Tessa, What’s This Verse About?

His shaven head made me laugh.
A monk-like child. Isn’t it enigmatic?
That’s who I see, anyway. Only
his arrogance is apocalyptic.

This is how I inhabit, where always
there’s a verb. The sun comes out.
I read about meteors and paraphrase,
the green hidden in everything.

What’s not to love? Mutable as sin,
obscure as curse. Your breath is one.
O being dissatisfied, why, much good
it did us, rattling the verse.

Prompt: You guys celebrate Halloween? Of course you do. Strange tradition this is, celebrating with headstones, ghouls, and whatnots. A house of horrors that really isn’t. I read a quote today about how plants give humans oxygen so that we can in turn fertilize them when we return to dust. Is that macabre or what? Maybe death is so deep a mystery that we need to turn it into dark comedy. I guess this is turning out to be a halloweeny/death prompt. But read Dylan Thomas’s poem:

Your breath was shed
Invisible to make
About the soiled undead
Night for my sake,

A raining trail
Intangible to them
With biter’s tooth and tail
And cobweb drum,

A dark as deep
My love as a round wave
To hide the wolves of sleep
And mask the grave.

Death is pretty much meaningless without love. So make your poem about love & death. Here’s Bob Dylan and George Harrison to help out too.

Tessa, The Birthday Girl’s Poem

To a man in dark glasses I’m listening
defining a voice, singing a dirge
of a middling kind–in furtive shadow there you are,
standing behind, carrying a pail and tripping over,
nothing to fault but the weight, sudden
the wind knocked out of you–
so in precipitous row we have entered through
yet another door. That kind of vibe
defines us; more than ever a principled rattling
through stained glass window communing,
and ear to ear blowing religion,
because that transfigures all,
the purgatory that threatens the seeming.
And reverence is what I wished for
when body’s being held hostage, even bewildered
in the wilderness when the sun rises
tomorrow it’s still spellbinding.

Prompt: I think I’ve said it before, about showing up for work. When I show up a poem kinda pops out of the oven. It’s kind of magic. I don’t know how long the magic will last. I’m willing to bet that if I don’t practice a kind of literary rust will happen and I’ll kick literary dust. So today, I’ve got another Dylan number. To be honest the poem happened before the song. That song just kinda fits. So here it is, and you’re to write about it, around it, away from it and then come back to it. Oh right, imagine you’re coming to another birthday and mortality’s knocking.

Tessa, If A Song Could Move A Mountain

Something’s badgering me.
A tear to my knit so I’m always singing;
a tiny slit near my knee,
even you with the ill-assorted
cures have chosen to ignore.

What blossoms, my grizzly?
An imitative flourishing wave
so much cunning had caused,
but it’s just another chronology,
dissonance finding harmony.

What blossoms? Why, to say you love me
is professorial, hoopla yet marred,
a dream of the pastoral is
still one, like a rose’s
always been provisional.

Prompt: Hey guys, everyone’s into the presidential election and I suppose the outcome’s a somewhat forgone conclusion by now. This election’s marred however you interpret it. I don’t mean to get into any of it. Whatever goes on with politics, your personal struggles remain and of course it’s linked to government. What the government does, how it does, and does not. I’m really an outsider watching so yea I am sticking to poetry, poets, and Dylan in particular. Him and Yeats are towering in my estimation. In contrast my own poems are just ditties. Anyway, does it matter? Not to you maybe, but it’s my journey. Hopefully I’m not on the final leg but who knows? What I love about poetry is that it addresses eternal things. It addresses feelings, and those are real. Write a poem inspired by Yeats (see below) or Dylan or both.


All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

Tessa, I Made A Tune

We’re in need of salving so
we go about it, methodical.
Clanging out lines, never you mind
being slightly off tune,
puffing up a theme,
the one that’s been mean
being ever lasting.

So this your allotment
and it is mine.
And this your allotment
so it is mine.

Prompt: By now America’s great again. At least by measure of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Bob Dylan. It’s timely too. Seemed to have salved the wound that is the current presidential campaign. A counter revolutionary poet no less.
So write a poem that wants to be a song. Try to be as poetic as the lyrics that Dylan wrote. Like this:

The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.

–Bob Dylan, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”

Tessa, Of Mildew And Serpentine Things

You remained impassive.
At your timelessness I balked.
You in your green polo
and massive beard, looking

Me, I’ve been dealing with
mildew, the white spawn,
and slimy snakes, eel-like
in nature, waves of sullen activity
punctuated by nothingness.

