over there?
Breathing color,
Eating popcorn from a box.

-bwarren 17


Nothing’s at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box is a line from Meatloaf’s song, ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.’

She just can’t.

A storm of words
Creams the poet

Her solipsistic need for walls
Collapses as
Everything she flees
She faces
She skins bare her soul
Ripping labels from life’s undoing
Brutally unmasking the corrugated
Landscapes that box her in

Her peculiar scorn exposed
She spirals round its eye

see? See?

It’s not so bad

She digs at her scabs
to watch herself bleed.

bw / 17