This time, there’s a scorpion,
as if a foil to all that.
The cat watching it too.
I’ve been stung many times
without knowing. Now I’ve turned
into a green eel.

Prompt: Truth is, I’ve dreamt of snakes and a scorpion. I still remember the sliminess. But you look on as a captive audience. Stilled in continuous movement. I don’t know what to make of the scorpion though. Perhaps it’s my unconscious telling me I’ve been stung, back bitten. Whatever. So you are to write about things of the unconscious. Your dreams maybe. Or, as a foil, you are to write about light, or lightness. Like stained glass windows. Like this. It always works to expel all that ooziness.

How right the poet was who called
man a brittle, crazie glasse,
unable to convey God’s word,
but also, that with grace at last,
cracks may delineate fine forms;
though stained, he can reflect his God.

Poetry alone cannot reveal
the aptness of the analogue,
but coming here to see and feel
the Master’s spirit in their work,
these jewelled windows of the air
make the poet’s meaning clear.

Our words and pictures need the light
to capture what’s beyond mere sight.

–Lee Tzu Pheng, “Cathedral Windows”

Tessa, When Life Feels Like An Aquarium

I imagine chairs, and razor sharp talk,
literary as hell. Hipster poets?
Gray-haired ones but who knows.
Erudite, embittered yet gay,
philosophic, part of a social order
that’s not mine.

We’re all sitting on grass, anyway.
Me watching insects. I know who’s
facetious, or not. With a despotic air,
bespectacled, the speaker does
the summing up. Clean-cut, coz
they are Asians.

The sky was bluish. Someone behind
snickered. Brushing the lushness
underfoot, holding a wine glass,
it’s cocktail hour so everyone’s making
small talk. No witchcraft here;
it’s what being civilised’s about.

Prompt: Is October gonna be awesome? My favorite month, you won’t let me down will you? You already have you know. My heart is bluish. Feeling so out of it.
Kinda like hitting rock bottom. So I’m wary of social circles. They’re like permeable barriers that one pushes through and then pushes out of. Human connections are helluva complicated. Fragile’s the word. You wish it’s like the threads will connect and strengthen into a kind of rope. And then the rope hangs someone. You maybe. Now you know how morbid happens. What to do? Write a poem describing some scene, fictional or otherwise. Words are like paint, so paint a scene to distill a feeling. For example, like this:

Grass is being cut
along the verge
of the main road.

Every once in a while
workmen give the ground
a good shave.

The air becomes an acrid tang
the colour of green.
Blades of unkempt grass
flick like shrapnel
in the wake
of the grass-cutters’
trim and hum.

When I was young
the whirling blades were real
and steel and would
snarl and snap
at a wayward child
as well as grass.

Now the grass is
groomed quietly
and softly pruned and lapped
into neatness
with plastic thread
like pliant curlers.

Even as these lines
fall behind me
the grass will resume
its intractable invasion
of the verges

while the days
that are left
fall and fall away
from the hard edge
blade after blade
like cut grass.

–Alvin Pang, “grass cutting”

Tessa, Which Ghosts Become Mine?

Salt-and-pepper head,
hard to believe, how the years
changed us like this.
Me, of poor memory, limbering
to whose tomb, my grandpa’s whom I’ve
never met. So which ghosts become
mine? We turned into the side road
off the main, the trees as old as
these graves.

You came to me as a young man,
me a midwife to your book on
spiritual peregrination.
I’d started out in a new career–
manuscripts kept pouring in, an
unctuousness to keep me moist, eager.
A slight tinge of euphoria too.
That wasn’t myth, was it, even if
we’re looking at a carcass.

What we have: fragments. All else’ve
eclipsed. But yes I’m practicing the art
you’d mastered, taken so long to come into
my own–making this bread that I won’t
let grow stale. It’s a labor spent, often
a meditation, divvying up the dough of
my remaining years. And yes of course,
she’s dead, and we’re living, but daily
seeping, squaring up to that certainty.

Prompt: So we’re not dead yet, are we? I don’t know about you, but there seems be a kind of death when you’re not writing. Paraphrase that. Not writing seems to be a kind of death. I write therefore I am? Are you smelling ash? As if on cue, I am. Anyway why not hold that thought (or smell) and write a poem about death. It’s something that you hold close to your heart, I’d bet.
Here’s how one poet wrote about ash:

“The house and yard dressed in a skin of ash.
It was raining embers, the night air thronged
with giddy petals that swirled
on the updraft, flared
to incandescence before curling into papery
–Boey Kim Cheng, “Clear Brightness”

If not for death, we’d not be poets. Probably.